Established and Upcoming Influencers
Amid record snow fall last week, Seattle felt a bit like Davos minus the plows. Homebound, I started to poke around online and get ready for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting that takes place in the real Davos this week. Lucky for me, my agency, Waggener Edstrom, offers a suite of tools to help pinpoint the people who influence conversations most profoundly. Last year, I wrote a blog post that highlighted the top ten influencers to follow on Twitter at Davos. These are the movers and shakers who shape and develop the online dialogue. The list was so well received in the Twittersphere that I thought it well worth publishing a similar list this year.
To keep things interesting, I decided to present two lists. The first list contains the likely suspects and is rank ordered according to influence. The second list contains people that are relatively influential online and are newer to the Davos conversation. The second list is not rank ordered according to influence; they are simply my top picks. My research was not exhaustive, so I am not saying the people on the second list have never been involved in WEF. I see them as emerging leaders in the online social innovation conversation – a group of people we like to call “the influencers to the influencers.”
Without further ado, I present this year’s list(s):
Top 5 Influentials to Follow (You are likely already following if you care about Social Innovation!)
- @Davos (1,594,512 followers) – This one is a no-brainer. It’s the official Twitter handle of the World Economic Forum dedicated to the Annual Meeting in Davos.
- @Nouriel (130,216 followers) – American economist and professor Nouriel Roubini tweets consistently about global economic development. If you are not familiar with his work, check out this profile piece published by The New York Times Magazine in 2008.
- @nickkristof (1,218,632 followers) – Pulitzer prize winning columnist Nicholas Kristof has a globally diverse following. He can also be found engaging readers on his Facebook page. (Full disclosure: Waggener Edstrom partnered with Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in developing www.halftheskymovement.org)
- @gatesfoundation (680,326 followers) – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation needs no introduction. What you might not know is that the foundation has a great blog called Impatient Optimists, which features the work of the foundation’s grantees, partners, leadership, and staff, as well as other bloggers, to provide commentary and insight on global health, global development and education.
- @fareedzakaria (125,117 followers) –Time magazine editor Fareed Zakaria is one of the leading journalists on international relations. (Note: These top influencers also talk to each other. Check out this video of Fareed discussing the role of women in the world with Kristof.
Top 5 Newcomers to the Davos Conversation (Add these influencers if you are looking to get a new and different perspective from Davos)
- @bethcomstock (8,965 followers) – BusinessWeek called Beth Comstock GE’s Innovation Champion. Her real title is Chief Marketing Officer. I believe to really solve some of the world’s most intractable problems it will take an all hands on deck approach, including innovative ideas from the private sector. Welcome, Beth!
- @hbuffett (1,494 followers) – Howard W. Buffett is the grandson of investment guru Warren Buffett and director of the HGB Foundation. Fast Company profiled him earlier this year for his own disruptive approach to philanthropy. He tweeted this gorgeous picture from Davos when he arrived and is participating in WEF’s Global Shapers Community, a group of 20-somethings aiming to making an impact in the world.
- @mabelvanoranje (14,370 followers) – Mabel van Oranje is CEO of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders who work together for peace and human rights. In 2005, the World Economic Forum named her one of its Young Global Leaders.
- @BabatundeUNFPA (869 followers) – As executive director of UNFPA, Babatunde Osotimehin addresses reproductive health of women worldwide. More than 215 million women worldwide don’t have access to contraceptives. Babatunde is fairly new to Twitter, but I hope that he engages to discuss this important issue at Davos.
- @felixsalmon – (48,375 followers) – Felix Salmon is a finance blogger for Thomson Reuters. Felix blogged extensively at Davos last year and keeps us honest by pointing out that Davos is still primarily the stomping grounds of the elite. He did an amusing blog post on how the badges at Davos work and the access one gets at each level. His posts will make you laugh.
A footnote on methodology: The WE twendz pro™ tool uses a formula (sentiment influence + quantitative + qualitative analysis) that can help us understand who the most influential players are in your industry or sector and more importantly, how to engage with them. Twitter can be pretty overwhelming and the WE twendz pro™ service allows us to dig through the clutter and gain some insight into the robust Twitter conversation happening at Davos. It’s a pretty easy tool to use, and once I put my request in, I had a list of the most influential people at Davos within 24 hours.
Update your Twitter feeds! To make it easy for you, we have created lists for each group. You can find the list of established influencers here, and the list of newcomers here. Although not all of us can be in Davos this week, we can all participate in the dialogue.
Over the past 6 months, my team has had the opportunity to work with a remarkable organization: The Global Business Coalition for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. GBC is the world’s only organization dedicated to mobilizing the private sector in the fight against the three leading pandemics of our time – HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. On June 1 & 2, GBC’s 230 members are gathering in NYC to celebrate the organization’s 10th anniversary. Today, GBC reveals its new name – GBCHealth – to better reflect its expanding mandate on global health more broadly.
Global health includes any health issue that cross borders and requires massive collaboration to solve. That’s why GBCHealth encourages its members to use their core expertise or “competence” to get involved in addressing global health. At Waggener Edstrom, we use communications to tell stories about innovation and transform lives. In honor of GBCHealth’s 10 impactful years, we created an infographic (below) to tell the story of the organization, its members, and the success that can be achieved when businesses use the tools they have in their toolboxes.
I’m eager to see how other companies are using the tools in their toolboxes at this year’s GBCHealth conference. Ten students will serve as global health ambassadors at the meeting, bringing the content discussed within the four walls of the meeting room to the outside world. If you’d like to follow along with me, follow @GBCNews.
Having spent my entire career in the private sector, I strongly believe companies have an important role to play in addressing social issues. The private sector understands efficiency of markets and brings a sense of urgency to solving “problems.” When directed the right way, corporate resources can have a real impact on social issues from the environment and education to health care and the arts.
This is why I so enjoyed attending the annual meeting of the Association of Corporate Contributors Professionals last week. It was an intimate gathering of those who lead in-house corporate citizenship efforts. These folks manage corporate philanthropic initiatives. Great group of people who want to do good, but who also realize they need to demonstrate a return on their social investments. Part of that ROI includes the publicity and good will they are able to generate among key stakeholders.
While ALL of the companies that presented at the meeting were leaders in the field of Corporate Citizenship, some were able to present their stories more effectively than others. My team advises clients all the time on how to communicate their citizenship stories. Here are my top 3 tips for making your citizenship story pop:
- Frame the problem. The most effective presenters framed the problem they were trying to address before they jumped into the solutions that their companies were providing. By emotionally hooking your listener on the scope and nature of the problem, you are then able to “wow” them with your company’s response. For example, Mike McDougall from Bausch & Lomb showed us pictures of adorable babies and explained that hundreds of thousands of babies are born with a cataract in one or both eyes and are severely vision impaired. These kids require multiple surgeries over their lifetime to restore their sight. Mike hooked me up front, and I was ready to hear about all the great work Bausch + Lomb has done with the Lions Clubs International Foundation through the Pediatric Cataract Initiative. I don’t wear contacts, but I left with a positive impression of Bausch + Lomb!
- Every good story has a bit of conflict. Corporate types sometimes shy away from talking about conflict. There is a tendency to want to show the perfect end product and not talk about any of the tensions that, inevitably, were part of the journey. Perfect may be what you are striving for, but it makes for a pretty flat story. The executive director from the ConAgra Foods Foundation shared her company’s Child Hunger Ends Here campaign. She drew me into her story when she detailed the three-year back and forth between the corporate foundation and the various line heads in building the program. Fascinating drama. By the end of her tale, I was completely drawn in and 100% rooting for her and the new program.
- Use numbers and data sparingly. There is nothing more boring than listening to someone tell their company’s citizenship story via a list of numbers: “We donated $10 million dollars to 5 NGOs; our United Way campaign raised $14 million dollars; our employees provided 84 gazillion hours in service hours last year, and that’s up a 52% from five years ago.” Yawn. You have completely lost me, because you have not told me a story. I understand that the business world requires deep analysis of data to support decisions, so it’s absolutely important to track this data. I am not advocating abandoning numbers entirely, just use them sparingly to make a point and support your overall story. The numbers alone are not your story; they are just numbers!
It is human nature to want credit for the good work you do and companies are no different. Corporations absolutely should get credit for their philanthropic efforts, but this recognition will only come to them if they package their stories in a compelling manner. Hopefully, these tips and tricks will help!
Each year at the end of January, some of the most powerful people in the world descend upon the small ski resort town of Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. The meeting brings together an eclectic mix of movers and shakers ranging from politicians and C-suite executives to changemakers and rockstars.
These high-profile individuals gather to discuss innovative ideas and solutions to the myriad of complex challenges we face today as a global society. They also bring attention to new technologies, young leaders and social entrepreneurs. Needless to say, from the perspective of at Waggener Edstrom’s Social Innovation Practice, what’s not to love?
While there are still plenty of closed doors, not being able to pony up the admission price doesn’t mean exclusion from the conversation. Through the Twitter and the social tools WEF has made available, we all feel a part of the conversation. With over 400 Annual Meeting participants officially active on Twitter (my personal fave? Shawn Ahmed of The Uncultured Project), Davos Debates on YouTube and quick polls on Facebook, let alone the mainstream press coverage and the WEF’s official blog, where does one even begin to follow Davos?
Hardly surprising, there’s an app to keep in the loop. Against the photo backdrop of a bucolic, snow-covered Davos, one can directly link to news, those 400 participants’ Twitter feeds (alphabetized!), live video, photos, recorded speeches, and WEF publications. I highly recommend it.
Still feeling overwhelmed? Like we did during the Clinton Global Initiative back in September, WE went to our social media gurus at Studio D, who set up our twendz pro™ tool to help us dig through the clutter and gain some insight into the robust Twitter conversation going on in this space. This innovative tool uses a formula (sentiment influence + quantitative + qualitative analysis) that can help you understand who the most influential players are in your industry and more importantly, how to engage with them.
What we found, thanks to twendz pro™, is that while a person’s influence ranking will change over time given the fluidity of the Twitter landscape, the influencers who rose to the top not only have a large number of followers, but they ask questions, reply to questions, share links, and prolifically use hashtags in their tweets. Many of these influencers have been retweeted at a high rate in the first couple of days of the conference, further demonstrating their reach.
So to stay in the loop on the latest and great content coming out of Davos, here is who you absolutely must follow:
Top 10 Twitter Influencers at Davos*
- @paulocoelho (1, 151,546 followers) – Attendee Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian writer who has sold 100 million books in over 150 countries worldwide, and is an international social media celebrity. One of his tweets was retweeted an amazing 313 times.
- @davos (1,491,677 followers) – The official Twitter handle of the World Economic Forum dedicated to the Annual Meeting in Davos.
- @bill_gross (9,031 followers) – Attendee Bill Gross is the founder of Idealab, which creates and builds successful, pioneering businesses.
- @coelhoespanol (84,612 followers) – Not associated with Paulo Coelho, this is a grassroots effort to tweet Spanish translations of Coelho’s official Twitter feed, further increasing his influence.
- @wef (1,094 followers) – The official Twitter handle of World Economic Forum events, not just Davos.
- @ftdavos (4,188 followers) – The Financial Times is one of the most widely read international daily business papers, printed in 23 cities around the world.
- @scobleizer (161,665 followers) – Attendee Robert Scoble is a tech enthusiast, video blogger, and media innovator with a highly engaged following.
- @gatesfoundation (462,501 followers) – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives, focused on global health, global development, & U.S. education.
- @padmasree (1,386,559 followers) – Padmasree Warrior is the Chief Technology Officer of Cisco. In 2010, Fast Company Magazine named her one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business.”
- @billgates (2,065,785 followers) – Attendee Bill Gates remains dedicated to his foundation and other endeavors since stepping down from his full-time role at Microsoft, becoming another social media celebrity in the process.
Our Big Takeaway
It’s clear that influencers take many shapes and forms. Paulo Coelho, who isn’t a rockstar, but has written songs for a few, may not have even been on our radar for making this list, let alone topping it, but his combined following alone is over 1.2 million and multilingual in English, Portuguese and Spanish. In all, these top 10 influencers reach over 5 million people.
These influencers’ thoughts, questions, observations and perspective on the event are highly valued by those who follow them. In that way, Davos continues to open doors and, at least virtually, bring more people to the table to join the dialogue.
If you would like to reccomend someone to follow who is not on the top ten influential list, let us know!
*As of January 28, 2011. The Annual Meeting takes place January 26-30, 2011.
This week we explored the barrage of Twitter chatter surrounding the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting, starting with a broad overview of metrics, followed by a ranking of the top 10 most influential tweeters. Yesterday, we analyzed why the top 10 tweets at the conference were retweet-worthy. (Something you should definitely check out, if you are looking to get retweeted more!)
In today’s post we dive into an analysis of the key conversation topics at CGI. Waggener Edstrom Worldwide’s Social Innovation practice organizes it work along four issue areas: Global Health, Sustainability, Economic Empowerment and Access to Information. Using WE twendz pro™, we distilled the cacophony of tweets into the top two to three conversations for each issue. Here is a Cliff Notes version of the most pressing topics discussed by world leaders at CGI:
- Many participants argued passionately that we must secure the health and safety of girls and women. Hillary Clinton made waves in her address with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a public-private partnership led by the United Nations Foundation, which empowers women to lead healthier lives by providing one simple thing — a cookstove. Ashley Judd, the actor and board member of Population Services International, shed courageous light on women in Congo gang-raped repeatedly by armed militia.
- Lance Armstrong’s appearance brought the international spotlight to the growing cancer crisis, albeit a new one for the global development community.
- Innovation was everywhere in the conversation about energy — from solar-powered classrooms in Africa to delivering clean energy to Haiti via micro-grids. @changemakers even questioned whether energy poverty was the missing Millennium Development Goal.
- Procter & Gamble Safe Drinking Water Program for children hit on a top priority with this crowd. Top influencers @columbiawater, @black_dove and @csrafrica noted that water conservation is simply good business.
- Zerofootprint generated buzz by challenging schools around the world to measure, compare and change their environmental footprint in the never-ending climate war. (Have you checked what your kid’s school is doing to help the environment lately?)
- The Girl Effect team unveiled an inspiring new video which makes an impactful argument that ending child marriages is essential to breaking the cycle of poverty. Check out Huffington Post’s take on why empowering and investing in girls and women is critical to progress.
- Education has always been an item of concern at CGI. Last week’s news was the launch of 10×10: Connect the Dots, Educate Girls, Change the World, a groundbreaking film and global social action campaign focused on educating girls.
- A lively debate around “profiting from the poor” was the outcome of a discussion between microfinance gurus — Muhammad Yunus and Vikram Akula. @beyondprofit got right to the point: “Yunus says to commercial MFIs: Find some other name for yourself … it’s not microfinance.” Enough said!
Access to Information
- Questions abounded about access to technology: Can developing countries leapfrog over old infrastructure models? Can we better use technology in dispersing humanitarian aid around the world?
- A Cheri Blair Foundation report highlighting women, mobile technology and the issue of gender gaps snowballed through the Twittersphere, starting with top influencer @mobileactive. Key takeaway: On average, a woman is 21 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than a man. Not a good thing!
Last week, I was grounded in rainy Seattle while my colleagues attended CGI in person in NYC. We chuckled about how well one can follow a global event such as CGI through 140 character observations. It can be quite empowering to the average citizen. Tomorrow, my colleague will share his perspectives of CGI with the benefit of having attended in person. Tune in here!
Image by Clinton Global Initiative.
This summer we had a summer intern, Kathleen Sullivan, working with us in our Social Innovation Practice. As part of her wrap-up assignment, I asked Kathleen to reflect on what she learned about Social Innovation. Here is what she had to say:
“I recently had a discussion with my mother about the mentality that wealthy families such as the Medicis held towards selecting beneficiaries, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, William Shakespeare, Brunelleschi, etc.
At the time, “patronage” was not primarily the notion of “giving back”, “taking responsibility”, or even to “doing something that benefited society” in the form of frescos, domes, or sculptures.
At its heart, patronage was viewed as a virtue, similar to other virtues leaders aspired to possess, such as morality, ethics, loyalty, honor, etc. Each leader knew that his kingdom, realm, and district would be judged by the art and public good produced—or lack thereof—during his reign.
As I conclude my summer internship with the Social Innovation team here at Waggener Edstrom, I find myself comparing the old definition of patronage with the contemporary view of social innovation. Social innovation, according to a recent Economist article, is meant to “transform the way public services are provided, by tapping the ingenuity of people in the private sector, especially social entrepreneurs”.
Today, most leaders aren’t concerned with improving the architecture of Florence – leaders are challenged by the fact that over 2 billion people live on less than $2 per day. Today, it is not solely wealthy families who are thinking about sponsoring individuals – it is people from all walks of life – Facebook users, employees, teachers, non-profits, governments, and businesses. Thanks to Kiva.org, DonorsChoose.org, Jolkona, Text4Haiti, SeeYourImpact, One Lap Top Per Child, and a million other innovations, almost everyone in the developed world can be an empowered leader, an agent of change, a sponsor of someone’s life, a cause, or a movement. Which most people would agree, is pretty incredible.
What is more debatable is role that corporations, and the private sector as a whole, “should” play in the shaping of social good. Should they stay out, focusing on their efforts on their core competencies and their shareholders, a la Milton Friedman? Or should they “give back” and focus on additional stakeholders?
I doubt that Renaissance patrons spent so much time debating whether they should be the ones doling out money to sponsor artists, and quite frankly I’m surprised corporations spend so much time asking themselves this question. Businesses that pose the question in the first place are likely in a place to effect change, for better or for worse, whether they like it or not. No amount of “shoulding” will change that. “Shoulds” aside, corporations at the very least can commit to becoming aware of their impact, regardless of how they choose to respond.
As a Masters of International Business student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, I came to this internship believing strongly in the power of business to change the world. I leave believing strongly in the power of cross-sector partnership, and I think social innovation’s true potential is in its ability to convene leaders committed to developing awareness about the impact of their organization.
I now see social innovation as a convening of great minds from incredibly diverse perspectives. I see it as a large dinner party (perhaps in a Renaissance hall) where a leader has invited his or her most interesting and educated friends to dinner to brainstorm solutions to a problem. Hopefully, no one would reject such an invitation, thinking they weren’t the correct person to brainstorm or “shouldn’t” be at that dialogue in the first place.”
Last week, I attended an open house at Seattle BioMed, the largest independent, non-profit organization in the United States focused solely on infectious disease discovery research. With the recent introduction of malaria clinical trials, they have moved vaccine research from “bench to bedside.”
Approximately 100 people from the community participated in the Global Health 101 program to learn more about malaria vaccines. A panel of experts was moderated by Regina Rabinovich, director of the Global Health Program’s Infectious Diseases Development team at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (The foundation is a major funder of Seattle BioMed’s vaccine program.)
The first question the team tackled was, “Why do we even need a malaria vaccine if the disease is both preventable and curable?” The simple answer: malaria is expensive to prevent and treat. Malaria accounts for 40 percent of Africa’s public health expenditures and costs the region as much as US$12 billion annually. Most of the nearly one million deaths from malaria are children in Africa under the age of five years old. Hence the desperate need for a vaccine…
The scientists and panelists each took five minutes to ground us in the basics of vaccine development and then provided more specifics on their own research. Clearly, significant scientific innovation needs to happen to make a malaria vaccine a reality. But is innovation enough? I don’t think so. My realization came when an audience member asked the panel, “Are there any cultural issues with running clinical trials in Africa? “
Regina explained how research teams work collaboratively with regional ministries of health to set up clinical trials. Once cleared from a regulatory point of view, the teams spend quality time with the village chiefs to help them better understand the clinical trials. This includes lab visits that demonstrate how scientists will use blood samples.
No matter the region, people tend to be suspicious of innovation, and communication plays a key role in helping people adopt new ideas. Regina fundamentally understood the importance of communications as a contributor to the success of clinical field trials. So indeed, it’s not just about the scientific research!
On Monday night, I attended a World Affairs Council event in Seattle that featured Lisa Shannon. This was the first stop on her book tour to promote her new book: A Thousand Sisters. Five years ago, Lisa watched an Oprah show about Congo, widely called the worst place on earth to be a woman. She decided to take a stand and tell the world that what was happening there was wrong. Knowing about the violence in Congo really challenged her assumptions of who she was as a person. How could she know about the terrible violence and injustice and not take a stand? And thus began her journey as an activist.
Lisa founded Run for Congo Women, a grass-roots effort to raise funds and awareness for women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After organizing a few runs in the U.S., some more successful than others, she decided that to really make an impact she needed to travel to Congo to speak with Congolese women about their experiences.
I knew this part of the story as Lisa was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show last October, the same day Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn were interviewed by Oprah. I was lucky enough to be a member in the audience that day given Waggener Edstrom’s work promoting the Half the Sky movement.
Here is what I didn’t know and what surprised and delighted me about Lisa’s remarks: she pushed through a series of mistakes and failures en route to becoming an effective activist. The first run she scheduled in NYC signed up 40 but had only one person show due to bad weather. She also fell far short of her first year fund raising goal of $1 million. When traveling to Congo, she was dead set on finding stories to inspire involvement. Unfortunately, in questioning a woman about the death of 10 of her 15 children, Lisa ignored all cultural sensitivities and came across as a rude, aggressive American. Looking back on all of that, Lisa made the astute observation that many people avoid the activist path because they are afraid of making mistakes.
It occurred to me that Lisa could just as well have been speaking about innovation. Innovation, by definition, means trying new things. Failure shapes innovation at least as much as success. Innovation is a messy process. Social Innovation is no different; for every success story, there will be multiple failures and mistakes. Unfortunately, many people are uncomfortable sharing mistakes and failures. A few weeks ago, I had a client gasp when I suggested we build a recent failure into their overall narrative. Thank goodness for people like Lisa who don’t shy away from mistakes and from telling others what they’ve learned.