Categorized | Interviews, Top Interviews

Interview with Social Media Influencer: Trey Pennington

­Trey Pennington is a marketing pro, business connector, and storyteller for business who’s passion is helping people uncover their hidden treasures and put them to work. He uses social media to connect with audiences around the globe. HubSpot ranks his Facebook profile as one of the most influential in the world and his Twitter profile in the top 0.01%. Trey helped start ten Social Media Clubs in the US, UK, and Australia and routinely speaks to groups about using social media to make connections and have conversations that lead to commerce.  You can follow Trey on Twitter or Linkedin.

G: I know that you will be speaking at Fusion Marketing Experience event organized by our friends at Social Marketing Forum. Can you give us a sneak preview of your presentation at Fusion Marketing Experience?

T: The explosive growth of social media affords the commercial world unprecedented opportunity. The opportunity is not where people expect it, though. Many are looking at increasing ROI and profits through efficiency. The real opportunity is more fundamental and we’ll explore it’s unexpected source.

G:  Why do many marketers still fail to integrate social media successfully into their broader marketing strategies?

T: Much of commercial communications comes from established professional disciplines like public relations, advertising, or marketing. Those branches of communication developed over long periods of time, have generations of experienced practitioners, and have developed substantial, documented bodies of knowledge to support their on-going practice. Social media popped onto the scene from a different source—it bubbled up from kids. The grown ups saw social media as kids’ stuff. Instead of embracing social media and applying disciplined thinking to incorporating the new media into marketing programs, the professionals let social media evangelist develop independent strategies for each emerging platform. The tide seems to be changing. Now each established discipline seems to be embracing social media and experimenting with it to see how it supports business objectives.  I’m hesitant to label the experiments as “right” or “wrong,” however, I do suggest those who see social media as a free broadcast medium will tend to have less fulfilling experiences with it!

G: How would you define a social media “influencer” and how do you measure influence?

T: Over 3,000 years ago King Solomon bemoaned the incessant publishing of books. He’d probably think the modern man has gone plumb insane writing unending volumes on topics such as influence. My own writing on the topic is merely an effort to highlight the absurdity of reducing such a complex, multifaceted concept as influence to a two digit or elementary ranking. People search for an absolute and once-and-for-all measure of influence, yet influence is relative and dynamic.  It seems to me companies would be better off to focus on users first and then equip real users with ample social objects so the users could tell their own stories in their own words. It’s much simpler for companies to identify users than influentials. All they have to do is look at their sales records. On the other hand, I am impressed with Klout. It’s founder, Joe Fernandez, is a friend. He’s super smart and is the picture of entrepreneurial innovation. He listened to what corporations were clamouring for—a simple measure of influence—and he served it up to them. He’s repeated the keyword catchphrase often enough that it’s become true: Klout is the standard of influence.

G: Do you think targeting influencers is overrated or is it an important part of Social Media Strategy?

T: Marketing to influencers is definitely overrated. Taking care of users should trump the elusive search for influencers. Users are the one who have a reason to get excited about a brand’s products and services. Influencers tend to just more excited about themselves.

G: What are your favourite monitoring/measurement tools on social media?

T: I’m a simple guy. I lean heavily on Google Alerts and a host of columns on Hootsuite.

G: What are the trends that you are following at the moment and feel most passionate about?

T: Storytelling is quickly becoming a buzzword. We’ll see more and more people presenting themselves as storytelling or seeking to distinguish their content as story instead of promotional spin.

G: Do you think social media integration is becoming a quality standard of successful company?

T: The opportunity is even more fundamental than integration. Rethinking marketing, starting with re-examining the purpose of a business, is where success begins. The shift is Copernican in its impact. Five hundred years ago the world was shocked to discover Earth was not the centre of the universe. Today marketers are awakening to the realization the company is not the centre of the commercial universe. Fortunately the soulful wail, “but we’ll lose control of the message,” is rarely heard today. Three years ago, “controlling the message” was a serious concern. Politicians still say over and over again, “If we can only get our message out.” I predict within one or two more election cycles, those relics will be replaced with people who embrace the necessity of getting the message in. The real quality standard then will be redrawing the map of the universe and placing the corporation in its proper relation to everything else.

G: Do you read everything that you “Like” and “RT” or is sharing becoming a form of showing gratitude to your peers?

T: Yes, I do indeed read what I Like and RT. Is it an form of showing gratitude? Now that’s an intriguing question. One of the topics I’ll probably mention in my keynote is something I refer to as the three-fold human hunger. I’ll suggest the Like and the RT may very well address aspects of that hunger.

G: How and why did you get into social media?

T: Here’s why I do social media (I realize my view is only that, my view; still, it is my view). What drives me is a philosophical worldview:

1) Everyone wants to be heard
2) Everyone wants to be understood
3) Everyone wants his or her life to count

You can read more about this here:

G: What are your favourite social media hang-out sites? (Other than FB, Twitter and LinkedIn)

T: If I want to get the inside scoop on Facebook, I linger on and watch whatever Mari Smith is writing about. Twitter is my power tool of choice, of course, so I spend most of my social media time hanging out on Hootsuite. I do tend to play with whatever is new, though I totally ignored Facebook Places and Quora. Eventually I’ll probably need to explore Places, but for now Foursquare satisfies all my geolocation curiosity. Gowalla had a shot at that curiosity, but just didn’t attract enough users to make it interesting over the long haul.

G: What are your favourite social media campaigns and what do you think was the secret behind their success?

T: Interesting category of thought—social media campaigns. It could be just me, but I don’t tend to think of social media in units of campaigns. Social media isn’t something with a beginning and an end; it’s life. One company who has impressed me with their philosophical embrace of social media is Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola was willing to make a colossal break with their past when they discovered two fans had created an immensely popular Facebook Fan Page for their beloved, well-protected trademark. Instead of launching a bevy of expensive attorneys to take over or shut-down the Page, Coca-Cola invited the Page creators to Atlanta and treated them like royalty. Coca-Cola made sure they addressed all of the creators’ questions and then equipped them to continue their work of advocacy. Chris Brown took a somewhat similar approach when Kevin and Jill totally violated his copyright for the song Forever. Kevin and Jill played the recording at a public performance (a violation of copyright), made a new recording of the song (another violation of copyright), and then published that bootlegged recording on YouTube (yet another, separately punishable violation of copyright). Instead of forcing YouTube to remove the illegal work, Chris Brown did nothing. As a result, the song experienced a remarkable resurgence, eventually making it to Billboard’s Hot 100 for the entire decade. Neither example was a “campaign.” Rather both were an visible demonstration of a whole new way of looking at things.

This post was written by:

- who has written 111 posts on Social Media Citizens – Interviews with social media influencers from around the world.

Giedrius Ivanauskas is the founder/editor of Social Media Citizens and co-founder of Social Marketing Forum. He also blogs on Social Media Today and Giedrius is a managing partner at Nearby Digital - location focused social media marketing agency and is passionate explorer of Augmented Reality, Startups and anatomy of Inspiration. He curates inspiration database - Inspirisimo.You can follow Giedrius on Facebook or Twitter

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