By Marylene Delbourg-Delphis @mddelphis
If you are interested in social media and community management, you probably read Jeremiah Owyang’s Web Strategy on a regular basis – and if you don’t, subscribe now! Jeremiah, an industry analyst and founding partner of the Altimeter Group, has been analyzing social media trends and technologies, as well as their impact on corporate marketing strategies, since 2007 when he joined Forrester. How do you become one of the most knowledgeable people in the field in three years or so? By combining a long-nurtured passion with long working hours: Jeremiah did not jump into the field overnight. His immersion into social media dates back from the time he joined Hitachi (2005) and became their blog program manager and blog evangelist.
Perform, Inform, Transform: That might well be Jeremiah’s motto. Perform in all senses of the terms, actually. Jeremiah comes from a musical background: he started to play the piano at age four and graduated in music performance from San Jose State. “I realized that wasn’t my calling and there were other ways of fulfilling my desire to perform,” he says. So he went for bachelors in business administration, market research, and Internet marketing at San Francisco State University School of Business, and decided to perform on a different type of keyboard, the computer keys.
Music performers draw their energy from the combination of an inner strength and their ability to connect with an audience. So do high quality social media performers. “I draw my energy from interactions online or in the real world,” Jeremiah says. This energy is itself supported by an enormous amount of foundational work. Three years ago, he was tracking a handful of companies; now in many of the social media categories he has created, he sometimes has over a hundred companies to track. Two researchers help him out, of course, but most of the legwork he does himself before sunrise, and he takes about three to four hundred formal briefings per year – and this does not include the continuous informal briefings he gets at all times, in social media conferences and meetings of all kinds. That’s a lot of diffuse energy to manage and absorb, for sure, yet one of Jeremiah’s most remarkable treat is his calm – as well as his exquisite politeness.
Jeremiah’s heedfulness is a major reason for his ability to distinguish trends from fads, separate the wheat from the chaff and provide meaningful market categorizations and advice for entrepreneurs and companies alike. So don’t expect him to endorse your company just because you believe it’s cutting-edge or groundbreaking. If it really is, he won’t forget you at the right time. His blog is definitely one of the most detailed ones in the social media industry and I haven’t seen him miss anything of value – even better, when he does, he graciously addresses any lapse. Because his purpose is clear: to inform, provide insight to make a difference, and ultimately help companies transform the way they communicate with their customers.
Living by Objectives: When I was thinking of this post, I was considering something around the idea of “Jeremiah Owyang unscripted” only to realize that it didn’t really make sense, for Jeremiah doesn’t follow a prepared script in the first place, and therefore doesn’t have to stray away from any. You can’t really split Jeremiah into a public persona on the one hand, and a private one on the other with a different character. He isn’t a split individual. It’s as simple as that. Such personal unity shows a lot of strength and courage – starting with the guts to do something you really like! His life gravitates around his job — and he did choose what he does: “I was tired of working at Corporate for other people. There is no such thing as a career path. When you take a look at a career path and you compare to an org chart you know what you notice? The org chart gets smaller at the top; so if everybody is given a career path, that means that most of them stop.”
And Jeremiah wasn’t going to let his destiny fizzle out: “You are your own CEO. You are in charge of your destiny and career; you are responsible for educating yourself, marketing yourself, supporting yourself, training yourself, leading yourself and protecting yourself financially. Even if you make 30K a year you’re still your own CFO, you should be protecting your monetary assets. Your time is very valuable and the way you use it to grow yourself. That’s my belief.” By doing so you can include into your professional life everything that might otherwise be called “leisure time.” That’s the purpose of the Operation Blue Water. “It’s a personal goal,” he explains, “not tied to any organization. Here is how I see how to work and fun. A lot of people work all their lives and when they retire they want to go to the beach or travel the world. My point is: if that’s your goal, integrate it into your life now. Make that part of your job. Don’t wait! Whatever your passion is. I love Hawaii and I want to be there 30 days a year. The trick here is this should be net positive, meaning I am not paying to be there. I told everybody about my goals and people got very excited, and a few of them hired me. The interested thing about personal goals is that you may not always hit them, but at least you did more than the year before. I am always going to do one or two weeks out of the 4 weeks. It’s a start. I love traveling and get paid to travel.”
Leadership outside starts with leadership inside. With Jeremiah, what you see is what you get: focus and an authentic kindness. Careful, however: kind and focused people hate to waste their time – That’s what the culture of performance is about!
Incidental note: We all know that the Silicon Valley is a melting pot of nations thriving on an earthquake bedrock. Very few people have deep roots here, but Jeremiah does. He is a 5th generation Chinese American Bay Area. His grand-father’s grandfather was the Chinese Consul General in San Francisco between 1890 and 1913. His great grandmother, Faith Sai So Leong, was the first Chinese woman dentist in the country.