Jeremiah Owyang VS Forrester Research or the reality of digital footprint divorces

21 08 2009

Jeremiah Owyang

Yesterday’s news about Jeremia Owyang leaving Forrester research is a very important day for social media and its use by businesses. I’ve been a fan of Jeremiah’s work for a long time now. He was best described as an “idea factory” by his boss and I totally agree with this. He’s made (and will continue) to make a huge impact on social technology adoption and best practice “crystallization”.

Now, what were they thinking at Forrester? I am fascinated by the unplanned and de facto mash-up that is occurring between personal and corporation / brand digital footprints, especially since social networks have exploded.

Here are some stats to explain what I am referring to:

Forrester Jeremiah Owyang
Joined Twitter 2007-07-25 2006-12-19
Number of Followers (as of today) 24,000 51,000
Joined Forrester N/A October 2007
Number of tweets (as of today) 877 16,500

Obviously, Jeremiah has blown away Forrester in terms of followers but also in mastering the different social media tools. It was one of his best career moves as he wrote yesterday. Yes, it was his job to master those tools, but obviously his digital footprint and influence is bigger than Forrester’s in some ways. Onto another data point, web-traffic: Jeremiah’s blog is pretty much on a par with Forrester.com as you can see on the Compete graph…
Bottom Line –Jeremiah leaving Forrester is a huge loss for Forrester and probably even bigger loss compared with a similar departure 3-4 years ago before the social media boom.

I think it’s also a great example on how companies should think about leveraging the personal digital footprints of their employees, while making sure that the brand’s digital footprint grows proportionally to the employees they empower. Related questions include…

– Should Jeremiah have actually been using Forrester’s twitter account or blog more?
– Would Jeremiah have been as successful if he hadn’t used his personal accounts for work? I also prefer talking to people than brands directly… there’s a human side that is inherent to our gregarious nature.
– Should Forrester have asked him to tweet a little bit more on @forrester ? (877 tweets for @forrester vs 16,500 for @jowyang)?
– Will the person they hire after Jeremiah be required to…?
– Will employees be able to negotiate the use of their personal digital footprint when joining a company?
– Will employers require a minimum digital footprint from their employees?

My point is that Jeremiah’s digital footprint is leaving with him when he leaves Forrester. The long tail effect of his personal blog will be massive as he has worked as a very thorough and systematic aggregator, and like when Robert Scoble left Seagate to go to Rackspace, there will be a serious impact that no company has measured before.

To me, it’s a wake up call for companies using or considering social media. The pioneers you empower to guide your company through those green fields will become very powerful. This is good for you but needs to be considered. The David & Goliath story we’ve seen with the Kutcher vs CNN challenge to pass 1,000,000 followers is another classic example of what’s possible.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you’ve considered this as part of your social media strategy.

Wishing good luck to Jeremiah’s new green fields,

@YannR

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