Let’s take a look at a few recent emerging trends.

  • Google is rolling out Author Rank. This favors giving search authority to authors who have built up a reputation for quality content.
  • Facebook is rolling out Graph Search. This favors giving search recommendations to your friends based on things you’ve engaged with.
  • Twitter’s new search algorithm rewards originators. This favors you sharing things first and/or being authoritative about your content.
  • Bing is testing out listing search results based on Klout. This favors giving search recommendations to people who have platforms and strong networks of friends.

Sensing a theme here? The world is transforming from a “what” world to a “who” world. The reason for Google’s dominance in search was because they mastered what. They mastered being able to answer what questions – what’s the best this or that, what’s the most reputable company for this or that.

Social changes the what equation, however. We first saw this with Facebook ads and LinkedIn ads that targeted the who. Who matches the job titles for the product you’re selling? Who matches the interests of your product or service?

Why? I suspect that in terms of search quality that who is somewhat harder to fake. Sure, you can have dummy accounts but if search marketing platforms are rewarding long term quality then even those dummy accounts must provide value. The who matters. Back in the really bad old days of content marketing, it was trivial to take any database of information and simply republish it. If you did that today, you’d need to provide significant added value in order not to be penalized in search, and one of the most straightforward ways is to add people, from reviews to social engagement to socially generated content.

Who is the platform. You are the platform. Digital marketing will increasingly reward both who you are and what you do, rather than just the stuff you create.

So what does this mean for you? As a company, start thinking about platforms in your recruiting. Imagine two employees of roughly equal capability, but one has a platform. They have a social community of peers that goes with them. Who is more valuable? All other things being equal, the one with the platform is more valuable. Why? They bring more resources to bear. This is true even outside of marketing and sales. For example, imagine two PHP developers. A developer with his or her own platform is more valuable because they have that many more peers to engage with and ask questions of when they encounter difficult problems to solve.

As a person, you need to build out your community and platform. Have a personal presence, have a network, be a resource or become a resource. Grow yourself into a hub that generates new business for whoever you work for. Participate in others’ hubs, from interacting with them socially to creating content for their platforms. Be a powerful connection for your community (whatever that community is) and you’ll add powerful influence to any place you work.

To quote Mitch Joel, it’s not about what you know. It’s not about who you know. It’s about who knows you (and why).

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