The 2009 Influential Leaders - The Aggregator

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Managing director of an early-stage venture-capital firm. Former Apple Fellow (back when it was still Apple Computer). Author of nine books. Much in-demand public speaker. Cofounder of Alltop.com, a news-aggregation Web site. So why is Guy Kawasaki best known for 140-character tweets?

"He has helped to legitimize Twitter for marketing," says Tom Anderson, founder and managing partner of Anderson Analytics. With an enormous following-more than 156,000 at press time-Kawasaki tweets on behalf of Alltop and on his own behalf. You might see an @guykawasaki post every few minutes, ranging in topic from outrageous stunts to science news-essentially anything's worth a tweet if it'll generate a following, a retweet, or hits to Alltop. His prolific posting has driven some to call him a spammer, while others have criticized his use of "ghost twitterers."

Kawasaki, for his part, says there's no rulebook with Twitter, and he's popularized the idea that "nobodies are the new somebodies." Describing social media as a friendship economy, he tells companies that there's a good chance they have no idea who their key influencers are. The trick to getting followers, he said at a recent conference, is to be a follower yourself-though he admits to using an automated program to reciprocate with those who follow him. And Kawasaki knows that this economy requires two-way engagement. In fact, despite his massive following, he regularly engages in conversations.

"Guy decided early on that it's OK to connect to anyone," Anderson says. "With Twitter you don't [get] to decide who follows you. He talks about how there's...nothing wrong with building [up] numbers." He aggregates followers the way Alltop aggregates content, and numbers can have a dramatic impact, as Anderson learned when Kawasaki retweeted one of his links.Within hours, the "Guy Kawasaki bump" drove more than 3,000 additional hits.

"[Kawasaki] has opened up his life to people on the Internet," says Brad Shimmin, a social networking analyst with Current Analysis. That transparency has helped businesses realize there's a place for them in social media. "[Kawasaki] has done a lot to help people interested in the space understand the actual breadth and depth of it, which is outstanding," he adds.

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