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Early: Companies Deputizing Their Employees as Brand Managers

For the longest time, social media enthusiasts have noted that employees represent their companies, whether they realize it or not. This becomes more apparent every day as more people take part in the Grand Conversation.

Two tech behemoths have in recent weeks released their social media guidelines for employees. I’ll describe them a bit below, but I think it’s worth noting what milestones there are. Historically, large companies haven’t really encouraged employees to talk out in the market. But then, historically all you had were newspapers and trade magazines.

Companies have had to figure out how to handle social media. Some are advancing well, others are stuck in the 1990s. Here’s a spectrum of ways companies can handle employees and social media:

spectrum-of-trust-for-employee-social-media

Social media sites blocked: This is an ongoing issue. More companies appear to be enlightened, but there’s still a persistent, old school strain that blocks them. Hard for your employees to engage in social media if they can’t get to the sites.

Only marketing engages social media: Also known as the YouTube Strategy. Social media is a thing that you use to go viral. Other employees may be out there, but they probably need to keep their company identity a secret.

Only approved employees engage: This is actually a company warming up to social media. It knows there is more than the YouTube Strategy. It wants employees to participate.

EMC found some good natural blogging talent internally that it promoted to be EMC’s external voices. And that has paid off well in terms of market engagement. [See update in the paragraph below - EMC is actually deputizing its employees as well.]

All employees are deputized: This is what IBM and Intel are doing. They are treating every employee as an individual brand manager out on the Web. They are deputizing them by giving them guidelines, setting expectations, and then letting them act on their own. It’s a wonderful way to let employees both (1) engage the market about their company and their work; and (2) learn from others as to the state of their fields.

UPDATE: Per the comments below, EMC is actually another proponent of deputizing all employees.

Everyone does their own thing: Not having any type of policy is the policy. This is the default position. And companies still benefit tremendously here. They just may have some employee behaviors they wouldn’t want to see.

Oddly enough, I’d say most companies are on either extreme. They either block social media, or have no policy. But IBM and Intel are pointing to a new thinking about how companies and their employees are engaging social media.

A Look at IBM and Intel’s Guidelines

IBM released its social media guidelines several weeks ago. Intel’s came out last week. Both do a great job of mixing corporate interests with a hands-off approach that defines authentic social media engagement. The documents are pretty good reads, and surprisingly similar. Looks like Intel was a good student of IBM’s guidelines.

I’ve pulled together highlights from each companies’ guidelines below:

table-of-ibm-intel-social-media-guidelines

Lots of respect to IBM and Intel for their guidelines. These companies are trendsetters, and I look forward to other companies joining the fray.

*****

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 121208

From the home office in Charlottesville, VA…

#1: “If you’re not blogging, you’re an idiot” – Tom Peters http://bit.ly/toNh >> Perhaps overstating it a tiny bit…

#2: Reading: Will Enterprise 2.0 ever enter big organizations? http://bit.ly/9QkK Well-articulated point re: cogs v. valu of complete individual

#3: So interesting that corporations are creating social media guidelines for employees. Intel is the latest: http://bit.ly/I3Pj

#4: Working on a kindergarten application essay. Yes, a kindergarten essay. Not something my parents had to worry about when I was a kid.

#5: Observation: if u wait to blog about a big Google announcement til the next day, your post is at the top of the Google post links = traffic.

#6: @problogger Thanks for the tweet of my blog post. Glad you like it.

#7: Reading: How ‘visionary’ raised – and lost – a fortune http://bit.ly/HiPc Great article re: my old employer Pay By Touch. Drugs, crimes, $$$

#8: Consequence of listening to Last.fm. Song I like comes on here at Specialty’s, I want to favorite it. I click around in the air instead…

#9: My preso, “Double the Value of Your Social Software”, was added to the Social Media Leadership group on SlideShare: http://bit.ly/tUaD

#10: Following @SantaClaus25 who is following more than he is followed. Guess he needs to track who’s naughty and nice…

If You Had to Choose One Form of Digital Communication, What Would It Be?

tin-can-phone

Via Mark Hillary on Flickr

That’s a funny question isn’t it? It is something of a parlour game question. Yet it’s a marvelous way to analyze the features of different communication modes, and to think about what we really need from our communications.

The inspiration for this blog post was a discussion with Chris White and others over on FriendFeed. The discussion centered around the merits of email, Twitter and other forms of communication. In the middle of the discussion, Chris asked:

If you had to choose one medium of digital communication, which one would you choose?

Well that, of course, got a good round of arguments. And it’s a good question.

Here are some modes that come to mind. I’m going to hold off on including mobile phones in the discussion. We’ll take voice as a given.

  • Email
  • Instant messaging
  • SMS text
  • Twitter
  • Social networks (i.e. Facebook)
  • FriendFeed

The table below covers several considerations for these different communication modes:

digital-comm-modes-summary-of-characteristics

The characteristics listed above are those that came to mind in considering digital communications. They’re not tech-geek stuff (like bandwidth, architectural factors, etc.). More a list of things that lay people would experience.

A few notes about the table before I pick my communication mode:

Email is both persistent and searchable. Those are valuable characteristics, as Joelle Nebbe notes during the FriendFeed discussion. But they have to be in your in-box to be accessible, because they are private.

IM and SMS text are pretty similar. One happens on a phone, the other happens on PC client. Or both happen on the phone, I suppose. LOL kthxbai!

Twitter can be both private (DMs) and public (default). The 140 character limit is genius to some people, frustrating to others.

Social Networks are private? Doesn’t that fly in the face of all the media about embarrassing pix on Facebook? I know information can leak out, but that’s not the default setting. For instance, see if you can find the most recent blog post I wrote on Facebook Notes about my kids. Unless you’re my friend there, you can’t access it. It’s private.

Social Networks are private in terms of their in-site messaging. Like Twitter DMs.

FriendFeed is public or private. Privacy can be a setting for all of your stream, or you may live in a Room with restricted access. It’s one-to-many only. No way to reach out talk to a specific user directly.

My Own Selection

As I wrote in the discussion on FriendFeed, if pressed I’d have to select Twitter. Why?

  • DM allows private one-to-one conversations (unless you’re Robert Scoble)
  • @reply acts as an in-box for public tweets
  • Searchability is very important and valuable
  • Public tweets are a different form of communication, one that I’m increasingly valuing as a way to cast a larger net for information and feedback

On the FriendFeed discussion, Chris White noted that email supports file attachments, while Twitter doesn’t. But as I wrote in yesterday’s post about the Atlassian Confluence wiki, I could live with my documents being in a centralized web space. I’d just tweet (Yammer?) a link to the document. It’s not perfect. There are times you need to get a document to someone who may not have access to a private web space. That would be a pain. But the other advantages of Twitter are enough for me to live with the pain.

A word about FriendFeed. If they ever decide to support direct messaging and something similar to the @reply tab of Twitter, then they would become my communication mode of choice. There is so much more that can be done there via different media types, along with Rooms and Lists.

Those are my thoughts. How about you? Email has survived this long, and has a lot of well-designed features. Maybe that would be yours? Did I miss some key points about the various modes? Gloss over a deficiency too easily? Maybe there’s another form of digital communication I missed?

Take a second and say which communication mode you would choose in the poll below (RSS reader – click over quickly to select one).

*****

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Atlassian’s Confluence Wiki Gets Social: Embed Your Favorite Social Media

Zoli Erdos has a nice write-up of enterprise software company Atlassian, titled Business Models and Right-brained Geeks. In it, he notes the culture of Atlassian is different from many enterprise software companies:

Atlassian is a “different” company in so many ways… no wonder they are still hiring while the rest of the world is busy downsizing.  But one thing I’ve not realized until now is they have a backup business plan. They could quit Technology tomorrow and become a Creative Agency overnight.smile_wink Need proof?

We use Atlassian’s Confluence wiki in our office, and I’ll bet a lot of you do as well. It’s easy to use, and I’ve become a big fan of it versus using Microsoft Word.

So it’s no surprise that the latest release, Confluence 2.10 has a really cool feature: the Widget Connector. Uh…come again?

The Widget Connector. It is a lightweight way to embed content from 16 different social media sites:

atlassian-confluence-connector-widget-supported-sites

I have to say, that’s pretty cool. The ability to embed media created elsewhere is a wonderful feature for any site. I’ve embedded my recent SlideShare on the About Page for this blog. And the ability to embed Vimeo videos was great for a recent post where I talked with MADtv’s Chris Kula.

LinkedIn recently started doing this as well. You can add content and applications from 10 different sites to your profile. It’s a smart play for companies. By letting you bring content from elsewhere, these sites become valuable platforms for getting business done.

Considering the Widget Connector in a Business Context

The interesting thing here is that these sites are indeed social. So the content that will be included is likely to be that which is OK for public viewing. Which means some sensitive internal content won’t be found on these sites. I know many of these sites allow private, restricted access content. It’s unclear whether restricted access content can be embedded though.

But a lot of what businesses do is perfectly fine for public consumption. Well, make sure you embed it in the wiki! Conference presentations, product demos, marketing media, product pictures, etc. In fact, the bias should be to have this content public and findable unless there is a real concern about loss of confidential information. Being a presence in the industry means getting out there with information and ideas that you share. Of course, not everything should be accessible. For instance, a webinar should be public, while a customer presentation will stay internal.

The reality is that companies are expanding their presence on social media sites, even if it is happening in a halting fashion. Turns out consumers are starting to expect it. As use of these various social media sites expands, having a central place to view and track the content on them makes a lot of sense.

Another use I see for this is collecting information from various services and users to build out research on:

  • New product or service initiatives
  • Competitors
  • Customers
  • Regulatory and standards development

Consider Atlassian’s release of Confluence 2.10 another step forward in expanding the use and value of social media for business purposes.

*****

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Gmail Tasks Are a Good Start. Now Please Integrate with Google Calendar.

The folks over at Google announced a new Labs feature, the Task Manager for Gmail. Typical of Google, the feature is a simple, easy-to-use interface. You can type a task right in the Tasks panel.

As Google says on its blog announcing this feature:

People use Gmail to get stuff done, so we’ve added a lightweight way to keep track of what you need to do, right from within Gmail.

The other cool, but incomplete, thing is that you can add an email to the list of tasks. This is a great idea. I know I get a lot of emails at work in Microsoft Outlook that require some follow-up. But I don’t use Outlook’s Task panel to track them.

Rather I use the Actions > Follow-up > Add Reminder menu. This lets me stay in my email, while scheduling the follow-up day and time. Here’s a shot of that feature in Outlook:

outlook-email-task-manager-with-scheduler

For me, this is a terrific feature of Outlook. The follow-up notifications get my attention. I’ve used the Task panel before to record tasks. You know what happens to them? I never bother returning to look at my list. Email is where I go for my notifications.

Gmail Tasks do support associating a date to a task. That’s not bad, and it’s an improvement over my current follow-up methodology…starring the email. But what’s missing are:

  • Ability to set a time
  • Integration with my Google Calendar

My concern is that without the Calendar integration, Gmail Tasks will end up like Outlook Tasks for me. A place where written notes go to die.

I tweeted this idea about Calendar integration:

Added the Gmail ‘Add to Tasks’ feature (http://bit.ly/MVO). Would be great if that integrated with Google Calendar for scheduling.

And as is typical, a good discussion ensued. Stupid Blogger (aka Tina) noted that without Calendar integration, the Tasks feature is essentially useless for her.

She then added this thought:

Not just that, Hutch, but if it integrated somehow with the calendar then it would show up on my G1 as a notification. This would be BRILLIANT.

That’s right. Turn those task into reminders that come through on your T-Mobile G1 Google Android phone.

It’s a Labs feature, so certainly it’s a work-in-progress. Let’s hope they get Calendar integration out of the Lab soon.

*****

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Why Professionals Should Continue to Blog in the Era of Twitter

I’ll bet you’re smart.

I mean, you’re likely college educated. Maybe even grad school. You can probably remember some killer instances where you nailed some assignment. That clever C++ hack. The time you delivered an insightful analysis of Vonnegut. Navigated your way through a thorny financial analysis. Came up with an elegant solution  in the chemistry lab.

You’re good. You’ve got knowledge in your field, you’ve got a track record of accomplishments in your job. And you’ve got solid points of view about your field and its future.

And all you want to do is tweet?

A number of people have blogged about the uncertain future of…uh…blogging. I understand where they’re coming from. Here’s how Jevon MacDonald put it:

I don’t know what the fate of blogging is, but as I think about it I wonder if it can survive without changing. Just in the last 2 years we have seen massive uptake in the creation of content by users, but most of it is now outside of the blogosphere. Status Updates on Facebook, Twitter, new levels of photo sharing and geolocation based services and networks are all becoming the centerpiece of attention.

His point is that with the ease of Twitter and Tumblr, the relevancy of and desire to blog is diminishing. He’s not alone, it’s a theme that’s been popping up in the last several months.

To which I say:

If you’re a professional who’s just going to twitter, you are missing a golden opportunity to help yourself via blogging.

This post is geared towards those who have day jobs, and for whom blogging and tweeting is an extension of their professional lives.

OK, smart reader, let’s talk about this.

A Blog Is Your Stake in the Ground

Twitter is wonderful. I’ve been tweeting it up the past few months myself. I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for the power of Twitter. As I said in a recent post:

Twitter has established lightweight messaging as valuable and addictive. From the simple roots of “What are you doing?”, people have morphed Twitter into a range of use cases. Open channel chats. News updates. Sharing articles and blog posts found useful. Polls. Research. Updates peers on activities and travels.

It’s great for what it is. And an important part of your professional persona and career development.

But blogs are the professional’s curriculum vitae. They are a standing record of strong thin king about a subject. When you devote the time to put together a blog post covering your field, you’re likely doing this:

  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Linking to others
  • Establishing your voice
  • Influencing the thinking of others
  • Showing the ability to pull together longer form thinking, a requirement in professional work

My own experience is that if you blog, every so often you pop out a signature piece. The kind of post that resonates with others and establishes your position in your field. These blog posts receive a lot of views, get linked to and turn up in Google searches. When you get one of these, congratulations! You have successfully put your flag in the ground for your field.

Tweets don’t do that. Tweets create a tapestry of someone, they foster ambient awareness. This has value in its own right. But they’re not vehicles for heavier thinking. They don’t demonstrate your capacity to size up an issue or idea and bring it home.

Keep in mind that LinkedIn now lets you add blogs to your professional profile. What’s going to be more valuable to you when people are running searches? Tweets or well-thought blog posts?

There’s a Flow to This

I know this is definitely early adopter stuff. The number of professionals spending time tweeting and blogging is still limited. But I suspect this is going to happen:

Those who can work blogging and some twittering into their regular activities are going to earn more money and get promoted faster.

I can’t wait until some academic study comes out about this.

Here’s how I see the way Twitter and blogging mix:

professionals-social-media-flow

Tweets engage you in a flow of information, they let you pick up signals and connect with others in your field. From all that, you gain a healthy perspective on what’s happening in your industry. Once you write a post, you’ll find yourself energized to engage once again via Twitter. And on goes the cycle.

The mere act of writing out research, analysis and opinion is amazingly valuable. No burdens for how that memo plays with your boss, or keeping your thoughts on-topic for the upcoming meeting. Just you and your blog, working through what interests you.

Could You Really Tweet These?

As an example, I’ve selected three posts from this blog. They were some that really worked out there. And I’ve tried to convert them into a tweet. Take a look:

blog-posts-with-tweet-alternatives

There’s no replacing the permanence or deeper thinking that blogs provide.

So What Are You Waiting For?

That’s my view on why you should keep on blogging even as you tweet. Let’s take this one out with quotes from three bloggers:

Bill Ives:

TwiTip recently had a post on Ten People All Twitter Beginners Should be Following by Mark Hayward. I will let you guess who is on it and then go to the post. It is no surprise that a number of top bloggers are one the list.

With the continuing evolution of tools, blogging is becoming more focused on what it does well – moving beyond sound bytes and providing a permanent accessible record of thought.

Eric Berlin:

Here’s my new thinking: probably the best and most successful bloggers will also tend to be the best blogger/microblogger hybrids, and vice versa.

Steven Hodson:

For us this means less competition and less noise for us to fight our way through in order to get through to the readers. This of course is my first reason why bloggers should be thankful for services like Twitter and FriendFeed – they help clear out the noise makers.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Why+Professionals+Should+Continue+to+Blog+in+the+Era+of+Twitter%22&who=everyone

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 120508

From the home office in Truth or Consequences, NM…

#1: Love this post by Atlassian’s @barconati Connectbeam Connects | Confluence Customers Beam http://bit.ly/5VhY >> why E2.0 integrati …

#2: Noticing that my tweets that hit 140 characters are having text cut off well before 140. Anyone else?

#3: @twitter A bug. Char. < and > are stored as 4 char. in ur DB, not 1. Means each use cuts max char. of tweet by 3. This tweet’s max=134

#4: One effect of BackType – I am more conscientious than ever about commenting. Comments have the effect of Google Reader shares.

#5: Lump by Presidents of the USA comes on radio. Says 20-something, “Oh that’s the classic rock station.” Lump is classic rock? Ouch!

#6: One thing vacations with little kids ain’t…restful.

#7: RT @timoreilly Derived intelligence from large data sets is a kind of interest or “float” on data. Analogy of Web 2.0 data to capital.

#8: The H-P Social Computing Lab is doing some really interesting research http://bit.ly/k7dI

#9: RT @jbordeaux re: enterprise 2.0 “And like pornography: they’ll pay too much, get over-excited after tiny results, but soon regret it.”

#10: But at least I’ve got a Sam Adams.

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