• 26May

    Recently I have been working on a new product launch for FaceTime Communications profiling their new Unified Security Gateway 4, which includes a number of new security and compliance features to secure and archive social media conversations in the enterprise. This forum is not a place for a client pitch, but there are aspects of the problem that USG 4 solves that are worth noting, because they highlight the real value of social networking.

    The problem that all organizations face is that their IT departments are losing control of network access to social media. Employees are accessing Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, you-name-it.com from their work computers. Okay, that’s not really new, but how they are using these tools has been changing. Although some malingerers are playing Farmville or posting family photos on company time, more professionals are turning to public social media tools because they are the best way to reach prospective customer, partners, and coworkers. Even in heavily regulated industries, like banking and financial services, more users are ignoring the compliance risks (which are considerable) of using uncontrolled social media sites to connect with their customers.

    Why would you “waste” company time on Facbook and Twitter? The answer is simple, because that’s where their customers are.

    FaceTime’s CEO Kailash Ambwani points out that social media is tribal by nature. People tend to gravitate to locations where they can hang out with their peers; with people like themselves who share a connection. That connection can be common interests, a shared neighborhood, and even a shared level of education and income. So if I am promoting a new portfolio package or real estate opportunity to you, Mr. Facebook Follower, then I want you to tell all your friends, because chances are they will be just as interested because they share the same traits, including values and income. You all belong to the same tribe.

    I had an interesting conversation with a client in a strategy meeting yesterday. We were talking about using social media as a means to sell regional services, in this case bank products. His argument was that you wouldn’t use Facebook or Twitter to sell to a regional market, like a town or neighborhood, because the Web is global. That argument fails to acknowledge the phenomenon of social media tribes. People will connect with others in their neighborhood or region because they are part of the tribe.  Hence emergence of services like Yelp! and the success of regional businesses who have followers on Twitter and Facebook, like the Korean BBQ Taco Truck who has 64,000 people following his movements around Los Angeles on Twitter.

    So when you are thinking about your social media marketing strategy, don’t underestimate the power of the Tribe. Think global, but tweet locally! Your neighbors are surely watching.

  • 14May

    As a PR professional, it’s odd to be on the receiving end of a media pitch.

    Last January, I blogged about ArmyStrongStories as part of a discussion on letting go of control to let social media work in your favor. Well, not long ago I received an e-mail, or rather a “pitch” in PR parlance, about the new ArmyStrongStories web site and interface. It was a fairly soft pitch as they go, basically pointing out that there is a new Web interface and that provides unfiltered access to soldier stories. The Web site “brings together Soldiers and Army supporters to connect and interact online with fellow Soldiers, recruits, family, friends, community leaders and others interested in Army service.  Whether someone is a Soldier, Soldier’s spouse, family member, friend or troop supporter, they can visit the Army Strong Stories community and share their story through written or video submissions.”

    This remains a great concept (not to mention a great recruiting tool). According to my e-mail source from the PR agency, social media is taking the Army by storm:

    –          More than 165 soldier bloggers have signed up to participate in ArmyStrongStories

    –          There have been more than 890 blog posts to date

    –          ArmyStrongStories has more than 260,000 Facebook connections

    –          The site also has 95,000 MySpace friends

    –          And ArmyStrongStories has 27,000 Twitter followers.

    This is something the Army can be proud of. Its online recruiting poster is picking up a real following, and social media is working for them as it does for any other big brand or product. It’s getting positive attention, including by me in this blog entry. And they are clearly making the most of it since they hired Weber Shandwick to help promote it.

    Of course, I am sure that someone is keeping an eye on the content, if not for political correctness and brand monitoring then for possible security or data leaks. One of the things I have been learning about from my recent work with my client FaceTime Communications is the prevalence of inadvertent data leaks over social networking media. FaceTime makes security software designed to make it safe for companies to use social media, instant messaging, and unified communications by managing online conversations, including filtering for keywords and possible data leaks. Although users are getting more business value from the relationships they nurture through their social media sites, they also get carried away and can reveal too much, like the developer who is excited about the features in a new pre-released product or the sales rep who turns to his LinkedIn connections for help with a competitive bid.

    When you live your life online, people tend to forget the rules of discretion or even common sense. People forget that the Web is an open forum, where you are not only chatting with friends and loved ones but also with anyone who wants to listen in. That’s the power of social media, and with power comes the responsibility of knowing how and when to be discrete.

    So I’ll be watching ArmyStrongStories.com to see how the experiment progresses. To be effective as a social media outlet, it has to be open and largely uncensored. After all, the appeal of social media is that it gives you an opportunity to express yourself without watchdogs monitoring what you have to say. But if the forum comes across as too much as a staged online recruiting poster, without naysayers or even soft critics, then it will lose credibility as an unfettered social media forum. This is clearly going to be a test case on how to build a social media community using communication that is open, but not too open.

  • 04May

    I am inspired by Catherine Mohr. Of course, you probably have not heard of Catherine Mohr. She is a self-professed “geek” who designs surgical robots by day and worries about the environment and building a green house in her spare time. I first encountered Catherine Mohr through a TED presentation, where she talked about her environmental concerns and her desire to build a green house. Like most people of my generation, I am concerned about the environment, so I watched the video and thought, “Wow! there’s some very insightful stuff here.”

    Now here is where things get interesting and the Web comes into play. I decided I wanted to learn more about this medical technologist/environmentalist/geek, so I “Googled” her. What I uncovered was a rich online persona, including a LinkedIn profile, Facebook profile, and other online tidbits that would tell me more about this woman and her passions. And then I ran across a KALW-FM interview. KALW is one of my favorite Bay Area NPR affiliates, and I was intrigued to see she had been interviewed for the Crosscurrents news program. Now I had a chance to hear the professional side of Catherine Mohr, and learn more about surgical spiders and her other passion, developing surgical robots that can go where no human surgeon can.

    And I knew I wanted to blog about this woman because what she is doing is interesting and important. My stepdaughter has taught me a lot about environmentalism and eco-responsibility, and Mohr’s green construction presentation was quite thought-provoking. And the geekier aspects of designing surgical robots appealed to my own inner geek. But what would make Catherine Mohr a suitable topic for a blog about public relations and online marketing?

    The answer, of course, was the way that I discovered her and the effective way she has built an online brand that provides a fairly complete portrait that spans both her personal and professional personas. Whether she intended it or not, Catherine Mohr had created an integrated marketing campaign that builds awareness for her personal and professional passions, and drives awareness for Intuitive Surgical and the DaVinci Surgical System. If I hadn’t run across her TED presentation on green building practice I would never have uncovered Intuitive Surgical.

    The threaded connections of the Web are diverse and deep, and the blog entry you post today could help promote your latest professional triumph, or lead to your last online embarrassment. So be proactive and be positive. Understand that every move you make online reflects not only on you, but your employer, your family, and everyone to whom you are connected. If you understand the power of the web, you can tap it to build connections and a personal brand that will follow you and promote your passions, no matter what they are.



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