August 2009


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analytics(Read Time 2-3 minutes, unless you link out to play)  “Need to know…”  drives much of the marketing conversation.  Who’s listening, what’s competition saying, reach and extended reach.  For Twitter to evolve to a useful B2B platform, metrics must keep pace.  So…you’ve succeeded a B2B Twitter initiative- whether as a client with a first internal campaign, or an agency pro finally coaxing  clients to engage, or the marketing consultats whose careful coaching has tipped the balance.  And results were positive.  Where do you go from here? 

Our observation is that the blush of starting is quickly followed by a “need to know…”  about you your follower community compares to others and/or the competition;  about which topics are trending up;  about norms and numbers and what you don’t know that you should. 

Tweeps.info  Nifty free tool that lets you track on individual Twitter accounts (think YOUR competitors). Inside look at #tweets per day, current and prominent keywords, to what degree the account is using hashtags, following snapshot. Also has a keyword search which is useful if you’re looking to build your follow list around a particular topic.

Twitteranalyzer  Google Analytics for Twitter users.  More than 50 statistical measures displayed with graphics and maps.  Among the views:  Reach, Subject Matter, Follower Growth, Follower Density Map, Follower Activity, Sharing capability.  Primarily a tool for Twitter users to analyze themselves or their friends.

Twitterstats  Hour-by-hour and for any 24-hour period, track up to three keywords (think competitors) w/g/t click volume.  Useful if, for example, there’s news being dropped during the same time period and/or an event/tradeshow and you want to compare message volume/activity around keywords or companies.

BackTweets  A real-time, conversational-tracking tool which allows for keyword and/or URL searches to find conversations related to a post or article; connects: WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, Tiwtter and Friendfeed. Useful for community buzz centralized listening, brand monitoring. An “alert” function.

TwitterFriends A “reach/extended-reach” tracking tool that helps you discover information about the network behing your follower/their follower lists.  Identifies meaningful users you should be talking to, or who are feeding you useful links.  Capability to account search/compare (think comparing your company to your competitors, or thought leader accounts, etc.)

 

BONUS: Articles that Business Professionals Can’t Afford Not to Read

Omniture Adds Twitter Analytics to SiteCatalyst for Enterprise Clients (3/09) Omniture/SiteCatallyst is one of the most widely installed enterprise website metric suites

Twitter.com on Analytics  Twitter themselves, on Twitter.  Seriously… the company’s Twitter account that discusses Twitter analytics.  If you’re not following, you’re missing good conversation.

Social Networks that matter: Twitter under the microscope (1/09 by HP Fellow and Director of Social Computing Lab). Not the easiest read; research and academic but well worth the time it takes.

 

The Tool I Want But Haven’t Yet Discovered

If there, probably user-error that I haven’t stumbled upon it: an app that easily counts the sum of my followers followers.  Essentially, an  “extended reach” calculation in old-media terms.  Anyone know of such a beast, please clue me in;  Share any others of particular value, particularly if you’ve got a favorite likely to have been overlooked.

 

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cat herders small(Read time = 3-4minutes)  Woooo hooo!  Ring the bells, light off the rockets… a round for the house!  A software client company we shepherd just dipped a toe into Twitter waters as part of a tech product launch.  Sure, it felt a bit like the Wild West, at times – and it wasn’t exactly the global, social media mega-initiative Agency-types might have wanted, but it was importantly, a start.

Most interesting, for discussion here,  were the observations regarding the barriers to social media engagement… issues that surfaced due to knowledge gaps, the perceptions around urgency and behavior, and the inconsistencies of stakeholder engagement.  Hoping this summary case study will prompt some feedback and additional learning as others plan first-time social media experiences.

New content just added late 8/27: Results after the week-long push:

*  6 company tweets supporting traditional PR/AR news and briefings from a corporate account w/250 followers (audited narrow for content interest).

*  Additional tweets supporting rich-media content (video clips, whitepapers, benchmark lab report)

*  6 RT throughout the week from associated company Twitter accounts

*  6 ePub stories;  4 blog posts (all very in category)

*  20+ follower re-tweets, again to narrow audience communities very much in category/useful.

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Back to the Story: Surprising barriers and complexity…

unexpected epiphanies…

Good news: the client team found a way to navigate the maze of internal turf, knowledge gaps and imagined fears…   Nothing bad happened (yes, some had visions of employees tweeting amok, of authorized spokespersons being seduced to public misstep by Twitter’s  real-time click stream).  The better news: it was a visible first, small step toward evolving a blueprint for participation and understanding of the business advantages presented by the new, social media tools and channels.

Barriers to Social Media Engagement:  No formal social media policy.  No previous company-branded social media outbound campaign.  A skittish  legal department.   A traditionally conservative marketing mentality.   A virtual marketing community operating from multiple offices/multiple time zones.  Oh… and of course, there was the usual deadline pressure and last-minute “…OMG now we gotta pay attention…” hurdle.

The Collaboration Matrix Required for Success:  As is B2B typical, an outbound initiative requires a matrix of intense collaboration.  Just this small Twitter/web page execution required touching 10+ groups… PR, AR, content experts, marketing communications, social media advocates, copy writers, graphic designers, web developers, metric  specialists, rich-media producers, eLearning staff, legal and the senior executive leadership team, IT , and of course layers of management on several fronts.  (Whew!  Just writing the stakeholder list down should cause most Agencies and Advocates pause.)

The Big Lesson Learned

Don’t underestimate the time/energy required to teach, ground the team with explanations so that real conversations around strategy/execution can start… and that the most critical element driving first-time success is the old-school relationship dynamic as the core team struggled thru roles/responsibilities, and the trust needed to bridge knowledge gaps and ultimately execute. 

Smaller, Important Epiphanies along the Way:

  • The social media advocates underestimated the knowledge gaps w/in the production and marketing communications teams, and the consequences stemming from these knowledge gaps w/r/t strategy and implementation.
  • That SM required a shift away from “business as usual” behavior… wasn’t seen as an urgency by the tactical teams, and took far too long to seep into the collective consciousness.
  • Advocacy needs to be “plural” (ie, there needs to be more than one voice, and advocates must discover each other for support in the face of disinterest, delay and disinformation.
  • Turf concerns will still hinder efficiency.  Twitter blurs the line between marketing, PR, web, advertising, training, etc.
  • Conference calls, email and webex remain poor substitutes for hammering thru time-critical discussions  F2F.
  • Existing agency resources contributed little
  • Stakeholder managers engaged inconsistently: at times delegating too much too low, at times wrestling w/granular detail rather than trusting those with experience/knowledge.
  • Distinctions between traditional outbound/web v. Twitter’s real-time nature impacted greatly the thinking and deliverables around metrics/measurement;  Most stakeholders did not understand the viral nature of social media, blogging, etc.  
  • Core skills needed to be trained ahead of need.
  • Existing spokesperson policy and practices were not seen as easily transferrable
  • The opportunity for customer dialogue actually caused concern among some.
  • Perceptions of what “starting small” meant were vastly different between those w/slight social media experience and those w/out.

Results:

  • One British journalist otherwise unavailable for traditional media briefings took the on-line assets and gained a significant jump in reporting the news; the client gained coverage scale and scope, beyond the norm.
  • Competitors with same-day, same technology news were confronted with having to share the social media landscape for the first time.
  • Social media infrastructure requirements were discovered first-hand and can now more specifically be discussed and made useful
  • The need for real-time metrics and the differences in reporting for social media v. traditional website and old-media were exposed and debated.
  • Nothing bad happened; fear of the unknown was blunted; the door for more was opened.

With coverage now rolled up and analytics presented,  conversations have turned from “starting” to “sustaining”. 

Another very valuable outcome was that relationships were newly formed between otherwise isolated social media advocates w/in the client company itself.  This “leadership from the middle” is, I suspect, from where the social media vision will be most spoken.  And, while at times painful, the experience clearly hinted at the possibilities social media can add to the marketing mix. 

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Opendoor(Read Time = 2-3 minutes) With Twitter seeping further into the collective B2B outbound mainstream, agencies, clients… consultants and entrepreneurs must grapple over who “owns” it, what policies/practices will be used for governance, and the type metrics which will need to be applied to compare/contrast this channel w/more traditional means for outreach and marketing communications. 

The good news, unlike most previous evolutions of outbound channel alternatives, Twitter doesn’t come with budget requirements.  Resources, to be sure, are needed, but it’s not as cash-driven as traditional media.  Still, content… management… and metrics drive the accountability and Twitter, Facebook and the like can be no different.  How a company and its outside support agencies view their Twitter approach seems more to dictate the management framework than intrinsic values associated with the new medium itself.

If primarily a public relations approach, discussions will center more on headlines/140c, news cycles, measuring coverage, and spokesperson authorization;  if used to drive traffic or support promotional calls to action, the focus will be more akin to direct marketing and conversion;  those that seek actual customer feedback and dialogue would message and measure accordingly.

Would like to other professionals weigh-in on this, focusing here on the B2B consequences rather than consumer or personal use.  Among the usage models we’ve observed five which seem to be capturing most discussion and experimentation:

  • Push messaging platform, either PR, Adv or Marketing-driven
  • Traffic generator
  • Instant message call to action promotions
  • Listening dashboard for brands/branding
  • Customer feedback/dialogue
  • News feed

An August 2009 study was just released which categorized a sample of 2000 tweets as falling into the following categories:  News, Self-Promotion, Spam, Conversational, Pass-Along Value, and Pointless Babble.  This report did not attempt to carve out any vertical segments.

Anecdotal observations suggest that the entry point most B2B companies test first is the addition of Twitter to some larger “listening dashboard” initiative, additive to established brand/messaging monitoring.  This “listening/learning” step avoids the requirement for evolving policies/practices, running the legal gambit normally associated w/an outbound voice, and avoid the need to quickly answer the “who owns it…” question.   We observe that the “listening” comes as a result of interest from marketing brand managers looking to gain a business advantage, or the PR/AR, corporate marketing/marcom teams as an extension of their traditional outreach roles.

A short Twitter history lesson:  created in 2006; tipping point seems to have been the South x Southwest Ffestival  in 2007  20K to 60K ranked as ranked Twitter as the third most used social network (Feb09);  Twitter was used by candidates in the 2008 US presidential campaign; and in March 2009, Doonesbury began to satirize Twitter.

Evolution of approach, seems to be the real watchword especially for companies just beginning to test the waters.  Social media advocates w/in the company and/or agency will cry for speed… be frustrated with the knowledge gaps between those engaged and those who don’t yet understand even basic social media marketing concepts.

Advocates need to patiently link social media to historic/analog counterparts as a way to quicken understanding and lessen concern.  Twitter can be a platfor for both “old media” (ie one-way) push messaging/marketing or  the newer “social media” (two-way) channel which encourages active listening and dialogue.  There’s a solid multi-year track record of exploration and marketing use, particularly among consumer companies. The lesson to learn is that Twitter/social media use seems to be an evolutionary process, from: listening/learning, to PR and push messaging, then to branding/education, followed by customer community feedback, dialogue and finally sales/sales influence.  Noise levels will continue to frustrate marketers and audience communities alike, a constant frustration that only grows worse when you wander the social media landscape.

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passon(Read time = 2 minutes) To all of you  energetic, enthusiastic marketing, communications and social media  mavens… to the consultants, the wanna-be’s and the interns in-the-making… Whether you’re on the client side or agency side, here’s a piece of career advice from a seasoned, savvy, and oft-scared veteran.

Turn back now!!!  Get out while you can!!  This business is addictive!!! 

If the American Cancer Society knew about B2B marketing communications, they would make every publisher slap a warning label on every marketing textbook, every blog and every single tweet: ” Warning – this job will stick to you forever; ingest at your own risk; if the conndition persists, count your blessings and seek professional mentoring.”

  I know this from proud and  personal experience.

You see, I had this plan.  Retire after my multi-decades as a branding, PR and marketing communications professional.   Play golf.  Teach at the university level.  Play golf. Explore Social Media. Play golf.  Entertain the grandkids.  Play golf. 

But I only got it less than half right. 

I “retired”  six odd months ago, and I had accepted an adjunct teaching job at a CA prestigious university;  ponied up some pennies and took my wifeand self  on a short second honeymoon.  Then, I got caught up on LinkedIN and started my Facebook Page which, of course, resulted in signing I up for my Twitter account.  I even played golf.  Once.  I even had time to start a corporate learning business to take marketing training to technology companies. 

Twenty-seven days later, I was back at work. 

First my former employer followed through with a consulting contract.  Then a long-time colleague put me together with an extremely promising company with a great strategic communications challenge.  Then there were the graduate students who needed tutorial assistance with class projects and the papers to grade.  Within 45 days I felt alive, challenged and having the time of my life. 

Oh, and then this voice from my PR past called with an offer to blog, test the social media waters and stay intellectually current. Damn you, my old-dog friend!  You see, B2B communications is not job, it’s not career,  and it’s not a profession.  To be done well, it has to be a passion.

The beautiful thing is I’m doing what I truly love to do: teaching some of the best and brightest students at a university and on corporate campuses; molding ideas, positioning them, fighting the marketing fight on two fronts.   And now writing a blog.   In other words, I’m making a mockery of retirement.

So … run, hide, become a lawyer or CMO of a start-up, or a knuckle-baller in the grapefruit league.  Whatever, ’cause once the marcom bug bites, you just can’t shake the fevor, you just can’t stop.  And that’s all goodness, it’s just (thank goodness) not real retirement.

Oh, one good piece of news.  I’ve dropped two strokes off my handicap.  It must be because I’m retired.

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business_branding(Read time = 3-4  minutes)   Breaking new ground, today, as we invite our first guest, leadership blogger Kevin Liebl to add his fingerprint to our B2B marketing conversation… discussing here his thoughts and ideas around the “new” corporate landscape as social media and new technology tools are transforming  the space. Kevin and I sat down over a virtual cup o’Joe.   I recorded the discussion and wanted to share Kevin’s thoughts with the resulting QA below. Enjoy!

Scoopdog:  So Kevin, as a quick introduction, you’ve blogged extensively on marketing leadership and have just recently returned to a familiar marketing/operations role, that of senior VP with a California start-up software venture. Before we jump into a specific discussion, how goes the new position and can you comment on aspects of social media that you see as value-add to the start-up business community?


LieblGuest: Kevin Liebl  Social media, I believe, is dramatically changing the management and marketing landscape. In my 25+ years as a marketing executive, I’ve never witnessed such a game-changing inflection point. I’m particularly interested in conversations around the impact this has on the management leadership team… that’s a principle reason I started my blog: “The Marketing Evolution”. Business fundamentals haven’t changed but the tools and methodologies have. In a start-up environment, in particular, this change is accelerated even more, and provides even more opportunity for business advantage. I view social media as a means to tap into existing communities for a very low real-dollar cost, and arrive at effective, focused marketing and brand-building initiatives. This is a fascinating and very focused way to engage with target communities.

 
Scoopdog:  Our discussion premise is that today’s marketing job and the business space is different today than it was for the previous generation of leaders, or even from just 5 years ago. That said, what do marketers and managers do about it?

Kevin: I break the conversation down into five steps: building a business network… being in a state of constant transition… a manager’s evolving role… personal branding… and finally, what I call your “portfolio income”. Let’s start with the first: the business network. We hear over and over again about the value of trusted networks, of the importance of personal networks. This isn’t new. Trouble is, most people don’t really understand what it means, and very few actively build and maintain a productive personal network. It isn’t until we are between jobs that we realize how important our network is.  It is critical to have strong peer connectivity but the time to build your network  isn’t when you are in transition– that’s the most difficult time to create one.

 

Scoopdog: This is the relationship piece, right? It’s not so much about the numbers of followers or LinkedIn connections, but rather laying the relationship groundwork to both make today’s job productive and efficient while preparing yourself for tomorrow’s job.

 
Kevin: Exactly. The best of business behavior has always been about relationships, at the core… and then about transitions, my “Step Two” in preparing yourself for the new corporate landscape. Statistically, business professionals change jobs every 18 to 36 months. This could be due to upward mobility (you got a better job), or due to rightsizing (you got laid off). You should consider every full-time project a consulting engagement, because that is what it is. You are brought in “to turn the company around”, “to create a new department”, or “to move the startup to a possible exit”. Your role is not a career, but rather a consulting project when you think about it. As they say, “full-time employees are just between ‘transition’ stages”.

 

Scoopdog:  To follow up, the business/job turmoil of the past few years has broken most molds. Traditional jobs are scarce, if found at all. What are your thoughts around the idea you mentioned earlier of creating new roles?


Kevin:  Today’s marketer or manager needs to be thinking differently, and in many cases, be about creating a self-defined, value-add role for within a company rather than just sticking to the hiring-in job description and expecting “the company” to primarily direct your career path. New roles are evolving all the time. Who was hiring a “social media” expert five years ago? Think of all the people giving seminars on LinkedIn today? Your new role may not have existed the last time you were in search mode. Think creatively and look for unconventional opportunities (e.g., remote employment, consulting, etc.) – your competition is. Taking charge of defining your own company worth can certainly be challenging but the alternative is that you may find you are on the street rather than your being a leader in directing the company forward.

 

Scoopdog: This certainly speaks to personal brand/branding. There’s tons of buzz on this flying around the web. Can you put this piece into perspective, as you view the leadership function…

 
Kevin: This is probably the most important thing you can do. It is a broad topic and I promise to dedicate an entire post to it shortly. Think about the value you bring to a company, and begin to determine how you want to position yourself in the market. Whether you are a sales executive, a CFO or an office manager, you need to position yourself as an expert to your target market. This can be done online (e.g., blogs, websites, Twitter, Facebook) or in-person (e.g., industry networking events, speaking opportunities) or through traditional media (e.g., published articles). There are many tools available to build your brand. However, without an established brand in the market, it is very difficult to sell yourself when you are in transition.

 

Scoopdog: Thanks for that. So, we’ve covered Network, Transition, Role and Brand. Familiar concepts from my B-school days. What’s up with your idea around “Portfolio Income”?


Kevin: Here, I’m really now speaking more broadly than just the singular job a person might hold at a point in time. More inclusive… holistic. I’m also framing the “income” conversation more broadly than financial. Income can be in the form of relationships, knowledge growth, positive feedback or the opportunity to help others. More and more, people have “incomes” from multiple sources. Sometimes this is in a very real sense. For exsample, they may derive income from contract work, being an “advisor”, a small web-based business, etc…  The point is, more and more people are creating incomes from multiple sources.  However more importantly, it’s the income portfolio you build outside the traditional definition. Will you invest time learning new technologies/skills in advance of need? Can your personal network expand to add tangent experiences? How does lifestyle play into the larger employee/employer picture, particularly given remote workplace strategies?

 
All these things provide the grounding to become better prepared for the new corporate world and new technologies that are dramatically shifting how we behave as employees, and how we communicate with our target audience/customer communities. I’d love to hear others comment on this topic, either here or on my own blog site (link). Please, weigh-in.

 
Scoop… thanx for the chance to join your B2B marketing conversation.

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Spectrum_by_GRlMGOR(Read time = 3 minutes) Articles you may have missed from some oft overlooked sources, and some stalwarts.  Commentaries on Facebook, Twitter… telephones and Earth’s own aliens- and giants like Buffett, Apollo 11 and the BBC .  A perfect diversion for a mid-business day read.  Let me know if you have others to include on the list. 

THE MONTHLIES

1.  MIT Technology Review: “Privacy in the age of Facebook”

2.  Fast Company: “Daddy Givebucks”   Three years ago, Warren Buffett gave each of his kids $1 billion to give away — suddenly thrusting them into the philanthropic elite. Here’s what they learned.

3.  Scientific American:  “40th Anniversary of Apollo 11”  Neil Armstrong interview, NASA features, the moon landing through Soviet eyes.  All this in more.  SA editors have compiled a plethora of content that speaks to mankind’s giant leap.

4.  The Economist:  “Cutting the cord: America Loosing Its Landlines” The decline of newspapers has been much reported, but another staple of American life is being dealt a death blow:  the telephone landline.  Some estimates suggest the last cord will be cut sometime in 2025.

5.  Discover Magazine:  “Earth’s Own Aliens: They Light Up & Live in the Deep” Marine biologist Edie Widder’s underwater spy camera is an underwater SETI, finally giving humans a chance to see the freaky world of deep-ocean bioluminescent animals.

 

THE BONUS ROUND

***  (Video) Kevin Spacey explains Twitter to Letterman

*** (Conan O’Brien: The Tonight Show Video Clip) Shatner Does Palin’s Resignation

 

ONLINE, the DAILIES and WEEKLIES

1.  New York Times: “PR2.0 in Silicon Valley”

2.  Slate.com: “Domain Names – Don’t Pay”

3.  Business Week:  “Twitter Dominates CMO Social Network Plans” 

 

BLOGS WORTH A LOOK

“Old Media” Blogs the New Media – what I like is the fundamental old journalism rigor of sourcing/checking. doesn’t mean they always get it right but does provide reading that’s a step removed from citizen journalism.

 

1.  dot.com BBC News The web at 20 and other topical technology conversations.

2WSJ Tech Blog:  Digital topics by the baston of print  

3.  Harvard Business Review Several and varied blogs on business, technology topics.

Enjoy!

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etiquette-753284(Read time = 3-4 minutes) Please, someone tell me (send me the link, even better) to the Emily who’s Post(ing) about 2.0 etiquette for the majority of us 1.0’ers! Over Starbucks and a midday break, I was struck by the number of Bluetooths and iPhones juxtaposed with patrons holding the “old-media” WSJ two-sheets wide while sipping their cup ‘o Joe. For those of us outside the boundaries of Silicon Valley (or Silicon Mountain or Silicon Triangles), the intrusion of social media is poised to add one more confusing layer to an already crowded business day of meetings, emails, conference calls, and power point presentations.

Striking a workable balance while (first) learning (then) gleaning value from Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Digg and Del.ic.ious, et. Al. looms large (and heck, since I’m mostly living/working outside all those “silicon somethings”, I don’t even know what I don’t know…).  Some are just discovering Blackberries and IM; now there’s bosses who want to “friend” us on Facebook… 

Nine Steps to Transition  to Digital Etiquette

1.  Whatever the forum (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), don’t add comments unless you are advancing the conversation.  The old adage applies: if you can’t say something meaningful, listen and stay quiet.

 2.  Do I have to Respond? Of course not, no.  Many times, the ping is just a “virtual smile” passing in the hallway.  You have to learn to recognize the difference and respond when it’s obvious that you’re being asked a question.  Become a frequent user of the “ignore button”.

 3.  It’s ok to follow your boss, and follow your boss’s boss.  “Following” (another way of saying link to, friend…) is a way to stay informed and suck up at the same time.  Just keep in mind if they follow you back, your comments will be seen/read.

 4.  Loose the earpiece.  Bluetooth headsets are so conspicuously self-indulgent, at least when you’re not really talking/on a conversation.  It’s so “look at me”, and so yesterday.

 5.  You can never have too many friends (Facebook) or too many followers (Twitter).  Louis Gray, a silicon valley bleeding edge blogger says it best (paraphrasing):  “…never know who you’ll meet, who has value…” why risk limiting your opportunity for a relationship…”

 6.  It’s ok to email during meetings and/or text during conversations – but only if you’re being inclusive and adding content and/or someone to the session that otherwise couldn’t attend.  Hitting Fandango or StubHub for weekend tickets is not acceptable.

 7.  Run a Twitter client in your desktop background.  Occasionally, you’ll discover a real gem and it’s always more fun than looking at any of Microsoft’s wallpaper choices.

 8.  Once you’re wired, pay attention to your personal space (and that of others).  The combination of ringtones, call alerts, blinking Bluetooth connections and too public cell phone conversations make you a walking annoyance.  Strive to manage your profile small.

 9.  Finally, once you ARE wired and feeling like you’ve adapted to/joined 2.0 in all its glory – step back and evaluate yourself for an Xtreme Digital Makeover.  Seriously,  do you really want prospective employers the photos that your kid tagged to you w/out thinking or asking.   Nothing wrong with a little “brand tuning” at the personal level.

The workplace is always evolving, 2.0 is just the latest intrusion.  What will be most interesting to observe in the next few years will be Gen Y’ers coming of business-hire age.  They’ve known nothing but 24/7 connectivity, and as social scientists know – habits learned are habits difficult to break.  Should be an interesting clash  as today’s mid-managers begin assimilation to the always-on workplace as the norm, not the exception.   

The Borg had it right… resistance will be futile.

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