I went to the second Boulder New Media Breakfast last week (this will be a monthly event, but this particular talk was delayed by a week due to weather). It was interesting–a 15 minute networking session over bagels and coffee, then an hour presentation. The catch is that it started at 7:45 in the morning–so you still had a full day left when you were done.
It was an interesting presentation and crowd and I think I’ll attend in the future. It was a much smaller crowd (30-40 people) and far more focused on marketing than the typical group I attend (New Tech, BJUG, CU Colloquia [which incidentally is having an interesting talk on “leveraging social networks in information systems” on Apr 7]). I talked to a couple of people who were PR folks interested in technology, which isn’t my typical networking group. I also talked to a fellow named Joe, who often asks hard questions, but always wears the great hat, at the Boulder Denver New Tech meetup. I also got a chance to talk to Dave Taylor (of elm and Ask Dave Taylor fame [who answered a tough question well enough it got emailed around to me])–it was interesting to talk to him about his move from software developer to strategic business consultant.
After the networking, we all sat down for a presentation on reputation management by John Jantsch. The following are my scrawled notes from that presentation (any sentences that start with I are my thoughts).
Lots of people use the internet to do research for products and services. 36% of people think more positively of companies with a blog. I don’t know how many people think less positively of such companies.
As a company, says John, you need to have a policy on digital conversations. Such conversations with customers will happen, so you need a policy, and HR is the right department to produce one. He discussed three types of conversation: person to person (like Dell customer service reps answering questions on forums), thought leaders (like a blog from a industry heavy weight who happens to be employed by IBM) and company communication (like an official blog from the USPS).
John also mentioned that it may make sense to, in the same way that sales folks sign non compete agreements, to have customer service reps that interact through social media sign such agreements. After all, if someone is the face of the company, and then they switch jobs, do they (and their new company) have a right to all the followers on twitter that were acquired through the original company’s hours? Who owns the facebook profile? I never have liked non competes, but the idea follows logically from the personalization of customer service on company time.
Another concept that is important is transparency. Given the proliferation of digital communication, transparency into a company is here–now the question is, how can you influence it. The best way to influence it is to host your conversations as much as possible. In addition, be proactive in responding to issues (ie, customer complaints).
As a company, you need to have coherence in your branding across your internet presence. Just as the website used to be ignored 10 years ago, facebook profiles are now often ignored and grow up from the ranks. This leads to lack of message and branding consistency.
Now John moved on to cover some tools that are useful. Most of the tools are free, but he did mention a few paid services. The following are free alert services that help you search for keywords in various areas of the internet:
- Google alerts searches emailed to you
- tweetbeep.com twitter
- boardtracker.com forums (will find stuff that might not make it into the Google index)
- backtype.com blog comments
- search.twitter.com twitter
He referred to twitter as a “stream of sewage” and stated that tools to filter that stream were needed. (As an aside, this video commentary on the twittersphere is hilarious.) Twitter has a location specific search options (in advanced search) that you should definitely leverage for competitive analysis.
John also talked about making sure that your online presence is high quality. This is not only done by making sure your website/blog/facebook profile/twitterstream/etc/etc are updated regularly and with good content, but also by taking advantage of tools that aggregators like search engines provide. For example, if you have a local business that appears in Google’s local search, you can add update the entry using the local business center. This lets you claim the listing, add pictures and verify other information. Other search engines have analogous processes, and it is well worth your time to try to stand out. I don’t quite know what will happen when everyone does this updating–the value of accurate content will remain, but having a picture won’t be enough to stand out.
Another person asked about the personal/business divide: if you’re running a small business, do you want to provide info in your twitter stream (or other digital media) that identifies you as a person (“I like to tele ski”) or just have it focus on business issues. John answered that the line is still blurry and being defined. I personally try to keep my blog focused on business, but I think it depends on what you’re selling. If I were selling socks, tales of adventures in my socks would be appropriate. Since I’m selling software services, you probably don’t want to hear about the killer desert hike I went on last year.
I really enjoyed the breakfast and encourage anyone with an interest in digital media to try it out. The next presentation (at the end of April) will be a presentation by Terry Morreale on personal digital security (I believe).