Conferences


Yesterday, Jeanette Gibson of Cisco’s new media group talked about the launch of their new Web 2.0 site on October 2.  (See my post here about the site.)  Why did Cisco add Web 2.0 features?  They’ve recognized that there is a shift of power in the market, according to Jeanette. They are changing the way they communicate and collaborate. It’s clear that consumers now drive content. Cisco marketing launched the ‘human network theme’—and asked consumers to post their own pictures and share stories with Cisco about how the network has changed their lives.  She said that they learn from their customers every day. (Very cool statement, right?)

Other key web site changes at Cisco:

  • Press room contains lots of videos. They are exploring how to maintain interactivity with customers and partners on the site. For example, how to deploy video, click to talk and more.
  • The ‘employee experience network’ internal blog, and wikis (project workspace/web site that all members can update) is place for employees to learn about new interactive communications and provide feedback.
  • Customers want more personalization on web site. Cisco offers folders for customers to add info that they want to return to—favorite white papers, etc. (Doesn’t ‘favorite white papers’ sound like an oxymoron?)
  • According to focus groups, personalization should also include the ability to post a sticky with notes about a piece of content, a great video and email to their boss, friend.

On how to measure results.  (Isn’t measurement always a sticky-wicket?)  Some of the ways Cisco is  gauging how the new Web 2.0 features are working. Execs ask:

  1. Who are the influencers we want to reach? Are they blogging/talking about Cisco?
  2. What are the Alexa (site that shows traffic rating for web sites) results for key pages. 
  3. How does info flow? They have to maintain a genuine dialog with each community. Cisco knows they cannot just shove messages out any longer. 
  4. How well are they pulling in new and different people (A-list bloggers) into mix with traditional influencers (editors, analysts). 

The Policy Blog is the top public Cisco blog.  Visitors find more specific, targeted views on a blog. They get the opinion of someone inside Cisco—more interactive, not just a press release.

In the future, brochures could become more authentic, like a blog. And lose the spin.

They know they need to engage with customers honestly; with more openness and authenticity.

How can you engage more interactively with your customers, web site visitors?

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The Blog Business Summit’s  (in Seattle) first set of panelists today was Jeanette Gibson from Cisco, Corporate Communications and John Starkweather of Microsoft.  They shared insights about how their companies were adopting the so-called new media—blogs, wikis (web sites that can be updated by web visitors), and podcasts, etc..

At Microsoft the openness started with their developers.  Many of the rest of Microsoft had to be brought along.  Even though everyone knows the internet makes it easy for  geographically dispersed folks to talk to each other—it still had to sink into the majority of the rest of Microsoft how that really changes things (like company communications, marketing). You cannot just throw messages out there anymore.  The challenges, he said, for the company was to how to be open and still preserve the intellectual property aspects of their tech-company traditions.   The challenge for all companies is to be both open and closed, when engaging customers and influentials in the new social networking-world, especially blogging.

An example of how communities work and benefit business:  Microsoft started the Mobius community, make up of online writers/bloggers that are passionate about mobile devices and gadgets. The community evolved on its own. Now it is loose moderator role that he plays.  Microsoft benefits because the Mobius community-members provide specific things they would like the mobile platform to do.   Microsoft has made feature and functionality changes, based on these community requests.  
John Starkweather’s advice to companies:

  • Take hard feedback.
  • Listen. Change. Evolve. 

And use new vehicles to reach people, think, small screens on handheld devices.   He describes the Mobius community as one of Microsoft’s “…most valuable professional program.  Members are very engaged and will share.” 

How could your company benefit from more feedback and insights from customers and users?  More from the Blog Business Summit later.

Just back from WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Assn.) Conference June 20-21, San Francisco

What do you do when 5 of your favorite speakers/authors/bloggers—whose books you love are all on the same conference program? 

  • Jackie Huba, customer evangelist guru, Church of the Customer blog
  • I’m now midway through THE book on why companies can’t afford not to blog by Shel Israel and Robert Scoble, Naked Conversations, How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers.
  • Debbie Weil is the corporate blogging expert, and has a new book, The Corporate Blogging Book
  • The definitive book on WOM and generating buzz is by Emanual Rosen, The Anatomy of Buzz.  Rosen writes takes a text book approach but makes it engaging and gives you lots of examples.

So, when the WOMMA Conference notice popped up, I was thrilled.  I rushed online to good old Southwest Airlines for the cheapest ticket to San Francisco.

The rock-star-moment of WOMMA was the presentation on Wednesday by Shel Israel and Robert Scoble (authors of new book Naked Conversations) spoke.  Robert Scoble, legendary Microsoft blogger (and Microsoft employee for a few days more) is in the top 10 most popular bloggers on the planet. 

Shel Israel is a recovering public relations guy with a long history in
Silicon Valley.  He also invented very cool software, was bought out by big company and worked with lots of startups.

7-21-06 Correction:  My apologies to Shel Israel, and readers.  I mispoke about Israel’s background and another item that as a team, they did not actually accomplish–as he very kindly commented today.
So here is a clarification of his (highly summarized) actual bio:  Shel Israel played a key strategic role in introducing some of technology’s most successful products including PowerPoint, Filemaker, and Sun Microsystems workstations.  He’s been an expert on innovation for more than 20 years.  –From the book jacket of Naked Conversations.

My second inaccuracy to correct is regarding the origination of the term the ‘death of distance’. See clarification below:

Scoble and Israel dropped some new buzz words: Scoble coined the ‘death of distance’ 7-21-06 Clarification:

Scoble cited the Death of Distance when discussing being interviewed by the guy from India. But, in fact, The Death of Distance: How the Communications Revolution is Changing Our Lives is an exquisite book by Frances Cairncross, who, Israel believes works as a reporter for The Economist.  Israel and Scoble believe it is a great work and advise everyone to read it.

Additional note:  Frances Cairncross became Rector of Exeter College (Oxford, U.K.) in October 2004.  Previously she was on the staff of The Economist for 20 years, most recently as management editor.

Some Scoble and Israel thoughts:

  • In the world of companies talking to customers:  Dialogs replace monologues. 
  • Monologues are old marketing. One-way shouting at prospects.  One-way communication.
  • Dialogs are authentic conversations about customer pain, companies’ products/services.
  • They interviewed over 180 people for Naked Conversations.

  • While writing Naked Conversations, they ‘collaborated’ online with other bloggers, who told them who else to talk to. And did fact checking.

  • Conversations are about disagreeing with each other. They included Toby Bloomberg , consultant and marketer, who disagreed with them in the book.
  • Big key for businesses:  What do my customers want?  Blogs will tell you.
  • Blogs are over-the-fence chats. Not tech. Blogs are a reverse-order web site. Google juice. (Google likes lots of links and constant, fresh updates.)

There were lots of other cool presentations.  Jackie Huba–who along with her partner, Ben McConnell–practically invented the category when they wrote, Creating Customer Evangelists, talked about consumer-generated media and how fans and detractors of brands/companies are taking marketing into their own hands. 

Many of these consumer-generated pieces are ‘homemade’ vidoes and are posted on YouTube, Broadcast Yourself.  Like this elegant, 24-second piece done by a 19-year old about Sony–he was just trying to get a job.    Evidently, the Sony executives were surprised that the video was not created by their staff…

Many of the ideas, successes and strategies shared at the conference were used by big companies. I am mulling over ways to translate them for small companies.   

There is one great Small Company, Big Image story I uncovered at the conference.  It’s about a really, really cool consumer product, TheBeerBelly.  The founders put up a microsite for the product in late November.  (It lets you take beer, where maybe you should not…) 

They sent an email about the product to Gizmodo, The Gadget Blog–a powerhouse blog–and got 2 million hits in the next 2 days at thier site, TheBeerBelly.com.  Who says Blogs aren’t changing business? 

One of the founders, Brooks Lambert, was later interviewed on CNN, among others. All because of the huge traffic from Gizmodo. No advertising, no marketing, and they are selling thousands of these great little items.

Will post more shortly on how small companies can use WOMM, Word of Mouth marketing to find new customers.