• Russ Fradin
    Russ Fradin on July 29, 2014

    Why Employee Advocacy Matters

    Employee advocacy is an emerging new marketing strategy where companies empower their influential employees to authentically distribute brand approved content, create original content, and in turn earn recognition and rewards for their activity and participation.
  • Greg Gerik
    Greg Gerik on September 16, 2014

    Shaking Up Social: Attending the Social Shake-Up in Atlanta

    Last year, the Social Shake-Up was one of the best social conferences to attend and this year promises to be even better. Here are a few of the hottest topics and sessions at the Shake-Up this year that are sure to deliver and drive this industry forward.
  • LPope
    Leah Pope on September 23, 2014

    Using Social Intelligence to Build the Sales Pipeline

    The social web has opened new channels for consumers to discuss products and brands, share opinions and ask for recommendations. Brands today must take a more responsive approach focused around interests relevant to the individual consumer. With the right tools in place, brands can uncover these opportunities, engage strategically and directly contribute to trackable lead generation.
  • For many, the notion of being a "woman in technology" is focused on computer science and the tech industry. Should the definition be so narrow? Do we really want to send the message to girls and young women that aspiring to be coders and tech entrepreneurs is the best (or only) way they can make a strong professional contribution in the Digital Era?

    We’ve been hearing a lot about “women in technology” over the past few years. Some of the most memorable stories focus on scandals related to inappropriate behavior among male coders and within the tech industry. In 2013, for example, there was the Donglegate controversy at PyCon and the brouhaha over an inappropriate app at the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference. This year a sexist invitation for a party at Tech Week in Chicago ignited such a backlash that the event was cancelled. These dramatic moments are punctuation points in the ongoing narrative about a global tech culture that seems unwelcoming to women and the specific issue of a lack of gender diversity in technology-focused firms (see, for example, this recent piece in the New York Times).

    Then there are stories about the related counter-movement, particularly the organizations striving to encourage more girls and young women to develop computer skills and pursue technology jobs and careers. Many of these groups focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields more broadly, but there’s a particular emphasis on computer science in most of them. We have Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, TechGirlz, IGNITE™ (Inspiring Girls Now In Technology Evolution), and two different GITs: Girls in Technology, which is an extension of Women in Technology (WIT), and the independently-established Girls in Tech.  Some colleges and universities are also pursuing specific initiatives to attract and retain more females in computer science majors (as discussed in this article).

    I wholeheartedly agree that we need more females in STEM fields and support the individuals and organizations that are striving to break down barriers and create opportunities to improve the gender balance in technology fields and firms in particular. But I can’t escape this nagging question: Should the definition of what it means to be a “woman in technology” be so narrow? Do we really want to create a cadre of female coders and tech entrepreneurs? Is that what we want girls and young women to aspire to be? Is that the only way they can really make a strong professional contribution in the Digital Era?

    I consider myself a “woman in technology,” and I am neither a coder nor a tech entrepreneur – at least not in the commonly-assumed sense. And I am regularly reminded that there are many women who are making strong contributions in technology-focused areas without being employed by technology firms or educated in technology-related fields. Here are some examples.

    LAW

    Lucy H. Koh, the federal district court judge in Northern California who has overseen many prominent tech-related cases, earned an undergraduate degree in social studies before going to law school. Liisa Thomas, who chairs the privacy and data security practice at Winston & Strawn, has an undergraduate degree in history. And Amy Ziegler, a shareholder and intellectual property attorney at Greer Burns & Crain, majored in physics.

    MEDIA

    Arianna Huffington, who established the Huffington Post, has an undergraduate degree in economics. And Robin Carey, the founder of Social Media Today, has a bachelor’s in English. These women may be media-focused entrepreneurs, but the fact that their media companies were built online – and in the case of Social Media Today, with a focus on technology topics – means that they’re also women in technology.

    PUBLIC SECTOR

    Megan Smith, the new CTO for the United States, has a degree in mechanical engineering. Brenna Berman, the CIO for the City of Chicago, has undergraduate and graduate degrees in public policy. Minerva Tantoco, New York City’s new CTO, has a bachelor’s in philosophy and cognitive science. And Rachel Sterne Haot, New York City’s first Chief Digital Officer who has now assumed a similar role for New York state, was a history major.

    Even many women in more traditionally-perceived technology roles and companies did not start out to be coders or IT professionals.

    TECH FIRMS

    Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer and IBM’s CEO Ginni Rometty have degrees in computer science, but they may be more the exception than the rule. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, and Margo Georgiadis, the President, Americas at Google, both have undergraduate degrees in economics and MBAs. And Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard’s CEO, may have started out as a math and science major, but that’s because her goal was to be a doctor. After a summer job selling advertisements for a magazine, she switched to economics and then later earned an MBA as well.

    TECH START-UPS

    Genevieve Thiers, the founder of Sittercity.com, ContactKarma.com, and OperaModa.com, has degrees in English and music (opera no less!). Gina Bianchini, another serial tech entrepreneur who is currently the founder and CEO of Mightybell, studied political science before earning an MBA. And Kristi Ross, the co-CEO and president at dough, Inc. (formerly tastytrade & dough), began her career as an accountant.

    TECH INVESTORS AND ADVISORS

    Ellen Levy, who was involved in LinkedIn from its founding and lists herself as an “investor, advisor, tech company exec” on the platform, has not just one but three degrees in cognitive psychology. Another investor and advisor, Jan Davis, started out as an English major before earning an MBA, and built her career in marketing. And Ellen Weber, the executive director of Temple University's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute and Robin Hood Ventures has a bachelor’s in economics.

    As top-level leaders, these women may not seem like the most representative sample – but we should view them as symbolic, and as part of the vanguard. For each one of them, there are legions of women in less-prominent and lower-level roles and organizations who are forging careers as women in technology. And most of them are doing so without degrees in computer science, without being coders, and without creating or working for tech start-ups. That’s not to say there isn’t still disparity in technology-related fields, roles and firms – or the need to do more to create opportunities for women, as well as better gender balance and equity – but the pursuit of those goals may be better served by a broader point of view.

    As well intentioned as the predominant focus on women in technology is, it’s potentially limiting and maybe even counter-productive. We must ask ourselves: Do we want women to code and be the founding heads of technology start-ups, or do we want women who will assume technology-focused leadership roles across a range of industries and roles? For me, the answer is the latter.

    I’ll return to this idea in my next post by offering an expanded perspective on helping girls and young women define and pursue technology-focused and other Digital Era careers. In the meantime, I invite you to share your perspective. What does the notion of being a “woman in technology” mean to you?

    Educate, inspire, communicate and deliver content that is relevant to your business but also has an element of human interest. In order to do this, you need to be strategic in how you connect paid, owned and earned channels in order to build awareness, brand evangelism and of course the Holy Grail, which is best defined as measurable sales.

    Over the past few years you may have noticed a change in the way you are consuming content. With more and more large companies looking to find ways to connect to their ideal consumer there has been a shift in the way content is being developed and shared.

    In the early days of the Internet the web was pretty simple and straightforward. You bought a URL, you put your products and services onto a website and you waited for the phone to ring. But with the evolution of web, search, social and integrated marketing there has been a change, which basically comes down to this…

    If you want your business to be found, seen and heard online, you need to connect at the human level. Educate, inspire, communicate and deliver content that is relevant to your business but also has an element of human interest. In order to do this you need to be strategic in how you connect paid, owned and earned channels in order to build awareness, brand evangelism and of course the Holy Grail, which is best defined as measurable sales.

    Let’s Consider an Example of a Media Hub

    While there are many examples of brands acting as media hubs, there are few doing it better than American Express’ Open Forum.

    If you visit the Open Forum you will find a vast landscape of video, articles and other visual content from a diverse group of business leaders, executives and entrepreneurs. While much of the content is interesting and terrific, it would be hard for the average reader to truly make the connection between American Express and an article like 3 Keys to Mobile Small Business Success?

    And then beyond just the content there are opportunities for readers to ask questions of their forum experts and join into live chats and events. Basically a menu of ways to get more involved in the community and gather more information about whatever small business owners may be thinking about.

    In theory this is great for the small business owner, but what is in it for American Express?

    Really, it is quite simple. Business owners are the most likely candidates for most of American Express’ products. Who needs small credit lines and business credit cards more than business owners, and where are the most businesses? Small business. So just like that the connection is made and we have now tied what is in it for American Express, but again, why go through so much trouble?

    As I mentioned when I started this article, in the modern web we don’t connect with brands and sites that are just bombarding us with “Me, Me, Me” style content. In today’s world it is more about sharing and collaborating and with that generosity comes interest, loyalty and commitment to a brand. In essence the Open Forum created a loyal community of small business owners that are now at arms reach from AMEX to eventually earn their business or grow their business together. BRILLIANT!

    At this point you may be nodding your head in theory, but thinking, I’m a small business so how does something like this benefit what my business is doing?

    The answer is that more small businesses need to be taking a “Media Hub” approach and while building your own Open Forum may not be realistic in the short term, there are ways to build a more media centric site that talks about more than just your products and services but about your whole purpose, industry and vision. The kinds of things that make people say, “Yeah, I want to be a part of that!”

    Building Your Very Own Media Hub

    So what can a small or midsize company do to get into the “Media Hub” game? Well there is plenty and here are 5 that I recommend.

    1. Start Blogging: Okay we are going to ease into these, but if you aren’t blogging and allowing employees, customers and executives to tell stories and share interesting ideas then you are missing a massive opportunity to connect with your customers. The blog can live as an extension of your site or, as some companies are doing it, as a separate site dedicated to content and community leaving only a minimum tie back to the brand site.
    2. Think Visual: For some companies it is hard to sit down and write a lot of content. Another great way to tell your story is to utilize video. Brands no longer need elaborate technology to record a conversation. An iPhone and a YouTube account can often do the job. Start talking about the industry, the challenges, the opportunities and interesting world events that can be tied back to your business. People want to get to know your brand on a personal level!
    3. Be Social: For small businesses wanting to get more exposure the investment in creating content often doesn’t go unnoticed and the question that follows is usually who is reading/viewing this stuff? A great way to start building an audience for the content your brand is creating is to be social. Your employees, customers, partners and friends are a great way to start. Once you have them sharing you need to use brand owned social channels and strategic growth of those accounts to help content go further. Giant online brands like Mashable were built entirely on the back of social engagement. And while they are big now, they weren’t always.
    4. Foster Community: As an extension of being social, the best media hubs have an approach to help them build community through interaction. While many companies have mastered the art of using social to promote themselves, few do a good job of using social to hold events, drive conversations or just strategically connect to their target audience. An important distinction when it comes to building community is to remember for most brands the right audience is more important than a large audience. For some businesses acquiring just a couple of new customers can mean 6, 7 or 8 figures in new revenue. Why try to boil the ocean when making one cup of tea will do the job?
    5. Go Mobile: People are now spending more time on mobile devices and subsequently mobile apps than ever before. This means making your sites, content hubs and applications mobile friendly. Including taking into consideration the importance of simplicity, fast load times and easy navigation. People on mobile don’t have much patience for slow loading mobile sites. For some innovative small companies this opens the door to using a dedicated content app for interested consumers. By creating a “Your Brand App” you can actually have a dedicated site where your community can explore your content fast, easy and in a mobile friendly environment.
    6. Think Consistency: If there is one thing that small and midsize businesses mess up at more than anything else where their media strategy it is consistency. The old adage about needing to see something 7 times is still true and in a world where we see more and have more options than ever before we need to be even more diligent. Most of the media hubs that are really doing great are extremely diligent when it comes to regular content, events, engagement and other activities. So maybe you can’t do something every day, but whatever you commit to, see it through. This will build your content library, social influence and community in a more methodical and predictable manner.

    A Media Hub for a New World of Marketing

    While many brands are dabbling in social and content, few brands are realizing the power they can have as a media outlet.

    In the past investments in media were paid to media companies because of their audience and reach and although some still have large and targeted reach, many cannot connect to the few right people that your brand needs to connect with. This is why small businesses may have the most to gain by being their own hub for content, and by creating their own assets that they own in perpetuity.

    Think about this: Once you build the readership, it is yours. It is on your channels and it is your content. How powerful is it to have a loyal readership interested in the products and services that your company offers?

    This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit  IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

    Credit: image 

    People are crowdfunding, making, sharing, collaborating, all kinds of their things in life. Some are getting food on-demand, rather than going to traditional grocery stores or restaurants. The world is speeding up, and people are transacting between each other, or rapid-delivery services. To help make sense of this dizzying environment, we attempted to take a snapshot of this world in motion, to try to find out what a single day comprises of.

    Data shows collaboration in the new economy is accelerating.

    People are crowdfunding, making, sharing, collaborating, all kinds of their things in life. Some are getting food on-demand, rather than going to traditional grocery stores or restaurants. The world is speeding up, and people are transacting between each other, or rapid-delivery services. We expect this to continue to accelerate as the funding from VCs dwarfs many markets, adoption rates are doubling, and the media has endless coverage over this collaborative movement. To help make sense of this dizzying environment, we attempted to take a snapshot of this world in motion, to try to find out what a single day comprises of.

     


    collaborative economy

    Infographic: A Day in the Life of the Collaborative Economy (Ver 1.0

    This version is a draft, I’d love to get your feedback (in the comments).

    Data Methodology and Sources

    Data was aggregated from online sources, first, then in many cases, I asked for clarification from startups contacts that I know. All data was from 2013-2014 sources. Only four of the eighteen sources are from 2013.  Some companies declined to provide data, or it wasn’t listed, therefore we did not include. In many cases, data was annual, or monthly, and we divided to find out an average daily rate. In many cases, companies would not provide a daily rate, so we had to conduct this exercise on our own.

    Similar Resources

    1. The Mesh Directory, by industry leader Lisa Gansky lists out over 9,000 companies in this market.
    2. The Collaborative Economy Honeycomb which shows many of the startup logos
    3. See VC funding of this market, on a Google Sheet I manage.
    4. An older collection of stats and figures in this market.
    5. Full body of work, research, data, reports, and slides.

    collaboration / shutterstock

    These days, there’s no end to what businesses can do when it comes to engaging with social media, no one channel to which they’re limited or forum from which they’re kept.

    These days, there’s no end to what businesses can do when it comes to engaging with social media, no one channel to which they’re limited or forum from which they’re kept. Now, with more than a dozen different platforms from which to choose, brands must work to be found and remain known, and to stay relevant in the digital age – the trick here being, of course, that they know well in advance which channels will ultimately serve them and their buyers best.

    Social media might seem a time investment to some, to small and midsize businesses (SMB) especially, but the return can be tenfold, so long as brands have the right strategy in place. That said, here are six ways SMBs can hit the ground running in their social media efforts:

    Let your target audience determine your social presence.

    As you begin to build out your brand’s pages on various social channels, think long and hard about the types of content your buyers consume most, and about the offers that often attract them. If, for instance, your business happens to be a courting a demographic of potential homebuyers, make it a point to share helpful guides and how-to’s that break down the complexities of real estate – a crash course on securing mortgages, a tutorial on making offers, a list of red flags to look for in listings, etc. Make it a point to educate instead of sell, and your buyers will thank you for it.

    Focus on a few select channels, not all.

    It’s better to be deep than broad in your engagement on social – to lavish a small handful of sites with your energy and attention, versus attempting to have a minimal presence across all. Consider the sites your buyers frequent and the places where your content plays best; if you’re looking to off-load a whitepaper, for example, you might try doubling down on a site like LinkedIn, where whitepapers and eBooks tend to fare best.

    Identify (and be willing to leverage) social influencers.

    If you’re looking to generate real demand for your product in the social pages you keep, search for and utilize key social influencers – thought leaders, academics and respected industry experts that command strong social followings and engage followers regularly.

    You’ll want to look for people with well-defined positions and similar views, people you believe your own buyers will benefit from hearing. Once you find those influencers, you’ll want to approach them carefully, and in a way that signals your respect for their expertise – you might solicit their feedback on a product or service you provide, or make them the first to know of developments in your organization. You can share their content as a start, to show an interest in their work and perspective on the industry.

    Understand that conversations are key.

    Once your pages are up and running, be sure to monitor each one closely to see what sorts of exchanges take place on them and within your larger social network. Try to identify the hashtags relevant to your industry or product, or the handles of competing vendors and industry publications, and be sure to follow them. This way, you’ll get a sense of what your buyers are discussing, which, in turn, gives you content to share and opportunities for engagement.

    Draw content from relevant sources.

    Admirable as it is to create and share original pieces of content exclusively, curating content is extremely beneficial in the long run, as it shows your buyers you care more about educating and helping them than selling them on your services. It also has the benefit of drawing on the followings of other thought leaders and publications – share an article from Forbes that’s relevant to your industry and you’re likely to catch the notice of those who follow Forbes out of habit, who wouldn’t necessarily know to look for your product otherwise.

    Be precise in your calls to action.

    As you go about building a following for yourself on social media, don’t forget about the people you came there to engage and serve: buyers on the lookout for your specific product and service. If you’re a provider of lead generation software, be sure your offers map to marketers specifically. If, instead, you’re a third-party vendor selling tee times at a country club, strike out at golfers. The goal is to be specific in what you provide, so your followers (and potential buyers by extension) feel like there’s really something for them – and them alone – in what you offer.

    While social media can be described as a relatively recent development professionally, it has become essential for businesses of all sizes to incorporate it into their marketing strategies. Be sure to keep these six tips in mind as you reevaluate your business’s marketing plan to take your brand digital – and beyond.

    In this episode of the Social Zoom Factor podcast I explain why marketing and business leaders leading social media marketing for brands of all sizes must empower their audience and give them something to join that offers value, relevancy, community and relationships that are meaningful. I also share 10 strategies and tips to nurture and grow communities that offer value to all who choose to participate.

    Humans are creatures of habit. Since marketers are humans, this means it’s easy for marketers to fall to old tactics and strategies to achieve their business and marketing goals.

    Times are changing. Smart marketers are quickly learning that it is no longer simply about eyeballs and impressions. To inspire audiences to connect with brands, marketers must connect in a human way.

    Even more important is that audiences and community members are invited to join something bigger than what they can be or do by themselves.

    It is human behavior for people to want to feel connected. They want to connect with other humans. They want to know that they are safe, cared for and that their worth on this planet will have a lasting impression. They want to feel a sense of belonging, achievement and actualization.

    Bottom line, people want to be part of something bigger than what they can be by themselves. They want to not just buy something, but join something.

    In this episode of the Social Zoom Factor podcast I explain why marketing and business leaders leading social media marketing for brands of all sizes must empower their audience and give them something to join that offers value, relevancy, community and relationships that are meaningful. I also share 10 strategies and tips to nurture and grow communities that offer value to all who choose to participate.

    Episode Highlights

    • Why people want to be part of something bigger than themselves
    • Why people want to do more than buy things
    • What people look for in a community
    • How community leaders can build a “sticky fabric” that attracts and inspires people to stick around for the long term
    • 10 tips to nurture and grow meaningful communities of value

    Supporting Resources:

    How to Subscribe to Social Zoom Factor Podcast