Thursday, June 18, 2009

Social media presentation at SMPS event

Just finished presenting at the Society for Marketing Professional Services San Francisco event, where I shared the stage with Maura Ginty from Autodesk and Heather Durham of The Durham Group. We were there to talk about social media, and we covered a number of interesting avenues. The audience was marketers for architecture and engineering firms, and was a great opportunity to talk to a group for whom much of social media - blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. - is new territory.

These firms - much like the law firms I used to work with when I was at iManage and Interface Software - have to justify investing in new things with uncertain results to leadership who's often of a generation that didn't grow up with access to these tools. For many of them, "social networking" (as one of the organizers told me) still means cocktail parties and country club memberships.

I tried to stress more than anything else that the key to social media is keeping it personal and conversational. One of the lessons we learned on the Dean campaign was that supporters responded more strongly to the campaign when they got to know the people inside the campaign. Posts didn't go out on the campaign blog under Howard Dean's byline, they went out as written by Joe Trippi, Matt Gross, Nicco Mele, Jim Brayton, Zephyr Teachout, Garrett Graff, and so on. And as people got to know them, the connection to the campaign got stronger and more resilient. When Matt asked for tech help, or Zephyr called for volunteers, people responded.

This wasn't just a political thing - I watched it happen when we reached out on the publisher services team at FeedBurner, and it's equally true now with the Blogger team responding to users on Twitter. I stressed to the audience today that a blog can help individuals within a firm establish their own voice, and by creating that visibility directly benefit the firm in the process. It's a lesson that I think is too often overlooked, as people tend to emphasize the tools (do I set up a blog? get an account on Twitter? How do I use LinkedIn?) instead of thinking about the end result: do you want your firm to be more visible? More authoritative in industry press? Establish personal connections with business leaders, potential clients, business partners?

Blogs, networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, and yes, even Twitter - every one of them can play a role in accomplishing those objectives. But saying you have a blog, or getting a Twitter account - those aren't the objectives. They're the means to an end.

There was a good crowd there today - well over 100 attendees, which is apparently double the typical attendance for these events. I'd love to hear from anyone there - what questions didn't we get to? What else do you want to know? I'm guessing your colleagues have some ideas to share, or additional context to provide... have at it in the comments.

Thanks to the SMPS for being such great hosts, I had fun!
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  1. Rick,
    I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation this morning at the SMPS meeting.
    Besides giving presentations to specific organizations, do you offer any type of social media workshops? The company I work for, JKL Construction Services, hasn't jumped into the online social media scene yet. Personally, I have started a blog focused on my hobby of jewelry design. Your presentation has inspired me to kick it up a notch!

    Your newest fan,
    Laura Ellington

  2. I also found your remarks (and those of Maura Ginty) both interesting and helpful. Based on your two-minute tutorial, I started a blog, Design & Writing ( It was as easy to set up as advertised. The link in French because variations on "design" and "writing" were pretty well staked out.
    - John Parman (Gensler)

  3. I enjoyed your session as well Rick. Can you direct me to the lawfirm's blog you mentioned? (The guy who was in your wedding.) I'd like to learn from a similar company's use of blogging. Thanks!

    Jennifer Fitzgerad
    GNU Group

  4. @Laura - Thanks for the feedback, glad it was useful and thanks for sharing your blog. Love the jewelry there.

    @John - Already following your blog, I look forward to seeing how it goes.

    @Jennifer - the guy I referred to was Erik Heels. His blog is here:

    And he's on Twitter here:

  5. Rick,
    It's taken me a while but wanted to say thanks for taking the time to share with SMPS in San Francisco. I particularly enjoyed the clarity you brought in describing social media as simply about building relationships. Please consider speaking at The WAVE the first SMPS Pacific Regional Conference March 25 - 26 in Sacramento ( Your insight is perfect for our message: navigating change.
    Marion Thatch