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!