Blog policy? Try a Social Media Policy

Toes_2My company, Brulant, has been around for many years, but is just recently embracing elements of social media internally. In the past few months I have immersed myself in social media to learn – each day I find something new about what our clients can do and what we can do internally.  I’m still learning, but one of the first pieces of advice was to get a blogging policy out there for the company.  We don’t have official corporate blogs in place yet, but I hope to one day soon.  Even so, people need to know what can help them and hurt them regardless of social media tools in play.

I started by looking for other examples out there.  Here are some things I dug up, and I’ll add to this as I find more.  Frankly I started saving so many links and examples it became redundant.  Some of the most valuable finds:

  • A colleague from the Technology Marketing Executive Council run by Forrester shared his firm’s policy (I’ll ask permission to mention him here before I give him up).
  • John Cass, who I connected with over Twitter and Social Media Breakfasts in Boston, has written a book about corporate blogging along with a companion wiki.  He also is a contributor to the list of Fortune 500 companies that have blogs.
  • Charlene Li from Forrester has a wiki of example corporate blog policies, although some of the links are DOA.  Her new book Groundswell with Josh Bernoff has a whole chapter dedicated to "the groundswell inside your company," but the strategy and advice for marketers applies throughout. This is a fundamental book everyone should read. There, I said it. And I just bought 15 copies to give to the people on our internal social media interest group.

Combing through all of these, it was clear that what was relevant to blogging policies is relevant to other sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and many others.  Aside from the HR verbiage around "disciplinary action up to termination may occur" for policy violations, the policy is really designed to promote professional and open dialog regardless of the technology.  Frankly, people need to be aware that firm executives (not to mention our clients) are watching the content generated on the interwebs and should act accordingly. 

Here is the outline of our policy and paraphrased snippets of what is included.  Contact me directly if you would like a copy, although we are still in the process of finalizing and publishing internally.  What have you included in yours and how could we improve this?

  • Agency Monitoring and Privacy Policy
    Essentially saying, "yes, executives are watching and you are responsible for your content out there especially when talking about work on your personal blogs, Face book profiles and forums."
  • Promote Interactivity and Individuality
    Be personal, clear about the purpose of your content, and be responsive to emails, comments and feedback.
  • Promote Free Expression
    Don’t censor comments unless they violate the policy (i.e. confidentiality), and don’t restrict access.  Allow and encourage conversation through comments and sharing of ideas.
  • Strive for Factual Truth and Scholarship
    Never plagiarize, do not use assumed names, and cite sources referenced in each post.  Learn about Creative Commons. 
  • Be As Transparent As Possible
    Reveal as much as your are comfortable with about your identity while being mindful of your own privacy.  Disclose conflicts of interest and other professional associations.
  • Be Professional
    Balance time spent in social media and don’t let it interfere with your work.  Don’t talk about specific clients without their formal approval.  Be mindful of what information is confidential to the firm or our clients.  Live the values in our internal team member handbook.  Respect copyright, the law and other people – disagree gracefully and respectfully. 
  • Examples of Situations Where The Policy Applies and Does Not

I’d value further advice on improving, and as we evolve our use of tools and engaging in conversations we will keep the policy updated.  Already I wish we had an internal wiki to use to collaborate with the team drafting this.  Does your company have a similar policy?  Who drafted it?  What was the response when it was published to everyone?

Thanks to Becky McCray and jwhitcomb for suggesting to write this up.

photo credit: mrvjtod via flickr

Finding Your Social Media Centerpoint

Img00058 While I was reading Groundswell (the new book from Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff from Forrester Research) on the plane last night, I had an epiphany.  I need to find my own "centerpoint" on social media.  What’s a centerpoint?  Great question, I’ll get back to that.  Here’s the paragraph that hit home for me from Groundswell, along with a picture of my signed copy from the Forrester Marketing Forum:

"…these people [IT strategists and CIOs asking about blogs, Facebook, etc] know they need to get involved, but they’re nervous about moving forward.  To us, they seem to have developed a sort of low-grade fever.  In fact, this problem is so common, we have a name for it: groundswell approach-avoidance syndrome.  Look for these symptoms in yourself or your co-workers:

  • Strong, and in some cases obsessive, interest in the blogosphere and in online doings at sites like Facebook and YouTube.  Repeated forwarding of articles on said topics to fellow sufferers.
  • Excessive salivation upon hearing much-repeated stories of corporations that have developed partnerships with social networking sites, started online communities, or otherwise managed to get held up as winners in news reports and at marketing conferences
  • Anxiety at the thought of actually participating in social technologies, balanced by similar anxiety at the thought of missing out."

In the words of Lt. Frank Drebbin, Police Squad:  "Bingo."  My firm is abuzz right now with "figuring out" social media, and we have started a social media breakfast group internally to talk about client opportunities, strategy, lessons learned, trends, etc.  I’ve been using twitter for several months, started using Google reader, started this blog, joined Facebook…all in the interest of learning about community and interaction.  My CEO regular forwards press releases and articles about social media, and our internal interest group points out cool case studies to each other all the time.  What became clear after reading this chapter in Groundswell: I need my own centerpoint for social media.

Blue_4 A few years ago an an internal community meeting, my old firm hired John Foley to present about how high performing teams work together.  Foley is a former pilot with the Blue Angels, and tours doing speaking engagements.  A "CenterPoint" is what the Blue Angels would use to set up their amazing runs – a focal point or object on the ground that would be the absolute center for their flying demonstrations.  One flight pattern in particular uses it – having two F/A-18s fly directly at each other and pass just inches apart right over the centerpoint.  In Foley’s speaking arrangements, he uses the analogy of a centerpoint to be a common purpose to align people and resources, that "all pursue with conviction and clarity."  It can change over time, but defining a purpose is a first step.  (Foley, by the way, is an amazing speaker about how to energize high performing teams – his presentation is very engaging, with some amazing video. I’d highly recommend considering him for doing something different in those "offsite team building" dreary meetings.)

My social media centerpoint, for starters, is to educate, empower and connect people within my firm.  We can’t start preaching to clients about the merits of connecting the community if we can’t eat our own dog food first and learn from our own mistakes trying. 

What is your social media centerpoint?

From Twitter to Real Life: Making Connections

Nicetomeetyoualfredn2_2Over the last several months I’ve experienced a phenomenon that has yet to be named:  Meeting people in person who I had previously only known through Twitter.  It started by meeting folks at social media events in the Boston area (thanks to breakfasts organized by Bryan Person @bryanperson and an evening event sponsored by EMC and Len Devanna @LenDevanna).  I’ve met numerous folks, all I would describe as "good eggs" – from Ami Chitwood @achitwood, leading internal knowledge management at a large consulting firm to the Twitter gurus of the Mzinga crew including Aaron Strout @astrout and Jim Storer @jstorerj to most recently meeting Amy Worley @worleygirl, Director of Interactive Marketing for H&R Block, at the Forrester Marketing Forum.

Here’s one story that jumps high in the "coolness factor" of that twitter to real life experience. 

Months ago when I started on Twitter, I spotted Phillip Zannini @phillymac, an enthusiastic video blogger, Red Sox/Patriots fan, talented interactive designer and all around good family guy.  This week, we both posted that we would be heading to Cleveland.  On Monday, I found out he has accepted a position working at Brulant, the same company.  <cue shameless plug>  I am a partner in our Consumer Product and Retail vertical, focusing on clients in NJ and Michigan while working to expand our presence in the Northeast.  <end shameless plug> One area I have not been as involved in to date is recruiting and staffing in the interactive marketing side of our practice.  Phillip started on Monday and actually used Twitter to DM me once we started to connect the dots:

DM string:
adamcohen:  What’s up in Cleveland? I’m flying there tomorrow AM for a couple days
phillymac: Start my new gig at 9:00am, flying home Thursday evening.
phillymac: I just started working for Brulant. Are you the same Adam Cohen that is in their directory?
phillymac: Ha! You are! I just checked your blog again and it’s the same picture. That’s just TOO funny.
adamcohen: Dude, are you serious about Brulant? Y, I’m a partner there but based in Boston. Are you at Park East in Beachwood?

I was able to grab some time to hear about his background and his experience plugging in with our team.  For me this is my best story about moving from Twitter to a building a much more personal connection.  I look forward to having Phillip as a great part of our team and we’re fortunate to have him aboard.  Last thing I expected was to have someone hired by my company who I had met through Twitter – without me knowing.

Have a good twitter connection story to share?

Photo: AlfredN via Flickr.

Seeing Through the Twitter Clouds

Tweetcloud_2Ten million people have joined.  I was officially number 9,639,352.  Looking back, I am amazed both at the progression of connections made and the topics discussed.  There is a proliferation of tools out there for reviewing your history on Twitter, but two that have been getting a lot of discussion lately are Tweetcloud and Twitterholic.  Here is my personal tweetcloud – note that tweeting during the Forrester Marketing Forum last week skewed the results a bit.  Thanks to Geoff Livingston for suggesting to generate my own cloud.  What does yours tell you?

Followers_2 I also took a few minutes to generate my statistics at Twitterholic.  Over the past several months I’ve seen about 10-15 new followers a week.  It’s exciting but is it really sustainable?  I see that Twitter has moved beyond the "early adopter" phase (since clearly I am not one), but it has a long way to go before fully being accepted mainstream as another social media tool.  During this early phase where there are more people not using Twitter than using, there is a lot of excitement about new concepts and experiments.  Everything from companies bringing their customer service onto Twitter (H&R Block, Comcast, Dell, Southwest to name a few) to breaking news sources, well known bloggers and more.  But once everyone is on Twitter – will it just be a pile of noise that is unmanageable?  Rumors of grouping functionality will help, otherwise users will have to resort to smaller numbers of connections. 

What do you see for the future of Twitter?

edit: The 10 million number is according to  @hci asked over twitter, and she was #12,628,652 according to that site.  She also properly suggests Twitterholic is measuring number of accounts, not users.  Thanks!

Forrester Marketing Forum: Tie Customer Engagement to Company Performance

EngagementWhen I was with one of the Big Four consulting firms (rhymes with Indenture – just kidding, I loved my time there), I spent a small amount of time on a task force focusing on making the firm a "Great Place to Work" in our market unit in North America.  This committee was filled with passionate people in the organization who understood clearly that people were our #1 asset.  The committee’s charter was to go beyond happy hours and newsletters to come up with game-changing initiatives to improve engagement.  In 2005 the group began to get a lot of attention from senior executives in the firm due to some studies tying employee engagement to outperforming stock prices.  The studies measure how individuals responded in surveys to the "Three Ss": Say, Stay and Strive (developed by Hewitt Associates), measuring how effective an employee would talk about the firm, have a desire to stay with the firm for the next couple years, and optimally thrive in their careers while with the firm.  After an annual employee satisfaction survey was done, we received an "Engagement Index" score and were compared to 1500 other companies who had asked their employees the same questions.

The result: While one could debate the "chicken and the egg," there was a direct correlation between the increase in employee engagement and the increase in stock price across 1500 companies surveyed.  High performing companies had high levels of employee engagement.  This was eye opening and got senior leadership to pay immediate attention and "get in the game" on programs that improved engagement. 

After all the talk at Forrester’s Marketing Forum 2008 about customer engagement, I got to thinking.  There were great presentations from Forrester, retailers and software vendors about how we need to measure or quantify customer engagement.  High performing companies like Dell, Nike and FedEx presented on strategies that have helped them increase customer engagement.

What I’d like to see:  A study that ties a measurement of customer engagement to stock price over time. 

Take some of the key brands represented.  Jordan Brands, part of Nike, Inc., has seemingly a brand that can do no wrong.  They are undertaking innovative ways to engage customers in the same ethos of Michael Jordan himself – launching a breakfast club to motivate young athletes and track or suggest training programs, launching an exclusive "Flight Club" with premium offers, etc.  What has happened to Nike’s stock price in the last few years, and what are analysts saying now, despite a weak economy looming?

Nike_4There are many factors around operating a company that impact the stock price, no doubt, and this is only one example pulled from a list of companies doing great things with customer engagement.  I know this can’t be the only factor, but I am still wondering if any similar correlation can be drawn.

One of the breakout sessions I attended at the Forrester Marketing Forum was The Interactive Marketing Maturity Model presented by Shar VanBoskirk, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research.  In her presentation she explained how few companies have interactive marketing efforts that are optimized, and there is a disparity between the high level of belief in interactive marketing and a low level of actual investment or support to execute.  If this correlation plays out to support a positive association, I suspect it would lend credence to the army of interactive marketers who sense or are trying to prove value but have trouble convincing executives to invest in their campaigns.  I also suspect it would open corporate executives to new ways to engage the customer, making a better case for why interactive marketing, social media and engaging customers are imperatives and not optional.

Have you seen any research out there like this?  What do you think would help legitimize interactive marketing and social media campaigns that impact customer engagement?

Seth Godin on Curiosity

Todd Defren posted this video yesterday of Seth Godin talking about curiosity.  It’s an inspirational video which has some fundamental tenets on social media and the transition from the traditional media channels of old.  There’s something in there that made me feel inspired about continuing down this learning path I am going for interactive marketing in general.  The video resonated with me a lot and I wanted to capture here for posterity.  Thanks Todd.

What inspires you?

The Future Will Be Televised…With Social Media

Mf08_webForrester Marketing Forum 2008

How fitting that engagement is the theme.  For my first time at Forrester’s Marketing Forum, I’ve decided to take a different tact on my own personal engagement if nothing else than for the learning experience. 

Ever go to a large conference and just sit at the back, taking those 8 second vacations, checking your email, paying attention only to the most dynamic speakers and humorous presentations?  That was me.  Sometimes I’d wonder why I was even at the conference that was what I was going to get out of it.  Here is a great tip on how to avoid that – use Twitter to take notes.  Jeremiah Owyang, one of Forrester’s well known analysts covering social media, mentioned over Twitter that he would be live blogging during the keynote presentations and offered to have folks sit up front.  Forrester went beyond that with a meebo chat room on the Forrester blog site and ustreaming the keynote with live video.  I decided to take him up on the offer and spent much of the first day of the conference laptop open on Twitter (Twhirl to be precise).  A very interesting thing happened – I paid attention more than I had before, looking for the key points in each speaker’s presentation.  Another side effect happened – I was able to quickly share that knowledge and interact with many who were not at the conference.  To be honest, I was in this to be better engaged, but glad to hear (via twitter responses) a few people got something out of it.

There is a group of folks doing the same here – some experienced social media folks and others relatively new like yours truly.  Here is a list – all talented folks who are deep into marketing in various ways.  I’d recommend following each of them:

@jowyang – Jeremiah Owyang, Senior Analyst for Social Computing
@jspepper – Jeremy Pepper, PR manager for Boingo
@worleygirl – Amy Worley, Director of Digital Marketing for H&R Block
@Rumford – Rodney Rumford, CEO of Gravitational Media and
@MichelleBB – Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, VP of Marketing for Harte-Hanks (also fellow member of Forrester’s Technology Marketing Council)
@weave – Eric Weaver, VP, Edelman Digital

I’m sure there are others out there I haven’t met yet who were doing the same.  I had an enjoyable day today keeping up with the speakers and ‘tweeting’ along the way even through the smaller track sessions.  You can find all of our tweets at

Sessions I attended and covered on Twitter during the day today:

  • Engagement: A New Approach to Understanding Your Customers – Brian Haven, Sr. Analyst, Forrester Research
  • Tapping Agencies’ Evolving Marketing Capabilities – Casey C. Jones, VP, Global Marketing, Dell
  • Moving Beyond Marketing to Engagement – Gary Skidmore, President, Harte-Hanks
  • Creating Brand Advocates at Nike’s Jordan Brand – Emmanuel Brown, Director of Digital and Content, Nike’s Jordan Brand
  • The Interactive Marketing Maturity Model – Shar VanBoskirk, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research
  • Making Word of Mouth Work – Peter Kim, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research; Janet Eden-Harris, CEO, Umbria; Dave Balter, Founder/CEO, BzzAgent
  • Community: Engaging 130 Million Customers – Cathy Halligan, CMO,
  • The Four Pleasures: A Framework For Customer Engagement – Dr. Patrick Jordan, CEO, Patrick W. Jordan, Ltd.

My day 2 includes conducting a usability test for Forrester’s new website (a project led by a former Accenture colleague), meeting 1:1 with Forrester analysts, following a host of what looks like more great content, and an awful flight home.  Did I miss anything?  I have lots of notes to share back with team Brulant and have some great content for future posts… Thank you Forrester.