Starting Day Two of ALI Conference

Day Two of the ALI Conference is about to start. Today’s agenda includes case studies from Cisco Systems, Rolls Royce, Best Buy, IBM and American Express. Chris Heuer from the Social Media Club and The Conversation Group will be leading a group exercise. And our conference chairperson, Michael Rudnick, will tie it all together.

I’ll be blogging again as an embedded report from the front lines. Look for dispatches throughout the day here and on Twitter.

Connecting With Your Audience Using Social Networking

J.C. Bouvier of the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Kevin Reid of Issue Dynamics presented this case study. In his previous career, J.C. started Avid’s podcast series.

He took the job with IFAW, a more pragmatic organization than PETA, to  promote the Stop the Seal Hunt campaign, aimed at getting the Canadian government to take action.


  • Recruit thousands of new users into IFAW’s existing
  • Generate 10,000s of new messages to the government of Canada
  • Increase fundraising
  • Provide a range of engaging, meaningful activities for new and old users

Campaign Components

Goal was to get 300,000 actions taken.

Evoca is a way to upload and share audio…like YouTube for audio.


  • Community Members: 98,000+
  • Subscriber List: 5 percent increase
  • Actions taken: 346 percent increase
  • Donations: 56 percent up over previous year
  • MySpace: Doubled number of Friends
  • YouTube: Over 60,000 views

IFAW also has the Stop Whaling campaign, with similar elements.

CDC Connects

Kay Sessions Golan (PDF file), Director of Employee Communicaitons for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), presented her case study on CDC Connects, the CDC’s On-Line Newspaper and Intranet Portal.

Note: one of the downsides of internal communications is it’s usually hard to benchmark against other organizations. You can’t see their intranets. So Kay showed screen shots from the CDC Connects project.

CDC started its internal blog after having attended a conference like this one. It took about 9 months to get started. They’re using WordPress installed on their servers. It’s “real” blogging software.

Why a blog?

  • These conversation are happening anyway.
  • It allows for respectful, open conversations vs. the water cooler talk
  • It demonstrates trust in employees, and they expect it can lead to problem-solving across the organization.

If you think you’re “controlling” the message now, without a blog, you’re deluded. A blog let you introduce the subject and engage the conversation, instead of having it happen without you.

CDC’s intranet blog is a moderated blog that allows anonymous comments. They did have some trust issues, so they wanted to encourage honest feedback. They were concerned they would get just the “suck ups” – the virtual Eddie Haskells – if they required people to give their names.

This is a little bit risky. Michael Rudnick, our conference chairperson, says the CDC policy is the exception, more than the rule. If employees know that IT can trace comments back to the source, it may diminish trust.

CDC has developed and refined its blog rules over a few months. One of the rules is that the comments need to be “on topic.” They engage in conversations with the negative commenters, asking them to provide specific suggestions for improvement.

They do one new post a week. Categories have included: Business Services, CDC History, CDC Now/Futures, CDC Stays Healthy, Facilities/Scenes, General (the catch-all) and Public Health in Action.

What they’ve learned after 51 posts and 2,400 comments:

  • Most active discussions: on topics that affect daily work life
  • Least active discussions: on scientific or programmatic topics
  • Many managers are reluctant participants
  • Discussions easily wander off topic
  • Appreciated by bloggers
  • Let it evolve and mature.

Kay says they’ve thought about using WordPress for crisis communications. That’s a great idea. I’ve blogged about that previously here. You could do that in WordPress, or in Facebook, or both. If you have WordPress on your intranet already, it takes about 15 minutes to start a new blog to handle this.

Sun Microsystems Embracing Social Media

Sheira Ariel and Carrie Motamedi from Sun Microsystems presented Embracing Social Media: Why, When & How?

Sheira asked whether social media are “just for fun” or also for business.

I actually think social media can make business more fun. And if your goal is more engaged employees, wouldn’t having more fun lead to more productivity?

She gave the example of IBM using instant messaging to put together a proposal for a client really quickly. Likewise, I’ve suggested using Twitter to quickly activate a crisis-response team.

On any given day, half of Sun’s 35,000 employees are working remotely. This makes a stronger case for using the collaborative power of social media.

A year ago they were using traditional communication vehicles: Town Hall meetings, E-mail, Static Web content, Newsletters, Conference Calls. Now they’re adding Global Town Halls, blogs, IM, Facebook, Wikis, Video/Podcasts, WebEx, SecondLife.

The Sun culture supports social media. Then-COO Jonathan Schwartz launched his external blog in 2004. As CEO, he challenged the employee communications group in 2007 to focus on “building communities” instead of just “doing communications.” They renamed their group to include the “communities” element: Global Employee Communications and Communities (GECCO)

Schwartz’s mantra is “Everything always in beta.” This enables them to experiment.

Sheira’s Guiding Principles & Tips:

  • Focus – pick a couple of manageable projects to get some quick wins
  • Start Small
  • Know Your End Goal
  • It’s a Journey

Five Common Social Media Goals

  1. Connect with friends and co-workers quickly
  2. Collaborate
  3. Build communities
  4. Get what you want (not what someone else wants you to have)
  5. Share

Matching Tools to Goals

  1. Wikis for collaboration/knowledge sharing
  2. Blogs to build reputation/share information
  3. Text messaging/IM for quick connections
  4. Forums and message boards to get employee feedback, solve mutual problems
  5. Facebook, MySpace, Ning to build relationships, share

Sun has about 5,000 people on Facebook. Socializing that happens in Facebook builds relationships that help create collaboration. It’s pleasure that leads to better business.

Sun has a PR group focused on social media. They also have experimented with events as ways to “slip in” new technologies on a pilot basis.

I created an event on Facebook within Social Media University, Global. I hope everyone who is attending the conference will indicate their attendance at this event by:

  1. Joining Facebook if you’re not there already.
  2. Enrolling in SMUG
  3. Indicating your attendance at the event.
  4. Continuing the conversation and networking, either around the event or by discussing here.

ALI Conference: Chairperson’s Address


Michael Rudnick of Watson Wyatt is the chairperson for this conference. I met him when he chaired another ALI conference, in Chicago. He did a great job facilitating that event and tying the presentations together.

We started with obligatory (I guess) safety warnings about what to do in the event of an earthquake. Not something that’s typically a big concern in southern Minnesota.

Michael’s presentation was on The Read/Write Intranet: How to Drive User Engagement and Productivity.

Employees want personal, straightforward, relevant information they can trust. They’re increasingly skeptical, though, of anything “corporate.”

They also want a “consumer-grade” user experience. They see great UI on the Web, and wonder why their companies have such a clunky interface, lousy search, and no ability to interact with (or help create) the content.

Key issues for Communicators:

  • Content – demand for immediacy and ease of publishing. Targeting content (enabling users to get the information they need, delivered to them.) Translation into non-English languages. Multi-media.
  • New technology – keeping abreast of changes
  • Operations and governance (guidelines, ROI/budgets, redundant or competing web initiatives
  • Phasing and transitioning to a new portal. Michael says communicators need to take a patient approach, and understand that it may take 3-5 years to implement a complete change.
  • Integration of third-party sites/data/content

Too many corporate intranets are in the Web 1.0 mindset, which indicates (to me, at least) that we don’t have a problem with people taking the long-term view. It’s fine to have a long view, but you need to at least start implementing some things to avoid getting bogged down.

If TechCrunch can keep busy covering start-up companies that can launch with as little as $50,000 in capital, why can’t Fortune 1000 companies fix their intranets?
Web 1.0

  1. One-to-many
  2. Preach/Spin
  3. Command & Control
  4. Formal and pre-determined

Web 2.0

  1. Multi-directional
  2. Advocate
  3. Influence and persuade
  4. Informal and dynamic
  5. Presence

Facebook isn’t “just for kids.” The over-35 demographic is the fastest growing. And large companies are saying, “So Far, So Good.” He cited a McKinsey study of companies that have adopted Web 2.0 tools, and most of them are saying they wish they would have started earlier.

Michael says that by the end of 2008:

  • At least 70 percent of companies without official support for blogs and wikis will have multiple unofficial deployments. Just because you say “no” doesn’t mean people won’t do it, just because you won’t provide the official infrastructure. They’ll form Google groups, or WordPress blogs or use other free services.
  • Enterprise social software will be the biggest new workplace technology success story of this decade.

In response to a question about using Facebook-like services for employee directories, Michael said there are several companies that offer “white label” products. He says one obstacle is that most companies would want them hosted on their intranets, fully behind the firewall. Actually, Jeremiah Owyang has a complete listing of these vendors.

Michael seems to be a big fan of Microsoft Sharepoint. You can see the demo here, but he says it doesn’t really show how you would incorporate this into your workflow to get things done. One idea he has is to have hands-on demos for whatever your technology initiative is…like the Apple store…so people can interact with your geeky “geniuses.”

That’s what Social Media University, Global is all about. Not many people will actually get to visit “Old Main,” but hopefully through the online curriculum they can get some ideas for how these tools can be used practically.

Michael’s Key Lessons:

  1. Have a strategy, vision and 18 month road map.
  2. Attain and maintain legitimacy — executive support and business case (and necessary funding)
  3. Line up content owners, provide a usable cms and continuous training and support
  4. Focus on ongoing support and resource commitment — implementation is only the beginning
  5. Thing big, start small, scale up — implement in phases — tightly prioritize and continually reassess
  6. Plan for continuous evolution — content, user interface, user preferences, software, search

We had lots of great Q&A with Michael. Please continue the conversation in the comments below.

For information about auditing SMUG classes or applying for admission, click here.