The Frost & Sullivan Blogging Panel

Through a room mix-up (my fault) I was about 10 minutes late to this session, so I’m jumping in without a lot of set-up. I’ll plan to put it in context later.

Chris Heuer – The blog is the platform to create media. All companies are media companies. In developing the editorial calendar, look at the SEO plan and the keywords you want to own, and cover content. Understand the power of access; you have the ability to provide the “official” voice.

Bill from Intel – says a really big company can perhaps wait and monitor blogs instead of diving in, but for a second-tier competitor it’s a huge opportunity to have a voice much bigger than they would “deserve” from their relative place in the market.

Q: What are the top three reasons to blog? What are company objectives?

A: Cost of not doing it, and not having a voice in the conversation. Efficiency of marketing communications. Brand value. Connecting with people who care. The brand with the best storytellers wins. It’s also great for SEO. The market intelligence you get is the most raw, unfiltered information about yourself and your competitors.

Blogs provide brand advocates a way to speak out about how they feel about the product, not what the company is telling them to say. We’re not “using” customers, we’re empowering them. Not “leveraging.” The language is important because it can reveal a mindset that is antithetical to the social media world.

Companies don’t have to be in a glamorous line of business to benefit from social media. Fiskars scissors has “Fiskateers” for its word-of-mouth program. Intel has identified 50-100 bloggers who are most passionate about its products. BlendTec has the Will it Blend series. If those can become interesting, any product can…with some creativity.

Cara from H-P suggested linking to blogs that talk about your subject of interest.Ā  The more you help bloggers’ voice to be heard, the more likely they are to write favorably about you.

You don’t necessarily need to have a blog to engage in the blogosphere. Commenting as an employee (always being transparent about your identity) in posts that are about your company.

Companies could consider having a directory of employee blogs that is linked to from the company blog. H-P has online, self-paced mandatory training for its corporate bloggers. Refresher on standards of business conduct. H-P is seeing more of its leaders set the example by starting their own blogs and encouraging other employees to do likewise.

Intel has bought video cameras for all of its PR offices, telling people to take the cameras to press conferences and events. Intel created a contest on who could get the most views on their videos. One employee got 85,000 views for his video and won bragging rights over a colleague who got only 500.

It’s important to look at social media tools for what they can do, and how you can adapt to your business goals. For instance, Dell uses Twitter for its Dell Outlet to sell refurbished units. They immediately sell out. Twitter’s 140-character limit also can be used to help focus your message. It’s a good way to impose discipline.

We closed by asking participants to list their favorite blogs. Here they are:

In honor of the presidential primary season, here are some political blogs (two from each side):

I know I missed a lot, so will appreciate any additional comments people may have. What points did you think were most important?

Frost & Sullivan User-Generated Content

Douglas White of MindComet invited me to be part of the un-panel for this session that he’s moderating. I’m with Kevin Hoffberg, Rick Short and Chris Curtin from Disney, VP of Global New Media.

This was a highly participative session, which is only appropriate given the topic. Having a session on UGC without having substantial discussion would be odd.

The project from Mayo Clinic that I highlighted is Care Pages, a service we provide to our patients to enable them to provide updates to family and friends.

When Kevin was writing a book about customer experience, and ran into Yours is a Very Bad Hotel he started to see the potential. And because the most powerful customer experience can be fixing a bad experience, tapping into complaints and fixing them can be a great win for your company.

Chris and Disney are mostly reacting to UGC vs. creating it. It’s really happening without their involvement. People already go to Disney theme parks and upload pictures to Flickr, Facebook or MySpace. He mentioned how Procter & Gamble has a contest open to engineers throughout the world to help design or improve P & G products. Disney is planning to find ways

Disney has a Moms panel/forum that lets expert Moms answer questions in real time on their web site.

Earthlink had to pull back from hosting UGC because they found out there aren’t a lot of enthusiastic users about internet connections. The only people commenting were those who had a gripe, because Internet connection is viewed as a utility. It’s only news when it doesn’t work.

That caused Rick to bring up the video showing the Comcast service guy sleeping on his couch because he was on hold so long.


Rick’s team at Indium has a Public Discourse policy as opposed to a blogging policy. They started by having service techs who help customers by phone every day go on the Internet and type their communications instead. It was a no-brainer.

For me, the “aha” moment was when we saw that we already had more than 1,000 Mayo Clinic employees and students in Facebook.

Kevin says the data for involvement in social media are overwhelming, but for most people an anecdotal story makes the difference.

The Economist has a story this week on the music industry. A record company had a focus group with kids, offered a “take as many as you want” pile of CDs, and nobody took any! Talk about an AHA moment!

About half of the participants in our session have Facebook profiles. More are on LinkedIn. Fewer are on MySpace. I said for people in PR, or Sales or Marketing, it should be a basic level of knowledge.

Here’s the group I created for the Frost & Sullivan conference, where today’s conversation can continue. I hope lots of the participants from today will join.

Kevin mentioned Flock as a way to incorporate all of your social networking presence.

Action point: Join Facebook now and friend me.

Frost & Sullivan: Using Social Media to Drive Demand

Michael Masnick, President and CEO of Techdirt, is leading this session exploring:

  1. Blogs
  2. Social Networks
  3. User Generated Content (YouTube, Flickr, etc.)
  4. Twitter
  5. Wikis
  6. Virtual Worlds (Second Life)
  7. User Reviews
  8. Employee Communities

Our key take-aways will be:

  1. A framework for understanding blogs & social media in terms of how they can be used to drive demand
  2. Case studies on a few different ways to engage with new media audiences
  3. Examples and insight into what works and what doesn’t in the social media space

There was a significant discussion over whether or not to respond to negative comments. One participant said his company’s blog is to provide a forum for customers, and that they don’t respond on the blog. Someone else raised a question: If an issue surfaces through the blog and you address it, why wouldn’t you go back and do a blog post to let everyone know that you had resolved it?One of our participants mentioned that his employer, TD Bank has a Facebook group or application. I’m not sure whether I’m seeing the one he’s mentioned, because it may be limited to Canada. Its competitor RBC has a sponsored group, too.

There was a lot of discussion about ROI and metrics. From my perspective, the key is making the “I” part of the ROI equation as small as possible. Train employees to engage as volunteers. Get customers involved. Provide the platform for them to have discussions. With little expense, it makes the return (much of which may be hard to quantify) easier to demonstrate.

When we broke into roundtables to work on case studies, I was with three consultants so my employer, Mayo Clinic, was the only organization left. So I had the benefit of Kevin Hoffberg, Ginger Conlon and Anne Smith Rainey (from Publicis Modem) giving their advice based on what we’re doing. Kevin is blogging their recommendations for Mayo Clinic, as well as those from the other groups for U.S. Bank, Pfizer and Armstrong.

Facebook Fan Pages Improvement

I just noticed this improvement to Facebook fan pages, which may make them a lot more popular.

It’s now really easy to share a fan page with your friends. In the upper right navigation of fan pages, you now see the following:

facebook fan pages

When you click Share with Friends you get a standard sharing interface, like this:


I like Jeremiah a lot, but this graphic is for demonstration purposes only. I don’t think my kids are really into Web Strategy. šŸ˜‰

But on my Facebook profile I have posted a link to a fan page we’re developing related to my work. Previously there wasn’t an easy way to share these pages. Now you can do it passively (by posting to your profile) or actively (by choosing to send a message to particular friends.)

This could make pages much more useful and worthwhile. But for organizations and companies, I agree with Jeremiah that it’s important to have a strategy and plan for how you will engage.

The voluntary sharing feature just makes it more likely those strategies will succeed if you engage meaningfully.

365 Days of Memories

Just as companies may choose to use a fiscal year that doesn’t coincide with the calendar year, I’ve decided that my annual Aase family year-in-review should go from December 30, 2006 to December 29, 2007. When I did my first on-line Christmas letter last year (around Thanksgiving), we were only looking forward to one of our family’s major milestones. It seems only fitting that this special day should be the starting point for any review of the last 365 days, and that I should be writing about it on the one-year anniversary of the event.

Walking Rachel down the aisle
A year ago today I walked my eldest daughter Rachel down the aisle for her marriage to Kyle Borg. If you’re in Facebook, you can go here to see the highlights. My brother, Mark, took a lot of candid photos and did a great job. We’ve thought about starting a little weekend business doing wedding photography and video, and that may get going in 2008. But for now, we’ve both been really busy with our regular jobs. So I videotaped four weddings in the last year (including Rachel’s and, as a bookend to the year, Mark’s daughter Allyson’s yesterday) to help friends and family and to get some experience. I set up a Facebook group to display some of our work, and then also a Facebook fan page when that became an option in November. Perhaps in 2008 we can make some time to update our Facebook presence by getting more video and photos added. I do think Facebook would be a good way to market a business like this.

In May, we had the unique event of having both my 20-year old son, Jake, and my brother Mark graduating from college on the same day. Here’s a post about that special day and Mark’s commencement speech; Rachel followed Jake in graduating from UW-La Crosse earlier this month. Jake worked at Camp Shamineau this summer, co-leading the high school counselor program. Now he’s working in La Crosse as Rachel and Kyle spend their last year there before Kyle graduates and they move to California for him to attend seminary. We’re glad Rachel and Jake are so close and that Jake and Kyle are good friends, too.

In early July we had a fun family trip to Kansas City for the National Bible Bowl Tournament, where our youngest daughter Ruthie did extremely well as an individual and led the team that included her siblings Joe and Rebekah to a 10th-place finish. Ruthie and Rebekah are both high school juniors this year, taking all or most of their classes at Riverland Community College through Minnesota’s Post-Secondary Enrollment Options programs, which enables them to take college classes for high school credit. This is the plan that enabled their older siblings to graduate from college before age 21.
Bekah made honorable mention all-conference in volleyball as Austin’s middle hitter, and is starting on the Packer girls’ basketball team that’s off to a 6-2 start. As I discussed here, we’re using a Facebook group as a way for team members, parents and fans to share photos and video highlights, and to link to newspaper coverage. She’s almost 6’1″ and is barely (for now) taller than her 13-year old brother, Joe. That won’t be true next year.

We (mostly Lisa) continue to homeschool Joe and John (9). Lisa’s good homeschooling work has been validated by her early college graduates and how well Ruthie and Bekah have done on their ACT and PSAT standardized tests. While in my work I tend to get more immediate feedback on successful projects, Lisa’s is more of the long-term variety. I think she has good reason to take immense satisfaction in what has resulted from how she has given of herself for our children.
John has zero interest in sports, but is a sharp student and more of an artistic/creative guy. Joe plays in orchestra at the middle school and also is involved in football and basketball. It’s really special that he plays on both teams with his cousin Tom, Mark’s son, and that my parents get to attend all of their games (and Bekah’s.)

I often say we have a Norman Rockwell kind of life, with three sons and three daughters being raised in my hometown, near both sets of grandparents. Lisa and I are so grateful for all of these blessings, and for my job with Mayo Clinic that has made it possible for us to live in Austin.

Speaking of my work, 2007 started with separation of another set of conjoined twins from North Dakota. When they went home in February, it capped a one-year period in which three sets of conjoined twins were successfully separated at Mayo Clinic. Our team coordinated the media involvement for the families and medical teams.

New Media, also called social media, are becoming a more important part of my job. We launched a series of Mayo Clinic podcasts in July. This blog and my Facebook exploration have been keys to my social media learning process. It’s interesting to me that a year ago my familiarity with Facebook was indirect; four of my kids were in Facebook, but I wasn’t. Now Lisa and I both have Facebook profiles, and we’re “friends” with Rachel, Jake, Bekah, Ruthie and Joe. I’ve also enjoyed meeting people with common interests through this blog and through Facebook, and at several conferences throughout the year.

So, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I hope this personal digression won’t make you irregular. šŸ˜‰ For you, I’ll be following up with a post about how blogs and social media can do a better job than the traditional Christmas card/letter at personal updates to extended family and friends…or how they can make an annual update unnecessary.

And if you’re a family member or friend who got this link from me as part of our annual Christmas letter, I hope you’ll join Facebook and “friend me” so we can stay connected throughout the year.