How to talk to execs and clients about social media

“Know the differences between Technology, Features, Benefits, and Value,” Jeremiah Owyang
 advises in his blog post about effectively talking to executives and clients about social media. He goes on to provide concrete examples of all four approaches, and suggests how to establish trust and respond to indicators of interest or disinterest. Good stuff.

I’m an emerging technologies evangelist focusing on social computing in the enterprise. Some people come to me with a technology focus. They want to use a blog or a wiki, but their objectives aren’t clear, and they don’t know where to start. Sometimes they start on their own, but they quickly lose interest in it when people don’t reply to their posts or update their wiki. Part of my role as a technology evangelist is to get them from focusing on the technology to focusing on at least the benefits as soon as possible. In order to do that, I need to know who they are and what matters to them. What are they looking for? What words do they use to describe what they do? Listening is a huge part of evangelism. (This makes me want to find another term, actually, as “evangelist” brings up images of people who just talk at other people.)

When I talk about benefits or value, I talk about WIIFM: “What’s in it for me.” It’s a good idea to lead with personal benefits, and let the social benefits follow. Blogs, social bookmarks, wikis… All of these things should pay off for you on a personal level, because the social benefits might not kick in for a while. When I talk to people who are new to blogging, for example, I emphasize how it’s useful as a professional notebook for recording lessons learned and questions to explore. I talk about how the practice I get in thinking about what I think makes it easier for me to talk to other people. I talk about how my blog helps me remember what I’m passionate and excited about. When the personal benefits are established, then I can talk about the social benefits: the unexpected connections, the deeper conversations, the online and offline interactions. But personal benefits have to come first. Otherwise, it becomes a chore and you won’t be able to appreciate the social benefits.

Kids are a great way to show some of those benefits, because kids pick up the technologies that have good WIIFM value. Here’s an example: At a recent kick-off meeting, one of the clients mentioned that he saw his daughter using del.icio.us to coordinate a school project with some of her classmates. Using del.icio.us, they could quickly put together and share relevant sites. And hey, if his daughter could do that, maybe people in his company could, too.

The caveat is that it’s also easy to get locked into thinking of social media as just for the kids, or just for our personal lives. That’s why it’s also important to tell stories about older people using social media. (My mom shares business tips on her blog!) It’s important to tell stories about the business benefits of social media. (I got my job because of my blog, my bookmarks, and my other social stuff!) We need to tell those stories so that we can help people see what’s in it for them and what’s in it for their company.

So how do you talk to people about social media?

  • Listen well. You need to pick up and use their vocabulary. You need to watch how they react. People give you plenty of cues; you just have to listen.
  • Focus on people and value, not the technology. The technical details come later, when you’re talking to IT for implementation.
  • Tell stories whenever possible. They make your benefit and value statements concrete.

(xpost: The Orange Chair (team blog), personal blog, personal internal blog; thanks to Stefano Pogliani for the link)

Learning how to tell stories

Thanks to Michael Nielsen and Jennifer Dodd for highly recommending
Made to Stick, a great book about storytelling. It arrived at the same
time as The Elements of Persuasion, which made a terrific
complementary read. Book notes to follow. =)

On Technorati: ,

Random Emacs symbol: radians-to-degrees – Macro: Convert ARG from radians to degrees. – Variable: Radian to degree conversion constant.

What’s your story?

Thanks to Gabriel Mansour, I was part of a fun podcast with Joey de Villa (Accordion Guy, Tucows). Joey and I chatted about the Philippines, tech, moving to a new country, Emacs (“For those of you listeners who haven’t heard of Emacs, it’s a text editor—” “It’s a way of life!”), and other things. =) That was fun, particularly with Joey’s totally cool audio setup complete with nifty microphones and a sound mixer.

It inspires me to do my own podcast, particularly as I’m interested in
storytelling. I want to hear people’s stories. Here’s what I’m
thinking of: three minutes to tell a story that illustrates something
fundamental about you. Maybe it’s about your purpose in life. Maybe
it’s about what you want to do. Maybe it’s about one of your core
values. What’s your story?

What do I need in order to make this happen?

In terms of tools: I have a digital voice recorder that I just need to
remember to keep well-stocked with charged AAA batteries. That can
take care of real-life conversations for now, which is good because I
can attach bios and pictures.

I’d like to be able to interview people over the Net and over phone,
too. I should figure out how to record Skype conversations in order to
take advantage of free US/Canada long distance (to phone) and free
PC-to-PC calls. If I can’t get that to work, I can use Gizmo or
something like that instead, I guess. More of a hassle, though. As for
phone… I don’t know, maybe I’ll get some kind of gadget later on.

In terms of stories: I need to start off with an introductory podcast,
then I need to line people up for it. Maybe I can set once every two
weeks as a nice goal? Podcasts don’t have to be totally regular
(that’s what RSS is for!), but it might help. If I like the pace of
two weeks, I might even be able to step it up to once a week.

I want to hear your story. Interested in being part of something like this?

On Technorati: , ,

Random Japanese sentence: テーブルに猫の足跡が付いている。 There are footprints of a cat on the table.