The Northwest Entrepreneurial Network's ThinkTank event at Seattle University last night included our own Web 2.0 business owner, Nick Huzar, co-founder and CTO of Konnects.com, in a panel discussion with Ian Lurie, President and CEO of Portent Interactive and Nathan Kaiser, founder and CEO of npost.com, talking about social media's business application.
The panel offered advice and information consistent with our morning seminar. Each group of presenters supported the notion that the CEO or business founder must be engaged in online media, particularly blogging, or even Twittering. The conversation lead online by the business leader brings fresh content to their company's Web site, driving up search engine listings, as well as personalizes their brand.
The entrepreneurs in the room were particularly concerned with the time demands that staying current in social media circles puts on a business owner and leader. Nathan suggested that "you just have to arbitrarily draw the line" on where you choose to devote your energy. Blogging was identified as one of the easiest ways to begin - starting simple, engaging with others offering similar content and linking to them when it makes sense. Ian advised to begin with "cornerstone" content, or the "biggest, toughest issues facing your audience" and to answer those questions first. All panelists urged patience with a social media strategy, and said that success is incremental. Companies looking to leverage these new resources need to give their efforts time and know that consistent and relevant content will generate a following over the long term.
There was much discussion about content, and the appropriateness of personal vs. professional information posted on CEO blogs, twitter feeds or social media sites. The litmus test the panel seemed to agree on was "don't post anything online that you wouldn't want your mother or children to read." Advice from Ian also included "don't blog angry, or drunk, or drunk and angry," and "Don't make it personal, it's just not worth it" saying that it is never a good idea to engage in personal attacks or criticisms.
The Business Examiner recently provided some guidelines to our staff regarding social media, adapted from a policy I found online written for Edelmens PR agency. Other sites I liked that addressed the same issue were from Bryon Person, a self-proclaimed social media evangelist, and Fast Wonder Consulting's blog. The BE thought it necessary to create a written policy because, although much of the rules are common sense, the reality is that not everyone's definition of "common sense" is the same. As these tools are becoming more integrated in our business, it just seemed prudent to address the issue head on.
The panelists were asked to provide three things they would like attendees to take away from the discussion. Nathan offered this advice "Get online, be active and don't offend your mother or children." Ian suggested that all company execs should tune in to the conversation already happening out in cyberspace by learning to use Google Reader, or another feed reader. The reader allows them to monitor and respond to many relevant feeds without making it overwhelming to sift through all the posts. He also said that it's important to "demythologize this stuff," and to get engaged in the conversation.
On a final note, the panelists urged CEO's not to be afraid to open themselves to comments or feedback. As Nick pointed out, whatever it is, it is already being said - you just may not be hearing it. They all agreed that the best way to approach social media is not to try to control the conversation, but to be a part of it.