Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Is Your Message Clear?….Twitter Your Business Description

Had an great conversation while attending the conference on the value of simplicity. Many organizations, including mine, can be accused of complicating their message and making it difficult for their employees, their customers, their prospects and their community at large to understand what they do.

An attempt of this for Ivara would be as follows:

“Ivara provides business intelligence software to improve physical asset performance and reliability in capital intensive industrial companies”

While this is a very valuable exercise I would caution against over-simplifying. Twitter is a great tool BUT if it takes you 160-180 characters to appropriately state your message that is not the be all and the end all. The point is be able to articulate to your community what you do in a memorable, repeatable, accurate statement so when you get a couple minutes to introduce yourself in the elevator or at the conference people will get it. Another great exercise is to do this with your Executive team and ask each of them to do this and compare. The variation in what comes forward will provide evidence of how clouded your message may be in the market. By the time the message gets from Exec to employees to customers to prospects, etc, etc imagine what a mess it can be if it is not crisp from the start. It’s like a bad game of “telephone” from when you were a kid!

Couple to-do’s for you as you look to grow your community:

  1. Send me your “twittered” messaging and let me see if I can clearly understand it and would remember it
  2. Ask your co-workers to do this and send it to you via email within 15 minutes. Significant variations will tell you that a follow on meeting to clarify this statement is required.

Send your messaging and let me know how your to-do’s go. Clarity of messaging is key for all stakeholders and community members.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Conferences, Community and Social Media

Had the good fortune this past week to attend one of the premier conferences in our industry (RCM09) and meet with several of the main players in our space, the asset health and reliability space, and with several customers and prospects who are looking to take the next step in their asset performance journey.  Here is a picture of our booth:


One of the leaders in our community and the conference organizer Terry O’Hanlon is embracing social media as a content delivery, engagement and community building tool.  The conference had it’s own Twitter handle which was helpful in a couple different ways:

  1. It allowed those who were attending to talk up the event and virtually meet new people and set up meetings before even arriving at the conference
  2. It allowed people who were not able to attend to participate with the rest of the participants and hear what was going on and follow along from their office
  3. It acted as a news media source.  During the conference there were major announcements and press releases and conference updates that needed to be communicated and this was a great media to disseminate the information

As you look at how you build your community a few points and suggestions as a follow on to my previous post as you look to take the next steps.

  1. Just Do It! – Be a leader and get started today.  Control the medium, control the message, control the space.  Start distributing content that is of value and point people to where the content resides.  Become the trusted advisor for resolution to their business issues and point them to others when they have problems that you are unable to solve.
  2. You Don’t Have To Do It Alone – who are the leaders in your space and what are they doing online.  Reach out to them and work with them to set up a site, or better yet post to your site.  Talk to your customers and partners and determine how and what will add value to them and work with the ‘gurus’ of your space to deliver it.
  3. Start twittering, blogging, etc at your conferences and let people know you are there.
  4. Consolidate your online contribution and make it easy for people to find you - If you have a website that is your principle communication vehicle is your blog linked to the website and vice versa so they are easy to find?  Is your Twitter handle and link on your blog and website?  What about your business collateral?  Put it on your business card.  Put it in your email signature line.  make it easy for people to find all your contributions and thoughts on your community so that they know where to go and don’t have to search.

Remember that building a community takes time, patience, dedication and is an investment in your company, your community, your customers, your employees and your prospects.

Some math to show the reach of social media.  The Twitter conference handle generated 86 followers in a couple weeks.  Lets assume 1/3 were already using Twitter (my estimate from reviewing the list) and that means that approx 60 new people in my community were reached using social media due to the commitment and effort of one of our respected industry leaders.  Over time if those 60 users add 60 users each in the community (fairly conservative assumption) the community has grown to 3600 in fairly fast order.

Now maintaining those new community members and growing that community is dependant upon the continued flow of VALUE ADD content.  I and all of us at IVARA will do our part to contribute and lead this great community and care and feed for customers, partners, employees and prospects.  For now we have our IVARA BLOG, our IVARA TWITTER  and many webinars, etc that link through our website.

What are you doing in your space?  Are you investing in and giving to your community, if you don’t someone else will…step up and make the commitment, get started today.

Please comment on your thoughts, experiences, successes, failures so we can all grow our communities together.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Building a Community….Step 1

My company Ivara operates in a fantastic market that is full of opportunities to engage with a robust, knowledgeable group of employees, customers, competitors and thought leaders.  While the current economy presents challenges for us and our customers alike it is also a great opportunity for us to band together and share our experiences (good and bad) and help each other come out the other end of this downturn a stronger, more profitable and better serving community than we were before.  To that end we all have to do our part in the community and it starts with adding value.  I am a huge Twitter participant and one of the biggest messages that you get from engaging in this medium is exactly that…engage! 

Like everything in life, you get out of something what you put into it and when building a community you should always be making deposits into the community bank so that at some point you are able to make a withdrawal.  As I am familiar with it I will use my industry as an example but it could be applicable to any industry.  Our industry is focussed on supporting industries on the road to operational excellence and providing people, process and technology to facilitate and sustain change in their organization ensuring improved uptime, productivity and quality from their operations.  Many operational and maintenance folks are not entrenched in the online world to the same extent we are….and why would they be?  Historically, other than personal interest, there has not been a ton of value add content and guidance online to assist them in improving how their assets run and are maintained.  This is the first challenge in building a community….providing enough valuable content consistently for them to want to engage with you using a new medium. 

How do you get offline people online???

In a word…persistence!  Over weeks, months and years continue to provide meaningful free content for people so they can use what you know to improve their business and solve their day to day business problems.  Then connect the content to the people.  The content can be delivered in an immeasurable number of ways.  We have started in the last year or so with a program to deliver blog posts, twitter updates and webinars online in addition obviously to the company website.  All of these are good delivery vehicles especially at the beginning where less sophistication for your community is probably better.  We have now added a free online reliability conference that is open to any and all customers as well as some prospects.  What works in your space?  Give it some thought, plan out some ideas, throw out some trial balloons and feel your way along.  the only thing I know 100% for sure is you MUST start and you must start now.  If you don’t someone else will.  Be there for your customer and community, be a leader and show them you are committed not to your own success but to theirs and that you want to provide them with tools, ideas, resources that will help make them look like stars in their organization.

I am fortunate that we have a community with many other people who are true experts in our field who have been forging the path online for us to follow.  It is now time for me and our Ivara to step and contribute to the community and make our overdue contributions to the community bank.

How has it been building a community in your industry?  What lessons have you learned?  please share so we can all learn and foster healthy, vibrant communities in our respective spaces.

We have a long way to go but I am committed and persistent and believe in our community!