Name: Vanessa



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Bio: Vanessa DiMauro is the CEO of Leader Networks. A pioneer in business-to-business community building, Vanessa has been creating successful online communities and networks for more than fifteen years. Vanessa is a popular speaker, researcher and author on the topics of online communities, social and professional networking, and Web 2.0 for business. With a research background, Vanessa takes the approach of a cultural anthropologist to help businesses effectively use social media to get closer to their customers, generate revenue, innovation and tangible ROI. She has founded and run leading online professional communities such as Cambridge Information Network (CIN) for Cambridge Technology Partners, Computerworld Executive Suite and CXO Systems' Peer Visibility Network. She consults with many organizations on Web 2.0 for business and has a blue chip client list which includes Cisco, Cognizant, EMC, LexisNexis, The Palladium Group and SAP. Vanessa DiMauro was recently named a 2009 Research Fellow for the Society of New Communications Research and also serves as an Executive- In-Residence at Babson College, for the Olin School of Management. Women in Technology International (WITI) named Vanessa DiMauro one of "Boston's Most Influential Women in Technology". She holds both a B.A. and an M.A. from Boston College.

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    Social Media Strategy Map: How to find your way

    September 14th, 2010

    Calling all Balanced Scorecard practitioners and strategy executives, here is a Strategy Map to guide the Social Media / Social Business initiatives within your organizations. After Leader Networks developed the strategic frameworks for social media at more than 40 companies, including many large enterprises, we sat down with pen and paper (literally!) and pulled our approach and methodology into a Strategy Map.

    (double click image to download)

    This is, of course, a generalized Social Media Strategy Map that will need to be adapted to your company’s goals and objectives. However, it is a great starting point for applying the Balanced Scorecard approach to Social Media and Social Business.

    For those who are curious, a Strategy Map is “a diagram that is used to document the primary strategic goals being pursued by an organization or management team. It is an element of the documentation associated with the Balanced Scorecard, and in particular, is characteristic of the second generation of Balanced Scorecard designs. … The first diagrams of this type appeared in the early 1990s, and the idea of using this type of diagram to help document Balanced Scorecard was discussed in a paper by Kaplan & Norton in 1995 [1].” See the rest of the Wikipedia entry for more information.

    There are many strategic tools and frameworks available for describing and optimizing business processes, such as The Lean Enterprise Institute , Six Sigma, Business Process Reengineering and many others. Each takes a different approach. Over time, Leader Networks will be developing social business tools in support of other premiere management systems. We began with the Strategy Map because of our work with Palladium Group — run by Drs. Kaplan & Norton, the fathers of the Balanced Scorecard — which helped us become well-versed in this particular methodology.

    No matter what management system your organization embraces, the important task is to develop the strategic intentions for social business and social media, and align this strategy with your operations. It is time to expand our understanding and use of social media from marketing tactics into a higher, broader strategic initiative. What other efforts in your organization have the potential to transform customer relationships, product or service innovations, reduce costs and increase shareholder value? Isn’t it time to start thinking strategically about Social?

    Please take this Strategy Map and share it across the C-Suite; improve upon it, adapt it, exercise it and put it to good use. As you do, please be sure to share yours with us. You can post it here or share it with us privately (partners at leadernetworks dot com). Either way, we will be happy to give you feedback.

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    Who Owns Social Media and Why It Should Not Be You

    July 1st, 2010

    Determining who is in charge of social media can be a daunting task. Even when social leadership is channeled through the executive suite, it does not stop at the executive level. Often the question becomes “who owns social media?” within the organization.

    For many new initiatives, he who first touches the new “thing” becomes its ultimate owner. The department which leads the first or most visible social media project establishes the initial beachhead of control over its eventual programmatic development. But does this accident of innovation deliver the best results for the organization?

    The battle for control of social media most frequently involves three warring tribes: Marketing vs. IT vs. Legal. In addition, if the executive suite is paying attention, roving bands from HR and Customer Care will also join the melee.

    Marketing argues that social media is an extension of their strategic marketing and brand management activities, so social marketing should be part of their other digital efforts such as email campaigns and the website.

    Over in IT, the keeper of the tool sets and standardization efforts, the CIO claims ownership over all things social. After all, they will be required to support it.

    The Legal department offers this opinion: as the group charged with managing compliance and even investor relations, they will have a sizable stake in compliance, social media policy and monitoring efforts, especially if they need to understand the social buzz to manage any potential liability.

    There are some organizations where many departments seek to own the social efforts and secure the budget and staff needed to succeed. In others, no one wants to hold the social “hot potato” due to the uncertainties and risks it introduces. Which department head at BP wants to take ownership of Tony Hayward’s infamous Twitter gaffe?

    The Social Media Cooperative

    Let’s consider a new social media “ownership” model. One that creates a new, collaborative approach where no one department or group should be responsible for social media for the organization or company. Call it co-ownership or the social media cooperative.

    Hold off on those knee-jerk reactions for a moment. Sure, many of you will argue this is impossible — every successful innovation needs an owner — so collaborative ownership is ridiculous and a recipe for disaster. Instead, let’s run through the reasons for why co-ownership is a crucial and constructive step.

    Speed to market. While developing a social strategy is not an emergency, social is here to stay. Social’s unprecedented adoption rates make it a necessary operational element and a critical success factor for today’s organizations. They must have an ability to act and react quickly — there’s no time to waste. Battles over ownership consume valuable time, where a co-ownership model, at the very least, puts all the resources and goals in the same room at the same time.

    Shared budgets. Single owners mean single budgets, so when one group takes ownership, their budget control can exclude funding for social media initiatives outside the ownership group. We all know about “skunk works” projects that succeeded without access to established budgets. But how many more equally vital and valuable initiatives have disappeared without a trace without budget support? Co-ownership places responsibility for funding on all the interested groups, and not incidentally, broadens the base of support for adequate funding.

    A single story with many narrators. Line of business ownership inevitably skews the tone and tenor of the social media conversation. If marketing owns social media, it’s about marketing. If IT owns it, the emphasis is tools. If legal sets the agenda, rules and compliance … rule. Instead, co-ownership enables the creation of a single “story” for the organization, told by many voices. The goal is to have the whole organization enable social media and give groups inside and outside an opportunity to influence the conversation.

    Why Co-ownership Works

    I worked for a consulting company called Cambridge Technology Partners. Like all new employees, I needed to undergo New Employee Orientation, or NEO. We learned about the company’s mission, messaging, key customers, go-to people and filled out lots of forms.

    In the middle of the second day of training, the head of Sales, Chris Greendale, gave a talk about the sales process. At the end, he asked all staff to stand up and put our hands in the air. With some reluctance — consultants don’t like games but do know how to follow instructions — we did. Then he asked us all to repeat the following mantra: ”I’m in sales. We are all in sales.”

    The point? Each one of us would touch a customer or client, and we would directly or indirectly represent Cambridge to that customer or client. This mantra became part of the corporate culture. We each had a personal responsibility to make valuable contributions to company best practice whether we were part of the sales organization, a consultant or in finance. We had co-ownership of the company’s goals.

    The same need and opportunity exists for social media. While some may have direct responsibility for carrying out social media projects or have an MBO based on social media success, each employee has an opportunity and a responsibility to represent the company well when engaging online. Perhaps there is a need for an “I’m social for my company” battle cry – followed by training and support to understand what that means, in every organization.

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    Social Media Is A Relentless Taskmaster: How And Why To Gain Control

    June 8th, 2010

    Social Media is a relentless taskmaster. Once you begin participating in a social media marketing or thoughtleadership effort, it is hard to stop posting — even for a moment.

    It is a cognitive treadmill with no obvious stop button.  At least, that’s what so many have been told.   However, sometimes we must pause to regain control — to buy time to think, to write with quality and assess the impact of what we have to say — before we actually say it.

    There are certainly plenty of examples where someone should have stopped to think before sending. Recently a couple of public figures made serious errors when using social media: BP’s CEO Tony Hayward decrying on twitter that he too is tired of the oil spill problem and wants his life back and Sarah Palin’s Facebook blowout blaming environmentalists’ demands for safe offshore drilling as the root of the oil spill crisis.

    Perhaps Palin’s comments, while misguided at best, do give us, the reader, a deeper insight into her true point of view. However, each made a significant mistake; damaging stock prices and investor relations and taking serious heat in the media, each with a single keystroke. While they gave us some deeper insights into their points of view, we have to wonder: why did they do it? It’s not totally their fault.

    Chances are they stepped onto the social media treadmill and the need and desire to keep pace with participation overshadowed the best practice of thinking before you speak, or tweet, or post something inappropriate on Facebook. Thoughtless? Yes. Harmful? Certainly!  Pressure to engage overriding better judgment? Likely.  While proper discretion is necessary on the social media track, the bar for honesty and authenticity on social media is also set very high.

    In some small way, I appreciate that they did not outsource their voice to their PR agency of record and, instead, communicated openly. For the past 6 weeks, I have been a dedicated road warrior with multiple trips to visit multiple cities. Many client engagements, conference talks, book preparations and the like mean I have been, frankly, too engaged with the in-person world to put posting on the priority list. I stepped away from my blog and my twitter stream temporarily.

    My absence was noted: the blog readership dropped a bit and I missed opportunities to engage online with friends and colleagues. I began the blackout period with the best of intentions – each day planning to write and translate some of the thoughts and ideas that I was experiencing in the face2face world into the social media world. But as it turned out, I never found the time. So some great ideas and experiences were lost to memory or became book chapters but not tweets or blog entries.

    I made the active decision not to participate at a period in the time when I was too busy to think critically and too tired to contribute well-formed ideas of value. In many ways, I think this is OK. It represents the true nature of the ebb and flow of social media as a collaboration platform. Aside from dedicated customer care initiatives, which require constant attention, it is important for bloggers to step off the treadmill every so often and place a premium on what they offer online.

    Quality ultimately wins over quantity, despite the current thinking that one must produce articles with extreme regularity in order to build a following and make an impact. This current “wisdom” is the driver behind much of the low quality information broadcast on the channel. Silence can sometimes be a more effective communications tool than fluff and empty words, especially when it signifies “I’m listening” or “I’m thinking” rather than simply going dark.

    With the benefit of hindsight, I have come up with a strategy for the next time in-person schedules overtake my social media participation. Here are three tips to help avoid “going dark:”

    1. Tweet when you can on mobile and string the tweets together into a blog post
    2. Sign up a guest blog or two to cover your busy period and show valuable activity
    3. Write a blog post that aggregates or rounds up other people’s blog posts and ideas

    When I ran a large online community of business professionals, I would tell my moderators that when they noticed a significant drop in online participation, that was precisely the best time to reach out to members with an offer to help in some way. When members get too busy to participate, often it’s because they need help. Travel for work, a business crisis, a professional point-of-pain can often account for participation lapses in online communities.

    A community’s goal should be to serve its members’ needs when and how they need service. The goal is ultimately to give more than you take. That is the true essence of community – both online and offline. Keep the three-fold rule in mind: give three times for every single request.

    While we shouldn’t make too many allowances for poor judgment online – as in the case of BP’s CEO and other potentially damaging social media indiscretions — at the end of the day it is important to remember that the “humanness” of social media interactions drive the value of this medium. It’s probably best to slow down the communications pace when it becomes unnatural, rather than partake just to achieve the illusion that ubiquity is the most important outcome. Quality always matters most.

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    You May Not Be My Online Friend, But You Influence Me

    April 15th, 2010

    I am growing weary of all this social media silly talk about trust and friendship as it applies to professional collaboration online. I have online “friends” in my knitting community and my travel community, for example, but my professional networks do not yield friendships in the real, down-and- dirty, share a beer or drive me to the airport at 5am kind of way.

    What my social media peer group (SMPG) offers is a fruitful and productive idea exchange.I share experiences and thoughts with my SMPG about my work life and the situations I encounter on a professional basis. I also have a cadre of thought leaders I go to for new ideas and subject matter expertise in areas I don’t know about. This useful give-and-take helps me avoid missteps and brings new ideas to the table.Given the global nature of the internet, social media peer groups can be very far-reaching, with knowledgeable people around the world influencing each other about professional decisions.The opportunity is there for individuals and organizations to participate — in the right ways.

    All too often, professional communities take their cues from consumer-facing social media sites and experiences. We have greater access to public, consumer-facing instances of social media, and thus try to adopt their practices for professional peer groups.I believe this is a real mistake.

    The rules of engagement for professional networks are different.The presumption of trust and the goals of achieving trustful relationships on professional networks should be reexamined. The current model of striving for trust online in professional settings is fundamentally unachievable. Nothing in the world will replace a good old-fashioned face-to-face handshake or a business dinner, where stories can be shared and the gritty nuances of the project and the politics are revealed.This is how professional trust and intimacy develops.

    In business, social credibility stems from expertise, accomplishments, battle scars and length of service in ones given profession.The credible people are those who have fought the good fight, won some and lost some, and have the stories to prove it. Voracious use of social media is no substitute for these badges of honor, no matter how actively one participates in an online dialogue. Lack of experience or know-how becomes ever more obvious when someone shares information without a solid foundation of understanding.In this new social economy, the currency of authority is deep knowledge.Enthusiastic participation does not always equal expertise in practice.

    Companies that use social media to reach their professional audiences online — buyers and prospects — too often confuse trust with respect and influence. An organization has to educate and inform their audience about the firm’s position, products and services in the market place — not be their “friend.” Firms who endeavor to create a social media presence to attract new customers or retain existing ones should become invaluable to the buyer. By sharing ideas, case studies, thought leadership, industry trends and happenings, companies and individuals can insert themselves into the specific area of professional knowledge and help grow it. Offering specific knowledge and useful guidance is the foundation for building respect and influence, and for staying top-of-mind when the buyer has a service or product need.

    The Dali Lama once said: “Share your knowledge, it is the way to achieve immortality.” To gain professional legitimacy online there must be a dedicated focus on sharing the knowledge that one person or a company has amassed over time, and letting that information help inspire or inform others. Even if a buyer never calls you back or orders your widget, you have helped shape how that buyer thinks about their industry and job, and they are more likely to recommend you to a peer. Though social means, you or your firm have influenced and earned the respect of that buyer. That’s worth a lot more than a “fan” badge or a place on a “friends” list.

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    Finding Your Company’s Twitter Voice

    January 20th, 2010

    I have been as excited about Twitter as I have been about the advent of the fork or the football – I’m not intrigued by the thing- only the application of it.  

    Twitter is a utensil that provides a single basic function with stylistic differences that are determined by the user’s agility with the tool. Now, before all the Twitter “gurus” get up in arms – the definition of utensil I am using is “any instrument, vessel, or tool serving a useful purpose,” so it is indeed relevant.

    To play out my football analogy – that pigskin in one guys hands is a silver bullet; in anothers, it wouldn’t suffice in a backyard mudball game.

    In fact, I am a Tweeter myself and given this great, recent Haiti tragedy, when the search began to find Haitian who are close to me and my family, we turned to Twitter as the fastest channel to get information. This was the first time my Leader Networks persona and my personal voice have blended online.

    In thinking about Twitter for business, more and more clients are bubbling up a desire to get a Twitter channel. Predictably, as a curmudgeonly strategist, I repeatedly ask “what do you want to accomplish?” and “what are your business goals for use?” to help figure out whether it makes sense or not.

    Taking on a Twitter account for business after all is no small task and in *many* cases not a good idea for the company to begin with. Sure its free to get one, but the need to maintain it, staff it, monitor and respond to interactions can be quite costly from a staffing perspective. After all, the point is to engage so the better you get at Twitter, the greater the accountability.

    The next step after determining the business rationale, is to figure out what is the most appropriate “Twitter Voice” for the company. There are many compelling voices on Twitter – personas, companies, experts sharers. Some focus on connecting and others serve as information channels. Most successful Twitter business voices are both consistent, persistent, and useful to the audience in some way.

    Too many organizations just open an account willy-nilly and see what happens, or learn about an account that some well-meaning employee opened months after its been in operation. Good sometimes, bad often but definitely not strategically ideal.

    A better approach is to think through the strategic intent and voice of the twitter stream – what will it do for your company? Who will be in charge of it? What is it’s main goal? What is the Twitter Voice and how aligned will it (should it) be with the company voice?

    In some cases, a more human Twitter voice can serve to take the “edge” off a company’s opacity. In other cases, it can help a large company seem more initiate responsive. It can demonstrate thought leadership. It can be witting, and charming and wise. But, it is best practice to make an informed choice and not just inherit the voice that happens to come out unintentionally as your company is speaking to potentially millions of people!

    Here are some examples of effective twitter voices for consideration:

    1) Product-Centric Voice: In this strategy, the business humanizes the corporate voice by giving an identity to the channel.Using the example of Dell, they have broken out the different channel products into distinct twitter channels as a way to streamline interactions and make them most productive and relevant. This strategy is particularly well suited for larger organizations with multiple product lines.

    2) The Voice of the CEO (or other notable spokes-model): Often ideal for SMB or those with a particularly gregarious spokesperson, the Voice of the CEO often blends personal and professional information in the twitter stream. This strategy allows the company to grow closer to its customers through the blending of information styles and by creating opportunities for customer intimacy and (the perception of) relationship building. One great example is Richard Branson, Virgin’s CEO who is a delight to read due to the personality of the stream.

    3) Customer Care Online Voice: By bringing customer care online to the Twitter-verse, companies can often be more responsive to their users and buyers in a 24X7 environment by sharing information interesting to the customers and fielding customer care issues online. This is a “traditional” use of a new customer service tool.

    This Twitter Voice is in some ways the easiest to implement because it clearly is a shared endeavor between a number of customer service representatives and can be staffed accordingly. Because it is clearly a group account, there is no need to have a witty voice or a consistent persona as is the burden when some of the other Twitter Voices are outsourced. A great example is Orbitz’s Twitter account.

    These are some examples to consider and there are many more out there to learn from. But the moral of the story is there is a place for Twitter in business, sometimes, as long as the goals and outcomes are well thought out, there is a clear plan and approach to the Twitter strategy and an operational plan that is well suited to achieve the goals of the effort.

    Twitter can be a viable business channel for some organizations but does require a strategy, tactics and staff.


    Why You Need A Social Media Policy in 2010

    January 11th, 2010

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