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The Social Soap Box: Engaging Customers Through Social Means

I spoke at PubCon earlier this week on the topic of social media, press relations and brand management. Judging by the well attended conference and the flurry of activity, social media shows no sign of slowing down. It may evolve and we may call it something different, but the idea that everything is connected – a networked economy if you will – is here to stay. We’ve all heard of the great case studies of social media success for consumer brands (large and small) and certainly personal brands, but what about for small businesses?

I recently had a conversation with the Small Business Solutions Marketing Group at Cisco to understand how they used social media to gain mindshare and drive product development, and am pleased to hear their great progress and success. Since the group started incorporating social media into their marketing efforts targeted at resellers and small business owners last year, they’ve seen great return including an approximate 200% increase in community growth across their external social channels.

How was this achieved? Marketing Manager, Jeanne Quinn, outlined the following four crucial steps:

1)      Listening: Leveraging various social media listening tools, the group was able to identify their audience segment on Twitter and Facebook. In addition, they were able to assess the audience’s user behavior and information needs in these social networks.

2)      Content Development: Based on the audience profiles and user behavior, they developed content that met the needs of their audience including how-to tips, product reviews and basic technology explanations.

3)      Amplification: The content was then amplified across their Twitter and Facebook channels.

4)      Engagement: Through their social channels, the team responded to feedback from their community and also participated in existing conversations from third party blogs and social networks.

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Know the Security Implications of Social Media

Sites like Facebook and Twitter are a great way to promote your small business, but they also present some risks

There aren’t many Hollywood Movies that I get excited about, but I’ll admit that “The Social Network“, the movie about how Facebook got started, is one I’m looking forward to seeing. Facebook has enabled me to find long-lost friends and to keep in touch with relatives who are scattered around the country. But the use of Facebook also has its dark side.

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Collaboration Tools for Small Business

Share knowledge and expand your company’s reach with collaboration tools

This article is a follow-up to my last article, The Secrets to Attracting Business Online.  Once again, small business expert Guy Kawasaki has tips for small business owner Ronald Banks, but this time the topic is collaboration tools.

Companies of all sizes increasingly are looking to technology-based business collaboration tools to communicate more efficiently and effectively with co-workers and clients.

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The Cut Stops Here: New Platforms for Growth

The service provider (SP) industry is at an inflection point. During the past couple of years, SPs have dealt with the economic downturn by focusing the majority of their attention on cutting costs – to the point where there’s very little left to cut. Despite continued economic uncertainty, there is a shift underway to revitalize revenue growth. SPs are eager to identify and execute on new sources of revenue growth – however, there is also clear recognition that revenue growth cannot come at the expense of profitability. Growth under such conditions means taking advantage of market transitions as they are happening, creating new platforms for growth.

One key opportunity for SPs lies in providing a more expansive set of services to small and medium sized businesses (SMBs)—particularly leveraging cloud-based capabilities. Based on our estimates, the SMB communications and IT infrastructure market collectively represents more than $120 billion in spend for 2010. SPs currently address 60 percent of this spend. By extending into cloud services, much of the remaining 40 percent becomes addressable.

Cisco IBSG Service Provider Director, Tine Christensen, addresses this opportunity in this video:

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Voice security is just as important as data security for small businesses

Learn the four most common threats that put your IP phone system at risk

There’s a big story about phone hacking that has kept newspapers in the U.K. and U.S. busy over the past month. Some former reporters of a popular tabloid newspaper in the U.K. have claimed that hacking into the phones of celebrities and members of the Royal Family was rife at the paper. The publication of conversations and messages between celebrities may be fun to read, but the unauthorized interception of communications inside businesses is no laughing matter.

The security of your small business phone system is just as important as the security of your network. Consider if someone hacked into your phone system and compromised your company voicemail. What could they learn? You need to be as diligent about voice security as you are with data security, particularly if you use IP telephony.

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