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Social Media: A Swiss Army Knife for SMBs

Social media has become so ingrained in our culture these days that much of the time, we’re not even aware of it as anything “other.” But for some, it’s way more than just a recreational outlet. It turns out that small businesses that are using social media are seeing the biggest gains, according to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report: from new partnerships to qualified leads to improved sales to reduced marketing costs.

Gartner’s Anthony Bradley defines social media this way: “At its foundation, social media is a set of technologies and channels targeted at forming and enabling a potentially massive community of participants to productively collaborate. IT tools to support collaboration have existed for decades. But social-media technologies, such as social networking, wikis and blogs, enable collaboration on a much grander scale and support tapping the power of the collective in ways previously unachievable.”

One company that’s doing exactly that is FanAxcess.com, an Oakland, California-based start up that aims to match up-and-coming musicians with potential brand sponsors, while also creating a simpler and more cost-effective pathway for advertisers to reach target markets.

Brands are always seeking fresh ways to differentiate—and personify—themselves with standout spokespersons. But, that can be tough when there’s always the same pool of big fish to choose from. “We provide a forum for artists to create very specific profiles that give insight into who they—and their fan bases—are. So, if you’re an advertiser, you can search artists by audience (based on their social media fans across sites or, their average number of live fans), by genre, by eco-friendliness (or other indicators), and by upcoming tours and promotions,” explains Suzanne Mino Koga, co-founder, artist manager and music marketing consultant. This creates a dynamic library for advertisers to source from, to find just the right match in terms of brand feel/aspirations and audience it wishes to target. “And along the way, musical artists can tap into new potential revenue streams and raise their visibility,” adds Koga.

For other businesses that use social media such as Yelp, Facebook or Twitter as a way to market and build community with their customers, there’s something else to think about: the caliber of the type of customers you attract when you engage in social media. These folks are more digitally connected. And that means they can be a powerful form of advertising on your behalf. So when your customers come to your place of business, you need to provide guest wireless access to let them be your spokespersons and to keep them coming back.

Consistently monitoring social media activity is also critical. In fact, according to Indaba, 66% of businesses were using or were planning  to use Social media monitoring for their business. Remember to watch out for potential security issues, as pointed out in a recent Cisco Small Business blog: As the line between personal and professional blurs, employees who might monitor or update your accounts could unknowingly introduce malware picked up from their own personal accounts.

Just as a Swiss Army knife can be a great productivity tool, so can social media—with care and clarity around how you want to use it, you can expand your community of customers and partners. Not only that, you can sharpen your results: If customers can be more productive interacting with your brand—and amplifying their experiences—you’ve carved out a really great success story.

If you’re going to be in Houston next week, be sure to register for The Small Business Tour: Time to Thrive, on June 7. Cisco executive Lief Koepsel will talk about how small businesses can use social media—as well as cloud and mobility—to reach new levels of productivity and success.

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Towards A More Participatory Culture: Enterprise Q&A (Part 1)

In October of 2011, AIIM (the Association for Information & Imaging Management, a non-profit research, community and educational association), published a survey-based report that examined social business and Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0) trends. I had the good fortune to hear about the results first-hand when I co-presented with AIIM’s President, John Mancini, on a social networking panel at the Gilbane Conference held in Boston last November. John summarized the work and results of the study. One of the more interesting data points and trending analysis I found intriguing was a growing interest in a class of social application AIIM refers to as “Enterprise Q&A”.  Historically, when people ask what the common application use case scenarios are for E2.0, the most frequently cited examples have been: expertise location, online communities, and ideation (innovation).

Why the growing interest in Q&A applications? Perhaps because it’s a pain point all of us – from front-line worker to senior executive – can relate to in our everyday work experience. All of us can recall situations when we’ve had a question about something and have not been able to find an answer through the information and contacts at our disposal. We ask our colleagues. We send out e-mails. We might try discussion forums, knowledge-base applications, and of course – search engines.

“The question acts as a ‘social object’ that can mobilize networks, enable people to take on informal social roles, and help create social capital between participants in these answer networks.”

However, even if we are fortunate enough to find the content, the information may not be presented in a fashion that addresses our need. Sometimes the “question” is not easily resolved by locating content. Often, what people are asking for (indirectly) when they pose a question is to have a conversation with someone to “make sense” out of that issue (in addition to the content if it’s relevant). Read More »

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Social Tools at Work

January 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm PST

Apparently “outside the box” topped a list of the worst offenders in corporate jargon for 2011. I expected that social would make the list until I realized that people are still struggling to apply it to business. It has yet to become a corporate jargon offender, let alone one of the worst.

Still, we have social media, social networks, social business, social advertising, social cats, social dogs, social goldfish. OK, perhaps I exaggerate. A little. It’s like Y2K all over again when we tacked an e- to the front of everything from mail and business on through the rest of the dictionary to say, “Look, it’s online now!”

Working for technology companies, I’ve often had the advantage (or disadvantage) of working with new tools as they came into being. Now, some of the so-called social media tools I started using in my personal time have become valuable business tools: Instant messaging is a good example.

Read More »

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Four Ways Social Software Collaboration Technology Can Change Higher Education

New media and collaboration technologies have the potential to transform higher education in terms of the classroom, the learning process, the relationship between students and instructors, and how institutions conduct academic research. While much of the industry discussion revolves around use of consumer tools and social network sites like Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, Cisco’s educational customers also see tremendous opportunity to increase student engagement and drive their own institutional strategies with “enterprise class” social software as well.

Since Cisco first announced Quad, we have had conversations with dozens of colleges and universities regarding the role enterprise social software and Cisco Quad can play in transforming education. Cisco Quad is an enterprise collaboration platform that brings people together to share ideas and content, collaborate on projects, and interact using chat, voice or video, regardless of where people are located.

Below, we’ve outlined four ways in which educational institutions are telling us enterprise social software is helping, or can transform the way learning, research, and academic advisement is crafted, delivered and consumed:

1. The 24/7 interactive classroom: Instructors often struggle to deliver a collaborative environment for their students that is secure and supports multiple access methods such as mobile.  Technology like Quad can enable students to interact in a secure, policy-based manner that extends the classroom conversation beyond physical walls. Courses partially or wholly targeted at off-campus students can similarly benefit from enhancing the class-like experience for remote students. For example, at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the cross country MBA students based in the US, England, India and other countries are using Quad to create virtual working groups, find people with common interests, share files or videos with other students working on similar projects and instantly start video conferences or chat sessions. Quad provides students with the ability to interact, ask questions and share ideas with professors/faculty/tutorial assistants anytime, as opposed to only during fixed faculty office hours. It can also drive improved accountability on team projects, as content and comments are tracked in activity feeds and in project communities by both participating students and faculty leads.

2. Serendipitous Research: Quad contains several features, such as an activity feed that compiles microblog posts from students and staff and allows a snapshot view of a person’s current activities. These dynamic updating functionalities can facilitate broader cross-departmental collaboration, for students and researchers alike. Security features ensure that research that needs to be confidential is shared in a secure and safe manner.  As researchers update their statuses with exciting discoveries or frustrating problems, or create posts, upload videos or otherwise document their work, this content becomes accessible to hundreds of fellow university researchers through activity feeds and searches, making it possible for providential inter-disciplinary connections to be made and new insights to be generated. Read More »

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Peter Granger in Automation World

October 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm PST

Automation World

Recently, our very own Peter Granger was interviewed for an article in Automation World Magazine regarding the impact of social media on manufacturing collaboration.

Social media isn’t just for personal use any more. Businesses of all kinds, particularly manufacturers, are looking to leverage social media types of connections for easier access to needed expertise, business intelligence insights and new product ideas.

For manufacturers, the principal driver behind the move toward greater incorporation of social media for collaborative business processes is access to expertise.

Who knows what? Read More »

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