Cisco Blogs

Talking Social Media at Syracuse University

April 21, 2011 - 6 Comments

Last week, I had the pleasure of being invited back to my Alma Mater, Syracuse University, for several discussions on social media in the enterprise and my career path. While the weather wasn’t quite sunny and alive, the students’ overwhelming interest on the topic of social media surely made up for it! I was so pleased to see a room full of excited students and faculty for both of my discussions!

Thanks to everyone for the taking the time to attend and a very special thank you to Syracuse University (@SyracuseU), the iSchool (@iSchoolSU), Anthony Rotolo (@rotolo), Jeff Rubin (@jhrubin), Kelly Lux (@KellyLux) and Kim Brown (@kimincuse)! I also had the opportunity to be a guest speaker in several lectures during my visit, which included a large class of 150 students all the way down to a smaller more intimate class of about 20 students. It was so great to be back on campus and knowing that I didn’t have a paper or mid-term exam due! 😉 (Btw, did you know that they now randomly select “attendance days” and ask students to swipe their university ID cards to get attendance credit? If you snooze, you lose ;-))

My visit to my alma mater Syracuse University (April 2011)

My visit to my alma mater Syracuse University (April 2011)

My discussions at Syracuse focused around how social media has changed and will continue to change the ways in which we communicate both within the enterprise and externally with our customers. We are no longer living in a world of 1:1 communications. At Cisco, we understand this and we use our own technology to communicate with each other. This includes using internal blogs, wikis, discussion forums, video, WebEx and our own Cisco Quad (I like calling it “Facebook for the enterprise”). Externally, we embrace social media and use it as a mechanism to get closely connected to our customers. We listen to the conversations and we respond accordingly. Whether or not a company or organization chooses to participate in social media, the conversations are going to take place regardless. Why not be a part of them? Why not embrace the opportunity to build relationships with customers?

Here are some of the top questions from students during my presentations:

Q: How can you persuade executives to buy into social media?
A: Gather research that shows the value and ROI of social media. For example: Altimeter’s 2009 report demonstrates that companies who are deeply engaged in social media increased their revenues by 18%, while the companies that were the least engaged, dropped 6% on average. Once you can convince your executives that social media is beneficial, ask them to be a part of it. From our own experience at Cisco, it takes not only executives talking the talk, but they must also walk the walk. It is indeed a behavioral shift and when it comes from the top down, it is far more influential and is more likely to filtrate throughout the organization. Our executives lead by example by using internal blogs, wikis, video, etc. When employees see that executives are using the tools/technologies, it ignites a chain reaction. It is the single best way to increase the adoption rate. Another thing to keep in mind is to always document your success. For example, by using internal discussion forums, we were able to significantly reduce the amount of time spent answering FAQs which has allowed us more time to focus on innovative projects.

Q: How does a company know what works in social media and what doesn’t?
A: You don’t. That’s why you have to experiment with new tools, technologies and strategies. The only way to find out what works is to test it. You won’t always be successful, but if you don’t try, how will you know? Failure isn’t always a bad thing. We can learn from our mistakes and in turn share our experiences, both positive and negative with the community. Shared learning is important for the continued growth of social media.

Q: What social networking sites should a company be focused on?
A: Do your homework. Be prepared to do research to determine where your customers are online and spend your valuable time/resources in the places where they are spending most of their time. Are they on Facebook, Twitter, etc? Don’t pull all your eggs in one basket and be sure to take the time to understand your audience and their needs.

Q: Is blogging here to stay?
A: In my opinion, blogging is not going anywhere. It is the one social media asset that a company owns and has control over. We don’t know what social media will look like in 15 years so it’s best to focus on the asset that your company owns today. Our advice is to extend your reach by posting to your social media outlets but to always ask readers to join the conversation on the “social media hub” – the blog. That way, you have a centralized hub where conversations can blossom. (especially if you have more to say than what can fit into 140 characters ;-)) At Cisco, we currently have 32 corporate blogs with over 700 bloggers. We encourage our social media community managers to use the blog as the “hub” and direct conversations there.

Q: Will a potential employer Google me or check into the tweets from the people I follow on Twitter? Will this make me less marketable?
A: It is possible that an employer will Google you prior to asking you to come in for an interview. While there are many benefits to using social media, there can also be risks. It is up to you to take control of your own personal online brand. I would advise you to be cautious about what you put online. Even if you believe that the information is private, you never can be sure where it may end up. (Copy and paste can go a long way.) Understand the privacy settings of the tools that you use and always know who your audience is. My personal advice: “If you’re not comfortable seeing the information posted on the front page of a newspaper, don’t put it online.”

Q: What advice do you have for students who are interested in pursuing a career in social media?
A: If you have a strong passion for social media, you’re off to a great start! Using social media in both your personal and professional life can help you to build a strong online presence. Recruiters and interviewers will most likely check out your social media use as you apply for jobs (yes, they’ll probably “Google” you!) so be sure that what you’re posting online is appropriate for public consumption. Know who your audience is within each of your online networks and post content accordingly. Do as much networking as you can both online and in person. Building relationships today can help your chances of earning that desired social media position tomorrow. I wish you the best!

Thanks again to everyone who participated (especially the following “power-tweeters” – @dhrosen, @AlyssaHenry, @AdamBritten, @rotolo, @KellyLux, @DanKlamm, @iSchoolSU, @SyracuseU, @kimincuse, @EliseMarieTrent, @gretchenclare, @reema1000, @TingYaWang, @jenndeuel, @yoojunghong, @tracytilly, @nykebacorinaldi, @MarenGuse, @pushingvision, @colormelauren, @laur3n_newm4n, @ottogrl, @TLCheng, @katemono, @jiayaoSun, @dtentrup, @rachellaber, @alyssabrennan3 and anyone else I may have missed!) and made my visit to Syracuse University so enjoyable! I’d love to continue the conversation so please be sure to leave me a comment below. The slides from presentation are posted on SlideShare as well as embedded above.

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. Hi Liz! I’m sorry that we missed each other this time, but I would love to have a follow up visit so hopefully I will see you the next time I’m on campus! I’m glad to hear that the students got so much out of the discussions, they were certainly enthusiastic! Hope to see you soon. Thanks again for the opportunity to share my story 🙂

  2. Hey Deanna! So sorry I was out of town during your visit. Last time we met was during the iSchool’s Road Show “Social Media 101: Join the Conversation” in Palo Alto. Thanks for coming back & sharing your experiences with our students – I’ve heard so many positive comments from them. Next time you’re back, hope I’ll be here!

  3. Thanks, Adam, Tracy and Kelly! I had a great trip and enjoyed meeting everyone! I can’t wait to see the university’s progress in social media, you’ve all been doing a great job! Feel free to reach out to me at any time…

  4. Deanna,
    It was so great to have you back here in Syracuse and at the iSchool! Your presentation gave our own social media team a lot to chew on, and some wonderful inspiration to move us forward! You are doing a tremendous job at Cisco and we look forward to following your progress. Come back and visit anytime 🙂

  5. Deanna – It was so wonderful to hear you speak and to meet you in person last week! I learned a lot from your presentation and look forward to getting your input on our career services blog coming soon! Thank you thank you thank you! -Tracy

  6. Thanks again for coming to visit, Deanna. We certainly all learned a lot from what you had to say.