Bridging the Digital Social Skills Gap: SMBSyr #4

By Joe Cunningham, Internet Marketing Manager

It was a spectacularly beautiful morning as Poe and I walked up to Newhouse on the SU campus, still active with summer students getting Starbucks after graduation weekend.


Flavored Creamer

After signing in and dropping our business cards in a bucket to win a door prize, I made myself some flavored hot creamer (a.k.a. green tea, a lousy substitute for the coffee I gave up), and left Poe in the conference room to guard my laptop and save my seat (for once I would let myself socialize without being embarrassed by the gnome).  He had plenty of jelly Danishes to keep him company.

I ran into Kate Brodock (@Just_Kate), Advisory Committee Member for SMBSyr and Executive Director of Social Media at SU among many other amazing things (including writing for – awesome!) who also emceed the event (Kevin, @Uncle Duke, was on a surely well-deserved vacation).  In the midst of my asiago bagel and cream cheese, Tracey Gregory, our awesome Project Manager at Cowley, arrived and I introduced her to Kate and vice versa, and then sat back (well, I stood there actually) to hear two very high-powered professional ladies talk it out.

A Time To Kill

When we went in to take our seats, Poe was nowhere to be found (no joke folks)!  My blood pressure immediately hit 220 and I told Tracey I’d be back in a second after I killed probably two people.  I gave a homicidal look to everyone I knew there (I’m sure they appreciated that) figuring it was a sick joke (I have a love/hate-very-much relationship with that gnome).  After all they took the gnome but left my computer.  (“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” [Queue The Godfather music.])  I found him sitting next to the professor, Dr. William Ward (@DR4WARD), who was preparing his slideshow presentation.  I laughed a little and returned to my seat.

Poe at the SMBSyr #4Bridging the Social Skills Gap – Social Media and the Enterprise

Relieved that Poe was alright, I prepped my computer to take the blog notes.  It was dead, of course (good job).  I plugged it in and managed to get an hour and a half of juice before the show started (win).  Taking notes on your iPhone 1) makes you look like your texting during the whole presentation (there’s no getting around that really unless you stand up and tell everyone the truth and then look like a doofus); and 2) is such a pain in the derriere (that’s French for the word we can’t use here), so I’m glad I avoided that.  There is also the option of sitting near an outlet and plugging in from there, leaving the cord dangling across the aisle.  Murphy’s Law says in this case, during the three seconds you are not looking, someone will definitely trip on your cord, ripping the laptop out of your hands to its imminent death.  So glad we didn’t have to go through that.

Dr. Ward, by the way, is social media professor at SU’s Newhouse School of Public Communications.  He was named “Top Professor” by Social Media Magazine and has been quoted in the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and on CNN.  That’s pretty epic.

Frame It

Dr. Ward began his presentation with a shocking look at where we are.

A man in the 15th century experienced less data in a lifetime than we experience in one day.  Every day we (all) create 2.5 quintillion (there’s 18 zeroes there) bytes of data, 90% of which has been created in the last two years alone, says IBM.  The iPhone has 100,000 times more ram than the Apollo Command Center and is 1,000 times faster.  50-85% of people have smart phones, and wearable devices are becoming more mainstream.  Ironman technology seems it will actually become available.  Not only does the world know and love Siri, but Google has included a voice command.  Not everyone is on the internet (only 2 billion are), but thanks to smartphones and third world tech (i.e. bicycles that can charge batteries), 5 billion will be.  And no one really knows what this all means because it has been growing so quickly!

Noise To Value

How do we make sense of all of this?  What is the biggest challenge facing companies?

The biggest challenge is definitely training.  Social media is out there and 90% of employees say they are left to figure it out on their own.  Social media skills are in demand in the workplace which rose 87% from 2011 to 2012.  50% of all new hires will be technical, and 65% of employees will “do social media” on top of their other duties. The tip of the iceberg everyone sees is the social media platform itself, but underneath are also guidelines, training, support, analysis, objectives, content planning, ROI measurement, monitoring, and social research.

Dr. Ward made the point that most companies just pretty much literally throw the executively chosen social tool at their employees with a very “Hey we got it,” and “See I told you it wouldn’t work” attitude.  This is very typical and unfortunate; and hence, the need for proper time-invested training.

But is social media really useful?  Dr. Ward made it very obvious that it is.

Someone hacked the AP’s Twitter handle during market hours and tweeted a false national crisis that caused the S&P 500 to drop $136 billion in 90 seconds!  The market mostly recovered but look at that power!  And it’s not all negative: improved communication via social media could add an estimated $1.3 trillion annually to the global economy and raise worker productivity 20-25% due to the fact that it cuts out tedious email time, helps gather info easier, collaborate, and assign specific tasks.  Who knew?

One great thing about social media is it makes old fashioned stuff easier.  Who has a Rolodex when you’ve got Facebook and LinkedIn?  Why photo albums with Instagram?  Scrapbooks with Pinterest?  Social media makes life easier and more streamlined.  Of course, it’s a medium that can be used, not used, or abused.

Social Media For Business

Marketing, obviously (is the answer to that title’s question).  But we already knew that.  What other applications does social media have in the enterprise?  Customer service!

For example, Walmart created an internal social network ( that includes HR info, benefits, press releases, and a host of other pertinent info for Walmart employees to easily access.  And with over 1.2 million registered users (stats any social media would like), 85% use it three or more times a week because it provides valuable info.  Stuff that used clog up email inboxes now is readily accessible through this social network.  How is this increasing Walmart’s ROI?  They have reduced call center volume, reduced response times, and increased employee satisfaction which gives a better face for the company.  (Somebody got a raise.)

Social media helps with new product development.  Look at GE’s social media portfolio: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, G+, YouTube, and Tumblr – all with different purposes creating the public image of the company as thought leaders by interacting with innovation.

Dr. Ward also made the point of how when upper management became involved in company social media, it greatly increased the program’s effectiveness (naturally).  Rather than the marketing department or HR pushing this up, the impetus of the leadership creates a natural positive buzz (imagine Steve Jobs tweeting vs. Apple’s HR guy).

In short, in a world of an uncontrolled flow of huge amounts of information via the world wide web, social media is a tool for businesses to take in the reins on how information can be utilized for their greater good.  Taking the proper steps to train all involved in the communication process is key and is well worth the investment of precious time and resources.

Kate and PoeTake Home

We saw a few friends off: Holly and Brent from the last #SMBSyr; Joanna Giansanti (@JoannaGiansanti), our old friend from many an SMB, and Tracey recognized Jill Leonhardt sitting in front of us, Director of Communications at SU's Maxwell School, who was in one of our promotional videos we shot in house last year for Dr. Zena Berry (click here to view the video).  We ran into Christina Trout (@iTingTrout), our hero who does Café Kubal’s (@CafeKubal) social stuff and had a funny thing to say about deceiving people to eat sweets.  Both Tracey and I told her how hungry she makes us all at Cowley.  Job well done.

Poe was disappointed all the college girls went home for the summer the weekend before (you didn’t have a chance man, shut up).  Oh, and Tracey won the door prize!  Got a bunch of Newhouse gear for pinch-hit pajamas and painting the house days (or wearing it in public, but who does that?).

We got all psyched for the next SMBSyr (yes, we are signed up, duh!) which is by Sara Wallace (@SaraKWallace) of Destiny USA (@DestinyUSA) and on “Social Media Strategy: The Power of Geo-Targeting and Measuring the Wants of the Consumer.”  Of course, there’s free food.  And about 43 spots left so get on that (click here to sign up on EventBrite).

Poe and I also got to meet Dr. Ward and take our picture with him.  He assured us he’d retweet our post about the event which made us extremely excited because he has like 5 billion followers or something like that.  He also taught our intern, Jenna Bordy (@Jenna_Bordy), and therefore was familiar with Poe.  All of us (Poe included) commented on how bright she is.  (Poe misses her.)

It was a beautiful walk back to the car and a great day afterwards.  Love these things.


Follow the #SMBSyr on Facebook, sign up for the next one on EventBrite, and see Dr. Ward’s full presentation on his SlideShare.

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