I'd hang out with girl geeks any day. Photo by cambodia4kids.org
Last week, I attended the Colorado Front Range Girl Geeks Dinner, hosted by Sun Microsystems in Broomfield, CO. Surrounded by 80+ intelligent, thoughtful women, interested in connecting, is nirvana for me. Oh yes, there was one man, Jeremy Tanner, who is well-known in social media circles in the Denver area.
While I meant to capture this event with both words and visuals, I neglected to check the batteries in my Flip video camcorder before leaving the house. Someone should invent batteries that last substantially longer than you think you need them for. So text only it is.
Deirdre Straughan, who is an online community organizer as well as videoblogger for Sun, talked about Sun's use of social media. For photos, another perspective on the evening, and Deirdre's slide presentation, see Deirdre's blog post. Some facts and observations:
- A list of the fastest growing web brands is populated with social media sites--e.g., blogs, photo sharing, and social networking sites.
- Sun has 4,288 employees who blog. That's 16% of all their employees. It helps to have a CEO who has a popular blog, but still, the numbers are impressive.
- There are over 5,000 blogs maintained by Sun with 128,000 posts.
- Sun's "eco-system" on the Internet is as wide-reaching and diverse as I've seen from any company--from company-sponsored wikis, forums, podcasts, and blogs to external sites like Second Life and Facebook. All of this is meant to not only generate content that reaches users, employees, customers, developers, and the general public but make it easy to share. They cast a wide net to engage an even wider community. Sun even has an aggregator function, planets.sun.com, to organize many feeds into one thematic feed.
- Sun seems to have made the leap of faith to walk the talk on transparency. Most companies, with one too many attorneys on staff, worry about user-generated content on wikis, blogs, and forums. Sun relies on a self-policing community rather than putting effort into censoring. It seems to be working.
- Deirdre had this great quote from Jeremiah Owyang: "Your business card is Google. Your resume is your blog. Are you ready?" Well put and especially appropriate for these times when most people are actively looking for a job or worried about keeping their job.
- Sun's CEO, Jonathan Schwartz, feeds his blog posts to Twitter, which Deirdre describes as a "globally distributed water cooler." Some audience members expressed concern about having to be on 24/7. Some good perspectives from others--treating Twitter as a virtual newspaper with time allocated to read the news, and treating Twitter as a stream of data going by, where people don't expect you to read everything. Both perspectives are ones that I subscribe to.
- More walk the talk from Sun's CEO: financial results for the company are posted on his blog first, before any other public announcement.
- And finally, Deirdre had this to say about the business ROI of social media, "Deals are won against competitors because of social network-based business relationships."
What does this mean for the wisdom entrepreneur?
- It's not so much the specific tool you use, but rather choosing your tools and using them well and consistently. A large company like Sun has the resources to try many different tools and what they've demonstrated is that all of them have pros and cons and can work well, depending on what's needed.
- Communities thrive on transparency, trust, and authenticity.
- As more companies, not just those in high-tech, use social media to interact both internally and externally, more individuals will become used to these online conversations. Start one today to begin building your community.
I'm looking forward to more Girl Geek dinners.My thanks to Deirdre and her colleagues at Sun for hosting this first dinner. I immediately felt at home with women who aren't phased by the question, "What kind of geek are you?" I had to laugh when someone said, "A fabulous geek, of course!" Later, a friend of mine remarked how she had been surprised at how many upbeat women she had met, even though they were looking for work. Now that's a community I want to be a part of.