I’ve been actively using and thinking about social media and how to use it effectively as a tech start-up CEO for over a decade. Finally, in just the last month, I think that I have achieved a balance of channels that works. I use each for a specific type of communication with a specific audience.
I started this blog a year and a half ago, and hardly ever post. I find it difficult to prioritize the time and, more importantly, I usually cant write about the things that consume me and that I think would be really valuable for those in my community. Id like to write about how we think about strategy and our competition, corporate development and major deals, the capital raising process, the dynamics on our board and with our investors, and our culture and people issues. Mostly, what would be interesting and informative are the big opportunities and big problems. These are, however, exactly what I cant share here. My conclusion is to keep the blog as a place for writing like this but not to worry about posting regularly.
In contrast, 347 updates ago I started using Twitter (@LucindaDH), which works a lot better for me than blogging not that theyre the same thing at all. I started during the SXSW conference when everyone else did (as @LucindaH) but I couldnt get going; I just didnt get it. Then, afraid I was aging, I made a month-long commitment to Tweet. And I was hooked. Its a terrific way to keep in touch with friends, get to know acquaintances and colleagues better, and connect with people beyond my network. I found that the most constructive effect was that it connected me better to other C360 people. And it gives me something to do when Im sitting at red lights.
I do love that I can update Facebook with my Tweets. Facebook is purely secondary for me, but there are a lot of very active users, and I can keep my page fresh through Twitter. It’s a place that you have to be if you work on the Internet, it’s a great way to connect with old friends, but it’s not a main platform for me. There are many other networks that I use but don’t contribute to (Yelp), some I find intriguing but don’t use regularly (Tripit), and those I choose to ignore (MySpace).
Again in contrast, LinkedIn has become critical to my business life. I use it to find new employees, to get background on people I’m going to meet with, and to find paths to get to people I’m trying to meet. It’s great, but it’s more as a database than a social space.
So if I blog as an occasional way to publish long-ish thoughts, Twitter to connect a level deeper, maintain Facebook as a seat at the table, and leverage LinkedIn as a business tool, is that the right mix?
No. This all brings us to Yammer. I love Yammer. Yammer fills a key void in the social media mix to date. I introduced Yammer to Commerce360 a month ago and find it invaluable already. People post really interesting things (to me anyway) like what theyre working on, competitor announcements, industry news, client feedback, that there are cookies in the kitchen, or that they’re going to lunch. Our dev team updates Yammer automatically through our source control system so we can all see hour by hour what’s happening. It all adds up to giving me a finger on the pulse of the organization in a way thats hard to get otherwise, particularly because I spend so much time out of the office. I also think that it helps people to have more visibility into what Im doing. I post things like meetings that Im in, what were talking about, what Im reviewing, client and sales call outcomes, how the board meeting is going, My hope is that this helps everyone stay excited about what were doing, and that how I spend my time is a signal about what is important to the organization.
Which, back full circle to the beginning of this post, is really the promise of social media for the CEO: it can help us connect to our constituencies in a more direct, genuine way.
So, with the addition of Yammer, I’ve finally developed a mix that works:
1. Yammer for inside the company
2. Twitter for quick exchanges with the tech community (and their spouses)
3. Facebook for a broader community
4. LinkedIn the business world workhorse
5. This blog for occasional longer posts
I've started and/or run too many venture capital-backed software companies, plus one ill-fated food startup.