When it comes to business, the definition of what it truly means to be a leader is changing. On the web and before social media, a leading brand was defined by a combination of product/service sales, stock price, search rankings, and traffic to their own web site. After social media arrived and everyone went up-in-arms about actual ROI measurement, everyone and their great grandma's dog were associated with one of the "hot new startups" that had popped up like a horde of prairie dogs in a field the size of Silicon Valley, ready to help us all count "mentions" of our brand. We have even gone as far as attempting to glean human emotion from strings of ASCII characters that supposedly represented positive, neutral, negative, or something in between.
Most of us social media folks would probably agree that we are on the right track for the most part when talking about what's important in social media versus what is just a steady stream of ones and zeros that amount to nothing. However, I do think we need to start understanding that it's not just about engaging with negative customers and "fixing" them to be positive ones by replying to their tweets. Nor is it just about making the best quality products, providing the best quality services and shotgunning exorbitant marketing dollar amounts towards email blasts, landing pages, and campaigns to promote all of it. It's now also important to provide an industry forum for the hard questions that don't necessarily have an answer yet. It's getting tougher and tougher to find a relevant digital ecosystem that offers focused information and insightful opinions, where relevance is maintained and kept real for customers, partners and industry professionals alike. This is where Cisco steps in.
Be the news
Cisco has realized that it's not just important to be a market share leader. Like any formidable enterprise, they know they now need to stay ahead of the game of information, not just sales, or they'll be lost in NoiseNet (the web as I currently see it). This realization has resulted in the launch of their new site "The Network."
The topics covered on the news site include Data Center, Core Networks, Video, Collaboration, Cisco Culture, and Social Media. Each one of those topics has been assigned a "page manager" by Cisco to ensure that there is someone monitoring all content and engagement throughout the site with the goal of keeping things focused, fresh and compelling. Another great function they have built in is the ability to sort the news by date and content type on the All News tab. While Cisco will be able to help curate the content, there will still be a lot of it so the ability to fine tune your own experience while on the site makes it much more useful.
Like most sites nowadays, content across the entire site is wrapped in social content from Twitter and Facebook so no conversation is missed by the readers. Every page is easily shareable, accommodating your social network of choice, easing the flow of syndication of all the site's content. They have even built their own customized embeddable widget for use on other sites.
Leading the conversation with leading content
The web audience is easily bored and easily overwhelmed at the same time. One of the largest challenges of a site like this is maintaining a constant injection of fresh, relevant content that doesn't all start to look the same after a week or two. The Network hopes to lead the aggregation and curation of tech industry news as it pertains to Cisco's business, market segments and key partners. Right out of the gate the site will have eleven contributors made up of Cisco staff as well as well-known technology journalists like Steve Wildstrom (BusinessWeek), Mark Gunther (Fortune), and John Carey. If everyone consistently contributes, looking for new angles on topics, and can help push the envelope for industry discussion, The Network definitely has a shot at going beyond joining the conversation. Most companies know that now is the time to not just join, but to lead and steer the conversation. That's where real influence happens.
As someone who is familiar with the challenges of leading social media in the enterprise, I'll be interested to see how well this site does both from a thought leadership perspective, as well as how the maintenance and upkeep are handled. Making a site like this successful is no small task and requires decent budget, executive sponsorship and a long-term commitment. I'm looking forward to seeing it do well over the next few months and how the content changes over time.