Sophos' Jennifer Jewett: 'The social media world doesn't wait'

Jennifer Jewett is a marketing veteran in the computer security space. We talk about the fun and challenge of launching Kaspersky's Threatpost, and her future at security leader Sophos.
Written by Jennifer Leggio, Contributor

There's no denying the hotness of topics such as security and social media and how these worlds connect. This connection is an area that I have covered in detail on this blog and it's affecting both goliath corporations and individual home users. A lot of times, security and social media come together to tell frightening stories of phishing and hacking and the like, but there are good stories to be told, too. In this 100 Brains series, I've previously profiled more technical and social savvy security practitioners, such as Christofer Hoff and Katie Moussouris. In this edition, I want to introduce Social Business readers to Jennifer Jewett. Jewett is currently the director of global corporate communications at Sophos, a leading security company, and is well known for her time working with the braintrust behind Threatpost from Kaspersky Labs. I spoke with Jewett about her view on the evolution of social, the challenges and wins she's experienced using social in a business-to-business (B2B) environment, and, of course, social media and security.

Q. Please share with me an important lesson that you have learned while using or promoting a service using social media.

A. The most important lesson I've learned about using and promoting social media is this - to be engaged you don't need ground-breaking information to share, you just need confidence to know that your interests and opinions matter and actually do add to the conversation.  This is something that I first came to appreciate when I was at SHIFT and it's been continuously reinforced by many people I've worked with and met since then.

Q. Late last year I asked a lot of social brains what they thought would happen in social in 2010. The most predominant answer was "ubiquity." Do you believe that has been reached?

A. Can you ever truly reach ubiquity?  Especially with the Internet, it seems like there is always something new - a new website, a new angle, a company with the "hot" new solution, and the list goes on.  It seems to me that now everyone is talking about social media and knows it is important to use.  However I think many companies, especially in the B2B space, still don't know exactly *how* to use it and *how* to measure the benefits of using it.

Q. When you were at Kaspersky, you spearheaded ThreatPost, which was an absolute groundbreaking social project. Can you talk a little bit about the lessons you learned in terms of paving the way for other companies' future innovation?

A. Thank you for giving me credit for spearheading ThreatPost, but I can't take credit for it, at least not on my own.  I was fortunate enough to work with a great group at Kaspersky and Ryan Naraine and Randy Drawas were the big brains behind the project.  I was part of the team and was able to help them introduce the site.

We learned a lot while developing this site -

1)     Time is of the essence! - The world of social media doesn't wait.  Threatpost was first proposed in December and launched in March (with a full site and rock star editorial team, including Dennis Fisher and more recently Paul Roberts.)

2)     Content is still king - At the end of the day, readers want good content.  Gimmicks and silly ideas might pull viewers in once, but good content keeps them coming back.

3)     Editorial independence with marketing integration - Kaspersky has done a phenomenal job of keeping the strict editorial guidelines in place so that the content remains vendor neutral.  However, the team has also done an equally phenomenal job of using the site as a marketing differentiator to its partner community by giving partners the ability to host the site on their own websites and bring in leads from there.

The most important lesson we learned is to remain nimble and don't get too comfortable.  At the end of 2008, the media landscape had significantly changed and many, many daily newspapers had folded.  By having a nimble team in place, we were able to quickly act on an idea that has ultimately put Kaspersky in a leadership position when it comes to social media in the B2B space.  A year later, we reevaluated the site and redesigned it.  Today you will see a greater focus on getting the content into social media platforms in an effort to reach the ultimate goal, ubiquity.  But the key focus remains the same - providing original, informed editorial content.

Q. Sophos has some of the most influential security bloggers in the industry, so the company is primed for increased success with social with you at the helm. Without sharing anything proprietary, can you tell me how big of a role social is going to play in your new PR role?

A. Part of why I wanted to join the Sophos team is because of the respect I have for its security bloggers and what they've been able to do with Naked Security in a very short time.  However, the Threat team, (Graham, Chet, Paul and Carole) are just a handful of the great minds this company has in its arsenal.  There is a ton of untapped talent!  The Threat team has done a fabulous of job using social media to create more awareness.  Throughout 2011 I want to increase the amount of Sophos corporate spokespeople and this will certainly involve elements of social media.  In addition, social media will become a key part of how the corporate communications team communicates.  Content remains key as well here!

Q. What do you think is the biggest mistake that less-than-savvy internet users make?

A. Either not engaging for fear of becoming too public OR not realizing the size of the megaphone you have by engaging with social media.  Both can be paralyzing.  You might risk not promoting your reputation or cause by not getting involved, on the other hand you must be savvy-enough to know how to represent your reputation or cause once you do get involved, because that megaphone is mighty loud.

Q. Do you believe that in some ways, this social media 'phenomenon' has been overhyped?

A. Absolutely, definitely, 100% YES!  I see social media as more evidence of how the media world has changed, and how public relations and marketing are converging to meet the needs of this new media world.  Social media is a new way to communicate and the thing that I most appreciate about it is that it gives everyone the power to communicate publicly.  This "power" can be both good and bad - you have to be aware of how to best communicate to meet your needs.

Q. Who do you admire most and why? It can be a peer, an athlete, your significant other... anyone who drives you to keep doing what you're doing.

A. This might sound corny - but the person I admire most is my mom.  My mom is a pediatrician, with her own private practice in Wilmington, Delaware.  She has been in practice for more than 35 years and was one of only seven women in her class of more than 170 graduates.  (Cool factor - she graduated from medical school with the real "Patch Adams!")

By all accounts she is a very well-respected and successful doctor.  BUT, she can't turn on the computer by herself (my dad has to do it for her); she has called me once when she thought she lost a document - turns out she just minimized it; and she just started using an iPhone, and, after many lessons on how to work the touch-screen, has dubbed it her "weather machine."

But, my mom is very dedicated to her family and is an amazing mother.  She meets up with the women she went to medical school with annually - still.  And has learned how to bring technology into her life and her practice as is most appropriate to what she needs in order to best take care of her patients. This is representative of her approach to anything.  My mom doesn't get caught up in fads; rather she looks at something new with a critical eye to see how it will benefit her.  While it may seem obvious, it's an important ability to learn and to put into practice in everyday life and work.

Q. Do you think it's possible to provide enough education so that users make smarter online decisions, or is it the usual case of security that it's not convenient so people prefer to be oblivious?

A. A lot of CIOs and IT managers say that employees are their biggest IT security concerns.  Because of that sentiment companies are starting to place more emphasis on educating employees about security threats and making them accountable for their actions.  But this hasn't been reached en masse. Therefore I think this a big opportunity for vendors, VARs and systems integrators to provide security awareness and educational tools to help their customers make sure their systems are protected and employees are educated.

Q. Do you believe that the social networks fully understand how their users leverage them for business? Do you believe they are appropriately modeling their businesses to support that as well as succeed themselves?

A. From a B2C perspective, social networks like Foursquare seem like they know how to align themselves with retailers and can show and ROI back to them.  The ad network on Facebook seems like it's able to do the same thing.

From the B2B perspective, there is still a missing link.  Many B2B vendors now know that they need to have a social media presence to help raise brand awareness, but are still struggling to turn awareness into a measurable ROI.

Struggling to measure awareness is nothing new though.  If anyone has a great suggestion of HOW to do this or a good tool to use, I'd love to hear it!

Q. Finally, what's one thing you want to make sure ZDNet readers know about the web, social, etc.?

A. Most of your readers probably know a lot more than I do!  The one thing that's important to remember is this whole "web social media" world is still new and is constantly evolving.  Best practices right now seem to be around being involved so that you can learn first-hand how to use this for your needs and have fun with it!

Social Business "100 Brains" is a series of 100 interviews with some of social media's most compelling "thinkers" and "tinkerers." Each interview aims to showcase each subject's most unique perspectives and talents. Interviews will run through early 2011. Know a top "thinker" or "tinkerer"? Send an email using the form below.

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