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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Takin' it to the Streets...WOM a la Wall Street

Dsc01135 Had anyone told me little over a year ago that my blog would have brought me to the trading room floor of the New York Stock Exchange I would have asked them what they'd been drinking...and if I could have one, too.

Sure, I work with publicly traded companies, but there's just never been a reason for me to take my marketing to the public markets, so to speak.

But a lot happens in the course of 18 months.

Well, I should say a lot happens--a lot of wondrous people met and a ton of lessons learned--when you're involved in this most social of all media.

I'm honored to have been invited to attend last week's wf360Summit--an event that brings approximately 200 C-Level Executives together each year to present the "360 Leadership" Award to a deserving woman (brava!). In past years the Summit has honored such leaders as Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan and Christine Lagarde, the Trade Minister of France.

This year the award was given to Anne Lauvergeon, the CEO of Areva.The award is sponsored by BNP Paribas and the event is spearheaded by the very sophisticated Susan Willett Bird (a savvy blogger in her own right).

Dsc01137 Another great factoid I come to find out? Susan is also a fellow author in the collaborative book "Age of Conversation," a book boasting 100+ authors from all over the world (including yours truly, learn more here).

So even in a BIG city like New York it's still a small world.

While being at the NYSE for an after-hours cocktail reception and dinner was a thrill, it was walking in that was quite a kick. I met Jeff Jarvis--a blogger I've long read and admire--on the way in. It was his first time on the floor as well. I looked at him and said, "Imagine how many dreams have come true on this very floor throughout the years...and, on that note, how many heart attacks have happened here, too."

Dsc01140 By the way, you enter the exchange from "Broad Street" not "Wall Street."  And the "opening bell" is actually a button :-).

Let me run through why I was at the event, and what I learned. Also, for attendees, I've created a post giving you some social media tips right here.

Why was I there? This event had a theme of conversation. After all, many a major deal has been struck to make it to the NYSE. And while those deals required a lot of strategy and many miles miles of paperwork, they began with a conversation.

Fast forward to a Web 2.0 World and conversations have taken to a new medium and a new set of empowered voices--and that's where we bloggers came in. There were about 20 of us strategically seated throughout the grand dining room so that we were represented at every table and played an equal part in each conversation.

What did I do at the event? I explained to those I met that I saw my role as not so much "monitoring" their conversations, but adding to them. Specifically, I wanted everyone to feel very comfortable in asking me "everything you wanted to know about social media--no matter how serious or silly the question." That's how we learn, no? And I assured everyone that I wouldn't be citing any names in my post so everyone could feel at ease talking with me (but I met many great professionals).

What I learned at the event: While most of the executives that I spoke with are either not yet leveraging social media or are just beginning to dip their toes into these waters, here's what I find most impressive: executives are not only curious about social media, they're very open to it. Most inspiring? These executives are altogether humble to the fact that they have quite a bit to learn.

Here's the takeaway...

In order to engage executives around social media, they need to feel comfortable. Folks, think about when you were learning to ride a bike. Or learning to swim. Sure helped when someone made you feel more at ease by merely taking the time to show you the ropes and allay your fears, didn't it? Otherwise, the fear and overwhelm proved too big an obstacle to the objective.

And once you were swimming you not only learned a new skill, you were given a new freedom--and a new level of confidence.

Same thing with the uncharted waters of social media.

Without question, executives need to understand that Web 2.0 isn't going away. And ignoring it results in loss of opportunities, customers and first-mover advantages. Denial serves to increase risk, instead of decreasing exposure.

But while the learning curve is steep, the climb can be enjoyable.

Yet that can't be adequately expressed through a blog. So we really need to "take it to the streets" and be engaging and educating these tremendous companies through face-to-face conversations...and, thusly, I'm hoping more events will follow Susan's lead and invite social media professionals to the party.

On that note, if anyone has any questions, ask away! And if you don't yet feel comfortable posting them in the comments, you can always email me here. Again, that post for attendees who want to learn more about social media is right here.

All that said and seen, I guess what I most learned is this: once you join the conversation...you just never know where your blog may take you.

BIG thanks: Many thanks to Francois Gossieaux, who is President of the first blog media company Corante, for asking me to participate (another funny factoid: Francois lives in the same town where I went to high school...yep, it's a small world, indeed ;-).

PS: Here are some posts by other bloggers who attended the event: Tom Steinthal, Don Dodge, Howard Greenstein, Tom Guarriello, Dorian Benkoil, Russ Nelson, Isabel Walcott Hillborn and Susan Bird.

Comments

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Thanks for sharing your time on the 'street.' I especially loved your take away - make people feel comfortable. We talk so much about listening but the step even before "hearing" is to alleviate fears so people are open to new ideas. Helping people feel comfortable (in a safe environment) is critical to making that happen. Bravo CK!

@Toby: Thanks, for sure the bravo goes to Susan Bird for being so savvy to include us. All it takes is a comfortable conversation ;-).

"What I learned at the event: While most of the executives that I spoke with are either not yet leveraging social media or are just beginning to dip their toes into these waters, here's what I find most impressive: executives are not only curious about social media, they're very open to it. Most inspiring? These executives are altogether humble to the fact that they have quite a bit to learn."

This is really great news. I think a couple of years ago, companies were still viewing social media as likely a 'fad', but now that they have heard some of the success stories, they are ready to learn more.

BTW SO glad and envious of you getting to go to the NYSE! You are a great ambassador for the blogging community!

Congrats, CK! Now you need to populate your stock portfolio!!!

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