Today I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Rixon, Principal Solutions Marketing Manager for BMC Software. Chris is very active these days on social channels and participating with Google Hangouts around MyIT but it wasn’t always that way.
How long have you been Social?
I have been actively using social channels for about 12 months – but a bit longer for Chatter—about 18 months. My focus is more in the creation of content for social channels.
I just jumped in professionally into social. For me, Twitter is like having a radio tuned into ITSM – FM if there were such a thing. (lol) I think it’s a great way to keep up with what the hot topics are in the industry; how information flows between people; how our audience behaves and interacts with each other; and what those connections look like. I would say rather than outbound communication, social media has been more of a research tool for me. I am much more of a “watcher.”
How do you get started in Social Media?
As part of the team that creates content and messaging for IT Service Management and other solutions, we are increasingly using social media channels to deliver and promote content. As a result we started to take a very different approach to the design of content.
An example is our four-part handbook around ITSM migration. It is a large piece of work, but has been put together in a very marketable fashion with chapters that can be promoted independent of each other. The structure of each chapter is also very modular which makes them very social. You can deconstruct the chapters into blogs or shorter pieces. We tried to make sure there’s a lot of content to tweet in there too. It’s interesting for me both as a social practitioner, and also as a designer of content and creator of content for social channels because I see both sides of the business.
How do you find “Inspiration” for social content?
Social media allows me to make sure I am tracking the things that everybody is talking about—the open questions that are out there in the market place that we serve. I think that if you can target your content to answer those questions, and design your content so that you can post answers that are social friendly, then that’s a huge win for us.
How do you approach content development?
One thing I am very conscious of is to be efficient with content development. I am a huge believer of creating something that is designed to be used everywhere. It’s a modular construction of pieces. Alot of the larger pieces I am working on now are deliberately designed so that they can be taken apart and each section can stand alone. And that’s a real shift, say from white papers that are designed to be read from front to back, with additional effort to be able to deconstruct and re-purpose it. Now, with so many channels available to us (and each with their own subtleties) if you have that in mind as you construct the piece you can avoid constructing lots of variations of the same thing.
Recently I have been working very closely with the programs and design team to get a lot more focused and deliberate about how we use Slideshare. (It is a social channel more focused on presentations that has its own set of design best practices that we are building and documenting now.) By deliberately adapting our content, voice, and message to Slideshare, we started to change the way that we create and share material in Slideshare. The results are astonishing. We recently had our highest ever performing presentation with lots of social communications around that presentation, especially Twitter and LinkedIn. Really, it’s been taken by the ITSM community.
We think this win stands for the fact that we are answering interesting questions about ITSM migration that no one else has answered. It also helps that the presentation was designed to work in to work in other social channels. It has been a fascinating exercise to watch and see its performance with some deliberate and conscious design.
Do you have a Personal Rule/Mantra?
My philosophy to the channel really has been to make it count every time. I am not a huge fan of noise for the sake of noise. I know that is a valid approach to social. And I realize that things – particularly in Twitter -- are only living for three to four hours unless you repeat yourself. But I think in general, that you can differentiate yourself by either producing and talking about highly differentiated content, or with attention to detail, and not just noise made simply to fill dead air.
Would you share your Biggest Win/ Achievement?
I think my biggest win is one that came as having a holistic approach from one carefully designed, but extensive piece of content that we were actually able to extend across multiple channels. It got market attention. It got BMC attention, but also it grabbed the attention of one of the major analysts that follows our space. For me that was integrated social media in action and it really was fun to be part of the team that pulled that off.
The project was an integrated set of activities in support of a book chapter that I wrote focused on working with people and ITSM migration. This is a very thorny issue and probably the most difficult issue of any IT project. I created a whole book chapter designed to be used in many different social channels that was picked up very well and actively promoted. Slideshare content was lifted from the first few pages of that book as a teaser – the last slide linked to the full piece and also to the Google+ Hangout where we talked about the book chapter, and mentioned the Slideshare. We had live Twitter interaction so we could take questions and had people quoting us from the HangOut. A few weeks prior, our buildup of activity had been picked up by Forrester and re-tweeted as a link to the book.
How do you approach Time Management?
Twitter is more of an information source but I do occasionally interact. Given that my full time role is the creation of content, Social is becoming a huge part what I think about when I build stuff. Rather than a time management exercise, social has become part of the fabric of my every day working life.
I am thinking about social channels all day long—whether I am building something to be used on that channel, writing a blog for myself or someone else, creating modular content, I am watching various feeds for fresh ideas or information.
What are your biggest Challenges with Social Media?
Making sense of noise. It’s a very noisy format which is part of what’s driven me to have a personal philosophy to focus on quality not quantity. I see a lot of people out there just making lots of noise. That can make it hard to track down the good stuff. I don’t filter content due to my anxiety of missing something. That can make it hard to track down the good stuff. I am pretty good about scanning through the tweets as they come in, and I am picky about who I subscribe to. I have gotten good about filtering through noise because buried in some noise are some real gems. Most of the people I subscribe to are quite judicious in how they are using the channel and are being disciplined to making sure they deliver.
Do you have a parting thought to share?
I look forward to the day, (and I think it’s coming soon), where we don’t distinguish between social channels and other channels. At the moment there is a special significance attached to social and I would like to see it evolve from consideration in our communications plans, to a being a working part of each employee’s life.
I think part of the nervousness around social is that it’s being built up into this separate thing and that is a little intimidating. (A few years ago I would have put myself into that category.)
Social is really just another communication channel with its own idiosyncrasies that is immensely powerful. And I believe that together, all social channels combined, our customers are increasingly collaborating with each other (that includes the products they should work on next, the things they should buy, what to decide what to do next) social is that space where the conversations are happening—and we absolutely have to be a part of it.