Each day, Ron Vokoun sets aside time to read e-mail newsletters and news feeds to stay on top of trends in the data center business. Vokoun, a 27-year veteran of the construction industry, has been doing this for years, and sees his daily diet of news as an essential part of working in technology. He soon found that this practice was boosting his profile in unexpected ways.
In 2009, Vokoun began sharing articles on LinkedIn and Twitter, and later on Google+. As he shared links and connected with professionals around the country, Vokoun found himself being invited to write articles for leading data center publications and speak on panels at industry conferences. Earlier this month, Vokoun started a new position as Director, Mission Critical Design at Denver-based RK Mechanical.
“If it were not for social media, I would still be toiling in anonymity,” said Vokoun, who has amassed 4,000 followers on LinkedIn and another 3,800 on Twitter. “Social media helps you amplify your message, whatever it is. My whole approach is to talk about thought leadership. It’s definitely helped me gain exposure, especially as a speaker at conferences.”
While the data center industry has been on the cutting edge in providing infrastructure to drive the back-end of the social media revolution, the front-end has been a different story. After a slow start, leading players in the data center business have stepped up their social game over the past two years. Most service providers now have blogs, share content on major social networks, and are using social channels to generate leads and win customers.
At Data Center Frontier, our Social Business Channel will help our readers master social media as a powerful tool to drive the growth of the data center industry. We’ll talk with social media thought leaders to gain insights on best practices in social for data center professionals, offer case studies on how IT firms are leveraging social tools, and offer specific tips to help you make the most of networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
The first key step is understanding the value of social media, and how it can build your brand and revenue. Today we share the experience of three industry veterans who have been on the front lines of the social scene for data centers and cloud computing.
It takes more than just activity to succeed in social networking, as Vokoun can attest. “I read everything I could to become a student of the game,” said Vokoun, who has focused his efforts on the three largest networks for data center professionals – LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+. Much of the content he shares is related to energy efficiency and “green” approaches to data center design.
“I find LinkedIn groups useful for sharing content that I’ve created or find interesting,” he said.
Twitter offers a number of strategies. “A lot of people are there just to check out links and monitor news,” said Vokoun. “I try to consistently share quality content. Most of what I share is out there for anyone to find and share. But there are other data center thought leaders on Twitter that are really having fun, fast-paced discussions.”
A Voice to the Cloud
Bill Kleyman has been an early and enthusiastic adopter of social media. Kleyman, the Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at MTM Technologies, has steadily built an audience of more than 3,000 connections on LinkedIn and 2,500 followers on Twitter. Kleyman is passionate about evangelizing cloud technologies, and social sharing has brought his content to new audiences through his social networks, as well as freelance writing gigs for industry portals including Data Center Knowledge, Tech Target and Information Week.
Kleyman believes social media plays an important role in connecting different segments of the industry. “Social media has given the data center a voice to the cloud,” said Kleyman. “We tie tech and IT to the business. It’s raised awareness of data centers and their role.”
Between his freelance work and blog items, Kleyman publishes eight to 14 articles per month, in addition to webinars and white papers. As they are published, he shares them across his social footprint, especially LinkedIn, where he’ll share content on his personal feed as well as MTM’s company page and LinkedIn Group. On LinkedIn, content focused on specific industry verticals “can be socialized really rapidly,” Kleyman says. On Twitter, he adds relevant hashtags to each Tweet to help them be found amid the noise.
For Kleyman, the key to building a following is simple. “It’s got to be great content and insightful,” he said. “It cannot be BS. Anything that simplifies complex concepts really works well. Look at the hot market trends, and seek out use cases and real-life scenarios. Show me a ‘day in the life’ of someone solving a common problem. That’s when you take the conversation to the next level.”
Like many social mavens, Kleyman automates some of his activity using HootSuite, an application which brings together many social streams in a single interface. “I can see all my social networks, schedule posts, and see interactions to posts we’re published,” said Kleyman.
But that doesn’t mean he uses “copy and paste” methods. “Each post will be unique to the platform where it’s being published,” said Kleyman. “It takes a little bit of work to customize the summaries and fine-tune the hashtags.”
Finding What Resonates
There’s no question social media can extend the reach of your marketing message. But what about sales? Can posting on Twitter and LinkedIn actually help sell technology products and services?
The answer is yes, says Robert Schmidt, a Data Center Solution Sales specialist at Future Facilities. One day Schmidt shared an article on LinkedIn, which prompted a conversation in the reader comments. That led to an e-mail exchange and phone conversations in which the commenter gained a deeper understanding of the product’s capabilities, and that led to the reader becoming a customer.
“On social media, I think that external selling is really about educating and sharing knowledge,” said Schmidt. “If you can use videos and infographics and something outside the traditional white paper, it can be really effective. You can ask the industry: what do you want to see? What works? What resonates? I’m trying to interact with the article, and the people who comment on it.”
Which social network works best for data center professionals? “My favorite is LinkedIn because it’s driven by business,” said Schmidt, who has about 5,000 followers on his LinkedIn profile. “Technology evolves at a rapid pace. It’s critical to anticipate business drivers and be prepared to articulate solutions to them in a short, concise medium. I’m consistently plugged in to make sure I’m aware and ready to help.”
While LinkedIn is his favorite, Schmidt has been prolific in sharing content across a wide spectrum of social channels, including Twitter, Google+, and even visual social platforms like Pinterest and Flipboard.
“I try to use every single platform,” he said. “I started on Pinterest as soon as it launched. I’ve always been a visual learner. I’m reading so much that I’ve used these (visual) tools to post articles easily.”
Being a social media ambassador is not only about external communication. Schmidt believes that organizations have to think broadly about being involved in social business. “Executives have to understand why we do it,” said Schmidt. “It’s about educating, sharing case studies, and about getting partners and vendors together. As sales people, we wear many different hats now. You have to know social media and marketing. You have to collaborate within the company. I’m learning every day.”
Are you a data center professional with insight on social business? We’re looking for tips on how data center professionals can use social media to boost their personal brands and help their companies succeed. Get in touch with us at [email protected] if you’re interested in participating in future coverage.