In my New Year’s resolution, I suggested doing a set of guest bloggers who are experts and users of Social Media in their businesses!  I had *Great* response to this idea and have a series of guest bloggers joining me ! 

The first in my series will be from Ascendant technology, who has a Social Media Practice in their business. Liz Albert, is our first guest blogger, and has some great experience in a small business setting leveraging social media! 

1.    Ascendent is a leading business partner with IBM. In a few sentences, what’s Ascendant’s value proposition and mission?

Ascendant Technology (Atech) is the leading provider of end-to-end web-based solutions to enterprises worldwide.  We create business agility for organizations through the adoption and implementation of technology, to both increase the speed at which organizations innovate and drive efficiency through this innovation.   

We work comprehensively across all five IBM software brands—Lotus, WebSphere, Tivoli, Rational and Information Management—to develop elegant Portal, e-Commerce, and rich Internet applications.  Our top-notch business services combine best-in-class subject matter expertise to develop solutions in Strategy Definition & Value Measurement, Requirements and Process Engineering, User Experience Research and Design & Digital Marketing.

With local offices across the U.S. and in Europe, Brazil, and India, Atech is a recognized Premier IBM business partner and has garnered numerous IBM awards such as Best Portal Solution and SOA Innovator Award for the Lotus, WebSphere and Rational brands.  Most recently, Atech was recognized as the 2010 North America Lotus Distinguished Award winner. 

2. Liz, tell me a little bit about your background in social media? 

 I have been an avid consumer of all things “social media” for several years, especially since the advent of social networking sites and public online communities.  Like many, I started with interest in Myspace.  Then Linkedin. Then Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Blogspot, etc.   At one point, I must have been signing up for 3- 4 social media sites every week!

 Over the past couple years though, I have noticed a trend in social media advancement, how the tools can now help address particular business needs and what social media truly means in today’s challenging economic environment.  It is these applications and uses of social media which will drive the next wave of social media demand and innovation.

3. Interesting. What are your 3 favorite social media tactics that you have executed? 

 Currently some of my favorite social media tactics include the new and somewhat innovative paths we’ve been taking with our recent Atech marketing campaigns.  Throughout 2009, Atech embarked on a path to introduce social media tools to our customers and partners with tactics intended to promote both the activities within Atech but also facilitate solution & methodology launches.  My 3 favorites through all our recent  campaigns include:

·      Expanding social media campaigns to include a more varied form of media (including video and photograph applications) with traditional print and blog campaigns.  Perhaps you’ve seen the Southpark videos we’ve created for the various IBM brand conferences in 2009?  These campaigns employed the use of YouTube to reach of different type of audience, one that perhaps would not have been familiarized with Atech and IBM solutions had we not “reached” them through this media platform.  The success of this tactic has resulted in expanded plans in 2010 to utilize the medium in a much greater fashion, so much so that we’re including a YouTube blog area of the new website, which is deep in the midst of redesign now. 

·      Development and promotion of Atech’s own instance of Lotus Connections, hosted on the Amazon Cloud:

This site was launched at the recent Lotusphere 2010 (#ls10) conference and was also recognized as a finalist for the Best in Showcase solution.  As an innovative social media tool, the site is both an example of how easy it is to get up-and-running quickly with IBM Lotus Collaboration software and is designed to provide users an easy point-of-entry to experience the innovative features of the IBM social networking tool.  More than just a demonstration of the functionality of Connections on the Cloud, this particular instance is a live, working, full version of Connections for Atech employees, customers and partners.  Within this environment, there are various blogs discussing the latest tech and world news of the day, bookmarks to pertinent technical and life resources, and much more information as it relates to Atech and our current path of innovation, which our community of followers can now access in a centralized location. 

·      Finally, and I’m sure you knew I was going to say this, but Twitter has been a tactic which Atech has found great success through 2009 and will continue to expand upon in 2010.  Through lessons learned in 2009, we’ve learned the types of news (both Atech and Tech world in general) our followers find value in being alerted to and what will help to generate additional business for Atech.  As I mentioned earlier, is undergoing a massive redesign, specially to address the greater need we see for social media marketing tools such as Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, etc.  The homepage of the site will now have a live feed of all corporate Atech tweets (@Atech_Speaks), as well as other feeds that include the soon to be introduced hastag #Atech, specifically from myself (@socialmediamvn) and Jim Deters, the King of social media forethought (@yodeets).

4. What do you think are the top 2 trends for future leaders to focus on?

Currently Atech, quite like yourself, is committed to a “Social Media Resolution” strategy for 2010.  There are definitely areas within our social media strategy that we need to improve upon to address the growing demands of both consumers and developers.  The one trend I can definitely foresee in the very near future which will help us meet these demands is that social media will be simply everywhere.  Take a fictional coffee drinker (Stan) for example.  While sitting at home, computer in reach and watching a prime time TV show (which happens to have a promotional twitter feed streaming during the telecast) Stan will see a commercial promoting a new fangled type of coffee pot.  Stan is encouraged to “Visit a website to learn more,” which he immediately does, as he was engaging in the twitter promotion with other viewers of the TV show he was watching.  Once at the site, he sees an embedded YouTube video showing a regular consumer, just like Stan, using the coffee pot of interest.  Also on the site, there is a link to purchase the product, which leads to an area with a social tool allowing other consumers to create reviews and product ratings.  Some of these reviewers chose to link their facebook and twitter ID’s, which Stan chooses to friend/follow, and so begins a discussion with previously complete strangers to determine the best coffee for Stan’s now purchased coffee pot.  Social media will be everywhere and very soon influence every activity we engage in!

5. What didn’t I ask you that you think I should have?

 The one thing that I’m constantly asked is how I maintain my high-level of involvement with the many social media tools, as it seems like a very time consuming activity.  I challenge all who question the applicability and ease of use within social media to find one thing that interests them, be it coffee like “Stan” or new innovations in the world of Mac, and start seeking out information via social media tools for that one topic.  Find something that grabs hold of you and learn how easy it is to engage within the many realms of social media to get complete information quickly and easily!

 Thanks Sandy! J