Monday, March 9, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Jennifer Leggio (40 of 45)

It's funny how things work. Today I have the good fortune of putting up two of my favorite women in social media -- both of whom I feel like I know well and have spoken to on the phone but neither of which I've met in person (that will change in the next week at SXSW). The first of which is this morning's featured artist also known as Mediaphyter. You may know her as Jennifer Leggio, director at Fortinet by day and blogger extraordinaire at ZDNet all other times (Meg Fowler, who will get her due later this afternoon, is the second of these two smart women).

In addition to letting me guest post in her most excellent Feeds blog on ZDNet -- a move that ended up causing a bit of controversy with some poor schmuck who thought he'd tell her what she could and couldn't write -- Jennifer was also kind enough to ask me to take part in her social media charity auction last fall along with rock stars, Chris Brogan, Joe Jaffe, Greg Verdino and GeoffLivingston. Jennifer and I have also taken turns dedicating milestone tweets to one another (not sure how that got started but it's a fun thing to do).

I could go and on but I can see you all thinking to yourselves, "enough already Strout." So onto Jennifer's answers to the five questions from the Experts in the Industry interview series:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you're good at it.
I'm like the character Tom Smykowski in the movie "Office Space" -- "I have people skills! I am good at dealing with people!" Though, unlike Tom, I don't spend my time separating engineers from customers; I try to bring them together. Whether the topic is social media or security or even hockey, I try to facilitate fun and valuable conversations.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
My first real dive into online community management was helping to run a message
board for, an underground metal Web zine and community I used to
co-own and -operate. I've learned that metal fans and business users aren't very
different. They are all purists to some degree, they come with their own set of
loyalties, but whether they are aware of it or not they all join a community to learn
something new. The challenge is finding the groove, so to speak, that inspires them
at the core.

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of "social," which company would it be and why?
BreakingPoint Systems. This is not a consumer company or a Web marketing
company or an enterprise IT goliath that already has a bird in the hand. This is a
network equipment testing company that has found a way to make social media work
to grow its business and engage with communities and strengthen its brand in the
networking and security industries. It also doesn't hurt that some of those industries'
top innovators work at BreakingPoint and are active on social networks. Considering
there still isn't an established formula for social media + enterprise IT, BreakingPoint
does a phenomenal job.

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
A.J. Liebling, though he was laid to rest long before I was ever born. It was after
stumbling across Liebling's "The Wayward Pressman" and "The Press" in a used
bookstore when I was in high school, and my subsequent reading of these books, that
inspired me to want to write for the greater good. Unfortunately that didn't stick, mainly due to the state of the newspaper industry when I was in it (1993-2000), but I still see him as a hero to journalists who bleed black and white. I also think he, unbeknownst to him, was decades ahead of his time when he said, ""People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news." Swap out "newspapers" for "blogs" and suddenly Liebling is relevant today. That I like.

Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
At this point, no. However I did recently become a fan of my laundry detergent on
Facebook. This does not mean I value clean clothes over good oral hygiene, either.

Freeform – here's where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
Social media consultants, why ya gotta front? Please stop telling enterprise
technology companies that they *must* join Twitter or Facebook if they want to reach the CTOs of Fortune 500 companies. Business decisions cannot be driven by "all the cool kids are doing it" ideas. Yes, some enterprise IT companies might benefit from such a presence, but for others it is an absolute waste of time. Your taking a one-size-fits-all approach is further confusing these companies and is wasting their money. If you don't understand the enterprise, there are plenty of consumer-focused companies you can help. These types of actions hurt your credibility and the credibility of social media as a whole. Social media is still a "nice to have" in these arenas. It's OK to admit it.


  1. Outstanding commentary from @mediaphyter, who absolutely "gets" what this is all about.

    In fact, aren't F500 corporations the very same companies that all the Social Media "pundits" claim are blocking SM in the first place? Sounds hypocritical.

    There's a middle ground, and getting in on all of this is prep for the future. You have to know what works NOW and what doesn't. Kudos to Ms. Leggio on knowing those things.

  2. I think in the lexicon of social marketing"Rock Stars" Jaffe is playing the triangle...

  3. it's all about choices, speculations on social media for some, while others care about the cause & effect on interconnected community.
    Can't wait for the transition on next web experience.

  4. Definitely true that "tweeting" is not for everyone -- you can tell those companies who are forcing it, just by reading their posts. no attempt at interaction or betterment, just "buy this" or "click here" etc. Saying everyone should use social is like saying everyone should use a screwdriver for everything -- sometimes you need a hammer or a drill instead. It's just another marketing tool in the end, and companies should have a nice, large, varied toolbox from which to choose from.