During economic times like these, most companies are looking to cut costs rather than invest in the newest trends in technology. Vignette is an organization that has had its share of tough times, but those setbacks are not keeping the leadership of the company from dedicating one of their most talented resources to the booming world of social media.
Dirk Shaw spent the better part of a decade helping clients to realize the value of user experience design. Just over three years ago, Dirk traded clients for customers and joined the product world as one of the first members of Vignette's Digital Strategy team.
Dirk's path through the technology and content management industry recently took another turn as he has taken on a new role -- Accidental Spokesperson. CMSWire was fortunate enough to sit down with Dirk and discuss his new role as Vignette's Social Media Strategist.
CMSWire: Tell us about your background and how it has prepared you for this new role.
Dirk Shaw: My whole career has been spent helping to educate customers and develop strategies for how to best use new technology for marketing and communications and customer support. This started all the way back during the dot-com days. I have always been in this role of trending what is coming next and how can it be applied [to business problems].
I've been Twittering and blogging for quite some time just for my personal networking efforts. Couple that with an understanding of [Vignette's] product suite and working with our customers. I've been working with customers for over three years now, not to mention the time spent at Macquarium working with customers pitching content management and personalization.
CMSWire: Give us an idea of why this role was created.
Dirk Shaw: One reason for creating this position it to help [Vignette] explore new methods for listening to the community at large -- the community being our customers and analysts and employees. But also listening to people who don't really know who [Vignette is], learning about customer preferences and interacting.
We will interact with the community across multiple social media platforms. Our blog will be launched any day now on Vignette.com. [The blog] will be a primary point of information sharing.
The approach we will take is: we will listen, we will learn, we will interact, and we will share.
The interaction is going to span multiple touchpoints ranging from Vignette.com, to our developer's community, through Twitter, plus leveraging FriendFeed for aggregation of information. I will be rolling each of these aspects out and ultimately I will be measuing all of this stuff. If I find that the tools aren't working then I will dump them.
The real reason [for creating the position] is to connect with our customers. I will give them new ways for [Vignette] to better serve and communicate with them. Today [corporate communication] is all very traditional. We want communication between [Vignette and its customers] to be more real-time in nature. We want to share insights and be more of an active participant in the conversation. Alot of things are said and comments are made but we don't go out and give our point of view to help shape the perception of our brand.
CMSWire: How have you been spending your first few days in the new role?
Dirk Shaw: I've been taking a step back and interviewing other people who are in similar roles. I got to know RichardAtDell at a recent conference. I asked him the question: "If you were to give a piece of advice to someone who is just starting, what would it be?" He actually gave me four:
- "Don't just look for influencers. Everyone is an influencer."
- "Be human. Don't use all corporate jargon."
- "Never cut and paste, it dilutes authenticity."
- "Never underestimate a thank you."
I have a general hypothesis on where my most of my time will be spent. It will be a combination of blogging, which takes time, but also responding to things. Whether that be via Twitter or on the discussion forums or in the comments of popular blogs. Not necessarily just looking at things said about Vignette but also about solutions that are being designed and delivered. Kind of putting a voice out there.
CMSWire: What do you see as your primary challenge in this role?
Dirk Shaw: One of the biggest challenges of this job is going to be not taking everything personally. I have to become a passionate yet measured brand advocate. My whole mantra for this will be: "take the high road".
CMSWire: Are you part of team or are you on your own for now?
Dirk Shaw: I report into marketing. I will work with product marketing on the promotion of products, solutions, and help to get the voice of our products out into the marketplace. I will work with corporate marketing to help with more brand activity. I will also work with corporate communciations, [as an alternative] to traditional press releases.
I will be a thread that goes throughout all of our customer facing touchpoints. I will also be working to activate our developer community. I want to make Vignette Connect as valuable as possible and begin to incorporate feedback and basically crowdsource the development community for ideas. Not initially on products, but really on how can this [community] be more useful. Ultimately, we will be porting the developer community over to what will be our social media suite.
CMSWire: What do you think the creation of this role means for Vignette?
Dirk Shaw: It's a sign of the times showing that culturally [Vignette] is really starting to change. It's interesting that it has really happened in the last 8 months where directionally [Vignette] is moving toward social computing. We are getting a social media suite out into the market. We've started using Yammer internally. We've been blogging internally [for quite a while]. Dave Dutch, Senior Vice President of Products & Marketing, is our head internal blogger. He has a post up every other day.
Now [Vignette] is embracing the accidental spokesperson. I am the first one and part of my role will be to reach out and start tapping other people. We have twelve or thirteen Vignette employees who are on Twitter now. Its just a matter of working with them to align some of their conversations toward the brand.
CMSWire: Will there be a thought leadership component to the role?
Dirk Shaw: Absolutely. Thought leadership will be a huge component of this role. Literally, I have worked with all of [Vignette's] major accounts and the historical backdrop of our company indicates that alot of the companies who bought early on were very IT centric because content management is seen to be a core piece of infrastructure. We are starting to see a shift where a lot of the budget is being pushed off into the business side and the business customers are starting to demand even more out of their content management system.
Overall, we want to help the market as a whole understand that [Vignette] really is a player in delivering social experiences online. Whether they want a community or user generated content or video. Now we are starting to look into tapping into the social graph and really giving your content wings. I want to evangelize these new capabilities so [Vignette] is in the consideration set for more than just content management.
CMSWire: Give us an idea of a day in the life of the Social Media Strategist at Vignette.
Dirk Shaw: We will have a publishing schedule for the blog so a bulk of my time will be spent writing blog posts both for Vignette.com and Dirkshaw.com. Twitter will be a piece that is integral to this role. Not just to use it from a "here is our latest press release" perspective, but to really give our customers more. I want to retweet useful information for our customers and help to get Vignette even more plugged-in to the community -- especially in Austin, TX. I will also work with industry blogs -- CMSWire.com, CMSWatch.com, etc.
We will use a brand monitoring solution to discover all the places that we need to monitor. In other words, the brand monitoring solution will help me to learn where I need to listen. Then I can turn my focus to interaction -- via Vignette.com, out in the blogosphere, on LinkedIn, on Facebook, etc. I want to take a lot of our starting points and activate them and give them some vibrancy. I will also work internally with our employees, sales force, and customers to help share insights.
CMSWire: How do you see the role evolving over time?
Dirk Shaw: I see it evolving to where it is core to our corporate DNA. I will always be a spokesperson but the goal is to have other people in similar roles in different areas throughout the organization. The overall idea is to have a core team that enables people throughout the company to take advantage of social media to ultimately build Vignette's brand. The blogging strategy will be the first part of this where people will be blogging from across the company. From people in product management on up to Dave Dutch as part of the senior leadership team. I will be a point of orchestration.
CMSWire is grateful to Vignette and Dirk Shaw for taking the time to speak with us. It is always exciting to see a company take a progressive stance toward emerging technology. We encourage you to be a part of Vignette's social media efforts, and you can start right here: