The Biggest Roadblock to Social Business Success

Stories about how top executives just don’t “get” social media and the concept of social business were common four or five years ago. But it’s jarring to still come across such reports today.

Despite the fact that 82% of buyers say they trust a company more when its CEO and senior leadership team are active in social media, and 77% are more likely to buy from a company if its CEO uses social media (those stats themselves nearly two years old), “64% of CEOs do not use social media at all, with only 5% of all Fortune 500 company CEOs on Twitter,” according to The Guardian.

Don't fear social businessWorse, C-level executives who don’t use social media themselves are also much less likely to understand how to capitalize on the social media savvy and reach of their employees to benefit their companies. And those benefits can be considerable. Per recent research from GaggleAMP:

“Connecting your business with your employees in social media can boost your social media presence. Employee advocacy not only has the ability to acquire new leads, but also can help create original content and bump your search rankings on Google, Yahoo, and MSN…Prospective clients are more likely to recognize your brand when you’ve got a network of employee advocates helping to sell your product through social media. This can cut down on the time it takes to gain the trust of clients as well as help solidify the relationship more quickly.”

Expanding a company’s social presence through its employees’ networks requires some give and take. Employee participation must be voluntary. Employers will need to do some level of monitoring, in order to measure results, share best practices, and incentive employees for social amplification.

That monitoring activity needn’t be excessive or intrusive; it should be limited to work-related social media activities, and social networks on which employees are active on the company’s behalf (an individual employee may, for example, choose to use his or her Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to promote company content and interact with customers and prospects, but use Facebook strictly for personal relationships).

Yet too many companies, regardless of their progress as social businesses, already take or plan to take this monitoring to excessive, even downright creepy, levels. Per per research from PricewaterhouseCoopers:

“More employers plan to begin or increase their monitoring of employees’ social media use and other personal data over the next decade…the idea is frankly kind of Orwellian in that terrifying corporate kind of way: The data profiling that drives customer management will increasingly be replicated among employees as screening and monitoring move to a new level. Sensors check their location, performance and health. The monitoring may even stretch into their private lives in an extension of today’s drug tests. Periodic health screening gives way to real-time monitoring of health.”

Of course, employees need to actually be engaging in social media activities on a company’s behalf in order for their to be any social activity to monitor. Nearly as disturbing as excessive monitoring, more than a third (36%) of businesses block social networks completely within the office, and more than half (57%) permit workplace social media access only for select employees (e.g., marketing and HR).

The fundamental barrier to embracing a social business strategy seems to come down to one word: fear.

  • • Fear of bad, or even unmeasurable, results. While precise social media ROI may or may not be measurable, many indicators of success certainly are. Social media amplification is like any other business process: test, measure, improve, repeat.
  • • Fear that employees will waste time on social sites. Employees have been finding ways to distract themselves, and others, and generally waste time at work, for pretty much as long as groups of human beings have worked together. Employees intentionally wasting work time are a sign of poor hiring, poor motivation, and/or poor management. Those determined to waste work time will do so regardless of social media policy.
  • • Fear that employees will be unproductive. This is different than the point above; it’s not fear that employees will purposely waste time, but rather that employees, with the best of intentions, will use social networks inefficiently. Monitoring, measurement, and training are the answer.
  • • Fear that employees will say the wrong things. They’ll get brand messages wrong, or argue with customers, or reveal trade secrets, or disclose sensitive financial information, or bash competitors, or bash management, or tweet while drunk, or say something racist or sexist, or…whatever. Actually, in a healthy work environment, employees are far more likely to appreciate trust than to abuse it. And, backed up with training and clear policies, they deserve it.

Most fundamentally of all, however, is the fear that a surprising majority of companies still seem to have in acknowledging that they are staffed by actual people. Try this experiment: pick 10 business websites, from companies of any size, pretty much any industry. See if you can find a way to directly contact a specific individual (e.g., the head of marketing, the top HR exec, anyone in customer service, the webmaster, the VP of sales, even the CEO) at any of those companies, through information presented on the company’s website.

Many sites won’t list any individual employee or management names at all. Some will have “management team” pages that list a handful of top executives (though not with any direct contact information). Most will not provide any email addresses beyond the generic “info@” or “sales@” variety. Many will link to the company’s social media accounts—but not to the accounts of any individual employee, even if used strictly for business purposes. In some cases, you’ll be able to find contact information for the individual in charge of public relations—but often as not, this will be someone from an outside agency rather than a company employee.

That may be the most fundamental fear of all: being social means being human. That is what needs to change, first and foremost. As social media guru Ted Rubin notes, “A smart brand supports its employees in building their personal brands because it expands their reach right along with that of their employees.”

How do executives who want to overcome these fears and embrace social media start? Search for guidance and resources online, watch videos like this one, read books like The Social Employee by Cheryl and Mark Burgess (a veritable field guide to social business best practices, based on case studies of brand-name social enterprises), and begin by getting employees involved with the business socially internally, using tools like Yammer or Chatter.

But whatever you do, start. With regard to social business, the only rational fear top executives should have is fear of being left behind.

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Book Review: The Social Employee

One of the most powerful impacts of social media is the way it has democratized brands. No longer is the brand, or corporate image, tightly controlled by a few senior executives, marketing communications specialists, and PR spokespersons. Every stakeholder in an enterprise—every customer, prospective customer, supplier, channel partner, employee, industry blogger, shareholder—has a voice. Those voices collectively shape the brand.

This reality can be scary as hell for brands, but it also creates new opportunities. Treating customers well produces an army of advocates, with far greater credibility and at far lower cost than traditional advertising. Invite bloggers to your company events, give them a peak “under the hood,” and the collective “media coverage” generated can be tremendous.

The Social Employee - book by Cheryl Burgess and Mark BurgessThe most natural and knowledgeable group of brand ambassadors would seem though to be employees. They know the company’s products, people, policies and procedures from the inside. They (presumably) want the company to do well, as their livelihoods depend on its success. Those on the front lines, in areas like consulting and customer support, have a unique perspective and level of credibility. And collectively, particularly in large organizations, they can be a powerful amplifier of brand messages and values.

Yet companies big and small have struggled to capitalize on this potential. Asking employees to use social platforms on a brand’s behalf can easily feel awkward, or forced. Employees may not want to talk about the company on social media, or may not know how, or may want to expose too much, or may even use it in ways that damage the brand.

Of course, most organizations of any size now have social media policies in place; but these often only set the basic ground rules for discussing the company in social media (e.g., don’t discuss financial details, don’t disclose customer data, don’t talk about products in development). They don’t turn employees into effective and impactful brand advocates any more than merely knowing the traffic laws makes one an expert driver.

Into this milieu have stepped Cheryl and Mark Burgess with their book, The Social Employee: Success Lessons from IBM, AT&T, Dell, and Cisco on Building a Social Culture. A must-read for any executive or manager who wants to understand how to unleash the social power of a properly trained, motivated and incentivized workforce, this book goes far beyond the do’s and don’ts of social media policy. The authors have gone inside some of the most respected brands to discover and reveal how these companies have made social media work by enabling and empowering their employees.

In today’s social online world, the linear model of brand engagement (awareness, interest, desire, action) is obsolete. Rather than being the end goal, the sale is often the beginning of the true relationship between customers and brands. It isn’t just the product that matters, but the entire customer experience with the product, with post-sale support, even with a company’s values, that shape the brand image in the social realm.

The Mobius Strip Model of the Social EmployeeTo introduce their concept of a non-linear model of customer engagement, the authors invoke the image of a Möbius strip: a geometric shape that is “somewhat unique in the physical world. While the Möbius strip appears to be a closed band like a bracelet, because of a twist in the band itself the object technically has only one side—although it appears to have two…

“We like the metaphor implied in this famous mathematical conundrum: here is an object that is easy to understand by experiencing it, but incredibly difficult to produce through attempts to quantify it. Such a riddle creates an unmistakable parallel with the nature of social employee engagement. Any brand can see the value of social of social collaboration once they’ve jumped into the fray, but it’s much more challenging to try to define the precise formula for why it works…Each of us behaves as an employee, brand, and customer—sometimes simultaneously—throughout the course of a single day.”

Later in the book’s opening section, the authors quote a McKinsey Quarterly article which argues that “senior leaders can harness social media to shape consumer decision making in a predictable way…(social media) is much more than simply another form of paid marketing, and it demands more too: a clear framework to help CEOs and other top executives evaluate investments in it, a plan for building support infrastructure, and performance management systems to help leaders smartly scale their social presence. Companies that have these three elements in place can create critical new brand assets (such as content from customers or insights from their feedback), open up new channels for interactions (Twitter-based customer service, Facebook news feeds), and completely reposition a brand through the way its employees interact with customers or other parties.”

Social media is fundamentally changing the nature of marketing, and employees are crucial to successfully navigating this transition. In the sections titled Employees Already Own Your Brand and Marketing is Everyone’s Job, the authors contend that “strong Business-to-Business (B2) or Business-to-Consumer (B2C) communication outside of the brand’s walls begins with strong internal employee collaboration…Because of the many new demands that social media has created for internal organization as well as B2B and B2C interactions, brands are quickly coming to the realization that the act of marketing is no longer just the responsibility of the marketing department…This isn’t to say that each member of each department has to be on the frontlines of branding, just that everybody should have a role in spreading the brand’s message.

“The only thing preventing organizations from connecting employees with the necessary information and resources to drive real change is the willingness to develop a proper infrastructure…Many companies simply don’t know how to handle the changes in the work styles and attitudes that are emerging within the workforce.”

And that is what sets up the core of this book: lessons the authors share from seven leading companies in how to harness the power of social employees. Among them:

  • • IBM: let employees develop the company’s social media guidelines. “In trying to determine the best way to address questions regarding the proper protocols of a social business, IBM struck on a novel idea: rather than confining a small group of people to a conference room to hammer out social policy, why not take the question to the people? IBM quickly set up an open wiki accessible to the entire network that would allow IBMers to establish their own computing guidelines…The results of the wiki experiment were quickly adapted as the company’s official social media guidelines. According to (IBM executive Ethan) McCarty, everything is still holding up quite well. ‘IBMers treat it like their Magna Carta’…The guidelines, which McCarty affectionately refers to as IBM’s social media Woodstock, have become so renowned in the business world that hundreds of other organizations have contacted IBM seeking permission to adopt them as their own.”
  • • Adobe: promote social media policies and best practices as “guardrails” for employees, not straightjackets. Adobe’s Corporate Social Media team knows it can’t control or dictate every social media interaction, so it has instead “adopted a policy of `influence without authority’ in order to spread the brand’s social message…Larger brands simply don’t have the resources to micromanage social adoption practices for an entire enterprise. `We had little to no authority over (other internal) teams to mandate change,” (Senior Director of Social Media and Public Relations Maria) Poveromo said. ‘So instead, we had to learn ways to encourage these stakeholders to see the value of working together.'”
  • • Dell: use tools and structure to monitor and address the torrent of social media activity happening outside the brand’s direct sphere of influence. “Listening to over 25,000 conversations daily produced a wealth of data, but the brand has had to be creative in how it sorts and utilizes this information. In 2010, Dell established the Social Media Listening Command Center (SMLCC) Led by Maribel Sierra. The brand has since designed over 300 monitoring categories in order to aggregate information by product line, customer segments, and various business functions. The SMLCC is able to sort data by criteria such as location/geography, basic demographics, reach, sentiment, subject matter, and social platform. To accomplish this kind of sorting, the SMLCC team uses Saleforce’s Radian6 technology to assess and report on the trending social media topics related to Dell.”

There’s much more, from Cisco (representing leader authentically builds tremendous credibility); Southwest Airlines (founder Herb Kelleher: “If the employee comes first, then they’re happy…A motivated employee treats the customer well”); AT&T (use social media to humanize the brand: “A fundamental trait of the social age is the fact that people expect information to come from a trusted resource with a human face”); and Acxiom (create a social employee “PACT”—short for passion, accountability, creativity and teamwork).

While the book showcases examples and practices from large organizations, many of the lessons are applicable to companies of any size—such as the importance of executive involvement on social platforms on behalf of the brand.

I’m thrilled and honored to have worked with Cheryl Burgess for the past three years honoring the #Nifty50 top women and men on Twitter. Cheryl and Mark have written an outstanding book for any leader seeking a roadmap to building and optimizing employee engagement on behalf of the brand in social media. As legendary management guru Tom Peters said of the book, “Social media is wasted without social employees…my social business favorite books #1: The Social Employee.”

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The Top #Nifty50 Men Writers on Twitter for 2013

By Cheryl Burgess, originally published on the Blue Focus Marketing Blog

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In 2011, I teamed up with Tom Pick (@TomPick) and his Webbiquity blog to unveil the first annual #Nifty50 Awards. Our goal in designing these awards was to honor the top 50 women and top 50 men in social media. In that first year, we cast a wide net, honoring those whom we felt actively engaged as brand ambassadors on Twitter day in day out, exchanging valuable information, and just generally being good, helpful people. Last year, we narrowed our focus to honor the top 50 men and top 50 women engaging on Twitter on behalf of the tech sector.

This year, we wanted to target a specific group once again, and so we agreed to honor the top bloggers, authors, PR specialists, and journalists on Twitter. After reviewing all of your wonderful nominations over the summer, it’s now time to unveil the winners!

Now that Tom and I have compiled our lists, the word that keeps popping into my head is “community.” This isn’t just a list of 50 men who work in isolation; these are people who share strong social bonds with each other, who would be just as happy to celebrate the success of one of their colleagues as they would be for themselves. These thought leaders understand that the greatest product of a good idea is more good ideas, and it’s great to see that their generosity and thought leadership in online communities is being recognized.

I’m happy to say that I have had the privilege of experiencing this generosity firsthand. As we were writing our book The Social Employee: How Great Companies Make Social Media Work – Success Lessons from IBM, AT&T, Dell, Cisco, Southwest Airlines, Adobe, and Domo on building a Social Culture (McGraw-Hill, August 2013) (@SocialEmployee) late last year and early this year, we were honored to receive excellent contributions from people like Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar), David Armano, (@Armano) David C. Edelman (@DavidEdelman), and Kevin Randall (@kevinbrandall) —just to name a few. These wonderful wordsmiths truly enlivened our own content, and we couldn’t be happier to see them make this list.

So without further ado, here are the 2013 #Nifty50 Men! Feel free to celebrate their achievement by dropping them a line on Twitter, and don’t forget to check out the Webbiquity blog for the 2013 #Nifty50 Women!

Vala Afshar @ValaAfshar

Vala Afshar

David Armano @armano

David Armano

Jonathan Becher @jbecher

Jonathan Becher

Sander Biehn @sanderbiehn

Sander Biehn

Michael Brenner @BrennerMichael

Michael Brenner

David Brier @davidbrier

David Brier

Michael Brito @Britopian

Michael Brito

Terry Brock @TerryBrock

Terry Brock @TerryBrock

Mark Burgess @mnburgess

Mark Burgess

Chris Carragher @cjcarragher

Chris_Carragher_N

Dan Cristo @dancristo

Dan Cristo

Dino Dogan @dinodogan

Dino Dogan

Mike Edelhart @MikeEdelhart

Mike Edelhart

David Edelman @davidedelman

David Edelman

Mark Fidelman @markfidelman

Mark Fidelman

Sam Fiorella @samfiorella

Sam Fiorella

Jez Frampton @jezframpton

Jez Frampton

Nis Frome @nisfrome

Nis Frome

Sean Gardner @2morrowknight

Sean Gardner

Glen Gilmore @GlenGilmore

Glen Gilmore

Andrew Grill @AndrewGrill

Andrew Grill

John Hagel @jhagel

John Hagel

Arik Hanson @arikhanson

Arik Hanson

Kent Huffman @KentHuffman

Kent Huffman

John L. Kennedy @johnlkennedy

nifty50_Kennedy.fw

Jure Klepic @jkcallas

Jure Kelpic

Bryan Kramer @bryankramer

Bryan Kramer

Simon Mainwaring @simonmainwaring

Simon Mainwaring

TJ McCue @TJMcCue

Nifty50 TJ McCue.fw

Billy Mitchell @billymitchell1

Billy Mitchell

Jacob Morgan @jacobm

Jacob Morgan

Tom Peters @tom_peters

Tom Peters

Howard Pyle @howardpyle

Howard Pyle

Erik Qualman @equalman

Eric Qualman

Ajay Ramachandran @ajay

Ajay Ramachandran

Andreas Ramos @Andreas_Ramos

Andreas Ramos

Kevin Randall @KevinBrandall

Kevin Randall

Ron Ricci @RonRicciCisco

Ron Ricci

Tony Riches @tonyriches

Tony Riches

Alex Romanovich @alexromanovich

Alex Romanovich

Ted Rubin @TedRubin

Ted Rubin

Neal Schaffer @NealSchaffer

Neal Schaffer

Dan Schawbel @DanSchawbel

Dan Schwbel

Gary Schirr @ProfessorGary

Gary Schirr

Brian Slattery @BrianSlatts

BrianSlatts.fw

Andy Smith @kabbenbock

Andy Smith

Brian Solis @briansolis

Brian Solis

Bill Strawderman @marketingbard

Bill Strawderman

Todd Wilms @toddmwilms

Todd Wilms

Tony Zambito @TonyZambito

Tony Zambito

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Cheryl Burgess (@ckburgess) CEO and CMO of Blue Focus Marketing, author of The Social Employee – How Great Companies Make Social Media Work, published by McGraw-Hill, in summer 2013.  She is a social branding consultant with expertise in social business and social media. She is an expert blogger for AT&T Networking Exchange on social media. Proud to be an invited contributor to the Wharton FOA’s Advertising 2020 Project. Active Member of the Wharton Advertising 2020 Contributor Community.

She was awarded Wharton Future of Advertising’s MVP and praised as a “brilliant strategic thinker in the social media space.” Huffington Post honored her as one of 40 global women “Passionistas” for her “great business expertise and timeless blog posts.”  Also,  Huffington Post “Top 100 Business, Leadership and Technology Twitter Accounts You Must Follow.”

She was featured in Fast Company and Business Insider.  Invited speaker on “Expanding Your Social Influence” at the AT&T Networking Leaders Academy Annual Conference. She is a four-time winner of the Twitter Shorty Award in Marketing [The New York Times hails this as the Oscar of Twitter], named Top 75 Twitter Women, 2012 Top 100 Branding Experts on Twitter, and a 100 Top Marketer on Twitter.  Cheryl is a syndicated blogger. She is the co-founder of #Nifty50 Top Twitter Women and #Nifty50 Top Twitter Men. Google+

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Book Preview: The Social Employee

In an era of increasingly transparent pricing, interchangeable products, and uniformly adequate service, the only remaining differentiator may be the “soul” of a company: is your organization the type of enterprise that people want to do business with? What do you stand for? How do you treat your people (which in turn determines how they will treat your customers)?

That “soul” is transparent as well. It’s reflected in the myriad social interactions an organizations employees have online. Employees who are empowered, energized and inspired by their organization’s mission and culture will paint a far different overall web presence than those who are micromanaged, disrespected and treated as headcount.

In the social age, the image of a company is no longer controlled by a charismatic CEO, clever advertising, or carefully choreographed media relations. It’s determined collectively by the firm’s customers and employees.

Such a collective effort can’t be tightly controlled. But it can be nurtured and encouraged. And the roadmap for this journey is laid out in a new book from #Nifty50 co-creator Cheryl Burgess and her partner Mark Burgess (soon to be released and available for pre-order now on Amazon), The Social Employee: How Great Companies Make Social Media Work.

Praise for the book comes from a who’s who of the digital marketing world, including Mari Smith, David Armano, Ann Handley, Jennifer Aaker and Dan Schawbel.

Enterprises that embrace the concept of The Social Employee will be well positioned to thrive in the coming decade. Those that ignore this phenomenon do so at their own peril.

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The Top #Nifty50 Women in Technology on Twitter for 2012

A year ago, the #Nifty50 honored 50 remarkable men and women on Twitter. This year, colleague Cheryl Burgess and I changed things up a bit, opening the award to nominations but focusing specifically on outstanding men and women who work for technology companies and are active on social media.

#Nifty50 Top Women in Technology on Twitter for 2012These women are executives, thought leaders, bloggers, authors and role models for younger women with an interest in technology. Not only leaders in their professional lives, nearly all these women use their social profiles to express their passions outside the workplace, which range from NASCAR, art, travel, billiards, wine and music to community service, politics and, of course, family.

Among the women profiled below, Emily Gonzales notes that “women in tech are doing really cool things,” while Padmasree Warrior is “passionate about helping women in tech.” True, and important, which is why this year’s #Nifty50 is focused on the technology field.

We’ve also expanded the focus of the #Nifty50 this year to include an element of social good—the #Nifty50 Kids project. Although the idea captured the imagination and interest of several brand-name organizations, the timeframe was just too tight this year to line up sponsorship. That will be our top focus for next year.

2013 #Nifty50 Women and Men of Twitter - LogosNext year, Cheryl and I tentatively plan to honor #Nifty50 Women and Men Writers, including bloggers, journalists, authors, and PR professionals.  As with this year, we will be asking our community to nominate their favorite leaders in this field.

This year, we’re pleased to honor 50 women (below) and 50 men (in an upcoming post on the Blue Focus Marketing Blog) who are among the top social media connectors and engagers in the technology world, representing technology vendors as well as related venture capital (VC), advisory and analyst firms. These are the leaders in the information and communications technology sector who truly “get” social media and social business.

We’re proud to acknowledge these 50 women from 41 different organizations as the top #Nifty50 women of technology on Twitter for 2012.

Stacey AceveroStacey Acevero
@sacevero

Stacey is flat-out awesome: Social Media Manager for Vocus/PRWeb as well as serving her country as a U.S. Air Force auxiliary 2nd Lieutenant and Mission Scanner. She’s a self-described “social media nerd” who loves “NASCAR, steak, rock music and XBOX360 .” ‘Nuff said.

Abby BaileyAbby Bailey
@AbbyBailey

Based in Minneapolis, Abby is Senior Manager Creative Services at Best Buy, and also Board President at FamilyWise, a non-profit organization that provides programs for families that encourage self-determination, self-sufficiency, and healthy family lifestyles.

Cindy BatesCindy Bates
@Cindy_Bates

Active across social networks, Cindy leads Microsoft’s small- to midsized-business sales and marketing efforts as Vice President U.S. SMB and Distribution. The 10-year Microsoft veteran is also a graduate of Harvard Business School.

Susan BeebeSusan Beebe
@susanbeebe

Austin, Texas-based Susan Beebe works in Corporate Communications – Social Media Management at Dell. Calling herself Dell’s “first listener,” Susan also welcomes the opportunity to “learn from others and develop things; including new projects, especially those that improve the world and deliver on the promise of ‘social good.'”

Valerie BiancoValerie Bianco
@valeriemichelle

Now a Business Information Analyst at The Mint Partnership, Valerie has an extensive background in the architecture and engineering industry. She currently lives in Newport Beach (been there), once worked for a pizza company (done that) and is a graduate of San Diego State University (love that town).

Meghan BiroMeghan Biro
@MeghanMBiro

As the CEO and Founder at TalentCulture Consulting Group, Meghan connects talent with technology companies as well as being an accomplished speaker and author. She also hosts the talent chat (#TChat) on Twitter Wednesdays from 7-8pm eastern time.

Linda BoffLinda Boff
@lindaboff

New York-based Linda Boff, Executive Director Global Digital Marketing at GE, is “passionate about all things digital, specifically new digital media and concepts that fuse design and technology.” She was named B2B Magazine’s 2012 Digital Marketer of Year.

Liz BonillaLiz Bonilla
@LizatDell

Senior Manager Social Media and Community at Dell, Liz is a strategic marketing professional with over 10 years of proven success who lives in Austin, Texas. And congrats on being a new mom!

Liz BrennerLiz Brenner
@lizbrenner

Living, working and tweeting out of West Chester, Pennsylvania, Liz is Senior Director, Talent Marketing at SAP. Her background includes stints in management consulting and the energy industry. Liz also writes the Lead With Intuition blog.

Sandy CarterSandy Carter
@sandy_carter

As the Vice President of Social Business and Collaboration Solutions Sales and Evangelism at IBM, Sandy Carter plays an integral role in driving the company’s Social Business initiative. Sandy is an active thought leader in helping businesses transition into an era of social business, as well as the award-winning author of two best-selling books: The New Language of Business: SOA & Web 2.0, and The New Language of Marketing 2.0: How to Use ANGELS to Energize Your Market. She also explores the many nuances of social marketing on her blog Social Media to Social Business. A self-described “social media evangelist,” Sandy’s work blogging and tweeting for IBM has led to 27 different awards, and is one of IBM’s top bloggers.

Blair ChristieBlair Christie
@BlairChristie

Blair is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Government Affairs at Cisco in Silicon Valley. Her integrated marketing and communications organization is responsible for positioning Cisco’s growth strategy and cultivating opportunities in new and existing markets through market and customer insight, corporate positioning, branding, and advertising.

Beth ComstockBeth Comstock
@bethcomstock

Another New Yorker, Beth leads GE’s growth efforts including sales, marketing and communications and innovation platforms. Prior to being named GE’s first Chief Marketing officer in more than 20 years, she held a succession of roles at GE, NBC (including President of Integrated Media at NBC Universal), CBS and Turner Broadcasting.

Carrie CorbinCarrie Corbin
@thealphafemme

Carrie Corbin leads the employment brand initiatives, recruitment marketing & media strategy as Associate Director – Strategic Staffing & Talent Attraction at AT&T. Carrie played a key role in launching the enterprise-wide integration of social & mobile recruiting, breaking some of the traditional boundaries of HR in the process. She has been named one of the top people to follow in Social Media Recruiting, and has been quoted in publications such as The New York Post & Workforce Today. Carrie is also active in community work, including work with tornado relief and local sports charities.

Colette CoteColette Cote
@ColetteCote

From Darien, Connecticut, Collete leads Corporate External Communications at Pitney Bowes Inc. as well as serving on the Board of Directors at Person-to-Person, Inc. Her varied background includes corporate roles (B2B and B2C), agencies, non-profits and startups. She’s a rock star on Twitter and also speaks French.

Lisa CramerLisa Cramer
@LisaJCramer

Lisa Cramer is President & Co-Founder of LeadLife Solutions in Atlanta, a provider of on-demand lead management software that generates, scores and nurtures leads for B2B marketers. LeadLife  is designed to increase qualified leads while shortening sales cycles and decreasing the cost of sales. Lisa also recently authored a guest post here on web analytics and lead scoring.

Elyse DeVriesElyse DeVries
@Elyse_D

Chicago-based technology marketer Elyse DeVries most recently worked as Marketing Manager, Demand Generation at The SAVO Group, and prior to that did stints as Marketing Manager, Social Media at Alterian (owner of the former Techrigy SM2 social media monitoring product) and Marketing Specialist, ERP USA at Comarch. And she’s amazing.

April DunfordApril Dunford
@aprildunford

Based in Toronto, April is currently Vice President Marketing, Enterprise Products at telecom services provider Huawei. She previously worked in marketing roles at Nortel, DataMirror Corporation and IBM. A marketer who’s an engineer by training (I can relate to that), April has a broad range of marketing experience that encompasses messaging, media relations, lead generation, email marketing, content marketing, social media, analyst relations and sales enablement.

Ale EspinosaAle Espinosa
@aespinosa

A graduate of the University of Puerto Rico, Ale now lives in Los Angeles and works as Senior. Director, Marketing, Communications & PR at EndPlay, Inc. EndPlay is a leading provider of SaaS content management, engagement and monetization solutions delivered in the cloud. Ale is, in her words, a wine & art enthusiast at night, beach girl over the weekends, and music-lover every single second.

Laura FittonLaura Fitton
@Pistachio

Boston’s amazing Laura Fitton is an inbound marketing evangelist for HubSpot, founder of @oneforty, and co-author of the best-selling Twitter For Dummies (For Dummies (Computer/Tech)). Laura is credited with convincing Guy Kawasaki and thousands of tech execs that Twitter would have real business value, has lectured at HBS and MIT-Sloan, and has been quoted in dozens of national publications including BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune, Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal.

Deb FreyDeb Frey
@DaVinciDeb

Deb is Vice President of the DaVinci Institute, a non-profit organization near Denver, Colorado, responsible for Member Relations, event planning and marketing director for the DaVinci Institute. She teaches one-on-one classes to small businesses on Twitter, and when she has “a few extra moments,” serves as a contributing editor to the Impact Lab, a DaVinci Institute blog billed as “a laboratory of the future human experience.”

Jeanette GibsonJeanette Gibson
@JeanetteG

Jeanette leads the Social & Digital Marketing team at Cisco. Our group is responsible for setting the strategy for the company’s global digital brand presence on cisco.com, social web sites and mobile. Before joining Cisco in 1998, Jeanette helped launch push-technology pioneer PointCast, and worked at public relations agency Copithorne & Bellows.

Emily GonzalesEmily Gonzales
@EmilysHere

Emily is Chief Technology Officer at Bookigee, an early-stage startup that builds online analytics and marketing applications for the Book Publishing Industry, in Miami. Her Twitter profile notes that “women in tech are doing really cool things” (which is why Cheryl and I chose to honor 50 of the top women in technology on Twitter here).

Christine HerronChristine Herron
@christine

Christine Herron is a Silicon Valley investor and entrepreneur. She is currently a Director with Intel Capital and a Venture Advisor at 500 Startups. Previously, Christine was a Principal with First Round Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm, where she worked with companies such as BillFloat, Double Verify, Get Satisfaction, Mint, and Xobni.

Alex HisakaAlex Hisaka
@alexhisaka

San Francisco-based Alex Hisaka is Growth Builder at Desk.com, part of the Salesforce.com family. She gains valuable insight about your audience through Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and social media marketing. She also rocks on Twitter and shares her thoughts on The Fresh and Only.

Ilene KaminskyIlene Kaminsky
@ilenealizah

Ilene is a “content creationist” whose background includes stints as Director of Marketing and Director of Strategic Development at IBM, Alliance Director at eGain Communications, and Managing Director at Lumina Consulting. She also writes the Techronicity blog.

Katie KeatingKatie Keating
@ThingsSheSaid

Based in Los Angeles, Katie is the social business manager for IBM Cloud Computing, which involves running the @IBMCloud Twitter handle and other social media venues for IBM Cloud, as well as overseeing a global team of IBM cloud community managers. Before joining IBM she worked with Fleishman-Hillard and the Dallas Museum of Art.

Margaret Anderson KelliherMargaret A. Kelliher
@MAKMinnesota

Margaret serves as president and CEO of The Minnesota High Tech Foundation, which provides leadership on science, technology, engineering and match (STEM) education in Minnesota and works with high-tech businesses in the state on talent pipeline issues. She’s also a former speaker of Minnesota state house of representatives and a Harvard grad.

Katrina KlierKatrina Klier
@KatrinaKlier

New York-based Katrina is the Senior Director / VP Worldwide Digital Marketing for Microsoft. In her role as Chief Digital Officer for the OEM division, she leads the digital brand and marketing functions worldwide, and has delivered strategy, plans and results for partner, B2B and B2C marketing. She’s a self-described fashionista and blogger.

Lisa LarterLisa Larter
@LisaLarter

Splitting time between Ottawa, Canada and Naples, Florida, Lisa is owner of Parlez Wireless as well as a sought-after social media strategist and speaker. Lisa was raised by a single mom in the small town of Haliburton, Ontario, Canada. Though a high school dropout, she became a self-taught sales guru and worked her way up the corporate ladder in sales for a Fortune 500 company before starting her own company.

Ann LewnesAnn Lewnes
@alewnes

As senior vice president of global marketing at Adobe in the San Francsico Bay area, Ann Lewnes is responsible for the company’s brand and integrated marketing efforts worldwide. Before joining Adobe in 2006, Ann was vice president of sales and marketing at Intel Corporation. In 2010, she was honored with a “Changing The Game” Award by the Advertising Women of New York (AWNY) and in 2011 Ann was named a “Woman of Influence” by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Monica Liming-HuMonica Liming-Hu
@MonicaLimingHu

With her background in International Management and Marketing at AT&T, Monica Liming-Hu has been a stalwart of the marketing world for the better part of the past two decades. More recently, she has focused a great deal of her attention on sustainability, whether in business or the environment—or both. Monica gives the credit for this shift toward developing a strong corporate conscience to her two daughters and their encouragement to “go green.” Outside of the active realm of social marketing, Monica writes fiction under two separate pen names, and often frequents writer’s conferences and workshops. Her thoughts on writing and the creative process can be found on her blog Positive Reverie.

Marissa MayerMarissa Mayer
@marissamayer

Marissa Mayer has come a long way from her childhood home in Wausau, Wisconsin. A Stanford grad with two degrees in computer science, Marissa is known for long tenure at Google, where she was the company’s first female engineer and later served in different VP roles.  She was recently named CEO of Yahoo!, making her the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company and one of just 20 female CEOs in that group. She’s actually the second woman from Wisconsin to lead Yahoo! as Carol Bartz was also a cheesehead. And Marissa announced in July that she is going to be a mom—congrats!

Kelly MeadeKelly Meade
@KellyMMeade

Kelly is a Public Cloud Solutions Rep at IBM in Dallas, responsible for IBM Cloud Services and Offerings in the Eastern U.S. Originally from Iowa, Kelly’s loves include her family, traveling and reality TV. You can check out her video profile on the IBM site here.

Erin Mulligan NelsonErin Mulligan Nelson
@erinclaire

Erin is the Chief Marketing Officer for Bazaarvoice, a brand engagement and social data integration platform, in Austin, Texas. Before joining Bazaarvoice in November 2010, Erin served as Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Dell Inc. Her background also includes positions with Procter & Gamble, A.T. Kearney and PepsiCo.

Ory OkollohOry Okolloh
@kenyanpundit

Ory is Policy Manager Africa for Google in Nairobi, and co-founder of Mzalendo/Ushahidi. Ushahidi, which means “testimony” in Swahili, is building a platform that crowdsources crisis information, allowing anyone to submit crisis information through text messaging using a mobile phone, email or web form. She’s former editor of Global Voices and a graduate of Harvard Law School.

Paige ONeillPaige ONeill
@paige_oneill

Based in the San Francisco area, Paige is Vice President of Marketing at Aprimo, a fast-growing Saas marketing automation software company acquired by Teradata in January of 2011. Her responsibilities include communications, demand generation, web/seo/ppc, events, customer marketing and social media. She also blogs at Social Media Paige.

Lee Anne OrangeLee Anne Orange
@LeeAnne_Orange

Lee Anne has served as Special Projects Manager at AMT-The Association For Manufacturing Technology, in Washington DC, since 1999. For a year prior to that, in her own words, she “bounced around the association for a while. Started in Statistics Department and moved to Administration (HR) for 5 years. Then I was recruited to work in the Exhibitions Department. Been there ever since.”

Maria PergolinoMaria Pergolino
@InboundMarketer

Senior Director of Marketing at marketing automation software provider Marketo, Maria writes for several marketing blogs, and is a frequent contributor to Marketo’s award winning blog, Modern B2B Marketing. She’s a frequent presenter at industry conferences, author of guides to B2B social media and lead scoring, and a past judge of the Stevie, BMA B2 and B2BTOTY awards.

Janine PopickJanine Popick
@janinepopick

Janine is founder and CEO of VerticalResponse, a leading provider of email marketing, social media marketing & event marketing for small businesses based in the San Francisco area, and writes the popular email marketing blog. Before starting VerticalResponse in 2001, Janine worked with NBC Internet, XOOM.com and FileMaker.

Maria PoveromoMaria Poveromo
@mariapoveromo

Maria leads Adobe’s Global Marketing Social Media program and Center of Excellence. She established the organizational framework and strategic direction for social media activities across the company. With her team, Maria directs a cross-functional social media council to foster knowledge sharing across different groups. She’s passionate about her family, balancing work and home life and advancing the role of women the technology industry.

Kishau RogersKishau Rogers
@kishau

A technology innovator and engaging Twitterer based in Richmond, Virginia, Kishau Rogers the founder and President of Websmith Group, a company that provides web based software systems for healthcare and research organizations. She holds a Computer Science Degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, and her expertise includes software and database development, data analysis and computer modeling/simulation technology.

Kathy SacksKathy Sacks
@kathysacks

As VP Communications at Infusionsoft in Phoenix, Kathy leads a team dedicated to spread awareness of the company’s next-generation email marketing software. She is is responsible for defining and managing Infusionsoft’s communications strategies, including planning and execution, public affairs and media relations. She’s also the founding editor of bizSanDiego Magazine and ran her own PR firm from 2005 to 2008.

Gina TrapaniGina Trapani
@ginatrapani

San Diego-based Gina is the creator of ThinkUp, a social media insights engine, and Todo.txt apps, a text-based task manager. She hosts In Beta, a podcast about open source, web-based, mobile and social apps, and This Week in Google, a web show which covers the latest news about the cloud and Google. She’s also the founder of Lifehacker and author of four tech books, and blogs at Smarterware.

Ellen ValentineEllen Valentine
@EllenValentine

Ellen is Evangelist at digital marketing software developer Silverpop in Atlanta, where she writes and speaks about marketing including marketing automation and email marketing. She holds a computer science degree from Penn State University and her background includes positions with Evergreen Direct Marketing, Applied Software and CIO Partners of Atlanta.

Czarina WalkerCzarina Walker
@CzarinaWalker

Czarina is Founder and CEO at InfiniEDGE Software in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a custom software developer of mobile apps and provider of UI design services and web development services for industry and government clients. Before founding InfiniEDGE, she served on the board of the Ascension Chamber of Commerce and worked with IBM and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

Angelina WardAngelina Ward
@angelinaward

Angelina is Director of Social Media and Content for LexisNexis in Atlanta. Her duties include establishing a social media framework and standards for revising company guidelines and policy, creating and lead training workshops for internal employees on strategic social media communications, and overseeing day-to-day operations of social media communications including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube.

Padmasree WarriorPadmasree Warrior
@Padmasree

As Chief Technology and Strategy Officer at Cisco, Padmasree helps define the company’s technology strategy and works closely with the senior executive team and Board of Directors to drive innovation across the company. She has more than a million followers on Twitter and as her bio notes, she is “passionate about helping women in tech.” Unquestionably nifty.

Courtney WileyCourtney Wiley
@wileyccoyote

Courtney is Director of Digital Marketing Strategy & Innovation at Oracle in Dallas. Her thought-leadership writing has been published in places like ChiefMarketer.com, MarketingProfs.com, IEEE.org, iMediaConnection.com, and eBizQ.com, and she speaks at national conferences. Courtney is also an SMU grad and mom of a Junior Olympian.

Bryony ZasmanBryony Zasman
@ZOOMcatalog_Bry

Bryony is co-founder and Vice President at ZOOMcatalog, a provider of B2B cloud catalog management and distribution for print catalog dependent industries, based in Denver. She holds a marketing degree from the University of Colorado.

Meryl ZdatnyMerryl Zdatny
@Zdatny

Merryl is the Senior Product Marketing Manager, Identity Solutions at Verizon Enterprise Solutions Group in New York. The objective of this group is to “give the right people access to the right information – where and when they need it.” Prior to Verizon, she worked in marketing roles at technology and art-related enterprises. She describes her educational background as “Marketing, Art History, Billiards at The University of Texas at Austin.” Interesting mix, but the degree in billiards is particularly impressive.

There you have it, the #Nifty50 Women of Twitter for 2012. As with last year, to keep it to 50, we had to leave off some deserving names and excellent nominations—it was a tough call. But next year will have a different focus and some of those names will no doubt resurface.

Watch next month for the top #Nifty50 Men in Technology on Twitter for 2012 on the Blue Focus Marketing Blog.

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