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August 17, 2009

Blogwell Conference

I know you will all be jealous when I tell you that I got to go to the Blogwell conference in Minneapolis. It had a really interesting line-up of speakers--all about how large organizations use social media, internally and externally. I went to break-outs given by Mayo Clinic, Walmart, McDonald's, and Ford. I came away quite inspired for the direction Extension should be going with some of these things. Like I thought it was interesting how well Mayo Clinic is using twitter and YouTube and FaceBook, and it is all justified by them having identified the ways they get clientele: word of mouth, media stories, and expert referrals. That is not that different than us! Cool! They have also changed their media strategy, using their social media and particularly their website, as the presenter said, "Don't pitch to the media, BE THE MEDIA." Meaning that they write up their stories and distribute directly to potential clientele (via the web).

Another thing I found interesting was that McDonalds had a gazillion twitter and Facebook pages, since many franchises were operating their own. McDonalds corporate eliminated all these accounts (I'm sure that was a popular announcement!) and created a nationally-branded Facebook page and twitter accounts. I think Extension could take some lessons from that too! Very interesting. Also from McDonalds--and this reminded me of Employer of Choice material--they have employee discussion boards ("Mindshare Community") and put 'discuss' buttons on all pages of the corporate McDonalds site. There is also a Station M web site for all employees (it looked like it was geared towards young workers). Both of these efforts have improved the feeling of what they call the "McFamily." They also have a motivation to build what they called [online] Brand Ambassadors out of their 700,000 US employees. I found a lot of this relate-able to Extension.

The Ford guy was possibly the most inspiring. The social media efforts coming out of Ford (which are sizable--they have 34 twitter accounts, for example) are all run by one guy. He is a communications guy, not a sales guy, and he uses online media tools to better Ford's communication goals, not necessarily their sales. His big pitch was that all companies need their senior leadership to GET IT and to BE ON BOARD with it.  Awesome point.

The last break-out I went to was by Walmart and their message was so relevant for us. They did a bunch of research (or whatever) and found that 78% of their employees wanted to connect with each other online--even though they aren't allowed to do social media stuff from work! That means most of their employees wanted to use a Walmart employee site from home. holy cow! They found that engaged employees were more loyal and stayed with the company longer. They originally were worried about control. What if employees get on the employee chat board and just bitch about Walmart? They finally decided they couldn't control it so why worry. They built a big employee website with exactly what the employees said they wanted (top requests: forms, friending, chat) as well as some info that is important from the business side of things, and 90,000 employees joined the site since it launched three months ago and (this part shocked me) 90% of these employees return at least every 10 days!!

There was a lot interesting at this conference. It was also fun to visit General Mills Headquarters, who hosted it. I got tons of free samples, which is probably an ethics violation, but how can I resist free yogurt parfaits and granola bars?? I CAN'T!

And, the best for last, I GOT TO MEET THE PILLSBURY DOUGHBOY! Best professional development ever.

General Mills, happiest place on earth

August 10, 2009

In which I become a program person

So I'm sure it is painfully obvious at times--I am not a program manager/leader like all of you. I can set up a Proxima with the best of them, but when it comes to logistical planning and getting butts in the seats and all that, I am a newbie. But Program Conference changes all that! Luckily, many hands are helping with Conference, so I can learn a lot. Here are a few things I've learned already.

  • We are using Basecamp for planning all our tasks. It is very appealing to my (admittedly small) organizer side, since it allows for collaborative to-do lists and timelines and such. The PR Unit didn't pay for it, but I'm assuming we got the Basic plan, which is $24 a month. 
  • Registration is online and is going to be done by the Extension Store. So far we are very pleased with the system. It allows break-out registration and automatically removes options as they fill up, it allows us to batch send a reminder email(s), and also allows online access to data at all times. The price tag is a bit hefty, at $4.75/registrant or $150 setup plus $3.50/registrant (we are using the latter). More info on the Extension Store's Registration Options.
  • And one more thing I have learned: No Listserv is Perfect! My humblest apologies to anyone who is left off. Please let me know if someone you think should be getting Program Conference emails isn't getting them. Thanks!