When Trish Nettleship was hired two-and-a-half years ago as the social media lead for AT&T business marketing, she assumed the role of a bridge. On one side were the communication giant’s business customers, and on the other, a community of industry experts. Nettleship realized early on that the bridge is not the destination, and that using social media to give customers access to experts across the chasm would provide the best value.
First step? Build a blog. In December 2010, she quietly launched the Networking Exchange Blog, “a place for business professionals to learn, share, and engage with networking experts on advancing business goals through technology innovation.”
AT&T’s technology experts aren’t natural writers, but with coaching and support, Nettleship helped them become more polished communicators. “We coached them to be more conversational in their tone,” she says. “We didn’t help them create a voice; we coached them to express that voice.”
By February 2011, AT&T was ready to promote the blog. An initial webinar drew 5,000 participants, and readership spiked by 55 percent. Still, Nettleship sensed a key component was missing. She knew personal networks were the best way to build a following, and although the company had trained its experts to be writers, it had not taught them how to build personal brands for networking.
So Nettleship developed an internal social networking academy, with the first class graduating in July 2011. Today, it continues to attract five to ten new members per week. “These are our internal social ambassadors,” Nettleship notes.
Wanting to learn more about the impressive outcomes (the Networking Exchange Blog landed AT&T on our 50 Brands to Watch in 2012 list), we recently caught up with Nettleship to tap her expertise and find out more about what—and who—inspires her.
How she evaluates content: In my mind, there are a couple of key elements to any content asset. If any content doesn’t pass these elements, it gets sent back:
- Start with your audience in mind: Will my audience care about this?
- Provide content that is interesting and adds a unique point of view.
- Is there a clear takeaway for my audience?
How she builds community:
- First, find people, blogs, and groups you respect and can learn from.
- Then, start engaging with them. Build a rapport and, over time, a relationship.
- Share your point of view with these newfound relationships and they will start to respond.
- It’s important not to get too caught up in the number of followers; instead, it’s about the audience. Are you attracting the right followers?
How she turns experts into writers: Writing gets better with time. Your first blog post, for example, will not be the most successful post. However, with time and encouragement from your mentors, friends, fellow writers, and support team, you will improve. I’ve seen many non-writers become my top bloggers with the right dose of enthusiasm and persistence.
Where she looks for ideas: I’m always looking into what our audience is interested in to determine where we should go next with content. I can spend hours looking at conversations that provide a wealth of insights into interests, pain points, and just fun ideas for content.
What she’s geeking out on: I’m a big fan of Hootsuite and manage both my personal and professional social media accounts from the tool. I’ve played around with many other tools but keep coming back for the ease of use and the analytics. My favorite app for personal use is Spotify, so I can tune out the world for just a little while.
Who she’s following: I follow quite a few folks in the digital space. I don’t go a day without checking out what they’ve got to say: Amber Naslund, cofounder and president of SideraWorks, was an inspiration in my early days of social media and where I still go to get a dose of reality. Michael Brenner, senior director of global marketing at SAP and president/co-founder of Business 2 Community, is a great example of how someone within a large corporation can make a difference. He has built his own personal brand in the digital community while still supporting the overall SAP vision.
What she’s reading: Mashable: Who doesn’t go there for trends and news in the digital space? MarketingProfs has a wealth of resources covering various topics across marketing. I love the case studies and webinars.