“Server Chick” Uses Social Media to Set the Record Straight
Being referred to as a “server chick” on a blog post may not flatter most women, but to my IBM colleague Elisabeth Stahl, it was a sign that she had come into her own in the world of social media. It also affirmed that she was having a growing and positive impact on how people viewed IBM’s products and capabilities.
As a chief technical strategist and executive IT specialist at IBM, Stahl, focuses on systems performance and benchmarking across IBM platforms for the Systems and Technology Group.
“I make sure we highlight how great our servers and storage perform,” Stahl says, “so we can let our clients know that our products are really the ones they should be looking at, and the ones they should buy.”
From paper to blogs and tweets
In the so-called early days, Stahl would write “one-way” technical papers as her primary means of communication to clients. But as the competition increased and the use of social media in business blossomed, she realized she needed another outlet to tell the IBM story.
“I was starting to get very tired of our competitors saying things about IBM in their press releases and their blogs that just weren’t true,” she recalls. So she looked into creating her own blog as a fast and more immediate way of setting the record straight. But there was some initial hesitancy on her part.
First, despite having published some technical papers, Stahl didn’t like to write — one of the main reasons she chose math as her college major. Second, she wasn’t quite sure how much time blogging would take away from accomplishing her day-to-day responsibilities. Stahl’s first blog entry was read by two people, primarily because she asked them to. Now, her entries are read by hundreds as her contacts and social eminence continue to grow. “It’s amazing the contacts you can make with social media,” she says. “I’ve developed new relationships worldwide with clients, with business partners and with IT analysts.” Some, she adds, have responded to her posts from as far away as Nigeria and remote parts of China.
In addition to a growing blog audience, Stahl is building a Twitter following as well. She tweets whenever she comes across a paper or an article of interest she thinks would really interest her followers. “And not what I’ve had for breakfast,” she jokingly adds.
Building a reputation as an SME
Not only is Stahl convinced that her efforts are contributing to IBM’s bottom line, but, equally important, her own reputation as a subject matter expert, both internally and externally, has spread considerably — a personal and professional bonus, she says, that would never have happened so fast and so far.
What advice does Stahl have for other Subject Matter Experts who are considering social media as a way to share their expertise?
- “Just do it!” But make sure to take advantage of the resources available. It’s also important in the beginning to ask others for advice, which Stahl says gave her more confidence and really helped her take off.
- “Realize it takes time to do this.” Stahl remembers the pressure she put on herself in the beginning to do a certain number of blog entries, for instance a couple of times a week — which she thinks is still a good idea when first establishing a presence. But now, she only blogs when there’s really something good to write about and she feels passionate about the subject.
- “You need to be factual, honest and engaging.” Stahl asks herself three questions before posting an article she’s written: “What would my clients say when reading this? What would my manager say when reading this? What would my mother say when reading this?”
“In the end,” says the server chick, “I found that I really loved the writing, I loved working with social media, I loved telling a story and especially interacting externally with clients in that way.”