If you're looking for practical reasons for engineering and science companies to embrace social media, look no further than Friday morning's 9 a.m. session in Room 214B. A panel discussion on the uses of social media will be hosted by Emerson Process Management's social media meister, Jim Cahill, along with Mike Tongwarin, communications manager for Micro Motion's online community, and Paul Maurath of Procter and Gamble.
Tongwarin will describe the success of Micro Motion's community building efforts, and talk about the movement toward consolidating the online community efforts of the various Emerson divisions around flow and density measurement.
Maurath, a technical section head in Procter and Gamble's corporate engineering technology group, will discuss the consumer product giant's experiments with social media tools for discussion and online collaboration between engineers.
"What we're looking to do," Cahill said, "is to take what we do here at Emerson Exchange and put it online. We want people to have the benefits of Emerson Exchange on a 24/7 basis—every day, not just one week a year."
Emerson has had success with its blogs, PlantWeb University and the Micro Motion community, according to Cahill. "We have a half dozen or so LinkedIn groups, and these groups are not small—some have several thousand members, as does the Facebook page," he said.
Emerson participates in social networking in order to flatten out the means of contacting Emerson experts, Cahill said. "The contact methodology most companies use is stiff, hierarchical and difficult," he said. "What we want is to increase the links to the various Emerson technical experts so that when our customers need an answer they can easily find an expert to answer it."
In addition, the big bang for end users "is the peer-to-peer experience that social media tools give them," Cahill said.
"I think the well-known complaints on Twitter and Facebook that have had very quick resolution in the consumer sphere are early warning indicators for what vendors are going to see," he said. "Sometimes customer service is based on the idea that if it is hard enough to get an answer, many customers will go away and deal with the problem on their own. After all, who can they tell about it? Well, now the answer is they can tell everybody." And when they get good service and their problem gets solved quickly and to their satisfaction, they can tell everybody that too, he added.
"Every piece of information we have needs to be just a link away," Cahill said. "The Google search box has radically changed the way we all look for information, and that includes the manufacturing industries, not just consumer behavior."
Cahill noted how people's behavior changes depending on the social media tool they are using. "When I am using LinkedIn, I tend to be more professional, and so do my connections, than if I am ‘liking' something or someone on Facebook," he said. "LinkedIn is more formal because it is for business contacts, while Facebook is more general people and family content."
Friday's panel is intended to be a discussion, not just a presentation. Cahill and his two companions expect to field questions from the audience, as well as discuss the topics of social media among themselves.
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the rest are first-generation social media apps. Think for a minute about what second- and third-generation apps will look like and how we might be able to work and even think and research quite differently than we do now.