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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I'm speaking at the Inst. of Industry Analyst Relations about blogs & social media

I'm speaking at the Institute of Industry Analyst Relations meeting in London tonight.

[Note - for readers outside the analyst "village", AR is a parallel discipline to Investor Relations and Press Relations within many technology companies, intended to deal with people like me. While there's many different sub-types of industry analyst, we all tend to be outspoken, hopefully influential - and occasionally prima-donnas with an over-inflated sense of self importance as well. So basically, many product vendors & service providers use AR professionals to act as a valuable interface point to the rest of the company.... and also as far as possible keep tabs on what we're saying, to whom we're saying it, and what company representatives are saying to us. The IIAR is essentially a trade association of AR practitioners].

Along with a couple of analyst peers, I'll be discussing the role of "social media" in the context of my work.

For me, that's mostly this blog, online b2b social-network 1.0 things like Forum Oxford and my relatively negative views of Twitter, Facebook etc as business tools. I'd also characterise my fairly prolific conference appearances as real-life social medium too.

In particular I will be talking about the implications for AR folk and how it impacts the way they should measure and engage with analysts. It's an area that polarises opinion quite a bit. Some AR professionals think it's relevant and improves relationships, others are more old-school and perceive tools like blogs and social networks as reducing control and visibility. It's a fine balance and one to which there is no single 'right answer'.

I know that as a regular and sometimes contentious analyst-blogger I risk being seen as a 'loose cannon' sometimes. Some seem to pigeonhole me as a blogger who analyses, rather than an analyst who blogs (hint: count the adverts on my site). I get few comments on the blog direct from AR people (unless maybe they're anonymised), although it stimulates a lot of offline email and phone calls. Sometimes I also get contacts from dedicated Blogger Relations teams too, which can be confusing but also gives me a second channel into key companies.

Ideally, I'd write a bit less on the blog and a bit more in paid research and consulting documents. This in turn would be picked up by AR and a virtuous, but mostly invisible, circle of 'influence' would ensue. But ultimately as an independent analyst, I don't have the corporate sales or promotional might of rival analysts from Gartner or Forrester. So to be as 'influential' as my peers, (and from an AR perspective to be seen as such), I need to use less conventional channels to increase my footprint throughout all parts of the mobile ecosystem and its customer base.

I know it's an uneasy balance at times. I'll often comment rapidly on announcements and tie them into ongoing research themes. My broad remit (and the nature of the medium) means that I can't realistically bounce every idea off executives to triple-check - I occasionally make mistakes. But my view is that this is very similar to the role I used to play as an equity analyst - I'd see the newswires announcements at 7am, and have to have some form of initial comment out on the email to investors at 8.15am, backed up, refined (and occasionally demolished) by later, in-depth reports. That said, I'm sensitive to the realities of AR and try not to tread on toes unnecessarily. And unlike some journalist-type bloggers, I know what's totally "non-disclosable" even if I haven't signed an NDA.

I also need to balance the analytic aspects of this blog, and my AR relationships, with the commercial realities of my business. This blog is one of my prime ways to reach existing and new clients - it generates research sales and consulting leads. (hint: Want strategic advice, workshops and forecasts on wireless operator business models, femtocells, mobile broadband or handsets? Congratulations, you're in the right place. Click HERE). I suspect this differs quite a bit from my larger-firm rivals, and also explains why I feel the need to update so regularly.

Overall, it should be interesting to hear from both my colleagues, and understand the AR professionals' view of what I do. Who knows, maybe they'll even convince me to start Twittering....

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