Interview with Dan Nye – Accomplished Business Leader and Entrepreneur
Dan Nye is currently a Board member of Constant Contact, Inc., an email marketing solutions company that helps small businesses, associations, and nonprofits connect with their customers, clients, and members. From 2007 – 2009, Dan was the CEO of LinkedIn. I first met Dan when he worked for Procter & Gamble (1988 – 1992) in brand management. Dan has always been an out-of-the-box thinker with a unique perspective that I have found worth listening to. So, it seemed only natural to catch up with Dan and get his insights into the role of social media as a communication tool for economic development. I think you will find Dan’s comments insightful and well worth a read. You’ll also find Dan is a fan of Brand America and confident about its future.
- Question: Social media is a hot topic in a world of ever shrinking promotional budgets. Economic development professionals are exploring the use of social media to reach capital investment decision makers with messaging on why their community is the best location choice. You have been as close as anybody to this growing phenomenon as CEO of LinkedIn from 2007 – 2009. What are your thoughts on the potential and pitfalls associated with social media as a communication tactic?
Social media tools have certainly become popular over the last seven years. The big four in the United States are Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter. LinkedIn is the only one designed specifically for professional purposes. As a result, it is focused on productivity and does not offer many of the more frivolous features like photo sharing, video sharing, social gaming and entertainment applications. Professionals use LinkedIn to share their professional profile, search for other professionals who can help them accomplish their goals, get advice from a broad community (using LinkedIn Answers) and collaborate with people who work in their industry or company. It’s an incredibly powerful tool that grows more valuable as thousands of new members join every day and the 45 million members discover the great functionality that is available.
Facebook now has more than 250 million members throughout the world. While it can be used for some business purposes, it is primarily used to enable communication between friends. Some business professionals use Facebook to share news (via status updates) about what they are doing or an approaching event but these updates can be a bit "noisy" as they are intermixed with social updates family, opinions and personal news.
Twitter is used primarily to broadcast opinions, insights and events. It is useful if you want to follow the internet chatter related to a person, organization or news story. It too can be noisy but it is useful for capturing the most current activity or opinions on a particular topic.
The key to using these tools is to be very careful about what you share so that you present yourself the way that you want others to view you. I’ve seen plenty of people post silly messages or photos that have made me question their judgment. The other important thing to do is to set the services up so that they provide the greatest value to you (using options and settings) without wasting your time.
- Question: Given your experience as the CEO, I have to ask you for your top tips on how economic development professionals can get the most from LinkedIn as a communication vehicle to reach capital investors. How do you get the most "bang for buck" with LinkedIn?
The LinkedIn people search (and Advanced Search) feature is amazing. It enables members to find a person by industry, region, company, skills and much more. Once a person finds someone they are seeking, they can see how they are connected to that person and then send an InMail or introduction request. Of course, it’s also great for reference checking. Another valuable feature is LinkedIn Answers where a member can ask a question and receive answers from people all over the world. The responses are outstanding because respondents are competing to give the best answers and using it to enhance their professional profiles. Finally, I’ll highlight the Groups functionality. LinkedIn Groups give members the chance to communicate and collaborate with people who share their interests and can help them accomplish their professional goals. I recommend building a complete profile, connecting to at least 100 people you know and trust, joining relevant groups and exploring the powerful features to learn how to make LinkedIn work for you.
- Question: If an economic development organization decides to use social media as part of their communication mix, what are some of the unobvious considerations they should think through before leaping in with both feet?
Again, the key is to remember that whatever you share is a reflection on you and your organization. Be thoughtful and conservative until you understand how these tools work and how you want to use them.
- Question: Of all the social media services available today, which should be at the top of any economic development organization’s list to ensure a successful communication plan?
Obviously, I am a big fan of LinkedIn. I have heard amazing stories about business that has been done on the network. Entrepreneurs find partners, investors and customers. Recruiters find the perfect candidate. Candidates find the perfect job. People get advice and assistance from strangers across the country or on the other side of the world. In summary, it creates efficiency by allowing those with needs to find resources, advice and opportunities and for those who are more passive to be found by people seeking their talents. It’s impressive.
- Question: Are there any new social media channels in development that may revolutionize the category, or is the current suite likely to be the standard portfolio moving forward?
I think the big four are quite well established. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are all growing very fast and changing society.
- Question: Brand America has been under fire lately. The image of Brand America has been slipping. What do you think needs to be done to strengthen Brand America? Do you think Brand America can recover?
That’s a broad question that deserves a lengthy response. My high level opinion is that Brand America will do fine when we use Soft Power along with our military and economic power to achieve our goals. Soft Power is the concept of operating in a way that is appealing to others so that they are more likely to want to follow you lead. When Soft Power is used in combination with military and economic power, the outcomes are better and the costs (economic and military) are reduced. I’ve seen data recently that indicate that America’s popularity is on the rise following the election of President Obama and the administrations willingness to engage and respect foreign cultures and global concerns (i.e. global warming). If we maintain an open society, operate by the values that hold us together and approach other societies with respect, I suspect Brand America will be just fine.