T1R Hosting Transformation Summit

Tier1 Research (T1R) held its annual Hosting Transformation Summit in Las Vegas on September 17 – 19, 2007. I had the pleasure of speaking on a marketing panel with Brian Cross, Senior Vice President from Fleishman-Hillard, St. Louis. Dan Ephraim, Vice President, Business Development at Tier1 moderated the panel. Our session took place at the very end of the conference (which is always difficult when half of your audience is sleeping from the prior night’s festivities). Regardless, the panel provided interesting discussion and participation from the audience.

What I found to be the most interesting about discussing Web 2.0 and social media with technology companies is that I expected more businesses to be incorporating social media into their communications programs. As I listened closely to the comments from many of the audience members (through out the two day conference), I heard many executives ask questions including: How do I engage in a dialogue with a prospect? How do I develop a relationship? What keeps my clients up at night? What are the most important characteristics potential customers look for in a hosting or managed services company?

It amazed me to hear all of these questions. They had the answer at their fingertips. Marketing is Conversation. Social media allows you to start a dialogue with prospects and/or clients right on your own website. Blogging alone allows you to engage your customers and prospects in a dialogue, and be privy to their conversations with your other customers. Blogging is also your cheapest form of a research – it’s the greatest focus panel you could ever implement for only a fraction of the cost. By developing a blog, you can select interesting topics for discussion including what keeps executive up at night, and you can key into the many issues that concern customers who are looking for a colocation, hosting or managed services company. These topics might include security, privacy, power, cooling, green datacenters, etc.

When I look at the technology sector and the companies that provide hosting and managed services, I immediately think that these companies should automatically be ahead of the curve with respect to Web 2.0. In terms of the platform, they definitely are. However, when it comes to communication and PR 2.0 – they realize that they need to provide the right information to their audiences to help them make important decisions, yet they’re behind the curve in terms of the communications strategies.

Now, I’m sure there are many tech firms that are blogging, social networking and podcasting. I guess they just weren’t attending this conference. My reaction to the tech companies not using social media – get onboard and start getting up to speed. If companies like Cisco, BMC and Sun Microsystems can blog without red tape and restrictions from their communications departments, then similar or smaller organizations have no excuses. It’s time to get started!