Sunday, January 31, 2010

Giving The Gift Of Technology

COLUMBUS, Ohio –Some special volunteers are giving the gift of technology to some Central Ohio residents who really need it.

One group in Columbus is working to put used computers to work for those who need it most.

On Saturday, volunteers at Parity International invited Central Ohioans to drop off old equipment. The group just opened an office in the Northland area and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, they accepted donations of people’s unwanted technology.

The group takes the donated computers and other technology and refurbishes it, then gives it to local families or organizations that need them.

Parity International insists that all computer hard drives be erased to the Department of Defense standards and they take personal information security seriously.

click here for the rest of the story...

What We Can Learn About Trust & Brand from DK Diner

by Nate Riggs on January 30, 2010

"DK Diner Grandview Oh"People around Grandview, Ohio know about DK Diner. Word of the fresh baked doughnuts and the cozy environment definitely gets around local circles. Google “DK Diner Grandview“. Notice something missing?

Unless I’ve missed it, I can’t find a DK Diner website either. What I find is reviews in Yelp, Urban Spoon and other networks. I find a few blog posts from some food-related blogs, most of which have an extremely positive sentiment.

I’ve heard the brand name “DK Diner” from at least 3-4 of my close friends in conversation. Sarah is also a huge fan.

click here for the rest of the story....

OSU Medical Center marries Wi-Fi network, software to track medical equipment, some patients

 Ohio State University Medical Center covers 5 million square feet, so it's easy for a piece of equipment to go missing. An IV pump, for example, that had been placed outside a patient room is pushed down the hall into a corner and eventually rolled into a closet. "There are lots of places things can be and people were spending time looking for things without any clue of where they were," said Chad Neil, director of technology at the medical center.
"Then we were renting equipment, more than we need, because they couldn't find it."
That's why Ohio State is spending about $1 million on a software system and electronic tags that will use the university's Wi-Fi network to keep track of thousands of pieces of equipment as well as patients and staff members.
Tags the size of a matchbox will be attached to equipment and emit a signal picked up on the Wi-Fi network, said Tuomo Rutanen, spokesman for Ekahau, the international company that developed the technology.
The signal will show up on a floor-plan map and, through an algorithm using Wi-Fi routers, the object will be located within a few feet.
From a nurse's station, staffers can look up the equipment or tag number of a patient monitor or bed on a computer and find it quickly.
"If you know how to use Google, you can use this," Rutanen said.
Ohio State plans to put tags -- at $100 each -- on 10,000 to 15,000 pieces of equipment over the next two years.

click here for the rest of the story...

Free Connect Ohio Webinar: Broadband Stimulus - Round Two

Broadband Stimulus - Round Two - Notice of Funds Availability overview and analysis

Join us for a Webinar on February 5

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

On January 15, The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced availability of $4.8 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants and loans to expand broadband access and adoption in America. This is
the second funding round for the agencies' broadband programs. The investment will help bridge the technological divide, boost economic growth, and create jobs. NTIA and RUS also announced the rules for applying in this funding round, which have been modified to make the application process easier for applicants and better target program resources.

Join us as Phillip Brown, Connected Nation’s National Policy Director, gives an overview of the Notices of Funding Availability (NOFAs) for both the NTIA’s and RUS’ second round programs. He will review the funding application timelines and an analysis of how the second round differs from the first round, which was held in 2009.


Broadband Stimulus - Round Two - Notice of Funds Availability overview and analysis


Friday, February 5, 2010


10:00 AM - 11:00 AM EST

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 2000, XP Home, XP Pro, 2003 Server, Vista

Macintosh®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.4 (Tiger®) or newer

A little fun on monday morning - does this remind you of anyone you know?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Innovation Awards Make an Impact for Ohio Non-Profit Organizations

By Erika M. Pryor
"I will be attending the Innovation Awards," said Lisa Chambers, TECH CORPS Ohio, State Director. "And, I will be presening the award for Innovation in Non-Profit Service Delivery," said the 2008 Award winner in the same category.  Non-Profit Service Delivery semi-finalists are evaluted based upon the "application or implmentation of a technology or process change that has positively impacted the ability of the organization to provide services to their constituents." The Innovation Awards celebrate the spirit of innovation by recognizing outstanding technology achievements in Central Ohio.

TECH CORPS Ohio, was founded in 1995 by Gary Beach, Publisher Emeritus of CIO Magazine. Ohio received its charter in 1999 and, "I've been here pretty much ever since," said Chambers. As State Director, Chambers works with schools in 23 counties throughout Ohio, "building strategic partnerships with corporate supporters, schools, and non-profits." Chambers notes that she was excited to learn in 2007 that the Innovation Awards added the non-profit category, "I thought it was cool! I've been in the technology field a long time and known about the Innovation Awards since they were called the "Top Cat Awards!"  As the 2008 winner,
Chambers indicated that the award "brings validation and credibility to the work that you do because it illustrates that "your peers preceive the work you do is of value and that's great." For the TECH CORPS State Director, the award has "raised the visibility of the organization and that is always key" said Chambers "because the the tech audience is who we get the most support from in terms of financial contributions and volutteers." Being named a 2008 Innovation Award winner "has only helped the organization" stated Chambers.

The Innovation Awards and the technology community in Central Ohio, for Chambers "come together on a regular basis to think about ways to be more innovative and create partnerships." These opportunities become "great resources for people across the community and in leadership positions." For Chambers, the strength of the technology community is illustrated by the range and number of "different things going on, which is exciting."

The 2009 TechColumbus Innovation Awards program is scheduled for February 4, 2010 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The awards show is again hosted by Angela Cambern, Channel 4 News Anchor. Review the 2009 Semi-Finalists and find registration information at:

Friday, January 29, 2010

Amazing Analysis about the iPad - thanks @objo for sharing

Ohio's young entrepreneurs prove age no barrier

Ohio's young entrepreneurs prove age no barrier - source: HiVelocity

These days, some of the biggest ideas are coming from the youngest of minds. College students and recent graduates across Ohio are combining bold ideas with bold action, fueling the state's transformation one job at a time. hiVelocity caught up with a few of the young entrepreneurs who are making a mark on Ohio.
Patrick Yovanov, 22
Central Venous Catheter Home Care Device

Like many great ideas, Patrick Yovanov's was born from personal need. While being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Yovanov appreciated his intravenous catheter, which made for easier administration of chemotherapy, blood transfusions, and other necessary treatments. What he didn't enjoy was how the catheter looked and felt when he returned to campus between treatments. "The catheter hangs about nine inches from the body," he explains. "It gets caught in clothing, didn't feel sanitary, and was very uncomfortable." Because no formal products existed, the University of Cincinnati industrial design student experimented with various clips to tie up the exposed lumens, or lines. He came up with a folding plastic clip that discreetly stows and supports the lines, eliminating the discomfort caused by gravity. Fortunately, Yovanov no longer needs his own device. But by working with some interested medical device companies, he hopes to ease the distress of other patients in the very near future.
Jason Owens, 23
Owens Technology

"As a kid, I took apart everything my parents ever got me," says Jason Owens, an engineering student at the University of Toledo. These days, Owens is building things – complex electronics devices aimed at the alternative energy marketplace, to be precise. A garage tinkerer himself, Owens discovered a need in the freelance electrical engineering domain. "There are lots of people working on leading-edge research in alternative energy that lack proper testing equipment," he says. "The average testing equipment, if it exists at all, is very expensive." Through his company, Owens Technology, Owens sells proprietary products like solid state relay boards that can handle 100,000 cycles per second. He is also working on next-gen residential inverters for use with solar panels and wind turbines. Unlike current models that require complete replacement when broken, Owens' are modular, allowing for DIY repairs. Owens has built working prototypes and has filed provisional patents. He hopes to go into production in the near future. The fact that he accomplishes all this while managing a double major is a testament to his intelligence and drive. The fact that he does so being legally blind – well, that's nothing short of inspirational. Owens credits Dean Nagi Naganathan from UT's College of Engineering and Dick Hanson of the university's new Clean and Alternative Energy Incubator as both being instrumental to his company's development.
Nick Dadas, 28
University Tees

Like many of his college pals, Nick Dadas was looking for a way to make some cash between classes. While attending Miami University, where he was a Marketing and Entrepreneurship student, he teamed up with roommate Joe Haddad to sell custom T-shirts around campus. University Tees quickly found its niche between the small mom-and-pop print shops and large online retailers. "Students are more likely to purchase from friends and acquaintances," explains Dadas. "We built our business around relationships." It wasn't long before the business expanded to other Ohio universities, where a student salesperson would duplicate the successful approach. Upon graduation, Dadas made the decision to see how far he could take the company. "I knew that if the business model worked on five or six campuses, it would work on 100 or 200," he says. Presently, University Tees has a presence on 90 campuses, with the goal of being on 300 within three to four years. In addition to his father, George, Dadas credits Miami University professors Dr. Joseph Kayne and Lee Manders with being influential in the company's formation and growth. University Tees is headquartered in Cleveland and employs 15 full-time workers, five freelance graphic designers, and numerous independent campus managers.
Paul Milligan, 21

When he was just nine years old, Paul Milligan was leading computer classes for senior citizens at his local community center. He estimates that within a couple years he taught basic computer skills to more than 300 people. At the ripe-old age of 16, while still attending high school in Powell, Milligan launched his current video production company. Now called Best Light Video, the Columbus-based business specializes in HD filming and post production. "Lately, we noticed more and more people shooting their own video for blogs or websites," says Milligan. "But they didn't have the skills or software to edit the films when they were done. We needed a new solution for this growing base of users." QueVee is that solution. Customers simply upload their video to the site and specify the edits to be done. QueVee's network of video editors does the work and makes the final cut available for customer download. "Our goal is to be quick and inexpensive," adds Milligan. The website is presently in private beta testing. Milligan cites Gary Ralston, of Ralston Consulting, as an invaluable resource along the way. "Gary has helped bring clarity to numerous decisions for me," says Milligan. "He helped me to better understand project management, balancing workload and capacity, and finding out what really matters to my clients, business partners, associates, friends and family."
Danny Stull, 24

"As a kid, some of the best times I ever had were being outdoors with my family," says Danny Stull, a recent graduate of Miami University. "We still take a family road trip out west every year." Clearly an advocate of family adventures, Stull created Venturepax, a website where families can research outdoor activities. User-generated content like stories, pictures and videos will help trekkers delve deeper into thousands of outdoor exploits. "People want to know, 'is this activity ideal for me and my family?'" says Stull. "The information on the site will help them answer that question." Outdoor activities – called "ventures" – include backpacking, camping, mountain biking, and strolls through the park. Stull got the idea for the site while he was researching a new hobby: fly fishing. "There were no sites that brought all relevant information together," he says. "I saw a problem and wanted to fix it." Stull, based in Cincinnati, recently promoted his site at the Cincinnati Travel, Sports & Boat Show.
Stephanie Rucinski, 34
JoeMetric, Inc.

There's an app for just about everything, as we are so frequently reminded. But of the 100,000-plus smartphone applications on the market, how many actually make money instead of take it? Stephanie Rucinski's JoeMetric pays users real cash for providing simple feedback to curious companies. "Market research is always needed, but the focus groups, interviews and surveys can be very expensive," says Rucinski, who earned both her law degree and MBA from Ohio State University. "People enjoy sharing their opinion. This allows them to make some money while killing time." Users simply select the surveys they wish to complete, earning a couple bucks per questioner. Modern smartphones provide the companies with far richer data, too, by being able to upload photos, videos, voice notes and GPS-stamping. "I decided that I didn't want to follow the traditional MBA path," she adds. "I like the ability to see the whole picture rather than being a cog in the system." Columbus-based JoeMetric is currently in beta testing and will enjoy its official product launch at this year's South by Southwest fest in spring.

(In the photos, from top: Paul Milligan (from left), Bryan Huber and Andrew Brush of QueVee; Andrew Brush (from left), Bryan Huber and Paul Milligan meet at Dupler Office; Stephanie Rucinski of Joe Metric; Danny Stull of Venturepax; Nick Dadas (left) and Joe Haddad of University Tees; Nick Dadas (from left), Joe Haddad and Brett McNally of University Tees.)

The Mixtape Project: 52 Songs in 52 Weeks |

Group in wings to push regional development - Business First of Columbus:

Group in wings to push regional development - Business First of Columbus:

Central Ohio needs to do a better job of retaining businesses and selling itself as a technology center over the next decade, an effort that apparently will require another economic development organization.
That’s the prescription recommended for the region by the Columbus Partnership, an organization made up of 35 top business executives from the region.
Columbus Partnership CEO Alex Fischer laid out a plan for the newly proposed organization, to be dubbed Columbus2020, during a Wednesday meeting of the Columbus Metropolitan Club. Columbus2020’s goals will include helping the region become what Fischer called a top 10 economic-development community, creating 180,000 jobs, and increasing per capita income by 40 percent – all within the next 10 years.
“This is a new economic development paradigm,” Fischer said.
The thought for the new organization emerged last year after New York consultant McKinsey & Co. completed a study looking at best practices in economic development.
Fischer said McKinsey found the Columbus region didn’t invest as heavily in economic development initiatives as rivals Nashville, Tenn., and Austin, Texas. It also found the community needed to focus on retaining and expanding businesses, attracting new ones, creating companies and expanding the civic infrastructure.
The partnership then approached community representatives and economic development officials to get their thoughts, Fischer said. Assuming the community agrees to form a new economic development organization, Fischer said the partnership will take steps to help create it.
Fischer projected that a Columbus2020 team will be put in place over the next three months, money will be raised and vice president-level executives will be recruited and hired.
Fischer told Columbus Business First that the new organization would act as coordinator and clearinghouse for regional economic development efforts, although he said a structure for the group has yet to be finalized. Many in the region see the Columbus Partnership as a group of business executives with too much power and influence, Fischer said, so Columbus2020 would not operate under its direction.
Robert Milbourne, the partnership’s former CEO, told Business First in March that the group has become “more attentive to economic development in Columbus” as the economy deteriorated. But, he said, “We have several economic development organizations and there is often confusion about who is doing what. We contribute to the confusion, frankly.”
Fischer said the partnership plans to present more details about the plan during the ColumbusChamber’s annual meeting Feb. 24.
A Web site for the organization has been established at

Brookings: Great Lakes needs VC superfund - Business First of Columbus:

Ohio getting $400M for ‘3C’ rail line - Business First of Columbus:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Greatest Risks They Ever Took -

Top Trends for the Decade Ahead in Venture, Tech, Genomics, IP, and More Innovative Fields | Xconomy

Top Trends for the Decade Ahead in Venture, Tech, Genomics, IP, and More Innovative Fields | Xconomy

iStock_000004618375XSmall Luke Timmerman wrote:

We hit a nerve last month when we asked leading innovators in high-tech, biotech, cleantech, and venture capital to write guest editorials about the transformational changes they see coming in their fields over the next decade. We got so many thoughtful submissions from the advisers we call “Xconomists,” and other tech leaders, that we figured it would be handy to provide a little roundup of these stories in case you missed any.

I’m not going to try to find a common theme in these opinion pieces, because they are really all over the map. Some are short, some are long. Some looked a full decade out, others looked at the coming year, and one (McKinsey & Co.’s Steve Davis) peered out a century. So when you have a little spare time, scan the headlines, click, and enjoy. We learned a lot, and we’ll be watching to see how much of this stuff actually comes true.

Exponentials R Us: Seven Computer Science Game-Changers from the 2000’s, and Seven More to Come” (Ed Lazowska, University of Washington, Dec. 24, 2009)

The Startup Whisperer’s 2010 Technology Predictions” (Matt Hulett, RealNetworks, Jan. 4, 2010)

2010 Venture Capital Oscar Predictions” (Michael Greeley, Flybridge Capital Partners, Jan. 5, 2010)

Five Biotechnologies That Will Face Away This Decade” (Stephen Friend, Sage Bionetworks, Jan. 6, 2010)

Top Five Innovations to Watch in the Coming Decade” (Robert Nelsen, Arch Venture Partners, Jan. 7, 2010)

Top Five Disruptive Biotech Ideas to Watch in the Coming Decade” (David Walt, Tufts University, Jan. 8, 2010)

The Intellectual Property Century” (Steve Davis, McKinsey & Co., Jan. 11, 2010)

Be of Good Cheer in New Year, All Ye Entrepreneurs and Startup Founders” (Mike Elconin, Tech Coast Angels, Jan. 12, 2010)

Achieving New Heights in Energy Efficiency in 2010” (Nathan Rothman, Optimum Energy, Jan. 13, 2010)

Genomic Advances of the 2000s Will Demand an Informatics Revolution in the 2010s” (Eric Schadt, Pacific Biosciences, Jan. 14, 2010)

Can Molecular Medicine Survive its Teenage Years and Reach Its Potential This Decade?” (Matt O’Donnell, University of Washington, Jan. 15, 2010)

Top Five Innovations to Look for in Search-Based Marketing in 2010” (Russ Mann, Covario, Jan. 18, 2010)

Top Five Trends in the Future of Work” (Brent Frei, Smartsheet, Jan. 19, 2010)

Hardware Versus Software: The Defining Technology Battle of This Decade” (Sim Simeonov, FastIgnite, Jan. 20, 2010)

Genomics Laid the Foundation for Big Global Health Advances to Come This Decade” (Ken Stuart, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, Jan. 21, 2010)

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Strickland touts job creation efforts in State of State speech - Business First of Columbus:

Strickland touts job creation efforts in State of State speech - Business First of Columbus:

Criticized by political foes for doing too little to revive Ohio’s sagging economy, Gov. Ted Strickland on Tuesday rolled out a number of ideas aimed at helping businesses grow and create jobs.

They include a new program that would gives small businesses a better shot at landing bank loans and proposals to aid the state’s emerging advanced energy industry. Presenting his ideas during his annual State of the State address at the Statehouse, Strickland said the new initiatives are aimed at getting Ohioans back to work.

“I will move heaven and earth to create jobs in Ohio,” the governor said, “and I will not rest until it’s done.”

His remarks came as Strickland, a Democrat, faces a tough re-election fight this year against John Kasich, the former congressman from Westerville who is the presumptive Republican nominee in the governor’s race. Several recent public opinion polls have Kasich with leads in single-digit percentages over Strickland, who is seeking a second four-year term.

click here to see the rest of the story

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3C Corridor Should Receive Federal Funds Tomorrow |

3C Corridor Should Receive Federal Funds Tomorrow |

According to a Statehouse source, the 3C Corridor should be officially receiving federal stimulus dollars tomorrow in an announcement following Obama’s State of the Union speech. In October 2009, ODOT and the Ohio Rail Development Commission submitted their application for $563 million to help fund a passenger rail line that would run between Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati. More information about the 3C Corridor can be found at More information about tomorrow’s announcement can be found in a Dispatch article here.

Update: Gov. Strickland’s office is planning a news conference tomorrow tomorrow in the Statehouse Rotunda at 1pm. Anyone planning on attending?

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

JoeMetric Is Searching for Beta Testers! - JoeSurvey approved by iTunes store

JoeMetric is happy to announce that its smartphone application, JoeSurvey, has been approved by Apple for distribution in the iTunes store. JoeSurvey, the first application from JoeMetric, is a smartphone survey app that allows marketers to get answers to multiple choice or open text questions, as well as photographic, touch screen, or voice responses, all from a demographically specific virtual panel of consumers who are using their smartphones while out and about, living their lives. JoeMetric is seeking beta testers for JoeSurvey before the national launch of the app at SXSW in March. To sign up, click here. As a beta tester, you will get a sneak peak at the new application and will get payouts for answering the survey questions. Please note that you must have an iPhone to participate in the beta testing.
About the company:
JoeMetric, Inc produces smartphone applications that allow marketers to increase their market insight through dynamic market research surveys. Based in Columbus, Ohio, the company has won a grant from the TechColumbus TechGenesis program as well as the "Community Choice" award at IT Martini, and has received coverage across the country for its efficient spending of capital.

Stephanie Rucinski, HeadJoe
JoeMetric, Inc.
(877) Joe-For-It!
(614) 750-1855 ext. 101

8 Gadgets That Will Be Huge in 2010 - - Business Technology Leadership

10 Top iPhone Apps for IT Pros - - Business Technology Leadership

Upcoming entrepreneur, small biz, networking and social media meetups

For entrepreneurs and small business
Focus on Social Media
Tech Networking  and Coworking

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Columbus City Council Budget - TechColumbus excerpt - $250k requested


(COLUMBUS)—As a part of the 2010 budget process, Columbus City Council Finance Committee Chair Andrew J. Ginther and members of Council will hosted a public comment hearing on the 2010 proposed budget amendments Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 5:00 pm in Council Chambers, 90 W. Broad Street.

During a press conference yesterday, Councilmembers announced the addition of $4.7 million in amendments to the city budget including approximately $2.2 million in funding for a new fire recruit class scheduled to begin in June. Council also unveiled 18 other amendments totaling approximately $2.5 million for city services and programs.

“I would like to thank Mayor Coleman, Councilmember Ginther and all my colleagues for coming together and building consensus on our budget priorities,” said Council President Michael C. Mentel. “Our focus with the 2010 budget, and specifically with these amendments, centered on protecting the safety and well-being of our citizens, promoting economic development, and maintaining fiscal discipline by committing a total of $15 million into the Rainy Day Fund.”

The following is the proposed 2010 City Council Budget Amendments for TechColumbus

TechColumbus $250,000.00

In 2007, TechColumbus launched the TechStart program designed to accelerate the creation of new technology companies in the region. The program provides pre-seed funding to help launch tech startups, and has seen positive results. This amendment allows TechColumbus to leverage City funding to secure additional pre-seed dollars through a 1:1 state match, with the goal of providing $2 million in pre-seed funding.

Sponsor(s): Councilmembers A. Troy Miller and Hearcel F. Craig

7 Questions Key To Social Networking Success -- Social Media -- InformationWeek

7 Questions Key To Social Networking Success -- Social Media -- InformationWeek


7 Questions Key To Social Networking Success

What's the ROI? Go public or private? What about a policy? It's time to get serious.

By John Soat, InformationWeek
Jan. 16, 2010

Social networking true believers use words like engagement, responsibility, and transparency that smack of the Internet's hippie days in the late 1990s, yet social networking has proved to be much more than a passing fancy. The exploding numbers associated with the most popular sites like Facebook and Twitter inspire awe in even the most jaded statisticians. Time spent on social networks increased 277% in the United States last year, according to media research firm Nielsen, and Twitter itself grew more than 500%.

Now the social media category is primed to emerge as the most significant business enabler since the Internet itself. Organizations must ask themselves seven important questions about their plans for leveraging social networking over the next 12 months. Their answers may spell the difference between success and failure in the coming decade.

1. Are my competitors continuing to invest in social networking?

Measuring yourself against your competition isn't the best way to decide strategy, but it's a fair question given the flash-in-the-pan potential of social networking. And the answer is yes.

"I'm hiring," says Christopher Barger, director of social media at General Motors. That's the good news. The bad news is that, last July, Barger had five people in his social media group at GM; today, there's only him. Barger says part of that reduction is due to attrition but says some has to do with his "immerse and disperse" strategy for spreading social media awareness and expertise across the automaker. People with whom he worked over the last year are now placed in the company's communications, design, performance vehicle, and emerging technology groups.

While GM isn't typical in terms of attrition--the company went through some financial difficulty last year; you might have read about it--it's typical in its desire to maintain its investment in social networking. According to a Deloitte survey of more than 400 companies, conducted late last year with Beeline Labs and the Society for New Communications Research, 94% of respondents intend to maintain or increase their investment in enterprise social networking tools this year.

For its second annual "Tribalization Of Business" survey, Deloitte polled companies that maintain online communities of 100 members to more than 1 million, created on their own sites or on public social sites such as Facebook and MySpace. About 60% of those communities are less than a year old.

2. Where's the ROI?

This is the $64,000 question. And it's not easy to answer because it depends on what it is you're trying to accomplish with your social media strategy. "Right now it's owned by the marketing division and looked on as a low-cost or no-cost way of amplifying your marketing message," says Ed Moran, director of product innovation at Deloitte.

Except social networking isn't a marketing activity in the one-to-many, shotgun-blast approach that traditional marketing is built on. Or it shouldn't be.

"Sales isn't necessarily the end goal," says Dan Shust, director of emerging media for Resource Interactive, an Internet consulting firm. Shust is talking specifically about Facebook fan pages, a grassroots effort brought to light when a Coca-Cola page created by two Coke fans became a social media phenomenon. Corporate marketers quickly realized the potential; Resource Interactive helps companies develop and support Facebook fan pages built around brands or products.

Shust says social network marketing is about engagement: fostering a community of individuals who represent the human face of a company or organization. It's about conversations, not messaging; relationships, not salesmanship.

All that doesn't lend itself to hard ROI numbers. "That's a challenge in most marketing models," says Barbara McDonald, VP of marketing for the Public Relations Society of America. "When we incorporate social media into our campaigns, we get better lift, but it's hard to track."

ROI shouldn't be so difficult, insists Deloitte's Moran, and it isn't when it comes to other ways social media can be used by companies. Take customer service, which Moran says is an underused opportunity to leverage the relationship-building and community spirit of social networks. The cost of customer support is easy to calculate and should be familiar to most executives. When a customer has a problem resolved in an online community, either by a corporate representative or especially by another community member, and as result the customer doesn't call the support line, the cost savings can be measured.

3. Which way works best?

Social media is still an amorphous concept, represented by the microblogs, wikis, forums, chat rooms, and RSS feeds found on thousands of corporate and organizational Web sites, as well as by the familiar sites such as Friendster, Facebook, and Flickr.

There are legendary corporate success stories. Starbucks, for example, started an online community called My Starbucks Idea that lets registered members suggest ideas for products and services and comment and vote on the ideas of others. It also features feedback by Starbucks representatives on actions taken in connection with those ideas. At last count, the site had garnered more than 20,000 ideas for new coffee products alone, and another 60,000 ideas for everything from merchandise to new locations. Ideas implemented range from frequent-buyer cards to low-calorie snacks.

The public social networks are less familiar territory for most companies. Joel Comm, CEO of InfoMedia, a social media consulting firm, recommends that companies maintain a four-pronged public networking strategy: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. While there are many, many other social network sites--and more every day--these four have emerged as the dominant players.

Comm, author of Twitter Power: How To Dominate Your Market One Tweet At A Time (Wiley, 2009), has his personal favorite--Twitter--where "a little goes a long way," he says. As an example, he points to Comcast's Frank Eliason, whom he credits (as have others) with turning around the company's dismal customer service reputation, exacerbated by an embarrassing video that hit YouTube a couple of years ago called "A Comcast technician sleeping on my couch," by using his corporate Twitter account, Eliason has more than 36,000 followers on Twitter and has generated more than 39,000 tweets. "What they're paying this one gentleman is generating huge returns for them," Comm says.

What the public sites don't allow is "complete control over content," says Tom Erickson, CEO of Acquia, which distributes and supports Drupal, an open source software platform used in developing social media sites. Drupal lets companies incorporate blog, search, and wiki capabilities in their online communities, and directly integrate various forms of content such as video. With Facebook, Twitter, and other public sites, "you're limited in the type of content and placement and style," Erickson says.

Most observers agree that companies must develop a dual social media strategy that incorporates homegrown online communities and involvement with the public social networks.

4. How deep within my organization should social networking be allowed to penetrate?

This is a sticky question, for several reasons. First, corporate culture is historically closed and conservative. Second, some high-profile incidents relating to employee abuse of social networks have put the fear of God into some executives regarding reputation management and legal exposure.

And there's still a whiff of the old complaints of workplace distraction that accompanied the introduction of e-commerce sites. Morse PLC, an IT services company, touted research late last year that it claims demonstrates that the use of social networks at work costs U.K. businesses 1.38 billion pounds (U.S. $2.23 billion) a year in lost productivity.

Nonetheless, many companies are driving social media deep into their organizations. General Motors offers a video course on its intranet that introduces neophytes to the basics of social networking and the company's policies concerning it; about 3,000 GM employees have viewed that course. A more advanced course offered by Barger's group trains employees to become social media proselytizers and teachers; about 500 have completed that training.

The objective, for GM and every other company that embraces a wide-open social networking strategy, is twofold: Let subject matter experts interact directly with customers, potential customers, and partners; and promote authentic voices as company representatives in the community.

5. Is it necessary to have a corporate policy around social networking?

Yes, and it needs to be three things: short, simple, and clear. Many companies, including IBM and Intel, have made public their policies concerning the use of social networking tools. A Web search will uncover a list of them.

The Public Relations Society of America will make its policy, covering about 30,000 members, available next month, says VP of marketing McDonald. That policy, based on one introduced earlier this year by Australian telecom company Telstra, embraces the "three R's"--representation, responsibility, and respect. Representation means that you're forthcoming about your affiliation and agenda, so that "people have context," says McDonald. Responsibility means that what you share is factually accurate and relevant, and that you strive to "find the expert" to best answer a query or concern. Respect involves "being civil and understanding," she says.

While social media are an excellent vehicle for generating ideas, those ideas must get to the people in the organization who can make the best use of them. "We're not convinced that a lot of the ideas that come in actually get to the right people in the enterprise," Deloitte's Moran says.

That's because at most companies, the social media function is almost exclusively owned by a single department: marketing. Instead, Moran says, companies should create centers of excellence to disseminate the ideas culled from social networks and online communities--on products, markets, talent, trends--to the right people who can act on them.

6. What can social media teach me about internal collaboration?

Social networking woke up companies to the way people want to interact with each other, and the ways they don't. "The corporate intranet has become a place where corporate documents go to die," says Srinivas Balasubramanian, CEO of Photon Infotech, an IT consulting firm.

Photon Infotech last year helped Johnson & Johnson overhaul its intranet by adding social media functions. In fact, a growth area for the consulting firm is a product that Balasubramanian says "gives you everything that Facebook and Twitter and YouTube give you on top of SharePoint."

At least one veteran Web 2.0 developer thinks companies should let employees use Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, whichever they choose to get their jobs done, rather than force them "onto captive social networks, or monolithic enterprise platforms." Chris Richter is founder and CEO of startup Socialware, which sells software that controls employees' interactions with public social sites. The company's risk manager module, for instance, monitors and stores content sent by employees to outside social networks and can block anything proprietary or objectionable.

Still, if companies think social networking is about technology, they're missing the point, says John Faber, chief operating officer of af83 Inc., a social media services company. Transparency and knowledge flow are key, yet companies are using social networking techniques to re-create closed, segmented, hierarchical structures and still expecting social media-type benefits. "It won't work," Faber says.

7. What's next?

Two words that come up often as social media trends are measurement and analytics--as in, is there a way to measure interest and involvement, and to derive insights from raw social networking data? "All this user-generated content is being collected," says Ari Lightman, a marketing consultant. "The idea is to mine through this content to look for correlations."

Those correlations can serve corporate interests in several ways. For instance, they can shed new light on a company's constituency. Toward that end, about a third of respondents to Deloitte's "Tribalization" survey are attempting to capture data on "lurkers," nonactive members of online communities. The idea is to track what these low-profile people might do with the information they get in those forums, such as go off and make purchases or recommendations to friends or comment on other sites.

Online communities can be analyzed for market trends. Tech and entertainment companies are investing heavily in this area, says Marshall Toplansky, president of WiseWindow, which specializes in so-called sentiment analysis services.

One underexploited area of social media analytics has to do with product development--mining online communities for ideas and trends related to product areas. That's mainly because, once again, social media are considered a marketing function, notes Deloitte's Moran. Among the business objectives listed in Deloitte's social media survey, respondents ranked "bring outside ideas into organizations" fourth, behind generating word-of-mouth, increasing customer loyalty, and increasing product/brand awareness.

Mobility is another social media opportunity. GM's Barger says one of his priorities this year is to help company employees make use of Foursquare, which offers smartphone users location-based information-sharing in a Twitter-like format.

Look for more use of public social networks and a movement away from corporate online communities and destination sites. It's the opposite of the "build it and they will come" strategy.

An early harbinger of that trend is a tool developed by Resource Interactive called Off The Wall that lets potential customers on Facebook fan pages receive product inducements through the Facebook news feed and then buy that product directly from the Facebook wall. Resource Interactive's Shust says people have moved on from looking at the Web as a series of destination sites and are "now really starting to exist on the Internet." And while engagement is still the main purpose of social media, he explains, there can be a logical conclusion: "Engagement, and then eventually sales."

When it comes to using social media for business gain, the potential is there--perspective is what's needed. Instead of taking a narrow view, advises consultant Lightman, organizations must use social media to collaborate, innovate, and unlock "knowledge repositories that they didn't know existed."