The Geek Whisperers: a podcast for social media practitioners who work with enterprise IT technologists

geek_whisperersWe launched our podcast, The Geek Whisperers, in February and now we’re about to publish episode 6. The Geek Whisperers is a podcast for social media practitioners who work with enterprise IT communities. The first episode has the founding story of how this little project began, but I’ll repeat it here from my perspective.

I work in social media professionally, and I have for the 7 and 1/2 years I’ve been with VMware. We called it something like blogging and evangelism back then, but the objectives are still the same — connect with the folks who use our products and make them successful. I really do as much work with online community as with social media, but increasingly those lines have blurred and I do a lot of internal consulting on social media campaigns, social networking presence, and content marketing. (Content marketing being 2013’s social media word of the year, but basically content marketing means writing stuff that people actually want to read, rather than marketing crap that you want to write. This has been a revelation for some marketing professionals.)

But over the whole time in my job I’ve struggled with my relationship with the social media industry. I think this comes in two parts. First of all, I’m really more of a technologist than a marketer. Although my technical background was more in programming than system administration or infrastructure, over the years I’ve become deeply enmeshed in this IT space filled with storage, networking, servers, and the mysteries of how IT can transform itself to align better with the needs of the business and not just be the guys you call when the printer doesn’t work. Becoming an IT-pro-by-proxy is how I’ve done my job — by becoming part of the community I’m working with.

But the second part of my difficulty is that the social media industry doesn’t seem very relevant to what I do. Even if you avoid the obvious simplistic advice about how and when to Tweet, the self-help/guru/personal branding crowd, and the scammy Internet Marketers, you’re left with a lot of direct marketing and consumer branding activity. Not much of that is directly related to helping an IT architect be successful building out a next-generation data center.

So over the years I’ve girded my loins a few times, filled up my RSS reader with social media blogs, started a blog or two, and gone to a few conferences, but my heart really hasn’t been in it, and I’ve chucked it all after a few weeks to get back to doing my job with my community. At the same time, after 30 years of participating in online community and after 7 years of doing it professionally, I think I have something to say.

Enter the Geek Whisperers. It was born out of a conversation with Amy Lewis of Cisco at VMworld Barcelona in 2012 — if you’ve met us you can imagine the scene, with both of us only getting a word in when the other one had to stop and take a breath. It turned out we had a lot in common professionally. After adding Matt Brender of EMC as a co-conspirator, we finally just kicked it off and figured we’ll figure out the details as we go along, which is the way all good (non-IT) projects should go!

Some people have pushed back on the name. “Geek Whisperers” doesn’t necessarily mean that we talk about geeky IT stuff, but like the Horse Whisperer and Dog Whisperer, we have experience working with geeks, we seem to have an affinity for it, and our methods are mysterious to many traditionally-trained marketing pros. We spend a lot of time in our respective large company employers explaining what we do, why it’s good for the company, and how you can do it too.

The podcast format is a bit of an experiment. I’ve run a live weekly call-in podcast for the VMware community for almost 5 years now, so I know it can be effective in reaching people, but this experience of starting a new, weekly show, hopefully well-produced and edited, and starting from scratch is a bit of a new thing for us. We hope the podcast format will help us directly interact with more people, interview more people, and entertain more people. We seem to laugh a lot, which comes across better in a podcast than a blog!

I’m bullish on podcasting in 2013. After 10 years of skipping along at a low level it seems like smart phones are finally making it easier to listen to podcasts. I’ve started listening more in the car and while cleaning the house, simply streaming to my iPhone or iPad.

We haven’t been doing a lot of promotion, so our audience has been growing slowly and it’s really been more in our native IT communities than the social media practitioners we were expecting to talk to. We’ve tried to be very honest on the show, so I hope my IT friends aren’t shocked that, yes, actually, we do run marketing programs tied to business objectives. But we work by bringing humanity and a community spirit to the dark arts of marketing, so I hope you see us as the good guys.

If you do work in social media marketing in a company that sells products or services to enterprise IT, come along and have a listen! We’ll keep doing the podcast as long as we’re having fun, and so far we’re having a blast! Here’s our episodes so far

Drop us a line if you like what you hear. Thanks!

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