Interview: Jennifer Leggio on Social Business, Mediaphytes, Hardcore Kids, and the Threatscape


mediaphyter_socialnerdiaJennifer Leggio is the director of strategic communications for Fortinet, as well as a regular blogger on ZDNet and co-host of the Quick-n-Dirty show on blogtalkradio. Having spent more than 15 years in the communications industry, she has a good grasp on technology, network security, and digital media.

Jennifer also played an accidental role in the naming of this web site (a typo she wrote basically helped inspire the name "Social Nerdia"). Please follow Jennifer aka Mediaphyter on Twitter and make sure to pay attention to any thought-provoking typos.

1. How do you balance your life while working at Fortinet, blogging for ZDNet, and contributing to other projects?

It's tough. I sacrifice a lot of my personal life. While Fortinet is flexible and understanding of my "double life," my job there is my first and foremost priority, and it has both its demands and rewards. I need to write at least two to three times per week for ZDNet and I have pretty high standards for what I post on the blog. I don't like to do little blurbs that just riff on other people's research. I like to do my own research. It's challenging but worth it. I just need to find a way to work a little more "me" time into the equation and I'll be satisfied.


2. You write about "social business". Do you think there's a place for every company (products/services, B2C/B2B, etc.) in the social web?


Every company? That might be a stretch.


I think it all comes down to a company's business objectives and brand strategy. For the most part there are opportunities for marketing and sales growth, crowdsourcing, customer engagement and customer support in the social Web, but the approaches vary greatly and there absolutely is no "one size fits all" approach.


3. What drew you into the world of technology?


I'd always been interested in computers and the growth of technology and related trends. I've never been a true geek or a coder, but always liked to watch how it worked from the outside (like a kid touring a factory). When I burnt out on journalism (I was a copy editor at The Orange County Register) I decided to move to Silicon Valley and jump into technology. I took a "sink or swim" approach. It's been about nine years so far, and I feel pretty safe taking the arm floaties off now.


4. You've been using the name "Mediaphyter" for over a decade. Where does the name come from and what does it mean to you?


In my silly definition, me. Me as a newfound journalist when I was 19 years old (I started writing obituaries and doing community news for The Press-Enterprise at that time). A “mediaphyte” to me was a play off of “neophyte.” However, “mediaphyte” was taken and since I’m known to have a bit of a petulant personality, “Mediaphyter” was born. It was made even more appropriate when I dove into PR after leaving the journalism world.


jenniferleggio_socialnerdia5. Is it good for everyone to be fully transparent online?


I think, just like talking about businesses and social media, it depends on the person. And if you decide to live a transparent life there still need to be boundaries. I live pretty transparently via social networks. You may know I am going out to dinner or hanging out with a certain person or what I am watching on television, but I very rarely talk about specifics of my personal life, or my family, or other more private issues. A lot also depends on your company culture, too. If you work for a conservative company or are in a more business-focused role, you may be more image-conscious. If you're in the medical field, you may also have to consider privacy requirements, too.


6. Do you think security and safety are things we strive for but won't ever fully obtain?


I imagine you're speaking of Internet issues when asking this question. It's hard to say. I think that we can become a lot more secure and safe online if there were standards for user awareness and education, but hackers and cyber criminals think and move fast. Thankfully there are a lot of security firms and standards groups out there who provide good solutions, but the threatscape changes quickly. I think many of the security issues relative to social networks lie in the hands of the users; they can't expect the sites to give them common sense. They need to have that on their own. If you're the type who blindly forwards joke emails or clicks on every link you see, you should steer clear of the Internet.


7. You might remember that the name "Social Nerdia" came about after I misread a typo you had on Twitter. Do you think Twitter would be better off with a spell-checker? What kind of features would you like to see added to Twitter?


I think spell checking is the least of Twitter's worries and most of the third-party apps have it, I believe. I know for sure that TweetDeck does, and when I use Twitter Web my Mozilla Firefox warns me if I have a typo. I'd like to see Twitter offer better friend / follower management options, as that's the one piece that I don't think a third-party service does or can do well. I also would like to see them find a way to monetize the mashups they did last year around the election. I am surprised they haven't done more of them and I think there's a huge opportunity not only for Twitter itself but for the businesses leveraging Twitter as part of their brand marketing strategies.


mediaphyter_tat_socialnerdia18. I read that you like "As I Lay Dying" (the band). AILD is one of my favorites too, especially live. What's your favorite song and why? Also, have you heard of "Austrian Death Machine"?


I've seen AILD live twice but it's been about five years since the last time. I don't have it in me to keep up with the hardcore kids. My favorite AILD tune of all time is "Distance is Darkness," not only because I love the vocals, but because of this lyric: "Pain, despite it all, there is love." I try to convince most people that I am a cynic, but that lyric really resonates with me as a mantra for life. Times might get tough, you might face battles, but despite it all, you have the people who love you and your love for them. It's pretty cool. Oh, and I've never heard Austrian Death Machine.


9. What advice would you give to companies that don't yet have a social media presence?


I was on a podcast the other day with Matthew Lees and he said it better than I could: "Don't be afraid to try and to fail." Yes, you need to consider your business objectives and which tools might get you to your end goals, but sometimes you don't know what those are unless you stick your neck out there. Sure you might get criticized (I recently lambasted nine companies on my blog) but there's something to be respected about companies who at least try to be different. The major fail point is when it's clear they were merely jumping on the bandwagon rather than thinking it out for themselves.

Copyright © Esteban Contreras. All rights reserved.