The International Society of Automation (www.isa.org) is a nonprofit professional association that sets the standard for those who apply engineering and technology to improve the management, safety, and cybersecurity of modern automation and control systems used across industry and critical infrastructure. Founded in 1945, ISA develops widely used global standards; certifies industry professionals; provides education and training; publishes books and technical articles; hosts conferences and exhibits; and provides networking and career development programs for its 36,000 members and 350,000 customers around the world.
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As the chief blogger and head of social media at Emerson Process Management, Jim Cahill leads the social marketing efforts for Emerson's Process Management's business platform and social media efforts by sharing best practices and establishing policies and governance models.
Cahill's Emerson Process Experts: Connecting with the People behind the Technologies and Expertise blog was honored as "Best Corporate Blog" by BtoB Magazine in 2010. The blog features technology and application specialists throughout the company - and sometimes customers - sharing their experiences, suggestions and tips on applying process control and monitoring technologies in plant operations to improve safety, reliability, and performance.
Cahill has spent more than 20 years at Fisher Controls and Emerson (which acquired Fisher in 1992) in sales support and as a product application specialist, alliance manager, product manager for the DeltaV development, marketing communications manager, and now social media leader.
In this ISA member feature, Cahill shares his experiences in the fast-moving world of social media and offers some insights and advice on how to best take advantage of social media tools and opportunities.
[> JSC ] I can't recall exactly when I joined ISA. I had to go back to the mid to late 1980s when I worked for Conoco in New Orleans. I attended several of the ISA shows and found many of the books valuable as I got up to speed working as a systems engineer on offshore platform control and safety system projects. I'm in the Bluebonnet section here in Austin, Texas.
ISA has helped in my education in process control and instrumentation through their conferences, books, and people I've met along the way. Some of the best parts are the marketing and sales folks I've met through the ISA Marketing and Sales Summit-not only the event organizers but many of the attendees. I've tried to give back by volunteering on that committee and working with people like Greg McMillan to help him with his ISA webinars and other events.
[> JSC ] I received an electrical engineering degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and my first job out of college was a systems engineer for the oil company Conoco in New Orleans. I was responsible for the control, safety, power, and communications systems that we put on the offshore oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. I have pretty much always been in the industry either on the end- user side or automation supplier side for almost 30 years now.
[> JSC ] I have a unique role with Emerson Process Management where I lead our social media efforts. Part of my role is to "listen" to what's happening in the social networks. I follow the ISA Interchange blog, and numerous industry-related blogs, LinkedIn groups, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, etc. I look for opportunities where our subject matter experts can interact. I use Hootsuite as a tool to connect to all these different applications from a single dashboard. The dashboard also has mobile versions for smart phone and tablet.
[> JSC ] I entered the process automation field back in the mid-80s so the Internet wasn't even on the scene and PCs were just coming out. Communications was via paper memos, letters, and phone. Email came along and soon became the dominant form of business communication.
Our first foray into social media was my Emerson Process Experts blog, which began back in February of 2006. The goal was to make our folks' expertise more findable. As social networks came along and matured, we expanded our presence. We have active communities on Facebook, LinkedIn, and our Emerson Exchange 365 community. The goal is to provide peer-to-peer knowledge exchange around our technologies and applications. We continue to see growth in the use of these social networks across the world and across all our business units.
[> JSC ] I think the nature of the difficult, dangerous, and highly regulated processes that must be safely and tightly controlled make our industry more conservative than most. This extends to many areas, such as the adoption of new technologies and communications methods. I think the industry has come a long way in the eight years since we launched the blog. I see broad global adoption and tremendous peer-to-peer knowledge sharing going on in many communities. The job of automation and instrumentation professionals is extremely difficult and the social networks provide a way to extend the circle of fellow experts to help solve the tough challenges before them.
[> JSC ] Each social platform has its strengths. Some of our brands have Facebook pages and groups. The problem- solving discussions are more informal than what we see in LinkedIn groups. I think this is due to LinkedIn being the home of one's professional profile and all interactions contribute to one's personal brand. Twitter is a great way to discover what's being talked about. If you search on the hashtags #PAuto and #ISAuto, you can quickly scan and get a flavor of what magazine editors, automation suppliers, automation professionals, and others are sharing. It's like scanning a newspaper to use a prior-generation communication technology. I have created many Twitter lists for the filtering conversations to quickly scan and get a sense for what's going on in our industry.
[> JSC ] I believe the more you share your expertise, the more you build your personal brand. This does not mean sharing proprietary information about your process, but "how-to" information about the technologies you use and the control strategies you employ. For our subject matter experts, I recommend they join a couple of LinkedIn groups and participate in their area of expertise. Also, share interesting things you find online in your LinkedIn status. If you have a Twitter account, you can have these posts automatically post there as well. What you share can be as simple as, "Interesting article <url>. I think…" By participating consistently and persistently over time you build your personal brand, and opportunities will open up for you.
Honored with BtoB magazine's 2010 social media blog award: http://jimc.me/XG5QTs
Press release: http://jimc.me/aXAlp0
Video Interview: http://jimc.me/BtoBVideo
A leading media, technology, and marketing author, Paul Gillin, posted the following about Emerson's blog: "Emerson Process Experts is superbly focused; it doesn't pretend to be anything other than a technical resource to a small but very important audience. Cahill is fluent in the language of the industry, but he's also a good writer who organizes and expresses his thoughts clearly."