Sunday, March 29, 2009

Social Media Meets Lay-Offs; Forrester Response

My Globe column this Sunday is about some lay-offs earlier this month by Mzinga, a purveyor of social media software to businesses. From the piece:

    On March 19, about 40 employees - roughly 18 percent of the workforce - were terminated as part of the company's second round of cuts in 2009. But what was unusual about Mzinga's situation was how widely it echoed throughout the universe of bloggers and Twitter users, since so many of the company's employees and customers - and the analysts who track its ups and downs - are part of the online community that shares morsels of information and "status updates" on a moment-by-moment basis. This was a layoff for our Twittery new times.

I wanted to share here some responses that I received from Forrester Research CEO Charles Rutstein; the first hint that something was going on at Mzinga appeared here, on Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang's blog, igniting a bit of a controversy. (Owyang had suggested that Mzinga clients and prospects put off any new deals with the company, without really explaining why.)

Here's what Rutstein sent, via e-mail:

    Q: Was Jeremiah acting as a blogger or an analyst when he wrote about Mzinga?

    A: Jeremiah is both an independent blogger and a Forrester analyst. In his blog posts about Mzinga, he erred by speculating and not applying the same standards of quality as would be required in a Forrester research report. He has publicly apologized to his readers for this oversight. Importantly, however, Jeremiah was acting as an advocate for Forrester’s clients – making them aware of information they might need to make a critical purchasing decision. And, it’s worth noting that Jeremiah’s speculation, while insufficiently researched up-front, has proven to be grounded in fact.

    Have we been in touch with Mzinga about what happened? Absolutely.

    All of us – Forrester included – are still learning how to live in the world of social media. While our experts are among the foremost in the world on these topics, we continue to learn every day.

    Q: Has the blogging incident resulted in any modifications to existing policies or new policies about engaging with social media for Forrester employees?

    A: Forrester has blogging guidelines which have been in place for some time and which have been shared with all Forrester employees. Forrester has 18 blogs which cater to the professional roles of its clients . Separately, a number of Forrester analysts maintain personal blogs which is their prerogative. We do not control what analysts write about in their personal blogs although we ask them to clearly state that their content is their own and may not necessarily reflect Forrester’s views. Naturally we ask them to respect Forrester intellectual property based on our blogging guidelines. As the web 2.0 world continues to evolve, we will continue to encourage Forrester analysts to participate thoughtfully in the community while respecting Forrester’s content and social media guidelines.

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Anonymous Memo said...

quick question Scott - is there any particular reason for why forrester research gets a hyperlink in your globe piece but Mzinga does not??

March 29, 2009 12:59 PM  
Blogger Jon Garfunkel said...


Interesting. Heads up: as you may have guessed, social media folks are a chatty bunch, and it looks like at least one ex-Mzingaite, Alexa Scordato (who resigned this week) wants to call you out on alleged mistakes in the article.


March 29, 2009 1:00 PM  
Anonymous Alexa said...

It's not so much about mistakes or inaccuracy, but rather about clarity of purpose and intent.

I mean no disrespect to your writing and the article that was published. However, I have to question this paragraph:

"Though layoffs are always painful, there's something new going on here - especially in the way these laid-off employees weren't silent, and in the way their network of friends and contacts leaped in to help them."

Perhaps "inaccuracy of reporters" was the wrong phrase to use in my Tweet, but it was my gut reaction to the article. As someone who witnessed the events in real time and was personally connected to all of the individuals involved, I was deeply saddened when I read your article. I just didn't see the need to rehash this particular series of events, especially when there was nothing new to report.
Other companies have used social media to communicate layoffs ( and tons of professionals are using social media to find jobs (

I'm admittedly early in my career, but certainly no stranger to the social web. As a digital native observing layoffs, job searches, and a recession for the very first time, I will always see these events associated with the technologies of our time.

Perhaps it's fascinating to adults to find out how the nature of corporate communication is changing, but for me, it all seems irrelevant.

Layoffs are painful. Business is personal. And there's not a single tweet or blog post that can ever change those realities.

March 29, 2009 2:26 PM  
Blogger Jon Garfunkel said...

Alexa-- I can agree with you on the awkwardness of the "something new going on here" part-- indeed that's not specific to Mzinga, but just a pitfall of journalism. It's certainly not *new* you to me or Scott, but it's probably still a new phenomenon to some of the Globe's readers. Think of all the Nancy Giles of the world who still think Twitter is about what you had for lunch.

I've had the good fortune to meet Scott on one occasion, and I have the utmost of respect for him as a reporter, so I was glad to help get to the heart of the issue here.

March 29, 2009 3:40 PM  
Anonymous Alexa said...


I had the opportunity to meet Scott recently as well (Transforming Healthcare Summit), and like I said, mean him no disrespect.

For me to say, "I can't stand the inaccuracy of reporters sometimes," is more of a comment directed at journalism as a whole, rather than Scott's particular article. Scott, if you were offended by that, I apologize.

March 29, 2009 4:45 PM  
Blogger Scott Kirsner said...


As someone who worked for the company, I am sure you are familiar with the story, which I acknowledge has been playing out for the past three weeks or so.

Anyone who happens to follow Jeremiah's blog, or the various Mzinga-connected folks on Twitter, is probably also familiar with the rough outlines.

But one of the roles of journalism, as I see it (and this may be old fashioned), is to tell stories about what's happening in our part of the world ... stories they may not already be connected to or familiar with.

You may feel like this story is a rehash of things you already know, and you're entitled to think that. But you used the word inaccuracy, and I'm still open to hearing what you think is inaccurate? Describing this as a new kind of situation?

March 30, 2009 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Barry Libert, Chairman & CEO, Mzinga said...

Over the past week or so, I’ve already shared Mzinga’s perspective on this incident and our organizational changes, so I’ll avoid being redundant here. However, I would like to address a factual error in the article and Charles Rutstein’s comment that Jeremiah’s accusations were “grounded in fact” as I do not agree.

• Yes, Mzinga was undergoing organizational changes and I believe we acted in a transparent and responsible way in communicating those changes. However, unless Forrester and its leadership believe that people should stop doing business with every company that has recently had a workforce reduction (including Forrester itself, Google, FedEx and countless other organizations both in the social media space and beyond), Jeremiah’s comments were severely misleading in that he painted a much more grave picture of our current state than is reality, and further, singled out our company in an inconsistent manner from how he’s covered similar changes at other organizations. While we have been in communication with Forrester about this incident, I’m disheartened by the lack of acknowledgment of that very important distinction.

• The article also states that Mzinga did not get funding, as my friend and colleague, Rick Faulk, pointed out in his comments. This is not correct. Mzinga secured a significant amount of new funding on December 31, 2008.

March 30, 2009 12:15 PM  
Blogger Scott Kirsner said...

I'd be very interested in hearing about this new round of funding that closed on December 31st, such as who the investors were and the amount invested. Companies traditionally announce new funding rounds, though obviously it's not required... My impression from talking to Barry was that there was one $32 million round in 2008, and that the December funding was part of that.

March 30, 2009 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Susan Koutalakis (1PR Manager for Mzinga) said...

Hi Scott,

Thanks for your questions. Our latest round of funding was covered within this article in early January:

If you have any additional questions, I’m happy to help.

Susan | @susank

March 30, 2009 5:53 PM  
Blogger Tessa said...

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April 4, 2009 12:50 AM  

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