SVESMC Brings Bay Area Social Media Execs Together

Like you, I get hundreds of invitations to join LinkedIn Groups.  As a B2B marketer interested in industry services marketing and the implications of social media on an integrated marketing mix, I find very few of these groups to include true peers. Instead, these groups appear full of consultants wanting to make connections and peddle their services to larger organizations. It’s hard to find true affinity in LinkedIn groups and more rare to find one that functions as a true community.

The exception I have found is the Silicon Valley Executive Social Media Council (SVESMC). 

Ted Sapountzis, VP of Social Media Audience Marketing at SAP, introduced me to this group after we met for lunch in December of last year.  Ted and I met previously when we spoke on a Global Social CRM panel moderated by Esteban Kolsky in September at Cisco’s TelePresence Suites in Santa Clara. Social networking maven and meet-up extraordinaire, Tanya Kanzaveli, found me and extended the invitation. (I agreed to speak on the panel to experience Telepresence first-hand, if truth be told.)  

I am very glad Ted introduced me to SVESMC. This group works for me is because it starts with personal connections and then leads to the online world, not the other way around. As an example of another personal connection, Gurmeet Dhaliwal, VP of Internet Marketing at CA, who also spoke on that same panel is a member of SVESMC as well.  (Do you start to see how this networking thing works….?)

SVESMC’s mission is to help members create the most effective, extraordinary social media programs possible. It is a private community for social media leaders at predominantly high-tech, large companies. Through the Council, members share insights, ideas, and best practices in a peer-to-peer environment. Members hold conversations under strict confidentiality, allowing for open and candid discussions. There are no vendors, no sales pitches, and no outside “experts” — just honest advice and dialogue.  I like that.

Last week, SAP hosted the first summit for this council. Natascha Thomson wrote a great blog post summarizing the event. For me, the highlight was Ted’s talk about how SAP developed a marketing “dashboard” for measuring the impact of social activity around developer/user events in a business-meaningful manner (note: nothing confidential exposed here). If you’d like to know more, apply to Natascha to join the group (natascha.thomson@sap.com).  The group is closed — so you have to hunt for it on LinkedIn — and it takes the confidentiality promise very seriously. 

If you join, I hope to see you at an upcoming dinner, summit, or meet-up sometime soon.  Or to connect virtually through the group site on LinkedIn. Virtual or in-person, if you are responsible for social media strategy or execution at your firm – and want to connect with others who share the same enthusiasm and concerns around this new communication medium – this group is for you.

Twitter Popularity May Soar, but the Noise-to-Value Ratio Remains High

Sysomos, a Marketwire company that provides social media monitoring and analytics capability, recently published an interesting study it conducted on Twitter´s growth in 2010. In comparing Twitter usage between 2009 and 2010, they found:

  • Users with 100+ friends have increased by three-fold to 21% since 2009.
    (Note: I’m assuming “friends” means “friends on Facebook”, but I could be wrong.)
  • 22.5% of users accounted for about 90% of all activity.
  • 80% users have made fewer than 500 tweets.
  • “Justin Bieber” is one of top two-word phrases and top name in user’s bios.
  • Significantly more users are disclosing their location, bio, and Web information in Twitter profiles.

For me, the second finding in the list is the most interesting – that just over 22% of Twitter users account for 90% of the tweets.  It’s amazing that the “old rule of thumb” — that 20% of any population accounts for 80% of the activity, consumption, or item of interest — applies here.   Even more, 80% of all Twitter users have tweeted fewer than 500 times in total. (I am not a heavy-duty tweeter and I’ve post more than 800 tweets in about 2 years of participation.) There are a few ambitious individuals who have tweeted over 100,000 times (one is a recruiter and the other is a writer, so maybe it’s possible they have that much to say.)

Looking at the bio descriptions, I am struck by the fact that the Twitter population, as judged by their bio terms alone, appear to be younger in age, female, self- or unemployed, and fascinated with pop culture (reference the”Justin Bieber” statistic above).  However, I find it interesting  that “marketing” was the 20th most popular single word descriptor, and “business” was the 26th.  Twitter participation reflects a dominant consumer population, and there is only a modicum of B2B activity that makes it to the top of the popularity list.  Sifting through the noise will continue to be a daunting task without a social monitoring capability.

Bottomline: Twitter is very early in its lifetime — and remains an interesting combination of social phenomenon and communication channel. According to the study, 44% of users joined Twitter between January 2010 and August 2010.  That’s a microsecond in the history of media. Maybe my analysis reflects my own biases, so please take a look at the Sysomos study and let me know what you think.

If you have seen another study specific to business use of Twitter, please post a comment with a pointer.  Or tweet it to me at @lauraramos.  Thanks in advance.

Holiday Cheer from Xerox’s Managed Print Wonderland

This is what I find both endearing and silly about working at an enormous company like Xerox. Folks taking time out from the daily grind to spread a little holiday cheer.  Click here to see what I’m talking about.

Amateur video production, singing that is a little off-tune, and cheesy staging – it defines the camaraderie and culture that is Xerox Corporation.  I especially like the fellow in the St. Nick hat.  This little video was making the rounds, so we decided to add it to Managing Print — A Xerox Page for Business, on Facebook.  There are three in total. Little did we know that these videos would become some of the most popular notes on our page, with over 2000 impressions each (compared to a few hundred that the typical post receives.)

The Xerox Services team started this Facebook page in the late summer to build awareness around our organization, our offerings, and capabilities. We also hoped the page would provide a forum for clients and professionals who manage print processes to engage with us and each other in dialogue about specific topics of interest in enterprise print management.

The goals of the page are simple:
Share best practices around client success, change management, cost reduction, and future trends in managing print.
Highlight all the great content available on Xerox.com from a popular, social destination.
Express our point-of-view and share our expertise.
Encourage open, active participation – building a community of like-minded enthusiasts is our ultimate desire.

Who would have thought that holiday carols would become part of these lofty objectives?  But therein lies the beauty of social media and the social network. Funny holiday songs — with the lyrics altered to talk about what we do in Xerox Services — are the type of content that draws the most attention and traffic. I think the two things lessons here are 1) video is a popular medium in B2B and B2C alike and 2) there’s no predicting what will become popular and what will not, so try a variety of approaches and content as you experiment with social media.

I hope you enjoy the videos as much as I do.  Happy holidays to you all and a very happy New Year!

SocialTech 2010: Building A Social Media Marketing Discipline At A Major Brand

Earlier this week, I had the good fortune to attend and participate in the first social media conference geared to B2B marketers. MarketingProfs sponsored an excellent event. I believe the 200+ who attended in person, and the 400 or so who listened in virtually, would agree. For a round-up of conference activities, here is a list of the best posts and articles I found on the event:

1) Ann Handley’s coverage of the event: http://www.mpdailyfix.com/the-state-of-the-b2b-marketer-in-social-media-3-trends-from-socialtech-2010/

2) Aaron Pearson from Weber Shandwick wrote a great post: http://www.b2bvoices.com/

3) #mptech daily read: http://paper.li/tag/mptech  (Search the #mptech tag on Twitter for more.)

For me, the price of admission was listening to Brian Ellefritz, Senior Director of Global Social Media Marketing, talk about his plans for creating a new social media marketing discipline at SAP. While “SAP” and “discipline” are synonymous to many, one might think that SAP’s top-down culture may struggle with the unruliness of social media a bit. To move SAP along, Brian adopted the “Social Engagement Journey” — a view of the stages large brands progress through when establishing social media marketing practices. Brian credits Sean O’Driscoll, and the team from Ant’s Eye View, with the concepts and framework he’s bringing to SAP.

According to Brian’s talk, the four stages along the Social Engagement Journey include:

Stage 1: Grass roots – characterized by lots of activity but little focus; lots of variation but little conformity. Individual teams pursue social media opportunities bottoms up. Charismatic personalities, who want to grab the spotlight as early adopters, tend to drive this stage where overarching strategy and leadership has yet to form.

To move along from Stage 1 to Stage 2, Brian offered the following observations and guidelines:

1) Find leadership – corporate entities like Legal and Marcom calm their social media concerns when adult supervision enters the room.

2) Don’t discourage the experimentation with too many rules or too much oversight.

3) Begin informal education – workshops – to form consensus around what needs to happen and how.

4) Increase and improve listening. In turn, better listening will improve content proficiency and efficiency.

5) Let standard tools and governance emerge. Grass roots teams find they need operational models, process, and a common tool platform to progress further.

Stage 2: Silos form – independent efforts start to coalesce around functional areas and some leadership, whether by design or accidental, starts to emerge. Co-opetition among silos can happen in this stage and can be disconcerting. Teams experiment with more tools, but a lack of focus on business objectives means processes have yet to align. Content generation continues to happen through enthusiasm and personal initiative more than strategy.

To mature Stage 2 activity, Brian suggested:

1) Don’t get caught up in inter-team competition. Those who stay true to good social principles – who walk the social talk – will rise to the top and others will adopt their ideas.

2) Progress tool strategies from ad hoc to formal vendor relationships and benefit from all the attendant training, support, etc.

3) Pay more attention to metrics. With tenures of 18 months or more, social media teams now need to answer tougher questions about investment returns and justification.

4) Focus on creating conversational content. Most marketers gear their writing around messages, lead generation, and holding prospects hostage to sales. Social marketing writers must get to know customers better and learn how to deliver content customers value.

5) Formalize roles. Social initiatives can no longer afford to run off of employee enthusiasm and activities executed during nights and weekends.

Stage 3: Operationalize – in this stage, the silos of activity merge, leaderships becomes clear, and the activity starts to feel more like marketing and less like chaos. Firms in this stage truly understand how their customers/prospects use social channels and engage with them in those channels. These firms also invest more in education and communication since practitioners now come from all areas of the business. Listening informs both tactics and strategy.

To evolve in this stage, companies should:

1) Focus training on roles and objectives, not just the tools. Instead of holding a “Twitter class”, sponsor “how to build a social conversation with <audience>” workshop.

2) Reset your listening strategy. Invest in tools like Visible or Radian 6 to learn more about where customer conversations happen, what your competitors are doing, and how strong your share of voice is. Use the data to determine where the market will take you next.

3) Advertise the heck out of successes, and invest in them further. Resist the temptation to focus on the laggards. Competition and public visibility will give them ample motivation to keep from being left behind.

4) Push silos of activity together. Create virtual teams of bloggers for example. Combine conventional email aliases and meetings with a community platform where practitioners can share successes, policies, and practices.

5) Don’t wait too long for governance to happen. Actively create discipline around strategy, ownership, priorities, and metrics.

Stage 4: Lifestyle – the ultimate stage is one where few firms reside today. Zappos may be the lone example of a company where social activity is part of it’s core structure and culture. Business units earn more autonomy to act socially based on business objectives, positive outcomes, and a common understanding of success examples. More rigor in metrics helps to keep employees engaged and competent in social discourse. In this stage, tools are optimized, systems are integrated, everyone buys in, and angels sing. (Well, the last won’t happen, but I wanted to see if you were still with me.)

A successful journey from social chaos to social engagement depends on many factors besides those outlined: your company culture, momentum, environment, funding, and the extent to which your audience is willing to engage with you socially. Yet, I think this model offers a good place for companies to assess their progress and to think about what they need to do strategically to move from one stage to the next.

Thanks for the enlightening talk, Brian, I really appreciated it!

Join Me at SocialTech 2010: Oct. 27 at the Doubletree in San Jose

As a former Forrester analyst, I’ve had a long-standing relationship with the wonderful folks at MarketingProfs.  I’ve come to value greatly the resources — both online and in-person – this organization provides to marketers who, frankly, can’t afford the big-ticket price of a marketing consultant or industry analyst firm. This Tuesday, MarketingProfs will host SocialTech 2010, their inaugural social media conference for B2B marketers in the high technology space.

After a rocky start caused by the slow economy, and postponement of the event from March until October, SocialTech 2010 promises to bring together the visionaries and experts who have used the power of social media to transform the way B2B technology companies market their products and services. At 3 pm on Tuesday afternoon, I will speak on a panel featuring:

In this session, Michael and René will present highlights from recent research — conducted by IDC and Palo Alto Networks separately and respectively — to benchmark the use of social media for B2B high-tech marketing. Michael will explain why traditional corporate culture remains the largest barrier to successful social media initiatives today. He’ll discuss the different operational challenges organizations face to effectively deploy and manage social media initiatives. René will then provide highlights on the adoption and usage of social media in his experience at Palo Alto Networks and (probably) Serena Software, where he worked previously. 

After Michael and René speak, Gurmeet and I will react to the research and share some things we are seeing and doing within our own organizations. Hopefully we can provide advice on how you can encourage social media use within your own organization while demonstrating its value to the business.

Prior to my panel, at 2 pm that same afternoon, my colleague Jeannine Rossignol will join Chris Koch from ITSMA to talk about “The Role of Social Media in the Buying Process”  and how Xerox has used social media to enable internal salespeople to have more informed discussions with customers. While I only touch on it in my panel presentation, Jeannine will talk more about “Competipedia”—a secure, interactive, wiki-based resource for the Xerox Global Services sales force to find the latest competitive information. Chris will share how CSC did also leveraged wiki technology when they launched the first B2B social networking site for the insurance industry, called WikonnecT. Wikis and service companies — anyone seeing a trend here?

The SocialTech agenda promises both forward-looking views from Jeremiah Owyang, Guy Kawasaki, and Robert Scoble – visionaries that no conference on social media should be without. I also hope you will find a lot of practical, real-world advice that you can put into action after you leave the conference.  Will I see you there?  I hope so!

Starting A Facebook Page For Managed Print Services

A little while ago, I wrote that I was reading Paul Dunay’s book “Facebook Marketing For Dummies” after catching up with Paul at the ITSMA Leadership Forum in May. After some deliberation and investigation (about what Xerox, our new subsidiary ACS, and our competitors do on Facebook), the senior marketing leadership team for Xerox Global Services (i.e. where I work) decided to launch a Facebook page and see where it goes.

Actually, it’s not quite as simple as saying “let’s do this”.  We used the POST methodology to address key questions about audience and purpose.  Here’s what we decided:

1) People/audience: Who do we want to attract to the page? Business professionals responsible for or involved with production printing, central print operations, the management of office copy/fax/scanner fleets, or any document-centric processes at large companies.  Also any CFO, controller, or finance person at the same large firms interested in saving money and cutting operating costs.  We know this is a narrow scope, but we are curious to see how many fans we can attract from this audience.  We will get a lot of Xerox employees to “like” our page, probably. That’s ok. But the primary target is our current clients, prospects, and even competitor customers.

2) Objective: We focused on two initially –  build awareness and start to build community.  We would like to develop an online destination where like-minded professionals willing to dialogue about managing print can share ideas and best practices. Where folks can discuss all the clever, mundane, arcane, or common ways to use document management technology and good business process to drive costs out and boost efficiency up. To get there, we think we need to start by drawing attention to the content we’ve published previously — what we do, how we operate, and how our clients succeed.  Let’s face it, some of that great stuff gets a bit buried on our corporate site.

3) Strategy. Create a Facebook page about managing print and load it up with content. Create an editorial calendar of the Facebook Notes we plan to publish twice a week. Include a link to previously published content in each Note related to Xerox Services capabilities or clients.   Publish a steady cadence of content that people (and search engines) will find and use. Let the page readership grow organically.  Promote it through a couple of links on Xerox.com, as a link in email signatures, Twitter tweets, and on internal sites used by our field sales and delivery people.

4) Tactics. Include documents, slides, videos, podcasts, and photos.  We may also throw in a trivia question, or announce an event or two.  As readership grows, we plan to add discussion questions to understand what the community is thinking about and what we should do next.  In time, we may look at syndicating content or commenting on other pages, blogs, sites to expose our page to a broader audience.

That’s the plan so far.  Let me know what you think and if we missed anything key. I’m looking forward to sharing the results with you later on.

Four Ways to Engage Your Socially Active Customers

If  I have any (small) regrets about leaving Forrester Research, it’s that I miss working with folks like Augie Ray each day. I found his recent research on the growth in the number of people who update their statuses using social media – tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter – interesting and worth a read.

Forrester has long counseled marketers to follow a simple four-step planning process called POST to set social strategy. POST is an acronym Josh Bernoff coined to remind business people to keep audience first and objectives second on their list of social media priorities.  Understanding your audience involves more than knowing profile information.  In this new social world, marketers must also know where your customers go online and how they interact with social tools already.

Social Technographics is the tool Forrester analysts, including myself during my tenure there, use to categorize online, social behavior.  From a B2B retrospective, I have to say that the tool did not always uncover distinct differences between business technology buyers, IT folks, and technology marketers in various demographic groups. Techies love technology and this fascination produces extensive experimentation with all variety of tools, hence they tend to profile high in most categories.

I found that it was important for marketers to know if the target audience is participating (as Creators, Critics, Joiners, and now Conversationalists), observing (as Collectors or Spectators) or simply inactive socially.  Three categories are easier for B2B marketers to understand than seven, especially since the conversation quickly turns to “So, where do buyers spend their time — on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn?” (BTW, Augie’s report offers some good insight on this question in Figure 1.)

Putting the nuances of Social Technographics aside for a moment, I think Augie offers some solid advice for marketers wanting to engage with potential buyers and current customers through social media. For B2B marketers, I would summarize Augie’s list of ways to engage socially-active customers to read:

1) Listen to social conversations. Listening helps marketers learn how to engage socially as well as understand what buyers think about your brand.  Online monitoring tools – like Google Alerts, Radian6, or Biz360 — help here.

2) Use customers to energize others. Social updates are a viral element of online branding – and yes, there can be risks to the brand of doing so. Read Groundswell for a number of examples of what not to do.

3) Support customers as they support each other. Many companies have begun to support customers by listening to status updates and intervening on behalf of those currently experiencing problems. Most of the examples of what to do – or not do – involve consumer brands. But tech companies adopt this approach with success. The jury is still out about whether responding socially helps to lower customer support costs overall or simply papers over inadequate support processes.

4) Solicit customer feedback and ideas. Those who use your products can be the best source of innovation that other buyers will also want and use.

Most of all, I agree whole-heartedly with his recommendations, namely: listen before you leap, use social tools internally to understand the uses and limitations of each technology, and empower your employees. Marketing alone cannot run the whole social show – it’s definitely a group undertaking.

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