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.

Reading “Facebook Marketing for Dummies” To Help Set Social Strategy

I attended the ITSMA Marketing Leadership Forum recently and ran into my old friend Paul Dunay. Paul spoke at the event and shared his experiences as the (relatively) new Global Managing Director of Services and Social Marketing at Avaya. One of his first challenges was to figure out how to reel-in an explosion of social activity at Avaya into something that would create powerful, authentic, personal interactions.

To start, Paul asked, “What are the conversations that we want to join?”  The next step was to listen to the conversations already happening – it helps that Avaya has a distinct company name, so it is relatively easy to search for those talking about the them. Based on those conversations, Paul and team chose the following social objectives:

  • Demonstrate Avaya Thought Leadership
  • Increase Brand Awareness
  • Generate Demand
  • Showcase Innovation
  • Embrace Product Ideas

Facebook became one of the key social tools for achieving these goals. (It doesn’t hurt that Paul is the co-author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies.)  Paul asked a provocative question:  “Why have a Web site when you can use Facebook for free?” Interesting thought, especially when you consider how the amount of traffic on Facebook dwarfs many other online destinations.  For example, Paul stated that LinkedIn is only 10% the size of Facebook today.  But do business people use Facebook for business purposes?  Or will something else become the key social network for the B2B world?

At this point, my new boss, Julie Meyers, Vice President, Strategy and Marketing for Xerox Global Services in North America, turned to me and said, “I’d like to see us have a social networking strategy by the end of June.” So I picked up Paul’s book and started reading.

Many companies have success with Facebook today. These firms: 

  • Use Facebook as a recruitment tool.
  • Advertise using Facebook Marketplace, industry-related groups, and targeted campaigns.
  • Solicit feedback from customers; give them a forum to voice concerns.
  • Energize attendees around an event.
  • Leverage it for internal knowledge sharing and communication.

Yet, despite these early achievements, I have to say that I’m not sure what might be right strategy for our team of professional services marketers at Xerox to pursue. My research at Forrester indicated that LinkedIn is the preferred social networking site in business, but – relative to other media – its use is nascent. Paul’s book offers a lot of great advice on the tools and capabilities Facebook offers – many of which B2B marketers can leverage quite easily.  Yet the question still lingers: “Will we find an audience there?”

I’m still not sure, but watch this blog for future posts to learn where the “search for a strategy goes.”  If any of you have a suggestion or two, please feel free to share it here by posting a comment.

Don’t Be A Social Media Tool

A few nights ago I had the delightful privilege of speaking on a panel called “Tweets, Tags, and Texts: Making Social Media Work for You” sponsored by my alma mater, Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business, Alumni Council.  Panelists included:

Ben Parr provided a most memorable comment, and I could not resist echoing it again. To paraphrase, Ben warned the crowd, “If you think of social media strictly from the tool perspective, you will become a tool…”

The Online Slang Dictionary defines a “tool” as “an uncool person, a loser.”

Focus simply, or too intently, on the technology and your social efforts will fall short of the mark. This advice is what my former Forrester-colleague Josh Bernoff, co-author of Groundswell and (now) Empowered, described in his seminal work on setting social strategy, and which I later adopted in much of my research.  We used the acronym POST to remind marketers and business people to focus on your audience and objective first, and to consider which technology will help you reach your objective last.

P = People                               “Who do you want to reach socially?
O = Objective                         “How do you want to change your relationship with them?”
S = Strategy                             “How will you do that? And how will you know you were successful?”
T = Tools… Technology, Tactics     “Which social tools will you use?”

I found it particularly insightful that this little quip came from Ben.  He was, by far, the biggest social media enthusiast on the panel, and the one most steeply entrenched in it as an editor of Mashable. (Imagine, if you will, Ben sitting next to Felix, the General Counsel for TrendMicro.) Ben reminded me a lot of former colleague Jeremiah Owyang, a social media maven extraordinaire who taught me a lot about how to engage socially and successfully.  Both Ben and Jeremiah are quick to encourage business folks to cast off into social waters and start sailing. Yet I find it interesting that both believe that, to have a successful journey, you can’t just hire a boat with the best GPS navigation and sonar systems, but that you have to know where you want to go – and who you want to take along – to have a safe and happy voyage.

Professor Terri Griffin, who moderated the panel discussion, felt that Ben’s comment summed up the evening well. Besides narrowing in on a specific audience and articulating a clear, measurable objective, what are some other keys to success you have found in charting these unfamiliar social waters?

(PS. Yes, for those of you who notice, I am backfilling my blog with old posts.  Let’s just say Xerox has kept me a bit busy of late!)

Join Harte-Hanks And Me To Learn How To Integrate Social Media Into B2B Marketing

Tomorrow Harte-Hanks will host a Webinar about how social media and online communities influence business buyers.  I am a featured speaker along with Kevin Kerner of Mason Zimbler US, a Harte-Hanks company.  If you would like to learn more: click here.

The webinar takes place on Tuesday, March 30 at 2 pm Eastern, and 11 am Pacific.  I hope you will register and join us tomorrow.

2010 B2B Marketing Mix Effectiveness and Budget Trends

I recently published two new reports on B2B marketing mix effectiveness — Rethinking The B2B Marketing Mix In The Digital Age – and B2B budget trends — B2B Marketers’ 2010 Budget Trends.

Great information here on what 249 B2B marketers say works for building brand and generating leads. Also where they expect to spend 2010 program budgets. Check it out further on my Forrester analyst blog (until April 1).

Get Organized For B2B Community Marketing

After testing the social media waters through much of 2009, I see B2B marketers waking up to the fact that successful social execution requires more than setting up group pages on LinkedIn, opening a corporate Twitter account, or posting videos to YouTube. To have the greatest impact, marketers will need to focus social media marketing efforts at the tail end of the customer acquisition and selling process — at creating long-term, vibrant customer relationships — not on building brand or generating leads. To turn social opportunity into marketing advantage requires marketers to adopt a community (in contrast to broadcast, direct, or one-t0-one) marketing mindset. It also requires new organizational structure, roles, processes, and incentives to help your company “get smart” about how it interacts with prospects and customers online.

Unfortunately, B2B marketers treat social like yet another media channel, not as a fundamental change to how business gets done. 

Source: Forrester Report "Organizing For B2B Tech Community Marketing" February 3, 2010

In research I published last week, I explore recent Forrester survey results where we asked over 300 B2B marketers how they are gearing up for social interactions with customers. Most say that their social organizational structure and governance is ad hoc or managed by different business units with little oversight (see the figure).  

While decentralized and ad hoc are good adjectives to use when describing any approach to social activity, the lack of oversight and governance creates (real or potential) risk for those blazing new trails in the social landscape.

To execute social strategy in ways that build deeper customer relationships and foster more transparent communications — without panicking executives or legal overseers — requires firms to create more flexible, decentralized ways of engaging with buyers that shake up traditional reporting structures but give employees the tools they need to be successful. To help marketers think through these changes, in the research report, I advise:

1) Organize for flexibility, not bureaucracy. Getting organized means creating some form of central governing body chartered with establishing shared resources and fostering communication. It also means distributing social execution responsibility — and accountability for results — widely in business units or regions. Rather than commanding and controlling, the central team guides activity, spreads best practices, and monitors progress continuously while giving product teams and customer-facing functions leeway to manage social activity in a local, transparent, and relevant manner.

2) Align social objectives with business goals. To mature social processes from ad hoc activity to consistent disciplines, marketers must specify what they expect to result from engaging with customers socially, and then make the functional areas involved responsible for achieving those goals.  Easier said than done, but picking the right objective is a core tenant to the POST methodology I’ve use to help many client get social media marketing right. To make progress quickly, start with social plans where you can limit the impact to one or two functional areas. This keeps internal competition on external social channels to a minimum and compels departments to collaborate as they experiment with social activity in a coordinated manner.

3) Run initial social forays like a corporate program, not a campaign. Social transformation requires dedicated budget, change management, and cross-functional coordination on a scale similar to other major programs, like sustainability or outsourcing. Some firms need temporary executive assignments and staff to hit major social milestones, such as establishing a listening process, creating a thought-leadership agenda, or inviting customers to engage in new community activity. This core team should also validate the business case for each social “program” undertaken.

4) Open boundaries to facilitate internal collaboration and external outreach. Social requires employees to step outside their functional comfort zones and work with outside partners and influencers. Rather than opening borders completely, top firms progressively allow more access to resources, opportunities to interact, and incentives to do so by establishing a community hub. The community hub (aka community portal, social networking site, forum, etc.) creates structure, but offers enough flexibility, to allow social interactions to evolve. Encourage employees to collaborate with each other first because this will foster the skills, norms, and creative thinking needed to make the transition to external interactions go faster and remain permanent. To see how one marketer is wrestling with this today, take a look at Paul Dunay’s blog post titled “Fire Your Director of Social Media!”

What does all of this mean?  That B2B marketers should advocate for a social core team, under their leadership, to foster new process, structure and — ultimately — culture that supports online interaction where it matters most — at the touchpoints that customers choose to use daily.  Take a look at the research and let me know what you think.

(P.S. I am backdating this post to more closely correspond with the publication date of the research. Hope you don’t mind!)

Best Practices For Marketing To Buyers “In The Cloud”

“Cloud computing” is a very hot topic, and like social media, subject to much debate about “what is cloud computing?” and “what does it mean for business?” Simply stated, cloud computing lets your customers and potential buyers take advantage of services and resources delivered as an online utility. Buyers get the benefits of using your technology without worrying about the technical details as much as they would if they implemented software inside their data centers. The benefits can include: lower capital investment, faster implementation, reduced risk, proven security and improved scalability to handle the increased amounts of data. Purists believe that true cloud computing requires large scale sharing by infrastructure/application providers and their consumers alike. While my colleagues at Forrester try to sort out the market and make it easier for IT buyers to decide where to invest, I’d like to explore the idea of marketing to customers in the cloud. 

B2B marketing needs to embrace the cloud. Most executives see marketing as a large discretionary line item in the corporate budget. During tought economic times, that “discretion” gets cut more often than not.  Marketers perpetuate this short-sighted perspective when they focus more on program and campaign spending and fail to invest in the capital or IT support needed to make marketing execution more efficient and the results more visible to the organization. Cloud computing can give marketers ready access to technology and services that can drive demand and evaluate the effectiveness of their programs without the burden of traditional technology implementation and management.

Cloud computing will also transform the way marketing gets done. In this Web 2.0 world, buyers spend more of time online searching for information, interacting with like-minded colleagues, and comparing offerings long before the first sales call occurs. Cloud-optimized marketing strategies such as social media, paid search, search results optimization, content syndication, and engaging with buyers on social networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter deliver brand building and customer engagement results.

To futher explore how social media marketing in the cloud can help to build deeper — and eventually more profitable — customer relationships, I joined Jon Miller (VP of Maketing at automation rising-star Marketo) and David Alston (social media guru who heads up both community and marketing at Radian6) on a webinar, which you can access here.  During the event, we looked at a number of different cloud-related topics including:

1) How to use Forrester’s Social Technographics® Profiles of business decision-makers to design marketing programs that not only capitalize on emerging social behaviors but also fundamentally change the nature of the marketing relationship between B2B buyers and sellers.

2)Forrester’s P-O-S-T methodology – Why starting with People, Objectives and Strategy first, then moving to Tactics and Technology is the best way to ensure success when using social media to engage with prospects and customers in the cloud.

3) How to use social media monitoring to engage prospects, build communities, service customers, uncover influencers, and listen for the point of need.

Over the next few months, I will join the the Marketing Cloud conversation to continue to explore how cloud-centric service and technology providers may be in a better position to serve the modern needs of B2B marketers who see social media not simply as a way to reach new audiences. More importantly, these marketers see social media as a tool to help them build communities of like-minded customers; customers who will remain loyal, buy more over time, and advocate to others on the marketer’s behalf to influence the standing and reputation his/her firm in a transparent, community-centric manner.  The 2009 Forrester Groundswell Awards winners in the B2B marketing categories demonstrate where this trend is heading.  But I would love to hear from you with examples of companies that you feel are doing an exceptional job of using social media to connect with business buyers who purchase high consideration products for on behalf of their firms.

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