MAD Perspectives Blog

Are Your Customers Helping You Innovate?

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, July 27, 2011



Innovation - the magic word that inspires loyalty, adoption and disruption. It drives loyalty by employees to develop market shifting product and services.  It invites users to try a new way to address existing problems. It shifts the market landscape by providing a friendlier, smarter, cheaper or faster solution. Many consider the televison to be the greatest innovation of the 20th century.  In general, Apple is the company that comes to mind today, when considering innovation. They changed the way we buy and consume music through the introduction of ITunes and the iPod. What was so innovative about the service and the device? Ease of use. Apple was laser focused on the customer experience.

Other companies have been known for innovation (Google, IBM, Microsoft, Ford, GE, Facebook). Many continue to be innovators while others have become followers.  It's not easy to maintain a culture of innovation.  R&D budgets can be costly and don't always show significant ROI, at least not in the short term.  Subsequently these budgets shrink and grow as does the economy.  Is there a way to drive innovation in a more cost effective way?  One option is to leverage the collective intelligence and innovative spirit of the general marketplace.  Many would call this customer driven innovation.

This is not a new thought.  However, in today's social world, there are new ways to invite your customers to help you drive innovation of new products, services and business models. Social networks provide a new channel of communication with customers.  Whether you are interacting with them directly or they are talking about your company, product or industry with others, they are sharing their needs and concerns.  It's up to you to channel this intelligence.

A commonly referenced story is that of Dell and its customer support challenges.  Poor Dell, they had a great business model for quickly delivering customer defined PCs to their customers.  However, if that customer had a problem, they could rot in "Dell Hell" forever.  Dell used social media to encourage their customers to share their concerns.  Dell was overwhelmed with data, but turned around and asked these same customers to help them prioritize their needs.  This helped Dell to address the most important challenges first, with a significant improvement in their customer support model and ultimately, customer satisfaction.

How can your company use social media to drive innovation? As always, start with your business goals.  What are you trying to innovate?  Are you responding to customer satisfaction issues?  Are you hoping to launch a new product?  Have you disrupted your market and need to continue doing so?  Once you've define your goals, think about the pros and cons of crowdsourcing ideas.  The number one concern is that everyone will know what is being said.  Their is NO privacy in the social arena.

However, companies can invite debate on product initiatives.  They can discuss product features and the needs of their customers related to the product and its functionality.  Customer feedback can help prioritize the introduction of new features.  Customer comments can help improve online customer support and align support organizations to the real needs of their customers.  By using social monitoring tools, companies can quickly see market trends. 

Remember, social media happens in real-time.  Traditional market research, while valuable, is based on historical data.  Social networks are capturing conversations that reflect the current and immediate needs of your customers.  Your opportunity is to act quickly enough to deliver the solution that meets their needs.

In following the tech space, I'm saddened to see the news of Nokia's coming demise.  They provided my first mobile phone.  It was utterly reliable and easy to use.  Then there is the news of RIM's layoffs. The Blackberry was THE market changing device that created an expectation for 24x7 connectivity for business professionals.  when was the last time Hewlett-Packard, the Silicon Valley stalwart, announced something earth shaking?  Remember, this is the company that changed enterprise and consumer printing forever.  They led the UNIX charge which enabled companeis to consider viable alternatives to large mainframe computers.

I wonder, are these companies paying attention to their customers' real needs?  If so, perhaps they would still be considered innovators.  If you want to innovate, pay attention to your customers.  They are online and they are not shy.  Leverage the power of social media to help you innovate the next big thing!

What's your perspective?



Get Smart with Social Media Analytics

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, July 20, 2011



Last week I wrote about the importance of social intelligence.  The obvious companion to any kind of business or social intelligence is analytics.  Sure, it sounds boring -the collecting, crunching, parsing and analysis of massive amounts of data.  Yet, if done well, this data can reveal amazing insights about your brand, your customers and your competitors.

Business intelligence has been the holy grail of corporate america since the beginning of time.  of course in the "old days", this intelligence was gathered through human interaction and some possibly unethical behavior (can we say "News of the World").  Today, sophisticated applications collect data within a company to provide insight on sales performance, profit margins, supply chain effectiveness and more.  The challenge with these applications is that they primarily look at structured data from a historical perspective.

Social media has changed everything.  Not only has it changed the way we communicate, but it creates a lot of data!  This data can be collected and analyzed to provide real-time understanding of how your customers are talking about your company or your competitors.  A search on social media analytics will reveal a myriad of vendors.  Most of their solutions are available for a fee which is based on the number of keywords you decided to track.  The best vendors give you the ability to capture data and present it in a graphical manner.  They also allow you to drill deeper on the content presented.

Rather than regurgitate a list of vendors that can be found elsewhere, check out the review on socialmedia.biz.  Before testing any of these solutions, be clear about your goals and what data you really need.  Don't forget about the data you may already have and be sure to look at the complete picture.  Understanding your customer and how they are talking about your business can help you create and optimize marketing programs, customer service, acquisition strategies and more.  So, go ahead, get analytical.  It will help you get smart about your customers!

What's your perspective?
 



Social Media Is Driving Intelligence

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ok, you've jumped on the social media bandwagon. You're following industry pundits. You're checking competitor's blogs. You're tweeting, updating and blogging on behalf of your company.And, regardless of how much planning, aligning and preparing you've done, there are moments when you're wondering - WHY?  Sometimes as we become engrossed with the day to day activities, we forget about the big picture.  What is the benefit of all this social, online activity?


source:  Lee Bryant Headshift | Dachis Group June 2011

Aside from the basics of brand and market awareness, thought leadership, lead generation and customer service, social networks are a source of business intelligence. Think about the volume of data created EVERY day on the various social platforms. Data is the life blood of any enterprise business intelligence program. These programs now need to incorporate data generated and found on social platforms. The benefit of social media intelligence is that it is captured in real time. Whether you review the data daily, weekly or monthly, you can immediately see the volume, velocity and volatility of data about your company, your brand and your products. What does this data tell you?  It provides real-time insight about:

     - what your customers are talking about (industry, company, challenges, satisfaction product, service, sales, etc.)
     - how they are talking about it (emotion and frequency)
     - where they are talking about it (online and in real life)
    
There are many vendors who can help you capture and analyze this information. The key is to understand how you can use this data once it has been captured.  Social Intelligence will help you to:

     - refine your messaging to meet your customer's requirements
     - define where you need to be both physically and online (which events, which customers, what social platforms)
     - clarify how your present your content (website, social network, presentations, white papers, microsites, etc.)
     - improve products (features, upgrades) and services (contacts, solutions, availability of information) to improve customer satisfaction
     - enrich competitive insights

Get smart!  Increase your social business intelligence to benefit your business!

What's your perspective?



Facebook Video Chat - Will You Use It?

Peggy Dau - Thursday, July 07, 2011

Yesterday, Facebook announced the integration of Skype (currently being acquired by Microsoft) for video chat.  What does this mean?  It means that in addition to clicking the chat button to have an instant messaging system with one your friends who is online, you can now elect to have a video chat with that same friend.  Imagine Skype within the framework of Facebook - you have a pop-up window with the talking head of your friend.

This announcement was surrounded with a lot of hype.  Sure Skype gains access to Facebook’s 750 million users.  And Facebook gains access to arguably, the most recognized VoIP platform.  But do Facebook users really want to video chat with their friends?  I performed a quick verbal survey with my friends and they were all a bit quizzical about the need for video chat within Facebook.  Perhaps this is a generational issue.  I’m older than Mark Zuckerberg.

My friends and I use Facebook to stay in touch.  We do not post comments every minute.  We do not expect instantaneous response to any comment.  We share pictures, we comment on items in the news; we ask random (and often ridiculous) questions.  We promote our favorite causes.  We rarely use the existing chat function.  We actually enjoy the random updates and casual means of staying in contact with geographically dispersed friends.  It’s a light touch, not as intentional as an email or a phone call.  We feel “safe” in not actually verbalizing our thoughts, but sharing them in a few short sentences.

I’m a big fan of social networks.  I help companies identify their strategies for using social networks.  As businesses continue to adopt Facebook as another channel for communicating with their customers, I do see how B2C companies can use video chat to enhance their consumer relationships.  Any company focused on customer service, now has another mechanism for connecting to, interacting with and responding to consumer concerns.  Companies can expose their personality even further through the use of a live person, interacting with friends and fans.  I can imagine emerging technology companies who use Facebook as a recruiting platform, testing applicants’ interactive capabilities using video chat. 

Video is memorable.  Video is personal.  Video exposes both the individual and the company.  This additional exposure does not come without risk.  Representatives of the company, who are currently managing their social presence, will have to consider the impact on their policies and guidelines.  Further training may be required verbal communication requires a different set of skills than written communication.  For those firms already concerned about regulatory and compliance issues, video chat is something that will never be turned on.  If companies turn on video chat they will be required ‘walk the talk’ even more consistently then ever before.

What do you think about Facebook’s new video chat capabilities?  How will you use it?  Will you use it at all? 

What’s your perspective?



Walking the Talk

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, July 06, 2011

I was discussing communication strategies with a colleague recently. Her company is initiating a series of executive videos to increase employee understanding of company strategy, key initiatives, customer priorities, etc. My first thought was - that's great. Her response was much less enthusiastic.  As chatted about our divergent responses, we realized that while we reacted differently we did have similar opinions.

My response was driven by a love for open communication. I see the series of executive videos as a way to make management more accessible to employees. While the videos do not allow for live interaction, they are available on-demand for employees to access. I hope there will be a mechanism for employees to comment on the content presented. The company has been going through a series of organization and management changes and I see this video series as a way to reinforce the direction and priorites of the company. I believe that video is more memorable than a stack of powerpoint slides. I feel that this series is a step toward open, internal communication at this company. 

My colleague is more skeptical. She feels this is just more 'blah-blah' from senior executives and that it will have little impact on rank and file employees. This is not an uncommon response from an employee working for a large corporation (I remember feeling the same way when I worked in corporate america!). My optimism and her skepticism raise the question of how to make such a video series meaningful and successful.

The videos, on their own, cannot address cultural challenges that have arisen over time. However, should the company stick to traditional communication methods with hopes that employee morale will improve? Or should the company use video, supported by other communications tools (including social media) to reinforce their committment to the company and its employees.  It really is about walking the talk.

This is what any good communication plan is about. Video solutions and social media are simply a means to reinforce this mantra. When I started working at HP in 1985, the culture of its founders, Bill and Dave, was prevalent in the way that managers, engineers, sales and admin staff worked with each other. We could easily ask questions, get answers and figure out innovative ways to serve our customers. Social media is the online instantiation of 'management by walking around'. We're just walking (and talking) to a much broader audience. Authenticity is a must. Follow through is a requirement.

I hope my friend's company is using video in a positive, meaningful way to reinforce their strategy. I hope they enable and encourage employee comments...and then, I hope they respond to them in an open manner. I hope they understand that the expectations of employees have changed. This is no longer a world of push marketing. Honesty, integrity, committment, follow through, open interaction - they have become core tenants of both external and internal communication. Is your company walking the talk?

What's your perspective?



Engaging Thoughts on Social Media

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I've been traveling for business and pleasure for the past 2 weeks.  It was a great trip and I reconnected with former colleagues and made new connections.  As I was preparing for a social media workshop with Ivory Europe, an independent strategic communications and experiential agency, and some of their marquee clients I used the internet and social media platforms to gain insight about these clients.  My goal was to facilitate an engaging, interactive discussion about corporate use of social media.

Preparing some slides to guide our conversation was the easy part. Understanding how the participants (a combination of Ivory employees, PR firms representing financial services companies, public sector marketing and employees from leading social media companies) would engage was the challenge. Ivory Europe was kind enough to give me advance notice as to the identities of the possible attendees.  I checked out their company websites to see if they had integrated social networks into their websites. I was surprised to find that only 50% of the sites reflected any kind of social media. I also looked up the individuals on LinkedIn. (Yes, all of them are on LinkedIn). Based on their profiles, I was able to quickly understand who they were, how active they were in using social media and how their backgrounds might influence their participation. Interestingly, there was an intriguing mix of journalism and military service in their prior experiences. 

What did I take away from gaining this insight?  I felt that this was a group of people who understood the value of communicating, but who also would crave structure around the process.
This group was a great audience for me as I constantly emphasize the importance of planning.  I believe in the power of relevant communication.  And let me emphasize the word relevant.  We discussed how and why businesses are using social media, how they get started, where we think it is all going and why certain platforms make more sense for some businesses versus others (see my previous blogs for how to get started and aligning your use of the various platforms).  Our key takeaways from this 5 hour session were:

     1. Planning is critical as it helps to align strategy with business goals
     2. Understanding your brand and its voice is critical for a successful campaign 
     3. Content can be re-purposed, but it must be aligned to audience and goals
     4. Consistency is important to building a following
     5. Listening is the easiest way to get started (and it's addictive!)
     6. Human resource is the biggest obstacle.  There was a clear understanding that being social takes time and finding the right resources within your business to represent your firm is very important.

Depending on the. nature of your business, your implementation of social media will vary.  Whether you are a start-up with an exit strategy to be acquired or a government agency reinforcing policy or an established enterprise planning for a new product launch - social media is an expected element of your integrated marketing strategy. Learning from others and brainstorming internally can lead to a plan that achieves great results. Seek help where you need it (possibly in the planning stage), align resources (make sure they understand your brand and your goals) and get started!

What's your perspective?



How do you Orchestrate Social Media?

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, June 15, 2011



I was recently in a meeting with a client when the marketing manager stated that all social media updates are reviewed by her or her team before being posted externally. After a bit of probing, I came to understand that her concern was about maintaining the company brand and the unintentional sharing of intellectual property. These are fair concerns, but they raised alarms for me. 

To be clear, my engagement with this client is not specific to social media.  They have hired an agency to help them with their efforts.  My concern is that with too much control, their social media communications will be flat and uninspired. Regardless of who helps them develop their social media plan, they will need to think about the company culture.  Her comments made me realize that this company does not have a culture of empowerment. They have been through many acquisitions and spin-offs, and the culture has been impacted by the continual shifting of leadership and ownership,

Like a symphony orchestra, each individual brings a unique tone to the overall production.
Social media is about being transparent and authentic
. If the director, stifles the soloist, the performance seems lacking. The role of the director is to infuse his musicians with and understanding and passion for a particular piece of music. Companies should consider a similar model.  If companies are concerned about their employees sharing inappropriate content, they should inform and educate their employees on the company goals for using social media, provide guidelines for content and ramifications for employees if they show poor judgement.  A company's culture and organizational structure can provide two of the biggest hurdles to social media success.  Take the time to understand your company's culture and the impact on communication style and channel, is critical when initiating your social media efforts. 

Recommendations for addressing these challenges include strategic planning to align the use of social media with clear goals and metrics, employee education, organize a hub and spoke social media team and constantly listen, review and assess.  Everyone I have talked to about social media shares that their experience has been trial and error.  It's ok to make a mistake.  Own it and move forward.  Your goal should be to orchestrate the efforts of your organization in such a way as to let individual personalities emerge and shine.  The content they share will reflect positively on your organization

How are your social media efforts proceeding?  What are your biggest challenges?  I'm interested to learn from you!

What's your perspective? 



Are You Mobile When You Are Social?

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Where do you socialize?   At home?  When you're out with friends, family or colleagues.  Do you socialize at the office?  Yes - we all socialize everywhere and the social networks understand this.  While they started as online platforms accessible primarily at home, they are increasingly accessed via mobile devices such as IPads or Smartphones. 

In the B2B world, we've been addicted to voicemail, then email.  In our desire to stay connected (or should I say competitive), is social networking the next business addiction?

I've been reading articles about John Doerr's most recent investment strategy at Kleiner Perkins (the Silicon Valley venture capital firm) focused on
Social-Location-Mobile. It got me thinking about B2B social media and mobility. After all,

- 72% of the workforce is mobile.
- 64% of corporate decision makers are checking email on their mobile device.
- 70% of mobile users say that their cell phone is their primary communication channel.
- 72.5M smartphone users in the U.S.

Every leading social network (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, WordPress) has an app for iPhone and Android. Why? Each of these networks recognizes that we, the consumer or business owner, craves connectivity - wherever we are. In fact, as social media and the related social networks have become a pervasive part of our lives, we can now find others near us or invite colleagues to join us at a defined location.

It has been said that while social media allows us to make the connection, mobile apps ensure that we remain connected. From 2009 to 2010, there was a
240% surge in mobile social networking (Comscore MobiLens April 2010). For B2B users, the potential lies in making enterprise apps available for sales personnel. These teams are on the go - that's their job. How could mobile social networking help?

- sales managers stay in contact with their teams
- easy access to fast moving industry news about their customers and competitors
- sales on-demand supply chain updates to fulfill customer demands
- reminders from or updates to CRM systems

There is much buzz around Location Based Services.  In my opinion, it is still unclear how beneficial location based services will be for B2B. Companies have trialed location programs at conferences and exhibitions with mixed results.  With social networks evolving around location (FourSquare) or enabling location (Facebook) users are "checking in" and catching up with friends.  However, most sales people are not comfortable revealing their location due to competitive concerns.

Are you using social networking on the go? I post updates to my personal Facebook, I have 'checked in' occasionally.  For business, I am tied to LinkedIn and login throughout the day to check trending news amongst my contacts and group.  I'll be travelling in the UK for the next two weeks and I will definitely be accessing social media from my smartphone!

What's your perspective?



Social Media at Taylor O'Brien

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, June 01, 2011

As part of our ongoing committment to sharing fresh content about B2B use of social media, today we are releasing a new case study!  We enjoyed a 6 week blog series with Taylor O'Brien, discussing the unique and necessary alignment of brand and social media.  

Taylor O’Brien (TO’B) is a creative consultancy providing brand and business inspiration to a wide variety of clients across multiple industry sectors and geographies.  Headquartered in Manchester, England, TO’B is uniquely focused on strategically developing brand messaging that is directly aligned with business strategy.  Projects have ranged from expanding brands into global markets, evolving the business conversation to drive increased sales, invigorating a heritage brand for future markets and creating brand inspiration.

Taylor O’Brien has recently added clarity to its brand and positioning.  With an updated website and initial foray into social media, TO’B is expanding its online reach and sharing best practices with current and future clientsTO'B has been gracious to share their thoughts on their use of social media.

Learn more about Taylor O'Brien's use of social media, by signing up for MAD Content, here.

What's your perspective?



How Much Does Social Media Cost?

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, May 25, 2011

As I work with clients to help them understand social media, the first question they ask is "What is it going to cost?".  This is a fair question as the economy slooooowly moves forward.  The question of ROI is increasing rearing its ugly head, yet social media has a more tangible ROI than much traditional marketing.  That said, let's focus on the core question.  What does social media cost?

There is no standard answer, although almost everyone will tell you that "it depends".  The cost is dependent on your goals for using social media.  Who is your audience and market?  What kind of information are you sharing, or more importantly, what information do they want?  Do you have in house resources who can dedicate time to your social media plan and tactics?  Or do you need to hire outside resources?  have you assessed your content needs?  Do you have the time and resource to adapt existing content?  Do you have a commitment to developing new content?  How many social media networks will you utilize?  How will you manage these networks?

I'm not trying to scare you off!  I'm just trying to help you be realistic about the cost.  The cost is intricately tied to taking the time to define a plan, which will help you understand your current capabilities while identifying gaps that will impact the success of you social media strategy.  The cost is tied to human resource.  They may be your headcount or those of your social media consultancy (or PR firm, since many of them are expanding their services to include social media).

However, you still want to know what others are spending!  My thanks to the Altimeter Group and their commitment to open research (this means its FREE!).  Their report, How Corporations Should Prioritize Social Business Budgets, contains great recommendations and insight based on interviews with social strategists.  here are a few highlights:


The budget is not as uniquely tied to company size as it is related to the maturity of the company's social media plan and structure.  As maturity increases, the company actively aligns its resources into a more structured model.  Altimeter recommends a hub and spoke model where companies become more proactive, less reactive, with guidance for all employee social media participants comes from the hub.


Companies start their social media efforts with a focus on their website.  This makes sense despite the ongoing argument that social media networks will replace the need for a website.  I passionately disagree with this position and feel that your company's website is the core element of your overall marketing strategy.  Your website can consolidate more volumes and types of content than any social network.  That said, you can increase web traffic and highlight events (e.g., conferences, product launches, whitepapers, webinars, blogs) and other very important information very effectively using social media.  You've invested in SEO, don't arbitrarily send your hard earned audience to social sites by simply integrating community platform (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) badges on your homepage.  Consider how to bring your social community interaction to your website - where your audience can find the information they really need.



As expected, community platforms are the biggest investment.  These platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) are where customer interaction is taking place.  This is where the conversations are happening, so it is no surprise that the initial investment of time and money is focused in this area.  This focus reinforces the desire to understand what your customers are saying - and why.  With investments already made in brand monitoring, it is critical to own community platforms where customer needs can be addressed in real time.

There is a cost so social media.  There is also a cost to not participating in social media.  There is an expectation by your customers that you will be social.  You can determine what types of social media activity work best for your company and your brand.   Consider the questions posed earlier in this blog and think about how social media can enhance your interactions with your customers.  Isn't it worth the investment?

What's your perspective?