MAD Perspectives Blog

Social Media Lessons from Hurricane Irene

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Those of us here on the east coast just spent the weekend tracking Hurricane Irene.  Thanks to a wide variety of communications tools, no one was in any doubt as to the potential damage that Irene could cause.  I followed the storm on local news, Twitter and Facebook.  However, the lessons from Irene lie in the planning. 

The good thing, if there is a good thing, about a hurricane - is that you know it is coming.  Unlike an earthquake or a tornado, it does not pop up out of nowhere and wreak terrible havoc.  We are able to track and predict the track of a hurricane.  as a result, we can prepare for its arrival.  This may mean boarding up windows, storing lawn furniture and potted plants in a garage, stocking up on emergency supplies or evacuating low lying areas.

How do you plan for social media emergencies?  Can you see them coming?  Are there early warning signals or do they just crop up?  I think it's a little bit of both.  If you are really listening to your customers, there are likely conversations indicating some level of customer dissatisfaction that could become a high visibility emergency, unless steps are taken to address the issue(s).  However, sometimes a product or service simply doesn't meet customer expectations and they choose to become extremely vocal about it.  This is something that is much easier to do in today's world of social media.

So, how do you plan for a social media emergency?  Here are 4 tips:

1) Develop an emergency response plan

Identify what warrants an emergency.  One negative comment may not be an emergency.  If it is a comment that spreads widely, that may be an emergency.  Identify an escalation path so that your social media team, large or small, understands the steps to take in the event of an emergency.  They should understand how to respond, or not respond, who to contact and where to find more information

2) Communicate

The key to handing any emergency, is to communicate both internally and externally.  Sometimes the best plan is to get ahead of the emergency.  Address problems pragmatically.  Provide a lot of relevant information.  Proactively inform your audience as to where they can find core documents, customer forums, product insights or answers to FAQs.  Educate your employees on the locations of this same information. 

3) Keep a positive attitude

Maintain an open mind and don't become defensive.  Social media is about open, transparent communication.  The best outcome is that you gain an understanding of the source of your customer's frustration and define a real solution. If your customer doesn't feel that you are listening or caring about their emergency, you may end up with a bigger emergency on  your hands

4) Test your options

Develop use cases of customer emergencies.  Consider how you would respond to each of the situations.  Go crazy and think way outside the box.  The issue you never imagined is the one you need to plan for.  Even if you don't come up with the emergency anticipated, at lease you will have thought through a variety of response options that could help you.

None of us want to experience a social media emergency, but the odds are in favor of a few occurring.  As you develop your social media strategy, be sure to consider your emergency response plan and be prepared.  You will find your emergencies much less frightening and may even look forward to the information you will gain.

What's your perspective?

HP's Tug of War

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, August 24, 2011

(caveat:  I am a former HP employee.  The comments below do not reflect any official opinion from HP)

The big news last week was HP's announcement that it MIGHT spin-off its PC business.  It is assumed that this is in response to the appalling sales of the HP TouchPad.  But can the failure of a single, albeit significant, product launch incite the sale of a multi-billion dollar business?  Sure, tablets are replacing laptops in the consumer space.  Why?  Because they are easy to use and enable the consumer to easily find and access the content they desire through the use of apps.

However, HP's PC business is about more than the consumer.  PCs are still used by businesses large and small.  It's not that enterprise workers don't carry a tablet, but ask them how they use it and most will answer that it's great for email and sharing content in the form of a presentation or demos.  But it is not for managing day to day business (i.e., ERP, Supply Chain, RFPs, financial management, etc.)  HP's commercial PC business is thriving and profitable.  In fact, in its recent earnings announcement, HP revealed that revenue from its commercial PC business increased by 9%.

So why all the negativity in the press?  In my opinion, HP's in a persistent state of tug of war - with the many markets it plays in, with its competitors and most importantly with itself.  The market's disappointment is due to several factors. 

1)  HP confuses the market.  It does not easily fit into a single category.  It is both a commercial business and consumer business.  The business models are quite different for each of these markets. While HP enjoys great leverage (call it buying power in the supply chain) due to its wide array for products using Intel, Microsoft and other core technologies, the ultimate use of the resulting products is quite different.

2) HP has an identity crisis.  What does HP want want to be?  Are we the leading provider of PCs and printers or are we a solutions provider to the enterprise?  I can only assume that the difference, between the consumer marketing budget and the enterprise marketing budget, is
dramatic and widely in favor of the consumer budget.  Does HP want to be about price or value?  IT hardware is a commodity business.  Only volume can make it viable.  That was the route pursued by former CEO, Mark Hurd.  Now, Leo Apotheker wants HP to become a software & services company.  And with each new CEO, the plan changes and Board of Directors approves it.  In the social media arena, we talk about identity.  I'm not sure I'd know where to start with HP anymore.

3) HP's intentions are unclear.  Never has this been more true.  The launch and subsequent cancelation of the TouchPad and WebOS is a complete debacle.  HP needs a cohesive strategy that is cut s across all business units.  If that strategy cannot be supported by a business group due to lack of logical alignment, then it might make sense to offload that business group.  For example, if it is HP's LONG TERM (not 3, 6 or 12 months) intention to become a leader in cloud computing and enterprise software, they must align all efforts around that strategy.  HP printers support this strategy with their ePrint capabilities.  Perhaps there is a play for WebOS within this strategy.  Does the Autonomy acquisition support this strategy?  If not, they should forget about overpaying (they've already done that in the past - remember Compaq?).

HP must learn how to communicate.  I worked at HP for 24 years.  I always laughed off HP's appalling attempts at external communication.  Somehow customers were faithful to HP regardless of their communication skills.  However, the world has changed.  The financial markets are demanding.  The need for clarity, consistency and measurable results is a basic requirement, not only to appease the market but to serve customers with excellent products, solutions and services.  Change is painful.  Change is constant.  In my early days at HP, former-CEO John Young had a poster distributed to all offices.  It stated something like "change is constant for technology to evolve, if you cannot keep up with the pace of change you are in the wrong industry."

Like others commenting on this recent news, I would like to see HP pull itself up by the bootstraps.  I would like HP to remember its roots of innovation.  I would like to see HP plan for the long term and execute against the short term tactics that will achieve the long term goal.  HP may not be as exciting as Facebook, Google or Apple, but it can be relevant.  It simply must make a decision about who it wants to be than JUST DO IT (thanks Nike!). Good Luck HP!

What's your perspective?

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?

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?

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? 

Synchronizing Social Platforms and Brand Strategy

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Welcome to the final blog post in our six week blog series on Brand and Social Media, with UK brand agency, Taylor O'Brien.  We've learned a lot and hope that you have too!

One of the primary reasons for corporate adoption of social media is to expand the reach and awareness of their brand.  Our series on brand and social media has shared insight on the definition of brand and social media, understanding the importance of a cohesive brand strategy that incorporates social media, and the value of your corporate identity.  As companies consider which social media platforms to utilize, they need to keep identity, voice and customer in mind.

The big 5 social media networks: Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube can help increase market awareness, but they can also create unexpected challenges.  As you consider how your brand incorporates social media into its strategy, keep the following thoughts in mind. 

     - Are my customers using this platform?   Each network's demographics are shifting as adoption increases.  Which social media channel maps to your desired demographics and what kind of information does your demographic desire?

  •      - What kind of content best represents my brand and does the platform support that content?  Each social network was created with a different intent.  Understand these intents and aligning it with your brand strategy is critical to achieving social media success.
  •      - Is it worth the effort?  What are you goals for using social media?  Understanding that it takes time to build your audience, are you committed to the effort?

We’ve summarized our thoughts on the benefits and challenges of each of these platforms.  Think about your brand, your audience and the content they desire.  Consider the information you need share to reinforce your brand voice.  Which of these channels can be synchronized with your strategy?

The commonality across all of them is increased market reach but winning that audience requires time, people and content.  In addition, companies must be prepared to address any issues impacting brand reputation.  It is a given that criticism will arise.  Companies must be prepared to acknowledge and act upon any criticism.  Bottom line, using social platforms to support your brand – requires a plan.

The channels noted here certainly do not reflect all of the social platforms available, but they represent the most frequently used social networks.  Depending on the nature of your company and its brand, other social media tools (i.e., Groupon, Foursquare, Slideshare, Flickr, Vimeo, etc.) may also bring significant value.  When evaluating any social media network, consider how it will reinforce your brand voice and corporate identity.

We hope you enjoyed our series on brand and social media.  We encourage your thoughts and comments on your experiences with using social media to extend your brand!

What's your perspective?

The Resume is Dead, Long Live LinkedIn!

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Do you use LinkedIn? If so, you're one of the 90M+ people, in over 200 countries, that have a profile on LinkedIn. If you are a business person and you crave an online professional networking destination - LinkedIn is it.  You can:

     - Tell your professinal story
     - Get and stay connected with business colleagues - even if you, or they, change jobs
     - Pursue career opportunities
     - Get informed about people and companies before you actually meet them
     - Identify decision makers or influencers and get connected to them
     - Ask questions about ANY business related topic

There are competitors who offer business networking (i.e., Plaxo, Naymz, Xing) or job search (i.e., Monster, CareerBuilder, Ladders), but LinkedIn has created (and continues to enhance) the site for professional networking. It is a critical part of your online social identity - particularly as it relates to your career.

I joined LinkedIn while i was still working at Hewlett-Packard. I was happy in my job and was not particularly interested in online networking. However, I responded to an invitation from a colleage and so began my LinkedIn journey. It started as an "online rolodex" - a place to capture the details about the business contacts I made while jetting around the globe on behalf of HP.  Now, it is an integral part of every business day.  How?

LinkedIn provides me with insights about people and companies.  I learn about an individual's experience (roles, companies, responsibilities, value), education, social behavior (do they blog?  tweet?  join discussions?), personal interests, travel schedule and their connectivity (how many LinkedIn contacts do you have? and, who do they know?).  With the introduction of Company Pages last year, I can gain quick insight into the companies where they have worked.

I am about to head out on a business development trip to California.  As I was thinking about this trip, I prowled through my list of contacts on LinkedIn. I was seeking colleagues that worked at companies that might be interested in my consulting services. In many cases, my connections had changed companies and I found that I had contacts at many companies that were of high interest to me as potential clients. I used LinkedIn to reach out to these contacts and set up meetings. I did not need to know their current email addresses - LinkedIn was my intermediary.

I also learn a lot about people simply from the way they have created their profile. Many colleagues, who are extremely happy in their current jobs, have profiles that I consider placeholders. They share the bare minimum of information about their professional background and interests. They have less than 50 connections. They do not have linkes to their company page or website. I'll know they are job hunting when they beef up their profile and their connections! 

Have you worked on your profile lately? If you need to connect to a key decision maker, increase your professinal visibility or are seeking a new job, check out your profile and think about what it says about you.  Chances are that your new contacts are going to check it out too.  Here is a quick look at the most important features:

     - Professional headline - this is who you are or who you want to be, it is not necessarily your current title
     - Picture - this should be a headshot and yes, you should have a picture.  Proessionals like to do business with people, not profiles!
     - Links - reference urls for your company's website, its blog (or your blog!), twitter, etc.
     - Summary - this is about you and the value you provide.  This is your opportunity to highlight what makes your special, what gets you excited and your dream role.  It should not be a description of your current job as you will have the opportunity to share that under Experience
     - Experience - reflect not only your title and responsibilities, but the value that you provide to your customers (we all have customers, some are external and others are internal to the company)
     - Recommendations - request references from your colleagues, customers and partners.  Their comments will be revealing to you and to your connections!
     -  Contact Settings - indicate the types of contact you are interested in receiving

LinkedIn vs. Resume - LinkedIn is living and dynamic, just like you.  The resume is not dead, yet, but it is a static snapshot of your skills, education and experience. It is still relevant to have both a resume and a LinkedIn profile. They should be complementary. You can walk into a meeting with a resume and your resume can include a pointer to your LinkedIn profile. Like all things social, your LinkedIn profile should offer transparency and authenticity. Let the real you shine through!

Go ahead, go check out your profile.  Then check out the profiles of some of your connections.  What do you think?  Let me know what your learn!

What's your perspective?

Stay tuned, next week I'll take a deeper look at LinkedIn value for companies.

Watch Your Language!

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Social Media is immediate.  Video is memorable.  Online interactions via blogs, social networks or communities are forever.  We search online support forums for assistance with our PCs, cars and travel reservations.  If I’m acquiring IT products for my business, I can investigate user experiences for printers, servers, software and more. We are using the internet to find information that can help us in our buying decisions.  However, we’re not only seeking information, we’re checking out attitude.  We’re trying to understand how that company represents itself and its products.  We’re looking for a solution provider who “gets” our needs and our style.

Steve Jobs and Apple have been uber-successful in understanding our desire for intuitive, stylish products that make our lives simpler for both work and entertainment.  Apple may keep the details close to the vest, this culture of secrecy has only made them more attractive to their customers.  We are compelled to watch Apple's announcements, not only to capture the information but see Steve Jobs share his passion and excitement for every new , very appropriately, as their ambassador - announcing every new product, service or content relationships with enthusiasm and passion.    We, Apple's customers, crave the information and the manner in which it is presented. 

In today’s hyper connected online community, our thoughts, rants and raves are ‘out there’ forever.  We need to think about what we say, how we say it and when we say it with an eye towards its impact on our target audience.  I don’t mean to say that we should be scripted and working off a teleprompter.  In fact, in the social arena, this is contrary to the desire for authenticity and transparency.  What we do need to think about are the nuances of language and emotion.  Here is just one example and you’ll see what I mean:

  • A business leader participates in a web video interview about a technology company’s participation in the first practical implementation of a new global initiative

o   He describes the initiative, from a technical perspective, without naming the participants

o   He explains his company’s role in the initiative, at a high level

o   He does not explain business benefits to customers

o   He does not acknowledge the intelligence of the other members participating in the discussion

o   He does not seem particularly excited about the topic

o   His body language is very closed (arms crossed, legs crossed, little eye contact)

  • This business leader failed to inspire action from his audience due to his lack of authenticity, passion  or interest in his topic. 

Personal style is increasing in importance as we communicate socially.  Think about your colleagues.  I bet there is a least one who just fantastic in business meetings.  What makes him or her so successful? Most likely it is their ability to align the conversation with their customer’s needs.  They communicate in a way that resonates with their customer.  They use the appropriate language or buzz words.  They listen and look for verbal or physical cues, and respond to them.

As we communicate socially, we need to listen and respond to those same cues.  It’s a little harder when your audience is not in the same rooms as you.  However, if you can inject energy, passion  and intelligence into content that is aligned with your customers needs, you will be successful.  As businesses, we must listen to our customers other via blogs, twitter, facebook, linkedin and understand priorities, needs or challenges.

Think about your customer’s needs.  Then watch your language!  Communicate in a way that is meaningful to them.  Use the language that helps them realize that you “get” them.  Use language to get them to want to work with your company!

What's your perspective!

P.S.  As I finish writing this blog, I’ve clicked on a link from one of my Facebook friends.  I’m not alone in my thoughts.  Check out: we’re on the same wavelength!

B2B Social Media - just more Push Marketing?

Peggy Dau - Thursday, January 13, 2011

So, it's 2011.  How are your social media efforts working out for you?   2010 was a watershed year for companies adopting social media as a part of their overall marketing strategy.  Large companies, small companies, mid-size companies - they all jumped on board and started tweeting and blogging and posting...and wondered about the benefits. 

Many social media marketing firms talk about the benefits of Pull Marketing over Push Marketing.  Just as a brief reminder, Pull Marketing is the development of content, messaging or ads directing at the end customer who will make a purchase decision.  The content is created to drive an action by the customer to inquire or purchase your product.  On the other hand, Push Marketing is the development of content, messaging or ads directed at a distribution channel or other intermediary that provides your products, with the intent to get them to promote your product on your behalf. 

social media pundits emphasize the benefit of social media marketing in giving companies an opportunity to interact DIRECTLY with their customers.  This means they can implement a greater number of pull marketing strategies.  They can interact with customers to understand their needs, provide discounts and other incentives, not available through other channels,and inpsire action by the customer.  This works reasonably well in the consumer space, but how about the B2B space? I have talked to companies who have offered free software, free iPads, free services to fans or followers, without any meaningful result. Therefore, we could state that Pull marketing does not have the same impact in the B2B space.  And,  I would argue that the implementation of social media by B2B companies is an extension of Push Marketing, rather than an increased use of Pull Marketing.   Is this a problem or is this ok?

Right now, it's probably ok.  Many B2B companies have adopted social media to increase brand awareness, to be perceived as thought leaders, or to address customer service issues.  When we look at the goals for these types of communications, measures of success are not centered around customer action (except for customer service).  To date, measures of success have been about numbers of fans or followers, but not about actual sales. Social media is yet another communication channel through which the company can educate its target market about the company culture, industry trends, product developments.  These companies may sell their products directly or through a distribution channel of some sort.  Regardless of the purchase model, they want to increase knowledge about their products.  They do want to be "top of mind" when potential buyers are defining their requirements and considering potential solutions.  Social Media provides the opportunity to increase the volume of communication.

Social media continues to be one part of an overall marketing strategy.  The focus on a 360 degree integrated strategy is still very important.  I have mentioned before, that it is very important to tailor your story to your audience and the channel through which they hear your story.  While it is reasonable to re-purpose existing content for use through social channels, it is important to remember the origin of these channels.  They are personal.  They are meant to be interactive.  Adapt your social media marketing to reflect the culture and personality of your company.  It's ok for social media to be another push marketing channel, but think about ways to drive meaningful interaction with your customers.  Think about what will have real impact on your business?

I'll be blogging further about inspiring customer action, measurable benefits and meaningful storytelling over the next few weeks.  Stay tuned!

What's your perspective?

Social Media as Your New Years Resolution

Peggy Dau - Monday, January 03, 2011

It’s a new year and you’re making your resolutions.  How about a resolution to jump on the social media high speed train?  You’ve read the buzz but you’re a bit skeptical about time, effort and results.  These are fair concerns.  There is not a company who has engaged in social media that has not posed questions about how they are going to leverage this dynamic medium.  I have just a few bits of advice about getting started:

  1. Think about why you want to use social media.  In most cases it starts as an effort to increase market awareness.  This is a great way to get started!  My advice then would be to think about the image you want to present to the market.  Do you want to be an expert?  What does that mean?  Does it mean you need to be the smartest person in the room or that you can bring the necessary resources to the table?  Bottom line, social media is going to help you share your perspective in a new way
  1. Get organized.  Figure out who in your organization will be your social advocates.  It will be beneficial if you think about how representatives, from different business groups, reflect your business.  These individuals can provide your customers with unique perspectives that can help them understand your business and its products, strategy and culture.  Align your social communication with your overall marketing plan and strategy.  Commit to a plan!
  2. Define your social content strategy.  Think about who your customers are and what content will fulfill their needs.  Social media is about personalizing your business and its content.  This means that simply pointing customers to your website is not going to win a lot of new customers.  However, sharing your insights about industry trends, emerging products or markets, business benefits of your solutions or seeking input from your audience, will drive awareness.
  3. Select the relevant social platforms.  You need to be where your customers are.  Here is a quick summary of some of the most popular platforms:
    •  - LinkedIn – for a business person or business this is the default platform to use.  It’s more than a virtual rolodex; it is a platform for sharing content about your capabilities, engaging in conversations with like minded individuals via LinkedIn Groups, and increasingly a tool for employee recruitment.
    •  - Blogs – I’m a BIG fan of blogging as a means of communicating with customers is a casual way.  Blogs provide the ability to flesh out your thoughts in a less formal manner than traditional briefs or whitepapers.  They also enable feedback from your customers which can educate readers about your company, impact product roadmaps, or simply influence further blog discussions.  A small firm can share insights abut what drives their day to day business while a large company can encourage individual bloggers, from different business disciplines, to discuss the topics that influence their activities and decisions.  In all cases, the blog should reflect a unique point of view.
    •  - Twitter – In many cases, twitter for business can be just keeping up with the Jones’.  However, many companies use twitter to actively listen to their customers.  By searching on keywords a company can capture a trend, discover customer satisfaction issues, and invite debate on a trending topic.  Twitter is immediate and democratic, meaning it is wide open like the Wild West.  However, the Wild West is now very heavily populated and the direct benefit for B2B companies is unproven.
    •  -  Facebook – this is the ultimate social platform for individuals.  And, let’s remember this platform was created by a college student to find, connect and communicated with other students.  Its role is consumer centric.  Its focus remains the individual despite a company’s ability to create a Fan Page.  Companies that have found success on Facebook are those with a consumer audience and who create a unique proposition on Facebook.  There have been debates about Facebook displacing the need for a traditional website.
    • For B2B, I completely disagree.  Facebook does not easily enable a B2B business discussion.  It does not allow you to share documents.  However, it is a great platform for personalizing your business.  Post pictures or videos from industry conferences, community events, internal celebrations.  Emphasize the company culture and the unique individuals employed at your company.  Now prospective employees have a much better understanding about the culture of your company.
    •  - YouTube – Video is pervasive and memorable.  YouTube has changed the face of video forever, making user generated video and its lesser quality – acceptable.  Video puts a face on your business.  I’ve seen whiteboard sessions, mockumentaries, product demos, and corporate advertising posted on YouTube.  It is possible to create your own channel which could be beneficial for companies who want to post a series of videos.  Like all marketing & communication efforts, video efforts must be planned and organized.  See my previous blogs on this topic

Don’t be afraid to just try one platform.  Be persistent.  Don't let social media be the resolution that fades away!  It’s ok to experiment and figure out what content and which platform works best for your business.  Despite all that you read, no single company was an instant success at using social media!

What’s your perspective?