MAD Perspectives Blog

Enterprise Social Software - Another Distraction?

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A colleague complained to me last week about her company's use of a social media platform behind the firewall. She wanted to know why she would use this platform and wasn't it a distraction to her getting her job done. She also wanted to know why so many people felt compelled to spend so much time on social media. This raised a few concerns and questions for me.  I will address these thoughts over the next few weeks.

Why are we compelled to be seen online?  My colleague's thought process was that by being available on a social network, it shows that you are at work. Would her peers and management think she was not working if she was not available on the social network? Alternatively, could being available mean that she was "wasting" time on social media? 

We live in an online world. In the business world, emails are used to inform and request. Recipients are engaged due to a organizational or functional requirement. Information is shared. Questions are asked. Demands are made. Timelines are set. When emails are sent there is an expectation that they will be answered immediately. Instant messenger services stepped into the corporate world several years ago and enabled employees to quickly reach out to each other. 

We want to be part of the conversation, yet we are committed to completing our projects and fulfilling our goals. Enterprise social software provides the forum for quick, trackable, retrievable online conversations. Like general social media, individuals can choose who to follow or "friend". It is possible to be available or not. It is possible to initiate ad hoc conversations to find a quick answer to a challenge. It is possible to gain insight into new products, engage with sales teams (wherever they are), or, find quick fixes to customer concerns.

Enterprise social software (e.g., Yammer, NewsGator, SocialText) is here to stay. It enables collaboration between one or many individuals. These services pose the question "what are you working on?" For increasingly geographically dispersed organizations it provides another channel of communication. It breaks down departmental silos, allows light conversation between teammates not in the same office, enables simple polling on a hot topic. It is often integrated with other corporate applications, like Microsoft Sharepoint, with the intention of enabling conversations specific to existing documents. The benefit is the ability to tag and store the activity streams. 

Like email, social media takes some getting used to. Remember we didn't always talk about how full our email boxes were. We used to complain about voicemail! We, as individuals and employees, are responsible for finding the best ways to achieve our goals within our company's given framework. If email is the mode, then so be it. However, an increasing number of corporations are adopting internal social platforms. Employees may share RSS feeds and invite comment on competitor activity, market trends or customer announcements.

It's up to you to set expectations. Only you can decide how quickly you will respond to email or whether you will engage socially. We should not feel compelled to be online - but we are. We don't have to engage - but we often do. We use email to check the availability of others for meetings. Instant messenger services and now enterprise social software allow you do the same, instantaneously. Perhaps we will be more productive. Perhaps we will be distracted by the increasing flow of content.  Time will tell - and it will vary by individual. However, like email, we will adapt. 

Companies such as LG, HP, Cisco, Deloitte, Ford, Kraft Foods and Weight Watchers have adopted enterprise social media. Has you company adopted an enterprise social software? How are you using it?  

What's your perspective?







The 4 Bs of B2B Social Media

Peggy Dau - Monday, June 25, 2012

It's all about business for any company engaging in social media. Sometimes we forget that these platforms are a means to an end. That end is revenue. All the effort to win fans, followers, interactions, comments and click-thrus is part of a comprehensive effort to increase visibility, generate leads and sell products.

So, why is social media so important for companies selling products and services to other companies? It's all about the 4 Bs.  

#1 - Business Intelligence:  Social media allows companies to share content and capture data. Various tools and platforms exist to discover, analyze and assess this data. Individuals and companies gain knowledge about the demographics of their customers, affiliated industries, emerging topics, key trends, competitor activities, opinions regarding products and services, and more. Social media provides additional insight that can help companies create and sustain powerful relationships with their customers.

#2 - Business Development: Revenue is the life blood of all companies.  Without it, a company will eventually disappear. Therefore any tools to simplify or accelerate the acquisition of new business, whether from new clients or existing accounts, are welcome. Social networks provide companies with additional channels through which they can identify prospects, learn about companies and individuals. Platforms, like LinkedIn, Plaxo, Branchout or Zerply, can help users figure out how to connect with key decision makers or influencers. Individuals can learn more about them via blogs, tweets, status updates, presentations or videos.  56% of B2B marketers acquire new business partnerships through social media (Social Media Examiner, 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report). Imagine that first meeting with an understanding of what's been top of mind for that individual based on their social commentary!  

#3 - Business Relationships: Once a relationship is developed, it takes effort to maintain it. It's not always possible to enjoy face time with contacts. Social networks provide an alternative method of staying in touch with colleagues, customers and competitors. It's possible to congratulate contacts on promotions or job changes, make introductions for peers seeking new roles and comment on shared content. Here at MAD Perspectives, we reach out to connections on a regular basis, simply to catch up with old business friends.

#4 - Business Conversations: Social networks are all about engagement. They provide a platform to discuss topics of mutual interest, ask & answer questions, collaborate on new ideas, share content and to learn. Entrants into a new markets can learn about local business culture, business priorities and key competitors. 62% of business technology decision makers now read and post comments on blogs (Social Media Examiner, 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report).  Participants can turn casual conversations into long-lasting relationships. However, just as in face-to-face conversations, each party must provide value to the other.

Social media mirrors the business activities of any company. It is simply another channel through which to pursue these actions. As you consider your use of social media, think about the 4 Bs. Perhaps you are using all 4, or maybe you've just started engaging. Either way, be strategic and tactical about how social media can help you connect, collaborate and communicate to achieve your business goals.

What's your perspective?



Are You Authentic?

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I've been thinking about what it means to be authentic.  This is perhaps one of the most overused words of the past few years, particularly as it relates to our use of social media.  Forbes has written about it, raising valid points about whether companies and individuals are truly authentic, or just using social media as another outlet for building their brand. Entrepreneur.com recently wrote about finding your voice (as did we last year!) and aligning with your brand.  And, Social Media Today has curated at least 750 articles that reference the term authentic.

So, I started looking around for a baseline, against which to measure true authenticity. It turns out I didn't need to look too far. The best example of unlimited exuberance, clear intentions, consistent messaging and bountiful joy is my dog. Yes, you read that right, my dog Whisky (and perhaps your dog too!) expresses his brand (a true mutt) in every action he takes. He loves his soft squeaky toys and throws them in front of me to entice me to play with him. Doesn't this sound a bit like tweeting (or is that squeaking)?  As we walk through our neighborhood, at the dog park or at the beach, he eagerly approaches other dogs and humans - confident in the connection he will make. Sounds a bit like LinkedIn to me (and yes he does remember them the next time he sees them, it just takes a quick sniff).

Whisky does have a Facebook page, but he doesn't update it very often. He doesn't want to post his status unless something meaningful has happened. If he were active on Pinterest, he would pin items related to dog toys, treats and rescue shelters. These are the products of high interest to him and are consistent with his brand. He is happiest when playing with a soft, squeaky toy or snuggling with his family. As a rescue dog himself, he wants all homeless dogs to find families to love them.

Does your social strategy provide your audience with the content and interactivity that they crave and demand? Do your posts reinforce your brand, yet provide a fresh voice? Social interaction is conversational and should not sound like a lecture. It should not simply be a rehash of existing marketing materials, but provide a new perspective. The unbridled enthusiasm of dogs gives us a view of activity to which individuals cannot help but respond. This should be the goal of any social strategy - engagement. If your content is authentic, your audience will engage and help you meet your goals whether they are related to awareness, lead generation, influence, product feedback, event attendance or more.

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?



Do Your Social Media Efforts Reflect Your Brand?

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, April 20, 2011

This week we continue our Brand and Social Media series with a disucssuion about aligning your social efforts with your brand.


With all the hype about social media, we may have forgotten that any social media marketing efforts must be aligned with your brand! When leveraging the myriad of social media outlets, it is important to keep the core tenants of your brand in mind. Social media provides you with additional channels through which you can communicate and interact with your target audience. Social media allows your message to be broadcast and shared widely, globally and freely.

With this openness in mind, what do you need to consider when establishing your social media strategy – particularly as it relates to your brand? First, don’t forget what your brand is.  We reviewed this  last week.  Remember, your brand is a promise. Your use of social media should reinforce that promise and provide a level of transparency and authenticity that invites engagement from your target markets. How can social media help?

Social media platforms should visually and contextually reflect your brand.  Consistency of logo, color and voice are important. Of these three, voice is the most critical.  What is the voice of your brand?  Are you fun, knowledgeable, edgy, caring, geeky, innovative. Understanding your voice should drive how you communicate via your social channels. For example, if you are innovative, your social communications should provide insight to market trends that your company is addressing, share your opinions on the impact of these trends and how your company will act to influence a shift in the market.

Now that you’ve aligned your social efforts with your brand and discovered your voice, it’s time to ENGAGE! Do I need to ask why you want to interact with your customers? Engagement with your customers WILL lead to business. It will lead to greater knowledge about what your customers and prospects are thinking and saying about your brand. It will help you become proactive instead of reactive. As you engage, remember what your brand stands for and provide consistency in terms of voice and topic. While it may be fun to share your thoughts on random topics, you are socializing on behalf of your brand. Your tweets, Facebook posts, Slideshare presentations or YouTube videos should be relevant to your brand, your company, your products or your industry.

Just in case you are still wondering why you should consider social media as a key aspect of your brand strategy, check out these data points from Forrester Research and Business Week:

  •      - 67 percent of Twitter users who become followers of a brand are more likely to buy that brand's products

         - 60 percent of Facebook users who become a fan of a brand are more likely to recommend that brand to a friend

         - 74 percent of consumers are influenced on buying decisions by fellow users after soliciting input via social media

    are influenced on buying decisions by fellow users after soliciting input via social media

Your brand is your calling card.  Social Media must reinforce your brand. Think about your brand and your voice before you engage – but definitely ENGAGE!

What’s your perspective?



Company Culture and Adoption of Social Networking

Peggy Dau - Monday, August 02, 2010

You’re thinking about social media.  You’re convinced you need to have a plan to add social media to your existing marketing and/or communication strategy.  You’re thinking, well, we’ll just tiptoe into this effort, participate in a few social networks and see what happens.  There is nothing wrong with this plan, except you should think about  your corporate culture.  Of course, there are other details you also need to consider, but for the sake of this conversation, let’s focus on corporate culture.

Does your culture inhibit executive or employee adoption of social networking tools?  Do employees feel empowered to publically communicate on behalf of the company?  Do executives understand the openness of social conversations?

I’ve had comments to several of my blogs related to B2B social media, emphasizing the importance of culture.  So, I’ve done some thinking on this and refreshed my memory as to the different types of corporate cultures (it’s been a long time since those undergrad and MBA courses on organizational theory).  Culture is a combination of shared values, attitudes, assumptions, beliefs and behaviors.  Culture is grounded in the assumptions about how people interact.

A successful social media strategy is best achieved when there is a corporate culture that balances tops down direction with bottoms up initiative with external (customer) facing communication.  However, existing corporate cultures can inhibit this balance and subsequently the success of a social media strategy.  Which of these cultures best reflects your company?

Adaptive – just like it sounds, this company tries new processes, solutions, business models to see what works best.  This company is usually very externally focused and will adopt solutions that help them communicate effectively and efficiently.  This culture will easily adapt to social networks for business use.

Inert – this type of company is very internally focused and struggles to deal with new ideas.  In technology parlance, they are a laggard when it comes to adopting new technology.  This culture will be one of the last companies to adopt social networking.

Networked – this is a sociable company, but employees exhibit little company loyalty.  This company may lag a bit in adopting new ideas solely due to high employee turnover.  Once this company has decided to use social networks, employees will take advantage of it and it may foster employee retention.

Mercenary - this culture is ruthless and highly competitive.  If the new solution doesn’t fulfill the goal to win, it is not considered.  Without a strong ROI argument, this kind of company will not leverage social networks at the business level.

Fragmented – this company is a loose alliance of independent workers (i.e., law firm).  If a solution can be easily adopted by these workers and help them achieve their goals, it’s a winner, but it is unlikely that all workers will utilize the solution at the same level.

I’ll be writing more about company cultures and organizational dynamics as it relates to B2B social networks over the next few weeks.  Do these cultures resonate with you?  What kind of culture does your company exhibit? 

What’s your perspective?



6 Tips for B2B Blogging

Peggy Dau - Monday, June 21, 2010

Many companies recognize the potential value of blogging, but struggle to organize their thoughts and the actual writing of the blog.  Subsequently, the blogs imply doesn't happen.  Yet, according to the Business.com 2009 B2B Social Media Marketing Study, 74% of companies surveyed maintain one or more blogs.  What are all these companies blogging about? And, how do they manage it?

When I look at companies or sites who are blogging regularly and considered leaders in their industry, I've learned the following:

     1. Empower Your Employees - Encourage your employees to blog and share their insights, their smarts, their personalities.  Invite employees from different business groups to write about what's going on the industry.  They will have unique perspectives given the groups they represent (i.e., marketing, sales, engineering, R&D, support).  Their perspectives will be interesting to your current and prospective customers.

     2. Share Your Policy - Many companies will be concerned with giving their employees a public voice.  This is where establishing a policy will alleviate many concerns.  The policy is basical the rules of engagement for your employees...and for your customers.  It should provide guidance to your employees about what is acceptable or unacceptable blogging behavior.  By sharing your policy publically, your customers will know what to expect when engaging with your blogs.  Here are some examples from HP, IBM, SAP and Intel.  My thanks to the high tech community for being so open about their policies!

     3. Enable Comments - Invite and encourage readers to comment!  Comments are what make blogs interactive.  They enable the conversation.  They provide you, the company, with honest, candid, immediate feedback.  It may be supportive, discouraging, antagonistic or enthusiastic.  Aside from concerns about foul language, do not disable comments for fear of negative comments.  common sense must be employed to determine the best approach to addressing negativity, but that negativity can have positive results.

     4. Invite Guest Contributors - Every industry has its pundits.  They exist in the form of analysts, columnists, technologists and executives.  Inviting these thought leaders to contribute to your blog can bring a new perspective to a hot topic, insight to emerging trends and clarity to industry debates.  Your alignment (or lack thereof) with these pundits may attract new readers to your blog.
 
     5. Establish an Editorial Calendar - Creating a plan can simplify the effort associated with managing and writing blogs.  While it is often useful to allow the blog to just "happen" in response to industry trends or to incite new discussion, it is also beneficial for it to reinforce annoucnements or events.  Laying out the calendar will help define the need for content or resources, and give you time to fill that need.

     6. Be Interesting - This is most important.  Think about what you would want to read.  What kind of information are you seeking that only a blog can fulfill?  A blog is not a product or press release, allow your personality to shine through.  As always when thinking social, be transparent and authentic.

What companies or blogs did I check out when thinking about this blog?  After 25 years in high tech, I folow blogs from the companies reference above.  However, I also check in with Marriott, Nike, and Whole Foods.  With my focus in digital/social media, I read streamingmedia.com, Mashable, Social Media TodaySmart Blog on Social Media and more.

Does your company blog?  What's your blogging experience?  I'd love to hear the good and the bad!

What's your perspective?




Social Media facilitates customer retention

Peggy Dau - Monday, March 15, 2010

Last week I talked about how social media can facilitate the sales process.  Let's take that one step further and talk about how digital media can help you improve customer retention.  We touched on the topic of customer support as part of the sales process.  This topic is even more critical when it comes to customer loyalty.  A happy customer can become your best advocate

What is a happy customer?  Simply put it is customer who have not defected to a competitor.  It is customers who intend to purchase more goods and services from you.  It is a customer willing to recomment your company and its products to others.  It is a customer making incremental purchases or increasing their average order size.  It is a customer sustaining customer support or renewing their warranty.

business people by Business Planning Software.

What does customer support entail?

Customer support is more than enabling customers to contact you when they have a problem.  Customer support is getting ahead of the curve and proactively notifying customers when their are issues, product changes, special offers, in person events and more.  The goal once you have attained a new customer is to encourage them to buy more or for your cusomters to recommend you to their business colleagues and partners.

A few facts about B2B buyers:

- they depend of 3rd party feedback in purchase decisions
- they want to be part of the product or solution development process
- they trust colleague opinions particularly where those colleagues are using the target product or service

How does social media fit here?  Social media = an objective 3rd party opinion.  In addition, social media allows and enables real-time interaction.  It fosters an environment to inform while building trust and creditbility.  Whether it is a LinkedIn group around a specific category of product or the customer support forum on your company website, ad hoc interaction with your existing customers allows you to get honest feedback regarding customer satisfaction, IT needs, purchasing plans.  Companies can use social platforms to alert customers to supply chain issues, product releases, training sessions and more.  Being proactive is an element of the authenticity often mentioned around social media.

Your ability to LISTEN to your customers as they participate in online forums or to invite their feedback regarding product performance or features, enhances the relationship. Extend your conversation with your customer beyond the actual sale. Acknowledge, respond and champion their involvement.  It can turn customers into influencers of product roadmap and new purchasers.  Social platforms allow companies to have direct, immediate and interactive communication with many accounts.  Take advantage of these tools to sustain your customer base.

What's your perspective?





Is Video Social and do we need to Manage these Digital Assets?

Peggy Dau - Monday, January 11, 2010

In early December, I participated in a webinar hosted by North Plains.  The focus of the webinar was about video, social networking and digital asset management.  I want to thank Joshua, George and Robin at North Plains for inviting me to join a discussion that started with basic question.  Is Video Social?

There are two ways that we can interpret this question.  The first is that video tells a story.  The story can be a comedy, a drama, a sporting event, a news topic or a personal moment.  Regardless of the medium by which the video is viewed (TV, PC, cell phone), the story incites a response.  This is the social aspect of the video.  Back in the old days, we had informal chats in the coffee room or by the water cooler to laugh about the latest Seinfeld episode or to exault about the Yankees latest win.  Today, these thoughts and comments are posted and shared in online communities.  We share our stream of consciousness with our friends and colleagues, enjoying the socialization that evolves.

The other perspective is that unless the video is interactive (i.e., video conferencing) it is not inherently social.  Social implies a two way conversation with give and take between the parties.  However, this perspective is weak as their is not requirement for social networking to be accomplished in real-time.  Social discussion can take place over a period of minutes, hours and days.  So, we can agree that video is social.

If video is social, do we need to manage it as we manage our other video assets?  Up until now, Digital Asset Management (DAM) vendors have provided solutions to manage the process (aka workflow) surrounding the creation, storage, repurposing and distribution of Digital Media.  Digital Media is the assortment of photos, audio files, video clips, animations, computer graphics or banner ads created, owned or licensed by a company.  The uses of these assets may be for internal or external purposes. 

Up until now, most of the video addressed by DAM vendors was created by "professionals", meaning the studio, broadcaster, agency or enterprise itself for their purposes depending on their business model or business goals.  However, as video has become "social" it has become less professional and is created by individuals.  How does these businesses incorporate user generated or employee generated content into their DAM system?  The DAM is supposed to be the key to managing their digital assets.

In the end, it comes down to policy and governance.  As we move forward and the creation and capture of video becomes easier and less expensive, there will be increasing amounts of non-professional content used by businesses.  In fact, many are already inviting it (i.e., Doritos).  As companies move forward in using video to educate, entice, inform and entertain, they will need to consider guidelines about how the content will be used, who will see it, how it will be distributed, how and where it will be stored, how it will be consumed, etc.  These companies will need to establish guidelines and educate their content creators and digital asset managers on how to incorporate social video into their DAM systems.

So, yes video is social.  Video will become more casual just as social networking became a more informal method of communicating.  Check out further perpsectives from this North Plains webinar.

What's your perspective?



What Inspires You?

Peggy Dau - Friday, December 11, 2009

I was thinking about this blog over the weekend (and during the week while recovering from stomach flu).  I was thinking about how I find inspiration for what I'm going to write.  It's been a bit of a process for me to grow comfortable sharing my thoughts in this manner.  As I thought about all the things I could write about in the digital media space, I realized that just the process of gaining inspiration is something that digital media facilitates.

Whether it is personal or professional, we are all inspired by the thoughts of others.  I use the word inspired intentionally.  While many think of this word in a religious or spiritual context, it actually means "to stimulate somebody to do something".  In the business world, we are constantly seeking new ways to drive revenue and create new products or services.  The inspiration for many great businesses is difficult to identify or act upon.  Look at some of our greatest business leaders of the late 20th century (there are too many to count in the early part of the century!).  Steve Jobs.  What makes this man tick?  Fortune magazine just had him on their cover as CEO of the Decade, highlighting his unique approach to business, his attention to design detail and his ability to innovate.  Or Jeff Bezos at Amazon.  What started as an online model to sell books has turned into "the destination" for online shopping.  With acquisitions such as ShopBop or Zappos and investments in cloud computing, his online shopping empire continues to evolve and adapt.  Or, David Neeleman at JetBlue with is focus on customer first, simplifying the ticket buying and check-in process.  And, when they faced their flight cancelation debacle in the winter of 2008, they learned from their mistakes, adopted social media tools to stay in touch and listen to their customers and improve service.

How do we find inspiration in the business world?  We often collaborate with our peers.  We chat about ideas and the feasibility of the market for these ideas.  We read industry journals, subscribe to RSS feeds, join online communities, capturing information and knowledge via as many channels as possible.  Is it becoming too much?  Is there too much information available?  Or, do we just need to organize it better?

The benefits of many Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 solutions are in the ability for employees to more easily connect with their colleagues.  Once they have connected, there are many ways to collaborate online, eliminating challenges of distance and time zone.  They are able to open the conversation for others with similar interests, thus capturing more ideas, stimulating more thoughts, ultimately creating new products or services or processes.  Their online conversations can be saved, tagged and searched in the future instead of being a memory that one struggles to re-capture.  These conversations can stimulate new thoughts now and in the future. 

In fact these solutions enable conversations outside and inside the corporation.  they can stimulate enhanced product design, help resolve customer support issues, generate viral marketing campaigns, inspire new business ventures or new business models.  My inspiration comes from the business, political, social, environmental world around me.  What inspires you?

What's your perspective?






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