Monthly Archives: July 2010

Corporate Social Marketing – separate company from individual

More companies in the B2B space are turning to social tools to get their message out as well as improve their SEO. B2C companies, as usual, are ahead of the curve and have been doing so for a while now. The latest being the Old Spice campaign that has create the much buzz for the company. I am not sure Oracle or Dow Chemical could follow this path, however they can leverage many of the same concepts.

However one element of this has become more apparent as I have seen more firms using Twitter, Flickr, SlideShare, Facebook and a while host of other social media tools to push their message and thought leadership to the masses: how to separate company from individual? What do I mean by this? In the haste to set up your Facebook group or Twitter account some companies have a marketing person or some spokesperson from the company list in the bio. Not a huge issue at first, but as your social media campaign gains momentum it becomes confusing. Is that tweet from the Director of Marketing from Company ABC or is it Company ABC? I realize this might be nit-picky,  however when I read a tweet or a message from a company I expect it to be a representative of the company as a whole. If the person who is tied to the account has something to say I would go to their personal channel. For example – I follow the Forrester twitter which I look for general news from the company as a whole but I also follow specific analysts at Forrester as well as George Colony. Each of these channels, while representing Forrester at some levels, are each individual in their own right. The corporate Twitter is something I expect to learn more about big ideas and some of the latest thinking. The tweets from the analysts are more specific to what their focus is and I expect more opinions and thoughts from those accounts. I expect to be able to communicate with the individuals. The company account I expect any communications to be more formal and “traditional.”

My advice – if you are starting your social media program (which you should be if not already!) then ensure that the accounts that represent your company are clearly defined as so. The descriptions, image and content should be done as the company. If you want to do some communications as well, open your own account and clearly describe where you work and your role. The advantage – if you are the CMO of Company ABC you can leverage your twitter account to engage on a more personable level. Not a bad thing! But do not confuse me with corporate accounts that appear more personal!

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Apple to integrate TIVO into Apple TV…closer to controlling home hub

In an article by Forrester in 2007 when Apply launched the iPhone and Apple TV predicted that Apple was making a play to be the central hub for the home’s entertainment and communication universe. Of course part of that prediction was the ability of Apple to leverage the Apple TV to bridge the chasm between the computer world and the television. Of course at the time I remember telling my father that the Apple TV would be more important than the iPhone….oops. My reasoning was the following:

For the past 10+ years many electronics and content companies have been waging a quiet battle to become the hub of the household. Companies like Sony and Microsoft went at it via game consoles – check out the last Playstation or XBox and realize how much horse power, memory and wifi access these have and you realize this isn’t your Atari or Coleco Vision from the 1980s.

What about the set top manufacturers? They have added extra memory and wireless access. Even the televisions have become more than simple projectors of images. Companies like Panasonic, Samsung and LG have added on board memory, access to social media sites, access to the web just to name some added functionality.  All these players have recognized that while we spend more time on line than watching TV, the television remains the center for the ultimate home entertainment experience. Watching a movie or a tv show on our laptops is great….except when we have a 52 inch LCD High Definition television with surround sound sitting in the room downstairs.

With Apple TV I saw the perfect in for Apple to get their logo and their presence where it is not today – at the television. Couple this with their content management system – iTunes and you have a way to link your computer and your high end television. Now with the rise of the iPhone and iPad you have devices that could very easily communicate, via Apple TV, with your television. Could you envision being able to schedule your recordings via your iPhone or iPad when you are not at home, or pull content from your Apple TV back to your iPad to watch on the bus? How about sending pictures and video that you took from your iPhone right to your television. Or maybe you could do a video conference via your iPhone that is tied to your Apple TV and television. This news of Tivo and Apple TV seems to revive this possibility. Hey maybe Apple should also go out and purchase NetFlix and create an entertainment powerhouse!

Maybe I was somewhat right…just a few years too late!

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Blogs – great content generator but make sure you have the right posts

I have read and heard many questions about blogs, the main question is always “should I blog or should my company have one.” My answer. Yes and yes. Okay maybe we, as individuals, do not all need to blog. With Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and all the other social media tools we have enough channels as an individual to get our opinions, stories and updates out into cyberspace without a blog.

However, as a corporation, whether a 2 person flower shop or a multi – billion dollar heavy industry company a blog or blogs should be part of your marketing strategy. Much has been written and discussed about why a blog is of value so here are some reasons:

  • Helps your web site’s SEO (search engine optimization). A blog provides fresh and regular content that web crawlers will index. This constant flow of content will raise your profile in the crawlers’ mind therefore helping people find you!
  • Allow for a conversation to be fostered with your audience: clients, prospects, employees, influencers, investors just to name a few.
  • Gives your company an opportunity to share opinions and ideas in a much more personal fashion. Rather than communicating solely via press release, a blog allows your company to put out opinions and thoughts in a much easier and more personal fashion.
  • Tool for rapid communications and response. Used properly your blog will allow you to put out reactions and opinions to fast moving events.

Having said this, your blogging strategy needs to incorporate strategy around the types of posts you will need to create. Think about your blogging topics to fall into a 2×2 matrix:

Timeless – these topics are timeless and are not dependent on a current event.

Time Sensitive – related to current events or are sensitive to industry changes.

Promote – drive sales and action.

Brand – builds your band and thought leadership.

Quadrant 1: Blog posts can tackle topics about your solutions, how you can tackle industry problems, how your process is important to name a few. Example – if you are a recruiting firm: What are 5 common pitfalls to avoid during an interview. These can even be done ahead of time an put in a can – post when you  have a slow topic week!

Quadrant 2: “Big Idea” topics! Blog posts that tackle issues that impact business or your general industry. Demonstrate that you have some interesting thoughts and ideas about business, the world and your industry. Example – if you are software firm: How will mobile impact business and buying patterns?

Quadrant 3: Posts about action items, a call to action post – not necessarily just to purchase. Example – if you are a consulting firm: You can discuss your on campus recruiting calendar and what candidates need to expect.

Quadrant 4: Topics demonstrate thought leadership, nuance with Quadrant 2 is that these posts tend to be tied to a catalyst – a current event. Example – if you are a technology hardware vendor: you post about how the fluctuation in raw materials impact how you plan your sourcing strategy and what this means for manufacturing.

This quadrant system can be adapted to your business but the main concept transcends all businesses. When you start to blog you should think about putting together a blogging calendar  – similar to an editorial calendar. Understand the balance of posts you will need to meet your needs and ensure you have the proper staff in place to support this strategy. Have the discipline and the effort needed to ensure a successful blog and you and your business will reap the rewards.

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Web 2.0 makes industry analysts irrelevant!

Okay that might be a little too bold of a statement. However the impact of Web 2.0 and Social Media has definitely shaken up the status quo when it comes to analysts and influencers. Why shouldn’t it? Look what it has done to traditional press. So an industry that was built on the model of have a few select members have access to the vast number of technology vendors, with the goal in mind of leveraging this relationship and synthesizing what was learned and educating the masses of users that wouldn’t know a desktop from a server, has now come under siege as much of this information is available….for free….on the web.

Just go to Google or Bing and do a search around Gartner or Forrester with .ppt and you will find some of the power-point decks from these firms that contain a wealth of data which in the past you would have to pay $20k + a year to get access to these figures. Couple this with more analysts publishing blogs that are open to all to read, such as an Interactive Marketing blog from Forrester or the Logistics Blog from ARC Advisory. Suddenly the content and access to the analysts seems to be more open to the general public – anyone with a browser can reach out to the likes of Gartner et. al. and engage via social media channels. Add to this the phenomena of analysts throwing up their own shingle in cyberspace and now you have even more channels of information that are just one click away – such as supply chain matters or spend matters.

So as a vendor or user, should you spend $20k, $50k, $250k or more to engage with the likes of Forrester, Gartner, Yankee Group, IDC and the others?  I will say absolutely. However the way you negotiate and structure your contracts will be much different that it would have been 5 or 10 years ago.

First, do not feel trapped into having acquire a number of access seats to the content. As we have seen, the barrier to the access to the content has become lower and lower. To have to pay large sums of money to allow the sales director from your Sioux City branch office to access the research is not worth it.

Second, as a marketing organization push for as much face to face/interactive time possible to be included in the contact. End of the day the amount of money you are paying in the contract is to allow yourself the opportunity to speak directly with analysts. The value of engaging with analyst firms is to be able to be first in the queue when you have a question, concern or need some strategic insight from the firm.  To be able to speak with an analyst for competitive intelligence or insight on a prospect remains highly valuable and only consistently available via a traditional contract.

Finally,  as a vendor the relationship with these analyst firms remains a strategic one – to gain intelligence and insight as well as a tactical one – tell users why your product is worthy of being short listed. As a user these firms are helpful with regards to grasping the technology curve and getting the true inside scoop of what goes on behind the scenes at vendors.

Web 2.0 has lowered the barrier to gaining insight into content and data. It has also allowed for easier access to the thought leaders of the industry. However without a traditional contract with these firms, clients remain limited in regards to how much they can take advantage of all the resources that are available.

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Bastille Day!

Happy 14th of July!

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Do you need to have a social marketing strategy? Ask Apple.

Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Blogosphere, MySpace, Foursquare, Flickr etc…our personal lives and professional lives have been inundated with Social Media tools. Many of these started as personal tools to communicate and share our lives via the world wide web. Of course it always surprises me that corporations still wonder whether or not they should have a social marketing strategy…it reminds me of the late 1990s when many companies wondered “should we have a web site?” In a past life I recall speaking with some large retailers who would tell my employer “we do not need a web site, we have stores and a catalog!” Oops. Today is there ever any questioning whether or not your company needs a web site? The question today is how many web sites a corporation should have, not whether or not one is necessary.

So we are in a similar situation today. Should every company have a social marketing strategy. Yes. Does it mean you will turn over all your marketing to Facebook and Twitter…No. However your marketing organization, must at least, have the system in place to monitor what is being said about your business and company in cyberspace.  A great example of this is what is currently happening to Apple.

I am sure that we are all aware of the launch of the Apply iPhone 4, which was met with the expect hoopla and fans sleeping out at Apple stores to get their hands on the sleek $300 smart phone. After the launch of the iPad earlier this year the new iPhone was seen as another huge success for Apple. Apple did appear to get a small stock price bump post iPhone launch and pundits were lauding the new device. We then started to get the follow on ads about the ability to video conference with other iPhone 4 users.

This was all fantastic until…there was some rumblings on Twitter and the Blogosphere that the new iPhone was not so hot when it came to cell reception…hmm sounds like my Blackberry. The “smoking gun” came from the Consumer Report blog that came out and stated:

The signal problem is the reason that we did not cite the iPhone 4 as a “recommended” model…

Ouch. This news spread like wild fire via Twitter and other social media tools. Even Guy Kawasaki, former Apple fellow put the update on his Twitter account. So what does this have to do with Apple and social media strategy?

First, Apple responded to the first murmurs in a traditional fashion. Putting out a statement that it was a software issue and that AT&T was to blame. Of course that turned out to not be the case, as Consumer Reports demonstrated. So now Apple is on the defensive. But all is not lost. Some thoughts on how Apple can leverage Social Marketing and why every company needs to learn from this situation.

  • First, fix the problem with the iPhone 4…
  • Identify some key voices in the Blogosphere that are influential when it comes to technology, mobile technology, etc. Hopefully Apple already has a relationship with some of these pundits, now is the time to leverage them. Send these bloggers the fixed version of the iPhone 4, ask them to test the device. Maybe even send them an iPhone 3Gs, take both for a test see if there is any major difference in quality. Directly address what the Consumer Digest Blog stated.
  • Rather than releasing an open letter, post on your corporate blog what you are doing to fix the problem. Allow current users to openly ask questions about potential returns and exchanges.
  • Once the iPhone is fixed – create some YouTube videos with actual users…maybe have them use the video conferencing functionality of the iPhone 4 to create the videos.  Hey maybe send a new iPhone 4 to the Consumer Reports bloggers and have them do a video conference!

Apple can leverage social media to ensure they demonstrate to the market they are addressing the problems and what they are doing about it. Use your fanatically loyal users to be the ones touting the fixes of the iPhone. Apple is a great marketing machine they need to leverage this marketing muscle and their social marketing strategy to address the issues with the iPhone.

Is your company ready to leverage social media for crisis management?

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Make your HR department marketing savvy

When you mention HR (human resources) you rarely think about marketing. Human Resources role revolves around attracting, retaining and overseeing a companies’ labor force. For job seekers they are usually seen as a gate keeper – a hurdle that needs to be overcome to get to the real decision makers that will determine whether or not you will be hired let alone interviewed. Once hired by a company, HR is seen as the department that tells me about my vacation policy, how many personal days I can get and if I need to find talent or get rid of under-performers are the resource you turn to. Human resources is definitely seen as the “A” in SG&A. So why should we worry if our HR department is marketing savvy?

  1. Your HR department is the first point of contact for your future leaders. Look around your office, how many of the employees that are on your payroll have not gone through an interview process with HR? Most likely the majority of employees first real point of contact was with someone within the Human Resources department – and they also spent time with this department when accepting a position. Those that did not get a job were most likely told by human resources.
  2. The way your HR department handles prospects is indicative of how your company operates. If your HR department is not responsive to candidate demands or worse just ignores candidates who have not been selected, how does this reflect on your organization? If your corporation treats potential employees poorly during the process how will they be treated once within your 4 walls.
  3. HR communicates with potential future customers. Those who are candidates today might become customers tomorrow. Clearly if someone is interviewing for a role within your company they most likely want to be in that industry or are already in the same industry. This means those candidates could find themselves in positions to be your client…

Human resource departments have often times been regarded as important to recruit and retain human assets. However, rarely is the notion that Human Resources are the front line for marketing efforts and have a direct impact on how your business’ brand is viewed by the outside world. Take Ernst&Young and their efforts to leverage social media to reach out to prospective employees. They give their future employees a view into what Ernst& Young is all about from the current employees. Not only does this give future employees a great resource, but it portrays an image of openness and a human side that makes the firm’s image a angle it otherwise does not have.

Corporate leaders should take a look at their HR groups and ensure that the interactions with future employees and clients portrays the company in the right light.

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