Social Media Huddle: Practical insights from Salesforce.com, Juniper Networks, Dell and IBM

I was lucky enough to be asked to present a case study at Banner’s Social Media Huddle last week to a group of IT marketers interested in practical applications of social media.  The event was a follow-up to Banner’s Demand Generation Summit where social media arose as a key topic of interest.

Alongside myself were speakers from Salesforce.com, Juniper Networks and Dell.

All delegates got a copy of Banner’s cool social media map.

Robin Daniels from Salesforce.com explained how they were using social media channels to reach customers and prospects, plus six golden rules of social media.

  1. Conversations are a two-way street
  2. Be honest & transparent
  3. Be interesting & respectful
  4. Know your audience
  5. Quality matters
  6. Don’t share secrets

Of these, I believe the first is a real differentiator for social media.  Organisations are able to engage in a dialogue with their audience – whether this be via marketing, corporate communications, PR, customer service, or any other division within the company.  This ability for consumers to make real-time requests, complaints, queries and suggestions will require organisations to revisit and revamp their processes in order to respond.

Points 2-5 shouldn’t be anything new.  If we’re only now telling ourselves that we need to understand our audience, be mindful of what we say, and deliver something of value and quality, then we’ve been seriously missing the point with our marketing efforts.

And point 6 should be part of any organisation’s corporate policy.

What was fascinating to hear was how Salesforce.com, a company that was born on the web, has grown up with a culture that embraces these social media vehicles.

In fact, myself and my fellow presenters are all fortunate to work for companies that have seen the benefits of social media and embraced it.  Whilst this means that our approaches aren’t perfect and there is still work to be done to present a unified voice across the organisation, it does allow us to test approaches and learn from these lessons.  This can only stand us in good stead as the application of these vehicles becomes far more mainstream.

Sarah Wright from Juniper Networks talked about her experiences developing a community around Juniper’s Junos OS.  This was a fantastic example of building a community around the needs and wants of their customer base.  It was also an example of the time-commitment and resources required to manage such an undertaking.  Sarah is the only person managing community inquiries and as the community grows, it’s hard to see how this will be sustainable.

One can’t help but feel that programs such as these will become increasingly common-place as part of an organisation’s strategy, and that new roles will be born out of this.

I was the third presenter and gave an overview of the results and key lessons learnt behind IBM’s Virtual Forbidden City campaign, which used purely social media and online vehicles to generate leads for IBM’s service-oriented architecture solutions.  I will detail the key learnings from this campaign in my next blog post.

And finally, Kerry Bridge from Dell shared examples and tips around the ways in which organisations are using Twitter for business including @DellOutlet which has over a million followers and has made over $3million in revenue for Dell.

What was most surprising, when Kerry asked the audience (all marketing professionals) how many were on Twitter, only a couple of people aside from the speakers raised their hands.  I sometimes wonder whether those of us who have become sadly addicted have lost sight of the fact that a vast number of people still have no idea how to get started… or why they should bother doing so!  I noticed people furiously scribbling notes as Kerry outlined the basics for creating a profile, finding people to follow, and “twetiquette” (or Twitter etiquette).

The final part of the afternoon was an opportunity for all the speakers to sit on a panel to discuss how to make the case for social media, and the people and process element – i.e. who do you need to get involved and who should ultimately “own” it.

There were questions from the audience on whether or not social media was a fad and whether they should get involved.  Admittedly the entire panel are heavily involved in social media and therefore not the most impartial of judges, but the sentiment was unanimous – brands/products/companies are being talked about online whether or not organisations decide to participate.  The only way to influence the conversation and position your brand is to get involved.

As for ownership – everybody owns social media.  Everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard.  Each department within an organisation has a different part to play and different objectives that can be met by engaging online.  The challenge arises in knitting these voices together to drive value, both for the community AND for your organisation.

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