Altimeter’s latest Open Research Report (download at will, share with attribution) is embedded below. This report features how large companies have scaled social business across their enterprise. Specific case studies include:
Whole Foods puts local social engagement into the hands of store managers.
General Motors organizes for social business internally, then supports regions.
PUMA scales limited headcount for worldwide engagement
I co-authored this report with my colleague Senior Researcher, Andrew Jones, who’s been involved in several reports with me and knows the market which we cover in a detailed way, and provides unique insights. His deep understanding of the space, tireless research, and pattern analysis was key to this report being published. Please keep us both updated in your industry updates.
Scalable Social Business Tension Dynamics
The interesting thing about this research is that corporations are beyond the ‘why’ social but are now focusing on integration and tying together with all customer interactions. We often see tension dynamics in companies across the following opposing forces:
Six Common Tension Dynamics as Companies Scale Social
Comprehensive Software Suites
Specialized Point Software
Established program managers
Organic social growth
Companies seeking to scale, should read this report on how advanced companies are scaling, and glean insights. Altimeter has published a number of reports from industry trends, vendor segmentations, market definition and more, and are pleased to bring a more detailed case study on how integration at scale is starting to blossom, find all my reports on the research tab. The report is embedded below:
Intel is known for trying out a variety of social media efforts, for better or for worse. They experiment, and continue to learn and iterate, I give them continual credit and reference them in presentations. One particular activity of note is what I learned from David Veneski, he tackled the join vs build question and made the call to join.
Earlier this year, I visited Intel up in Seattle (correction: Portland) and spoke to David Veneski, a marketing manager, and spoke to his group about social computing strategies. He had deployed some successful marketing efforts, and reached communities where they existed, he had efforts to reach early tech adopters in Digg, as well as Slashdot. Both of these communities are rabid passionate tech communities that are self-thriving and require little attention from outside sources to be successful.
[Savvy brands join communities where the exist, rather than solely trying to coax customers to the corporate website through disruptive tactics]
The moment of brilliance was when David said that one of the requirements of his marketing efforts was to not link to Intel.com. Rather than try to join a community then pull them away, the marketing efforts joined the community and stayed there –likely where the trust is highest (see data).
As a result, David fished where the fish were, and avoided trying to suck the members off the community they were part of. Marketers are often measured on the amount of traffic they generate to their corporate website, but in this case, Intel will have to measure using different attributes such as interaction, viral spread, and maybe even a survey.
The game is up, “Janet” is not an official Exxon representative
A few days ago, the Twittersphere was curious, interested, and excited to see a member of Exxon Mobil’s employee ranks to join the twitter conversation and engage in conversation…sadly, she’s not a real employee. You can see the fake Twitter account called ExxonMobilCorp
The mystery unraveled –in 3 days Shel Holtz was one of the first to discover this (update: he’s posted this thoughts), as he commended Exxon for their efforts, their response was “It’s not us”. The mystery continued to unravel as I received an email from the Houston Chronicle Press wanting to talk to me about what I knew (Update: The Chronicle’s story is now live) –the word hit mainstream analysts and press in three days, secrets don’t remain secrets for long in internet speed.
“Janet” has been posing as an Exxon employee, answering questions about the direction of the company, where philanthropy resources are being spent, and even responding (a few, which were very off-tone) about the Exxon Valdez.
A real conversation with Exxon
I spoke to Alan Jeffers, Spokesperson of Exxon Mobil a few minutes ago to get his side of the story, and to offer some words of wisdom, which I’ll share below. First of all, Exxon has been “brand jacked”, (and will now make the official punk’d list), they were caught off guard because they were not monitoring and responding to their own online brand.
Alan was forthcoming, honest, and appears to want to do the right thing, I posed a few questions to him, his responses in quotes:
What if this was an employee in a remote arm of the company, would it then be ok?
“It’s not really relevant, there are only people that are authorized and not-authorized, even people with the best intentions, may not know what the appropriate position is or the facts, we think that there’s a problem, as we don’t want to be misleading people and there’s a lot of errors what the person is posting even if it was something that had the best of intentions could be misleading.
It’s our perception that social networking is based on honesty, transparency and trust, it’s important that they become forthcoming about who they represent”
What message do you want to give to Janet the supposed company representative?
“Be forth-coming about who you are, it’s ok to be in support for or against something, but you should be forth-coming about your identity”
What lessons have you learned about monitoring your brands in social networks?
“We need to be diligent about what is being said about you, by you, and those pretending to be you”
I see a lot of opportunities for Exxon here, it’s clear the community wants to talk to you, you can roll with this by coming face forward:
“We’re going to examine what is going on, and if indeed if there is anything to do, I want to underscore we’re not trying to prevent anyone from going out. There’s lots of opportunities, we want to speak to people, and to learn what people think”
Alan and Exxon employees have a big opportunity at hand –once they’re ready.
Options for Janet
It’s also interesting that Janet tweeted this, just a few hours ago: “btw, @jowyang , thanks for that wonderful piece: http://tinyurl.com/6nol2e”. Janet, I highly recommend that you do one of the following: 1) Turn over the Twitter ID keys to Exxon, 2) indicate that you’re not an official representative. I see that you’re attempting to preserve the brand, but you can be a brand advocate to Exxon without attempting to pretend to be an employee –in fact, you may be hurting the brand. (Update: Aug 3, Janet has deleted that tweet thanking me and continues to pose as an official Exxon representative)
Lack of identity confirmation continues to plague the web
Identity is a serious issue on the web, we’ve no great way of confirming true profiles, therefore, going forward, before we can conclude a blog or twitter or Facebook account is official, we need to see trackbacks coming from the corporate site, or contact info and get confirmation.
Companies must monitor their brand
Brands should be monitoring the discussion and instances of their keywords in social networks –failure to do so results in becoming case studies.
An opportunity for the real Exxon to step forward
The power has shifted to those that participate, so while Janet may have achieved momentum by participating, further opportunity lies within Exxon when they’re ready to come forward.
The community (myself included) need to first validate identities
This fourth one, I just added. It was too easy for someone to assume a brand’s identity and we all fell for it, myself obviously. We need to first determine if these are the real employees and validate. I’m exploring some ways to do this, we’ll revisit this topic soon.
One of my most popular diatribes is my rant on the irrelevant corporate website, in summary, I suggest a gap between the reality of the public conversation and the biased marketese on company websites. Today, I’m starting to see more websites evolve, from Sun’s aggregation of public blog posts, to many companies launching social network features for their site.
Two of my former colleagues, Carlos Soares, and my former manager Peter Simonsen (Update: other team members include Jim Price, project leader, and Suzie Im, web designer extraordanaire) are now spearheading the web efforts at Cadence, and have launched a new website that puts the community front and center right on the homepage. You’ll find headline aggregation of corporate bloggers on the homepage, as well as a link to a budding community forum. They’ve organized blog and community discussions by topic area, making it easier for folks to find information. Recently, they hired Tom Diederich, as the community manager, sounds like they’ve got their work cut out for them.
Above: Cadence prominently features blog posts from employees, as well as one click links to community forums
Why community for Cadence? Their description says they “Provides front-to-back design tools and services for all aspects of semiconductor design”. Essentially, a developer community of engineers is who they are often going to serve, as such, developers will tend to communicate, ask and answer questions, and self-support each other. I’d guess this is a ‘supporting’ (forums) strategy followed by ‘talking’ (blogs) objective, using Groundswell terminology.
Above: Although just getting started, the forum is seeded with topics, has member profiles, as well as tags and unanswered questions.
A deeper look into the forum features you’ll see on the right nav a listing of unanswered questions, as well as ‘popular tag’ content modules. The former to encourage self-support from members, and the latter will help identify popular topics in the community. Also you’ll find a rating and ranking system for popular discussions, such as this comment marked three stars.
What’s promising is the ability to leave comments on any of the blog posts, or within the forums, all just one or two clicks from the corporate webpage. I asked Carlos Soares “How do you deal with negative comments” and he responded: “Comments are pre-moderated. There are terms and conditions that people who leave comments should abide by. If off-topic we may address it directly with the user leaving a comment or not depending on the nature of the comment (spam, obscene, personal attack, etc.)”
What are some potential next steps for Cadence? To continue to reach to their community by aggregating all of the discussion in their market, not just Cadence centric content. By becoming an industry discussion hub, they could take expand mindshare from other competitors and customers. Examples of this would look like aggregating content from other blogs or forums that are not hosted at the Cadence domain. Perhaps another method is to invite engaged customers to lead blog posts and prominently feature them discussing relevant –and sometimes controversial –discussions on the site. Currently, there is not enough user interaction, most of the forum discussions appear to be pre-seeded by Cadence (a good practice) but Cadence should have a kick start plan, to attract, and promote community members (I addresses this in my Online Community Best Practices Report). Lastly, the forums don’t have social networking features, I highly suspect that engineers will center around specific activities and will want to connect with each other, therefore Cadence forums could evolve to a white label social networking platform.
In any case, this is truly a step in the promise of putting people and the discussions they have in the foreground, let’s revisit this in a few months and see if they community has taken the lead.
A few months ago, I covered Dell’s Green campaign called “Regeneration” which allowed community members to create their own art themed “green” and they were then given the opportunity to vote on which one was best. They turned over much of the marketing control to the community, while they become more of an enablement platform, rather than ‘forcing’ a message down their throat.
They’ve taken the next step by assembling some of the winning drawings and created an emebeddable flash player that shows the art work being created in time-lapse style. Yes, you can see how the engaged community of artists hand drew each of these ads. As I understand it, they are not paid, this is voluntary, in hopes of some prizes, and perhaps more importantly, recognition.
Now you should be sharing this with your creative team (see the initial case study) and start to think about how your brand can start listening to your customers –and allowing them to tell your story, rather than you always having to use a megaphone.
What could Dell do to take this to the next level? Integrate these final drawings in many different areas of the Regeneration campaigns, including TV ads, theme designed laptops and computers, and ultimately having a community created marketing department that spreads to other product lines.
Jennifer Jones, who hosts one of the top ongoing social media marketing podcasts, interviews Emmanuel Brown of Nike Jordan. I saw Emmanuel at the last Marketing Forum in L.A. he told us that employees are encouraged to work out a couple of hours every day. Actually, it’s more than encouraged, it’s mandatory. He discusses their Breakfast Club interactive program, which helps customers track and improve their daily sports routine, and recently won a Groundswell award for their efforts.