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.
It could have been your brand
It could have been Rolex, Lexus, Gucci, or even your brand, sadly for LV, it was theirs.
A 26 year old artist named Nadia Plesner has been sued by Louis Vuitton for brand jacking their famous purses in a anti-genocide campaign.
The artist was trying to make a point that the media cares more for Paris Hilton extravaganza’s more than the genocide in the nation of Darfur.
Nadia states her intentions for the grass roots campaign:
“My illustration Simple Living is an idea inspired by the medias constant cover of completely meaningless things.
My thought was: Since doing nothing but wearing designerbags and small ugly dogs appearantly is enough to get you on a magasine cover, maybe it is worth a try for people who actually deserves and needs attention.
When we’re presented with the same images in the media over and over again, we might start to believe that they’re important.
As I was reading the book ”Not on our watch” by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast this summer, I felt horrified by the fact that even with the genocide and other ongoing atrocities in Darfur, Paris Hilton was the one getting all the attention. Is it possible that show business have outruled common sense?
If you can’t beat them, join them. This is why I have chosen to mix the cruel reality with showbiz elements in my drawing.”
LV files lawsuit
The letter was not met well, and LV has now filled suit against Nadia, claiming damages of over $20,000 a day, each day the campaign is continued.
The Groundswell begins
Since then the Darfur has grown in awareness, having now been on Digg, a Facebook group formed, spread in the news, and hundreds of blogs pointing to her site.
LV has two a few options
Here’s my take, from what I can tell, Louis Vuitton (and the dog) have nothing to do with Darfur, and their brand is being dragged through the African mud. Their response is pretty standard and expected, to protect the image and brand that they’ve been working to build. I’m sympathetic to them getting brand jacked, as they’ve not done anything to occur this unwanted attention.
Option 1: Continue legal path: Continue this path and settle with Nadia, given the many lawyers they have access to and resources, they will likely win a copyright infringement for the design being on another paid product.
Option 2: Join the campaign: They could drop the suit, and work with the Save Dafur organization to help raise funds by doing events, creating a specific product, or help promote the cause. This too has it’s downsides, the brand will be brought into the human rights spotlight, and if they have any dirt in this arena (perhaps oversees manufacturing) they’ll be in turn scrutinized. Secondly, this would be a nod to activitists everywhere to brand jack major brands in order to get support –and funding, the cycle will continue.
Option 3: Redirect focus on issues: Submitted by John Bell. I enjoyed John’s option so much, that I’ve embedded it here on the post as an update. “What they could do is work with Nadia and other artists to host discussions about media focus. They could partner with a neutral party like my friends at ifocos.org to steward the conversation. Keep the discussion away from luxury brands (which is not Nadia’s point anyhow). LV can become part of teh solution without taking on the brunt of an issue they do not own.”
Option 4: Walk away: Submitted by Alison Byrne Fields: “Drop the suit. Walk away and wait for the dust to settle. This little hullabaloo will have no long term negative impact on their brand.”
I’m weighing both options here for LV, there’s really not a great way out of it for them. I believe they are collateral damage, having done no wrong to invoke this groundswell, yet this is a nod to what could easily happen to other brands.
I asked my Twitter community to voice their opinion, on the topic, here’s what was said in public
ronbailey: – why not just donate a few bucks to the cause in exchange for her NOT using LV products in her campaign?
Dan Lewis: legalities aside, I’d be mighty upset if my name were wrongly associated with genocide. the artist is morally wrong here, no doubt
Alberto Nardelli: besides LV point being morally disturbing, IP case doesn’t stand: would be like campbells suing warhol
Kim Pearson: I’m a former PR person, not a lawyer, but I’d argue that LV is doing itself more harm by its response, not protecting its brand.
Ed Saipetch: ironically in the same vain, I heard the (RED) campaign benefits retailers and product producers much much more than the AIDS fight
Rainne: I say not, b/c the artist did not use the vuitton pattern, she simply invoked its similarity.
mlogan: They turned this into a big story and managed to put themselves on the wrong side of a humanitarian crisis. Smooth
bethdunn: it’s another case of a company doing more harm than good to their brand by trying to halt something they can’t control
ronbailey: how has LV been harmed by Nadia’s campaign? – She was poking fun at celebrity culture in general, not LV in particular
ronbailey: They could have easily turned a blind eye to the whole episode.
Ok, you weigh in, If you were the CMO, what should LV do?
If you’re in need of a vacation, take this roller coaster ride with Shel Israel, who’s on a mission to explore social media when it comes to companies, a topic I’m focused on as a researcher. Sea World worked with Kami Huyse to “move the needle” to reach out to an influence community called “American Coaster Enthusiasts” to reach them using social media tools.
They used YouTube, Flickr to publish their media and encouraged the community to use the videos (creative commons rights) and were encouraging content to be created. You’ll learn that this six week campaign reaches specific downloads and activity, some were downloaded 100,000 times.
What about this makes a good strategy? Sea World found their passion community (many brands have one) figured out how to have a discussion with them using their tools, let go of their own content for it to spread and be used by that community, and resulted in positive increase in product (park visits) usage.
What could they do better? Sea World should involve the coaster enthusiasts to help design, build, and promote the next generation coaster. Sea World could also sponsor their site, hold and event for them, and figure out other ways to make them brand ambassadors.
Towards the end of the video, they make some pretty incredible findings on how people found out about the real-world park through the web.
The market pressure to create technology products that protect or at least damage their impact to the environment continues to grow. Sustainability and green-tech campaigns are coming from nearly every tech company –esp hardware manufactures. Dell is no exception and launches this Regeneration campaign.
[Dell Leaned on an Active Artist Community In Facebook to Create, Vote, Self-Regulate what it "Means to be Green" Regeneration Campaign]
I’ve not spoken with the Dell marketing team, but it’s pretty obvious this is a campaign helps to help improve Dell products to be more eco-friendly, and of course, spur affinity torwards the brand from green leaning consumers, the ReGeneration site has more details.
Strategy Dell Computers, along with Federated Media (A social media marketing agency), and Graffiti Wall (A popular self-expression Facebook application), deployed an interactive marketing campaign that encouraged existing Graffiti artists to be involved in a contest that spurred a member created campaign resulting in affinity towards Dell. The artists were encouraged to ‘own’ the message, their creativity would spur a contest, and would continue to fuel the campaign.
Graffiti is a self-expression application in Facebook. It has popular (rated 4 out of 5 stars) Based on 242 reviews, and has 177,506 daily active users. Rather than creating a new application, this campaign took advantage of an application –and community–that already existed.
2) An art contest: What does Green mean to you?
Facebook members who used Graffiti were encouraged to join in a contest to win a 22″ environmentally friendly Dell monitor (appropriate for artists) to create art around the theme of “What does Green mean to you?” The contest lasted for one week
3) Engaged contributors spur theme
Over 7000 pieces of artwork were created and submitted to the contest. If you watch the replay of the art being created, you’ll see hidden messages (like easter eggs) from the artists as they discuss what green means to them. Many of the drawings had the Dell logo or the regeneration logo embedded in it. The Regeneration microsite promotes a few contributors.
4) Self Regulation
There were few negative pics that would detract from the campaign, as the community of existing artists will self-regulate and vote off pics that were not appropriate.
The campaign was a success, thousands of engaged members participated, created the campaign on behalf of Dell (similar to the Chevy Tahoe campaign a few years ago), and the community was rewarded. I don’t know for sure, but I’ll guess the majority of the campaign dollars were spent creating the microsite, then hiring FM, and working with Graffiti. The monitors, were likely less than a $1000 each.
What could have been better
When it comes to social media, the mentality of short lived campaigns should go away. Communities existed before a brand reaches to them and after the campaign stops. Marketers should plan for long term engagements with these people, rather than short two week spurts. There was clearly traction here and now’s the time to step on the gas and continue forward.
Secondly, the artwork created by the winners (and runner ups) should be included in future products, such as digital wallpapers, in the primary branding for Dell, and even the artists should be given an option to continue as sponsored artists. With the relationship forming, take it to the next level. Encourage artwork to be part of next generation green computers, with proceeds going to non-profits or back to the artists to continue forth.
Thirdly, the campaign was limited to Facebook, which isn’t the extent of artists on the web, as well as limited to other social networks such as Bebo or MySpace where similar communities can be found. The contest should have been created not just within the walls of a closed gardens, but also spread to the open web.
Unlike most marketing campaigns that deploy heavy ads, fake viral videos, or message bombardment, this campaign let go to gain more. Overall, this is a successful campaign as they turned the action over to the community, let them take charge, decide on the winners, all under the context of the regeneration campaign. The campaign moved the active community from Facebook closer to the branded Microsite, closer to the corporate website, migrating users in an opt-in manner that lead to hundreds of comments was clever. Well done.
As a vendor, part of your job is to represent yourself well in front of prospects, customers, partners, media, investors and analysts. In nearly all of those cases, you’ll be expected to tell a case study. In the space that I cover there are over 70 vendors, and you really will need to stand out of the crowd, telling an effective, memorable case study can really help.
How To Tell An Effective Case Study
First of all, think of a case study as telling a story: start with a start, end with the end, there is a plot, characters, opposition and an ending with a resolution. Use diagrams or slides or screenshots to supplement the discussion.
1) Define the Objective
Define what the problem or challenge that your client was trying to overcome, express why the marketing campaign was needed in the first place. Examples of an objective could be: the need to connect with a certain audience/market, raise awareness for a product, glean insight into an existing market, or directly impact sales. Ideally the less objectives you have, the more focused your campaign will be, so try to be succint.
2) Tell what you actually did
In detail, outline the steps that you did for your client, include the features, services, and deployment. Give specifics: reaching to acommunity, endorsing a contest, deploying ads, or launching a series of podcasts. Of course, each activity should align with your objective(s).
3) Define how you overcame challenges
Many vendors are afraid to show their weaknesses, instead be forthcoming, no campaign ever goes perfect or the client would have done it themselves. Talk about challenges and how you overcame them or what you learned. Demonstrate your flexibility and ability to be a quick savvy marketer.
4) Tell what the costs were
In some cases (such as an Analyst briefing) it can be to your advantage to discuss costs and pricing, because: 1) Analyst can guide clients to the appropriate vendor if they have price considerations 2) The Analyst likely has pricing of your marketplace and if you ask, they may tell you how you compare to market pricing (of course, never giving away confidential information). This can be on or off the record, and they will respect your wishes. Still uncomfortable? use ranges of prices or price bands.
5) Measurable results
This is the clincher. Provide detailed analysis and results on what you accomplished. Use numbers. For example: 100,000 new registered users were gained and 30% of them were very active resulting in an average duration of 20 minutes where 1500 of them talked about the campaign, click through to a microsite, or interacted with a game, etc.
I hope these tips help you, it will certainly help me understand why you’re the worthy company you are. I’ve tagged this ‘analyst’ with my other posts related to this topic, be sure to cruise through those. (like What an Effective Analyst Briefing is Like)