“I usually see a lot of B2C examples; can you tell me about how B2B marketers should use social media?”
For years, literally, I have been asked this question at conferences and client events. And I always have the same answer, delivered with a grin:
“I know that B2B marketers think you are special. And you ARE special… but not when it comes to social; social media is about delivering value to people in order to earn their attention. And your customers are people, right?”
Interestingly, I always expect to get pushback on this answer, but I never have. It’s also very refreshing for me to see that others (leaders in the B2B marketing space) are starting to see, and say, the same thing (and not just in relation to social, but also across all marketing).
In this video, Jonathan Becher, CMO of SAP, speaks to this exact shift at last weeks’ SAPPHIRENOW – noting that marketing in 2011 is really about marketing to people. It may seem like a small semantic difference, but the mindset is very progressive. The video is worth a watch, and Jonathan speaks to this shift specifically at about 7:00 (apologies for the ad off the top!).
Since 2007 I have had the pleasure of participating in SAP’s Influencer Program. This group of digital influencers are invited to attend events like SAPPHIRENOW (SAP’s huge annual ecosystem conference – think MacWorld, but SAP) and TechEd (smaller, regional events with a more geeky bent) to see new products, speak 1:1 with senior executives and generally get a feel for what’s ahead. I enjoy these events tremendously and always get a ton of value from them.
So what was the big highlight for me this year? Interestingly, it had very little to do with SAP product and everything to do with people. A couple of months back I got a call from Stacey Fish in SAP Global Communications, asking if I would be interested in moderating a panel discussion among senior women in technology about diversity. I was flattered to be asked, and last Tuesday I sat on stage with Janet Wood, SAP EVP, Sandy Rasel, CIO of Purdue Farms, Kathi Hanrahan, a senior delivery executive at IBM (pinch-hitting for Jeanette Horan, who was just named CIO of IBM) and Kristen Blum, CIO at PepsiCo in front of an invite-only audience of about 200 women in technology.
Topics covered included the price of professional success (well set up for us by SAP Board Member Angelika Damann’s keynote), the importance of mentoring and networking (two areas critical to achieving a senior leadership role), and how our perception of ourselves in the workplace becomes reality (ie: you make your own success).
Overall, it was an amazing opportunity to hear the experiences of women who have achieved extremely senior roles in male-dominated fields, and it was personally a pleasure to have the chance to share the stage with such an accomplished group.
Ahead of our session, SAP’s Natascha Thomson and I talked about the importance of diversity (of all kinds) in the workplace and its impact on innovation. Here’s the video.
[disclosure: SAP has been an active SMG client since 2007]
I spoke at a Tedx event on Wednesday. The theme of TedX 2011 Silicon North was the path to innovation. In my world, innovation means the application of new ideas, technologies, services and approaches to our client’s business. It is where the rubber hits the road.
At SMG, we are fortunate to work with some of North America’s leading brands and organizations in applied social media. Each of our clients is unique. They do have some things in common – they are established enterprises full of legacy structures, models and processes.
I am a strategist and a dreamer. I love the potential of digital media and have tremendous passion for the power of new communications models to establish connections and patterns. I love my work and jumped at the chance to share in the Ted-style format.
A bit of a late addition, I had days to put together my remarks. As a rule, I do not discuss client work publicly without explicit permission from my clients. So, I decided to write a fable to highlight some insights on the path to innovating with large organizations.
In this fable, I am of course the Butterfly. Those of us who live and breathe innovation and the new can easily get caught up with ideas and excited by the next big thing. Today it might be group buying and location based marketing. Tomorrow, it could be social gaming and branded content marketing. Innovation with new technology is our passion and these are exciting times.
And many organizations are like the Elephant. They see the world changing and are unsure of what path to take.
A couple of insights from the fable:
Obviously, it is crucial to listen first and enter engagements with curiosity. Organizations become really good at being big; and as much as we’d wish it to be so, they do not turn on a dime. Like the Elephant, they are very wise, have developed their own innovations and achieved greatness.
Where innovation is needed, we have had success with pilot projects. The successful pilot project needs to be brought into the organization’s structure for ongoing execution. This can be a difficult and disruptive transition. The application of emerging paid social media marketing is an example. What we see with new ad formats like Twitter’s Promoted Platform, is the real-time convergence of owned, earned and paid media. We butterflies, say, “bring it on” “the results are incredible. let’s go”. The clients while enthusiastic, need to deal with that fact that for decades, their paid advertising and their public relations functions (which manage earned and owned media channels) have operated in complete silos. So yes, an incredible opportunity, but things need to change inside the organization to capitalize.
Cookie-cutter approaches to what worked for other companies are not likely to be accepted. It is far better to invest to understand the client’s organization – their objectives, plans, previous successes, culture and appetite for change. By all means, cite examples and refer to best practices, but that’s not the ideal place to start.
There is potential and appetite inside large organizations to evolve to meet new markets and opportunities.There are some common barriers:
How to measure efforts and integrate the new with their existing KPIs
Lack of knowledgeable staff and the requirement to build capacity and capability in their organization
Technical complexity and the need to reconcile the new with legacy systems
Also nomenclature – “social media” is an ambiguous term. The clients understand retention marketing and CRM. Is that not what we’re talking about?
How do you position a new idea so that it gains acceptance? Is it an internal collaboration technology that is going to drive increased knowledge management and productivity? Or, is it easier to grasp that we’re going to transform the Intranet by incorporating social tools like profiles and spaces where people are co-create and share?
Culture and the shift from command and control. Who owns the new? The politics of driving innovation inside an enterprise can be staggering. Again, the best thing to do is to listen carefully, stay curious and positive and help the client sell the innovation to their stakeholders.
I closed my remarks with a challenge – consider how you as an innovative butterfly can move the Elephants and change the world in the process!
I remember September 11th the way my parents’ generation remembers the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Except that we invariably ask each other the question, “Where were you when you first saw it on TV?” (for me it was through the window of a restaurant in Union Station, in downtown Toronto. I was on my way to a client meeting). 9/11 was so profound that my husband and I discussed whether it was responsible to bring children into such a world. In the end, we decided that hope in the face of horror was the best revenge EVAR, and our son was born the following September.
But I digress.
Watching this evenings’ handling of the announcement that Osama Bin Laden has been killed, I stand in awe of the White House and their masterful understanding of how news is now realtime, and the role that Twitter plays in the information cycle as “circulatory system”. Knowing that seeing the President announce that Public Enemy #1 is dead, and making that emotional connection, human to human, is of critical importance, the White House brilliantly managed information release around the announcement:
10:00 – watching CNN, we were informed that there was to be an important announcement regarding “national security” at 10:30 – Twitter immediately lit up with speculation
10:20 – the announcement is delayed, and strong speculation that it’s about Osama Bin Laden’s death starts to emerge
10:25 – Twitter is on fire, with a tweet from a CBS news Producer (with fewer than 4500 Twitter followers) confirming a leak that Bin Laden is dead retweeted over 1000 times
10:50 – The White House invites Facebook users to discuss the pending announcement (where the Presidential address is also scheduled to be broadcast)
10:53 – print media demonstrates where it can’t compete so well, with a journalist for a major national magazine noting that this announcement was going to “profoundly screw up” their Royal Wedding edition.
11:15 – Osama Bin Laden’s death confirmed by the White House
11:22 – We’re still waiting for the President to speak on TV
So what does this demonstrate? That the White House and their understanding of how the news cycle now works is absolutely masterful. Why announce on TV first and then let social chatter flutter and die in its wake? Use social to ramp up awareness and discussion – use it to get me to call my mom and ask her if she’s going to watch the Presidential address on CNN in order to maximize viewership against that all-important eye-to-eye moment – and then let us armchair quarterback the whole thing on the social channel of our choice for the rest of the evening.