Thursday, December 2, 2010

3 Social Media Practices That Make Me Itch

Last night I went to a fun get-together with other social media practitioners and of course, after talking about what we keep in the trunks of our cars and sharing pictures of some people’s cats – I even got to (virtually) meet a cat by the name of Tubby Johnson -, we landed on the topic of social media. The conversation started something like this: “You know what my least favorite word is these days?!”, and everyone in our small group offered his or her least favorite word describing social media or used in social media. I only offered one word at dinner but here are my top 3 least liked words, or better yet, practices. Not because I don’t like these words in general but because of how they are used in social media.

3. Isolation

Social media should not be done in a vacuum, it should serve a higher purpose and it should be an integral part of your other activities. It should be tied to and driven by your overall business objectives. If an activity does not support your objective, ask yourself if it really deserves the time and attention you’re giving to it. Probably not. Social media should also be integrated into your other marketing, PR, customer service, HR, etc tactics and not used as a standalone effort.

2. Campaigns

Until we come up with a better term, I’m going to stick with this. As practitioners, we need to stop talking about social campaigns and start talking about social presence or engagement or something along those lines. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the word “campaign” as it stands. What makes me raise my eyebrows is when all people do is use social for their campaigns, programs or events. When considering adding a social component to your campaign, ask yourself how you’re going to keep the momentum going when your campaign or event is over. If you can keep things going way, way, way past your program, using social media as part of your campaign makes sense. Always think long term about social.

If you don’t have a plan for consistent long-term engagement, setting up and driving people to a new social media account is not the best strategy. So what can you do if you want to engage in social media but can only commit a limited amount of time after your campaign? Start small.

1) Partner up with other groups and tap into their existing platforms and activities
2) Go where the conversations are: identify “guest” platforms to participate on (“fish where the fish are”)
3) If you’re a larger company, consider creating an umbrella account to which several teams can contribute (make sure you have an editorial calendar in place to help keep things fresh)

1. Amplification

Sigh. My absolute favorite term…not! Amplification of your marketing messages is ok. Amplification only is not ok. Social media is about conversations, it’s a series of platforms that allows you to interact with your customers and your customers to interact with each other. So put that front and center. Don’t constantly talk at your customers, they will tune you out. After all, nobody likes to be constantly shouted at or sold to. Find the right balance. And remember, when sharing information with your customers, be informative and interesting, offer value to your audience and finish with a clear call to action. Craft your updates by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes instead of pushing out messages from YOUR perspective. Think about why your audience should care.

What’s the bottom line? As shiny and sexy as it may seem, social media is not a shiny object. It is an extension of your marketing, PR and other activities that may include bright shiny objects along the way but the real essence of this type of effort lies in continuous and authentic conversations. Social media needs to be a series of on-going activities and interactions that support your business objectives and are integrated into your other daily efforts.

What is your least favorite word, term or practice in social media?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nuggets from Altimeter’s Corporate Social Strategists Report

Earlier today, Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) published a report on the Career Path of the Corporate Social Media Strategist.

Instead of summarizing his findings, in this blog post, I want to highlight some statistics and observations that really stood out to me. I think we suspected these things all along but seeing them in writing confirms our assumptions (or at least my assumptions). I’m excited to see some data we can use to help build a case or prove a point. The following quotes come directly from the report:

• We found that 41% of survey respondents said they were “reacting” to requests – rather than getting ahead of them. Yet the pressure is only mounting…
• Nearly 60% of surveyed Social Strategists classified their organizational model as “Hub and Spoke” or “Multiple Hub and Spoke”…
• Unsatisfied, they expressed a desire for more effective ROI measurements – 48% of Social Strategists have made measurement a primary objective for their 2011 program…
• In our recent count, there are 145 brand monitoring firms, 125 community platforms, thousands of social media agencies, and of out-of-work professionals who turn to social media careers.
• In the next few years, expect groups that first shunned social media to seek direct involvement – or run their own programs to regain power.
• We heard from one Social Strategist that the number of internal demands will increase “from 4 to 5 times more requests this year from last.”… At the same time, external demands will increase as social media becomes mainstream and customers learn to voice their complaints publicly.
• Some Strategists said that success would mean being out of a job in the coming years. One Strategist said: “In five years, this role doesn't exist. The role will be subsumed into every part of the company.”

And last but not least, I love this quote:

“There’s a significant parallel between ERP programs of the late 90s and today’s social business programs – both require deployment across the entire enterprise. However, ERP rollouts were well funded and staffed, with dedicated project management teams and often, an army of embedded consultants. While social business programs likewise touch every business unit, the difference in resources and headcount is stark.”

Although this report focuses on the career path of social strategists; as a practitioner, I’d just like to emphasize again that in addition to your social media managers, long-term and continuous engagement from your content, or subject matter, experts is critical.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Social Media Engagement: Integrating into Your Business

You have provided the necessary education to team members to help them get started, you have your objectives in place, you know what you’re going to measure, your staff understands your social media policies and governance. (Obviously you need to have policies and rules of engagement in place before you engage. They help protect you and your company and help set expectations.) You’re ready to roll up your sleeves and dive in. But wait, there’s at least one more thing to add to your to-do list. Social media is more than just your social media managers and subject matter experts conversing on the social web, and you need to be prepared for that. Let’s look at another layer of social media engagement through the 4P’s.

1. People: It Takes a Village (The “Behind-the-Scenes” Players)

Your social media managers and subject matter experts now engage together, but is that enough? As you designate your people for social media engagement, not only will you need to think about their roles and responsibilities, but also about the work and information flow, with specific handoff points, they need to follow in case of a crisis or to help move people along the activity or sales funnel. Therefore, additional questions you may want to ask here are:

A. What are the possible scenarios that will prompt a social media manager or subject matter expert to “pass the ball”? (Classify the possible actions that trigger reaction).
B. Who do they need to pass the ball to?
C. What action will they need to take before passing the ball?
D. What action do they expect the other person, who has the ball now, to take?
E. What constitutes the END? When is the situation considered to be over?

The key is that a backend team needs to exist who is clear about the topic in question, their roles, responsibilities, and work and information flow should they need to jump in. For example, in case of a crisis, your extended team will likely come from PR and/or Corporate Communications, depending on how your organization is set up, or in case of a sales opportunity, additional engagement may need to come from sales, business development or another related function, depending on your organizational structure. Customer service and legal are other groups whose expertise is often needed in social media.

2. Places: Move between On- and Offline

In some cases, the handoff process also means the transfer of the engagement offline. Just because a relationship starts online, it doesn’t mean it will stay (only) online. Social media for B2Bs is no different than in this regard: you meet somebody online, you chat with this person and you decide to ask this person out on a date. In the world of the social web, corporations need to understand and assess when to move conversations offline (and move them back online if needed). The ability to realize when a shift in the communication approach is necessary and then effectively transfer the online conversation offline is critical. This can become a significant challenge if the online relationship was established and nurtured by another person or department than the home of the offline engagement. This process should be carefully orchestrated within the company and transparent to the customer (see some tips under “People”). The last point is key. From a customer, fan or follower’s standpoint, it is irrelevant where you engage with them. Establishing and providing a positive experience to this person at every point in the funnel, wherever it may be, is crucial.

3. Parts: Help Uncover Situations and Manage the Engagement Process

Your tools and applications can play different roles in the engagement process. To start with, the insights from your listening tools can help uncover challenges or opportunities. Or, you can use various tools and applications to monitor and document what happens to your lead or customer in question to help ensure that the “ball keeps rolling”. As an example social CRM comes to mind. And when you have resolved the situation or seized the opportunity, you can use social media measurement tools to analyze the outcome. The message here is that your social media Parts can augment your existing, traditional tools and applications (e.g., your traditional CRM tool) to help provide a holistic view and manage the engagement process. So choose your Parts wisely.

4. Practices: Close the Loop. Follow Through

Your tools and applications can help you follow and document the “life” of a situation or an opportunity, but it’s really your practices that will make the biggest difference. And these practices are not possible without having the right people on board.

Act upon what you have uncovered from your listening efforts or on the web, follow the process outlined for moving people along the sales or activity funnel or dealing with a crisis, and always, always close the loop and follow through as a team. Stay in close contact with your extended team members to help ensure the prospect or customer is taken care of. There’s nothing worse than dropping the ball.

Once the situation is over, don’t just walk away. Add two more questions to your checklist:

F. Are there any other people, groups, fans or followers this situation or resolution of this situation should be communicated to?
G. What have we learned? What should we do differently in the future…on and off the web?

Just like my previous blog on the 4P’s, this post is also a simplified version of the work and information flow that need to exist for successful engagement. What I really want to leave you with is the need to integrate social media into your overall business processes. It should not be done in a vacuum, and I hope the above examples help highlight a few reasons why integration is important. Social media works best when it’s integrated into your overall business and is managed as an on-going and long-term activity next to your other marketing, PR, customer service, etc. efforts.

In the next few weeks, I'll share some more thoughts on Practices, please stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quick Tips to Plan Your Social Media Engagement: 4P Framework

I tend to think in frameworks so whenever I can simplify or break things down into smaller pieces, I will do so. When I talk to people about social media and how to plan their engagement, I often ask if they want to hear the 2-minute or the 30-minute version. For the 2-minute pitch, I have come up with the 4 P’s of planning your social media engagement. This framework has nothing to do with Philip Kotler's 4Ps of Marketing Mix: Product Strategies, but I'm thrilled about the coincidence.

Obviously, you need to have something to talk about and you need to have your objectives in place. After that, consider applying the 4Ps. Think about the 4Ps as a quick and dirty framework or as a quick and dirty checklist you can run through to help make sure you cover your bases. Periodically, you can refer back to this framework to help ensure you’re on target.

A disclaimer first: although at the bottom of this blog I mention that the opinions expressed here are mine, I want to reiterate that these are my own thoughts. So if you don’t like what I’m about to say, please don’t blame my employer :-). Now that we have that covered, here we go:

1. People

In fields, such as high-tech, biotech, etc., where highly specialized knowledge and skills are required, the engagement and commitment of subject matter experts, or SMEs, is critical. Your social media managers – or interns – can only get you so far. They can help put the infrastructure and tools in place, give your company or products shoutouts, but they are not the right group of people to engage in meaningful two-way conversations. They are not your content experts. Therefore, if you want to be successful in social media, you will need to have your social media managers and subject matter experts engage together.

2. Places

Places refers to the location of your social media engagements. Exposure is key to success. Most people start “at home”, that is on social media destinations they own or manage. Unfortunately, many stay there. Giving attention to conversations that are taking place on guest platforms can help you in many ways, here are some to consider:

1) Prospecting
2) Uncovering competitive situations and pain points
3) Understanding, testing and/or validating search terms people are using and topics people care about in your segment
4) Gathering ideas for new products, business models and other bottom-line impacting efforts
5) Impacting sentiment

Let’s face it. Customers and potential customers that engage with you on the platforms you own or manage have already expressed some level of interest in you, or at a minimum, they know about you. But how can you find those that are not talking about you or your competition? By reaching them on platforms they participate on, or from your perspective, on guest destinations.

3. Parts

Parts stands for tools and applications you can use to help achieve your goals. These tools and applications fall into 3 categories: listening, engagement and measurement/analysis, and can be homegrown or developed by a vendor. Always let your objectives dictate your tools and applications.

4. Practices

The epitome of social media marketing is engagement. How you engage, to be precise. Too often companies are focused on social media campaigns and programs that have a beginning and an end date. But in reality, these efforts only “buy” you short-term victory. In order to be successful long term, organizations need to combine day-to-day social media engagement with their special occasion programs, such as launches, events, contests, sweepstakes, etc. These special occasions will add excitement to your daily Twitter or Facebook conversations, or your everyday listening efforts. However, it’s the day-to-day engagement that will truly help drive long-term preference, loyalty and even advocacy for your brand. In summary, the key is continuous and long-term engagement which you can achieve through the combination of day-to-day activities and special occasions.

As you can probably tell, I'm really passionate about this and could probably write a chapter on this topic. But for now, I hope you'll find the 2-minute version helpful.

© Copyright 2010.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Never Stop Experimenting: Pushing the B2B Event Envelope with Geo-Location

CiscoLive 2010. Another year, another planning cycle. “How can we push the boundaries of last year’s show? How can we do something new? How can we increase traffic on the show floor?” were the questions on the Cisco Events team’s mind as they started flushing out their strategy and tactics for this year’s CiscoLive event. After some deliberation, the team landed on geo-location. Today the use of geo-location tools is without a doubt more popular in the B2C market and among consumers in general. This blog post aims at giving you an example of how geo-location can work in the B2B environment. This is the story of Elizabeth Houston (@elhoust), Kathleen Mudge (@KathleenMudge) and Staci Clark on Cisco’s Corporate Events team.

1. Set Clear Objectives.

The CiscoLive 2010 team wanted to find new ways to drive traffic to the live event, increase participation, and attract a new audience segment that was not their typical market. They knew that the first time using geo-location had to be about experimentation. Their objective was to use this event to prove the concept of geo-location for B2Bs.

2. Turn Geo-Location Into a Game.

While geo-location is a relatively low-hanging fruit for consumer-centric companies, it is not an easy sell for B2B companies. The secret lies in finding the right environment and right format for B2B geo-location offers. Having realized the potential of geo-location integration into the biggest Cisco event, the Cisco Events team just needed to vet their format options. The winning combination was a hybrid online and offline scavenger hunt-like game that rewarded people for checking in to and participating in certain online and offline activities. Or, as the team put it: “The CiscoLive planning team was able to create a unique social media "passport"-type program for attendees. Participants were able to "check in" at different CiscoLive locations, earn points, and win prizes. There were benefits for both attendees and Cisco: 1) attendees were rewarded for their participation efforts in a fun "gaming" way and 2) Cisco was able to broaden awareness and drive traffic to different onsite activities and to different social media channels for the daily game clues.”

3. Build Awareness of Tools and Communication Channels With Your Audience In Advance.

As is the case with anything new (well, new to your internal and external audiences), you need to invest in awareness and education ahead of time. The more comfortable people get, the more widespread the usage is going to be – assuming they have access to the enabling technology.

4. Provide a Platform for Questions. Be Available to Respond.

To help increase their audience’s comfort level, the Cisco Events team created an online platform for people to ask questions about the game and geo-location in general. They staffed this channel to respond in a timely fashion. Not only did this help enable the team to educate people about this social media tool but it also allowed them to create a dialog and engage with their attendees in a more casual, fun setting than would be possible in an official environment.

5. Tie Geo-Location to Your Overall Marketing Plan to Increase Impact.

This last point is true for all social media, not just geo-location. Social media should not be done in a vacuum. The greater the integration with your overall efforts, the greater the impact. Case in point, when I asked Elizabeth what piece of advice she would give to marketers, she said: “Start early, create a clear plan, map back to the overall program goals, integrate with the marketing communications strategy and promote heavily!”

On a personal note, I think that as an increasing number of B2B companies are moving to or just incorporating virtual events into their event repertoire, new ways will open up for corporations to leverage geo-location services. There will be a growing interest in checking in to online events and participating in activities together (e.g., watching something) instead of just checking in to a physical location. Obviously, rewards in the future will need to reflect this evolution.

Friday, October 8, 2010

How Can Businesses Get Started with Tweet Chats? 8 Tips Based On Lessons Learned

Tweet chats are not new but they are still a relatively new phenomenon in the Business-to-Business (B2B) world. Why is that? Maybe it’s because a group tweet chat requires more effort to organize and conduct than simply asking a social media enthusiast to share a few thoughts on a particular topic. Additionally, many marketers still wonder about the value that social media offers to B2Bs. The fact is that more B2Bs are beginning to embrace social media as a way to expand their reach and engage with their audience. According to a article citing SPSS’ 2010 B2B Customer Engagement survey, 64% of interviewed companies are now using social media to engage customers. This is the story of a group at Cisco that regularly uses tweet chats for business.

The Cisco Collaboration Solutions Marketing team (@CiscoCollab) was the first group at Cisco to launch a series of monthly tweet chats. The nature of their solutions - collaboration technologies - implied an audience that was already more online savvy than some other segments. Therefore, tweet chats seemed like a natural extension of their existing Twitter activities. Since the first Collaboration tweet chat launched in March 2010, they have created a repeatable process to increase their efficiency around logistics and merged this program into their larger customer and influencer outreach initiative. The results: well-attended sessions month after month and increased name recognition for #CollabChat, the organization’s tweet chat program. To date, the team has had 4 sessions with an average of about 1,200 community post views each.

Kira Swain (@kiraswain) and Laura Powers (@powersla), the Social Media Managers behind these tweet chats, sat down with me a few days ago to help demystify group tweet chats. Here are some best practices they shared along with some additional notes from yours truly.

1. Find Your First Guinea Pig.

If this is your first group tweet chat, do a quick survey among your subject matter experts (SMEs) to see how many of them are on Twitter and what they do there. Those people should be your low-hanging fruit, partner with them first. Not only will they be more comfortable answering dozens of questions at the speed of light, but they will also bring their own followers into the conversation, thus giving this program some viral buzz.

If you don’t have any SMEs using Twitter, then consider some of these options to find your first guinea pig:

A) Look for signs in digital behaviors. Engage with those that tend to be more open to social technologies. You may have bloggers on your team or LinkedIn users. They will likely be more open than others to give tweet chats a try.

B) Take advantage of what’s at your fingertips. Organize your first tweet chat around one of your events. If you have a built-in topic that people are already engaged in, it will be easier to get them to engage in a tweet chat. If you have a speaker at this event, offer the audience to continue the conversation with this speaker after his or her session. Your presenter has just become your first tweet chat panelist.

C) Show by example. If your organization is still hesitating, you may think about teaming up with a third-party expert panel for your first chat. Invite some of your SMEs to the dry run as well as the event. Not only will this help them learn about tweet chats and Twitter in general, this will also make them more comfortable with the process.

In general, social media is most powerful when your social media managers and subject matter experts engage together. In corporate tweet chats, this is a pre-requisite. It’s like the yin and the yang. On one hand, you need people that understand the inner workings of framing, organizing and promoting these events, and on the other hand, you need people who can have a dialog about your market, product, or solution.

2. Select An Interesting Topic.

The key word is interesting. The tweet chat must be centered around a compelling topic that is of interest to your target audience. How can you find that? Key industry trends, major shifts in the market, and discussions about innovative new solutions can be a good place to start. The Collaboration Solutions Marketing team looks for topics in a variety of conventional and unconventional locations. Events, meetings, team discussions, and the like make up your conventional methods. But new ways have emerged to help you find your next agenda. Using social media listening/monitoring tools (like Radian6 or Cymphony) to discover what your customers are discussing online can also provide great topics for future tweet chats. The team’s previous tweet chats and posts on their Cisco Collaboration Community are sources the team now taps into regularly.

3. Train. Train. Train.

Before the event, make sure that your SMEs are trained on how to use Twitter in general and how to use Twitter for tweet chats. The Collaboration Solutions Marketing team uses to manage their sessions but TweetDeck is another good tool to accomplish the same thing. The team’s training, however, doesn’t stop at the technical level. The team pays special attention to Cisco’s social media guidelines, and they encourage panelists to familiarize themselves with this resource. After all, the same rules apply when engaging in social media as they do in traditional marketing: just because it’s social media, it doesn’t mean that anything goes. You need to know what is appropriate to say in a public forum.

4. Create Consistency. Brand Your Chats.

Creating consistency across your tweet chats helps increase recognition and recall. The Collaboration Solutions Marketing team’s monthly invitation process, program management, and follow-up communications attest to that. Each month they create an invitation with the event details, or framing post as they call it, which is hosted on their Collaboration Community. The format and instructions are always the same, only the topics, panelists, and dates change. Their chats always take place on Wednesday at the same time so people can remember and plan to attend. In addition, they have adopted #CollabChat as the hash tag which not only helps the target audience recognize and remember the event, but it also helps the team monitor and respond to the conversations.

5. Spread the Word.

Yes, it’s a TweetChat, but you don’t need to feel limited to Twitter as your only promotional platform. One of the successes behind the Collaboration Solutions Marketing team’s CollabChats is that they leverage all of their social media platforms and partner up with other Cisco teams to help cross-promote their chats. They also spread the word through their own personal accounts. And last but not least, they include the details in their newsletters and other traditional communication vehicles for extra exposure.

6. Appear Seamless to Your Audience.

This is one of the biggest challenges for B2B’s. In many situations, you will have more than one subject matter expert on your tweet chat. In the case of the Collaboration Solutions Marketing team, they have many regular SMEs, one rotating special guest, and one social media manager, who is the moderator of the show. So the team needs to carefully orchestrate their engagement tactics in the background to appear seamless to their audience. How do they do it? A few minutes before CollabChat starts, the panelists join a WebEx meeting. When the moderator kicks off the session using the CollabChat Twitter handle, the rest of the team is standing by for the first question. As the questions start appearing on the screen, the panelists decide live on the phone who is going to take which question. Once the decision is made, the chosen person responds to the question using his or her personal Twitter handle. So the panelists work as a team in the background but respond as individuals. See an example here:

7. Humanize the Experience.

The point about allowing people to respond to the questions using their own Twitter handles is very important. “People want to talk to other people. By bringing a human element into the conversation, we’re making Cisco more human, more relatable,” says Kira Swain. Alternating between the @CiscoCollab Twitter handle (which is used for moderation) and the individual responses gives a nice balance to this program.

8. Continue the engagement.

The chat is over, but the engagement is not. The Collaboration Solutions Marketing team does a last run through the conversations to make sure no question went unanswered. After that, they post the transcript to the Cisco Collaboration Community to share it with their audience, and are off to prepare for the next chat.

We hope to see you on the next one!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Contests: Nine Lessons Learned We'd Like to Share With You

A few months ago, I blogged about our evolution in game marketing. I looked at this question from the Service Provider Marketing's organization at Cisco, the pioneers of novelty marketing and highlighted how our marketing efforts had progressively gotten better in terms of message integration, tracking and analysis and just plain ol' marketing. Today's post takes a look at some of our contests. We have done several contests and picked three to share with you the story of our evolution and lessons learned.

As my dear friend and colleague, Zoya Fallah, the driver behind the most recent "What If Your TV could..." contest summed it up: "I think my main piece of advice is that any social media program can be successful if you properly plan strategy, collaborate with as many people as possible to help extend the reach and have dedicated resources (i.e. people and budget) established. In specific, contest marketing was a very effective viral campaign that reached over 5 million people by creating a place for people to share ideas and have a share of voice."

Couldn't agree more and would add one more thing. Do involve your legal team from the getgo especially if you're looking to do a global contest or sweepstakes and/or if you plan to reach certain segments (e.g., some public sector segments). Your partnership with Legal may not only include your Terms and Conditions (T&C) but can also extend into how to promote, or not promote, your contest or sweepstakes. And lastly, keep in mind that the platform you're choosing to run your contest on might have its own set of rules. So be sure to check them out. When it comes to contest marketing and legal, it's not true that it's better to do it first, apologize later. The ramifications of an ill-defined, or ill-executed, contest can be devastating.

So here is our story in a few slides. What has your experience been with running contests in social media?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The 9 Secrets of Success with Social Video

Not another term that starts with the word “social”, please! Hear me out. This is not your average video story: we created a video, put it on YouTube and bang, thousands of people have viewed it.

This story is about how to make social part of the video experience from A to Z. It’s about engagement. It’s about interactions. The Worldwide Partner Organization at Cisco is a pioneer when it comes to interactive videos. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Alexandra Krasne (@Cisco_Channels) on the team’s highly successful video chat program. The goal of this event is to provide a place for Cisco Partners to connect live with Cisco executives and other guests regardless of their physical location. The results? As of today, the 8 video chats have collectively generated close to 50,000 live views with many replays. These are the secrets behind their success.

1. Give a cool name to a cool concept

Webcast is so…20th century. Video chat is hip and perfectly describes what it aims to accomplish: bring people into the conversation real time. The Cisco video chat pioneers call their live broadcast Channels Chat. Easy to remember, right? We’re all familiar with simulated live online events and “save your questions until the end of the presentation”-like webcasts. But that’s not video chat. Video chat encourages viewers to ask questions LIVE as the discussion progresses and enables presenters to answer them as they come in.

2. Create an exciting offer

Giving direct access to hard-to-reach experts in a live, interactive venue is without a doubt compelling. Add to that the fact that users can save money by participating in these sessions free from the comfort of their homes or offices and watch again the recording at their leisure. Luanne Tierney’s, Vice President, Worldwide Partner Marketing, show in June 2010 had about 10,000 live viewers and approximately 1,500 replays.

“Besides discussing important issues on these forums, the team feels strongly about giving something new to the audience to think about”, said Alexandra. “As much as we hope that our audience participates in the conversation, we also hope that they walk away from the video chat with new information.” So how does the team choose their topics?

3. Prep your presenters

The good thing about video chats is that they allow people to interact with each other live. The bad thing about video chats is that they allow people to interact with each other live.

“Panelists need to think quickly on their feet, therefore, they need to be trained on how to handle different and unexpected situations. You just never know what kind of questions they will get. Showing tricks and tips to them prior to the video chat will help them as well as your program become successful”, said Alexandra.

4. Deliver the experience on a social platform

Channels Chat started in April 2010 and was initially hosted on the Cisco Systems Ustream channel. Driven by the success of the first video chat, the team decided to launch its own channel. The location is a “jaw dropper” when it comes to social media integration. Ustream’s capabilities include social streaming, the feed can be embedded on Facebook or a blog, viewers can submit questions in real time via Twitter or Facebook, and the platform lets you use a hash tag so viewers can follow the conversation. These features help amplify sharing on the social web as well as enable viewers to interact with the panel.

5. Know who you’re targeting

The Channels team knows that they shouldn’t try to be everything to everyone. They carefully select their topics and audience for each show. They target their audience by their role within the Partner segment or by their segment focus. For example, the June 2010 show attracted marketing professionals from Cisco Partner accounts and this month’s broadcast put the partners serving SMBs in the spotlight.

6. Integrate social media into your topic search

The Channels team has been using Twitter creatively to help augment their topic selection process. It would be easy to simply reach out for input to those that are talking directly to the target audience and stop there, but Alexandra’s team has taken their outreach to the next level. They monitor what the Partners are saying on Twitter and what triggers the most retweets, and are using this information to come up with the framework for their discussions.

7. Be human. Be social. Be authentic

As you have probably picked up on it by now, the key driver behind a successful social video program is engagement. And when engaging, remember that we’re humans first and employees next. Just because we work in corporate America, it doesn’t mean we need to act like robots. A human tone with unscripted (or maybe just a little scripting to help get your key points across) delivery brings more color into and makes the experience more enjoyable for viewers.

The Channels team learned early on that engaging people at the beginning of the session and periodically reminding them during the event to submit their questions helps increase participant engagement. It is quite common for panelists to give a shoutout to the audience asking for their questions and thoughts. While each session has received many audience comments, the Vice President, Worldwide Partner Marketing, Luanne Tierney and Cisco CTO, Padmasree Warrior’s chats each generated dozens of audience questions.

8. Keep it short and sweet

Many marketers fall in the trap of doing 60-minute or even longer shows. With adult ADD and multi-tasking sky-rocketing, it is getting increasingly harder to keep people engaged. The team has found that sessions around 30 minutes work well with their audience.

9. Continue the engagement post event

The event is over, now what? “We create a summary after each show and post it to our blog, the Channels blog. Our blog is the key go-to platform before and after the show. This is where people can find information about our past and upcoming video chats along with other information, and this is also the place they can read our answers to those questions we were unable to address on Channels Chat”, said Alexandra. In other words, this team closes the loop with their audience: all questions are addressed one way or another – either during the broadcast or on the blog.

In closing, I asked Alexandra if she had any last words of wisdom for marketers. Her response was: “starting promotion too early is just as bad as starting it late. We found that starting communication a week prior to the show is good enough. People get fatigued if you start too early and keep bombarding them with information about your event.”

Intrigued by Channels Chat? Experience it for yourself. Sign up to follow this program to be alerted to new sessions and updates at

@petra1400 on #140Conf in 6 Points

I thought the 1-week anniversary of #140Conf in San Francisco was the perfect opportunity to follow up with some takeaways from the conference (that’s another way of saying I’m soooo late!). Being in high-tech corporate America, what I loved about this event is the wide range of perspectives presenters from different industries brought to the table. We heard stories from how the transportation segment in Helsinki is leveraging real-time data on the web to provide riders up-to-date status, urging us to demand making the same data available in the US to how an up-and-coming star in the music industry, Quincy Brown (@quincy) is harnessing the power of Twitter to increase his fan base. And of course, this roundup would not be complete without the secrets behind the Old Spice Campaign and some good legal advice. So what were the main points that spoke to me?

1. Engagement Is Critical for Success

There are two people at VirginAmerica that keep social media alive for the airline. Now, that’s commitment! A big shoutout to Jill Fletcher and her partner in crime (@VirginAmerica). They mentioned a funny story about Guy Kawasaki who was tweeting on his flight from his seat that he wanted a Coke. VirginAmerica tweeted back “"Guy, why don't you just ask the flight attendant for a Coke.”

Besides being funny, this example reveals another crucial point: use Twitter to connect and engage with people, not to constantly market to them.

2. Be personable. Be social

This is always a good reminder, especially if you work for a BtoB company. This tip actually came from HP’s Social Media Manager, Mia Dand (@MiaD). In the BtoB world, we have a tendency to push business content. Mia reminded attendees to embrace the personal side of social media by making only 80% of your content work related and 20% personal. It's ok to do so even if you're a business.

She also urged practitioners to move beyond listening and start responding to people. So be social on the social web.

3. Legal Issues in the Real-Time Web Are Real and Growing

I loved Franice Ward’s (@francineward) thoughts on the legal implications of your actions in social media. Obviously don’t post anything that can get you fired. “It’s not blogs that get people fired, it’s people that get people fired”, she said. It was also interesting to hear her mention the increasing number of copyright issues in social media. She cautioned the audience to only put out content that they’re ok with others sharing because whatever you put on the social web can be used by others without your prior approval. However, I should add that it’s good practice to give credit to the person you’re borrowing from.

4. Making money on and off the social web – you haven’t seen anything yet

My colleague Autumn Truong has put it nicely in her blog “There will be increasing ways to turn small amounts of data such as tweets on Twitter, to dollars. For more information, check out Dom Sagolla’s (@dom) book, “@thebook 140 Characters”

5. Women in Advertising: Women in Exec Positions vs. Making Purchase Decisions

Katherine M. Gordon (@katgordon) gave her thoughts on why she thinks many advertisements don’t work today. She pointed to an imbalance between the number of women executives in the advertising industry (3%) and the influence of women in making purchase decisions (80%). Therefore, she believes that encouraging women to climb the leadership ladder in the advertising industry is critical. To help with this effort, she has created “The 3% Conference” (@3percentconf). By the way, men are highly encouraged to attend this conference.

6. The Future of Commerce: Relationship Commerce

Ted Rubin (@tedrubin), the Chief Social Marketing Officer at #OpenSky talked about the shift from traditional online buying to a new online purchase model which 1) creates revenue sharing opportunities for bloggers and influencers that connect people with products and 2) helps eliminate middlemen. The basic idea is this: you often ask your friends and family for their advice before buying something. So why not have the people you trust become part of the value chain? In this model, bloggers identify products they like and want to let people know about and then connect with people they think would enjoy that product. In essence, they act as “referral agents”. Anyone can sign up to be a blogger or a vendor as deals are executed by the various people that come together to move products. Ted's famous last words were: “Social media should not be measured in terms of ROI. It should be measured in terms of Return on Relationships, or ROR.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Explore Social Bookmarking in 11 Questions and Answers

Social bookmarking is often considered the stepchild of social media. To a large extent, this is due to the fact that social bookmarking is not as flashy and hip as a game or a contest and many people don’t understand the benefits of this technique. It’s still an afterthought. However, when used properly and consistently, it can positively impact content consumption and SEO. Here are some things we’ve learned on our social bookmarking journey thanks to David Deans of Cisco Service Provider Marketing who has pioneered this initiative for us. Hey, I’m just one of the people who StumbleUpons David’s (and other) articles. But he is the man behind the scenes who makes this program happen time after time. Find out how he does it.

David, why are you using social bookmarking?
We have two essential goals, and both are related to content consumption. It enables us to attract new followers that are interested in the content that we produce and publish. It also positively impacts our Search Engine Optimization (SEO) objectives, by adding new backlinks to our Preferred Landing Pages (PLPs) and associated content assets on those Web pages.

Why did you get started with social bookmarking? What was your hypothesis?
We primarily were focused on improving the discovery of our content. Web analytics reports exposed that much of our content was rarely being viewed by site visitors. Many of our PLPs were not ranking well in SERPs for common search phrases. Our target stakeholders simply weren’t finding our content. In my experience, a systematic social bookmarking campaign is a key ingredient in a comprehensive plan of action -- to rectify those types of problems.

What platform(s) are you focusing on? Why and how did you pick those?
Primarily, as a team we use StumbleUpon on a regular basis. I also use Business Exchange and I’ve included LinkedIn Group link postings to my bookmarking routine. Our platform selection was based on extensive usage experimentation and then monitoring the results over time. We apply the tools that consistently improve the discovery of our content assets and also contribute to our SEO objectives. Periodically, I’ll try a beta platform to complement our efforts. I’m experimenting with Google Lists and a few other new tools.

How were you using social bookmarking when you started out?
My initial applications were very basic and were all intended to promote a new blog site that I created. I registered on about 15 of the most well known sites (Digg, Delicious, Reddit, etc) and discovered their strengths, and weaknesses. I learned the benefits of making your bookmark list “public” and which platforms didn’t handicap your links with No-Follow tags – which is very important for SEO.

What was the biggest challenge when you got started, and how did you overcome it?
In the beginning I didn’t realize that some platforms were much better at reaching my target stakeholders, than most others. By studying the available analytics reports I was able to identify trends. That experience made me more aware of the need to better monitor the outcome of my activity. Social bookmarking can be a very labor-intensive exercise; that is, until you’re able to focus your efforts on the activities that are proven to deliver the optimal results. I now use bookmarklets and browser plug-ins to save time and increase my productivity.

What challenges are you facing today?
Reporting on the meaningful results of these activities is problematic and incomplete. As an example, we have to aggregate reports from different platforms in order to gain all the insights we need to measure performance – the process is manual and time consuming. Also, I’d like to be able to track stakeholder influence and the resulting impact on sales related activities. That would require a sophisticated closed-loop scenario for data capture, where we can better identify the cause and effect of activities on sales-related outcomes.

How has your use of social bookmarking evolved since you started?
Well, in the beginning I was performing these tasks in isolation – the activity seemed like “busy work” to anyone who wasn’t informed about the inherent value. Now, more members of our team participate, so the positive impact is greater and typically achieved in less time. Of course, demonstrated results has given us the ammunition we needed to increase that overall momentum. That said, we could achieve so much more, if others were actively involved.

What has been the business impact to date?
Our online exposure and stakeholder influence has risen as a direct result of these activities. As an example, StumbleUpon is second only to Twitter in driving new visitors to our Cisco SP360 blog posts – it’s more effective than Facebook. Slowly, but surely, we’re also seeing improvements in SEO results for some of the keyword phrases that we previously identified. The majority of our new visitor traffic continues to come from Google keyword searches, so the fact that our bookmarking has (in aggregate) attracted more than a third of the overall volume is significant progress. We’ve gained many “followers” that have engaged with us and our content assets. Clearly, when we curate and expose the best content for those followers we’re providing a valuable service – that’s very gratifying.

Are there any side benefits of bookmarking that you didn’t anticipate?
Absolutely, there are several. The bookmark lists we create are helpful to our internal constituents – we use our own lists to find content assets quickly. Bookmark click-through results can help you identify trends – regarding the types of content that people are seeking most often. I didn’t expect people to reach out to me and thank us for making it easier to find content that’s of interest to them. I personally found people, that I’ve never met, that share common interests with me -- and so I now chose to follow them.

Did you have any a-ha moments? Something that really surprised you?
At first I was skeptical about the immediacy of the SEO benefits of bookmarking. Most search-savvy web site publishers will tell you that increasing the number of backlinks to their content is a constant challenge. Bookmark lists on public pages will improve your Page-Rank, sometimes I’ve seen results in a matter of weeks. Also, gaining influential followers and having them share your bookmarks (totally unsolicited) with others is a progressive form of content syndication that I hadn’t considered before. We refer to that phenomenon as Exponential Marketing.

If you were to give one piece of advice to marketers looking to get into social bookmarking or already using it, what would that be?
Invest the time to understand the needs of your target audience – the people who potentially will become your loyal followers, via these social bookmarking tools. The tools are merely a means to an end objective – don’t lose sight of that ultimate goal (since this activity can be a distraction if not used wisely).

And the final words of wisdom from David: "Find the time to experiment on a few new beta platforms – in an attempt to learn something new about this rapidly changing field. And, above all else, be prepared to earn the respect of online followers – lead by demonstrating that your ongoing bookmarking activity is worthy of their time and attention."

How are you using social bookmarking today?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

12 Tips to Get Noticed in Social Media: Let the World Know You're Out There

In early June, I posted a blog about how to add social media to your events. As a follow-on to that post, here are some tips on how to let the world know you're in social media. Seems easy, right? Even though it does, I'm finding that a lot of groups, in the B2B segment at least, are not yet fully connecting the dots and leaving some opportunities for publicizing their social media presence on the table. Many B2Bs out there still tend to think in silos: "this is the advertising team's job", "this falls under marcom", etc. But if we take a step back, we can quickly find some unturned stones that can make a difference with relatively little effort. This is only step 1 in our quest for social media proficiency. The next challenge is to maintain the momentum we've built here.

On a personal note, the Lost in Iceland T-shirt featured in the below presentation is real and is mine. I bought it in Iceland during my visit 2 years ago. My heart goes out to all the people in the country and I sincerely hope that mother nature will show more kindness to them. Best wishes to all.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Just for Fun: Social Networking Site Logos That Look Like Yoga Poses

I'm sitting in yoga class and enjoying the benefits of the Cow Face pose. The person in front of me gets up and excuses herself from class for a few minutes. I can see myself in the mirror now and a random thought rushes through my head: this pose look like the letter "i". Even though I'm supposed to empty my mind and focus on my breathing, I decide to make the rest of the class an experiment: How many yoga poses look like the logos of today's popular social networking sites? Weird, I know. Regardless, I had a ton of fun with it during and after class. Those of you, social media fans out there with an appreciation for yoga might find this post amusing...and feel free to add more examples!

Cow face pose and wheel pose (source:

Flying bow pose (source:

Boat pose (source:

Bridge pose (source:

Side bend (source:

Extended hand-to-big toe pose (source:

Bow pose (source:

Headstand (source: yogalifestyle)

Bikram series (source: 

Scorpion pose (source:
This may require some explanation. I've picked this pose because it reminds me of the curves found in the letters "S" and "U"  in the logo.

Full one-legged king pigeon pose (source:

And what else is similar? Yoga can be just as addictive as social media. Hope you enjoyed this little experiment.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ten Intriguing Twitter Moments: From Funny to Bizarre

Unless you live under a rock, you'll admit that whether or not you are a fan, Twitter has a huge impact on how we communicate and share information today. Yesterday's news about the passing of 104-old Ivy Bean, the world's oldest person on Twitter, has sparked a series of questions in my head. We have all seen stats on the size and growth of social networking sites, Facebook, Twitter and the like, but I thought it would be fun to look at how else Twitter is shaping our lives. So I started experimenting with some random words to find out what connection (if any) they have to Twitter. Here is my top 10 PG-rated list of funny, interesting or weird Twitter use cases - on and off the web.

10. Twitterize your pet
I'm not surprised to see all the gear mentioning Twitter. Shirts, hats, shoes and aprons (I mean, really?), bags, mugs, buttons, the whole nine yards. I must admit some of the T-shirts are flat out hilarious. Zazzle offers a wide range of clothing items and office and home supplies but nothing beats their pet clothing. Seriously? A Twitter shirt for your dog? Not my cup of tea but if it's something you fancy, hey, more power to you...and to your dog.

9. Twitter cats with more followers than you
Ouch! That hurts. Check out the cats on Twitter that have a bigger following than you. I'll be sure to borrow some tips from them.

8. Come on baby, let's do the Tweet
It was just a matter of time before Twitter songs started popping up on YouTube. My favorite Twitter anthem is "I'm Tweeting". I'm a die-hard ballroom dancer so anything with a good beat will captivate me. You can't go wrong with updating a classic song with super creative lyrics so kudos to iJustine, you rock! The other one that has captured my attention is the one by Chris Thompson. Awesome man! But what's up with that Twitter dance? I certainly hope that the choreographers on Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance will not be borrowing these moves for their next dance routines...

7. Tweet My Bumper
According to Rich Whittle's blog post, "Tweet My Bumper helps Twitterers recruit new followers by targeting one of life’s few remaining captive audiences: drivers in traffic." Go to the Tweet My Bumper website, enter your Twitter ID and some other basic information, and Tweet My Bumper will send you a bumper sticker with your Twitter ID and the "Follow me in traffic. Follow me on Twitter" tag line.

6. Tweet and Drive? Not so much
Remember the Nate Robinson case? He was live tweeting after he got pulled over. Not such a good idea. While it was a PR nightmare, at least he wasn't tweeting while driving. Actually, tweeting and driving may not be as far away as you may think. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that the 2011 Ford Fiesta had been modified to be able to send tweets as it drives. I'm curious to see how this strategy is going to work for them. Best wishes to Ford!

5. Tweet and burn calories?
I'm waiting for the day that somebody proves that tweeting can help lose weight. Well, adding a Twitter spiel would definitely bring pizzazz to today's late night weightloss commercials. Just kidding. For now, however, we may just need to try TweetCalories, an application that counts how many calories you may burn by tweeting.

4. Live tweeting while...
I'm a big fan of live tweeting but there are some real-life situations that I think should stay exactly where they happen: offline. I can't wrap my head around why anybody would want to live tweet a funeral or an abortion. It's simply beyond what I can fathom but if it works for them...

There are some other eyebrow-raising circumstances I wonder about. Is tweeting really the most important thing they can think of at THAT moment? Apparently so. We've heard about the couple that updated their Facebook status while at the altar, but have you heard about the people that got engaged and married on Twitter? Live tweeting while giving birth seems to be on the rise since Erykah Badu gave up-to-the-minute reports on the birth of her daughter in early 2009. But the example that really caught my eye was the article on surgeons sending tweets from the operating room. I get the concept, it's cool...I just would not want to be the patient on that operating table. I'd really like to have my surgeon and nurses pay attention to me rather than the Twitter updates. But that's just me.

3. World's first street named after a Twitter account
This may sound bizarre at first but when you read the entire story, it is really inspiring. The street name "@arjanelfassed tweetstreet" can be found in a Palestinian refuge camp and was bought for $140 by Arjan El Fassed, a Dutch-Palestinian gentleman. Proceeds were donated to support cultural after-school programs for children in the camp.

2. Do you know your best man?
This can be a funny or embarrassing story, depending on whose side you're on. I'm not going to elaborate on how one British best man got back at his friend, just read this post. The conclusion: make sure you REALLY know your best man or don't do anything stupid to tick him off.

1. Somebody help! It's an emergency
And that's exactly what happened in Japan when a man got stuck in a public restroom without any toilet paper. So he sent out a tweet to the universe and 20 minutes later, he was a happy camper again. Wow, Twitter does work!

And that's how we roll with Twitter today (no pun intended).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Facebook Questions: A Gold Mine for BtoB Marketers?

Can the introduction of Facebook Questions become the catalyst for a shift toward more business engagements? From what I've seen, many still use Facebook primarily for personal reasons and it's been a challenge for BtoB companies to create high-quality engagements on Facebook. Typically, we see lots of "Likes", some fun posts and from time to time, we see more serious comments, but I'm yet to see a BtoB page on Facebook that can show the existence of on-going and deep conversations (if you know of one, please do share!). Note the emphasis on the words "on-going", "deep" and "conversations". Now, LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora or your own community platform can become more like that today if used properly.

I'm not saying we should pull the plug and leave Facebook alltogether. No, that's not the point. Facebook has a place and a purpose in BtoB marketing. But the recent announcement by Facebook Questions might make BtoB marketers wonder if this feature will have the power to infuse more high-quality business engagements into Facebook. The company did state that this feature was not intended for advertising or self promotion so for now, let's put that question aside.

Where I can see this feature having an impact is on community engagement. Companies should look at their community strategy on 2 levels:
1. Participating in your own community
2. Plugging into applicable "guest" communities (i.e., communities you don't own or manage)

Depending on how Facebook Questions is set up, this might just provide another avenue for BtoB marketers to engage in Community conversations. Why should they (at least) consider this as an option? Because they could...
1. Get exposure to and get exposed to people with similar interests (potential leads or partners, or brand advocates anyone?)
2. Help increase brand image and perception as a thought leader
3. Learn real-time about what's going on, what the pain points are and/or where the confusion is (can you smell the potential for ideation, new features, functionality and/or business models?)

However, there's always 2 sides to every story. I suspect that once widely available, "Facebookers" will experiment with this feature. And it is possible that as more users and marketers engage, the nature and depth of conversations could reach new levels. But for now, we just need to sit tight. I can't wait to see what it will look like, how it will work and how it will help enhance business engagements over time (because I'd like to think that it will have the potential to do so).

While we figure this out, I'm going to put another challenge on the table.
A 2010 B2B Customer Engagement Study by SPSS, an IBM Company, and summarized by reported that about half of the interviewed companies said they were poor or very poor at mining insights from social media and only 19% thought they were good or very good at it. Translation: we, BtoB marketers, need to get better at this, otherwise Facebook Questions will remain just another thing to check.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Behind-the-Scenes at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics: NBC and Cisco Team Up to Show the Power of Collaboration and Social Media

Recently I had the pleasure of working with Zoya Fallah, Social Media Marketing Manager at Cisco, on a case study that shows the partnership between NBC and Cisco at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Zoya, the one-person powerhouse behind Cisco's social media engagement for the Games, shared two pieces of good advice when I interviewed her. "COLLABORATION is key. SOCIAL is key. You cannot do one without the other. The more social channels that you can leverage, the better reach you will have. I truly believe that companies will benefit by understanding the importance of leveraging internal social media channels and other companies’ social media channels", she said.

Then she went on to explain how the collaboration between the 2 companies was born and what it entailed.

What were the key components of your event strategy?
We wanted to share behind-the-scenes footage from fans, journalists, and athletes with the public so that they could have an opportunity to experience the games virtually and to really get to know the athletes on a more personal level. The public wants “real” footage and not highly produced footage anymore. NBC distributing Flip cameras to US athletes, journalists, etc. created a perfect opportunity to obtain user-generated content while reducing that production time and cost.

What were the challenges you were trying to solve?
We wanted to extend the reach of the 2010 Winter Games beyond as well as help speed up the delivery of online video content while reducing production cost.

Focusing on the social media aspects, what did you do to promote the Winter Games and what worked or didn’t work?
Cisco and NBC collaborated and leveraged each other’s social media channels. NBC displayed a Twitter Tracker on to share these tweets with the public. The Flip footage was distributed via social channels with direct links. Without the use of NBC and Cisco social media promotions, the public would have to search for Flip footage on

Did you have any big surprises, or a-ha moments? If so, what were those?
Besides all of the amazing footage that we received from athletes, Brad Blanks captured Queen Latifah via Flip at the Games. It was very exciting to live the Games online and really be able to get to know the athletes personally.

If you'd like to learn more about this program or find out the 7 things we would do differently next time, take a look at this SlideShare presentation.

Congrats to Zoya and her counterparts at NBC on a social media program well done!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Notes from the "Demand Generation in the Digital Age" Virtual Trade Show

Earlier today, BtoB Magazine hosted a virtual trade show on "Leading Edge: Demand Generation in the Digital Age". The event featured numerous speakers and a well-organized virtual trade show environment powered by ON24. A big shoutout to both teams for putting on a great event and to all the speakers for delivering attention-grabbing presentations (and great content for my live tweets and this blog)!

Here a few takeaways from my live tweets. You may have heard them before but in the spirit of practice makes perfect, here you go again...

In his opening keynote, Joseph Jaffe (@jaffejuice) introduced the "Flipping the Funnel" concept to the audience which advocates that BtoB companies need to get to the point that most of their revenue comes from their existing customers. He suggests 4 pillars for flipping the funnel:
1. Acknowledgment
2. Dialog
3. Incentivisation
4. Activation

You'll know you have flipped the funnel when:
1. Retention becomes the new acquisition - proactive, dynamic, becomes a point of differentiation.
2. Customer service becomes THE key differentiator. WOM can become your best friend or worst nightmare.
3. The real role of social media is retention.

He suggests that in this state cost per referral should be the new benchmark and companies should shift their dollars toward retention rather than acquisition. It's not to say that they should not acquire new customers. The idea is to allocate more money for retention from your overall marketing budget.

Bulldog Solutions (@BDSolutions) and Compass Learning (@CompassLearning) partnered up on the delivery of a case study showing how the Executive Benchmark Assessment works in action. Check it out at Everything CompassLearning does feeds the assessment tool to help enable closed-loop lead nurturing. They created a plan that helps move qualified leads through the funnel. This plan focuses on strategic planning, engagement of prospects and conversion.

I want to highlight 2 components of this plan:
1. Viral personas. The speaker encouraged attendees to put in time to build viral personas to understand customers, consider creating at least 1 high-value action for customers and automate marketing whenever possible.
2. Content Center. The goal of this Content Center is to help improve engagement, target prospects based on their personas, reinforce thought leadership and syndicate content.

Lead nurturing should be viewed as an on-going dialog and companies need to think holistically about it [Couldn't agree more!]. Visit for more detailed info.

Steve Woods (@stevewoods) of Eloqua shared his thoughts on moving beyond demand generation and into revenue acceleration, and examined the changing role of marketing in support of sales. He views marketing as the facilitator in the buying process and as such, it needs to aim at providing insight to sales into the buyer's digital body language. How can marketing help do this? By:
1. Looking at individual prospects and using their digital body language to guide the conversation.
2. Understanding who the key influencers are within the buying team and connecting the field with that knowledge.
3. Providing visibility into your territory based on the lead scoring dashboard, and watching for and faciliating buying interest.

In essence, marketing's role is to prevent leaks from the funnel and successfully help move buyers through it by increasing awareness, being found and by being selected.

Check out Steve's blog at

Charlene Li (@charleneli) closed the event with her views on open leadership. I can only echo her sentiment about the realities of new marketing:
1. It's not messages but conversations.
2. It's not corporate but human.
3. It's not episodic but continuous.

In her virtual tour of the engagement pyramid (1. Watching, 2. Sharing, 3. Commenting, 4. Producing, 5. Curating), she suggested that marketers focus on the bottom part of the pyramid where they can get the first level of engagement and use it to build their foundation.

In an open strategy, learning is fundamental. From there you can Dialog, Support and Innovate.

What are the steps to becoming open?
1. Align openness with overall strategic goals.
2. Reassess the meaning of value. We tend to overvalue things we can measure, and undervalue things we can't.
3. Find and develop your open leaders.
4. Prepare your organization.
5. Be ready to embrace failure. [Note: Music to my ears! Companies need to be ok with failing. It's a learning process, failure is part of the experience.]

What it comes down to is that companies should focus on their relationships and not the technologies. Their strategy should be about the relationships they want to form.

What are your thoughts?

Note: I missed a few presenters so please feel free to embellish this list.