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 MarketingProfs.com 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 TweetChat.com 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!