Much has been said about the use of social media and I’ve heard several business to business technology companies either struggling with how to best harness social media or viewing social media as something that is too risky to adopt.
What I think lies at the center of this discussion is the need to really know the voice of the organization and the key attributes that factor into building the foundation that supports the voice.
That foundation should include a few key elements: a secure and confident understanding of the organization’s core values that ultimately define the brand; a compelling mix of core messages to support the company’s products or services; and a vision for where the company and industry are going.
From these elements – and quite possibly several other considerations – a social media strategy can be built that integrates the right tools, activities and campaigns that adequately represent the brand and help communicate with the company’s audiences.
I attended a Business Social Software Jeopardy Webcast hosted by Jive Software on May 28th. The Webcast three contestants - Bill Johnston - Chief Community Officer at Forum One Communications; Laura Ramos - Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research; and Jeremiah Owyang - Senior Analyst at Forrester Research and was hosted by Jive Software’s CMO, Sam Lawrence.
Overall the Webcast was informative, but what really stood out was the POST methodologythat Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang spoke about. POST stands for People (knowing your audience/ who you are trying to reach), Objectives (what are you trying to achieve?), Strategy (how your relationships will change from the activities) and Technologies (the tools you’ll use to achieve your goals for the effort). Following these four steps make a lot of sense to me, but they need to be built on a foundation that falls in-line with the company’s voice and overarching brand personality.
I do believe that there is a role for social media within any company or organization. How broad reaching the effort is, how “edgy” the tactics are and what tools and techniques are applied. The chief underlying rule to always keep in mind is that they must be built from a solid foundation and awareness of your voice.
Here are a few interesting current and past social media efforts from business to business companies that support their brands. The differences are obvious, but what is important is how they found their own voice and approach to meet their goals.
Some of these are well known examples, others may be new to you…
Cisco donthaveameltdown.com (I believe the official site has been taken down, but the viral video still lives on)
Know of any good B2B social media campaigns or activities? If so, please share them!
* full disclosure we currently represent Hitachi Data Systems, however we were not involved in the development of the Mr. T viral video series
As one who considers himself fairly well read on the subject of green, I was amazed as to how much more I learned from talking to people in the industry.
The event drew 60 professionals, all from different segments of the local renewable energy market in the Denver Metro area. And from the robust attendance and buzz in the room, it would appear that Denver is a hotbed for this industry and that there’s a lot of excitement about the emerging clean-tech boom.
I chatted with folks of some of the usual suspects in clean tech – wind power and solar PV manufacturers and installers like Clipper Wind and Namaste Solar but also learned about a new emerging part of the industry much lower down on the hype curve - algae biofuels.
While I certainly left the event much more informed about important industry legislation like the proposed Lieberman Warner Climate Security Act, I also couldn’t help but feel some déjà vu, like perhaps this could be the dot com boom all over again.
Much like during the dot com boom, there are countless small local players offering similar services. Will they all survive, consolidate or is there enough of a market to sustain all of them? And while my train of thought started to move down the path of – have I not seen this before, really, how many pet e-commerce sites do you need, it was suddenly brought back to positivity by a conversation I had with an exec from Vibrant Solar.
While some in the media are already saying that clean-tech is a boom ready to bust, the industry guys say this boom is just getting started – and it will go on indefinitely.
The chief reason – it’s all about the money. The fact is, a very small percentage of Americans will go green because it feels right. We live in a capitalist society where money talks above all else. And every day it makes more and more fiscal sense to purchase solar panels by tapping into the growing list of government rebates, to get rid of your SUV and bike to work and for the utilities to build or lease wind farms.
So although I left the event perhaps with some of the clean-tech kool-aid aftertaste, once it wore off, I still felt myself still thinking that this is just the beginning…
So I’d like to hear what you think, is clean-tech just a boom and a fad or do you think it’s hear to stay?
Yeah, as in Wonka. Remember the scene? Charlie at the gates? Thousands upon thousands of fans standing in eager amazement as the gates were about to open. Would we see oompa-loompas for the first time? Gorge on chocolates to our hearts content? Just what would we do with the gates open?
And that’s a bit of the sensation I had as a tech PR professional upon reading that some mainstream media (MSM) are responding to the surge in growth and buzz (there’s a difference) in and about social media. They want some too (yes, get me some of that social media, but as a means to growth and buzz) so they’re opening the gates. Call it readership community! Collaboration! Co-creation! Whatever you call it, BusinessWeek and others want to let readers guide story topic selection; heck sometimes they’ll let them write the next sentence! They want to engage with readers, and in doing so cede the ‘we are the experts, we’ll decide what to analyze and then do the analysis’ mantel.
So like I said, at first the PR pro in me gets giddy. What an opportunity! More ways to suggest topics! More ways to influence! More ways to get the experts I want to see espousing with more air-time than your experts! Alas my clients will be heard!
But wait. Then the New Englander in me speaks up. The New Englander automatically furrows the brow and looks for ‘the angle’ in anything that looks good at first. There must be a downside dammit. And then it hits me. The thousands of fans at the gate. Some of them are maybe not evil, but certainly not upstanding. Let’s just say, they won’t be operating with transparency. They might just dupe those MSM. They might steer, influence and suggest too far. Why, with the news staffs shrinking, who will ensure that some bot doesn’t just keep changing names and suggesting similar topics that mislead a tag cloud of story ideas! Those poor unsuspecting MSM!
Then I decide, maybe the change actually lands somewhere in the middle. Of course BusinessWeek needs to socialize itself. They must innovate or shrink. They’ll succeed in places, fail in others. And after all, this is about conversations and relationships, and that’s why I got into this field 20 years ago. It’s a good thing, right? As long as those of us acting transparently traffic the rest of the crowd. After all, someone has to protect the Ever-lasting Gobbstoppers.
It’s a good thing. Right?
I’ve worked with a lot of tech start-ups; many had ill-defined paths to revenue. Some had no path at all. I share Om Malik’s skepticism (see here and here) towards the soundness of all that VC money deposited in the bank accounts of developers of “Widgets, Facebook Applications, OpenSocial Web 2.0 gee gaws.”
Of course, a lot of start-ups require a large amount of capital to fund product development, marketing, etc. But developers of these ‘demi-apps’ don’t necessarily need much funding to get going or thrive. Furthermore, social networking facilitates a level of user engagement that – to me anyway – presents a much more tantalizing opportunity for funding than VCs.
See this article in the June issue of The Atlantic about Senator Obama’s “Amazing Money Machine.” With the passion that some users have for widgets, and with the technology to build and leverage strong networks of like-minded people, doesn’t it make more sense for these companies to try to tap into their users for funding?
There’s been a lot of moaning and groaning about Twitter outages recently (not a widget I know, but bear with me). From what I see on CrunchBase the company has raised $5.4 million. With their user base, however, and the obvious passion that user base has for the service, maybe the ‘Obama money machine’ might help solve the problems.
To be sure, tech start-ups don’t necessarily have the appeal of a candidate for the presidency of the United States, but who says they need to raise $50 million a month?
In what has felt like a sudden onset of one natural disaster of epic proportion after another, the last thing from which one might expect to be kept informed would be a social media tool traditionally used for personal updates to a network of friends, industry peers and family. But now, a program built around “short codes,” is playing a role in disaster recovery and affecting people emotionally and financially. So with the recent earthquake in China, the cyclone in Burma and the fires in California, it’s rather surprising that a growing trend has emerged with accounts of these disasters being reported on Twitter en masse.
A recent article in PRWeek got me thinking about the value of such social media tools that, in many ways, have come to be much more than strictly “social.” As tweets began to provide status updates on those in devastated areas of China, Twitter took on a new life, a new role. It became philanthropic and educational. The Salvation Army began using its Twitter page (twitter.com/salvationarmy) to let followers know about progress on relief efforts and directed people to where they could find more information and resources. Other organizations were right in step with this as well.
“Though the American Red Cross doesn’t have a staff in China, it did use Twitter (twitter.com/redcross), as well as traditional media notifications to tell victims of last year’s Southern California wildfires where to find help during the disaster, says Wendy Harman, senior associate for new media integration at the American Red Cross,” reported PRWeek.
Tweets have continually evolved; from personal status updates to a means of spreading news and trends. However, I must admit, if tools like Twitter can make finding shelter easier, allowing loved ones to reunite or even raise money, social media just got even better. I kind of love it even more.
In an Australian first, and in a scene reminiscent of a Star Wars Jedi Council meeting, Australia’s dominant carrier Telstra has projected a life-size 3-D hologram of its chief technology officer, Dr Hugh Bradlow from Melbourne live to a stage in Adelaide, which is more than 700 kms away. Dr Bradlow’s life-sized, real-time hologram walked, talked and interacted with business executives at an Adelaide conference while he stood in front of cameras in Telstra’s Melbourne office. Cameras and microphones in Adelaide allowed Dr Bradlow to see and hear his subjects in the Adelaide audience, as they watched his high definition image projected onto a transparent screen or “foil”. Click here to see the video on ABC News.
The technology, created by British company Musion Eyeliner, has already enabled former US vice president Al Gore to speak to the Live Earth concert’s London audience from Tokyo, and retailer Target to host a model-less virtual fashion show in New York last year. UK band Gorillaz has also used Musion to give life to three-dimensional cartoon characters who performed their song at a 2005 MTV Awards concert in Portugal as rappers interacted with them live on stage.
But Telstra reckons it’s not just for entertainment, but believes there are real business applications and serious benefits from this technology. Perhaps it will help to reduce carbon emissions as executives take less flights, opting instead for their 3-Image to travel? Certainly, that would be a more productive use of one’s time, and reduce travel costs. But clearly it is early days and the costs of this technology as still quite high. This particular holographic video projection system took about half a day to set up, and to move the image the infrastructure needed was “tens of megabytes”, which Telstra ran across its high-speed internet-based Next IP network, which was launched in April last year.
So, a sign of things to come, or pure science fiction?
This AP article by Peter Svensson strikes me as potentially very significant. The digital divide has always referred to the imbalances between those with access to information technology and those without. Now we see the term applied to imbalances within relatively tech-savvy populations caused by next-generation broadband.
The article quotes Dave Burstein, editor of the DSL Prime newsletter saying: “a quarter of the U.S. is going to get one of the best networks in the world.” The rest of us have to make do with DSL and cable – the horror.
But actually I think there’s something to this; in fact, I think the issue is deeper and more problematic. It’s very easy to think that everyone is embracing the latest thingamawhatsit but most people have, if not better, then at least more important things to do.
If we are about to be divided by connectivity speed then there’s every reason to believe that we will also be divided by either our ability to use, or our affinity for, social networking, blogging, twittering, current Web 2.0 applications and future applications enabled by the semantic Web.
If the pace of technological change is creating digital subdivisions – and I think it is – it’s going to create communication and marketing challenges for certain, but will also lead to real societal and cultural divisions that have the potential to be as profound as any that have come before.
I may be wrong as to the degree, but there’s no question in my mind that ‘digital divide 2.0’ is coming. What does everyone else think?
A really interesting IDC study, titled “The Hyperconnected: Here They Come” was released this month which talks about the exploding “culture of connectivity” and the implications that hyper-connectivity has on the enterprise and business practices.
Whilst on a fact finding mission, another interesting point that I came across is that the global mobile workforce continues to grow unabated - IDC expects the global mobile worker population to increase from 758.6 million in 2006 to more than 1 billion in 2011, representing just over 30 percent of the worldwide workforce. [see more details here]
The thing that really struck a chord with me is that we are becoming a generation addicted to connectivity. We are seeing our younger colleagues enter the workforce as ‘digital natives’ (an idea widely discussed by Peter Sheahan) - they only understand communication via IM, email, text messaging, social networking and so forth. This is the ‘conventional’ that they seek and the ‘unconventional’ that the rest of us are all so keen to adopt. Today, we are spending more time connected and switched on in both our personal and work lives - so much so that we are now seeing a blurring between the two.
More and more people are starting to leverage Web 2.0 tools in business (a term coined Enterprise 2.0) such as shared wikis, IM and social networks in order to better facilitate information sharing and collaboration between workers and provide a competitive edge to those businesses that embrace it.
I think we will see Enterprise 2.0 increasingly extend beyond the office as wireless technologies such as in-built 3G, WiFi and WiMAX become faster and more efficient for business users to access personal internet on-the-go, and as mobile devices become sleeker and lighter for users to carry with them.
The IDC study predicts that “hyperconnected business users will likely rise to 40 percent in five years”. Another five years down the track, I am sure we will see a substantial increase on this figure. Application and web developers, mobile device/ notebook manufacturers and telecommunications providers will need to cater towards making this hyper-connected experience for users a more seamless one.
Watch this space!
I am personally extremely excited to start this blog not only because it will be a platform to share our thinking and engage in conversations with a broader community but because it will be really broad. In fact we have contributors from our Tech Practice from all around the world: from San Francisco to Singapore, from London to Sydney, we have people coming together with a common, global passion. Not, it’s not soccer. OK. It is soccer. But it is, mainly, Hi-Tech PR.
In this venue we will share what we see in the world of technology PR and beyond. We will talk about trends, ideas, things we stumbled upon, questions we might not have an answer for (and maybe you can help us.). Experiences of working with colleagues from other practices and disciplines. What’s changing and happening in the different markets: locally, regionally or globally.
We didn’t want to have the point of view of just a few senior PR professionals. So I am particularly thrilled to have members at every level be contributors. Fresh air. A different perspective. Young. Old. Experienced. Opinionated. Thoughtful.
We want to make it easy to have conversations with our clients, competitors, industry leaders, students, fellow bloggers and not just among ourselves. We would love to see a lot of content, ideas and participation.
Join the conversation. Throw us a Tech PR Nibble!
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