4 Common Excuses from Social Media Skeptics

Yes, Oprah’s on Twitter and so’s your 50-year old neighbor but that doesn’t mean everyone is on planet Social Media. Once you get out of the social media bubble and if you’re willing to listen to some professionals in the B2B space, you’ll more likely than not, come up against pockets of resistance to the new media. I have tremendous respect for folks who think before latching on to the latest latest fad and and in a previous post, I gave 5 reasons why social media skeptics may be onto something. But, there is a difference between healthy skepticism and unwillingess to change/adapt to a new environment.

Here are 4 typical pushbacks that I’ve come across that are a result of ignorance rather than pragmatism:

#1 “Our customers don’t do social media” I have heard this excuse so many times, even from organizers of social media events, who have confessed that they don’t see the value of social media for their customers. So finally, I asked one of them, “If your customers don’t read blogs or tweet, what channels do they use? Have you asked where they’re getting their information” and the answer is often a resounding “No”. Many professionals who play the “New media doesn’t apply to our customers” card haven’t even talked to their customers because leading research shows that social media is increasing in use among B2B marketers. Many purchase decision-makers pay attention to non-traditional media such as blogs and now, Twitter, thanks to big name celebrities. How much social media influences their decision-making is something the skeptics need to look into rather than hiding behind this excuse.

#2 “We’ve tried it but didn’t get any response” There’s a sense of “build it and they will come” attitude that’s very destructive for social media implementation because poor execution and lack of promotion is often blamed on the media. Companies spend a lot of time encouraging their employees to blog and tweet but don’t really spend any time promoting their efforts to the customers. “Tell our customer, what we’re doing? What a crazy concept!” Social media is new and will take some time for your customer base to adopt. That’s no different from email, not everyone was on it but you need to promote it and do it well for it to be successful.

#3  “There’s no clear ROI” That’s another common excuse that I’ve heard over and over again. Many companies still struggle with the ROI dilemma, but if social media doesn’t have clear returns, neither do many of traditional alternatives that your company currently uses. Just because you can measure it, doesn’t mean it’s working. Social media metrics should be tied to clear business objectives and keep in mind, setting up a new channel will take time. Marketers who expect results overnight are setting themselves up for failure. Given that even the most traditional and established media struggle with the question of attribution, we need to give social media due time to get to its full potential.

#4 “It’s a fad”  Skeptics can keep hoping that the social media fad will blow over but hype aside, social media gives you the the ability to engage directly with your customers and that’s very powerful. Social sharing features provide the ability to make your marketing more impactful and empower your customers, champions to do the marketing for you and that’s not something you want to wish away. 

I am too much of a pragmatist to buy into all that jazz about how “social media is so wonderful and everyone on the planet should be on Twitter” but that being said, social media is inevitable. Engaging with our customers isn’t new, it’s not rocket-science, and it’s a no-brainer. So if social media tools enable us to do a better job at it, you either learn to do it and do it right, or else risk being irrelevant to your customers. While it’s not perfect, social media is revolutionizing the way we do business and communication, sooner companies learn how to navigate it the better off they’ll be in the long-run.

Tech and Social Media events in SF Bay Area for July

Here’s a roundup of interesting tech and social media events happening in the SF Bay Area in July. Let me know in the comments or tweet me, if you’re planning to be at any of these and if there others that should be on this list. 

July 7th
The SiliconValley NewTech July Meetup (Free! hugely popular event, nearly impossible to get in)
7:00 PM
at DLA Piper in Palo Alto, CA
The SiliconValley NewTech Meetup Group [SVNewTech]

July 8th
Women in Tech
5:30 PM
at Orange Labs in South San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Mobile Meetup

July 8th
119 Utah St
San Francisco, CA 94103

July 23rd   
Silicon Valley Tweetup
5:30 to 8:00 PM at Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub, Santana Row in San Jose

July 27th
313 Fairchild Drive
Mountain View, CA 94043

How Cisco uses Social Media

As I analyze how large companies are leveraging Web 2.o and social media tools, I recently came across a great example at the Blogwell event in San Francisco on the same topic. Jeanette Gibson from Cisco shared terrific insights on Cisco’s approach to social media and how it engages Customers, Partners, and Press with Social Media.

Gibson opened her talk with a statement that captures the essence of social media at Cisco.

“In a world where everything is open, we value openness and transparency.”

There are three ways that Cisco uses social media especially blogs to drive customer engagement:

1) Thought leadership

Gibson started by saying, “Blogging is about creating conversations with customers, partners, employees, and the public.”

Cisco’s been blogging for over 4years and the first blog was on govt. affairs. It was focused on having highly targeted 1:1 conversations and later their blogging efforts expanded to include other topics. However, their blogs tend to be more around larger industry topics like  Green IT rather than individual product-focused.

Gibson talked about how Cisco’s been using video to increase engagement between their customers and Cisco executives.  Cisco’s using flip cameras to follow their executives around. They capture their executives on video and repurpose that content where ever possible. One example is where Cisco CEO, John Chambers talks about what’s happening at the Channel Partner event, on their blog which is very open and visible to everyone.

She cited Padmasree, the well-known Cisco CTO as a great example of successful executive twittering. One way that Padamsree uses Twitter is to get ideas for one of her keynote speeches. She sent out a question on Twitter – “What’s the future of collaboration?”. She got an overwhelming response to her questions and she incorporated this direct feedback from the audience in her talk.

2) Events are an area where Cisco leverages social media as event and travel budget cuts are driving the need and demand for virtual events. The company has been hosting events via Twitter: “Tweetup” Cisco TelePresence Tweet-up with Guy Kawasaki(virtual meeting). Cisco has set up public telepresence suites where anyone can come in and use these for instant conference with Cisco. In addition, the company also organizes many virtual partner events using teleconferencing technologies.

3) Global product launches are typically very expensive and this presented yet another opportunity for Cisco to leverage social media. The company has moved from launch executions, press conferences, pr/ar briefings, large budgets, teams of spokespeople in 2005 to months of messaging cycles with real-time global impact, two-way customer interactions, and community building events in 2009. This has resulted in 50-75% cost saving and created opportunities for thought leadership. It went from transactions to interactions and engagement. Bigger launch at lower cost.

Here are some great questions from the audience:

  • How are blog posts optimized for SEO?

Cisco bloggers get a list of keywords and  training in optimizing the content with keywords and links.

  • What’s the process for setting up a blog at Cisco?

Cisco requires extensive training for all their bloggers and every blog has to be approved by multiple layers of management. After going through the initial rigor, the bloggers are free to blog without any restraints.

  • Who owns the brand in the case of Padmasree and does she do the tweeting herself?

Padmasree has her own brand and she has so many followers, is because she was on the shortlist for CTO for President Obama’s team.She’s very active on twitter and does her own tweeting.

Cisco also has team Twitter accounts like Cisco Systems, where multiple people tweet behalf of Cisco.

  • No social media conversation is complete without the metrics question and how does Cisco tie back to revenue?

Cisco like many other pioneering companies is grappling with the revenue question. Currently, it uses a mix of qualitative vs. quantitative. They have a set of standardized metrics for blogging and every blogger has access to the analytics on their own blog as well as that of their peers. So they are able to compare their blog’s traffic with that of other bloggers. They also do brand monitoring with an external agency. There are interesting tools being introduced in the Sales/CRM focus is looking interesting

  • Another revenue-related question was on how Cisco measures ROI?

While Cisco is very focused on ROI, there are no standard metrics, so it uses a variety of metrics. For example: they look at the free media impressions from social media activities and measure how much does that would have cost them to assess cost savings. However, since social media is resource and management-intensive, the cost for it is still fuzzy.

  • Monetization of sales opportunities was another great question that came up, which is again very closely related to the monetizing question.

Cisco has just started testing ways to leverage social media for sales and is working with the sales team to get more traction for direct sales/revenue impact from social media.

Key take aways from this honest, insightful presentation:

  • Make the tools work for you, “First decide what you want to do and then decide on the tools.”
  • Key is finding a few focus areas in social media and doing it well, rather than trying everything and not succeeding.
  • Openness and transparency in social media has to start from the top. Senior management needs to be engaged and lead by example.
  • Budget constraints and travel restrictions favor the use of social media and virtual events, which can help with cost savings.
  • The ROI/monetization question is becoming increasing important but there’s isn’t one standard set of metrics or methodology for calculating that yet, every company uses their own metrics.
  • Social media doesn’t only save cost, but can be more impactful than traditional marketing/PR. This is a great point to keep in mind, when you’re pondering ROI on your social media initiatives.