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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sandy Carter Integrates Social Media Into The Marketing Mix - MProfs B2B Forum

Sandy Carter originally uploaded by IBM SOA.
I'm back from the MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2009 in Boston and IBM's Sandy Carter wowed me with her presentation about integrating social media into the marketing mix!

For any of you who doubt the value of social networking, IBM - in conjunction with MIT - has been Putting a Price on Social Connections [see original research on Value of Social Networks]. That's right, virtual friends have value! IBM has discovered a major source of new business resulting directly from the improved collaboration and listening, execution, value creation and more immediate response that Marketing 2.0 generates.

Here's the fascinating lesson that Sandy shared: IBM has no social media strategy. That's right. Instead, it has a marketing strategy where social media is integrated and part of the tool kit. In other words, IBM is Bridging New & Old!

Radical yet also highly intuitive, relevant and practical. Even brilliantly simple!

To determine when to best "dial in/out" social elements, IBM involves a Social Media Council made up of IBMers across disciplines who are active, passionate users of social media; participation in the council is voluntary. IBM also brings supplier partners into the process so they can adopt the same practices and truly be part of the overall 'ecosystem.'

Did you know that all IBM events now include a live 'Twitter stream' [i.e., they project onto a screen all tweets relating to the event in real time] so participants can immediately respond?

Sandy Carter definitely draws inspiration from examples she observes from outside IBM and its industry. She referred to Zappos, Dell, Comcast... She brought up a B2C company [maker of WD40] that created a blog to identify why women don't buy WD40; men do. The result? A new WD40 Pen from the feedback garnered through the blog. [Check out this amazing post listing the Top WD-40 Uses for Moms. FYI.]

This is the ANGELS framework developed for Marketing 2.0 to implement traditional and web 2.0 marketing:
A – Analyze the market
N – Nail the relevant strategy and story
G – Go to Market... socially
E – Energize the channel and community
L – Leads and Revenue
S – Scream!

Sandy shared details on projects in three of the ANGELS elements.

ANALYZE - Project Zero: WebSphere sMash
A new web 2.0 product scheduled to launch in time for Impact 2008 combined social media with traditional approaches to better gather market intelligence, conduct focus groups, and obtain feedback from 12-15 countries around the world. Social media helped gather product requirements via a blog, a Twitter account and a forum. In the first two months, the social media tools not only led to new topics and 4300 different postings.

To get the word out, IBM let its community of IBM bloggers know; mention was made in LinkedIn and Twitter groups. As IBM obtained feedback, it created another iteration of the product for further feedback. After ~1000 betas [which did not elongate the cycle], Sandy's group had one of the most successful product introductions ever, accelerating it via Amazon web services partnership, at Impact 2008 [an in-person conference for not just the 13 IBM web developers but also the 1000 customers who considered themselves developers on the project because of their involvement].

Social media played a role in that product's Go To Market plan: names were solicited online for the product - resulting in sMash.

IBM attorneys were concerned that competitors might feed bad ideas into the open forum. Interestingly, the community monitored and prevented that outcome. That's how strong it became! [Here are IBM's terms of use.] With the lines between personal/professional blurring, IBM has also developed a list of social media guidelines for what can/can't do: can't do political endorsements, for example. The most active IBM bloggers helped establish the guidelines.

[Originally, Sandy had a person dedicated to tracking #hashtags and finding patterns. Now the tracking is automated and even includes an iPhone dashboard!]

GO TO MARKET... SOCIALLY - No Lead Left Behind
IBM uses social media to go to market and drive demand. The opportunity arose as IBM asked itself, given the economy, how to get higher conversion from leads, particularly those relating to events. The solution was to have event attendance be less about the event and more about the community that the event creates; this resulted in a continual/perpetual campaign which now complements other marketing activities.

To drive more people to events via the website, IBM discovered and implemented new bot technology - Vanessa - who presented offers in a social manner, inviting visitors to join and become part of community. A low cost solution [~$4k to create a bot], she yielded a 5x higher click through rate. She was used selectively as overuse decreased response, but she has been added to where she appears when there is something new to promote.

Next, Sandy's group created a Linkedin group around the Impact conference and leveraged Twitter to drive traffic to the event. [This is similar to what Zappos and Dell do, offering that the next 50 to register, will be entered into a lottery for time with a subject matter expert. An experiment in Amsterdam with this kind of offer led to achieving 40% of promo registration target within 72 hours. The learning: relationship time is a number one grabber! Not free t-shirts.

Also, IBM let customers help drive people to event with customer-driven registration, and customers recommend options... One customer did a take off of SouthPark video, to drive people to the SOA conference posted on YouTube. IBM created viral videos based on banking customers showing results obtained from using IBM. Wow! All of these tools can be measured, by the way. The results: a 10% uplift in conference registration for lo/no cost with 540+ additional registrants. Impressive!

To ensure that the event wasn't simply the end game, Carter created a community around the topical area. After an initial failure building an IBM community site, she opted to go use a 3rd party - InfoQ - with IBM sponsorship to create SOAsocial; it received 3000 unique customers per month, offering customized content by audience. Participating are user groups, partners, academia, industries, all organized by role; they have a single common place to go to for relevant information. Members collaborate, ask and answer questions, and conduct polling. IBM wanted to encourage topics to bubble up. A new one even developed around analysts. The community generates co-created content. A university in London has been active on site, setting up assignments, questions, and conducting research. Profile information includes personal experiences to facilitate relationship building and credibility.

The community has taken the IBM brand to another level with satisfaction levels for community members being 15 points higher than with those not a part of it. Members consider IBM a personal company. [The latest Interbrand study on brands shows IBM leapfrogging MicroSoft to #2 because it has so many employees blogging; it isn't a disconnected company but rather a personable P2P company.]

The website includes links to all communities and groups. Depending on what your tool of choice is, the options are there. No surprise, LinkedIn is stronger than Facebook because that's where IBM buyers are.

A Flickr account has been established. With so many events taking place in 100 cities around world, competition to take and post photos between event cities has been encouraged, helping to generate attention. Furthermore - and this I consider fascinating - IBM has learned from seeing the event from their customers' eyes. It has done the same on YouTube [this is the YouTube channel for WebSphere Education from IBM]. As with seeing events from their customers' eyes, videos enable IBM to listen to better understand how customers talk about products. This has let to changes in how products are described and referred to which then leads to changes for SEO, marketing materials and messaging.

Other benefits realized: over $100K savings because IBM didn't need as much staff to travel to events; speakers were better educated, and professional photographers weren't necessary because attendees took pictures. Tweets and blogposts meant less manual reporting, too.

Finally, IBM developed a widget to syndicate IBM Smart SOA materials. This arose because customers repeatedly asked "can I have your presentation?" Traditionally, IBM would email or post it. The Smart SOA widget pushes information out to customers via an RSS feed; it can be downloaded to a desktop or used as a web based widget. Not only does it provide attendees with the material they asked for, but it also provides updates about future events. It also enables you to track what users are looking at, downloading, as well as how many people download and total downloads...

8000 people out of 15,000 have downloaded the widget; 6000 still actively use it. Widgetbox created it -- the first for free; the second cost $5K to $7K [up to $15K for a fancy widget].

From Nordstrom [i.e., a B2C], Sandy borrowed another tool: LivePerson to offer live chat with commentary triggered by certain online behavior patterns. IBM now has a popup window to have a dialog with users. The sales team sits behind the chat window monitoring so it can react appropriately. It's the most productive sales team in all IBM because the customer is pre-qualified. Marketers can customize when the window pops up. LivePerson ROI = 56X. Once again, as a result, customers found IBM easier to do business with and that they listened better.

IBM decided to run a virtual event because so many people can't travel to attend events. ON24 created the interactive virtual event. It wasn't just a webcast. Attendees created an avatar to participate and visit demo booths; they could chat and visit coffee rooms to interact. [IBM even charged virtual booth sponsorship fees.] The feedback was phenomenal. Sandy's team expected 500 to attend. Instead, 3000 did! They've now done three such events. They are effective and the conversion rate is similar to that of live events, at far lower cost.

[NOTE: If you haven't already attended one, do consider attending the MarketingProfs Digital World Fall 2009 virtual conference.]

She left us with her Top 5 Dos to Marketing 2.0:

1. Keep your eye on profit generation
2. Remember marketing is about intimate relationships
3. Leverage the power of web 2.0
4. Understand the value of the Influencer
5. Tune your marketing mix.

What are your reactions? To me, Sandy Carter's examples and success stories demonstrate how beneficial integrating social media into the marketing mix is. Do you see how you might start experimenting?

Related post:
Q&A with IBM's Sandy Carter: What’s the Recipe for Marketing Success with Social Media?

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  1. wow ...we are proud to be associated with you Sandy !

  2. ranju181, you should be proud! Sandy is awesome. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I am equally impressed with Sandy's presentation. sMash, the child of the Project Zero was aimed at developers who were very tech savvy and who also were used to using social media for work-related communication. Is that why the social media outreach there was so successful? Has anybody tried to use social media during product development but targeted a less tech-savvy audience?

  4. Aneta, I think that certainly played a role. A totally non-tech example is the Fiskars Fiskateers. I believe that as we see adoption of social media growing, we will come across more examples across many industries where social media truly does facilitate cooperative creation and interaction. Thanks for adding to this discussion. CB

  5. thanks, I did not know about Friskateers. Took a look at their site (well designed BTW) and confirmed that they are creating an emotional connection with craft-lovers. How can you create a connection with a B2B users of a utility-like product that you paid to use to get your job done? One way is what Friskars did by creating a community focused on needs with strong personal connection. I really like what they did with the four Friskateers to personalize the space. Thanks.

  6. Aneta, you are welcome. I will have more on Fiskars soon.

  7. I'm glad that Sandy mentioned widgets as a part of a comprehensive marketing initiative. Whether in the form of a desktop application, on the sidebar of a blog, or on an iGoogle homepage, they are instrumental in getting the all important *content* to your audience. A full case study on the family of IBM widgets created by IBM and Center Line — including the Smart SOA widget — can be seen here: . But, in short, they help you replace the traditional "search" or "pull" method that is done by your customers (and business partners and sales force) in an effort to find whatever they can, with a controlled and focused "push" of the best information.

  8. John, thanks for sharing more info about widgets and the work Center Line has done with IBM. Very interesting way replace traditional search/pull method with a focused push as you describe.


Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

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