Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mesh conference session: Social Media in the Enterprise

Panel - moderated by Michael O'Connor Clarke

Chris Reid of Yamaha Motor Canada
Natalie Johnson of General Motors
Jenny Bullough of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.

Q: Can a corporation be social?

NJ: GM is trying to move away from "corporate speak" but it takes time to establish your own voice. Blogging allows this to happen, but it does take time.

JB: Harlequin has always talked to its readers, gone where women are. They take in unsolicited novels, read all of them and respond. So, they are very social.

CR: Can we as a brand be social? Not sure, but they can put faces of humans on it. When he blogs, he is speaking to the customers not Yamaha.

Q: We talk about going out to talk to our customers, but haven't talked about listening to them yet. Do you have examples of things you have learned from listening to your audience in social media tools to effect a change?

JB: She works to publish their front-list books and republish back-list as ebooks. They decide what to publish from back-list as ebooks by requests from their customers.

NJ: website - a customer could not get roadside assistance; talked about it on their site. Their PR manager reached out to this person and went to work correcting the situation in the future. They likely would not have heard about this otherwise. Social media expedites things.

Q: Since you started using social media in your marketing, internally or externally, has it brought cultural change to your organizations?

CR: It has opened their eyes to channels for responding faster. If they can acknowledge they are aware of a problem, can turn around a situation. They responded to a customer who is also a customer of their competitor. They were able to respond, and that person talked about positive experience in competitor's forum.

CR: If you do a good job, his boss looks good. You can leverage that to do future projects.

Q: Is anyone doing social media projects without the okay of high-level authority in the organization.

JB: To get buy-in, don't have to convince upper level managers. Helps to get agreement from mid-level managers to get the projects done.

Q: Examples of involvement in a social media project audience can look at.

JB: Series of podcasts esp. Meet the Editors podcast. For aspiring authors, these are the authority, who will be reading their manuscript.

NJ: I've got - seen strong results. Take video content of behind-the-scenes; they know people are engaged because they are commenting on the videos.

CR: They had more concerns internally; more appropriate for corporate structure to design customer platform (using Wordpress blog). Gave piece of mind to senior management yet designed something that was social. A custom design.

Q: Do you have any community "plants", people posting content to social networks?

JB: Have a rich, robust community. They have community board hosts--people from home moderating, facilitating conversation between members. They also encourage employees to create profiles online and participate.

NJ: They don't have community plants; employees were told not to, but to engage in authentic conversation.

CR: Told their employees not to engage in corporate blogging. It depends on the company being represented.

Q: Have you developed policies for employees and for dealing with comments?

JB: Their policy is a document that essentially says "don't do anything stupid": don't blog about the authors, don't give away secrets. More of a strategy rather than hard-and-fast rules.

NJ: Have a corporate blogging policy; took a while to develop, something everyone could live with. They do post negative comments (and try to learn from them and respond to the audience) but won't post offensive comments. If you work for General Motors, must identify you work for the organization.

CR: They have policies in place, but are not very open as to how far employees go. Employees can go into social spaces but cannot represent the company (he is the exception).

Q: Now that he has buy-in, how do you get the researchers involved?

Audience answer: non-profits don't want to evangelize in the social arena. Show small results to start, show that an audience is building. Have to take them slowly through the steps.

Q: What is your approach to education inside the organization on using the tools? How do you educate employees and brass?

CR: They find bringing in outside expert most helpful. Someone who can deliver and answer many of the concerns. Maggie Fox of Social Media Group helped explain it and he could see lightbulbs go off as she delivered the message. This "broke through walls" for him.

Q: In government they are looking at the blogging world with great suspicion. How did you convince your management to respond to and create conversations on-line?

JB: It is an on-going conversation. They don't have big training sessions. Their blogging document was a positive document, giving people ways to blog that fit in with the company.

NJ: They brought someone in to the team who brought in new business ideas, talked to the group and learned about best practices, looked at their practical examples. Has a global component.

Q: Timeliness - in government response time is 10 days. Do you have any guidelines?

CR: Conversations reach critical mass in short order. They need to respond immediately to at least tell people "we hear you." In the old way with snail mail and word of mouth, you had more time. We no longer have time, need to address it.

Q: What kinds of things are you keeping in mind to ensure engagement in social media doesn't backfire? The more people you engage, the more difficult to manage. How do you keep up with it as you have more and more people engaged so they still have personal connection?

NJ: As more people say you are communicating in this fashion, you need to respond as best as possible and be authentic. Educate people in the organization to also respond. Have a conversation with an individual can by scary, esp. from a legal point of view. It will take time to change corporations.

Q: Is social media a separate item in your budget?

NJ: It is a line item now.

JB: No, it is more incorporated into the budget for overhead.

CR: They are not yet putting the money they should be into it.

Q: It sounds like you don't have good support for social media.

NJ: Disagrees; social media has always been an important part of their online presence.

JB: Also disagrees.

Q: Question for NJ: Bob Lutz was early example of corporate blogger; corporations like to build up brands. Do you have a corporate strategy to sustain his blog?

NJ: She thinks the blog will live on when he retires. He has been the strongest voice on the blog, but not the only one.

Q: Public companies have to take care not to disclose information that will affect stock prices. How do you ensure this doesn't happen?

JB: Ask employees not to post anything like that, and put trust into their companies.

NJ: Blogosphere is just another way to communicate. They do not communicate this out in any method. The blog/social media space is just an extension of their policies.

Q: How do you measure success?

NJ: Relatively new area. Are people starting to engage and connect? Not everyone thinks of them as a forward-thinking company; this helps to show people. Look at what they spend on search engine optimization versus videos. They have their own way of looking at it.

CR: Personal feedback, comments from blog, impact of what they have done online. It doesn't take too many examples to see it is working. Whenever he has a good experience he makes a point of letting his senior people know, even informally.

JB: Not about ROI but return on engagements.


Craig Ritchie said...

An interesting session; getting heated near the end. It demonstrated that big brands don't necessarily get or at least fully embrace social media yet, and new agency and startup types who do get it don't necessarily get how big corp works...

Connie said...

I think the people talking to us "get it" but didn't necessarily express how they get it done. I'm sure if we sat down and talked to them individually we would have a clearer picture.

But, there is definitely a lot of room for education and influence in these areas. I find it fascinating stuff!

michaelo said...

Excellent synopsis, Connie, thanks for this.

I wish we'd had more time to dig deeper into some of the stuff that was turning up the temperature of debate towards the end - I felt we could have turned this topic over all afternoon and still only scratched the surface. That's the challenge of the conference format, as always - we can only scrape off the thinnest veneer of what are often quite deep and meaty issues.

The good news nowadays, of course, is that the debate can continue in an even broader public forum, online.

Connie said...

Thanks Michael. Great job moderating.

I also would have loved to have time to hear how Harlequin uses Second Life to promote new works and connect with audience. Perhaps in a future mesh conference?