Category Archives: Twitter

IBM turning 100: smarter planet, social media and meat chopping

2011 is quite a year for IBM. It marks its one hundredth year as company; as a brand.

What does this mean to me. Partly a reflection on what a brand means. Especially as I’m one of the newer entrants and wasn’t around when Big Blue was busy innovating punch card systems, typewriters, mainframes and the PC. Coming from an acquisition which only completed in the last two years, I have a much more recent relationship to the IBM eight-bar logo.

I was part of the web team that hoisted that infamous logo onto our website (before we transitioned over to the IBM.com domain for real) and from one point of view, that really was the extent of the change. Our teams remained intact and the day-to-day duties of the marketing organization remained largely unchanged: we had to continue our efforts of guiding prospects interested in our technologies. As always, we bemoaned the poor decisions of upper management and whined about the inflexibility of our business tools and processes, but now we just had a new object for our venom. So at one level I’d say the change has been superficial. A rebranding feels like little more than painting the lounge. Or a fresh application of lipstick. I had worked for a relatively large technology company. Now I work for a very large technology company.

But a brand goes beyond that.

It exists in our culture; our imagination. Hell, even my next door neighbor (an early-retired teacher) launched into an anecdote of how when he was studying at college he produced his essays on a shoestring budget by cobbling together bits of second hand IBM Selectrics typewriters he picked up at garage sales into one workable machine.

Currently IBM is driving a concerted push to create a ‘Smarter Planet’. I originally had my doubts around this campaign given my background in search marketing – we normally look to the market to find keywords to chase that fit our business objectives. This all felt a bit backwards. At the time (two years ago) ‘smarter planet’ didn’t even register as a search term. No one was talking about it.

I had yet to see the power of a major brand in exerting thought leadership.

Promotions appeared everywhere: from major newspapers to airports. But this was more than just an advertising campaign – internal business projects got on board too. This has given birth to such wonders as a machine that can compete at Jeopardy.

What has been the result? The Smarter Planet initiative is still very much a work in progress but just take a look at how search volumes have mushroomed on Google:

(click on image for more details)

The concept of a ‘smarter planet’ is now in our consciousness (or at least our Google-brain).

This level of cohesion and singularity is even more astounding given the dispersed nature of the IBM workforce. There are very few big hubs and campuses: around half of the workforce work remotely. This leaves little scope for water-cooler discussions but rather a heavy use of telecoms and social computing to bring teams together over teleconferences, screen share sessions or even ‘idea jams’ (short-term online discussion forums covering a set topic).

Internal communications also bleeds out onto the external web. As analyst Charlene Li points out in Open Leadership, “In 2005, IBM led the way… as one of the first companies to put in place blogging guidelines” and in December Mashable listed IBM as one of the top four companies to work for if you’re a social media professional. The nature of the organization has created the demand for social computing. Being one of the homeworkers, I’ll often find out about IBM initiatives through platforms such as Twitter.

So, it’s funny to think that with humble roots in the meat chopping business, IBM is now a global B2B technology force with an indelible print on our culture stretching back 100 years. And it continues to leave its mark: whether it’s easing congestion in major cities as part of the smarter planet initiative, or creating a large social media footprint. And I get to play my small part in this evolving story.

Daryl Pereira is a web and social media manager at IBM who tweets from his little corner of the B2B technology industry @cagedether. For more on the IBM Centennial, search Twitter for #ibm100

Like a fart in church

The canonical view in corporate marketing is that you start high level at strategy and then work your way down onto tactics and execution. There are domains where this approach can rapidly desintigrate. Like social media.

For years I preached the message so eloquently spelled out by Forrester’s Josh Bernoff in Groundswell: work out a plan where technology doesn’t figure until right at the end, eg  the ‘POST’ approach:

P-eople
O-bjectives
S-trategy
T-echnology

I’ve sat through countless social media planning sessions where choirs of field and web marketing pros rabidly discuss social aspects to marketing campaigns or even social media programs they are looking to adopt. I’ve seen detailed strategy documents, audience demographic analysis, competitive analysis and detailed rollout schedules.

All wonderful works of fiction. An amazing number of these never turn into anything more meaningful than blogs that live no longer than fairground goldfish or Twitter accounts that stealthily limp along with monthly tweets.

Last week I sat down to talk social media strategy with a local team with trepidation: I could see myself going down a path I’d been down before.

But something out of the ordinary happened.

Within minutes we wandered into heretical geekdom and started scribbling down the relative merits of various social media platforms. We went through some of the capabilities of the blogging platform at our disposal. Other possibilities for blogging include Posterous and Tumblr which are great for mobile access. When it came to Twitter, I explained the success we’ve seen with the curation/syndication model. We talked video: we have a member of the team that is a big Justin.tv fan so we may as well leverage what he’s building there.

After about an hour we had mapped out a landscape of our social media properties, come up with a plan to link them together and were ready to talk about what kind of content we ideally should chase. Everything in me was telling me that we were putting the tactical cart way before the strategic horse. But somehow I felt we’d come closer to a workable plan in this hour than I’d ever have expected (although obviously the proof is in the proverbial pudding and I’ll report back on how this works out).

There’s an aspect of social media that doesn’t necessarily apply to other areas of marketing. That’s the principle that if you don’t have passion in your area of interest, really don’t bother. Not least because of the level of engagement required. Even though I’m in one of the most privileged places to practice social media, for most employees social media effectively needs to be a part time hobby until you can build a following and break out on your own. The gold dust lies in finding those that are already hooked and milk them for all they’re worth.

So even if you are confident that you have an audience you can engage with in the blogosphere, and a clear objective and content strategy, don’t set up a new blog until you have an individual or team with a proven track record, or who at least are chomping at the bit and can stump up some posts upfront to show they are committed.

Ditch the strategy and follow the lead of your foot soldiers instead.

There – I’ve said it. And like flatulence in a place of worship, you may find that you irk the establishment, create titters in the crowd and feel an initial embarrassment. But you’re being human. And in the social media space, that’s generally what you need to win.

Daryl Pereira is a web and social media manager at IBM and a profane Catholic who tweets from his little corner of the B2B tech universe @cagedether.

(image courtesy of Slimbolala)

Blog early, share late: research findings

Early birds catch the blogworms. Or so suggests research by blogging metrics maniac Dan Zarrella. You have the best chance of getting eyeballs to your posts if you get that content out before 10am US Eastern time. In a recent webinar hosted by Hubspot, Dan unleashed a torrent of findings from his surveys and research of over 170,000 blog posts.

This fine infographic does a great job of summing up general reading/feedback trends seen across the blogs studied:

Whether it’s views, links or comments, most activity happens early in the day. Saturday is a big day for commenting. Which could well be related to this activity on social networks:

Retweeting follows a similar path. It looks like most people read content early in the day, with little variance across the week. As we get nearer the weekend, people start getting social: whether that be retweeting on Twitter or sharing on Facebook (and getting around to commenting).

Judging by the success of this webinar, interest in blogging definitely isn’t on the wane, which makes me somewhat skeptical about a recent study suggesting that although corporate blogging isn’t exactly dead, it’s reached saturation point.

There was no evidence of this during Dan’s study of blogging, which had the Twittersphere ablaze for the full hour of the presentation. You’ll see there was particular interest in the tie-up between blogging and other social media: in particular those duelling siblings Twitter and Facebook. And that’s where blogging can really come into its own: as the content destination for inbound marketing tactics across Facebook and Twitter.

To my mind the Dan’s research also highlights a key difference between search- and social media marketing. For search marketing, attracting those indefatigable search bots that trawl the web for new content is a time-independent task. Just make sure you get content out in short order to win favor from the recency filter was the long and short of what I was told not so long ago by search experts here at IBM. The time of day really has little importance: algorithms aren’t more likely to read posts in the mornings.  Whereas this research from Dan bears a closer resemblance to the findings you might see around email marketing which is often deemed to be time-sensitive. Readership is near-synchronous and content is highly perishable. And if you are blogging outside the time-zone of your key audience, beware. Your content could well end up overlooked. As you may have noticed, I’m taking Dan’s messages to heart and working on getting this content out in a timely fashion. Right, now time for breakfast!

For further details on this study, check out the aforementioned post by Dan or listen to the On Demand recording of Dan Zarrella: Science of blogging

IBM strides towards inbound marketing

In a recent interview with David Meerman Scott of Web Ink Now, Ben Edwards, VP Digital Strategy and Development here at IBM talked of the move from outbound to inbound marketing.

See an excerpt of the interview:

What exactly does this mean? If you aren’t aware of the term ‘inbound marketing’, HubSpot has an excellent definition. Essentially, rather than pumping a message out through broadcast channels like billboard advertising, inbound marketing is more concerned with finding people that are researching your products or industry and engaging with them at that point.

This has a particularly strong fit with online marketing, whether that be a traditional channel like search or an emerging discipline like social media. On that note, Ben points out there are over 400K employees at IBM: 200K have profiles on Facebook and roughly the same number have a presence on LinkedIn. Add to that 30K declared IBMers on Twitter and you’re looking at a lot of connections! The communication through these channels is more about engaging in conversation. It’s more about helping those prospects that might be interested in your products and services speaking with employees who have expertise in that area.

For instance, if an IT architect from the retail sector is looking into a business process management (BPM) solution, she can join an IBM BPM group on LinkedIn and ask questions of IBM experts before synching up with the regular sales process.

To make this a reality, we’re seeing more integration between the IBM website and IBM social networks. Take a look at this section on the newly revamped Software Overview page:

image

There’s a virtuous circle at play here. Giving prominence to social media on the corporate website helps drive up community involvement. As these communities grow, whether they be on Twitter, Facebook or on IBM’s own domain, they will channel more visitors back to the IBM site. All without spamming email inboxes or cluttering freeways with billboards:

image

On the subject of advertising, IBM has been experimenting with a new generation of online ads that moves away from the traditional broadcast model and lets the viewer interact and provide feedback through the interface. Here’s an example on Slashdot:

image

The inbound marketing model serves as a good framework to look at the future of marketing where the communications are conversational, relevant and requested, rather than authoritative, broadcast and pressured. Social media usage at the business level shows no sign of abating, and it’s encouraging to see major corporations like IBM embracing this change at the highest level.

The role of the social media strategist

As always, some thought-provoking research is coming out of the Altimeter group around the maturing (and increasingly frustrating) role of the social media strategist. At the crux of Jeremiah Owyang’s report is the notion that the growing challenges of the social media strategist role could push him/her into a reactive corner, just responding to the increasingly demanding needs of the business (being little more than a ‘social media helpdesk’). Less strategy, more blind execution.

Here at IBM there are a number of strategists dotted around the organization (although with a strong cluster around the marketing function), and I’m sure most would agree with Jeremiah’s research. Indeed, brand social media strategist Steve Lazarus was one of those interviewed. So, what is it exactly that keeps us so busy? (I say ‘us’ as I hold a tangential role currently). I’d broadly categorize the functions performed as follows, with the caveat that the functions can vary depending on the position in the organization and personal aptitudes:

Role of the social media strategist

Training/education

Due to limitations in resource and product knowledge, it’s unrealistic to expect social media strategists to engage in all conversations across all channels. Adopting the ‘teach a man to fish’ maxim, it can make sense for the strategists to engage product experts across the organization and teach them how to become proficient in social media communications. This could take the form of education on the use of tools, the sharing of best practice and what’s worked in the past, discussing how to react to potential scenarios, the list goes on. In fact this post on Bloomberg BusinessWeek does a good job of listing ways of engaging employees. As a trainer and educator, the strategist moves into the role of a facilitator rather than a practitioner.

Analytics – monitoring, ROI and energizing practitioners

There are various components to analytics, each with its own specificities.

Strategists can monitor the social space for conversations around the brand. If there are any conversations requiring immediate attention (eg. a crisis looming), they can pull together the experts/execs that can respond. Monitoring also helps define the social landscape and strategy that makes most sense.

Analytics can also be employed to prove the ROI of social media efforts. This could be looking at increased share of voice on a given topic measuring traffic delivered to a campaign web page from Facebook and Twitter, or calculating the value of the traffic delivered to a blog ranking prominently for target terms on Google (obviating the need for paid advertising).

A further role of the strategist can be to feed analytics back into the organization to help energize practitioners. As an example, showing bloggers how much traffic their posts are attracting can help generate posts more frequently!

Process optimization and workflow

Social media touches many parts of the organization. You may have customer feedback that could help product development and should be forwarded to product management. Maybe there are support issues/discussions happening on external forums which require the input of the support team. Organizational processes should be put in place to deal with these kinds of scenarios. For instance interlocks need to be built between functions like marketing and support which traditionally have existed at opposite ends of the organization.

In addition, workflow tools need to be put in place to track individual conversations and issues to ensure these are dealt with effectively. This could be as simple as a spreadsheet recording each issue together with the response (when deemed necessary), but as these issues grow in number and complexity, more powerful tools will be required.

Web marketing integration

As Jeremiah points out in another part of his analysis, 2011 will see an increase in the integration of social elements into websites[

http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2010/11/07/analysis-2011-corporate-social-strategy-will-focus-on-corporate-website-integration/

]. In its simplest form this could be the addition of Facebook Like or Tweet This buttons on web pages. Whilst some web marketers may be savvy to this, in many cases social media strategists can offer valuable insights on what conversations should be highlighted and the format used to display social elements (eg. a sidebar showing the latest 5 entries from a blog may be more effective than a mere button).

As the mobile space continues to become more important, consistency and tie-ups across mobile, web and social presences will also need to be managed effectively. For instance, adding QR codes on event web pages could help attendees transfer information from the PC to their smartphone.

Corporate sponsorship

With employees engaging more and more in social media on behalf of their company, someone needs to make sure the management/executive team are cool with this and hopefully promote this interactivity. A strategist may propose and promote an incentive program for employees. They may also gently advise the executive on where their involvement would make most sense. As one social media strategist here at IBM explained it, a major part of his role involved keeping the corporate forces out of employee social interactions (unless of course there are policy violations requiring intervention).

Social media campaign marketer

A strategist can help bolster campaigns undertaken by the marketing team. This could take the form of creating a social media kit around around a campaign that is then emailed to experts and evangelists across the organization. Or maybe a YouTube strategy developed in conjunction with an agency would make sense. The role in this instance is one of energizing employees and major stakeholders to supplement the work of the marketing team.

___

These, to my mind, are the core functions of the social media strategist. In addition, a strategist will also have to juggle a number of managerial/administrative demands, as any manager in the organization has to perform: eg. collaborating with internal/external teams, reporting on performance, people management.

It’s worth pointing out that the role of the strategist can be significantly different to that of the social media evangelist. An evangelist tends to be much more hands-on: many in this role excel at using the different social media channels to get the message out. Whilst they may have considerable following on their Twitter account or blog, they may be less proficient at energizing others in the organization to get involved, or analyzing conversations and defining processes to deal with these.

As Jeremiah points out in his report, the role of the strategist is due to change in the near future. We may see something in the social space akin to what has happened to web marketing over the last ten years: a splintering of roles and responsibilities. Some may focus on developing processes and implementing tools to help the organization effectively deal with its social ecosystem. Others may extract value by focussing solely on integration between web and social.  Others could focus more exclusively on training.

On a positive note, this role is definitely not going away. There is a supply imbalance for the social media strategist skillset with more companies chasing the rare individuals who have the requisite skills and experience. Against this, the fact that social strategists are a rare commodity means that they are stretched in their roles and risk falling into becoming what Jeremiah calls the ‘Social Media Helpdesk’.

I can see two main ways the social media strategist can avoid this. One is to facilitate rather than execute. For example, spend time ‘persuading’ knowledgeable experts to blog, rather than blogging yourself. The other is to pick a specialty and follow this. eg. become a trainer and focus on this area. Teach the web marketing department how to integrate social aspects, rather than get buried in the weeds yourself.

Do you agree?

(The original post from Jeremiah)

Rebooting the news: what this means for marketers

I’ve recently been turned on to the Rebooting the News podcast hosted by web/media luminaries Dave Winer and Jay Rosen. Their experience is manifest in the low key, dare I say low-fi, approach to podcasting. If you’re looking for scripted professionalism, you’ll have to look elsewhere. This is the rumpled jacket Columbo of broadcasting. What you will find is a couple of guys who share a common interest, but often a different viewpoint, speaking their mind.

That common interest is the effect of technology on media and journalism. Not surprising given that Dave Winer is attributed (among other things) with the creation of RSS, the engine which revolutionized blog publishing, and Jay Rosen is a journalism professor and strong proponent of public and  citizen-based journalism.

So, why would a B2B tech marketing dude like me be interested in the impact of technology on the media industry? Because I feel the lines between marketing and media are in danger of blurring, or should I say, melting. As social media continues to seep into every crevice of our lives, marketers can no longer broadcast messages as we once did. We need to be more relevant. More informational. More like a news outlet than a brochure. For this reason I feel there is much we can learn from the massive transformations underway in the mainstream news industry. They arguably have had a lot more experience than us marketers in creating emersive, engaging information-rich content.

In a recent issue of Rebooting the News hosted live at the Online News Association annual convention, Dave and Jay layout the major themes they have covered on the show. Although aimed at news outlets like the New York Times, some of the issues strike me as deserving of special attention in the context of online marketing…

Give traffic away

A key factor in building successful online information systems has been the notion of giving your traffic away. Google is perhaps one of the most extreme examples of this. We go there in droves to find answers. But the answers we find aren’t generally on Google. It drives us elsewhere for the answers – few of the links presented to us on search results pages are on the Google domain. It’s effectively an algorithmic curator, desperately trying to retrieve the best, most relevant content on the web and deliver it to us. Dave Winer points out that the major news outlets have not picked up on the value of this service. They still act as know-it-all walled gardens, reluctant to link off their own domain. Looking for further information on a particular news story? The only links proffered are from other stories across the same publication. There could be more background on Wikipedia and explanatory videos on YouTube: but you’ll have to go find them yourselves.

The same argument can be leveled at corporate websites. We talk about how social media breaks down the walls of the enterprise, connecting the pieces between our ecosystem. A company has suppliers, partners, customers, industry analysts, press, all now apparently in closer communion. However, how much of this ecosystem do we expose on our pages? For instance, on a page explaining the application of a software product, we could link to a partner blog showing an innovative implementation, commentary form a respected analyst, or customer testimonials from Twitter (Radian6 offer this on their homepage). Each serves to bolster up and add color to the claims we make on our pages.

Rebooting the News: give visitors away

Why isn’t this happening? I can think of a few reasons: we spend so much time working on the content of our pages we forget to work in the inter-relationships with other relevant pages out there on the web. Perhaps more importantly, we are currently not incentivized to do this. As web marketers, our performance is measured in terms of behavior of our visitors on our site. We use engagement metrics that are specific to our site: like average number of page views and registrations completed. If we start sending our traffic away, the numbers by which we prove ourselves will tank. External links do also need additional curation. Relationships tear, whereas links can be more permanent. If you no longer deal with a partner and they have stripped your reference from their site, you’ll need to update your links accordingly.

The key point here is that this effort in giving traffic away can offer the kind of third party validation that could inch your prospects closer to that all-important sale. We just need the processes, tools and discipline to be able to apply this in a consistent manner.

News updates and background knowledge

Dave and Jay also describe how the web gives us unprecedented access to the back story around any given article. As stories unfold, news articles can be plotted as markers on the timeline of the lifespan of the story. Often readers will pick up an article half way along this timeline. The beauty of the web is that an article can link to content further back on the timeline tracing the story’s evolution and context (and multiple perspectives). Unfortunately, this theory isn’t often applied.

We can relate this to corporate websites too. When we build content or put up an asset, we can contextualize it. Want to go more in-depth? Check out the experts on our forums. On the other end of the spectrum, here’s some 101 resources for all you newbies. We’ve also got blogs, YouTube videos and Wikipedia pages crammed with more details. (Check out this post from Jeremiah Owyang on the subject of linking social media content to corporate websites). Again, all this makes for a richer, more immersive experience for the visitor.

Wrap up

I understand that in Rebooting the News, Dave and Jay are trying to improve the flow of information and the communications process in a democracy. Maybe I’m soiling their pretexts by reducing them to the grubby world of commerce, but I feel their recommendations do bleed over into the world of online marketing, and if adopted can improve the overall web experience for those seeking information in this domain.

Do you agree?

Building IBM’s biggest Twitter profile

Did you know that @developerWorks is IBM’s biggest Twitter profile?

With over 33,000 followers, this syndication channel has some serious clout:

image

While we’re talking numbers, let’s just say this channel drives over 200,000 clickthroughs a month to the developerWorks site – surely not something to be sniffed at! I recently caught up with Frank Carlos, the man behind the profile, to get some tips on building a strong Twitter network.

Read more about developing IBM’s largest Twitter profile

Developing IBM’s largest Twitter profile: grassroots marketing the @developerWorks way

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Frank Carlos, a grassroots marketing expert on the IBM developerWorks team. Among his many accomplishments has been the development of the @developerWorks Twitter profile which has amassed a princely 33,000 followers.

@developerWorks on Twitter

In my mind, this makes Frank something close to the Ashton Kutcher of the B2B tech world.

So, how did he do it? A few lessons came out of the conversation with Frank.

Curation is the key

The @developerWorks twitter account works as a syndication channel: posting links to content from across the developerWorks site. However, rather than just automatically spewing out the contents of an RSS feed, Frank takes the role of editor, curating the content and only posting the pieces he thinks make most sense. This resonates with Paul Gillin’s claim in B2B Magazine that curation is the new creation and as the amount of information out there on the web grows exponentially, we find real value from those who can pick through the haystack and just hand us the needles.

Let’s be clear though, the role of curator involves some serious graft. Frank points out that he posts over 20 tweets a day. Every day. Obviously, in order to do this you need a large network of content to pick from.

Focus on the audience

developerWorks is an IBM resource for developers and IT professionals, allowing them to build skills around the gamut of technologies that IBM solutions touch. It covers IBM’s own platforms and tools such as WebSphere, Rational, Tivoli and Information Management. There is also a mass of content on popular programming languages and applications, including PHP, Java, Ruby, Android and HTML5, and it is in these areas where the @developerWorks account is focused. (As an aside, a recent developerWorks study shows just how important these technologies are to the developerWorks audience).

Going after popular topics is a shrewd play that has obviously paid off for the @developerWorks account. Just picking a random selection from today:

@developerWorks tweet sample

Here you can see posts covering Cloud, JavaServer, Ubuntu, RedHat, Scala.

Sure, many of the tweets are related to IBM solutions, but the relationship is made with popular tech topics of the day. The message here is if you know there is a popular theme related to your offerings, exploit that relationship!

Let folks know you’re out there

There are a few attention-grabbing tactics that have been employed to publicize the @developerWorks account: none of which have cost a dime to implement (well, beyond the internal resource).

The first, is the choice of a somewhat unusual URL shortener to post links: StumbleUpon. The advantage of this service over other shorteners such as bit.ly or the newer goo.gl is that the links are automatically added to the StumbleUpon network and Frank points out that his links receive a good chunk of traffic directly from the StumbleUpon channel.

Another technique used by @developerWorks is that of following people in the networks where you want prominence. Using the Android example, you can search on people using the ‘#android’ hashtag and follow those that appear to be tweeting on-topic. Following them also puts you on their radar. If you’re putting out quality content in that area, there’s a good chance they will follow you back.

The use of hashtags in tweets is a great way of associating your content with topics/subjects. How do you find the right hashtag? One way is just a simple search on Twitter, such as this one for ‘#android‘. What you are looking for is a hashtag with a hive of existing conversation around it. And, yep, the mighty Mashable has a primer if you want to know more on making the most of hashtags.

Prove the results of your work

Syndication is the core objective of the @developerWorks account. Frank keeps detailed records on each tweet and how many clicks it receives. As well as knowing that he drives 200,000 clickthroughs a month, he also can break that down by topic and IBM technology. All through the clever use of spreadsheets!

Much is talked about the ROI of social media. For syndication you can go beyond counting clicks and approximate the value of the channel by looking at how much it costs you to attract visitors using other channels. For instance, you can take your hashtags and find out how much it would cost you to get traffic for those terms through paid search on Google. You can take this a step further if you have a good connection between your web analytics and your CRM and calculate how many of these clicks have turned into customers.

Although I bring this up last, tracking the value of your work can be the most important piece. As you’re probably aware, if you can’t find a way to express the value of your efforts, you may find your management pulling the rug from under your campaign.

I should come clean and point out that one of the motivating factors in my decision to move to the developerWorks organization was wanting to be a part of a team that is making excellent use of social media in innovative and effective ways. Frank’s use of Twitter to build the @developerWorks profile is an excellent example of this.