About today’s guest post: As companies mature their online presence though more robust social engagement, individuals within those companies are advancing use of social technologies to communicate and collaborate publicly. At the same time, consumers’ evolving use of social platforms has lead to increased expectations for brand information discovery, consumption and engagement. The surfacing of organizational culture and expertise presents significant opportunities for companies to better connect with their customers in terms of who they are and what they stand for.
Tapping into the collective wisdom of an organization’s thought leadership has enabled social business transformation in ways we never would have imagined 5 or 10 years go. In today’s post, Ethan McCarty, IBM’s Director of Enterprise Social Strategy, @ethanmcc has offered to bring some clarity to this opportunity and to share one example of what IBM is doing about it.
As marketers we find it difficult – sometimes even painful — to relinquish control over our brand’s message and identity. We work tirelessly to create customized messages, test those messages and then use them to launch thoughtful tactics based on our strategies to reach clients and new markets.
But with the social media phenomena in full swing, control over marketing messages is more akin to magical thinking than strategic thinking. Employees, customers, thought leaders, the media, they’re all talking on their respective social networks of choice about our brands, which results in a lot of noise drowning out our precious signal. In fact, according to a recent report, over the past two years, the percentage of Americans following any brand over a social network has doubled.
What’s a marketer to do?
Let’s challenge the idea that what we have considered “off brand” and “out of synch with the brand” is actually powerful diversity that we can harness to attract new clients, better understand current ones and create working environments with unprecedented innovation.
I’m not suggesting that we as marketers surrender all control over our brands’ message, but instead we consider curating this diversity to dovetail with our companies’ character and mission.
Harness all this social activity to accentuate our brands’ corporate character. Think about the power and potential of leveraging this “noise” to spur the convergence of our organizations’ brand and culture. Because I believe that organizations with the foresight and know-how to apply it thoughtfully, and with rigor, will be the big winners.
At IBM we’re laying the foundation for this convergence through a new social website called IBM Voices. Voices is a real-time data service that showcases live social feeds of IBMers who are experts in big data, mobile enterprise, social business, cloud computing, cognitive computing and much more. Voices then marries the individuals’ thoughts with IBM’s company feeds (@IBM, @SmarterPlanet, @IBMResearch) etc.), as well as a word cloud that shows visitors what’s trending via data visualization technology originating from IBM Research.
This juxtaposition of unfiltered feeds of individual experts alongside “official” channels captures expertise across the entire company in a new way. In doing so, Voices personifies IBM’s values-led culture and massive social media footprint. It also demonstrates the company’s authentic, people-centric approach to social business. For a true social business, this kind of mash-up can augment or even replace the traditional “About our Company” or “Community” pages. We see Voices as an opportunity to harness the “noise” that was taking place around IBM’s brands and technology, and thoughtfully present it to our clients, prospects and the knowledge seeking public.
We’re all aware that the power of transparency is real in the market today. Consumers don’t just want to know about the products and services our organizations’ are offering; they want to learn about who our organization is, what does it represent, what values does it instill upon employees and as a result, how does it serve customers? Consumers want to know who we are and social media provides us with that opportunity.
On this new social playing field, the organizations that win will have employees who embody their company’s character to the world at large. There’s growing importance for social brand strategists and marketing professionals to work together to create intentional systems of engagement that allow employees to convey — and ultimately shape — the brand experience for consumers.
The marketing field is evolving at a blistering pace, but social, in one way or another, is here to stay. We’re all becoming more comfortable taking advantage of new platforms to reach our audiences. Now is the time for us as marketers to take social one step further, to commit and invest in our organizations’ social business transformation. By providing a thoughtful destination for customers and prospects to connect with the brand and its experts, we’re projecting transparency that is sure to drive business value.
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