I recently had the honor and pleasure to arrange and attend a series of meetings in New York City and San Francisco with a group of Swiss and Italian business leaders focused on digital and social adoption. The US Roadshow was organized by my colleagues and partners at Lundquist PR and focused on three themes:
Business best practices: This included discussions about social and content marketing; coordination between Corporate Communications and Marketing departments; the nitty gritty of policies, governance, training – as well as people, process and tools. The matter of listening and human connections came up too, especially related to delivering values to customers/communities.
The changing media landscape: How traditional media adopt and how new media outlets see themselves in the emerging news marketplace. This also included understanding and looking at relationships, content and media companies approach to social sharing and networks.
Innovation: From mapping the customer journey to business leadership in the digital and social era, as well as apps, mobility, sensors and the “Age of Context” to the implications for trust and credibility of business. Also innovation in how we approach news and journalism were related topics here.
Here are some of my take aways from 4 days on the road with the European business group and the meetings with great people from Citi, Aetna, RRE Ventures, P&G, Nestle, Scripps Networks, Buzzfeed, Mastercard, Levis, Autodesk, Altimeter Group, Jeff Jarvis, and Shel Israel
Big Themes: “Plus ça change, Plus c’est la même chose” or the more things change, the more they stay the same:
There were some common themes that hark back to those things we discovered earlier on (circa 2006) when at Dell we first started responding to blogs and commenting on the Web.
- That digital, social and mobile is increasingly touching any and all parts of business. Its not simply about marketing, it’s about customer support, product innovation and service to the community or customers are all impacted.
- Working across business departments/functions and silos is hard work but really important work
- It’s not about what you message…it is about what customers say, think and feel. The rational and hierarchical business model is open to emotive things and personality that swirl around in an non- hierarchical but connected way. How your business, agency or media outlet is of service to its customer community — in an increasingly transparent, open and shareable world is critical. Forget the PR spin…bring the outside voices inside to be a better business.
- Listening matters and from that comes understanding which should lead you to delivering valuable services that matter to your community and customers
- That the pace of innovation and disruption (to use an overused word) continues at break neck speed. Rather than chasing shiny objects, understanding the business strategy and what your brand is about are really important for effective adoption, integration and business results.
- Social and mobile is not just about the content or program efforts in place. It is the distribution system of our age.
- Finally, an important theme is that no one thinks they have completely nailed and succeeded in social and digital efforts. Practically everyone referenced that this is a journey where experimentation within business functions and across departments continue to be the path forward.
Some Specific Lessons Learned:
- Pinterest on a roll? It was interesting to hear about how Pinterest is both working with business to evolve its metrics, promotional opportunities and that several participants noted Pinterest to be the up and comer (next to Facebook at Twitter)
- SEO from another era? In several cases the declining value of SEO was mentioned. Now I am not suggesting SEO is dead. However, its relative decline in importance, as well as general lack of transparency came up a couple times
- Imagine not caring about visits to your homepage or clicks. Instead a focus on making your content shareable.
- Buzzfeed has a strong separation between “church” and “state”. The “News” is clearly delineated from business promotions and critical to transparency and trust.
- Delivering emotional content is important for sharing. That emotional content is often around humor, capture a moment, helpful tips, identity and inspiration
- Mapping a customer journey across your business is critical to really understanding the pain points and more about your business. Learning to really “listen” is a direction for future journalists and delivery of solid news that is of value.
- Executive adoption comes through things that matter to them and their priorities for the business, not a social or Twitter training session. Show not tell in the context of their priorities.
- Focus on data that makes sense (in the context of the business) and build your reports from that….it is all there. Don’t just grab the vendor dashboard and run.
- Not enough budget? Try reallocating from things that are becoming less important (think about the money you pay for “clip reports.” Could that more effectively be deployed for customers and stakeholder conversations across the Web…youll get the media clips with it too I bet)
- Different social platforms are different experiences….so content and approach to them should be too. What happens when a good effort goes wrong (think click bait)
- Social internal communications is on the rise and contributes to business leaders authenticity…and driving business results too.
Hoping a thought or two here may be a helpful reminder or spur new thoughts in your continuing journey using social media for business. A HUGE and very special thank you to all the participants that shared their knowledge, expertise and, in many cases, some candor too:
Andrew Bowins, SVP, corporate & digital communications, MasterCard (@MasterCardAndy)
Augie Ray, former Forrester researcher and thought leader in customer experience, social business and brand strategy (@augieray)
Beth Ward Francesconi, Senior Manager, Internal Communications, Levi Strauss & Co. (@BethWardPR)
Bill Johnston, Director of Online Community & Customer Experience, Autodesk (@billjohnston)
Chad Parizman, director of convergent media at Scripps Networks Interactive (@CParizman)
Charlene Li, CEO and Principal Analyst, Altimeter Group (@charleneli)
Frank Eliason, global director of client experience team, Citibank (@FrankEliason)
Heather Dahill, digital marketing executive, Citibank (@HDahill)
Keith Hernandez, VP International Advertising, Buzzfeed (@keithrhernandez)
Lauren Vargas, head of social media and community, Aetna (@vargasl)
Mark Brodeur, Global Head of Digital Marketing Innovation, Nestlé (@MarkBrodeur1)
Stan Josten, innovation manager of Global e-Business, Procter & Gamble (@sjoosten)
Will Porteous, general partner and COO at RRE Ventures – a venture capital fund invested in media companies including BuzzFeed and Business Insider – (@porteous)