Marketing 2.0: Using Social Media to Talk to and Energize the Groundswell

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Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, Authors of Groundswell

Andrew and Alex covered Forrester Research’s Marketing Forum 2008. During the forum, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff presented material from their new book, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies.

Charlene and Josh quickly overviewed their POST framework for using social networks and shared a number of bite-sized case studies of how brands like Procter & Gamble, Ernst & Young, and Loblaws effectively use social media to talk with and energize their customers. They also used Dell to illustrate the importance of tackling social media one application at a time, with high level executive support, and getting it right before moving on to the next initiative.

In addition to covering the presentation at the conference, Andrew also interviewed Charlene later in the day.

Harnessing Social Technologies to Energize Sales
Charlene Li, Analyst, Forrester Research
Josh Bernoff, Analyst, Forrester Research

POST Framework

The biggest problem with the use of social networks is that companies are trying things without a strategy. You need to have a process, start with the desired customer relationships, not the technologies, then decide what technologies to use the enable those relationships.

We call our methodology the “POST” process:

  • People – What are your customers’ social activities?
  • Objectives  – What do you want to accomplish?
  • Strategy – Plan for how relationships with customers will change?
  • Technology – Which technologies will help you achieve those objectives?

Within POST we break Objectives into five pieces:

  • Research – listening to your customers;
  • Marketing – talking to your customers;
  • Sales – energizing your customers to advocate;
  • Support – responding to your customers’ needs;
  • Developing – embracing your customers.

Today’s Focus: Talking and Energizing (Marketing and Sales)

Talking. Talking is about two-way conversations, not just shouting, which is analogous to traditional one-way advertising. It’s critical to accompany these conversations with the use of metrics to track activity to sales.

Blendtec is a great example. They sell commercial grade blenders, and their decision to make videos began when the marketing executive saw the CEO trying to blend 2x4s to test out the blenders and decided he should record it. So they spent a few thousand dollars buying stuff to blend and then creating videos. The videos have become a YouTube hit with over 7 million views and 20+% sales growth. (See also Digital Podcast’s Are Ads as Content the Future of Advertising?)

Another example is Johnson & Johnson. J&J created a blog, opened it up for comments but incorporated a very strict comment screening policy to avoid liability, and made those guidelines explicit to consumers to avoid any will. They are a good example of how you can try things even within a strict regulatory oversight environment.

Ernst & Young is doing a great job of interacting with people on Facebook for recruiting. E&Y needs to recruit 3,500 college students each year, so within Facebook, they include information about recruiting and a wall for posting. In one post a student asked E&Y why they are not recruiting on their campus, and Dan Black, the head of North American campus recruitment, answered personally with suggestions for how to get in touch with E&Y. This kind of dialog has a viral effect on campuses.

Procter & Gamble had a problem trying to connect with teenage girls regarding tampons, which is not something that’s openly discussed. P&G created, which includes discussions and Q&A about life as a teenage girl and Tampax and Always branding but no direct marketing. They are achieving a 4X return relative to traditional advertising, using their own internal metrics, and have rolled out the approach globally.

Energizing. Energizing is about finding and motivating enthusiastic customers to talk about your customers. Example efforts include brand ambassador programs, communities, and embeddable widgets.

Ratings and reviews are one of the most interesting ways for interacting with customers, especially for customers who wouldn’t otherwise be engaged. Loblaws, a supermarket chain, encourages shoppers to rate products online and share the ratings in the store aisles and advertisements. If customers complain about a product they’ll fix it, like when the added more eggplant to the eggplant mousaka that customers told them were under-eggplanted.

Fiskars, a scissors and craft supplies maker, created the Fisk-A-Teers website, an ambassador program. These are deeply passionate customers, but when surveyed, were very neutral about the Fiskars brand (when asked what food Fiskars would be, customers said Saltines). They made the Fisk-A-Teers site somewhat of a hot commodity by restricting membership to invitation-only after the site was seeded. They have 4,000 Fisk-A-Teers, and the number of positive mentions on the internet went up many-fold after the site launched. Fisk-A-Teers go to stores to give demonstrations, and when they do triple sales in the store on those days. energizes its fans through the use of widgets. They understand that brides and their friends are the ones who care about weddings, and created a countdown clock widget that brides can put on their own MySpace page.

How should companies get started?

It’s very easy for marketers to look at these social media efforts and get intimidated. Do not start by trying to move social applications into everything you do in your company. Pick one place, one application, make that’s successful and only then move on. Put metrics in place to make sure the success is measurable and can be replicated.

Dell jumped into social networking when Dells started catching on fire, literally. They had Lionel Menchaca be the lead spokesperson  he had the technical background, product review PR experience, and was well connected throughout the company.

Unfortunately, Lionel’s first efforts were too stiff and too company-focused. The blog was getting criticized, but despite these setbacks Michael Dell threw his support behind Lionel. It’s critical to have this kind of high-up support for social applications as these efforts always some ruffle feathers along the way.

Lionel put up a post titled ‘Flaming Notebook’ directly addressing the issue, including a link to pictures. He described in detail what Dell was doing about it and their investigations. Dell got wide praise for its directness and as a result were well ahead solving the problem and getting replacements before other laptop makers.

Dell didn’t stop there. The next thing they tried was IdeaStorm, a social application for generating ideas from customers. The first suggestion was a PC running Linux. They asked customers what form of Linux, what type of support, and conceived and shipped the product in 2 months vs. 9 months for the typical Dell product.

Next came DellShares, a Dell investor-focused blog. In many ways, this was really a means for distributing to individual investors answers they were already providing to the institutional investor community. They engaged with Legal first to identify and agree to necessary safeguards, ensuring that DellShares made it through to release versus being roadblocked. In this case, the Legal department devised a disclaimer that needs to be agreed to and clicked through before gaining access to the site.

In summary, to succeed with the use of social marketing:
(1) Focus on relationships, not the technologies.
(2) Find and nurture your revolutionaries.
(3) Start small with individual applications, but think big.

Q&A Discussion

How do you engineer the creation of viral video? It’s really hard to create something that goes viral, and it’s even harder to create one that communicates the message you want for the brand. For example, Delta put up a safety video featuring “Deltalina”, a take-off on Angelina. They at least thought about this enough to show consumers that they “get-it”, and there’s a lot more they could do to engage fans around the video. Forrester is going to do a video in support of the book about how to use data. It won’t be BlendTec-scale success, but we expect some pass-around

How critical are these techniques to driving business and marketing peripheral or the meat? It depends on how big your company is. is not what made Tampax and Always successful, but it’s a nice addition to a marketing plan. On the other hand, BlendTec had no consumer market before the videos, now they do. ConstantContact doubled their business with customer involvement. It goes back to marketing mix – never put all your eggs in one basket. You never know what will work with your audience.

How do you feel secure about what you’re creating? You don’t start with coming up with a brilliant idea, you start with who are your customers and what do they want. The BlendTech guys started by spending $50 with no real risk involved. Make it safe to fail, and encourage your team to try a lot of different things.

How do you tackle efforts to create very rich customer experiences with a very small number of people? If you look at the classical value of lifetime value, look at purchase amount, frequency, and viral value. Count the number of people they are actually touching and the value that drives. It’s not nearly as expensive as TV too. You have to start small to prove out the concept and see what works before trying to move it to the next level; once they get going these things scale very well.

More resources are available at

[tags]Forrester 2008 Marketing Forum, Forrester Research, Charlene Li, Josh Bernoff, Groundswell, Social Marketing[/tags]

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