The LEAD model is both a guidepost for managing social media and also an early warning system so you don’t fall behind the curve as Web 3.0 arrives.
In a recent article I wrote for the McKinsey Quarterly (Managing Beyond Web 2.0, July 2009) I introduced my LEAD model as a tool executives can use to guide their efforts to incorporate Web 2.0 efforts into their marketing programs. The LEAD model is both a guidepost for managing social media and also an early warning system so you don’t fall behind the curve as Web 3.0 arrives. In this article, I outline how the same process of Listening, Experimenting, Applying, and Developing can also be readily applied in business-to-business contexts.
1.Just like B2C consumers, your B2B customers equally value the human touch in their business interactions. Listening is central to this premise. Eastman Kodak is meticulous in listening to its business customers, even going so far as hiring a “chief listener” on its social media team. Through the company’s GrowYourBiz blog site (http://growourbiz.kodak.com/), business customers can read company bloggers’ posts as well as share their own insights on issues relating to the graphic communications industry. Kodak’s Twitter feed, KodakIDigPrint, allows customers to bypass a call to the sales rep by responding directly to tweets on Kodak products. Customers can even tweet direct responses to Kodak’s CMO, an active Twitterer himself. Through the immediacy and directness of this blog and twitter feed, Kodak can engage in a continuing stream of communication with its business customers with whom they can engage and from whose feedback they can constantly learn and grow.[ms-protect-content id=”9932″]
Other companies that also use social media as a listening tool include Xerox, which uses its Ideas, Ideas, Ideas blog (http://titus.blogs.xerox.com/) as a way to invite dialogue with its graphic communications customers. American Express’s OPEN Forum site (http://www.openforum.com/) has an “idea hub” that allows users, including small business owners who may be only beginning to take the plunge into the social web, to share their ideas through blogs on the site. In a similar fashion, Entrepreneur Media gives members the ability to blog in the company’s own social networking site, Entrepreneur Connect (http://econnect.entrepreneur.com/). Experiment. Social media is a friend to innovation, and innovation inherently calls for unconventional approaches. IBM went the unconventional route by “co-creating” its WebSphere sMash product through its online developer community Project Zero (http://www.projectzero.org/about/). Not only did IBM utilize an online forum, a blog, and Twitter as listening tools, they also took their use of social media a step further by engaging business customers in a collaborative process during the actual product development phase. The experiment paid off, as IBM came up with a product that was a “SMash” hit.
Since experimentation is all about trial-and-error, finding what works best for your company might take a few tries. Cisco learned from a viral video campaign that fell flat on its first attempt. Learning from this first “dead end” approach that emphasized unconnected social media applications instead of the message, Cisco tweaked its approach by experimenting with videos starring a fictional goofball reporter Ira Pumfkin trying to figure out what Cisco’s new product would be. By combining the clever viral video campaign with an integrated presence across various social media forms like Facebook and Twitter, the cross-promoted campaign for their ASR-9000 product enjoyed a large number of video downloads, which then translated into leads and sales.
1.Once you get your sea legs, it’s time to apply what you’ve learned to the bigger picture for your company. In an ongoing effort to optimize and fine-tune their social media operations, Kodak learned to use social media as more than just a listening tool by applying it to deal with communications problems. When a nationally-recognized business newspaper published an article with potentially damaging, but false, information (later corrected by the newspaper), Kodak immediately took to its Twitter feed to tackle the misinformation head-on. The company directed its KodakIDigPrint followers to an article shedding light on the facts of the matter. A video also quickly followed of Kodak’s CEO further debunking the false information. Through its social media team’s quick actions and Kodak’s direct access to its business customers, the company prevented serious damage.
Another good example comes from American Express. When the financial crisis struck in 2008, the company leveraged its OPEN Forum site as a proactive means to mitigate anxieties and concerns among its business customers. They tailored the company message to fit the economic climate by inviting discussion on the issues at hand in the blogosphere, providing information on what the crisis might mean for small business owners, and even providing quick tips for how to weather the storm. Through this, AmEx showed that their customers could trust them to stand by their side during the financial crisis.
Develop. The examples I’ve talked about above started as informal or small scale social media experiments. Over time, experimentation has led to full-fledged innovation as these companies have successfully integrated social media into their marketing mix. Entrepreneur Media’s Entrepreneur Connect was recently named the top social network for entrepreneurs by Mashable. American Express’s Open Forum site is highly regarded by its users, bloggers and social media experts for its slick content, with more than 300% growth in the number of registered users in the first year. IBM has received numerous awards for its social media efforts and is known as a pioneer in the field. Kodak, with several years of experience using social media, has put together a good collection of “social media tips” that can serve as a primer for businesses just getting their feet wet.
Bottom Line: As B2B focused social media efforts on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube take up increasing share of the marketing effort, more and more companies are becoming social media marketing experts, with the tools, experience, and knowledge necessary to step into a Web 3.0 world. Don’t get left behind. It does take work to become social media savvy, but you can use the LEAD model to guide your efforts. Look at your social web marketing activities as the investments that will safeguard your company’s future viability in the always-on social Web.
About the author
Professor Donna L. Hoffman, Chancellor’s Chair and Co-Director of the Sloan Center for Internet Retailing at the University of California, Riverside, is an internationally recognized expert and industry speaker in the areas of social media, online consumer behavior, and digital marketing trends and has worked with major corporations including Procter & Gamble, Intel, Microsoft, FedEx.com, and many others. The New York Times calls her pioneering academic center “one of the premiere research centers in the world for the study of electronic commerce” and the Wall Street Journal recognizes the effort as the “electronic commerce pioneer among business schools.” Professor Hoffman publishes widely and has been awarded many of the field’s most prestigious research awards. For more information on Professor Hoffman, visit http://sloan.ucr.edu/