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Social Media Webinar Recap

Posted on | June 10, 2009 | 9 Comments

We didn’t solve major problems or part the seas, but we took a stab at starting a conversation about social media strategies, particularly in the B:B space Tuesday night.

You can check out the archived version of our Webinar here. It involved my old EE Times colleague Steve Paul, longtime editor and Red Sox fan John Dodge and yours truly.

Based on the audience questions, here’s where I think we need to converse a lot more:

Q: Can semiconductor companies leverage social media as an effective PR technique?

A: (My answer) On a scale of 1-10 in the near term, I’d give it a three. First off the audience is traditionally trailing adopters of the very technology they enable. Many very experienced marketers in this space are loathe to jump into social media knowing their audience isn’t there in large numbers. Engineers are just now commenting on blogs and creating their own, but this is just the first wave. Contrast that to software development. These guys and gals wrote the code for Google, Blogger, etc. and they blazed the social media trail. (Aside: I interviewed fellow social media geek Jeff Hardison from Portland PR firm McBru last week on this topic and he made this point; the fruits of that interview will be used for an EDN story I’m writing later this month).

Add to this the fact that traditional publishing in the space is withering as a source for company and product news, and you have to take things into your own hands. For years, EE Times research told us that company Web sites are a close No. 2 or 3 behind publications and publication sites as sources of information. So why not?

That said, semiconductor industry sites for the most part have all the savvy of pages designed in 1996. Time to step up.

Q: Where does Twitter fit in to a company communications strategy? We’ve seen some successes.

A: (My answer) For consumer audiences, Twitter can be a fantastic customer-service channel (e.g. Southwest Airlines, Comcast Cares. If you’re using Twitter to rebroadcast your press releases, zzzzzz….. pass the port. It’s bedtime. Give your feed some meaning, some urgency and don’t talk about yourself all the time. And by the way, don’t do this until you’ve fixed your site content first.

What I didn’t have time to get to:

  • If you think your organization needs to step up, you need to be the evangelist. Don’t boil the ocean, but someone has to lead the band.
  • If your enthusiasm isn’t resonating with the boss (or the boss’s boss), move on. Other companies needs your inspiration and will be willing to listen.
  • Social media is like dancing. If you got to the dance hall a half hour late, it doesn’t matter. Just dance. Don’t worry about style points.
  • What about ROI? Screw ROI. For now. If you’re a technology company run by an engineer who prays at the alter of ROI, you’re probably still advertising in some form. There’s no strict ROI in advertising; 100 years after Joe Wanamaker’s famous quotation, we still don’t know which 50 percent works. In social media’s case today, it’s not “follow the money;” it’s “follow the people.”

Lastly, does anyone see a value in holding these types of Webinars monthly or quarterly but having them more focused as a forum than as a presentation? None of us has all the answers, but collectively we can move faster.

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9 Responses to “Social Media Webinar Recap”

  1. Ry Schwark
    June 10th, 2009 @ 11:15 am

    I think “screw ROI” isn’t useful. Measuring marketing is always going to be an issue, but even if you can’t measure you can still do a gut check. Is the effort spent going to give us something back we want? My take is that blogs can, but the jury is out on facebook, twitter and the rest.

    We’re all technologists, so we know that being first to the party means you’re the one who has to figure it all out. Once you do, those that follow can catch up for a ton less effort. Where’s the break point?

    And I agree 100% that if your web presence isn’t up to snuff, then you need to fix that.. yesterday.

  2. Brian
    June 10th, 2009 @ 11:52 am

    I agree, although I used that phrase to be provocative. You and I have talked about this several times, and the point is ROI now on social media is (at least in our B:B world) fuzzy.
    But, if you, say set up a community that attracts designer-influencers who like what you’re doing and contribute to the conversation and come away with a better feeling about your company, then that’s great ROI.
    It just doesn’t map to an ROI algorithm, the kind that tends to resonate with C-level EE execs.

  3. Leslie
    June 10th, 2009 @ 1:33 pm

    Would love to continue to carry on the conversation. The time was a bit awkward, but with a bit more lead time could manage it.

    On the whole, though I agree with your comments. Heading to a consumer driven conference this weekend where Blogs, Twitter & Facebook are the norm. They are wonderfully powerful when in comes to branding and visibility for those in the business and the consumer. Very fun to see happening. But it can be dicey.

  4. Ry Schwark
    June 10th, 2009 @ 1:53 pm

    One of the enduring issues in marketing measurement is trying to judge the quality of the interaction. Since you often can’t, number crunchers fall back on measuring the number of interactions. That can make these kinds of conversations tough sells.

  5. Mark
    June 10th, 2009 @ 2:23 pm

    10pm edt, what were you guys thinking!
    Anyway I agree with Ry. Its fine to say “screw ROI” if its not YOUR money. But these days theres a lot of (internal) competition for every dollar. Should I run an ad, hire an FAE, start a blog,,, you get the picture. At the end of the day, someone has to cough up the dough for this stuff so I would alter your comment a bit and say “its new technology, we are better served by being a fast adopter as opposed to a fast follower, so suspend the ROI metric, for a short time. Lets go in, try it and if it works we will apply the ROI metric for ongoing funding. And if it doesnt we will pull the plug.” Then within 6 months, go one way or the other.

  6. Brian
    June 10th, 2009 @ 2:23 pm

    Leslie, I agree with you completely and sympathize with companies when it gets “dicey.” I’ve seen many a communications department struggle with negative comments and feedback in social networking situations. They get defensive. And that’s the wrong response.

  7. Brian
    June 10th, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

    Mark: yes, it was a silly time. And i’m not sure what Steve was thinking when he set that up, but he took the fall. Next time, we’ll do a nooner.
    To your point: you make the point i was inferring (but i wasn’t inferring it well enough). You do need to see some results at some point.
    And there are plenty of companies out there that will help you part with your money to figure out those results, figure out where your conversations are going etc.
    While i personally err on the side of “just do it!” in public forums such as the webinar or panels, i’m sensitive to the pressures within companies (both time and money). So do it, yes, suspend ROI for a while, but keep it in the back of your mind.
    PS Hope you’re well and your golf handicap continues to plummet!

  8. Mark
    June 10th, 2009 @ 2:40 pm

    thanks..ditto..and define plummet….
    I have looked at the twitter “sites” of the major semi mfrs and note that most have a few score “followers” at most, and most of them are the same folks who get the email PR anyway so I agree that while twitter may be all the rage, and very approp for some things…..the key for success (and I am a neophyte twiterite as I am sure u have seen) is building a sufficient # of followers that one cannot otherwise or efficiently reach. Gee, kinda sounds like the same challenge of building web communities…..

  9. Lou Covey
    June 10th, 2009 @ 9:06 pm

    I with the rest on the ROI discussion, and not so much “screw it” as redefine it… or maybe finally define it. Most tech marketing people who ask me “What’s the ROI?” can’t give me an answer themselves other than sales leads. And those that answer with want leads are the first to admit that the sales team ignores whatever leads come from marketing. I can suggest all kinds of ROI parameters from venture capital acquisition to increased sales, but unless that’s what they tell me how they want to measure ROI I can’t give them an answer. Most of the time the question is a way to end the discussion because they never really intended to invest in a marketing tool or service.
    So, yeah. Let’s get a workable concept of measurement.

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