The Social Media Debate

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ represent a growing number of social media/social networking sites. Whether you like them and use them or not is irrelevant, their growth and popularity shows they are here to stay. When I was a fresh-faced graduate the chatter was about having an email address. Networking within an office was unheard of and sending an email to someone sitting at the desk opposite wasn’t the done thing. But today, everything is shared, communicated, written, developed and discussed using social networks – both from personal and professional perspectives. And so the lines blur between our personal and professional lives. Where do we draw the line? Both from a business and an individual perspective?

Recently there have been a few headlines about handing over a Facebook ID and password prior to interview. Should Facebook have any bearing on your job prospects? And Twitter? When I joined my previous company I was already Tweeting about everything to do with marketing. It was my ID, my followers, my network and therefore nothing to do with my company, right? I was happy to carry on Tweeting about my exploits in marketing but was always careful to keep my company’s name out of it. My ID, my decision. But, if your company encourages you to Tweet about your company from your ID and you build followers on that basis the lines become blurred. Who really owns the ID? The legalities of ownership are being challenged in the courts as companies seek to make the very best from the rise and rise of social media.

As a marketer, I want to encourage my team to Tweet, to use LinkedIn to engage, share content and to build relationships. I would argue that if you build Twitter followers as a result of interesting, thought-provoking, humorous or fun Tweets, then those followers really won’t care where you work. They follow you, the individual. But what does your company think? Can your company influence your Tweets (or other social media interactions) to enhance its own reputation? Is it OK for your company to take advantage of your followers, your reputation and your relationships?

Does your company have a social media policy? Have you read it? Do you understand the limitations of what you can / can’t Tweet about from a work perspective? Does your marketing team provide you with Tweets that you are encouraged to share? Do you retweet your colleagues? Or comment regularly on LinkedIn groups?

All of these questions have been posed recently by various people, groups, associations and companies. Who has all of the answers? There isn’t one definitive policy that covers these. So, for the moment, be mindful of what you Tweet, where, when and how much you talk about your company. ‘Social’ is here to stay. What you say today on the Internet won’t just go away tomorrow – it too is here to stay.

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Cloudforce 2012: social, social, social.

Cloudforce 2012 hit London on 22nd May with the big “Social Enterprise” message. The venue of the event itself was spectacular, set at the London Excel in the docklands. A bit of a trek, but well worth the journey. Once you get past the awesomeness of the venue, as a marketer, one could not but admire the efficiency and the smoothness of the entire process!

As any Salesforce event, the sheer number of attendees was incredible. Despite that, registration process was super easy. You walk up to one of some 50 odd registration desks, each equipped with an iPad and an external keyboard. If you were smart enough to carry your smart phone, or a print out of your QR code, it took all but 2 seconds to scan your QR code, 1 second for the badge to print out, couple more seconds to e

xchange a smile with the person behind the counter and you are all set to go. 6 break-out rooms, an expo packed with sponsor booths, breakfast, 2 hour (yes, 2 hour!) long keynote and much more.

I cannot get over how much print material is still used. Almost every attendee was walking around with either a smartphone or tablet – why exactly all of the material cannot be delivered digitally, well I will save that thought.

Sessions were not a lot to write home about for me, save one on Rypple (more on that shortly). But the Keynote, was fantastic! Great story on the Social Enterprise. There is a lot of general tendency to think that the new boys in town such as the Facebooks, Twitters, the spotifys, the Zyngas, etc are the kool kids with cool office spaces and new ways of working. Debunking the myth were HP, Kimberly Clarks and Toyota, showing that perceived Grandpa companies were on with the trend. In fact in some cases leading the trend. Toyota’s innovative concept of “make your car your friend”, was amazing! It is easier to start from scratch. I am finding myself have new found respect for established companies that are being able to successfully transition and adopt new ways of working to take advantages of the social and technological revolution. Of course, every story was underpinned by Salesforce that provided the technology and platform for these companies to achieve this.

Mostly, Salesforce is known for its CRM system. That is largely what I recognised Salesforce for as well. This event opened my eyes to other areas Salesforce havebeen expanding into. They have added Radian6 bringing social analytics into the fold, Rypple extends HR, Heroku (PaaS), Site.com (CMS), desk.com (support) and many more. The fundamental theme being that Salesforce extends the theme of social enterprise externally to your customers and internally to your employees. For the first time I got a glimpse of Salesforce’s vision (or what I think is their vision):

Embed social into every organisation’s DNA, and Salesforce will help make that happen.

The beauty of all the systems is that how well they integrate and work with Salesforce’s core cloud platform. Seamlessly integrating with each other, adding value at every stage, every layer. They appear to have carefully considered how every piece fits together, to deliver absolute value.

For organisations that want to go Salesforce all the way, and have the pockets to support some of the price tags, its perfect!

So what if you don’t have the pocket to support the costs associated, but some pieces of their technology is really good? Well, no worries. One thing Salesforce seem to have nailed is providing open APIs. So you can decide to utilise parts of their eco-system, and believe me there are some neat ones there, and integrate with other systems you maybe using. But then, be prepared to do a little plumbing work yourself or get someone in to do it for you.

If Salesforce’s goal was to make things simple, easy and seamless – I feel they have achieved it and are set for a great course going forward.

Some little nuggets I discovered during Cloudforce:

Rypple: This post will not be complete without mentioning Rypple. Amazing HR app. They aim to completely transform the way organisations share goals, review employee performance and communicate progress across the organisation. But be warned, you will need to leave behind 2 things:

  • everything you know so far about hierarchical management (which are only good for military organisations and production lines anyway!)
  • Desire to control.

But if you are looking for ways to empower, encourage and create openness, Rypple is spot on! I will happily admit the first thing I did on returning from Salesforce was to send a note to my team and sign up for a trial.

Do.comAnother excellent little tool. Salesforce bought these guys only a few months ago. There is no dearth of systems out that provide to-do list functionality. Yet, I loved the simplicity of do.com. Their integration with Google Marketplace is superb, which means you can create a task from within your gmail console directly, and attach google docs. Their neat little app sends you notifications and much more. You can also create separate groups of projects and invite separate collaborators for each group, add multiple email addresses and more. They solve some really small niggles really nicely. It doesnot come with much workflows etc yet, so if you are an OmniFocus fan, and love their review system etc, do.com might leave you wanting.

How in the world did they manage to get that url?!

Concur: If you are a business traveller, you will know my pain. Its called expenses! For long I had been looking for a tool, that will virtualise my receipts, make it easy to collate with my smartphone, log it on a server I don’t care where. Every month it automatically generates my expenses, which the finance team can downlod, seek approval from my boss, and get paid! Aloha Concur! Sounds sweet. There is lemon.com as well, they have a neat app, but they are still working on their business edition that automates the expenses reporting. Something I will be signing up for a trial and hoping can then be rolled out within the organisation!

On the whole, Cloudforce 2012 was a great event and really well organised. Salesforce delivered, and delivered powerfully on their “Social Enterprise” theme. It left you informed and inspired as any good event should.

If you want to watch any of the Cloudforce sessions, check out their facebook page. Although, they do ask you to like the page first before you can watch any of the sessions, cheeky!

Did you attend Cloudforce 2012 UK? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

Events? Community vs. Commercial

Love them or hate them, events are part of marketing. We organise and attend lots of different events: conferences, seminars, PR launches, networking dinners, customer lunches, hospitality events and everything else, from a sales kick off to a president’s club trip. So, when I attend an event that is a cut above all the others, it makes me stop and think.

I’ve just come back from three days at SQLBits in London. It’s not a commercial event, set up to make lots of money. Nor is it a huge trade show. It’s a community event. It is organised, funded and run by the SQL Server community. It has an event committee of dedicated SQL Server geeks (I hope they don’t mind me calling them that), and a massive team of ‘helpers’. Both committee members and helpers give their time for free, there is no financial incentive.

The committee members all have ‘day jobs’, so organising an event such as SQLBits takes up evenings and weekends. They have regular multi-hour conference calls to make decisions and get things done. And, for each of them, there are lots of sleepless nights to get everything organised. They are perfectionists and they care. They really care about the delegates, the speakers, the sponsors and that everyone gets ‘value’ from attending. The committee regularly reminds delegates to visit the exhibitors, if only to ask ‘what do you do?’ There’s emphasis placed on the importance of sponsors to support the running of the event.

Delegates, speakers and sponsors come to SQLBits events from all over the world. Attendees come to hear about use cases, problem solving, new developments and best practice with SQL Server and various tools that work with it.

Fifteen breakout rooms, an exhibition hall, a black tie event, a pub night and keynotes make up the (jam-packed) conference agenda. But that doesn’t tell you much about the atmosphere, the quality of the presentations, the speakers and their passion for what they do. Nor does it do justice for how well the event runs, or how well respected it is by the community. You only have to check #SQLBits on Twitter before, during and after the event to see that there’s a unique buzz about it and the people who participate in it.

For me as a marketer, what makes it particularly stand out is that the organisers work with the sponsors to make sure they are happy and that they are getting value for money. Year after year, sponsors keep coming back. The opportunity for them to network, be part of a community and to build relationships is what draws them in. It’s not about showing the number of leads collected at the event, nor about categorising them into A, B, or C leads. It is about relationships. Pure and simple.

There’s no event management company. There’s no head of marketing. There is a community of people dedicated to learning, problem solving, sharing and understanding as much as they can. And it works. It just works.

Hello Marketing World!

There’s no doubt that the world of marketing is changing. Those of us who have been around the industry for a few years know that marketing buzz is now around marketing automation, social media and ROI. Long gone are the days where marketing was about ‘simple’ things, such as promotion, brand and getting a name out there.

With this blog, we’ll be posting about our experiences marketing in today’s social media-savvy, budget-conscious, content-rich, lead generating environment. We intend to share best practice, examples of ‘do’s and don’ts’ and we’ll ask for your feedback on what we see in our day-to-day marketing lives.

Feel free to comment. Say hello. Let us know what your views and experiences are.