Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

I just saw a great slideshare presentation from Sarah Goodall, Head of Social Media – EMEA, at SAP.  Entitled, “Storytelling to Storyselling,” it’s exactly the type of resource I’ve been searching for to help put pattern and process behind that elusive — yet incredibly important — art of storytelling.

Her premise is this — in an age of information overload, getting your audience to remember anything is a challenge.  Yes, you could keep repeating yourself, and at some level that may work, but it’s more efficient to tell a story.  Why?  Because stories are how we are “wired” to remember things.  Think of it as the Three R’s: we Relate to what we’re hearing and therefore build a context that we can Recall and Refer to later on.

As for process, I really like this chart Sarah presents, because it helps me see the pattern in storytelling:

So How Can You Move to Storyselling?
The value in this chart for me is that it demonstrates that storytelling begins with positioning – you need to know who your customer is, what problems they face, and how you solve the problems before you can tell them a story.  Once positioning is established, you move on to messaging, which is where most people “stop.”  I remember hearing Lou Hoffman, the storytelling guru, say essentially that messaging is useless in this day and age.  He posits that executives are so “trained” to parrot messages, that what they say ends up not resonating with their audiences because it sounds too “canned.” 
I think he’s got a point.  But messaging is still a key step to the storytelling process, because it customizes the value propositions for each audience.  It’s also an invaluable tool to communicate those value propositions within your organization, not only creating alignment among groups, but also giving the individuals in your organization the opportunity to evangelize your value to their networks.
Next comes  storyboarding.  If you’ve never heard of storyboarding, it’s a technique used in theater and film to visibly express a story, scene by scene.  My own belief is that it is this step that is the “missing piece.”  Okay, what do I mean by that?
What I mean is that traditional case studies don’t give you a story!   Not only that, they can be really boring — problem, solution, result.  Yada yada yada.  Who cares?  Especially nowadays when communications are everywhere and our attention is diverted so easily to other topics?
So, how does storyboarding solve that problem?
Storyboarding gets story tellers to think visually.  That is the missing piece, critical element or communications “chasm” to cross (to mix my metaphors).  Once you start thinking of telling your story in visual blocks, it makes you think multidimensionally — and encourages you to use multiple communications strategies to communicate your message.  This means that you gone from appealling to just the logical mind (via the written word) and extends your engagement power by introducing visuals — pictures, sequence & scene, texture, sounds.
More on storyboarding in my next post.

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One of the most frequently voiced complaints I hear about marketing is that it’s “squishy.”  People have trouble drawing a connection between the research, branding, positioning and communications that we do into real-world, value creating action.  One of my favorite illustrations of how a company successfully has translated “theory” into “action” is a recent advertising campaign from Symantec.  

The messaging in the advertising focuses on the customer – what their concerns and fears might be surrounding security.  Then, they created scenarios that illustrate their fears — but not in a frightening way.  Instead, they opted for entertainment value to create memorable scenarios that drive home their key messages without intimidating their viewers.

The TV commercials in the campaign showcase scenarios of cybercrime (watch them here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avG0Eh-Uq2g).  For example, in “The Bank of Nikolai” you meet Nikolai, a cyber thief.  He tells you that he has a bank, it’s very safe and if you give him your money, it will be very safe — “right here, in my front pocket.”  The video closes with Symantec’s key message for that commercial — a statistic about cybercrime, “Cybercrime has now surpassed illegal drug trafficking as a criminal moneymaker.” 

Symantec effectively created an entire series of these commercials that showcase their key messages.  They have been very effective in communicating these messages in an entertaining way and on a medium (YouTube) that makes it easy to forward the video to your friends.

Symantec did one thing very well — they focused on translating all that research, positioning and messaging into something tangible that created value for their company.  Bravo!

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I’ve been attending a lot of Webinars and movies lately, which has made me more aware of the power of storytelling.

It’s an aspect of branding that my new book does not go in to.  My new book focuses more on the nuts and bolts, the “equation” if you will, of what and how to communicate your brand clearly.   Yes, it’s important, and if you don’t know those fundamentals, you will not be as effective in building and controlling the perception of your brand.

But storytelling adds an aspect to your brand that is irreplaceable. 

We become used to storytelling from the earliest age, when it was unimaginable to go to bed without a bedtime story.  As we grow older, we study both secular and religious literature, not simply to be well educated, but to till the fertile fields of imagination, socialization, morality and human attachment.

Great communicators understand that a concept or idea is all good and fine, but if we give that idea a context by telling a story, it helps us to remember it.  When we remember it, it’s natural to then discuss it later among peers, friends and family.  It is the context that drives the point home – context which explains and explores the multi-dimensions of any concept or idea.

As a business communicator, I frequently write about or present case studies about how company A bought company B’s product and got XYZ results.  Many of us do this on a regular basis.  But how often do we think, when coming up with one of these case studies, that what we’re doing is actually telling a story?

Would thinking of it that way change the way we wrote?  Would it make it more personal, and therefore, more memorable and maybe (gasp!) even more emotionally engaging?

It makes good business sense to ask these questions, because studies show that the purchase decision is influenced heavily by the way we feel about the purchase.  This means that emotional engagement simply can’t be dismissed when we think about how to communicate with one another about our brand value.

This it could – and should – change the way we tell our stories to one another.  In the age of “virtual” communications, where email, videos, tweets and blogs replace face-to-face communications, it’s the people who can tell stories effectively who emotionally engage their audience and will be the most effective as a result.

So how do you tell a good story?  Humm….sounds like a good question to explore in future blog posts.

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One of the things that strikes me most about true leaders is that they don’t talk much.

They listen.

Listening is a skill.  Firstly, it requires that you put your own thoughts, opinions, and creative ideas on the back burner — to “table” them, to mix my metaphors.  Secondly, it asks you to actually hear — to process, understand, synthesize — what others are saying.

The results can be stunning.

As any good sales person (or person on the dating scene) will tell you, when you listen to someone, hear what they are saying, and let them know you’ve heard what they wanted to communicate, you have a tremendous impact because that person will feel understood.  When a person feels understood, it generates trust and with trust comes a sense of loyalty and the genesis of commitment.

Now, any book on customer satisfaction will tell you this — that listening can actually be a more effective way to build communication and commitment between people and groups than speaking or evangelizing.

So how are leaders translating this listening skill in the Social Media Age?

Many companies, such as IBM, Symantec and Nabisco, are systemitizing their “listening,” by tapping social media streams using tools like PeopleBrowsr.com or putting in place employee groups that are responsible for tracking and responding to posts as well as analyzing posts to look for trends.

But there are also leaders out there that are actually rolling up their sleeves and participating – and by doing so, leading the way.  Leaders like Sandy Carter, VP, Software Business Partners at IBM.  A consistent blogger and tweeter, she engages personally with a virtual community that she has built on her own — by leveraging the power of social media to reach communities of people she never would have connected with before.  (Visit her  blog at: http://socialmediasandy.wordpress.com/ and Twitter – http://twitter.com/sandy_carter). 

I heard Ms. Carter’s keynote at the annual WITI conference in San Jose this week and was impressed with the dialog that she has created with her virtual community.  She not only pays attention to the comments in her network, she responds promptly.  The result of this listening is that she is able to monitor trends, analyze them, and create a vision of social media and next generation marketing strategies that she can then communicate to other business professionals.  Essentially, it’s a feeback loop, but one that is fostered by her own ability to listen coupled with her own thoughts, experience and knowledge.

And because Sandy has created a dialog with her community — she hasn’t just tried to “sell” them — when she goes back to them with this vision, they listen to her.  Avidly.

Who are you listening to?

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Did you miss me?  I’ve been moving my home, so that’s taken me away from my posts!


I am currently working with a core team of authors on an online Social Media Playbook for Alliance Managers, being created for the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP).  I’ve come across some cool resources on Social Media and couldn’t resist sharing some of them with you:

Mashable (www.mashable.com)

10 Killer Tips for Creating a Branded YouTube Channel

10 Do’s and Don’t for Brands on Twitter

WebGuild (www.webguild.org)

Social Media Increases Revenue and Growth 60%

Social Moves into Search Marketing Space

12 Tactics for Integrating Social Media Marketing Across Your Organization


The Social Media Revolution.  Wonderful stats on social media, demographics and the way we communicate.  It was done in 2009, so some of the stats are getting old, but worth a viewing none the less.

Social Networking in Plain English.  Brief description about what social networking is, how to use it, and some of the sites to use to get started.

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SAP may have a rep for being a staid company with boring enterprise software workhorses that we depend on to keep the enterprise up and running.

But — dare I say it? — the SAP EcoHub is cool.

On Friday, I sat in on a live demo of the SAP EcoHub given by Rajeev Kak, senior director – global marketing, SAP EcoHub.  Announced only a year and a half ago at SAP TechEd in Berlin (October 2008), it is an online marketplace where customers can shop for, evaluate, and buy partner solutions that extend the value of their SAP installations.

With 260 partners participating and a robust 480+ solutions, the EcoHub is a success story that SAP can be proud of, in spite of some of the hits the company has taken lately.  Last week their new CEO, Leo Apotheker, resigned.  Some of their top headaches have been customer dissatisfaction about increases in maintenance fees during the down economy, delays in delivering a viable SaaS solution  (Business byDesign), as well as a 28% drop in license fees and 9% decrease in revenues in 2009.

While it is a refreshing success story in a sea of bad news, the good news about the EcoHub isn’t an accident.  In fact, SAP has a long-term commitment to the value of partners and has made a huge investment in partners via their Global Partner Ecosystem Group (GPEG), a sizeable chunk of which is based right here in Palo Alto, California.

But I digress….let’s talk about why the EcoHub is so cool.

For one thing, it’s a marketplace sponsored by SAP.  Believe it or not, this is news.  Too many Tech 100 companies out there have partner catalogs on their sites, but partner marketplaces are rare.  And the shame of it is that when I mention the EcoHub to partner marketing colleagues, very few of them have heard of it.

So, yes, it’s an incredible value for the partner to be able to market and sell their solution on the SAP EcoHub — on SAP’s dime, on SAP’s Web site, leveraging SAP’s brand recognition.  And the value for the customer is huge — they’ve got a one-stop shop where they can search for solutions and buy them, right then and there.

But from a marketer’s perspective, what makes the EcoHub cool is that they’ve built and executed a marketplace that takes advantage of much of what online marketing has to offer.  They have a “continuous beta” philosophy, so that they operate the EcoHub from the perspective that it’s never “done.”  Creating a “hub” of information and news, users can use it for customer to community links (the SAP communities are some of the best out there), social media connections, and community blogs. 

In addition, the marketing services are cool.  Not only can partners update their listings themselves, they can add demos for customers to review (18k downloads so far).  SAP allows partner-sponsored links — advertising really — so that the EcoHub is a revenue generator and partners get much-coveted access to the SAP customer.  The site is organized so it’s easy to find solutions based on industry or solution area, review case studies,  share solutions, contact partners, and rate solutions.

Plus, they’ve got a proactive Webinar program that they underwrite for their partners.  SAP provides all the backend support for the Webinar and they do co-marketing with the partner to get the word out.  Co-marketing includes splashes on the EcoHub to drive traffic to the Webinar.  Although SAP will help with list purchases, they don’t allow the partner access to the SAP customer list.

They are also doing some innovative things with Twitter.  SAP is working with a company called People Browsr, which is a data mine and social search engine.  From the People Browsr Website: “We’ve built a set of applications sitting on the data mine to monitor your brand, identify your audience, analyze tweets sentiment, filter the buzz, manage feedback, share accounts, run campaigns, track keywords, build widgets and engage across multiple social networks simultaneously.”

Using those services, joint SAP-partner webinars in December 2009 and Feb 2010 got 50% of their registrations off of Twitter — with 500+ attendees each.

SAP is banking on partnerships to generate revenue, expand markets, and extend their solutions.  With a strong ecosystem built on synchronicity with partners and collaboration with customers, SAP is betting their long term health and viability on their investment.  The SAP EcoHub, with its robust offering and philosophy of continous improvement, is a tangible demonstration of their belief in the ecosystem.

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In my last post I talked about the importance of developing a brand architecture for your company to use to manage social media communications.  It’s an important tool to use as a baseline so that your company executives, employees, and key stakeholders can say the same things about your company, products, and services.

However, a brand architecture is just one thing you should have in place to manage social media communications. 

Here are two other pieces of the puzzle:

  1. Communications Guidelines.  Most companies have communications policies and guidelines.  They include information on who can talk about your company, when, where and how.  Many include sections on social media, discussing policies on external and internal blog usage, as well as how to use social media professionally vs. privately.  You should develop guidelines for social media usage as well.  To inspire you, I can refer to you a very handy database of 117 social media-specific communications guidelines from companies like Cisco, ESPN, and IBM – listed here.
  2. Employee Evangelism.  In the “olden” days the only people who communicated about your company publicly were pre-identified spokespeople who were trained to talk to the press and analysts.  It’s more complicated now that employees, partners, and customers are active on the internet.  That’s why it’s a good idea to communicate your guidelines in multiple ways.  Yes, post them to your company intranet or email them to employees.  But think creatively as well — incorporate the guidelines into company meetings, shoot a video and post it to the employee intranet.  Some companies have gone so far as to do special, required employee training sessions — either in person or by Webinar.

These three tools are just the fundamentals for managing social media communications.  What it doesn’t take into account is the “human factor” — internalizing the policies so that they become automatic.

A few nights ago I went to an ASAP meeting (Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals), here in Silicon Valley.  At the meeting we heard from a guy named Dan Parisi, the SF Managing Director for BTS.   He talked about the value of training people to adopt new behaviors by having them participate in simulations — something that BTS specializes in.  He said that the value of simulations is that people learn by participating in an activity where they must work with all the components of the business situation — whether it is sales, company planning, or any number of applications.

There is a process for creating not only the brand architecture, but other, more detailed communications documents that can help you manage communications in all sorts of theaters.  It’s a Messaging and Positioning process that I’ve developed over the past twenty odd years in high tech.  Doesn’t have a fancy name (yet!), but it’s got road tested tools and techniques that  help you create practical, easy to use messages.

But the Messaging and Positioning process is not only about creating those messages.  One of the most significant benefits of the process is that it’s experiential and therefore not only creates alignment between company executives and stakeholders — it turns employees, partners, and customers into inspired evangelists.

More in my next post.

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