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Inside LiNC '14: Building a Social Strategy, No Matter Your Industry

Lithium Alumni (Retired)

The key factors in building a great digital community-- trust, transparency, responsiveness-- were echoed again and again by the speakers at LiNC '14. But despite these overarching themes, it's clear that companies in different industries have to grapple with different issues. An older, more established industry like financial services might resist diving into social because of entrenched legal and regulatory structures. Yet forward-thinking, social-loving industries like technology can become so interested in chasing the next "new" platform that they neglect tried-and-true methods. Some industries enter the social playing field with strong, trust-driven relationships already in place; others must overcome poor perception and frustrated customer-service refugees in order to rebuild credibility. Our LiNC '14 industry tracks gave veterans of three industries-- B2B technology, communications service providers, and financial services-- the opportunity to discuss the ups and downs of their social strategies. They also answered plenty of questions to help others in their respective industries starting out on the same path. Here are some key insights from each session. 


B2B Technology: "Businesses are made up of people," said one speaker in the B2B technology track, and especially in the ever-changing technology sphere, that can mean getting dragged in different directions by different stakeholders.


logo_autodesk.jpgBill Johnston, Autodesk's Director of Social Media and Community, is the first to admit that the company's social strategy took some trial and error.

"We over-indexed on low-hanging fruit with the mass social networks, and hyper-focused on support-based communities," he admits. Autodesk's goal was to create a network of relationships between customers, prospects, partners, and employees, facilitating real exchange of ideas and supporting these groups' genuine interest in networking. To make it work, they had to relinquish some control, letting members drive the changes to their community's structure. Some of these new ideas, like highlighting expert elite users with photos and creating specific product and category pages to avoid repetition, took off. "Start with customer needs, and only then move to business goals," says Johnston. "If we're not measuring user behavior, then we're failing." 


Communications Service Providers: Creating a social strategy within a large telco company can be a real challenge, as different stakeholders from different teams create organizational issues.


logo_telus.pngThis was definitely the case at Telus, where Sr. Strategy Manager of Social & Digital Customer Experience Scotty Jackson was confronted with a distributed system that gave a chunk of the social pie to three different teams.

"Marketing owned Facebook, PR owned Twitter, and Operations handled everything else...We had to be social about social," he says. That meant bringing the three teams together, using LSW, and capitalizing on their strengths: PR designed a consistent voice, Operations kept their eye on the current state of affairs, and Marketing added a dose of spirited engagement and creativity.


logo_vodafone.jpgThe same issue arose at Vodafone New Zealand, where the strategy, platform, and social care teams all had a hand in the community. By bringing them together and creating success stories, Digital Help & Support Manager Mike Hales says that internal reaction to the community has improved. Hales also gives employees a stake by treating the internal team like customers, giving them the same UI and UX so they can see firsthand what customers are dealing with.


Jackson agrees that in the face of difficult-to-measure ROI, creating a narrative is key for C-suite buy-in. "Create the stories you want to tell," he says. "Make them meaningful. Play to hearts and minds." 


Financial Services: In an industry that faces more regulatory and legal pressure than most, one of the greatest challenges is creating a sense of transparency.


barclaycard-logo.jpg"We obviously can't disclose everything, but we can do our best," says Jennifer Hitchens-Greenfield, Social Media Manager at Barclaycard Ring. "At the end of the day, to give is to get."


Ring is Barclaycard's "test kitchen," says Hitchens-Greenfield, and getting other stakeholders on board wasn't always easy. Her goal was to give speedy responses and win over customers having service issues, while her legal team was entrenched in a calcified structure that required her to fax every request and wait weeks for a response. Using an emotional, story-driven argument helped her get the dedicated, faster-moving team she needed. "Our core values are simple, transparent, and fair. How do we treat customers right?"

cortalconsors-logo.pngClemens Eckstein, Sr. Expert, eCommerce at Cortal Consors, agrees. "The phrase was always 'The Customer Is King,' but now with social media, an individual customer truly has that power," he says.

"The customer has crowned himself. Smart companies are listening closely and understanding his demands."


moneygram_logo.jpgIf emotional appeals don't work, fear is also an option, says Christina Martin, Vice President of Digital Marketing at MoneyGram.


"The 9-5 model for social media didn't work for us. We're a global business. One of the days people are most likely to send money is Christmas!" She used the angry customer responses the company got on Twitter and Facebook to "scare the **bleep**" out of the C-suite, earning a strategic social-care hire in Lindsay Conant. "We've been able to bridge the gap between marketing and the social team," says Conant, who also recommends taking an experimental approach that embraces imperfection and learns from mistakes. "We had to jump in, try it, and learn. We'll continue to add things, iterate, and add more resources. It didn't have to be a perfect program, 24/7/365, right off the bat." 


Do you have any additional key insights to share on building a social strategy?


If you are a customer, partner or attended the event, you can download the presentations for these industry sessions here:

Track A: Financial Services (Barclaycard, Cortal Consors, MoneyGram)

Track B: Communication Services Providers (Telus, Vodafone New Zealand)

Track C: B2B Tech (Autodesk, AppDynamics, Persistent)

About the Author
Denise Jack is Lithium's VP of Global Field Marketing. She has more than 14 years of experience in customer marketing, technical sales and management consulting. You can follow her on Twitter at @denisejack.
1 Comment
Honored Contributor

Great blog update !, i love what Barclaycard are doing, clearly leading the way 🙂