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The Power of Hashtags

Log on to most social media platforms and you’ll likely see a bunch of # signs floating around. No, they do not designate a phone number; instead, they’re an easy and useful way to grow your products and brand in a way that consumers are familiar with. Not sure what they mean or how they work? Stick with me. I’ll explain what hashtags are, why they’re useful and how to use them in your marketing practice.

The Power of Hashtags

What are hashtags?

According to Twitter, “The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.”

Now, they’ve expanded beyond Twitter to many other social sharing sites—namely Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest—as a way to group like items into one. You simply put a # with a single word or phrase (make sure not to use punctuation or spaces) in your post, and it automatically turns into a clickable link.

It’s common to use hashtags for a big event, promotion, or product launch. For example, say you’re going to one of Cisco’s largest events, Cisco Live! You document your days by sharing your pictures on Instagram and stay updated with regular tweets, but add in the #CiscoLive hashtag and boom – you’re suddenly synced up with others who are also talking about Cisco Live!  You instantly have a connection to others in the industry, thanks to this little symbol.

Why do hashtags matter?

  1. Networking. Using hashtags allows you to reach a new audience you might not have interacted with.
  2. Advertising. If people start hashtagging their photos or tweets with something related to your company or a campaign you’re running, their followers will also see this, possibly driving them to your site and, fingers crossed, becoming a new partner or customer.
  3. Building relationships. Click on a hashtag related to your product or industry and you’ll see not only what customers are interested in, but also what they’re saying. You can then start a conversation with these folks, leading to an introduction about your company or a solution to a problem they might be having.
  4. Relevance. By clicking on a hashtag, you’ll find tons of other tweets, images, and posts that are related. Try it: head to Twitter, search #CloudComputing and you’ll see hundreds of comments, articles, and photos related to the subject. It’s worthwhile to take some time to search for hashtags relevant to your company and industry to see what other products or information comes up.

There are a number of benefits to start adding that # sign to your posts. Does your company use them? Have you tried using hashtags in a marketing campaign? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Sports + Social Media = Massive Opportunities

I was at the SEAT Conference in Miami last week, and people are still abuzz about the recent World Cup. Attendees of the conference see engagement with sports fans as a top priority, and they know that Cisco has the most open, tailored and successful solutions to make that possible in venues around the world. The data below from Facebook and Twitter shows just how voraciously fans engaged on social media with regards to the World Cup.




As the world continues to become more “social” than ever before, teams, venues, leagues, and companies are working more feverishly than ever to capture the massive opportunity these sports fans present in the digital world.

Every conversation I had during the SEAT Conference validated that Cisco’s investments in Sports & Entertainment have positioned us to aid our customers to capture these digital fans. Over the past few years we have solved the problem of reliable and efficient high-density Wi-Fi, and live video streaming with minimal delay, and that is why our solutions are in more than 225 venues, and 30 plus countries, and have impacted hundreds of millions of fans. And with a proven platform in place, we are working with our customers to convert these more connected and immersive experiences into deeper levels of insight and engagement that drive impact, both on a personal level with fans and on the business side with sponsors and other associated partners looking to generate a return on their investments.

While many are looking at capturing the opportunities of the here and now, this is only the beginning.  The rapid pace of technology innovation mandates preparing for the future and as we visualize a world where everything is connected (Internet of Everything – IoE). This video series shows how Cisco and the NBA are already deep into this process. Check out the “One Bounce” video here.

As big data fuels deeper levels of fan insights, the future experience will be richer, and ultimately feed the insatiable hunger for information that these fans have already shown. Being a sports fan will be better than ever before, and Cisco will be right in the middle of making that happen.

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Social Selling in Action—Part 2: Attribution for Accurate Metrics

As the number of users of social media continues to grow, the boundary between our personal and professional  lives begins to overlap. Unsurprisngly, the customer buying cycle is also beginning to change. By the time a prospect has reached out to a sales rep, in most cases they already know what they want because they’ve done their research on social channels, canvassed their peers on community forums and downloaded materials. The social selling strategy leverages the skills and expertise of Ciscos sales reps by giving them the tools and support they need to interact and engage with customers in this new and constantly changing environment. 

In part 2 of a 3-part series, Bernard Chiu (@bernardchiu) talks about social selling attribution and unexpected results. Read Part 1: Innovation Starts with Sales for an introduction to the social selling program at Cisco. 

Jennifer Roberts (JR):  Social Selling can be a difficult concept to define and be more difficult to track. How do you work with the sales organization to create a program that works?

Bernard Chiu: Social Selling is a partnership between Marketing and Sales.  We work closely with our sales reps to test what’s working, what’s not, and what makes the most sense for their customers.  Their feedback is extremely important as our vision is to create a program that creates business value.  We also believe in investing in our reps to help create the sales teams of the future. For example, we are creating web pages that reps can send out to their contacts. We’re also looking at developing videos in the future that can showcase how individuals are innovating in this space. All of these tools are integral in creating a new way to do business.

JR: One of the common complaints about social attribution is that it’s difficult to do.  How is the type of tracking working to date?

BC: We worked closely with the revenue team; our initial conversations were around both the best and simplest ways. We needed a method that was pretty easy to adopt as this was a new experience for us and the sales reps. Criteria was that it should only require a one-to-two-clicks and not be too much outside their normal activities.

One concern we had was around defining the difference between Marketing-sourced and Marketing-enabled and what that means for attribution. Marketing-enabled means a sales rep used tools or processes enabled by marketing to reach out. For example, a sales rep can check LinkedIn before calling a prospect but that doesn’t really qualify as social selling.  Marketing-sourced was defined as the content—what marketing provided vs. what marketing enabled (i.e. Viewing LinkedIn)—and is considered a part of the social selling process. It’s a blurry distinction but an important one. We want to make sure we are tracking appropriately and only tracking those opportunities that have a strong marketing component.

JR: Any surprises to come out of the recent proof-of-concept?

BC: The biggest surprise has been the types of engagement the sales reps have had on Social. When we first started, we weren’t certain if our customers were really using social media channels.  Once we realized that our customers were quite active on social, we became excited about how sales could engage and connect with customers earlier in the buying process. As the proof-of-concept has gone on, we’ve also been surprised by the how innovative our reps are.  They are finding new ways to utilize social to find opportunities like syncing their contacts and leveraging groups on LinkedIn.  These innovations have created a sense of excitement among our sales team as the processes are being shared with one another.

JR: What are the next steps for Social Selling at Cisco?

BC: By the end of Q4, we will have run a pilot for about 3 quarters. Next steps will be to assess the program’s overall performance: regional differences, technology and other key performance metrics.  We’ll use that lens to see what expansion looks like in FY15.

In part 3, Social Selling in Action, Carolyn Charles will talk about rolling the Social Selling program out  to EMEAR & APJC.

Jennifer Roberts (@rideboulderco) is a Social Media Marketing Manager and leads the Social Selling program. Bernard Chiu is a Marketing Project Specialist and co-leads the Social Selling program.

You Can Observe A Lot By Watching.

Usability Testing at CiscoLive!

Usability testing a support mobile page at the NetVet lounge with NetVet Mike Williams.

Recently at CiscoLive!, we spent a full week with customers and partners doing in-detail usability tests of and some of our mobile sites and apps. This is one of the main methods we use to make our web and mobile easier.

What’s a usability test? Something different than you might think. While you’ve probably heard of other research techniques like focus groups and surveys, usability tests and listening labs are a way for us to learn through observing how people use our sites: We have someone sit down in front of the screen and ask them to do a task that they would in their real work day. This could be solving a support question, researching a new product, finding the right download, investigating a new API, or any number of other things.

Here’s the difference between a usability test vs. a focus group or survey: In a focus group, a facilitator often throws out an idea or scenario and gets a group of people to comment on it. The people in the room will tell you what they might like… they will build on others comments… they may give you some great ideas! But, you won’t really be learning by observing. You won’t understand the kinds of things they will actually do in real life, because you’re asking them what they think they would do. You aren’t observing.

But when we observe people using our mobile apps or web sites, we can see lots of things. For instance:

  • We can see the areas that trip them up (even if they report to us that the experience is just fine)
  • We can see the areas where they’re getting the wrong result (even if they think they’re getting the right one).
  • Or sometimes even technical problems that we see and can troubleshoot, but they can’t.

We recommend running usability tests or listening labs at multiple stages for major projects:

  • At the beginning of the project – when you want to understand current state and also look at how competitive or best practice sites and apps are doing.
  • In the middle – while you’re still developing, and direct observation and feedback can make a huge difference
  • Before release – so you can catch any last-minute problems
  • After release – because sometimes when outside factors and environments affect the app or web experience in way you can’t expect (for instance, how and whether people can find your site topic on Google or other search engines, and how they interact with the results).

Even though this sounds like a lot of testing, there are some new techniques you can use to get real user feedback very quickly – within hours or days. I’ll talk about that in a future post.

Meanwhile, keep testing. And, remember baseball legend Yogi Berra, who said:

“You can observe a lot by watching!”

Yogi Berra

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World Cup? That Aint Football, But…

There is an age-old debate on the word ‘football’ – there is world football (or ‘soccer’ to us Americans) and American football.  To me, real football is played with shoulder pads and helmets, demonstrates a wide range of skills from running to catching to strength and toughness (with no credit for bad acting to fake injury), and ends with a winner and a loser … no ties.

football helmet 1Hearing all the hype on the World Cup back in 2010, I invested 90 minutes watching a mildly entertaining spectacle of ‘keep away’ (we used to play that in grade school) which ultimately ended in a tie.  Really, you’re kidding me. That’s it?  A tie. It had exactly as much impact as if they hadn’t played the game at all – except I was 90 minutes older and (theoretically) wiser.

In the Minority, Again

When the world cup came around this year, I was already a little jaded about the whole event and, to be honest, not all that interested.  Apparently, I’m in the minority globally because I can see the social media results on a daily basis.  For example, there were 485,000 new twitter followers on the tournament’s first day, 8 million ‘likes’ on the world cup-specific Facebook page, and 2.5 billion page views across platforms in 5 days.  Over the course of the tournament one of every two people on earth will watch at least a few minutes of the games. According to CNNTEch, the World Cup is becoming the largest social media event ever.

How Do They Do It with Official Digital Coverage?

Although I don’t appreciate the game on its own merits, I am interested in the digital aspects and impacts of the massive global tournament.  What does it take to execute a digital plan for the world cup? According to Mashable it takes: world cup

  • 68+ digital FIFA team members stationed in Brazil
  • 12 FIFA editors stationed at each of the tournament’s 12 venues
  • 12 FIFA photographers fanned out across the country
  • Dozens of FIFA programmers, writers and strategists
  • A massive public audience (about half of the world’s population at some point) and some subset of those participating in social media

And what are they doing?

  • Publishing content on the 6 FIFA World Cup websites (in 6 languages: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, and Arabic)
  • Monitoring the official FIFA World Cup App
  • Posting images on the FIFA World Cup Instagram account
  • Listening, commenting, and monitoring FIFA social channels
  • Posting, liking, and tweeting in many languages around the world

Variety of Video Options

And don’t forget YouTube and the over 9 million videos posted on ‘world cup 2014’.  (With 100 hours of video uploaded every minute of every day to YouTube, Vimeo, Ustream, and other platforms, I’m not surprised there are so many World Cup videos).

You can find a wide variety of videos, from the Top Best Goals, to World Cup 2014 Predictions, to the opening ceremonies, to – my favorite – fake injuries.

Top best goals:

Fake Injuries:

Cisco Colleagues Watch on our Own App

At Cisco, like everywhere, the world cup is a topic of discussion, both in the hallways and through social media networks.  Our internal Cisco TV team is running live streaming of the World Cup 2014 through our mobile app for employees to follow anywhere on any device.  You can imagine that work meetings take on a different flavor as colleagues watch the games live, chat with fellow fans, and root for favorite teams (go, USA!) through the internal Cisco TV mobile app.

2014 World Cup Sets the Stage for Rio 2016 Olympics

Of more interest to me than the actual games is how the event is driving digital change and adoption in Rio  de Janerio and creating a legacy of digital inclusion; especially with the 2016 Olympic games also to take place in Rio de Janerio.  Cisco will be central to the Olympic Games in two years, so for me, the World Cup is a warm-up event to see how digital – through the web, mobile devices, social media, and video – will play out.

We can even compare and contrast this tournament with other high-profile championships.  For example, the opening match between host country Brazil and Croatia had only 12.2 million tweets this week, while the 2014 Superbowl between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos garnered 24.9 million tweets. I suspect that Twitter and other social outlets will light-up as we approach the semi-finals and finals.

travelballGlobal Star Power vs. Local Celebrities

Far moLamorindare important to me than the World Cup or even the Superbowl is the fact that my grandson is playing in the U.S. national travel team baseball championship near Atlanta this week in the 11U category (on the #2 ranked team in the U.S.).

We’re in high anxiety mode rooting long distance for the Lamorinda Knights! This is one case where the global superstars don’t even compare to our little hometown heroes.


  • Blanket Coverage

  • Anywhere Access

  • Real-Time Updates

  • High Engagement 

Whether it’s my type of game or not (not), the kind of football being played at the 2014 World Cup is the rest of the world’s most popular game, and the World Cup itself is the world’s most popular event. My interest is piqued, however, watching how it impacts and is impacted by digital channels, devices, apps, and new ‘digital’ behaviors.

It may not be football, but is sure is interesting. Especially interesting is the rise of digital as the medium or channel by which most of us are watching, sharing, participating, or getting updates.

Just imagine how digital is already – and will continue to – transform business and life in the months and years ahead…