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If You Build It, Will They Come?

So after reading my last blog, you’ve finally come to the realization that you now need to start getting serious about creating video for your organization as the return on investment is certainly a compelling one. But where do you start?  Do you immediately run out and begin building a studio and streaming infrastructure?  Probably not.  Even though the ROI on video is overwhelmingly positive, Read More »

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Social Selling in Action—Part 1: Innovation starts with Sales

As the number of users of social media continues to grow, the boundary between our personal and professional lives has begun to overlap. Unsurprisingly, 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.  Where the customers goes, so does sales. Allison Aldridge-Saur, Project Consultant and Bernard Chiu, Project Specialist, have been leading the effort to transform traditional selling at Cisco into Social Selling. Their 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. 

I spoke with Allison and Bernard separately to discuss the innovation that is taking place within the Social Selling program and the focus on delivering measurable ROI. This is the first installation in a 3-part series that reviews Cisco’s unique approach to  Social Selling.

Innovation starts with Sales

Jennifer Roberts (JR): In ten seconds or less what is Social Selling?

Allison Aldridge-Saur (AAS):  Social Selling is essentially leveraging social media tools to support a more efficient, more cost effective and quicker sales cycle for Cisco sales rep.

JR: How is social selling different than more traditional selling and it will it transform the sales processes as we define it today?

AAS:  The potential is definitely there to change the way reps sell but I think we have to take incremental steps. We have an existing selling cycle in place, we have systems built around it and we can’t just dismantle that. We also need to have a better understanding of where customers are with social. Not all of our customers are on social media. We do have certain set of the population that is there, but we also have a set of population that isn’t. So, we can’t immediately jump right in because we might be leaving customers behind.

Instead, we’re laying the tracks so that we’re there when our customers are ready.  We will have the discipline and processes in place.

JR: You mentioned that some of our customers have moved to social. Do you know the breakdown or the profile of these customers?

AAS: Our proof-of-concept (POC) and pilots to date have been predominately in the U.S.  So, what we have seen in the commercial arena, specifically the SMBs in the commercial region in the South, was that they were less active on social. The franchise businesses were present but others were just not there. The public sector is doing a great job throughout the US; we have not yet explored the partner space, which is obviously critical to understanding the total social footprint.

What we do know is that regardless of whether customers are there personally on social, research IS happening on line. Even where the engagement portion of social sales cycle might not work today for some customers, being present, creating proof of expertise and insight on a personal brand is still going to be helpful.

JR: How are the sales reps defining their personal brand? And is there a standard way in which social media is being used by sales?

AAS:  From the get go, Bernard and I realized that this is not a program you just roll out to sales – the sales rep have to own it.  They know their customers, their sales style and it’s only through their active involvement that are we going to find innovations that work to drive the opportunities.

JR: Have their been any examples where an individual sales rep has taken the tools and services and created something uniquely their own

AAS: I have three examples. Bradford Gibson (@Bradferd) used a combination of Outlook, SalesForce & LinkedIn to begin identifying and nurturing new contacts. He synced all his valid SalesForce contacts with LinkedIn to identify all the potential contacts he might have within his LinkedIn network. He then sent out a mass email from Outlook inviting these contacts to connect to him in LinkedIn. The response was low.   But then he followed up with a LinkedIn email asking this same group to connect with him.  The result?  His LinkedIn profile had a huge spike in views and he added 30 new contacts to his network in a matter of days and continued to add new contacts over several weeks, which contributed to $100s of thousands of opportunities.

Second example. Missy Guerin (@MissyGuerin) fully embraced LinkedIn.  She introduced herself to everyone and offered to help answer any questions.  Through those introductions she was able to derive insights into customer projects. The result? She was introduced into one of the largest ISDs in Tennessee that no one had been able to connect with for 2 years.

And finally, the third example. Chandra Heffelfinger (@ChandraAtCisco) used a combination of LinkeIn & Twitter. Using LinkedIn she looked for SMBs in her region that were trying to connect with each other for support. Sometimes smaller businesses look to each other to provide marketing or other functional help.  She was able to make connections between the SMBs looking for support.  She also invited people to join her on Twitter and let them know she was their Cisco Sales rep and if they needed anything, to reach out.  The result? She gained a sizable opportunity via Twitter.

All three sales reps demonstrated innovation and were able to drive multiple opportunities, with most tracking to $100k, which is not insignificant for this group.

It’s really the sales rep that are building social selling; we work in close partnership to get their feedback, understand the issue they’re having so we adjust the tools and processes to help them meet their needs. The only way to scale this is that Social Selling become like familiar infrastructure (like telephone and email).

JR: Thanks, Allison.  I look forward to learning more about the Social Selling POC and recently-launched pilot

AAS:  You’re welcome.

In Part 2, Bernard talks about the importance of metrics and a social attribution model that really works.

Jennifer Roberts (@rideboulderco) is a Social Media Marketing Manager and leads the Social Selling program. Allison Aldridge-Saur (@aldsaur) is the former Social Selling Program Manager.


Our Week as Video Broadcasters: 5 Insights

In mid-May, we told you about our plans to broadcast live keynotes from Cisco Live  on, specifically from our home page.

Well, we did it. For four days, May 19-22, our live video coverage on our home page included:

    • John Chambers keynote
    • Rob Lloyd keynote
    • Industry keynote — IoT
    • Guest keynote — Sal Kahn from Kahn Academy

Here are a few snapshots of what it looked like:

cisco live day 2a

cisco live home page_mobile

Now that the event is over, what did we learn — and where do we go from here?

  1. Video is engaging. Over 7,000 people clicked on the spotlights to view the live streaming videos in just four days.
  2. Video and screen size matter. The larger the screen, the longer the attention span. We delivered a fully responsive experience across PCs, tablets, smart phones and connected TVs and were able to track the attention span accordingly. It was the greatest on PCs (29 minutes), followed by tablets (12 minutes) and phones (8 minutes). There was a single view on a gaming console that lasted 28 minutes.
  3. Video needs to be purpose-built. Personalization is key to increase engagement opportunities. Video is no different. It needs to create mutual value between the viewer and the business.
  4. Video needs to be a priority. Partnerships and prioritization across IT, user experience, digital strategy, analytics and video teams are crucial to the success of your overall video strategy. The whole is greater than the sum of all parts.
  5. Video requires innovation. We plan to explore new and exciting ways to leverage video on our homepage — and pull cross-functional teams together to help us test, experiment and innovate.

 What are your discoveries around video? What have you found works and doesn’t work?



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How to Improve Your Targeted Marketing Efforts Using Social Insights

Over the past couple decades, an increasing number of business technology (BT) buyers have started to use social media. In 2012, more than 80% of BT buyers in the US and more than 75% in EMEA were seen to use social media for work purposes. As customers start to spend more time on these sites, the amount of social data available for companies to turn into actionable insights has increased as well.

How Cisco Uses Social Scoring

At Cisco, social data is the foundation upon which we derive our social intelligence. Social Scoring is a method by which we capture and process our customer and partners’ social interactions to build “virtual profiles” for each individual. Essentially, we aim to obtain a 360° view of each customer so that we can improve our marketing efforts.

Read More »

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Quick Insights from the Big Boulder Data Event

On Thursday and Friday of last week, I attended the Big Boulder data conference, which brings together vendor, academics, analysts and practitioners of social data.  The purposes were many: discuss emerging trends, acknowledge the issues and challenges around privacy and security, and make introductions to encourage discussion of how we all envisage social data technology and by extension social data maturing.

I spent two days fastened in on how vendors believed social data could be used and how companies and researchers were ultimately using it. At times, there was a wide gulf and not only because the rate at which technology is evolving is rapid but because we, as an industry, recognize the importance of this data and don’t want to compromise the trust our customers and clients have for us.

The people at GNIP/Twitter are well aware of this and have spearheaded the Big Boulder Initiative, a task force created to address critical issues around stewardship, enablement, availability and value. If you’re interested, you can learn more here.

Over the two-day conference, there were over 45 sessions with topics ranging from Sina Weibo to the challenges of analyzing unstructured data to user-generated content vs. brand-created content.  Despite the wide scope of topics discussed, there was an underlying recognition that we were all in this together, that we have an obligation to manage the growth of social data in a responsible and secure manner and that we still had some growing up to do.

I could probably write several pages of themes and insights that I noted during the two days but here are three I thought we’re particularly interesting.

Visualize Whirled Peas

This year there was a lot of discussion around visualization and the impact of Tumblr and Pinterest, respectively.  One of the panelist believed that visual channels were happy because people like to engage with images.  I’m not sure I entirely buy that and other members of the panel were quick to argue to the contrary. However, watching the world wake up and go to sleep with Twitter was very compelling and did make me smile (if not happy).

Some members of the panels wanted customers to more fully recognize the value in sharing their location via a social platform.  I can see the benefits to users of the data; it was amazing to see the outline of common maps reveal themselves not through traditional boundaries but rather through social activities—outlines of cities, airports, etc. emerged as people Tweeted.  The panelists didn’t seem to share some of the anxieties I had about sharing my whereabouts in real-time.  Issues of safety and cyber-bullying can and should influence what people share online.  However, I liked the idea of using imagery to guide discovery and finding someone on say, something like Tumblr, with a similar aesthetic to encourage that connection.

We Do Have Some Standards Around Here, You Know

This was the first year, where I heard the admission that social does not have the same standard of measurement as say TV advertising, print ads, etc.. This wasn’t the familiar beat of the ROI drum but rather a recognition that we need to, as an industry, better define the value of social.  To date, we don’t have a verifiably mature model that clearly defines what comprises that value.  We don’t have a clear idea of when engagement matters most and how to attribute that activity. But honest conversations are beginning and everyone seems to recognize the importance to sales, marketing, HR, etc. to answer these questions.

Millennials vs. Digital Behavior—Which One Truly Matters

I have to admit this topic really intrigued me and I was excited to learn the digital characteristics of this generation. I don’t know if the resulting information was meant to make us all feel better (read: younger) but some of the panelists felt that generations should be segmented along the lines of digital behavior over age.  Susan Etlinger  suggested that we’ve been using demographic behavior as a proxy for categorizing customers and it’s losing its value.  It’s certainly true that using the blunt instrument of age to determine a person’s online social persona may omit a lot of detail but with each succeeding generation the use and proliferation of online tools can’t be entirely overlooked. Susan certainly wasn’t minimizing the influence of social technology broadly across generations but that we should perhaps adjust our lens to include more than just demographics to segment an audience.


In the two days, I met some great people, discovered that everyone is facing very similar changes and that it’s never been more exciting to be involved with Social Data.  Learn more about the Boulder Initiative here and the Big Boulder conference here.

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