Cisco Blogs

5 Nuggets to Make Sense of the Crazy World of Social Media

- November 28, 2012 - 7 Comments

I presented at the BtoB Networking Breakfast (#BtoBNet) today and wanted to share my slides in this blog along with some food for thought based on my presentation:

  1. Not all social media participants will converse, comment or create. The Forrester social technographics ladder outlines 6 active social participation categories that also include people that are spectators (e.g., read your blogs), joiners (e.g., maintain a LinkedIn profile) or collectors (e.g., bookmark your content). Don’t lose sight of these groups when planning your social engagement.
  2. Lead with listening. I have spoken and written about this many times before and the new nugget here is that visualizing conversations about your brand and related topics can help you quickly uncover issues or opportunities you can act upon. If you don’t have a big budget for a robust listening center, start small. It can be as simple as using one screen and a free program to show conversations. Just make sure the right people are aware of your efforts and use this as a pilot to show business value. Business value will come from the results of you acting on the data you find.
  3. Plan the customer journey ahead of time. You have heard me say and write many times before that social media works best when it’s part of a bigger effort. Integration between social, digital and other online and offline outlets is key. For example, think of your web site as only one touch point in the customer journey. Ask yourself “how can I encourage customers to explore the rest of the story?” Maybe you add live social feeds or live chat functionality to your B2B site where customers can experience dynamic content and conversations about your products in addition to your static white papers. Or, consider bringing your web experience into a mobile environment through mobile-friendly web content and mobile apps so your customers can stay connected on the go. The possibilities are endless.
  4. Engaging content in social-friendly format triggers conversations. Break down complex ideas into easily digestible outputs. Use simple language, images, infographics, videos and other props to help you get your message across. If the concept is too difficult or too long to explain in one deliverable, chop it up into smaller pieces and make it a series. It will give people a reason to stay engaged and come back for more.
  5. Embrace the power of your employees. Encourage social media participation by your employees rather than limit it. Your employees can be your greatest brand ambassadors and your eyes and ears on the social web. These employees can come from any parts of your organization: engineering, sales, HR, marketing, product management, etc. In his book, “Smart Business, Social Business”, Michael Brito wrote: “People “put a surprising amount of trust and credibility in employees of companies”. “41% of people believe conversations with company employees to be the most credible specialist sources of information.” Teach them the ins and outs of engaging online, offer guardrails and guidance, and arm them with content and activities they can choose from.

Hope these tips will help you live “la vida loca” a little less….well, crazily.

Check out my presentation from this morning.


In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. Thanks Petra. Your 5 nuggets hit the nail on the head. With all of the integration and ability to track results today. Getting a feel for various behavior patterns it helps to understand things from the prospect or client perspective. Equals more ability to make changes according to more current demands.

  2. Petra, thank you for sharing. I especially like point #3. We tend to think of this as the customer journey within an integrated marketing framework. As you said, the possibilities are endless, and making it easy for the buyer is what's most important.

  3. Congrats and the great presentation this morning and these 5 nuggets. Agreed that when we get employees engaged, extra magic happens.

    • Thanks Sharon! It was great seeing you yesterday. I really enjoyed your presentation too.

  4. Hi Petra, Thank you for sharing the great article. I strongly believe in the power of the company employees. The only challenge is to get their participation, especially the Sales colleagues whose top priority is to ensure they attain thier sales target. What approach would you recommend to use in order to encourage them to participate in the social media platform? Thank you

    • Hi Kaycee, What a great question! Changing behaviors and attitudes is the hardest thing to do. I have put together a framework on how to encourage employee participation. Thought you might find it helpful: Additional suggestions are to: 1. Find the people in your (sales) org that are already doing social on their own (these people can help you build a case, test approaches and assess what's working/not working). 2. Anticipate and address their concerns, build a business case and show value (what's in it for them and how social media can help do their job more efficiently, reach into audiences that may not have been covered before, uncover new opportunities, learn about their customers in a different way, show the possibilites of expanding offline relationships online, etc). 3. Make social relevant to them. For example, if you have a listening practice, you may want to share the results from your readouts with sales. Do so in a way that can help them take action -- make the content relevant. Or, if you're using social media for registration, route the registration list to the appropriate people in sales (if possible) so they can follow up as needed. 4. Offer a path so they can grow their participation over time. 4.A. Start small. For example, initially you may just want to send them relevant blogs and encourage them to share them with their customers. While they may not be writing blogs for you at this time, they're using social media deliverables to communicate with their customers. This is a good first step -- they're getting exposure to social content and are incorporating social content in their conversations. 4.B. Know who they are. Not every tool or platform will work for everyone. But by exposing them to a variety of different participation options from one-time simple tasks to repeat tasks and longer, more elaborate forms of social communications, they can learn what they're comfortable with. For example, they may not be interested in tweeting but they may be interested in posting their presentations on SlideShare or participating in LinkedIn groups. You can help them discover their interests based on the time and effort they're able to commit. 5. Show them how to do it, provide training, guidelines and guidance. We have a robust training program and many of our participants come from sales. We're seeing an increasing number of participants from outside of our marketing organization. 6. Be patient and keep an open mind. Listen to their feedback and make adjustments to make it easier on them. These are just a few ideas. Keep in mind not everyone will want to engage in social and that's ok. Make participation voluntary and share your successes and use cases widely. Hope these help!