Social Media Interview With Walker Thompson [client]

30 03 2009
“I can find out more about you through the web than I can by spending an hour with you […]” Walker Thompson, VP of Sales and Marketing for Syndicom, Inc.

Last week we had the pleasure of interviewing Walker Thompson, VP of Sales & Marketing at
Syndicom Inc. Syndicom is a provider of a collaborative suite of products targeted at surgeons and medical device companies to work more efficiently.

Syndicom was definitely using traditional marketing and PR but felt they were lacking ways to engage with their wider market and influential blogosphere.
Walker felt that using RSS marketing could help Syndicom engage on their own terms and be able to distribute their own messages and content. As he puts it,  “I could suddenly present my message through many different networks (Facebook, Twitter etc….).” However, while Walker has been very active in the blogosphere for some time it was hard to know how to navigate through it in relation to the medical world. He struggled with how to spend time effectively using social media when he had other things to focus on and it’s moving so quickly —  a social media service provider was the only way go. Enter Extanz.

The results speak for themselves. Syndicom’s monthly website traffic has almost tripled in less than a year. This is significant given that Syndicom is a b2b niche focused business. Page views have doubled in the same 6 months and Syndicom’s Alexa ranking went from 7,000,000th place to 500,000th place in only a few months. The bottom line says Walker, “is that we’re relevant and part of the discussion.” People know what their product is, have a better idea of what they do and, by the way,  have read their blog!
Blogging is difficult by yourself, time consuming and sometimes frustrating, but the mothership of good social media programming. Syndicom used Extanz blogging as part of their sales education cycle with both business customers and core users. Combined with podcasts and comments on influential blogs, Syndicom’s content is more objective, professional and ethical. Return comments are a real indication of relational success. As Walker says, “Extanz clearly amplified reaching out to influential bloggers with a high level of vertical expertise. Other influential bloggers would inevitably come back and leave comments on our blog; this is real, influential, two way conversation.”
So what’s Walker’s conclusion on social media and online tools? “If you don’t embrace it, you’ll become irrelevant”. 90% of companies don’t have a blog and he thinks it’s critical to create trust. The way people work and interconnect has changed, if you don’t have a presence on these new media, you’re becoming harder to reach. Syndicom’s business is online and it’s pretty clear that online methods and tools are dramatically changing how medicine is practiced, research, discovered and taught.”
To hear more of Walker’s thoughts, listen to the podcast here:
To learn more about Extanz and how we can help you, click here.
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Your participation is required (no duh!)

14 01 2009

In the last few weeks, we’ve discussed the roots of and early influencers of web 2.0 and customer relations (the re-birth of Trust 2.0 , the village Not-So-Fool,  Napster, Gen y…).  More and more, Health 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 are taking the stage….. the 2.0 juice is everywhere, are you sick of it yet?

If you’re sick of it – You’re certainly experiencing a culture gap :).  If you’re excited about it, that’s probably the right feeling. It starts to get crunchy when you can claim and act as you are embracing it. Every segment of your company’s value chain should start thinking 2.0 collaboration. As the economy drops, it is essential that more brands engage in conversation.

The economy may be tanking but that’s not the case with all that is 2.0. Let’s talk about growth for a moment: Twitter 343% (users) and grew by 752%  in traffic in 08′, Ning 251% (users), Linkedin 193% (users) (the state of the Economy helping), Facebook 116%.  When was the last time you saw figures like that?? Staggering, isn’t it?

Now all those “sick and tired of this web 2.0 malarkey” would have you believe that this is all just a fad. A wild management fashion that will blow over by the time Spring comes. Just something to keep those geeks and young’uns occupied when they should be doing some “real work”. Right. Call me silly, but I see several major cultural and behavioral shifts here (feel free to add more):

– Numero Uno: This growth is conversation based.  Robots have no place in the hive and the communities are watching. Communities value quality, authenticity and collaboration. Sounds trivial doesn’t it? There you go, arguing that that flashing your sensory advertising 7 times in front of someone’ eyeballs may do the job. Forget that.  It’s just part of the noise.  As a product manager, a brand marketer or simply an employee, your online attitude and your ability to converse are making or breaking your business model.  The economy is just magnifying any cracks already there. Your products, your sales tactics and PR in general can only stay alive if you’re engaging with your consumers. No, it’s not only your engineering team’s job to do so… if you think so, you’ll fail.  Someone somewhere is  conversing about the features or service add-ons they’d like to see.

– Numero Dos: This growth is participation based. Your product, your brand (personal and company), your PR, and your support operations have to be able to engage and sustain conversations if you want to stay relevant. Relevancy has 2 axes:

– your current customers and prospects (do you empower them through conversations? are they getting your brand experiences for the same price they bought you product or services?). Are you in conversation with them before and after they bought your product? Like a good Chef, does your brand walk around Twitter or Facebook and see if what you cooked went beyond expectations?

– and Google of all places 🙂 Your brand digital footprint is constantly analyzed by search engines to create rankings.  Engaging in the conversation is cheaper and more effective than hiring any gizmo PR firm.

I’ve  seen a lot of debate on Chris Brogan’s blog lately about lead generation methods. Guess what, the most viral of us are spreading the word faster than ever before. I knew of the DIA air plane crash before any news coverage, I knew about the earthquake in Thailand and that my friend Neil just bought his new iPhone before he called and told me. Yes, your traditional communication methods are still relevant but engaging in conversation is required. Social networks and social media are not just for kiddos anymore – those of us 25 years of age + are the fastest growing segment on most networks.

So here’s your case for change:

– Your social media engagement should empower your users, especially if you are developing software or any collaborative tools. Sounds trivial, yes, now go listen to the blogosphere or the twitterverse and judge for yourself.

Brand monitoring should be like breathing – people are already talking about you, now listen and engage where necessary. I am always pleased to see brands replying to me when I comments about their product on Twitter or else

– If customers come back, great – if they speak about you on yelp.com, facebook or twitter… it’s better, their friends are listening.

Good blogging is the mothership of social media – it’s like going to a networking event– you’re putting yourself out there.  You may be anxious at first but there are no robots in this room, just human beings, style gets you only so far. Substance rules.

It all sounds very much like a village right?  People using technology have created more human avenues for connection than ever before.

Finally, if you think you don’t have the budget for this, your current marketing budget mix is wrong. Just because you’ve done marketing this way for 10 years doesn’t mean you’re right, that it’s working or that people are not immune to your message. It isn’t. And they probably are.

Let’s go man! It’s exciting.

Yann





Towards PR 2.0 = RSS Marketing + A Conversational Mindset

11 08 2008

These days we get asked more and more: “is what you do PR?”

We tend to say, “hmm not really – but kind of” …the answer seems to depend on whether we are talking with someone who can actually understand the “let your audience participate with you” part and considers that PR or not. Most marketing and PR folks out there are just plain afraid of what could be said and so, find it hard to “let the audience participate”.

Today, most business blogs are just newsletters that “Corporate Communication” is putting out there to ‘check’ another thing to do. Most of the time, PR firms are good at pushing such press releases and trying to get traditional media to write about their stuff.

What we do is vastly different. We are here to focus less on the company’s cool product (traditional PR will take care of this) and more on the audience’s points of pleasure and pain points. To do so, we identify your constituencies (blogosphere, constituency presence on social networks, connectivity between networks). Then we connect the dots between all these “locales” and start reaching out for fans, friends of fans etc, bringing them valuable content that only friends would want to send to each other.

When thinking through the comparison between PR and social media, consider the following…

1. Connectivity: THANK YOU RSS – Does your PR firm really understand RSS? Not just what it stands for?

Since 2005 and RSS 2.0 standardization, we’ve seen an explosion of possiblities in terms of feeding data from one place to the other. You can actually now stream your business blog across facebook, plaxo… Yes, it’ll take a bit of plumbing but once you’ve established those connections, you can start spreading the word…:) The following examples are what could be considered “immature” demonstrations of RSS potential – note the complete lack of feeds to the FB page – Isn’t it time to challenge what your PR firm is doing for you?

no activity...

no activity...

Virality is a function of “moving data”, in this case it’s about how fast User Generated Content is moving from one friend to the other – The faster the data point (pictures, blogs, facebook greenpatch @#$%…) moves, the more virally the information spreads. Most traditional PR methods are stuck in old distribution models –they can not virally replicate information and rely on traditional readership bases (which are also less virulent) than web2.0 readership. Obviously Canon and Jamba Juice (there are 100s of examples like that) just don’t understand what Social Media Marketing or RSS Marketing is… [hint: talk to us] 🙂

2. Do you really see marketing as an investment center? [not a cost-center] – Are you ready for PR 2.0?

  • Do you have a “let’s give it a shot” mentality? Are you ready to engage with customers commenting on your blogs? Can you handle them giving you a thumbs up or down on your facebook page? If you are not, you are falling behind the biggest social movement since the creation of internet – learn from it before you competition does.
  • How about starting a relevant blog?
    • How to use features of your product
    • How your customers use your products
    • Relevant industry news
    • Great insights about how you manufacture your products, your operations
    • DON’T WRITE ABOUT “how great you are” or “how great your company did at the last employee event”… that’s good internal communication!
  • How about building a facebook page that actually has some activity? Feed your blog there using RSS! (unlike our friends at Canon or Jamba Juice…)
  • Start tweeting about the unknown stuff happening with your company that will make your readers say: ‘whao, that’s cool, I didn’t know that’. It doesn’t need to be top secret magic news. Most brand afficionados just want to relate to your brand and be able to share something cool about your brand with their friends…
  • Start using flickr, youtube, slideshare as your backend media platform – the more connectivity the better!

3. Do you know about “Saturation Points” and “Information Immunity”?

Malcom Gladwell talked about it early on…. information immunity is definitely a problem that traditional channels of communication face. Phone, faxes, email, text, RSS feed… they all reach saturation point… except that now, your audience has to the power to choose what information they receive or not. They can decide to read, comment, and more importantly “pass it along” virally via their networks. Your customer is moving on, they choose what to read from sources they rely on. Don’t you already feel that you are member of enough networks? That you can’t take any new ones? So do they!

An interesting study recently came out on the ‘new patterns of influences‘ led by a team of five SNCR Research Fellows: “New influencers are beginning to tear at the fabric of traditional marketing and communications, giving rise to a new approach characterized by conversation and community,” said Gillin. “PR and marketing communications professionals are responding with a mixture of excitement, fear, and fascination. They’re alarmed at the prospect of ceding control of their messages to a community of unknowns. Yet at the same time they’re excited about this new opportunity to speak directly with their constituents.

Are you ready for ‘conversational marketing’? Your customer should be the best advocate of your product or services. they should be your fans on facebook and you should give them a reason to be a fan of yours on such social networks….

4. So what to do now?

– Re-think your public relations goals.

– Start a relevant blog and start connecting it to your social networks.

– Be ready to open conversation up to your constituents.

It’s time to talk!!

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