[EN] A Day in the Life of an IBM Marketer: On my Social Web Experience and the value of Customer Communities

I started my journey through my Social Business use cases describing, how I am working with suppliers and partners in a secure environment in the cloud to exchange information and work on projects. Obviously Social Software is not only an opportunity to improve your supply chain. As important, if not more important is the opportunity to energize my communication and collaboration with customers and prospects.

Companies web presence tend to be designed as the showroom of the enterprise. Everything is fancy, colorful, clean, perfect. Quite often the Share-buttons for Twitter, Facebook or Google+ are meanwhile integrated on the pages. But let us be honest Who the … will tweet a product description beyond the employees of the company? There is no real value-add in it. Ok, there are exceptions. The newest press release, the newest case study may be interesting to share and distribute. But is there usually real interaction happening with customers and prospects? I doubt it. And of course we at IBM have the same challenges and need to improve all our web sites to become real interaction and communication platforms. And this has to happen in all European languages …

Obviously this is not done from today to tomorrow through implementing certain features. It is a continuous journey with adding new features and functions to better reach our customers. We are adding functions like Click-to-call or Click-to-chat to the web pages, so that a visitor can directly communicate with an IBM representative, if he or she wants to. Is this IBM representative able to answer all your detailed questions? I doubt it, but the rep is an entry channel into IBM helping you to find the right answer.

This real-time communication option is being complemented by making experts visible on the related web pages. On the UKI Social Business page you do find Jon Mell and others being promoted as an expert on IBM Collaboration Solutions. Jon most probably will not be available for direct chats (because he is a very busy guy, who is quite often on the road and in meetings), but customers are able to leave him a message and question and Jon will come back with an answer.

These are already two interaction options we have added to our web pages to enhance the user and communication experience. And depending on the region and language we have added more social functions. There is the Social Business Insights Blog on ibm.com, where IBM Champions, Business Partners, Experts and IBM’ers are posting their stories and statements around Social Business. The blog is linked to product and solution pages on ibm.com, so that visitors have the opportunity to visit and read the blog. Obviously all state-of-the-art options to tweet or like blog entries are available as a Twitter stream with the hashtag #ibmsocialbiz and links to other Social Business channel from the worldwide IBMSocialBiz Twitter account up to our worldwide IBM Social Business Community.

User Communities are today an extremely important instrument to have a two-way-communication and discussion with your customers. In my previous role as Marketing Lead for IBM Collaboration Solutions in Germany I was (and I still am) leveraging the EULUC-community. This is the platform of the German IBM Collaboration Solutions User Group running on the newest release of IBM Connections. It is being hosted by Softwerk and holistic.net, two German Business Partners.

The discussions on EULUC and the two blogs, which Stefan Krueger and myself have been cultivating, became an indispensable part of our communication an Marketing mix. Our German customers know in between that they will always find the newest information in this community and in our blogs very often even before they are on ibm.com, where we obviously rely on editorial processes. And of course the blogs offer the opportunity to post different kind of information’s from press and blog clippings up to personal comments (which are made visible as personal statements). The click rates are impressive: the IBM Collaboration Solutions Germany reached 3.650.707 clicks as of today (May 28, 2012). Of course EULUC is not a one-way-communication vehicle for marketers. It is much more. It is a real community, where we as a vendor get and want feedback and where lively and of course sometimes controversial discussions. And I know that even our competitors are very active readers of the Community … It is a place, where you can meet the experts, not only the IBM experts but the experts from our customers and partners. Not a surprise that the Meet the Expert-blog and community is highly used.

But the usage of Social Software in Germany goes far beyond the core IBM Collaboration Solutions team. The German team around Petra Baeuerle did set up the IBM BlueBlog, a group blog, where IBM’ers like myself are posting their views in German language. The Community, Blog and other functions of IBM Connections are available on ibm.com to be leveraged by IBM’ers, customers and partners for their special interests and topics. I used to run some communities on ibm.com, e.g. around our two IBM Social JamCamps, which took place 2011 and 2010. This power of Social is unbelievable important to energize your web site and it is the reason, why we have most recently extended functionality and integration of the IBM Exceptional Web Experience Suite to provide an even deeper and smoother integration between the traditional Portal and WCM with the social functions of IBM Connections. It is highly visible, that we are currently seeing a convergence of the traditional web experience with a social and a mobile experience into a new Customer experience. (And you can learn more about it at the IBM European Web Experience Conference in Berlin, May 13-15).

And by the way: I do not agree at all with those, who predicted the end of the corporate web site and recommended to move everything over to Facebook. Facebook is a great place to be, even for most business a must place to be present, but for sure it should not be a replacement of your Corporate web site. There are several reasons for it: You need to ensure that you own your content. So the goal must be to leverage Facebook (and the other Social Media channels), but the definite Drive-to-Location needs to be an attractive, interactive Corporate Web Site providing an exceptional integrated experience, on the browser and on mobile devices.

Interested in more in-depth information?

And if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me.

This is my second posting based on a presentation I gave at the Dachis Summit in Berlin on May 23, 2012. This presentation is mapping out, how and where I am using Social Software and functionality in my job as marketer at IBM. Hopefully it inspires you to work more social in your daily work, not only in Marketing.

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