Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Typical Conversation? I Hope Not

Him: "I don't know what to do, so we do it all!"

This was expressed to me by a marketing manager who works for a major systems integrator with numerous federal and commerical contracts. He was explaining to me that he was pushing very hard for his traditionally conservative company to use more social media tools for thought leadership and demonstration of capabilities. When I asked him how he uses social media, he stared at me blankly:

"We just use it. You know."

I applaud this gentleman for at least pushing his company to explore social media options, but when pushed for goals and strategy, he didn't seem to know the best way to use this media to accurately present the company. When I asked him what types of content he planned to create to engage a target audience, he said "We have white papers."

Also a start (good job at repurposing content) but everyone can get those off the Web site. Not the best use of social media.

I asked, "Do you even know if members of your target audience are using social media tools this way? Do they want that type of information? Why not create video case studies to complement the ones you already have? Or even audio and video overviews of your white papers?"

He stared at me and said: "Why would I do that? We've already created the core content."

Me: "But your audience in social media may not want a text version of what you've got. If nothing else, make it downloadable into an e-book or at least do some sort of teaser to make the content more appealing. What about a live virtual Q & A with the SME who put together the white paper? Webinars? Would your company be willing to start a blog?"

Then he said: "We microblog (he understood that term). We are on twitter and I blocked our competitors from following us."


Me: "Really? Why would you do that?"

His response: "They don't need to know what we're doing."

Me: "What are you posting on Twitter?"

Him: "Our press releases and what shows we are going to. Links to our white papers."

Me: "So let me get this straight - You aren't following your competitors on Twitter. You blocked your competitors from following you. You aren't engaging with or following anyone who isn't a news service or an employee AND you aren't posting anything that you aren't already posting on your own Web site?"

Him: (Red faced) "Yes."

Me: "Why?"

Him: "I don't know what to do, so we do it all!"

Finally the truth. I truly feel for some (not all) of the government contractors in the DC area who are struggling to find the balance and navigate the new world of social media. I tip my hat to this gentleman who is at least trying social media tactics for outreach. What kills me though is that his approach is like throwing soup at a wall - it's a mess.

What also bothers me is the lost competitive intelligence and engagement with key audiences who may not be his targets, but who would be able to engage with their brand and their service offerings increasing their commercial presence.

If you had met this gentleman, what would you have asked or wanted to know about his company's approach to social media? Since his organization is resistant to change, what recommendations would you provide him on where he should be devoting his limited content and other resources for social media?