How Cisco uses Social Media

As I analyze how large companies are leveraging Web 2.o and social media tools, I recently came across a great example at the Blogwell event in San Francisco on the same topic. Jeanette Gibson from Cisco shared terrific insights on Cisco’s approach to social media and how it engages Customers, Partners, and Press with Social Media.

Gibson opened her talk with a statement that captures the essence of social media at Cisco.

“In a world where everything is open, we value openness and transparency.”

There are three ways that Cisco uses social media especially blogs to drive customer engagement:

1) Thought leadership

Gibson started by saying, “Blogging is about creating conversations with customers, partners, employees, and the public.”

Cisco’s been blogging for over 4years and the first blog was on govt. affairs. It was focused on having highly targeted 1:1 conversations and later their blogging efforts expanded to include other topics. However, their blogs tend to be more around larger industry topics like  Green IT rather than individual product-focused.

Gibson talked about how Cisco’s been using video to increase engagement between their customers and Cisco executives.  Cisco’s using flip cameras to follow their executives around. They capture their executives on video and repurpose that content where ever possible. One example is where Cisco CEO, John Chambers talks about what’s happening at the Channel Partner event, on their blog which is very open and visible to everyone.

She cited Padmasree, the well-known Cisco CTO as a great example of successful executive twittering. One way that Padamsree uses Twitter is to get ideas for one of her keynote speeches. She sent out a question on Twitter – “What’s the future of collaboration?”. She got an overwhelming response to her questions and she incorporated this direct feedback from the audience in her talk.

2) Events are an area where Cisco leverages social media as event and travel budget cuts are driving the need and demand for virtual events. The company has been hosting events via Twitter: “Tweetup” Cisco TelePresence Tweet-up with Guy Kawasaki(virtual meeting). Cisco has set up public telepresence suites where anyone can come in and use these for instant conference with Cisco. In addition, the company also organizes many virtual partner events using teleconferencing technologies.

3) Global product launches are typically very expensive and this presented yet another opportunity for Cisco to leverage social media. The company has moved from launch executions, press conferences, pr/ar briefings, large budgets, teams of spokespeople in 2005 to months of messaging cycles with real-time global impact, two-way customer interactions, and community building events in 2009. This has resulted in 50-75% cost saving and created opportunities for thought leadership. It went from transactions to interactions and engagement. Bigger launch at lower cost.

Here are some great questions from the audience:

  • How are blog posts optimized for SEO?

Cisco bloggers get a list of keywords and  training in optimizing the content with keywords and links.

  • What’s the process for setting up a blog at Cisco?

Cisco requires extensive training for all their bloggers and every blog has to be approved by multiple layers of management. After going through the initial rigor, the bloggers are free to blog without any restraints.

  • Who owns the brand in the case of Padmasree and does she do the tweeting herself?

Padmasree has her own brand and she has so many followers, is because she was on the shortlist for CTO for President Obama’s team.She’s very active on twitter and does her own tweeting.

Cisco also has team Twitter accounts like Cisco Systems, where multiple people tweet behalf of Cisco.

  • No social media conversation is complete without the metrics question and how does Cisco tie back to revenue?

Cisco like many other pioneering companies is grappling with the revenue question. Currently, it uses a mix of qualitative vs. quantitative. They have a set of standardized metrics for blogging and every blogger has access to the analytics on their own blog as well as that of their peers. So they are able to compare their blog’s traffic with that of other bloggers. They also do brand monitoring with an external agency. There are interesting tools being introduced in the Sales/CRM focus is looking interesting

  • Another revenue-related question was on how Cisco measures ROI?

While Cisco is very focused on ROI, there are no standard metrics, so it uses a variety of metrics. For example: they look at the free media impressions from social media activities and measure how much does that would have cost them to assess cost savings. However, since social media is resource and management-intensive, the cost for it is still fuzzy.

  • Monetization of sales opportunities was another great question that came up, which is again very closely related to the monetizing question.

Cisco has just started testing ways to leverage social media for sales and is working with the sales team to get more traction for direct sales/revenue impact from social media.

Key take aways from this honest, insightful presentation:

  • Make the tools work for you, “First decide what you want to do and then decide on the tools.”
  • Key is finding a few focus areas in social media and doing it well, rather than trying everything and not succeeding.
  • Openness and transparency in social media has to start from the top. Senior management needs to be engaged and lead by example.
  • Budget constraints and travel restrictions favor the use of social media and virtual events, which can help with cost savings.
  • The ROI/monetization question is becoming increasing important but there’s isn’t one standard set of metrics or methodology for calculating that yet, every company uses their own metrics.
  • Social media doesn’t only save cost, but can be more impactful than traditional marketing/PR. This is a great point to keep in mind, when you’re pondering ROI on your social media initiatives.

9 responses to “How Cisco uses Social Media

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