A Social Media War Story


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2008 – One morning…
… a small group of sales and service people from Company-Red realized that they could go to Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo Groups and YouTube and get a list of all the people who were discussing the good, the bad and the ugly about their products. After spending some time and doing some digging, Company-Red realized that this list was not small but more like 50,000+ names. And they were shocked to see how these names looked a lot like their customer list. That was a frightening idea.

One general said “Hey, this is a huge threat – because anybody can get the same information. Frggin Social Media is a wide-open and completely accessible public space. As a matter of fact, this is even worse than publishing our customer list because the comments and postings actually describe our new products, they discuss what we do right and why they bought our products in the first place. Worse, they expose all our weakness – and some of that stuff we don’t even know ourselves.” The Chief of Staff consulted some experts and Company-Red launched Operation “Big Dig”.

The Big Dig
The “Big Dig” was a project to analyze and dissect the customer base. It was a project to use social media to find customers with problems. An elite team was created. There was only one mission: “Get into all the social networks, groups and communities, identify our customers, and help them solve their problems.” Within only three months Company-Red was receiving hugely positive feedback from all the customers who were helped. People loved Company-Red.

Yellow Submarine
Then another general salutes and says: “If we can get that information about our own customers, then we can get the same information about our competitors – right?” So another ten people were assigned to perform a similar task but for a VERY different target group: “Find and help the customers of our competitors.” The new group called themselves “Yellow Submarine.” They dived into the social media space, identified the issues of the competitor’s customers and tried to help. Sometimes it was as simple as putting them in touch with their own customers who had similar problems and letting these experienced customers explain how Company-Red’s products had helped them.

Winning the first battle
The “Yellow Submarine” group did no selling, no pitching, no arguing about products and solutions. All they did was to make introductions and solve problems. Sure enough, the helpful customers from Company-Red posted lots of information to benefit the sometimes struggling customers from Company-Blue, Company-White, Company-Green. Eventually, several of the Blue, White and Green customers started buying now familiar products and services from Company-Red.

The Changing Battlefield
Company-Blue struggled. They were losing the battle by fighting a traditional war against a modern enemy. Their generals blamed the economy for the devastating situation. Inevitably, Company-Blue announced they were going “back to their roots.” They downsized and fired their newly hired social media manager, announcing “we need to get back to our product values and strengthen our solution selling model. We will not be distracted by all that social crap that costs money, wastes resources and weakens our company values that made us successful in the last 50 years.”

2009 – the show goes on – bigger – different.

Ground Troops Affaire
Company-Red understands that warfare has changed. Company-Red thought about their experience and decided that the best weapons to gain mind share are no longer carpet bombing raids using advertising and public relations. The most effective tactic is sending ground troops into battle with order to identify and help one customer at a time – regardless of whether they are a customer of Company-Red or Company-Blue.

Time is of essence
Company-Red knows what it took to develop that inner culture of helping any user (customer or not) developing social relationships on all levels and maintain those relationships. They know that their advantage is based on time. So they encourage almost all levels and functions to engage. Their model: It takes 6 month to get comfortable in the social web. It takes 6 month to develop relationships beyond the “economic buyer” but to include whoever is of relevant influence. To get everybody in the company engaged is not a matter of command and control – but a matter of encouragement and educational support. Now over 2,000 are engaged.

The new numbers game
If a sales person can touch base with 50 people per day through social media, by visiting sites, profiles, groups etc. and only takes 1 hour each day, 100 sales people can touch 5,000 a day, or 100,000 a month. If they do a nice job and those 100,000 only talk to 10 within the course of that month, Company-Red can reach 1 Million people – not through email blasts, advertising or TV commercials, but the social way – with only 100 sales people. If those 100 sales people would have a second hour each day to respond and communicate to their base – it would actually net be just a new form of “getting the message out” but a real human conversation. Now who can compete with that kind of sales force? No traditional organization. Company-Red is way ahead of the curve by now. Some of their competitors were bought in the meantime, one went out of business and the rest is still struggling.

2010 — Social Competition
The next phase is in the making. The leaders of Company-Red know one thing: There is no time to rest. New ideas have been maturing on top what has happened in the past two years… It’ll be not short of social innovation. The best of all, customers like it. Feedback is continuously growing and the level of advocacy is accelerating the evolution.
We’ll see end of 2010 where this lead to.

…one ecosystem at a time 😉

“…Based on a true story. Only the names, places, numbers and events have been changed or altered…”

Axel Schultze
CEO of Society3. Our S3 Buzz technology is empowering business teams to create buzz campaigns and increase mentions and reach. S3 Buzz provides specific solutions for event buzz, products and brand buzz, partner buzz and talent acquisition buzz campaigns. We helped creating campaigns with up to 100 Million in reach. Silicon Valley entrepreneur, published author, frequent speaker, and winner of the 2008 SF Entrepreneur award. Former CEO of BlueRoads, Infinigate, Computer2000. XeeMe.com/AxelS


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