This week is a special episode, recorded at the CeBIT Global Conferences (CGC) in Hannover, Germany. I spoke and participated in this great event, and I had such a good time sitting down to speak with Ingo Stoll about the role information technology can play in social media. This episode takes a step back from my usual more applicable advice and looks at the bigger picture, including the current state of social media, and the future of the industry.
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In This Episode:
- Marketing and technology, including information technology, are really starting to come together as marketing taps into big data
- My presentation at CGC was new content for me, about where is social media evolving in 2015, how are companies evolving into social businesses, and how can information technology inform the decisions these businesses and marketers are making and help derive more ROI
- CeBIT attracts global leaders, and they provide insight that is very thought provoking, and very influential
- We don’t have to talk about the future of social, the future is now – it’s not about social media anymore, it’s about social business
- A question I always get asked when I present about social media is, “What about the future? What’s next?” What’s next isn’t that important – what is important is knowing how to leverage what’s already out there
- If you aren’t using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. to the best of your ability, you should be, because there’s a lot of social data to be tapped into
- There’s been an evolution of social business in the U.S. over the past couple of years, Europe is catching on
- Social media starts as this one-way outward communication, and slowly becomes a two-way communication with consumers contacting you, and the community manager then becomes a kind of quarterback, figuring out where to distribute these communications
- Because social overlaps every department in your company, it’s important when you create a strategy to include every department
- Those companies that are more in tune with social media are more engaged with becoming more human as a brand
- There was a lot of talk about disruptive technology at CGC – it’s easy for start ups to create a robust social media presence and go from being a no one to a someone very quickly
- There’s also an internal disruption – it brings departments together and breaks down silos
- Liberating organizations means cutting out the middleman, allowing teams and departments to take responsibility and organize themselves
- Employee advocacy is strengthening the companies that and giving everyone a voice, it changes the organism of the company to a collection of people who work together for a common purpose, which is how it should be in the first place
- Not only should you get your employees involved, but get your fans involved – people who follow you, are active on social, and love your product – and bring them together regularly and get their insight and feedback
- Social media is providing you the technology and the platform and the database of users to reach out, it’s good business to take advantage
- So much is automated these days – but will social ever be automated? No. You need to be human, you need to be creative
- The human brain is a beautiful thing, and when we remove those menial tasks from our work, look at all that power and creativity you can leverage
Resources & Links:
- Read more about the marriage of marketing and IT at Cebit Global Conferences 2015
- The best social media events you can go to this year
- Learn more about employee advocacy in my ebook
- Curious about the Rock the Blog event mentioned? It was all about the importance of blogging and creating high quality content.
- Read more about the impact of big data on social media marketing.
- Looking for an event to attend? Check out the Social Tools Summit!
Ingo: We’re back at CGC Radio and we have a very special guest, Neal Schafer from Maximize Your Social is with us. Hello Neal, how are you?
Neal: I’m doing awesome, Ingo. How are you?
Ingo: I’m fine as well. It’s my personal pleasure to have you here because actually I feel a little bit engaged and involved in bringing you over to Hanover. So you gave your talk on the open stage already, so what do you think of the CeBit Global Conferences?
Neal: Well, first of all Ingo, without you I would not be here, so I want to thank you for all that you did to help bring me out here. I am about, you know, educating the public on best practices, so to be able to come to Germany to CeBit’s, you know, the largest conference on information technology in the world is just a complete honor, so thank you again.
Ingo: The pleasure’s all mine.
Neal: And you know, it’s funny, I wrote a blog post about this, about how marketing and technology and information technology are sort of coming together as marketing taps into big data and I wanted to look at the role that information technology can play in social media so whenever I present, I challenge myself to come up with new ideas and new concepts and new insight and this is the first time I’ve presented this content on, you know, where is social media evolving in 2015?
How are companies evolving in the social businesses and then what can the role of information technology play in helping businesses and in most cases, marketers make better decisions, derive more ROI from what they do. So that was the content that I presented. I got some great feedback afterwards and CeBit is, and the CeBit Global Conferences, it’s very similar like, it’s different but it’s somewhat like ATED type of talk where you have these global leaders that come and they’re providing information and insight that is very thought provoking.
So it’s less about speaking and getting a thousand questions or about people tweeting you out but it’s more about the audience is extremely influential and I know from looking at them that they are inputting this data and it’s going to lead them to do greater things for their company, so it’s a very, for me that’s a very exciting place to be and yeah, I already met a number of great people so far that came up to me after my speech and what have you and it’s just great to be here and I know we have Rock the Blog tomorrow and a lot more stuff coming, so yeah, I just can’t wait for it all.
Ingo: Definitely, and you share the stage with guys like Lenny Greenwald yesterday talking to Atwood Snowden. We’ve seen Jerry Rifken. We’re going to see Kevin Mitnick, the most famous hacker, doing a session later on this day. So yeah, this is actually what this concept is all about, really getting a lot of brain input and trying to be as helpful in considering what to do in the future.
Neal: Yeah, and compared to ATED, which are also, don’t get me wrong, were excellent, I find with the CeBit Global Conferences, the common theme is the technology and how does that change business. How does that change people?
And that’s why, I mean, everyone that you talked about, there’s a technology angle and that’s what, as someone that’s always worked in high technology, and you know, have tried to create my own social media tool and run the social tools summit, that’s what’s exciting to me and that’s why I really find myself engaged with the conversations I’m hearing and find that’s really appropriate.
Interviewer: Yeah. So what everybody’s interested in is, in your case, the future of social media and I want to state two sentences. One of your presentation that says we don’t have to talk about the future. The future is now. The future of social is now.
This is sentence number one and I would pass along a second one that is it’s not about social media anymore. It’s about social business. When we talk about now, and from the company’s point of view, what does it take to manage the social, either media or business, successfully?
Neal: Great. Well, let’s tackle these one at a time. So I have been closing my presentations recently with that slide, as I closed today’s presentation with the future is now with a boy that’s sort of looking off into the horizon, and one of the questions, there are two types of questions that I always get asked after I present them social media. Number one, what tools do you recommend and that’s why I’m launching this event, but the other one is, you know, what about the future? What’s next? What’s going to happen to Facebook? Who’s going to replace them? And to me it’s completely irrelevant because there’s so much that businesses can do to leverage what’s already out there and very few that have done it, so unless, you know, you have done everything that you can on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, WordPress, YouTube.
Ingo: Check, check, check, check.
Neal: I mean nobody has, right, because there’s so much that you could potentially do. So instead of thinking about the future, it’s there, it’s now. People are using these platforms and if you’re not engaging with people there, then maybe your competitors are, right, and the big social data, it’s there to be tapped into. I mean, I’ve written an application tapping into the Twitter API trying to, you know, derive intelligence from data sets that we see out there. Anybody can do it now.
So it’s less about thinking about the future and really getting busy and hunkering down and creating a strategy and looking at all the potential and figuring out what makes sense for your company to do. So that leads into the social media, the evolution of social business, which I think we’ve already seen happen in the United States over the last one or two years. I think, you know, Europe is slowly catching on but, you know, social media begins as this one way outward communication.
You know, consumers are all on social media. Our customers are all there, our partners are all there. We need to create a Facebook page, a LinkedIn company page, a Twitter account and just start promoting. But obviously social media is a two way conversation so what happens to a lot of companies is they start getting some inbound communication that’s like, you know, I hired a community manager or maybe, you know companies don’t even start with a community manager.
They start with someone in marketing or PR and all the sudden they get all these incoming messages, you know, complaints from customers or questions or partners and the person managing the social media becomes almost like, you know, in American football I’d say a quarterback, always trying to figure out where to pass the ball. In soccer, maybe a midfielder who is always trying to distribute the ball at the right place at the right time. So this is the challenge for whoever is running the social media is that you have all these internal conversations that then need to be managed and then you need to respond back to the users. And this is why every department now at large enterprises is almost creating their own, sort of, social media accounts or try to work together, and you have unique social media departments being created, and you have social media centers of excellence being created to distribute social media know how and best practices internally to all the different departments.
So you have social media being used for the recruiting, you have social media for R&D. You have, you know, legal people that get involved with social media because they need to protect the company and you have people using social media monitoring technology to monitor mentions of your band in social, but they’re also monitoring what employees are saying because of, you know, if you’re in the financial services or pharmaceutical or highly regulated industries, you need to make sure that there’s certain information that doesn’t get out, right?
So it, you know, social business is a place where, you know, social media like the Internet, it just sort of overlaps everything your company does in every department and companies need to be thinking about that. So in Maximize Your Social and in what I was talking about today, when you create a social media strategy, it’s critical that you include every department in that strategy and that every department has a say and in the future, you know, more and more departments are going to be using social media in more and more different ways, and that’s really the evolution of social business is not only do departments, you know, enterprise while they use social media, but it actually begins to influence how you do business.
What types of products you make, how you engage with your customers, the customer experience journey and what have you, become to be influenced because social is the public media. It is the ultimate media that represents who we are and people are not only your customers, but they’re your employees, right? So it becomes sort of a natural central focus and I think those companies that are more engaged and in tune with social media are more engaged with becoming more human as a brand and we know that companies need to do this in order to be successful in social media. So I went over a whole range of concepts there.
Ingo: No, no, no.
Neal: Not to confuse you but those are the things that companies, you know, the customer experience journey and how social media maps into it, social business, social business ROI, humanizing the brand. These are things that, you know, companies in the United States today are all talking about looking for solutions.
Ingo: Would you agree if I say that the social element is somehow bring disruption to each and every organization and each and every company, that what we see on the big scales with the Uber’s and Arabian Bees and so on, is happening in each and every organization.
Neal: Yeah, great question, great point. There’s been a lot of talk about disruptive technology here, at CeBit Global Conference, and I don’t really talk a lot about it, but it’s very, very easy for startups to generate a very robust social media presence and go from being a no one to someone. And it’s the same disruption that the Amazons of the world did with the Internet and now that we’re seeing with the Arabian Bees and, you know, cutting out the middle man.
But the Internet is the technology that makes it possible and social media is the technology where the users are that helps spread that information and propagate it and that people share their experiences. So it’s a very, very powerful disruptive force that can disrupt industries. You know, manufacturing hardware now is cheap and it’s easy to do. It’s the software, it’s the artistry that cannot be emulated.
So companies with great ideas and great artistry, and if they’re good at social media, can really tap into this and really go from, like I said, being someone to no one and capturing a certain, I don’t know how much market share we can get in a small amount of time, but capturing mind share and shifting the conversation away from more established players to new players and I think we’ve seen this in a lot of different industries.
There’s also disruption internally because once you start on this road to becoming a social business and more and more departments use social media, it starts to break down these silos, so today I talked about the relationship between information technology and marketing. You have social selling that redefining how marketing and sales work together. For LinkedIn company page management, you have marketers talking to HR about how do we, you know, employment branding and things that marketers just don’t, have never thought about but HR is invested in. So social media is bringing departments together. It’s breaking down silos and with employee advocacy, and we’ll talk about this tonight at your event obviously, but it’s tapping into who we are as a company.
What is our brand? Who are the people that work for us? What is the true culture of our company? And that is something that’s very exciting and it’s very hard for old stodgy conservative companies to handle. For newer companies, it’s a lot easier, and I think that they’re going to be a lot more successful in their advocacy efforts. I mean it challenges companies both outwardly in the industry as well as internally and it’s very exciting if you are a company like a Zappo’s that has a very, very engaging and, you know, a great culture.
At the end of the day, you know, we’ll talk about this tonight, but with employee advocacy, are your employees satisfied at your company, because if they’re not, they’re not going to talk about your company in social or they may say bad things about your company, right? So if you want people to represent your company as a brand ambassador, who doesn’t, they have to be happy employees. And this is what people forget, right? If you have a bad product, social media doesn’t help improve it. It amplifies the message.
So if you have a really bad product, you know, social media is just going to help public perception of your product getting worse. So if you have a company with disengaged employees, social media is also going to have this effect, as people talk about where they work naturally, it’s going to have a potentially negative affect.
So these are the cultural changing elements that companies just rush into becoming a social business without even thinking that now they face, and I don’t think there’s, you know, unless your company has a chief cultural officer, which very few companies do, it’s something that, you know, like I said, I present on all this as if, you know, these are the solutions, but these are all the challenges that there’s no easy solution for.
It’s going to be different for every company. You all have a different culture and there’s no easy solution, either because it involves people and people don’t change very easily. And it’s going to require a lot of, you know, I bring up the artistry and that comes from seeing Seth Goddin speak, or Seth Godin, I never know how to pronounce his name, but at the end of the day, because of hardware and service and all these things are so easy to create on the Internet or manufacture, it comes down to the final outward facing elements and often these are people.
The person on the phone at customer service. The person behind the desk at the hotel or the store and it comes down to the artistry of this person and how they relate to other people and I think that for social media, it’s much the same. It comes down to the artistry in the organization of building a culture of outwardly engaging as well as inwardly engaging.
That is going to be the challenge and I don’t know how many companies are prepared for that challenge. And that’s why I think, you know, I know that you work at an agency and you’ve always worked on creative juices, creative energy and those are the juices that companies need more and more right now, I believe.
Ingo: Well, communication is definitely a key. To put it in the words of the great Gett Leonard, a friend of mine, a futurist, he said change is not enough anymore. We need transformation, and that brings it to the point that the changes we see are so substantial that just adopting things is not enough anymore.
It’s really disruptive, what happens, and it puts great pressure, great chances on the one hand but great pressure on the leaders and the managers of the organizations of today, because it’s not only that you have to realize the technological potentials and the shift for your production. We’re talking about Industry 4.0 for example here at CeBit.
It means changing of the way the relationships are handled between your customers, your suppliers, the way you have to communicate with your employees, the way you see yourself as a leader. It’s not having a section and being the one, you know, deciding what happens. There are some beautiful documentaries and you probably know this book, Free Ink, so like liberating organizations means cutting off the middle man as well, giving responsibility to the teams, letting them organize themselves, so there’s so, so many things that, I don’t know what you think of it. I sometimes get the impression that when companies, established companies start with social media, and maybe they think at the beginning it’s just about setting up a Facebook page, setting up a Twitter channel, whatever, and they think first of all about content. What do we publish, what can we say, and then they challenge, they are challenged with the feedbacks.
Dealing with customers, dealing with questions coming up, feedback coming up and suddenly they need community management. They haven’t thought of it at the beginning and they’re tearing down the old drawers and the silos, as you say. They don’t work anymore. Then they start to need collaborative tools to organize the workflows, organize the content flows and so to me it’s like a Trojan horse somehow. If you bring in social media from the market point of view, which mainly happens, it starts to change or transform the whole organization and there’s no way to tier it back.
Neal: I agree. For those organizations that not only adopt it, but once they see the ROI, they want to do more and more, yes it absolutely is, I guess you can call it a change agent, right? If there’s something that was going to, and not just change, but transform. It truly has and I mean, what it’s done is, what I believe is, it actually is strengthening the culture of companies that use it. It’s giving everyone a voice in an ideal world.
You know, with the advocacy, there’s some companies that are so far along that they are now sourcing, you know, and I talked about sourcing photo images from your employees, but of sourcing blog posts, you know. People that have just worked in the company that have never been asked to represent their company. You know, when you think of traditional companies, you think of like, a triangle. You have the people at the top and they’re very far removed from the people at the bottom.
Ingo: The ethics pyramid.
Neal: This gives the people at the bottom a chance to be part of something big and they’re very proud of that and it’s a very, very powerful force. I really does provide that spark of change for companies that realize it and it really is sort of the future that we are people and social is our medium and social is made for people and not for companies, so when you put it all together, it becomes a great representation and it changes the organism of a company to a collection of people that work together for a common purpose, which is how it should have been in the first place. You know, like I said, it’s hard for a lot of companies, you know, a lot of traditional corporate infrastructure is about remaining in control and controlling the brand, which was never in our control to begin with and it’s even more out of control now with the technology.
But yeah, with the technology and the platforms have given everyone a say and, you know, it’s time for companies, I won’t say to completely reorganize but to begin that transformation to begin thinking about how can we get our employees involved? How do we get a feedback mechanism internally and really put that to use to help bridge this gap. You know, brands have always had the gap between the brand and the public.
I work with a lot of celebrities. They still have this gap, you know, I am a celebrity. I need to have a certain distance with the audience and I understand that from a celebrity perspective because people don’t scale, but from a consumer perspective, you want to try to lessen this gap between the brand and the user. You want to bring them together. This is what the successful companies are doing and I think, you know, you also want to bring your…
Ingo: We just talked about Arabian Bee. They say they started off bringing a thousand hosts together and Arabian Bee is organizing the meeting so letting the hosts become more part of the product, part of the idea, establish a community. They’re trying to do this this year and they will in Paris with more than 6,000 hosts.
So I mean, this is a systematic process of making, not only the own organization more part of the product and organize them community wise, but trying to make everybody in the supply chain become a part of the community.
Neal: Yeah. It’s a great idea. I talk to companies a lot and, you know, some companies have it but not every company. It’s a, and I say this in response to CEOs who say I’m worried about what they’re going to say about me in social media. Well they’re going to say it anyway whether you’re there or not. But I was thinking, you know, you need to tap into that and what’s going to happen is, as you begin your social media journey, you’re going to have fans out there. You want to create I call it like a VIP panel. Whatever you want to call it, but you want to create a committee of your big fans in social media, who are also your brand advocates, who are also big users of your product and you want to bring them together regularly and not only are these going to be the people that you tap into should there be a social media fire, but they’re people to tap into to help you create a better product, to help you better run your company, and it’s, once again, it’s bridging this gap, right, and really getting insight and feedback from your users.
They should become one with you. So I think that Arabian Bee is doing that. I mean that’s a great idea and I think that with social media, it allows you to, you know, if you’re Arabian Bee and you have hosts, you can, you know, send them an email and stuff. But you may not know who your biggest fans are out there, but the data’s there. If you tap into the data, you can find, you may have celebrities that are talking about company without you knowing about it.
That might be some of your biggest fans. Tap into these people. Reach out to the. People are always surprised in a pleasant way when companies reach out to them and say you know what? We value what you think, so these are concepts where social media provides us the technology and the platform and the user base to be able to tap into easily.
But the concept goes beyond social media into just plain old good business, right? But social media will help accelerate those things and those are the exciting things. That’s how social can really provide so much positive transformation to businesses so easily.
Ingo: To the end of this podcast, I would like to ask you about what you think of a great vision. We’ve heard about all this transformation happening now. We hear a lot about technology involving and moving further on so let’s have a look to the future and say many of the jobs that people are doing today will be done by algorithms or robots in the future.
You know, some accounting jobs, they already feel like working like a robot, you know, crunching numbers all day. So we have the IBM Watsons, or what have you doing the stupid, repetitive work. Getting more time to be social, getting more time to care about the customers and getting more time to be humans, so is this a future that you can imagine?
Neal: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s already happening in advanced nations where a lot of the manufacturing is already outsourced, so you already have a lot of blue collar jobs turning into white collar jobs and you already have, with the cloud and with algorithms and with the Watsons and the technology, you already have a lot of that, that yeah, you’re right and like I said, companies are also using the outsourcing, so you know, first world developed countries have that advantage.
But yeah, I think it comes down to with that extra time of becoming a better communicator, becoming a better, you know, becoming more human as a company and really developing more product and product these days isn’t like a hardware product. It’s a software. It’s a technology.
Ingo: Or a service maybe.
Neal: Or it’s software as a service, right. So yeah, it’s really tapping into that and really the vision is how can we help, you know, if you’re a B to C or business to consumer, you’re helping people. If you’re B to B, you’re helping business. How can we help consumers or businesses more? How can we help them better? That’s really the vision and a lot of that insight into how you can do it, it comes into the communication, to asking and having conversations like we’re having today and using the intellectual capacity of the human brain of analyzing situations and find unique insight and then being able to leverage that internally.
And that’s why, you know, you need to be creative, you need to be an artist, you need to be intelligent and these are skills that often were for artists or scholars or, you know, what have you, but I think these are skills that are going to be more necessary for businesses to tap into and I think we’re going to see a lot of interesting collaborations in the future. That’s, for me, the exciting thing is, you know, the future is now. There’s so much you can do in social media, but also the human brain.
When we take the menial tasks out of our work, there is so much power that we can leverage that we haven’t yet and those places that have been leveraging it, you know, the universities, the research tanks, maybe some of that can be leveraged inside the enterprise and inside the company as well. So I think that’s a very exciting future that will lead to greater advance of the human race. Well we’ve really gotten into some advanced esoterically talks here. I like to stay in the practical in social media but there’s also just a huge transformation going on. I love that quote. It’s not about change. It’s about transformation. I think those companies are on that path to transformation, the more they get involved, the more value they see, the more they naturally will become transformed over time.
Ingo: Yeah, we’re looking forward to that future and Neal Schaffer, thanks for being our guest at the CeBit Global Conferences. Thanks.
Neal: Thank you as well and I wish everybody listening to this, if you didn’t make it this year, definitely make it out to next year’s CeBit Global Conference. It’s a very special place fueled by conversations like we’re having now and looking forward to Rock the Blog and everything else, Ingo. Thank you so much.
Transcript provided courtesy of GMR Transcription Services, Inc.