Dan leads a cross-functional effort to operationalize social media at Autodesk. His work involves guiding the corporate social media strategy, creating training programs, defining standardized metrics, and managing social media infrastructure.
As a corporate user of social networks, how does your company value the networks it has a presence on?
As a global company that reaches across industries, Autodesk brand, products, and services are well represented across social networking platforms. Autodesk discussion groups and many of our blogs are well established and have been thriving since the early 2000s. Our initial approach to the most recent wave of social media was experimental and ad hoc. It happened fast, and because we work in an environment that fosters experimentation, we were able to grow early pilots into successful accounts. Now that social media’s use in business is beginning to mature, we are leveraging social media technologies such as monitoring and relevant web reporting to help identify where we focus.
Are the social networks now offering corporations tangible commercial opportunities to sell their goods or services?
Yes. Sophisticated metrics, targeted advertising products, and open APIs are all playing an important role in offering corporations more tangible sales opportunities. It seems that now, e-commerce solutions are challenged to catch up and develop more seamless integrations with social networks.
Can you outline how your social media activity fits into your overall social media marketing? What are your key goals for these platforms?
Initially, we viewed social media as a tool to help drive brand awareness and post purchase activities. As a company that has traditionally been focused on the B2B space, applying social media to demand generation activities seemed inaccessible. We’ve now seen tangible instances of social media playing a much more prominent role in demand generation activities such as events and promotional offerings. For example, our Americas field marketing team recently created a video about our Amazingly Easy promotion which was widely distributed through Autodesk owned social accounts.
One platform that has performed remarkably well for us is YouTube. Our Autodesk YouTube channel now has over 17 million views and is where prospects and existing customers go to view new product information, product tips and tricks, and more. Many of these videos are distributed through our blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter. We see very strong results from YouTube.
We are also beginning to see strong marketing benefits from Facebook. Social media has become a core component of our flagship product’s, (AutoCAD) marketing strategy. The AutoCAD product marketing team has done a remarkable job engaging with over 800,000 followers that fall squarely into the products target demographic (18-24 year old's in design schools or in the first jobs) over Facebook. Streaming live video broadcasts to this very large audience has provided an invaluable format for the team to talk directly to this audience. These broadcasts, knows as Facecasts, have received coverage in Social Media Examiner and recognition by Facebook in the form of a case study.
How do you think consumer attitudes have changed to corporations that have a presence on the social networks? Are they more open to them, and their commercial messages?
Consumers now expect that the brands they are passionate about are represented on social networks. Although I have seen signs of increased tolerance for traditional messaging on social networks, the most successful companies know how to seamlessly integrate commercial messages with a conversational tone. Finding the right balance between a conversational tone and commercial messaging can be tricky.
What advice would you give to other corporate users about how to better engage with their customers?
Do not overlook content that you already have. Identify captivating hooks in pre-existing assets such as customer stories, product pages, imagery, video and press releases. Once you’ve identified your hooks, re-purpose for social engagement. I’ve heard the term “social storytelling” mentioned frequently and, although this term is industry jargon, it really is useful to think about developing story arcs to lengthen the life of the content.
From a content perspective, I consider us lucky at Autodesk because we have such compelling stories and visual assets to work with. Our customers use our products to help create architectural masterpieces, cutting edge products, mind-blowing special effects, and much more.
Incorporate social media monitoring as part of your daily workflow. For social media practitioners, the benefit of daily monitoring is a no brainer. The benefit of monitoring for other functions is in the unsolicited and genuine insights that emerge. For example, product managers can solicit user feedback without hitting up their customer lists, HR teams can learn about workplace perceptions, and market research teams can gather competitive and industry intelligence. These are only a few of the many ways that a social monitoring can help integrate the voice of the customer into a company’s DNA.
The world of social media is moving too fast to get comfortable. Build capacity in your work to innovate how your company engages with customers and operationalizes social media in its workflows.
What do you think the future of social networks looks like in the context of corporate users?
The breadth of who uses social media in the corporate context will dramatically increase as tools such as CRM software and content management systems integrate social monitoring and engagement functionalities into their platforms. I am a big believer in the wisdom of the crowd, and for that reason, feel that the companies that learn how to master the social monitoring element of these integrations will have an edge over their competition.
Social networks in the context of corporate users are also proving to be a catalyst for increased cross-functional collaboration. For example, a social media account that is set up for marketing inevitably receives inbound customer inquiries related to product support or user feedback. For this reason, marketing teams are challenged to rethink how to include service, support, and product teams in their work. The opposite is also true, service, support, and product teams are challenged to rethink how to include marketing in their efforts. I believe that social networking will continue to play a key role in helping to open organizational silos.