How Social Media Helps Enterprises During Hard Times and Layoffs

In my last blog, Rise of the Social Media Function, I focused on how companies need to best organize their marketing team(s) to leverage social media to connect with prospects, customers and their markets. I’d like to add another dimension to this discussion: social media within your own corporate community. I’ve invited Caroline Dangson, IDC’s Social Media Research Analyst, to provide her insight and perspective on this important area.

“Thanks Michael.

Hardly a day goes by without a company announcing layoffs. The U.S. jobless rate in February marked a 25-year high of 8.1%. Organizations are scrambling to hold on to business under incredibly limited resources. The workloads of 651,000 jobs lost last month are now being picked up by the workers who remain. This means an incredible shifting of roles and responsibilities within American businesses. And with that, a shift that is disrupting information flow within the enterprise. Information is money, and the loss of information that occurs with the loss of employees is doubling the economic impact on businesses. IDC estimates that even before this recession businesses were losing an average of $3,300 per year per employee due to ineffective information searches, poor and inconsistent access to tools, recreation of content that already exists, reformatting/versioning and multipublishing/multiformatting (source: The Hidden Costs of Information Work, IDC #217936
). Furthermore, an IDC knowledge worker survey showed that employees typically spend the equivalent of one work day (6–10 hours) each week searching for information (source: IDC #212580). Businesses can hardly afford to lose more time, money and productivity these days, not to mention employee morale. IDC believes internal social networks to connect employees can help with all of the above.

Social networks make it easy for participants to share unstructured and ad hoc information that can decrease the time it takes to find information to solve problems. Social networks also encourage employees to help each other. This will foster improved morale among employees and help take the strain off of overwhelmed and understaffed IT departments. Member profiles containing a record of recent activities and publications on social networks aid in locating colleagues who can help with specific issues. Once members are connected via the social network, their conversations persist and are searchable. The digital trail of message exchanges will create a repository of useful information employees need. Because the conversation is persistent (as text), it is possible to read or query the log instead of soliciting information from each participating member. Quite often workers operate in their own silos trying to solve the same problem. A social network can help connect these people to the answer in its one-to-few and one-to-many function. Things learned from one conversation can be shared with everyone. You may also discover some unknown talents or expertise from the most unexpected people in your company that are now being leveraged.

A few MIT studies of workplace productivity link worker productivity to information flow. What they refer to as ‘digital networks’ enhance information flow among employees according to these studies. In the most recent study, MIT researchers discovered that workers who participate in a digital network were 7% more productive than workers who did not participate in a digital network (MIT study as quoted in Harvard Business Review, February 2009). While at first glance this may seem small, every percentage counts these days.

More importantly, perhaps, social networks connect people. There could not be a more important time than now to help reduce the doom and gloom of the work environment after layoffs. Feeling connected to
coworkers creates a more comfortable work environment where individuals support one another and become more vested in the company. Some companies are even extending internal social networks to employees that are laid off as a way to keep in touch and possibly rehire them when the market improves. According to Anne Berkowitch, CEO of SelectMinds, rehiring former employees through an alumni network has reduced the money and other resources her clients typically spend on recruiting, interviews, and training. In fact, Berkowitch says the money saved from five to 10 rehires can pay for the cost of licensing social networking software for one year. Of course, there are also free tools such as Ning, LinkedIn Groups and Yammer that employees can start using today.”

Thanks Caroline. Please feel free to comment below, or you can contact Caroline directly at

Rise of the Social Media Function

Many opportunities exist for B-to-B marketing organizations in the social media space. . . .and they’re not all limited to what you can do with Twitter, Linked-In and YouTube. Just a few of these opportunities include:

  • Establish a direct, relevant connection with your customers as a source of voice of the customer for new product development (e.g., through an on-line community)
  • Improve customer satisfaction (e.g., enable customers to share experiences on-line by creating a self-running community where customers can interact with and learn from their peers)
  • Increase the speed for troubleshooting and R&D by reducing the distance between customers and engineering
  • Join the on-line technical conversations about your products that your customers are already having, by either leveraging your own community or listening to and participating in other companies’ communities

Best-in-class organizations are adding a new social media role to their organization to capture these opportunities. The social media manager may report to the digital, interactive or web marketing team; integrated marketing communications; directly to the CMO if it’s a new and/or especially important area; or even within product teams within more decentralized organizations. Potential responsibilities include:

  • Establish the social media strategy in collaboration with the digital marketing team, PR, events, product management as well as other parts of the organization. (Refer to a prior post: BtoB Marketing’s Response to Social Media: Have we Lost all Control and Impact?)
  • Provide the training and infrastructure to empower your organization to interact with customers and prospects on-line (e.g., ambassador training program by Logitech, Intel’s digital marketing training program)
  • Develop community sites within the company web site (e.g., Citrix’s community site offers a clean, comprehensive community site design with many unique features)
  • Collaborate with product management, engineering and customer service to monitor and contribute to on-line communities. (internal and external) In some cases the social media team may act as direct contributors to on-line content or they’ll provide the infrastructure and guidelines to facilitate contribution by other internal teams.

This role is only in the early stages across the technology industry; however, those companies that best leverage this new area to connect with prospects, customers and their markets will increase their differentiation in this increasingly mature technology industry.

Contact me at for a copy of our recent telebriefing on “Key Success Factors for Your B-to-B Social Media Strategy”. Do you have a social media role within your company?. . . please share your insight in the comments section below.

A Preview of IDC’s 2009 Tech Mktg. Benchmarks: A Focus on Marketing Automation

As discussed in my last blog entry, Are you Ready for Marketing’s 2010 Annual Planning Process? , the IDC CMO Advisory Practice is “in the thick” of collecting surveys for our 2009 Tech Marketing Benchmarks study. We expect to collect detailed marketing investment data from nearly 100 hardware, software, and services vendors. With this is hand, we will be well prepared to provide our insight and guidance to tech marketers for their annual planning process.

I’d like to invite Seth Fishbein, a senior IDC analyst on our team, to provide a preview of some of this research, focusing on CMOs’ marketing automation priorities for the coming year. A more comprehensive analysis of this topic will be included in IDC’s 2010 Marketing Investment Planner, due out in late September/early October.

“Thanks Michael. Based upon interviews with leading tech marketing executives over the past month, the following three areas represent some “low-hanging fruit” in the marketing automation space for 2009/2010:

  • Development of a formal marketing automation roadmap: Tech marketers should take a fresh look at their marketing IT tools and applications to look for redundancies and cost savings. Not only has IDC observed that most marketing organizations under-invest in automation tools, but most have not developed a roadmap or formal taxonomy to align their systems to strategic goals and related processes. A couple of verbatim comments from our study:

    – “We are reviewing all of our marketing systems, from owners to costs to measurements, to see what is truly being used and what is needed…”
    – “We are hoping that an audit of our marketing automation systems will help us integrate our lead management system with in order to automate and measure the flow of marketing opportunities to sales…”

  • Simplification of marketing processes and systems: A common thread among tech marketers is the lack of data quality and consistency in their lead management/CRM systems. In particular, a frequent challenge is field marketing’s adherence to data-entry standards. IDC is observing that more marketing organizations appear to be moving in the direction of simplifying their marketing automation strategies and taxonomies in order to make processes easier for global users.

    – “More [investment in] automation is not a priority, [but] process improvement is…and we will then automate more where it makes it easier.”
    – “We are trying to streamline our campaign management systems so all users, from North America to Japan, can select from a list of 10 campaigns as opposed to 30-40.”

  • Improvement to sales enablement and marketing asset management technologies: IDC research shows that over 40% of all marketing assets handed over to sales are not in use today (IDC’s Best Practices in Sales Enablement – Content and Marketing (to be published end of July)). This includes assets that have been developed for sales, channels, prospects and current customers. IDC estimates that at least 30% of companies’ marketing investment, including program and people spend, is dedicated to creating content and marketing assets. Clearly, marketers can leverage cost reduction opportunities if they take the time to improve their content management process and technologies.

    – “Our content is all over the place…a more formalized content portal is being created to get our sales team the most relevant materials when they need them.”
    – “…marketing is funding an improved marketing asset management system and we are hoping to achieve 3% – 5% reduction/reallocation of spend on annual asset development and improved production efficiencies.” (improvements in production efficiency, reduced program time-to-market, and reduced re-work).

    In the next several weeks, IDC will be publishing a sales enablement report highlighting best practices in marketing content management from a lifecycle management, technology, and measurement perspective. Detailed company case studies will be also be included.

Please keep in mind that we are currently in the process of collecting surveys for our 2009 Tech Marketing Benchmarks study. If you are interested in participating in this study and have not received a survey, please let us know as soon as possible. Thanks!”
Seth Fishbein, Senior Analyst, CMO Advisory Service (