December 20, 2014

Sandy Carter of IBM: Identifying Online Industry Influencers

When it comes to social media, the old adage, “build it and they will come” simply doesn’t apply. Putting up a Facebook page and creating a Twitter or YouTube account just isn’t enough. In order for businesses to use social media effectively, they must leverage it by building it into their business processes to truly give them the competitive advantage.  Sandy Carter, Vice President of Social Business Evangelism at IBM joins Brent Leary for an in-depth discussion on becoming a social business.

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Sandy Carter of IBM

Small Business Trends: Can touch on how you became Vice President of Social Business Evangelism at IBM?

Sandy Carter: At IBM we like to help our clients in new markets.  As we do that, part of what we like to do for clients is to add value.  Teach them about the new market and show them the value and actually become the social business ourselves.

So Brent, for the last four or five years in my businesses, I have used social to grow my businesses. Whether that was in marketing or strategy, social has always been a part of the way that I run and drive the bottom line of my businesses.

When we really saw this trend and had seen the change in the way we worked, IBM wanted someone who could help and teach clients not just how to do things, but someone who had actually done it. That is when they came to me about a year and a half ago and asked if I would like to do this job.  Of course I jumped at it because it is just a great space.  I love to work with clients and teach them to make their business more competitive.

Small Business Trends: What is the difference between a company that uses social media and a company that is a social business?

Sandy Carter: A social business is one that leverages social in its business processes. Not someone that says. “Oh, I have a Facebook page.  I have a Twitter account.” It is someone who has social embedded into sales, HR talent management, product innovation, customer service. It’s about taking these tools and techniques and making those processes much more competitive. Not just playing with it and putting an application on YouTube.  Is it embedded into the company‘s workflow?  Into the soul of the company?  Which I consider to be a business process.

Small Business Trends: What is the challenge when it comes to “big data” in becoming a social business?

Sandy Carter: My favorite saying is that analytics is the “new black.”

There is so much information out on the Web that a small or mid-size company using social analytics can introduce so much marketing intelligence, so much insight, so much trend spotting . . .that to me, it is such an invaluable source that small and medium businesses have never had. Something that had given larger businesses the competitive advantage.

The issue is that about 80% of that data is unstructured because it is a conversation among customers.  So you have to use tools like social analytics to make sense of that data.  To really unlock that valuable insight, I believe.

Just one quick example. Seton Hall University, which is a medium size university in terms of the number of employees, say there is a crises in the number of students coming into their school.  That is how they make money – with tuition. They leveraged social analytics on their Facebook page and found that potential students to Seton Hall were more likely to attend if they had a relationship with alumni.

Using that data, they went out and invited alumni into a Facebook group, the class of 2014.  They got the dialogues going and started the relationships online. Then they found that the potential students wanted some interactions with professors and wanted to know others in their areas.  So they again leveraged that big data they had in that group and they made those connections.

The results are very powerful when you harness that data.  The class of 2014 is the largest matriculating class in Seton Hall history.  And all from leveraging the social analytics and the Facebook group.

Small Business Trends: Are there any other necessary steps to think about and incorporate in addition to social analytics?

Sandy Carter: Yes, I would say another step is identifying your influencers. What I mean by that is, regardless of the size of your clientele, research shows from multiple sources that about 15% of your clients impact and influence the rest of your clients.

So online think about that.  Who are those 15%?  How do you develop a relationship with them online? How do you use social tools do to that? Again, there are tools out there that will help you identify those 15% so that you can start a relationship.

There was a small regional bank I was working with. We looked at using one of the widgets that was developed by IBM.  We looked at who were the most influential in their regional area. They invited those people into the bank, showed them their services, got input from them, changed some things, and have really reaped the benefits of that close relationship, with this new “advisory group” that came out of identifying those influencers.  Those tips from people who talked about them online.

So I think really understanding who those influencers are online is really important.  You cannot do it just by the customer who has the most followers.  You really need to look at those who have the most influence in a particular subject matter area.

Small Business Trends: What are the top reasons that companies are NOT able to be successful in making the transition?

Sandy Carter: I think that one of the first ones is putting up a Facebook page and not embedding social into your workflow.

The second one is thinking that you are going to do something social, you are going to put it up and then you kind of forget it.  “One and done” is the what I call it. But social is about a relationship, it is about people.  That requires being responsive.

A great example of that, and this is a larger company but, KLM Airlines has promised a 15 minute response time on a tweet it you have a problem. I recently tested it out in Amsterdam and sure enough I tweeted that I got stuck in an airport and they helped me out in ten minutes. Another airline I tweeted responded six months later. They came back to me and said, “We are working on it, we are working on it….“

Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more?

Sandy Carter: Go to IBM.com and search on Social Business.  There’s a set of case studies there.

This interview is part of our One on One series of conversations with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click the right arrow on the gray player below. You can also see more interviews in our interview series.

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Brent Leary


Brent Leary Brent Leary is a Partner at CRM Essentials and organizer of the Social Business Atlanta conference. Brent serves on the advisory board of The University of Toronto CRM Center of Excellence, writes the Social CRM column for Inc.com's technology site, and blogs at Brent's Social CRM Blog.

7 Reactions

  1. As far as embedding social media into the workflow, I have been wanting to trying theme days to give structure and some anticipation to our audience on what to expect. Examples: Tips & Tricks Tuesday, Warning Wednesdays and Financial Fridays, things like that so viewers will look forward to something and it gives us topics to discuss.

  2. I absolutely agree with this statement: “I think that one of the first ones is putting up a Facebook page and not embedding social into your workflow.” Too many think “build it and they will come.” I’m sort of stunned when people claim this logic, however, the conversation always turns to social flow. Great post and interview, Brent.

  3. A very important point is that once you’ve identified those influencers you have to take steps to really wow them. Not just say hello, but really give them additional reasons to talk about you. The bank example is great.

  4. Hi Sandy, nice interview. At 6 months later, if I were that airline I wouldn’t have bothered to respond. That’s so late it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie.

    Wow!

    Anita

  5. Brent: I look forward to listen to the interview during my weekend walk.

    IBM has been an early adopter (2005) with a sound social media policy:

    http://www.ibm.com/blogs/zz/en/guidelines.html

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