Two weeks ago I was invited to the latest Dell B2B huddle. The event was organised by Kerry Bridge, community manager for Dell in the UK and Neville Hobson of FIR. This is the third of these events and I was lucky enough to attend the previous one. The purpose of the day is to look at social media use for business to business. The day was split into 3 parts. First up was a small lunchtime roundtable which was held at the Thomas Cubbit in Victoria. Four people had been chosen to speak about the progress in social media from a business to business prospective. I was one of them, as were Ruben Govinden from Transport for London, Richard Robinson from Google and Thomas Power from Ecademy. A few journalists were also in attendance which meant I was a bit nervous about saying the wrong thing and leading to me being mocked in the press or even worse, sacked. The lunchtime chat was hosted/refereed by Stuart Handley the head of comms for Dell in Europe. I won’t talk about what I said you can read about that on Silicon.com (the site that the journalist sat next to me was writing for). I have not been sacked yet so my words cannot have been too controversial.
Ruben Govinden from TFL spoke about how they used social media to deal with crisis comms situations and spoke about the infamous case of an employee who was caught on film being abusive about an elderly passenger. Social media had helped the story spread like wildfire it had also helped TFL contain the story. Ruben told how they had limited the effects of the story in a matter of hours, in relation to identifying the employee, but I got the feeling that consensus on the table was that as people knew exactly what the incident was it was a case of damage limitation. Either way is is an interesting use case and a stark reminder that everyone has a camera these days.
Thomas Power spoke about his company Ecademy and the difficulties they faced working with so many businesses. The business networking site has around 400k members. Ecademy are present on an ever growing number of sites and their members are all looking for help on these increasingly disparate and seemingly never ending platforms (sounds familiar).
Richard Robinson, Head of Business Markets at Google was also in attendance and he spoke of how social was changing everything. I asked him, with tongue firmly in cheek, when they would build a really great Twitter search engine and whether or not they had any internal social media monitoring tools, or planned to get into the social media monitoring game (all 3 skillfully unanswered/denied). Having said that, the products they do have in place today are very good e.g. Google Realtime Search, Google Trends etc. I just want something that allows me to search every tweet ever and have the greatest social media dashboard ever created. Is that too much to expect of Google?
The second part of the day saw us head off round the corner to Google for a presentation and Q&A session with Brian Solis followed by 3 unconference sessions on B2B related topics. For those of you who are unaware of the work of Brian Solis then I urge you to check out his blog if you have any interest in social media and its wider implications for businesses.
Brian recently became part of the Altimeter group joining other social media luminaries such as Charlene Li and Jeremiah Owyang. Here he will focus more on the research side of his work, as he stated ‘Social Media is less about about technology and more about anthropology, psychology and sociology. It is all about human interaction’. Too many people forget this and concentrate on the shiny new thing. Brian gave an example from one such company that he had carried out research for and found a massive 89 mentions on Twitter. Brian found a lot more conversation about their brand on blogs and forums but they were seen as old fashioned and the company wanted a Twitter strategy not a social media one.
His recently revised book Engage covers just that, how companies must engage to remain relevant in the world of the social consumer. If you are not saying anything in social r not adding value to the conversations being held there then you cease to be part of the buying decision. The social consumer will not take the normal sales funnel route. If you are at all interested in social media usage for business to business (or customer) intereactions then I highly recommend taking a look at Brian’s slides and having a listen to his talk which Neville recorded and edited and is available here.
The unconference sessions passed by in a bit of a blur. I missed the first slot (I was chatting to Brian about if he had ever worked with banks, yes he had and he sympathised with me about the complexities involved) but the two I did attend on influence and what it really means, hosted by Luke Brynley-Jones, and digital DNA a look at how growing up digital is altering how the next generations view the world by Andy Piper of IBM were very interesting. The session on influence looked at how social capital is now coming into play with people’s interactions with companies. Awful things like Klout score and peer index rankings are getting certain customers extra perks. I suggested a mortgage linked to your Klout score (the higher the Klout score the lower the mortgage rate). I said that I thought it was a terrible idea but it made for an interesting discussion and a couple of people thought it was a good idea!
Andy’s digital DNA session was a quickfire look at the impacts of growing up as a digital native. He referenced Don Tapscott’s book Growing Up Digital which details how his kids have grown up in a digital age and how he sees that has altered there development compared to his own growing up analogue. An interesting discussion followed around the perception of all Gen Y/Gen 0 etc. being tech savvy but that was not the case. We also had a little chat about white washing, which is where kids are deactivating their Facebook accounts when they are not logged on to prevent anyone from tagging them or making a comment on any of their content while they are offline. Privacy awareness at work.
The third and final part of the day was a ‘Tweetup’ and as it was St Patrick’s Day it seems only right that it was held in a pub and that the pub had a pretty generous free bar tab. It gave me a chance to have a chat with a few people that I follow on Twitter but have never met in real life. Alan Schoenberg who works for the CME Group and is an active financial services Twitter user (a rare but compelling breed). The aforementioned Andy Piper who is an interesting character from IBM, as well as his day job looking at exciting things like MQ he also creates the Dogear nation podcast as well as being one of their key social advocates. James Whatley of 1000 heads, is a mobile guru and is also doing some interesting work on social CRM. Last but not least was Gabrielle Laine-Peters who had just returned from 3 months in South Africa where she had driven 1300km on her own, swum with penguins and managed to bill a winery for teaching them how to use Tweetdeck, clearly I am in the wrong job.
The event was a very interesting, thought provoking and inspiring (and a little bit of nerve racking) day. Thanks again to Kerry for inviting me and I am really looking forward to the next one. Assuming I am lucky enough to be invited.
Thanks to Benjamin Ellis of redcatco and SocialOptic for allowing me to use his fine photo. You can see more photos of the event by viewing the DellB2B tag on Flickr (Including one of me with a beer in my hand and wearing a green garland…it is called networking I believe)