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Lessons from IBM: Your community can be your copywriter

3 min read

Brands & Campaigns

At the excellent MarketingProfs B2B Forum a couple of weeks back, I had the pleasure of attending “Marketing 2.0: Integrating Social Media into Your Marketing Mix” a session hosted by IBM’s Sandy Carter. Carter’s presentation offered a variety of valuable social media insights and strategies on three interesting projects at IBM. The lessons learned from one case study in particular stuck out as worth sharing.

IBM was launching a new Web 2.0 product. Given the nature of the product, a collaborative approach was needed — one that Carter dubbed, “Eat your own cooking.” Rather than develop the product via traditional market research and intelligence, Carter and her team used social media channels to gather, analyze and help build a product ready for a successful launch.

While allowing your community to drive the development of a product is a fascinating and compelling story, Carter introduced a few other benefits of their social media strategy that could open doors for marketers of all types.

After much work building a significant community, IBM was able to gather data from comments on its blog, in its forum, on Twitter and on YouTube — and not just data on how to make the product better. The IBM team looked at how the community was describing the product — the benefits, the features — and integrated that language into the marketing materials.

From an SEO perspective, this can be very effective. Rather than building your site and focusing on the keywords and phrases you think people will be using to find your product, start with your community. Allow them to define your keyword strategy. These same lessons can be applied to your paid search strategy. Scrap those high-priced keywords that your community never mentioned and focus on the longer tail gathered via your community.

Your press releases, direct marketing efforts and even product packaging can all benefit from the language used by your customers. How are they describing your products and services? What problems do they solve? Chances are, they’ll do a better job at defining the market than you.

To many businesses, this is the inverse of their marketing strategy. They define their messaging either in a closed room, cross their fingers and hope the message spreads across social media channels. That’s only using half the value of social media. Interacting and engaging on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs continues to be key in a successful social media strategy, but it’s time we take a closer look at the data we might be ignoring. Getting people to talk is great — but monitoring how they’re talking and integrating that language throughout your marketing campaigns can help extend and expand that conversation. A good message will travel regardless of where it originates. But if you use your community to help identify that message, you’re arming yourself with the best market intelligence money can buy.

How far should and can you with this? Well, IBM’s Project Zero, as it was known beta, was later renamed sMash. Who renamed the product? You guessed it. Their community.

Image credit, PeskyMonkey via iStock