For companies struggling to map out their own social media strategies, here’s a bit of advice: Don’t get distracted by the talking car.
Salesforce.com this week advanced the concept of a product social network and highlighted its recent deal with Toyota to create Toyota Friend, a private social community of car owners, dealerships and Toyota employees based on Salesforce.com’s Chatter. The network allows for collaboration between community members, including their cars. Through Toyota Friend, drivers receive service alerts, promotions and other car-related information.
“So, in the same way that I’m following people on Twitter or have friends on Facebook, now my car is my friend,’’Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff said in a keynote address to 1,000 customers and prospects at the Salesforce.com Cloudforce event in Washington, D.C.
While this product social network concept has appeal at least one industry analyst cautioned that companies need to stay focused on their own business needs and not rush out to build a social network around a product.
“The first thing you do is define your social strategy,” said Paul Greenberg, president of the 56 Group LLC. “Maybe this is an appropriate strategy,” he added of the product social network. “For Toyota, it works. But it might not work for a grocery chain.”
Salesforce.com is clearly focused on what it's calling the social enterprise. In his speech, Benioff related an exchange he recently had with a customer. As Benioff told it, while discussing the social enterprise, he received a sharp rebuke.
“You don’t have the answer,” Benioff said his customer claimed. “You have a bucket of parts.’’
Naturally, Benioff was not going to let the bucket-of-parts comment go unanswered. Instead, he took the opportunity to outline how Salesforce sees the social enterprise, noting how companies are moving beyond listening on social networks to more actively engaging and marketing to customers.
“There has been a power shift,” said Marcel LeBrun, chief executive of Radian6, which was acquired by Salesforce.com earlier this year. Radian6 makes social media listening and analysis tools. “Our customers have a much bigger voice and trust each other more than companies. Brand now means the sum of conversations about you.”
LeBrun said companies are using Radian6 to listen to social channels and adjust responses to customers. For example, PepsiCo Inc. is using Radian6 in its Pepsi Refresh marketing campaign, a current program that asks people to offer ideas online about community enrichment programs. People are encouraged to vote on their favorite programs and then Pepsi will fund programs based on responses.
LeBrun said Pepsi was able was able to change the campaign and adjust where it spent its money because of people’s comments.
Greenberg suggested the Pepsi example shows how social media tools can help a company quickly see what is working and what isn’t. “It enabled them to find out what wasn’t working pretty fast,” Greenburg added.
A quick glance at the Pepsi Refresh Facebook page shows many people asking others to support their social programs. But it also reveals some angry comments.
In Pepsi’s case, the Refresh campaign is currently generating comments from frustrated users about the website sign-on process. One person created a Facebook page called Pepsi Refresh Scam, raising the question “Is Pepsi Refresh a fraud and scandal?” The page has more than 1,000 likes.