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The Business Forum Journal

 

Using Social Media To Connect With Big Companies
 

By David J. Gardner

 

 

People seem to think that social media is about attracting followers, “friending” people, liking this, that or the other, or spending hours trolling Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.  It does not have to be that way.

What if you use social media to simply attract big companies to you?  Let me show you how to do this.

My understanding comes not as a result of a carefully crafted social media strategy, but as a result sitting back and watching what has happened. 

Coming to this understanding was my 1% for a day. I hope it will be so for you as well.

There are 2 potential avenues to be aware of when leveraging social media:

1.       The big company you are targeting is most likely monitoring social media

2.       The public relations (PR) firm used by the big company you want to connect with is also likely monitoring social media

Here is my story about how I have been able to leverage these 2 avenues. 

I have been a Dell customer since 2004.  Back in 2009 and 2010, I experienced a few Dell business execution issues.  I heard another story or two and decided to write about it on my Fast Company Expert Blog.  I wrote the article on a Friday afternoon and pushed it to Fast Company that evening to be published the following week.  I chose a provocative title: “Dell used to be a fast company,” probably not the title that Dell would wish for in Fast Company!  The article was not mean-spirited or ranting — it simply pointed out areas where Dell had stumbled and could improve.

A Dell social media person contacted me via email about 90 minutes later — before the article had even been published by Fast Company — and asked if we could talk the following week.  I said, “Sure.”  Soon after, I was invited to be a member of Dell’s Customer Advisory Panel (DellCAP).  Dell obviously must have felt I had insights that would valuable as they sought outside perspectives to improve their business by learning what real customers are experiencing.

Was it important that the article was in Fast Company?  Not at all!  None of the other 29 social media folks invited to participate in DellCAP blogged for a prominent media outlet like Fast Company.  Dell, like many big companies today, trolls the Internet to find out what is being said about them so they can reach out and help as well as implement corrective action.

PR firms are also on the lookout for their clients and troll the Internet.  A few weeks later, Dell’s PR firm contacted me about meeting them in their San Francisco office. Knowing that I blog for Fast Company, they offered to make introductions to senior executives who come into town for pieces that I might want to write, they have seen that I am invited to media events — often paying my travel and accommodation to attend, and they said they would look for opportunities within Dell to make introductions.  All of these things happen with regularity.  I enjoy a wonderful relationship with Dell’s PR firm.

In a Fast Company blog post called, “What Dell is doing to create customers for life,” I challenged a PC World survey that was unfairly critical of Dell and HP.  HP’s PR firm contacted me the same day the post was published to thank me for defending HP and offered to make introductions to anyone I wanted to meet. This is when I reached the conclusion that social media monitoring is not an accident — the big companies do this with great discipline and follow-up as appropriate.

Here is another example of using social media to help with my mission of meeting prospects within Dell.  I recently authored a Fast Company blog post called If I sell you my company, will you respect me in the morning?”   This piece, which I strategized with Dell’s Consumer, Small and Medium Business internal PR team before attending a major media event, enabled me to meet and interview the heads of four recently acquired business units plus the Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy.  I wanted to meet these executives and see if I could learn about the “secret sauce” of Dell’s merger and acquisition process. The article research opened the doors. I doubt I would be able to pick up the phone and get these people to sit down for an interview.  This piece forged relationships in an enjoyable and exciting way.

Do you ever see areas where a prospective client could improve that you could write about?  Of course you have!  Social media can be a terrific way to create your superhighway into big companies. But you have to use the right bait:

  • Talk about what you have observed,
     

  • Be provocative, and
     

  • Encourage them to do better.

Then, when you hear from the company or their PR firm, begin to create an enduring relationship.  It is a very effective way to create marketing gravity.


David J. Gardner, has held senior management positions in Product Development, Manufacturing, Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and Product Management.  He joined Tandem Computers in 1979 where he was responsible for Corporate Documentation Standards for Tandem's highly configurable and expandable computer systems. In 1983, he designed and implemented a Configuration Guide for Dialogic Systems instituting a process that greatly simplified a complex, modular product such that the field sales organization and international OEM customers could easily define their order requirements. This methodology satisfied the product definition needs of sales, marketing, engineering, manufacturing, customer service and finance. David founded his consulting practice in 1991.  He is a graduate of San Jose State University (BA) and Santa Clara University (MBA). David is a member of the Society for the Advancement of Consulting (SAC) and has been Board Approved in the Area of Configurable Product & Services Strategy and Implementation. In 2010, he was inducted in the Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame.  Out of over 1,000 consultants who have completed Alan Weiss’s mentoring program, only 26 have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.


Visit the Authors Web Site  ~  http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

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