Seagate aim to get closer to their customers using social media

Seagate has a well  developed social media strategy led by Rich Harris which other companies can learn from.

With sites like Facebook, Twitter and FriendFeed, Harris points out that consumers have learned to empower each other to make better purchasing and brand preference decisions.  He says that a company’s social media strategy should  focus heavily on engaging and validating customers personally, as it relates to your products or services. He reiterates the importance of companies getting as close as possible to their customers, paying attention to what they are saying so they can serve them better.

At ItsOpen we argue that the first step in any social media strategy has to be to listen to what your customers are saying about you. Whether they are journalists, investors, NGOs, analysts, suppliers or consumers. This information can be invaluable in terms of informing the business about what is happening in your marketplace.  You can then begin to plan how you are going to make contact with people talking about you, and decide how as a business or a department  you are going to join in and use social media tools.

What makes some people uneasy about participating in social media is that it is so public. Off the record phone calls or briefings do not work with social media. You have to be open about who you are and speak in a human voice to be successful. It is best to get independent advice before starting to participate on behalf of your company.  At ItsOpen we provide guidelines and training to support companies who want to start engage with social edia. It is also a good idea to start using social media tools in your private time to get used to them and overcome any stage fright!

Below is an extract from the interview with Seagate’s Rich Harris about the company’s social media strategy. And you can read the full interview here.

Q. What do you think is the best approach for such a large company?

A. I believe that for a large  company the approach tactically is not as important as the approach the company takes culturally. Marketing has always been marketing, regardless if you are sending out faxes or posting to Twitter… However, social media is very new and a very fast-moving and ever-changing environment. To get the most out of it, it’s best if companies are flexible and open to new out-of-the-box ways of thinking. Companies are already comfortable with B2B and B2C.  Now you have C2C developing it’s own culture and highly influential mix of people. Look at it this way: web marketing - pre-social media - was to create one-way communications and direct people back to your mother ship website to pay for your product or service. Now, with sites like Facebook, Twitter, and FriendFeed, consumers have learned to empower each other to make better purchasing and brand preference decisions. There is more value in that approach for them since they are the ones spending the money at the end of the day. To be successful in this model companies will have to be a bit more transparent and nimble.

Q. What hard lessons have you learned?

A. You need to be as excited about  the lessons you will learn from your failures as you are about the successes you have in social media. Social media is volatile, yet exciting. It ebbs and flows sporadically and is as powerful as it can be fickle because every consumer is human and therefore emotional. I would also say that the audiences companies are trying to reach in social media are less likely to pay attention to one-way communications. They love being part of social networking because it engages them and validates them. A company’s social media strategy should focus heavily on engaging and validating your customers personally as it pertains to your products or services.

Q. What is your, or Seagate’s, general philosophy on social programs?

A. Personally, I believe you have to be honest, transparent and pay close attention to what your audiences are saying. Be fueled by the lessons you learn and use those lessons as catalysts for getting as close to your customers as possible. The closer you get, the better you can serve them. Conversations and information will spread about your company genuinely, quickly and effectively if you stick to this. As you drive brand awareness and ultimately preference, you will hope that it converts to sales at the end of the day. In that scenario, everybody wins.

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