Tuesday, March 25, 2014

So what to social media?

The question of how AR professionals should use social media keeps cropping up.

Even though social is a part of our daily lives, I am still asked whether it’s okay to use Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to contact analysts – never mind apps like WhatsApp, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat. And I'm not alone.

There has been no shortage of social media gurus who happily told us that social media would radically transform the world of AR.

Yet my colleagues at the IIAR and I found ourselves continually asking the same thing. Has that transformation actually happened?

No-one would dispute that social media has had some impact. Still, has it really changed the fundamental way in which an AR professional needs to be work if they're to be successful and effective?

Look at blogging for instance. This changed the analyst world. Suddenly it provided a quick and easy means to publish short research notes and get instant feedback. Some analyst firms, notably Redmonk, used blogging as a foundation to build a new style of analyst firm. Go back 15 years and compare the way analyst firms have to work today. It is significantly different. Blogging was a big driver of those changes.

Have Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and the others managed the same thing?

We decided that we needed to ask some experts. But, with one exception, we didn't look for social media folk. Instead, we turned to the analysts and a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of chairing a vigorous and lively discussion on how analysts use social media to:
  • Promote their capabilities to the world
  • Build relationship with existing customers, and
  • Work with the analyst relations community.
Some analysts couldn't make the discussion but contributed thoughts beforehand. On the evening itself, we had James Governor from Redmonk (@monkchipsLinkedIn), Gareth Lodge from Celent (@Gareth_LodgeLinkedIn) and Clive Longbottom from Quocirca (@clivel_98LinkedIn). They were joined by Robin Hamman (TwitterblogLinkedIn) social business lead from FleischmanHillard to mix things up a bit. (He was remarkably pragmatic).

My key takeaways were:
  • Analysts use social media a lot - but they don't use it for AR. They use it to build their own profiles, track market developments, reach their core customers and make connections in their sector
  • Social media isn't considered to be a tool for formal communication with AR people.  One analyst described it as being P2P (person to person) not B2B. It's a helpful 'nice to have' but not something which AR people should rely on.  Social media is a useful way of enhancing a personal relationship but even then it doesn't compare with a quick catch-up call or grabbing a beer
  • Stick to phone and email (or corporate AR portals) for official communication. One panellist commented that email is as dead as the mainframe (to avoid any doubt, both are still going strong and will carry on doing so for years to come)  
  • Analysts, even those who love it, view social media as a tool, a means to an end and not an end in its own right
  •  Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook dominate   
A couple of basic messages came through time and time again.
  • Get the communication right. That's more important than the channel. A bad pitch is a bad pitch, whether it's done by email or LinkedIn.
  • Know your analyst and what they prefer. Facebook is generally more social.  Some analysts are happy to connect to AR people they know but for others, it's strictly "friends and family". LinkedIn is typically more business-oriented.  And one analyst pointed out that we shouldn't forget IM. It's a valuable channel for trusted AR contacts 
And two things to think about in future:
  • Look at using hangouts on Google +
  • Pinterest can be really effective if you've got a large amount of graphical or visual information you need to communicate on a regular basis
There was a lot more but I'm limited in what I can share in this post. I need to respect the fact that this was a closed session, only open to IIAR members and guests. IIAR members can listen to a recording of the panel discussion free of charge (there's a copy on Huddle).

Thanks to all the panellists who took part on the day as well as those analysts who contributed beforehand.

Thanks also to Yash Khanna (Twitter,Linkedin) from TCS who hosted the event at his offices and everyone from the IIAR (@IIAR,LinkedIn) who came along to ask questions and share their experiences.


Joe Hanley IBM said...

Nice post. Good views on an on-going discussion...analysts and social still a mixed economy. Also glad you report on the sustained health of the mainframe. https://www.ibm.com/mainframe50/ (E-mail can't die soon enough however.)

David Rossiter said...

Joe, thanks for the comment. I also think it's a sign of growing maturity, with analysts moving away from the hype and figuring out how to use social to add real benefit to what they do. Social was clearly becoming just another tool, like email and phone.