This Spotlight on Social Media for Business-to-Business Companies series is brought to you by LinkedIn, where marketers can reach the world’s largest audience of professionals as they network, collaborate and share valuable business insights and information.

The following Q-and-A is with Jeanne Quinn, marketing manager for Cisco Small Business.

What role does social media play in Cisco Small Business’s lead-generation strategy? Have you found social networks to be an effective sales aid? What tips can you share?

Right now in Cisco Small Business, we’re really focused on getting to know our customers and resellers better by doing lots of social listening — looking across lots of social platforms to see what small businesses and the resellers/IT consultants selling to them are saying about Cisco, as well as about technology in general. We then respond where we can to help solve problems and answer questions that people have.

And while we may get a lead here or there out of that effort, our main focus on is making people aware of us as experts in small-business networking and communications technology, and then connecting potential customers with resellers who can help them get the technology that will help their business be more effective and profitable.

We know that effort will eventually get us to a place where we’re able to impact sales, but in the meantime, becoming more in-tune and responsive can’t help but have a positive result on how our customers/resellers see us. In the future, we will be looking at doing more in terms of integrating our social efforts with CRM solutions, but for now, our primary focus is listening, learning and responding.

Cisco is active across all four of the most popular social networks — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Has the company adapted its social media strategy for specific networks? What lessons can you share?

In general, we use Facebook to share content that we create –- videos and blog posts, for example, as well as special offers, events and promotions — along with other technology content we find across the Web that we think might be useful for small businesses.

And while we also use Twitter to amplify our key messages and relevant content, we spend more energy with Twitter on engaging with customers and resellers — finding and responding to questions and challenges that people have tweeted about.

We’re using LinkedIn to watch for pertinent conversations in small business/technology/Cisco groups where we can chime in and help out, but we’re also using it to do some polling of specific audiences, which helps us focus our content creation and marketing efforts in the right direction.

We’re using YouTube primarily as a repository for our video content, although we see some interactions here and there – and we do our best to share that content beyond YouTube using bookmarking and other syndication efforts.

Overall though, across all these networks, we really are hoping to arm our resellers with content that THEY can use to market to their customers –- videos, third-party content that we’re finding and tweeting/posting on Facebook, promotions/special offers, and blog content that we’re creating and sharing on a variety of networks. Enabling our channel is a big area of focus for us, and so in one way or another, we’re using all these social networks as a place to amplify our messages, and get content to where people are spending their time -– knowing that they may not always be coming to Cisco properties.

What role do you see blogging playing in social media strategies in years to come? Do other social networks make blogging more or less important for you?

For us, the Cisco Small Business blog is a place for storytelling. It’s less about promoting a specific product, and more about helping small businesses understand how technology can make them more profitable, secure and effective. We find blogging especially useful at helping folks understand that Cisco is in the small-business space (which is a surprise to many people who know us as a “big company” company) and that we have information (and products) relevant to them. But here again, we’re focused on enabling our resellers, as this is also content that they can use to market and sell networking and communications solutions to their customers. And other social networks play a big role here, because again, they help us amplify our message and spread that content further out than just Cisco Web/social sites.

What topics have you found are especially useful for engaging small-business owners? What gets your fan base talking?

We find that small businesses are always looking for “how-to” and “tips to help” content –- things that can help them make some decisions about a direction to move in are always helpful. And the quicker the better –- we know that they are focused primarily on running their businesses and don’t have a lot of time to spend reading blogs or searching the Web -– so when they need information, they want it fast and they want it relevant.

In terms of specific technologies, we’re finding that articles about security, voice/phone systems, and cloud services are tending to be pretty popular at the moment. However, most of what resonates most strongly are what we call “I need to…” content –- things that reflect the business needs a company has –- even though they may not have a good handle on what technology might actually solve that need. “I need my employees to be able to work from home… I need to connect two branch offices together… I need to be able to answer customer calls from both my office and my warehouse… I need to have access to my company data while I’m traveling…” We try to keep customer needs at the forefront of everything we do -– and then show how technology can help solve those needs.

How does customer service and support figure into your social media strategy? What strategies does Cisco employ for turning customer concerns into positive experiences?

Product and technology issues can often cause downtime that small businesses simply cannot afford, therefore it’s crucial that we help them as quickly as possible, in whatever way works best for them.

So in addition to more traditional methods like phone, e-mail and click-to-chat, we’ve also created Cisco communities designed to give customers and resellers a place to find answers to their product-support questions. These communities are frequented by customers, partners and employees -– and are very effective as a knowledge base and a place to get answers quickly. But we’re also using social listening to find folks who are having support challenges in locations other than Cisco sites, and doing our best to get them answers wherever they are spending their time, while at the same time letting them know about our communities so that they have a place to start from next time they have a question.

Customer satisfaction is something that everyone at Cisco has as a personal charter, so in general, whether we’re handling support calls over the phone or responding to a tweet, the philosophy is the same: Respond promptly, empathize with their issue or concern, and do our very best to solve the problem or get them to someone who can help them as rapidly as possible. And just like with face-to-face or phone interactions, listening and letting them know we care is key. Sometimes an irate post on Facebook or Twitter turns quickly a into a big thank-you, just because we reached out, heard what the person had to say, and tried our best to help.

Image credit: RapidEye, via iStockPhoto

Related Posts

3 Responses to “Spotlight on business-to-business: How Cisco uses social media to empower resellers”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by SmartBrief on SocMed, Dora Smith, Bill Conn, bt, Ana Hoffman and others. Ana Hoffman said: Using social media to empower resellers — a Q-and-A with Cisco’s Jeanne Quinn: The following Q-and-A is with Jea… http://bit.ly/i3WwQw [...]

  2. [...] Using social media to empower reselers– a Q&A with Cisco [...]

Leave a Reply