The Marketing Strategist:
How CSC Built the Holy Grail of B2B Social Media
ITSMA’s How Customers Choose Solution Providers shows that B2B buyers’ most valuable sources of information are their peers—nothing else comes close. Providers that can facilitate that peer connection have an unparalleled opportunity to build trust and loyalty with prospects and clients. Online communities can be the most valuable piece of the social media strategy for B2B marketers. Unlike traditional relationship marketing channels, such as private events and trade shows, an online community creates a continuous relationship, one that need not languish until the next event. Online communities are also marketing Petri dishes: By facilitating the conversation and collaboration, marketers get to observe their target audience in action and stir the soup with marketing content. How Many Social Media Communities Are Enough? But forming online communities is hard. Just because people buy things from you doesn’t mean they want to be part of your community. The B2B landscape is littered with stories of social media ghost towns, expensive, feature-rich palaces of conversation whose halls never rang with anything but silence. Even the giants of online community, Facebook and LinkedIn, have struggled to find a viable business model, while a onetime leader, MySpace, scrambles to keep its dwindling conversations from sounding increasingly hollow. When building its online community, IT services and consulting giant CSC had a tremendous advantage to draw on. Since the ’70s, CSC has built the software platforms that run more than 1,200 financial services companies around the world. It used the relationships it had built over time offline and transferred them online. Big deal, you say. Tons of companies have been creating online communities for years; they’re called user group online forums. And CSC did use its software user group as the basis for the new community. But WikonnecT takes all that a step further. Based on the wiki model of real-time collaboration, WikonnecT incorporates other forms of social networking so that community members can have a richer dialogue than with a traditional online message board. Build a Social Media Community around a Process What really sets WikonnecT apart, though, is that CSC’s software development process is an integral part of the community. With new software releases coming thick and fast, CSC customers now have an opportunity to be heard during all phases of the process rather than just at CSC’s live customer events. “Technology now provided us with an opportunity to give our clients a platform for 24×7 collaboration as well as greater visibility into what we were doing here at CSC,” says Dawn Cochran, CIO for the Property and Casualty Division and development leader of WikonnecT. “We wanted to move beyond the interactions we had at events to capture relevant conversations that occur at any point in time, so that everyone could benefit from that knowledge and experience.” In summer 2008, CSC decided it needed to have a social media platform ready for the next major client conference. Trouble was, that conference was scheduled to happen in September—just six weeks away. Those six weeks are a blur for Cochran and her team, who managed to get the new community online in time for the event. WikonnecT was small when it first launched in September 2008, but the community has since grown wildly. Eighteen months after its launch, WikonnecT has attracted more than 700 client companies and 12,000 members who have logged in 115,000 times. To see how Cochran and her team built WikonnecT in six weeks, their lessons learned, and best practices for online communities, read the ITSMA case study CSC’s WikonnecT: How to Build a Thriving Social Media Community.