Monday, March 2, 2009

Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube, Xythos and Enterprise Content Management

As a technology marketer I’m feeling virtually bombarded by offers to learn how to master Web 2.0 technologies and social networking tools in order to remain relevant amidst the economic chaos of 2009. If you read half these solicitations, it would appear that traditional advertising and communications strategies have achieved a state of irrelevance, lost in our new multi-channel, multi-media world.

After spending so much effort and time focused on discovery, search optimization and living for keyword ranking results on Google, I’ve almost wanted to dismiss the more obtuse elements of community marketing. It’s not that we haven’t been engaged. We’ve got channels on YouTube and groups on Linkedin and Facebook thanks to more adventurous staffers at Xythos, but I wasn’t convinced yet.

That changed for good when I attended Educause 2008, the annual IT summit for the world’s colleges and universities. As usual, we had prepared for the event with pre-show mailings and other marketing campaigns intended to increase activity at our booth and the various seminars and events that we were hosting. In fact, in order to measure our campaign return on investment (ROI) we asked each attendee to identify what prompted them to visit us during the event.

About 11% reported that they had learned about Xythos, or one of our planned activities at the conference via a social networking site. Wow! I thought when I learned about this data. No, it wasn’t a huge percent, but as an organization we had hardly begun to invest in these networks. Equally important, the total cost of that investment was an incredibly small part of our marketing budget, even for that particular event.

This got me thinking and quickly planning in a different way for 2009. Being discoverable is still ultimately important, once prospective customers begin seeking solutions. However, it’s becoming more obvious that the process of becoming aware of, and learning about new ways of doing things is changing rapidly. Social networks on the web would appear to be important catalysts of that evolution particularly as they relate to the discovery of new technologies.

We’ve already been busy testing the hypothesis this year. While it’s a bit soon to draw conclusions, we’re beginning to see more supporting results. We’ve increased our production of rich media including recorded videos and audio podcasts in addition to updating blogs (like this one) more frequently. We’re using the social networks to promote this content and attempting to develop communities of interest around it.

For some of you, this might already appear obvious and old fashioned, but in the “serious” world of enterprise software marketing it hasn’t seemed all that common. As a result, these activities have helped improve search and discovery performance for some of the keywords and phrases important to our business. We measure these results using Google analytics and by monitoring inbound email and telephone requests.

If you’re wondering how all of this relates to enterprise content management, I can tell you without a doubt that many of our activities related to creating and managing rich media could not have happened very easily without an ECM system. For example, we develop and record audio and video content in multiple locations and need to share it quickly. Individual files can easily exceed 100 Mbs and would be prohibited from our company email system. Instead, we store them in shared folders within Xythos’ EDMS where all participants can see them, be notified when they change, etc.

Our ECM system also serves as our staging area for the main Xythos website essentially allowing us to proceed from concept to publication for all the content we create. Integrated collaboration and workflow tools help us to better automate the process and we make sure to use the version control features as well. Most importantly for our team, we’ve integrated our use of email with content management so that we dialog about projects in messages that include links to our media stored in Xythos. This relieves our email system significantly and makes accessing and sharing files a whole lot easier.

Of course, there is a penalty for having an easy to use ECM system and rich media authoring tools. Fear! Creating and distributing rich media content on social networks has become absurdly simple. While that may be OK for teens on YouTube or Facebook, it can be quite scary for corporate marketers. Fortunately, our ECM system promotes a healthy editing and review process, although its still no guaranty of quality. However, given some of the early results we’ve seen, I guess we’ll just have to swallow some pride and practice, practice, practice.

So, what’s your experience been like using rich media and social networking sites for your business or organization? Do you have any good stories you’d like to share?

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