Category Archives: Social Media

“The Digital Channel Is in Its Infancy” Interview with Can Kekevi, Managing Director at Accenture

Can Kekevi is Managing Director at Accenture, London.

Can Kekevi is Managing Director at Accenture, London.

Can is Managing Director at Accenture, based in London. He is also one of the judges at the European Call Centre and Customer Service Awards. During his 15 years in management consulting he came across many industries and companies. Personally, I have never worked with Can, but I met him back in the UK via some friends. For sure, I can say he is very smart and has some very good sense of humour. Originally from the Western part of Switzerland, Can also has some Turkish roots. 

Can, you are a member of the UK leadership team at Accenture. What does this mean? Are you a designated role model or a mentor to others?

We have maintained a spirit of partnership whereby all the Managing Directors (or what used to be Partners) own the firm and collectively look after its people, despite becoming a public company about 10 years ago. The MDs are responsible for running the company. Some MDs have more specific internal responsibilities to develop our people while others are more clients focussed. All MDs provide formal career mentoring and have usually a number of counselees (on average a ratio of 1 to 10). This formal model is complemented with more informal mentorship as well.

You are leading internal communities at Accenture? What type of communities are they?

Accenture is a service company where through our people, we provide solutions to our clients’ issues. In this context our people may have internal alignments based on their area of speciality (e.g. risk management, organisation design, marketing) and/or client alignment (i.e. the company they advise through a project). In both cases, these people represent communities of people doing something in common (i.e. specialising in a specific industry or functional area or working at the same client). In order to support the development of our people and ensure a sense of belonging for employee engagement, we have communities led by an MD. I myself lead our community of people at my client as well as internally all the consultants that are doing management consulting work in the Financial Service industry. These are activities usually alongside client work to ensure we apply stewardship to our people and help them develop.

What is the difference between such a community and a team?

Indeed communities at Accenture are groups of people with similar skill sets. It’s a community in the sense of “a group of people living together in one place” within the Accenture organisation. This is usually not client-facing and is either purely internal or related to a client engagement. We supplement this with “Community of Practice”, which is more virtual.

Which effect do these communities have on internal communication and employee engagement? 

The grouping into communities helps in many ways and I would say is essential in big organisations. Not only does it create a sense of belonging, but it also groups experts together. From a communication perspective it helps develop more targeted messages dedicated to each community. I have personally seen the positive effect on engagement of having people aligned in the community, they feel closest to: it increases their contributing. (Note: our people tend to support their communities in extra-curricular activities by organising events such as meetings, where project work is shared, or by providing input into regular newsletters.)

We know that strongly regulated industries, such as the financial industry or the pharmaceutical industry are not particularly leaders in adapting new marketing trends. They are also very cautious in their communications. From your point of view, Can, is digital marketing something banks should embrace?

With banks gradually recovering from the financial crisis, their focus moves from remediation and balance sheet deleveraging to growth. While still being cautious, banks will need to be innovative overall and in their marketing approach to grab either market share or share of wallet. In the UK, there are great examples of clever eye-catching marketing. For example, some banks have started embracing marketing to cleverly position their new products. Two notable examples are 1) Natwest and 2) Barclays. Natwest were the first bank to launch the iPhone mobile banking app and they came up with a clever advertisement whereby they argued that it was their smallest branch. Barclays on their other side, launched their PingIt service, which is a simple peer-to-peer payment application on a mobile app. Nothing innovative as PayPal had already launched something similar, however Barclays named it cleverly (PingIt) and marketed it well.

With regards to digital marketing (especially on a rich channel like the Internet with a lot of data points banks could use), there is more that can be done. The key to success in this space is how banks are going to leverage Big Data to create new revenue streams. The digital channel is in its infancy, even if it has been around for quite some time as it has evolved enormously with the different versions of HTML and web browsers. More capabilities can be added to it not only to support better marketing efforts, but also to sell and service customers in a tailored fashion.

You are one of the judges for the European Call Centre and Customer Service Award. Did you ever come across a company that improved its customer service through Social Media? Would you know of any leading example?

Many companies are using Social Media in a very limited fashion (whether it’s directly or indirectly). The direct usage is when companies respond directly to customer queries through their social media channel (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, …). This is important, but it’s just another channel that needs to be managed alongside the other ones to address the need of your customer base.

The power of Social Media usage comes when you start using it indirectly to listen and feed back into your marketing, customer service, product development, … What do people say that should be fed back into the different parts of your company? Social Media should be seen as more than just a channel. With the trillions of data exchanged across social media application, it’s a way to collect invaluable information to better understand customer needs and issues and fine-tune your customer service.

Otherwise, in terms of channel (especially in banking), most banks are gradually increasing their presence by using Social Media in a more transactional fashion. In banking for instance, we have the likes of CBA in Australia or Bradesco in Latin America providing Facebook transactional banking. Otherwise, DenizBank in Turkey provides Loan application via Twitter. So gradually banks are embracing Social Media as a channel, but I haven’t yet seen banks properly embracing Social Media beyond that. Given the regulated nature of the industry and also the need for more security to fight fraud, it’s not a channel that will be as widely used as in other industries, but it’s definitely being developed to cater for the customer segment that demands it.

Social Media is certainly much easier to apply for consultancies than eg. for strongly regulated companies, and actually ideal for these types of businesses. What is Accenture doing in this field?

I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s easier to apply for consultancies as it depends very much what you are trying to get out of social media. An important aspect for consultants is having the necessary tool to be able to collaborate easier and faster to bring our global collective insight and expertise to our clients. Therefore we do have internal social media collaboration tools such as Yammer, Stream, … to easily share information. Also, we do help our people publish information through blogging. The important thing for all this is to ensure that it supports the access to information to conduct client work. At the end, we can only be successful, if everything we have internally underpins outstanding client service delivery rather than using social media just for the sake of having it.

You already mentioned the challenge of “big data” and data is probably one of the cornerstones of a business consultancy – apart from its people. How does Accenture deal with the challenges of big data?

The Big Data concept is used in many situations and often loosely. It basically emerged with new technologies that allow companies to more easily store and manipulate non-structured data (e.g. machine generated data such as web logs or a contact centre conversation that is converted into text). This is as opposed to structured data that is reliant on a data model and often supported by a front-end application. The idea is to try to make sense of that information (e.g. monetise it somehow) without the need to invest heavily in trying to structure it. A good example is the creation of insight off the back of customer interactions with any of your channels. For example, if you could follow-up with your customer after that customer hovered for a few minutes on your website looking at a specific product because your website usually logs all that activity. Often that data is simply not leveraged.


What It Means When The Forecast Is Set To “Crowdstorm”

Everyone is on. Image by Carlos Lopez-Barillas.

Everyone is on. Image by Carlos Lopez-Barillas.

One of my first posts was about “the wisdom of the crowds”. Since I know I don’t know everything, I am a big believer in consulting others and picking their brains for inspiration or advice. Well, I don’t need to tell you that the social web offers endless possibilities on exchanging ideas. It’s called “crowdstorming”. Out of curiosity, I have done some research on how it works in some greater detail.

Crowdstorming is a mix of brainstorming and the use of the wisdom of crowds. It allows engaging many more people than in a real brainstorming session, as you can use a variety of online communities. Just like in a brainstorming meeting, you need a community and a “crowdstorm manager”, who manages and organizes the participants. These communities should have a certain relation to your business or product. Be it through experts that tend to engage on this community or future customers.

If you plan crowdstorming for a new product, you should be very specific and clear on what you want. Don’t talk business jargon that no one understands, but engage people and offer them to be part of a smart crowd, where they can contribute to and gain recognition for their ideas.

According to the authors Shaun Abrahamson, Peter Ryder and Bastian Unterberg, who wrote the book “crowd storm”, there are four reasons why people engage on a crowdstorm:

  1. It might either be for altruistic reasons, because they want to feel good about it.
  2. Or they are seeking attention as a form of a reward.
  3. Money is obviously another way of motivation
  4. or they just do it for the sheer experience they have on your crowdstorming platform.

Fundamentally, crowdstorming comprises of five stages:

1. Awareness of your crowdstorming needs. Ensure proof of credibility or ask your involved employees to participate as “messengers”. People are bound to want evidence that you are serious about turning their ideas into reality.

2. Consideration and evaluation. Ask the questions you want to get answered, and offer incentives to people for their participation.

3. Participation (engage people by voting for ideas or by competing for prizes). During this stage the crowdstorming manager (or various crowdstorming managers, depending on the size) builds different groups for each idea that materializes out of all individual ideas. This way, you bring your crowd storming into the next phase.

4. Experience (develop and evaluate the results): This is the difficult stage, where you have to pick the ideas you want to follow-up on. Here’s a hint: If ideas have been proven to be good through positive feedback from community members, they are likely to set of in your target market, too.

5. Advocate: Keep your crowdstorm community alive. These people are valuable product advocates for your launch. They are – naturally – keen influencers of the ideas or products they have co-created.

Surely, managing your crowdstorm community is the biggest of all tasks and the most time consuming work. Having said this, it is crucial for your project to structure it well, interact with individuals and master the overall communication well. The better you succeed in that, the more valuable are your gains.

And your experiences with crowdstorms? Have you managed one already or participated? What did you like, what worked, what didn’t? What have been the biggest challenges and what was the outcome?

Want to know more? Read on at:

Blog Parade: MarketinGorilla – Report of an Addiction

Austrian  blogger Alexandra Steiner has developed the idea of the “Blogparade”. This is a smart way of blogger relations (See also Brian Solis: 10 Steps to Building a better Blogger Relation Program), where people write about one given subject, shared on Andrea’s page, that links back to the various blogger’s sites. This time, I’ve taken part and contributed with my story about how I started blogging. That was the given subject. Because her page is in German, I’ll also have – as a one-off – a German article in my blog. Sorry for any inconvenience!

MarketinGorilla: Report of an Addiction

Honestly, my blog story “MarketinGorilla” is a classic story of a successive addiction. I wanted to start a marketing blog for some time, but never got round to do it. Just for fun, and because I can’t or want to do anything else but generating leads, increasing ROI’s, making customers happy and implementing complex projects. That’s my passion.

1st phase, initiation phase: “I wanted to try it just once!”

As per Facebook (FB) I was very critical from its start. Consumer data are, of course, everything that counts for us “old seducers of sales”: Tell me who you are and what you like and I’ll tell you exactly why you need to have my product.

But soon it was clear that I, as marketer, had to dig deeper into this topic everyone talked about. Hence, I created my profile on FB. I wanted to try it just once. It was nothing but a field study, of course …

What an overwhelming experience: Suddenly all my past friends popped up again out of nowhere. Be it Christiane, Monika and Achim, Mickey and Iris. Many of my old school and university friends or former work colleagues re-entered my life. I have had no contact with most of them for ages. With the increasing number of my FB friends, I took off my inhibitions to share information. The first step to addiction had taken place imperceptibly.

2nd phase, critical phase: “Are you on Facebook?”

The result was foreseeable: I was very quickly emotionally hooked into this entire FB thing. It had become an integral part of my social life. When I met a new person, my second question usually was: “Are you on Facebook?” (My first question is obviously about their names.) Why talk further? On FB you can get easily all other details about this person anyway. So to speak backwards to birth! What more could you ask for?

In psychology this is called “evasive behaviour towards the environment” or simply “the critical phase”. You shut yourself away from your natural environment.

Quickly, it became clear to me that I had to learn more about social media movements. From school days I still knew Anja Beckmann (Red Mod Communications & Travel on Toast). I wrote to her and asked, if she would give me a training session via Skype.

Well, I will not go as far as to call Anja a “dealer”. After all, she had warned me of Twitter…

Blindfolded, I slipped into the next phase of addiction.

3rd phase, chronic phase: I even did it on sunny days

Then my addiction really took off: During a bit of spare time, I tortured myself for a day with WordPress. It was raining anyway. On another rainy day (and we’ve had many in Switzerland this year), I wrote my first post and began to tweet like a bird. Finally, I did it even on sunny days. I was downright pulled into the dependency of Twitter & Co. It happened easily and quickly by the power of followers, likes and the sharing, or even by the inspiration you get from others. I remember – my first 5*-rating: My husband and I had wondered, if we should quickly expand the number of visitor parking spaces in front of our house. My first “like”: I was almost on it to get autographs designed.

(At this point, a quick editorial note to all of whom read my blog and then give me a call, write e-mails or meet to tell me that they truly like my blog:  This is the wrong channel, folks! Wink! Wink!)

However, the total loss of control had begun.

4th Phase: Exit?!

Actually…. no, I don’t think so. Social Media is the only addiction that I accept and that I can live with. It’s not just a trend, it is established in behaviour and in the minds of its manifold fans. It has great influence on the way we communicate and what we decide. It develops its own dynamics starting from the perception of brands, the birth of new industries through to political changes. Hence, I will –  entirely self-determined – stick to it.

Next time: More marketing secrets again…

Social Media for B2B Companies: An Artificial Marriage?

Do you have an engaging social media strategy?

Do you have an engaging social media strategy?

The beauty of social media lies within its many opportunities: companies can act very local or be totally International in their communication strategy. For B2B companies, social media tools are ideal to broaden their communication strategies, their image and their brand building. Some tools are even for marketing and talent acquisition.

Take The DOW Chemical Company, for example. As a global organization, they cultivate its image globally, but inter-act also locally. In The Netherlands, DOW is praised for its use on Facebook, where they engage locals in easy-to-digest news about what´s going on in their immediate environment and within DOW. This way, the region isn´t only up-to-date as far as the DOW industrial area concerns, but also triggers more positive talk about DOW. (See Marketingfacts: Hoeveel social mediacases in het B2B wil je hebben?)

Overall, at DOW, social media is very much about communication, image and brand building. They’re doing it in a superb way: by detaching from the entire awkward chemistry-subject. Instead they´ve looked along the entire value chain at the “end-consumers” and the benefits they have from solutions coming from DOW. In their communications they concentrate on the impact DOW has on the modern world and on its progress as a “solutions-focussed” company. DOW calls it “solutionism”. This way, the chemical company has many topics to engage with consumers – which aren´t their target group, obviously, but allies in many other ways: DOW´s followers are one big opinion leader, influencing high potentials, shareholders and other stakeholders.

Another positive example for excellent social media engagement is ABB. Personally, I never really knew in how many industries they engage. To me, it was just a big conglomerate. Then I started following them a while ago, read their blog and really enjoyed it. Within a short period, I figured out so many interesting innovations and products that came from ABB I had no idea about before.

Having said this, there are also the “hold-outs”. B2B companies, where employees made some half-hearted attempts in social media and then neglected the sites or tweets. You can find multiple Facebook pages for some of these companies that have questionable content. Even worse: they are liked (I wonder what for?) or followed and therefore shared. This can seriously damage the company´s reputation. They not only lose out in the above opportunities, but are even ridiculed.

All in all, it remembers me a bit of the early days when the Internet started out. I remember employees in an attempt to build their company´s first website. It was all far away from any corporate identity and communication strategy. With animated gimmicks and turning logos. Now, it seems, as if history catches up. At one point, though, these big B2B names won´t be able to withdraw from social media for longer. Right the opposite, the sooner they mark their presence, the bigger the opportunities on declaring their fields of expertise.

The 3 Topics that Work Best with Social Media

Steer your communication  in a way that people develop trust and follow  you

Steer your communication in a way that people develop trust and follow you. Picture by Carlos Lopez-Barillas, 2013

In my last post I mentioned how important the analytical part and a strategy is to enter the social media playground.

Once you have done that, you need to create relevant content that is in line with your social media and overall marketing/communication strategy. Everyone, who has done PR knows that you can’t always wait for your company to go through major events. You need to create events that you can turn into stories.

Independent of your strategy and your communication tools, here are the topics that work best in a social media context:

News, news, news. Yes, brand new news. Everyone within the social media world wants to be first to share news. This way, they have a chance to be a leader within their respective communities. They profit from your ability to develop news will create loyal followers.

Humor. Good, intelligent humor is a pretty good warrant for liking and sharing. However, it needs to fit into your overall strategy and tonality. If you manage to deliver your message with humor, you’ll be able to generate likes and fans.

Social or green marketing as a campaign empowers you for brilliant social media content. Social media is about people with visions and values. They are not only customers. They are in the center of your communication and marketing efforts. Hence, create content that is social, emotional and easy to like. Be careful with political topics. They can become a torpedo, but difficult to control.

As for your brand equity, it is important that you embed your brand message into these topics. Finally, don’t forget to measure your results.

Overall, aim to inspire and to make your brand leader of its category!

Is Social Media Useful for Every Company?

Whether you chose to play the game or not - a strategy is key.

Whether you chose to play the game or not – a strategy is key.

Many companies – from small companies to enterprises – have been juggling this question for the past years. Some have become very active, but their messages or aim are somewhat diluted. Others have resigned and some have simply done nothing. So far.

To help you to potentially draw a conclusion for your company, let me take you back a few steps on some major influences on marketing and communication. It should help you understand the advantages or disadvantages social media can actually have for your company.

We all know, marketing is about the four P’s: product, place, price, promotion. Been there, done that, dusted.

What is important, though, is the competition, the trends, the customer insights and maybe legal aspects or governmental developments. So we added this to our analysis and felt ready to develop our strategy and concepts to communicate with our target groups. Well done, if these are the basics you use to support your sales force, top management and R&D department.

Internet & mobile phones made the “place” bigger

Then, some fifteen years ago the world has changed, when the Internet changed our way of communication and knowledge sharing. All in a sudden the place became bigger, and the opportunities for promotions much more direct and measurable. We were able to track our prospects paths and activities. Still, we produced products for and offered services to customers. All at the same, it was very convenient, but also sometimes threatening that our competitors were just one click away. Overall, we felt pretty much in control.

In this environment, the challenge for a marketer had been to define the necessary KPI’s in order to guide customers and prospects to the website, keep them and turn them into leads or loyal customers. Applause to all marketers that linked online activities with their offline activities, and delivered clear messages and the same brand experience across all channels to the mass (or at least weighted customer segments). As the WWW grew, we got smarter and smarter on search engine and algorithms. So we started fighting for being found. Our target groups got more mobile? Never mind, we integrated mobile marketing into our concepts.

Social media means, customer and product roles are being swapped

With social media the world has changed immensely: the brand is not just a promise anymore. It must overcome criticism, shit storms and truly engage on an personal level. Nowadays the consumer really is our centre. Not our product or the services we offer. We have to market, communicate and satisfy on an individual level to be liked and shared.

But what does a marketer know about individuals? They are not predictable. They can go off with a statement and create a crisis that will leave your brand very vulnerable. The difference is, we are not in control anymore. This is the moment, where big corporations must ask themselves, if they want to take back over the driving seat or stay out and leave everything to chance. This is a big risk. And also a waste of opportunities. Because the brand might not become social. They might not attract the best talent. They might also not raise their image in a particular way and might not be seen as a leader in its field. If marketers have claimed that in the past, we will now be judged on that. Uncompromisingly.

Small and midsized companies on the contrary do have an opportunity of raising awareness, which they otherwise don’t have as easily with a small marketing budget. They can claim their niche and become really popular for that. However, they need to have the resources to deal with that. Front-end and back-end.

Is social media useful for your brand?

Now, is social media useful for every company and brand? To B2B companies, to insurance companies or financial companies? I would say, maybe. It depends on several underlying factors, which take me back to the basics of a marketer’s work: on what your competitors do, on the user’s experiences, on subjects and on the vision you have.  You need to do a thorough analysis on your status quo and on the social media environment you want to plunge into. Define your vision and your objectives. Then develop your strategy, followed by a solid concept – ideally with integrated tactics spanning from online to offline. Don’t get started without any strategy!

Even, if the results of your analysis convince you to stay out of the social media environment, you need to have a strategy for this, too.