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The Big Brand Theory: Cisco Leading the Way in the Use of Social CRM


In 1984, famed director Ridley Scott created the iconic Apple video, and Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook was born. Around that same time, a small group of engineers at Stanford University were creating the company that was to become Cisco, a company that today has over 70,000 employees worldwide and 130 billion dollars in market capitalization.

ImageIt’s only natural that a company founded on products that connect computers (and of course, the people using those computers) would be heavily invested in social media. In fact, not content to merely sit back and engage in basic social media maintenance, Cisco is leading the way in the use of social CRM.

In order to address the challenges at such an enormous enterprise, Senior Manager of Global Social Media at Cisco, LaSandra Brill told me that Cisco uses a four-pillar framework for their social media strategy:

ImagePillar 1: The Campaign Pillar is where they really focus on particular campaigns, such as the “Internet of Everything” campaign.

Pillar 2: The Content Stream creates 3 pieces of social content each week, which is shared with communities managers all around the company.

Pillar 3: Listening and Metrics includes social listening across the company and an executive briefing center. They do executive briefings and customize reports for top customers coming in. "It allows us to tell the story through our customers’ eyes," says Brill.

Pillar 4: Social CRM and Social On Cisco is "all about understanding … then tying that, making use of it; making it actionable, then using that wheteher through targeted marketing or just routing to the right team. Social on CISCO strategy… blogs, communities, social widgets that we put on our site.”

ImageBrill’s global social media team doesn’t directly manage the day-to-day of particular platforms such as Facebook, but instead, provide an overarching strategy and content, which then gets shared across Cisco to the various social media teams.

Cisco has been inordinately successful in getting people across the enterprise involved in social. On Twitter, Chief Technology and Strategy Officer Padmasree Warrior has over 1.4 million followers, while her counterpart, Chief Futurist David Evans has over 46,000 followers on LinkedIn.

Customer Partners

Often, at technology product and solution companies, resellers are an important part of the marketing ecosystem. Brill agreed, and told me about Cisco’s partner social media team. “We’re tagging all of our partners in Radian6 to see what our partners are saying, so that we can see how we can help them,” she says. In addition to providing training both in-person and online to their partners, throughout the year, Cisco is looking to roll-out a content syndication program in the coming year.

Measures of Success

I asked Brill how she or her bosses will know they’ve succeeded with social media. She says, “It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. For our brand campaign, we were able to reach 18 million through social – so that was a huge success. YouTube was one of our top five drivers from social to drive people back to the hub site, a microsite made for the micro-campaign – so that was seen as successful.”

Brill isn’t satisfied with the soft metrics and correlations. She continued, “Are there leads being sourced from social? We’ve been running a number of pilots to show that and prove that concept. This next year we’re committing our team to a particular revenue target; marketing qualified leads sourced from social. Social media is growing up, and people want to see the bottom line.”

Social CRM

One of the most notable accomplishments at Cisco with social media is their social CRM strategy. In this strategy, there are four phases: collecting, enriching, using, and engaging. There is an established team of individuals whose job it is to tag social mentions, so that they can be acted upon.




The Big Brand Theory is an exclusive column for Social Media Today written by Ric Dragon that explores the social media strategies of big brands, both B2B and B2C. Look for the next installment next week. Logos by Jesse Wells.

Join The Conversation

  • Emmett Smith's picture
    Dec 25 Posted 3 years ago Emmett Smith

    Hi Ric,

    Branding is becoming a very important part of marketing.  Certain companies seem to be doing very well.  I had read an article that Apple has surpassed Coca Cola as the number one recognized brand.  I guess if you have good products, it makes branding easier.

  • Nov 5 Posted 3 years ago Meredith Tierra

    i also  agree :)

  • Bill Conn's picture
    Sep 3 Posted 3 years ago Bill Conn

    Ric -- Great post, thanks for sharing.

    I'd love to get a peek under the hood of how Cisco is managing content distribution across teams and employees. At PeopleLinx (, we've seen clients like Prudential enhance their brand, drive warmer leads faster, and strengthen relationships through coordinated sharing and profile optimization at scale.

    It's always interesting to see what the market leaders are doing in social. Great job, Cisco!

  • Teresa G Santos's picture
    Aug 27 Posted 3 years ago Teresa G Santos

    Cisco is really leading the way in the use of social CRM, in my "suspicious opinion" (after all, I worked at Cisco for 10 years, and I still love the brand - and I always will!...)

    In fact, Cisco have been also leading the path in social media customer care solutions development. I take this chance to post here a very funny video, presenting Cisco SocialMiner - a solution that provides "monitoring, queuing, and workflow to organize customer posts on social media networks and deliver them to your social media customer care team". With this powerful tool, any "company can respond to customers in real time, using the same social network they are using".

    OK... we also have HootSuite and another bunch of tools... but, the video is realy funny, and Cisco is always Cisco!

  • RicDragon's picture
    Aug 27 Posted 3 years ago RicDragon

    I agree, Ava - it IS impressive. Social CRM has been a holy grail of sorts, for years - and while the tools available even to a large organization like Cisco may be imperfect, a commitment to the process is what really matters at the end of the day.

  • Ava Cristi's picture
    Aug 26 Posted 3 years ago Ava Cristi

    Engaging in social media through the use of CRM is a smart move by Cisco, especially when they want to connect with their partners and customers in a much more direct approach. The workflow of twitter to customer support is what impresses me the most as there’s no installation involved at all.

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