Many large brands have consolidated marketing and communication efforts that span the entire organization. Other organizations exist within a system of business units that operate, particularly from the point-of-view of marketing and communications, somewhat autonomously. With its incredible wide range of entertainment and electronic products, SONY is a good example of the latter.
I recently had the good fortune to sit down with Jason Eng, the senior social media strategist at Sony Professional USA – SONY’s business unit that designs and manufactures medical imaging equipment, laser projectors, and much of the high-end equipment used by cinematographers and television producers.
“I actually think that there is even greater opportunity for success in social media for B2B than B2C,” he says. He went on to explain that in a B2B area where purchasers make few large ticket purchases, such as studio video cameras, they will depend on social networks to research equipment.
It also isn’t as important to get the enormous quantity of followers and fans that we’re accustomed to with consumer brands. “We get great engagement with the numbers we have," says Eng. "There’s only a select number of people that use this level of camera. If we added numbers, they might not even be relevant.”
To help their customers, SONY Pro USA has taken to social media to build and nourish their small community of professionals. When Eng took over in early 2012, he used Radian6 to research all of the business’s product names and numbers. As he discovered mentions, he was able to engage, inviting users to send images. “When I first started, it was slow. I remember the first user-generated photo I received – from the Philadelphia Mayor’s office," says Eng. "Now, I get so many I can’t post half of them.”
They’re also using social media to get customer feedback. Eng cites one example, “we got feedback from the community that they wanted an onboard microphone – which got added to the product. With social, we can give corporate hardcore feedback from customers, without it being hearsay.”
Twitter and Facebook, though, became only a small part of the overall social media work. As Eng says, “in the world we live in, a lot of our customers aren’t on social media. They’re slow to adopt it. The cool thing about our forum is they don’t have to be on Facebook or Twitter. They can just be on the forum, and get RSS feeds, or even just subscribe to a thread.”
Not only is the forum a place for customers to give and receive information, it also provides a practical purpose. Eng says, “we’ve also started to upload all our firmware updates directly to the forum so they can just subscribe to the post and receive those updates. Before, we’d have to send out an e-blast – or call up the resellers and let them know, or customers would just have to check out the website.”
In professional electronics, there is often an intermediary between the manufacturer and the end customer, the reseller. Social interactions create an opportunity in which the manufacturer can engage with the end customer. Not as a means of bypassing the reseller – but for greater customer intimacy. As SONY Pro USA demonstrates, however, those resellers can be an integral part.
Eng, like many community managers, is personally an ardent user of social media. It isn’t unusual for him to answer a tweet very late at night or early in the morning. He likes to meet people, and takes his social media contacts into real-life meetings. This is an approach he has helped his resellers with as well.
“I teach a lot of resellers how to use social media better,” Eng says. “If they do well, we’ll do well.” As Eng develops even greater one-on-one relationships with resellers, many of them have started to share more content with him, which in turn fuels the company’s social media.
The Big Brand Theory is an exclusive column for Social Media Today that explores the social media strategies of big brands, both B2B and B2C. Look for the next installment next week. Logos by Jesse Wells.