There you are shopping for a social media marketing partner and your dance card includes Ogilvy, Buddy Media, Digitas, Dachis, Accenture....
Accenture? The company that practically defines the big box, big integration, big strategy, big consulting practice? They are on the list as well?
You betcha, according to Jason Breed, Social Media practice lead for Accenture. And watch out, everybody else, because having Accenture in the game just upped the stakes.
Although not generally known for its interactive expertise, Accenture has been providing e-commerce, content management and social advice to big clients like Marriott, Sony, Proctor and Gamble, and others since 2009. Accenture Interactive, as it is known officially, is 1200-plus global employees who can tap a large force of consultants in related areas, such as CRM, industry verticals and off-shore delivery, to name a few.
Does size matter? As we move increasingly from social being an experiment for the global enterprise to a core competency and competitive advantage, the answer is most definitely , "yes."
"We're past the point where the social thing is a fad," says Breed. "People get that it's the way we do business.... What we see is that these companies have a social focus and we have a practice as well."
Breed describes their differentiation from competitors in terms of three pillars: industrialization, innovation and integration. He describes industrialization, curiously, as involving customer service and how social is impacting that, as well as an examination of the buy-cycle. Breed reports that from a customer service function and brand-offering , "industrializing" social means taking CRM to social CRM, taking monitoring data and translating it in order to model retention and sales opportunities.
Breed: "Industrialization is how Accenture can help build your influencers at scale - that is the key."
During our talk there was more discussion of issues of predictability than one usually hears from a marketing firm, and that would make sense given the Accenture history, which extends back into the early days of content management solutions (they designed the first WebMD site, for example.)
Innovation in the Tech Labs of which there are five locations around the world, and which foster a "sandbox" approach to initiatives. But importantly, they are able to "pull through" innovation from the theoretical to the practical because of cross-client experience, having worked with many of the worlds' most aggressive, high-tech companies.
Integration to a greater business goal than just "I want to have a Facebook page" is becoming increasingly the goal for big enterprise social activities, in which channel is not as important as cloud-based scale. Twitter was integrated into a recent project, The Royal Wedding website (client was Clarence House, the official home of the Prince of Wales), but the predominant driver was access and scale, not channel. At its peak, the Royal Wedding website supported 150M page views, 2,000 requests per second, with social inside of that, Obviously search trumps social in something like an immediate event, and in those cases, real-time analytics (Google was a partner) and availability are critical.
Breed is clearly excited, on the other hand, about what social means for data. "We are moving from data that was backwards-facing by using, among other sources, Facebook, which is the world's largest database of sentiment analysis. For the first-time we see "windshield view" instead of "rearview mirror." The technology-enabled interactions that social represent and are measurable in real-time offer tremendous opportunity to a firm whose practice areas are so broad, and which can summon an enormous team when the project calls for it.
"At any time," says Breed, "we can call on 1,000 people that an agency cannot draw on."
Jason Breed will be our guest tomorrow for our Best Thinker series of webinars, when he will be interviewed by Maggie Fox of Social Media Group. Join us at noon Eastern for further questions and comments.