Monitoring the huge trend in corporate social media, executives around the world are testing new ways of sharing information and trying to discard some old school stumbling blocks. Many corporate decision makers are left looking at advanced spreadsheets and blindly take shot after shot in the dark (hoping they hit the mythical beast "the prospect" in the process.) As our team at 123 is often moving around and speaking to these decision makers, we occasionally like to flex our brains a little and examine a company online.
Are they doing it right? Are they doing it wrong? Are they even trying? Most importantly, what type of information is available by spending a few minutes browsing around the net?
One of the companies that caught my attention for reviewing was Intermec. When I first visited the Intermec site I thought "uh oh, another corporate site" and then I noticed they had a few unusual links at the bottom: del.icio.us , Digg , and Technorati . I found this odd, mostly since a good portion of users coming to this site (business decision makers) have little knowledge of what del.icio.us, Digg, or Technorati is. On a flip side, I would have to assume that no one on del.icio.us, Digg, or Technorati has any clue what Intermec does. (BTW, they are in Seattle and I am one of the rare people who actually knows what Intermec does.)
For those of you who don't know, "Intermec Inc. (NYSE:IN) is in the business of helping you achieve the most return from your automated information and data capture (AIDC) and mobile computing systems. That means we do more than design and build the industry’s most complete lineup of rugged, reliable and versatile equipment. We also work with you to get inside your challenges, to know your unique situation and then leverage our strong relationships with resellers and industry-leading alliance partners to help you create a total solution that harmonizes with your networks, platforms and processes. Our collaborative, connected approach can ensure a more complete and seamless implementation whether your needs call for our Gen2 RFID, bar code systems, rugged computers or a Cisco WLAN infrastructure." (Quoted from Intermec site.)
What does that mean? Well... that is the type of stuff you see on many corporate sites these days. It is the officially confusing way to make sure that social media doesn't work and that the general visitor suffers a quick case of avoidance. If you land on nearly any page of the Intermec site, you discover brochure pages that would be confusing for the general population of a larger social networking site. If you are lucky, they may actually take a second to read the "about us" page and be baffled by the terminology of an industry, or be lost when a company uses acronym descriptors like AIDC, WLAN, or Gen2 RFID.
If you were a user of Intermec's products or looking for like-minded information, the site design may be presenting the information at the right experience level. However general social media sites are not experienced in the vocabulary of your industry, so examining the actual social networks they are trying to maneuver in reveals some problematic issues:
Technorati has 100 results for the term "Intermec" on various blog posts and articles. I am unfortunately not spotting any official Intermec blog or centralized source of information to harness that exposure. It appears as if all the product reviews and random commentary are either not pointing back at the main Intermec site, or randomly linking to a nestled product page. With the amazing amount of information Intermec releases in newsletters and articles, it is somewhat baffling to find that they are not syndicating the content through a branded blog or properly setup information site.
Digg reveals another unfavorable scenario:  Ouch. Zero results. Perhaps someone working at Intermec should Digg a few results.... or they may have tried doing that a little too often and found themselves removed from the Digg platform for spamming (I didn't check to see if it was removed for spamming.) Del.icio.us reveals that while popular is popular, it is also a strange way of losing money.  Del.icio.us has 259 mentions of Intermec. At first glance this would probably mean "success" to most corporate marketers. They have tagged content for words that could produce some relevant traffic for the business. Unfortunately a variety of suppliers (and Google) seem to be buying the traffic via the adwords campaign highlighted in red on the screenshot to the left. Intermec itself is buying the keyword "Intermec" for brand protection, paying $1.75 to $2.90 per visitor. Rather than receive "free traffic" from a social media site, Intermec is actually losing advertising budget to both del.icio.us and Google. This is a typical Google issue found on many sites that utilize the Adwords system for monetizing traffic, social media transforms from organic traffic to paid traffic. Moving away from social media sites and looking at Compete.com, we can see that Intermec has been doing a decent job this year for increasing traffic. According to open data sources, traffic is up roughly 160% since last year. The top relevant keywords sending traffic to the site are:
- intermec technologies
- rfid tags consumer products
- rfid chips
Back to my questions from the beginning of the article:
Are they doing it right? Are they doing it wrong? Are they even trying? They are trying, but missing to target the right demographic in social media. This is a general promotion issue in many marketing campaigns: the target is missing the demographic. While sites like Del.isio.us, Technorati, and Digg have massive communities, they may or may not have a niche audience that fits with your overall mission objective. Even if an article or project page was "Dugg to the Top" what results would 500k generic visitors produce? (Probably none)
When corporate social media campaigns are launched, it requires strategic mindset to analyze the available audience and choose an appropriate goal for the business. The steps to examine in launching a promotional effort with social media has a very simple core:
- Needs of the Business
- Budget and resources (labor, talent, available bandwidth, and dollars)
- Competitive Analysis (like minded information, finding sweet spots with maximum ROI)
- Understanding of the available audience
- Conversion goals of the campaign
In Intermec's case, there could be useful reasons for using Digg, Del.icio.us, or Technorati, but the benefit for a corporation in such an audience would need to focus on relevant campaigns that work within the confines of the audience. There are also additional benefits that may be a step removed, such as promoting an article or whitepaper within a community like Digg to produce a specific search engine result.
This is from an article I just wrote today on corporate social media  (my site version has pictures). The crowd here on FastCompany seems like they would get the big picture statement in it regarding social media marketing, and for those interested in reading more I would greatly check out the list of corporate campaigns mashable.com has that I mention.
If you would like to read another article on other types of information that are readily available online, read my article on Intelius , which includes financial, marketing, and brand impact information results you can find online.