With social media engagement becoming more central to business success by the day, companies are eager for innovative ways to leverage social networking to maximum effect. The MBA students at Hult International Business School have some fresh ideas on how large enterprises can extend the use of social computing to increase brand awareness, reach more customers and create better partnerships and opportunities.
IBM collaborated with Hult professor Jeff Saperstein to provide a unique opportunity for students to rethink how multi-brand companies can tap into the full potential of social media. Saperstein, who teaches at Hult’s San Francisco campus, split his international marketing management classes into 15 project teams and asked each one to develop a comprehensive marketing plan with solutions to optimize a company’s use of social media.
The IBM social brand engagement team judged the proposals and selected one winner and three runners-up. Today we look at the ideas proposed by the winning team of Mohammed Shahzad Hussain, Eduard Moral, Navjot Singh, Brian Biehl, Vanessa Miculin and Pai-Li Lin, which went by the team name of Alcatraz 6. Tomorrow, we’ll share some exciting proposals from the runners-up.
Virtual communities, consolidated social streams
For a large multi-brand company to thrive in the social sphere, Alcatraz 6 recommends building a virtual community featuring an internal ring and an external ring that maximize use of current Web 2.0 technology and serve as a bridge to next-generation Web 3.0 social media platforms.
The internal ring would integrate and consolidate all work-related applications and social platforms into a single Web site where employees can easily share experiences through social networking.
The external ring is a social media community designed to engage a higher number of potential customers, increase brand awareness and strengthen customer relationships to a company’s products and services. Like the internal ring, the external community should consolidate all social media streams into a single Web site to maximize ease of use and engagement.
Apps, games and a central company blog
The team has several specific recommendations for large enterprises to optimize their use of social media:
- Maintain a central corporate blog to connect with existing customers, show potential customers that the company has the necessary skills to answer their needs, and get valuable feedback from a range of parties. Many large companies maintain various decentralized blogs, but a centralized one is a must.
- Develop apps and interactive games to promote the company’s brands, products and services and help reach target audiences. As an example, the team suggested that a company such as IBM could create an interactive educative game on Facebook to promote its Smarter Planet initiative. The game would provide IBM with a way to connect with a younger generation that is not aware of IBM’s role in their lives and build a relationship with them. In addition, a company could develop an app for smartphones and tablets that would notify users whenever company-related content is posted on any social media site, allowing users to stay informed about company news, announcements and events.
- Create a social media community that effectively coordinates the company’s social platforms to positively support its business strategy.
- Use social tools to identify potential customers and guide them through the products and services they may be interested in.
Millennial MBAs lead the way
Most large companies still exercise restraint when it comes to using social media, but according to Professor Saperstein, they need to break out and expand their use in compelling ways. It’s the next generation of marketing professionals — the millennial generation — that will lead the way.
“When it comes to social, right now we as teachers are being reverse mentored by our students because they know a lot more about social engagement than we do,” Saperstein said. “The social world is profoundly different than traditional marketing and customer relationship building. These MBA students live in that world, so it’s important that businesses listen to them.”