Using social media to engage with customers in new ways was another hot topic at the conference. In a session titled "The Foundation to a Successful B-to-B Social Media Strategy," marketers from Caterpillar Inc. and CDW Corp. discussed how they're elevating social media to a new level. Like many companies, Caterpillar jumped into social media four years ago with the creation of multiple sites on the usual channels but with no plan, said Kevin Espinosa, social media manager at the heavy machinery and engine manufacturer. Since then, Caterpillar has created a social strategy based on four pillars: listening, promotion, thought leadership and customer support. Espinosa developed specific plans for each of the company's operating units, established an employee training program and crafted a content strategy based on "story themes." Technology products company CDW has focused on where customers consume social information and on what devices. "The social site Spiceworks is where IT work gets done, and IT buyers access it via their desktop computers," said Lauren McCadney, senior manager-social media at CDW, during the session. "LinkedIn, however, is where our customers consume IT information, and that's primarily on laptops. On Twitter, our customers share IT information, and Facebook is where they share their personal love of IT." In a Firestarter session titled "How GE Crowdsources Innovation," Steve Liguori, executive director-global innovation and new models at General Electric Co., and Anthony Goldbloom, CEO of analytics company Kaggle Inc., talked about how they partnered on initiatives to crowdsource innovation for two GE businesses using social media and other online channels. "Crowdsourcing is really, really new in the b-to-b space," Liguori said, pointing to GE's Flight Quest and Hospital Quest crowdsourcing contests, in which GE and Kaggle presented complex data sets to analysts in the aviation and healthcare fields and offered prizes for winning algorithms that would improve experiences in the two industries. "This is not about customers or finding prospects; it's about developing brand-new products," Liguori said.
E.J. Schultz on 04.18.2014