'BtoB's' Leading Edge: Deploy 'attention economics' for a world of mobile, social

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New York—We are living in a social world with many ways to delight customers, said Linda Boff, global executive director-digital, advertising and design at General Electric Co., in a closing keynote address Thursday at BtoB's Leading Edge 2012 virtual trade show. The solution for b-to-b marketers is to ramp up both their mobile and social marketing efforts, she said. GE has shifted its marketing approach, Boff said, to “attention economics,” trying a variety of ways to grab customers' and prospects' attention in a “split-screen world” of multiple avenues of communications, all vying for attention. “Today we are firmly in an area where discovery through social media has become the way people are thinking about content and the Web,” Boff said. “The point is the Web is built around people and our interactions with them.” Boff cited in particular the value of Facebook in interacting with people and their stories. Boff said social media content encompasses two distinct forms at GE: “stock” and “flow.” She defined stock content as longer-form material with higher budgets, such as premium video demonstrations. Flow content is lightweight, pieces that might be considered “perishable” but which, in a steady stream, can engage customers and prompt them to share company news and information. “Engaging with customers causes them to share,” Boff said. “GE is thinking about how content will be discovered by other people.” GE's flow content has focused on “inspirational moments” in the company's history, including facts about the company's founder, Thomas Edison. GE also regularly features games and contests on its Facebook page, including Stump the Scientist, where every week people can probe the collective wisdom of GE's tech specialists. “It's a terrific way to get employees and executives involved, and realize that social is a two-way street,” Boff said. GE is also using social media as a key customer service channel, and employs staff to respond in a personal way to customer concerns. “We call it "radical transparency,' ” Boff said. “People choose time to spend with our brand—or not. We want to be relevant, sharing our love of science and technology, and also stop and thank people.” Customer collaboration is high on Boff's to-do list. “Last summer, we conducted an "energy jam' where we asked all our food and beverage customers about their toughest problems,” she said. “We asked all employees across GE Energy how to solve the problems, picked the best [answers] and brought them to our customers.” The result, she said, went beyond the value of the suggestions. Customers were impressed that GE would go to these lengths in deploying its “attention economics” program, she said.
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