Close-up with Wes Wasson, senior VP-CMO, Citrix

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Wes Wasson is senior VP-CMO at Citrix, which sells desktop and server virtualization products such as XenDesktop, XenApp and XenServer.

Citrix has embraced social media, using tools such as Facebook, Twitter and online communities to engage with customers and improve its brand

In the following interview with BtoB, Wasson talks about how companies can integrate social media into their marketing efforts.

BtoB: When did you start using social media as part of your marketing mix?

Wasson: The reality that every CMO in this industry has to face is that the instant tools are available, your employees are using them—whether you endorse them and make them a conscious part of your marketing program or not.

It was just over two years ago when I really decided to make this entire area of social media and community marketing a very deliberate part of our marketing strategy. I brought in an individual as the VP of community and solutions marketing, rolled blogging and those types of things under him and started being very proactive with the employee base and our customers about the whole range of community marketing. We have really grown since then to establish that as a much more integrated part of how we run the company and how we communicate. It's a key part of every product launch plan. It is one of those areas where you learn every day and you get better every day.

BtoB: Which specific social media tools are you using?

Wasson: We're really using just about everything out there. This comes from having people in the company that are really dedicated to this and thinking about it, and who are living on the edge.

In terms of communication, blogging, Twitter and those kinds of tools are a huge part of what we do. We have published guidelines for every employee on how to blog. Every employee's individual user ID is all it takes for them to actually post blogs. We put videos out there with information to make it easy for them to set up those types of things. Every executive and leader in the company has a Facebook account, and it's a core part of our new-hire training when we bring new employees in.

We also make extensive use of feeds, things like RSS and Twitter, to draw together things that are of interest to customers across the board. For example, if you want to find out how customers are using Citrix technologies with Oracle applications or with Windows 7, you can go on our Web site and it pulls everything related to that from all the different social media-type vehicles.

We have also used community marketing to gain a tremendous amount of leverage in doing some of the heavy lifting we had been doing ourselves and actually letting the community work for us.

BtoB: Can you give an example of how the community works for you?

Wasson: We have a program called Citrix Ready, which is a way for customers to understand all the different products and technologies they have already invested in and which ones are ready to work with Citrix.

For years, we had put a ton of money and staff into doing all the certification and testing ourselves, and after about two years of this effort, we had about 250 products certified as Citrix Ready.

About two years ago, when we started this community marketing effort, we said, “What if we turned this loose to our customers?” So we introduced a facet of Citrix Ready called Community Verified, and we made it really easy for our customers to come in and say, “I'm using this version of Citrix with this product,” provide their name and contact information, and then other customers could come in and see that, and say, “I'm using that as well and can also verify that it works.”

Within 90 days of turning it loose, we had not only the original 250 products, but over 600 products verified, with over 3,000 verifications from other users.

The real kicker is that blogs and comments from the industry were, “Isn't it great Citrix is doing this? And it's so much more credible and reliable than all the marketing fluff they were doing before.”

BtoB: How do social media efforts like this help you build your brand, and how do you measure that?

Wasson: The first thing is coming to the realization that your brand is owned by your customers. Control is an illusion, and I think the sooner we realize that and get over it, the better.

Brand is something that we can influence and shape, but the brand is owned by the customer. Social media and community marketing are the absolute personification of recognizing that and making it part of what you do and how you think.

In terms of measurement, we do everything from extensive surveys of what customers think of the brand to customer communities, where we're using social media tools to ask customers instant-feedback questions on what they think.

Especially in this new era, with more Gen Y-ers out there and more people who have grown up with the Web and social media, the companies that have the courage to be transparent and open, and let their employees share genuinely what's going on and what they think are the ones who will be most rewarded, because their brand begins to take on the characteristics of openness and honesty and trust. When it comes to brand, trust is the absolute highest quality you can achieve. The more you can embrace social media and get over a lot of the concerns and hangups, the sooner you can achieve what we're all shooting for in branding.

BtoB: How are you integrating social media into your more traditional marketing efforts?

Wasson: We are getting better and better at it. In the early days, when Citrix and others were getting used to what is possible with social media, you tended to set up these isolated rooms—“Go over here, and here's where you can use all this stuff.” Or “If you're on Facebook, here's what you can do.”

I think we are realizing more and more that this is a seamless part of the way people live now. If they're in a meeting, they'll pick up their phone; they'll e-mail; they'll IM; they'll go to Facebook; they'll flip over to SAP and do an expense report.

In terms of what we're doing, we are taking product pages on a Web site and pulling right into it feeds on what people are saying about the product in the blogosphere, or video streams from people who are shooting video on their own of how they're using the product. I think it's a really interesting integration between things that have traditionally been very controlled and very structured, but allowing you that environment to reach directly out into what the rest of the world is saying. What we've found so far is that customers respond exceptionally well to that.

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