Cisco engages customers with integrated social strategy

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Cisco Systems is deploying an integrated social strategy to interact with customers and prospects that is resulting in improved customer service, more engaged customers and loyal brand advocates.

“We look at four pillars within our integrated social strategy: listening, planning, engaging and measuring,” said Petra Neiger, senior manager of social media marketing at Cisco.

Neiger manages the consulting arm of Cisco's global social media organization, which provides strategic and tactical guidance on social media marketing to various teams within the company.

For the listening component, “This is not about monthly and quarterly reports,” she said. “We do real-time, active listening of social media channels to see what people are saying about Cisco.”

By monitoring conversations about the company on Facebook, Twitter, its own online communities and other social media channels, Cisco is able to uncover and resolve issues as they come up.

The planning component involves routing customer issues to the appropriate people within the company.

For example, when customers of Tandberg, a video communications company, voiced concerns on Tandberg's Facebook page about Cisco's acquisition of Tandberg last year, Cisco's social media monitoring team contacted the appropriate salespeople at Tandberg to respond to the customers and reassure them about the acquisition.

The sales reps were able to allay any concerns about the acquisition and what it would mean to Tandberg customers, and since that time, the user with the most negative comments removed them from the Tandberg Facebook page.

For the engagement piece, Cisco uses a broad array of social tools to interact with customers and prospects.

One effective program is “Cisco Channels Chat,” a regularly scheduled live video broadcast featuring often hard-to-reach Cisco executives, who talk about industry topics and answer questions from partners and customers via integration with Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels.

The program, which has had eight broadcasts to date, has received more than 50,000 live views and many more replays.

Another effective approach Cisco uses to engage customers and partners is turning them into brand ambassadors by using them to moderate and engage in social media conversations.

For example, Cisco has more than 280 ambassadors in its Cisco Networking Academy on Facebook, who help educate other users about Cisco products and industry issues.

The last piece is measurement, and Cisco uses both quantitative and qualitative analysis to measure the effectiveness of its social media programs, Neiger said.

On the quantitative side, it uses hard metrics such as page views on blogs, number of videos viewed and unique monthly visitors.

On the qualitative side, Cisco measures company sentiment, industry sentiment and other areas on social media channels.

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