Social Media Week 2011: From Silicon Roundabouts to a Silicon World

There’s many reasons and ways to use social media. In our latest installment on Social Media Week 2011, Johnson King Account Executive Rachel Phythian and Account Director Laura Mead discuss ways companies go about using social media.

Social Media Week 2011: From Silicon Roundabouts to a Silicon World

Technology companies, particularly internet-based ones, possess innate, global potential.  When a product can be accessed or downloaded via the web, the barriers-to-entry for international expansion are dramatically lowered. Or so goes the theory. In reality, availability in itself does not equal customers. Even if the product is good enough to sell itself, businesses need to attract attention to it so that people are made aware of its existence. Quite obviously, this is even more the case for non-internet companies, for hardware vendors and complex systems that require on-the-ground implementation. Yet how can businesses do this without spending a fortune on marketing?

We attended the ‘From Silicon Roundabouts to a Silicon World’ breakfast session in London which aimed to look at this issue, examining how businesses can use social media to move into new markets and build international brands.  The panel was hosted by Aleks Krotoski, tech journalist and New Media Sector Champion for UK Trade and Investment, and featured Wendy Tan White, Founder and CMO of, Mel Carson, Community Manager for Microsoft Advertising and Ash Choudhury, UK Head of Digital Marketing at Nokia.

Discussion was spread roughly across two main topics: 1) Why you should use social media and how it can help you and 2) How you should use social media. Let’s look at these themes in turn.

Why should you use social media?

Little time was devoted to the obvious benefits of social media.  After all, everyone knows by now that social media channels provide opportunities for building brand awareness and for community development, allowing users and customers to engage. More significant were the anecdotes about real experiences.  Wendy Tan White, for example, described how Moonfruit has used Twitter not only to build a community of followers and potential customers but also to attract press attention. The subsequent coverage resulted in huge SEO benefits for relevant keywords, rocketing the site from p3 to p1 of Google in both the UK and US, and providing it with an accidental but very welcome international launch pad.

Ash Choudhury debated the pros and cons of proactive versus reactive social media strategies, noting that it’s a learning process for us all and that a definite transition needs to happen within most companies, as they come to understand that these channels play a vital role.  At Nokia, he points out, this level of transparency is exciting, particularly for their R&D team.

Another key reminder was that social media is not just a marketing tool but an opportunity to build products of real value. Social gaming company Zynga, currently valued at $5.96bn on SharesPost, is a prime example of a business that has built its value entirely off the back of other social platforms.

How should you use social media?

The recurrent advice was to use social media as a listening device as well as a podium for putting across your own views. In order to get the most out of your Twitter feeds or LinkedIn groups or Facebook pages, you have to be reactive as well as proactive.  Of course the aim is ultimately to drive people back to your own web properties, to make them read your blogs and learn about your products and to turn them into a customer.  But as Mel Carson identified, that doesn’t mean you try to lock them in. Few people appreciate relentless self-promotion so it’s important to diversify your output.

As in any business endeavour, you have to know your own audience.  Ash Choudhury stated the importance of supplying your users with something they want to access, comparing social media campaigns to dinner parties.  His point was that if you’re going to invite people over, you ought to make sure that you’ve got something they like on the menu.

This metaphor extended nicely to international expansion. The tastes (and of course languages) of customers vary enormously from country to country, especially when looking at the BRIC countries. In Brazil, the most popular social network isn’t Facebook, it’s Orkut; in China, people don’t Google or Bing but do Baidu searches instead. Local knowledge is essential for any business that hopes to leverage social media for new ventures.  Recognising a global strategy is needed to drive social media overall. Mel Carson pointed out that for him personally, it’s really helped being based in London – social media isn’t just about the US, it really is global, he joked.  It’s an interesting debate, with the UK being centrally located between major time zones, we may just find it becomes the dominant force in driving social media.

So is social media enough?

All three panellists were keen to stress the positive effect that social media can have and were sufficiently experienced to recognise the difference it has made to the current technological resurgence, compared to the boom and bust days of the late nineties. But when it comes to the difference between B2B and B2C campaigns, Wendy Tan White was right to emphasise the fact that although social media is useful for building awareness, when building B2B relationships, it is no substitute for personal contact.

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