Social media has transformed the world, from finding high school friends on Facebook to overthrowing governments with Twitter. So why is it that our industry seems to have failed to capitalize on it? After observing one great success and a few dismal failures, I offer these rules for those seeking to use social media:
1. Don’t dismiss it.
By now, everyone is aware of blogs, tweets and Facebook. But if you think it’s something that your wife does, or how the kids waste their time, that it has no place in your business, a fad that you can safely ignore… then prepare for the world to pass you by.
2. Don’t question it.
How many times have I heard “I don’t get Twitter…or Facebook..or blogging…” Guess what? It doesn’t matter if you get it. The fact is everyone is using it. It’s a fact of life. An entire generation has grown up texting, googling, living their lives on Facebook pages. It's like the air they breathe. No questions.
Maybe you think LinkedIn is better, the adult version of Facebook. That seems to be a reasonable excuse. But even LinkedIn establishes a generation gap. Kids use Facebook. Old fogeys use LinkedIn. Kinda like skis and snowboards. Remember one thing: who are your future customers?
3. Don’t misuse it.
Let’s say you are convinced of the importance of social medial. You see all the kids are all in the pool. So you jump in. Except you can’t swim. Your toupee comes off. You’re flailing.
Watching some companies trying to use social media makes me squirm. For one big CAD company, social media meant mandating employees get a Twitter account. But they had nothing to say. Twitter use lapsed into lavish praise of each others' mediocre accomplishments and of their products. The cheerleading reached a crescendo during a national user meeting with endless retweets of every lame joke the CEO made. Oh, by the way, ease up on the 'great white paper' or salesy webinar. That stuff is on your site, right. We’ll get it if we need it. Thanks.
More recently, another big CAD company abruptly declared mid-conference that all tweeting and photos were to stop… shortly after trying to impress us how media savvy, hip and online they were.
SolidWorks was the last CAD company to become successful without using social media only because back in 1995, it didn’t exist. But SolidWorks did a masterful job of using the existing media, notably print magazines and trade shows. The web seems to have left both print media and trade shows in shambles, however. Since then, no company has been able to master the the media of the day -- online media. No company has risen to the top, either. Coincidence?
Despite all initial and continued success as a market leader, SolidWorks itself finds itself with many of the same challenges as the others: trying to figure out where to go from here. Its once mighty legion of bloggers was the envy of the industry. Users and resellers by day, they pecked away on their keyboards til late at night creating volumes of dialog, tutorials, tips and tricks, etc. But now, many blogs grow cobwebs, having lost momentum and fervor. Some may write again as their annual user event approaches. One notable blogger has all but defected, often writing positively about rival products.
Autodesk – the undisputed business leader of our industry, is arguably also the leader in social media. It’s leading evangelist, Lynn Allen (aka, the Queen of CAD) has artfully combined live appearances and print articles with tweets and blog posts. Shaan Hurley, first on the blogging CAD scene with Between the Lines has continued to produce online since 2003. Then there is Scott Sheppard, a one-man PR staff who keeps all up to date on cool new products from Autodesk Labs. Kean Walmsley, Heidi Hewitt, Kate Morrical, and more… who despite working full time jobs at Autodesk are also prolific bloggers, roiling their areas of cyberspace with useful and interesting content.
Want to be successful in social media? Study Autodesk. As they are all over the Web. You can't miss them.
And spare the excuses, chief among them would be “we don’t have Autodesk resources.” Guess what? Social media participation is NOT expensive. It used to take a princely ransom to introduce and promote a product. SolidWorks spent millions. That was when guys in suits with expense accounts ruled the media, selling print ads and show booths. The new crowd works a lot cheaper. It’s just that someone has to figure out how it can all work out.