Right then. In my earlier post, I had highlighted 15 queries on how semicon/VLSI firms associate with social media. Already, I have a comment from Hillol Sarkar, CEO, AgO Inc., in California. Thanks a lot, sir. Friends, please keep all those comments coming! There's no right or wrong answer!
Now, as promised, here's an honest attempt to answer some of the queries. Also, I am thankful to Karen Bartleson, senior director, Community Marketing, Synopsys, for commenting on some of my questions. Thank you for permitting me to use some of those comments.
By the way, Karen is speaking today evening at an EDAC panel discussion aptly titled: Does Social Media Reach the Engineers You Want or Waste Your Time? It has been organized by the EDA Consortium (EDAC) at Doubletree Hotel, San Jose, California. So, if you are somewhere nearby, do listen to what Karen and other panelists have to say. It shoudl be fun! ;)
Let me also indulge in some shameless promotion for a moment! Hey Karen, please don't forget to mention me and these posts, in case you see this! ;)
Now, to address those queries! Please bear with me everyone, as this is quite a long post!
How are firms using social media?
First, how are semicon/VLSI firms using the social media to build communities? Are such firms adopting social media strategies? What’s the success rate?
Well, some PR folks do chat up with me regarding social media activities. Sometimes, we discuss strategy. There is also some effort on part of certain companies. So, there has to be some strategy. However, am not quite certain of the success rate.
According to Karen Bartleson, Synopsys (an EDA company) is building communities via blogs. (it has thousands of readers globally) forums such as VMM Central (people can ask and answer questions about verification), LinkedIn (the SNUG group - owned by a user - has more than a thousand members), and the Facebook page (which has hundreds of fans and is growing fast - the emphasis is on people and events, not product announcements), and Twitter. Quite interesting.
Next, is the social media really helping reach out to design engineers?
As per an industry friend, social media offers additional channels to engage with engineers beyond the traditional ones. I'm not quite certain whether firms are using Twitter or Facebook to hire, but LinkedIn presents a strong case. I believe, the success ratio there is good.
Web traffic from social media
How much of web traffic to sites is generally referred to by social media? (Web trends analysis suggest otherwise, as do site ranks).
Some say that Web 2.0 'is' social media. However, Google seems to remain and is still the big referrer. Since social channels aren't driving the most traffic today, does "not" mean that the trends won't change.
Karen adds: "As engineers use social media more to connect with each other, they will likely become the top referrers because they trust each other. There's an interesting interview on 60 Minutes from a couple of years ago in which Charlene Li describes why Facebook could overtake Google." Worth a re-look!
Significantly, only leading brands (in semicon/VLSI) rank high on traffic, while the ‘not-so-well known brands’ don’t have high traffic, nor is there any strong presence (or effort) to boost visibility via social media. Why is it so?
Obviously, the leading brands have built up their 'Google juice' over time -- either intentionally or accidentally -- so they easily outrank the lesser well known brands. They also likely invest in keeping their rank high, while smaller firms don't apply resources to their online rank.
Here's some food for thought! Smaller firms, especially, those in India, probably need to rethink their web and social media strategies. First, they need to re-do or re-look their web sites, and add lot of relevant content, in order to build traffic. Once, that's achieved, they can move to social media strategy. Not to worry, help is right here! ;)
Role of social media managers
Now, does it indicate that social media managers focus more on ‘boosting’ social media activities for only the large, well known firms? Well, is it a lot easier to popularize large companies? Is the pay better? Or, can’t the others afford to pay for such services?
Here, Karen says: "It's that the large firms hire their own social media managers and consultants. Plus, the large firms spend time engaging with others through new media channels. It's self-fulfilling -- the more they engage, the more they are boosted. Yet, the smaller firms could benefit if they recognized the value of social media activities and invested in them."
Okay, I'd agree with that point! Smaller firms definitely need to spend some time on improving their social media activities, along with the websites, as mentioned earlier.
Building a community seems easier said than done with social media. Well, has it impacted sales for such large firms? I have yet to see a quarterly report state — $2 million sales were generated via leads from Twitter!
Certainly, one doesn't simply decide to build a community and it magically appears!
When I started this blog, I'd hoped to build a community around it. It has taken its own time! So, do not expect folks to appear out of nowhere on to your website or social media page, unless some effort is put in to attract them -- either by way of outstanding content or adding links on social media sites.
Whether social media activities impacted sales of semicon/VLSI firms is not clear! However, can one say that traditional media has impacted sales? For instance, did your latest press release generate a sale? Did your whitepaper published in a trade journal or blog bring in a new customer? Shouldn't that be your aim?
According to Karen Bartleson, what's great about new media is that it can be tracked better than traditional media. "Because social media is here to stay, wise firms will use it to engage with customers, which ultimately leads to brand loyalty and sales."
Corporate blogs and topic experts
There are lots of corporate blogs — and most of them ‘seem’ to be doing well, as long as those are written by someone currently working in those firms. When the person (s) move — either the blogs are ‘lost’ OR the person’s own blog does not seem to attract much attention. Why so? Again — the issue of brand attachment comes into play. Perhaps, yes!
You may or may not agree entirely, here. The topic -- not only the blogger -- does well. I'd say, the content! Ultimately, its what you write that brings in the folks!
For instance, Synopsys' analog design blog continues to get hits on posts from quite a while ago even though the blog has new authors. The topic is still of interest - and Google can find it - long after a change in authorship. It's what's called 'a long tail'.
Karen notes: "If a person moves on, but hasn't branded himself/herself as a topic expert, then yes, they can lose their audience. However, if they've made a name for themselves, their audience will follow them."
I quite agree! As a technology journalist, I take great pride in my network and cherish all of my friends who have followed me for so long. Sometimes, they even ask in a friendly manner-- aren't you tired of writing so many articles? :)
The answer is: NEVER! Every day, I discover something new! Each day, some new technology seems to appear. Or, something new gets added, somewhere. It is so fast paced -- you just have to find a way to keep up with it. Once you can do that, you could become a topic expert. Your audience is sure to follow you!
Role of the brand
Another point I raised was: how important is the role of a ‘brand’ in social media? What if the brand is not well known? Will it do well? If not, are enough efforts being made with regard to the branding exercise? Or is it a case of: What’s visible, sells (Jo dikhta hai wo bikta hai)!
Well, brand does play a key role. If a brand isn't well known, some marketing or publicity needs to be done to provide visibility. For instance, you cannot sit back after developing some software or an IC design, hoping that others will visit your site, unless you've made the effort to reach out to them. You got to be visible to everyone, or well, to those who matter!
Coming back to blogs, on the contrary, good blogs written by folks working for the not-so-well known semicon/VLSI firms do not attract that much attention! Why is it so? Is it that such folks are poor writers, or they don’t know their subject?
As I've mentioned, it is all about what you write and for whom you have written it! Really, it is all about content and visibility. A blog has to provide valuable information, or be very entertaining. The author probably has to use techniques to make sure his/her good content is found. Here, some social media activity may help getting you traffic.
Popular sites -- the big 3
Now, on to some popular social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, also called, the 'Big 3'!
First, how is Twitter really helping semicon/VLSI firms push sales? Are there visible figures any company can present? Why aren’t they presenting such figures in the first place, if they are indeed available? I have yet to see a quarterly report state something like — ‘$2 million sales came via leads from Twitter’!
Well, I haven't really seen any figures for Twitter or other new media channels on generating sales. Nor have I seen any figures for traditional press releases, mass mailings, email blasts, etc. How one measures how much of one's marketing program pushes sales is not much different for traditional vs. new media. Except that new media is a lot easier to measure.
The same goes for Facebook! What’s the key goal for semicon/VLSI firms who put up their pages on Facebook and other such sites? Traffic? Business? Leads? Or, is it just some number of people who click on a ‘Like’ button?
According to Karen Bartleson, "The goal of my company is to engage with our customers through additional channels that augment the existing ones." Seems as though the goal of some of the other companies seems to be to shove old media down customers' throats on social channels. That's not going to help!
Also, I am not really sure what I am going to really like by clicking on the 'Like' button on a Facebook page. Actually, I won't even click! I get so many of these requests, but what's the use? Unless, you are using that page for some really earth-shattering or new stuff, how do you think you can improve your visibility? You could have over 10,000 users clicking 'Like'. After that, what? What do they do, sitting there?
If it is adding to 10,000+ hits daily on to your website, that makes sense. If it is translating into some sales inquiries, that makes some sense. So, what are you doing about it?
Do you need press and PR?
If social media is really so good, why do firms need the press and all that PR? They can simply put up article links for others to read. By the way, I won’t be clicking on any of those links as I prefer the website or magazine! ;)
Karen opines: "New media is evolving and so is PR. The jury is still out as to what the future will hold. And, companies are trying to get their arms around how to best use social media for business. Some are doing better at it than others. There continues to be value for the press to aggregate all the information out there. PR is still widely accepted - and required in some cases, such as legal statements. The newspaper has survived a long, long time after television news was created."
The printed word still stands strong, isn't it? All media houses offer digital versions of magazines and newspapers. Now, you have e-readers too, so even better! For now! Social media is still evolving, remember?
Some more on the Big 3
I also mentioned that LinkedIn seems to stand out as far as professional networking is concerned. Is there an alternative?
First, LinkedIn has managed to stay clear as a neat, professional networking site. There are well represented indusrty bodies and groups, and you can make new quite contacts easily. HR managers and others don't hesitate to post jobs as they know, they can probably land very good candidates. So, that's trust and credibility. This hasn't happened over time!
Karen adds: "LinkedIn seems to have a more professional reputation in our industry as it started without photos of people's kids and funny videos. There are a bazillion (I counted them) alternatives and more are popping up all the time. I think the "Big 3": LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, will become the most prevalent for their respective strengths. For tight knit, smaller communities, some alternatives might be used, but for broad use, the Big 3 will be the most used. Personally, I don't need yet-another-social-channel to manage!"
In fact, like most of you, I've been a LinkedIn user for quite some time now. It has helped me expand my professional network and work.
I joined Facebook by accident, as a friend wanted me to join. I only visit there to wish friends on birthdays and to get telephone numbers. Once or twice, I posted links, and found few readers. Thereafter, I stopped. Why bug people?
Twitter -- I joined really late, and well after I'd won my awards. People used to ask me whether I had joined Twitter and how many followers I had. I used to say and continue to say: "I have few followers, actually, only those who'd read semicon and solar, would follow me. The rest won't be interested in me! I don't know what I'll do with Twitter." Well, I still don't know what I should do with it! :)
Should you join a page?
I also find that some firms send out invites stating – please join our Twitter, or Facebook page! What’s the intention? I ask this question when I get such invites — what will I gain by joining a particular feed or page? At least, I know what I need to know about the company. Okay, will they pay me for joining – then I may consider. ;)
Karen says: "Generally, firms are hoping to build a community by sending out invites. However, unless they provide people with something of value - such as information that's not obtainable elsewhere or money ;) - their followers and fans won't pay much attention! If they only do it because they think they should, they won't have much success."
Why get bloggers for free?
Also, why do some firms invite bloggers to join a blogging community? What will the blogger gain? Recognition? He/she already has it — hence, the invite. Will the blogger be paid? ;) Hey, this is my main message -- bloggers are available, please pay them!
I also receive multiple invites to join some blogging site or community for free. I reject all of them. That's a commercial exercise, so why do you want me there for free?
Firms that are media focused, also ask bloggers to join their community (such as the low power, embedded systems and system level communities. The blogger can potentially gain a larger audience and advance their reputation even more (i.e., brand themselves). To my knowledge the blogger isn't paid - especially if they are already employed by a company.
Done! Whew... that was quite a long exercise!
Why doesn't EDAC invite me to speak? It should!
Also, is ISA listening? There's lots to talk, especially for Indian firms in the semicon/VLSI space! :)