Social Media Breakfast Madison went global on October 17 with guest speaker Brian Stokoe, Social Media Strategist for Caterpillar, Inc. Caterpillar (Cat) is well known as a leader in size, scope, and reach. With over 125,000 employees, over $60 billion in sales and revenue and 191 dealers around the globe, Cat’s customer segments and audience are as broad as they are diverse.
Brian’s job is to define the social media strategy for the entire company and work with a variety of stakeholders to define what is the right approach for reaching and interacting with its wide-ranging internal and external audience.
To manage what may seem an overwhelming task, Cat’s social media perspective is focused on three principles:
Customers are talking
Answer the social telephone
Be open & transparent
“Conversations are happening about your brand. It is essential to be aware and even more important to get involved in the discussions by participating in them. If you ignore this fact opportunities can, will and are falling through the cracks” said Brian.
Brian emphasized the necessity of joining the conversation. “It is not always comfortable, but it is better to participate, make your point and present your stance than to ignore the social phone that is ringing. If you don’t say anything, the rumor mills start churning out posts that aren’t based on facts, and that can be severely damaging to the brand.”
As part of its social media strategy, Caterpillar empowers its entire organization to be active in the social space. To protect brand consistency Brian acts as a consultant and resource to point the different groups in the right direction. “We help them plan to use the tools to support their marketing efforts, but also make sure they are aware of their responsibility to protect the brand.”
Be smart and selective
Brian’s next point was to be smart and selective. “We try to avoid the shining object syndrome.” When a new platform pops up they are very strategic in their analysis of its business value. His example was Pinterest. While it is the third fastest growing social media tool, it’s demographic of 70% female users does not fit their target audience, so Cat has opted out of it for now. “We do experiment, but scientifically is the key. We think about what we are doing with the channel and make sure we have a measurable business result.”
Impact on the Customer Experience
Cat realizes social media impacts the entire life cycle of the customer experience, from initial brand awareness to the purchase decision. “Social can influence product innovation, the effectiveness of our promotions, the reach of our experts, identify product issues, connect customers and sell for us via user reviews and ratings.”
Brian summed it up this way: “every physical activity must have a corresponding social activity.” To accomplish that goal, Cat has four areas of focus for their social media strategy. Four Pillars of Social Media Strategy
The four areas that Cat has defined as foundational for their social media strategy are:
Social Listening is done in real time with a dedicated team which evaluates every post and categorizes it so the comment gets redirected to the right subject matter expert to reply to the customer making the comment. When asked what tool they use Brian mentioned is Radian6.
One example of how they combine listening with promotion is on its “Fans Album” Facebook page. At a glance, one can see the level of dedication to the brand extends far beyond a simple purchase. Cat logo tattoos, toy collections, kids and their favorite Cat toy, and a custom painted Harley are all testimony to the depth of the relationship Cat fans have with the brand.
For thought leadership Cat utilizes blog posts by the experts behind the product. “The brand takes us far, but we knew there was great value in creating a venue for customers to have access to brand professionals.” Brian has built a pool of experts within the company to contribute articles to blogs, industry publications and online forums.
The final critical use of social is to offer customer support. Cat hosts forums as an opportunity to show the business value in purchasing a Cat product doesn’t stop at the cash register. Posts seeking opinions, requests for information or technical support for a mechanical problem are all seen as opportunities. “Social gives us the ability to engage and participate with our customers in a meaningful way by providing help and solutions” said Brian.
By listening, embracing the opportunity for conversation and providing helpful content, Brian clearly demonstrated the ability for a global brand to utilize social media as a strategic tool.
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