Corporate marketing must evolve from controller to enabler

Yesterday, I spoke on a panel to over 100 of Cisco’s global marketing professionals with Jennifer Jones of the famed Marketing Voices podcast, and Nancy Bhagat of Intel’s integrated marketing department. Jennifer who is known for assembling the greatest social media marketers on her podcast is now doing a great job coordinating real world panels with some of those same folks. Nancy, who has increased her integrated marketing budget 40% to online (that’s amazing!) shared a fantastic case study of how Intel is embracing customers using social media, while meeting their objectives, or learning from mistakes.

“So, who owns social media?”
One member of the Cisco global audience asked a question around the concept of social media ownership. Although he didn’t ask the following questions specifically, many corporations are having a hard time answering who manages the tools, who manages the relationships, what do you do it analyst blog, press blogs, or customers blogs, and who controls the budget and headcount.

Past: Marketing as the Controller
In the past, marketing has been much of a controller; responsible for direction one-way communications through advertising and press releases, this is how it was safe. The books Cluetrain and Naked Conversations tell this story well. During this time, there was a very thick membrane around the sides of the company that prevented employees that were not in this central group to openly talk to customers and the market. That’s all going away.

Future: Marketing as the Enabler
One of the concepts that I enjoyed from Nancy was her perspective and approach, how marketing is now an enabler. That solid communication membrane is now blurred, as adoption of social media tools (Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, are really going to drive this, esp at the younger generation) and in order to do their job, many employees must interface with others using these tools. Marketing becomes a group that enables other groups in the company through leadership, education, setting up social media workshops, and letting go a great deal of control to product teams, support, sales teams, and other client groups that will start to use these tools to communicate.

Many challenges
Of course there are some real challenges: real-world (positive and negative) conversations (two-way, not one-way) will be decentralized (most off the corporate website), so marketers need to take leadership to understand the many different community discussions and respond. Now don’t get me wrong, marketers still have power, I continue to express that the power has shifted to the participants, so in addition to enabling, marketers must participate. For some marketers this will be a challenge, but by doing this, they will become more relevant.

[To be successful, corporate marketers must shift from controlling to enabling business groups to use social media to connect with customers]

In my research, I’ve found that successful companies have at least two new roles, the Community Manager (focuses on interactions with the community) and the Social Media Strategist, who helps to work internally to drive adoption, evangelize, and prove value. More on that as I dive into that research.