Monday, April 19, 2010

The Backstory of the B2B Magazine Integrated Social Media Award Winner

Cisco was awarded the Integrated Social Media Marketing Award by B2B Magazine for the creative development and marketing of the Cisco myPlanNet game. Cisco is now in the running for the people’s choice award so please vote for us.
I am fortunate enough to work with the mastermind behind this great work – Petra Neiger and was able to interview her for some behind-the-scenes info on what was involved to pull this off. Here’s the transcript:

First tell us a little bit about what myPlanNet is and what you were trying to do?
Cisco myPlanNet is a simulation “edugame” that puts the player in the shoes of a service provider president. You can experience life as a wireline carrier, cable or mobile operator, and pick a level of difficulty and the Internet era you want to start in. From there, your challenge is to manage your business, transform your community, and guide residential and business customers into the medianet era. As you go through the game, you will need to make decisions every step of the way and every decision you make will impact your balance sheet, operations, and customer satisfaction.
What was the objective you were trying to solve that led you to creating the MyPlanNet game?
The key words here are engaging, educational and fun. The idea was to connect with our customers and network aficionados in an interactive and fun way, and allow them to experience the effects that Cisco's broad portfolio has on people’s lives. This game helps people explore how the different pieces fit together and the role Cisco has played in the evolution of the Internet over the past 25 years.
I’ve taken a look at the game and played it, the engineering behind it looks pretty complex. What was the process to develop it?
It took us 13 months to develop. We were a small team who did this project on top of our day jobs. On a high level, the process included project scoping, game architecture design, content design and creation, graphics and UE design and creation, testing, legal clearances, database creation and integration, testing, web page development, testing, marketing asset development…and did I mention testing? We tested the game many times and at every juncture to make sure all the pieces work well together and I can’t emphasize how important testing is. The other thing I want to stress is the importance of project scoping. Do spend the time to make sure you have all the details and information outlined and how one thing will lead into another. The more planning you do upfront, the easier it will be to go through the project and it will also help you stay focused. Not to mention, it will help monitor how you’re doing on budget.
If you’re interested in the detailed steps of game development, please see the embedded slides embedded above or check out the presentation here.
Focusing on the social media aspects, what did you do to promote the game and what worked or didn’t work?
When we first introduced this game in October 2009, we coupled social media with traditional media, such as banners, emails, Cisco newsletters and trade show demos. Our social media efforts were additive. After about 6 or so weeks, we pulled back on traditional media and social media moved into the driver seat. From day one, social media marketing has been used to increase awareness, and drive game downloads and interaction. Our social media strategy follows a continuous learning model based on these pillars: listen, share, engage, integrate, measure/analyze, improve.

We used a variety of different tools:

1. The landing page contains web 2.0 components such as the bookmark and share widget and live feeds from the JIVE support page.
2. We are using JIVE for online game support.
3. We shared news, tidbits, assets, etc via blogs, tweets, Facebook cross links, ads, Facebook fan page, social bookmarking, video syndication, RSS and discussion forums
4. We have promoted myPlanNet either as a standalone item or as part of a bigger initiative, such as Cisco Learning Network/Network Academy, the US broadband stimulus program, Consumer Electronics (CES) trade show, or Cisco’s 25th anniversary.
5. We are engaging with users via feedback solicitation, offering discussion forums for people to interact with other players as well Cisco technology experts, and are actively updating our fan page with socially competitive mini-games and other information.
6. In addition to the Cisco accounts, our small team also used our own personal accounts and personal relationships to help get the word out.
What worked well, top of my head…:
1. The campaign was fully integrated between traditional and social media as well within social media. This means that we had “one voice” in all of our communication channels and our messages were consistent. We had a clear call to action and made our content available in a variety of different ways. This helped increase our chances of getting noticed.
2. Our efforts caught the press’ attention and generated several articles and blog posts. Not only did these articles help raise awareness of the game, but we were also able to leverage these third-party postings (e.g., retweet, social bookmark, etc) to further promote Cisco myPlanNet.
3. Our Facebook ad drove a lot of people to our Facebook fan page.
4. The reaction to the “socially competitive mini games” on Facebook has been very positive.
Where we were challenged:
1. The team that developed this game was small. The team who were responsible for promoting this game was much smaller. Resources were definitely a challenge. It’s not just about getting the message out but it’s also about monitoring the responses or posts that come in, and then addressing them as needed on an on-going basis.
2. The question of JIVE platform vs. Facebook fan page. We monitored both of them for the first few weeks to see how people were using each and what type of audiences went where. What we found was that JIVE was more suited for online technical help. Even today, people tend to read more on this page than post. On the other hand, our Facebook fans use the “Like” and “Comment” functions quite generously but do so on more casual, light-hearted topics. We also faced some platform challenges in the beginning but we worked around them.
If you’d like, take a look at some public slides from our detailed go-to-market communication plan.
What were the results of this campaign?
As of 04/13, we had over 115,000 hits to the game landing page, about 33,000 downloads, about 130 countries and over 2,500 institutions participating, and now have over 48,000 Facebook fans. While these numbers look good, it is also important to note the additional exposure Cisco myPlanNet has received in the form of blog and press mentions by the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Broadband Census, Network World, and Computer World to name a few. Tom Grant, Ph.D., a Senior Analyst at Forrester did a podcast on Cisco myPlanNet with Stephen Liu, Chief Architect and me.
What lessons did you learn from this experience? Is there anything you would do different?
I would categorize my answers in 2 buckets: development-related and marketing-related learnings. My presentation on the “Birth and Key Takeaways from the Development of Cisco myPlanNet” highlights some things we’d like to do differently next time.
From a social media marketing perspective, I think these were the key takeaways:
1. Experiment, listen and choose your action: don’t be afraid to experiment with a post, mini game, etc., watch people’s reaction and address as or if needed.
2. Balance between engineered and organic content: have some seed content ready to go but at the same time, let the conversation naturally unfold. Monitor what people say but give them the freedom to comment. If your engineered topic doesn’t catch on, don’t force it.
3. Don’t take things personally: there will be people who may not like what you do and that’s ok. Don’t get on the defensive.
4. Social media doesn’t go away: once you’re in social media, you are in social media. So make sure that people on your team continue to monitor and stay engaged with your fans, discussion forum participants, etc. I think many organizations don’t quite realize how much time and effort it really takes to nurture your social media engagements. It’s more than writing a blog or sending a tweet. Often times, we are required to move from one thing to the next very quickly and get too busy to keep the “old” things moving along as we start working on the “new” ones. If social media is specific to a campaign and is not intended for on-going use, plan for an exit strategy at the beginning of your program.
5. Align your marketing objectives to the requirements, limitations and opportunities presented by the tool you’re looking to market: wow, this is a mouthful. But basically, what it means is that everything needs to be connected and make sense. In our case, we would have loved to do a big contest with lots of prizes et al. But, we had certain requirements and limitations that prevented us from being able to do so. It certainly would have helped with word-of-mouth advertising much sooner and faster but it was not a possibility. So we tried other avenues to achieve the same goals.
6. Be patient: social media doesn’t happen overnight. You need to put the time and effort into it to get results.

If you are interested in seeing some more ideas about how to use social media in support of your overall marketing campaign, feel free to visit my presentation “Framework: Social Media As Part of Your Overall Communication Strategy”.

If you think this case study is as awesome as I do, please cast your vote so Cisco can win the people’s choice award!

1 comment:

Addy said...

This is interesting award winning story which you have share with us. Usually B2B companies dont have these kind of story but still. Some marketing consulting firms have these kind of stories.