I caught the full-fledged social media bug in 2002. I was what one would call a very “heavy user”. I realized that I had to make a choice. I had to go cold turkey or turn social media into a career.
At the time I was working for a very successful British online brokerage called CMC Markets. I worked in sales at the London and Frankfurt, Germany offices. The British sales/marketing managers were very good at what they did and had proven strategies that had worked all over the world. Unfortunately, these strategies did not include social marketing.
My other problem was that social media jobs were few and far between. So, I started looking for ways to use social media at CMC Markets. With that in mind, I made social media marketing pitches to my sales manager before, during, and, after sales meetings. My manager always seemed interested but told me that the time was not right.
Business was good; however, the older larger brokerages in the space were still doing more business. To increase market share CMC started a huge marketing blitz. This included every marketing tool known to mankind, except social media. Part of the marketing plan revolved around the annual broker of the year contest. I knew that winning the broker of the year contest would produce a lot of positive energy and bring in more customers.
The broker of the year award is given to the best broker as voted on by the investors themselves. I saw a great opportunity for a social media campaign. If CMC was going to win we had to generate the most word of mouth buzz. Social media was the best way to do this. I just had to convince my sales manager. I presented my idea to my sales manager and was surprised to get approval to start a social media campaign.
At the start of my campaign I looked to see what CMC Markets was doing online? Then I looked at what I needed to do in order to win the brokerage contest on a social media level. Once I had the answer to these questions I looked at the tools and tactics available through social media and created a strategy. This strategy was based on our business goals i.e. win the competition.
The two social media tools available to me in 2002 Germany were blogging and a social media site named openBC/Open Business Club. OpenBC is now called Xing. OpenBC was the first real German language social media site and I used it to the maximum. OpenBC was not advanced like Facebook. It did not allow company pages. However, one could use OpenBC like linkedin. This allowed me to connect with loads of people and groups.
Before I started contacting customers I wrote down three ideas that illustrated CMC Markets. I hung those three ideas up by my desk. Then I opened a dialogue with customers and asked them what they thought about CMC Markets. Unfortunately, my three ideas did not match customer perception.
I increased the dialogue with customers on OpenBC about the differences in perception. The whole time I was thinking in the background that I was creating a presence for the company. I went by the 80/20 rule and only mentioned sales promotions and the broker completion in passing. I would say that they should vote in the completion or look at a new analytical trading tool. I did not tell customers directly that they should vote for CMC. I wanted the open dialogue to do that for me.
The blogging front was much different. Most of the blogging was not very positive. Bloggers would complain about the CMC Markets cost structure or problems they had had with trades. I knew that I had to carefully deal with the negatives without being too combative. I went with the rules of the three F’s. (Flood, Flight, or Fight). I would kind of hang out on a blog and get a feel for the space. Once I had a feel for the blog I would choose: Flood, Flight, or Fight.
When I would enter a blog I would look at the source of the negative thoughts and ideas. I also looked at how the negative buzz could hurt CMC Markets overall standing. If the information was damaging I would fix it by flooding the Internet with amazing positive content with a focus on search engine optimization to effectively bury negative content in blog search results.
Sometimes I had fight fire with fire. I never wanted to bully, control, or stop the conversation. I would join the conversation and move it in a better direction. I would discuss misunderstandings, admit mistakes, and demonstrate a desire to fix problems and put customers first. One trend I noticed in the fight process was that people come to your aid if you are addressing things in a professional manner.
I never actually wanted to run away from negative online conversations about CMC Markets. However, I did look at the source of the negative conversations. I would evaluate the fight/flight options. Based on my time in social media I knew that there are some people that just like to wind people up for kicks. One can typically recognize these people and ignore them. It’s okay to ignore these people. I would consider the source of the negativity. Then evaluate its potential to spread further across the social Web. Sometimes ignoring the source will allow the conversation to die. Engaging the negative could end up being a trap and prolong the conversation.
It was a very straight forward strategy. Social media marketing, like all streams of marketing, is part art and part science. All I was trying to do was develop the CMC Markets brand and communication in authentic ways. In the end, I had a direct dialogue with several thousand customers/investors. I did not have any tools to track my social media project. However, my manager was very positive about the process. She said that there had been a lot of telephone traffic in sales, CRM, and at the IT help desk. During many telephone conversations my efforts were mentioned. In additional there was a 36% increase in deposits and higher trade activity.
In the end CMC Markets won the broker competition in 2005 by 12%. The next year we used even more social media and less traditional marketing. CMC Markets won that broker competition by 18%. Even after I left CMC Markets for a fulltime social media position at Créatif Marketing the same social media tactics were used.