A year ago, Xerox embarked on a campaign to establish a new brand identity, complete with a new logo, new signature and new symbol.
"We also worked on what is to be our voice, what are these personality attributes we aspire to," said Jason Bartlett, senior advertising manager. "We worked on the guidelines and changes to our brand and communicated that internally. For a decent amount of time here, we've been fighting this perception of Xerox as a copier company."
Xerox is more than that, Bartlett insists. After multiple acquisitions and new products, Xerox is a company that understands business, he said.
Yet, as part of the new initiative, marketers at Xerox knew they'd need to monitor what people were saying. The launch of the new Color Cube printer last May provided that opportunity.
"There was a lot of chatter on the Web as well as in the mainstream media," Bartlett said. "We decided we really wanted to get involved in a listening exercise and monitor the ramp-up as this product became available."
Xerox began with a small deployment of TruCast, a social media monitoring and analysis tool from Seattle-based Visible Technologies Inc. Based on the early returns, Xerox is now considering expanding its social media monitoring to the wider organization, more holistically.
It's a dilemma many organizations are grappling with as they struggle to adapt to a landscape in which customers are wresting control of conversation and brand away from corporate marketing. New tools and technology are also emerging to serve that need. While brand monitoring services have been around for years, the social nature of the Web has created an emerging technology market. Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research has recently begun tracking what it calls the Listening Platform market. Each listening platform follows three steps to create and deliver insight, according to Suresh Vittal, principal analyst with Forrester.
They provide data retrieval based on targeted keywords such as brands, products or competitors from multiple online sources. They provide data processing to run that data through data mining and text mining technologies to remove spam and irrelevant results. Many vendors also use annotation teams and human analysis. Finally, they offer insight delivery. Some provide interactive Web-based dashboards or customized reports, while more advanced platforms give marketers directives on marketing strategy, customer segmentation and customer reach.
Marketers have much to consider when they're determining how to meet their social media monitoring needs, according to Vittal.
"Figure out what your objectives for listening are," he said. "Is it market research? Market positioning, crisis communication and management, brand and reputation management? What's the business case that's driving this activity on your front? Once you're able to understand what your primary purpose is, a technology or a bunch of services, someone will need to analyze this."
Marketers shopping for a listening platform also need to determine how well vendors target the sources relevant to their industry and handle data specific to their industry, and how the platform aligns with the overall marketing strategy, Vittal added.
"Also, what media sources are relevant?" he asked. "Do you have more traditional media and little social media that matters, or is it the reverse? There are some tools that are really good in traditional media, like Dow Jones Insight. These tools also have a social media presence. Others are just social media. Visible has a strong social media analysis."
Xerox starts with listening
Xerox, like many, started small and is still establishing its listening program.
"Initially, it was myself and one other person in the business group," Bartlett said. "At launch, we looped in a couple people within corporate PR and some product managers for product itself. Actually, this little exercise was small in scope, specific to the office business group. It was a small pet project we had. What we noticed as we worked with TruCast and generated reports is we're gaining a lot more traction over the last six to eight weeks. People are asking how to get involved."
Xerox is now establishing an internal task force to determine how it wants to monitor social media moving forward and whether it needs a single listening platform. It's a broad group that includes corporate communication, corporate advertising, the vice president of the Xerox.com Web team, and a representative from each of the individual business groups.
"There may be efficiencies if we have one partner instead of each business group or region having [its] own tools -- which felt like where it was about to go," Bartlett said. "I'm not sure whether it will be one big partner [that] has people assigned to our business and a consultative element or just a tool to have people go in and monitor the raw data, or a combination of both. I have a feeling it may be the latter."
Getting engaged with social media monitoring
Once the listening program is in place, Xerox hopes to take the next step – to engagement.
"This is very similar to BI or Web analytics or those measurement-related topics you can start quantifying the value of listening, but the true value comes in applying these insights into your strategy or engaging with these influencers in your world," Vittal said.
Finding partners to help with engagement is one of the things driving Xerox's selection of a social media monitoring platform.
"Engagement is a huge area we haven't done much with," Bartlett said. "There are so many things you can do, whether it be tracking ad campaigns or understanding overall brand reputation, handling customer service or everyday word-of-mouth product announcements or dialogue. There are a number of examples where these bloggers have all this influence. Our next step is finding out who these brand ambassadors are."
Of course, before Xerox can get to engagement, it needs some guidelines in place. That's something Bartlett and his group are working on now, hoping to have them in place this summer.
"We're looking at not necessarily creating new policies, but re-reading existing policies, making sure there's language that covers social media and seeing where we need to amend," he said. "Simultaneously, we're developing guidelines for all applications, whether it's blogging, microblogging or social networks. It's kind of the 'Blogging for Dummies,' for lack of a better term."
That puts Xerox ahead of many, according to Vittal. Few companies have even established social networking policies and procedures.
"Many are winging it. We're at ground zero here," he said. "Many don't know what can happen."
The social media monitoring initiative will ultimately need to expand beyond marketing and PR as well, he added.
"Internally, organizations need to determine how we share and explain to broader interests -- to the CEO, CIO and CFO -- what's the value to brand and bottom-line revenue," Vittal said. "What do we tell rank and file on how we interact?"