Those of us in the digital arena know companies struggle with quantifying the value of their social media efforts, especially in the B2B space. So when I came across Greg Gerik’s post about 3M’s approach to their social media strategy on Google+ it piqued my interest. Impressed by the approach, I reached out to the brains behind the operation to understand which career experiences enabled him to lead this initiative.
Garrio Harrison: Lets start at the beginning. How did you get started?
Greg Gerik: I think I have always had a passion for people and technology even from a young age. I took a very unconventional career path but ultimately ended up working for a technology vendor for about 5 years. I then started working at Thomson Reuters where I built their first Reference Attorney blog and had a team of about 20 contributors helping connect the customers to the current events. Seeing how social impacted the customer experience in a very real way was inspiring. In 2010, I joined 3M and was their first consumer social lead. It seems like it was yesterday.
Garrio: What is your current role and day to day responsibilities?
Greg: That’s a difficult question to answer because our industry and my role are not suited to standard days. On any given day, you never know what can happen – and that’s the way I like it. Social is constantly changing and moving. Currently I’m the Social Media Leader for 3M. I work on the Global eTransformation team which is charged with infusing digital excellence throughout our enterprise. The Global eTransformaiton department would be the equivalent of many “Centers of Excellence” other companies have developed.
On a day to day basis, my team manages the corporate social presence but more importantly, we set the tone for enabling the enterprise with best practices, tools, technology and training. I also work across our entire department because social is not a strategy and can not be a silo. Social at 3M is just a thread in the fabric of our digital customer experience and we have to make sure it’s in the right place and woven in the right way. Whether the customer engages with us on a website, Twitter, a blog or we have to present an optimal customer experience. The other part of my role involves digital customer insights and data. More and more we have the ability to leverage information to be more relevant to our customers and learn more about what they would like to see from our products, services and company.
Garrio: What are some of the challenges and opportunities you see in the B2B social space?
Greg: I think many of the challenges in B2B are the same as B2C businesses. People are still asking the same questions about social that they did three years ago, or even five years ago. That’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate because they are usually asking the wrong questions.
It’s not about whether someone should be on Facebook or post on a particular day or time, it’s about connecting to your customers and your audience. Relationships can not be prescribed and too many businesses start with the finished social product and work backwards to justify their rationale. It all starts with listening and understanding.
B2B has huge opportunities and advantages over B2C because in many instances they are already the trusted advisor and hopefully the market / industry leader of their technology, product or service. Social engagement can enhance and augment that reputation, reinforce strong relationships and help the information and innovation flow faster throughout an organization. It also helps break down gatekeepers and barriers to information that enable sales teams to be better at maintaining a pulse on our customers, competitors and companies.
Garrio: Where do you see the industry going in the next five years?
Greg: Today, you are already seeing a separation between companies that understand how digital engagement and social can propel their business and those that are in need of help. Over the next 5 years that separation will become very evident and I fear some large companies will feel the brutal impact of their disconnected consumer.
Also, I think the connected consumer and mobile engagement will become much more evident to the point companies will need to change their organizational structures. If I had my way in my own company in 5 years, I would remove the marketing communications roles and make them relationship managers. It’s not about talking to customers, it’s about talking with customers.
Garrio: Is there a specific trend that gets you particularly excited?
Greg: Data. Information will be the currency of our future and the competitive edge companies will develop over each other. It’s very exciting to me personally because social data, again, flows through and connects a lot of the information companies already have.
Garrio: What advice would you give someone interested in an advertising career?
Greg: Think about what comes next. The advertising and marketing world is rapidly evolving and it’s critical to stay up on the current changes and maintain relevance and value to the industry. I also think it’s helpful to have basic understanding of business and business functions. I would never, and hopefully will never, hire a person that has a degree in Media Buying or Social Media. I want them to understand the fundamentals of our business and human interaction, not a tool that may or may not be around in 5-10 years. The values and functions of marketing and advertising have not changed as much as the tools and delivery methods.