Next-Gen Community Management: How HP Tackles Social Media 2.0

May 24, 2017

As the social space evolves and becomes a key channel for businesses to interact with their customers, enterprises must focus on the interplay between social media and community management more than ever before. Gone are the days of primitive listening tools and overbearing, outbound marketing tactics. Instead, savvy marketers keep a strong pulse on customers through compelling content, advocating the brand, and building meaningful relationships with both existing clients and prospects.

In this installment of Peers on Point — LinkedIn’s exclusive interview series highlighting innovative technology marketers — we dive deeper into this topic in a conversation with HP’s Global Director of Social Media, Lauren Gerstner.

A seasoned expert and leader of HP’s social media, community management and paid social, Lauren focuses on global content management and social media for HP. Leading the way as an exemplar in content marketing, HP’s social community encompasses a large, active follower base with a social strategy that contributes heavily to HP’s overall business success. Lauren was kind enough to share her perspective on how a mature company like HP can leverage social to take marketing strategy to the next level.

Having an internal social media and content management team within HP is new, given you previously used to outsource this function. Can you explain what’s behind this transition and how it supports the integration of your marketing team?

A little over nine months ago, HP decided to move community management in-house, and as a result of that my team was born. As part of HP’s overall effort to be increasingly social and digital first, my team is focused on extracting the value of being closer to the customer in the social space. We aim to drive engagement and consideration through our marketing campaigns and through the conversations we’re having with our customers across our social landscape. Ultimately, this direct proximity to customers in social helps us generate the insights that drive more impactful marketing efforts across the organization.

My team spends every day immersed in our social channels, and our social channels are the intersection of our customers and the rest of the business – including marketing, communications, sales, support, etc. That direct line to customers in social puts us in a unique position to serve as a bridge, driving tighter integration of the voice of our customer into our marketing efforts. Through content performance reports, social listening reports, and other strategic assets we can build out for our marketing partners, we’re able to more efficiently connect what’s happening in the social space with what’s happening inside our marketing teams.   

It’s impressive to see all you’ve accomplished within the organization in less than a year. How did you manage the shift from external to internal social and community management within HP? Also, you made your own shift — from financial services to technology. What has that been like, and what have you observed since becoming a marketer in the tech industry?

I think that when an organization outsources community management, even to a strong agency partner, there is more distance between the brand and its customers. While the decision to bring operations in-house actually pre-dates my joining, I think it’s a decision that reflects HP’s commitment to owning the relationship with customers in the social space.

Was the transition easy? Not entirely. But, because it was driven by a strong desire to own the customer relationship in a more serious way, the upside outweighs the upfront challenges. This was a big move for a global brand like HP, setting up an in-house presence in so many countries in order to drive conversations at the local level. By taking community management on internally, we now have full-time resources dedicated to social…translating into stronger listening capabilities and more time to respond and engage.

Regarding my own pivot into tech, I’ve noticed that being present at the right moment within your customer’s lifecycle is the key to a successful social program, regardless of industry. Whether the conversation is about financial products or PCs and printers, the goal of social is to be present and hyper-relevant to your customer when she’s making a purchasing decision. It’s about using social to demonstrate how your product or service is value-add, how it can empower your customer to reach her individual goals. And from a community management standpoint, again, no matter the industry, it’s about being the voice of the brand for your customer and the voice of your customer within your brand.

How does HP’s organizational structure impact your social activity? What goes into incorporating HP’s key themes and messages into social conversations?

Our social team partners very closely with HP’s broader marketing organization. While our business unit marketing teams and PR team design campaigns, create content, and own the messaging, my team owns the execution and helps shape the way activations come to life in local social channels. The key is to meet our marketing and PR partners far enough upstream so that our social expertise can help impact the way campaigns are designed at the outset.

Across the board, HP as a brand stands for technology that is empowering people. Empowering people to be better creators, better communicators, better gamers, and so on. And so, as a social team, we’re working closely with marketing to ensure that social content and social activity is consistently designed to support and ladder back up to this narrative. We’re working to ensure that the key messages we want to convey to our key audience segments come to life in a hyper-relevant way in social.

What KPIs are most important to you?

KPI definition in social is a constantly evolving conversation. I’ve found this to be true at every brand I’ve had an opportunity to work for. And it’s great that it’s always evolving because we’re always trying to get closer to a measurement system that reflects what we’re trying to impact and achieve.

At the moment, my team is focused on refining our content performance and paid social metrics through our primary social CMS and measurement platform, Sprinklr. Naturally, we’re looking at awareness metrics (reach) and engagement metrics (click, shares, likes, and comments), engagement rates, and cost per engagement or cost per action. As we produce more and more video, we’re looking at cost per view and view duration to understand how engaged viewers are with our video content. When we’re trying to take customers off platform and drive them to our website, or another destination, we’re looking at how effective social posts are in terms of driving clicks or driving traffic. And where applicable, we’re looking at how effective social is at driving leads.

As part of a bigger picture, we’re trying to surface top performing content to understand what resonates with our key audience segments, and break down the why behind the posts that are outperforming and underperforming. We want to dissect and distill down where we have opportunities to replicate and where we have opportunities to improve or optimize.

There’s another realm of KPIs we track that relate more to social listening – like conversation volume, volume by geo, share of voice, sentiment, etc. – and that’s a space we’re actively looking to get more sophisticated in as we progress throughout 2017.

How do you quantify social media’s impact on higher-level business ROI at HP?

Like most social marketing organizations, we’re working to zero in on quantifying the value or impact of social on the business. And it’s an everyday measurement challenge we strive to make progress on. For now, the most tangible ROI measurement opportunity to test this out is through social posts that drive a purposeful buying journey — directing to either product pages where people can make a purchase or directly to another online retailer.

What are you focused on for the remainder of 2017?

We actually just reached our fiscal mid-year, a point in time when my team looks back to reflect on the goals we set out at the beginning of the year to not only track our progress but also ensure we have a clear path forward. As a new operation, there’s so much opportunity we still have out in front of us to capture. As we get more and more established inside the marketing organization, we’re better positioned to drive the evolution of social strategy at scale. For the remainder of the year we’re wanting to build strategic assets that keep us focused on our key social audience segments, help us prioritize our resources and efforts across social platforms, and drive content development that supports marketing priorities. We’re also working to evolve our social measurement capabilities to ensure we’re producing valuable, actionable reporting that helps our marketing partners understand how social activations are performing against objectives. And finally, we’re working on keeping a relentless focus on our priorities… and not falling into the day-to-day distractions!

Last, but not least, tell us something about you that isn’t on your LinkedIn profile?

My very first job outside of college was actually selling office supplies door-to-door in Manhattan. It was the only way I could convince my parents to let me move from Wisconsin to New York. Unfortunately, I only lasted in the job for about three days before I realized it wasn’t a good fit, so naturally I don’t have that listed on my LinkedIn profile.  

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