5 Quick Questions with Linda Boff, Executive Director of GE DigitalRachel Herskovitz | June 29th, 2012
I don’t think we could get rid of social marketing. It has become the fabric for how we talk to people who share our passions in innovation, technology, and health.
Smart usage of Facebook along with Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, SocialCam, and increasingly LinkedIn make up the social eco-system for GE. One thing that is true for the GE brand is that the more people get to know us, the more they like us. They want to buy products, work at GE, or buy stock. I think social platforms allow us to bring forward our best selves. The average consumer can’t just walk into one of manufacturing locations, but we can invite them to virtually walk the factory floor or fly in a helicopter drone over a locomotive, and experience an aspect of GE in a rich, personal way. Social platforms have allowed us to tell our best and richest stories in a transparent and authentic way.
2) What is your recommendation for how to best use content?
Content is foundational, but it’s inextricably linked with context. You can’t just be a content factory, pushing more and more out, but you need to think about content in terms of how it’s going to relate to a particular group of enthusiasts. I love how Noah Brier (co-Founder of Percolate) talks about content circulation in two ways (1) Content flow: Lightweight content and (2) Content stock (larger investment, permanent/semi- permanent). How you determine the rhythm of these two aspects is critical.
3) What makes someone a social media expert?
One of the exciting aspects of digital is that it’s relatively new for everyone. Most “experts” have been in the space less than five years.
So what creates expertise? (1) Getting in the game- almost impossible to talk about or develop plans without using the platform/apps/etc yourself. You don’t feel it, you don’t know it. (2) Spend A LOT of time talking to people in the industry. As much as I read blogs, obsess over my twitter feed, consume knowledge, I get most of my insight and inspiration by meeting people. Startups, entrepreneurs, agencies, publishers- you need to surround yourself by people who are learning; (3) You have to have a tolerance for testing and iterating. You can’t let yourself fall in love with features or tools because if something doesn’t appeal to the user, it needs to change!
4) Do you always start with the “perfect” product?
As one of the pioneers of six sigma, GE is in the business of trust and safety, so our jet engines and healthcare products have to accomplish that. But in digital perfection can be our enemy. We strive to get the product and experience right, knowing we will need to iterate, test, and learn. It’s a journey and I’ve learned to embrace the idea of a perpetual beta!
5) How do you sell in the value of social media?
ROI is the hardest question for anyone who is struggling to justify digital activity. If you think about it, you can’t buy a jet engine made by GE online, but you also don’t buy a can of soda, so this issue is not unique to a B2B market. While the ROI question is inherent to anyone in marketing, it’s also ironic because you can measure so much more in this space than others.
At GE, we’ve moved into what feels like Phase 2. We’ve stopped talking about digital in terms of WHY and are now addressing HOW we make digital matter to our customers and their customers. We are big believers in piloting programs. If something performs well, we’ll roll it out across our businesses.
7) How does a startup work with GE?
This is something we’re asking ourselves these days. We are genuinely keen to talk and to meet with startups. What we offer startups is not just funding, but knowledge on how to bring ideas to market and how to amplify at scale.
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