Social Enterprise

Taming the chaos: Adobe's four pillars of social media strategy

Adobe tamed the chaos of managing social media inside a big company and figured out how to keep all the departments pushing in the same direction.

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Image: Adobe

Cory Edwards, head of Adobe's social media center of excellence, thinks back to a time not so long ago when social media was, perhaps, a little too "free form."

Within one company, everyone from sales, to marketing, to human resources wanted to be active in social media. The interest was a good thing, but the efforts weren't always moving in the same direction.

The need to set up guide rails for social, to make it work better to meet business goals, was part of the impetus behind the creation of the Adobe Social Media Center of Excellence.

"It lead to organizations feeling like they needed to get a handle on the way that social media was structured because it was probably a little too free form, to put it mildly, and it lead to us saying, 'We need to we need to be more formalized in our approach to social media operations,'" Edwards said.

Adobe's Social Media Center of Excellence is divided into four pillars.

The first pillar is governance and essentially covers social media policy to solidify how social is used around the brand. Instead of those unchecked, pop-up accounts from across different parts of the organization, Adobe is able to secure and standardize how its brand does social media.

That plays into the second pillar, which is enablement. Instead of cracking down, Adobe is out to train its employees on the ways they can be active on social media.

"There isn't an intent to be a big brother," Edwards said. The enablement pillar offers guidelines for using social media that protect the brand, but don't unnecessarily restrict employees. Edwards said this strategy aligns with one particular trend he's been watching - he cited the Edelman Trust Barometer, which said that people are more likely to trust regular employees than executives of any given company.

"The average employee as a result, might be more socially relevant than your CEO," Edwards said.

Part of the way Adobe "activates" its employees is through Adobe Social Shift, a series of courses launched last year for any employee who would want to take them, built on teaching how they can use social media in congress with Adobe.

The third pillar is measurement. This is the framework for handling the data insights they get from social listening and benchmarking. Edwards compared measurement on social media to an iceberg, which usually has far more mass underwater than the ice you see floating. For social, there are certain things that are very obvious to track, like numbers of followers or likes. Those are valuable stats, but he said the more valuable numbers are often the ones that are harder to see, like how exactly social affects the bottom line.

"One of the key stats that has come out of our measurement efforts, is if we look at a prospective customer and we ask the question: How much more likely does social media make that prospective customer to buy from us? We've been able to play this out and see that if we look at the purchase path of the customer, those prospects are half as likely to convert if social media does not appear in that purchase path," he said.

Having this type of information on hand also means, Edwards said, that Adobe can use that pillar to keep an eye on what's coming next. The innovation pillar is where Adobe where works with existing social networks to pilot several new technologies, features, and programs every quarter.

"Many of those are failures and some of them successes and we learn from both. I think the failures are as valuable as the successes when we're doing those pilots," he said.

Since the Adobe Social Media Center of Excellence started, Edwards said they encountered both challenges and victories. For one, scaling the employee training across a company that has many offices, some of which outside the U.S., poses logistical issues. Running training from a corporate headquarters is easier than at a remote location.

They also curtailed the impulse to create social media accounts for everything.

"What we try to teach is this idea of being social network agnostic," Edwards said, "Be less concerned about the social networks themselves and have some specific strategy for each of those networks." The important question is whether the platform will help achieve defined business goals. Adobe even poked fun at the unrestrained hype surrounding new social networks in an ad that aired during the US Open.

A couple of social media professionals get carried away with a new platform named Woo Woo. By the end of the spot the audience learns why some self control is a good idea as two characters have this exchange:

"Dude, are you still on Woo Woo?"

"No, man. My mom's on Woo Woo."

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About Erin Carson

Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.

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