by David Kirkpatrick
, Senior Reporter
AT&T has separate social media marketing teams for the consumer and B2B channels. The B2B AT&T Developer Program focuses on developers of mobile applications, and its marketing team is much smaller than the B2C side of the company.
Andrea Morton, Senior Product Marketing Manager, AT&T Developer Program, explained the marketing team faced a social media pain point. "We couldn’t get a content calendar and good consensus across the group to communicate and engage our audience directly."
The goal was to create a properly resourced social media strategy to foster an engaged community within its target audience of mobile developers.
Find out how AT&T created a social media strategy built on both a content marketing base and input from the target audience that led to 113% increase in Facebook fans, and a 136% lift in Twitter followers.
The Developer Program has been in existence since 1996, and when Morton joined the team around four years ago, social media outreach had no formal strategy and consisted of various team members tweeting and posting to Facebook on an ad hoc basis.
Step #1. Develop social media strategy with a content calendar
Morton said the two main pieces of the social media strategy were how often to post, along with what types of messages did and did not work.
The solution was to formalize social media outreach by creating a content calendar
that outlined upcoming blog posts, events and news items to be shared through Facebook and Twitter.
"We implemented a monthly calendar to figure out (the content), and plan it properly so we could communicate it in the most effective way," said Morton.
She added that refining the content calendar has become an ongoing process for the team, learning over time what messaging works best for the target audience.
One key learning was that developers did not care about the marketing messages, but readily responded to technology content that was shared and promoted through social platforms. (See Step #3. for more detail on content strategy.)
Step #2. Build an online community for social outreach
In AT&T’s case, there was an existing online community built into the website and a separate blog forum.
The challenge was AT&T was not the only community for mobile developers.
"The Developer Program struggles to be relevant in the space," explained Morton. "There is a ton of developer groups -- all of the OEMs, equipment manufacturers -- they have developer programs. We wanted to take what we had, which already had a base, and we wanted to build on it. Most of our goals are based on growth."
An example of building on the community was an API platform launched in early 2012 that coincided with an increased outreach and engagement through social media. The team watched for increased social media engagement
as one indicator of success for the launch of the new API platform.
Step #3. Continue to improve the content strategy
Morton said the initial content strategy included a large number of marketing materials because that content was the focus of the marketing team.
The team learned that its specialized audience of mobile developers had no interest in the marketing messages.
"Developers have told us over and over again that they want technical content that they can jump into, and that they don’t want the marketing ‘mumbo jumbo,’" Morton stated.
The team listened to its developer audience and now offered a variety of technical content, including:
- Technical blog posts
- Sample code on the website
- Sample apps on the website
Morton added that the team uses social media platforms to drive traffic to the developer-friendly technical content on the blog and website.
The technical content itself includes AT&T and third-party content.
The AT&T content typically focuses on upcoming product launches, but 30-40% of the content is based on AT&T partner tools.
"We definitely ask partners to promote our stuff, and we promote theirs," Morton said.
She said the early social media content strategy was heavy on marketing messages because the team was small and looking for content to push through social channels. Quite simply, marketing content was available.
Morton stated the team began to achieve more awareness into the developer ecosystem, and actively sought feedback from different sources, such as:
- Phone calls with internal and external developers
"We are asking them questions -- ‘What would help you do this better?’ Or, ‘What are we missing?’ We are always open to that feedback," said Morton.
Step #4. Encourage internal experts to provide content to share
AT&T’s internal content comes from a variety of sources, including marketing team members. However, it also involves content from the technical staff about projects they are currently working, where the content is edited before being published.
"They share the project that they are working on," said Morton. "The developers can get to know our technical guys. That’s just started because that’s what developers really want. They want to know who works on the product."
Getting internal technical experts involved in the content strategy was formalized in a "guest blog" program, where the experts actually fill out a form to become a guest blogger.
The team told the internal experts that the developer audience wanted to hear from them, and asked if they would become guest bloggers to provide that information for the community.
"We have a few extroverted developers on our team, and they love this," stated Morton. "They are like, ‘Oh, I want to do it next. I want to tell them (the community) about this.’ And, even the introverted ones are interested in it too, because they feel like they are the man behind the curtain, so this is giving them some exposure."
Step #5. Promote social media platforms in email
The calendars tie the marketing channels together.
"I have a content calendar that I manage for emails, and it goes into the social media calendar, which dictates the blogs," explained Morton.
She said the team combines all the channels into one calendar based, for the most part, around product launches or upcoming events.
The monthly email newsletter includes 10 to 20 stories, and the email body includes icons for the social media platforms
The overall goal for the email channel and social media outreach is to drive traffic to the AT&T website.
The team typically features a blog post or AT&T technical expert in each email newsletter, as well as on the online communities.
Step #6. Include social media in sales support
Morton said an important aspect of the social media strategy was engagement and feedback, and added that an internal AT&T case study found that the sales support staff was beginning to use Twitter and Facebook to communicate with customers.
She said this translates to her team because they have a service-level agreement on responding to questions. Morton added that social media is an effective venue for those responses because they can quickly respond to any questions via social platforms.
Morton stated that although this is an effective way to respond to the community, this outreach does not drive significant website traffic.
Step #7. Utilize social media at in-person events
The team hosts technical workshops for the developer community, as well as two to three "hackathons" each month.
Each in-person event is covered through social media. One, attendees can interact with the marketing and PR teams through Facebook and Twitter and receive quick answers to event-related questions.
Morton described a secondary benefit of this social outreach, "If (a developer) is not there -- let’s say they live in Denver, and we are in Miami -- they can still see what’s going on and follow us a little more closely."
She added that social media is also utilized to distribute files and other event materials both before and after the in-person event.
Morton said the team tracks the reach of its social media posts, comments, retweets and Klout score. The social media metrics are reported to the entire team on a monthly basis.
Since January 2012, the social media program has achieved:
- 113% increase in Facebook fans
- 136% increase in Twitter followers
- Klout score increased from 45 to 61
"It’s important to have a content strategy," said Morton, "which is where the calendar comes into play."
The calendar allowed the team to maintain a consistent strategy across multiple channels including social media, email and content marketing.
She continued, "We have learned from this process, and we have also learned the importance of analytics, figuring out when we first started, we were pushing out a lot of marketing content and then took some feedback, analyzed what we were sending and figured out this is not what (our audience) wants."
"We responded to their feedback, responded to what the numbers were saying, and we changed our strategy," stated Morton.
- Content calendar
- Twitter engagement
- Social media icons in email newsletter body
SourcesAT&T Developer ProgramMetia
– Email and social media strategy and management vendor for the AT&T Partner and Developer program
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