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Social Media Interview: HP’s Tac Anderson

Posted on Jan 15th, 2009
Written by Lee Odden
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    Social Media Smarts: Interview with Tac Anderson, Social Media Man of Hewlett Packard

    tac anderson

    One of the great things about the social web is the opportunity socialize offline as well as online. That is how I finally got the chance to meet Tac Anderson from HP during BlogWorldExpo.

    Tac currently leads social media activities across Hewlett Packard for both internal collaboration and external marketing. Tac is also the Entrepreneur in Residence for Highway 12 Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm, where he advises them on potential investment opportunities in the social media space. Tac blogs regularly at

    In this interview Tac talks about his role as the voice of social media at Hewlett Packard and Entrepreneur in Residence at Highway 12 Ventures. He also gives us the goods on defining, justifying, testing, measuring and recommending social media. The icing on the cake comes in the form of sage social media advice for businesses and a few resources for those that want to stay up to date on the social web. Enjoy!

    Please describe how you got involved in your current position with HP and how social media  and internet communications play into your responsibilities:

    I was actually recruited by HP back in mid 07. Some HP people had come to a luncheon I was speaking at. I was doing some consulting at the time while working on a startup with a friend that never got off the ground. They offered me an opportunity that was too good to be true and the timing worked out really well.

    I was originally hired as the Web 2.0 Strategic Lead for the LaserJet Business. Basically I worked at a worldwide level to implement Web 2.0/Social Media into the marketing organization. This included everything from implementing internal wiki’s, training product teams on using Google Alerts, RSS feeds and other tools, working with the various regions on implementing social media marketing tactics as well lending my expertise where ever I could across HP.

    Today, 2 re-orgs later I now sit in the global enterprise marketing group. I still do most of the things I did before but I’m mostly focused on the Enterprise customer and my role has been expanded to include marketing metrics.

    What’s your involvement with Highway 12 Ventures?

    To really explain my role at Highway 12 Ventures I have to step back just a bit. Highway 12 is a regionally focused VC firm. This means they only do deals in the Rocky Mountain west (ID, CO, UT, MT, OR). I live in Boise, Idaho and have been very involved in our tech and entrepreneurial community. I helped launch our first downtown incubator, I run the TechBoise blog and hold monthly tech meetups. I’ve known the guys at Highway 12 Ventures for a while now and this summer they asked me to come on as an Entrepreneur in Residence.

    It’s not the usual type of EIR role that the Silicon Valley/Alley people are used to. Because of my local involvement and that they see a lot of deals, esp out of Boulder and SLC that are Web based, I consult with them as they look at companies to invest in.  It’s “in my spare time” and I don’t get paid for it. What I get out of it is the opportunity to sit in on their partner meetings, review their deal flow with them and in general learn more about the VC business. Because of their broad geographic area and the fact that they don’t have a vertical focus I get to see a lot of fascinating companies across the area and meet all kinds of great people.

    A question I like to ask is how would you describe or define “social media” to someone who’s web savvy extends no further than email or

    I don’t really have a canned response but there are two distinctions I like to make. I used to get a lot of people ask me about the difference between Web 2.0 and social media. I explain Web 2.0 as the technologies and tools that enable social media (RSS, JAVA, blogs, wiki’s etc) and social media is the trend in online content/media/whatever that enables people to communicate with each other directly. It’s media that you help shape and influence.

    I don’t get the Web 2.0 question much anymore, I think that peaked in early 08 and I’m already seeing a lot fewer questions about social media. We’re really getting to the point, that we all knew we would, where all online content is social in some way. If it’s not now it will be in the next 2 years.

    What arguments or business case justifications have you found to be the most effective for investing time, people and other resources into marketing efforts that include social media participation? How about insights on justifying corporate blogging?

    You have to start with two things. I always used to say you had to start with one thing but my time in corporate America has taught me that it’s two things.

    The #1 thing has always been, who’s your audience. What matters to them?

    As an example if you’re trying to reach consumers then the case for blogs and social media is about reaching them where and how they interact. It’s about building trust and being open,which are all trends I’m sure your readers are more than familiar with. If your customers are CXO’s (CEO, CIO, CFO, CMO) then the reason you have a blog is because the two most influential factors to a CXO’s decision making process are the Two G’s: Google and Gartner. Google is speaking to the importance of all search and Gartner is speaking to the importance that analysts play. Blogs are great for reaching both. There’s no lower bang for your buck tactic to reach the two G’s than having a high quality blog.

    The #2 thing I’ve learned is to start with what your company is already measuring. Then look at Return on Total Investment.  How much does it cost you to do something today? Can you do it cheaper and more effectively with social media? At first don’t try and recreate your companies measurements and reporting. If they have stated KPI’s (key performance indicators) work with those. How can you use social media to impact those numbers. Once you prove that you are capable of moving certain needles then you can broaden what your measuring.

    Do you have a process or decision scheme for deciding what new shiny objects to pay attention to and what to ignore?  What are your current, favorite social tools/channels/platforms?

    Early on, it was easy, you just tried everything that came out. Now you obviously have to be more particular. I think there are two filters I have in place for deciding what new tools to try: Is it in an area I’m interested in? Is it coming from a reputable source?

    I’m not a big videophile. I don’t particularly care if there’s another YouTube like product out. I am a big mobile and publishing geek so if a new tool comes out that enables me to produce content from my phone I usually give it a look.

    I also really evaluate who told me about the service. There are some people/blogs that I count on for the good stuff. Conversely there are a lot of people/blogs that will and do talk about everything.

    What advice can you give marketers, technologists, PR, communications, customer service or marketing people at organizations thinking about incorporating social media involvement into their efforts, but are not sure where to start?

     Start by using the tools. If you’re not already on Twitter yourself, I’d be hesitant to launch a corporate Twitter account. You don’t have to be a power user or anything but be comfortable with it. I think the other thing I’d tell people is to focus on the word you used *Incorporate*. I’ve found that social media works best when it’s incorporated into your existing marketing efforts. Finally I’m still a big believer in the corporate blog. Start one if you haven’t yet and start pushing good content to it. Because there’s so much noise out there now that if you all of a sudden decide you need one, it can take 1-2 years to get your blog established. Start small but get something out there.

    You’ve written on your blog New Comm Biz about measuring the effectiveness of social media. Please share your perspectives on that and what metrics make the most impact when reporting upstream in your organization?

    One of the things I really like about this space right now is that there are no best practices. No one has a silver bullet, no one has all the answers. It’s a lot of trial and error. My best advice is fail early and fail often. You won’t know what works for your company until you try it.

    But it’s all about the metrics that your organization is already using. One of the metrics I keyed off of early on was Share of Voice (SOV). This is a measurement most PR groups use to measure the amount of penetration your company is getting in non-paid media. You of course have to be measuring this for online not just offline. Take a historical view of what your SOV is before launching a blog or other effort and then measure it after. To best impact this you need to coordinate your social media efforts with your traditional online efforts. If you have a press release going out, do a blog post on the topic and link to it in the press release.

    If you’re in a very sales focused group then it’s going to be leads (however your company defines that). Going back to what I said earlier about incorporating social media; does your sales team know how to use all the advanced search functions on LinkedIn? Does the landing site for your newest lead-gen effort have social components? Things like links to a company blog talking about the offer, a rating/feedback or share this option? Is the page mobile device optimized? If not do those things and measure the difference.

    Do you outsource any social media work and if so, do you have tips for company social media marketers regarding finding and managing consultants?

    We use agencies, mostly for tactical execution.

    The things I learned were to hire people that are already familiar with the tools and the space. I have a hard time finding agencies and consultants that have much hands on experience. At best most are all talk with no action. Having your own marketing blog does not make you an expert. Find someone with some experience.

    My other rule in working with agencies and consultants is work with someone you like. You don’t have to be best buds or hang out on the weekends but if you like the person and have a shared understanding of what’s important the output of the relationship will be so much better. Too many times there’s this tension between the client and the agency. You each have to be able to tell the other person that their idea is stupid.

    Can you share an example of how you’ve successfully employed a social media effort (large scale or a specific tactic)  and how you measured success? (marketing, ORM, branding, etc) URLs to examples are very much appreciated.

    I use an HP blog to catalog some of the campaigns we’ve done. You can see those at HP Marketing Impressions.

    One that I probably have the most measurable results from was the LaserJet blog.  It was featured in the Forrester book Groundswell for our response to early Vista issues around printing and print drivers. There are several little things we did along the way and several things we learned but this is the blog that taught me just how effective a corporate blog can be.

    There’s been a lot of talk about how “bad” corporate blogs are and how they are just re-purposed marketing material. This is largely the case but some of that’s ok. What do people expect from a corporate blog. There are good and bad ways to do it but it’s all about your goal.

    We didn’t care if everyone in the world read the blog. It’s about LaserJet printers how exciting can it be? But we did want the analysts and IT networking crowd to read it and find it useful. The analysts would read it because it’s there job, we just had to keep putting useful things in it. The IT professionals probably wouldn’t subscribe to it but we did want them to find it through search so we did a lot work around keyword optimization and linking to get the blog rated high as well as lift up deeper HP pages.

    I wrote up case study which can be found here about how we also used the blog for competitive response. When Xerox changed some pricing on a competitive technology we were able to roll out a response that some day that got picked up by the analysts and search engines. The last time I checked if you search for “Xerox solid ink” or Xerox solid ink pricing” our post is still the #2 or #3 result and that was almost about 1 1/2 years ago.

    Please share 3-4 resources for staying on top of social media marketing trends and tactics:

    Well there’s always this blog and mine. lol

    Forrester’s Groundswell book I mentioned is a must read IMHO.

    Honestly I find it difficult to find a lot of great examples out there. I think you have a lot of people that have been talking about it (but not actually doing much) for the last several years and then you have a few of us that have been fortunate enough to be doing some of this stuff but we’ve just been too busy to write about it. That’s why one of my New Years goals is to blog more about the work I’ve been doing.

    Thanks Tac!

    You can find Tac Anderson on the social web at: