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In early 2009, Intel created its Social Media Center of Excellence to manage the semiconductor company’s growing presence in the social realm. Following a strategy it dubbed GROW (grassroots experimentation, results testing, operationalizing infrastructure, and widespread adoption) Intel has carved a path from experimentation to integration. Kathleen Malone, senior manager and social media strategist at Intel, spoke with eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson about the company’s budgeting process for social media, how the Social Media Center of Excellence operates, and the challenge of ensuring that staff resources are allocated appropriately.
eMarketer: How does Intel budget for social media marketing?
Kathleen Malone: So far, we have been pretty entrepreneurial about the way that we’ve funded social media. It really follows the organic growth of social media at Intel. Advertising on social network sites gets funded out of the paid-media budget. Content creation typically comes out of our creative development funding. The Social Media Center of Excellence has been focused on funding the training, tools and infrastructure support we require to engage in social media. We’ll continue to expand this relatively new budget line item in 2011.
eMarketer: Will you change how you are budgeting for social media next year?
Malone: Yes. It’s really exciting. Intel has been an early adopter in social media, but we haven’t funded it as well as many of us would like. We like to remind management and stakeholders that social media is not free. We don’t want to tap into our paid-media budget. We want to separate those two while driving deeper integration between paid and social media.
We anticipate new funding in 2011 in three areas: expanding tools, infrastructure and analytics, because we need to expand our ability to measure and drive insight; social network site development; and campaign activation—how we foster the bigger idea that potentially scales the social graph and geographies, increases fans and adds value and engagement to our communities.
We’d like to scale social media [globally] in 2011. We’re hoping that we secure budget to move funding into this area.
eMarketer: Does that mean that budgets are expanding?
Malone: Yes, it would be an expansion and a more defined social media budget to support scaling, more interesting and dynamic social content and our enablement goals. We’re backing this up with internal processes. We’ll be driving collaboration across teams to create more synergy across our efforts and more fully realize the potential of the social graph.
eMarketer: What does Intel’s Social Media Center of Excellence do?
Malone: The Social Media Center of Excellence is part of the marketing strategies and campaigns team. We report to Nancy Bhagat, VP of sales and marketing, and then ultimately to Deborah Conrad, our VP and chief marketing officer. Our role is to drive strategy, enablement and, to some extent, activation for social media at Intel. So we manage the guidelines and the governance, making sure that social media practitioners all around the company—both in the corporate marketing group and in the other business units—are up to speed on the latest guidelines. For example, they need to represent the fact that they are with Intel in their Twitter handles and their blogs. So we do a lot of training and education.
eMarketer: Other marketers are making a similar transition—from experimenting with social media to incorporating it into all of their marketing. How has Intel managed that transition?
Malone: We have a great model that we’ve coined that really illustrates our adoption of social media at Intel. It’s called GROW.
Our path started off very grassroots in an organic, unstructured, open-sky sort of approach, led by some passionate early pioneers. Then we started looking at results. This is also where we got our governance and guidelines put in place.
2009 and 2010 have been more about operationalizing what we do in social media and putting the infrastructure in place. As we move into 2011, we are really focused on the scaling opportunity, but also making sure that while we are doing that we are being very strategic about how we use social media. I think we need to use it at the right time and place.
eMarketer: What are the biggest challenges you face in 2011 and beyond, in order to be successful in social media and encourage additional spending?
Malone: The resource issue is a big obstacle, because social media can be time-consuming. To be successful you need to fully engage in a two-way dialogue. It’s not the same as putting a media plan together, where you are briefing an agency to complete the plan. You can do some of that in social media, but I don’t think the companies that are most successful in social media are handing off a whole lot. We believe it’s important to stay engaged firsthand.
And so I think the challenges are around having enough resources to get social media to scale. I also believe getting actionable insights and return on investment will continue to be challenging.
The full version of this interview is available here, to eMarketer Total Access clients only. Every day they have access to new interviews with digital marketing leaders and trendsetting entrepreneurs.
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