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Openness As Social Media Strategy

Pardot co-founder Adam Blitzer discusses turning customer conversations -- dirty laundry and all -- into keyword-rich content.

Top 20 Apps For Managing Social Media
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Top 20 Apps For Managing Social Media
Pardot co-founder Adam Blitzer went to this week's SugarCon conference for fans of SugarCRM, the open source sales and service product, to talk about a different kind of openness.

In a keynote speech, he talked about how being open about your pricing -- and even the dirty laundry of customer complaints about your products -- can work as a social media marketing strategy. "There are a lot of things you can really make open and turn to your advantage," Blitzer said in a phone interview.

"Buying has changed so much, with the prospect doing so much more work up front," Blitzer said, and if you frustrate them in their online research -- for example, by being coy about your pricing -- you're likely to lose them.

Blitzer serves as chief operating officer for Pardot, a marketing automation company that offers its software as a cloud service -- often used in conjunction with customer relationship management systems such as SugarCRM. The Pardot system itself focuses less on social media than on identifying prospects and turning them into leads through email, website, and landing page automation. So Blitzer's speech was less about Pardot's product than about how the company markets and sells it.

A lot of Pardot's success in lead generation comes down to things like how well and promptly the company responds when someone posts a question about its products in a forum or social media website, Blitzer said.

For social media monitoring, Pardot uses a relatively lightweight Mac-based program, Apparent Software's Socialite. "You don't need anything that fancy, especially for a company of our size," Blitzer said. Sure, a company like Dell that gets thousands of mentions a day needs something more enterprise scale, he said, "but Pardot gets 30 or 40." Still, his goal is to make sure the company does a good job of responding to the handful of messages each day that cry out for attention.

Blitzer sees this as a strategy companies with 200 employees or less can use to catch up with or surpass their larger competitors, by using service and support as a channel to content creation and search engine optimization. "You want to turn every support case you get into content. If your team can't answer the question with a piece of documentation, create a new piece of documentation -- and make sure you give that client credit for having identified the issue. Now you have a new piece of indexed content that's probably keyword rich, and you can also write a blog post about it. You can use it in your newsletter. Now you have three new pieces of content, and you didn't have to come up with the idea," he said.

For service and support, Pardot uses ZenDesk, "which makes it fairly easy to collect these cases and turn them into posts," Blitzer said.

This strategy of openness means being willing to accept the bad with the good, the criticism with the praise. Sometimes the tone of a comment may be along the lines of "I can't believe you don't have this feature, this is ridiculous!" -- in which case the best thing you can do is add that feature post haste because "that way it shows we really listen, we really care, instead of trying to delete it," he said. "Social media is something you can't kind of dip your toe in," Blitzer added. "If you try to manicure that garden, delete that post, that person who criticized you is just going to go post that somewhere else. So it's never sort of worth it."

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