Business 101: Social Media & Marketing

Warren Savage is Founder, President & CEO of IPextreme. Prior to IPextreme, Savage headed up the Synopsys DesignWare engineering organization, and prior to Synopsys, served at both Tandem Computers and Fairchild.

Today, in addition to his leadership role at IPextreme, Savage is an articulate observer of best practices in 21st century marketing, and the increasing role that social media plays in that paradigm.

In the following Business 101 interview, he addresses various issues swirling around the use of social media – issues that he understands first hand, given his past several years as a widely read blogger and a regular contributor on Twitter.

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Q – How do you define Social Media?

Warren Savage – There are several aspects. There's the Facebook type of thing, there's Twitter, and then there are blogs. These are the 3 pillars of social media today.

Q – How do you use those 3 pillars for marketing?

Warren Savage – Before answering that, we need to back up a bit. There's been a big change between the Baby Boomers and my kids – they way they think about socializing within the business environment. My generation and my parents' generation saw their work as a definition of who they are or were.

Younger people today tend to look at their work as a job, not as their entire life. They see a serious distinction between their lives and their work. They know they'll change careers quite a lot [over their lifetime], and also know there's less employer loyalty to workers, so there's far less of that social connection through work that my generation or our parents experienced.

It is my observation, that young people today identify less with what used to be thought of as the "normal way" of interacting with people at the business level.

As a result, the marketing person of the past who had a direct connection to the customer is a less appealing model to young people today. In addition, young people view the Internet as a self-service place where they can go for information.

Social media technologies play into all of this. People get information from the web, opinions about what other people are talking about, and ratings of products and companies.

From a business perspective, you need to tap into that behavior, understanding that the web provides a natural way for people to shop – not just for personal-use products, but for products used in the EDA space, as well.

In addition, there's no print media out there today that you can interface with in any kind of similar way to the web. My kids aren't reading newspapers today; they're getting their information off of their iPhone or online. Most people today want to assemble their own "newspapers" using the Internet and social media.

In that context , I see blogs as very important for defining your position, your thoughts, and your leadership in an industry – putting all of your ideas out there into the ether of the electronic world.

The way things used to be, for instance when I was at Tandem, there were a least a half dozen sales guys that I knew really well. We went to baseball games, out to lunch or dinner, and had personal relationships that were interesting. That was part of how the sales guys communicated the value they provided to me, the customer.

If I had a problem, I had a person I could talk to. And, if they did something for me to fix the problem, they might ask me to do something for them – there was an aspect of personal horse trading in the thing.

Today, I don't see people wanting to do that anymore on the business side of things. Today they say: Give me the information, and I'll do the rest through self-serve research on the web.

They don't need to know the color of the eyes of their sales person anymore. They just want the information, not a relationship.

Q – So the web is causing business relationships that are far more impersonal than the those of the Baby Boomers' generation, or their parents?

Warren Savage – That's true. Actually, all of this social media is allowing for a lot of anti-social behavior.

Q – On the other hand, were those last-generation relationship any more real? You wanted something from the sales guy, and they wanted something from you. That's pretty impersonal.

Warren Savage – Yes, but it was symbiotic, and everybody understood that when the business ended, the relationship ended. There were no illusions.

Q – What's the recipe for using social media for marketing?

Warren Savage – First, your web presence has to be as modern and top notch as possible.

Your website is the portal into who you are as a company. The product-oriented stuff – what are your products, what are the features – should be well organized, so everything's easy to find. Information your customers need should be accessible as quickly as possible.

Then, there's the other part, far away from the consumer information – all of the social media stuff, which is far away from the product information and quite separate. I see all of the blogs and Twitter on this side of the online environment. High-tech has a ways to go here, however, particularly businesses in the semiconductor space.

On the blog side, for instance, people want to see companies talking about their products in a more personal context than just a formal press release. Then over time, various personalities emerge from the blog, and people start to become interested in what that person has to say about a particular topic.

Yes, in a way – it's like the relationship we used to have with our sales guys and account managers. As a customer today, you know those people writing the blogs are biased towards saying nice things about their company, but you also look at their knowledge and perspective as experts. People who read my blog know they're going to get the IPextreme perspective, which is valuable.

There are a lot of companies doing this today, quite successfully. These blogs allow for a less corporate, and more personal point of view on business topics.

Q – The hand shake of an earlier era is now leveraged across a larger group of blog readership?

Warren Savage – Actually, that's right. Synopsys encourages Karen Bartleson to write her blog each week; it's now part of her job.

If you talk to Karen, she spends at least an hour every week writing a 500-word blog. She is open to write about anything, but most of her blogs are about standards. People respond to her blog and let her know what they're thinking about in the area of standards. They understand that she works for Synopsys, but they benefit from the conversation.

Synopsys, in fact, has set up an entire open community for people to blog about things. That's an extremely effective way of using social media, and Synopsys has done it really well.

What I've been doing is to write a column in Electronics Weekly. I write a summary of that column in my blog, and include a pointer to the whole article posted in Electronics Weekly, so I have cross-over between my readers and the Electronics Weekly readers. The result is a kind of cross-pollination between the two groups.

Q – Where does Twitter fit into all of this?

Warren Savage – At first, nobody really knew what Twitter was good for, although my kids saw it as a really interesting business tool.

Are you familiar with the Mastermind Concept? Well, I use Twitter as my Mastermind – finding people whose ideas I think are interesting. There are maybe half a dozen people who I think really have their finger on the pulse about what's going on.

They don't write in Twitter everyday, but they do point me to interesting information in a blog or article that I may not have picked up on my own. That process kind of makes me smarter – surrounding myself with these people and tapping into people a don't see every day.

Often through a Twitter post from someone who says, check out this article, I find interesting things to read. It's that kind of communication that leads to the viral spread of things and ideas.

Q – Using Twitter is in lieu of stepping into your neighbor's cubicle for a chat?

Warren Savage – Yes, Twitter is the new Water Cooler!

Q – Does that mean Twitter is where the gossip's happening?

Warren Savage – Absolutely!

Q – We read Twitter rather than People Magazine?

Warren Savage – An interesting thing about Twitter and blogs, there don't seem to be a bunch of lawyers hovering about thinking about slander and lawsuits. People tend to be a little more open, with a little more feel of authenticity.

Q – But didn't those sales guys of the earlier era have an air of authenticity, as well?

Warren Savage – Yes, the good ones certainly did. Today, all of this is still kind of a work in progress.

Q – Perhaps you can't do that much damage in 140 characters?

Warren Savage – Well, I don't know about that!

Q – Have you watched HBO's Mad Men?

Warren Savage – I think that show represents a pre-cynicism era. What we're dealing with today is a lot of cynicism, a lot of people who are wary of the marketing message.

Q – How do you maximize the authenticity and minimize the cynicism in your social media?

Warren Savage – This is definitely where blogs belong. You put your name on ideas and stick by them. In fact, I'm begging people here at IPextreme to write blogs.

They have a lot of good ideas, and it's nice to have engineers and other people in a company who can express their points of view. It helps to counter the cynicism.

Q – What's the difference between a blog and an article?

Warren Savage – I tend to write my blog more from a first-person point of view. An article is definitely more of a second or third-person thing.

But that's my style. I wrote a blog recently about Ralph Nader's idea: Unsafe at any speed. It was lengthy, and had a pretty good response – particularly because of all of the recent Toyota stuff – but it was a blog, not an article, with a personal point of view.

Q – Does IPextreme still need to publish articles?

Warren Savage – Definitely, but it's so hard to find the time, and we're a small company.

Q – Too much freedom, but too little time?

Warren Savage – Exactly!

Q – A final question about social media and marketing: Conferences. They're certainly social, but are they becoming irrelevant?

Warren Savage – Two years ago, I would have said yes, but now we might be seeing a resurgence in conferences. People need to remember, however, that conferences are about spectacle. The whole marketing machine has to be re-invented around conferences. Look at Apple World, for instance; it's about far more than just vendor exhibits.

Plus, people in Silicon Valley work so hard, it's hard to pull them out of their offices. Getting people to come to meetings and conferences is a problem; they don't want to make the time to attend.

Q – Apple today, and Microsoft in an earlier era, built conferences around their 'rock stars' – Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. But there's no one like that currently in EDA or IP, although maybe you could think about filling that role?

Warren Savage – Yeah, I've been told I've got that potential. I'll certainly think about it!

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Peggy Aycinena is Editor of EDA Confidential, a Partner in EDAMarket, and a Contributing Editor to the DAC.com Knowledge Center.