Building Your Brand on Social

an interview with
Katrina Craigwell Manager of Digital Marketing, GE Corporate

Having worked with lots of big companies over the years, I always get excited when one of them is able to do innovative marketing because frankly, I know how hard it is for them to get out of their own way.   One behemoth that has been doing innovative programs in the digital space for many years is GE.  So you can imagine my excitement when I caught up with Katrina Craigwell, Manager, Digital Marketing at GE Corporate at a recent BDI Conference. As you will see, Katrina does a great job explaining why GE is an active participant in emerging social platforms like Instagram, Tumblr, Viddy and Pinterest.

Drew: Pinterest is an interesting platform choice for a B2B brand.  Why did GE want to be there? 
We’re big advocates of experimenting with digital content, we like innovative platforms that help us tell our story to a wider audience.  We took a bit of time to think about how we’d frame our content for the Pinterest audience, but after that it was a matter of getting up quickly, and succeeding or failing fast.

Part of our challenge is to communicate the breadth of what GE does in an understandable format, for a wide audience. If you say ‘GE’s Jenbacher Gas Engine’ to someone, it’s a bit tough to visualize. If you show them this, it captures imaginations and gets people to take a look. Along with our presences on Instagram, Tumblr, Viddy and SocialCam, Pinterest was another opportunity to tell our technology story in a visual format, and reach an imaginative audience.

Drew: Is the “media the message” in this case?  Are you demonstrating that GE is innovative just by being on these new channels?
Every new channel gives us the opportunity to tell our story in a unique way, to a new audience. The GE story is very broad, from the number of industries in which we operate, to the end consumers that we impact. In digital, we have the space to tell more of that story than ever before. Innovation is about smart solutions and new ways of thinking. Not all platforms make sense for us all the time, but we challenge ourselves to evolve how we think about sharing our story, as quickly as the digital landscape evolves.

Drew:  You have a lot of boards on Pinterest.  Are some gaining more traction that others?
Our quotes from Thomas Edison are a favorite among the community, earning the highest volume of engagement per post. That board drove home the power of visualizing words. It seems like a simple concept, but it’s an important reminder and proof point that a good quote is great, but a good quote delivered visually travels well on many of these platforms.

And of course, we find most of all that frequency and consistency are key. The more regularly we pin, the more we build momentum – the same goes for our Instagram, Tumblr, Viddy, SocialCam presences and so on.

Drew:  I really like the That’s Genius! and The Archives boards—what’s the thinking behind looking backward on such a contemporary site and for a brand that wants to be recognized as innovative today?
We started with content from the archives on Instagram, and the response from the community there was incredibly enthusiastic. For us, it’s about the ability to look in all directions, and share what cutting edge science and technology was in 1900, as much as a vision of what it will be in 2100.

Drew:  “Badass Machines” is a fun and not particularly corporate name for a Pinterest board.  Was there much debate internally on this one?
Not much – we knew we were experimenting, and this was an extension. We were noticing that the more our content featured big, shiny tech, the more excited our community would get. It gave us an opportunity to geek out with people, in a way that seemed to add value. We wanted to continue to drive that experience on every platform.

Drew: You mentioned at the BDI Conference that many of these social media efforts are quite inexpensive and considered experimental within GE.  If you had to demonstrate ROI for your Pinterest activities, what metrics would you point to?
For all of our social content, we look very closely at user engagement and sharing – Likes, Repins, Comments, Follows, etc. Our goal is to better communicate the breadth and depth of what we do, and give consumers the opportunity to participate in the story as much as possible. If the content isn’t good enough to inspire a user to share it with a friend, then we haven’t quite succeeded.

Drew: One of your boards (GE Inspired Me) is based on an Instagram photo contest.  Can you talk about that contest a bit and how these two platforms work together?
At the end of 2011 we wanted to open up our Instagram feed, and add another talented Instagram user to the short list of photographers who take photos for the GE feed. The brief was pretty simple – snap a photo inspired by the way GE works in the world and tag it #GEInspiredMe. We were blown away by the submissions, that were both beautiful and filled with awesome tech.

The winner, Adam Senatori, shot at GE Aviation in Wales, and continues to work with our Aviation business – it’s been great to have his work at the GE feed. We also wanted the submissions from other participants to live on and continue to be shared, the Pinterest board was a perfect place to do that.

Drew:  Have you tried something on Pinterest that didn’t work as well as you might have hoped and if so, what where the lessons learned?
When you experiment, not everything sticks, and often times the things that do are a surprise. With experiments on any platform, we have to think hard about every single touch-point of the user experience, and make sure we’re adding value at every turn. That’s the thing that keeps me up at night – what if the user goes left and not right? What if they want to share this piece of content in a different way?

We put a lot of emphasis on not being interruptive, on opening up our brand without losing it, and on creating the most value possible for the end user. After that, it’s a matter of absorbing learnings quickly. We’ve been lucky to tap into amazing communities of science and technology enthusiasts across many different platforms who’ve become engaged in our content and part of our story.

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