Storytelling at Scale @Autodesk
Design Shapes the World
On this episode, you’ll learn from Marielle Covington and Dan Zucker how Autodesk’s social business journey is focused on storytelling at scale. The company views social as a culture and a channel to connect with designers and consumers that use Autodesk products. Autodesk is a 30 + year old software company. Based in the San Francisco area, the company makes 3d design and entertainment software, used by designers, students, hobbyists, and engineers addressing problems around the world. We’ve all used products, or driven across bridges or flown on airplanes that were designed with Autodesk software. The company has more than 7,300 employees around the world and millions of customers. I pulled this one sentence summary of the role of design in the world from the Autodesk website.
“From the buildings we live and work in to the machines that propel us forward to the products that enrich our lives, we live in a designed world.”
Background on Autodesk’s Social Business Journey
Autodesk’s marketing leadership challenged their team to shift from engaging the customer on social in an ad-hoc and experimental manner to a much more targeted and intentional manner. Notice the social business focus! So, they organized around a hub and spoke model to make the shift. At the center of their model is a small team which manages and works closely with stakeholders from different vertical areas of the company. The core team has further scaled with 300 employees as their social media council. This a volunteer group of employees who want to learn more about social media. They meet monthly to share best practices and ideas. It’s an ongoing support network where they learn from each other to help drive business outcomes through social across the company. While Autodesk has a social media policy and playbook, the council is a larger, organic organization intended to fuel ideas, and help shape their social business plans on an ongoing basis.
Governance of Social Accounts
Autodesk has more than 100 social accounts across the usual social platforms. Through good social listening they learned they had a community in Reddit, where they beefed up their presence to be where their audience is.
A Storytelling Mindset
The team very quickly recognized that customers have a strong appetite to learn about the people at Autodesk behind the products they’re using. They introduced employees through Twitter chats and live video chats available on demand on a YouTube channel. This provided an opportunity for customers to interact with employees in real time to get to know Autodesk employees. They also discovered that customers want to learn what other customers are doing with Autodesk software. So, they also broadcast customer profiles, for example, sunglass designer Marcello Martino. Customers wanted to how he used Autodesk to design his sunglasses and how he got his product to manufacturing. These live events help customers connect with other customers to learn. This approach to content creation on social channels serves to humanize the Autodesk brand.
Autodesk recognizes that current news is easily embraced by people on social media. They’ve had success with events such as May the 4th Day, by posting a designed model of one of the fighters in Star Wars. The team created a program for timely topics around the world which range from holidays to news events. Their goal is to connect social content of the event in a way that supports it through Autodesk technology. An example is the Hyper Loop, a project proposed by Elon Musk. Musk put out a challenge to create a transportation system that moves people from San Francisco to Los Angeles in a half hour. He shared a draft design and invited the public and institutions to iterate on his design. The Autodesk team embraced the opportunity and developed their own design concepts. They rendered a Loop and shared it via social channels and it gained a lot of organic visibility. They amplified this content with some paid social exposure. And, they passed it to their media team to get some earned media. The media team leveraged it into speaking opportunities as well earned press in trade and top tier magazines. The power of timely topics and an integrated approach to storytelling using an owned, earned and paid content strategy has proved very effective for storytelling at scale.
Celebrating the Customer
Storytelling at scale requires a team of people as the foundation plus the tools and technology to share the stories, and to tell the story in a different way. The stories told through social don’t have to focus on major flashy stories. They can celebrate smaller customers who deserve to be shared, sometimes even providing the chance to take over the Autodesk Twitter account to share their story as you see in the example of David Perry below.
Content Creation at Autodesk
Autodesk has made a commitment to create content that resonates with users and customers. Part of that commitment is a transition in their communication style from the typical business-to-business (B2B) to a person-to-person (P2P) style. They’re helping employees to focus on how to change the dialogue to communicate with the end user in a genuine, authentic manner. It’s an ongoing process. They’re sweating the copy details, removing the sales and marketing jargon. They have a heavy use of imagery, finding and sourcing images and using them appropriately, making sure they’re used in very compelling and relevant ways to support the Autodesk brand.
Measuring Business Outcomes
Social as a channel is used to drive awareness. It’s great for getting the news out, integrated with other news outlets. A recent product launch of a 3D printer heavily leveraged social. Autodesk Community is a global support initiative which responds to customer questions through an online community of employees and customers. This builds positive customer experiences and reduces reputation risk in the age of the connected customer. They are watching signals where social can help drive demand. It’s a work in progress. They feel, they are just scratching the surface.
In response to my “one thing” question Marielle and Dan combined to say they want to change the style of communication to become more P2P and for businesses to invest in training, tools and technology to enable the transition to better P2P communication.