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ImageIn 1981, 39-year-old Michael Bloomberg lost his job as head of Information Systems at a major New York brokerage. With a severance check in hand, he formed a new company, Bloomberg LP, to provide financial information. Today, the Bloomberg LP professional service has over 300,000 subscribers distributed in over 160 countries. Not limited to its information terminal service, the company includes Bloomberg News, Bloomberg Television, radio station WBBR, various websites, and two magazines, Bloomberg Businessweek and Bloomberg Markets

Three years ago, when the company first hired Robert Harles as Global Head of Social Media to oversee its social media endeavors, it actually had a policy that prohibited employees from even using any social media. Needless to say, Harles first task on the job was to rewrite the policy.

Success Story: LinkedIn

ImageOne of the organization's early success stories with social media has been with LinkedIn. The social team worked with the emerging markets sales teams, who were struggling with out-of-date information in a prospecting database. LinkedIn was great for freshening up that information, and helping the sales person to establish contact.

With LinkedIn, the outreach is less of a cold call, and can become more of a warm lead. The sales person, if using the medium well, is networking. The added benefit for Bloomberg LP, was that while they began by seeking former clients, they increasingly found people that would introduce them to whole groups of people and institutions that they didn't even know existed. As Harles rhetorically asked, "How do you use social ... as a tool as a marketer and as a sales person to reach people that otherwise you might take a long time to reach or might never find because it's a needle in a haystack?"

Another aspect of working with LinkedIn was to simply train employees, from sales people to the C-suite, to maintain their accounts. Harles said, "When something happens, people look you up; they Google you. The first thing that's likely to pop up in 3rd or 4th rank is going to be your LinkedIn profile, which they're going to go to. If you don't have a photo and you've got typos, it's going to look really bad."

This basic, yet very systematic LinkedIn training has paid off. In just the first year, with a few sales teams across the world, the group had a substantial quantity of social leads that led to substantial sales.

Building Robust Case Studies

The success in LinkedIn has only been one of several success stories in the organization's social media efforts. Going from being a place where the use of social was actively discouraged, to a place where social now plays a key part of many endeavors, has been a process, even a journey. It's required education, a lot of back and forth, and even painful conversations that continue into the present.

Harles is optimistic: "I think we're at an interesting crossroads now where the first part of this was foundational and people kind of left us alone. The second part was the raised expectation: How do we really do something? What do we get out of it? So, we started focusing on building real use cases: sales enablement was one of those; driving traffic was another; deriving insights was a third; slowly but surely we've built up some robust case studies and now the key is how to scale. We've done a lot as a small team in a reasonable amount of time."

Harles also shares that he isn't completely satisfied. Exhibiting that characteristic attitude we frequently see in overachievers, he adds, "Things just keep accelerating at a blistering pace, particularly media. Then, we're a hybrid - not just a media company. We have a product, and we're in a regulated industry. It's a constant balancing act."

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The Big Brand Theory is an exclusive column for Social Media Today written by Ric Dragon that explores the social media strategies of big brands, both B2B and B2C. Look for the next installment next week. Logos by Jesse Wells.