View From Above

Jun 24 2011   10:14AM GMT

Can Social Media Save Nokia?

Ron Miller Ron Miller Profile: Ron Miller

Nokia’s Global Digital Marketing Manager Ming Kwan spoke earlier this week at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston and outlined the company’s social media marketing vision to help sell phones running Windows Phone 7 when they emerge later this year, and perhaps revive the company in the process — but will it be enough?

As I wrote here earlier this month, Nokia is stuck in limbo waiting for those Windows cell phones later this year, so it’s running just as fast as it can to try and stay in the media spotlight.

To that end, it has dispatched employees like Kwan to speak about the company’s vision. You have to give Kwan credit, she didn’t try to sugar coat the current situation admitting the company is facing challenging times and stating outright that Nokia hasn’t been competitive in the North American market for the last few years. Of course, she would have sounded silly if she suggested otherwise.

Kwan recognizes that there is lots of valuable data both in the internal and external social streams, and the challenge is to break down the social media silos, bring information together into one place and figure out how to take meaningful action.

She said Nokia has developed three tools to help employees do this: a visualization tool to help make sense of conversations on internal social networking tools, a social command center to build an understanding about what people are saying about Nokia on external social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and yes, blogs; and finally a crowd sourcing platform where customers and interested parties can contribute ideas to improve Nokia products.

All sounds great in theory, but tools are tools and it’s really going to come down to the phones themselves and if people want to buy them. I’m a fan of using social media in this fashion, but Nokia already knows people are down on their brand right now. They can try to deal with customer problems in real time, which is certainly a worthy goal, but they can’t do much to change phones in the short term based on marketplace perception if it turns out to be negative.

Meanwhile, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was trying a little social media magic of his own this week when he “leaked” a prototype of one the company’s early Windows Phone 7 entries. He even went so far as to suggest that people should shut off their cameras in a public forum. Of course, not everyone did and it “leaked.”

If you follow the link above, you can see  a detailed demo of the phone, but beyond the design, what you’re seeing is pretty standard Window phone fare. Sure, they’ll add some Nokia-centric tools on there, but it’s hard to establish some serious differentiation in the market at this point, regardless of the OS your phone is running.

What’s clear, however, is that Nokia is doing everything it can to stay in the news and stay relevant. Elop is trying to build enthusiasm in the market and trying to use social media channels to drive that. The company is also hoping to manage customer experience with their social media tools and leverage internal knowledge hiding in internal social chatter.

Ultimately social media might not save Nokia, but it might keep the brand alive long enough for the new phones to emerge in the marketplace and let the chips fall where they may.

Photo by pro1pr on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

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