Fortune 500 series: Cisco's digital everywhere

A discussion with Carlos Dominguez about Cisco embracing social media, its new-ish Eos offering, and it's potentially aggressive acquisition strategy.
Written by Jennifer Leggio, Contributor on

Cisco is a brand that is known world over. An enterprise-focused company with enough consumer goods to be a household name, the goliath company has an excessively large digital presence. All of Cisco's combined efforts make it not only digital, but unquestionably social.

I had a high level discussion with Carlos Dominguez, senior vice president in the company's office of the chairman of the board and CEO, about Cisco embracing social media both internally and externally, its new-ish Eos offering, and it's potentially aggressive acquisition strategy.

Q. [Jennifer] Cisco is everywhere, but for those who don't know, where can Cisco be "socially" found?

A. [Carlos] There are numerous ways we communicate digitally at Cisco so let’s look at corporate communications as just an example. Our PR to our analyst relations teams share corporate news and even event alerts using Cisco Twitter and Cisco Facebook.  We have a Facebook “Fan Page” where you can follow company news.  On Second Life’s Cisco Campus, we do product training and hold virtual event such as C-Scape, our analyst meeting in December where we hosted double the number of attendees vs. last year because half attended online (attendance went from 300 to 700).  And of course, we use blogs and video blogs frequently across Cisco to reach both more people and a Web-savvy audience.

We also have an internal Web site to share knowledge we call Ciscopedia. It’s the same concept as Wikipedia but focused on Cisco knowledge and contributions by the employees.  Very powerful posts and links are being contributed daily. The other day I wanted to learn about a particular product and spent two hours going through all the information that was posted.

Finally, we also know that video is an extremely powerful medium.  So we adopted the YouTube concept within Cisco and call it C-Vision. Anyone can post videos to this site, including training videos. I use it all the time both to post and learn.

Q. How does the management of these entities happen? Are they all under the marketing umbrella or farmed out to different business units? I imagine there must be some collaboration.

Each person is responsible for setting up and maintaining their blog presence but the company provides online training and support. One of the key things about leveraging these assets is that you need to set up the rules of usage and train the employees on acceptable use policy.  We have an online Cisco Communications Center of Excellence (CCOE) for our employees that encourages the use of Web 2.0 tools.  It’s a best practices site that contains everything an employee would need to start using the technology. There are now more than 7,000 internal blogs at Cisco.

Internal productivity and lead generation -->

Q. How is Cisco using social media to drive productivity internally? Drive awareness? Communicate with partners and customers?

A. Legal OnRampfor example helps new lawyers at Cisco go online to see how more seasoned lawyers handled an issue.  And I already mentioned C-Vision, our version of Cisco YouTube, allows any Cisco employee to post videos online which is a great way to share information quickly and Ciscopedia, our version of Wikipedia, lets us do a search for subject matter experts within Cisco in a few seconds.

I use WebEx, our online meeting tool, on my iTouch now so I do video conference calls using the same device I listen to my music on.  My 15 year old daughter loves this.

I post questions toTwitter for people to respond with information.  I recently asked my twitter community to give me the best examples of companies doing innovative things and I got a lot of great information.

Q. How is Cisco using social media to drive leads?

A. Our blogs raise our visibility and create a more transparent relationship with our customers, and this helps build trust. We see social media, such as blogs, as a great way to build your business and tap into the ideas and input of people using your products. Cisco also harnessed the power of the crowd through its I-Prize competition. This was aimed to uncover a new business opportunity for Cisco which would yield the company $1 billion in revenues over a five- to seven-year period. Open to entrepreneurs and innovators around the world, the competition was aimed at bringing together global teams through Cisco’s collaboration technologies.

A bit more about Eos -->

Q. Please tell me a bit more about Eos and can you name any customer using this yet (any new since CES)?

Cisco Eos is an integrated software platform that integrates features from social networking, content management and site administrationinto a single backend system that media companies can use to customize and scale experiences for their online audiences. Warner Music Group is the only public customer of Eos at this time but there are several other media companies in trial.  The first two public sites are built around two artists from Warner's Atlantic Records label, Laura Izibor and Seal Paul.

Q. When you pursue customers for Eos or even your digital communities, are you seeking net new buyers or do you cross-sell to infrastructure, security, etc.? Were these products created out of demand from existing customers or aggressive market movement?

A. We are targeting non-traditional Cisco purchase decision makers with Eos. The decision maker for this type of content platform tends to be either a chief marketing officer or a chief digital officer (someone whose job it is to turn ‘digital’ into a meaningful business for a media company). Cisco is seeking to bridge the gap between media and entertainment companies and consumers through Eos by:

  • Creating and managing online communities built around their content;
  • Delivering a new, more immersive and engaging entertainment experience to their audiences;
  • Aggregating user data and preferences across Eos-powered communities; and
  • Presenting a more personalized entertainment experience through delivery of relevant content to consumers based on interests and preferences.

Lessons, ROI and the future -->

Q. What is one lesson that Cisco has learned in its implementation of its internal programs?

A. One example is when we anticipated our employees to create around 20,000 wiki pages from Ciscopedia and they ended up creating close to a million. We loved that our employees wanted to share information each other, we were just overwhelmed with the amount of information.

Q. What is one success story, with ROI if possible?

The example I like to use is with TelePresence.  From October 2006 to April 2008 (about 18 months) as we ramped up TelePresence within Cisco, we were able to take total travel expenses down while headcount went up more than 10,000 employees.

Another example is with our Data Center team. They've captured a 'cost avoidance' figure for their marketing programs of $225,000 simply by leveraging their blog for marketing and communications vs. engaging in new, costly customer outreach programs.

Q. We're in a tough economy and there are several smaller enterprise 2.0 companies hurting. While I'm sure Cisco can't talk about specific acquisition plans, what types of technologies or companies MIGHT you consider to broaden your digital offering?

For obvious reasons, we don't comment on our merger and acquisition activity before we make a move. However, our CEO has stated that we will be aggressive with acquisitions and investments in this market. We acquired a company this week that will help us on our efforts to help buildings manage their energy use through the network, for example.

Carlos Dominguez is a Senior Vice President in Cisco’s Office of the Chairman of the Board and CEO. He advocates for the broad and creative use of technologies that are transforming how companies do business and creating distinct competitive advantages and new business models for those who adopt them. Dominguez says video, Web 2.0 applications and the increasing use of social networks, at home and at work, are at the heart of the collaboration revolution that is helping companies use the power of collective intelligence to produce revolutionary ideas for new products, better customer service and greater cost reductions.

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