Siemens PLM Does Not Get Social Media

Yesterday’s post titled “Siemens PLM Offers CAD on the Cloud – Part 1” was part of the best April Fool’s pranks that I have ever been part of. In a post titled “Best April Fool’s Day joke wiped from InterWeb by CAD giant’s complaint” Ralph Grabowski documents the horror story explaining how the prank went sour. Blake Courter, co-founder of SpaceClaim left a comment that started with “That’s terrible” to which I replied:

Yes, this whole thing could and should have ended differently. What I find odd is that CAD vendors talk about social networking and social media and how they are embracing it in different forms. What Mark tried to do was exactly that. He got some of us to blog, others to tweet, irrespective of our affiliations, so that this prank (which is exactly what it is) would look as real as possible. I did my part. Too bad Siemens does not get what social networking and social media is actually all about.

This is something that pisses me off to no end. The moment someone writes something containing the words “social media” in it, just about every PR and marketing person in just about every CAD software company starts to tweet and re-tweet about it. These articles usually have a title like “5 things to you need to know about Social Media” or “10 points to remember about Social Media” and similar sounding crap. Here is one titled “50 Ways Marketers Can use Social Media to Improve Their Marketing“. 50? Wow!! I am pretty sure this one must have been re-tweeted a million times.

The only thing that some of these PR and marketing people get about social media is the word “media”. I get the feeling that they don’t get the “social” part at all. They just cannot seem to figure out that traditional media differs from social media due to that exact word – social. Traditional media is more or less a one way street. Someone writes something and others read it. In social media someone simply starts something and others join in. There is a big difference here. And that is precisely what this whole CADVille prank was all about. Starting something and getting people to talk about it.

The whole point of social media is that the author does not do all the talking. He only starts it and others chip in. That’s the “social” part which some people just don’t get. Social media is not starting a blog and adding marketing crap to it. Social media is putting something out there and then letting others add to the content. You just cannot do that in traditional media. Take this blog for example. A recent article titled “Quick and Accurate Sketching” starting a discussion which resulted in 42 comments. Please click the link in the previous sentence and scroll right down (don’t read if you don’t have the time) just to get a sense of the point that I am trying to make. I believe reader generated content is the best content that a blog can ever have. It not only shows that people are reading what the author is writing, but it also goes to show that the content is interesting enough for readers to contribute back. It’s the readers that make a blog, not the author.

Social media is not creating a Twitter account and then re-tweeting just about every tweet you come across that contains the name of your company or product. Doing things like that is a sure shot way of getting yourself unfollowed and proclaiming to the world that you just don’t get it. Things like Twitter and Facebook are best used in PR and marketing in connecting with other people on a personal level. There is a reason why Twitter and Facebook have a “reply” feature. Because just like blogs they are a two way street.

Coming back the CADVille fiasco, lets see what some other CAD vendors did on April Fool’s day. Scott Sweeney from Kubotek USA posted an article titled “Monkey Trained to Create 3D Designs Using KeyCreator 3D Direct CAD” on the Kubotek blog. Autodesk even issued a press release on a new product called Love Maker 2011. SpaceClaim has actually (sort of) implemented my ridiculous idea of sending a tweet to @CADVilleModeler. The whole point of all this is the “social” part which some just don’t get.

The whole idea behind social media is to get people to talk about you and not for you to talk about yourself. The traditional media is good enough for that. In fact, it specializes in it. Social media is a two way street with much better traffic coming from the other side. If you find whatever it is that you are doing in your social media experiment is generating one way traffic then you are doing something horribly wrong, irrespective of whether you have been following the instructions written by the people writing the “5 or 10 or 50 things about social media” articles that you keep reading, tweeting and re-tweeting about.

The Siemens employee who started the CADVille prank was trying to do exactly that – get people to talk about his company, which is precisely what I and other bloggers did and some others tweeted in order to keep the idea of CADVille floating for as long as possible. And this was not even a marketing exercise. This was a simple and innocent April Fool’s prank, something that the whole world does and enjoys doing. Everything about CADVille was “social” in the purest form. I am badly in need for someone to explain to me why the heavens would fall down on Siemens PLM if they had let the prank run it course. Unless someone wise guy figured that the company would benefit more from all the negative publicity they are are now getting.

If there is anything that this CADVille fiasco shows, it is the fact that Siemens PLM just does not get social media. I took down my post on CADVille to save the Siemens’ employee some heat that he has been getting from his company. This post is going to stay exactly where it is.


Dora Smith from Siemens PLM had to cut short her vacation to do some damage control (see comment). For whatever it’s worth, I have put my CADVille post back online. Here is the link to Mark Burhop’s post.

  • What a wasted opportunity! And what a retarded knee-jerk response, Siemens!!!

    I thought it was a great April Fool's prank, and as Blake has shown, it actually had potential to become a really cool marketing tool. I hope SpaceClaim keeps it going and grows it…

  • Perhaps the real problem, and fear, around social media for some Corporate Media & Management is they can't control it. To take it down after posting, about their only response, is pointless when it's been “socialised” all over the web.

  • Robin,

    The words “control” and “social” do not go well with each other. The sooner companies realize that the better it will be for them.

    And yes, they didn’t think their actions through properly. Did they really expect people to sit tight after they censored their own blogger. Especially when he had gathered a bunch of people to be a part of this thing and a lot of content was already out there. There are some people who are not thinking straight in that company.

  • daveault

    I posted the following at “Blog Nauseum” before I ran across your blog today. I think that it is worth reposting here as not everyone reads the same stuff.

    Very interesting take on the fools day joke. I have to admit that it was slick enough that considering the cloud nonsense that SW is considering I had to wonder. Deelip chiming in so well gave me cause to wonder was this real or not even though it was 4-01.

    What I find even more interesting is your take on how clueless Siemens is about intereacting with the real world. I have used SE for two years now and I am an active participant both with the program and community as a volunteer at PLM World and user group level. I really like the product. But what the old timers have told me has sadly proven to be true. SE is the “best software you have never heard of” just like the subtitle said in a Cadalyst review a few years ago. No advertising and darn little effort to build an active user community and seemingly no desire to change this.

    Look at SW and their wonderfull and active support of their user community. We SE users do with envy and wonder why Siemens thinks that buyers should flock to their apps and be supportive of things like PLM World when the company who stands to benefit from increased sales does not care and proves it with lack of support or effort. Many times this issue comes up in the closed to the public SE forums and the vitriol directed towards Siemens management over this is pretty amazing.

    Why the heck do these idiots think that a Siemens titled ad will make anyone think of SE? You know when you advertise a product do so in terms that your target market will understand. When I went shopping for software I was looking at specific programs not companies. I wanted a look at SE not Siemens. And the frequency makes us sick. Every publication I pick up from “Nasa Tech Briefs” to “Desktop Engineering” has ads without fail for Inventor, PTC, and SW. And by their real names too imagine that. Then there is the scant presence on some occasions by Siemens. You have to read further to see if it is for switch gear, controllers or whatever. It's like they are to cheap to want to advertise a specific product and figure that they might as well advertise everything with their parsimonious budget. In my opinion all they succeed in doing is wasting their time.

    Clueless? How about this. You read about SW and their yearly convention. Nice crowd and lots of publicity both from motivated users and corporate spending. Now lets look at Siemens. Some years back they had their last SE only national convention. Many hundreds of enthusiastic attendees. I don't remember reading how many off hand but it was a good sized crowd. The idiots decided that it was not productive for SE to have it's own identity so they combined it all into a PLM World thing that was all of the Siemens software from FEA to CAD. I chaired every session for SE at PLM World last summer because the antipathy created by how Siemens mishandles itself with the SE user community is so great that no one else wanted to do it. SE user attendance last year was 37 people. I hope Siemens big shots read this and wince. But they know it's true cause I saw the numbers they have seen.

    There are a lot of SE users. This happens in spite of Siemens by individuals that take a comprehensive look at what is available and judge the products according to capabilities. Yes I am opinionated as I chose with money out of my pocket SE above SW Inventor etal because in my opinion it is the best buy for the money and there is nothing better than Synchronous out there for what I do. [This paragraph by the way now constitutes a better add for SE than you will see anywhere by Siemens this month.]

    I started the only new user group for SE in quite some time with the eager assistance of the folks at SE headquarters in Huntsville. At the SE level there is tremendous support for user communities and Dan Staples is a regular poster at the forums. These guys care and I can't say enough good about them as their would be no user group without them. But then their desires to develope the community and SE identity is smothered by those above them with control of the purse strings. I have had promises made to me that Helmut, you know as in top dog at Siemens world wide, has decided that they need to get behind the user community and get it going. That was last September and as far as I can see things have only degraded since that time. What the old timers have told me is true. These same promises have been made to various individuals over the years but the proof is in the pudding and today I understand their cynicism.

    “Congratulations, corporate klutzes, you have succeeded in making your company look completely clueless. Out of touch much? Duh!” You have no idea how bad it really is and how if anything this is an understatement. I believe in SE as the best product out there for the money and I spend my time in dollars to buy it and time as a volunteer to support it. I could only wish that the company that stands to profit from my efforts would do the same. I am calling you Siemens guys out, put your money where your mouth is. You want increased sales and a great user community than start acting like it and knock off the idle promises.

  • dorasmith

    Deelip, as you know from our direct messages and e-mails, I'm working to rectify this. I am on vacation this week and not around to advise. April Fool's jokes/posts can be tricky in a social media world. We should not have pulled the post or asked you to pull yours. Mark is reposting his now.

    Like many companies, we're working to “get” social media. We won't always get it right but we will keep trying.

    IMHO, Mark Burhop is one of our best ambassadors and I hope this situation doesn't hold him back from continuing to share his insight and wit.

    @daveault: Dave, thanks for your perspective on the user community. As we try to engage more of our customers and the community online, it is clear we have work to do offline. I used to be the sole employee of PLM World so I've seen this from both sides of the community. I'd like to talk with you more live about this to see what we can do to improve.

    Now, I'm going to enjoy the rest of my last day of vacation as my two toddlers are getting impatient with me. Talk to you all next week!


  • randallnewton

    Deelip, Thank you for agreeing to allow me to reprint this post in the April 16 edition of VEKTORRUM Executive Report, which will be printed and distributed at COFES.