The Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council held an informative seminar at Communispace this morning entitled “Getting Started with Social Media — Lessons from the Front Lines.” I took notes of the comments by the four speakers and pulled out a few highlights to share:
Perry Allison (left), Vice President of Social Marketing Innovation at Eons.com talked about the value of gathering detailed feedback from a small number of people. Referring to a project that Eons conducted with Quaker Oats, she said she was initially concerned that only 80 members of the baby boomer site offered comments. “I thought Quaker wouldn’t be excited about 80 members, because this is a company that advertises on television to millions. But the brand manager was ecstatic because of the feedback and insight they were getting.”
It’s the engagement that gets clients energized, she said. “Advertising currently drives more revenue, but what gets brands most excited is engagement marketing.”
Allison offered a list of common mistakes that companies make in creating online communities: “Overloading people with information, not having a clear concept of the goals, not defining a clear value proposition, using marketing speak, and viewing the destination as a thing rather than a process.” That last point is particularly important. Markers have been taught to treat campaigns as projects with defined beginnings and ends. But customer communities, if well managed, can last for years. The value is in the process, not the deliverable.
A couple of the panelists commented on the dilemma facing mainstream media organizations today as their power is eroded by the influence of new sources.
Pam Johnston (left), Vice President of Member Experience at Gather.com, brought an interesting background to the discussion. She spent more than 15 years in television news before joining Gather, which means she understands the mainstream media mindset. The most disruptive force in social media is its ability to define new trusted sources, she said. “People are looking for a trusted source and it may not be the Boston Globe. It may be your neighbor.
“I can tell you from experience that traditional media don’t want to be a hub,” she said. “They have a top-down mentality: ‘If you want it, you have to come to my site to get it.'”
Dan Kennedy, Assistant Professor at the Northeastern School Of Journalism and author of the Media Nation blog, was even more blunt about the challenges facing mainstream media. “The question of how news organizations are going to monetize anything they’re doing is the question facing the industry right now. The Boston Globe may have the largest audience its’ ever had and it’s losing $1 million a week,” he said.
Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, offered a five-step approach to getting started with social media:
1. Start a blog. It’s a living breathing thing.
2. Create interesting content. If you do that, people will link to you.
3. Publish everywhere: Use Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and any other channel you have available.
4. Optimize for search engines. If you’ve got a good pithy title (Top 10 Tips, anyone?), then publicize it. Make it easy for people to post your content right to Twitter, Digg, Facebook and other destinations.
5. Measure it. Look at your traffic, page views, unique visitors, time spent on site. That’s how you know whether your hard work is paying off.
Sound easy? Creating remarkable content isn’t instinctive for everyone. That’s why Gather’s Johnston was dismayed when Burger King backed down last week on its audacious “Whopper Sacrifice” campaign on Facebook. The program got lots of attention for originality, even if its premise – members “unfriended” others in exchange for free hamburgers – was controversial. Burger King yanked the campaign last week over complaints that it was encouraging antisocial behavior.
“It was probably the most successful campaign Facebook has ever done,” she said. “I thought it was funny and memorable. It got people talking and those are important qualities for a memorable campaign.”
On the always popular issue of return on investment, Halligan had this to say: “Most of our customers create a LinkedIn group or Facebook page and see, on average, a 13% month-over-month growth in leads. I’d advise jumping into this. You don’t need venture backing to start a Twitter account. If you’ve got time and energy and something to say, then do it.”
Finally, Halligan got my vote for best quote with this one: “”Marketers are lions looking for elephants in the jungle. But the elephants have all left the jungle and they’re at watering holes out on the savannah. Those watering holes are called Google and Facebook and Twitter and Gather and Eons.”
So get your tail out of the jungle.