For the past two days, I had the chance to interact with a brilliant group of professionals from some of the largest brands in the world on how they are using social media at the Corporate Social Media Summit in New York. This collection of communicators spent the last two days discussing some of the biggest questions they have and learning from one another. Unlike many other events, the event was remarkably free of self appointed social media gurus and the vast majority of attendees were from corporations themselves. As a result, there was a great willingness both to admit that no one knew everything and that many people at the event were struggling with similar challenges.
Taking a moderation role for two sessions, I had the great job of helping to bring out some of these insights and running a crowdsourced concluding session to the event where we recapped all the most significant ideas and concepts that people raised through the event. As I promised at the event, here is a summary of that recap with some interesting lessons learned and key themes that emerged from the event:
- Listening. The importance of paying attention to conversations online as a first step was reiterated by many of the speakers and one of the most interesting points that emerged was that true listening means not just listening for mentions of your brand or setting up a Google Alert for that as many companies have done. Real listening involves also listening to conversation about your industry or related topics beyond just your brand name.
- Social Media Strategy. One common complaint when it came to social media strategy was that it often seemed to center on the tools instead of looking more broadly at how it could impact the brand across multiple platforms. Having a social media strategy isn't about what you do on Facebook … that's only one piece of it. Instead, having a real business objective in mind such as converting new leads, or building awareness is important to help you create a strategy that can transcend which tools you happen to use. The second point that arose was the importance of having a strategy that can be rolled out on a subbrand basis as well as a strategy for a master brand.
- Metrics/ROI/KPIs. Understandably this was a hot topic at the event as several panelists shared their own versions of how they track success from looking at the volume and tone of conversations to counting fans, followers and friends. Regardless of the metrics, several people made the point that traditional ROI metrics may not be the best ones to use for social media. Instead, you could consider a combination of conversation analysis to demonstrate brand perception shift and harder online metrics like visits, time spent and content consumed. The other potential metric for much of social media could be an equivalency on the money that you might save by avoiding doing something that you replaced with social media.
- Employee Engagement. Having clear guidelines is the place to start when it comes to encouraging employees to share their voices through social media. Beyond these guidelines which help to set the boundaries for employees, you also need to make clear to them what they ARE allowed to talk about. Several attendees shared that putting these guiderails in can actually help encourage people to share through social media because most employees are generally more afraid of sharing too much and unknowingly crossing an unspoken line. Setting the boundaries tells employees it is ok to use social media responsibly and opens the door for your organization to start better fostering your potential employee brand advocates.
- Brand Ambassadors. Nearly every organization would love to have more consumers who are so passionate about their brand that they declare it widely and proudly online through social media. Finding and encouraging these people, however, can be quite challenging. Several brands at the summit were creating their own ambassador programs – something akin to an inside circle of influencers who are invited to have a deeper relationship with a brand typically through product trial, exclusive experiences or content creation. Noted as an ideal place to start was having a good process in place to identify these individuals and then reach out to them. In addition, having more remarkable products and telling their story better can also help to awaken the passions of and latent brand enthusiasts.
- Conversation Management. When it comes to following the oft-quoted advice of having a two way dialogue with consumers, most brands are woefully unprepared to train the right staff and put the right resources behind managing this conversation. Having a good plan for conversation management can dramatically help. One suggestion was to create a Conversation Calendar that can help editorially plan out weeks and months of what the brand will aim to focus conversation on. Additional tips included being sure to talk about a topic related to your brand often, rather than just your brand and also to use trends or trending topics as part of your conversation to capitalize on existing conversations that are already happening online. At the bottom of these recommendations was the insight several people noted on how people tend to engage with content, not necessarily brands.
- Content Creation. Often the place where brands start when it comes to thinking about social media, creating branded content is just one piece of a complex puzzle. Still, having content created by a brand can be a great way to get consumer engagement and done right can help to position a brand and have a broader impact on awareness, consideration and even purchase behaviour. The first idea mentioned in this category of content creation was along the lines of content curation – something I have written often about. Curation means taking content from across the web and bringing it together to position your brand as the one who sits above all of it. The second element of this content creation can be to amplify things your brand is already doing, such as an annual conferences or other gatherings.
- Scaling Social Media. Perhaps the most complex question of the list, scaling social media was an important discussion that came up over and over again for large brands. Noted as being key in having any effort scale was getting top level buy-in. Attendees alternated between the time honored tactic of doing first and apologizing later – and the more systematic approach of proving the value through a combination of case studies and statistics. Also important for scaling was the important step of bringing multiple silos within an organization together. Two other models that attendees shared were the "Center of Excellence" model where a core group of professionals who focus on social media spread the word throughout an organization, and the "Inside Out" model where strategy is developed centrally within an organization and then spread to regional groups for local execution.
- Innovative Ideas. The downside of having a crowdsourced conclusion session late in the afternoon on the second day of the event was that some things may have been difficult to remember. Our discussion of big innovative ideas was quickly cut short, but I did share one PR technique that I have written about in the past called mood tracking to point to the idea that influencers are now sharing how they feel in real time – which gives you insight into someone's emotional state of mind before you speak to them. This can have
a big impact when it comes to tasks like sales calls or media relations.
- Tools & Tips. Given the temptation to walk away with real tips from the conference around some very specific tools, one of our last points during the crowdsourced conclusions session was to share tips specifically on the four most frequently mentioned social media tools during the event: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and FourSquare. Below are a few tips that were shared on each:
– Integration this with all other social media properties
– Using the "Like" button off Facebook and on all other sites to allow one-click opt-in
– Get beyond the newsfeed to other areas of Facebook
– Think carefully about whether to have a Page or a Group, both have some benefits.
– Use in a more personal way than other tools because there is often a real person behind it.
– Create Twitter lists as a way to organize relevant Twitter users together and promote them.
– A third party tool such at Hootsuite can help you manage searches and conversation effectively.
– Descriptive titles and tags matter to being found
– Ideal video length is 2-3 minutes, according to Johnson & Johnson
– Allowing embedding is an important standard practice to allow your videos to travel across the web and be reposted.
– This and other location based services lend themselves far more than other challenges to real time contests, coupons, and giveaways. Working with FourSquare is possible to get custom badges created as part of a sponsorship as well. Offering event based information can also be a great idea.