Trip Report: Three Views of How Social Media Can Work

Amber and I recently attended a Corporate Leaders Breakfast organized by California Lutheran University centered on the hot topic, "Embracing Social Media for Business."

The panel of social media experts came from three different marketing scenarios: a web-based business, a social media agency and a large corporation. They all brought different perspectives to the use of social media for marketing, but they also agreed on many common best practices. Panelists included Jody DeVore, founder and CEO of askPatty.com, a website devoted to automotive advice for women; Shawn Mulchay, founder and president of Socialmash Media, a BtoC social media marketing firm and Beth Mansfield, director of public relations at CKE Restaurants (Carl's Jr.). The panel was moderated by Jim Rondeau, director of operations and programming for KCLU radio.

Here are some of the key insights that the panel shared:

  • Traditional marketing is a monologue that pushes impressions at customers, while social media is a dialogue with customers. Feedback is as valuable as the information you push out.
  • Social media is a study on human psychology. It is a one-on-one conversation and personal outreach to your audience. You need to know and understand your audience, be informal, humble and above all, human. Be a part of your audience, rather than stand above them. You need to listen to their feedback rather than simply talk at them.
  • Social media needs to be consistent and relevant. Social media should not be used simply as digital advertising. You can market to your audience in a subtle way as part of sharing information, but do not spam them. Remember that your audience has the power to turn you off if you are too pushy.
  • Everyone is online now; don't risk getting left behind by not participating. While many corporate execs are resistant to implementing social media because they are afraid of the loss of control, it is now a case of either joining the conversation or getting buried by it (or left out of it). You can help control social media by controlling who is allowed to represent your company and what they say. You should make sure only experienced social media people are speaking for you. You can use social media analytics tools to monitor what is being said about your brand.
  • Social media requires a well thought out policy and plan of action. You don't need to jump into everything at once - start with one site. Determine where your customers are and start there to make yourself known. Your presence on social media and level of activity largely depends on the industry, the market, the time you have and the money you have available to spend. All of this needs to be factored into your overall plan. Use the tools that work best for your company and your budget.
  • A blog is a good first choice, followed by a Facebook page. Be consistent with both, but don’t post so much that it becomes annoying. One Facebook page post per day is good.
  • Be patient, a social media audience takes time to build. Commit to at least a year to build momentum.
  • Remember, social media is not the answer to everything; don't give up on traditional marketing. Both social media and traditional marketing are useful and are both pieces of an overall puzzle and need to fit together and work as complements to each other.

Overall, we thought this event provided good information on social media, especially for those just beginning to explore how it can work as a marketing tool. Although the panel members and their presentations were consumer-oriented, many of the strategies and tactics discussed apply to B2B companies as well.

What are your thoughts on the insights listed above? Does this advice ring true in your experience?

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