This post was originally submitted by Rebekah Iliff, Co-Founder and CEO of talkTECH Communications on podConnect by Pereira & O’Dell blog.
If there is one thing I’ve learned in the past ten years prancing around the wild wild west of marketing communications, most recently social media, it is this: everyone – and I mean everyone – has a different measurement, opinion, and methodology for defining success. Moreover, the same morons experts who tell us “X” brand has it all figured out and we should follow their lead are typically the same nincompoops social media “connoisseurs” who have only ever worked with big budgets and don’t know squat about small or “no” budgets.
No offense. Well, maybe just a little.
These dude[ette]s, the little engines that could, are the real harbingers of useful information as they have generally huffed and puffed and anything in between to get their product launched – and social media, with its low barriers to entry and transparent qualities – is typically a rather large part of their overall strategy.
But the question still remains: “So if everyone is talking about social, and telling me I need socialization, then how the hell do I know whether or not it’s useful or effective or worth the time and energy required to do it well. And oh, oh, oh, if what I really need is customers then what is the best approach to social media?”
Here’s where it gets really fun. Instead of some over inflated answer spewed out by Roger B. Morronis who has been “studying social” for the past ten years from his academic chair at Rutgers University (I have no idea if that even exists but it sounds super elitist and like he could technically be smoking a pipe, never having actually applied these theories) a few colleagues of mine and I decided to get the real scoop from the real folks who are driving social media trends. These people (note: we do not say “experts” – it’s vomitious frankly) have been implementing successful strategies from the ground up with small budgets, a whole lotta conversation, and mostly…listening to their audience. Standard disclaimer: Microsoft was on the panel, but it was the guy who works with startups through their BizSpark program, so technically, he gets it!
So with the help of the lovely Hermione Way (The Next Web) and six very especial panelists* the first SPOTLIGHT at the Barrel House (hosted by Pereira O’Dell and Premier, and co-hosted by talkTECH Communications – that’s us!) was born, and we very unsnobbily and very attractively got to the bottom of social media as a customer acquisition strategy and a WHOLE. LOT. MORE.
Here are the Top 5 Moments from the event – meaning, questions posed that prompted the most conversation and incidents that produced the most “heat” in the room. And believe me, there was heat…(Doug, Travis, Hermione…behave!)
1. Question directed to Doug Crets, Microsoft Evangelist Developer for BizSpark: Is Social really social, or is it just another marketing tool?
Doug’s thoughts: Hell no! Social is about behavior, culture, and attitudes around generating intelligent conversation that prompts thoughtful discourse. Bonus: the next wave of job-getters will be English majors who know how to write creatively, listen to conversations and develop though-provoking content.
Wow…you mean [sigh] it’s not just about regurgitating, reposting, and sharing information? You mean we have to actually think. Darnit.
2. A question directed to the panel: What is more important in launching a social strategy for a brand – reach and distribution, or cultivating a certain style? Or both?
Wait for it…this may…wait…shock you…
Panel concluded: Foremost it’s about developing and cultivating a certain style, and a compelling, authentic voice – something that your audience responds to. This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the product per se. It’s about the relationship. In fact, Ashley LeFerriere from ModCloth admitted to regularly posting pictures of cats. What the? Counterintuitive much?
Point being – the first phase of social is building trust with your audience and engaging them. Would you walk up to a girl in a bar and just start making out all over her neck. Ewww, gross, no. You don’t just shove that pucker all up in her grill. You talk to her first (or at least you should you d-bag), get to know her, listen to her. Then…the kill.
Social media is the same: cultivate cultivate cultivate. Then listen, cultivate some more, sell, listen, double down, sell some more, converse and then…maybe…start measuring. Meh.
3. Question directed to Lauren Sherman (TaskRabbit) and Kiran Umapathy (PhotoJojo): Do you ever launch certain social initiatives just because they’re fun (fit your brand culture) without worrying about how to measure ROI?
Answered both, at the same time: Yeeeeesssssss-ahhhh.
But there is more to their answer and it can be summed up like this: customers and potential customers in the social media sphere are not the same as customers who walk into a WalMart wanting to be directed to Aisle 5 for the “blue light” special (wait, was that Kmart? My Midwest, small town roots are blaringly obvious right now).
In other words: they are not engaging in social to be sold on the best deal in town or acquired outright. They are looking for community, relationships with other individuals or brands, and they (generally speaking) like 3 things in no particular order: 1) seeing or posting funny and/or weird pictures of babies or cats 2) seeing themselves called out for something they posted in the realm of off-beatness and 3) contests where they get to win somewhat stupid prizes so they have something to brag about on their social networks.
I know. So easy. And here we are, all along thinking it’s about some insane algorithm. We are such simple creatures really.
4. This next one was interesting and came from a gal in the back of the audience from an ad agency we won’t name, but for hint’s sake it’s very hard to spell and I screw it up every time – and it’s half Brazilian: How do you justify the budgets required to engage in social media when working with major brands? They always want to see a measurable return, and are constantly asking about numbers? (Damn them! P.S. That was my inner thought, not part of her question)
Oh Yu-kai Chou, this is why I fell in love with you the very minute I saw you in those darn yellow finger shoes with rubber soles. This UCLA grad, Stanford lecturer and CEO of RewardMe is so utterly brilliant it hurts…I mean, it really hurts. Here is what he said:
“You can’t measure it, not at first. They have to wait. They have to trust you because they are paying you to make decisions for them, because you know and they don’t.”
Muah. Bravo! Spoken like a true decision maker.
Added Ryan Bloomer (Blumberg Capital): “AND…they have to understand that sometimes social media fails, and sometimes it works. And that’s it.”
5. Because we are all so, ah-hem, social media forward thinking, this last little incident actually happened in the Twittersphere during the event. Doug got into a tweeting challenge with TSG Consumer group when he mentioned that “social media is closer in line to sales because they know what consumers want.”
Boxing gloves out.
Ainsley TeGrotenhuis responded with “I disagree. Good #marketing is all about knowing your audience & reacting to what resonates.”
Here is a little bit more from their interaction:
Good news for all of you “Kumbaya-ers” out there: they ended up agreeing in the end. P.S. Don’t ask us how Doug was speaking and tweeting at the same time, we didn’t, and it seemed to all work out.
So there you have it, well some of it anyway.
For me, this sentiment is true: “work hard and be nice.” What does this have to do with social in terms of acquiring and building loyal customers? Well…everything. Social only works when you are working at it – and this means listening, cultivating, and treating others as you would want to be treated. For all of the companies and brands that have built themselves around the social ecosystem one would think it’s this huge, complicated, mess.
But we are here to tell you that it’s not. It works when you are being human, and when you act like a normal human being. That’s it. End of story.