Thought I would post a few quick highlights from the panel discussion that featured representatives from Google, Twitter, Facebook, GE, Visible Technologies, and NYU. I’m going to apologize for a bit of bad journalism – I don’t have names for all the panelists. Normally I wouldn’t publish without them, but given time constraints, I will just try to add them in asap.
Brands have accepted the obvious – social media is not a fad. The summit focused on social media best practices and how to measure and maximize return on investment. If I had to offer my biggest take-homes in one paragraph, it would be this:
The biggest opportunities for brands in social media are in content creation, customer service, and data-based message targeting. Although the panelists didn’t so much come out and say it in as many words, it seems pretty clear to me as a journalism professor that to cut through the clutter and produce the kinds of messages that have the emotional impact that compels people to share with their friends, brands are going to have to hire storytellers with strong writing and multimedia creation skills. Second, good customer service has a powerful impact in social media because it can not only control the damage from negative reviews, but, if done right, turn the disgruntled into brand ambassadors, multiplying the effect of your investment – especially if the customer turns out to be a top influencer or has some influential followers. Not every creative campaign is going to go viral, but a consistently strong effort at good customer service can have a huge impact on how people experience and perceive brands. Finally, it’s no surprise of course that big companies are using the massive amounts of digital data generated by social media to better target ads, deals and messages to individual customers, but the most interesting applications of that come with the increasing ability to use location data to snag people very close to the point of purchase, when they are right outside your store.
A few other highlights:
- Return on investment is a tricky thing. It’s not that there is a dearth of metrics or tools to measure social media, panelists said. The challenge is to develop specific social media business goals and then align your metrics with them. As moderator Colin Sutton put it, you have to know if you are looking at Eyes (e.g. earned impressions, number of fans), Minds (e.g. page engagement, post response), or Wallets (e.g. coupon redemption, registration). For example, NYU adjunct professor David Vinjamuri noted that sometimes variables like influence can be hard to measure because it is not just the number of people who are listening, but who those listeners are. If you are a technology blogger with a small audience of only about 100 people, you might be tremendously influential if just one of those readers is Wall Street Journal technology columnist Walt Mossberg. He gave another fascinating example of a campaign for o.b., maker of feminine products. When the brand was first launched in Denver, its splashy and expensive campaign was largely judged a ROI failure; 25 years later, the company had an incredibly strong brand presence in Denver, 3X as high a share as it had in other cities. Clearly the campaign had a much greater long-term ROI than anybody had realized. Twitter’s Guy Yalif also noted that it’s not just the number of followers a customer has – it’s who follows them and how influential those followers are.
- GE rep: Our brand is the experience you have with us. I prefer negative comments, because it’s an opportunity for us to find out what is wrong, to surprise and delight customers, educate them, solve their problems, etc. You can turn people with complaints into brand advocates. We try to respond to everybody. We don’t prioritize influencers, although if there was a major crisis, you might have to do that temporarily because it would be impossible to respond to everybody. Everybody has the right to a response.
- Google: Don’t just say you are listening to your customers. Make real business decisions based on what you hear. eBay did this when it launched a new mobile platform; today they are making a mobile transaction every minute.
- Twitter’s Guy Yalif: Tie your brand/campaign into what people are already talking about on social media. Unilever introduced an ice cream brand in U.S. that had long been popular in Europe. They decided to do this around the Royal Wedding, so they bought a promoted trend. This drove great results for them.
- Facebook: Use social media to make your campaign local/personal or “mom and pop at scale.” Wal-Mart is increasingly building a Facebook presence for its local stores, in which managers speak to the local community. Instead of corporate-speak, they might talk about high school football games, for example. They include things like local maps of stores and photos of local managers and employees.
- Fun fact about Promoted Tweets from Yalif: They get an engagement rate of 3 to 5 percent. Brand Twitter followers are 50 to 60 percent more likely to comment about the brand on a blog or news site. When Volkswagen relaunched the Beetle, they had 52% engagement rate with their promoted tweet. Al Jazeera English bought the promoted hashtag Demand Al Jazerra, and used it to showcase their reporting during the Arab Spring, increasing their traffic from Twitter 25X.
- Google: It’s important to integrate paid search with your other efforts. For example, Old Spice’s tremendously popular viral campaign was made more effective because they bought a lot of paid search terms, invested in promoted video. It is key to be sure that if somebody is looking for you, it is really easy for them to find you.
- Google: 20% of searches have local intent. For mobile, it is 1 of 3. Those numbers will get even bigger. We are constantly looking for innovative ad formats and to help advertisers up their bids if they know a customer is right outside the store looking for your brand.
- NYU’s David Vinjamuri: Be nimble when you launch a social media campaign. Create a feedback loop so you can make quick adjustments. Some will blow up in good way, some won’t. You have to figure out what is working and make adjustment on a daily basis.
- Becca Ramble, Visible Technologies: If you don’t see the conversation you want to lead or follow, create it. ADT mines conversations around home security, and they found that most of it is very spammy. So they decided they wanted to really build a better conversation around home security.
- As social media increasingly goes global, many big companies are creating local/national accounts in the local language/culture. But it is important to have good internal communication so all the account managers know how to help or refer customers that might contact them.