Social Fresh’s fifth social media conference was hosted April 19th just across the state in St. Louis. We sent our marketing maven Jessica Best to soak up some knowledge about emerging media from some heavy hitters. Here’s what she gleaned:

Convincing the C-Suite & “what’s the point” of social media:

Hardee’s social media team had a “do first, ask forgiveness later” policy at first. When they mentioned that at the conference, there were a lot of nods in the room. It seems the subtitle of Social Fresh STL was “Just Do It.” Many speakers said to just jump in, show success and value (and if necessary, apologize) later, once it works. Amber Naslund called this “Renegade Proof” – someone in the organization just does it, then says “Look, I did it, and it worked!”

The primary driver behind AT&T placing Customer Service representatives on Twitter was that they were identifying issues before even the CEO!

When you talk to the C-Suite (CEO, CFO) use their language: money. The bottom line is did we sell more stuff? And while ROI is only for measuring financial goals, it is ok to measure by ROI when your goal is money. Dell’s twitter channel @delloutlet brought them a measurable $6.5M in sales.

But don’t make that your only measuring stick. There’s power in branding and awareness in social media just like in other channels. As Amber says “We don’t calculate ROI on the golf course and at client dinners.” Being a part of social media isn’t just for one benefit. It’s ok to be here for marketing AND to contribute AND to learn AND to manage brand image.

Social Media did not invent criticism. It’s happening anyway. Now we have the tools to respond. It would simply be negligent not to participate in social media, when people are talking about our brands anyway.

The power of Twitter is Twitter Search: tapping into a conversation and interjecting but not interrupting that existing flow.

Social media as market research:

The Hardee’s social media team has list of “superfans” that talk about their food and suggest menu items. They keep it on file and use ideas when they need inspiration.

Internal social networking, intranets and crowd-sourcing from your employees is surprisingly powerful. Your employees are sometimes your best source!

Employees on social media:

Even though you lose the element of surprise when employees tweet “secrets” before the press release hits, the authentic excitement of invested employees outweighs the loss.

At Sprint, they actually encourage employees to tweet. They cultivate Sprint Social Media Ninjas and provide them with training on social media and suggested branding tactics.

The internal blogging panel recommended as a way to effectively communicate internally via a social media platform.

Pligg is like Digg, but for internal use: employees at all levels can share interesting articles and industry information with each other.

Social media for customer service: One panelist pointed out that “I’ll walk over to customer service on ‘loud’ issues: This can’t be answer in 24 hours, we need this addressed in 24 minutes… Get this done now.”  The time line for customer service is practically faster than real time.

AT&T has resolved 5,000 customer issues via social media this year. Microsoft knows when Hotmail is down by looking on Twitter. It’s the fastest form of gauging customer satisfaction levels.

Social media in the eyes of the consumer:

One of the great quotes from Social Fresh was Jason Falls’: “Social media emerged because marketing got out of hand. People wanted to converse without marketing message overload. People want to find people of like mind with same challenges and means to communicate with. They do not want 13,000 marketing messages a day.”

So, the subtle “overheard” messaging works, e.g. “I overheard you were having issues with…” When you can offer answers to an existing conversation, a solution to a present problem, people will thank you for offering your products or services.

Good marketing still can’t sell a bad product:

A huge takeaway from social media conferences is that it’s still about all 5 P’s, including Product. Strong marketing is a great way to put a bad product out of business really fast. It’s not news, but it’s magnified in the social media world of reviews and recommendations.

Social Media Tactics & Ideas:

Honesty and authenticity are key factors to your social media success, whether you’re in marketing, PR or just like hanging out on Twitter. “Nobody likes a Spin Doctor in the Social Media world. Disclose who you are & who you represent. Be transparent.” – Jason Falls

Have a social media policy and make it publicly accessible so when people are lewd on your site and you take their comments down, they know why. For some published examples of implemented social media policies, including some from Dell, ESPN, the Mayo Clinic and more, check out

Want to grow your social media community and reach? Share good stuff and share often. Space it out throughout the day with a tweet scheduler like CoTweet or HootSuite so it’s not all clumped together. Be relevant and be a resource and people will share you. The best way to be most relevant when sharing is to share other people’s stuff in addition to your own. In fact, more of other people’s stuff than your own. The panel said to plug other people 8 times more often than plug yourself or your company.

But don’t just grow your list. An oft-repeated lesson from social media smarties is quality and engagement over quantity of eyeballs. As Amber Naslund says, “So what if you get 6 million fans? Why do you care about number of fans? What are you going to do with them?” Jay Baer gave a suggestion, “Ignite fans into customers by giving them something to do: ask questions, take a survey, ask them to submit rich media content (photos, video).”

Another repetition-worthy catch phrase: Social media is a channel, not a strategy. Forget the tools. Start with strategy. Everything you do online is an extension of your brand and “let’s get a twitter account” isn’t a marketing strategy.

But what about bad commentary? “Social Media did not invent criticism. It’s happening anyway. Now we have the tools to respond.” Zena Weist at H&R Block has a proactive plan to dilute the social media sabotage they inevitably experience as a large brand name. Build your brand army Don’t play dirty pool with people who play dirty pool. (What does that say about your brand?) Let your brand advocates fight for you.

A good rule of thumb on how to act within social media: think of a cocktail party. How do you represent yourself there? What about if it were a business happy hour instead?

As for content creation, be honest and realistic about how you’re going to resource social media. Think about what your commitment can be. All departments should contribute where possible and the CEO may not be the most interesting mine of content. Try to find people that “look like” your customers.

Corporate blogs should integrate all areas of content: share holder information, behind the company curtain, product releases. Shooting videos is a cheap and time-efficient way to get blog content going. And the more content you can post, the better. There is exponentially more lead opportunity as you increase the amount of content on blogs, e.g. a blog with 51 posts gets double the search traffic of one with 51 posts. Finally, your blog content won’t go anywhere unless you push it out. Put a link in your signature, add it to Digg. Draw traffic to your blog!

Ideas from the field and who’s doing social media well:

  • Social Media Club Baton Rouge offers social media classes for AARP members as a way of encouraging involvement from an older demographic: We’ll help you connect with your grandchildren online!
  • H&R Block has a mobile app for “Ask a Tax Expert”
  • Martel’s use of Twitter
  • CNN iReport
  • ThinkGeek integrates all media well: email, social media, more
  • Whole Foods’ blog
  • Zappos blog successfully writes about more than just their brand.
  • Naked Pizza started offering deals via Twitter and saw a 20% sustainable increase in sales
  • CMT’s (Country Music TV) website has page that aggregates tweets from artists and event hosts on the night of the event. It provides awesome content that users want from the artists “at home” on their website.
  • In Social Fresh’s May 2010 survey of 60 marketers, 10 companies were highlighted as the best in social media: Ford, Starbucks, Best Buy, Pepsi, Southwest, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Chevrolet, Dell and Zappos (posted at

What’s next in social media:

What comes after social media? Integration. Social media won’t be a discussion, it’ll be another channel. We can better serve our customers if we can blend online and offline.

Niche and hypergeolocating social media is next up. And email marketing will get more social.

Addressing the balance of personal brands – i.e. of the Community Manager – and a corporate brand and which brand equity is most important to move product.

Special thanks to @jasonfalls @ambercadabra @zenaweist @jaybaer and all the @sofresh speakers for a great roundtable-style conference. For more information about upcoming Social Fresh events, visit


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