The first speaker was Michael Brito, VP of Social Media for Edelman Digital. He's had a lot of experience building social media programs for major brands in the Silicon Valley, including HP, Yahoo! and Intel. Some interesting points he shared during his presentation:
- In just the last year alone, there's been a 20 percent increase in the number of consumers who expect to engage with brands through social media (59 percent in 2008 compared to 78 percent in 2009).
- That being said, companies shouldn't use social media just for the sake of using social media. It's all about engaging with consumers, not just using fancy new tools. It's important to build on good products/services, superior customer service and authentic community engagement.
- There's also a strong correlation between brands that are highly engaged in social media and sales. People buy from brands that listen. And it's not just about listening but using customer feedback as a source of innovation.
The most important topic I focused on from what Michael shared was the reminder that it's about community engagement and not about the tools themselves.
The second speaker was Matt Hicks, Manager of Corporate Communications for Facebook. With a background in journalism, he is now responsible for social media and content strategy for the social media giant and manages the company's social media channels. Matt focused on the challenge of creating compelling and consistent content to "feed the social media beast."
- Matt gave an overview of some of the different types of content he puts on the Facebook corporate blog. His team produces features (retelling great user stories); tips; answer common questions; topical tours; Q&As with guest speakers who visit Facebook; and a story of the week feature (most interesting news story of the week).
- Another facet of telling compelling stories is to find authentic voices. While a consistent brand voice is important, so is variety in authorship. Matt utlizies employee crowdsourcing and guest bloggers to mix things up.
I really like the ideas that Matt had to share for creating compelling content. It's easy to start up a blog, but it's a whole other thing to keep things going. I personally think that's the biggest challenge with social media. Having a content development strategy and team in place ahead of time is a very smart idea.
The final speaker was Karen Wickre, Manager of Global Communications & Public Affairs for Google. Karen developed Google's global publishing framework, including overseeing a multitude of blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts around the world.
- Karen talked a lot about how to balance overseeing so many different social media channel. There's no way she has the time or desire to wordsmith and approve every single piece of information coming across all the different Google social media accounts. She and her team definitely spend a lot of time up front before any Google team member starts something new and they do review so there are no surprises.
- Google uses their social media channels for more informal information sharing. They don't put up press releases but they also don't stop themselves from putting things up because it's "not news." Even if it's a small tidbit, readers may just want to know. They also don't worry about making sure a piece of information will appeal to every single member of their audience. They leave it up to the readers to pick and choose what they'll be interested in.
- Social media is a learning experience for everyone, even someone with as much experience as Karen. It's important to be flexible, not afraid to try to things and adjust appropriately based on audience feedback. What may be too many Twitter updates for certain brands may not be enough for other brands.
During the question and answer session, a few other illuminating points were shared:
- A good social media strategy is to do training before hand. Make sure employees are on the same page and understand how the brand wants to engage in social media. Once a "culture of trust" is developed, equip employees to amplify messages. An example Michael shared is to create a product memo of sorts that includes messaging and examples of how employees might share the information on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Different channels may be appropriate for different voices. Rather than try to force the perspectives of a CEO who has a lawyer looking over his shoulder and a employee sharing their "on-the-ground" experiences, consider having separate communications channels.
- There is no longer any distinction between reporters and bloggers. Some public relations professionals may be treating these as two totally different groups (the pros and then the pj clad), it can be a detriment to communications. Some bloggers may be even more hypersensitive to dealing with public relations people, as evidenced by the very public outing of bad pitching.
Overall, a very good seminar with some important bits of information to guide us all along as we navigate the social media world.