On Wednesday we attended and moderated two round tables at the Business Development Institute (BDI)’s Social Convergence & The Enterprise event in New York City. I was happy to attend an event with the not-so-usual suspects – fresh networking and opportunities to expand our community are always exciting.
The speakers at the 1/2 day conference ranged from companies such as Harvard to Jet Blue, Unilever to Century 21. Attendees held positions in HR, marketing, business development and other areas of business. I have to say that, having attended a lot of networking and social media events over the last few years, the topics can grow tired. The presentations can all begin to look the same – even infamous Tweets, photos and charts are often reused. But, for the most part, this event was a fresh take on a much-discussed subject: social media in business. I would definitely attend again and encourage others to check out BDI’s events.
The format was three hours of case studies followed by two sessions of round tables where attendees sat down with moderators and discussed pre-determined subjects. I found this of interest because often the attendees have interesting insights and lessons learned to share as well, and typical conference formats don’t usually provide the opportunity for an extended, interactive discussion between panelists and audience. Allowing a few questions from the audience is much different that sitting down with each other after the presentations and really digging into the topics. And, asking the presenters for case studies is a good way to ensure they’re sharing insights and lessons learned – not just observations and opinion like so many of today’s speakers on social media.
Some of my favorite tidbits from panelists included:
- How Jet Blue opened up its communications – and rebuilt its brand – after a crisis in 2007. Speaker Jenny Dervin shared interesting insights into their culture (“we all help clean the planes”) and how they handled customer communications more proactively thereafter – despite knowing it would frustrate in the short run but build loyalty in the long run. Strategies included a video message to crew members and customers from the CEO, as well as a letter to every customer who had ever flown Jet Blue – all in the name of “We’re sorry… please give us another chance.”
- “You cannot be successful in social unless you involve the whole organization – let employees engage in social media” – from Paul Hernacki of Definition6. He advises that the entire company needs to be on board for success. He asks, “Are your employees fans of your brand?” And suggests, “Eat your own dog food – social and the digital lifestyle needs to be part of your company DNA.” He also implores CIO’s to help make it happen by stop blocking of social sites and blogs. “You’re not solving the problem by blocking.”
- “We don’t own our brands anymore, consumers do.” Stacie Bright of Unilever talked about how to handle this new Wild West frontier of social media. “There are good conversations and brand conversations – but we can choose to be a part of those conversations.” Amen. Ignoring the conversations and not making social media part of your business is like my 5-year-old putting a towel over his head and telling me I can’t see him. We also found ourselves nodding in agreement when she said “Have a calendar [for social media initiatives] – anyone can be a one-hit wonder.”
- Consumers want engagement, so humanize your brand – let your employees have real conversations with your customers (what a concept!). From Matt Gentile, Director of PR and social media content strategy for CENTURY 21. Another great thought from Matt – and one that we have always used with PR campaigns: “‘Measure for success and then adjust for optimization.”
After panels, I moderated a round table called “The Rule in Social Media is that There are No Rules.” Of course, this isn’t completely true – as Doug Chavez, who leads digital marketing for Del Monte, recently told me: “I believe thereare rules. First is that a brand has to listen, second is to engage when appropriate and [value] additive to the conversation, third is that brands need to always be transparent and authentic.” Ok, so he’s right, there are some rules, but the genesis of the “no rules” sentiment is that some companies get too caught up in the rules – instead of thinking about what’s right for their company, they try to find a pre-written playbook or follow only the basics (I don’t know what we’ll do but we must be on: Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook). They fail to create a strategy based around their business goals and often forget that social media is still so new – that while there may be guidelines, the results are still largely unproven. And thus, any “rules” could change tomorrow – or change today if you’re the company willing to take that risk (an example: Ben & Jerry’s abandoning email marketing in favor of just using social media. Will it work out for them in the long run? We’ll have to wait and see).
If you’d like to listen to the panelists and their full presentations, you may do so at BlogTalkRadio.
If you’d like to hear what some of the attendees and online followers have to say about social media, visit our Sweet Marketing Advice site, created to capture advice not only from the attendees of the BDI show, but of our network as well. We wanted to share our offline experiences today with our online community as well. And, as a thank you to those who took the time to share their best tips, we created a voting mechanism for the community to choose the “Sweetest Advice” – the author of the advice that the community votes as the best by 5 p.m. Friday, July 23, wins an iPad. So please visit the site to not only learn some great tips, but to vote on your favorite. You can submit your own advice too, if you’re so inclined, and see what the community thinks of your expertise.
As an aside, we listen to our community and some of the early feedback on our Sweet Advice Contest is that it was just another Twitter popularity contest. That was disheartening to hear but we re-evaluated our contest rules and text after this feedback. Let me be clear that the intent was to open up the experience for those not in attendance, to capture a variety of “best tips” to share with all of you, and to learn not only from the panelists and speakers, but from the attendees themselves. We thought it would be fun – but also useful – to have both the BDI attendees and our online community share their best social media convergence and marketing ideas, and to have the community vote on which advice was best. We changed the auto-tweet button on the site to share each tip as part of the Tweets – in an effort to make the Tweets more valuable.
Of course, entrants are also inclined – and yes, encouraged – to ask their community to vote for them if they like the advice, and they may choose to write what they want in order to get them to do so – but our intent was to entice people to give advice, aggregate it in one spot, ask the community to vote on the best advice and offer an iPad as both an incentive and a thank you for sharing. The advice voted the best – highest number of votes by Friday at 5 EST – will win an iPad from us, and the community benefits from an aggregated spot of great social media and marketing advice. Enjoy.
Special thanks to BDI and Steve Etzler for the wonderful conference and the opportunity to participate. We learned a lot and met some really great people. Great job on the conference.