How to Build a Killer Social Network: Takeaway

AMABostonLast night, several of us from PerkettPR attended the AMA Boston meeting at the Exchange Conference Center. The sold-out event featured a keynote and panel entitled “How to Build a Killer Social Network: Understanding and Optimizing Social Media.”

John Moore, Senior Vice President and Director of Ideas and Innovation at Mullen Media Hub, got the evening started with a statistics-packed keynote presentation that covered the basics of social media and social networks. John did a good job getting everyone up to speed on the social networking landscape and provided some detailed examples of how XM Satellite Radio has used social networks to engage with their target audience.

John’s presentation laid the proper groundwork for the panel discussion led by Chris Brogan, VP Strategy & Technology for CrossTech Media. Panel members included Todd VanHoosear, Social Media Practice Leader from Topaz Partners, Tom Arrix, VP of Sales, East from Facebook and Dale Durrett, Eastern Region Sales Manager at LinkedIn. The panelists provided solid answers to Chris’s questions and they each provided their own perspectives on how get started and be successful in the social networking space.

The Takeaway

It’s not uncommon for a company to want to build their own social networking community. However, it’s important to remember that just because you build it, doesn’t mean the community will come. Yes, it’s fine to consider building your own, but it needs to be part of a larger, more diverse plan that also includes going out and interacting with the existing communities that align with your target market. Tom Arrix provided a takeaway that resonates this idea. He urged the attendees to first figure out if they want to engage with people who are like them or with people who are not like them, but who would benefit from their expertise.

The drive behind Tom’s advice is to help people decide what social networks they should join and interact with first. Existing customers and people who are familiar with your brand probably already congregate in similar online communities. Those who are not familiar with your brand, but would benefit from your expertise, might congregate in different social platforms. The objectives in your social networking strategy should help indicate which of these groups should get your attention first. After spending a good amount of time inside the existing communities, you’ll have a better understanding of how to build your own social networking community and increase its chance for success.

Unfortunately, video recording was not allowed during the panel portion of the evening, but John Moore’s keynote presentation should be available in the AMA Boston website in the near future.

Persuasive Picks for the week of 07/07/08

Is teaching older workers a productivity drain?
Stephen Baker from BusinessWeek.com touches on the topic of training and employee age. The post makes this week’s list of picks since he engaged the community on Twitter for responses on the topic – bravo! Some the sources he included where @mosleyppr and @missup from @PerkettPR and @astrout from client @mzinga.

What Traits Define a Social Media Marketer?
Tamar Weinberg gathers responses from some of the top names in social media, blogging, marketing and SEO to help define the essential skills required for todays social media consultants.

Social Media is not Community
Rachel Happe, of The Social Organization blog and new employee at Mzinga (PerkettPR client) helps clear up the confusion with the differences between “social media” and “community.”

Personal Brand Equity for Rent
Valeria Maltoni discusses how companies will need to adapt to handle employees who are continuing to grow powerful personal brands.

Nine Signs of an Effective Blog Post
Problogger.net guest writer, Dustin M. Wax offers up nine tips to to help maximize the success of every blog post you write.

Google Analytics Help: Questions, Answers, Tips, Ideas, Suggestions
Google Analytics guru, Avinash Kaushik answers analytics questions and give tons of tips and help in the monster blog post.

Did Alka-Seltzer fizzle out at building community?

Great American Road Trip SignBayer Healthcare recently launched a summer-long online marketing campaign around their Alka-Seltzer brand called the “Great American Road Trip.” After coming across the micro-site that supports the campaign, I was pleasantly surprised by the much cooler and more “hip” brand presentation than you might expect from an antacid maker. The flash-based site does a great job blending together old-fashion diner and road-trip elements with several activities like flash games, printable (paper) stickers, and the ability to notify your friends about the site. These features compliment the main focus – which is a highly entertaining series of videos created by the east coast singing/comedy duo, Rhett and Link.

The traditional “plop, plop, fizz, fizz” messaging, while still present in the videos, takes a backseat to the iconic “Speedy” figurine and the antics of Rhett and Link. The trio have embarked on a nationwide road trip in a beat-up car (an AMC Gremlin?!) making stops at diners, dives and food events across the country. At each location, Rhett and Link engage with the general public, poke fun at them (and themselves) and create wonderfully fun videos that are being released each Monday and Wednesday throughout the summer. Overall, Bayer Healthcare scores high marks for creativity, presentation and for reaching out to “internetainers” like Rhett and Link for assistance in creating an entertaining experience. However, the campaign falls a bit short on the social media side, especially when it comes to the potential for building community.

Great American Road Trip Screenshot

After a closer look at the micro-site, it becomes apparent that the focus is on one-way messaging. The viewer is presented with the material that Bayer wants to show with no means of contributing back to the site and the other viewers. The Great American Road Trip is a theme that all of us can identify with in one way or another. That common thread would make the ideal platform around which to build a community. Give me a way to share my own funny road-trip story where I found the best little diner that served up a tasty burrito that nearly killed me. Let me tell my story via text or video or photos. Let me tell people how Alka-Seltzer saved me! Bayer is excepting photos as part of their “Dream Road Trip” contest, but the submissions probably vanish into a corporate email account after being submitted. Why not post the entries for all to view and engage the public vote for the finalists? Think of all the friends and family members that would be driven to the site using that method.

Minimally, there should be a way to leave comments about the videos directly on the micro-site without having to figure out that the video is embedded from YouTube. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with hosting videos like these on YouTube. That’s what it’s there for and will generally provide the most potential for exposure. In this case, who’s getting the exposure? It appears that all the videos are being hosted from Rhett and Link’s YouTube channel rather than a Bayer Healthcare or Alka-Seltzer-branded channel. Yes, there’s community building going on, and its all centered around Rhett and Link. That’s a big plus for them, but a lost opportunity for the Alka-Seltzer brand.

Lost opportunities aside, what might seem even more strange is my Google search that found the Speedy’s Road Trip photostream on Flickr. Kudos to the Bayer Healthcare employee who started the account, but why has the profile been left completely blank? That’s not very transparent. Why is there no link on the Speedy’s Road Trip micro-site to share all the great behind-the-scenes photos with the viewing community? Using Flickr to share this type of content is great way to compliment the efforts of the campaign, but it doesn’t work unless you tie it all together.

Obviously, a company the size of Bayer Healthcare would not roll out a campaign of this size and cost without a clear set of strategies and objectives. My observations of the missing pieces from a social media and community building perspective might be going beyond what they are trying to achieve.

What do you think? One thing is for sure. I’ll continue to watch content from Rhett and Link long after the summer is over.