Notes from Social Media Panel

Each month the Business Marketing Association (BMA) luncheon is held at Jillian’s restaurant in Charlotte, and typically there’s a guest speaker/presenter. In December they changed it up and put a panel together to discuss social media. Social media is a hot topic, but the line out the door surprised me.

The room fits about 50 people and is typically half-full; people are busy. On this day it was packed. The audience was a mixture of BMA members – marketing types – and folks from the client side. The panel consisted of two social networking experts, Corey Creed and Brandon Uttley, as well as Lisa Hoffmann, who is Social Media Specialist for Duke Energy. I really wanted to meet Lisa and hear what she had to say.

The corporate world I understand, as I do social media; however, where the two intersect is largely uncharted territory. So I want to meet anyone with “Social Media” in his or her job title. I consider Lisa a pioneer, an explorer, and believe there is much she can teach us. She is not just applying what many of us think is the next big thing, she, through her everyday job and actions, is one of the few people who are defining it.

As Scott Hepburn rose to start the discussion the entire room fell silent. As if choreographed, every back straightened, 100 elbows hit the tables with a thud and an equal number of hands clasped, as if praying for wisdom. We were not disappointed.

I apologize for not giving proper attribution to each comment, but, in summary, here’s what I learned, as well as some of my own insights (no reason to make you read two blog entries):

  • Social media and social networking are not about building superficial relationships.
  • Online relationships are quite similar to offline relationships – or at least they should be.
  • The value in social platforms comes from two-way beneficial relationships, be they person-to-person or company-to-customer. And, if you’re a company, you need both.
  • Empathy and listening skills may be more important than selling and writing skills.
  • Social networking is not broadcasting to an unthinking audience.
  • In-your-face selling is spamming and no one likes getting spammed. Do you?
  • Engage. You can’t stay silent at a party and expect to walk away with lots of new friends.
  • Your posts are not formal monologues or the final word. Facilitate the conversation and comments.
  • Don’t respond to minor criticism and perceived slight. Doing so makes you look petty.
  • Companies like Best Buy and Ford are successful because they use social media to humanize their corporations through the individuals who work there and are genuinely part of the online community.
  • Companies should have social networking policies, but need to realize they can’t control every conversation.
  • Tell the truth. If falsehoods are promoted you’ll be caught, publicly chastised and thrown out of the community.
  • Twitter (etc.) is easier to navigate than a phone tree.
  • Formal emails often include the wrong audience, have too many cc’s and bury calls-to-action; while micro-blogs, such as Twitter, are conversational and more productive.
  • The C-Suite needs to be involved since social media is rich in customer feedback, competitive intelligence, public relations, product suggestions, sales support, and brand reputation.
  • To secure C-Level buy-in, link your social media activities and measurements to specific business goals.
  • Internal and external stakeholders (customers, employees, and the press) need to hear from senior management.
  • Start small with modest goals, measure results and expand slowly.
  • Let those with a passion for social media (for being social and smart) represent your company.
  • The IT Department should not be responsible for social networking. It’s not about computers; it’s about people and conversation.
  • Relationships built today may pay dividends tomorrow. Relationships shunned today may have consequences tomorrow.

All-in-all the panel did a fantastic job, and it was clear it was the right message, to the right audience, at the right time.

What are you doing right with social media?

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