It was Social Media Week in LA from September 19-23, a free conference that was in locations across the Los Angeles area that included Santa Monica, Culver City, Beverly Hills and even Atwater Village. It's international in scope with the conference also in Beirut, Moscow, Berlin, Buenos Aires and other major cities across the globe.
Yes, everyone there had a smart phone, was texting, tweeting, taking pictures and taking notes (yes, with an actual pen and paper.) While it may look like that's what it was all about it was much more than that. There are a number of people that might think social media, ie., Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and so forth, is a passing fad... Well, think again...
When large corporations like Hershey's, Nokia and Frontier Airlines were at the conference and in the keynote panel on Friday, you will see how seriously social media is being taken these days and that it is only becoming more powerful and cannot politely be ignored... as was with the reference of Nestle's (this will be mentioned later.) The speakers at this lively panel were: Anna Lingeris, Manager, Global Brand PR and Consumer Engagement Hershey, Marco Toscano, Sr. Manager Social Media, Frontier Airlines and Bryan Biniak, Vice President, Global Head Partner & Application Development Nokia with two other speakers from agency backgrounds, led by moderator, Shira Lazar, Host and Executive Producer: Whats Trending, CBSNews.com, who was really on it and asked some stimulating questions.
Clearly, these companies are talking it seriously as they have departments with employees that specialize in social media and have strategies for using social media to benefit their customers and ultimately, their company - and yes, it is paying off for them. While metrics are still hard to establish in terms of hard and fast ROI, (which was a theme throughout the conference) there are positive results that were highlighted.
For example, Frontier Airlines uses social media front and center and is able to gauge how their customers react to policy changes; while it may look good to the company on paper, customers can react very differently to their expectations and will voice their opinions. Frontier listens to them and has revised their travel policies as a result of those interactions online. A more definitive example is when there may be a block of say, 40 seats that were cancelled on a particular flight. Frontier posted on Facebook and Twitter that a specific number of tickets were available on a flight at a discount and were all snapped up quickly. That strategy is employed on a regular basis and works well for Frontier; they are engaged with their community online with beneficial results for both.
Now for the Nestle example, encapsulated. The company had a Facebook page, which was unattended and largely ignored by the company. It came to light they used palm oil in many of their products, which is in short supply; Greenpeace made a video regarding the subject and posted it plus other comments on the Nestle Facebook page. Once Nestle took notice, the company reacted by deleting all the posts - that had a negative impact on their company. It did result in the company paying attention and treating social seriously; so they did learn from their mistakes... and that social has a widespread impact.
Engagement was another thread throughout the week. There was a well attended panel at Ogilvy & Mather in Culver City, "Social Engagement Advertising, hosted by SocialVibe" with representatives from Ogilvy and SocialVibe speaking and answering questions on the topic. Toby Daniels, Founder & Executive Director, Social Media Week was the panel moderator with Helen Jen, Marketing Technology Director, Ogilvy & Mather and Mike Barbeau, SVP, Account Strategy, SocialVibe. Both companies respectively work with the world's top brands. Engagement is the key. The examples given were for large companies like Disney, however, some of the methods can be parlayed to smaller companies.
As a side note, it would be beneficial for the conference organizers to address this in the next conference, coming in February 2012, how small companies in particular, that aren't well established or with the big budgets can achieve more with social media.
Back to the Social Engagement panel, with "value exchange" discussed as the new currency of social media. The example given was reading part of an article in a large newspaper where you have the choice of paying to read the rest of the article or clicking on a banner ad that will get you to the article for free. Taking a straw poll of the attendees, the majority raised their hands that were willing to click on the banner in order to get to the content. Many of us are familiar with going to websites for tv shows like "The Colbert Report" to see a clip or episode, which is preceded by an advertisement- yes that's the value exchange.
Later in the day a session called "Mobile Goes Social at The Primetime Emmys" was a fun and interesting view on how the Emmys are building a new audience with social/mobile that previously was unaware of the Emmys, ie, the millenials. This is a great way for an older established institution, that's also a non-profit, without the glitz of the Grammys and Oscars can use social to it's benefit.
All the sessions at the conference have a live stream, so if you want to see more, go to http://socialmediaweek.org and click the Schedule link to access the sessions you want to revisit or missed out on, plus a good take at what's in store for next year!
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