Be Human: Takeaways from Chicago’s Social Media Strategies Summit

Read the original post, published on iCrossing’s Great Finds blog on April 26, 2013.

To build a connected brand, be human with your social media marketing. That’s the main takeaway from the April 23-24 Social Media Strategies Summit, which featured content on how social media is changing the world and how marketers can capitalize on those changes to build better brands.

Being human means connecting with your audience at their level, in the spaces in which they are participating, and in the matter they are participating. Shouting your marketing message from the rooftops is not going to fly in social media. “Ditch the pitch,” stated Maya Grinberg, chief evangelist and social media manager of Wildfire, a Division of Google. The social community – what Maya called Generation C – is creating, curating, connecting, and communicating content more than ever, and they want to be addressed in a way that allows them to continue doing so naturally. Ditching the pitch means the engagement level with your content will go up, improving your brand awareness, trust, and, ultimately, sales.

Ed Brill, director of product management of IBM Social Solutions, built on the idea of being human as well in his session Opting In: Lessons in Social Business, An IBM Case Study. Brill stated that, in order to be considered a social business, a brand needs to engage with its customers on a human level – but also be transparent and agile while optimizing interactions between these customers to gain a competitive advantage above others in your industry.

Other tips and tricks for improving your social performance from the event:

  • Identify your influencers – Before you begin a social media campaign, take a look and see who’ll be the most engaged and, therefore, who’ll be your biggest advocates. Who will care the most? Where are they participating online? What do they say? Who do they say it to? How often do they participate in their social networks? Are they receptive to others joining in their online conversations? Answer those questions, and you’ll not only have a quality list of influencers, but the foundation for building a successful content and social strategy.
  • Become best friends with dataJason Moriber, senior vice president of social communications at Weber Shandwick NYC, stated that all industries will be touched by big data; so we need to become “always-on” data analysts/marketing scientists. In other words, it’s no longer enough to look at historical data for future ideas – we need to always be monitoring the changings landscape of data and revise our marketing plans to become more predictive. Umang Shah, director of social strategy at Walmart, mentioned the need for data analytics during his keynote speech. As I mentioned in a more extensive blog post April 24, Walmart’s social team uses real-time data and campaign monitoring tools to edit social messages before they’re sent, in order to achieve the greatest impact. That data has helped the Walmart social team craft better messages and interact at a more natural level with their networks.
  • Fish where the fish are – When Meridith Valiando, Co-founder and CEO of DigiTour Media LLC, stated “Fish where the fish are,” in her panel discussion Best Practices across Social Platforms, it was kind of a “duh” moment. The act of engaging with your audience and influencers in the places where they are already participating is the ultimate door opener for any marketer. But make sure that you understand the rules – both written and unwritten – of that community before participating. If you break these rules, you’ll alienate yourself and your brand, which means you won’t see any quality results from your efforts.
  • Tell a story – Social media isn’t just about sending a tweet every once in a while telling Twitter users to go visit your site. Social media is about storytelling. It’s about engaging your fans, friends and customers with a story that speaks to them. Michele Wingate, social media manager of American Family Insurance, shared that American Family Insurance’s most successful social media campaigns all revolved around a central story that connected directly with its customers, and made them want to interact with the brand more. But make sure you stay true to your brand as well. Jon Dick of Klout stated that you should find your brand’s unique perspective on something, and then tell that story through social media and content marketing. Additionally, the act of being unique and remarkable will earn your brand media coverage and authority to help boost search engine visibility for SEO benefits as well.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment – You may be expected to outline and provide a social media strategy that will win, and win big, no matter what. And while the ultimate goal of any social media campaign is to be successful, give yourself room to experiment first in order to identify the who, what, where, when and why of any ongoing social programs. Jennifer Dominiquini, CMO, season and outdoor living, Sears and Kmart, shared an experience in which her team created a profile for a fake grilling enthusiast on social sites like Facebook, and began connecting with an entire network of grillmeisters who were very vocal and engaged in the world of grilling. The experiment helped Sears learn about this network of grillers and learn what made them excited. They then took these insights and created a bigger, better social strategy that included building a blogging community for these grillers, which increased awareness and sales during that grilling season.
  • Integration is key – Social media marketing, like all other marketing channels, should not live in a silo. Social, at its core, involves multiple people and ideas, and can connect many entities through many channels. Consequently an integrated social marketing initiative is key to the ongoing success of the campaign. Insights gained through social media can help shape and drive future online and offline marketing efforts. Sears was able to leverage its insights derived through its social media campaigns and find grilling and home events to participate in. Then, those offline efforts all tied back into the online world through press releases, tweets, images and blog posts, boosting the overall impact of the campaign from every angle. Social media experiences should also be integrated through other online experiences as well. The messages shared on social networks can also be shared on the main website as well, for a more connected feel. Also – hint, hint – those integrated experiences can be brought in-store, and shared through other offline marketing efforts as well.

It’s clear that the integration of social media marketing into other aspects of marketing, including search, content, web development, analytics and even offline is the best strategy for engaging with your customers. Then, you’ll truly become a connected brand.

Dana Notman is a senior natural search strategist at iCrossing

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