Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Getting Started with Social

In a few weeks, I'm giving a presentation to a large company about ways they can be thinking about social media. I haven't fleshed out the PPT yet but thought it might be helpful for other folks that are trying to find a "toe hold" in their companies (big OR small) to get started.
  1. What social isn’t:
    - One way conversation
    - Just another PR tool
    - Technology
    - A fad
  2. What social is:
    - Vehicle for Many-to-many conversations
    - Way to deepen customer relationships and create referrals
    - Great feedback mechanism
    - The phenomenon that happens when you bring content AND conversation together
  3. Uses for social within a brand:
    - Customer service (reduce phone/e-mail costs)
    - Marketing/sales (generate leads, deepen loyalty, lengthen customer tenure, increase referrals)
    - Market research (ongoing vs. episodic)
    - Product innovation (co-create w/ your customers)
    - An early warning mechanism (canary in the coal mine)
  4. Brands that are doing social well:
    - Zappos (Twitter, blog)
    - H&R Block (Twitter, Facebook)
    - Dell Inc. (Ideastorm, blogs, Twitter)
    - USAA (Facebook, Twitter)
    - Best Buy (Blog, Twitter)
    - American Express (Open Forum community)
    - Allstate (Twitter, blog, Youtube, Facebook)
  5. Key considerations:
    - Create a strategy (make sure it ties in with existing business goals)
    - Pick an audience/customer segment
    - Start listening (Google alerts, Twitter Search, Get Satisfaction, Radian6, Cymphony, BuzzGain)
    - Identify executive sponsors (an individual or small committee)
    - Plan to “give before you get”
    - Measure, measure, measure
  6. Twitter
    - What is it?
    - How is it different than LinkedIn or Facebook?
    - Why is it gaining momentum?
    - How are companies using it?
    - List of top companies/brands using
    - Best practices (from Tim Walker of Hoovers)
    - Pitfalls
    - Who "mans" the account? Who needs to be involved? 
As always, additions/subtractions/corrections are welcome.

Photo Credit: Robert Scoble


  1. One of the biggest problems I've seen in getting clients to adopt a social media program is having them "see" what is out there. They don't want to have Google Alerts fill their mailbox, which is already cluttered enough. One technique we've adopted is public Google Alerts accounts. These are collections of alerts that are viewable through our AlertRank.com website. Clients don't have to learn any search syntax or even log in. They can view a large number of alerts for a single company, and quickly understand how much valuable intelligence is out there waiting to be used. Our marketing clients have found it an effective sales strategy to create an account in advance before going on a sales call. Here is an example public Google Alerts account for a law firm:


  2. Hi Aaron,

    You touched upon all the key elements of social media success. I learned something very valuable that may be helpful as well for social media success from an event with Brett Hurt, CEO of BazaarVoice. He stressed the notion of creating tribes (as Seth Godin says) and being the leader of the pack by being a source of information. We all want a leader or hero to follow. Food for thought! Good luck on your talk! Let me know if I can help.

  3. -Adam, GREAT recommendation. I'll have to check that out.

    -Olga, thanks for the advice. I'm a big fan of Brett's and Seth's so I'm always open to suggestions that include their names. ;)

  4. Hold on a minute, Aaron. By your introductory bullets, neither the twittering @barackobama during his campaign nor @cnn today would meet social media's definition. But both meet the second criteria of content and conversation.

    One can broadcast information and use social media for integrated marketing purposes, so long as others potentially turn it viral; and that the originating organization/person can monitor and/or follow-up.

    Case in point: Ashton Kutcher recently competed with CNN - @aplusk vs @cnn - to see who could get 1 million followers first. But CNN's Twitter account as I mentioned is broadcast-only. But CNN's website and TV channel linked to iReport journalists and YouTube videos to showcase their usage of social media.

    It's not black and white, Aaron.

  5. Ari - your point is well taken. I never said that this is a "black and white" area. In fact, I believe that because social is such a "gray" area, many companies are having a tough time wrapping their heads around it.

    One thing I will say is that while I admire both Obama AND Kutcher's use of Twitter and other social tools, I'm not sure their use would be the one I would recommend a brand emulate in the long run.

    As always, thanks for commenting.


  6. Hi Aaron,

    So great to see you in San Fran last week.

    You *know* I'm going to nitpick and you and say that, among your key considerations, I think listening needs to come at the top of the list. Even before strategy, because in my mind, listening well can help inform said strategy. But you didn't expect less, did you? :)

    I'm especially interested in hearing how you flesh out the "measure" bit. Such a hot topic among companies, yet I think we still need to evolve our definitions and metrics for a new media era. Will look forward to hearing more from you on that subject.

    Cheers and hope to see you again soon!

    Amber Naslund
    Director of Community, Radian6

  7. Amber - great to see you too! Hope to see you next week in Dallas (I think you're speaking?)

    First of all, I always appreciate people weighing in on my thoughts-du-jour. And it's funny because I thought about putting listening first. Here's my rationale for not putting it first:
    1) the company I'm talking to already has a pretty robust marketing/services/product strategy so they have a pretty good idea of what they are trying to accomplish from a traditional standpoint
    2) I want this company to think about how social can extend their existing efforts BUT want them to be aware of what's going on out there prior to acting... thus the "listen" part.

    Given your comment on something I was already thinking about, I may at least mention to this company that many smart people in the social space like yourself recommend listening first. That way, they can decide for themselves which works best. Deal?

    Regarding "measure," t can be a lot of things. In this case, it's 2-3 fold:
    1) benchmarking before they get started
    2) setting up unique tracking capabilities (URLs, codes, phone lines, etc.)
    3) integrating the outcomes "social" drives in context to their other business goals.

    Lots more could be said about the measurement piece but I'll probably spend some more revs in my deck vs. in this post working that out. ;)

    Thanks again for keeping me honest.


  8. I'd say that the important thing is to have a strategy before adapting a tool - ask what you want to do and find out how to do it.