Next up was a panel discussing “Creating an Authentic Brand Dialogue Using Social Media”, presented by Jim Nail of Cymfony and featuring Ro Choy of RockYou, Craig Engler of SCIFI Channel Digital, Michael Sanchez of CafeMom, and Alan Wolk of The Toad Stool.
Alan mentioned that hyperlocal is doing some great authentic stuff with social media. He gave the example of “Naked Pizza” in New Orleans, that for instance, they tweet their specials and they say it has really helped business.
Michael said that authenticity has to be defined. An example he gave was from his own business, CafeMom, and a campaign with Walmart. Walmart was running a “go green” campaign to target moms and other consumers, but some folks did not feel it was “authentic” for Walmart to talk about going green.
Craig gave two examples of authenticity. One was a response he got directly from Craig Newmark from Craig’s List, who directly responded to him after tweeting about a type of loophole issue on Craig’s List. This was a very authentic experience as opposed to one case where he tweeded about a street where they were filming. The street automatically followed him on Twitter, so he followed back, only to be constantly spammed with specials, etc.
Toughest Issues for Brands
Alan feels the toughest thing for brands is to getting all of the layers out for social media and realizing this is about a one-to-one communication with consumers.
Michael said that moms are far more interested in the opinions of friends and other moms versus corporate marketing messages. So they will often put products into the moms’ hands and let them write about it. There are certainly some rules to this. Once, there was a hair product moms tried, but the hair product was not well received. It was important that you should not distort bad news — it’s ok to amplify good news, but don’t distort bad news.
Ro focused on Facebook fan pages for branding. You can get your message out, market, gather fans, and more, which isn’t always the situation with a microsite.
How to Address Discomfort in the Organization
Sometimes there is discomfort in the organization with social media. How does everyone handle it?
Craig went to his boss and showed him how some conversations are done and talked with the head of marketing. Everyone seem to embrace it. Many don’t always get it, but they know it’s important.
Michael emphasized that consumers define the brand, not brand marketers. If marketers get involved in the conversation, you can add value and respond to problems. It’s more that marketers appear to be afraid to get in the conversation and talking to people versus issues with the legal department. Alan blamed the lack of belief in brand for this fear by marketers. If you brand isn’t authentic, then as a marketer, you’re more likely to be afraid to put it out there via social media.
Preventing a Free-For-All
Alan said that smart marketers need to stop the discussion on who owns social media (PR, marketing, etc.) and be inclusionary — PR, marketing, customer service and others all have uses for social media.
Michael said that the explosion of consumer conversation is a great opportunity. You can gain insights into users and learn from them and shape your brand.
Ro said the great opportunity is that people share. Messages from friends are automatically authentic. So how do you engage with that? A safe example might be a photo contest — and you can editorialize if you want and choose the most relevant content. Causes typically get very little negative reaction, so you can create a positive brand message by associating with a cause.