Social Media Marketing (not Marketing: Conversations)

Presented by Jennifer Laycock

You hear people talking about marketing, but social media is not about marketing, it's about the conversations. Not a place to push your products, but to learn more and connect with people.

Theory of how to approach social media:

Generally, marketers communicate by going out and shouting --buy stuff!" Other people communicate by getting together and having a conversation. But in the midst of that conversation is a lot of stuff about buying/selling stuff (personal recommendations, personal experiences). It's an exhange of information.

How did we build business before the Internet? Remember old-timey Main Street. Jenn gave the example of her grandfather, who launched one of the first insurance agencies in his town.

He was concerned with:

  • Knowing his customers -- It was a small town, and he knew everyone by name. Just as he knew the people in his town, nowadays online you can get to know people through social media.
  • Anticipating their needs -- Jenn told the story of her grandfather seeing a customer drive by in a new car that still had temp tags on it. He anticipated customer would want insurance on the car, so he went ahead and added it to their policy. Customer got in accident before he'd had a chance to get in to the insurance office and was upset because he thought he didn't have insurance on the vehicle, but was thrilled to find he was already covered. This was great customer relationship-building.
  • Valuing them as people -- back in the day, there were no claim centers. The insurance agent would go to visit people to have paperwork completed, etc. Jenn told the story of customer in hospital following an accident. When her grandfather arrived, he found the guy on a gurney in the hall and was told there was nothing the hospital could do for him. But her grandfather got on the phone, got customer transferred to bigger/better equipped hospital and saved his life.
  • Doing what needs to be done -- when a tornado hit their town, her grandfather stayed on for 18 months past retirement to take care of tornado claims.

He didn't do those things to get the business, he got the business because he did those things.

Social Media Pyramid:

  • Bottom layer -- everyone has a voice, everyone can listen, everyone can respond, different ways to share, easy to access (Low barriers to entry, anyone can participate)
  • Middle layer -- it's interactive, transparent, changes instantly (versus placement in print media, you know how many read the magazine or watch the TV show, but you don't know how many actually saw your ad -- compare to a blog post where you know how many have accessed that page. More accurate, easier to grow.)
  • Top layer -- Limitless focus group (when people are online, they'll be more open when it's not so obvious you're listening)

Technorati chart:

Jenn showed us an interesting look at daily volume of posting on all blogs tracked by Technorati, cross referenced by news events -- allowing us to see the impact of real world events on blogging.

For instance: big dip right before Hurricane Katrina (everybody is watching TV or leaving town) followed by spike right afterwards (everybody back on line), followed by second dip when levees break (everybody back watching TV).

Another instance: huge spike related to Israel/Hezbollah conflict. Most people don't guess that one -- maybe "real people" are talking about stuff we don't think they are.

Groups of people in social media

  • Creators: about 13% of people online -- blog authors
  • Critics: 19% -- commenting on blogs, writing reviews
  • Collectors: using sites like Digg, Delicious, Propeller. Tend to skew male and high income.
  • Joiners: 19% of people online -- Join but don't post
  • Spectators: read and watch but don't join or participate

(There is overlap between groups.)

Marketing people tend to focus on creators. But Creators, Critics and Collectors are equally likely to participate in social media and equally likely to spread the word.

Consider your target audience and how they're interacting online when trying to figure out how to reach them. Depends on gender, age range, country, etc. Social media may not be right for all audiences.

Trust: huge thing when talking about social media conversations. 83% of people surveyed by Forrest Media trust their friends for product recommendations, etc. Interestingly, though, 50% of people trust strangers for recommendations, too.

Once you follow someone online for long enough, they become a trusted source even though you've never met them (example: what happens when Oprah recommends a book? People don't really know Oprah, but feel they do from having seen/listened to her so much.)

If you can get in front of someone who's trusted and get them to give genuine feedback, you'll probably reach their audience pretty easily.

Need to consider gender when approaching your audience. Between 70-80% of purchasing decisions made by women.

Information from The Soccer Mom Myth book (recommended):

  • Women are three times more likely to share personal stories with a friend than men.
  • Women guard their contacts (don't want to turn them over to a third party). Better to give her a coupon code she can pass along to her friends than to ask her to give you email addresses so you can send her friends a coupon code, for instance. She'll be concerned you're going to spam her friends otherwise.

Need to develop a corporate strategy. Figure out what you're comfortable with, and make sure your employees know what you're comfortable with. Don't necessarily want beer-bong photos posted on employee profile right next to your company logo.

What to do when one of your employees becomes a social media "rockstar"? Is it more about them than about the brand? What do you do if that person decides to leave? Each company may have different answers to these questions. Need to have a plan/strategy and make sure it works for you and your company.

What do you want to get out of social media? It's about building business connections. Get market research, make direct sales and leads, build your brand, community involvement. It's about getting out there and getting involved, not pushing your product.

Let your team play to their strengths. Don't just make everybody sign up for Twitter -- not everybody's wired for communicating in less than 140 characters. If someone has a great voice: consider podcasting. Great teacher/writer: try blogging. Great photographer: Flickr. etc.

Also, look at where your team members are already. Say somebody's on StumbleUpon, try to segue that to other similar places like Digg and Propeller. Find where your team members are already in the social space, and work with that.

Divide and conquer. Don't put all your effort on one social media channel. You want a solid presence on each of them, rather than a superstar effort on only one.

Whatever you do, when it comes to social media, "Don't be that guy." (You know who she means. There's one at every high school or college reunion...)

Remember: you don't have to say on the bleeding edge of everything. There are a zillion of these and new ones coming out every day. Your job is to run your business, not be a social media expert. You don't have to be the first person there in every community. Wait a bit to see which ones get critical mass/buzz before you jump in. Don't spread yourself too thin.

Social media launchpoint: Flickr

Images have much more impact than just text. Flickr is Jenn's all time favorite social media site. Flickr has all these really engaged communities, very passionate people who actually go out and take pictures of the things they're interested in.

Not only do they post pictures, they also have discussions -- some of which involve sales. If others in the community recommend you, you should be there to carry on the conversation. Don't push -- just add your knowledge to the conversation.

Flickr also drives traffic to outside sites/blogs. Photo descriptions can include links to your own website. Piggyback that visual image with your site content. Links in descriptions are nofollowed, so you won't get SEO benefit, but you can get direct traffic.

Reasons to love Flickr:

  • Easy access (cell phone, one click publishing)
  • Affordable (pro account = $25 per year, unlimited storage space)
  • Spreadable (RSS feeds, comment notifications, stats)

Your listening board: Twitter

Like a giant wall of post-it notes, and you get to pick which people can leave post-its on your wall. You can listen in on general conversations, and others can send messages specifically for you (either direct messages or public messages addressed to you). You can also search for messages about you or about topics you care about.

Twitter is a news source (Example: spreading news of California fires). Sometimes scoops traditional news sources.

Adding people you don't know is a way to build new relationships. They know people you know and post interesting things, so you follow them. Sometimes end up meeting in real life, sometimes turns in to new business.

Re-tweeting can be powerful. You send a message, people you send to re-tweet to their network. Some in their network send out to their network. Viral: exponential spreading, and news spreads fast.

Another Social Media Launch Point: YouTube

Example: Blendtec blenders "Will it Blend" video series. Their "at home" blender costs $400, so it's a tough sell. One day marketing director saw company president shoving 2x4s into a blender to see which would win. Marketing director thought this would make great video, so they did it. Has been wildly successful at getting their selling point across, went viral -- and first five videos cost only $100 to make. Now it doesn't cost anything because people send them stuff to blend -- and they're actually selling the videos on DVD, so the marketing materials have turned into a profit center in their own right. You don't need a budget -- you just need to be creative and be willing to take a chance.

Another Social Media Launch Point: networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace)

LinkedIn is great for making contacts with people you don't know. Search to find people who work in area/field/company you want to get a connection with, then work through your network to get introduced. Play off the credibility of the people you know to get connected to people you want to know. Leverage these sites.

Value Triangle

From top to bottom:

  1. Blogs and articles
  2. Social Reviews
  3. Discussion Forums
  4. Search Results
  5. Social News (Digg)
  6. MicroBlogging

Top is high context, bottom is low context -- means, did people come to that site to find out about the topic of the article/story/post that appears on the home page, or did they come there to visit the site and just happen to see the post/article? High context: the site is about that subject, low context: site is about many subjects.

Top is low competition for attention, bottom is high competition -- means, how many other people are talking about whatever (blog: it's you or just your team, twitter could be thousands)

Value is generally higher for things near the top of the pyramid because of low competition and high context.

Conclusion: people will talk about you and your company. The question is: will you listen and respond?


How to follow thousands on Twitter? Do you need to? Jenn follows around 800-900, Mack follows around 700-800. read when you have time, jump in and out as you can, not necessary to follow everything. Recommendation from audience for Tweetdeck as a tool.

When talking social media, we often talk about technology, but it should be about the people. Too easy to slip into hard sell, but remember what your mom taught you back when you were a kid about being polite and carrying on a conversation. Easy for a company to say they're "all about customer service" but in social media it's easy to see which companies really care about customer service.

Interesting statistic: 40% of the people who signed up for this show found out about it through Twitter!

September 22, 2008

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Great post Jennifer. Really well thought out. I thought you'd be interested to read a case study about how social media really can affect the bottom line marketing dollar. This small case study tells the story of a company that shifted its entire marketing strategy to online social media and saw immediate quantitative results.

My company, Park&Co is doing its best to take the social media conversation from "it's the next big thing" to here's how you do it. I think you'll find this post interesting -

The biggest change I've seen in how social media is affecting corporate communications is that it's real and personal. That is, you don't have the VP of Marketing writing perfectly polished posts that have been approved for public release by the entire corporate chain of command including the Legal Department (yawn).

Instead, you have individuals speaking conversationally, talking about subjects (and often enhanced by pictures or videos) that are personally of interest to them. It's a much more casual exchange of information, and while the result may be less formal and structured than corporate likes, it's a lot more interesting than the usual third-person, ad-agency written marketing promotion.

Those companies that jump on board now will create a loyal following that their competitors will have a hard time matching.

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