One of the enduring questions in the social media landscape is: Can we really use social tools to move the needle financially? That topic was met head on Tuesday evening at an event in San Francisco titled How to Turn Word of Mouth and Social Media into Sales.
Here are some takeaways from the speakers' remarks at the sold-out gathering:
Who: Becky Brown, Director of Social Media Strategy, Intel
Comments: The brand advocacy program is a huge part of how we measure social media success at Intel. We listen to influencers who are talking about Intel. The company uses two main social media tools: Radian6 to measure sentiment and Objective Marketer to manage campaigns. "Be resourced," Becky said. "Use employees and advocates and agencies."
She said it was important to use listening tools "to find people who are not your brand advocates, who are negative advocates." And take it on yourself. You cannot ask an agency to read all your posts for you. You cannot get college grads to handle your Twitter account. These are real customers talking about your brand, so engage with them directly. "I dream of a day when I have a team dedicated to positive and negative responses" on these networks.
(Disclosure: I'm a member of the Intel Insiders social media advisory group.)
Who: Tony Lee, Vice President of Marketing, TiVo
Comments: Summed up the credo of Silicon Valley well: "If you're not failing quickly, you're not doing an interesting enough experiment." Take chances. Launch multiple programs and initiatives.
TiVo stands traditional marketing on its head with its decision to incentivize and reward its long-time customers over newcomers just coming into the showroom floor. "We now give our best deals to our best customers." (Yay! I've had two TiVos since 2004 and wrote about the company in my book Darknet.)
"Your customers aren't stupid. There are times when you need to listen. If a customer is screaming and rude, others will understand. It's OK to ignore people who are rude."
Who: Rob Fuggetta, CEO, Zuberance
Comments: Rob cited a company that assayed customer loyalty with the "ultimate question": "How likely are you to recommend our brand or product to a friend?" Customers responding 0-6 were considered a "detractor"; 7-8 a "passive"; 9-10 an "advocate."
Great advice: Rob told brands to involve customers by inviting them to respond to questions and "make it easy for your advocates to engage with your brand." He pointed to a campaign by HomeAway, a vacation rental site, and said that its success lay in interactions with their community -- "we just gave them a way to connect" -- rather than offering giveaways or free T-shirts.
He pointed to a lawsuit just brought against TripAdvisor, which was sued for defamation because, the litigants alleged, the hotel guests posted 'inaccurate' reviews. Audience reaction? Overwhelmingly on the side of TripAdvisor and the unfettered flow of opinions, right or wrong.
He talked about a $20,000 investment by ClubOne that led to a $180,000 return -- 69 percent of participants in a 14-day free offer brought a form into ClubOne to try out a membership, and 15 percent of those people purchased memberships. You can measure with great specificity the results you get from social marketing.
Final words of wisdom? "Put in $1 and get $10 back" by launching a word of mouth campaign that stokes genuine conversations about a product or service. "This is earned media, not paid media," where fabrication and marketingspeak hold forth.
Who: Michael Brito, Vice President of Social Media, Edelman Digital
Comments: Michael underscored the difference between a brand influencer and an advocate. "Advocates are talking about your brand even if you ignore them. Influencers, for the most part, require incentives." They offer insights into a product in exchange for a quid pro quo, such as access to write a story.
It all comes down to trust. Edelman issues an annual trust barometer, where publishers and journalists are high on the list (first time I've heard that in a decade!) while marketers are not. "If you look at your advocates across the Web, their reach is much higher than being featured on front page of TechCrunch," he said. Listening and doing nothing is worse than not listening in the first place.