Slides and a rough transcript from my presentation 3/14/12 at the Trine University American Marketing Association Social Media Summit in Angola, Ind.:
Thanks for having me. I was asked to speak about the ways businesses use social media, but as I started to prepare, I realized we might want to change that. Because if we wanted to talk about all the ways businesses use social media today, one, we'd be here all night; and two, we'd probably end up with a lot more "don'ts" than "do's." There is a lot of junk out there in the social media world.
So with due deference to my assigned speaking topic, I've made a slight change on the title of our little talk here tonight: "How (smart) businesses use social media."
As Amanda said I work at Villing and Company, which is a marketing communications firm. That's a fancy way of saying we're an ad agency. Now it used to be that when you told someone you worked at an ad agency, they kinda looked you up and down and said something like, "Alright...you go, man."
But thanks to Hollywood, we now have a remarkably accurate portrayal of what life at an agency is like.
And it looks something like this. Anyone watch Mad Men? I tell people who ask me if working at an ad agency is like Mad Men, "Yes, if you take out the smoking, drinking, objectification of women, ridiculously good-looking people and cool clothes. Other than that, it is spot on."
But I love Mad Men not just because of the storylines and the characters, but because it provides a great frame of reference for what we're talking about tonight, how businesses used to communicate with the public.
Don Draper, who is the main character in the show, had a great line in the pilot episode. He said, "Advertising is based on happiness. We make the lie, we invent want."
And then he smoked a cigarette.
That way of approaching the audience was fine back when this was how businesses communicated with their audience. This is the typical American family circa 1960. What do we see here? We see that everything is about content consumption. They're gathered around the TV, mom is reading a newspaper, and you can imagine somewhere out of the frame is a radio that probably doesn't get used as much anymore.
But they're not sharing anything with anyone beyond the people in that room. They may be talking about what they're seeing or reading with the people in this room, and if something really impacts them, they may tell grandma when they see her at the grocery store next week. That is, if they remember by then.
The other thing to note is that in this scenario, businesses control the means of communication. They're the ones who can pay for a TV commercial. No (consumer) really buys ink by the barrel, and the FCC will only grant so many broadcast licenses. So what we have is this kind of vertical, top-down communication pattern where businesses are at the top, and they're kind of dictating or communicating downward to the audience. That's Draper's world.
Our world looks like this. And we like Apple, apparently. This picture was taken at the University of Missouri. And I like it because it shows what we've become as a society - we've become connected.
How many people sleep with their cell phones next to their bed as if they're Superman or the president or something? Exactly. We love being connected. We're an "always on" society.
We've become what Brian Solis calls, the "connected consumer." We love using technology to share experiences with other people - what we're seeing, what we're eating, where we're going. Today's audience...has an audience. We've become our own mini-publishing companies.
So whereas before businesses communicated downward in a vertical structure,
now the audience is sharing information with each other. It's a more lateral communication structure as consumers share content with other consumers.
It's interesting: I read a study recently that said - and I can't remember the exact statistic - but it said that people actually feel more connected to their extended family today, even though we physically see them less. The reason, as you might've guessed, is Facebook.
That's what's driving the proliferation of social networking - the power to connect with people. And that's been a very difficult lesson for businesses to learn. It used to be that whenever a new communication medium took off, businesses got dollar signs in their eyes and tried to use it to make a profit.
A lot of businesses came to Facebook and saw nothing more than an opportunity to get their message in front of millions of eyeballs, not realizing that the primary reason people go to Facebook or any other social network is actually to get away from businesses.
Businesses are used to valuing a medium based on the number of impressions they can get. That won't work in social media, because the people are there to commit to self-expression.
So businesses have had to take a different approach in order to succeed in social media, to make a connection with consumers. Smart businesses are doing that providing help.
They're providing help in one of two very broad umbrella categories that I've listed here. One is general information: interesting industry-related content, general business operations of your organization, etc. The second is help in providing an experience: what it's like doing business with your organization, and just help in everyday life.
Let's walk through some examples, starting with the experience category. This is an example from General Motors. This is a video posted on their Facebook page about a reunion of sorts for Camaro owners. Apparently Camaro owners like to get together and bask in the fact they are Camaro owners. But it's an experience - they're their own little fraternity I guess. It's a great way of documenting the loyalty that the experience of Camaro ownership provides.
Here's another example, from Southwest Airlines. If you want an example of a business doing right by social media - it's Southwest. I was at a conference several weeks ago and a few people in charge of their social media presence spoke. They're an awesome company with a really impressive program.
Anyway, this is an awesome example of showing the experience of flying Southwest. These are two posts about the same thing. The larger screen shot here is a capture from their blog, and the video was posted on their Facebook page.
Here's the story: A while back, a Southwest flight attendant saw that a passenger had with them a huge dog costume. So she tried to convince him to wear it through the cabin. The guy was hesitant at first, but eventually he gave in.
The flight attendant started by getting on the PA and saying something like, "Ladies and gentlemen, just a reminder, if you're flying with a pet, please keep them in their receptacles. Because we now have a dog loose in the cabin." And people started freaking out. They start looking underneath their seats, looking all around. About this time the guy in the dog costume comes out of the lavatory and says hi to everyone.
The whole thing was captured on video and was a great way of showing what doing business with Southwest is like. Anyone fly Southwest? It's just a different feel, isn't it? This was a great way to show that.
Now a couple of examples of businesses providing information. The first comes from Ford. Ford broke some new ground several years ago when they unveiled the new design of the Explorer exclusively on Facebook. Now how would that have been done not too long ago? TV, probably print. But they did it exclusively on social media. And this continues that tradition by unveiling something dealing with their Escape vehicle exclusively via a Google Plus Hangout.
The second example here is from an account I maintain for McDonald's of Northern Indiana. Stephen is someone who had previously been skeptical of some of the healthier options on McDonald's menu. But when we unveiled the new Happy Meal, Stephen was all about it. It's a great example of how providing the right kind of information can turn a skeptic into a brand advocate.
Another example from that McDonald's account. A while back the national news organization Reuters published a story about McDonald's changing their Dollar Menu, and getting rid of $1 soft drinks.
Now, how many people go to McDonald's specifically because of the $1 sodas? Exactly. It's a big deal for people. And actually, if you want to talk about something that helps people through their day - that $1 McD's soda helps a lot of people through their day.
So a food editor at the South Bend Tribune picked up the story and tweeted out that McDonald's was getting rid of $1 sodas. And it caused a little stir. What that reporter didn't realize is that the story referred to a national move that was still optional for local markets. And as it turned out, our market was keeping $1 sodas.
So we responded in kind on Twitter pointing this out, and then followed up with another tweet just to be clear that said, "Just to be clear, $1 sodas are staying in Michiana." Heidi then responded that $1 sodas were indeed staying. It's a great example of providing the right kind of information to clarify what someone is reporting about in social media.
The last thing I want to touch on is the idea of context. Context is how smart businesses are really solidifying their connections with customers. Because it doesn't matter how cool my experience is or how awesome my information is, if the customer is not in the right frame of mind to receive it, it will fall flat.
So here are a couple of examples of what I'm talking about. The first comes from a brilliant startup called Superkid Capes. It's brilliant because it's run by my wife. She makes superhero capes for kids for playtime, parties, etc.
Think about the kind customer base she has. They're moms, just like her, who are dealing with the same kind of things all moms do. So in this example, she says something to the effect, "I wish I had a laundry superhero."
It's something small, but it resonates with where her customers are at. It creates a contextual relationship between the business and the customer. So next time they're thinking about getting something unique for their kids' playtime, maybe they'll consider buying from a mom that is going through the same things they are.
The last example here is again from Southwest. This is cool. They actually have a Facebook page for each of their hubs. Why is that important? Because if I'm flying out of Midway in Chicago, I want to know specific information relating to that. So here they're talking about a snow storm that's coming. It really wouldn't be relevant to put on the national page, but given the context of a person who is flying out of Midway, it's incredibly useful information.