By: Samantha Scott

Earlier this month Tampa was the host for a social media conference called Social Fresh (see Twitter @sofresh for info on this and other events they are coordinating around the country).

The relatively young organization/event host gathered speakers from GM, InterContinental Hotel Group, Brains on Fire and more. These are some of the major engines running successful social media (from a marketing perspective) and they were all together for one enlightening event.

Overarching Theme

It’s about communication not advertising. Spike Jones of Brains on Fire put it brilliantly, “Advertising is the tax that you pay for being an unremarkable brand.” This is not to say that advertising is bad or unnecessary. His point was, advertising had a job – to keep the company in front of it’s consumers, but if the brand/company is interesting, engaging, dynamic and creates passion then buzz/viral will happen organically. Social media is about communication and Word of Mouth, or WOM. Bottom line – advertising is for awareness. WOM is for credibility.

Supporting information for the statement, average ROI for advertising is less than 4 percent. It’s no wonder, because as Spike pointed out, if you talked to people in real life like you do in advertising, you’d get punched in the face.

The Facts

90 percent of WOM is offline and 80 percent of Twitter accounts are inactive. This is crucial when considering how to leverage social media in communication efforts. We should already be thinking about our target audience and where they are online, but this adds a different dimension. Likewise, we have to remember social media will never replace face-to-face interactions.

Watch your Mouth

Are you preaching and selling or are you talking and having a conversation? The difference could mean your success or failure. Spike explained our perception of the interaction as the first place to start.

So often the term campaign is used to describe an effort or plan we’re enacting. Why? It’s war vocabulary. No wonder people don’t trust us. Spike recommends the term movement instead. Relate to fans, inspirations, kindred spirits, grassroots, passion, love, etc.

The content you’re putting on these platforms becomes editorial. It’s not advertising anymore. It has an expiration date. It will have high read-through’s and clicks for a while, then it will drop off. You need to plan fresh material regularly, keeping in mind what readers/consumers want and need – not necessarily what you want to sell them.

The Buy In

The core concept in using social media for business is relationships. We have to offer added value to our client’s consumers. This could be special offers or just useful information. If they wanted to be sold to they’d watch commercials and study magazine ads. This requires a buy in on their part. For a movement to really take hold it has to engage the consumer and stir a passion within them. Passion drives action.

The Art and Science of Scaling Social Media

Maggie Fox of the Social Media Group, a Canadian firm with international clients, hit the nail on the head. Social media is a science. You don’t just throw it all out and see what happens.

Understanding this, we have to create a strategy. We have to remember that brands are now capable of being their own media. They have channels, communication tools at their disposal – i.e. Websites, blogs, Twitter accounts, etc. Sometimes hard to swallow, be sure to acknowledge your social media ecosystem, where everything about you is not necessarily created BY you.

Use What You Have

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the time it takes to be active in social media. It’s equally easy to forget to use what we have on hand. Cassandra Jeyaram, PhD, with InterContinental Hotel Group reminded the group that sometimes user-generated content is best – for more than one reason.

Using what you have, or what your fans, followers and consumers have not only engages them in your efforts, it also saves money. IHG’s use of members’ pictures increases revenue… They used pictures from IHG Confidential members in promotional material and on their site, leading to a 24 percent incremental lift in revenue for these promotions. Plus, they saved money by not having to hire photographers and set up shoots.

Factoids and a Reminder for Filing Away

  • “Above all, find a way to be RELEVANT to your consumer.”
  • Movement – All the rules of friendship should apply. You don’t MAKE your friends do anything. They will tell you the truth.