SXSW: Business Goes Social

Kipp Bodnar
Kipp Bodnar



David Meerman Scott David Meerman Scott , author of the successful book The New Rules of Marketing and PR , at SXSW today led a discussion track with industry experts addressing different aspects of social business. Social business is a term to describe how the social web is transforming how all functions of business operate and are managed. Each speaker in the discussion had 15 minutes to share their expertise. The goal of the discussion was to explore the application of social media beyond marketing and public relations.

Marketing Goes Social

Scott started out with the example of Girls Fight Back , an organization designed to protect and empower women. When Erin Weed leads sessions for Girls Fight Back, she first asks attendees to put phones away, but at the end she encourages attendees to take pictures and video of training and self-defense moves. These pictures then get shared across the Web and have helped Weed train half a million women. 

Scott then shared some new rules for marketing on the social web .

1. Marketing in Social Media is About Losing Control -- Scott talked about how the band Grateful Dead in the 60s gave up control and let fans record concerts, which led to sharing and contributed to the band becoming the most popular touring band of the decade.

2. Nobody Cares About Your Products Except for You -- Companies spend too much time using words and phrases that mean nothing . Scott offered examples of press releases from major corporations and stock images that don't showcase the mission of businesses.

3. Create Triggers That Encourage People To Share -- Scott invited people via Twitter to help launch his book by ringing the bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange, which resulted in millions of people learning about the book through media coverage of the event.

4. No Convincing Required -- You don't have to convince people to help you market your business; they will want to do it if you are doing compelling work. Instead, create triggers that help people to share.

Media Relations Goes Social

Captain Nathan Broshear of the United States Air Force took the stage next to discuss the impact of social media on public relations . Broshear said that every member of the Air Force who has an iPhone or a video camera is a spokesman for the organization.  He pointed out that military is now letting service men and women publish pictures and content directly from their government computers.

The days of us calling the media is over. Broshear says that he has not sent a press release in 8 years. Instead, they publish information via blogs and Twitter as a way to communicate with members of the media. Broshear was able to follow media reactions about landing in Hati to file flight plans and improve perception about the leadership of the Air Force during times of crisis.

Social communication cannot be about the public relations professionals; instead it is about connecting media with peer groups. Sharing experiences is more powerful than talking about yourself.  He says that the military trusts 20 year-old men and women with 50 million dollar jets. Shouldn 't they also be able to use a Facebook page?

Customer Service Goes Social

Melanie Baker from PostRank took the stage next to address customer service on the social web. She opened by sharing examples that show the importance in providing customer service via channels that matter most to customers. Baker said that customers will do business with you how they want to, and we all make decisions in different ways. Businesses are responsible for the way customers talk about their products with other potential customers. While communication is important, understanding who is on the other end of the customer service conversation is critical.

In a world of social media, customer support is in constant demand. Who covers for a community manager when he/she goes on vacation? It is reasonable to expect that everyone in a company should be able to do customer service if needed? In a world of social media where everyone can be a customer service representative, it is important that companies hire smarter people and create programs to educate employees. Building strong internal communities within organizations helps to build better customer service.

Additionally, employees are going to need tools to help them understand what information to pay attention to on the Web. Along with tools, a monitoring strategy will help employees understand how to best react to customer situations. Anticipating the communication needs of customers allows you to plan potential communications platforms that will better serve your customers.

Hiring and Recruitment Goes Social

Jeff Berger, of KODA , said that online job recruitment is an $8 billion industry. However, he said that this market is suffering from a lack of innovation, specifically when it come to communicating with Generation Y. It used to be that a newspaper and a letter were the job application process, then and CareerBuilder .com took over. When it comes to online jobs, 80% of applicants never hear back from companies when they apply online. Job boards are one of the last hold outs of Web 1.0, he said.

This disconnect creates two problems.  People in their 20s are overwhelmed by job boards, and they do not yet have professional networks. This disconnect makes it more difficult for recruiters to connect with applicants. The business problem to this situation is that the rate of retirement is increasing, and we are moving into an applicant-driven market. Companies are moving past job boards and toward platforms like Twitter and Facebook to hire new employees.

Social recruiting brings together social networks and job boards. The resume is an outdated tool; social job sites help people better showcase their skills and are becoming more and more important.

Workplace Collaboration Goes Social

Glen Lubbert of Mojo Interactive was up next to speak about workplace collaboration. He explained that social media means real-time learning and evolution from each other through decentralized information. He explained that his business started a program that allowed employees to choose their own ceiling tiles for their offices to make the office a better place and allow staff to share with each other. This exercise, he explained, helped to give perspective of the different personalities of each team member. This turned the office into an art show and gave employees new reasons to talk to each other. He described that his staff also used Yammer to communicate about the project.

Mojo also shows all of its employees' Twitter streams on the careers page of the company Web site in order to extend its brand to potential employees. This gives new hires a value of the culture when they join the business.  Lubbert mentioned that, as CEO, he uses Facebook as an important tool as a cheat sheet to get a better understanding of his staff and their lives outside of work. This helps him show that he really cares about his employees.

Corporate Culture Goes Social

Bert Dumars of Newell Rubbermaid closed the session with a discussion about changing an old brand. Driving change in an organization is not an easy thing to do. Rubbermaid has been doing social media for 2 years, but had been focused on customers, not consumers. This approach put the business too far away from consumers. Now social media at Rubbermaid is about giving consumers a direct voice to the organization to help drive product decisions.

Dumars pointed to customer reviews on the Rubbermaid Web site in regard to the company's produce saver review. The company reached out to negative reviewers who were using the product without reading the instructions, and as a result, the brand team wrote a blog post explaining how the product works. Consumer-generated product reviews are now created every day for Rubbermaid.

When Rubbermaid listens and acknowledges consumers, they create advocates and gain a better understanding about product development. People want to feel like they made a difference, and it is important for businesses to move from listening to responding and acting, said Dumars . Social media can save companies money and frustration.


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