Earlier tonight I attended a fantastic networking night and discussion forum hosted by the Social Media Club of Philadelphia.
In a room full of super-mobile urbanites I was the sole attendee clacking away at a laptop, which resulted in my capturing an abridged transcript of the evening. It’s presented below for the utility of my fellow attendees, but you might find it interesting too!
Continue reading for discussions of the following:
I didn’t take these notes as a verbatim transcript. Instead I live-tweeted them, which involved a lot of paraphrasing to fit into the 140-character limit. I captured the general direction of the conversation in that shorthand form, and I have expanded it back to paragraph form below with as little editorializing as possible.
Introductions from the @SMCPhilly board, who acted as our panel and moderators:
Cecily Kellogg (@cecilyk): “Non-safe” mommy blogger & social network junkie
Marilyn Moran (@phillymarketing): Internet/SM marketing consultant, as well as DJ & nightclub promoter
Gloria Bell (@gloriabell): CEO of Red Stapler Consulting
Olivia Rabe (@oliviarabe): Builds corporate presence on Facebook (via Stuzo Group)
Beth Harte (@bethharte): The woman behind Harte Marketing & Communications
The board came equipped with six questions developed by SMC on the national level. Each question was fielded by the board before being opened up for questions from the audience.
Q1: What to say when someone says “I don’t have time for social media.”
Board: Executives and clients want the social media presence, but don’t think they have (or don’t want to make) the time to engage. We have to reorient them to the fact that SM is no longer just an “emerging” facet of media. It is now a permanent part of our culture.
You have to tell them, “everyone out there is talking about you.” If they aren’t talking about your company/client in specific, they are certainly talking about your industry. Tell them to consider your direct competitors, and what needs to be done to match their SM efforts – whether they are actual or hypothetical.
If you are a marketer, you need to understand how Social Media is changing your profession. If you don’t start engaging now as a traditional marketer, in 2-3 years you might not have a traditional job.
Audience: When you get push back about how much time per day SM takes, what should you say?
Gloria Bell: It’s dependent on what you’re planning and engaging with. If you’re interacting with a single network, like Twitter, you need to plan a bare minimum of an hour a day. That might not be a continuous hour, it might be five minutes here and ten minutes there. But, really, you can’t say that.
Board: Tell them “nights & weekends.” SM keeps happening outside of business hours, and it might take non-business time to establish your presence.
@jerseycoach: Clients are citing fear more than time. And, what about ROI?
Discussion with @jerseycoach: How to assuage them? It’s an extremely low-cost medium with huge reach. Learn how to grow grassroots support for your business. Part of the ROI question is introducing yourself to and having a dialog with your competitors, which means learning how to cross-sell against them.
Beth Harte: Understand what the R and I are. Return on influence? Engagement? You need to examine your objective for the campaign and plan your time expenditure accordingly. More important than ROI, monitor first – understand what is being said and where people are saying it. Spend more time monitoring, and less time yakking. “Fish where the fish are.”
Q2: Is Social Media a popularity contest or is social media about genuine relationships?
(The board was split on this, but agreed the goal should be relationships, and their answers addressed how you can try to achieve that.)
Board: If your inclination is to answer “relationships” then you must be publishing good content and treating people well. Don’t treat them as receptacles for your spam.
You can’t run SM from a comprehensive editorial calendar, because it won’t be genuine. Plan to be flexible. Good writers can feel when a topic is ready to be written. Having a schedule helps, but you have to be able to go with your gut.
Cecily Kellogg: Your content has to be organic – the sum total of your experience, either as a person or a brand. And you have to engage. I respond to every single comment by email.
Beth Harte: “If you know me, I am the same online as offline.” (Look for an upcoming post from Gloria entitled “Would I recognize you offline?”)
Discussion with @jerseycoach: As long as you are talking passionately about what you are passionate about you will become popular and forge relationships. Don’t be afraid to block people who are blatantly wasting your (and the community’s) time. (He is referring to people who are filling the channel with waste, which is not the same as ignoring dissenters.)
(The conversation transitioned to be about who should be the voice of a company.)
Board: Readers pick up on the tone of your SM. If you are a company, don’t be afraid to cotweet (or just initial) to show the difference between authors. It’s important to the reader to understand who they’re hearing from. The State Department says, “On duty today: Danny.”
When it comes down to it, it’s still transparency – whether it’s who is writing or what they’re saying.
Q3: Are bloggers responsible for getting the facts right?
(Strong and vociferous response from the crowd as soon as the question is posed.)
Board: Bloggers are not journalists, but they increasingly fulfill a journalistic function in Web 2.0. While they don’t – shouldn’t – be expected to have a journalistic responsibility, they should try to be right, and not be afraid to correct or retract.
(The board briefly discusses recent crises of Motrin and Domino Pizza, as well as the Pizza Hut intern search. The board (and room) debate the effectiveness of the Domino Pizza response. Opinion is split. They get positive marks for rumor control on Twitter and in specific cities and regions.)
@sethgoldstein: If bloggers are going to fulfill a journalistic role, then they absolutely should hold themselves to journalistic standards. Not everything is of the utmost veracity in actual journalism, but fact-checking is important.
@krisis: I also come from a journalistic background, but I don’t think we can hold bloggers to that. What I do think is that bloggers should leverage the power of their platform. There is a reason they aren’t newspaper journalists. They have hypertext, so they should make reference to their sources – invite the reader into the rabbit hole to make their own decision. That’s an effective use of the platform. If we look at the Swine Flu coverage on blogs and Twitter, it quickly turned into misinformation. It becomes an echo chamber full of a booming sound.
(Seriously, I said that.)
Board discussion with @mikeilagan & Heather: The flip side of this question is, how do you deal with people who are slanderous and wrong about your brand?
Deal head on – engage at the source, engage across the network where the misinformation occurred, and engage across all of your platforms if the misinformation is significant enough. It’s important to have a spokesperson who can engage consistently on any/all of those platforms.
What if the slanderous complaint is based on an actual issue? For example, complaining about bank’s exorbitantly high rates when the rates really are high. First, defuse and educate. “Our rates are not that high; they are in line / lower than competitors. However, it is a reality of the current climate that rates have gone up, and ours have increased X% in the past year.”
If your company is in the wrong sometimes an acknowledgement and an apology goes farther than anything.
Tying back to the first question, show your execs/client who is already talking about them. Show them they have no control to have. They cannot constrain the dialog, just have a voice in it.
Q4: What makes a community real? That is: when does a web site feel like a place to be instead of simply a page of information to visit?
Marilyn Moran & Board: One of the first steps is to not moderate comments. A real destination features real conversation – it’s not just a brochure. Let people debate on the topics and the sub-topics. Allow them to connect in your space. That’s what a destination is. Let your loyal fans be your biggest promoters.
Make it a place people want to be; no one wants to be on a static page. Give them something of value. Don’t push stuff at them constantly; pull them in.
Olivia Rabe: There are three main elements to developing a community. (1) Entertain. (2) Educate. (3) Provide Utility.
Bill (twitter unknown): Let people arrive, be, share, and interact. When you go to a site that’s super-sterile it’s like a hospital room. You are afraid to touch anything, or be yourself.
(Possibly still bill? I’d like to credit this, because it was important:)
You have to know when your web site IS NOT a destination. Accept when it should simply be static info. Don’t kill yourself being what you’re not. If you’re a local municipality web site you don’t have to be a destination.
Board: That said, it’s sad that – given the opportunity – something like a municipality would pass up the chance to hear from its people/constituents. The government 2.0 concept is moving in that direction. The people who listen will stay in office.
Q5: What are the responsibilities of Web 2.0 services to engage with and respond to the community they serve, and what are the responsibilities of the community to the service?
Board: Part of this question is defining Web 2.0. Web 1.0 was simply having presence; it’s the tools we already have: Domains. Email. We previously had to fight for them, but now they are status quo.
Web 2.0 is what we’re fighting for currently: not just presence, but interactivity and user-generated content. With that defined, what responsibility do these networks have to us as users? Is it Twitter’s job to present threaded tweets if we demand them?
Audience (missed name): Many of these services are provided for free, or just for ad revenue. Though we see ourselves as customers, we’re not actually engaged in a transaction. It limits how much we can demand, and how much responsibility they have to us.
(I was packing up at this point, so can only reproduce my comment)
@krisis: I have to offer a con to that point. I was a Blogger user in 2000 when it was free and people made that same argument. And we clamored to throw money at Evan Williams so we could show support and engage in a transaction. The features we demanded were not forthcoming, there was no stability, and when Blogger was sold to Google the early adopters were essentially told to go ahead and jump ship to WordPress.
Ev, Jack, Biz – they are amazing, intelligent developers, but they’re still the people who created Blogger. Even with the open API we’re captive to Twitter – our content is captive there. We don’t even have archive pages.
What’s important for us as marketers is to be network agnostic. Two years ago we were all on MySpace. Last year we were all on Facebook. Today we’re talking about Twitter. In two years it’s going to be something else. There’s only so much the networks are responsible, and the responsibility we have to them is to accept that and be willingly mobile.
(If you can fill in further discussion here, please comment.)
Q6: How can we best support our social media community and our peers knowing full well we’re often competing for the same clients and client money?
(I was already en-route to hosting LP’s weekly Wednesday open mic when this question hit the floor; if someone can summarize the response I am happy to amend the post with credit.)