Friday, December 3, 2010

Social Media: Do It For the Force of Good

"Keep it real. Remain engaged. Do it for the force of good."

- Benjamin Akande (@benjamin_akande), Dean of Webster University's George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology.

Dr. Benjamin Akande at Webster University on Dec. 2, photo courtesy of Tu Square Studios.

That was my favorite piece of advice from yesterday's Social Media Panel at Webster University. I've had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Akande speak several times at Webster for different speaking events, and if you haven't heard him speak, you need to. He has a great stage presence and his words move you, whether he's introducing Jack Dorsey (@Jack), co-founder of Twitter, or John Mozeliak, General Manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, he has a way of commanding your attention with his distinctive voice and intellectual speak.

Dr. Akande was the moderator at Webster's Social Media Panel on "Bettering Your Business," featuring the following (in order of the photo below, provided by Tu Square Studios, from their Facebook album):
  • Chris Reimer (@RizzoTees), owner of Rizzo Tees and Chief Marketing Officer at Scorch Agency
  • Kathleen Manning (@MonsantoCo, @Kath_Monsanto, or as I know her best, @RedBirdsBroad), Media Specialist at Monsanto
  • Amber Talbot (@scottrade), Social Media Marketing Supervisor at Scottrade
  • Dave Collett (@Davexpert), Senior Vice President and Global CRL at Weber Shandwick
Social Media Panel at Webster University on Dec. 2, provided by Tu Square Studios.

I know Kathleen well through Twitter and we have several mutual friends, and I've seen Chris speak several times at different social media events throughout St. Louis (see his blog post about the event). All of the members of the panel served as a great resource of knowledge about social media, and they are all quite experienced in the field, or as Chris said, as experienced as you can be at social media, since it has only come into existence within the last five years.

It was a full house, which was expected since it was a free event. Here are some of my takeaways from the panel:
  • The social media movement is lead by us, the everyday people. We are starting, creating and continuing the conversation. It's our job to push it forward and carry it on.
  • Be nice and listen. (Another one of my favorite quotes from the panel, by Chris Reimer). Treat people online as you would in real life. Be courteous to others, and listen to what they have to say if you want to be successful in social media.
  • Social media is reflective of real life. There isn't a different set of rules for real life than there are for the virtual world. (Reimer)
  • Traditional methods and tactics of marketing and advertising don't apply to social media. (Collett)
  • Be a human being. Get away from the technical marketing/PR jargon, and talk to your audience like a real human being and be yourself. Talk to people like you're sitting with them at the dinner table, because people can see right through the corporate speak. (Talbot, Collett, Manning)
  • If you have a good foundation of engagement, you'll start to see the ROI (return on investment). (Talbot)
  • People want answers now, in real-time. They are turning to Facebook and Twitter when they can't find the answers they need in traditional methods. Customer service and social media should be directly connected. (Charter Communications is a good example.)
  • Gage the conversation, then engage. Before you dive into social media, listen to the conversation and then engage your audience. (Collett)
  • Be proactive. The smallest crises can blow up into something much larger if you aren't proactive online in social media. If someone complains about your company on Facebook or Twitter, don't let it fester, respond ASAP and help them find a solution so that they can become good will ambassadors for your company rather than naysayers.
  • Don't steal. It's not right to steal, so don't steal online. If you're going to use someone's stuff, make sure to credit them. For a good case study of what NOT to do, see the Cook's Source Magazine scandal.
  • Everyone makes mistakes. That's expected, but it's how you handle the consequences of that mistake.
  • Social media is not a one-size-fits-all. You have to curtail your social media needs to fit your company. A combination of social media and public relations is best, but finding the right mix will depend on the needs of your company.
  • Start small. Listening is free, so start there before you jump into social media. (Talbot) Use Google alerts to find out what people are saying about your company or about important topics related to your field. Search on Twitter and Facebook too.
  • Find out who your key stakeholders are. Then find out what they're saying, what their expectations are and what impressions they have of your company. What's important to them? Use social media to help align those needs. (Collett)
  • Everybody is in social media. Now what? Expect more filtering, so you need to find out what makes your company unique and what sets is apart from everyone else.
  • Presenting the most relative and timely content will be key. Expectations will be higher, and people will expect to get their answers or what they want NOW. It's a race to provide the answers or fulfill their needs in the quickest and most effective way.
  • Social media is controlled by everyone. But you have control, too. When someone says something negative about your company, you can't dwell on it. You have to know when to stay and when to walk away. (Manning)
  • Social media is the democratization of getting to know you. (Reimer)
You can find more tidbits from the event on Twitter, just search for the hash tag #websteru. You can also find video of the entire event online, and a post from the George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology blog, titled "Bettering Your Business: The Era of Social Media."

Webster's School of Business also has a great one-stop shop for video, photos, event summaries and more.

I'd like to thank Webster University (@websteru) again for putting on such a great event! I always enjoy making the trip out to the campus for events like this. And of course thank you to the panel for sharing your knowledge with us.

Here's another great review by Patrick Powers (@patrickjpowers), Interactive Media Manager at Webster University, "Webster University social media panel recap."

Sidenote: As far as using social media for good, look for my next post about promoting SCC's World AIDS Day event, featuring AIDS survivor and student Brryan Jackson, through social media.

Plug: Check out Brryan Jackson's full story and exclusive interview on ABC World News (@ABCWorldNews) With Diane Sawyer as the "Person of the Week" TONIGHT at 5:30 p.m. CST (KDNL-TV, Channel 30, for those of us in the St. Louis area). It was originally scheduled to air last Wednesday for a special on World AIDS Day, but they liked Brryan's story so much they decided to give him a longer feature (and you may or may not catch a quick shot of me in the segment, but hopefully not). Here's a sneak peak of the story.

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