Marketers need to further integrate social media into their organizations, push to find better metrics and use data coming from social media more effectively to take it to the next level, industry experts said last week at the Online Marketing Summit in San Diego.
This year's OMS attracted more than 1,000 marketers, more than double the number of attendees at the event two years ago. The content at this year's conference ran the gamut from search marketing to website usability, but social media took center stage as a key strategy for success.
During an opening keynote presentation, Mario Sundar, senior social media manager at LinkedIn, discussed the changing role of social media and how it is managed in organizations.
“There are two trajectory roles that are occurring at large companies,” he said. “On one hand, social media will be seamlessly integrated into other functions, such as marketing, PR or customer support. At other companies, such as Ford and Citi, an executive social media role is emerging.”
Sundar also discussed how companies are using LinkedIn features such as custom groups to reach customers and prospects. “Try navigating groups first and find groups in your focus area, then find the types of questions they are asking,” he said.
Hewlett-Packard Co. used this approach to create a custom group on LinkedIn, called Small Biz Nation, that is a community of small-business owners and executives. “HP brought in a moderator who used to be an editor,” Sundar said. “This is important—you want groups to run on their own. [HP] spotlights a topic and provides a platform, and occasionally HP experts will drop in.”
During another session, Chris Brogan, president-CEO of Human Business Works and co-author of “Trust Agents” (John Wiley & Sons, 2010) said that over the last year, many companies have gone from starting social media efforts to demanding ROI from them.
“Halfway through 2010, there were a lot of desperate lashings going on by the senior team, who were saying, "OK, we did it. Now make my social media work,' Brogan said. “[Marketers] were Facebooking people into a corner and tweeting coupons all day, but still not getting much traction. Then desperation set in.”
One of the biggest opportunities for marketers this year will be using all this “sexy data” from social media to drive business, Brogan said.
“There is so much unstructured data that comes out of the social media space, and no one knows what to do about it—we are not there yet,” he said. “When all this data comes in, we need to be able to use that data, and turn it around fast and close it into sales.”
Brogan said another big opportunity for marketers this year will be in mobile applications that go beyond smartphones and tablet PCs.
“We only just started getting smart enough to design things with a 3-inch experience, and now we have to go to the 7-to-9-inch experience—and we are still designing the experience for the laptop,” he said. “That is issue No. 1: Mobile has to become much more important to you.” He advised marketers to take a look at their website on their mobile devices and consider creating an entirely separate version for mobile users.
During a panel that discussed how big brands are using social media, marketing executives from General Mills, Intel Corp., McDonald's Corp. and PEMCO Mutual Life Insurance Co. talked about how they are managing social media internally and using it to reach customers and prospects.
Ekaterina Walter, social media strategist at Intel, said the company has created a social media center of excellence to train its employees and set guidelines for social media.
“We try to become experts who keep up on new tools and technologies, and provide an infrastructure to enable all of our social media practitioners,” she said. “We are really working with all of our business units to enable them to go and activate social media and have more of an overarching company strategy.”
The group has a social media “playbook” that provides guidelines. It also works with the legal and privacy departments to ensure the company is complying with regulations and best practices.
Walter said one big challenge for marketers is scaling their social media efforts globally. “Facebook is a great example,” she said. “Most of the time, people want to engage with you in their local language. We have a main English Facebook page, but we have created a page in every country for people to engage in their language.”
During the same panel, Rod Brooks, VP-CMO at PEMCO Mutual Life Insurance, also addressed the need to bring in the legal department to comply with regulations regarding social media.
“With the new FTC guidelines, as marketers, we wanted to make sure [the legal department] understood the benefits of the social engagement strategy we had,” he said, referring to guidelines the Federal Trade Commission issued in October 2009 that govern the use of endorsements in social media communications.
“We created guidelines that require employees to speak in the first person [when talking about the company],” Brooks said. “Certain people can speak on behalf of the company but, for others, they must state it is their personal opinion.”
During a session on using social media to acquire customers, Chris Baggot, CEO of social content management company Compendium, discussed the importance of integrating search with social media efforts.
“Rather than having a home page, optimize as many pages as possible with as many keywords as possible,” he said, in order to drive search results.
Baggot said a new role is emerging in companies to manage all of the content necessary for social media channels. “Instead of a marketing communications specialist, there is a new content coordination specialist,” he said. “If you think about your silos of content—Facebook, Twitter, blogging, print and e-mail—all of these things live in separate silos, but they have to tie together.”