Archive for April, 2009

10 Tips for Social Media Marketers

paula-drumThis is a cross-post, authored by my friend and soon-to-be-former-client Paula Drum, vp of marketing at H&R Block.

Paula is well-known in the Social Media scene for being one of the early corporate innovators.  She’s going to be moving on to lead a to-be-launched e-commerce site and I’m sure we’ll all hear plenty more from her in the months ahead.

Meanwhile, Paula was kind enough to show me a draft of her last post as an H&R Block executive.  As you’ll see below, it’s great stuff and she agreed to let me cross-post the content to PR-Squared.

Below are Paula Drum’s “10 tips for Social Media Marketers,” lessons learned from hard experience.  Having attended BlogWell NYC yesterday, I can assure you that these are lessons that the Fortune 1000 are hungry for!

10 Tips for Social Media Marketers

1.  Every brand can be and should be “social” – Conversations about your brand and products are happening everywhere.  You need to be part of the conversation and if H&R Block can make taxes social, your product can be social too.

2.  Just get started – It doesn’t take a big budget to get started in social media marketing.  In fact, much of social media marketing is human capital.  Start by listening.  Set up Google Alerts to look for conversations about your brand or product.  Use TweetDeck and set up a brand search to monitor what is going on about your brand or product in the Twitterverse.  Then participate in the conversation; just remember to be authentic, honest and transparent and you will be fine.   If you take the first steps to engage in the conversation you will learn more about how your brand or product fits into the social media space and it will help guide any future programs.

3.   Integrated marketing vs. social media – There is a difference between an integrated marketing campaign that includes viral components or online/offline coordination and a social media program.  A marketing campaign has a short life; it is singular in desired action and is usually focused on demand generation.  A social media program is a commitment to engage and communicate with consumers where the consumer wants to communicate.  If you are going to start a marketing campaign with social elements versus a social media program, you must start with the end in mind.  The worst thing a marketer could do is build a group of fans, friends or followers without a clear exit strategy after the campaign is completed.

4.  Find your brand’s own path – What works for one brand in social media does not mean it is right for another.  For example, the path of engagement with a movie franchise is very different than engaging consumers about taxes.  Remaining true to your brand promise is the best way to approach social media.  Utilize your brand promise as a guiding principle across all your social media efforts.  Reflect it in the content that you create, the tone that you use, and the programs that you develop.

5.  Media $ versus human capital – I mentioned human capital earlier.  Companies can spend a lot of money trying to launch a social media program.  For the most part, I would really classify those efforts as an integrated marketing campaign.  Your approach and funding of an integrated marketing campaign needs to be in line with the size and scope of your overall marketing budget.  Social media programs can be a lot more cost efficient from a media budget standpoint, but, you still need human capital to run them.  In many cases you may be trading media $ for the human capital needed to run a program.  For example if you are taking the first step of listening and engaging in the conversation, there is no media buy necessary.  However, you do need to have some person dedicated to scanning and responding.  Ideally, that person is an employee of the company.  Why this should be an employee leads to the next tip.

6.  Agencies play a great role, but the voice needs to be the company’s – There have been many company backlashes by having your agency respond in the social media space.  Remember that the consumer wants to connect with you, not your agency.  Your agencies can monitor and identify opportunities, but it is the company that needs to respond – authenticity is key.

7.  Your agency needs to walk the walk – I hate paying an agency to learn on my dime.  When we started three years ago, social media was so new and changing so rapidly that we were all learning together.  Today there are many different agencies that are building expertise in social media including public relations firms, interactive agencies and newly formed agencies focusing on social media.  As you select an agency partner make sure that they don’t just talk the talk but also walk the walk.  Are they active in social media?  Does the agency blog or twitter?  Judge the agency not solely on their pitch, but also on their actions.

8.  Get legal involved early – Your legal department can be an ally or a roadblock.  What you need to understand is that in the area of social media there is not a lot of legal precedence to draw on.  This makes your legal department nervous because it is more difficult to know the best way to protect the company.  Involve your legal department early and help them understand your goals so you can build a partnership and not hit as many roadblocks.  Ask your legal department to help you solve for the risks versus just state that you cannot proceed with a program. There are always solutions to mitigate risk.  You and your legal department can find solutions together.

9.  Have a crisis management plan – The recent Dominoes episode clearly identifies the need of a crisis management plan.  In a world of 24×7 communications, the brands that can respond quickly to a crisis will be the brands that weather the storm.  A good crisis management plan must begin with active monitoring.  Judgment will need to be exercised to distinguish a customer service issue from a true crisis management situation.  Once a crisis has been detected, the brand will need to respond in a matter of hours not days.  Early action will help nip a crisis in the bud before it explodes into something larger.  No action or ignoring it will only exacerbate the issue.  A brand that is already active in social media will also carry more credibility and rally more supporters to come to the brand’s defense.

10.  Selling the C-Suite or ROI – One of the most popular questions that I get asked is how to build support at the C-level.  Having a clearly defined objective is critically important to gain support of any initiative.  However, everyone is always focused on the ROI or return on the investment.  I have defined ROI a little differently in this new and emerging space as Risk Of Ignoring. There is an absolute change occurring in how we communicate and seek information as a society.  The millennial generation is the first digital native generation with very different expectations of companies and marketing.  In the not so distant future the millennials will be a larger purchasing demographic than the boomers.  Not understanding this segment will be detrimental for future marketers.

Last tip: Watch Shift Happens and share it with your senior leadership team.

It is a great example of how we are living in exponential times.

… I do urge you to visit Paula’s own blog, where she goes into even more depth.  While you’re there, be sure to subscribe!

Learn a thing or two?  Me, too.  Got some lessons of your own to share?  Let me know in the comments.

And before we all head off into the day:  thank you, Paula, for all of your support of SHIFT and for allowing me to share this content!  Good luck with your new venture!

Cluetrain Angst

2469635150_6ac89581de_oWhen asked for case studies about excellence in Social Media, particularly by big brands, the default answers have been Dell (Dell Outlet, RichardatDELL, IdeaStorm), Comcast (@ComcastCares on Twitter) and lesser lights such as Starbucks’s MyStarbucksIdea and Zappos’s Twitterific ubiquity.

There are 1000 companies in the Fortune 1000.  Yet we keep pointing to the same handful.

That’s not to say that there aren’t more (and maybe even BETTER?) examples.  But they are not particularly well known, apparently.

The bar is still low.  When you think about it, “being responsive and engaged with customers” should be the RULE not the EXCEPTION.  Yet the handful of companies embracing this idea get outsized credit for their efforts.  And I say “outsized” not to minimize their attempts but to juxtapose them with the fretful foot-dipping of their corporate peers.

Not to take anything away from our current crop of Social Media idols, but, I look forward to the day when we routinely discuss OTHER big brand case studies.

To that end, tomorrow I’m going to BlogWell in NYC.  The event will highlight 8 case studies from companies such as Nokia, Coca-Cola, General Electric and Johnson & Johnson (disclosure: J&J is a SHIFT client).

If you’re going, I hope you’ll say hello (sadly, I’m actually pretty shy in these venues, so just stick out your hand)!  More to the point, I hope to be able to come away from the event with fresh ideas and a fresh sense of hope that Corporate America is all aboard the Cluetrain.

The Place to Be This Week


Naturally, I won’t be there, cuz I’m completely lame.  But YOU ought to be there:

The 5th Annual New Communications Forum

April 27th – 29th, 2009 in San Francisco, CA.  Now celebrating its fifth year, New Communications Forum is the premier conference that brings together thought leaders and decision makers to discuss the impact of social media and emerging communication tools, technologies, and models on PR and corporate communications, marketing and advertising, media and journalism, business, culture and society.

The Forum provides an in-depth, hands-on exploration of the future of communications. In its five year history, it has come to be known as one of the world’s leading conferences focusing on the latest trends in new emerging media and communications platforms.

You should go.  If you’re in the Bay Area, cancel your other plans and git over there.  First, though, enter the code SNCRFRIEND on the Newcomm website registration page to receive a discount of $100.

Disclosure: I am a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research, which puts on the Newcomm show.  I should totally be there.  (Sigh.)

Ims09-largeAnd in case you needed one more reason?  NewComm Forum ’09 is co-located with The Inbound Marketing Summit.  You like Chris Brogan, don’t you?  Go meet him!

The Inbound Marketing Summit is a marketing conference bringing together experts in the field of new media marketing to share the latest strategies, tools, and best practices to utilize new marketing methods to grow your business.

Modern-Day Fame & Infamy


I’ve been thinking about how the PR game is changing.  I’m no David Armano, but I’ve even been drawing pictures.  It helps me focus.

It’s amazing, isn’t it? — that within a few short years, Social Media has risen to such prominence that it is now a fully integrated element in the cycles of Fame (witness: Susan Boyle’s rise depicted above), and Infamy (see Dominos’s story below)!


You can click on each image to see a larger version.

Your Personal Brand is Crap!

IStock_000006271330XSmallThe other day, one of my clients got a bad write-up in the online edition of a regional newspaper.

My instinct as a PR guy, circa 1999, would have been to write to the reporter to see what the client could do to make amends; maybe write a Letter to the Editor of that newspaper, etc.  Standard stuff.  In the end I’d have counseled my client to a.) fix the problem and, b.) remember that “this article will be at the bottom of a parakeet cage soon.”

My instinct as a Social Media PR guy, circa 2009, was to tweet about my client’s bad coverage, adding disclosure about our relationship, and assuring my Twitter friends that the client would fix the issue.  This impulse arose despite the fact that the negative article will very likely never rise to the top of the Google ranks and will soon subside (just as it would have 10 years ago) as an issue for the client.

In other words: I almost put my personal brand ahead of my client’s brand.  Almost.  But I didn’t tweet.  Instead, I contacted my client and provided some counsel, and moved on.

My friend Geoff Livingston rails against this impulse to promote our personal brands:

3426194773_6faacd879e“We can finally look at (Social Media) and say, ‘What’s more important? That we become as famous, even more famous than our clients and organizations who we represent?’ … Or should we stop this nonsense and return to basic counselor values?

“It used to be that promoting clients came first … Isn’t it more important that we understand the medium, how to communicate through it, and guide our (clients) through the transition to two-way media and the phenomenal dynamic nature of this toolset?”

I’ve always been an advocate for PR people to slowly but surely become “known” online for being friendly, good-intentioned and smart.  Why?  Because I believe that such exposure will change the behavior of PR professionals (they’ll think twice before spamming!!) and thus incrementally change the perception of the PR profession.  It all falls under the “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” line that I cart out so frequently.

However, Geoff is also right: another line I’m fond of is “Team before Tweet,” and that applies doubly so when considering a client’s best interests.  As paid counselors, the PR professionals’ clients must always benefit first & foremost. 

PR’s role is in the passenger seat.  When you’re riding shotgun, your role is to help the driver navigate and watch for potholes, not to grab the wheel. 

Oh, and P.S. for those of you wondering about the incendiary subject line of this post, I was just riffing on this YouTube classic:


Show some social media love would ya?

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