Conference call: Social Media Junction 2 in review

Six international speakers and a range of local big brains from varied marketing and communication backgrounds came together in Auckland this week for the second edition of Social Media Junction and  presented their perspectives on acheiving ROI from social media activity. But ROI is perhaps the wrong phrase to describe what was discussed. With the benefit of hindsight, it was more about content marketing: you’re on social media platforms, but what are you saying, how are you saying it, when are you saying it and are the customers listening and then actually buying or recommending to someone else who buys? Anyway, enough with the questions, here’s what the speakers had to say.

Lee Odden of TopRank Online Marketing was first up. One of the main points made by Lee was that KPI’s are not the end goal. This is because social media is a communications tool, not a tactic. Delegates often expect a silver bullet to take away from a conference and implement with immediate social media success. This doesn’t happen because there are no secrets to great social media practice. It’s simply one of the best ways for brands to create loyal customers, get instant feedback and spread/develop content. If you have an idea about what to do in the social media space and it gets re-affirmed by speakers and other delegates at a conference, that is a valuable takeout if you use it when you get back to the office.

Next up was Louise Denver from Deloitte Australia. She talked about capturing and sharing innovation within the organisation through tools like Yammer and also how to tell social media to people outside the marketing team. Yammer is not as sexy as Facebook, Twitter and the like, but it’s just as powerful. It allows a company to be more connected whether they are in the office or not. And it’s not just for large corporations like Deloitte. Smaller companies that have employees spread around the country (and planet) can use Yammer as a cost-effective platform for collaboration, staff retention and staff recruitment. It’s surely something on the rise over the next few years as we start to see an even more mobile, more fluid workforce.

Simon Wakeman, head of communications for Medway Council in the UK and a thought-leader in online communications within the public sector, followed. He discussed similar topics to his day one workshop presentation (see below), but with an ROI focus. One of his key points was that all brands need to do a proper online audit and understand their keywords and the fact that they change as products and perceptions of the brand change over time.

Michael Fox, one of the founders of ShoesofPrey.com, which makes custom women’s shoes, managed to hold the attention of at least every woman in the room as he spoke about social media and fashion. He talked about Seth Godin’s ‘Purple Cow Theory’, whereby you create something that has huge talkability. The social media part is kind of easy after you have a product or service that is interesting and different. It may not be unique (what’s truly unique these days?), but it could be a unique take on an existing concept or a better designed brand.

Darren Whitelaw from Department of Justice, State Government of Victoria then took to the stage for his speech on crisis communication using social media. Whitelaw was at the communications helm during Australia’s worst ever natural disaster, the Victorian bush fires. An important point from Darren’s presentation was that phone lines normally get jammed during a crisis and social media is the best additional resource for handling queries and information distribution.

We then had a Kiwi brands blog, chaired by Michael Carney of the Marketing Association, which I (Alex Erasmus of Bullet PR) joined for an agency perspective. We also heard from Telecom, ASB Bank, Hell Pizza and Tui. Telecom has used social media mainly as a customer service channel and it’s been a great way of finding brand evangelists within the company to represent Telecom online. ASB Bank launched the innovative Virtual Branch through its Facebook page. This has increased the options for customers (and non-customers) to interact with the bank, which is great ROI. Hell Pizza spent $80,000 on a YouTube campaign – Deliver me to Hell – that delivered millions of views. Tui has used social media (Facebook) as more of a supporting mechanism, rather than a stand-alone channel. So, for the ‘Yeah right’ campaign it tests which ads are most popular on Facebook before using on billboards. For my two cents, I talked about how the future of PR agencies is going to be about content creation. We need to be the idea generating, campaign driving social media go-to guys for our clients. The day-to-day stuff should stay client side.

Cliff Rosenberg, MD of LinkedIn for Australia and NZ then shared stats and trends in online networking with the delegates. It’s interesting to see the niche that LinkedIn has carved out in terms of recruitment in particular. He made the useful analogy that engaging with people on personal social media like Facebook is like approaching a chief executive who is with his kids at Disneyland – i.e. possible, but not very useful.

The conference was rounded out with a panel of the international speakers, chaired by Vincent Heeringa of NZ Marketing Magazine.

The first day of the conference was dedicated to the Public Sector Workshop, which was spearheaded by Simon Wakeman, who regularly speaks at conferences and blogs on his personal site.

He began by asking audience members to write down their expectations for the workshop, along with their personal role within the public sector. This was a useful way for people to get to know each other and a timely reminder of the importance of sharing information and experiences between delegates as much as gaining insights from the speakers themselves.

Because of the deluge of mis-information, many of us find using the word ‘revolution’ a little over the top when discussing social media. Wakeman reminded us that it is just that. It’s has fundamentally and permanently shifted the way that every brand, public sector or otherwise, communicates with its customers and stakeholders.

When the public sector fully jumps onto a trend, you can hazard a guess the trend has become the norm. Think of a good website. People don’t talk about whether or not a local council needs a website anymore, they talk about what it says to its community. The same is fast becoming true of social media. Wakeman demonstrated his plan for social media strategy: content, community and channel, with social media at the intersection. If you know your community and get the content right, the channel will follow.

Selling social media to people outside the marketing team has been a significant factor in Bullet PR’s consulting in this area and Wakeman echoed our experiences by isolating the hard numbers of where the communities are at to show tangible value. It may not represent the full story of the social web, but hard numbers sell anything to the decision makers. As such, he compared local Facebook stats to the local newspaper readership for his colleagues.

Perhaps more than the private sector, dynamic social content for the public sector is often dependent on tying in to the news agenda. If it’s already getting coverage online, use the momentum to leverage your message, in a relevant way of course. This links in to one of Wakeman’s final points. If there is an existing community, similar to what you are looking to create, explore how you can tap into it, rather than building a brand new one.

  • There’s nothing more exciting than photos of people speaking at conferences. As you will see if you go to the SMJ Flickr page.

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