Web boffin eyes paragraph to his left suspiciously

Questions were asked and the answers were given by Julien Smith, the keynote speaker at the upcoming Social Media Junction and New York Times bestselling co-author of Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust, which was singled out by Amazon.com as one of the top 10 business and investing books of 2009.

The US and Canada have genuine critical mass and social media is omnipresent. But social media in New Zealand is still in its relative infancy. Is this a result of lack of critical mass and why should marketers in New Zealand care?

Marketers in New Zealand should care because it’s just a matter of time, and placing themselves in this space now, understanding it now, will lead to an advantage over those who begin once competition gets rougher. Having the ability to look at Canada and the US and seeing how it develops is a bit like a crystal ball; it allows you to see into the future.

The relative lack of smartphone penetration in New Zealand has meant that Twitter is not as ubiquitous for retailers at a B2C level. Is social media, therefore, still relevant for New Zealand retailers?

The main changes will happen when smartphone penetration is higher, but using stuff like Twitter means you’re targeting the wealthiest portion of the population; definitely something any business should consider seriously.

Which area of the business should manage social media? Sales, PR, marketing, senior management or another facet?

Every part of the business needs to understand that they are impacted by it. That said, customer service are always some of the best people. They were hired because they like helping people, and they wish they could do it better in a lot of cases. Allowing use of these tools will help them perform their jobs better.

How do you manage the difference between corporate tone and personal voice on a blog?

There is no corporate tone. Talk like a normal person, as if you were speaking to colleagues or friends. If you don’t, people won’t listen.

The elder statesmen of the company want control and the proponents of social media are typically younger people who want to go open slather; what is some practical advice you can give to find a balance? Is it a mechanical or an organic process?

Those companies that embrace it will reach profit centres untouched by those who refuse to take part, or who find it too risky for their corporate culture, etc. That said, it isn’t an age thing, it’s an attitude thing. People that don’t want it aren’t necessarily older, they’re just on the defensive. Those that do like experimenting and finding new sources of clients and more, they’re on the offensive. There are ways almost any company can incorporate this, if you let the right people do it.

To be successful in social media, do you need the company to be across several social media platforms?

Prioritise profitable projects. You don’t need to be everywhere, only where your clients are or could be.

How would you respond to a sales director who wants hard and fast sales results from an investment into social media?

I would wish him good luck. Some sales tactics could probably work. The sales funnel is longer with social media but keeps those customers longer as well.

What’s the best way to convince the board (or the boss) that the company should be investing in social media?

Give them a real reason to use it. The board or the boss want to see results, so show them results or the potential for them. If it isn’t clear to them, it probably isn’t really articulated well enough in your mind, either.

Julien Smith has been a professional voice actor for much of his life and there’s still a chance to hear his dulcet tones and wise words at the Social Media Junction, which takes place on 17-18 May. Sign up for your tickets here

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