The words “social media” typically scare the hell out of business owners. Either you don’t have the time, you don’t understand it, or it’s just beneath you – perceived as something your teenage kids do instead of focusing on their homework. If you’re one of those brave souls looking to make moves in the world of social media, or simply learn more about it, the Social Fresh conference held on Monday, February 8 at the Doubletree Westshore in Tampa was an ideal place to begin. Individual presentations, group panels and small roundtable sessions ran from 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. and included some heavy-hitting speakers from companies like Best Buy, General Motors, MTV, USAToday and a keynote from Social Media Group‘s Maggie Fox.
Fox’s keynote was primarily about the scalability of social media forms. She presented three types of known media – owned, paid and earned – and an easy-to-remember scalability formula, “Earned + Paid x Owned = Scaled Social Media.” Some good background on this concept – and some visuals – can be found here (courtesy of Dave Fleet). The model allows businesses to leverage content (owned); advertising (paid) and reviews, articles and awards (earned) to achieve a true social media mix.
For small business owners, the creation of content is rarely a top priority, what with the daily tasks of running the actual business. However, Fox (and plenty of others over the course of the day) asserted that all companies are now media companies, and should start thinking like one.
Some takeaways were:
1. Channel-style thinking: Gone are the days of setting up a microsite for a product or campaign, and then shutting it off when the campaign is over. Businesses must begin to publish their content to silos or verticals. A fertilizer company, whose primary customer was a golf course, determined a need to publish regular golfing content to that segment of its database. A non-profit that held regular (weekly!) fundraisers (wine tastings, family events, silent auctions, sport/music events) had burned their database by blasting them with information too often about events that weren’t relevant. Treat all your content like a TV station treats a new show – pilot it, test it, if it gains traction with that audience, assign more resources to it.
2. Regular auditing: Conduct studies of your social media mix. Where is the conversation happening? What are they saying? What platforms are they on? Based on your findings, where do you need to be? And just like a media company, the curation of your content is the value proposition here. Inject a little personality, have a trusted voice and be a leader in your community.
Twitter was, again, the primary buzz word among all the sessions, but Twitter is a community (a glorified chat room, at best) and everyone agreed that if a business is not prepared (or staffed) to take advantage of the immediacy and customer service features of the platform, to stay away for now. Some time was spent discussing newer applications like Foursquare and possible marketing opportunities like rewarding frequent “check-ins” or giving “mayors” special rewards or discounts, ideal for bars and local restaurants.
At the “Branding Within Social Media” panel, USA Today‘s Brian Dresher encouraged marketers to concentrate on “ROIII” (a return on not only investment, but influence and interaction) and to have Twitter accounts (or content feeds) at the brand level, but also at the show/personality/employee level, hosting regular training on new platforms, to stay on brand and share best practices.
“Small Business Roundtable” moderator Andi Kuhn (Big Sea Design, Local Shops 1) told small business owners wanting to “ease in” to social media practices to try a low-impact, 5-10 minute regimen every morning (login, browse searches and filters for your business or keywords, re-tweet or share interesting stories or links, logout). The relationships and conversation that starts to happen from these few simple steps usually leads to opportunities for new business.
Conference attendees included Creative Loafing blogger Miss Destructo and representatives from CNN, HSN, FKQ, Tampa Tribune and Brand Tampa. Social Fresh travels to Portland on March 29 and hopefully returns to Tampa sometime next year.