BMA Social Media Panel Discussion

Each month the Business Marketing Association (BMA) luncheon is held at Jillian’s restaurant in Charlotte and, typically, there’s a guest speaker/presenter. In December they changed it up and put a panel together to discuss social media and restaurant marketing. Social media is a hot topic but the line out the door surprised me.

BMA header

Our room fits about 50 people and is typically half-full; people are busy. On this day it was packed. The audience was a mixture of BMA members – marketing types – and folks from the client-side. The panel consisted of two social networking experts, Corey Creed and Brandon Uttley, as well as and Lisa Hoffmann, who is Social Media Specialist for Duke Energy. I really wanted to meet Lisa and hear what she had to say.

I know the corporate world and I know social media, where the two intersect, however, is largely uncharted territory. Anyone with “Social Media” in his or her job title is on my “gotta meet” list. In my mind Lisa is a pioneer, an explorer, and there is much she can teach us. She is not just applying what many of us think is the next big thing, she, through her everyday job and actions, is one of the few people who are defining it.

So when Scott Hepburn rose to signal the start of discussion the entire room fell silent. As if choreographed, every back straightened, 100 elbows hit the tables with a thud and an equal number of hands clasped, as if praying for wisdom. We were not disappointed.

My note-taking skills are too crude to give proper attribution to each comment but, in summary, here’s what I picked up from the panel as well as what I already knew (no reason to make you read two blog entries):

  • Social networking is not a superficial relationship.
  • Your online relationships are quite similar to your offline relationships, or at least they should be.
  • The value in social platforms comes from two-way beneficial relationships, be they person-to-person or company-to-customer and, if you’re a company, you need both.
  • Empathy and listening skills are more important than selling and writing skills.
  • Social networking is not broadcasting to an unthinking audience.
  • Constant overt selling is considered spamming and no one likes getting spammed. Do you?
  • Be careful but engage. You can’t stay silent at a party and expect to walk away with lots of new friends.
  • Posts are not monologues written in legalese that strive to be the final word, engage the conversation and encourage others to talk.
  • Don’t react to minor criticism and every perceived slight. Be mature.
  • Big companies like Best Buy (Ford, Virgin Airlines, Dell, etc.) are successful because they use social networking to humanize their corporations through the individuals who work there, build the products, are genuinely part of the online community and have expanded their customer support while often reducing cost.
  • Companies should have social networking policies but don’t think you can control every conversation.
  • Don’t expect people to lie for you. If they do you’ll both be caught and publicly chastised if not thrown out of the tribe entirely.
  • Sites like Twitter are easier to navigate than a phone tree.
  • Emails are formal, often include the wrong audience, have too many cc’s and bury calls-to-action. Micro-blogs, such as Twitter, are more conversational and, as such, more productive.
  • The C-Suite needs to be involved since social media is rich in customer feedback, competitive intelligence, public relations, product suggestions, pre-sales activities, after sales support, brand reputation and investor relations.
  • The secure C-Level buy in aligned your social media activities and measurements with specific business goals.
  • Internal and external stakeholders (customers, employees, and the press) like hearing from senior management.
  • Start small with modest goals, measure results and expand slowly.
  • Let those with a passion for social media (for being social and smart) represent your company.
  • The IT Department should not be responsible for social networking. It’s not about computers; it’s about people and conversation.
  • Relationships built today may pay dividends tomorrow. Relationships shunned today may have consequences tomorrow.

I hope this helps.


  2 comments for “BMA Social Media Panel Discussion

  1. December 21, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Thanks for a very interesting summary. Two of your points stick out, which I think are essential for any social media strategy: C-Suite needs to be involved because social media is a business strategy, and internal and external stakeholders like hearing from management. I would make that last point more emphatic: MUST hear from management. Without the commitment from management, social media policies will fail. When the CEO is on board, such as Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, then employees will actively promote the company on social networks as brand advocates for the company.

  2. December 22, 2009 at 4:23 am

    Jeannette, you are so right. Some senior managers act like bad parents, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Clarity and consistency are key attributes of good leadership. A third attribute, which you just touched on, is making sure your words and deeds are aligned. I learned a long time ago to respect what people say but, if you want to know what’s really going on inside them, watch what they do.
    Thanks for the comment!

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