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Social Media Marketing: Big Buzz or Buzz Kill?

Last night at MIMA (Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association), a panel of local social media experts assembled to discuss how big businesses approach social media. It was a lively and very interesting discussion.

Big names like General Mills, Best Buy, Fingerhut, and Target tackled questions and shared their individual philosophies on what it means to participate in social media and why they think it’s important.

I gave myself two post-it notes (hey…where was 3M?!) to jot down a few take-aways for the online marketer thirsty for knowledge in social media.

Big Buzz
– All the panelists agreed that the value of social media to businesses is the opportunity to listen to customers. This ability to listen to consumers and glean information from them has never been so easy and cheap. Once you have stopped talking and start listening, act on that information. Provide social applications with a real, genuine use and value.

– Try. Try something new quickly to get out there rather than spend too much time on costly large social marketing initiatives. From these small initiatives, learn from the failures and try again.

– Successful social media programs the panel discussed were tightly aligned with building communities where the communities live. For example, Target’s back to college program engages students on Facebook with an application boasting over 33,000 users. Makes sense, considering 41% of users are aged 18 to 24 (During Jan 2008, according to Hitwise ). Best Buy too, created an internal social platform for employees eyes only called Blue Shirt Nation. It’s gotta be better than working…

Buzz Kill
– How do we consider different age groups in social media? Considering the fastest growing social network is Webkinz (7 – 12 yr olds) and visits from the 55 and older crowd represent the largest increase over the past 2 years (Hitwise), won’t we be missing the boat if we don’t plan for this opportunity now? Are college kids really the biggest consumers on the planet?

– ROI. Panelists did not have clear direction on showing ROI for social media. They suggested that social media costs be put in product research or other buckets. They suggested that “relationships” can not be measured in dollars or cents. Shouldn’t we be more accountable? This is why I’m glad I work in search, most of my stuff is measurable. If I’m getting you crappy results, you should fire me. I deserve it.

Wanting More Social Media
They are the most brilliant social marketers! I left feeling motivated, social, and engaged. They left me wanting more. More answers. More testing with social marketing tactics.

I started right away and signed up for twitter. I intend to use the powers of social media (twitter, Facebook) to follow these social media mavens and learn all the secrets not left behind…

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  1. szielie
    May 15, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Hi Blogmate! I’m glad you covered this as I couldn’t make it – it all sounds right on. I also think we should have a twitter for OnlineMarketingMavens on the site. Then we can rant real time about the online marketing space!

  2. Tom
    May 15, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Thanks. It’s great to see someone getting jacked about social media. I have a couple of comments.

    1. It seems like the definition of social media at this discussion was focused fairly tightly on social networks. What about using product reviews and ratings to boost online sales? That’s social in my opinion. Anything that gets you talking to your customers or gets your customers talking to each other is fair game.

    2. Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li from Forrester have a pretty cool tool on their blog to dig into the “technographics” or social media consumption habits of different demo groups. It’s fairly basic but a good start. Check it out here http://www.forrester.com/Groundswell/profile_tool.html

    3. I can’t remember my third point. It’s late and I am tired. thanks for the post.

  3. May 16, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Hi Tom,
    No they didn’t get into user generated content too much. I agree and have read user reviews increase conversions quite a bit. Sounds like a good idea for our next post!

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