ROBRADY Covers the 2010 Social Media Conference in Miami
Recently I traveled to Miami to represent ROBRADY at the 2010 Social Networking Conference. Overall it generated some great enthusiasm and I walked away with fresh ideas for our social media agenda. The dominating theme of the conference was how to build relationships through the various social media channels and use Web 2.0 tools to strengthen brand, communicate with customers, and build sales.
The pre-conference discussions were hosted by Chris Rollyson, Director of CSRA, Inc and Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay Labs and author of The Facebook Era. Rollyson gave a great discussion on what drives companies to engage in social media strategies. His point about the necessity of discovering how your clients use these tools before randomly creating sites was very insightful and something we discuss often at ROBRADY. The key to success with these tools is to engage your target audience where they are already congregating and provide them with useful and desirable information. Clara Shih’s discussion focused primarily on Facebook and highlighted some very creative uses of that platform to build brand and engage consumers. She also spent some time discussing the concepts of social media capital and transitive trust and how social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook lend themselves to these relationships.
During the main conference, trust, content, and collaboration were recurrent themes with many of the presenters. Ann Aikin of the CDC discussed how they collaborated with other health organizations to spread information on the Swine Flu epidemic. To complement the widgets, videos, and podcasts that the CDC created in-house, they also released XML files to allow users to build their own informational tools. By allowing the audience to participate in the process and create tools that worked for them, the CDC maximized their impact. This type of collaboration and crowdsourcing was met with enthusiasm among the attendees in the sessions. ROBRADY had experimented with crowdsourcing several years ago on our rMOTO electric superbike project and we are looking forward to finding new ways to use this tool and potentially collaborate with design students and fans of the studio.
Virtual meeting sites such as Second Life were also a hot topic. Sandy Carter from IBM discussed their use of Second Life and Virtual Forum sites for events. IBM experienced a 15% increase in consumer traffic at the virtual events and generated the lowest cost per lead in the industry. Amazingly, they have the same conversion rates at their virtual events as they do for their traditional live events. She attributed some of this success to the high quality content that was presented in a “sales-pressure free” environment. Content is definitely a main driver in the success of a company’s social media agenda. Steve Faktor of American Express defined good content as being a culmination of creativity, capabilities, and culture. To build and keep a dedicated audience, companies must regularly provide answers and solutions to their customer’s needs without pushing a sales agenda. This connects back into the concept of trust. The audience should see content as a genuine effort to assist and educate.
Proponents of social media say the power of disruption media has waned with the increase of technology. Consumers can block commercials from television, get their news from RSS feeds rather than papers or magazines, and look to their more trusted peers for product referrals. Businesses must add value to their marketing message and must listen to the conversations in the marketplace. As many companies have discovered, their products and service are being discussed with or without their participation. The statistics from social media sites are impressive and prove that the audience is out there. Companies must develop cohesive plans for tapping this resource. Many of the presenters discussed how some businesses are jumping into social networking without a plan only to abandon their sites because they didn’t see immediate ROI results. As Rollyson instructed in both of his talks, high short term expectations can be a set-up for failure. Companies must have realistic plans and set relationship goals, not just sales goals. Strategically, ROBRADY has worked hard to set a long term vision on how we want to utilize social media to build our brands, engage our communities, and grow our businesses.
In closing, I would suggest a few changes to better engage the technical profile that a conference of this nature attracts, such as a more robust Wi-Fi and better access to power for laptop use. This would have really benefited the audience. I am looking forward to the Social Networking Conference growing to the point where it can stand alone and not be combined with other conferences so that it can be a truly engaging environment. Miami Beach is obviously a fun destination and it is great to have access to these shows in Florida. I hope this conference continues to grow and improve.