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Are you ready to learn the logic behind the argument that convinces companies to invest as much as six-figures into social media initiatives?  If so, this episode featuring Nielsen Online Digital Strategic Services EVP Pete Blackshaw (@pblackshaw) is for you.
 
You’ll learn:
  • How to position social media as an extension of existing corporate activities.
  • Which departments in the organization are spending the most on social media?
  • Selling social media in an apathetic environment.
  • Common red flags likely to sand bag the sales effort, and how to overcome them.
  • Shuffling the org chart for more effective social media engagement.
  • Analysis paralysis, word-of-mouth, Apple Computer’s marketing strategy and more.
Pete is also cofounder of the Word-of-Mouth Markting Association and author of the book “Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000” is about running a business in today’s consumer driven world.
 
This interview was conducted as research for my upcoming book with Paul Gillin titled “Social Marketing to the Business Customer,” to be published by Wiley early next year.
 
SHOW NOTES

01:35 – If you want to win buy-in for social media initiatives, don’t present it as something news.  Instead, present it as a logical extension of what the organizations is doing already.  Companies are already invested in public relations, customer service and investor relations.  Show them how social media can help them conduct these processes more effectively and efficiently.
 
02:37 – Over 200 reporters at The New York Times have Twitter accounts. So if you’re already invested in resources in managing relationships with the mainstream media, then deepening those relationships via social media is a natural extension of what a company is doing already. Convincing a PR executive that they need apparatus to listen to what reporters are saying on Twitter, or a customer service executive that they need to be listening to what customers are saying is going to be the path of least resistance, since social media allows them to extend the reach  of what they’re doing already. To appeal to a brand manager, you’d focus on how listening to social media can help preempt the brand from negative consumer generated content that could go viral.
 
06:58 – Originally, social media initiatives were driven by progressive public relations business units, but market research has become an advocate as well. In an effort to marry social media with customer relationship management, call centers have also become interested in listening platforms.
 
09:22 – Marketing is a key stakeholder for winning buy-in, because marketing is where the lion’s share of the budget lies, but marketing serves different masters in different organizations. One the places social media monitoring delivers the most value is during new product launches, and again because companies are so heavily invest in launching new products, this is also a great area to implement a social media initiative, because there’s so much money riding on product launches already, it’s going to easier to find budget.
 
12:10 – Apathy is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to implementing a social media initiative. When things are going well, people are less inclined to allocate budget.  But the brand gets slapped around publicly, or there’s a recall or a crisis on some kind, that’s an opportunity for winning buy-in and resources.  Negative conversations that go viral are a wakeup call to management.
 
14:22 – In regulated industries, winning buy-in and resources for social media can be particularly tough, because listening is a liability.
 
16:29 – It’s one thing to wax poetic about conversations and dialogue, but practicing what you preach involves collapsing the wall between public relations and customer relations, because the skills required to deal with volatile, emotional customers are, with training, transferrable to the company Twitter page. If you buy-in to the notion that customer conversations are influencing the purchase funnel, you need an organizational model that centralizes customer feedback so that all business units can benefit from it.  The opportunity for public relations is enormous, because listening platforms provide early warnings that can be used to circumvent a potential catastrophe.  If you have the tools to figure out who the real influencers are, you can use that information to develop customer advocacy programs. But the end of the day, you’ve got be able to package that data so it’s relevant to the different business units.
 
23:35 – Pete doesn’t see any real distinction between monitoring social media for B2C vs. B2B companies.  He says the same rules apply.  In his case, given the number of self professed “social media experts,” that’s become the B2B social media channel for a service like Nielsen BrandPulse.
 
24:29 – The internal use social media is promoting greater free flow of information inside the organization, fulfilling what we hoped to gain from intranets in the early days of web communications.
 
29:23 – CRM is the most important thing for companies to be able to do.  It’s more important than blogging or tweeting, because it’s the key to maintain intimacy with customers. In the case of social media, you’re dealing with customers who bring a different value to the table, like influence with other customers via social media.
 
31:30 – There is also the danger of being overly analytical.  Analysis can lead to paralysis, and brands can forfeit opportunities if they over analyze the data.
 
33:02 – Apple Computer understands how winning products and great experiences drive conversation.  You can preach social media or pimp for followers until the cows come home, but if your product is lacking, or service under delivers.  Apple uses their website to build anticipation and they create brilliant videos that people like to share.  They understand how to create content that people want to share, so they get phenomenal pass-along.  But they have the core product down.  They’re great products that provide great user experiences.
 
35:04 – “Although we romanticize everything being open and free, the reality is a lot of word-of-mouth is also driven by mystique,” says Pete Blackshaw.  We want what we can’t have, and exclusivity can be leveraged in social media to create demand as well. A new website called Secret Cincinnati amassed a huge amount of traffic in a short period of time by promising to tell you something you don’t know already.
 
36:54 – You can also use those conventional processes that the organization is involved in already which are inefficient as opportunities to secure budget for social media initiatives.  For example, running focus groups is a very expensive undertaking.  For the price of a focus group you could listen to the web for an entire year, and get a real time focus group that’s always there for you for the same investment.
 
38:27 – For Pete, in some cases, he may be selling social media listening platforms by undermining the value of conventional platforms.  But Nielsen is more sophisticated than that, he says, and certainly weren’t willing to forgo modernization to protect their existing products.
 
40:31 – End
 
RECOMMENDED EPISODES
 
ABOUT THE PODCASTER
 
@EricSchwartzman provides online communication training, strategy and governance to public relations, public affairs, corporate communications and marketing specialists. He has extensive experience integrating emerging information technologies into organizational communications programs through public speaking, hands-on training seminars, consulting and the development of corporate policies on social media usage.
 
His clients have included Boeing, BYU, City National Bank, Environmental Defense Fund, Government of Singapore, Johnson & Johnson, Southern California Edison, UCLA, US Dept. of State, United States Army, US Embassy of Athens, the United States Marine Corps and many small to medium-sized companies and agencies.
 
Eric is the instructor behind PRSA’s top-rated social media and emerging treads training seminars, the Social Media Boot Camp and the Social Media Master Class, which are offered monthly in the US through PRSA.
 
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