Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Insights from the Blogwell/GasPedal Conference in SF

Well, aside from the fact that it was a glorious day in San Francisco (75 degrees and clear as far as the eye could see), the Blogwell event was a pleasant experience. Great turnout from brands, technologists and thought leaders in the social media space, and while many of the case studies were those we might have seen before, it was really nice to hear from the brand reps themselves who seemed to really flourish as speakers in the shorter interval environment. And of course, Andy Sernovitz brought his affable and always informative presentation style into the fold, sharing insights that were truly valuable and doing so in a very non-intrusive way. Andy certainly knows how to talk with people.

So... the trip was a success for several reasons. Starting with meetings we had with two of our technology partners, here's a recap:

- On the brand monitoring/social analytics front, we had some very exciting discussions with eCairn on business intelligence and the semantic web. In a nutshell, outbound keyword emphasis through text mining will become the new SSM methodology (social search marketing). This means that we are not only able to filter out sentiment at the highest or deepest level, but we can highlight keywords and retarget them for use in respective messaging in things like ad units and carry that sentiment over to new profile groups within the community map. More on this in the coming week...

- On the video syndication front, Sharethrough (750 industries) has successfully created an overlay on the YouTube player that can not only track quant and qual data but can break down views into things like share ratios (among a few others). They've already launched two huge campaigns (one for Microsoft and one for Right Guard) using this new technology, and, here's the best part - it's still a completely opt-in mechanism. To boot, the player and respective content can be deployed as a rich media solution, the difference being that you have far greater sharing capabilities. We also talked about how to leverage the platform for dynamic focus group testing both with DR ads as well as actual product integrations; in this capacity, we would use this as both a profiling tool and an engagement "stick". More to come on this in the coming weeks...

- David Witt from General Mills on Yoplait Kids: blogging is just about the only way to reach moms online. Yes, you may have heard this before, but now you're hearing it from the source. Mr. Witt also lent some interesting insight into how mom bloggers provide scale in a very niche category. Another interesting note was on the fact that Mr. Witt's group can track repeat redemption with their coupon programs. He wouldn't give us the goods on actually how they do this (these are proprietary methods), but it was a nice discovery nonetheless.

- Joel Nathanson from Wells Fargo: during the worst of financial times since The Great Depression, the brand basically has made its strongest social media effort. The real takeaway here is preparation - don't wait for issues to arise, build your story and be preemptive. Wells has done terrific job of tapping into its rich history for this. Mr. Nathanson also spoke about how 3rd parties are not always reliable, so it is key to have strong back-up channels for customer service.

- Andy Sernovitz on the FTC crackdown of bloggers: the issues are largely attributable to a lack of a solid ecosystem to manage and protect content. Blog disclosure is easy, but what to disclose is not so easy. The new disclosure best practices toolkit greatly mitigates the risks, and is based on an open forum for collaboration and experiential input. The biggest risk right now is the failure to train. Agencies and contractors must be clear on guidelines with corporate internal groups, and everyone must spend the time to get it right... or at least close. Through a Twitter dialogue with Rob Reed (@maxgladwell) on this, I concluded that perhaps a failsafe is for corporations to conduct an ongoing dialogue with the FTC for "pre-approval" of their blogger outreach practices. More to come on this...

- Hilary Weber from Kaiser Permanente: in probably what was the most recent development from all the brands, KP talked about its new Beta-phase platform (KP Town Square Ideabook) that allows 160K plus employees to share ideas and experiences, as well as maintain basic and efficient communications streams. Some of the really cool features are things like searchable tags that are connected to people's profiles - great organic SEO. Mrs. Weber also talked about KP uses a wiki as a "family tool shed" for the business to house and optimize its information. Using wikis, the internal SM team has no developers, page designer or technologists. The takeaway: there's a big emphasis now on internal communities to collaborate on projects in order to maximize external efforts.

I did not attend the Cisco, Dell or SAP sessions (one can only be in one physical place at a given time...), but we did have a really nice chat with Kira Wampler from Intuit on using specific SM platforms to maximize frequency for their broadcast group - tying back to the dynamic testing methods mentioned earlier. 


Social media work as complements to other integrated marketing efforts. We have advocated this for a while now, but it's great to see all these case studies really focus on ROI measurement standards, and also be able to carefully delineate between engagement intent and purchase intent.

Successful outreach is all about trust. We need to trust ourselves before we can trust others to share conversations. A lot of what Andy and the brand reps talked to repeatedly was the notion of reestablishing a system of ethics and values that can transcend other areas of the business. By improving communication streams internally, the end product or service vastly improves.

All in all, great stuff. Aside from the stalwarts, we're seeing a lot of major brands that were skeptical even a year ago start to embrace social media and technology in some very profound ways. 

Here's to investing in the conversation.


Anonymous said...

Very intersting and informational. Thank you!

Christine Morrison said...

Hi There,
Christine Morrison from Intuit here. Sadly I threw out my back and was unable to attend the conference. The person you met from Intuit was the Kira Wampler. FYI I take being confused with her as a high compliment, but wanted to be sure you knew who you talked to.
-Christine Morrison, TurboTax Social Media Marketing

Gunther Sonnenfeld said...

Christine - my apologies - and to Kira as well...I realized this after the fact ;)

I am sorry to hear about your back, been there a few times.

Thx for reaching out!

Charlie said...

I love how Sharethrough's mechanism is not only opt-in, but supports a DR model without sacrificing creative integrity. Wish I could have attend the conference.