Earlier this year, #ConnectChat featured social media expert Shelly Lucas (@Hoovers) who discussed “How to Increase Brand Influence on Social Media,” with advice for social media and branding professionals on measuring and controlling influence, generating interest in target markets, creating brand personas, expanding brands into new social media territory, and more.
Shelly is a senior marketing manager and social media strategist at Hoover’s, a B2B business, and a division of Dun & Bradstreet (D&B). She’s responsible for listening to and engaging with customers and influencers online, including content strategy, online monitoring, new media campaigns and metrics. Shelly and her team increased Hoover’s Klout score from 29 to 61 (celeb status!) and doubled LinkedIn followers in one year.
ProfNet: Thanks for joining us Shelly!
Hoovers: Hi, everyone! Honored to be here!
ProfNet: Please feel free to jump in with questions and comments. And remember to include the #ConnectChat hashtag so we can all see your input.
ProfNet: Now let’s do this!
ProfNet: Shelly, what are some benefits that social media provides for branding that other channels cannot?
Hoovers: 1) Ability to scale: one to one, one to many, many to many. 2) High in virality: Beyonce’s pregnancy can generate 8,868 tweets in one second! 3) “Bottom-up” credibility: the influence of friend-to-friend referrals. 4) Real-time interaction: the potential for humanness or bringing a brand to life. 5) Real-time competitive (and market) intelligence — even if anecdotal, still valuable.
Hoovers: It’s important to remember that social media is a channel — not a strategy — and it’s one channel in a multichannel approach.
Hoovers: Social media can also create a brand experience. It’s not just a 30-second spot or print ad. Folks actually talk with the brand.
@skinnytwinkie: Any secrets to getting something to go viral?
Hoovers: Important to going viral: know your audience. Cisco didn’t — that’s why its Old Spice parody didn’t work. Here’s a link to Cisco’s Old Spice parody: ow.ly/8N75X Compare to Brigham Young University’s (which works): ow.ly/8N78r
lisakanda: Who manages @Hoovers social media — a team, one person? How do you do it? Social media calendar? Research and metrics? Third-party help?
Hoovers: A team manages social media, activated by expertise. We follow news cycles, company news and weekly themes, e.g., [fill-in-the-blank] Friday. At Hoover’s, social media falls under marketing, but we’re moving to a decentralized model (Altimeter’s “Dandelion”).
First_Retail:What are some “best in class” companies/brands that use social media effectively and what do they do differently than most?
Hoovers: @Dell definitely does social media right! They have 6,000 employees certified to represent the brand and they have a command center.
ProfNet: What are some of the restrictions or limitations that brands face online?
Hoovers: A restriction that social media has is that the we’re not in control of the brand. We always knew that, but with social it’s clear.
KileyG: What is your opinion about responding to social media issues during “off” hours (nights and weekends)?
Hoovers: Depends on what the issue is. If it’s a crisis (and your biz should define this), social media needs to respond immediately. But how feasible is it to respond immediately to crises via social? We already sleep with our iPhones on.
Hoovers: f you don’t have 24-hour customer support — or a PR response team — responding via social media may be limited in its effectiveness.
KileyG: I think generally people are forgiving for some time to elapse if the event happens during strange hours. #vagueanswer
ProfNet: Shelly, you said a brand isn’t truly in control of its own influence. So how can a brand enhance its influence then?
Hoovers: Influencers are in control of the brand. And influencers don’t have to have a Klout score of 75 to be influential.
Hoovers: A group of influencers can aggregate behind a cause. Example: Beautiful Bald Barbie’s Facebook petition to Mattel. Power in social media.
First_Retail: Speaking of being in control (or not), how do brands avoid hashtag hijacking (example: McDonald’s) or is it just a risk with social media?
pcolpitts11 It only takes one sour voice. Negative comments will always draw more attention.
Hoovers: It’s important to enhance the brand via social — for trust. Seventy percent of consumers actively avoid a product because they don’t like the parent company.
KileyG: @Hoovers I think that is why transparency is so important for brands.
Hoovers: Exactly! RT @KileyG I think that is why transparency is so important for brands.
Hoovers: Hashtag hijacking is an inherent risk. To be cautious, try to troubleshoot the hashtag for unsavory responses. #McDstories is open-ended — kind of like inviting the KFC deep-fried rat urban legend. Are #LittleThings better for McDonald’s?
KileyG: Brands have to be honest with themselves about how they are perceived (positive and negative). #McDstories
ProfNet: How should a brand’s social influence be measured? How important are metrics?
Hoovers: A definition of social influence is important to the question of brand influence via social media. I think of social influence as changing mindsets and actions via social — a form of persuasion.
Hoovers: Social influence does not necessarily = popularity. Dare I introduce the dreaded ROI word? ROI is difficult to measure, as social influence is transitive; it can reach across multiple industries, can fade and recur.
rjmcAssey @Hoovers Its true. In today’s business model, companies are unlikely to stick with a simple “social promotion.” ROI is the key.
Hoovers: @rjmcAssey: Yep. They love social but hate advertising.
KileyG: ROI can stretch across several areas — from actual money-related conversions, to increases in customer-service quality, etc.
Hoovers: A few ROI metrics I’ve seen: 1) @jasonfalls via @smexaminer suggests click per follower (measured against peer group). 2) @Crowdtap measures brand influence via a points system, awarded per social action. #gamification 3) You can also measure indirect revenue impact. @pgreenbe has discussed customer referral value via @Irregulars.
ProfNet:How do you generate interest in Hoover’s target market?
Hoovers: We concentrate on creating a brand experience via social media. We try to make our social communities inviting, and hope folks attend. We go where our markets are and talk about what they care about. We target specific social influencers based on vertical and/or sphere of expertise via social media metrics and other tools.
Hoovers: LinkedIn is a very important venue for us (in B2B). We ask and answer questions, and post Hoover’s company updates. We’re trying something a bit different for LinkedIn company updates; we post mini-thought-leadership gems vs. recycled material.
KileyG: After you target them, how do you reach out to the specific influencers?
Hoovers: @KileyG We show targeted influencers social love at first — adding comments, not just RTs, which opens up a conversation.
ProfNet: How is promoting a brand different from promoting an individual?
Hoovers: I think the line between brand vs. personal promotion is blurring; social brand differentiation relies on same elements. People want to talk to other people, not to companies — and not to a flavorless brand. But as more social ninjas are activated in companies, I would say that brands are becoming groups of individuals on social.
TankaBar_Linda: Brands have always been groups of individuals. It’s just that social media makes the nature of those individuals more transparent.
Hoovers: “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” – Mother Theresa. People identify with the “mass” of brand advocates (employees), all expressing the flavor of a brand, which leads to action. The challenge is to trace the action (source of social influence) or ROI.
What is the role of personalization as a brand? Is it smart to humanize brands?
Hoovers: I think it’s a good idea to humanize your brand. Who doesn’t like the Travelocity gnome (a great photo share on Facebook)? Others argue that people don’t want a relationship with brands; they want companies to solve problems, give info or give a discount.
JeniceJohnson Humanizing a brand is necessary to be relatable to potential clients. Otherwise it’s just another company.
TankaBar_Linda People in a company — customer service, sales, etc. — have always humanized brands. That, plus the quality of products/services.
Hoovers: William Shatner gets axed as Priceline’s spokesperson because of strategy change. An example of the downside of humanizing brands? @TheNegotiator become synonymous with “name your price” — when a brand changes direction, so does the mascot/spokesperson?
KileyG: @Hoovers I don’t think it’s a downside of humanized brands, but I *am* curious if/how Priceline will wrap this all together.
Hoovers: @KileyG Looks like @TheNegotiator character is nixed; Shatner remains under contract, says AllThingsD.com: ow.ly/8Nf6F
Hoovers: Maybe I’m big on humanization because B2B companies sometimes struggle with the pitfall of “deadly seriousness.”
KileyG: @Hoovers I talk to a lot of social media managers in the B2B sphere who struggle with this humanizing piece.
ProfNet:What trends are you seeing with social media’s impact on purchasing behavior?
Hoovers: Unleash the stats! The number of U.S. folks whose purchase decisions are influenced by social media went up 14 percent in 6 months (Knowledge Networks).
Hoovers: But 66 percent of small-business owners say their Facebook ads didn’t attract new customers (MerchantCircle study).
Hoovers: Edelman’s Trust Barometer 2012 shows that consumers are trusting social media more (14 percent, up from 8 percent last year).
Hoovers: And people say “regular folks” are more trustworthy! Only 38 percent say CEOs are trustworthy (a decline).
KileyG: Could be tracking error? RT @Hoovers: But 66 percent of small-business owners say their Facebook ads didn’t attract new customers (MerchantCircle study).
KileyG: Lots of questions about that 66 percent stat. Did they run just one ad in an otherwise inactive social effort? How did they track? Etc.
eltiare @KileyG No, it’s a marketing error. Probably multiple.
KileyG: @eltiare I agree. Execution/strategy errors need to be considered.
ProfNet: Are there any new or just overlooked social media channels that you’d recommend to branders?
Hoovers: You know I’m going to say something about Pinterest! “Pinterest is pure catnip for mature women.” – Tero Kuittimen. Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined (via @shareaholic). Great for storytelling!
Hoovers: @chrisbrogan tweeted this morning about Gentlemint — “like Pinterest for dudes.”
Hoovers: I also think social bookmarking (Delicious.com, StumbleUpon.com, Digg) is often overlooked. What’s on someone’s bookshelf says a lot.
Hoovers: Tumblr is also impressive, with multichannel capability. It’s the fastest-growing social network in the world.
ProfNet: Does anyone have any final questions or comments?
MichelleCvCM: These are the most informative sessions! Thank you for hosting them!
KileyG: Thanks for letting me participate. Enjoyed the conversation!
TankaBar_Linda: Thank you for hosting #ConnectChat. Great discussion.
TankaBar_Linda: @Hoovers Thank you for the nod during #ConnectChat. And thank you for your insight, as well.
ProfNet: That’s a wrap! Thank you so much to everyone who took part in #ConnectChat. Hope you found it informative! Our next chat is on Feb. 14.
Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on the free social networking site ProfNet Connect.