Holly Hoffman of Corpus Christi is the cofounder and chief inspiration officer of Neovia Solutions, an interactive agency known for its teaching component. She’s also an avid note taker at South By Southwest Interactive panels, a fact which I found particularly helpful given that I did not attend the conference this year. Mid-tweet last weekend, I asked Hoffman to recap a slice of her experience at the conference for AdPulp’s readers and she kindly obliged.
SXSW Core Conversation: Marketing in the Moment
There was a lot of talk this year about brand journalism and brands as publishers at SXSW. As a matter of fact, I happened to unwittingly attend three panels in a row on that very topic. Imagine my surprise when attending a Core Conversation on Marketing in the Moment (my favorite variety of SXSW panel, by the way – they’re always highly engaging and contain no Power Points) to find that the speaker picking up where my last panel on Brands as Publishers had left off.
Rob Garner, our Marketing in the Moment presenter and Vice President of Strategy at iCrossing, set the tone by saying that your brand is only as good (in the social media and content space, presumably) as what it is doing right now. Not what it plans to do in a few months, and not what it did a few months ago, but what it is doing right at this moment.
Lack of Agility and the Channelization of Social
The problem with enterprise brands, Garner argued, is that they are passive, as opposed to be being active and agile in their marketing. Brands take months, even years to update or redesign their website…actually, they take months or years to redesign even a portion of their website.
Contrast this passive, slow-moving process to today’s rate of information dissemination. An idea that resonates with consumers, customers and clients can travel very quickly now. The social media space is like a digital organism. If an idea hits a nerve, it will travel. Marketers and brands are fixated on hitting as many people as possible in order to spread their message. But this isn’t necessarily the best way to do it. You can aim for one bird, and you might engage the whole flock, if your idea resonates with that first one.
Aside from the problem of agility with big brands, there is a larger issue—channelization of social media. The evolution of social networks isn’t about a medium; it’s about society being networked at a level it never has been before. Social media marketers, interestingly enough, are guilty of “channelizing” themselves. Our bottlenecks, make it okay for big brands to do the same thing.
Brands Are Excluded From the Conversation
Marketing in the moment means being present and alive in the space through conversation and discussion, says Garner. Brands have not engaged in the space in a way that can be successful. They usually aren’t a part of the conversation about their brand, or even the general discussion that happens around their brand or industry (think home renovation discussions for a Home Depot or Lowe’s). Monitoring isn’t enough. It’s too late to respond when you’re just passively monitoring the social media space.
A lot of this exclusion from conversation and discussion is actually self-imposed by the brands themselves. Legal departments, social media policies, blocking networks in the workplace, siloing social media into one department (or worse, one person) all combine to exclude brands from the network.
Brand Advocates & Content Creation
To achieve inclusiveness in the network, locate the spirited voices within your organization, and externally? Embrace your audience by bringing people in from the community to be your brand advocates.
A brand’s identity is embodied in the spirit of its audience now more than ever before. Use a variety of market research methodologies to know what your target audience is searching for. You can set up forums and listen to what they are saying, do keyword research and talk to them personality. Market research is an obligation. It’s time for brands to listen and hear where people are coming from.
People inside the organization are also a critical part of the audience brands need to reach. Your internal people are acting on behalf of your brand on a daily basis, so you need to have a place to use internal people for engagement. You need a strategy to utilize these important voices.
Getting Swatted By Your Own Tail
Most brands start shaking in their legal department boots at this point. “How will we control the message?” is the eye-rolling-inducing refrain we as social media marketers have heard repeatedly. The brands that think they control the message are the very ones who get swatted by their own tails. Bad business practices will be apparent in social media, and so maybe some brands are right to shake as they do.
For the rest of us, some advice for overcoming the most common of internal roadblocks is simply to let go. Companies would do well to empower people to communicate without over-managing. You can’t talk when someone is editing your voice. You can’t have a conversation like that. Nothing gets by Zappos, for example, in the social space and that’s because their team doesn’t have a ton of obstacles to keep them from engaging with their audience. (As a matter of fact, when I tweeted this observation during the panel, a Zappos team member replied to me.)
Need a Baby Step?
An easy way for brands to join the conversation and be active ongoing participants, is to simply extend the things that are already publishing like news articles, and press releases out into the network. Even brands in highly regulated industries can be active participants, marketing in the moment, just by remaining factual and generous with their information.
Marketing in the moment is about letting go of internal obligations, being personal, treating social as a network or digital organism (as opposed to another channel or medium), and participating in the conversations the audience is having, whether the brand is are at the center of them or not.
Previously on AdPulp: Guest Post: Social Media Marketing Success…Wait For It