How Visionary Marketers Are Building Their Brands: Social media

February 19, 2010

Where are the leading-edge ideas in marketing? Over the last 12 months, we've gone on the road to find out. In addition to learning from our clients, we've been spending time with visionary marketers at leadership forums in places like London, Las Vegas, Moscow, Mumbai, Miami and even midtown Manhattan. From our wide-ranging travels, we've been able to discern several key trends that matter to marketers in every industry and every corner of the world. Each installment of this ongoing series will highlight one trend and its implications for you. We look forward to your commentary.

Social media: going mainstream in a hurry

What we’re hearing:
Experimentation with social media is so 2009. Visionary marketers are investing heavily in social media and are realizing short- and long-term benefits, both in terms of reputation building and revenue generation.

Making beautiful music at the Mayo Clinic
At the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, perhaps the world’s most renowned medical center, Amy Davis and her team have embraced social media in a big way. Since its founding in 1889, the Mayo Clinic brand has been built on positive word of mouth referrals generated by thousands and thousands of conversations among patients, families, physicians and others across the world. Amy’s team sees social media as a natural way to accelerate this phenomenon, and has embraced the use of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to help humanize the experience that people can expect at the Mayo Clinic. They captured a touching moment on video (which was posted on YouTube) of two senior citizens, both being treated at the clinic, playing one of the many pianos sprinkled around the Rochester campus. This video gained national attention, and the couple was invited to repeat their performance on major media outlets like ABC’s Good Morning America, giving Mayo Clinic massive media exposure.

Southwest Airlines: making money with Twitter
When was the last time you wanted to talk to an airline? With a generally positive reputation in an industry where its peers are often reviled, Southwest Airlines has opened up new revenue sources by leveraging social media. With a small staff, Linda Rutherford and her team have turned Twitter into a revenue-generating opportunity. Last July, Southwest decided to forgo using paid advertising to announce a two-day fare sale, and instead spread the word via Twitter and Facebook. This fare sale resulted in the two highest revenue days in the airline’s history – a record that was broken that October when a subsequent social media fare sale was held.

Implications for you
Rather than recite a litany of statistics about the growth of social media, we suggest the following steps:

  1. Turn the corporate communications department into the corporate conversations team. It’s all about two-way dialogues from now on, not about issuing press releases.

  2. Bring in social media-savvy talent: Communicating in the 140-character format of Twitter, for example, requires a knack for brevity.

  3. Keep on experimenting. Like in the dot-com era, new models are being invented every day and new platforms will replace today’s standards before you know it (remember MySpace?).

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