Brand Log: iStrategy SF 2011

April 7, 2011

For two days this week a host of major brands and marketing agencies and technology companies gathered in a hotel in San Francisco to talk and tweet about social media. And about McWinning.

Fill a room with representatives from Microsoft, Radio Shack, Heineken and Intel (among many others) and get them talking about social media and a few things becomes abundantly clear: (1) The rules of engagement are evolving at a frantic pace; (2) No one has yet found the magic elixir for social media success; (3) The one thing folks do seem to agree on is that social media is not merely a tactic, but a harbinger of a new communications paradigm.

Welcome to iStrategy San Francisco. For two days this week a host of major brands and marketing agencies and technology companies gathered in a hotel in San Francisco to talk about all things (or, at least, many things) social media. We heard, of course, of the notable rise and market impact of the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Groupon and all the rest. Quotable bits from the dais were posted and Tweeted before speakers even finished their sentences. And then they were retweeted. (As noted by Adrian Parker of Radio Shack, presentations peppered with 5-word tweetable phrases can go a long way.)

And there were some great anecdotes, notably one from McDonald’s Rick Wion who channeled Charlie Sheen a few weeks back to quell a social media rumor about alleged McD menu offerings, the McLobster and McSushi. No such things, tweeted Rick, just the “McWinning.” More than one speaker compared and contrasted the brave new world of social media to the “traditional” advertising world of Mad Men.

Several discussions turned to ROI. How do we measure the success of a social media initiative? How much is a “fan” or a “follower” worth? Or a “retweet” or a “like?” Jeanette Gibson of Cisco discussed a metric they use to calculate the Conversation Rate: (Likes + Retweets)/Posts. The tangible return on engagement is a tough one to figure. But the cost of ignorance is definitely high.

There was no doubt in the room as to the importance of a considered approach to social media, but how any given organization approaches it, manages it, uses it, leverages it, amplifies it, measures it or values it is a function of culture, industry, audience, leadership, and appetite, among other ingredients.

Intel encourages blogging and tweeting from every employee, and empowers them accordingly. McDonald’s doesn’t blog, partially for fear of stepping on a landmine around obesity or industrial farming or some other topic that often finds them in the crosshairs. Still, social media is an inherent part of the communications and marketing mix for both.

It’s all about the conversation. It’s all about the content. It’s all about listening. It’s all about the engagement. It’s all about being authentic. Superlatives and pronouncements were in steady supply. Some of them are right. Knowing which ones is the trick.

There were a lot of smart people this week trying to wrap their collective heads around the promises and the pitfalls of our new media landscape. The luxury of not thinking about social media is a window that is quickly closing for brands in almost every corner of the market. Audiences everywhere — from B2C to B2B, from internal to external — are growing to expect dialogues that support their brand relationships. So the question isn’t whether or not this whole social media thing applies to your company; the question is how.

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