Why Social Media?

The Power of Connections

Ever since I started relaunching Social Media Club Seattle, my friends and co-workers keep asking me, why social media?  Ok, so sometimes that question comes after the what is social media question?  But at any rate, not everyone gets why I would want to be involved in a group about social media.

They see social media as a way to connect to friends, but what else could it do, and why would an advertising guy be interested?

Well, I am interested, (ok a little obsessed) with social media, because I have seen the power it has. I have seen social media transform the reputation of brands, raise thousands of dollars for a good cause, and change the marketing direction of large companies in a matter of days.

Comcast, a brand with a horrible reputation among tech geeks needed to improve their customer service reputation.  What did they do?  They turned to social media, and it’s well documented in this NY Times Article

So by monitoring online conversations, and participating in online networks such as Twitter with @comcastcares, Comcast has started to change their brands image.  They have turned a community of people who were actively disparaging the brand online 2 years ago, into brand fanatics that actively promote Comcast.  I follow around 300 people on Twitter, and I can barely go a week without one of them raving about @comcastcares. That kind of word of mouth outreach does a lot to help a reputation of a company. This is something traditional advertising could not accomplish, especially not this fast, or so inexpensively.

The main reason @comcastcares was a success was people view their online connections positively. We are looking to learn and share with those we are connected with online, so we are less skeptical about what they are telling us. That can not be said about what we see on TV, hear on the radio, or see in a banner ad.

Zappos CEO gets it.  He buys into social media and blogs and tweets. This has led to a culture at Zappos that is focused around the customer.  What other CEO of a company with over $1 billion in sales would respond to random bloggers on Twitter, or respond to others blog post? Here are two great articles about Zappos, one from Adweek, and one from ReadWriteWeb.

Do a search for Zappos and you’ll see the results. It seems almost every blogger has interviewed Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.  What amazing PR, and a way to make a one to one connection with their customers. These aren’t just any customers promoting Zappos either, they are influencers that will then communicate this message to many others online and off.

You may be saying sure social media can increase brand awareness and perception, but how do we place a value on it? The best example I have of the potential is a recent plea for help from David Armano. His plea for $5,000 for a family in need was taken to heart by his followers. Within 12 hours of his original post he already had raised over double what he was hoping. A truly amazing and heart warming story of the power of a network and relationships.

There are many questions we can ask about this example, and things that must be quantified, but I have two that come to mind first as a marketer. How was David able to “influence” his online following to give? Or more importantly, what has David given his followers that they feel the need to give back?

I could go on with stories like this, both positive and negative. I could talk about the influence of a small Twitter group over a huge brand like J&J, in the Motrin Mom fiasco. Or talk about how H&R Block used social media and a fake persona to connect with consumers.

It seems everyday there is another case study or example of the power of social media. That alone is exciting, but the reason I am involved is the unknown of social media. How do we quantify why some social media marketing campaings work, and some don’t? What are the best practices of social media, or the best implementation for a given brand? That is why I have connected both online and offline to others exploring these same questions.

Social media is growing and changing faster than anyone can keep up. We are at the infancy of something will change not only the way companies interact with consumers, but also the way they do business internally.

I have encouraged many of my friends to start participating in the social media space, and its great to see their excitement once the light switches on and they see the potential. It’s hard to quantify what that potential is in a blog post like this, but trust me, spend a month participating in the conversation online and you’ll see it too.