Tips on The Upside of Tapping Social Media

SAN FRANCISCO — “Discount Prices!” “Limited Time Offer!” “Buy Now and Save $!” These and countless other marketing slogans regularly bombard consumers via traditional and Internet media.

They are also Exhibit A, B and C on how not to leverage social media, said speakers at the Social Media Strategies Conference here Wednesday.

Take 1-800-DENTIST. The company, whose very name is a marketing term, went for a much softer approach when it turned to social media tools to attract more dentists to its network.

“We wanted to figure out how we could position ourselves as a neutral third party,” explained Naomi Cooper, vice president of marketing at the firm. The answer came in the form of a micro-blog by company co-founder Fred Joyal. Rather than pushing services and special offers, the “Go Ask Fred site is dedicated to answering dentists’ questions about marketing.

“These are people with few resources, many of whom think patients should just magically appear,” said Cooper. So Go Ask Fred has plenty of videos and user-generated questions dentists send in about marketing. She says the answers are based on Joyal’s expertise and not designed to direct people to join the network.

“If I had one piece of advice for companies, it’s to be generous; give lots of information to your clients and they will come to use you as a resource and see you as someone looking out for them and not out to make a quick buck,” said Cooper. The payoff for 1-800-DENTIST has been double the lead generation it was getting from traditional marketing methods like advertising in trade journals.”

Picture This

Photo giant Kodak has also become a big believer in social media. The company now has three public blogs and a Chief Blogger on staff. A Thousand Words is a blog where Kodak staff shares their photos.

Granted, the site isn’t designed for sales, but it does generate very direct results. “We’ve had comments like ‘That’s a fantastic picture. What kind of camera did you use? I want to buy it’,” said Lauren Coberley, director of worldwide marketing at Kodak. “But the real unintended consequence is that the blogs have really energized employees to share their photos and thoughts with the public.”

Kodak also publishes a tech-oriented blog and one focused on graphics communications. The company also has a photo streaming deal with Flickr, a fan page on Facebook, as well as a presence on both bookmarking site Delicious and micro-blogging site Twitter. At the Make Me Super Web site, consumers can load their head shots into the body of a superhero to produce a quirky, personalized video. In other words, to paraphrase an old marketing phrase, this is not your father’s Kodak.

Security tools provider Symantec also weighed in on its experience with social media. Kim Johnston, the company’s vice president of global sales and marketing operations, said Symantec was cautious at first about having a public blog. It was initially highly moderated and closely monitored by management.

“Part of the journey is getting comfortable with social media,” said Johnston. But now Symantec is doing things like posting videos on YouTube of an in-house band singing about the dangers of viruses and actively pursuing open dialogue on its public blogs.

“If a customer’s unhappy, we’d rather know about it than not know about it,”
she said. In some cases, Symantec has followed up directly by phoning posters with complaints about a Symantec product or service.

“Son of a gun if that person didn’t re-post how happy they were we resolved the problem and we gained a fan for life,” said Johnston. “That was a lesson learned from a company that’s been very conservative in marketing.”

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