Highlights of the Social Media Strategies Conference


Huffington Post
– Growth in one year has been from 1.5 to 3.6 million comments.
– They are trying to stay really lean
– Editors are required to be familiar with SEO/SEM
– 135 people on staff w/ 10,000 freelance bloggers
– Twitter knows whats hot 12 hours before Google
– People want to be moderators and are given badges to cover certain sections of the site

Pepsi Refresh
– 120,000 refresh ideas
– 4.1 million registered users
– 50+M votes in total

H&R Block
– Social media team motto – “our business and our job is about helping people” – VERY SMART
– Have a great process in place to deal with their various channels and platforms
– Beliefs:  Two big ears to one mouth + one brand voice
– Properties include – Q&A community (typically respond to questions within an hour), iPhone apps, Twitter handles, Facebook pages and Blogger outreach
– Community has 1.5M visits between Jan and April of 2010
– They have the highest rated financial services app
– YouTube – 101 tax prep info
– Policy for content creation – creating content once and using it at least 3 times
– Focus heavily on social listening (using Radian6), building trust and leveraging their subject area experts.

What’s Hot
– geo-mobile
– social to real world activities
– emerging companies GroupMe+Fast Society

– Social gaming is most popular with women aged 35-50 who watch soap operas
– A big gaming hit is $1M for developers
– 40M people in 30-40 countries

– Shared the case study of their successful viral:

Formula for viral – unexpected, relatable, funny

– Shared their social strategy and properties, too many to mention but they seem to be doing a great job at driving innovation and empowering their communities

Small businesses such as the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, J&D Foods and Cheezburger.com shared their stories – very inspirational. One thing they all have in common is the ability to be fearless, nimble and niche.

My favorite peeps – Threadless shared their story of being a brilliant, engaging and empowering community – creating a new partnership with Disney around Tron shirts.

Wikipedia shared its philosophy of being “something very special…a national park, a temple of the mind” – the founder, Jimmy Walesthat, does not want advertising (agreed).

Additional Lessons Learned:

An overarching theme we’ve heard across these conferences is that we have to educate our clients at the same time we are educating ourselves about the social media realm.  The ask from clients should not be for a Facebook page or a Twitter handle.  What we need to know is what clients’ business objectives are and where across all media are those objectives going to be best accomplished.  The trick is often not to be new or first, but to be innovative in existing spaces.

Another cool insight was why user generated (organic) content creators in communities are sooooo PASSIONATE (Wikipedia, Stickybits, YouTube, etc, etc.) and willing to do the hard work for free (in some cases). === Creation is the closest thing that human beings have to Godliness and creating something that can be shared with a community and appreciated is even more powerful.

1.  Facebook is a fast-growing utility – so beware

Brands are growing increasingly dependent on Facebook to build relationships with their followers.  But Facebook only answers to itself.  If it wants to change its design one day, it will.  If it wants to go public one day, it will.  If its servers go down for a week, we are all at its mercy.  Brands still need to invest in other earned and owned media in order to remain nimble.

2.  Location based services are going to grow in big and diverse ways

Places and Foursquare are just small examples of what LBS can accomplish for consumers.  Newer platforms like Group Me and Fast Society are making instant connections between groups of people in the moment.  Big opportunities here, especially for sports marketers.

3.  Consumers want experiences, not just deals

Coupons alone won’t do the trick.  In fact, Pepsi found they don’t even drive initial trial.  Consumers want a more immersive experience from discovery to purchase.

4.  A strong internal social policy is the strongest guarantee for a successful social experience for your consumers

Companies like Threadless and IBM have done so well in social media because their engagement with their employees .  IBM considers each of their employees’ Facebook pages and Twitter handles part of IBM’s social reach – as such, they encourage their employees to be active brand reps and social media participants.

5.  Consumers can educate you about the boundaries of sponsorship

Threadless has partnered with Disney.  Huffington Post runs sponsored content on their page.  The Kardashians affectively product plug.  The importance here is not to over-saturate and to stay authentic to your community.  Their response will tell you how far you can go.

6.  Bar code technology is cutting out retailers and brands

Companies like Shopkick don’t require big brand strategies in order to initiate bar code technology.  Consumers can attach any kind of digital content they want to bar coding.  Brands need to make sure they have in-store presence if they know their consumers are going to be using this technology to engage with their products.  Huge opportunities here for Foot Locker.


At the heart of all successful strategies is insightful listening across all platforms.  Conversation is happening everywhere.  Even the smallest tweet can mean the difference between making a deal or losing a customer.  It also can’t just be about being talked to.  Brands need to be actively looking at conversation and getting involved even when they aren’t asked.  H&R block monitors tweets to see how people are feeling about their consultants and get involved when they see negative experiences, even without their consumers knowing their listening.

8.  You can’t be afraid to fail

One insightful quote we heard was that the first man to cross the Andes was not considered an “Andes Specialist.”  Social media is a continual experiment.  As the line between virtual and real experiences grows more blurred, the full definition of social media is also expanding.  Small risks can often be free and great litmus tests for future campaigns.  And big risks can often result in big rewards.  It seems more imperative than ever that all marketers understand what social media looks like now to better navigate where it’s going – wherever that may be.


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