Social Media Lessons For Brands & Their Agencies From Football

11/11/2010

Social media use is a contact sport, not a spectator sport. The Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter, Allison Fine

49775_49ers_raiders_football It's so easy to buy your bag of peanuts and sit in the bleachers as you watch your agency kick the ball into flight. Oh sure, you might have been in the Xs & Os meeting helping to create the strategy. You feel that you are an integral part of the play.  And you very well may be.

However, huddled with your branded blanket, watching the game you're not on the field. Unlike an advertisement, press release or CEO speech where your customers accept that someone else has crafted the words, your fans assume that it is You the Brand People who are playing on the field.

Not only have you shifted reality for your raving fans but you've relinquished control of the ball/ brand to your agency. Remember: who ever controls the play (or the conversation) controls the relationship.

Even the best intentioned interactive, ad, PR agencies or consultants can easily fall into the illusion that doing less for a client is actually doing more.

Client cheers!

We don't have time.

The agency can write better than our CEO.

Who will know or care if a tweet comes from the agency or the brand people?Patriots junior cheerleaders

Doing more is built into the DNA of the billable hour agency model.

Agency cheers!

The more we do the more you'll love us.

The stronger the relation.

The more we'll get paid.

When it comes to an agency or consultant social media service (versus social media services) there is a new model emerging. It's one built on positioning the agency or consultant as a "sherpa" who guides and advises. That is far more critical than writing a tweet or a Facebook status up date. It's also far more difficult.

Instead of the client sitting in the stands encouragng the agency to make that social media touchdown, the agency becomes the cheer leader and the coach. The brand people make the plays and interact with their fans.

Role & Responsibilities of the New Social Media Agency/Consultant

High Level Perspective - The role of the social media agency/consultant becomes much more complex as a social media sherpa. A trusted partnership must exist which crosses every area/department that touches the customer .. from marketing communications, consumer insights and PR to customer care, HR and beyond. I call this aligning the social enterprise.

Creating Strategy- Development of integrated plan. Helping to develop guidelines. Leading conversations about social media ethics, transparency, authenticity as it relates to the company culture and brand values/promise.

Monitoring the Conversations On The Social Web - Utilizing tools to create reports that track what the discussions about the brand, industry, people etc.   

Tracking Changes in Tools & New Tools - Social media is moving faster than the average speed of a football thrown in an NFL game (40-60 MPH). It's a challenge to keep up (How many times in the past month has Facebook changed it's rules? Or LinkedIn it's functionality?) with the continuous developments in social media. Providing analysis of which are beneficial and which are shiny new toys.

Creative - Development/building out of branded social media platforms e.g., Facebook, games, ads.

Update: Forgot one of the most important roles ... 

Education: Helping your clients understand not only the culture of social media and the big picture but the tactical execution e.g., how to write tweets, posts,etc., social media etiquette and ethics, participating versus messaging, etc.

There are many ways an agency or consultant can be of social media service to a client beyond kicking the social media ball on the field.

Being At The Social Media Party You Could Not Attend

10/03/2010

I am still learning. ~ Michaelangelo

GraduationCapToss Tossing our graduation caps into the air doesn't mean our education is over. Instead it signals a different type of learning. It's a learning that we now pursue without the structure of a formal syllabus .. which is constructed by someone whose ideas of what we need to know may not be the same as our own.

Especially in a field that is emerging, like social media marketing, it's important to learn from peers who are willing to share real life experiences. Traditional books, publications and industry associations were always the main stay. Then the world wide web added articles and content we could access 24/7/365.

However, it's the social web that is the game changer. Social media is providing peer-to-peer exchanges, through tweets, blog posts/comments and status ups.

We now have access to, dare I say the word .. industry experts. Frequently, these "pros" (in the truest sense of the word), who we might have seen at a conference or read their books, are giving us more ... free and freely. Via social web content they are providing additional value; often they join in community discussions and answer specific questions. 

One of my favorite ways people are creating nontraditional learning experiences is sharing information from conferences through tweets, blog posts, Facebook updates, etc. Call it being at the party you couldn't attend

Tweet_laurencoppage feeling like there

Recently I had the honor of chairing the AiMA (Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association) social media meeting. For a fun learning, along with a bit of wrap around content, here are some of the tweets that were shared from the event. #aima

Ed Garston, head of electronic media for Chrysler, and Rick Short, marketing communication director at Indium, a global B2B company, not only presented innovative campaigns and uses of social media but shared results. 

Tweet jumboshowjoe prominentplcment case sutdy

Social media is different than traditional or Interactive marketing. It's based on a long-term customer-brand, value proposition, delivered through digitial conversations in public forums. Success comes through understanding how to represent your brand promise within the unique culture of social media.

Tweet julie _ sm respectful not over market

However, getting started, either in a business-to-business or business-to-consumer environment, can present a challenge if management and/or your employees don't understand the benefits. Ed and Rick shared a few practical suggestions:

Tweet kyharrison grow web presence into community

Tweet mastermindings sell internal

Tweet chandrathompson competition

Tweet lynnrfrances _ answer today to questions tomorrow

Twitter toby_ chrysler recap

Tweet rebeccachander _ part of campaign not entire campaign

Tweet rmcferrin jmarie83 _ presence established

As our speakers reminded us, at the end of the day, it's not about playing with new shiny toys but about producing business results based on goals and objectives. 

Tweet cmorocks doncare about sm about $

Tweets also provide an opportunity for community members to contribute their own thoughts to the digital stream, often resulting in virtual sidebar discussions.

Tweet oliviapatrick _ comentary

How are you continuing your learning? 

The Social Media Playground Changes Customers' Expectations Of Brands

05/01/2010

Quick thoughts about social media on a drizzly afternoon. 

Second life playground  In a scant few years we've seen social toys change in popularity from My Space to Facebook from Pownce to Twitter. Recently Four Square and cool participation badges have made it onto the social media playground. 

Our customers are beginning to expect direct engagement with brands that go beyond interacting with the people behind the brands or playing games on social networks or solving customer service concerns. Our customers are assuming they can influence the direction of the brand through status updates, blog posts, comments, tweets, review sites .. and more.

What we call "marketing" is changing. However, social media is simply a conduit to that new direction. It is our customers who are leading the charge. A VIP of a F-100 company recently told me he thought of social as an new channel. That may be true, but sir, social media goes beyond that to impacting the way we will conduct 21st Century Business

The good news is that research confirms that social media positively impacts brand perception. What exciting opportunities are possible for organizations that smartly and strategically make those connections! 

Emarketer _attitudes of new media usersNo matter what the next cool social media toy, or as I like to think of as marketing tactic, may be .. one thing is certain ... companies that do not build social media into the DNA of their brands will miss powerful opportunities to build stronger emotional ties with their customers and stake holders. What's the ROI on that? Perhaps you might ask your competition. 

Inspired by a tweet with @tedrubin & thanks to @conversationage for the proofing help.

Sidebar update: Seems the post was streamed into the NYT Business Day Page via Blogrunner. Nyt bits 5_1_2010What's the ROI of that? 

3 Steps To Khoas Social Media

01/20/2010

Scribles  When I heard a colleague call social media a "consequence free environment" one word came to mind: ChaosDictionary.com defines choas as: a state of utter confusion or disorder; a total lack of organization or order. In the business world, where order and analysis are the basis of strategy, it's a small wonder why many marketers think of social media as their worst nightmare! 

However, as is often the case of a Google search I saw something else .. another spelling - Khaos - and followed the links. Khaos was the Greek Goddess of the space between heaven and earth. Some ancient writers believed that she was primary source of all things. 

Okay .. I promise not to leap into the gaping void and propose that social media is the source of all new marketing. If we think of social media not as Chaos, but as Khaos a new way to breach the void of customers and company, then perhaps we shed light on what is scary in the night but finds purpose in the day.

What do you do if you find your brand in the midst of a 'consequence free environment' where the conversation is more of nightmare than a pleasant dream? Here is a model to help breach the gap. For best results, of course, it should be part of your Social Media Enterprise Plan and dovetail into "In The Moment Marketing."

3 Steps to Khoas Social Media

Step 1: Determine Extent of Influence

 a. Follow the conversation

b. Identify the people who are posting and who is commenting

c. Determine viral impact e.g., retweets, blog links, forum discussions, etc.

d. Monitor for main stream media mentions

 Step 2: Analyze Meaning 

a. What aspects of the brand resonated with customers?

b. Where are the emotional ties to the brand?

c. What is the impact on customers about the brand and the company?

d. What is being repeated/RT’ed?

e. Is there offline impact e.g., customer call center?

Step 3: Determine Opportunities for Engagement

a. Tell your story in the same platforms

b. Co-create with your customers and fans

c. Join the conversation before it occurs!

Now I ask you, where else can you find social media served up with Greek Mythology?

Update: Thanks to @Attentio who reminded me that this is a circle strategy .. monitoring is the first and last steps; reviewing your results is also critical. So add 3 more steps please.

Power To The (e) Patient!

11/16/2009

Patient Power blog Hundreds of thousands of digital voices are taking medicine to the virtual streets. There's a new cause being fought in social media communities. Not unlike the grass root movement of the '60's this will also influence change but this time in the world of healthcare.

As we've seen with consumer and business brands ePatients are using the Internet for research and social media for peer-to-peer support. On the other side of the street some healthcare providers (physicians, nurses, physician assistants, etc.) are doing much the same. Blogs, social networks, Twitter, along with gated communities like Sermo -an only for docs world- are finding their way into the process of daily communication.  

However, the healthcare eco system is complex and goes beyond those two populations to include government agencies like the FDA, Pharma and point of care providers (hospitals, medical centers, out patient facilities).

Simply put .. here lies their social media dilemma .. how to authentically (with no marketing spin) participate in the social discussions while maintaining public safety, patient privacy, transparency .. not to mention ensuring conversations are "people talk." From a lay person's perspective it sounds fairly simple; however, especially for pharma the social landscape can be a slippery slope. 

Last week the FDA held a Public Hearing on Promotion of FDA-Regulated Medical Products Using the Internet and Social Media Tools. To their credit the FDA made the 2-day proceedings available to the pubic through live streams. The goal of the back-to-back 15-minute presentations from marketers, pharma companies, government agencies and media companies was to educate by responding to a series of predetermined questions from the FDA. 

While some people seemed a bit self-serving, others presented carefully researched conclusions; and others offered specific solutions from creating a task force to developing widgets for adverse events (AE) to designing online advertising. Running in the background were people tweeting the hearing.#FDASM  The commentary, often couched in humor (I learned a new buzz word from Mark Tosh : Data Smog), was as valuable to me as the formal proceedings.

From a marketer who has worked in healthcare, as well as, from a personal perspective here are my takeaways:

Monitoring
Some people felt pharmaceutical companies should be responsible for monitoring misinformation and AE comments .. according to pre determined guidelines. Others strongly felt that monitoring should not be mandated or as @rohitbhargava tweeted that brands should not be "cyber sleths." However, if Pharma does come across inaccurate data or patient concerns what should be the response protocol?

Customer Service and the ePatient
How to manage service relationship is an important issue that was addressed only slightly. Perhaps it was outside the scope. Consumer brands are setting expectations for fast, online responses to questions and concerns.  My instincts tell me that this will be the next big area for digital/social media healthcare. There are many issues to be explored from: What does digital healthcare service mean? to: How to address questions in public forums. How are AEs addressed and misinformation corrected?  Where to address those issues and when to participate in social networks.

To encourage patients to report AEs they must feel as though they are getting value back. How to encourage engagement and what constitutes "value" is critical to understand. All who are involved in caring for and serving ePatients must realize that it is not about the technology but developing a productive collaboration. Whatever means are used must be simple. Social media is about a new set of digital behaviors that begin and end with trust based on transparency.

The social media service relationships between ePatients and healthcare providers will grow in importance .. watch for it.

Physician/Patient Relationship
Most U.S. physicians like the idea of empowered patients who are knowledgeable about their conditions
Patients are utilizing digital resources, including social media, for pre treatment and post treatment
Docs remain the most trusted source of medical information

Pharma
Docs want information when they want it. Consumers want customer service. The big challenge is to correct misinformation without a self serving spin. Seems sad that would be an issue. I can't help but wonder if/how the social media culture will influence the culture of pharma.

FDA
Step into the social media world. Open a page on Facebook so the public will have easy access to information. Don't expect people to search to find you .. go where they are online. A benchmark for success should be sharing experiences vs. filling out forms. The FDA should take the lead in creating a participatory culture.

Consumer education will be critical to the success of this undertaking. Pharma could help with the out reach as could other providers. If creating consumer awaremess and understanding is not an integrated aspect the best of plans will fail.

Keep in mind that regulations should not get in the way of expected interaction (between pharma and customers and pharma and physicians.

Healthcare in social media has certainly come a long way (with miles to go) since I facilitated sessions at the Healthcare Blogging and Social Media Summits 2006-7.

The post about a conversation I had with a doc I met on a flight about blogs seems almost surreal. It went something like this .. The doc said to me - I don't want to give them that information. There's too much on the internet already. Great opportunity to make sure they have correct information, I replied. The old school doc volleyed a last remark, "I don't practice medicine that way."

My response back, "Perhaps you need to change the way you practice medicine. If I were you I'd keep on eye on blogs." Wonder if he changed his mind.

Sidebar: Thanks to Jean-Ah Kang, PharmD, Special Assistant to the Director for her gracious eMail. - There will be transcripts posted approximately 30 days after the conclusion of the public hearing, and the docket will have copies of the presentations/oral testimonies that can be requested from FDA.  We would welcome any comments you would like to provide on these issues as our docket is open until February 28, 2010 - please consider submitting comments!

Resources


Spreadsheet of presentations


Story of Two ePatiens by Dr. Val Jones

hcsc - weeklytwitter chat on social media and healthcare

Marci Roth for the illustration

Update 11-18-09 Webcasts of the FDA hearing on the Internet and Social Media are available for next 30-days.

Halloween Fun With Augumented Reality

10/19/2009

Augmented Reality. Even the name sounds scary and a bit creepy. Seems it's the latest shiny object to hit the social media world.

From a non tech perspective, augmented reality adds a 3-D touch to websites, blogs and mobile. David Berkowitz says, "Augmented reality provides a layer of digital content over real-world experiences." Marshall Kilpatrick says that Yelp was the first iPhone app to add augmented reality. John Mayer, singer-songwriter says it's a "digital hologram" and he's incorporated the technology into his video for Heart Break Warfare.

 Meijer, a retail store that opened its doors in 1934 in the Greenville, MI is certainly keeping up with the times. Meijer Their step into augmented reality is a quirky and fun Halloween experience. With your computer and a webcam you can be transformed into a scary Halloween mask that complete with sound effects. The sort of social aspects comes into play with the ability to send to your pals in Facebook, eMail or a tweet where they can comment on how cool or dorky you might appear.

Meijer is a client of BBF BL Ochman who offered to send a free webcam (via Meijer) to the first 12 people who raise their virtual hand and drop a comment that you want one. That's BL in the photo ..wonder what Benny Bix thought of the gorrila noises.

From an interactive marketing perspective it seems like a fun campaign but I'm wondering where the integration is from the website to the Halloween page and from the Halloween page to the website.  Can't seem to find the link.

Social Media In The Moment Marketing

10/14/2009

Max and kitty 10_09 Max and I were taking a walk yesterday. A big yellow and white cat came over to Max and he stopped to play with her. Yes, Max likes cats.  His little tail wagged so quickly. His concentration on his kitty friend was total and complete. He was in the moment. When he was done he walked happily away to his next important thing to do. Max is a very busy pooch.

I thought .. social media is an in the moment way to conduct marketing. Then I thought .. the idea of responding to an external influence at the time the incident occurs is foreign to traditional marketing. Marketing is based on strategy where research, plans and how to figure it all out comes before a formal execution of tactics is achieved. Even PR whose charge it is to 'manage' the reputation of the brand rarely responds in the moment.

Social media goes against the grain of how marketers including PR, sales and to a great extent customer service professionals have managed their responsibilities as stewards of the brand. Or does it? Can the two concepts happily co-exist? Can marketing maintain a strategic focus while still being in the moment?

Let's first define what in the moment marketing means in terms of social media. In the simplest of ideas it takes into account only four steps: Monitoring, Understanding, Interacting, Integrating

1. Monitoring the discussion occurring in the digital world of blogs, tweets, forums, social networks, etc.

2. Understanding the challenges of customers and stakeholders to what they feel impacts the brand promise; as well as appreciating the people who say nice things.

3. Interacting with the people who take the time to have digital discussions about your brand.

4. Integration of ideas into your company and into the brand.

The complexity and sophistication of social media in the moment marketing occurs behind the scenes in the How where traditional marketing's strong suite comes into play through building the foundation. 

Questions to help you think through the process of in the moment marketing for your organization. 

1. How will monitoring or listening occur? Will you use a free tool like Google Alerts or RSS key word feeds or will you contract with a social media monitoring company?

2. How will understanding or hearing what is critical information be determined? How will the information be sent to the right people at the right time .. which may be real time?  Who are the "right" people?

3. How will you reach out to customers and stakeholders? Will that occur in public through comments on posts or in tweets? Will you take the conversation offline in an email or phone call? Who will be responsible for follow-up .. both to the individual and to the community at-large who has passively heard the remarks? 

4. How will you integrate the learnings into the fabric of the brand or into new processes for your enterprise?

It's all a part of developing the new social enterprise .. but it takes so much more to be in the moment for a brand than for a dog!

Martha Stewart's Twitter Recipes

08/31/2009

This weekend I was writing a post about how people are using Twitter as a marketing tactic (coming soon). As often happens I got lost in the research. This time the sidetrack was on @marthastewart. Girlfriend, did you know she's posting 140 character recipes? Before I knew it I had copied most if not all of them.


For your cooking and dining pleasure a tweet merged blog cooking post!

Sidebar: Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Marketing VP feel free to "steal this idea" and post on marthastewart.com. If I were the social media diva at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia a cute twitter recipe book would be in the works complete with tweet recipes from our followers. Perhaps I'd turn it into a video cook-off contest. What a great idea Toby ;-)

Martha stewart twitter avatar

 Martha Stewart's 140 Character Tweet Recipes

Soups. Appetizers. Others

Soup appetizers other  

 Salads

Salads  

Entrees

 Entrees

Veggies

 Veggies

Desserts

 Dessert_1a 

Dessert.jpg_1b

Beverages

Beverages_3

TweetChats #socialmedia

06/17/2009

Social media tweet chat Add one more virtual place to network to your list .. TweetChats. Oh no! girlfriend you might be thinking not another social media thing to add to my running list .. and what is a tweetchat anyway?

Anita Campbell, Small Business Trends, has a great definition.

  • A tweetchat is simply an organized group chat that takes place using the Twitter platform. Participants use an assigned hashtag (say, #sbbuzz) for their tweets during the discussion.

When Marc Meyer asked me to host one of the most popular Tweetchats this week I said .. of course! Held weekly, Tuesdays from noon - 1p,  #socialmedia explores issues about social media marketing.  The focus this week was on the "hidden demographics" of social media like bebe boomers, women etc. etc. etc.  Title: Deciding the “now what” and the “who with” of social media in your company.

The exchange of ideas was fast, furious, exciting .. and the people .. so smart. Moderating was like running a race while juggling 50 balls in the air. Although #socialmedia is structured around 3 20-minute segments each with a unique question,  it was fascinating to watch the sidebar conversations occurring simultaneously.  The questions:

#1. What demographics are most powerful in each of the top social networks? And Why?
#2. Which demographics are most overlooked, ignored, or taken for granted, in the top tier social networks? Why?
#3. With the increase of social media usage, which demographics will drive innovation in social networking?

I found that our conversation didn't really follow the progression of the questions as much as some other tweetchats might have; but the discussion happened naturally on its own accord. With tosses of a pink boa to the amazing people who generously shared their opinions and experience and to Marc Meyer and Jason Breed the sponsors .. here are my takes of the highlights.

Boomers

The Baby Boomer generation maybe late in getting to this party but according to comScore there are about 16.5 million adults ages 55 and older engaged in social networking.

@conniereece - All I can say is that marketers need 2 wake up 2 how many boomers R online & how they use socnets. Connie thinks that boomers are the "lost demo" and not only for profits but nonprofits are missing opportunities.

Even in this economy, Boomers have more $ to spend then the X-Yers. Note to brand marketers (and main stream media): Take off your cool shades the internet and social networks are Not only for the "youngsters."

The challenge for brands per @CBWhittemore is to make it .." relevant to baby boomers & others b/c new marketplace imperatives."

The challenge for people who have not grown up with new technologies is understanding how to use the tools. A wrong click will not necessarily bring down the Internet or explode your computer. On a personal level @evelynso shared a great idea .. that might help grandparents have an ah ha! moment. Think of  Flickr or Facebook as a global grandkids brag book.  You get to share those cute photos of your precious darlings with your closet Friends; and if you wish some you might not know yet.

When it comes to How generations use social media platforms we noticed a few differences. - seniors/ Boomers have a different $ management style. Check alternatives - sometimes SM is cheaper & faster. From  @evelynso and @marc_meyers - boomers share content Gen Y shares the intimate details of their lives.

Where are the Boomers hangin' out? Consensus seems to be on Facebook. Very few boomer friends (male or female) on Twitter. For @conniereece - Lots on FB now, and a few on LinkedIn.  @sonnygill thinks that - demos on the more established networks are wider ranged than Twitter is (namely boomers).

Wondering ... will we see a change as Gen Y's and Millenniums' careers shift into management levels and the Boomers become more comfortable with open conversations? Also will Boomers leaving the work force (those that can afford to do so!) result in more transparency in their social media interactions? In other words will the cultures flip-flop?

Gen Y

When it came to Gen Y we thought they were tech savvy but lacking in social media marketing, strategy expertise. @CathyWebSavvyPR - I've heard from some college students that SM is a part of social life, they can't see applications. That was my experience too when I presented social media marketing to an advertising class at UGA.

When it comes to Twitter - @dcgf - I think it's Gen Y who are not very "savvy" w/Twitter. The movers and shakers on here are older...However @CathyWebSavvyPR believes that - I think Gen x/Y will once they begin entering the workforce & needing to use SM. their learning curve may B shorter 

Can Social Media Close the Generation Gap?

Example of one of the sidebar tweet conversations

>At the risk of making assumptions, I'd hazard to say that the ave age of THIS "unConference" is over 35! (don't hate-ha) - @dcgf
>@dcgf as an Mil-gen are you comfortable engaging with the 'older' peeps on twitter? @dcgf could social media be the way to close the generation gap? - @tobydiva
>def closes gen gap and @Mark_Meyer I think all gen's want to feel like they're being engaged on a personal level - @dcgf

Women

We wondered where women were hanging out online and if they were using social media diffently than men. Most of our tweets were based on observation and personal experience. @Verbatim told us that  - Research shows men preferring Twitter and women, FB. Which makes sense to me, FB being more personal details.

@conniereece in regard to Twitter - if you look at *what* men/women post on Twitter, it's different. Women more likely to share, men to broadcast. #socialmedia (generalization). Seems that a guy agrees with Connie - @marc_meyer men generalize and women socialize...?

Tweets were not all serious we had some giggles along the way. @wpmc - Saw a book on communications "Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti" - Facebook is like spaghetti.

@CathyWebSavvyPR brought out an interesting point that brands should consider when using Facebook to reach women.  - I know many women feel that FB is for freinds & family & resent the intrusion of business there. others like it.

Social Media Marketing

We also talked about what is social media? @greenhance offered an interesting concept - Altho I've no proof, I think SM adoption is personality driven. Some are more likely to use Twitter, others FB, etc.

@marc_meyer looked at in from this point of view - Twitter is 4 biz Linkedin is 4 networking, FB is the playground, or something like that. any1 remember the analogy?

When it comes right down to it people agreed with @ddeseta - It's not about the most followers. It's about having the most relevance within yoursphere. and with @mrochte  - It's about convening not controlling #SocialMedia " - that's the message we need to understand  http://on.ted.com/y  mrochte

When it came down to what to make of the "hidden demographics" @greenhance reminded us - Brands can cultivate real loyalty with SM in a way that was previously limited by geography/reach.  Social media is one aspect of marketingmarketing basics.

To wrap this up it's back to marketing basics - know who your customers are/where they hang out/what they want. @tobydiva Be careful of what you think you know..  your truth might be an illusion.

Resources

Tweet Stream


Business Week Social Media Gender Gap
Pew Internet has extensive stats on social media
Forrester Social Technology Profile ToolJohn Cass for the link!

Blogher 2009 Women and Social Media Study

Interview with David Saranga, Israel Consulate: A Twitter Press Conference

03/05/2009

Israeli Consulate logo In December 2008, the New York Israel Consulate held the first government press conference on Twitter and in doing so public diplomacy took one more step into social media.

The purpose of the 2-hour open conversation in 140 characters was to engage and provide the public with a platform where citizens' questions about the Gaza situation could be addressed directly by @DavidSaranga, Consul for Media and Public Affairs at the consulate General in New York. In addition to the running tweets from the press conference, updates were posted on the Consul's MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube pages.

With a few weeks distance behind him, I asked Mr. Saranga if he would look back on the experience and in retrospective share some of the marketing/PR lessons learned. My thanks to him and to the staff of the Department of Media and Public Affairs who kindly responded to my request. A special shout out to Noam.

Note: Diva Marketing is not a political blog but one focused on social media marketing and branding. My questions and Mr. Saranaga's responses reflect that positioning.

The Office of the Consul General in New York serves as the focal point of the Consulate. While it oversees all departments within the Consulate, the Lishka (bureau) primarily functions as the liaison between the State of Israel and the various centers of power and influence that encompass the New York Metro area such as national and local organizations, the offices of public officials and business alliances.

The role of the Consul General is to promote the positive image of Israel in the media and the surrounding communities by keeping them abreast of the most updated information on Israeli prominent personalities and developments.

David_saranga_Israeli Consulate David Saranga, Consul for Media and Public Affairs at the consulate General in New York.

Prior to joining the Consulate in New York, Consul Saranga served as Deputy Spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel, and was responsible for contact with the foreign media. He was a Manager of the Direct Marketing Department, Visa-Israel Credit Cards and worked as National Sales Executive at Kidum Ltd. Consul Saranga has been engaged as an academic since 1989, when he worked as a Teaching Assistant at the Hebrew University. Subsequent work has included one year as Director of Studies and Lecturer in Marketing Management at the Open University in Israel.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Using Twitter as a media conference forum was innovative and brave. Why did you choose to go in that direction?

David Saranga: We have been involved in online work for some time, through our blogs (isRraelli and IsraelPolitik) and our presence on MySpace and Facebook.  After reading about Twitter, we felt that the tool held a lot of potential for communicating with people online. 

Firstly, we can “focus” on one person, but many people can tune in as well. This way, even when we are answering one person, other people are still taking part. 

Secondly, Twitter is a site where people are increasingly going to talk, so we wanted to join the conversation where it was happening.

Toby/Diva Marketing: How did you achieve buy-in from the consulate and other stake holders?

David Saranga: The diplomatic staff here has really come to understand the value of web-based content and of social media. We told them how important a presence on Twitter could be, and they were hooked.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What were their main concerns? What were yours?

David Saranga: We were all mainly concerned with how many people would ask questions and whether we would be taken seriously.  When we first joined Twitter and mentioned the “Press Conference” idea, we started hearing opinions that we might not answer so-called “hard” questions.  So we needed to make sure that we answered as many questions as we could, even and especially the “hard” ones. 

Toby/Diva Marketing: Where did most of the engagement come from?

David Saranga: While our Twitter following has been quite varied, we seem to have attracted people interested in learning more about the Middle East and people who work in new media, public diplomacy or both. It was quite interesting to see the range of people with whom we have had very rewarding interactions through Twitter and/or as a result of such efforts.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What lessons did you learn from the first Twitter press conference?

David Saranga:

  • Our biggest lesson was the importance of making ourselves available to people through a medium they understand. 

We are aware that this issue raises a lot of emotions, and we wanted to give people the opportunity to talk with us in an unmediated fashion. Many of the questions we received were thoughtful and inquisitive, and we were happy to share our point of view on what can be touchy subjects.  Israeli Consulate Tweeting

It was also important for us that we could expand answers on our blog. While we could give only short answers online (due to constraints imposed by Twitter and by the sheer number of questions*), we did want people to know that we cared about their questions and wanted to give them the full attention they deserved.

*Note: Twitter allows only 140 characters per tweet.

Photo of staff of the Department of Media and Public Affairs tweeting at the press conference.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What was your biggest surprise?

David Saranga: We were really surprised by the amount of interest we generated. We started this whole project figuring we would get a few people to tune in. When our “followers” count began to rise precipitously, we realized we were on to something much larger.

Many more people than we anticipated were interested in having us take part in this conversation. The mainstream media got involved, too. We got coverage in the New York Times, Le Figaro, the Guardian, and other news outlets around the world. We were truly astounded.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What would you do differently next time (will there be a next time)?

David Saranga: We’re still evaluating the lessons of the first time, so we’ll have to evaluate whether we’ll do this again. We all felt this was an extremely positive experience, and we’re grateful for all the attention and ongoing relationships that resulted. 

Our biggest problem was trying to respond to a flood of questions in an organized fashion, so fixing that issue would be a necessary step before organizing another press conference. That said, we’ve really been having an ongoing press conference since late December, as we are active on Twitter. 

The next thing we hope to arrange is a TweetUp (i.e. meeting Twitter followers face-to-face) in the next few weeks to bring our followers together and help them see other facets of Israel with which they may not be so familiar. We’ve thought of a bunch of ideas (music, art, film, etc.) but want to see what our followers are interested in, too.

Toby/Diva Marketing
: What lessons can you pass on to others who are thinking of using Twitter for their press conferences?

David Saranga:The best lesson we can offer is that you should not be afraid to answer the hard questions that come at you.

  • The best thing to do is to be as transparent as possible and just be sincere in your answers.

Toby/Diva Marketing:  To wrap it up … your thoughts on social media ..

David Saranga: It’s clear that social media is not just a passing trend, but rather an effective way to communicate. It is important for us to maximize the capabilities these tools offer and use them to help us in talking to as many people as possible.

Israel Consulate in Social Media

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Blogs: Israel Politk isRraelli.org

First Israeli Tweet-up in the making!

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