Reporter's Notebook

Highlights from Smart Social 2013

Looking back over a short lifetime’s worth of poorly worded Facebook posts and questionable Foursquare check-ins (I’m looking at you, 1 a.m. visit to The Purple Pig I don’t remember during last year’s NRA Show), I can’t call everything I’ve done online “smart social.” But, judging from how hard restaurant marketers have to work just to keep up with changes in Facebook or Twitter, let alone new platforms like Instagram and Vine, who can?

That’s the point of this week’s social-media conference put on by social-media software and consulting firm Expion. Brand marketers and agency executives have gathered at the 2013 Smart Social Summit in Raleigh, N.C., to learn different ways to elevate their social-media efforts from mere online presence to social strategy.

By allocating the right resources to the right platforms, brands can drive a change where social media is integrated throughout a business rather than just part of the marketing department, speakers said. Presenters were speaking to all kinds of brands, but restaurants could benefit as much as any retail businesses from thinking about many of the things discussed this week.

Below are some of the highlights, from the big picture to the nitty gritty, from panelists and keynote speakers:

Why many social-media strategies fail:

“They typically do not have very clear business impacts, not just in terms of the marketing ROI, but also the endgame. What do I get for becoming a social business, in addition to just being able to do my marketing more efficiently? We’re seeing more companies saying, ‘We could do so much more.’ Strategies that do not work are the ones that are very tactical and oriented in the here and now, rather than saying, ‘How do I build the alignment across my organization to be able to do something bigger?’ That requires long-term planning.”

— keynote speaker Charlene Li, founder of Altimeter Group and author of “Open Leadership” and “Groundswell”

When getting buy-in from everybody in the organization, from unit-level employees to C-suite executives, storytelling is more effective and memorable than five-point strategy memos:

“When you share your stories, people get really excited and understand them. So that vision of what a relationship looks like, from the point of view of a customer or an employee, becomes really compelling. People remember the story, but they will not remember anything else. … To sell your social-business strategy, you have to be able to boil it down to a 30-second story. … Video is incredibly powerful, and it’s so easy these days to create quality video that shows the impact on customers. It’s even easier than text to create.”

— Li

Why Facebook “likes” are no longer enough for brand marketers

“A like on Facebook has almost become a dead end for us from a social, interactive standpoint. What happens is, you like something, and it ends there. But if you comment or you share that post or picture, your friends may see it and see that you have a good relationship with a brand, and it proliferates through the social graph, builds reach and ultimately second- and third-degree interactions.”

— Matt Wurst, director of digital communities for 360i

What to think about the growing integration of social media and search:

“As we see a trend in the interaction between social and search and local and content all blurring together — you see this with Facebook Graph Search and Google+ — how that’s going to play out is interesting. Hedging your bets and having a decent Google+ following, as Google works out how it’s going to integrate, is going to impact your organic search engine optimization.”

— Jim Tobin, president of Ignite Social Media

“Don’t underestimate the growing importance of paid social media. I used to say a year ago that if we had to spend money on Facebook to gain attention or awareness, we were failing. I don’t think you can succeed on Facebook now without spending money. The fastest way to cut through the clutter is to spend money and get people’s attention.”

— Wurst

On what platform could be next for new customer groups:

“What keeps me up at night is worrying whether we’re in the right place. Everybody has a Facebook page now, but I’m not sure that’s the right strategy. There might be other platforms and communities that might be able to reach your specific audience. Moms are on Pinterest. Teens are on tumblr. Sure we still do Facebook, but more and more the focus is going on platforms that are more likely to engage the right target audience. Coca-Cola has me hooked, but if they can get you while you’re still a teenager forming your opinions about brands, that’s why tumblr has been a valuable platform for them.”

— Wurst

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Reporter's Notebook is NRN's newsroom blog, where our editors give their points of view on news happening in the restaurant business.

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