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September 2010

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Is it social to you... or just media?
Striking a balance between analytics and adventure


by Kenny Grindall

Strategy, schmategy. Once in a while, that attitude could be just the trick.

Did you do anything special for Social Media Day? The online social media news magazine Mashable hatched an idea for round-the-globe meetups on June 30, 2010. Most of us missed it--or skipped it. But thousands of people in hundreds of cities, across something like 92 countries, hit up a local happy hour to "celebrate".

Okay, great. More networking. Is there something else we can get out of a special day dedicated to keeping the "social" in social media? It seemed worth a simple experiment...

Social Media Day caught me by surprise. The first I knew about it was thanks to a tweet from Location3 Media, a Denver-based interactive agency. At their blog post, my personal curiosity latched on to what became my customized social media adventure for the day; the Mashable folks who cooked up the "event" had chosen a mascot. Yes, dear mavens, you have a mascot:

That's an alpaca in the logo for Social Media Day. I read L3's explanation about alpaca being known as one of the most social herd animals. And I remembered seeing a Facebook page for a ranch in Loveland that raised them. One-third of a second later, Google handed me a map that marked two alpaca ranches within easy bike ride of my house. I decided to visit the one I'd found on Facebook...

Carl and Ann Bradbury own Ridge Valley Ranch on Loveland's west side. They hadn't heard about Social Media Day, but cheerfully showed me around. Carl and I wandered the field where his female herd romped in the sun, gulped water from troughs in the shade, and wandered over to check us out. I snapped photos and peppered Carl with questions about alpaca, and about their social nature.

So I was buried, over morning coffee, in my network traffic. But by day's end, I had met (in person) real, wonderful people, learned fascinating stuff and got loads of fresh air and sunshine. Later, I told my Social Media Day story to several peers. I was sure they had similar experiences, so I asked them to share for this article. The next section is excerpts from my conversations with five of them.

"What happened the last time your social media connections sparked an offline, real-life experience for you?"

Kim: I grew up in Southern California. School was a non-traditional program at Granada Hills High, where John Elway went. Everybody was a "free spirit", so we skipped reunions. An old friend now lives here in Colorado; one day she told me, "Kim, the school is looking for you on Facebook!" Before social media, we'd never have been able to find most of this group again--now we've reconnected, and some of us are planning a real get-together.

Brian: My sons and I love to play disc golf. We had never heard about the course up at Sundance Trail Guest Ranch on Red Feathers Lake, until a friend shared it on Facebook. We made the drive and had a real adventure; it's an excellent round of golf, even when we had to stop while a bunch of horses had us surrounded.

Brad: Mine's a reunion story, too. I was a band geek in school, and did a stint with the Phantom Regiment drum and bugle corp. Facebook just reconnected me with a guy from England who marched with us back then. The group's Rockford, Illinois home show was in July, and Steve invited me to meet him there to see rehearsals. I didn't make it, and tweeted about missing out--and an old friend in Chicago responded! We chatted, and I ended up seeing him at the show.

Lori: I spoke at a social media conference last year and met some of my Twitter friends for the first time. We've shared personal moments as well as professional content. That led to emails, which led to phone calls--when we actually met, it really felt like coming home to long-lost family. On the other hand, a friend moved away and we stayed connected on Facebook; I admit, I occasionally struggle to keep up with over a thousand friends and fans. I recently saw her and spent a wonderful time catching up; but I got a private message from her the next day, angry and hurt that I didn't already know what was going on with her from reading her Facebook. Sometimes social networking is bittersweet, just like real life.

"How about a recent time when you encountered a company or brand through your social network, and it felt just right... or so wrong?"

Heather: I thought Twitter was stupid. But one of my professors encouraged me to investigate. I followed mostly social media experts at first, but now I use it more for "true social" stuff--having fun, scoring coupons, finding places, winning tickets. I liked a campaign that Famous Dave's Barbeque® did; they had "Dave Day" and gave free meals to everyone named Dave who came in. It was so human, so easy. I thought through people I knew, and shared the deal with all my Daves--even my momís boss.

Brad: I tried to connect with Likeable, a media agency; they were having a contest to celebrate some milestone fan count. But to enter, the link required me to "allow" their Facebook page app access to detailed info I wasn't comfortable giving. I bailed. On that other hand, I was looking to buy a Rosetta Stone® language program and got this offer email I thought might be a scam. I tweeted a question, and a woman running the company's Twitter account saw it. We sent several DMs back and forth. Turns out it was a scam. She put me in touch with somebody senior, who hooked me up with a special deal as a thank-you.

Lori: I like to drink Coke Zero®. I was curious to know if Coke might ever produce a vanilla-flavored Coke Zero, so I tweeted. They responded within 24 hours, very upbeat and fun, saying they would "find out ASAP for me". Sure enough, they tweeted me the next day--they will indeed have a Vanilla Coke Zero soon! I felt special because Coca-Cola® responded, even joked around with me. Smart brands can tweet their followers just once and we're hardcore fans forever, spreading the word. For the record, I also tweeted Pepsi® back then, welcoming them to Twitter; they never responded. But now Pepsi is doing a much better job with social networking.

Brian: I had a great experience, and used it to help that business power up their social media. I had some terrible neck pain a few weeks ago. A friend recommended a local chiropractor to me--and me to him! He called and invited me in, so I ended up at the Wellness Center for Sport and Spine in Loveland. I'd looked up the practice, and it had a quiet little Facebook page. While we talked, I saw a huge binder on his desk, filled with referral forms his patients have given him. I encouraged him to post a few each week. Next thing I knew, we'd talked for hours about his Facebook page. He went from no clue to super excited, and more than doubled his fans since then.

"What's your favorite resource that's helped give balance and focus to what you do in social media?"

Heather: I really like that new book, Citizen Marketers [McConnell, Huba]. On social media, the argument goes, we behave just a few predictable ways; we are "filters, fanatics, facilitators and firecrackers". You can learn which types gravitate toward your brand--or don't--and develop a strategy and a voice for each. There's a lot more in the book, but that was enough to hook me.

Kim: Mine is David Meerman Scott' New Rules of PR & Marketing. I read David's blog [webinknow.com] like crazy. It started while I established the business, and now the book keeps me pushing even farther. It's a great guide for all the fundamental communications you'll use to reach a consumer or client.

Brad: No books for me, right now. I learn plenty from just doing what we're talking about here; I like to source quick, fresh articles from my network feeds. Lately, it's a lot of case studies about brands on Twitter and Facebook. Way more bad examples than good. Beyond that, I just work to build relationships and respond to people.

Here's what I took from Social Media Day 2010:

The platforms and gadgets, the analytics and agendas of social media cast a huge shadow. I believe that if any group ought to step back from it all once in a blue moon, it's us in the trade. When I work (as I must) to manage strategy and ROI, I tend to lose the "magic" of where my social network can lead me. On June 30, those real people led me to Ridge Valley Alpaca Ranch to meet the Bradburys--and a delightful young alpaca newborn named Sabai.

I'm still waiting, frankly, for my first really engaging social experience with a company or a brand. And I do follow a lot fewer self-described Twitter sages than when I started. And I can only see a post about the demise of Google Wave so many times before I wonder if this constant "shop buzz" is what I signed up for...

This perspective is more of the masses than of the masters, I realize. It's what I want--to stay linked to the feeling of being a regular person, with a variety of interests that have nothing to do with social media. I want my life, online and offline, to be more social. More real.

That almost certainly helps me better understand my audience. And that makes me a better social media marketer.

I've already marked Thursday, June 30, 2011 on my calendar. Maybe we'll connect at a meetup that evening; if we do, it will be after I've found another adventure to tell you about.

Who are these people I interviewed?
I met them all through my own online social networks this year. We've come to know each other better as our digital connections lead to more and more direct interaction. Today, it's my turn to spread the professional love--so here, let me introduce you:

Lori Gama owns DaGama Web Studio, a 15-year old consultancy in Fort Collins that delivers site design, social media strategy and search marketing. On nice weekends, Lori puts her boat on Horsetooth Reservoir.

Brian Means is a Business Leadership Trainer. He's rallied executive morale and impact for dynamic companies including American Express and Franklin Covey. Brian and his family live in Loveland. With his free time, Brian loves to play disc golf.

Kim Barone is a fellow copywriter. She owns Word Runner Professionals in Loveland. What started as a "virtual assistant" solopreneurship has evolved into a full-service Marketing Content (copywriting, proofing/editing) business. For fun, Kim goes to rock concerts.

Brad Shannon is a marcomm and PR strategist. He owns Shannon Marketing Communications in Loveland. His work helps power outreach for an expanding roster of local business along the Front Range. Off the clock, Brad coaches a local soccer team.

Heather Roth is in hot pursuit of a Marketing Research job. The Fort Collins native just earned her MBA and MS degrees from Loyola University, then worked in Kenya to help Global Alliance of Africa conduct a microfinance feasibility study. Between interviews, Heather roots for Rockies baseball.

To connect with any of these colleagues, check out their list at Twitter.com/CopywriterMag/TheFive or visit CopywriterMag.com (launch date: Labor Day 2010).
About Kenny Grindall
kenny@copywritermag.com
Kenny is a marketing and advertising copywriter. He's got 15 years under his belt with several wildly individualistic and profitable companies including, most recently, Littleton-based InquisiCorp. He now owns My Marketing Writer, LLC to serve clients from his new home office in Loveland, Colorado. His newest "passion project" is Copywriter Magazineô, a social blog he's started building to curate and explore his craft alongside mentors and peers.
Hobbies? Plenty--and he likes to meet folks who share them. Kenny is a newly incurable social media enthusiast; you can find him, for starters, on Twitter and LinkedIn (ID: KennyGrindall).


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