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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SES NY Series: Social Media Marketing for Brand Building, An Interview with Hollis Thomases from

Social Media Marketing for Brand Building at SES NYSocial Media Marketing is obviously a hot topic right now. It would be hard to attend a marketing meeting at any company and not hear about Blogging, Social Media, Facebook, Twitter, etc. But in my experience, many marketers are confused about how to proceed and have many unanswered questions. For example, how do you start? Who should be driving your social media initiatives? Should you just outsource it? How do you measure the results? What metrics should be analyzed? Like I said, there’s a lot of confusion about how to do this, especially from traditional marketers. That’s why many marketing budgets have a very small line item at the very end, so small you can barely make it out. It reads “Social Media”, and typically has less dollars associated with it than your bill for lunch! :) That will change, though.

I’ve been a part of many conversations with clients about social media marketing. I’ve heard a lot of concerns, confusion, and to be quite honest, fear… Since it’s so new and there are limitless creative opportunities, many marketers view Social as the Wild West. You know, gun-slinging social media mavens that are breaking bottles at the bar that somehow end up playing poker with your marketing budget. ;) Now, most of us know that’s not the case (for the most part), but marketers that haven’t participated in social media yet sometimes view it this way.

Hollis Thomases from on what I explained above, you can imagine that I'm very interested in the session at SES NY about Social Media Marketing for Brand Building. I’m sure many brand marketers will be attending the session looking for answers. As I reviewed the session panelists, I noticed that Hollis Thomases was on the list, who I actually met on Twitter by the way! (Ahh, the power of social media, right?) I decided to interview Hollis to find out more about what she’ll be covering during the session, which is on Wednesday, March 25h at 9:00. She was nice enough to take some time and answer my questions about social media marketing.

I’ve provided my interview with Hollis below. After reading the interview, don’t hesitate to post your comments or questions.

Glenn: What are the top things people will learn by attending your session?

Hollis: People that attend our session will learn how smart companies are using social marketing tools to promote brands and reach out to customers (and how it’s possible to do so without investing a fortune.) They will also learn the kinds of metrics being used to measure the success of social media initiatives.

Glenn: What are you hearing from clients and prospective clients about social media marketing? Are they deathly afraid of it, are they transparent enough for social, do they think it’s just for a younger demographic, etc?

Hollis: There’s a great deal of interest in social media, though most of our clients are simply trying to get educated so they can understand if it might be an area worth dipping a toe into. To some, it’s a pox to be avoided (and rightly so for regulation reasons); for others, they’re eager to get in on the action; a few are actually already successfully engaged. It’s really a question of understanding, “Is social media right for US?”

Glenn: Are you going to introduce popular social media sites and platforms, with a quick rundown of each?

Hollis: In my session, one panelist will focus on Twitter (me) and another on Facebook (Harry Gold of Overdrive), while a third speaker (Dave Evans) will discuss the mechanics and metrics of social media marketing.

Glenn: Do companies understand that social media is about connecting and engaging with communities or do they view social as a media spend?? I know many traditional marketers are trying to tie Social Media to older metrics that don’t make sense for the medium…

Hollis: IMO, the answer at the moment is NEITHER. It’s still too nascent of a field and clients are still too under-educated to really understand much about social media. Still, once I do a little education, yes, I constantly get the question about measuring ROI. I usually then use the public relations analogy, e.g. “Are you doing any PR? How are do you directly measure the ROI of that kind of tactic?” Of course, I can also help get them thinking about engagement and interaction metrics, but I caution that direct ROI is certainly harder to do and isn’t really the place for social media.

Glenn: What are some top-level recommendations for marketers with regard to participating in social media?

#1 - Get educated. Diving ignorant into social media is a recipe for disaster.

#2 - Plan to dedicate resources in the form of staff time. At least one human being is going to need to be behind this social media effort.

#3 - Get a thick skin. Social media is a place where your consumers are going to reveal the good, the bad and the ugly. If you can’t hack that and maintain a consumer and customer-friendly focus, don’t play here….but know that your consumers will still be in this space talking about you in all kinds of ways regardless.

#4 - Be authentic. Don’t lie, try to cover up some kind of bungle or make stuff up because you will be called out by the community quicker than a burning match. If your company has a mishap, acknowledge it, apologize for it, explain how you will rectify it, and move on.

#5 – Have a clear objective as to why you’re entering the social media space to begin with because it’s not for every company, and every social network is not right for every company. Social media, like any other tactic you might be investing time, resources and dollars to, should have clear objectives (or at least a roadmap to guide the process initially).

#6 – If nothing else, know that social media is a great laboratory to understand what your audience may/may not respond to. As you build relationships with your audience, you can also utilize them to help you “market research” in an informal way. Test out ideas, design creative, product trials, etc. with your crowd - many will leap on the chance to contribute to the development of something bigger than themselves.

Glenn: Are you going to explain the difference between quantity and quality of followers, friends, etc?

Hollis: For Twitter, I’m going to frame this from an opinion, but also from what’s going on out there and what restriction Twitter places on ratios (great read on this subject in case you didn’t catch it:

Glenn: Are you going to provide any case studies or statistics as part of your session?

Hollis: I think each panelist will probably cover 1 or 2 case studies/success stories, and we’ll cover as much as possible based on the time we have to present.

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about when you start delving into Social Media Marketing. Like anything else in online marketing, there are some great examples of companies doing it right, and then some examples of companies that haven’t done such a good job (and I’m being nice here…) I think that’s why a session like this at SES NY is so important. One thing is for sure, Social Media Marketing is not easy. There are no shortcuts to connecting with people, providing value to a community, building relationships, etc. Unfortunately, I think many marketers have a hard time with that concept… My hope is that changes.

Again, Hollis’ session on Social Media Marketing for Brand Building is on Wednesday, March 25th at 9:00. I’ll be attending the session and tweeting the core points that each panelist covers. I’ll also be recapping my days at SES here on my blog.

Are you interested in Social Media Marketing, but confused with how to proceed? Post a comment below and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.


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  • At 6:24 PM, Anonymous Eli S. | Link Builder said…

    Based on that interview, I really wish I could go hear more at that session tomorrow, but that would be rather difficult location-wise. Lucky for me, you'll be on Twitter, so I can just grad the highlights. Nicely done!

  • At 6:58 PM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Thanks Eli! The session was great today, and my hope is that you followed my ses ny twitter stream as the session was going on. Hollis provided some great pointers for how brands can leverage twitter to connect with consumers.

    There are some strong sessions tomorrow (thurs) so definitely keep track of my twitter feed. :)



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