I thought I was fairly knowledgeable about blogging, Twitter, and other aspects of “social media,” but I learned a lot from a panel at the recent DesignCon 2010. Entitled “Social media – do we really have to do it?” the panel made it clear that while social media provides a great way to connect with potential customers, you really have to know what you’re doing – and why – to get the best use out of it.
The panel included David Stokes, Cadence community manager (who posts all my Industry Insights blogs including this one). Moderator was Kenton Williston, editorial director of Techbites.com, a new social media site for engineers. Other panelists included Seth Duncan, senior research analyst at Context Analytics; Tom Diederich, content editor at Zendesk; and Michael Brito, social media guru at Edelman PR.
The DesignCon social media panel included Kenton Williston, David Stokes,Seth Duncan, Tom Diederich, and Michael Brito (left to right).
Here are some insights that stood out for me during the wide-ranging, hour-long discussion (with no implied ranking in importance).
1. From billboards to destinations
Before social media, web sites were “billboards” that changed perhaps once a year, Diederich noted. Now company web sites provide a way to get content published fast. They offer a way to connect to customers and prospects and to hold dynamic conversations. Now web sites can be “destinations” that change daily.
2. The path to sales is indirect
Social media may not lead to sales directly, but it will help customers and prospects understand your business objectives, Brito noted. “If you go in with a marketing attitude and say ‘I’m going to drive sales through social media,’ you’re not going to succeed,” he said. “But sales will happen. Customer loyalty will happen.”
3. Forget traditional PR
“The traditional press release is on its way out,” Diederich said. “You’ll see it replaced by multiple blogs focusing on specific segments of the company’s target audience.” Brito noted that the Intel Centrino 2 product launch relied heavily on blog posts. Intel posted a banner that pulled in feeds from blog posts, and the response was so strong it shut down Intel’s servers, he observed.
4. Blogs don’t expire
“We’re still getting views on [Cadence Community] blogs that are a year and a half old,” Stokes said. “The conversations keep going. These posts have a very long shelf life. What has surprised me most is how sticky these things are.”
5. Many ways to measure success
You can count comments, links, and traffic on blog postings or Facebook, Duncan noted, but what you really want to measure depends on your objectives. He said that many Context Analytics clients are most concerned about sales leads, and you can actually track that if you’re selling products on line.
6. About Twitter
“It’s deep, believe it or not. In 140 characters you can intimately get to know someone,” Brito said. He added that “if people are on Twitter talking about your brand, you should be involved.”
Stokes said he’s seen a rapid growth in Twitter use in the past few months, and noted that “it’s opened up a dialog that wasn’t there before.” But Twitter can blur the line between someone’s social life and business life. Fortunately, Stokes said, “most people self police very well.”
7. About Facebook
Facebook is a good tool for business-to-consumer communications, but is “maybe not the right place” for business-to-business, Brito said.
8. Persistence counts
What’s the formula for success? “Be committed,” Stokes said. “Make sure you have bloggers who are committed. Be consistent and stick to it. The worst thing you can do is be there for a while and disappear.”
9. Social media is not for everybody
“Social media is the buzzword,” Brito said at the panel’s conclusion. “Everybody talks about it, but your company might not find value. Spend some time listening and figuring out whether social media is a valuable channel to reach your audience.”
10. My takeaway
Blogging, Twitter and social networking sites may look like simple tools, but to use them effectively you need to think about what you’re trying to accomplish, develop a plan, and stick to it. It’s an exciting new world with all the perils of any frontier.