Maybe you’ve experienced this: you’re at your desk tweeting away and all of a sudden, your tweople start referencing some foreign hash sign. As they get louder and louder, it becomes clear they’re sharing thoughts from a conference or event, so you quickly put in a search and try to follow along.  If you’re like me, you realize that the nuggets they’re spouting off only contain half the story, and you still want to know more (this is why they charge you to attend conferences). 

Having been in that position too many times, I’d thought I’d reverse the roll for you.  I recently attended the Social Media Strategies event in San Francisco (@SocialMediaConf).  As I tweeted throughout the day, I tried to share the best-of-the-best by way of 140 character comments.  If that left you wanting more, here’s where you’ll find the full story.  I’m interested to hear what you think, and I encourage others to do the same following valuable events and information-packed conference sessions.

Here’s @gbender26 from #awsms09

When the Mattel team took the stage, they talked a lot about how they wanted to incorporate their brand image into all social marketing efforts.  Everything from owning Barbie’s signature pink to finding someone who could consistently be the voice of the doll was important to maintaining the image that grown-up girls had grown up with.  The lesson here was that you can’t abandon the tenants of your brand when you jump into the social realm, but you can engage new audiences.  Barbie’s Twitter followers, for example are decidedly older than the girls playing with the doll today.

For Barbie’s 50th birthday, Mattel also incorporated social media – microsites, social network fan pages, videos, etc. – into live events.  I was struck by their use of traditional media as a barometer for the success of their social marketing efforts.

  • Barbie turned 50 social media style. Learning how Mattel incorporated play time into comm strategy.
  • Barbie had a web site in 1997. In 2009, she's into social networking. Now she's really my hero.
  • Mattel uses 80/20 rule for international social media. 80% remains the same, 20% customized per region

MC Hammer appeared with significant fanfare via the show’s Twitter feed.  His lesson for brands, media moguls and the music industry, centered on finding your audience where it already lives.  Social media afforded him the opportunity to rebuild his brand, and he sees the potential for younger artists and emerging brands.  Interestingly, he didn’t have many good things to say about MySpace, despite its focus on the music market.  He seemed to think no one wants to sort through that mess in search of new music. 

  • @mchammer says he can make me a star in Hollywood. But in social media, the community creates the star. It's about push vs. pull marketing.
  • Taking out the middle man builds stronger connection to the brand. Tell your own story. @mchammer

Representatives from the Gap were on board to highlight their social media success, which included fan pages, microsites, video and smartphone apps.  Being featured in an iPhone commercial was a huge win!  Bookending the campaign were traditional marketing research (in-home focus groups) and social media measurement.  Again, Gap mentioned using press coverage as a way to determine social media success. They also tracked user behavior and engagement, all of which was attributed to driving real sales and revenue.

  • Gap went into homes to talk about jeans- the first step in better connection to consumers. Didn't use traditional focus groups.
  • Don't forget to optimize all your social media content for search! Tagging is a powerful tool.

These tweets need no explanation:

  • hearing from the #madmen tweeters. Wish Don Draper was here.
  • Yes! RT @sashahowell So fantastic to hear *everyone* here talking about how social media is just ONE piece of the marketing puzzle.

There was some debate about whether PR agencies, interactive agencies, internal contacts or ad agencies own social media engagement.  Although the group never came to a consensus on ownership, everyone agreed that social media CAN NOT be ignored.  It’s just too big a force.  It’s also important to find partners you trust, agree on goals and metrics ahead of time and have a conversation vs. talking AT your audience. 

  • @adbroad says PR agencies can play a major role in social media- maybe own it. Let the debate begin.
  • Not every brand has to participate, but they should all be listening. Not sure I agree that interns should be in charge, though.
  • There's a land grab for social media because "traditional" budgets are being cut. I say: set goals and then pick the best partner.

Many of the speakers and panelists agreed with this comment.  If we (as marketers) think about social media in terms of a marketing campaign, it will fizzle and die.  To really build a fan base and benefit from jumping in, brands need to be prepared for a longer-term commitment.  They need to focus on having conversations vs. pushing an agenda.  I’d add that you can always judge a “campaign” by putting yourself in the consumers’ shoes.  How would you feel if a company shouted that message at you?  Would you talk back, ignore them or… hide?

  • Only clients and agencies think in campaigns. Real people think in relationships and ongoing conversations.

Again, comments that need no additional explanation:

  • Great comment: RT @trinkschiz: "Trying to take something off the Internet is like trying to take pee out of the swimming pool."
  • I saw @mchammer and won a palm pre in the same day! Awesome all around. Oh, and I learned a lot about social media.

The slides I mention are on Slide Share here.  Ian Schafer of Deep Focus gave a great presentation arguing why social media is mature vs. why it’s not quite ready for prime time.  The conclusion?  Social media is mature enough.  To make it work, brands need to identify clear roles, involve the entire organization, set out with key social performance indicators… and INNOVATE.  I encourage you to check it out.

  • Great slides from @ischafer Consumer decision funnel is no longer like we learned in b-school. There are far more touchpoints.
  • Social media is mature because via @ischafer

I’m interested to hear your thoughts.  If this is helpful, let's continue the discussion.  For further reading, a number of the panelists and speakers recommended Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People.  Originally published in 1937, the backbone of the book still rings true today – especially as we talk about influencing people through social media. 

– Contributed by Gretchen Bender.  Follow her @gbender26