Social Media Experts Emphasize “Markets are Conversations”

HTCE logoThe High Tech Communicators’ Exchange hosted a sold out room last night at the YWCA for the presentation “Social Media: A New Way to Market?” featuring Kris Krug (Raincity Studios) and Rob Cottingham (Social Signal). As two of Vancouver’s top social media gurus, their contrasting styles flowed well together and engaged the crowd.

The two presenters worked through a number of social media case studies illustrating best practices for cultivating and engaging online communities. Rob emphasized the phrase “markets are conversations”, that the conversation is already happening and its in an organization’s best interest to engage in it. A question was raised: “Is this about transparency?”. Yes, but it is also about authenticity; an organization’s blog shouldn’t read like a press release, people see through that that and may respond negatively. Kris encouraged people to “link to your competitors”, explaining that not only does it create authenticity and dialogue, but it can also benefit search engine rankings.

Case studies of what not to do were also given. Examples included McDonald’s podcast of mostly investor-related information, Exxon-Mobile’s secret funding of a YouTube video lampooning Al Gore, and employees of Diebold making anonymous edits to their company’s Wikipedia article. These cases show that when organizations try and fake authenticity in social media, they are often exposed and called out on it. While in some cases, negative press has led to an increase in sales, it is obviously preferable to use the social web to grow reputation rather than create fires. Issues of community management were touched on, including the importance of having active community relations staff.

As a blogger, I’m pleased to see traditional marketing warming up to the idea of engaging small online media, and further pleased to see marketers learning about the right ways to work with online media.

The HTCE runs events every six weeks, visit their events listing for more information.