Trying to avoid faux pas, corporations learn the etiquette of social media

As the attention of the masses has shifted away from traditional publications and advertising has followed that exodus of attention, corporate marketers have been striving to understand the trends in social media and how to engage people online. They also want to know about the best practices to be a good corporate citizen in this new media model.

Gaspedal, a Chicago-based word-of-mouth consulting firm, recently took the Blog Council, an association of corporations looking to blog with more impact, and turned it into the Social Media Business Council, undoubtedly to capitalize on the trend in social media and feed the hunger corporations have for learning about social media.

As a part of that effort, the Gaspedal team developed a series of events called BlogWell. Billed as “8 Great Case Studies on the Best Social Media Programs at Large Corporations,” the examples show how to deliver big brands to an audience of other big brands in an effective and impactful way.

The Minnov8 team was pleased to be a Minnesota partner for the Aug. 13 event (see that and past BlogWell events here) held at the headquarters of General Mills. We covered it as a liveblog posting to a self-updating page located here on the Minnov8 site (which is now an archive page). As a consequence, our team was able to deliver a succinct and solid overview to 197 unique viewers who were unable to attend this sold-out venue.

As at all of these types of events, the most powerful experience is in the connections one makes with people there. Whether because of the speakers themselves or the audience members, the built-in breaks facilitated social networking (the non-technology kind) and people were quite engaged in meeting and greeting one another. See some comments by attendees in these short interviews by Minnov8’s Phil Wilson:

With corporate marketers, customer service and sales people shifting their own activities toward social media and seeking out ways to make a big impact with the smallest amount of effort and expense, we’ve already seen far too many cases where companies have either not responded to discussions within social media or made very public mistakes in their attempts to use this new medium.

Undoubtedly much to the dismay of corporate leadership of these companies trying to learn what to do in social media, there is no shortage of pundits and bloggers who are more than willing to point out their blunders. As a consequence, the need for best practices and guidelines is vitally important, which is precisely the driver behind the Council and the essence of the BlogWell events.

Minnov8 with the Pillsbury Doughboy

Though the brand names at the General Mills BlogWell were top ones (e.g., Ford, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart), I was struck by how a few of these respective organization leaders who were presenting had only minimally engaged in social media. I learned this as I searched the ‘net for photos and links to their social media sites where they were involved, or even looked at their Twitter accounts. Much to my surprise, some either didn’t have accounts at the popular sites or if they did, were lightly using them.

Then came Scott Monty of Ford, a guy whose social media activities completely fill the search results on this Google page. It came as no surprise to me later – when talking with a couple of dozen people at the after-party — the answer to my question about the highlight of the day was: “Oh …it was the presentation by Scott Monty. He totally gets it, and I loved his video with Alan Mullaly, the CEO of Ford.” Below is a video interview with Scott by local public relations communication expert, Arik Hanson:

So the lesson learned by many corporate folks in attendance (I hope) was that knowing best practices intellectually is fine, but the only way to be a leader in this space is to participate. Otherwise, it’s like walking in the front door to a party and immediately beginning to hand out business cards and your brochure before meeting anyone or establishing any sort of relationship.

If you do that, you’ll not be invited back, or it will take you a very, very long time to overcome such social faux pas. That is exactly what non-savvy corporations have learned the hard way when it comes to their brands.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Scott Smith on 08/18/2009 - 01:21 pm.

    This guy is truly the master. He got you to post a video (commercial) where he talks about how awesome his bosses are and how great Ford cars are, when the story was about avoiding blunders.

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