Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mesh conference session: Building a Brand on the Web

Panel moderated by Mark Evans.


Michael Garrity - CommunityLend
Maggie Fox - Social Media Group
Rohit Bhargava -

Q: How is building a brand on the web different than building a brand with traditional methods?

MF: It is the same, but things happen faster online.

MG: Have to remember that people are involved.

Q: How do you get companies to listen to you with regard to building the brand online?

MF: If companies don't listen to customers online, they miss out on those messages. People don't talk with just one voice.

RB: Seeing evolution of E to C i.e. employee to consumer relationships. Beyond that, it is the evangelist amongst your customers. Everyone dreams of fostering those customers to make them more vocal. It doesn't mean there is no branding, it means you don't cut and paste the same message everywhere.

MG: Frustrated being in a marketing department with a marketing budget, but not being able to touch on customer care. Then seeing IT department addressing how to cycle customers through the website. Have to be one organization that listens to customers. How do you come together with the customer to not throw marketing at something that does not work, that sucks.

MF: You have to live up to the brand promise or you're done. It does not work if your product sucks.

MF: People inside the organization are your best embassadors; they can help build the brand also. Don't forget about them.

Q: People can tell you if something is resonating with them or not. How do companies listen effectively and respond?

RB: It is related to tools, listening directly to what people are saying. Now on a mass scale you can listen to what people are saying on Twitter and other "back channels". Window of suckiness narrows-you hear about a movie being bad immediately before you have to suffer through it, too.

RB: Challenges for companies: listening to customers, and then figuring out how to scale this. How do you release a product and then provide customer support for it--there are ways of doing this on scale. Social media just hasn't found its way into the organization's business yet.

MG: One of the biggest challenges with Canada Post, one of their benefactors, is that when the service is delivered when people are not there. They were worried that when they opened up communication lines what would happen with their brand. But the conversation is happening. You should be more worried if you don't have any conversation happening.

Q: What tools do you use to listen?

MF: Use Radian6 - covers not just blogs, not just forums, but also Twitter. They find the 1% of influencers and listen to what they say. Need to weight them in terms of influence and reach, whether worth responding.

RB: Essential truths: marketers want to listen but are lazy about it. That goes in spikes; if you set up a tool that takes time to get into it. You may not always have time. Easiest thing to use is set up a Google Alert whatever your brand is. It is push and comes to your mailbox. You set up smart ways to listen that are useful to you.

MG: Google Alerts, Google Analytics are good free way for start-ups to monitor their own brand.

RB: Zappos is a company that is being used as a company that "gets it". They lost any employee silencing policy. As soon as anyone starts in the organization, they get a "culture book" created by the employees. Use social networking tools and let employees talk. Those employees are creating experiences with customers that are creating evangelists among customers. Story of Zappos - woman's mother had just bought shoes and passed away; they found out about it and took the shoes back as well as sent her flowers the next week. The woman blogged about it.

Q: How are you working with Ford and social media.

MF: Early days, but they do engage in blogger relations. Zoe at SMG follows the key blogs and talks to people like friends. In their metrics they have identified blogs that are more influential, which they are paying attention to on a regular basis. Also look for influencers in related areas.

Q: How does a start-up go about doing online branding?

MG: Take feedback and build on it. Create some momentum.

Q: In today's ADD world is it possible to create a brand that is sustainable? I can jump around to find other products. My attention span is so small.

MG: It is your company's job to understand what problem you are solving for customers. A lot of startups are not successful because they don't understand this. Then they have to find a way to articulate the customer in the context of the customer problem.

Q: Where do you start getting the customers to use the tools?

RB: He loves when he is first trying out a network because he doesn't know he knows is in the network. He likes the tools that tells him who in his other networks are already on the site, he finds that tool more usable and more likely he will return. BUT he does not want it to spam his friend. Don't assume your tool is the only tool; it is part of an ecosystem.

Q: A lot of companies are using Adsense or banner ads to build brand.

MG: "Building brand" is a macro statement that needs to be defined for the organization. It is a luxury to spend money just to feel good about your brand. They want to instead move a specific metric. Then they get specific with a specific method. Try to find existing online communities that are doing what they want and try to do a deal. Bad sign when someone on the management team talks about "owning the customer".

Q: Talking metrics

MF: Social media measurement comes out of communications, PR or market development. They can measure share of conversation, and how far they can "move the needle". One of their customers spent $6 million on paid search, so if they can use this to reduce this cost their job is successful.

Q: Club Penguin and StumbleUpon, discussed this morning, developed their products without spending any money on marketing.

RB: Referrals and word of mouth are the most important aspects of growing a company. Your circle of friends who you trust can now easily create a wealth of opinions; you don't need to rely on one person (e.g. A lot of companies use this to expand their brand. Also, build in tools to make things easily shareable. StumbleUpon has an easy toolbar; has a very specific statistic (if you put the botton on the blog you see the traffic statistics on your blog). It works well enough that word of mouth transfers this way. Dogster or Threadless have had something unique that allowed people to share it.

Q: Final thoughts?

RB: Make it okay for people to be accidental spokespersons. Don't shut them down.

MF: Both Club Penguin this year and Craigslist last year had laser focus on their customers who they listen to. You cannot build a brand if you don't know who wants it.

MG: Help your customers talk across silos in their organizations. Finance, customer care, IT have to care about brand. Focus on people individually.


Anonymous said...

Hey Connie - amazing! I think you had that up within minutes of the panel being over! Great to see you again...

Connie Crosby said...

Thanks kindly, Maggie. If I don't live blog a session, it generally doesn't get posted.

I found this a very interesting session, especially in that all three of you had very different but well-developed ideas.

This session really was relevant to everyone whether they realize it or not, since we all have at least our own personal brands even if we do not have a particular corporate/organizational brand (although, you could argue most of us do...).

Fascinating subject, something I have been thinking about a lot.


Unknown said...

Connie, this is so great to have a blow-by-blow of the event!

I was the one at the end of the session that mentioned the Social Tech Training event that's being held at MaRS June 22-24. As I said, it's a hands-on Web 2.0 oriented learning intensive and you'll come out with an action plan which I know is sometimes hard to sit down and DO. Thought you might like the link if only just to pass on to others that you think might be interested:

Connie Crosby said...

Great addition--thanks so much for including it, Cathy! I was just closing up my notes when you were pointing out the session, and since I already knew about it didn't think to include it. D'uh!

And others should know I teach a basic hands-on survey of social networking tools for information professionals through the University of Toronto both in Toronto and Ottawa (next date in Ottawa is June 2nd).

Unknown said...

No problem! Just took a look at your sessions at UofT. What are the typical costs of that? I'm thinking it might be of use to a couple of people at my work might benefit from that kind of thing.

However, they might actually want ME to teach them some useful web2.0 tools to use for personal/professional productivity. I'm actually doing a couple of lunch n learns here on that.

Are you going to STT? I'm SO looking forward to it!

Anonymous said...

Good job! :)