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Social Media Conversations – It’s no longer “Why” but “How”

November 5, 2010

I had a pleasure to participate and present at the Advanced Learning Institute’s Social Media for Communications event in Atlanta this past two days. The event gathered a mixture of internal communicators, PR and marketing pros along with a few consultants in the area of social media. The majority of the presentations were given by social media managers for brands such as Ernst & Young, UPS, AAA, IBM and Ocean Spray during which social media managers spoke about their initiatives in social media both internally and externally. Priceless!!!

I was relieved to find out that social media managers have moved past explaining WHY we need to participate in social media and are now deeply focused on HOW to make it happen. As far as I am concerned this is a major turning point for corporate social media initiatives. While there are differences in terms of approaches for developing a social media program, best practices are beginning to emerge.


It was interesting to see that there was no one department where social media “lives” in large brands. While there are many who think they should be the ones to control social media, the practice lives where the practitioners are. For Pitney Bowes it is corporate marketing, for UPS it is their PR department and for CNN it happens to be their viewer experience group. At Ernst & Young it is the talent acquisition group who embraced social media to engage socially with new hires on Facebook. I was actually the most impressed with AAA Mid-Atlantic social media structure. AAA social media manager, Kim Snedaker, was able to convince management that social media should be department-agnostic since both market research, customer service, marketing, PR and product management are taking advantage of these channels. As such, social media office reports directly to the CEO. Nice job, Kim!
UPDATE: Kim contacted me to correct the above statement. She currently reports to the VP of marketing. See her POV in the comments section below. 


I want to recognize UPS and their PR manager/social media guru Debbie Curtis-Magley who gave a very candid talk on how to handle brand crisis in social media. She spoke about UPS’s response to the FedEx’s Brown Bailout Attack and how important is to “pick your battles” and recognize when a response to a negative post is warranted and when you should “let it go” (yes there is a science behind it). What Debbie emphasized was the fact that the time of crisis is not the time you should be setting up your social media channels. You should already have them to communicate in social media e.g. a branded twitter, blog or presence on Facebook to engage with your stakeholders. By then you have time to build enough credibility and trust to have the community’s support when your brand is under attack.
See my previous blog on handling brand crisis in social media.


No, and this made me feel really good, because it shows that there is enough flexibility for social media programs in large corporations to allow for innovation. While we are expected to have a plan and follow it everybody realizes that social media is still evolving and our approaches to using it need to evolve accordingly. This was the most visible in Jennifer Martin‘s presentation about CNN’s approaches to social media and particularly their changing strategy behind the iReport initiative. CNN took small steps, kept on refining their plans and getting more and more comfortable with user generated content on their website to the point that late last year they moved from pre-moderated to post-moderated approach to handling user generated comments on The community rewarded them for it by double-digit growth in the percentage of comments left on the site.


Sarah Cannon from the MSLAtlanta (PR agency) spoke about their client, Georgia Forestry Commission and their initiative to create a community (the Grove) focused on educating and engaging with their stakeholders and the general public . What started as a regional, small-scale initiative quickly became a national success because of their focus on overcoming hurdles such as low level of community participation. How did they do it? By simply adding a map to the site where members could identify their locations and post pictures of where they lived. Having conversations about their place of residence seemed less intimidating and resulted in significant increase in the level of community conversations. Nice job, Sarah!

When speaking with the attendees I’ve heard the following take-aways:

  • Social media is everybody’s job.
  • Don’t develop social media strategy without first looking at your company’s strategic goals and aligning social media strategies to support these goals.
  • Social media is more about “social” and less about “media.”
  • Don’t measure Return on Investment in social media. Measure ROE = Return on Engagement.
  • Happy customers tell three friends. Unhappy customers tell… Google
  • Don’t concentrate on negative conversations in social media. Focus on positive. Make sure you amplify positive mentions by retweeting them and thanking their creators for positive word of mouth.
  • Have faith in the self-policing aspect of social media communities. If you build a credible voice others will come to your defense during the time of crisis.


Below is a copy of my presentation I shared with the attendees that describes Pitney Bowes social media activities as well as identifies a Marketing 2.0 workflow along with a case study showing this workflow in action for a social media marketing campaign.

Big thank you to the Advanced Learning Institute for inviting me to speak at their event. I’ve learned a ton and had fun doing it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 5, 2010 9:14 am

    What a great recap! Thanks again for participating and sharing the PB case study. You were a wonderful addition to the program and it was a pleasure to have you join us.

  2. Kim Snedaker permalink
    November 5, 2010 3:47 pm

    Hi Aneta. Thanks for such a great recap of the many ideas exchanged between all of the companies and social media managers at the ALI Social Media Summit.

    I wanted to correct one element of your recap. At AAA Mid-Atlantic, Social Media used to reside within the eBusiness team but now reports through to Corporate Marketing, similar to your Pitney Bowes structure. What I mentioned was conversations I’ve had with our SVP Brand & CMO, that since Social is working to support all facets of the organization, perhaps it should be department-agnostic and report through directly to him at the highest Brand level. This would position Social as more neutral and better able to support all the business functions. It was nice to see all of the other presenters mentioning that they are having similar conversations within their organizations as well. But I report through the VP of Marketing.

    Like you, I too am happy that all the social media practioners feel we’ve moved beyond the why to the how and for me, it was so encouraging to see us all focused on how social benefits the organization, communicating that to our internal teams and Executive sponsors, integrating our social programs with our traditional and other digital assets, and the $64,000 question – how to measure and report on our efforts. It seems you really can measure the value of a conversation!

    Awesome to meet you and keep up the great work at Pitney Bowes!

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