Lee Odden

How Big Companies Use Social Media @ BlogWell

Andy Sernovitz Giving Welcome Speech BlogWellPlease welcome guest blogger Jessica Rosenberg, a freelance writer and active social media user who blogs daily at It’s my life… and does product reviews at The Lemonade Stand. Jessica attended  BlogWell: “How Big Companies Use Social Media” event this week in San Jose.

As sponsors of BlogWell, TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog also did a pre-event group interview with social media gurus from Wells Fargo, Home Depot, UPS & Graco who presented at the event.

Eight major companies gathered in San Jose, CA this week to demonstrate how they are using social media the “right” way.

The goal of the BlogWell conference, organized by GasPedal, specialist of word of mouth marketing, was to show corporations interested in entering this new and nontraditional field how to navigate the scary waters of social media marketing.

As Ken Kaplan from Intel put it “seeing Social Media as a new way of communication makes sense. It’s not something to fear, but something to embrace, and learn more about, by trying it and sharing experiences.”

A wide array of companies ranging from Graco, a small company with very strong “mommy blogger” ties, to Intel who is using social media to unite their staff members and reach out to their customers, and others like Home Depot, Wells Fargo, Walmart, Cisco, and UPS, came to talk about their social marketing experiences and share what they had learned along the way.

The universal feeling was that they all believed in the power of social media; that it’s more than just another way to market to customers and staff. To be social media players companies have to learn to “talk to people like real people”. And the general understanding is that, while it’s relatively easy for small companies and start-ups to jump into the social media arena, it’s pretty scary for the bigger and more established companies to join the party.

The Blog Council, made up of companies passionate about social media, is working hard to help corporations who are terrified to make the jump by giving them tools and support and by showing them how to get started. Their website offers a series of checklists that make it possible for companies to “learn the appropriate and transparent ways to interact with blogs, bloggers, and the people who interact with them.”

Disclosure Best Practices Checklists available on The Blog Council site include:

  • Disclosure of Identity
  • Personal/Unofficial Blogging and Outreach
  • Blogger Relations
  • Compensation and Incentives
  • Agency and Contractor Disclosure
  • Creative Flexibility

Disclosure and honesty are key. As Andy Sernovitz of The BlogCouncil puts it, whenever you enter a Social Media space “just say who you are, don’t fuzz the line, don’t trick people, and if you ever have to ask yourself is something is OK, then the answer is probably no.” Always open with “I work for X. This is my personal opinion about Z.” and you’ll do just fine.

The message shared at BlogWell was clear:

  • Listen before you act.
  • Get to know your audience well.
  • Make sure you know the rules of engagement before you start interacting.
  • Then, when you do speak, be candid and transparent.
  • Disclose, disclose, disclose.
  • Make sure your legal department is on board with all your innovations.
  • But most importantly be human, and be receptive to the changes.

Social media is a new place where roles can be flexible and the strongest players are those who are willing to explore new ways of thinking. There’s a lot of money to be saved and new customers to be reached. Graco’s entire Social Marketing budget for a year is the equivalent of 4 print ads. Walmart, by implementing money saving tactics submitted by their staff through internal Social Media channels, is now saving $39 million a year. It might be daunting to enter the Social Media space, but the payoff is huge and well worth the effort.

Other blogs that covered BlogWell include:

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.