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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Social Media Series: Amber Naslund on Bridging New & Old

This week's guest for Flooring The Consumer's Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old is Amber Naslund.

Amber Naslund has a knack for getting right to the heart of what matters to brands, businesses and communities. If you don't believe me, take a walk through Altitude Branding which is all about "practical strategies for brand elevation through social media." You'll be touched by her passion for social media as enabler for greater things. Not pie-in-the-sky things. Rather, practical, common-sensical marketing things that truly add value, connect brands with customers and form communities. Definitely download her Getting a Foothold in Social Media e-book.

I first 'met' Amber while exploring Plurk where she and other leading edge marketers actively engaged in meaningful discussion about social media effectiveness [e.g., July 2008 Plurkshop summary]. What a way to experience the possibilities of this platform! Her passion and humor were infectious. I felt an immediate connection.
Given that knack, it's no surprise that Amber has just become Director of Community for Radian6, the social media monitoring platform for marketing, communications and customer support professionals. I'm looking forward to all that she will have to teach us about integrating on and offline communications for brand and community building.
Look for Amber on Twitter @AmberCadabra, on her personal blog, Innacurate Reality, and MarketingProfs' MPDailyFix.
C.B.: Amber, how/why did you get involved in social media?
Amber: Well, I suppose you could say I’ve been “involved” in social media since the days of BBS, chat rooms, and the early days of online journaling. I’ve probably had a half dozen blogs over the years, though none of them were really business-focused until now. I started my career as a non-profit fundraiser, and from the very start I was involved with online volunteer communities, online fundraising, and how to leverage the web for things like cause-related marketing.

The why is a little different. My career wound me through marketing and fundraising roles, but I was never a formally trained marketing person (I was a music major in college). And in the non-profit world, the development staff are often marketing and fundraising all wound into one. The fundraising world puts relationships front and center to success, so I always looked at marketing as a way to educate and inform people about a business (not directly sell to them). Social media – when it was eventually dubbed such – was really the perfect fit with my philosophies overall about when and how marketing works best. And the fact that it’s largely focused online reflects the rapidly evolving need for businesses to have a brand presence that’s both analog and digital.

C.B.: What do you like most about social media?
I love the potential for businesses to put their customer relationships back at the forefront of their business. When it works well, it encourages individuals and companies alike to more carefully consider how and why they’re communicating with people. Instead of putting the sales transaction first, it asks businesses to be more human in the way they approach their work. I love watching brands develop organically because people are connecting with the people behind the logo, building networks. That’s amazingly cool to watch.

C.B. What do you like least about social media?
The near-religious fanaticism that seems to be taking over in some circles. Social media is a set of tools and strategies that have a great deal of potential. But they are not a silver bullet, nor a one-size-fits-all approach that will work for every company. We need to be approaching social media with the same critical eye as we would any other business endeavor and understand how it’s going to impact the larger operation. I get easily frustrated when social media advocates are putting these strategies and the associated “rules” forward as a set of absolutes. Successful social media within a business is going to be based on the unique challenges and opportunities for that company, and while there are guiding principles that I think are sound, the “evangelists” can get a bit carried away with preaching vs. practical application.

C.B.: What 5 suggestions do you have for companies to implement so they can more effectively bridge old media with new media and connect with end users?
Consider what you already have and build on it. Not everything needs to be tossed out or reinvented. It can be incredibly effective to look at your existing communication vehicles – like your collateral or your e-newsletter – and approach them from a more social standpoint.
Consider your company culture. I can’t stress enough how important it is for social media to be part of the culture, not just the operations of a company. Take the time to understand what obstacles you’ll face, what hesitations your management has about this, how familiar and comfortable your employees are with these tools. Social media can’t be siloed in the communications department.

Know how your customers want to interact with you online. Don’t get a Facebook page because you think you should, get one because your customers spend time there and tell you that they’d look for you there. This requires doing the meticulous work of talking to your customers ahead of time – via phone, in person, through surveys, whatever. But build your presence based on their expectations, not yours.

Be prepared for a commitment. Social media isn’t a campaign, it’s part of a holistic communication strategy. It takes time to get it right, and that means trying some things that won’t work, adjusting your approach, and moving forward over months, not weeks. The best part? Tweaking a blog strategy is a heck of a lot cheaper than running an ad that bombs or dropping a direct mail piece that’s got a 1% sort-of-return rate.

Act on what you learn. If your blog comments are telling you that your customer service is lacking, do something about that. If your forum posts are asking for specific product enhancements, consider those in your planning. (If your product or service is lousy, the most brilliant social media work in the world can’t save you). Have a plan for how you’ll deal with both positive and negative feedback, and skip the canned corporate speak. If you aren’t using the connections you make through social media to better your business and move it forward, you’re wasting your time and effort.

C.B.: Any other thoughts to share about the effectiveness of social media in forging stronger relations with customers.

Tons, I’m sure. But suffice it to say that any social media strategy that will stand the test of time will be based on your individual business goals. No two approaches to social media will ever be alike, nor should they be. Make the investment in planning and outlining a social media blueprint that’s tailored just for you. Forging stronger customer and client relationships is incredibly rewarding, and ultimately, those relationships will translate into dollars. But take the time to plan properly so your social media strategy dovetails into the work you’re doing across the company. Integration is the name of the game.

Thank you, Amber, and best of luck with your new Radian6 adventure!
Comments? Reactions? What have you seen work well to forge stronger customer and client relationships? How do you integrate social media strategies with you other programs, including your offline programs? What did you find worked best?


Previous posts in the Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old include:
+ Toby Bloomberg
+ Steve Woodruff
+ Ann Handley
+ Mack Collier
+ Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old


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6 comments:

Amber Naslund said...

Christine,

Thanks so very much for the opportunity to be featured in your series. So many smart people have weighed in, and I've enjoyed sifting back through your other interviews to get other perspectives.

It's a vast ocean we're swimming in right now, but these are exciting times. I can't wait to see how this space evolves in business over the next several years.

Thanks again for your support and this great opportunity.

Best,
Amber

C. B. Whittemore said...

Amber, you are so right about these being exciting times. Like you, I'm eager to see how things develop around social media. Thanks for being part of this discussion, and best of luck in your new role.

Destry Wion said...

Love Amber's reply to the question: What do you like least about social media? It sends a smart message.

I wonder how many evangelists have the job title "Director of Community?" (A new one to me, and to the times, I guess. Need to give that one a thorough definition somewhere.)

-dw
(@Wion)

C. B. Whittemore said...

Destry, like you I like how Amber refocuses what social media tools are all about in her response.

I was curious about your 'director of community' comment and discovered via Google that the title is far more common than I had thought.

Thanks for visiting and contributing to the discussion.

Mack Collier said...

Great interview with Amber, CB. The title of 'Community Evangelist' was really hot in 2007, and quite honestly I hope that companies are again wanting to focus on people that have a skill in connecting with their most passionate customers. Amber is perfect for this, and Radian 6 made a great move in bringing her in.

C. B. Whittemore said...

Thanks, Mack, for adding to the conversation.

I am so excited for Amber and Radian6 and also for us because we are all guaranteed to learn from both. There is so much to be gained from connecting with passionate customers. I hope this is a sign of things to come.

Have a great rest of the weekend.
CB

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