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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Social Media Series: Laurence Borel on Bridging New & Old

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

Originally from Lyon, France, social media strategist Laurence Borel [a.k.a. Lolly] is London based - since 2000 - although she's NYC bound before long [her first short visit is scheduled for the first week in April].

When I first 'met' her in late 2006, Lolly was a qualitative researcher for GfK NOP, and seemed as comfortable conducting research in Italy as in France or London. Her blog, Blog Till You Drop [launched in August of 2006 and a top UK marketing blog], offered me wonderful perspectives on French advertising as well as a taste for how all of these social platforms were exploding and being used outside North America. It still does - and more!

From a traditional role "delving deep into the consumer psyche in order to shape distinctive brand behaviour which truly strikes a chord with diverse consumers" to social media strategist who recently led a discussion at Media Camp London about how social media applies to big brands and companies, Lolly has an unique perspective on bridging new & old!

Lolly also authors a travel and arts blog, Cosmopolitan... with a zest of lemon. You can find her on Twitter @blogtillyoudrop.

C.B.: Lolly, tell us how and why you got involved in social media.

Lolly: Blogging really started to emerge as a powerful marketing tool in 2006 in the UK and being a geek, I wanted to explore possibilities with this new medium.

Things really took off when I began blogging 2.5 years ago - I wasn't 100% happy in my traditional marketing role and thought a blog could potentially help me enhance my career. Although it started as a hobby I quickly became hooked and started experimenting with dozens of different websites. I landed a role earlier this year as a Social Media Strategist, so yes Social Media does work when it comes to career prospects and I have never been happier - my hobby is now my profession and I can usually be found at various networking events in London.

I originally started blogging about Marketing and Advertising, but I now tend to focus on Social Media and Digital Marketing. I think asking questions at the end of posts works really well as it motivates my readers to leave comments, express their opinions and have a conversation! I have also learnt about the importance of tagging with the right key-words, and I've picked up quite a few tips in terms of SEO over the years!

C.B.: What do you like most about social media?

Lolly: I love the endless possibilities that social media brings - meeting and chatting with people you would never have otherwise met (such as yourself, C.B.!). The power of the community is amazing. I love Social Media because it is both a relationship & community building tool as well as an amazing conversational platform. Advertising was traditionally about pushing one-way messages to consumers whereas Social Media is all about having two-way conversations and empowering consumers. This clearly help companies build a strong relationship with their customers, and consumers on the other hand, now have a medium to express their opinions.

C.B.: What do you like least about social media?

Lolly: Social Media is the cool thing to do and many brands want a piece of the cake, even though some of them should stay away from this double-chocolate pudding! I witnessed a couple of very bad Social Media campaigns this year, which are potentially damaging to the industry.

My definition of a bad PR campaign includes:

1) Bad outreach: copied and pasted emails, attaching a press release into an email, or a topic irrelevant to the blogger

2) The strategy and execution of the actual campaign: using the wrong venues or creating something that's simply too boring

3) Wanting to create a social media presence for a brand that simply has nothing to do with social media

The aim of Social Media is to influence the decision-making process and it is something PR practitioners should bear in mind. Social Media is cheaper and arguably more powerful than traditional marketing but it should be handled with care!

My other pet hate at the moment are list of influential Twitter users - I simply don't see the point of these!

CB: 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?

Lolly: First - Listen - what are people saying about your brand? If they are saying something negative about you, engage with them and try to turn this 'threat' into an opportunity! There are plenty of free tools out there to monitor conversations such as Google Alerts, Twitter Search or Tweetbeep but to name a few.

Once you've started listening, follow the 4 Is of Social Media Marketing from Danny Brown!

"Identify - There are so many different social media tools and applications that it can often be like trying to work your way around a maze. So many different turns to take, easy to get lost with all the options available - which is why it's important to take the time to identify what will work for you. Decide what you want from social media and then use the appropriate tools."

"Identity - Having an easily identifiable brand is key for anyone both online and off. Although this is usually applicable to business, personal branding offers an invaluable way of building a reputation as someone to go to for a certain niche. So your identity should be the same across whatever platforms you use - from bio, to profile, to picture, to logo - keeping the same identity across social media platforms will help people remember you more easily."

"Invest - There's an old saying that says, "You get out of it what you put into it." While this can be used for most topics, it's particularly true of social media. It's not something you can dip into now and again - it changes too fast for that. Instead, to really see the fruits of your labour, you need to invest time into it. Social media is all about building relationships - and just like relationships in real life, the best ones take time to foster."

"Interact - It may seem an obvious thing to say, but there are only two words in social media and one of them is social. Instead of simply broadcasting yourself, interact with the community and actively take part in social media. Read and comment on blogs, both inside and outside your niche; converse on Twitter, share helpful news with people instead of keeping it to yourself for your own benefit.... "

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

Lolly: Different countries are at different stages when it comes to Social Media. English-speaking countries lead the way because most platforms are built in English, and we get to familiarize ourselves with them first, but also because of the language barrier (i.e., most sites are coded in English before being translated into local languages). This is the reason why Europeans tend to prefer local communities (for e.g., Copains D'Avant somewhat similar to Facebook is HUGE in France) as opposed to their bigger, mainstream American/English counterparts. This is a perfect example of the old adage 'Think Local, Act Global' - American/English companies aren't always thinking locally...

My best advice is to listen, engage and most importantly be human and have fun!

Thank you/Merci, Lolly!

Comments? Reactions? I love that Lolly has brought up the "4 Is of Social Media Marketing." Would you add to that list?

What about from an international perspective? Do Lolly's comments bring to mind specific watch outs or unusual benefits in bridging new & old?

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



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Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

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