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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Social Media Series: Toby Bloomberg on Bridging New & Old

I can't imagine a better way to start out the new year than with this week's guest for the Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old: Toby Bloomberg.

Toby Bloomberg, author of Diva Marketing Blog and principal at Bloomberg Marketing, embodies social media marketing. She is the 'marketing diva.'

Here's why. Any time spent with Toby will have you thinking differently about marketing, social media, your marketplace, connecting with customers... She does it in the most amazing way: through conversation, asking questions, listening for answers, and then building on that. She makes you feel as if you were entering into her living room for a cozy chat or discussion.

What's so amazing about that? It's the same whether you visit with Toby virtually or in person. She is gracious beyond belief, an amazing listener, intuitive in her marketing and practical to boot! Not to mention really fun.

Toby's constantly on the lookout for successful social media examples. You'll see those highlighted in Diva Marketing Blog posts, in her Blogger Stories, her Biz Blog Profile series [see Toby's right sidebar for companies included] and her amazing Blogger Relations Series. Her latest venture is DivaCafes on Facebook. It's "the cafe society for the digital age that celebrates and supports amazing woman over forty flying solo ~ and like minded people." It also captures Toby's love of community. Definitely check it out.

Toby stays fully grounded in the challenges between new and old media through American Marketing Association workshops on how to leverage blogs as a marketing strategy and her management consulting class for Goizueta School of Business at Emory University. [Here's where you can learn more about Toby!]

C.B.: Toby, how/why did you get involved in social media?

Toby: I wish I could tell you that I became involved with social media because I understood immediately that it would bridge the communication gap with customers in ways that extended beyond traditional advertising messaging. In bloggy transparency I launched Diva Marketing (blog) in 2004 because Dana VanDen Heuvel told me I couldn’t talk about blogs (we didn’t talk about “social media” then) if I wasn’t actively involved in the space. At the time I was advising small business owners to create blogs instead of spending thousands of dollars on a formal website. Not only could they develop a free web presence but by the way this cool “comment thing” allowed customers to talk to them also.

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

Toby: Initially it was the ease of creating web pages without knowing how to code. As I began to explore the blogosphere I quickly realized what I was writing were not simply static pages but the openings to conversations that would lead to valuable relationships. Those digital relationships, ours included (!), brought extended knowledge, a global network, business opportunities, speaking engagements and more. What was unexpected and surprised me were that many of the associations I developed turned into true friendships.

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

Toby: My least favorite aspect is that many marketers consider social media a hip, new play toy and not a serious business strategy. Including social media without a strategy that includes goals and success measures dilutes the effectiveness, as well as, the credibility. Management then has every right to perceive, what should be powerful communication tactics, as cocktail party games.

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?

Toby:
1. Begin with a plan that includes goals and success measures. Don’t be afraid to include success measures that are outside the box of traditional metrics. As you build that plan consider how you can use social media to support current old media/traditional strategies. For example can you extend an article in an eZine with a blog post to carry on the conversation in greater detail?

2. Develop a budget that includes dollar and people resources. Build your programs to take into consideration human capital to support the implementation. If you don’t, not only will you be frustrated, but you will fail before you hit the publish key.

3. Understand the limitations and the benefits of the tools, or tactics, before you consider implementing. Listen and watch the rhythms of the social elements (blogs, vlogs, social networks, Twitter, etc.) you are considering before you create your social media strategy.

4. Determine if your target audience is involved in that specific platform. Then if they are listen to their conversations within each of the new media avenues that you want to explore. How are your customers using the platforms? The best Facebook strategy will fall flat if your community is not involved.

5. Bring all the people who will be involved in the project around a table for a strategic “red flag” conversation. The up front investment will save you dollars, time and tears.

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

Toby: By its nature, social media is changing the way business, internally and externally, is conducted. Listening to the on-going, multi faceted conversations of our customers demands now that we explore new ways to bring that information to employees who can provide solutions. Frequently that entails developing new communication processes that cross silos. While there may indeed be some turf challenges there are great benefits including building stronger teams.

As critical to “listening” to our customers is responding back. Interacting with our customers in a public community where the conversations are overheard by thousands is becoming expected. Organizations who do not respond will be perceived as uncaring, not innovative, and may loose competitive advantages.

Many organizations have “trust” concerns regarding how employees will answer blog posts, tweets or social networking discussions. Response by committee is no longer an option. However, great companies are built with people who share common goals and values. If employees’ values are aligned with the big organization’s high level objectives and the over riding goal is to serve the customer I believe we may find that social media is a catalyst to building more great organizations.

Thank you, Toby!

Comments? Reactions? What about having to working across silos? Any suggestions on how to facilitate such a process? What has listening to your customers in these new ways brought to your business? What about responding back? Is it as scary as many think?

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

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