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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Social Media Series: Mario Vellandi on Bridging New & Old

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

Mario Vellandi's passion for
"Authentic Green Marketing and Sustainable Product Development" shines strong in his blog Melodies in Marketing - which turns 2 on April 11th. That's where he explores innovation and marketing with a strong dose of design and creativity all relating to sustainability.

Mario contributed "Dancing to the Beet" to The Age of Conversation 2 - Why Don't They Get It? - the book that 237 authors from around the world collaborated on to benefit Variety, the children's charity [please consider buying the book]. His chapter truly bridges new & old via the example of "Heart Beet Gardening" "which builds vegetable gardens for schools, communities and home owners in Los Angeles, California" In it, he asks Accidental Marketer Sara how she goes about marketing. "...I just like talking to folks about the joy of growing and eating their own fresh food... Other than that, all the activities I plan and carry out help support that goal."

[Also check out Mario's suggestions in The Flooring Display Challenge - Part I. and I love his The Cluetrain Manifesto - My Review post.]

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

Mario: I became involved a few years ago after reading online articles about marketing and the developing "social web", and progressed from mere casual browsing into fervently reading and commenting on multiple bloggers' sites, employing Google reader to remain productive. In January 07, I participated in a MarketingProfs book club discussion on "Citizen Marketers" which propelled me into what became great personal relationships with a variety of smart individuals. A few months later, after being explicitly told that being an avid reader & commentator wasn't enough and that I had to start my own blog, I did. In some ways, it was a rite of passage for a true communal membership and participation.

My involvement in social media came down to three reasons: To connect with others interested in the subjects I'm passionate about, in a personal and academic manner; To share what I knew/was learning from books and professional experience; and To improve my writing and grow as an individual.


C.B.: How has social media/networking changed how you approach purchase decisions and the retail experience?

Mario: Well, even though I don't shop very much, I will say this: Word of Mouth (direct, indirect, and social review engines) has influenced my perception of product/service quality and retail experiences (even if I've never visited the store), thus affecting my shopping behavior. Examples. If I'm going to purchase any electronic device, book, game, or movie, I'll check out customer reviews on CNET, Amazon, and IMDB. If I'm looking for a great restaurant or other business where the product/service quality experience is subjective and unknown, I'll look on a review site like Citysearch. While this passive review investigation is standard procedure for many folks today, here's the kicker - The direct recommendations given to me, and the indirect observations, through conversations among individuals on blogs, twitter, and other participatory media, has affected and/or reinforced my feelings about both specific topics and brands. The classic retail WOM example I remember was from Paul McEnany who in late 07 went to a Kohl's store, saw a messy floor/aisle, took a picture, and blogged about it. At that point I had never been in a Kohl's even though there's one right down the street from me. But reading Paul's story, and the ensuing discussion all over the blogosphere, truly made me think Kohl's was like a Marshall's or TJ Maxx (to be fair, on a bad day), dressed up and laid out like a department store. A casual store visit 6 months later confirmed this perception.

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

Mario: The ability of folks to share and learn from each other.

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

Mario: As one becomes more involved in the space, managing multiple social profiles and updates becomes cumbersome and energy-draining. While on one hand it is a personal choice of how active one wants to participate, on the other it's a technical issue that will increasingly be addressed through profile sharing & login applications from Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, OpenID, and others employing RDF.

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?

Mario:
- Start a blog and integrate any newsletters with it, so it's both available to existing and potential customers. Join Twitter.

- Monitor own & competitive brand conversations online and participate as appropriate to the context.

- Use available free/premium content creation and sharing sites as a publication & promotional tool, and as a means to interact with visitors and commentators.

- Communicate the availability of new media viewing and interaction options into the older media channels: in-person, telephone, television, print, website, and email marketing and signatures.

- Lose the business speak and learn & practice to speak personally. Professionalism and business policy need not be compromised. It's the tone of voice and demeanor that matter.

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

Mario: Employ whatever tools and tactics you can to promote word of mouth communications, be they positive, mediocre, or negative. Use these opportunities to acknowledge user experiences, use them for authentic testimonials, and as a means of customer service and gathering feedback for product/service improvement and development.

Thank you, Mario!

Comments? Questions? Feedback?

How have social media tools changed how you go about the purchase process? Has it changed your buying habits and patterns?

What about the challenge of managing multiple social profiles?

What about Mario's suggestion to use "
free/premium content creation and sharing sites as a publication & promotional tool, and as a means to interact with visitors and commentators?" Have you found other tools to be as effective?

For additional insights from participants in the Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old please visit The Entire Bridging New & Old Social Media Series.

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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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