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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kristin Golliher, OtterBox on Bridging New & Old - Social Media Series

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

Kristin Golliher is the Public Relations Executive for OtterBox, a company I discovered when I wrote Press Releases, Newsletters and Otterbox on the Simple Marketing Blog. Otterbox manufactures laptop, PDA, smartphone and other protective cases and has been experimenting with non-traditional marketing to promote its business.

C.B.: Kristin, how and why did you get involved in social media?

Kristin: Handheld technology has rapidly become the preferred gateway for communication. People worldwide are absolutely obsessed with using the iPhone™, BlackBerry® and Treo™ smartphones and other devices to keep in touch. Whether it’s in a business meeting, on the subway, at the airport or while you’re in the middle of a conversation, handhelds can be found everywhere. Since OtterBox makes protective cases for these devices, it was a no-brainer for us to get involved with social media as a way to connect with our customers.

We started with our blog - the Otter Blog - in September 2005 and have recently expanded that with a Facebook page, Twitter account and Planet OtterBox, a site where people can share their OtterBox adventures. Social media is an excellent way for us to communicate and engage with our customers; it’s cutting edge!

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

Kristin: I absolutely LOVE how it is always changing! You know the Forrest Gump line, “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get,” that’s totally social media! There are always new and different ways of communicating which keeps it exciting (and keeps us PR people on our toes).

Twitter is a perfect example. This relatively new social media platform has grown exponentially and has become an incredible resource for sharing information and gaining first hand accounts of breaking news. It’s a great way for us to connect with our customers and media by sharing cool stories, OtterBox happenings, answering questions and following other companies and individuals to offer our support as well. I’ll admit it’s rather humorous to go into a board meeting and tell the CEO we are now “twitterers” and will be “tweeting” and attending a “tweet up”— we promise this is perfectly legitimate (even though the lingo sounds somewhat questionable).

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

Kristin: Although it’s awesome people can speak their minds, sometimes social media sites are host to extremely offensive comments! I’m amazed with the posts a select few people have made over the years. The cardinal rule to, “think before you speak,” should be applied to social media too. It seems a small percentage of people have absolutely no filter whatsoever to their comments. Criticisms are always appreciated and serve as building blocks for growth and change at companies like OtterBox, but downright vulgar, degrading or otherwise unprofessional comments fail to be constructive.

C.B.: How has social media changed how you interact with the marketplace as a consumer or customer?

Kristin: Social media has definitely allowed us to connect to customers on a more personal level. Before it was a very “transactional” experience—they placed the order, received the product and used our cases to protect technology and valuables. Now, through social media, it’s more of an “interactional” experience—customers can chat on forums or interact with other customers on Facebook to decide if our cases are right for them. Once they buy the case, they can share their experiences and photos on Planet OtterBox, join in on the OtterBox culture, check out our Blog, ask questions on Twitter, etc. By offering these platforms, we can engage with our customers in conversation and create a lasting relationship. It’s all based on the OtterBox experience, once people buy a case they become part of the “OtterBox family” and connect with us in dialogue. We get some awesome stories too, so it’s definitely fun on our end to hear how customers are using our cases in the real world!

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?

Kristin: No doubt about it, this whole social media thing is confusing and you’ll hear 50 million people tell you 50 million ways to approach it. Here are my top 5 suggestions:

Understand your customer: Contrary to popular belief, social media is NOT for everyone. Are your customers even using social media outlets? If not, social media is probably not a good fit, if so then it’s definitely worth checking into.

Investigate: Read articles about the social media outlet, check out other sites for ideas, follow forum comments before piping in to see what’s being said and if it’s appropriate for you to dialogue. Basic research can go a long way!

Make a plan: How do you want to handle the social media outlet? Who will be in charge? How does the platform work and are you ready for the commitment? We do this a TON in our PR department at OtterBox. Carefully laying out a plan ensures there will be no surprises and everyone knows what their responsibilities are with the social media outlet. For example, if someone asks a question on Facebook you need to determine who responds or who is in charge of blog entries and forum comments.

Be open to change: Social media is always changing which is the exciting part. If a social media site isn’t working out for you, becomes too overwhelming or takes a nose dive in popularity then it’s time to re-evaluate. Try putting multiple people in charge—we have several voices that contribute to our blog and have “behind the scenes” people working on the design of the landing page as well. At some point, you may find you need to switch outlets. We did this at OtterBox from our MySpace page to a more popular, more interactive Facebook page.

Have fun: Social media is definitely not your typical kind of communication. You can tell if people are too serious in their posts and portray a corporate fa├žade. Trust me, we’ve made this mistake! While it’s great to generate sales, it’s also important to connect to readers, followers and friends by interacting with them. Sharing insider scoops, exciting happenings, linking to interesting information or sharing details about the industry as a whole show you care about more than just the bottom line.

C.B.: Kristin, any other thoughts to share about the effectiveness of social media in forging stronger relations with customers and how best to do so.

Kristin: At OtterBox we have a unique and exciting culture that we enjoy sharing with others and since it’s all online we can communicate on a local, national and worldwide scale. Social media is different from traditional media outreach, so there’s definitely a learning curve (especially since many of us PR practitioners were not taught this in school). Embracing this new medium, however, can bridge the gap between companies and customers and prove to be extremely successful in establishing a people oriented, personable and helpful company.

Thank you, Kristin!

Comments? Questions? Feedback?

How have social media tools changed how you interact with companies? What do you like most about hearing other people's experiences with products?

What about Kristin's top suggestions? I love her suggestions in 'be open to change' and the notion of have several people and voices involved for a variety of perspectives on writing and interpreting feedback.

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

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