Social Media: Get it or Don’t Get In
Part 2-Running(?) With the Big Dogs

Here it is…the second post on the topic of Social Media and where it fits with what you are doing.  As I mentioned in my previous post a busy week of Social Media centered gatherings really highlighted the level of understanding and involvement by individuals and companies in using it for a marketing tool.

A panel discussion facilitated by the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association and moderated by Gage Marke
brought together representatives from General Mills, Target, Fingerhut, and Best Buy to talk about what their companies are doing in Social Media. The short answer? Not much. Beyond providing a system for “Ratings and Reviews” most were taking a fairly wait and see approach.

That’s not to say that these guys aren’t incredibly knowledgeable, they are. They are in that frustrating positon of trying to turn the battleship that is a big company to be able to react to a rapidly developing conduit to their customers.

In many cases, large companies still wrestle to provide real customer service so
to think they can act on new technology or new platforms in social
media quickly is asking a lot.  As noted by Jim Cuene of General Mills,
the ‘How can I help you?’ mindset has to permeate all levels of the
company and then on to the internet. There has to be solid commitment
and understanding before you really try to engage in marketing on a
social level. General Mills, by the way, is currently not doing
anything ‘official’ in social media at this time. It’s not hard to
imagine that the reason is because of that ability to commit. Brad
Smith of Fingerhut Direct Marketing addressed the same issue by saying
that your level of involvement in the channel can be determined by the
answer to a simple question, “How authentic can you be in the social

Perhaps some of the most refreshing statements came from Best Buy
Creative Director, Social Technology, Gary Koelling. He noted that to
really engage socially you must provide value. To be there, just to be
there will yield negative results. In a relationship, everyone brings
something to it so you need to bring something to the social ‘relationship’. Again, no value…no relationship…no success.

The question on anyone’s mind has to be, “Who is going to teach us the
best way to be a part of and use social media?” According to Koelling, “The customers.” That statement emphasizes the full circle view of what it’s all about. The
community is the one that will ultimately help find the best way to
achieve success.

So while much was to be learned from the representatives of these
companies it doesn’t appear the big companies themselves will necessarily lead
the way in innovative ways of tapping into social media. This is where
the smaller more nimble companies will be able to shine. And, those
companies will need to be patient.

For any company, especially media companies, there needs to be a long
term commitment to social media. Without it there is no time to learn.
As Best Buy’s Koelling also noted, “These are not events, these are
relationships.” He goes on to say, “Mass marketing is not
natural…social marketing is more natural.” That natural evolution takes more
time but ultimately it pays higher rewards.

The bottom line is this use of social media as marketing is by no means
a sprint; it may not even be a marathon, since there really is no finish
line in healthy relationships. Be sure you are bringing value to the
relationship before you even attempt to establish a social media
strategy. Finally, if you’re nimble enough and willing to learn, get
in. Most of the big guys are still dipping their toes in.

Next: Part 3 Social Media success: These guys is smart.