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‘You Don’t Control the Direction of Your Company’

It’s a fractured media world, and if we’re not listening to our audiences, we’re irrelevant, they’ll tune us out and look elsewhere for information.

Tied together, that was likely the most common thread throughout the second San Diego Social Media Symposium.  We need to spend time listening to what our audiences want from us, how and where they want it.  “You don’t control the direction of your company anymore – your customers and clients do,” keynote speaker Peter Shankman aptly pointed out.  “Your job is to create amazing customer experiences.”

Illustrating that point, Shankman noted how became what it is today by listening to its customers to grow beyond an online bookseller.  Similarly, there’s HARO, the e-mailed-based toolbox for journalists looking for sources he built at the behest of friends and associates nudging him for contacts. Delivered three times daily to 200,000 in-boxes, HARO has a ghastly 75 percent open rate.  “It’s e-mail heroin,” Shankman said.

“Small ideas are disruptor ideas, and they change things,” he said.

At the core of it all, Shankman said, is the thirst for information, which “wants to be free.”  We’re witnesses to that today with the unrest in Egypt, where oppressive forces are trying to limit the flow of information, including shutting down the Internet and cell phone lines, Shankman said.

Any organization’s “biggest threat is a 17-year-old kid with a camera who knows how to use Google,” he said, adding that “transparency rules the day” and the more people trust you, the less likely they are to run away from you when there is a problem.

Here are some more nuggets from the symposium.  They’re random and in no prioritized order; share yours and let’s keep the discussion flowing.

  • Social media is bullshit.  It’s a faster way to screw up in front of a bunch of people – Shankman
  • There are people who won’t agree with what you’re doing, and you’ll have to deal with it – Beth Avant, founder, San Diego MOMfia
  • We all despise Steve Olsen at TaylorMade-adidas Golf for having the coolest job interview – ever; period
  • Popchips are really good and don’t make you feel guilty – attendee Sharon Penny
  • You can’t change someone’s opinion about a fact, but you can try to engage and be supportive – Joel Price, San Diego Chargers, which was the first NFL team on Twitter
  • We’re dealing with an average attention span of 2.6 seconds – Shankman (immediately made me think of Doug in the movie “Up”)
  • Social games average 15-20 minutes per session; at Pechanga Casino, the average is 40 minutes; Pechanga’s gas station wants a Facebook page
  • The 35-54 age demographic is the fastest growing when it comes to texting
  • If being tongue-in-cheek is part of your customer experience, go with it, as did Stone Brewing Co. when a manufacturer forgot to add brew to the licensed mustard line
  • Mobile consumers want to know how they can save money, where a store is located and pricing information – Dan Flanegan at Brand Anywhere
  • Be there. Be transparent. Be Authentic. Listen.  And your community will be more responsive and forgiving – moderator Nicole Vargas
  • Bad writing is killing America, it will kill your company and your social media – Shankman

Check out #sdsms on Twitter for more wisdom from the show.

P.S. My original headline was relevant to the first bullet; so was the reason I deleted it.

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