Social Media Conference at the Coca-Cola Headquarters

Last week I had the privilege of attending the 3rd Annual Social Media for Communicators Seminar organized by Ragan Communications at the Coca-Cola Company Headquarters in Atlanta, GA.  Excellent speakers from businesses all over the nation were in attendance to share what they had learned so far in social media.  Professionals from companies such as General Motors, Ford, SAS, Deloitte, the CDC, The New York Times, SunMicro Systems and many others spoke very open and honestly about their ventures into social media – what they did well and what they learned from their mistakes.  I came back to Knoxville with an entire legal pad filled with notes, but I quickly realized that several themes from the conference were already etched in my thought process. Newly focused ideas began sprouting all over the place. So here are a few of the things I found particularly insightful and helpful.

1) Using social media to turn your employees into brand ambassadors
We all know that recommendations from friends are the most trusted source of information followed closely by online reviews.  With more and more people becoming so-called “street journalists” uploading video, contributing to blogs, and reporting on news stories, traditional media outlets including company press releases are holding less credibility with consumers.  Therefore, conversations with company employees are increasing in credibility.  You’ve got to find your answer somewhere, so why not go right to the source?  Recent stats show that 93% of consumers want companies to be present in social or interactive media in some form.  If consumers want us there and they trust what our employees have to say since they’re getting the “inside” scoop, it’s becoming more important for companies to train their employees on how to act online not only in their own personal spheres but also for interacting with customer inquiries.  Many companies, mine included, are going the route of creating an online engagement policy to educate employees on the risks associated with engaging online.  However, it seems apparent to me that we should go one step further, actively training, showing the ins-and-outs of popular sites, teaching employees about your company brand and how they CAN get involved, not just how they CANNOT.  Your employees probably know your products, culture, and brand better than anyone else, so if you equip them with the right tools, wouldn’t they be the best champions for your brand?

2) Treat every day like election day
Clyde Tuggle, Senior VP of Global and Public Affairs and Communications for Coca-Cola, gave the opening keynote speech.  He walked us through Coca-Cola’s brand evolution through social media.  He had several insightful comments of which included three points we should always keep in mind with regards to brands and social media: take care of customers, make your employees feel good about your business, and be transparent and truthful.  For me, there was one call to action he mentioned that has stuck with me helping to change my approach, “Treat every day like election day.”  Clyde explained that you must get in the election/campaign frame of mind.  You’ve got to go out every day and get elected. You’ve got to lay out what your company believes in, what you’re going to do, what you will represent, and then demonstrate that with what actions you take opening yourself up to dialogue and debate.  Coke sells about 1.6 billion individual products a day.  That’s 1.6 billion votes that Coke rings in daily.  So how many times a day are your customers voting for you?  When they could go somewhere else for the same product, why are they voting for you?

3) Mommy bloggers – why they are so important to your brand
Beth Rosen from Four Keys Media joined the conversation to share with us who Mommy bloggers are, what they want, and why they are so important and potentially powerful for your brand.  Beth Rosen is a mother of four and a blogger herself with experience in being pitched to as a blogger and pitching to other bloggers.  I have to say that I was most excited about this portion of the conference.  We hear the term “mommy bloggers” quite often, and we see more and more brands jumping on this bandwagon like Wal-Mart and Kleenex.  I’m very intrigued and want to gain insight into these fascinating women. So to any moms that blog reading this portion, please offer your perspective to this conversation.  I would love to hear what you think!

Did you know that 80% of household purchases are made by moms?  Did you know that 40% of adult females are moms? Did you also know that 60% of moms go online looking for products before heading out to a store?  Think about the life of a mom for a moment.  She is constantly busy, juggling family members’ schedules, preparing for the school events, hosting get-togethers, being involved in her community and overall keeping the family on schedule.  She doesn’t have time to waste going to a store, searching for products, and then making a return trip to a store if the product doesn’t work.  So think how much more important “word of mouth” is for moms.  Moms have a voice that is very trusted, authentic, and responsible.  Just think about when you’re sick or have an issue – mom is usually the one you go to for advice and guidance.  Beth used a metaphor for the connection of moms online to how women used to get together for Tupperware parties.  “It’s like an ongoing Tupperware party where women share with their friends how a really smart product has changed her life, cutting down on waste and time.”  Moms trust other moms and their recommendations.  Granted that doesn’t mean they do exactly what other moms do, but if they highly respect her, they will hold her recommendations with high esteem.  This process is being repeated over and over again.  Beth offered some advice about tapping into this amazing connection of women.  Build a relationship with her, be helpful to her, don’t ask her to take all of this extra time out of her daily life to do something for you unless she gets to benefit as well.  You can’t tell a mom who blogs what to say – you can’t control her.  And most importantly, don’t call her a mommy blogger!  She is a person, she’s a mom, and she is so much more than just a marketing tool.  On a personal note, let me just say “thank you” to all of the wonderful moms we are so blessed to have in our lives.  I know I wouldn’t be the person I am without my amazing mom and her constant love and support. We love you!

This conference was an absolutely fabulous event with insights to grab all over.  If you happen to hear of a Ragan Communications conference, I highly recommend you give it a second look and attend.  We got to do some cool stuff as well! One the special guest speakers was David Pogue (@pogue) from The New York Times among many other accolades.  I have to say, he is probably the funniest person I have ever encountered in life. The whole audience laughed for a solid hour during his speech.  Here’s a video of a parody song he performed for us about the iPhone that he put on YouTube shortly after the release of the original iPhone. Get ready to be entertained!

After seeing David we trotted over to the World of Coke for drinks, appetizers, and yes – we were able to taste Coke from around the world! Some were quite tasty, and some were down right disgusting! Here are some pictures of me and the lovely Whitney Simpson (@whitneygsimpson) from the evening.

World of Coke

Most disgusting drink I have ever had!

How cute is the Coca-Cola bear?!

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