Social Media Video Chat

What fresh strategies are local social media stars using to reach their audiences?
Social Media Video Chat

Lisa Grimm
 
Digital public relations specialist, Mall of America, Bloomington
 
 
 
Our approach is holistic. We cast the largest net possible when implementing new social media programs. For example, instead of building a mobile application, which will only serve a small percentage of our market, we’re launching an application-like mobile Web site that works across all mobile devices that have Web browsers.
 
Our most effective projects so far have been rooted in guest service. One that stands out is our use of Twitter for parking updates.
 
During peak times, parking can be a frustration for guests. To remedy this, Mall of America kicked off the 2009 holiday season with #MOAParking updates on Twitter. Use of the hashtag (which allows a conversation to be formed and followed by anyone who uses the hashtag) to designate a conversation around the current parking conditions at MOA had an immediate and positive response. The #MOAParking updates have become a regular part of our weekend updates throughout the year.
 
Our team wanted to amp up the program for the 2010 holiday season, with the goals of garnering 100,000 media impressions, driving traffic, and increasing awareness and followers on Twitter. The Big Secret Parking Party (#BSPP) was born. We cleared 96 prime parking spots in our north lot (right in front of the Mall of America sign) for loyal Twitter followers the Saturday before Christmas, one of the busiest shopping days of the year. We used the online ticketing system, Eventbrite, to track registrants and used Twitter, along with limited Facebook posts, to spread the word about the event. The event garnered 2 million media impressions, including Web and print outlet hits, and increased MOA Twitter followers by 30 percent.
 
We have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, a mall-wide text messaging guest service program, and the MOA blog. This requires significant time from the PR and retail marketing department, and in some circumstances other departments. We use tools like TweetDeck to monitor Twitter (@MallofAmerica), and when mobile, we use an iPhone application called Boxcar that sends notifications of brand mentions. The blog team manages comments and conversation by way of e-mail notifications. Facebook is monitored by an RSS feed or by manually checking. The moral of the story is that the social media team’s job extends beyond the traditional 8 to 5 work week. We have a schedule set each week for who will do what and when, so that our digital properties are covered and that our community always has a point of engagement with us.
There’s a lot on tap for MOA in 2011. We’re launching an SMS (text message) guest service initiative. We piloted this program over the holiday season in restrooms and food courts at MOA to uncover if guests felt comfortable using text as a tool for feedback. The results were significant and we look forward to sharing more about this successful program very soon.
 
 
 
Arik Hanson
 
Principal, ACH Communications, Minneapolis (online brand consultancy)
 
 
 
I spend a lot of time with my clients on the strategy, coaching, and education fronts. But I’m also seeing a growing need for the content piece. I tend to believe the organization should represent itself in the online marketplace. Clients typically need help brainstorming and generating compelling content for corporate blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. I see that as a substantial need for many companies in the years ahead.
 
One example of my work is a pro-bono effort: The HAPPO initiative. HAPPO stands for “Help a PR Pro Out.” It’s an initiative I started with a friend of mine (Valerie Simon) who works at Burrelles Luce out in New York City. We started HAPPO last February as a way to help our colleagues across the country find jobs and connect with new mentors. We started out organizing it as an hour-long Twitter chat. Our strategy to build momentum and awareness for the event was to reach out to PR bloggers across the country and enlist them as HAPPO “champs” where they’d play a key role in the process.
 
The end result was 10,000-plus social media mentions, 250-plus blog posts promoting HAPPO, and a number of traditional media hits with prominent PR publications and outlets. Today, the HAPPO “movement” is still going strong (check out the #happo hash tag on Twitter), and we’ve connected a number of people to jobs over the last year.
 
Necessarily, my social media strategy has evolved. A couple years ago, most organizations were just getting started. Now, companies are better understanding not only how to use the tools, but also how much time and effort it takes to do this work effectively. As a result, they’re making tough decisions about where to staff and allocate resources and why.
Typically, I help my clients find affordable options for monitoring what’s being said about their brands on line. You might be surprised what you can cobble together with the numerous free tools on line. For most of my clients, they either have an off-the-shelf monitoring service they’re using and feel is valuable, or they’re consulting with me to find free tools like NetVibes, Addict-o-Matic, and Google Alerts to do the job.
 
I see a number of clients investing more time and resources into hyper-local marketing using Yelp, Foursquare, and other geo-location tools. Also, a number of my clients are spending significant resources in blogging this year, which I think is very interesting. As the oldest, and most traditional, social media tool, blogging is also one of the more effective when it comes to building organic SEO, thought leadership, and awareness on line.
 
 
 
Christopher Lower
 
Director of marketing, public relations, and social media, Sterling Cross Communications, Maple Grove (marketing and public relations firm)
 
 
 
The demand for reputation monitoring and management has grown sharply. We are also starting to see many clients start to wrap their heads around how to interact with their customers on mobile devices. Consulting and training has really increased for us as well. Several companies want to be able to run social media in house, but don’t have the correct personnel or resources for training.
 
We’re using QR codes to allow the patrons of Chino Latino to interact with the bar and restaurant virtually, outside of the four walls. Through different codes, they can watch videos, book events (the recent Chinese New Year’s Dinner sold out in record time), find recipes and specials, and a lot more. The QR codes allow guests to use their preferred tool of communication (their mobile phone) to interact.
 
For an apartment complex client that caters to artists, we integrated social media not only into the promotion of the new property, but also into the amenities for residents. We could foster both physical and virtual communities for the tenants. Our efforts resulted in 100 percent leased occupancy in the first 6 months.
 
Our strategies always are changing to adapt and incorporate new social media tools as they are vetted. Social media has lost a lot of the “Ooo, shiny” factor, and many businesses are now savvy enough to understand it has to be an integrated piece of their marketing efforts. Twitter and Facebook are still big, but for our clients, things like location-based services such as Foursquare are yielding greater results.
 2011 is shaping up to be a time for our clients to prepare to meet and engage their clients on mobile platforms. The predominant activity for Q1 for our clients has been to make sure their Web sites can be viewed, found, and used via mobile platforms.
 
 
 
Ed Kohler
 
Director of strategic Internet marketing and development, WheretoLive.com, Eden Prairie (Web development for real estate brokers and agents)
 
 
 
We work with real estate brokers across the U.S. and Canada, so much of our work in social media involves helping their agents use social media tools well to grow their businesses. Our most recent effort has been to populate Foursquare.com with all of our client’s offices and work on awareness of that particular social networking site. Publishing accurate venue information is tedious but critical work for businesses that rely on a physical presence to run their businesses.
 
The goal, at this stage, is to create awareness and increase the adoption rate of Foursquare.com among real estate agents. From there, it will progress toward generating offers that draw consumers into offices.
 
In-person training seminars have been the most effective projects we’ve taken on to increase the adoption rates of social media. Planning road tours that tie into all company meetings allows us to expose agents to what’s next (and what’s here today) so they can start getting comfortable with the technology. They can often get started using their phones, so the success rate is very high.
 
Social media marketing isn’t for everyone, but we feel like we succeed if people get an understanding of what it is, then give it a try (including registering under their preferred username before someone else does). After that, we try to get the early adopters moving in the right direction and share some social media etiquette rules as they develop.
 
We’re using more online training videos to walk people through the sign-up process. While that seems really basic, people can pause the videos and work at their own pace. There are many considerations in the sign-up process worth getting right that video can address better than in-person seminars. (Choice of username; should I use my real name? Should I link to my Web site or blog? How do I change the design? What makes for a good avatar?)
We follow our clients’ (franchises and brokers) agents on social networking sites in order to get a feel for how they’re using social media. This often leads to sending over teachable moments. In the case of Twitter, we occasionally retweet (on our own account, @wheretolive ) particularly good examples of Tweets as a way to reward quality.
 
Location-based services are where we plan to focus most of our social media initiatives in 2011. Services like Foursquare, Google Places, and Yelp are very complimentary to real estate, since they act as catalysts for interactions between people and businesses in a community. Networking, ratings, and the search engine optimization benefits of using services like these well will help our clients build richer relationships with prospects and other local businesses.