A “tweet”. A “digg”. Going “viral”. These words have taken on new meaning as the presence of social media increases exponentially. On March 30th, the Trusteeship met at Westside Tavern for a closer look at this topic and to find ways that social media might be able to help brand each person both professionally and personally.
Michelle Jordan, principal and founder of consulting firm Jordan LLC, skillfully moderated the evening’s panel. As CEO’s of their respective companies, the members of the panel all dealt with social media in various capacities. Cynthia Harriss of Metropark USA and Linda LoRe of Frederick’s of Hollywood represented the retail industry. The rest of the panel represented service industries, Barbara Casey of B2B communications consulting firm, Casey & Sayre and Renee Fraser of ad agency Fraser Communications.
In an informal poll of attending members, the most commonly used social media outlets were Facebook and LinkedIn, with about 60% using each either professionally or personally. Twitter was in a far third with about 30% usage. The panel had reassuring words for those who had not yet fully dove into social media. Panelist Barbara Casey explained, “We had to educate our clients. That’s been the biggest challenge. We’ve adopted it (social media). Getting clients to adopt it is the next step.” She has been successful in helping clients realize that “being online is often better and things get picked up more and circulated more.”
The panel agreed that time invested into social media paid off. Linda LoRe summarized, “The internet defines our business right now.” She reported that Fredericks’ online store accounted for 40% of its total revenue and was the company’s fastest growing area, by far. She added, “It very much informs our business and we use the internet and social media as our main form of advertising today.” Renee Fraser forecasted that next year 65% of Fraser Communications’ revenue could be from digital and that the trend is shifting to mobile devices. She told us, “We’re moving everything to mobile. So its through the internet, but on your mobile device, and we heed that as the next frontier.”
We also discussed how social media presents new opportunities to interact with consumers. “This is a game changer for retail,” Cynthia Harriss explained, “if you can figure out a way to engage with your customer… or more importantly they get into conversations about you, you win!” She continued that while “old media” pushed information to the consumer, social media done right is all about engaging in a conversation with the consumer. The panel agreed that social media allows the consumer a more personal and authentic connection with the brand.
By providing this level of authenticity, social media is also a great way to build a personal brand online. Renee Fraser shared that she focused not only on using social media tools professionally, but also to enhance her brand as an individual. In addition to keeping a blog, she tweets regularly using Dragon, a voice recognition software that allows you to dictate updates. “You have to make the time… Otherwise, the world will shape how they perceive you if you don’t take control of it!”
Even with its abundant benefits, some still view the internet as the ultimate “big brother”. However, many in attendance took advantage of this ‘big brother’ attribute. Both the panel and the members sang a resounding “yes” when asked if they Googled potential employees before hiring. Facebook, Twitter, and Google searches were among the ways that members checked in on employee hopefuls. While this might not be necessary for every applicant, most agreed that researching a person online was not only okay, but a responsible choice. This tactic may also be helpful in other areas of life. One member admitted to dumping a date after a Google search of his named turned up his sordid past. Talk about dodging a bullet!
As a closing take-away, each panel member recommended a “Must Know” website for the group to check out. Among those suggested were Mashable.com, Onegiving.com and Digg.com. Linda LoRe, seizing the opportunity to keep a brand focus, added “and Fredericks.com!”
The buzz in the room as the evening wrapped up proved that the panel was well received. Member Judy Frank praised, “These panels are fantastic.” Women lingered afterward to finish up conversations about their own experiences with social media. I would imagine that after the close of the meeting, many attendees’ twitter feeds read #GreatNight!