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Summary of the Social Media Executive Roundtable

A week has now passed since we hosted our Social Media Executive Roundtable in downtown San Francisco. The night was a huge success, as it provided a perfectly intimate environment where marketing executives from some of the best-known insurance, financial, and retail companies could talk candidly about how they plan to approach social media, if they haven’t done so already.
In this post, I’ve summarized many of the key points made by the presenters that night. On the panel sat representatives from Facebook, LinkedIn, and Farmers Insurance.

What’s my social media strategy?
After a few minutes of introductions, CEO Clara Shih kicked off the evening with a brief presentation on the history behind Hearsay Social. Then she dove straight into the evening’s key topic: social media for marketers.
“Last year was very much the year of social media prioritization,” she said. “Everyone started asking, ‘what’s my social media strategy?’ Chief marketing officers started hiring social media managers and directors—roles that didn’t exist previously.

“This year we’ve seen a shift from social media strategy to social media execution. Now, and over the next eighteen months, people will be acting and building out those local pages and starting to reap benefits, whether that means driving revenue or simply building engagement and loyalty that ultimately leads to sales and referrals.”
Clara then noted how incredible it is that three in four CMOs have cited social media as a top priority at their organizations.
“Even if they don’t really understand why,” chimed in Ryon Harms.
Everyone laughed at Ryon’s perfectly-timed interjection, but it’s less funny how true the statement is. Indeed, we just shared data from a recent IBM study says that while 82% of CMOs plan to increase social media usage over the next few years, over half of them admit to being underprepared to carry out that task.
Local, social, and the new discovery revolution
Clara then gave the floor to Emily White, the Sr. Director of Local at Facebook. Emily began by highlighting the Web’s transition from a place where we hide behind anonymity to a place that’s merely a digital version of the real world.

Back in 2000, “it seemed totally unreasonable that I would ever show my true identity online,” she said, sharing with the room her original, convoluted AOL alias.
But that was over a decade ago. “Today, if you’re online and not you, you’re creepy. You’re the weird one.”
Easily the largest social network in the world, Facebook now boasts 800 million active users and 200 million mobile users, which is why major brands from Levi’s to Starbucks are becoming hyper-social and hyper-local in all their marketing campaigns. Emily herself is thrilled about the convergence of social, mobile, and local forces because it encourages spontaneous social discovery.
With new geo-tagging features, “we’re getting a ton of information about where users are, which is actually really good [for businesses]. If they’re outside a clothing store or a bank, all of a sudden you can start getting that user information [and drive engagement].”
She offered up the example of Sprinkles Cupcakes, a boutique bakery that publishes “whisper codes,” short phrases that you can repeat in-store to receive a free cupcake. In a similar vein, Emily continued, a local Jamba Juice could encourage its patrons through Facebook that they should come early to avoid traffic sure to be brought on by the football game later that day.
Social media, professionally speaking
Next up was Scott Roberts, Head of Monetization Business Development at LinkedIn. While it may not be operating on the same scale as Facebook, the professional social network now has over 120 million members, with droves more added each month.
Scott began with a question: “How many people think of LinkedIn as a jobs site?”
Most hands went up.
“We get that a lot, and that’s understandable,” he continued. “We do have a major investment in talent and enabling companies to hire the best talent. What’s interesting is that only 10% of the activity on our site is actually people engaging in jobs content.”
Though he wouldn’t explicitly break down the other 90%, Scott said a lot of users are also participating in groups and reading company news. (LinkedIn has a partnership in place with Twitter to bring in tweets to LinkedIn’s streams.)
The latest, most important update to the LinkedIn platform gives companies the ability to post status updates to their company pages on the site. This new feature makes LinkedIn a much more potent social media marketing tool, in line with what businesses and brands have already been doing on Facebook and Twitter.
Farmers Insurance: A social media marketing success story
Following Scott was Ryon Harms, Director of Social Media at Farmers Insurance, who shared with attendees his positive experiences in socializing his company, from corporate to local, with the help of Hearsay Social.
Early on, Farmers Insurance managed to capture 100,000 fans thanks in large part to a successful FarmVille promotion. As any social media marketer knows, however, numbers like that mean nothing unless you’re engaging them.
“We started thinking about what to do with our agents,” Ryon said, “because, at our company, everything has to do with our agents. We live and die by our agents.”

So far, Farmers Insurance has 3,400 agents taking advantage of the social media program, which comes out to 30% of Farmers’ really active agents. (Ryon notes that Farmers has 15,000 agents, but only about 10,000 are “really active.”)
Everyone is always wondering how you measure social media ROI. Well, for Ryon, it’s simple. It comes down to revenue and number of policies sold. Since going social, things have been positive, with a 50% increase in policies coming in.
“We teach [agents] that it’s a soft sale, that it’s about the personal side of your business–all the things they already do in the real world that help them sell policies. When someone walks into their office, they don’t just start bombarding [the prospective customer] with insurance talk and try to sell them something. They ask how the wife’s doing, how the local football team did–all those conversations, we tell them to bring to Facebook. And it works really well.”
Ryon strongly believes that people on Facebook want to connect with faces, not logos and brands. With that in mind, his focus over the next year is to leverage all the fans and friends of fans his company’s agents by offering them that public face over social media.

Notes from the Q&A
Q: How do you use social media when your target audience isn’t technically allowed on social networks? (Example: a clothing retailer targeting children under 13 years old.)
Emily: “Every fan you get is a social influencer.” Target parents because they’re the ones really doing the buying.
Q: How many people does a business need to manage its corporate-to-local social media strategy?
Ryon: At Farmers Insurance, it’s “just me.” They also have three or four individuals on a support hotline. The biggest problem on the corporate Page is monitoring spam, but that’s not really a big deal. Ryon admits the ball would be rolling faster with two or three extra people helping him.
Q: Should brands worry about the fragmentation of their audience when considering Facebook Pages for many local franchises or agents?
Ryon: On the contrary, local is actually the big advantage as it allows for personalization of messages. There’s no need to worry about a misrepresented message because Hearsay Social lets corporate Farmers Insurance monitor local agents.
Q: So how do you increase your rank on Facebook so as to increase engagement?
Ryon: Pictures and videos get top priority, then links, then text. Get a little geeky. It actually makes a difference. Additionally, content needs to be about you on a daily basis. Take a picture and put it on your Facebook Page. Don’t overthink it; just be authentic, be yourself.
Q: Is feeding content to local representatives the biggest help or does education make more sense?
Ryon: “That’s a constant debate we’re having… between me and myself.” [That got a ton of laughs.] Does he fish for agents or teach them how to fish? The answer is both. By fishing for them, they learn how to think. The kind of content fed is the big corporate news, which is uploaded to Hearsay Social. Agents then log in and can personalize the message for themselves, schedule for later, etc.

As we mentioned before, last week’s Roundtable was just the first of many we’ll be hosting around the country, with upcoming events already slated in Chicago and New York. Stay tuned to hear more from this fantastic series!

Ronny Kerr

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