Insights from the BDI Social Consumer Conference

I recently attended the Social Consumer 2012 conference, presented by the Business Development Institute. Representatives from major brands discussed how they used social media to connect with customers. There were five fascinating presentations (and one entertaining interview, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal’s Simon Constable) followed by roundtable discussions hosted by experts in numerous fields. A very educational experience.

If you couldn’t attend, here are some highlights.

JetBlue on Twitter Drinking From the Fire Hose
Jenny Dervin, VP of Corporate Communications, called customer service on Twitter drinking from the fire hose.She gave a recent example of how JetBlue uses Twitter to handle complaints. A passenger had a carry-on bag that held a folding bicycle. The ticket agent ignored the fact that the bag was the proper size and weight for carry-on, and charged the passenger JetBlue’s standard bike fee — meant for bikes that take up valuable space in the cargo hold. Unsurprisingly, the passenger complained about the fee on social media and got his Oregon-based bike club to join in. Dervin’s team saw the problem on Twitter and issued a refund within 24 hours. Now the entire bike club are JetBlue fans.

The Lesson: Dervin put it best: A service failure is an opportunity to build loyalty — if it’s done well.When a customer has a problem, “you get credit for publicly saying We agree with you and we will look into this.’”

Fun fact: JetBlue has 15-20 people monitoring Twitter and other social media channels using CoTweet; six are on duty at any given time.

MultiVu Brands As Storytellers
Tom Miale, Director of Multimedia Engagement at MultiVu, said that the #1 issue at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive was that brands must become storytellers to be compelling to customers. As an example, Miale presented the Facebook Page for Captain Morgan. The company uses the Timeline feature to post events all the way back to 1635, the real Morgan’s birthdate. In the 1800s section of the Timeline, you’ll find photos of Morgan’s crew, accompanied by jokes and stories in the captain’s sly tone. This is a fun and innovative way to take full advantage of the Timeline feature by creating stories that involve customers and keep them on your Facebook Page.

The Lesson: Not every brand has the adventurous history of a pirate. But you can still say a lot about your company and your product, from your humble beginnings to the challenges you’ve overcome. Your employees undoubtedly have interesting stories; ask to share them to help create a personal, emotional connection to customers. 

Fun Fact: Miale told us that, in 1965, three 60-second commercial spots could reach 80% of American adults. Today, youd need 117 commercials to accomplish that feat.

Tasti D-Lite Swirls Around Foursqaure
BJ Emerson, Vice President of Technology for Tasti D-Lite, may have been the hit of the conference — and not just because he was giving out coupons. He showed how the frozen-treat company allows customers to connect their store TreatCards to Fourquare. When the clerk swipes the card, the customer is automatically checked in on Foursquare (which gets posted on Twitter and Facebook if the customer chooses). Emerson cautioned brands to “go beyond the mechanics and look at the dynamics. He cited an example of a Tasti cashier who knew to push the “Foursquare discount” button on the register, but didn’t know what the customer meant when she said “I’m actually the Mayor.” Our social media tools seem straightforward, but you have to make sure you train your staff how to use them in face-to-face situations with customers.

The Lesson: Emerson had the most retweeted line of the conference: Referring to the fact that brands now know where their customers are in real time, thanks to Foursquare and Twitter: “We used to call it stalking; now we call it location-based marketing.” Luckily, most brands are using that knowledge for good, by giving instant discounts and prizes.

Fun Fact: Emerson recommended creating a Google Alert for online mentions of your brand. Make that alert an RSS feed and send the feed to Outlook. That way, you have an offline archive of all your mentions and can search back through years. It’s more efficient than combing through the archives on Twitter or its various applications.

This was only a small part of the great information given by knowledgeable speakers. Thanks to BDI’s Sponsorship Event Coordinator Jennifer Brous, Director of Events Maria Feola-Magro, and CEO Steve Etzler for another informative conference.

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