Senior Community Strategist at Dell, Connie Bensen, is a well-known name in the digital industry. She is enthusiastic about community building, social media and branding. Her blog was listed in Forbes’ 20 best marketing blogs by women, and her marketing predictions have been printed in the New York Times. Connie is also a sought-after speaker for leading social media and marketing conferences. Heavy Chef had the opportunity to talk to Connie about monitoring your brand, online noise, and some tips on how to integrate your brand across online and offline platforms.
Hi Connie. Community building can be challenging for start-ups that have yet to build up trust and loyalty with consumers. What advice would you give to new brands that are trying to do this?
The proliferation of online Communities has provided start-ups with a huge opportunity that wasn’t previously available. A start-up can utilize pre-existing communities to build their brand and a following for their products. The internet also allows for competitive insight that used to be very expensive to gather. The virtual nature removes the financial barriers that used to be required for offline networking and sales opportunities.
My suggestion is that start ups make sure that they have a plan early on to integrate community building into their marketing plan. At minimum, dedicate a resource to grow an online community and considerable money can be saved on traditional marketing and PR. It will also augment sales efforts.
Online community is actually easier for start-ups because a culture shift isn’t required. The transparent culture can be formed as the start-up grows. In an established company of any size, this aspect creates many barriers that need to be overcome.
Monitoring your brand on Social Media is crucial to all businesses nowadays, and negative experiences seem to spread faster than positive ones. What top tips would you suggest to brands that are dealing with bad information being spread on Social Media?
First of all, as stated, monitoring is imperative! A brand should be the first to know that good or bad things are being said about them. If either type of news is proliferating then a proactive response will always provide a more positive result. If a brand has established an online community and built trust around their brand, then their community will rise up and defend them if warranted. They will also help slow the spread and allow the brand time to respond.
Bottom line, every brand should be listening and have a social media and PR crisis plan in place.
What are your thoughts on potential employers requesting applicant’s passwords in order to view their Facebook accounts? Do you think unlimited access to social networking accounts is a fair judgement on people seeking employment?
When I mentor people in the community management industry I talk about the importance of ensuring that expectations are aligned between employer and prospective employee. If this information is requested, I think you should ask the employer some serious questions about their expectations. What is their culture like? Will your philosophy fit in that culture? If it is a clash then you both need to agree that it’s not a fit. It wouldn’t fit with my philosophy. It also shows a lack of understanding of social networks and privacy, along with the ability to have privacy. Ironically, I see some companies using social channels for HR recruiting, but not being interactive. Again, that’s another flag. If a company requires unlimited access before one is employed, that would beg one to wonder what the standards for employment would look like.
What top tips would you give to brands that are trying to stand out among the excessive amount of noise that is present online?
Listen and be present where your prospective and customers are at. Also, be present where those of your competitors are at. This will require resources – yes, people – that can interact and build relationships, and a community, in online channels. And it’s imperative that staff are empowered and encouraged to build their own networks. They can then amplify the brand’s messages in turn. But the brand needs to realize that if the employee moves on, that they will move on. Employers need to realize that this shouldn’t be a threat and that more good will come during the time of employment from their interacting with the voice of the brand.
When trying to create seamless integration with branding across traditional offline and online platforms, what is the most important thing to consider?
Make sure to integrate URL’s for online communities into offline events and marketing handouts. Integrate Twitter into events by suggesting a hashtag for the audience to use and encourage the back channel conversation. When I speak at events I always appreciate reviewing the comments on Twitter at a later time. When I’m on panels I find that interweaving commentary from the Twitter stream for the panel is a great way to include the audience. For a long time it was vogue to put a second screen up showing the backchannel on Twitter, but now some events have done away with that because it was too disruptive.
The New York Times published your marketing predictions for 2010. What are your predictions for 2012?
2012 is the year of big data. Companies are struggling with disparate databases and wondering how to manage the wealth of information that’s being gathered through social media monitoring, CRM’s and marketing databases. How does one merge that data and find insights and actionable data?
In regard to online Communities, they will continue to be important parts of social marketing efforts. The brands that realize that it’s about relationship building and the Community needs to be focused on lifestyle affinities will be more successful. People are so time constrained that it has to matter to them. Customer-centric communities will thrive.
- Heavy Chef’s Top 12 Digital Marketing Predictions for 2009
- Online Community Building in 2012 with Dave Duarte
- Monitoring Twitter effectively to find and build a community
- How blogging helped build my Online Community
- Community Management Specialist, Tatenda Mutsekwa, Speaks About Building Thriving Online Communities