Hopefully you’ve heard about the Social Tools Summit that I’m launching this May in Boston, but maybe you haven’t heard why I’m creating this event. Aiming to educate organizations about the social tools that are available, the goal of this event is to close the gap between customer understanding and company potential. By bringing vendors, subject matter experts, and executives into the same room, everyone can gain insight into the value of these tools and how to leverage them for their business. In this episode, I delve into the importance of in-person interaction, sharing stories, and showcasing your subject matter expertise.
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In This Episode:
- There are a lot of social media events out there – why start another one? To complement what’s currently in the market, to provide a unique event, and to target a new audience
- The importance of real time interaction between people you meet in social media, bringing virtual relationships into the physical world
- Social is about the human touch, and at the end of the day, it comes down to people
- Part of my experience in B2B sales was storytelling: great salespeople are great storytellers
- Take any chance to bring in an executive; it shows customers they are important, and executives often have great stories about their products, company or about other clients using products in a unique way
- No matter how much you invest in a marketing department, the stories live with the people within the organization
- There’s a gap between what the customer believes they know about the company and what the company knows they are capable of – the Social Tools Summit came from wanting to bridge that divide
- There are 3 ways to scale: paid social, people, or tools; Tools are an internal investment, and the problem is that you can’t create them yourself, so it’s important to tap into the expertise that tool vendors have
- The Social Tools Summit is an opportunity for tools companies not to sell, but to educate, to show their products, to be on panels with experts and practitioners that use these tools
- How do you showcase your subject matter expertise? How can you contribute to the greater good of society? Companies want to showcase their expertise too, and this is their chance
- You need to collaborate with others to make it bigger than yourself, just like you need to curate content from other sources to make your social media postings bigger than yourself
Hey, everybody. This is Neal Schaffer. Welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Social in 2015. I hope you’ve been enjoying these podcasts. It is 2015. This is going to be my third podcast of the year and if you’ve seen my publishing of these podcasts on Maximize Your Social together with transcripts, and summaries, and links you’ll know that I’m obviously putting a lot more strategic emphasis on my podcasting this year. Part of that strategic emphasis is really trying to provide you with unique, insightful, and valuable, and actionable content. So let’s get to today’s podcast.
Now, some of you already heard me talk about this when I launched something called the Social Tools Summit. It is my first social media conference. It will be in Boston on May 12th, 2015, and obviously it’s something that I’m really, really excited about. And there’s some lessons to be learned – or I should say there’s advice that I think is applicable to anyone listening to this podcast based on the why I am doing this – the reasons why – and the things that you can be doing, whether it’s your own event or anything else to help your brand leverage your brand equity or whether it’s to help you leverage your own personal branding.
I’ll talk about how that all comes together at the end of the podcast, but I did want to start with the Social Tools Summit. And there’s a lot of social media conferences out there and I know the founders a of a lot of them very well and they’ve all been very, very kind to me and I’m big fans of them so it’s, sort of, weird that I decided to do something that may – some people may think is competitive.
I don’t see it as being competitive at all and I see it as a way of complimenting what others are doing in the market and that’s why when I write about the best social media conferences to attend I include the social media marketing worlds, the social freshes, the social shakeup by Social Media Today, Social Media Strategy Summit, and what have you because they’re all great conferences. And just like you’re not going to learn everything from reading one book you’re – if you read books you read a lot of books and maybe multiple books on the same subject. I think it’s the same with social media conferences.
There’s room for everybody to have their own unique take on what, type of, event it should be and who you want to target and what, type of, experience you want to provide and what have you. So events are something I’ve always wanted to do. So I have books. I have a website. I have a podcast – haven’t done as many videos so I guess that’s something that I could do more of as well. And I began a community – the Social Media Center of Excellence, which I’m still building up, but we already have a pretty active Facebook group of more than 300 members.
You can do a search for Social Media Center of Excellence right there on Facebook groups. But I’ve always been into the real time interaction between people. Those of you who know me from the old days when my brand was Windmill Networking of bringing the virtual relationships into the physical world – that’s what it was about. I created LinkedIn groups and we had sushi lunches monthly here in southern California where we’d bring people together from the group. And I’ve always thought that social was about the human touch and it still was today, right?
And we talk about the humanizing and H2H and all these different concepts, but at the end of the day it comes down to people. So the Summit really came about because I wanted to utilize my experience and figure out how do I add value to the industry? Everything I do is related to best practices in helping businesses do social media better – leverage social media for their business – leverage it better, more effectively, leverage more departments, leverage more social networks – whatever it is. That is the unifying theme and I’m passionate as the education as you all know.
It’s all about making my clients, making my readers, my listeners, you, more self-sufficient in your own practice in social media, whether it be for marketing, or sales, or PR, or customer support – whatever it might be. So what is a way that I can add value? Now, it’s interesting. We talk about content marketing and we talk about storytelling. And I – on my last podcast if you were listening I talked about my days as a B2B sales and bus-ed person in Japan and how this concept of Omiagi and bringing the souvenirs to my clients, which is almost like content marketing, before the Internet and before we even talked about content in such a way.
But that in essence is what I was doing and I knew that I worked and that’s why social to me came quite naturally. Social media as a tool came quite naturally and social selling and how it relates to employee advocacy comes quite naturally as well. It all fits together really, really nicely once you figure that all out. But there’s another side of this content marketing that I was doing as a sales person – as a sales executive I should say, not that it makes a difference, but – what I was doing before the Internet and social media. And that is storytelling.
Storytelling’s been around forever and I tell you great sales people are also great storytellers and if they’re not great storytellers usually in order to move a deal forward they bring in people internally who are great storytellers. Now, when I was representing foreign companies in Asia and I wanted to try to move up in the organization I wanted to – maybe I was meeting with a manager. I wanted to meet with a senior manager. I was meeting with the director. I wanted to meet with a vice president.
One of the tactics I commonly used was to bring in an executive and because I was in a foreign country I could say hey, so and so our founder and CEO is going to be out in Japan next month. I’d love for you – if you had a few minutes if I could take him by. We could have a quick meeting.
It gives the customers – it shows them that you – you’re putting strategic importance on them when you’re taking an executive out. It gives them a chance, if they have anything they want to say – if they’re mad about something or maybe they want a discount or they want to access special technology it gives them a chance to voice them directly so it’s a win-win for everybody. But what I noticed whenever I brought the executives out was that they were telling stories that I didn’t know.
They were telling stories about our first products, our first customers of how we’re helping customers on the other side of the world – different ways of using the products. And I realized at that time no matter how much you invest in a marketing department the stories live within people in your organization and very few companies are good at getting those stories out. Now, you have companies like IBM that are heavily investing into internal social networking and in bringing out internal expertise to be tapped into throughout the enterprise and I think IBM is really the most famous at doing that.
Ninety-nine percent of companies are not there. But I realized there was a gap between what the customer understood about our company, and tools, and what they can do and what we knew we could do. And marketing – the marketing message, what have you, was not bridging that gap. Only when the customers started to use our product would they get it, but even if they used our product in a different way they wouldn’t see the other potential benefits. So I realized having representative software vendors – that there’s this huge gap between customer understanding and the potential. And guess what?
With social media it’s even more so because not only do people not understand the tools can be leveraged, a lot of them don’t understand some basic social media marketing concepts and if you don’t understand employee advocacy you can’t just get an employee advocacy tool in house and expect it to do everything for you. You need to understand the concepts before you can use the tool. And that’s where I was thinking of all the different ways I can add value that’s another avenue where I can add value, which I haven’t done before in social media, which is really trying to help out the tools vendors.
And a lot of them reach out to me because I blog on Maximize Social Business, I’m an author, and I have relationships with a lot of them as well, but I’m also a fan of them. I’m a fan of technology. Some of you may know that I actually created – and I still have an alpha version of a social media analytics tool and I still think there’s a need in the market for one that provides more actionable advice instead of a lot of numbers and graphs.
And there’s some great ones out there – don’t get me wrong – that go a lot deeper and that enterprises are utilizing and should be utilizing, but I think there’s still a space for people that still don’t get social media or what they should be doing to in essence be teaching them through this tool as it analyzes their social and as they input their objectives. I won’t say anything more. I don’t want to give away my secrets to my tool here – not that I’m developing it actively, but – through the process I’ve realized the challenges that tool vendors go through with Twitter APIs and changes in APIs – user interfaces, customer needs, et cetera.
So I’m a fan of the technology and in order to scale – companies can only scale one of three ways – pay it social, people, or tools. And pay it social I think people are waking up to, but pay it social’s benefitting the social networks that are already doing really well so they may not need our help. Employees is great – education and nine things you should be doing with your social in 2015 – my blog post, which hopefully you’ve read – education is critical and building a culture around social media education – a social business culture will help you leverage employee advocacy and they, sort of, all work together.
So people – don’t get me wrong – is an incredibly important thing and it becomes an internal investment. But tools are also becoming an internal investment. The problem is you can’t create them yourself and I know big enterprises that try to, but it’s really hard because of those changing APIs and everything else. And that’s why you need to tap into the expertise that tool vendors in social media space have. So I’m a big fan of the tools, but it’s funny because there’s still this huge gap. A lot of people just don’t know a lot of tools exist.
They may have reached out to me in hopes that I would amplify them to everybody, but not everybody’s reading my blog post so no matter how hard I’m trying to promote them it’s not being listened to by everybody and even if some people here – like I said – that example of employee advocacy – if you don’t know what it is or you don’t have any thoughts around it one tool is not going to solve everything for you.
So there’s a gap and a physical one-day event of bringing together tools companies not to sell to people, but to show their product and to be part of panels with experts, with practitioners that use these tools to provide feedback, but to have a conversation. And through the conversation between the practitioners, experts, and the tools vendors we’re going to learn a heck of a lot as to what tools are out there and how they can be utilized in a way that can only be achieved on a one-on-one basis if you have the CEO of any given tool vendor come to your company and have a meeting with you.
That’s, sort of, the power that I am trying to unleash with the Social Tools Summit. That is the thing I don’t see anyone else doing. That is the unique value that I think I can add to the industry that I want to do and that’s why although on relatively short notice – we first – well, my business partner and I first started talking about this back in – I don’t know – November I think – when I was out in Boston and we finally, sort of, launched in December and I think January’s been a soft launch. There’s a lot more promotional activities we can be doing, but that’s really the story.
And whether it is a potential attendee, a potential speaker, or a tool vendor I think everybody’s really, really excited about it. It’s something that I see myself doing more of in the future, more frequently, more locations. Interesting enough a lot of people from Europe have reached out – a lot of people from London. Hey, why don’t you do one out here? Maybe we will. But that’s why I’m doing it and it comes to a greater truth, a greater truth about what companies can be doing, what people can be doing with social media because with social media you have the ability to promote anything.
Without social media promoting the Social Tools Summit would’ve been really, really hard. I would’ve had to rely on traditional media. It would’ve required money. It would’ve required a paid effort in order to scale. With social not necessarily, although the paid helps accelerate things. But I realized when I met with a friend recently – I hadn’t seen them for a while – who works at IBM – I was talking to him about this and he works with social business, as do a lot of IBM employees obviously.
But we were talking and I said IBM is a company that if you have subject matter expertise in something they try to leverage that as a corporate asset throughout the enterprise and they invest in, develop, and utilize technology that allows you to do it. It’s an amazing enterprise. So I said well, what if you don’t work at an IBM? How do you showcase your subject matter expertise? How can you contribute to the greater good of society with your subject matter expertise? And companies are the same. Yes, companies are in to make money. Don’t get me wrong. Enterprises are – unless you’re a nonprofit – a for-profit activity.
But the people who created those companies – the founders of these software tool companies and social and outside of social that I’ve worked for – in their own way they want to change the world. They’re changing the world. They have subject matter expertise in the product they’ve developed. How do you talk about that? It goes beyond marketing messaging. And like I said, usually on a one-to-one conversation if you’re a subject matter expert internally and you happen to have a conversation with a client or with someone internally you have a way of showcasing that knowledge.
If you’re a company and you send your founder to a company for a meeting you have a way of showcasing – but how do you really scale that expertise that you have or that your company has and touch more people with it? To me that’s what creating this Social Tools Summit event is about. It’s not about making money. It’d be nice to make money. That’s why whatever I do I have multiple revenue streams – sort of, the portfolio career.
Once you go independent as I did when I launched my company in January 2010 – just celebrated my five year anniversary – thank you in advance for your kudos – you begin to look at different ways of generating revenues. So this is one of many streams. If it fails I’m still going to go to pay my rent and buy my kids new shoes. But really, how do you leverage your subject matter experts? I think for a lot of companies it comes down to content or it comes down to collaboration. This is a collaborative exercise.
I have a friend who works for a Japanese food company and they make a Japanese pastry and they make some pretty unique, types of, food that you don’t see on supermarket shelves here in the United States so they’re, sort of, thought leaders in their industry. They’re, sort of, subject matter experts on combining different, types of, fruit with traditional Japanese flavors and creating something that is very, very popular with certain communities in North America, for instance.
So they had the idea – hey, we want to put on a food event and bring together all the different confectionary companies that create deserts that have any, type of, Japanese connection to them and have a one-day event where people that are really passionate about – we’re foodies and chefs can all come in and try all these samples. And that’s a great – that’s an idea of doing a physical event, but it’s hard for you to do it on your own. You need to collaborate with others in order to make it bigger than yourself just like you need to curate content to make your own social media postings bigger than yourself as well. It’s the same concept.
So don’t think of sharing content in social something you have to do because you have to be doing social media and don’t think that just any message will do. Really, defining a good social media program, especially from a marketing outward communications perspective is about the messaging, is about are you talking in a way that makes you accepted by other social media users? Are you providing resourceful information? Are you becoming trustworthy through your relationship with social media communities by the words, the tone, and the voice, and the visuals that you use when you’re positing on social media?
But there’s another avenue to look at with your social media posting and content marketing efforts and it’s the same thing that I’m looking at. How do you showcase your companies, your employees, or for your own personal brand of your own unique experiences and subject matter expertise to the world? I blog. I wrote books. I do a podcast. I created the Social Tools Summit. What will you do today? What will your company do today? That’s the message I want to leave you with as I’ve become very busy planning for the Social Tools Summit, but because I’m so passionate about it and I want it to touch so many people.
It fuels what I do. It provides me with a natural ROI regardless of what happens at the event. Your content may be hit or miss, but if it truly is representative of that same, sort of, storytelling that you’re telling on a one-on-on basis when you go out to meet with clients or your loyal customers or potential clients that you want to become your – one of your most loyal customers. If you can tap into that storytelling that’s only within the brains and hearts of some of your outward face and internal employees – if you can tap into that I think you’re on your way to redefining the content and how effective your social media program can be.
You don’t have to create your own Social Tools Summit, although some of you may want to create a user conference or try to do a food event to rise above, but when you’re competing with others it’s really hard to do that so you don’t have to create that, sort of, event. Although, you could do it in person. You could create – like this foreign equity company I worked on in the past did – was create a VIP user committee and every 90 days let’s bring together our VIPs. Yes, there are competitors, but they all benefit from learning about how each other are using the tools. Let’s bring them together.
Let’s put them up at the Ritz Carleton or Four Seasons – whatever hotel it is. Let’s fly them in. There’s immense value in doing that to deepen the relationships, but also to get feedback. So that’s another way of showcasing your subject matter expertise of actually performing an event like that. So that’s what the Social Tools Summit is about.
I challenge you to find a new vehicle, a new way, whether it’s doing a reset on what you blog about or social media or doing it through a physical event or whatever mechanism, whatever vehicle it is – I challenge you to find a new way to promote your own or company’s own subject matter expertise in 2015. And I want to hear from you of what you decide to do, how you decide to do it. That is the end of another episode of Maximize Your Social. I hope you enjoyed this one.
I’m really trying to challenge myself to find unique insight from my own professional past before social media together with how I help businesses in social media today to showcase general truths that as I like today social media replaces nothing, but compliments everything – how can we leverage this complimentary power based on things that we’re already doing just by reaching inside and doing a little soul searching? So hey, wherever you are in the world I want to wish you the greatest of days and as always make it a great social day. Bye-bye, everybody.
Transcript provided courtesy of GMR Transcription Services, Inc.