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Ruminations from open’s internal braintrust

Expertise is organic. It must be constantly nurtured if it is to grow and flourish. This is one of the fundamental pillars of OPEN’s internal culture.

Marvin Chaulk, Vice-President, Senior Consultant
OPEN Communications

openblog

the opinions and musings behind the expertise

Blog Author: Marvin Chaulk

Social Media Put to the Test

Marvin Chaulk

Posted: June 13, 2013

It has been long known that ‘Word of Mouth’ is a powerful marketing tool. The construct of being social itself is driven by the human need to conform and belong to something greater than our selves (Okay, I’ll try not to get too deep here.) If we think about it, we live much of our lives attempting to please others. And so when we make a purchase decision, we often seek the approval of our peers or we buy a specific brand of something because it is popular with our peers. How often have you seen a product or service through advertising and later discussed its merits with your peers? Did you look around to see if anyone else had it? It sure weighs heavy on your decision, consciously or subconsciously.

I recently read a statistic that indicated ‘Word of Mouth’ still occurs primarily through the physical act of talking to each other and that social media only accounts for a fraction of the ‘Word of Mouth’ experience. So the question arises, ‘Are we wasting our time on social media?’

Social media is the new kid on the block in the marketing world. We are all still trying to make sense of it, especially when it comes to using it as a promotional tool. Perhaps that’s why it consumes much of the limelight as of late. So we recently decided to put social media to the test in promoting a new luncheon concept called Confluence (www.come2confluence.ca). Ironically, the first session explores the validity of using social media as a marketing tool — perhaps leading to the idea for this blog.

Our timeline for Confluence was aggressive. We had about three weeks to develop the concept and a week to promote it. In retrospect, I guess we were a little crazy to try and fit the first session in June but we threw caution to the wind and did it anyway — next we will be running with scissors. We booked a room that seated 50 people for lunch and hoped for the best. Given the timeline of one week to promote the event and fill the seats, we relied almost exclusively on social media for promotions.  The years of developing our networks in LinkedIn and Facebook were about to be tested. Using our corporate pages, direct e-mails through LinkedIn, daily updates to our Linked in and Facebook connections, and Twitter feeds, the social media ‘Word of Mouth’ went to work. People who liked the concept shared it with their connections and the word quickly spread. Our corporate sponsors also helped spread the word.

A week later, the 50-seat event was sold out. We had close to another 50 people reach out to say they couldn’t attend the June session because of conflicting schedules but definitely would attend the next event.

Our first science experiment proved our hypothesis that social media could work as a promotional tool. However, our study was confined to a well-connected, local market where social networks have a few less degrees of separation. The likelihood of success is perhaps greater than if you were to use social media to sell a product in the international marketplace.

What I have learned from this experience is that social media is definitely a useful marketing tool and it should be used in connection with other promotional tools to be most effective. From my perspective, I feel its greatest strength is the ability to kick-start and accelerate the physical ‘Word of Mouth’ process. While I was sitting at Starbucks earlier on the week, I was talking to a friend who heard about Confluence and wanted to get more details from me. He then asked for my business card and proceeded across the coffee shop to talk to another person who also signed up for the session. So while social media was the primary promotional tool, I suspect that traditional ‘word of mouth’ also played a significant role.

Needless to say, we will continue to use social media as a tool to ‘spread the word’ and promote OPEN Communications and events such as Confluence.