Interview with Gary Moneysmith – Interactive Strategy Expert
Gary Moneysmith is an interactive expert in Columbus, Ohio. With more than 15 years of experience in web development and Internet marketing, Gary offers practical insights into brand development through social media.
- Question: Social media is clearly the hot topic in marketing these days. For communities interested in launching a social media campaign, what are the big benefits they should expect to derive from the effort?
Communities stand to gain a great deal with social media marketing. Why? Because they’re trying to persuade people to make investment and lifestyle decisions based on their mind (tax rates, school rankings, etc) and heart (community spirit, traditions, etc). And while people strive to make data-driven decisions, most admit to making life’s most important decisions with their mind and heart. Social media helps satisfy the former while (hopefully) inspiring the latter.
Messages that spread through social media and word-of-mouth are typically considered more authentic and credible compared to traditional advertising channels, which are the domain of expert marketers and advertising agencies. People realize that a professional has carefully crafted anything they see, hear or read via traditional media outlets. Conversely, a hallmark of social media is the amateur nature of content development and organic conversation that surrounds it. The resulting climate of authenticity and transparency makes people feel more open and receptive to the discussions taking place and the messages being offered.
- Question: In your experience, what are the common pitfalls that cause social media programs to fail, and how do you avoid them?
I think the primary reason social media programs fail is because of their inability to connect with constituents on a credible, authentic level. Organizations try to broadcast into a "space" without learning the nuances and culture of that community. Think of visiting a foreign country – you can totally differentiate the native people versus the tourists. You have to be a citizen in good standing with the community before people respect you, let alone regard you as an esteemed leader.
Invest time by participating in a short list of social networks and establish relationships with opinion leaders. Then, and only then, will you be in a position to share your passion about your community – knowing that you’re in the right place at the right time with the right message.
- Question:What if a community is being maligned in the blogsphere, any advice on how to best handle the situation?
Presence and speed-of-response are critical factors to correcting malicious statements in social media. If you don’t have a voice in a community, you resign yourself to being defined by others. Organizations are typically caught off guard when they discover negative commentary. They didn’t know the blog/social network existed nor any of its vocal members.
Prevent this situation by identifying a "Top 10" list of important social media outlets including local news media message boards and/or Facebook groups, key opinion leader blogs as well as any other related sites with potential for flare-ups. If you make a nominal presence known throughout these various outlets and routinely monitor discussions and hot topics, you’re able to address brush-fire issues quickly and directly before they grown into full-fledge forest fires. Simply having a known-presence is half the battle. Then it’s up to you to respectfully refute and correct misinformation before it gets out of control.
- Question: What are some examples of great social media efforts that can provide lessons on what to do and what not to do?
I hesitate giving examples of "great social media efforts" from the usual suspects of Dell, Comcast and Zappos. All have well-documented social media efforts (primarily through Twitter) which have increased customer service, brand affinity and revenue. The joke is that all three have made more money off Twitter than Twitter itself.
Social media is simple, but not easy. It takes time and daily commitment. Start by monitoring social media via Google keyword alerts and blog searches using terms relevant to your organization. Set up a blog via WordPress or Blogger so you’re able to publish your thoughts, news and updates about your community on a regular basis. Write with a conversational voice as if someone was overhearing your conversation in a coffee shop. Discuss the things that give your community character; don’t just parrot the minute notes from the local chamber of commerce meeting. Reach out to people on Twitter and invite them to comment on your blog. Hold in-person gatherings to allow people to meet and establish real-life (gasp!) relationships. Encourage supporters to advocate for your community online and give them the tools that allow them to do so. Done correctly, your community social media efforts will naturally grow, person-by-person, affirming the minds and plucking the heartstrings of your citizens of tomorrow.
- Question: Do you have any recommended reading on the subject of social media?
If given the choice to recommend only ONE book on social media, I would recommend Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. This easy-to-read book clearly captures the essence of marketing via social media.
- Question: If a community wanted to follow-up with you and get an even better understanding of how to best leverage social media in their communication campaign, what is the best way to do so?
I run a personal blog called Social Media @ Work & Play which offers my candid "from the field" observations and insights.