At Roger Smith, Mark Grindeland with Donna Marie Antoniadis briefs biz how to occupy Facebook and Twitter

Social Media Week talk tips Brand Content Managers how to play the biggest game on the Net

Style not as salesmanship but “conversation” to win friends and influence people

How to avoid pushback and placate regulators by being upfront as brand soldiers

Following the shift of the center of Web crowd activity to social media sites, the biggest overall trend on the Web right now is the corporate invasion of personal social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.     Corporations have discovered that it is more important and effective to have a Facebook page than to draw customers to their own site.  Some worry that the commercial invasion is destroying the original nature of the sites.

In this connection the key talk of Social Media Week (http://socialmediaweek.org/newyork) in Manhattan had to be yesterday’s (Feb 10 Thu) lesson in “Content Management” given on the top floor of the Roger Smith Hotel by Mark Grindeland, chairman of She’sConnected. (http://www.shesconnected.com/) and co founder of that Facebook rival “site for busy women” with Donna Marie Antoniadis, its CEO.

What Mark told corporate minions was exactly how to do it.

Social media mushroom cloud

The stats of the vast blossoming of social activity on the Net quoted in slides by consultant Mark to introduce his topic  were staggering.  The pace of expansion is so fast that we had to update some just writing this post.

Facebook now claims it has hit 620 million users worldwide, up from 500 million only two or three months ago.  300 million are logging on daily, 150 million of them using mobile devices to do it.   The average user is posting content 90 times a month, for a total of 30 million tips shared each month with 130 friends.

Twitter has nearly 200 million registered accounts and is adding 15 million a month, with users.posting 110 million tweets daily.  During the final moments of the Super Bowl, fans sent a record 4,064 tweets per second.  YouTube passed 2 billion views a day in May last year, 1 in 10 on mobile devices, and 46 years of YouTube video are watched each day on Facebook.

Added to this mushroom cloud of social activity, blogs are still booming.  133 million blogs have been indexed by Technorati with 15% of bloggers spending more than ten hours each week and the rate of blog updates is most commonly 2-3 times a week.

So now “CEOs are starting to see they can make money from social media”, Mark explained.  Corporations are rushing in to join the party with their own Facebook pages and display ads  on You Tube rose tenfold last year.  Many brands are starting to get more traffic on their fan page than their main website.  By last August Starbucks for example had 12.7 million fans on Facebook and was adding 90,000 daily.  Coca Cola had 10.7 million, Victoria’s Secret had 4.6 million.

How companies can join the party

Dividing up this pie and explaining how to eat it was Mark’s task at the session crowded with young and aspiring “Content Managers” which is the term in use by consultants such as Mark for staff assigned to lead the Panzer assault into this once foreign territory.

Apparently there is a job category of Community Manager where Content Managers can hire you to work two to four hours a day  to “engage in dialogues” on sites in one of the active roles – creators, critics, connectors – ordinary participants play.   Operating 24/7 these brand driven contributors can seed content by blogging, posting comments and pictures, videos and bookmarks and can “drive SEO” ie optimal search engine placement for a brand by “listening, engaging, and building buzz” to stimulate conversation and drive communities.

Not interlopers, helpful facilitators

Meanwhile those who deploy them can attend to connecting with the marketing, product development, public relations, market research, customer care and competitive intelligence departments of their company by feeding data to and fro.  A complaining customer may be turned from hostile to enthusiastic if referred to the right customer care staff, for example.   Potential customers bewildered by the demands of credit cards can be enlightened and reassured, or directed to “cool offers or contests”.

For anybody concerned that there might be a pushback from users who resent contributors who might be viewed as wolves in sheep’s clothing, Mark hurried to emphasize that the corporate motivation was not to sell but to inform ie to increase understanding of and connection with a product.

“If you are at a party and someone starts to sell you something that might be objectionable,” he agreed. “But this is conversation.”   Moreover, all brand promoters were upfront about their jobs and affiliations.  If they weren’t regulators would clamp down.

In the audience, in fact, was Kirsten Gronberg, Community Manager at CMP.LY, a company which specifically helps corporations ensure they act on the Web only in line with the regulations which ban underhand strategies.

Psycho-sociological dangers seen

Of course, some might still view the underlying motivation as impossible to deny and the invasion as just one more example of how commerce takes over every element of social life in America sooner or later if it possibly can.  To some Europeans it appears that Americans spend more time selling themselves and their ideas and products to each other than any other nation, both in public and in private.  Since the advent of TV even small children have been subject to a barrage of sales claims daily, and now we have the Internet growing more commercial every second.

In this jaundiced view the penalty we pay for this long time creep of salesmanship into every aspect of life  – which admittedly probably predates the Internet by about 300 years – may be the longstanding complaint of lack of authenticity in social relations in our great democracy.    And given the cut throat social values of so many corporations today do we really need their influence in social media? they ask.    One example is how even senior employees are treated when they are “let go”, which reportedly is now often a matter of  them being kicked out of the building with barely enough time to collect their family photos from their desks.   The days of three months notice and generous severance pay – in other words, mutual personal loyalty – are long gone

In this regard it is perhaps ironic that Mark and Donna are the founders of a social media site which offers Facebook facilities to women but with a huge additional advantage. Subscribers to shesconnected.com can have two separate personae where their business data is fenced off from their personal data, rather like the two screens on a Nokia E71.  In other words, they benefit from a firewall of privacy between business and personal.matters.

On the other side, CEO Donna explained, the all female base at this social media site is much more willing to converse about every detail of their buying and consuming than men generally are.

Finally, though, escape from voice mail jail

Whatever reservations some people may have to this corporate social buy-in,, which seems to promise to turn social media into corporate playgrounds without much room for those who want to keep them unsullied by Mammon, the final outcome seems inevitable, given the array of weapons portrayed in Mark’s expert analysis in his slides.  Just as happened with eBay, business will become a major player and perhaps dominant on Facebook, a site which was originally started by Mark Zuckerberg to get Harvard men dates, as well as Twitter, which has given us all direct access to the sometimes trivial chatter of VIPs..

On the positive side, the entry of business is certainly empowering for consumers who have been used to rarely dealing with corporate executives directly, and who are tired of impossible wait times on Customer Care(less) voice mail.

The best example of this, according to Mark, is Cadbury which  discontinued a chocolate product called Wispa until 22,000 fans petitioned them to bring it back, when they sold out 40 millions new bars in 18 weeks, or 4 per second.

Coming soon, a solution for all of us

Could be, moreover, that Mark and Donna have something very useful to consumers themselves, if they ever get around to it.  After the session, Donna, who seems to carry around not one but two iPads, explained that just as they have systematized the strategy for corporations to share in social media space, they have also worked out a system to keep up with the deluge of email, posting, monitoring, meetings, lectures and other demands of their work, and also have time for family and other non-work life.

A while back they even initiated a web site for others to put the system into effect, called Social Media Makeovers (http://www.socialmediamakeovers.com).  If this works out, it will solve what has become the paramount problem for all busy contributors on the Web, whether Tweeters, bloggers, researchers, consultants, or corporate workers: finding time to get it all done and have a life besides.

The problem is that the site is still in beta, it turns out, with the last news update a month old.  Could it be that Mark and Donna have been too busy delivering paid services to have any spare time to help the rest of us?

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