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Center for Publishing faculty member Katherine Tasheff (l) and Director Andrea Chambers at social media panel

You’ve seen “The Movie,” so now it’s time to read about The Panel,” a conversation among high-powered social media experts who gathered at Harvard Business School last week for the 20th Annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference.  Entitled “Beyond the Buzz,” the social media panel was one of sixteen discussions focused on key issues such as work-life balance, managing teams in a global context and networking and selling with confidence.

The NYU-SCPS Center for Publishing was well represented on the social media panel by Director Andrea Chambers, who moderated the discussion, and by Katherine Tasheff, Executive Director, Digital Media and Marketing, Hyperion and Voice Books.  Tasheff teaches Introduction to Interactive Media in the Master of Science in Publishing program at NYU. To report on the many tips and tactics suggested by the social media panelists, two Harvard Business School first-year students, Alexandra Bochicchio and Valerie Galinskaya, offer this status update:

The experts:

While sending regular tweets and checking Facebook,  an overflow audience of hundreds of students, alumni and  young professionals sat on chairs and the floor listening intently to five experts from very different disciplines: Katherine Tasheff represented the world of book publishing; Julia Roy came from retail as Senior Manager of New Media for Coach, and now VP for Marketing at Manilla, a new web-based service backed by the Hearst Corporation; Cammie Croft, who helped set up President Obama’s New Media office in the White House,  presented a government perspective on social media in her role as Senior Advisor and Director of New Media and Citizen Engagement, U.S. Department of Energy; Alexandra Samuel, the Director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University in Vancouver, is an expert in not-for-profit social media in her position as  Principal and founder of Social Signal; Gretchen Rubin, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller “The Happiness Project,” was instrumental in explaining  how blogs and social media can turn a message into a brand and a bestseller.  Each offered some highly-targeted advice:

Be specific:

Because it is sometimes impossible to isolate and quantitatively measure the impact of social media, Julia Roy recommended setting concrete goals for specific campaigns such as number of retweets, improved customer survey results, or heightened brand awareness.  Roy recounted a successful campaign where Coach hoped to increase foot traffic in its new men’s-only retail store by promoting a free bottle of cologne via social media.  While the company could not exactly isolate the impact of the campaign, improved foot traffic served as a proof that it was effective and supported the expenditure of additional marketing dollars for future social media efforts.

Inset: Gretchen Rubin; Panelists (l-r) Cammie Croft, Alexandra Samuel, Julia Roy, moderator Andrea Chambers, Katherine Tasheff

Be patient:

Author Gretchen Rubin was able to quantify the impact of social media on her bottom line.  Promoting “The Happiness Project” on her popular blog resulted in massive pre-sale orders, contributing to top spots on best-seller lists around the world. Rubin credited her success to methodically building her brand presence online through consistent six-day-a-week blogging, frequent tweets and monthly videos.  She stressed that you need to build a relationship and trust with your audience so that when you ask them for help – such as buying your book – they do it.

Be real:

Katherine Tasheff argued that the importance of a trusting relationship in social media makes authenticity even more important.  Tasheff claimed that the easiest way to sabotage your brand is to be disingenuous; your audience is smart and can “smell” dishonesty from miles away.  To avoid this, Katherine recommended not differentiating between your “real” and online self; she urged the audience to “commit to being as authentic using social media as in real life.”  Furthermore, she noted, since the average Internet user in the U.S. spends over thirteen hours per week online, perpetuating a  “fake” self online is a significant – and poor – investment.

Fail fast and often:

While the importance of a consistent message is clear, the best way to communicate that message is not always so evident.  In her previous role as New Media Rapid Response Director for Obama for America in Chicago  during the 2008 campaign,  Cammie Croft learned firsthand the necessity of trial and error.  By constantly testing new social media channels and tactics, Croft received real-time feedback and tweaked her strategy accordingly.  In a frequently changing environment, she needed to be comfortable with failure and willing to learn from mistakes to engage effectively with her audience.

Have a strong voice:

Social media is inherently different from other forms of traditional marketing: people come looking for you.  For this reason, it’s particularly important to have a strong voice.  Alexandra Samuel started her business in 2005 after readers of her blog reached out to her, struck by her then novel conviction that companies must have web 2.0 websites to survive; readers asked her to implement social media strategies for their businesses.  While voice matters, noted Samuel, it’s also important to keep in mind your target audience. If Kenneth Cole had heeded this counsel, he might not have been in the current PR nightmare following his recent tweet: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo.”

Never stop learning and experimenting:

To conclude the panel,  moderator Andrea Chambers asked each panelist for some practical real-world tips for social media success. Here are our favorites:

  • End each blog entry with a question
  • Ensure tweets are at least 10 characters under the limit so others can retweet
  • Remember that a strong voice attracts, so don’t be discouraged when it also repels
  • Research what’s out there so you don’t end up launching an idea or site that’s redundant
  • Never miss an opportunity to broaden your network – online or off

What is your number one piece of advice for using social media?

by Alexandra Bochicchio and Valerie Galinskaya

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