Pulse Check: Insights on Social from the Upper Deck Social Panel

Before the major crowds and clouds arrived in Austin for SXSWi, locals and early arrivals met at Abel”™s on the Lake for the Upper Deck Social Panel: Today & Tomorrow. The event, hosted by Austin-based agency Social Distilleryinvited panelists to comment on the evolution of social business and forecast upcoming trends. Hot topics included the maturation of social business beyond social media marketing, core competencies of various platforms, and the implications of Facebook”™s rollout of Timeline for Pages.  Panelists, including Spredfast”™s very own Jordan Viator Slabaugh, brought an impressive collective breadth of social media experience to bear on the conversation.

Social Business Moves Beyond the Monologue 

Moderator Brandon Curl kicked off the event, asking about the current state of social business. Panelist and President of Social Distillery, Kristen Sussman, noted the transition beyond unilateral, broadcasted content to real conversations that engage customers as stakeholders. Patti Fore, Social Media Manager at Hahn, Texas spoke to the power of social to break walls within organizations and create efficiencies across business units. Panelists spoke about social as a way to run business; while social platforms provide the new meeting spaces of commerce and activity, there are still people on either end of the equation. And whether B2B or B2C, social media provides a more direct, cost efficient avenue to deliver traditional services and values, from product demos to samples and deals. 

Facebook and Twitter: Complimentary Platforms to Achieve Business Goals

When asked to stack up the business capabilities of Facebook and Twitter, the audience turned an eager ear towards Stefan Parker, User Interface Engineer at Facebook. Parker diplomatically contrasted the ability to create intimate, genuine interactions on Facebook pages with Twitter”™s more broadcasted, impersonal approach. Natan Edelsburg, Supervising Producer of the Shorty Awards, viewed the two platforms as complimentary, noting the business value in reach and rich data analysis to be gained from Twitter”™s intentionally simpler, more public platform.  He encouraged new practitioners in the social space not to be intimidated by Twitter”™s simplicity. 

Measurement Still Matters, and it”™s Getting Better

While social has become a requisite line item on a growing number of departmental budgets, panelists were asked how social practitioners and decision makers are measuring activity and outcomes to demonstrate proof of value within this dynamic medium. Responses pointed to the sophistication of Social KPIs beyond pure quantitative measurement to include insights on sentiment and audience analysis. Looking at a twelve-month horizon, Viator Slabaugh forecasted the ability to create more tangible links between social activity and conversion, and Fore sighted the ever-important diligence in mapping a detailed action plan at the outset of any social initiative as the sharpest tool to pinpoint results.  

Facebook Timeline Dominates the Social Brands”™ Conversations

With the recent rollout of Facebook”™s Timeline for Brand Pages, Parker, who played an integral role in developing the new layout, spoke about the implications for brands. His favorite examples of established brands that have capitalized on the ability to add important events as Milestones, using pictures narratives to connect with followers included the New York Times and The U.S. Army. New and old brands alike will benefit from the ability to pin posts to the top of their timeline, giving top placement to timely content such as current promotions or upcoming events. He also highlighted the ability for users to gain social context by viewing brands through the lens of friend activity. Parker also reiterated that Facebook Timeline content will be social driven; users will be able to discern quality content just as they would separate junkmail from handwritten letters. 

Visual Storytelling and Authenticity Win Hearts

Timeline reflects a trend towards creating authentic experiences for users.  Impactful content is the currency that secures loyal followers across platforms. Viator Slabaugh cited YouTube”™s early success as a provider of on-demand web experiences that create genuine emotional impact but noted that others, such as newcomer Pinterest and Facebook with it”™s bold new visual layout, are catching up.

The Man Your Man Could Smell Like and Charlie Sheen

When asked to identify personal examples of successful social business cases, the panel came up with Old Spice”™s “Smell like a Man, Man“ campaign in which then brand spokesman Isaiah Mustafa created over 100 YouTube videos in real-time response to Tweets, a pro example of providing personalized, rich-media content to followers.  Edelsburg also gave a nod to Team Sheen, up for the 2012 Shorty for Best Social Media Manager presented by Spredfast, for their expert demonstration of how social media can be harnessed to pivot a brand from crisis. That”™s definitely #winning.  

The event provided a great pulse check on the state of social before it got tachycardic for SXSWi. We are still rebounding from five full days of networking, panel sessions, and a few rainstorms. 

Did you make it to Austin for Interactive? What new insights on the state of social did you leave with?

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