Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What is Common Between {grow}, ExactTarget, Southwest, MindFrame and Slingshot SEO? – Part I

You wouldn’t know unless you attended the amazing Get Social conference organized by the Beth Wood Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America at Indiana University last weekend at the Kelley School of Business. I learned a lot and I couldn't resist sharing my experience on the MBA Program Blog. I am currently taking a deep dive into Social Media through the M595 Digital Marketing (one of the best courses I have taken in my Two Year MBA Program) taught by newly-minted PhD - Sarah Smith-Robbins (aka intellagirl). So the timing of the conference could not have been better.

Here are the highlights of a couple of sessions I attended (I will cover two more in the next part of my post):

Paula Berg and Kyle Lacy - Case Studies from the Pros
Paula covered three interesting case studies from the airline industry. Paula Berg was instrumental in leading the social media strategy at a major airline. Today the social media channels have become an integral part of their direct engagement with customers. Two of the examples involved awkward customer service situations. Both incidents were blown up in the media and the airline was able to directly communicate through their social media channels to lay out the facts of the cases. The third case involved another airline that experienced a crisis situation due to an emergency airplane landing. The incident forced the airline to create a twitter account, especially since other unofficial accounts had quickly sprung up. However, an essential part of your social media strategy should be to build trust and not wait until a crisis situation to dive into social media.

Kyle Lacy highlighted how mobile has made communication real time and personalization has made customization the norm. He shared a case study that involved a non-profit that was looking for more donations. The initial Facebook page and group got some 435,000 members/fans and $3000 in donations. But they were able to raise far more money by letting the people who were part of the cause share their story with their Facebook friends directly. He also included another case study that again focused on the human element of social media.

Jeremy Dearringer - Social Media: A Revolution in Search
This session began with a quick exploration of why search is still important despite the hype surrounding social media. And what is the value of being on the first page of a search result? When someone enters a search query, they are by definition looking for something. The chances that they will click on the organic search results at the top are very high. eMarketer estimates that Google’s US Search revenues will cross $10 billion in 2011. Essentially every user on the internet is using search.

He talked about three big phases in the evolution of search: 1994 to 1998 was when the initial search engines like Yahoo!, WebCrawler, Lycos, Infoseek and Excite captured the attention of the public. Yahoo! gained popularity but was based on web directory listings. Some of the factors used to determine relevant search results were page titles, metatags and keyword counts. The algorithms used for returning search could however be easily gamed. 1998 to 2002 saw the rise of Google. The PageRank algorithm was akin to a link popularity contest - If you had good references, you did not need a resume. Websites then began trying to game the system by creating a web of interconnected links designed to push pages up the rankings. Between 2003 and 2009, Google updated their algorithm more than 600 times to include more sophisticated signals.

Since 2003, social bookmarking sites such as del.icio.us, StumbleUpon and Digg have been important factors in search algorithms. Facebook has had a user data sharing relationship with Microsoft since at least 2008. Social graph data has become extremely valuable. Google recently launched Realtime search (twitter feeds) and the +1 feature comparable to Facebook likes. He argued that brands that use social media effectively to spread content through Facebook shares and twitter retweets can push themselves higher in the organic search results.

Key Takeaways:
For me the key takeaways from these two sessions were: First, create a social media strategy that aligns with your goals and implement it early to build trust before a crisis occurs. Second, don’t ignore the importance of personalizing your story and message to increase engagement. Third, social media should be an important part of your search engine optimization strategy. These are important lessons, especially for MBA Product Marketing or and MBA Consumer Marketing students.

I was proud that Indiana University lived up to its name as a Top Business University, attracting several movers and shakers from the world of social media. Access to such awesome events should be yet another motivation for prospective students to pursue their MBA Professional Degree at Kelley.

Oh! And if you are still trying to resolve the puzzle in the blog title, here is part of the answer: All the terms are related to the speakers at the conference. Paula Berg led Southwest Airlines’ online communication strategy and Emerging Media Team. Kyle Lacy is a Principal at MindFrame. Jeremy Dearringer is Co-Founder and Chief Research Officer at Slingshot SEO. Stay tuned for the next post for the rest of the answer.

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