I had the pleasure of participating in Mashable Connect 2012 last week, held in Orlando, Florida. After nearly 3 days of packed, thought-provoking presentations, by an array of inspiring speakers, I wanted to share thoughts on the content and deliver a few key takeaways.
In addition to the standard digital themes surrounding mobile and social, one of the key messages from last week’s event was “the user knows best.” The brands and personalities represented by speakers were quite different from one another – from TED to American Express to Bit.ly. However, several of them touched on the same factoid – that users in the online community are powerful and are clearly driving business decisions.
Leslie Berland, SVP of Partnerships and Development for American Express, discussed the company’s approach to Twitter and detailed its Twitter Sync program. One of its goals was, to secure online influencers talking about American Express in the ideal way, yet as one of the precursors to initiating the program she said that their team realized “we can’t train people to talk about American Express on Twitter.” Instead, they checked to determine if folks were talking about American Express on Twitter at all. Simply, AmEx wanted to determine that there was a need to engage with their customers through Twitter and then they could analyze those conversations to wrap context around that need. This is an approach that quite a few brands consider when discussing what social media platforms to pursue; it was refreshing to hear that users were at the core of American Express’ decision.
June Cohen, Executive Producer of TED Media, talked about a similar concept in detaling how TED events grew, even though TED’s goals were vastly different from those of a corporation such as American Express. Cohen said that TED events went viral throughout the world because of social media users wishing to share ideas. They had people asking if they could translate the TED videos into Polish, Hebrew and a myriad of other languages. They had people asking if they could host their own TED Talk or TED event so that the quality ideas at the core of TED events could spread. Additionally, TED built mobile apps in many languages so more people could gain access. These people ended up building TED into something much grander than originally envisioned. The TED organization watched this happen and decided to respond to tech influencers and social media users who had become evangelists of the brand by opening up their API. Cohen called TED’s philosophy, “Radical Openness,” but what enabled them to be wide open was the behavior and requests of their online community.
Both speakers from American Express and TED Media stressed the need to base decisions on users. By listening, watching and learning from an authentic online community, brands are able to find the customer needs they can satisfy and the places they need to directly engage. As Berland said, “we can’t train people to talk about [us] on Twitter.”
For more on Leslie Berland’s talk at Mashable Connect – see Mashable’s article and recap of her presentation.