Thursday, April 3, 2008

Live blog from the BlogHer Business Conference 2008 - Day 1 10am - 12noon: 4 Case Studies on Social Media Creation


Four companies, four social media programs, four examples of best practices in action...including a frank discussion of their metrics of success.


Confirmed case studies currently include:

DC GoodwillToby Bloomberg interviews Em Hall, the woman behind DC Goodwill's Goodwill Fashionista blog about how the blog and other innovative online programs are helping DC Goodwill broaden their customer base and create unlikely buzz.


Hearst Mobile: Fast Company's Lynne D. Johnson interviews Hearst Digital media's director of mobile, Sophia Stuart, about their initiative to take content and community mobile...realizing the promise of mobile ubiquity. Hear how they brainstormed over what content made sense for their mobile platforms from nine magazine properties, and about how they evangelized this new content internally and with surprisingly intimate efforts externally.


Kodak: Google blog leader Karen Wickre interviews her counterpart at Kodak, Jenny Cisney about Kodak's award-winning efforts on creating a substantial and substantive corporate presence in the blog world. Jenny cites internal education and morale as one of the key benefits of their blog program, but I'm sure Karen and Jenny will compare a few notes on how it impacts

their companies' stature externally too.


Wiggly Wigglers: Yes, you read that company name right. Wiggly Wigglers is a UK-based gardening and farming e-commerce site. Maria Niles interviews Heather Gorringe, Wiggly Wigglers' founder and resident social media convert. Heather ripped up her advertising budget and now relies on social media to promte her company and its products. Using Facebook, a blog and a podcast that now has 40,000 regular listeners Heather has managed to grow her business, no pun intended. Find out how these tools can work for you, even if you're not a deep-pocket big brand with a dedicated team!


Blog post begins:


DC Goodwill: Vintage Fashion show kicks it off. Advice: “Mix vintage fashion and modern accessories.” Everything that the speaker is wearing will be on the DC Goodwill ebay store this afternoon.


“Thrift is fashion” is the mantra of Goodwill of Greater Washington. The interviewee is the retail fashion manager for the organization. The blog is a part of the media marketing strategy. They’ve done a virtual runway show, have an ebay store. Miss M. is the blog’s author and fashionista.


Toby: I found Miss M’s blog through a friend who helped put it together. Why did goodwill create a blog.


Em: I promote the mission through the blog. We are mission focused, mission driven: Training and employment for people with disadvantages. It’s a complicated mission and message. Stores are the key – great prices, costumes, crazy piece of fashion for a party. Don’t want to spend a lot of money – wear it a couple of times, goes back to Goodwill, and someone buys it a few weeks later. Fashion is the language that draws in people to the blog. And then we tie mission to fashion. Reel them in on an interesting topic and then explain how the Goodwill relates to that.


Toby: You’ve used the blog to reposition from a junk store to a vintage store.


Em: DC doesn’t have thrift stores like NYC does. DC has a rep for women in dark hose with white tennis shoes. Wanted to let fashionable folks out there know they can come into a goodwill store and find some great clothes there. Find vintage clothes for not vintage prices.


Toby: You’re using the clothes in the store as part of the content strategy.


Em: Tuesday is about Goodwill. Other days are about fashion. I started and failed at blogging in the past. Not dedicated to it. Our blog is a product: schedule, mission, persona of the fashionista. I blog anonymously – no name and no picture so it will be greater than any actual blogger. We’re creating a legacy. We provide info on contemporary and vintage fashion that readers will enjoy. Monday – fashion finds. Tuesday – goodwill mission. Wed – breather. Thursday – editorial day. Friday – blog the blogger: 5+1 questions to fashion bloggers all over the world and then they email back and I publish the answers.


Toby – Are you integrated with other marketing initiatives?


Em: Yes. We did an on-line fashion show last year. No budget for live show last year. We had a live show the year before. We marketed the virtual show on the blog. Very low cost, low budget. 22,000 people have viewed the show on-line. Then we had an auction of the items on ebay – almost everything was purchased. We had a Lookbook on the blog. And then we posted on You Tube.  




Q: Do you encourage swaps?


Em: Yes, absolutely. We actually use them to drive brick and mortar stores. We’re doing a clothing swaps with “Green Muslims” – a Muslim group dedicated to protecting the environment. We do boutique trunk shows – our last one raised $525 in three hours. We stage the swaps at store. They help us reach a new audience – events, Meet up, blogs, yahoo groups somewhat. Having the blog allows us to plug in. At invitation-only goodwill clothes event 100 people show up!


Toby: And you blur the line between on-line, off-line.


Q: How do they target DC community?


Em: Content is focused on DC events. No travel budget. Fashion event coverage has to be in DC. I am out in the neighborhoods. I wears local designers’ jewelry, handbags. I support local boutiques. Small fashion blog scene in DC – off and on line. We all know each other and support each other on-line and off.


Toby: What are your goals for the blog?


Em: We just wanted readers to log in. No one was sure if this would work. Played with brand’s image. We heard a lot of “What a great idea you, weirdos!! This won’t work.” It was risky. We had to talk to the Board, CEO – it was really difficult. Had to explain what a blog is, why it matters. It’s on a computer but it will help stores. ROI can be ephemeral, but you can quantify it. You can measure. Drive traffic to events. Measure year over year sccess. Ebay – giving works program for nonprofits is excellent. And you can support nonprofits that way. Ebay refunds selling costs for nonprofits.


Q: Will you expand this strategy to Goodwills in other areas in US?


Em: Yes – Canada is interested. San Fran has a great partnership with Joe Boxer. DC is the only fashion blog for Goodwill Industries.


Toby: Lessons learned?


Em: We bit off more than we can chew. Ebay is a monster. You need to know it inside and out or it eats you alive. We were able to escape a bit. A little rough. I hadn’t been on-line too much before. I had to be on Pounce, Twitter, Linked in, etc. You really need to pick the channels of communities you get into. We grew really fast which was great, but you need to know what areas you really want to get into. Started small and then wham everything exploded. Look at a few main components, and go for it!


Toby: How do we find you?





Hearst Mobile:


Sophia – We want to meet different needs of women on the go. What do they really need? Horoscopes, cubicle coach, fashion, quizzes, love advice, Dude Decoder.


Lynne – Mobile seems like the land of the unknown. Why do you want to be there?


S: We are everywhere else where women are: on-line TV, magazines. Be wherever she is – mobile is a logical connection. We have 50 bloggers across the company. We monitor absolutely everything.


Lynne – different aspects of mobile?


S: want to be really honest. I have a big budget because I work for Hearst. Don’t know how to do mobile on the skinny. Learnings: Cosmo girl was the first mobile project. 1) Women by and large aren’t that interested in the nuts and bolts of the technology. They just want it to work out of the box. Want to use it immediately. 2)Test on 1600 browsers to make sure it always works. Basic level of testing within mobile. Very important. 3) Big distribution deals with the carriers. On all big carriers. Be deeply practical and put pressure on blogging software to develop a mobile version of the software. Creating brands – you need to protect them. Go from the software route, Render blogs on mobile – variety of vendors. Direct xml feed from on-line so it renders correctly on site. Sniffer on server to update it constantly.


L– why isn’t it easier?


S: technology is evolving. In time, it will get easier.


L: what else can you do with blog and content in mobile arenas?


S: what doesn’t work well right now is the comments section. Power of mobile blogs is listening in – kitchen table analogy in your phone. Getting info. 5-7pm is the most popular mobile time. Women want some company then – enrich the few moments of downtime that women have. Helps people not feel alone. Our blogger, Constant dieter – makes women feel okay about things they think about when considering their own diets.


L: are certain types of content better on mobile than others?


S: Fashion. Shopping. Local content works. Practical information that women need on the go – how to get rid of a stain, recipes when in the store. What does she need in a pinch in a quick moment? Travel and tipping. Women are traveling more – and you need traveling etiquette quick!



Q: where do you find your bloggers?


S: how they came up with mobiles sites – create a scenario. Role playing actively in meetings. Then brainstorm. What assets did we have to meet a need? Bloggers don’t directly go to mobile – we're not big enough just yet. Take some bloggers from the brands like Redbook. They get bloggers via editor-n-chief. Only some work for mobile. “Good grief” – mom of two twin boys that got hit with breast cancer. Readers want to check in with her.


Q: Market share?


S: helps drive traffic to older publications like GH through mobile. New editor in chief with GH who’s more hip. Full-page ads in print. GH is the fastest growing mobile site after Cosmo. New audiences through carriers. Asked front row fashionistas from publications like Bazaar to blog through their blackberries or palms or iphones. Mobile reaches a non-IT audience that now blogs on their phones that wouldn’t blog through a laptop.


Q: Do you create mobile-specific content?


S: re-edited everything for mobile – on mobile you don’t want to scroll, scroll, scroll. Quizzes, Q&A, need to have blogs be compelling to scroll. Re-edited to everything that Carmel Snow would tell you – someone you’d love to have as your great-ant. How to apply eyeliner properly, the best foundation to wear, etc.


L: What does "re-edited" mean?


S: new content mgmt system built from scratch. Had to because nothing has been built yet, “remember dial-up”? We’re in dial-up right now. 4G -  mobile broadband download to your mobile device – will be much faster. Will be automated sometime in the future.


Q: 4G – will it be globally standardized?


S: standardized across the globe or even the US is tough. Must go meet the individual carriers because of the old telecom industry. Not like the internet. Big businesses – they want to win! Spring, Verizon, AT&T. You need to know a ton about technology to make mobile beautifully seamless behind the scenes.


Q: what to do for rural communities?


S: not involved in connectivity side so don’t know a lot about the rural areas. I know there has been an enormous amount done by carriers to help rural areas. Some parts of South Africa will not have broadband. Just not worth it. But they are trying to get mobile broadband into those areas. Passionate about health info to teen girls. Cosmo girl has done that - helping young girls in rural areas get critical health information. Need health info from reliable source – not necessarily friends. 


L: final thoughts.


S: use the site and let me know what you think!


L: share info about vendors?


S: sure – will be happy to tell you whom not to work with. Save the pain.




Karen – runs the Google blog program – 111 blogs

Jenny – Kodak


J – Blog has been up for a year and a half. Effective corporate blog – no hard sell. Stories about photography from employees. Obviously their blog is all about pictures. Lots of passion in the blogs. Incredible pictures – neonatal units outfitted with Kodak cameras so moms can see the baby right away when they are still in treatment. One blogger takes pictures on her mission trips. Incredible outlet for employees to share their lives and what they’re passionate about.


K – how do stories about employees get to you?


J – advertise for stories on intranet. Hear about stories through other employees and go to them directly. Looking around the company.


K – edit the stories?


J – haven’t had too much that’s not well written. Sometimes a bit too long. 


K – approval process at Kodak?


J – fortunate that sponsor in communications dept that got it. One month from time of conception to blog up and running. Lightning speed. I drafted up the blog – wrote sample posts. Fears melted away once there was something to actually look at. Calmed down a little bit.


K – grow employee participation?


J – big word of mouth because huge portion of hits are internal. Blog is entertaining. Anyone in Kodak can participate all across the globe.


K – response of execs?


J – very excited – innovation and technology. 1000 words, 1000 nerds. Nerds – one post a week. Words – one every day, which is a lot for a corporate blog.


K – how do you handle comments?


J – no approval process. Only censored for language and offensive comments. Kodak Printers were on the show The Apprentice – Gene Simmons didn’t win and people from his fan club wrote tons of comments on the Kodak blog that Kodak didn’t know what they were doing not choosing Gene's team to win.


K – In responding to comments, do you check with PR?


J – no. We have 75 contributors off and on. They must own their posts. Only controversial subjects go to PR.


K – What's your title? Web designer?


J - “chief blogger”. 20% of time to blogging for the 75 people on the team. I am now full-time blogging.


K - Tracking tools?


J – we use them. Not driving traffic, but quality comments and content.


K – other photo sites?


J – only if a post warrants it. Sometimes photo group on flickr for certain kinds of posts.


K – Q&A?


Q - links between blog and traditional marketing / PR?


J – trying to integrate more into mktg plan. Full part of strategy. Marketing needs to be conscious of it.


Q - Selling it through, what metrics did you have for success?


J – comments that people were getting through. That other blogs were linking to us, see that our name is getting out there.


Q - Comments not moderated. How did legal team feel?


J – keep very close watch on comments and respond immediately.


Q - user-generated content?


J – not just yet. Down the line we’d love to do that.


Q – guidelines for responding to comments? 


J – ask that the person posting s story monitors the comments. I get copied on all comments. Pass on to service and support when necessary. Not every comment gets a response – not unless follow-up is needed.


Q – Do you work all the time?


J – Yes. Had my own blog for 8 years. I have had the anti-Deuce effect. Kodak appreciated my help.


Q – How do you promote to an external audience?


J – Going to conferences. Spoke at BlogWorld. PR group is separate – arms length. Lots of hits are people just searching and stumbling upon it.


Q – not limited to Kodak product posts?


J - Reference flickr. High-end cameras not Kodak. We want to inspire passion for photography.


Q – track competitors?


J – HP does blog though their mission and content is different. Stories are the focus on Kodak. Other companies focus on their own brand.


Q – PR kept separate on purpose?


J – keeping PR and blogging separate is intentional. It is not a communications job. It’s not a marketing ploy. Soft sell, but really a branding effort and inspiring the underlying passion for photography.


Q – What would you do differently?


J – Nothing really. A little more research in blogging platform. Use “Awareness” out of Canada. Shopped around a bit for different platforms, but not much.


Q – integrated blog address into Kodak site?


J – yes. In footer of the Kodak site. Log links back to product pages.


Q – how many contributors?


J – 70. They're scheduled. Some just do a one-time story. 50/50 number of men and women. More posts by women. I manage all of the bloggers. They go through training of blog etiquette. Power Point deck that they are waked through – pretty basic.


Q – does it helps that Kodak knew it had to change?


J – yes, but there are always still people that we had to convince. 60% of Kodak business is BtoB. Not everyone was on board and ready for change, but it’s happening.




Wiggly Wigglers


Maria – you are in for a treat. Background?


Heather – started in 1990 in the UK. 63 is the population of my town. One product – worm-composting kit. Not the greatest business plan. Struggled along – just me for many years. Selling a few products here and there. Natural gardening selling business to more urban people. Came up with a website in 1995. In 1995 most people didn’t have a website and most people weren’t into recycling. Started training on-line shortly after that. Wasn’t going that well at first. My business manager said to me, “This is business – very easy. You have this much at the start of the year, this much at end of year. It’s not working. Give up.” And I fired him. Wanted to connect with end-users. I was passionate about it.


M – so you have the website, you’re selling worms. How do you connect to the wide world of worm lovers?


H – there is a wide world of worm lovers! Needed to connect with what we were trying to achieve. Passion is contagious. I am a farmer. Farming is in major decline in the area. And I watched farmers lose their self-respect in that area. I thought, "Gosh, how can I help?" These people know so much and yet, they have no self-value. As a woman in this rural area, I felt what I needed to do was have a chat. That’s really what you need to do in life. Negative feedback is okay. Blogosphere is like driving a car – beep,  beep. People try to push you out of the way instead of saying "excuse me." And yet on the actual pavement you’d say, “Oh I’m sorry. Excuse me.” It’s that personal connection. Sometimes we get negative feedback about our products – too expensive, etc. If people post negative comments that gives you an opportunity to respond and connect. Turning naysayers into believers through conversation.


M – what tools do you use?


H – I am an awful blogger, awful writer. I like talking. I always wanted a radio show. I wanted to help people do things. I discovered Podcasts. This medium is amazing. That I didn’t need to go through the BBC, that I could just say what I wanted to. I didn’t have to have any interview that cut out my main point. I could make a radio show – so cool! When I turned up there on a Saturday for an event, the radio broadcasters were there and Wiggly Wigglers. So I committed to doing ten shows as a test. I just thought it would be the future. And so I’m not a good blogger, but I’m a good podcaster. We use the platforms we love. Can we use it? Do others use it? Can other people keep up? Farmers are less likely to use technologies so we use ones that are very easy. Facebook has been fantastic for us.


M – what value is there to talking to people around the world?


H – influence that we have on each other’s life is what we have in common. You really have to get on with people you don’t like when you live in a small community. So, this gives us a way to tap into a much larger community. We don’t have to live in the same place with people we commune with. All different walks of life. This is exciting. It doesn’t matter where you live – you share commonalities with people all over the world. Those people have something to share with us. Well, what about sales??? People do buy product all over the world of English flowers. It’s the principle that’s important. The world is changing so quickly and as businesses we need to keep up.


M – the catalog is what the community helps you build.


H – I tried to get a scholarship as a farmer. I am one of the farmers this year that is getting a scholarship to learn about farming technologies all over the world. And I put on my podcast that if anyone wants to put me up I will be able to stay over in the places I'll be visiting. And I advertise where I’ll be. I was out on the west coast. And I went up to Vancouver on invitation. What people think in the US is cool is different that in the UK. We think others are fashionable and cool, and they think the same of us. This is unbelievable that there is this commonality. “I need to get these people together.” So we set up a wiki inside of Facebook. Real product as well as chitchat – like our push lawn mower.


– results of ad budget?


H – completely slashed our ad budget. We just do our podcasts and on-line site. Traditional channels like magazine – we do offers and editorials for them – and they get a cut of the sales of what we sell as a result of the offers. We make podcasts for their on-line sites. Much more equal relationship now with traditional channels. We’re not just the small company working with the big magazine. That is what we wanted – a voice for a small farm to be able to get ourselves out there like everyone else. When I think about it from our social media activities, we are getting noticed in the San Fran Chronicle, etc.


M – how do you communicate that you have these vehicles?How do you find your listeners?


H – I was missioned to increase leads to 2000 leads every month. Asked people in our catalog to tell friends and listen. Asked local hospitals. We see it really now as our PR strategy. If you have a good product, people will tune in. Fortune magazine would now like a good case study - they're choosing us. I don’t think it’s just about the $ signs.



Q – Why did you choose Facebook over beebo?


H – easy. What naturally happens is what works. I was asked to be someone’s friend on Facebook. Had never heard of Beebo. So I saw that there were people into gardening on Facebook so I could see that was a space for us. I don’t think you need to be scientific about it. I am really just now getting into Twitter.


Q – Talk more about your podcasting.


H – We started it as a ten show test. Easy for us to know what to do. We needed to have a conversation to get things going.  Really like asking questions. What I love about our company is changing a space from boring to something that wildlife and humans enjoy. I wanted to share about farming. We don’t go on what our listeners want. Why do people buy bread makers - who knows? Bread is so cheap to buy and bread makers are expensive. And yet, people buy them. Let’s forget this idea that consumers know what they want – they don’t. It’s not up to consumers to tell you how to run your podcasts or blog. If they did, you’d only get the loudest voices. Put out your own story, your own voice. People will come along for a listen. It’s just about humanity and finding the answer. It doesn’t matter too much about the subject – do what you want to do. We’re growing salad leaves right now and making a podcast about it.


M – does topic materials drive when you podcast?


H – no. We podcast every Thursday morning. 


Q - How do I have time for that?


H - If the conversation is worth having in the company, then it’s worth having a podcast. It’s the highlight of my week. We might have a guest in or someone in the packaging dept talking about what they’re doing. You need to have that commitment to listeners. We haven’t appreciated the longevity of this medium. People do go back and catch up on podcasts they miss.


Q – video casts?


H – yes, we’ve done three videos so far. Some of the most popular casts we've done. This is the year of the video for us. I have not been that keen on it. I like that you can take the podcast on your bike. Don’t have to access all the senses for it. But I think there is a real place for us in videocasts. Slightly quirky content – we’ve committed to 18 videos. Short snappy numbers with a bit of humor.


Q – how d you deal with the time constraints for small businesses?


H – I am so glad you asked me that! Every woman has time to chat about how hard the businesses is, but they feel they have no time to chat about the good things? No. If you have time to make one phone call in the day, then you’ve got time to embrace social media. If people say you have no time, then I just think they are lazy cows. You have time. Sorry to be harsh, but small businesses do have time. Listen to the Podcast Sisters.


M – Thank you, Heather. Awesome advice. 


Maria Niles said...

Thank you so much for this terrific live blog of our session. You did an excellent job of capturing all the conversations!

Christa said...

Hi Maria!! Thank you so much for your comment on my blog. I really appreciate i and of course loved hearing the Wiggly Wigglers story - what an inspiration. All my best, Christa

Toby said...

Maria - adding my thanks for your living blogging. Great to have this recap!