MHB WEEKLY: By the students, for the world

Sally Falkow at the SMASH | April 22, 2011

On April 7th, 2011, the MHB program hosted a social media summit at the USC Davidson Center in downtown Los Angeles. The first-ever SMASH, or Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle, amassed industry professionals, graduate students and professors for short lectures and brainstorming huddles. In the continuing MHB Weekly coverage of the event’s distinguished speakers and key ideas, today looks at professor, editor and social media connoisseur Sally Falkow.

Ms. Falkow is a consummate PR expert with a firm grasp on the history of social media as well as their implications across society. Social Media Bootcamp, her popular conference series that has trained hundreds of Fortune 100 employees, earned her the coveted title of PR Trainer of the Year in 2009. Ms. Falkow’s background is in traditional PR, and her seamless transition to the internet has established her as a thought leader and coveted strategist for online PR. She maintains the The Proactive Report, an industry blog, and is a co-creator of PRESSfeed, a site which acts as an online newsroom for businesses.

Ms. Falkow began her presentation by likening the newest form of technological communication to the oldest: “I’ll tell you the ROI of social media if you can tell me the ROI of the telephone,” she said, explaining that social networks represent a return to conversational marketing. Still, she contended that many Forbes 500 companies are using social platforms for push strategies, not as a means of engagement or as a way to start discussions and participate in them directly. She urged such companies to listen as a first step in online measurement, providing the example of cognac manufacturer Hennessy — which recently debuted Hennessy Black, its first new product in fifty years, after hearing rappers, singers and other entertainers endorsing the brand in their everyday lives. It also conceptualized Hennessy Artistry, which aims to support the arts and hosts events across the world.

Ms. Falkow also stressed the importance of learning, and of acting as much as possible like a fly on the wall in the social web space. As soon as consumers hear dreaded words like “survey” or “focus group,” she said, the authenticity of a conversation is compromised. Companies need to learn from organic consumer insights, new markets and associated trends, brand evangelists and also detractors. She encouraged the establishment of a baseline — improving a brand’s engagement score by 50 percent in a month’s time, for instance — and then listed the various tools that can be used to quantify success or failure. Facebook Insight is a simple and free tool for measurement. Twitter can be analyzed with Archivist, a data-mining app, as well as with Backtweets, Chirpstats and Mentionmap. Klout, an index for a company’s “overall online influence,” makes use of statistics from both Facebook and Twitter to generate an engagement score between one and 100.

These forms of measurement, however, should not replace a company’s more traditional forms of market observation. It still needs to keep an eye on competitors, explained Ms. Falkow, and it needs to read relevant case studies and follow pertinent publications as often as possible. The arrival of social media has not overhauled the entire PR profession, but rather modified its most effective strategies.

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    Established in 2009 at USC, the Master's of Science in Human Behavior is designed to equip students with knowledge of consumer psychology, social media and market analysis skills. This is our blog. Subscribe

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