SXSW: Future 15 Social Business Panel moderated by David Meerman Scott


The purpose of this panel was to give some visibility to areas of business that are being affected by social media, outside of the traditional marketing and PR stories we're used to hearing. The panel was moderated by David Meerman Scott, (@dmscott) author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR.


Capt. Nathan Broshear, US Air Force, @usairforce
Melanie Baker, PostRank, @melle
Jeff Berger, KODA, @Genyjobs
Glen Lubbert, Mojo Interactive, @glubbert
Bert Dumars, Newell Rubbermaid, @BWdumars

David kicked it off with a short presentation highlighting key points of social media from a business perspective.

Erin Reed runs an organization called Girls Fight Back, that teaches girls self defense. Erin has a web site and posters. But she does something different. She asks all the girls to put away their mobile phones before the class. And at the end, with 15 minutes to go, she asks them to take out their phones again and take photos of the class and the classmates practicing their new self defense skills. These photos get posted all over Facebook and have generated a half million attendees, solely through Facebook.

The new rule of marketing is about earning attention by publishing content. You have to unlearn what you've learned about advertising and marketing. Organizations screw it up because they do product based advertising.

The Grateful Dead lost control of their music and let fans record their concerts. As a result, trading their tapes helped spread their music and the Dead became the most popular touring band in history. So many organizations worry about control. We don't give something away unless you give us your email address.

Nobody cares about your products except you.

(David read an example of a real company's boilerplate language that was completely incomprehensible.) I asked journalist friends for the most overused phrases in press releases and ran the list against every single press release issued in a period of time. The winning word was “innovate.” 48,000 companies used the word “unique.”

David showed a photo of “happy multicultural people,” a standard stock photo and asked, “Who the hell are these people?” Why would you have pictures on your Web site of people who don't actually work for your company?

Speak to your buyers in their language, not yours.

Create triggers that encourage people to share.

No coercion is required. If people want to share your content, they will. HP did Student Awards and encouraged students to contribute video.

David showed the winning video, which now has more than a million views.

Stop making excuses. What do you have to lose? (Except control.)

Media Relations Goes Social: Capt. Nathan Broshear, USAF

The US Marine Corps says, “Every Marine is a rifleman.” When I brief other military officers, I tell them, “Every airman is a communicator.”

Nathan showed a very moving photo montage created by airmen in Haiti during relief efforts.

We really are embracing social media in the Air Force. Airmen can post on their Facebook, blogs and Twitter channels from their official computers.

We're taking our stories and posting them through Twitter and our blogs and getting stories in major media. (David pointed out that Nathan has had two stories placed on 60 Minutes.)

“The days of us calling the media are over. When I talk to the press, it's a conversation. I haven't put a press release out in eight years. The people who get our press releases don't want them. What we're able to do via social media is talk to niche markets as well as broad markets.”

“People are coming to the US Air Force for bite size pieces of information when they need us. We call that the 'appification of information.'”

Why do some military blogs fail? Social communication cannot be about you. A Pew study showed only 16 percent of respondents trust PR flacks, but 61 percent trust their peers. The blogs that fail are about a person. We want them to be about an experience.

Can the military be too open? Nathan's response to that question: “You've got a 23-year old kid in charge of a $50 million airplane, and you don't trust him with a Facebook page?”

The military is recognizing we can trust our people to communicate directly with their peers and with the community.

Customer Service Goes Social: Melanie Baker, PostRank

Melanie used to work with a travel company that dealt mostly with seniors. They liked using mail. It was slow and it took time, but the business was word of mouth and there was value in doing it. Melanie learned about that from a customer service person while building an e-commerce system that she realized customers would never use.

Customers will get a hold of you the way they want. It's their time, it's their money, it's their attention.

The Internet has vastly expanded the opportunities for communication, but you need to look at the decision making process customers go through. You need to have the channels your customers want, and to be available to them when they need you. You're responsible for how you do business with customers, but you're also responsible for how they take your message out to the public. You have no control of that, but it has huge ramifications.
In a best case scenario they can't wait to come back, and to tell their friends and family about you.

You need to be good at the communication, but you also need to think about who is on the other end. There may be a bottleneck in customer service. If the rest of your company isn't empowered to deal with customers, you're hamstringing your efforts.

“If you have to sneak around to help people do business with your company, there's probably something wrong there.”

You need to educate everyone about how to interact with customers, and encourage them to do it. No, not everyone is suited to customer service, but it's reasonable to expect a certain level of comfort and familiarity for everyone. Your people are going to be out in the world and there won't be a PR person standing next to them. You have to do a basic investment in that kind of work.

You have to provide training and education so your people can be smart when they interact with customers.

Your internal community needs to be as strong, if not stronger, then your external community. People need to get along and feel safe communicating with one another. It makes sense for your people to practice good customer service on one another.

All of this interaction means you'll be getting a lot more data and feedback. Not all input is of equal value online. Mostly you'll hear from the people who love you and the people who hate you. Your people will need skills to analyze that information.

You need to learn “different kinds of no” when doing customer service online. “No, but come back in six months and we may have that.”

When you're listening, think about who you're ignoring. Baby boomers control a lot of money. Are we interacting with them or missing the opportunity. Facebook a year ago had the largest demographic growth in women over 55. What could a Foursquare or Plancast do for these people? Or what do these people need that no one is making yet?

What if you're a demographic with a lot of potential but you're on a fixed budget, your eyesight is failing and you don't trust computers? You need to respect how your customers want to communicate.

Tools don't matter in the big picture. If people are educated and understand how to get customers to where they need to be, you're doing well in social.


What about Kevin Smith and Southwest Airlines? How do we deal with this?

David: Be human. Answer the challenges in the way you would want someone to answer it to you. Don't be a nameless, faceless corporation, be a number of people within an organization who care.

Nathan: We get that in the Air Force, where people don't understand a policy like “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” for instance. We tell people, “We don't create policies, Congress does.” So you need to educate people.

Melanie: I think the ball was dropped very often in that debacle. There's a lot of weird stuff in that story. Did they need to kick him off? Who kicked him off? People were thinking too hard in retrospect and should have stopped at the time to think about how what they were doing will affect the person on a human level.

Question: How has social affected recruiting?

Nathan: We put short videos up on our AFBlueTube channel on YouTube that help answer questions about, for instance, basic training. If we put one or two minute videos that answer a simple question, they're getting 80,000 hits and go up before recruiting intake periods.

The entire military has reached out to mothers to help answer questions, because “those are the people who will really be influencing their sons and daughters a lot.”

Question: How do you convince companies to give content without registration?

David: Ask them if they'd rather have one email address or 50 views of the information, because that's the ratio I've seen with companies that require registrations. A hybrid model is a good way of doing it. If you're measuring ROI by the number of people who download your white paper, that's not actually ROI.

Hiring and Recruitment Goes Social: Jeff Berger, KODA

Ninety percent of the job applications submitted online don't get a response. What message does that send about your company?

There's a disconnect between the ways companies attract Gen Y job seekers and the ways Gen Y communicates online. They don't rely on major job boards. They don't have a professional network on LinkedIn and they spend the majority of their time online using social networks, but those networks aren't meant for their careers.

Where is the database of professional young talent? Social recruiting is the idea of bringing together job boards and social networks. Jeff's company is called KODA, and their goal is to use online recruiting to find people with zero to five years experience.

“Resumes are b.s. So much of them are made up.” The KODA format allows for more of a narrative format, and allows for a conversation around jobs.

Workplace Collaboration Goes Social: Glen Lubbert, @glubbert

Glen's title is “Chief Imaginaut” and CEO of Mojo Interactive.

Mojo had an event called “Tile Me Beautiful” where they sent employees home with ceiling tiles and encouraged them to create something out of them. For every tile employees made, Glen donated $20 to Haiti relief. It helped them not only contribute, but look at one another differently. People started posting their work on Facebook. Others in the company replied, and it spurred their creativity and got more people enthusiastic about the project.

People went around to one another's workspaces and talked to one another about how they did their tiles. They ended up donating $1000 to Haiti relief. They also began thinking of themselves as creative people in ways they hadn't before. Employees used Yammer during the day the judges were there, talking about the project and the judging and generating a sense of fun and camaraderie.

Be open and transparent. All the people who tweet at Mojo are shown on the “Join Us” page on the Mojo Web site. Not all of them tweet about Mojo, but a lot of them do. They tweet things their clients should know and about Internet marketing. They're extending the brand in a way that gives a much better sense of who Mojo is. Glen often hears how much visitors like the company's culture.

“This is how we get really good people. We put out there who we are.”

Twitter allows us to stay on message, and make it easy to see if you're being effective.

Glen is friends with the majority of his staff. “As soon as I go into the office I'm on stage. I use Facebook as a crib sheet to allow me to have the 'in between job description' conversations that are the glue of the office.” If he needs to have a difficult conversation, he's already built a solid connection.

Mojo uses Yammer as their “water cooler tool.” They use it for things you don't want to get caught in your email: promoting your garage sale or your kid's fundraiser, shout outs to fellow employees, information about technical issues, etc. IT uses it for announcements.

Leave behind the box you live in and have some fun.

Rubbermaid Culture Change: Bert Dumars, @bwdumars

Newell Rubbermaid was founded in the 1880s. It's hard to change old line businesses. It's hard to change people's perceptions that social media is a waste of time.

We are the converted and we have to drive change.

In 2006, Rubbermaid's total focus was on the big retailers they supplied. Consumers were the retailers' problem. We've changed to totally consumer driven innovation. It showed how far away we were from our consumers. When Rubbermaid issued a press release, “the first 12 to 15 contacts were from consumers just looking for some way to reach us.”

In 2008 they launched the Adventures in Organization blog and partnered with BazaarVoice to publish consumer generated product reviews. “Now we have real consumers with real issues who can vent publicly,” on our branded Web site.

Two examples that drove cultural change at Rubbermaid:

Produce Saver was a product designed to keep vegetables longer in the fridge. They'd done lots of surveys with consumers. The first few reviews were positive, but many more were very negative. They talked to the consumers to find out how they were using it. It turned out the negative reviewers had not read the instructions. The positive reviewers loved it. They put up a blog post with more information.

“The best part was the brand team responded.” The reviews now are very high.

Rubbermaid used to have very positive reviews for their sink mats. Then they tried antibacterial mats. To make them antibacterial, you have to give up stain resistance. Turns out consumers really wanted stain resistance more than an antibacterial feature.

The team saw that. They thought they were solving a problem, so they reached out to the people who complained and said, “We're going to reformulate the sink mat again. Will you try it?” The responses were extremely positive. Customers were amazed and delighted to be heard.

One comment starts, “Well goodness gracious, what a surprise. I feel now that perhaps there IS an American corporation out there who actually listens to its customers and then does something about their complaints.”

You'll hear lots of speakers saying, “Change.” “Well, this drove change.”

The CEO was initially resistant to having the negatives, but when they showed him the value, he became supportive.


  • Build a foundation on relationships
  • Consumer driven insights drive change
  • Move from listetning to responding and acting
  • Do not fear negative reviews – The truth will set you free!
  • Respond and show you care. If you can't show you care, don't enter the social marketing space.

“If you're in a larger organization, you need one group to go with you. Once you get out there and have success, other groups will want to come with you.”

Question: Do you go off your site to read and respond to reviews?

One of the most active places for reviews is on We get over 1200 reviews for car seats there.

Question: How did you get PR and Legal to allow you to communicate about the recent recall?

"In previous recalls, the plan had been 'duck and cover.' For this one, they felt it wasn't the right thing to do." The GM for Graco Baby knew the power of social media and suggested letting Graco ambassadors respond.

The news doesn't tell you which strollers, just that it's Graco strollers. They responded, put up a new site for information when the Web site and blog crashed. But more than that, they responded to their community, and the ambassadors and other consumers were retweeting the information that Graco wanted people to know.

Question: Do you get B2B reviews?

Bert: Rubbermaid Commercial, which is about as old line a business you can imagine, didn't think they'd ever had to do this. But now they're going after niche markets that have communities. The Rubbermaid Commercial blog will go online in a few weeks.

"We don't have it for all brands. When you put it up it's going to change the culture, and not everyone is ready for that."

Question: In terms of people empowered to be the public face. How do you identify those people in your organization.

Bert: "When we started, it was 'Who are the willing? Who are the passionate?'” It was four passionate people and now we have more than 80."

Nathan: The Air Force often has to identify who's going to be on camera. Those people often want a briefing on key messages and interview technique. "I tell them, 'Forget all that. Be yourself.'" The most important thing is to get a real connection.

"As a PR guy, sometimes you can prep people too much. I just like to let them go and set them free."


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  1. David Meerman Scott on

    David - It was great to connect with you again. Thanks so much for your attention and for taking the time to write this up. It was a fun panel. See you soon I hope! David

  2. hey dave; "Your internal community needs to be as strong, if not stronger, then your internal community." that sentence doesnt parse.
    other than that, i really enjoyed this one. be authentic. how simple is that?

  3. David B. Thomas on

    Thanks, Paul. Just making sure you were paying attention. (I've corrected it.) Glad you enjoyed the post. You're right, it really does boil down to being authentic.

  4. Pingback: SXSW: My perspective as an enterprise social media marketer - Customer Analytics

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