Just back from an all too brief stop at this year's WOMMA Summit and I wanted to share 4 quick takeaways:
1. Big Brands are sounding serious about social media/word of mouth marketing
There are some terrific folks leading the charge at their company's equivalent of the social media 'center for excellence' - Petra Neiger/Cisco and Ekaterina Walter/Intel to name just two. They have identified a framework for applying and governing social media at an enterprise level. They each have some version of the "7 Responsibilities of the Center for Excellence" on their agenda. They have a system for training, delivering 'best practice' consulting or solutions, have determined how to govern use of social networks that actually support the business. In most cases they have made preliminary bets on technologies that can help them scale like listening technologies and social CMS systems like Buddy Systems and/or Vitrue.
I say "sounding serious" vs. getting serious only because most companies are dramatically underspending in social media in terms of staffing and overall budget commitment. I see many indicators that that will change in 2011. Brands will not only support the small social media strategist team within the enterprise, they will start staffing and funding at appropriate levels.
2. There really is a difference between a historically ad-centric view and a public relations view of social media
I live and work in a completely integrated universe at Ogilvy. We talk about solving client business problems. Discipline expertise is key yet social media clearly transcends any one group. So, I am naturally inclined to want to be a little "blind" about where social media specialists come from. Still, I have been reminded recently that there are some prevailing attitudes towards social media depending upon which discipline you are steeped in. PR or communications professionals who really embrace social media tend to put a high premium on using the discipline to drive true "earned media" (aka word of mouth). Advertising professionals often tend to look at the paid, owned, earned triptych as equal contributors to driving metrics indicative of engagement which is on the path - hopefully - to increased consideration or even preference.
3. Value metrics are moving from incidental to explicit
We have good data and good models for understanding the business value of social media and word of mouth marketing. It is not just marcom campaign performance but lifetime customer value, recruiting and retention, reputation and more. Between our own efforts at Ogilvy, the slide that MKinsey showed at the WOMMA 2010 Summit correlating word of mouth to sales (for Sony) and the collection of information gathered by WOMMA in the Metrics Guidebook - we have accumulated enough valuable models and results to drive sound business decisions. Problem is that it is still hard. Brands who want to bridge the delta between their conviction that social is important and their willingness to spend will have to invest time and energy aligning to the best models. There is no shortcut.
4. A community of practitioners is priceless
I also learned the value of participating in a community of folks who are committed and experienced in a discipline fueled by passion and brains. In the daily grind of getting work done and the assault from so-called social media pundits everyday, I lose sight of how important it is to connect with the true experts in the field. That's the biggest benefit to membership in WOMMA. That's why my team will also attend WOMMA's School on WOM in the Spring (disclosure - Ogilvy is a governing member and I continue to serve on the board)