I was recently lucky enough to attend some sessions at the Lift Conference 2010 in Geneva, which took place on May 5-7, and focused on the theme of connected people. The conference provided insight and discussion on a connected world, and centered on issues such as social media, web 2.0 innovations and the future of technology in enterprise.
On the Thursday, Matthias Lüfkens of the World Economic Forum presented during lunch on how the WEF interacts with its stakeholders through social media. He explained that whilst the technology can be exploited for the benefit of an organization, there is the risk that if not implemented correctly, a social media marketing strategy can easily backfire.
Transparency and accountability
It doesnt take much searching on Google to find numerous examples of companies who have tried to take advantage of social media in their marketing strategies, but have then failed dramatically. Some very prominent organizations have recently suffered as a result of poor marketing strategy when it comes to online communication, and whilst damage limitation is important in PR disasters such as theirs, prevention is always better than the cure.
Positive engagement with social media was the main focus of Matthias session at the lunch. His presentation suggested that whilst it is important for a company to be transparent and honest when interacting with its stakeholders, there is a fine balance between this transparency and the need for privacy. For example, it would not be advisable to disclose trade secrets on a Facebook profile, or tweet views on problems related to internal processes. Therefore, a level of transparency needs to be decided upon at an early stage in the marketing strategy, to allow for guidelines to be produced for representatives of the organization.
Exploiting Social Media
Organizations wishing to interact with stakeholders online undeniably face risks, however the market opportunities that social media presents cannot be overlooked. Engaged correctly, this new platform for dialogue can be exploited to bring about many benefits. It allows a company to facilitate conversation with its customers, allowing valuable information to be gathered for analysis, such as product reviews, suggestions for improvements and market intelligence. However, it should not be seen as just another inexpensive arena in which to promote brand awareness and advertise products and services.
A key decision is which social platforms to target, be it Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, YouTube or a combination of these and the many other networks available. Each network has its own benefits and tools when looking to address company goals. Does an organization wish to broadcast videos of its events and work? Matthias explained how the World Economic Forum utilized YouTube to listen to the views of a global audience by broadcasting conferences (such as the annual meeting in Davos) and welcoming questions from viewers. Or does an organization want to join a network such as Facebook, to keep customers informed of product developments, whilst allowing for feedback to be shared? Have a look at Targets Facebook page to see how they have successfully managed dialogue in this way.
Whichever way an organization wishes to embrace social media, it should be integrated early into the overall marketing strategy.
Stories told by inspiring people
I also attended the Friday sessions at the Lift conference, which focused on stories told by people undertaking inspiring projects. One of the highlights was Oh Yeon-ho, the founder of OhmyNews, an online news organization that gives the citizens of Korea a voice as journalists. Oh Yeon-ho told a story of how the organization has used technology to empower the population and lets them broadcast their views on issues important to them. His speech was thought provoking, in that it showed the potential of Web 2.0 technologies to be used to benefit the lives of many people, and give them a way of expressing their views, opinions and beliefs to an international community.
I found another highlight was Jamais Cascio of the Institute of the Future. Jamais spoke about how the human species is unique in having foresight the ability to visualize future scenarios. He looked at different types of foresight, and how it can not only be used for strategic planning and setting personal goals, but how it is vital for our own future survival. With the constant progression of technologies, I found this look towards the future quite relevant!
Overall, I have to say that Lift 2010 was a superb event, with inspirational speakers from a wide scope of backgrounds, who have demonstrated the importance for businesses to embrace technology which will allow them to engage with an increasingly connected world.
For more information, visit:
World Economic Forum and Social Media
Targets Facebook page
Nestlés Facebook page