The cool and not-so-cool from BlogWell

by David Spark on June 23, 2009

Andy Sernovitz, Gaspedal

Andy Sernovitz, Gaspedal

Andy Sernovitz’s company Gaspedal produced BlogWell, a half-day seminar of social media case studies. A total of eight companies presented, but I could only be in the room for four of the sessions. Here’s a summary of the sessions I attended and what I thought it was cool and what was not cool.

Cool/Not-so-cool (UPDATED) – Announce engagement options upfront – At the meeting’s onset, the presenter announced that they welcome everyone to blog and tweet at the conference. The Twitter hashtag for the event was #blogwell and that if you added @gaspedal to your tweet they would retweet your tweet. It also verged on not-so-cool because they never actually put those words up on the giant screen to remind us what to do.

UPDATE: I am updating this post and calling it “Not-so-cool” because @gaspedal didn’t retweet people’s tweets yesterday like they said they would. In fact, they only retweeted two tweets when there were more than 40 tweets that @ replied his company Gaspedal. My tweet wasn’t one of those two tweets. Andy spoke at great length about ethics during his presentation midway through the show (see below “Social media rules of disclosure”) and I think he kind of blew it. I don’t think it was intentional because that’s not Andy’s style, but unfortunately that’s how it came off. His partner publicly asked the audience for publicity and said he would return the favor, and he didn’t. I chatted over email with Andy about this and he admitted that it fell through the cracks as there were many issues going on at the event and unfortunately they missed this one. But it’s not too late to rectify it. I invite Andy to now go ahead and retweet all those people that @ replied his company.

I should also mention that Andy was very kind to give me a pass to come to his event.

CoolDon’t give coupons away online, mail them – Want to start a mailing list of people interested in your product? Mail them a coupon instead of letting them print one out for free. Yoplait Kids asked a simple question of their audience of moms: “If you liked our product so much, would you give us your name and address if we mailed you a free coupon?” Many of them said yes. General Mills collected the addresses, and the moms got the coupons. Later in the campaign they gave away coupons online and lowered the value on them. Ultimately, General Mills gave away 285,000+ free to high value coupons to moms and the redemption was exceptional. In return for the blogs, Yoplait Kids got tons of online conversation in traditional and new media. A total of  5,800 placements with 800+ on blogs. All those mentions delivered nearly 100 million impressions, said David Witt, General Mills Brand PR.

CoolInfluence of mom bloggers – Social media is the most credible and effective way to reach moms. I learned this last year when I attended the BlogHer conference in San Francisco. And according to a study they did last year with Compass Partners, more than half of women consider blogs a reliable source of advice. Not only that, but General Mills learned very quickly that mom bloggers want to give their opinion. For Yoplait kids, General Mills identified and built relationships with mom bloggers that would find their information relevant. They targeted moms with kids 0 to 4 years of age. They provided product information, samples, coupons, and prize packs that they could give away. In addition, they partnered with influential sites such as Sittercity, Modern Mom, Bargain Briana, TwitterMoms, Savvy Auntie, MommySavers, MomSpace, MomLogic, and My BlogSpark. This helped them get a a nice response from traditional media as well.

CoolReputation management system based on points – SAP gives points to community members for participating and contributing. You get points for blogging, wiki entries, reviews, and presenting at live events. Not redeemable, but you get reputation within the community.

Not-so-coolPowerPoint presentations with way too much text – Uggh, when will people ever learn that you can’t copy and paste a document into a PowerPoint presentation? SAP’s presentation about communities was flooded with tons of text all over the screen. Much of it was really small so that us in the back of the room couldn’t read it. Nor are we speed readers that can also concentrate on what the speaker is saying at the same time. Yes SAP, you may have created tons of fantastic communities, but if you want to tell us your success story, you’ll have to reduce confusion. Deliver it to us all in a digestable format, not showing and telling us everything all at once. Reveal a little bit at a time over time. The overwhelming volume on text on screen was so distracting that it actually took away from the presenter. Honestly, I had a hard time understanding his points because with all that text it was unclear what the points were. And now I’ve stopped paying attention to him.

Not-so-coolMaking your presentation non-applicable to the audience – SAP’s presentation was so self-centric. It was all about SAP with no learning points as to how you could apply community within your organization.

CoolSocial media rules of disclosure – Sadly I have to say this is cool because basic rules of ethics in social media still need to be taught. Andy Sernovitz reminded the audience of word of mouth marketers that the average reader needs to understand the relationship between the content, who produced it, and their relationship to the organization in question. To pull this off you need to answer these questions: Who are you? Were you paid? Is it your real opinion? Often, said Sernovitz, you can answer all these questions at once with one simple statement, “I work for Company X, and this is my personal opinion.”

Sernovitz went on to explain that the two areas where we fall into trouble is when companies forget to train their employees about these ethical processes. And second when you question if something is ethical or not. Simple rule of thumb, if you have to ask if doing something would be considered unethical, then the answer is always no. If you questioned it, you’re probably not the only one.

Not-so-coolPresenting a “case study” without explaining what you did – Kaiser Permanente’s case study “Harvesting the Low-Hanging Fruit of Internal Social Media Channels” was supposed to be about using internal collaboration tools to connect employees within a very large organization (160,000 employees). The entire presentation was spent on what their problems were but without focus. At one point she did explain that they used a wiki to reduce requirements. But many of the problems she presented she never answered, such as “How do you find people with expertise within your organization,” “How do you get people to collaborate,” and “How do you innovate within the organization?” She did explain that they have tools that they use, Jive Software, but she never explained why they chose Jive and how they actually used the tools to allow people to connect and collaborate. How did they get people to actually use the tools? In her entire presentation, there was one brief success story on one slide, but the rest was all very vague.

CoolIntegrating social media into your application – In an effort to help people who get confused and stressed by their products, Intuit is beginning to integrate social media directly into its products, such as QuickBooks. As you’re working, QuickBooks searches the social media sphere to find discussions on the area of the application you’re struggling with.

CoolShift from measuring impressions to growing connections – Consumer products such as Pepsi fall into the cycle of watching interest in their product go up and down with each marketing campaign. Shoot out a ton of advertising get lots of impressions. Stop the advertising and the interest falls away. Josh Karpf, Manager, Digital Media at PepsiCo wanted to move away from this yo-yo effect and to the gradual upward slope of growing your audience. To acheive this, here are some projects they tried that helped in building connections with their audience.

  • To promote Pepsi’s logo Pepsi sent cans with different designs from over the decades to 25 influential bloggers and invited them to a Friendfeed room to engage in conversation.
  • One person tried to fake Pepsi’s official Twitter handle (@PepsiCo) by following everyone interested in Pepsi and it caused a lot of confusion as to which was the official Pepsi account. Pepsi made a public statement and Twitter ID’ed the fake Pepsi handle and shut it down.
  • Podcast playground at SXSW – At must meet events such as SXSW in Austin, TX, Pepsi created a studio where bloggers and podcasters were able to record their podcast and have an experience with the Pepsi brand.
  • Track trends at SXSW – Showed visualizations of conversations on Twitter for others to see at the event.
  • Hired video bloggers at SXSW

For more, check out Renee Blodgett’s write up as well. She covered a few sessions I wasn’t able to attend.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Yolton June 24, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Hi David – As the SAP presenter, thank you for the feedback – both the recognition of the cool and the advice on not-so-cool. Although I hesitate to make an excuse for my deficiencies, some of the density of the slides is meant to help people afterwards, via detail, as soon as the slides are posted and shared.

Mark Yolton

David Spark June 24, 2009 at 2:34 pm


It’s great that you provide some content afterwards, but I’ll be brutally honest with you, it was far too distracting to have all that much text WHILE you were presenting. Honestly, I had a hard time concentrating on what you were saying and I didn’t know what your points were.

Also, people don’t READ PowerPoint presentations and slides. And I know you also mentioned that you were going to put your presentation up on SlideShare. With all that text shrunk down, it’s probably going to come out as six point type.

My recommendation is to actually write a summary ARTICLE of everything and provide that link or maybe even hard copies after the event. It’s what I do when I present. You can find all my articles here:

My PowerPoint presentations are always just headlines and the articles have complete details.

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