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Alumni Gain Insight on Using Social Media to Reach Customers

September 29, 2010
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Wharton The best way to stay on top of social media is to be on it and doing it.  What a smart marketer needs to do is both increase the number of positive interactions and muffle the sources of negative information. That, according to a blue ribbon panel of social media experts speaking to alumni of the UM School of Business and other top business schools at a gathering at the UM School of Architecture this month. Tellingly, the panelists agree there is no such person as a social media expert.  

“[Social media] is rapidly changing,” said Bruce Turkel, a panelist and CEO of South Florida advertising agency Turkel. “No-one can keep up.”

Turkel was joined on the panel by Jacques Hart, the CEO of Roar Media, a national public relations and digital-communications consultancy; Eric Bradlow, the K.P. Chao Professor, editor-in-chief of Marketing Science, vice-dean and director of Wharton Doctoral Programs, and co-director of the Wharton Interactive Media Initiative; and Alex de Carvalho, an adjunct professor at the University of Miami and the founder of StartPR, an online tracking service for reputation management, blogger relations, and brand monitoring.

Markets must to decide what to say when using social media, according to the experts. They said the barter for good word-of-mouth and a positive social media relationship can range from information to coupons. 

“What niche will a business carve out?  What will they stand for?” asked Hart.

The experts were brought to UM by the Wharton Club of South Florida, which has partnered with the School of Business and other area business school alumni clubs on similar events over the past year.

Building an online brand experience differs in every situation, agreed the panelists.  Every business has different goals and a different target audience. The idea, according to Hart, is to build a consumer-brand relationship based on quality customer and user experiences, incorporating innovative ideas, quantitative analysis and effective communication.  If one company is successful in allowing all of its employees to use Twitter, that doesn’t mean it will be successful for another company.

Corporations that are not monitoring what consumers are saying about them online are wasting money on advertising, said the panelists.  One unsatisfied customer reaching out to his or her social network and complaining about a product or service can influence more people than a million dollar commercial could.  The key in this arena is to find the influencers and reach out to them. 

“Marketing used to be about interruption, now it’s about interception,” said Turkel.  “Positive chatter may not help you, but negative chatter can hurt you.”

The panelists added that a high-powered statistical approach towards valuing the effectiveness of interactive marketing could help as well.  This approach includes unique analyses of data to determine which ads should be shown and how to target pricing, based on customers’ online behavior.

“Data is the best form of intuition”, said Bradlow.

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