Beauty 2.0 in NYC

New York City has some of the best venues to host a networking event.  Find a cool location and combine with an interesting topic (Beauty 2.0) and what do you have?  The  makings of a really creative and collaborative night.  That’s exactly what happened on Tuesday, November 9th. Beauty industry professionals, media and bloggers met at CultureFix in SoHo to discuss and share ideas about the beauty industry landscape and social media communications.  The program was organized by @myskininc, a resource for unbiased skincare advice. From the funky atmosphere, unique artwork and a great group of people who were eager to talk social media, I thought the night was a success.

I spoke for about 15 to 20 minutes on PR 2.0 and how to put the Pubic the Public Back in Public Relations.  When I arrived at the event, I immediately noticed that one piece of art hanging on the gallery wall was a black canvas and in cut out letters were two words, “Serious Business.”  The perfect start to a discussion on social media.  I asked a volunteer from the group to stand up and to say the words on the canvas after I said, “Social Media is….” And she said, “Serious Business.”  We started out on the ROI topic and ended there as well.  As much as the discussion covered a lot of ground, I wanted to share one of my favorite questions that night.   The question was, “What should I look for in an agency, if I need social media help and how should they be advising me, or should I do it in-house?”

Because social media is serious business…my best advice for any brand, large, medium or small is to work with an agency that understands your needs, why you want to participate in social media communications (what are you trying to achieve through social outreach and engagement) and clearly works with you to maximize the resources you have in-house.  An agency is an extension of your communications department, and, therefore, should not be draining on your time or your budget.  Agencies should enhance and support your efforts.

A lot of the initial work in social media begins with your monitoring or listening strategy (and it will continue for as long as you communicate through social channels).  Your agency should start with an exercise to identify exactly where and why you should engage based on the conversations going on in different social networks.  A full audit, using keywords, should be conducted, so that your brand knows: if it’s already being discussed, if you are capturing any share of voice as compared to your competitors and to get a good snapshot of your brand sentiment. Many are surprised to learn that the conversations are already going on; whether it’s your customers, partners or even employees in your company who are chatting about you. You’d be surprised at the number of mentions, even before you start your official participation.

In other cases, there may be no conversations that mention your brand, products or services, but your keywords will uncover related conversations regarding your industry. It’s important to key into these conversations and watch them for opportunities to participate.  Engagement in the right place, with the right people, can lead to thought leadership, brand awareness, stronger relationships with constituents, coverage from journalists and bloggers, and helping your customers directly to answer their questions and/or concerns.

Your agency, as you are collectively working together on strategy and planning, should also be thinking about a good social media policy.  A well crafted policy for your employees will help them to understand why it’s important to be responsible and respect your brand in conversations and to also realize the value that social media can bring to the organization.  Social media policies should guide your employees on how they should participate and call out the best practices in their interactions.

Of course, you may see legal language in your policy that, depending on your industry and the type of participation, will cover intellectual property, privacy, defamation, and confidentiality to name a few areas, as well as linking to other globally developed policies created by your organization. Your agency will also work with you on a public social media policy that discusses how the public can participate with you on your blogs and/or other social media sites.

Polices are meant to encourage participation, and as Kodak discusses in it’s social media guideline, policies are really to protect the reputation and privacy of the brand, as well as the people.  This is the one voice policy and an excellent one to reference with respect to well written guidelines and if you’re looking for a more “people-friendly” type of resource.

As a part of strategy and planning, your agency should be able to recommend the best tools, tactics and resources for you to use when you are ready to implement your program.  Sometimes the tools and tactics are free resources that flow on the web, and at other times they will be the paid for services depending on your funding.  Here’s where their knowledge and use of technology really comes in handy. Because your agency should have already evaluated your budget they will know based on your resources, if they are training you to do your own social media outreach and managing communications, or if this is more of joint effort.

I recommend that agencies and brands work together.  I’ve seen excellent results when the brand remains involved in all communications and in social media, you can’t just let someone else participate for you.  It’s important that you are there and so are your employees, engaging directly.  Your agency will continue to counsel you strategically on what type of content your public needs from you and how to integrate your communications.  They will listen carefully on your behalf and use the information to enhance programs and manage your reputation.  The agency will be instrumental in the measurement of your social media engagement.  Lastly, they will continue to open new doors for you to participate with key influencers and help you to build stronger relationships with your customers.

Beauty 2.0 was a creative and informative event with a great group of people.  I can tell just by the post event conversations that social media is not being taken lightly and we can agree that “Social Media (for any industry) is Serious Business.”

Check out the link to the slideshow from the Beauty 2.0 event