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AIMA Social SIG Event: Live Blog Coverage

EverSpark’s CEO Jason Hennessey, Project Manager Alyssa Rodriguez and I are at the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association’s (AIMA) Social Special Interest Group (SIG) networking event about “The Trials and Tribulations of Managing your Brand’s Social Presence.” Moderated by Teresa Caro of R Dialogue, a loyalty and strategy company, the event is centered on networking (and eating wonderful food courtesy of the Atlanta Fish Market in Buckhead) and learning about branding your business on the social networking platforms. To keep up with the live blog coverage and the points being made throughout this event, you can view the slideshow here.

AIMA Social SIG event

Two panelists, Bianca Buckridee of SunTrust and Jake Aull, an instructor at Georgia State University, are speaking about the importance of listening to your clients on social platforms. Around 50 people are here to listen to what the panelists have to say.

Social SIG event (AIMA)

Bianca and Jake. You can tweet them at @blatantlyBianca and @jakeaull or tweet us at @EverSparkSEO.

The first thing we cover is, ironically, what we wont be covering: we are avoiding the topic of Google + or Facebook and Skype integration. This is a topic for another time.

Social SIG event (AIMA)

The dynamic group of marketers who are at this event to learn how to “listen” through social media.

Teresa introduces the topic

First, Teresa shows us a technology roadmap created after a review of over 200 content technology, enterprise level social software solutions. This roadmap, she says, emphasizes the fact that when creating a social presence and using technology to manage it, you have to

start with a plan, and you need a strategy before you start thinking about technology. Put your plan together first. Then she shows an infographic, which you can find on This is a type of “mind map” of what you need to think about when engaging socially.

There are several things to keep in mind when thinking about this “mind map:” You need to create content as a brand. Where will that live? What technology will host that? How will you communicate with your audience and all the different ways you can engage with your customers?  Remember that your social media needs to be integrated with your website, email and traditional online media efforts. How does that work together? Also, it is important to promote any videos you make through the social space. Teresa notes that there is no one size fits all technology for social management yet; there are a lot of different programs with different core expertise. To pick one, you have to figure out what fits your needs.

To figure out your needs, you need to build out your requirements and find a balance among what IT wants  (privacy, security, IP protection, and compliance), what you want (something easy to work with that increases efficiency) and what you both want (which is reliability, scalability and sustainability). Balance these needs and team up to find the best solution for you.

Bianca’s presentation

Bianca is with SunTrust, and she manages their Twitter account, @AskSunTrust. She describes how she came to have this position. It was a “happy accident.” She was recruited in 2009 to manage communications for the fraud team. She joined Twitter and found the search button, entered SunTrust, and saw that many people were having conversations, both consisting of praise and of criticism, about the brand. But the brand was not there. She felt that SunTrust needed to join the conversation, so she built a business case for creating a SunTrust social media presence to present to her superiors.

SunTrust’s branding at the time that Bianca was doing this was “seeing behind money.” However, people weren’t resonating with the commercials, and most even hated them for their creepiness (you remember these, where Ben Franklin’s money head is on a dancing body). Around the same time, the economy began imploding, which created a moment of truth for SunTrust. This is a moment, Bianca explains, when you know that the brand has to make a change or risk falling behind the competitors. So, SunTrust decided to make a change and alter their marketing strategy. The company got a new chief marketing officer, who brought in 3 or 4 ad agencies to change “seeing beyond money” to a new slogan that still persists today: “Live Solid Bank Solid.” This slogan resonated with people, and led to the creation of, where people can engage in conversations about finances, tools, articles, and use financial calculators. Another change occurred when the CMO hired Bianca to create and maintain the company Facebook page and Twitter feed because she had pointed out that clients were asking u questions online, and the company should be responding to these inquiries. This is how the Twitter account @AskSunTrust was born. Bianca adds, “Every good conversation starts with good listening.”


So how did she do it? She started with Grassroots approach, using Google alerts and Twitter advanced search. She took snapshots of what clients were saying, categorized which part of business it went to; then she strategized about how each team should respond. When she entered the setting up phase, she invites the stakeholders within the organization to participate in the  process so they could understand and have a sense of ownership in the brand’s social media presence as well. Bianca noticed what kinds of questions the clients had and invited legal and stakeholders to the table. After spending about 8 weeks listening to clients, these leaders within the company began to see how their decisions were impacting clients at the point of sale, and saw what prospective clients wanted from the company. This changed SunTrust internally, and moved the brand in a very positive direction.

Bianca started tweeting under @AskSunTrust in under 3 months. There was so much volume that SunTrust had to open Facebook page. Now, the company’s social media presence requires not only the monitoring of Bianca, but also that of 4 people under her (and they are ready to hire a 5th). She says that the most important thing to think about is, “What is your service delivering?”

What you want to do as a brand (especially a large one), she adds, is deliver something that is consistent across teams, but also make sure that people don’t try to bypass the system by engaging you on Twitter.

Then Bianca talks about how she expanded her strategy via “Live Solid Bank Solid,” which she made a part of her social media strategy. There is Live Solid Web, @livesolid and a Live Solid Facebook page. For client service inquiries, there is  @asksuntrust. @suntrust on the other hand, and Sun Trust Facebook are more general areas for conversation about the company. She adds that these can be scary, because they are so public. When people post criticism on the Facebook page, for instance, all the company can do is address it, or rely on “brand advocates,” who will jump in and defend SunTrust if someone is saying that, for instance, it is the worst bank ever.

Lastly, Bianca talks about how “shift happens” within every enterprise. What is important is learning how to interact and adapt online. You have to know how to manage the content writing process (especially when interacting with multiple lines of business) which you are syndicating across the social networks. Knowing how to share a story is key when you are implementing a social media presence. For instance, when responding to a frustrated client on Twitter, you have to figure out the best way to respond, share it as a story within the company and then turn it into a positive as a story for the rest of your Twitter followers. It is also important for every member of the team to review conversation histories when dealing with returning customers. Bianca refers to the process as sharing with “internal” (SunTrust employees, some of which don’t love Twitter) and “external” (actual clients) clients. You have to find a resolution that both satisfies the customer and that is understood and acted upon internally. Her most adamant advice is to be fearless, but to craft a crisis management plan. Get your stakeholders in a room every 6 months to map out worst case scenarios and what to do when you are experiencing an attack on your company within social media, or when something goes wrong and you have to address on Twitter or Facebook.

Bianca talks about a recent crisis where SunTrust was pulling payments twice – right before Father’s Day.  This was a moment of truth for the brand, when the impressions on Twitter and Facebook tripled because they went straight to social media to see what was going on. They went to these places because SunTrust had established their proactive presence online. This way, the team was able to alert the rest of the company to the problem and how people were responding to it.

She says when you have a social presence, you can just go into Twitter when something happens, and see lots of comments when the “you know what” hits the fan. When you see numerous dissatisfied clients on Facebook and Twitter, you have to respond on social media, noting how sorry you are and how you are working to rectify the situation.

Four questions are asked of Bianca when she is finished speaking:

Q: What do you think the success stories were from an organizational standpoint to get buy-ins from social media perspective for departments?

A: The most impactful thing is seeing actual client feedback being posted online. This helps you put yourself in clients shoes and shift from a traditional business perspective and promotes a client first mentality. Putting yourself in your clients’ shoes can seriously change a business’s perspective.  For instance, Bianca adds, the SunTrust team was able to partner with the mobile team, who wanted to use the feedback from social media and reprioritize enhancements. This is because they saw what clients wanted, not what they thought the clients wanted.

Q:  How do you protect the brand? What’s your policy about allowing employees to post for the brand? (EverSpark CEO Jason asks this one!)

A: Be responsible about how you represent the brand; find a responsible way to do it and build a framework. When she first started the Twitter, if you were authorized to represent the brand in social media, you could; now, SunTrust is trying to roll-out the ability to teammates because they want to build business for SunTrust. You have to be careful, she cautions, because if you share something benign to the normal observer, it can really bring the brand down (she mentions the Dominoes fiasco, where a posted YouTube video cost the company 1 or 2 percent of its annual revenue). She mentions that she watches how the Insurance Industry maintains their voice through multiple perspectives, but circles back to how, in the highly regulated banking industry, you can’t discuss clients online or anything of the sort, so you have to have some sort of social media policy.

Q: How do you work with your SunTrust racing team and other sponsorships where there is a social presence?

A: These are separate pages and feeds, because they are passionate about what they do and do their own thing.

Q: Do you have any idea how many of the media are following you on Twitter and Facebook page?

A: We don’t have numbers, but the AJC reviewed the Twitter timeline and Facebook page and contacted corporate communications for a statement during ACH issue. So, everything posted is essentially SunTrust making a statement. As a brand, you have a responsibility to be honest, transparent and say “this is what is going on, we messed up, this is how we are working to repair it.”

Now, it’s Jake’s turn

Jake discusses “Social Media Listening; Digital Audits and Monitoring.” You can find his blog here. His slides are chock full of information, so remember to check them out here.

Jake starts off by discussing the fact that listening is a vital component for brands utilizing social media. You have to pay attention to what customers are saying in the marketplace, and then react. Always listen before you talk.

He points out that companies can’t just establish a community and expect people to visit it.  You have to find the people who are already talking about your industry and listen to what they are saying. He points some questions out that you should ask yourself: What are you most hoping for in social media and listening approach? What are other bloggers in industry saying? What are competitors saying?

Next he covers how you should construct your Digital Research and Monitoring Plan and how to measure increases in social/search effects (brand awareness). Listen for how to measure these increases: you want people talking positively about you, and you want to see the positive chatter increase. He provides some tools for doing so.

Next, we discuss “Measuring Brand Loyalty.” Some good thing to listen for include social mentions, retweets within brands, recommendations customers make within brands. HootSuite is good to use for this measuring. Look for increases in joins, chatter, and up-sales. SEO Book Tools are great for seeing what is being mentioned with keywords you are interested in.

Next, Jake discusses content strategy questions to ask yourself when branding your online content, like what terms do you want to own? Listening helps you identify these questions, gives you input for building a true content strategy. You can find out what kind of content your customers are seeking, then you can go in and begin dialogues with those customers.

He discusses his studies of social Media objectives and approaches (see the slideshow for this important information), which “analyzes how social media channels relate to our traditional perceptions and how we can maximize those with objectives.” He also talks about recent efforts to trace sentiments, as in, what people mean when they say certain things on Twitter. Right now, use your human capabilities, he advises, to get a feel for how people view your company via their Tweets. A good place to start researching this would be searching “Love (your brand)” and “Hate (your brand)” to see what people are saying. It all comes down to listening and getting a feel for how people are talking about you, and then joining their conversation to either change their negative thoughts or maintain their positive thoughts.

With that valuable advice, the talking portion of the event ends, and the audience goes back to networking and eating their delicious chocolate desserts.

Social SIG event (AIMA)

This was the main course. We almost took pictures of the dessert, but we had all eaten it before we had a chance.


Any questions, praise or criticisms? Want more information about this event or about EverSpark live blogging? Tweet us at @EverSparkSEO or visit our Facebook page!