By Mark Kersteen - June 18th, 2014

This Monday, we went to Brooklyn. Our destination? Corporate Social Media Summit New York 2014.


After the sun set on this social media cavalcade, we returned home laden with more than just sponsors’ free t-shirts, sunglasses, phone chargers and USB sticks. We left with some fresh insights into the shifting world of social, and we’re about to share them with you. Here they are!We had our expectations—a killer roster of hyper-knowledgeable speakers, a bevy of spot-on topics, lots of Tweeting, all the coffee we could drink—and #CSMNY 2014 exceeded every one.

8 Great Takeaways from Day 1 of CSM NY 2014

8. Social Media Keeps You Honest:

Dan Montanaro, CEO of TradeKing, made this incisive observation at the top of the day. Social media drives accountability. Companies can’t avoid hearing their customers’ complaints by locking up their suggestion boxes anymore. If they’re doing anything that’s not above board, their consumers can take them to task in the online village square, making sure everyone else knows what’s going on. This also means that if companies put out intentionally misleading communications (and these don’t have to be on social, either), there’s no denying or backtracking. Unfortunately, the internet doesn’t have an undo button. Every communication you make on social is on the public record.

However, you also have a public space to disprove rumors, misconceptions and lies that would otherwise fly about unabated. Erin Pepper, Director of Guest Relations at Le Pain Quotidien, later told how she responded to a lying guest on Yelp who claimed they hadn’t been properly reimbursed. Turns out you can’t argue with email screenshots...

7. You Can’t Govern Idiocy:

Bev Thorne, CMO at Century21, Jeff Feldman, Head of Adobe Social Strategy, and Dan Montanaro had a humorous back-and-forth about whether having social media guidelines for your employees that boil down to “don’t be an idiot” are effective. I doubt they meant their comments to be taken seriously, but they underscore an important question: How much can you really regulate your employees on social media? You have to give them plenty of space to act like humans and talk about their interests (and so your regulations boil down to “don’t do anything stupid”). However, one day someone is going to have too many Manmosas at brunch and do something that hurts your brand. Your employees are only people, and gaffes are inevitable. You can’t govern idiocy, but you can expect and prepare for it.


6. Content: It’s Not Just for Consumers

It’s easy to get locked-in on content as something that’s just for consumers because, well, it’s usually for consumers. However, when asked by an audience member about how to help train employees to push different messages on social, Bev Thorne had the unexpected reply: use video. It’s admittedly more expensive in the short term, but a simple two-minute long instructional video that you can send off in a second could save you hundreds of hours spent explaining what hashtags are over email. If you’re investing in content already, think about its wider uses, both externally and internally. We’ve only touched the surface; there’s a whole lot more we can do with written, visual, video and audio content that we haven’t even thought of yet.

5: The Value of Negative Comments:

And we’re not just talking constructive criticism. Chris Krohn, CMO at, made the seemingly paradoxical point that it’s more valuable for your customer to leave a negative comment on social media than to leave no comment at all. How can that be? Well, if you find a negative, you can respond to it. Other customers will see your response. If you can help an unhappy customer when they didn’t expect to be helped, they’ll go out and tell everyone how great you are. If they never left that comment in the first place, they’d just be out there badmouthing you in the real world, which is just as bad but much harder to fix. So you should cherish every Tweet that says your brand “sux”, because at least now you have the chance to prove that your brand does not, in fact, “sux”.

4: A Matter of Time:

If you were at the Summit, you couldn’t have helped but notice that Chris Krohn was on a bit of a roll. The CMO had everyone’s jaws on the carpet when he admitted that his company’s post-meal surveys have a forty-percent response rate, and overwhelmingly contain positive comments. He believes the trick is down to the timing. The email hits customers’ phones just after they’ve paid the check, while they’re licking dessert spoons and sipping Irish coffees. In the afterglow of their delicious evening out, they’re primed to let other people know what a good time they had.

Natanya Anderson, Director of Social Media and Digital Marketing for Whole Foods, made a complementary point during her panel: Only you know your metrics. They found that they get the most views and likes on their posts at 3PM, which goes against pretty much every “Social Media Tips and Tricks” post out there. The conclusion is: find out specifically when your users are active, then target them. Let the “when” guide the “what” and the “how”.CSMNY7

3. Take Your Job Seriously, Not Yourself Seriously.

This was just a straight-up awesome quote from Linda Rutherford, Vice-President of Communications and Strategic Outreach for Southwest Airlines. A lot of brands could improve their voices by taking this onboard. It captures the inherent tension that runs through social media: As a professional marketer, how can you approach a platform that most people use for entertainment and relaxation and still fit in?

2. Actionable Data or Bust:

Natanya also had an excellent suggestion on avoiding data overload. Like all of us, she was deluged with spreadsheets from her team and her agency. She felt unable to even start to get a handle on all the information. So, she cut most of it out. Now, she only asks for and receives reports on data that she can immediately put to use. It’s a working process, with changes and tweaks to the information behind and the layout of these daily, weekly and monthly digests. Each one becomes more specific and more useful. With all the data we now have access to, it’s easy to forget that while information on its own is cheap, good information is invaluable. Sure, you have lots of data, but what are you doing with it?

1. Leave Room for Creativity:

Toni Jones, Social Media Director for U-Haul International, talked a rapt audience through how she came up with an innovative social media-based campaign for the iconic brand. Her social listening found that, while U-Haul was associated with a high amount of negative sentiment online around the stress of moving, lots of people were taking pictures of themselves posing inside or outside the trucks on moving day. This inspired U-Haul to invite their customers to send in pictures of themselves with their trucks. They did, thousands of them. These pictures were then placed among a collage on the trucks themselves, creating another frenzy on social media as people tried to find themselves, then took pictures of themselves with themselves. The campaign had a significant effect on positive sentiment, and was a roaring success. What was the key, according to Toni? This project let consumers be creative. Nothing crazy, nothing involved. Just the act of staging and taking a picture was enough to inspire connection.

Not everyone thinks of themselves as capital-C Creative, but creativity is something everyone is capable of and can enjoy. It only takes a germ of creative input to engage consumers in exciting, surprising ways.


And these are only a fraction of the thoughtful comments, useful insights and enlightening banter we soaked up while at the Summit. We’d definitely suggest you drop by their San Francisco show on September 15th and 16th, or come see them when they’re back in New York again on the 4th and 5th of November. If you're interested in a similar show with a marketing and communications focus, then be sure to check out Incite Summit East on November 12th and 13th!

Photo by Fotolia.


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