I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Lee from Miltton – a communications and public relations consultancy based here in Helsinki.
A communications consultant with a rich pedigree in Social Media, Stephen has been very involved in the early development of EzyInsights from a Digital and PR perspective. We discussed at some length his take on Social Media and how companies are adopting it as part of their community management and relationship marketing channels. Here are some of the highlights.
JB: What is Miltton’s connection with Social Media?
SL: In general, one of the very interesting things that you’ll note about Miltton is that we are not a technology company; we’re not a digital marketing company. We’re a PR and communications company. Increasingly, Social Media becomes a part of the mix that we have to use along with all kinds of other technology.
We do PR, press releases, management of communications for companies, annual reports, sustainability reports, public affairs, all these different types of things. Social Media, for us, is one of the channels we have to use in order to support those functions and has become part of our main role as a company. PR has changed from just being public relations to public relationships. We found, from our point of view, that the best way to use Social Media is in a way to build relationships through savvy community management.
JB: You’re obviously on top of this, are other companies picking up on it?
SL: Yes, they have to. The truth is, they feel forced to. Marketing is all about pushing your message, making sure people see your message. They don’t understand that Social Media is not a channel through which they can just push their messages and that’s it.
JB: You mention marketing there. How do find the mix between building relationships and marketing?
SL: Marketing is about pushing your message. PR and communications is more about having relationships with the people who might be listening to your message, or the people who influence the people who listen to your message. You need to be able to make marketing very accessible, easy to find, easy to share. But you also need the oil in between and I use the example of taking people to golf or sauna.
We don’t take people to sauna and talk about our marketing message and then throw water on the stones until they buy. What we do is go into the sauna, spend a lot of time talking (and drinking beer). Why?
We do that so we build a relationship and when this person is ready to buy, or they know someone who is, that persons says: “You know, I know these people that have a product that can solve your problem” and they send you a referal! If you don’t have community relationships it becomes harder to make the sale. It all becomes based on price.
It’s about building the relationship first. It’s about having an organic and real relationship over the long term. If we use Social Media in this way, in the same way we use it between our friends using Facebook or Twitter, we really have things going on – we have real relationships.
My vision for marketing is that it’s going to be something that gives you all the information you need once you’re ready to see that product, rather than being something that’s pushed in your face.
JB: On how to build relationships, is there a difference between an established company or a company just starting off, on Facebook or other Social platforms?
SL: It’s a bit of chicken and egg thing because if you don’t have a community then you don’t have anyone to talk about yourself and you probably don’t have any good content either. When you start out the company has to be very honest about who they are, what they have to offer, and what they want to talk about. They have to have some kind of leg to stand on with regards to whatever it is they’re going to talk about.
It can be unrelated, but they have to have a reason for “why”. They also in the beginning share other people’s content so it doesn’t feel like marketing. If they find things they agree with, think that are cool, it’s going to give you people who care and are interested in you.
JB: What are the common misconceptions you hear when you talk to companies about Social Media?
SL: People think that Social Media is just another channel to push your message through. This is probably the biggest misconception. How do I get the message through this channel? That’s the wrong question to be asking, that’s not what you should be thinking about: yet that’s what people do.
Second, Social Media is a platform to build and manage relationships. You have to ask yourself what’s the value of a relationship marketing to my brand or company? Are relationships valuable? If they’re not, then don’t worry about Social Media.
People judge the success of Social Media by the number of likes or fans that they have on their page, or followers on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Even the numbers of views on a video. In reality it should be about analysing how people react to your content on social media, the comments they are making, discussions they are having, likes and interactions they are performing. This let’s you know what you’re doing right (and wrong) and enables you to guide your actions with context – to make more people engage with you.
Watch out for more common Social Media and Relationship Marketing misconceptions as well as more thoughts from Stephen in the next blog post.