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Experts extol virtues of social media to captivated AMA audience

May 5, 2011
For more information, contact Bob Luder at 816.501.2434.

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KANSAS CITY, Mo - - Three heavy hitters in the business/marketing world spent more than two hours explaining the process and extolling the virtues of social media to about 300 captivated professionals and students during the American Marketing Association Annual Seminar, held May 3 in Goppert Theatre on the campus of Avila University.

Yet, in the end, it was a piece of advice to young job seekers and those trying to work their way up the corporate ladder, offered by Facebook regional marketing director Brad Keown, that resonated deepest among the nuggets of wisdom offered throughout the morning.

"Know that you're not entitled to (anything)," Keown told the crowd, which responded with a bit of nervous laughter, but knew he was dead serious. "If there's a problem, make sure you have a solution."

That lightning bolt of wisdom came at the end of the seminar. All the discussion prior to that focused on how social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Café Mom, which was represented by senior director of sales innovation and marketing solutions, Jonathan Busky, is used in overall marketing and sales strategy.

"Clearly, social media is the new frontier," panel mediator John Holt said to open the program, and the subsequent discussion bolstered that view. Even e-mail was painted as obsolete, as Keown pointed out only 11 percent of marketers use that form of communication today.

Panelist Randall Brown, global director of digital strategy for Gatorade, said his company has an entire six-person unit, called "Mission Control" and located smack in the middle of the company's corporate headquarters, dedicated to nothing but social media and its uses within every segment of the company. Gatorade is approaching 4 million friends on Facebook, Brown said.

"Connect, share, discuss," Brown said. "That's what it's all about. Whether you're engaging or not, consumers are. It's all about anchoring your brand and the values of what your brand is all about."

His own company aside, Brown said he admired the work of energy drink Red Bull in its social media content.

"Red Bull has an amazing quantity of content," Brown said. "They keep a running, open dialogue to what Red Bull life is like. They have a narrow product and use, but a broad conversation."

A lighter moment during the conversation occurred when Busky related the story of how an employee of a cable company once fell asleep on a customer's couch during a service call, but that company was able to quickly repair its reputation through use of social media.

Keown, who was making his second appearance at an AMA seminar in three years, compared the differences between social media and conventional media to that of bowling and pinball. With old-fashioned media, you target the bowling pins with your information and try knocking them all down. Not so in pinball, where the ball stays alive for a longer period of time before being re-launched.

"Like pinball, information gets thrown all around," he said, "but eventually, it comes back to the product."

All three panelists agreed that it was more difficult for small businesses to differentiate themselves in the massive sea of dialogue floating through the Web-o-sphere. But, it's far from impossible.

"Open a dialogue with your (customer) base about your product," Brown said, but quickly cautioned, "but if you're not ready to act on it, then you shouldn't get in."

Keown came back several times to the one thing he felt was most important marketing a business, whether on Facebook or anywhere else.

"The key thing is to be authentic," he said. "Inform, entertain and sell. Be who you are and give an authentic representation of your product."

Keown said, as hot as social media is today, he thought there remained room for massive growth, especially in the marketing sector. He said that, while the Web is 30 percent of media consumption, use of it in marketing is between just 7-8 percent. Facebook is constantly looking at ways to move that needle forward, he said. Opportunities especially abound in the area of mobile phone applications.

"We think everything is better with friends," he said.

As has become custom, Avila directly benefited from the event in the form of a $1,500 grant from AMA-KC. The check was presented from Avila marketing professor and former AMA-KC president Brian Buckler to Charlene Gould, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.



Avila University is a private, co-educational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.