I must say they are a small operation, but apparently, they have produced some quality events around the city due to their access to knowledgeable experts in digital media.
The panel on Thursday was a chat with Saul Colt of www.saul.is and Sarah Prevette from www.sprouter.com , a website/community for small business entrepreneurs.
Saul is the self-professed, "Smartest Man in the World" and is an award winning Word of Mouth Marketer. He's also known as a Social Media Expert and is based in Canada. He started the "Smartest Man in the World" blog about 5 years ago and has been gaining notoriety as an expert in the Social Media business community.
The most interesting part of the evening was the debate between Saul and Sarah when they discussed the impact of community managers and their impact on the brands that they represent. For instance, as we discussed in class, they addressed the issues of 1) what happens when a community manager leaves the brand and 2) Can 1 person represent more than on 1 brand as a community manager.
Sarah's opinion was that when a community manager with a large following on FB/Twitter leaves, i.e Zappos.com for instance, the company impact could be negative. However, Saul countered by saying its not so much that the company will suffer, it's just that relationships with people that matters. He didn't think that a person leaving the company would affect the relationship with the brand, but the next person that takes the role must go in and continue to deliver the brand promise. I happen to agree. Your own personal brand is what is also established in these roles -and I think if a customer likes Jet Blue or Zappos-they wouldn't discard their affinity for the brands because of a Community Manager leaving the company.
Additionally, the point was raised as to whether or not a Community Manager could represent more than one brand. Sarah's expressed that if someone were to manage multiple brands at once as a commnity manager, then they lose all credibility. Sal's didn't feel that was the case -because people can be passionate about more than one brand-unless its a competitor-which is a no-brainer, he didn't truly see a problem in it.
Other highlights of the evening was Saul's philosophy of really creating unique experiences through offline events that are then discussed online. In Essence, the real value of WOM (Word Of Mouth Marketing) is to create those unique experiences first-and then drive the conversation about those experiences via social media. He provided a case study on Freshbooks.com -a manufacturer of invoices-and how they stood out in a genuine, authentic and crafty way as a trade show by designing their booth to be a replica of the Banana Stand on the TV show Arrested Development. The conversation happened after people saw the display. The difference in getting people to talk after is just being proactive and giving them the tools in advance to talk about it.
To date, we've heard and seen quite a few case studies of online driving to offline experiences-this was a refreshing twist and example of executing in the opposite by producing events/experiences first and then the discussion happening online post event. The premise is that really people are still interested in establishing meaningful connections offline and we should use this to our advantage when creating online communities.