So I probably should have got round to writing this last week, but seeing as I’m STILL mentioning Social Media Influence in about 90% of my conversations, I’ve decided it does warrant a post.

Social Media Influence 2010 was held at London’s Marriott Hotel on June 22nd. An all day conference, it was interesting because, for the most part, it wasn’t simply a lot of people saying ‘isn’t social media great?’ (although there was some of that.) We know social media is great, we wouldn’t be here otherwise. There was some real insight from global brands such as Starbucks, Pepsico and Dell, alongside discussion panels and Q&A sessions.

The main thing that I took away from the day was that brands and agencies need to be prepared to take risks. Social media is new; the rules haven’t been defined so it’s not always about following the tried and tested. Think big, think new: most of the time your ambition will be respected, even if the results aren’t what you hoped for. Starbucks in the States has built a reputation for being one of the most forward thinking brands globally – they’ve pioneered mayor offers and badges on foursquare, organised a global sing-along on YouTube and built a massive community along the way. How many sales have they generated directly from social media? (This was a question on the day). They’re not sure, but at this level of exposure, it’s not really the point: the intangible brand value of being seen as an innovator is huge.

Having the support to take risks in social media comes from making the tools, platforms and activities an integral part of all of your activity. Stakeholders love the immediacy of social media interaction and (sometimes) the results. Pepsico has tapped into this by creating a social media war room – a physical bank of computers and screens that sits in the middle of the office, providing live updates from its brands’ social media pages. Social media is THERE, in-your-face, the buzz of the activity clear for everyone to see. Check it out for yourself here. There are risks and implications in going down this route, but social media isn’t about being perfect, it’s about being good, and Pepsico are demonstrating that perfectly.

Ultimately, being bold and brave will bring rewards, but it might bring a little bit of egg on your face. It’s nothing to be afraid of; you’ll often learn more from an unsuccessful campaign than you will from an award winning one. Key phrase of the day? It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission. So what are you waiting for?

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