I am probably one of the few individuals who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and only heads to Los Angeles during Forrester's annual Marketing Leadership Forum.  I recently had the opportunity to visit Los Angeles for the second time and, just like last year,  did not venture too far from my hotel.  I have yet to experience the true LA "scene" or even get a glimpse of an actor, musician or sports star!  But the highlight of my annual trip to LA is having the opportunity to completely immerse myself in various discussions with fellow marketers (yes, I still consider myself a marketer at heart!).  Who needs to see Ozzy Osbourne's Jessica Simpson's mansion in Beverly Hills when  I get to mingle with the real "stars" who are the clients,  attendees, vendors and Forrester employees who participate in the Marketing Leadership Forum with such passion?


For those of you who did not make it to LA this year,  you are in luck.  I find that one of the most valuable and insightful aspects of the event are the many conversations that take place in the conference rooms, hallways and restaurants. Last week, I had over twenty meetings with marketers from all types of companies, including B2B, B2C, SMB and Enterprise.  I heard their social marketing challenges and their best practices.  I heard their social marketing questions and their observations.  I heard about what keeps them up at night and what keeps them motivated. Social marketing was a "hot" topic at the event last week and my conversations with marketers reflected the following five themes:


Brand.  One can not have a conversation about social media without addressing the impact it has on a company's brand.  After all,  individuals' perceptions of a brand are shaped by conversations and interactions that take place across social media channels. The questions marketers had on this topic included:  

·         How to respond to Tweets or Facebook posts that go negatively viral

·         How to react to negative reviews on Yelp and other review sites 

·         How to ensure that employees understand the do's and don'ts of social media and share the same brand "voice" on social channels

·         How to create social strategies that tie together disparate products/services


Content.   Content is the heart and soul of every marketing strategy so it was naturally the heart and soul of just about every conversation I had with marketers last week, which included:

·         How to manage the overwhelming volume of content needed for social media channels

·         How to determine what types of content are appropriate for Twitter vs Facebook vs LinkedIn

·         How to turn online conversations into "content"

·         How to best manage and track social media content within an organization.


Verticals.  If you work in a regulated industry like finance or healthcare, you need specialized social marketing strategies.  This year,  I had more conversations with financial services marketers than ever before.  Here are the top things that were on their minds:

·         How to effectively use social on their home page

·         The challenge of getting customers to talk with each other on financial social media channels

·         The challenge of getting customers to share info or post updates on financial social media channels 

·         Where to build a B2B presence on social networks, like LinkedIn.


Depth Marketing.  As my colleague Nate Elliott stated in this blog post,  depth marketing channels tell your product's story.  Depth marketing includes social tactics and technologies that are incorporated on a company's home page so individuals can explore a brand's products and services, like ratings/reviews and online communities.  I had multiple conversations with marketers on depth marketing, including:

·         The  differences between B2B and B2C social marketing "depth" strategies

·         How to engage with influencers and get them to participate in the brand's owned online community

·         The benefits of owned communities vs the benefits of social networks

·         The evolution of the static corporate website to a dynamic community hub


Innovation.  Innovation was the underlying theme across all my conversations.  When it comes to social marketing innovation, marketers are thinking about:

·         Technologies that make it easier for track and measure results from their social marketing efforts

·         New ways to engage with the perpetually-connected customer

·         Taking an outside-in approach

·         How small and medium businesses can implement innovative campaigns without a large budget

·         New and creative ways to identify and engage with influencers


Do these themes align with your social marketing themes this year?  Please share what is on the top of your mind and I will address the most popular topic(s) in a future blog post!