Commentary

Just An Online Minute... A Soft(drink) Start To Social Media Week, Sponsored By Pepsi!

Branding the Future with Social Engagement, Sponsored by Pepsi Refresh, The Paley Center for Media, New York February 1, 2010

This morning I was running ahead of schedule for my first panel of Social Media Week New York. On the way, I saw a new New York moment in the form of two dudes in hip waders breaking up fountain ice. There is always something new to be found in the city of New York. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about panels focusing on branding through social media. Let me turn off my curmudgeon button temporarily and share with you "Branding The Future With Social Engagement, Sponsored by Pepsi Refresh." Pepsi Refresh is a do gooder project collecting ideas from people, businesses, and nonprofits that will positively impact their communities and then, through user voting, Pepsi will award grants to the brightest bulbs.

Adweek's Digital Editor and this morning's moderator, Brian Morrissey, was the last to arrive, swooshing into the room in his puffy coat and mountain-man beard. He and the other panelists settled into their chairs to a room chomping on bagels, fruit, and muffins that included Tina Shoulders, viral marketing and fashion instructor at FIT and designer at Laidback; Ruben Quinones, Senior Account Manager at Path Interactive; Tom Chernail, Principal at DigComm; Nichelle Stephens, Community Editor, PepsiWeInspire.com; and Karen Levine of Triple Play Consulting.

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Let's break it down. The panelists know how to use "transparency" in a sentence. Max Schorr, Co-founder of GOOD, Inc. is not afraid to wear cornflower blue pants, and thinks the big, exciting trend in social media right now is doing good while being relevant. Lauren Hobart, Chief Marketing Officer of Sparkling Brands for Pepsi-Cola North America Beverages, wakes up every morning inspired by engagement and wants "people to be completely excited and completely engaged [in Pepsi Refresh] and ... make a positive impact in the world." And Fabio Freyre, Vice President at Facebook, could school everyone in a game of social media buzzword bingo: social graph, transparency, engagement, Bingo!

Brian Morrissey's Twitter self is a little different from his moderator self. I was ready, finger stretches completed, to set fire to my laptop with his non filtered drilling. However, his line of questioning was pretty gentle, with a few "eitherwayers" thrown in, on which the panel just didn't bite.

What I did find refreshing (pardon the pun) is how open PepsiCo was (you're welcome, Bonin), to launching Pepsi Refresh, where the users supply the ideas and the users decide where the money goes. It sounds like there was little contention. According to Hobart there was debate around success metrics, but when isn't there? The result was "We want to want to bring it on - no risk, no reward."

Lauren brought up a great point that I see overlooked constantly: the role of social media in internal corporate communications. "You guys probably don't care about this," she stamped on the disclaimer, "but in the microcosm of a social network, the effect this has had on the employees is incredible. It has had a huge impact on morale." I wanted to go all Arsenio Hall woof woof. With all of this "putting it out there" is anyone "putting it in there"? Looks like PepsiCo is.

The audience delivered some zingers, asking about measurements and getting the "we've got scorecards, complicated scorecards" answer that says to me that even though social media is all about sharing, no one wants to share. I remember being taught by my marketing professor that one of the most important things you can do is learn from others -- to find a campaign/person/whatever and benchmark them. IT is hard as hell to benchmark anyone outside of execution and creative in social media because no one is sharing. Without getting long-winded (I'm already there!), this means either no one knows, someone knows IT, or it's just so varied from brand to brand and campaign to campaign that success metrics are what you make it. I guess at the end of the year, if that product is moved and the profit line is heading up, you just have to make enough noise as a social media manager, planner, or ambassador to get credit as part of the team.

Tina Shoulders asked a great question about youth engagement in Facebook-anchored campaigns potentially waning due to the uptick in parental participation in the social network. Fabio answered, "Pre Super Bowl Sunday there's a very targeted 13 - 17 yr old campaign...and results have never been stronger."

Before I left Paley, I talked with Tom Chernaik from DigComm, a company working with the FTC on a tool to make it easier for bloggers to be open with disclosure when involved with brands, and we agreed that it's almost like the social media ecosystem is reversing again. Every day new privacy choices are becoming available to make us more invisible: the ultimate transparent. Next thing you know, we'll all be at home, watching TV, and not telling anyone about it. Or going to bars and restaurants and not updating the world about how awesome we are. In preparation, I'm going to take a penmanship class to brush up on my letter-writing skills. I also spoke briefly with SocialVibe's Adam Yellin, who I think I bullied back into Flickr.

Onward! Tonight is the opening party and if I'm feeling spunky, I may hit up Digital Somethings, which is billed as VIP, but seriously, I'm invited.

Oh! When I sat down I heard "it's got to be easier to raise chickens than it is to catch dolphins." And for the love of God, it is my goal to find a way to use this as an analogy. If you come forward with your names, strange conversation-havers, I will give you full credit.

Photos from the panel are on Flickr!

ALSO - if you're on Flickr and taking photos at Social Media Week in NY, join the group and share your shots!

Big party/event planned for after Social Media Week? Send invitations to kelly@mediapost.com!

2 comments about "Just An Online Minute... A Soft(drink) Start To Social Media Week, Sponsored By Pepsi!".
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  1. Georgia Cross from Social Media Club Nashville, February 2, 2010 at 3:37 p.m.

    Looks like you are having fun! Wish I could be there. Please keep the info flowing. I love getting the insider info on social media's latest and greatest!

  2. Kelly Samardak from Shortstack Photography, February 3, 2010 at 12:55 p.m.

    Nashville! I'll bet you have the best venue choices and live music for parties out there.

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