Ten Questions Not To Ask A Social Media Panel

 Ever go to one of those panels where most of the answers can be summed up as "it depends," "not sure," or "we're just not there yet"? On one hand, it's a great sign because it means you've stumbled on an honest bunch of panelists. On the other hand, it doesn't make for great sound bites, until a couple panelists talk about stomach ailments and the moderator quips about his fiancée.

I had a great time on a panel this week at OMMA Social, and even more fun networking throughout the event, where everyone shedding layers at the sweltering Yale Club made it feel like the Woodstock of Internet conferences (no free love, though -- just free crab cakes). My fellow panelists and moderator were some of the brightest people I know in this business, but some of the panels wound up addressing the same questions. To keep future panels more exciting, here are ten questions you don't need to ask other panelists about social media, along with the answers you're likely to hear.



1) How are you measuring social media?

Likely answers: "It depends." "It's all about branding." "You can't use the same metrics as you do for other online media campaigns." You can get a list of all the metrics panelists are tracking, but a panel won't have time to address what all of those metrics really mean for marketers.

2) How do you determine the return on investment for social media?

This goes deeper than the measurement question, but more from the angle that social media marketing needs to impact sales. It can, and it is possible to develop some ROI metrics, but if that's the primary and overarching goal, then stick with direct marketing.

3) How do you make something viral?

Do NOT use the V-word, unless you really want to hear Greg Verdino mention throwing up in his mouth again.

4) How do you plan social media campaigns?

Do NOT use the C-word either. You'll hear panelists (like Adam Broitman) mention they don't do campaigns; they do programs, engagements, or whatever more creative but astute answer Adam said. Now, if only agencies can figure out how to price lifelong social media initiatives, I can retire and devote myself to my true passion: playing Mob Wars and MouseHunt on Facebook (connect with me there and we can hunt gangsters and mice together).

5) What are your best strategies for social media advertising?

More good advice: don't use the A-word either. Then you'll hear all about how it's marketing, not advertising, even when you can advertise with social media, and even when at the same event companies like are launching initiatives to improve the effectiveness of social media advertising.

6) With the rise of widgets, are Web sites dead?


7) What's a friend worth?

Umm, next. Really though, it depends on what you do with that relationship --  whether it's just someone to add to your e-mail list, or you're able to engage in a two-way and multi-directional conversation.

8) What's the best thing about social media?

Listening. On a panel, the first person who picks up his microphone will say it, and then rest will either agree, or say a totally different, more verbose answer about buzz monitoring, garnering consumer feedback, or some other spin that can be summed up with one word: "listening." At OMMA Social, Dr. Augustine Fou gets the credit for chiming in first on my panel; next time, doc, I'll be ready and waiting.

9) What's the point of (insert site, platform, or meme -- Twitter,, Facebook, LOLcats, etc)?

The question's fair, and panelists should be able to help shed some light on it, but get a panel talking about why they love something like Twitter and they'll never shut up, each panelist trying to outdo each other with the impromptu testimonial. You're better off asking for a show and tell session afterwards so you can figure out why you in particular should care and what it might mean for your business and your customers.

10) How can I get Joe Jaffe to speak at my next event?

This one gets asked at every panel, often by Jaffe himself, and if you close your eyes, make a wish, and tap your shoes together a few times, he'll magically appear, and all your social media questions will suddenly be answered. Then we can work together to figure out some new questions to ask next time.
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