DoubleTree by Hilton: Using Social Media to Enhance Customer Experience

Social: IRL recently participated in Expion’s second social business summit, Smart Social 2013. This invitation-only event featured some of the largest brands and most respected agencies from across the U.S.

Over the course of the summit, Social: IRL had the opportunity of interviewing a number of the event’s speakers and attendees. One of those interviews was with Diana Plazas, Director of Global Brand Marketing for DoubleTree by Hilton.

In the interview, which is embedded below, Diana describes how social media allows DoubleTree to gain valuable insights on consumer needs and expectations, better connect with their customers, and enhance many aspects of customer experience.

Additional interviews will be shared over the coming days via Expion’s Google Plus Page. You can also visit Expion’s blog to read event recaps, featuring valuable social business insights from speakers and attendees.


Social Strategy Insights: #Expion13 Charlene Li Interview

Social: IRL recently participated in Expion’s second social business summit, Smart Social 2013. This invitation-only event featured some of the largest brands and most respected agencies from across the U.S.

Over the course of the summit, Social: IRL had the opportunity of interviewing a number of the event’s speakers and attendees. One of those interviews was with the event’s keynote speaker Charlene Li, founder of Altimeter Group and author of the critically acclaimed bestselling books Open Leadership and Groundswell.

In the interview, which is embedded below, Charlene shares valuable social business insights and discusses social media strategy vs. tactics, the importance of listening as a foundation for social activity, and ROI vs. business impacts.

Additional interviews will be shared over the coming days via Expion’s Google Plus Page. You can also visit Expion’s blog to read event recaps, featuring valuable social business insights from speakers and attendees.


Brian Solis Interview: Social Business Insights and Personal Backstory

More than 150 people attended the Social Media Club of Kansas City’s January breakfast, featuring a special conversation with Altimeter Group analyst and Engage!and The End of Business as Usual author, Brian Solis. Hosted at Google Fiber Space in Kansas City, the conversation took place via a specially orchestrated Hangout, with Brian being interviewed by Social: IRL principal, Ben Smith.

We previously shared a Storify recap of attendee Tweets from the event. The full video of the conversation is now available and is embedded below.

In it’s entirety, the conversation runs for close to an hour, during which time Brian shares many valuable social business insights, as well as more personal insights and backstory.

Video originally shared on the Social Media Club of Kansas City website.

SMCKC Hangout with Brian Solis

More than 150 people attended the Social Media Club of Kansas City’s January breakfast, featuring a special conversation with Altimeter Group analyst and Engage! and The End of Business as Usual author, Brian Solis. Hosted at Google Fiber Space in Kansas City, the conversation took place via a specially orchestrated Hangout, with Brian being interviewed by Social: IRL principal, Ben Smith.

The Hangout was recorded by Google and will be available soon on YouTube.  In the meantime, here’s a Storify recap of attendee tweets from the event, sharing many of Brian’s key insights.

We also offer our congratulations to Social Media Club of Kansas City who, at the start of the morning’s agenda, were announced as inaugural recipient of the new “Outstanding Chapter” award presented by the national Social Media Club in recognition of outstanding efforts in representing Social Media Club goals and values through promoting digital advocacy and serving the local community.

“From Social Brand to Social Business” – Pivot Sessions Now Available Online

Over two days in October, 500 of the top media minds in the business came together in New York City, for Pivot Conference 2012.  With the theme “From Social Brand to Social Business,” attendees explored the blueprint for a social construct to transform business, earn a significant competitive advantage, and improve customer relationships.

Curated by Brian Solis, the conference agenda featured thought leaders and innovators representing a diverse lineup of major brands, startups, agencies, media organizations, the entertainment industry, social technology companies, and social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Attendees were privy to many valuable insights and perspectives,  leaving not just inspired but empowered to serve as catalysts for social business transformation.

These same insights are now available online after Pivot recently released videos of all conference sessions, a  few of which are highlighted below.

All sessions are available through the Video Library on the Pivot Conference website, and serve as a valuable resource for those seeking to define and implement new models for social business success.


Five key lessons learned: Social media’s impact on CFCA marketing strategies

Guest post by Shanxi Omoniyi, online content manager at Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA).  Founded in 1981,  CFCA has grown into a movement of more than 250,000 sponsors who are supporting more than 300,000 children, youth and aging friends worldwide.

Here at CFCA we’re blessed to have an organizational strategy that is extremely open and flexible to the potential of social media.

We believe in the power of community, and one of the best ways to illustrate that is through our social media team.

The team spans several departments but has one goal: to support our marketing efforts by providing a welcoming space where sponsors and potential sponsors can build community, receive answers to their questions, and hear more about our work.

Here are some of our key learnings over the years:

1)       Personalize wherever possible.

We hear great stories every day of lives being changed through CFCA’s work in developing countries. These are the stories that get the most views on our blog, retweeted most on Twitter, and shared and liked most on Facebook.

Even in blog posts when we’re running a list of “how-tos” or “Top 10 things to remember about sponsorship,” for example, we’ve found that it’s essential to feature a picture of a sponsored friend in the post.

Often your headlines are the most widely read part of your content. Therefore we’ve tried to personalize every blog post headline, tweet and Facebook post.

Sometimes this just involves asking questions: “Why isn’t my sponsored child smiling in photos?” or “What happens when my friend leaves the sponsorship program?”

At other times, it means using pronouns like “you” and “your.” A good rule of thumb is to try to think of your headlines as if they were to appear on the CNN home page – would you click on them?

2)       Encourage your supporters to help you.

We have the best Facebook fans in the world! Whenever we ask them to take action on our behalf, they’ve regularly gone above and beyond by liking, commenting and sharing our posts with their friends.

In 2010 we tried a new approach to helping children in need by posting their pictures and stories in a Facebook photo album. In the post, we encouraged our fans to share these albums with their family and friends.

Because Facebook is such a visual medium, photos are one of the most highly shared items. Over the last two years, more than 80 children, youth and aging people have been featured on Facebook and sponsored.

Photo albums are also a fantastic way to keep your supporters posted because you can regularly update the photos. When you do, everyone who has previously liked, commented or shared the album will receive an update.

3)    Create a hub of great content to support your Facebook efforts.

When we began cross-posting our blog posts to our Facebook wall, we noticed an increase in our blog audience almost immediately.

Additionally, our blog posts also increased our Facebook presence, creating a relationship of mutual encouragement and support.

The CFCA blog has now become central to our social media strategy, where great content is produced and then shared across a variety of platforms such as our website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.

4)    Take time to express your appreciation.

Sometimes Facebook pages respond on their wall only to negative comments or comments that ask a question.

While this is better than not responding at all, I strongly encourage Facebook page administrators to respond also to positive comments.

Sometimes just a “Thank you! We appreciate your support” is all it takes to make a commenter feel special and valued. And after all, we want more of those positive posts appearing on our Facebook wall, right?

Tip: Under Facebook’s Account Settings, you can toggle the “Notifications” settings so that Facebook will email you anytime someone posts to your page’s wall or leaves a comment.

5)    Get organized.

For us, a Facebook editorial calendar is an absolute must. It helps reduce writer’s block and keeps us focused on learning how best to serve our audience and how often to call on them.

So far the best experience for us is to post twice a day at most, in the morning and afternoon. It’s a delicate juggling act to know when and what to post, but this has worked best for us in our experience. Also, weekends can be our most responsive times for Facebook posts.

Another tip is to reach out across departments to help with your community outreach. The CFCA social media team started in the Communications department, but we’ve realized over time that social media doesn’t belong to just one person, department or office.

We share updates about Facebook at our weekly community meeting, which includes all departments at our Kansas City headquarters – finance, child services, information systems and more.

Hopefully many of these thoughts will coincide with your own social media experiences. Now it’s your turn! How has social media affected your organization’s awareness and marketing efforts?

Ideas, Strategies and Tactics for Smart Social Programs

Ideas, strategies and tactics for smart social programs shared by attendees at the inaugural Spredfast Social Summit, which took place last month in Spredfast’s home town of Austin, Texas.

In this first video, you’ll hear valuable insights from event attendees including Natanya Anderson and Michael Bepko of Whole Foods, Lauran Driver of Twitter, Kristen Piquette of Discover Financial Services, and Sean Valderas of Nokia.  Ideas discussed include content strategy and publishing to delight social customers, and using social media and SMMS for community management, to provide social care to online customers, and to help brands build loyal online communities.

In this second video, Spredfast asked attendees to take a look ahead at where social business might be in five years. You’ll hear from social strategists like Tom Carusona of Aramark, Rebecca Lieb of Altimeter Group, Jodi Gersh of Gannett, Michael Brito of Edelman Digital, Chuck Hemann of WCG, and Rohit Bharghava of Ogilvy. Some of their predictions include content becoming a bigger part of brand’s social strategies, integration of social at every business and media touchpoint, hyperlocal social business efforts and the use of data to help uncover trends and better target activity..

“Going Strong and Growing Because of Social Media” – A Small Business Success Story

Encore Unique Boutique is a local, family operated business, located in Downtown Shawnee, Kansas. In business since June 2003, owner Tamara Hudson describes the store as a “women’s boutique that dresses you and your home.”

Encore owner, Tamara Hudson, and husband Josh

While many local downtown businesses struggle to compete, Encore has thrived – recently expanding in to an adjacent retail space to add a personal styling studio, selling their goods in five other locations in the Kansas City area, and creating a loyal online customer base.

A key part of Encore’s success has been the way in which the business owner Tamara Hudson has embraced social media. She describes social media as something that has “completely changed” her business and not only helps amplify word of mouth and referrals, but is a tool that directly drives sales.

Social: IRL recently spoke with Tamara to learn more about the impact of social media on her business. In the interview published below, small business owners will find encouragement, inspiration, and valuable insights and advice on the practical ways social media can help their business reach new customers, grow relationships with existing customers, help turn customers in to loyal brand advocates, and ultimately drive sales and grow business.

When did you start using social media as a business tool for Encore? What were the first steps you took as a business owner who, at the time, didn’t even use social media on a personal level?

I started using social media, specifically Facebook, in December of 2009. I was forced to. A client and friend, who I adore, set up a page for me and told me that I absolutely HAD to be on Facebook. I didn’t  even have a personal Facebook page. I didn’t think I had the time to do Facebook. I even asked her if she would “manage” the page for me, and she refused. She said I needed to be interacting with my clients  because that was going to sell more clothing and reach more people for me. So, reluctantly I asked her about how much time I needed to commit to it.  She recommended 30 min every morning and 30 minutes every evening. For the next two weeks, I watched a few other business pages, set up a personal page for myself, and reluctantly made 2 or 3 posts on the Encore page. Those few posts generated almost $600 in sales for our store in 2 weeks.  She had my attention.

What social networks do you currently use? With so many new social networks starting, how do you decide which new ones to add?

I use Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest, and we just launched our website at

Facebook has been good to us, and we have learned that with our clients (probably others as well) it has to be packaged short and sweet – a picture and a few words. Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest just seemed like the right move.  They were also easy for me to pick up and add to what we were doing.  I sell using stories and visuals from the store, so these platforms work well.

Do you use different social networks for different purposes, or do you find yourself duplicating efforts to try and keep each network updated? Thinking more about duplication, do you find you reach different customers through different social networks, or are you reaching the same customers in different ways?

Yes, I use different networks for different reasons.  Facebook it still where I can get the most information to people. Perfect for invites to parties and events. In the short time we have been using social media we have also learned that different people use and respond to different medias.  My younger clients are more geared toward Twitter and Instagram.  My 30-40 somethings still use Facebook. I also have a group of clients that we can text 24 to 48 hours prior to an event and they respond.  AND then I have my clients my mom’s age and up that I still mail offers and invites to. It’s a bit exhausting.  I try really hard not to send the same info / pictures out to all media. I don’t want to annoy anyone.  I have clients that follow me on all our platforms. I don’t want them to get tired of me.  It’s a delicate balance because I don’t want anyone to miss anything.

Beyond the fact that different people respond to different networks, they also respond differently at certain times of the day and days of the week!  For example: Monday mornings between 8 and 11, if we post on Facebook we get great responses.  People have just started their work week and haven’t really got in the groove yet.  Every day of the week except Fridays, we post between 4 and 6 and get great results.  Wednesdays on Facebook we don’t post much, I guess people are really working on Wednesdays :)  Lunch time is also good for us.  Twitter is better for us in the evening and weekends. I pretty much use Instagram all the time because it is a great way to post to the other networks.  BUT if I post a picture on Instagram at around midnight, all sorts of people that I do not know Like and Follow me.  It’s crazy.  As for Pinterest, Sunday mornings will get people interacting with me, but Sunday is horrible for us on Facebook.  It’s a full-time job that I am trying to sneak into the daily running of my business!

What type of updates do you post, and what type of content has proved to be most effective for you?

As for posts and content we mainly highlight what “Just Arrived.” My clients know that on the furniture side we only get one of each item, so it creates a sense of urgency.  As for our clothing we only get one size run in the new clothing, and if it’s vintage it’s a one shot deal.  We post throughout the day and people call us to hold until they can swing by after work.  We also have clients that live out-of-state that we ship to. All because of social media. I have regular clients in Minnesota, Nashville, Texas and several in Topeka, KS….all because of Facebook.

Could you share some of the key benefits you’ve found in using social media?  

I have NO advertising budget.  Despite that, we have been here for 9 years and are still growing.  I have done very little paid advertising over the years. Social Media has opened so many doors for us. Some examples?  Clients repost our pictures and currently we ship 3 to 4 items out-of-state a week, and we hope to expand on that. These clients would never have known about us without those Facebook shares.  Through Facebook posts and Twitter posts, bloggers have found us and repost our events, and products. Using the different networks helps keep our name in front of people, whether they are interacting with us daily or not, they see our posts, our check-ins, our event information, and it keeps us on their radar.  I hear all the time “OMG I love following you on Facebook!” And they can tell me everything we have done in the last week. My favorite thing that happens on posts is when a client likes a picture and exclaims “I NEED THIS” or “OMG”, and then their Mom, best friend or husband calls the store and purchases that item for them as a gift!

I have also found that people that want to support the local community stay active with social media, so it’s a very warm audience for us.  I used to want to have really high numbers as far as followers, but have definitely learned that it’s quality over quantity.  I am always very honored when someone shares a picture or a post of ours. It validates what we are doing.

Can you determine if your social media efforts have positively impacted sales?

Yes! Social media has directly impacted sales. We even have a sales goal related to Facebook and Twitter.  We keep track each week of the sales that we definitely know were because of a social media post.  By Friday if we are not close we boost the posts and pictures. We get a lot of interaction when we post an album of goods or outfits that we have put together.  We learned to post an album, and then pull single pictures out of that album through that day and maybe the next.  Single pictures get a better immediate response.  I believe this is because most people are following during the day on their phones.  It’s harder to view a whole album on your phone.  Once they are home in the evening and catching up or winding down they spend more time reading and perusing.  So, for us, single pictures generate immediate sales, albums generate interest and interaction. I want both.

Looking back, are there any social media “lessons learned” you’d share with other business owners?

You simply cannot do it all.  Find what works best for you and your clients and do that well. And most importantly, be respectful. I will never put something on another Business Page that links back to Encore unless I’ve asked or know that I have that relationship with that person or business.  Nothing bothers me more than when someone I do not know and who has never even been in my store, posts something about their business on my Page.  It gets deleted and they get blocked, period.  I think it is horribly rude.  Also, you can’t just post and move on.  I do my best to check throughout the day and answer questions.  If I post a picture and someone sees it an hour later asking the dimensions, I need to answer them in a timely fashion.  Not responding is an easy way to lose a client.  We try to answer everyone back within 2 hours.  It’s hard, sometimes the store is busy, which is a good thing and none of us see the question until we are closed. So, never leave someone dangling.  Follow up, answer questions, interact.

What would you say to those business owners that aren’t using social media – maybe they’re concerned it will take too much time, they don’t know what to say, they’re intimidated? 

The best advice I have is simply “do it.”  You’re going to make mistakes, but you will learn. That is life.  I say follow some leaders in your industry first.  See what they do, and how you can make that work in  your day-to-day operations. I didn’t want to do it at first, now I cannot imagine my business without it.  I believe we are still going strong and growing because of social media.  I also believe that is has to be tailored to you and have a “bit of you” in it.  By that I mean, be personal.  There is a reason we all love social media and reality shows.  We want to know what other people are doing I guess. If you are a small business like myself, I find when I interject something a bit personal, a glimpse at myself and my personal life, people react well.  It’s about forming relationships and if all you do it post sales and prices that gets old.  I try to put encouraging and positive messages out there a few times a week.  I also help promote other businesses on my Page. Be generous to others and it will pay off.  Yes, it is your business Page, but no one wants a full-time running ad.

Finally, could you give a brief statement summarizing the overall impact of social media on you personally, and on your business.

Social Media completely changed my life and my business.  The downside is that I never set my phone down.  The upside is thousands of people know about my little business that never would have otherwise.  I have created both business and personal relationships that I never would have otherwise. We know that Social Media drives 10% of our sales and we believe that we will raise that number.  I had not a clue what I was doing when I started.  It scared me to death.  Now, it’s the first thing I do in the morning and usually the last thing I do before I go to sleep.  It is ever evolving, but never going away.

Entrepreneurship Isn’t a Profession, It’s a Lifestyle

“If you’re going to go fast enough to succeed, you’re going to make mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re going too slow and you’ll never win. It’s about how you deal with those mistakes that’s the key” – Dan Levin, COO, Box.

“Entrepreneurs Breakdowns and Breakthroughs” was produced and directed by Debbie Landa, Founder of Grow Conference, and Co-Founder of GrowLab. The 5 minute long video is jammed full of valuable startup insights, advice, and encouragement from some of today’s most respected founders and VCs, including: Sam Zaid, Getaround; Chris Arsenault, iNovia Capital; Ben Huh, Cheezburger; Dave McClure, 500 Startups; Mikkel Svane, Zendesk; Brant Cooper, The Lean Entrepreneur; Julia Hartz, Eventbrite; Scott Kveton, Urban Airship; Dan Levin, Box; Jeff Clavier, Soft Tech VC; Kate Rutter, LUXr.

The video makes for essential and compelling viewing, and provides many powerful takeaways.

HT: VentureBeat

#Expion12 Video Highlights: Racing Ahead with Social

To wrap up our series of interviews from Expion’s recent Social Business Summit, we asked a few of the summit’s attendees “how can businesses race ahead with social going in to 2013?”

In this short video we hear from 360i’s Matt Wurst , Garmin’s Jake Jacobson, and H&R Block’s Scott Gulbransen.

See our earlier posts for interviews with Matt Ridings, Amber Naslund, Jeremiah Owyang, and Jason Falls.

Contact Expion at if you would like to receive details about their next Social Business Summit, taking place in 2013.

#Expion12 Video Highlights: Jason Falls

Next in our series of interviews from Expion’s recent Social Business Summit, we chat with Social Media Explorer’s Jason Falls.

Jason raised some eyebrows when he opened the Summit by telling attendees that “Social Business” was “a BS term.” In this short video, Jason explains why.

In this second video, Jason talks about “the ultimate goal” in social business, and the “first domino” effect of great content.

We’ll be posting one final video soon, featuring H&R Block’s Scott Gulbransen, 360i’s Matt Wurst, and Garmin’s Jake Jacobson.

See our earlier posts for interviews with Matt Ridings, Amber Naslund, and Jeremiah Owyang.

Contact Expion at if you would like to receive details about their next Social Business Summit, taking place in 2013.

#Expion12 Video Highlights: Jeremiah Owyang

Next in our series of interviews from Expion’s recent Social Business Summit, Erica McClenny talks to the event’s keynote speaker, Altimeter Group’s Jeremiah Owyang.

In this short video interview, Jeremiah shares insights on social business success and offers advice for those seeking c-suite buy-in.

We’ll be posting additional videos soon, featuring Social Media Exploer’s Jason Falls, H&R Block’s Scott Gulbransen, 360i’s Matt Wurst, and Garmin’s Jake Jacobson.

See our earlier post for a two-part interview with Amber Naslund and Matt Ridings.