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10/27/2009 VT Brands Share Smart Social Media Practices

I had the pleasure of moderating a social media roundtable at the Vermont Technology Innovation Jam yesterday. My panel consisted of Steve Wright of Jay Peak, Sarah Byers of Leonardo's Pizza, and Rob Smart of Every Kitchen Table. Each of the panelists had very different situations but the commonalities and approaches of all of them were striking.

Jay Peak is what goes for a "big" company in Vermont. At least it has more complex marketing than other businesses and has a large local, regional and international reach. Leonardo's Pizza is a hyper-local business with two locations but a large "presence." Rob Smart has led a number of businesses and marketing departments in the state but he's recently gone out on his own building up his own personal brand from scratch in the sustainable food arena.

I liked how all three of them had a clear picture of whom they wanted to talk with. Leonardo's wanted a way to reach pizza hungry college kids, and local fans. Rob Smart wanted to engage some of the leading thinkers in the category. Jay Peak actually used social media to segment its audiences, from golf, to skiers to deal seekers. None of them spoke to "everyone." They each had an idea of WHO they wanted to build relationships with.

All of them bought into the concept of a generous social media strategy. They used the channels to "shine the light back on followers."  Leonardo's does this by publicizing content and feedback they get from its followers. Rob Smart does this by quoting and highlighting other bloggers on his blog. Jay Peak does this by promoting customer content created on Flickr and YouTube. They're each allowing customers to borrow some brand equity in order to increase it. Very sharp.

Most interestingly, big or small, each of them uses social media to make their product better. Leonardo's Pizza gets real time advice on new pizza creations they may not know much about, like Vegan pizza. Jay Peak uses social media to get brand advocate feedback on TV and print campaigns, letting crowdsourcing determine which creative they run. Rob Smart has used feedback from thought leaders and audience to help him stake out his own unique, and sometimes confrontational, position.

And Steve, Sarah and Rob have different ways of measuring their KPIs (Key performance indicators). Most importantly, in one way or another, they're actively measuring.

While these are smart successful people, the overall message to business people and marketers is this: If they can succeed, so can you. But like Steve, Sarah and Rob, you have to think about what you're doing, in order to get the most out of it.

What a fun afternoon that was.


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