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Interview with SMSS speaker Laurel Wilde: Tips for building social from the ground up

Laurel Wilde, Community & Social Media Manager at Mayfield Robotics, will be joining us at the upcoming Social Media Strategies Summit in San Francisco, February 7-9, to share her experience building on the customer service strategy at her current company. I got to ask her a few questions about what it's like to make a big impact on social with limited resources. 

This is your second role developing social from scratch - first building up all social channels at AirGrub, and now developing a 360 approach to customer service at Mayfield Robotics. Daunting (but exciting) challenges! From a veteran’s perspective, what 3 pieces of advice would you give other marketers building social initiatives from the ground up?

#1: Make. A. PLAN.

You can have the most creative ideas, the best brain for analytics, the most observant eyes in the business… but all these efforts are for naught if you don’t know where you are going, and why.

Building your marketing strategies from the ground up is next to impossible if you haven’t identified a few key points, the most important of these being - What is your goal? What is the goal of your company? What is your company’s mission? What is the goal of the social component of your marketing strategy? Who are you speaking to, what are you speaking about, and why does your target audience care?

By establishing a strong foundation and aligning your goals, you are setting yourself up for permanent success that sticks.

#2: Read.

Read literally everything and anything you can get your hands on. The world of the internet is simply chock full of free, genius content, just floating around out there, ripe for the picking. Blogs, websites, forums, subreddits, LinkedIn publications, e-books… the list is endless. Find out how empowering it is to have such a wealth of knowledge, literally at your fingertips.

Additionally, there are endless amounts of books out there, written by Social Media Gurus, Creative Geniuses and Marketing Mavens. If you find one book you like, Amazon in particular will point you in the direction of similar titles, and seems to have a knack (or a very smart algorithm!) for knowing exactly what you are looking for.

A few of my go-to, must have titles include:

1 - Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday: Literally the go-to source for all growth hackers, around the world.
2 - The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick: A brief overview of every social channel, and how to get the most out of each.
3 - Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares: If you don’t find success through one of these ninteen identified traction channels, give up now. :)
4 - Everybody Writes by Ann Handley: Bullet point go-to-guide for finding your voice and being HEARD.
5 - Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace by Gordon MacKenzie: A beautiful, quick read that teaches each and every one of us how to find, feed and embrace our inner creative genius.

#3: Find a mentor. 

For those of you just entering the world of social media, figuring out the best tricks of the trade in such a vast, ever-changing environment can be slightly overwhelming.

Fortunately, guess what? You’re actually not the first person to tackle the Twitters! Once you identify the goals of your company, and where you want to take your team, start looking for a mentor in the field who’s taken on similar challenges. There are tens of dozens of Social Media Influencers out there, regularly sharing their stories, tactics, challenges and most importantly, really good advice. FOR FREE!

You'd be surprised how engaging Social Media Influencers can be with their fans, and how willing and ready they are to share their stories of success AND failure.

My mentor case study:

I was lucky enough to bump into the famous Marsha Collier in a customer service Twitter chat (#CustServ, Tuesday nights at 6pm PST), and after hanging out with her for a few weeks in a row, Marsha took me under her wing. Marsha is a Forbes Top 50 Social Media Influencer (among many equally impressive titles), and I was amazed at how friendly, communicative and personal she was willing to be with me, right from the get go. Always on Twitter, and always responsive to a simple tweet, Marsha helped me shape the social media strategy at AirGrub, and our friendship continued to blossom in the years to come. Whenever I wonder “How should I handle this problem?” or, “Which idea should I dig into first?”, the answer that pops into my head every time is simple - “Well Laurel, what would Marsha do?”.

The lesson:

By finding a successful mentor in your industry, one whose tactics (and personality) you trust, my biggest piece of advice is connect. Engage with the wisdom that exists in the world. If you can’t figure it out, there’s always, always, always someone out there who can. 

Your team integrates social media, customer management and web transactions to deliver personalized customer experiences. How many people are on your customer service and social teams? How do you ensure internal communication is on point to maintain consistent voice and tone across channels?

This is a funny one. Right now… just one - ME!

Mayfield is a startup, and like all startups, most of us wear many hats.

I work on a Marketing Team of two (me and our VP), and between the two of us, we cover Marketing, Creative, Customer Service, PR, Brand Strategy, Social Media, Community Management, Event Planning, Swag (woot!), Content Creation, and so much more.

 Customer Service will grow out to 3-4 people in the coming year, as well as our marketing team, but that’s about 6 months down the road. It’s easy to maintain a consistent voice and tone across all channels when there is just one person writing all the copy and approving all the content. However, my VP is the Creative Master that sets the overall voice and vibe here at Mayfield.

 In the beginning, the two of us created a brand guide, where we set all of our tonal and branding choices in stone. In the future, when our team expands, this brand guide will be the go to source for everyone on the team. Have a question about which color to use? Consult the brand guide. Don’t know if that tweet should be professional or quirky? Consult the brand guide. 

Having a solid plan, in print and universally accessible makes teamwork that much easier, because everyone starts on the same page.

Also - Slack. Thank the startup Gods for Slack. Have I mentioned how great Slack is? YAYYYYY SLACK!

As a follow up question, what steps does the Mayfield Robotics team take to make sure their social voice aligns with and supports your product?

Weekly analysis and 1:1 sync ups with the team are key. 

In startup land, product development moves at the speed of light, and since our product is still evolving, making sure my VP (Chris) and I are on the same page is essential. Chris is in charge of making all of the highest level marketing decisions and planning our next big move, and I’m the person who takes the plan and turns it into action. As such, it’s important that when Chris makes a big choice, I know why the choice was made, what goals this choice is connected to, and what is needed to execute said decision.

Making sure our marketing strategies are aligned from the ground up is essential.

If either one of us fails to communicate something that is happening in our world, the other’s may be rocked pretty hard if they don’t know what’s coming their way, or what they’re supposed to do about it.

Analyzing our past choices is essential to making better choices in the future.

By reviewing what worked and what didn’t, we build our understanding of brand and product internally, allowing us to take that deepened understanding and communicate with our community in more effective, impactful ways.

What role does data play in your customer service strategy? How can data complement trust and relationship-building with your community?

Data is FACT. Nothing more, nothing less.

Data doesn’t lie, data doesn’t feel, data doesn’t CARE. Data is just there for the taking, so if you are looking for your brand or customer service team to succeed, look to the facts, and nothing more. As such, it is essential that you build out your customer service and social media platforms with a platform that allows you to access and analyze your data. But in this context, what is data?

From a customer service perspective, data is anything and everything your community has to say.

 Complaints, praise, questions, comments, concerns... The people will speak to you - they want to speak to you! - but if you don’t have a successful portal through which your community can easily access your company or brand, the chain of feedback is instantly broken.

It is essential that your community be able to speak to you, in whichever medium they feel most comfortable communicating in.

 Open up every line of communication you can. Social media, email, SMS, phone, live chat, snail mail… By showing your community that you are listening, and in the ways that make them feel heard, you are actively opening up a free, continuous source of incoming data.

 Each email is a new opportunity to connect. Every time a chat pops up on your screen, you are engaging in a live, 1:1 feedback session. This style of open, easy communication builds trust within a community. Transparency is key, and being readily accessible teaches users that you are open and listening, ready with answers, and a friendly ear that shows your community you are not just a product; not just a brand, but a collective group of real, live people who believe in their product, and equally in their people.

Once you have an incoming source of free data you can analyze and interpret, a company is on its way to continuous improvement.

When something’s not working - your people will tell you. When a new feature is the next best thing since sliced bread? Your people will tell you! By incorporating transparency and communication as a fundamental principal of your brand and the way you approach your customer service strategy, a company can both build trust within their community on a daily basis, ANDDDD collect free, incoming data on a regular basis.

Happy customers? Successfully growing improvement model? WINNER!


Laurel will be presenting her case study at the upcoming Social Media Strategies Summit in San Francisco, February 7-9. Check out the full agenda here. 

Breanna Jacobs photo

Breanna Jacobs manages GSMI’s conference production team and is the lead for the company’s digital marketing conference portfolio. She produces 8+ conferences per year, working directly with senior level speakers and collaborating with marketing and sales teams to drive event publicity and content marketing initiatives.

She’s researched and launched several new, successful programs from scratch including the UX Strategies Summit, Mobile+Web Developer Conference and the Brand Strategy Conference.

Prior to GSMI, Breanna was an ESL teacher, studied and taught abroad in Spain (Olé!). She graduated with a BA in Global Studies from UC Santa Barbara. She’s a runner, bookworm, and traveler.

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