Zagg, Neiman Marcus & The LA Times Share Real Social Media Stories

smxlogo-200A trio of brand representatives told their stories and offered actionable advice to attendees at SMX Social Media, a conference being presented this week by our parent company, Third Door Media.

Below is a semi-live blog recap of the final session of day one, Keynote Roundtable: Real Social Media Stories From The Field. Danny Sullivan is moderating the conversation, which features the following speakers:

  • Martin Beck, Reader Engagement Editor, Los Angeles Times (@latimesbeck)
  • Drew Conrad, Social Media Marketing Specialist, Zagg (@drewconrad )
  • Jean Scheidnes, Social Media Managing Editor, Neiman Marcus (@jeanscheidnes)

By “semi-live blog,” I mean that I’ll write as if I’m live blogging, but I’m not publishing this until after the session ends.

The session begins with Danny asking each panelist to explain how and where social media fits in with their company structure. Drew from Zagg reports to the company’s Director of E-Commerce. Martin from the LA Times explains that he’s in charge of reader engagement both on social networks and on; he also mentions that the Times has about 150 different Twitter accounts. Jean from Neiman Marcus explains that the core of their social efforts is their blog, NM Daily.

Blogs As Social Hubs

Jean explains that the Nieman Marcus blog overcomes a couple issues: It’s become increasingly difficult to get press, so the blog allows them to create their own press. It also serves as their hub for all of the company’s social networking promotions.

Drew says that Zagg also has a blog. They have five bloggers producing seven blog posts per week (each) so far through this year. Starting next year, they’ll have 10 bloggers doing seven posts each. They tweet every post, and then using Twitter as a barometer, they’ll choose certain posts to also be promoted on Facebook. “You need to create content that people want to read and want to share,” and that explains why they blog.

Martin doesn’t lack for content at the LA Times. When deciding what to promote socially, they use gut feeling, they look at what was published on front pages and they also sit in on news meetings so they know what the important stories are. He says the website production team looks at analytics and Google Trends and similar tools to see what’s hot, and that also influences what gets promoted socially.

Jean says that Twitter and Facebook are really different. “You have to be clear in your mind about what each platform is for.” They don’t share all of their blog content on both platforms. She says that Instagram, for example, is very popular in the fashion world because “it makes all of your photos look wonderful.”

Managing Multiple Social Accounts

Drew says Zagg generally posts between 0-3 times per day on Facebook, but it’s a challenge to gauge what’s right. “I haven’t found one Facebook strategy that is a guaranteed home run.” They experiment a lot with frequency, different types of content, etc.

Martin says the Times uses Hootsuite to manage its Twitter publishing. They only use Hootsuite to manage Facebook posts that they need to delay for some reason, “because the engagement is remarkably less” when they use automation to post to Facebook. He says some fans see certain posts because of EdgeRank, while others on Facebook may only see completely different posts. “We’re a little baffled by the whole thing, really.”

Jean says they try to post every three hours on Facebook, starting at 9:00 am. They have several people working on Facebook, but she’s the only one managing the Twitter account. They try to post in real time so they can see the immediate reaction.

Reaching Out To Influencers

Drew says he looks at things on Twitter like how many people the person follows. He also looks at Klout to see who’s influential about things like iPads and iPhones. Klout isn’t perfect, but it shows who tweets often about topics — but you also have to use your own judgment to decide if the person is legit. “That was really successful” when they reached out to Klout influencers. He says he has “an internal algorithm” that he uses to decide who to follow back.

Zagg doesn’t have the @zagg handle — a guy in Brazil owns it and has resisted several offers from the company. Drew says he monitors both @zagg and the official @zaggdaily account. But he doesn’t pay attention (respond) to every person who tweets about the company.

Martin also doesn’t try to respond to everyone who tweets about the Times. They do make lists of top Twitter accounts, top bloggers, top Facebook pages related to certain topics — like cocktails in Los Angeles.

Jean also tracks all brand mentions via Tweetdeck, but she selectively choose who to interact with — she doesn’t care if the person has 20 followers or 20 million. She’s on the PR team, so she already has a list of top-tier bloggers, journalists, etc.

Your Most Important Channel

Drew says, in terms of revenue, if he could only keep one channel, it would be Facebook. It’s not his favorite, but it’s the one that produces.

Martin says the Times gets the bulk of its social media referrals from Facebook — it started about the time that Facebook launched the Like button.

If she had to choose, Jean says managers would make her choose Facebook. But the company blog is crucial because of the lift it gives them in search. But Twitter is her favorite.

Drew says you can tweet 10 times per day without annoying people; it’s very different from Facebook. Martin agrees that Twitter is important, but they wonder if what they see as Twitter referral is accurate. (See Is Twitter Sending You 500% To 1600% More Traffic Than You Might Think? on Search Engine Land for background on that issue.)

Jean says Twitter has been a powerful tool to modernize perceptions about her brand because it’s so conversational. “If people follow me on Twitter, they find that I’m a human being — that’s a huge thing” for Neiman Marcus.

That’s a key thing about Twitter, Martin says — it’s such an easy communication tool. It helps readers and sources contact us and our journalists much easier. The friction level of finding an email address or phone number is really though, but if the journalist is on Twitter, it’s really easy. Journalists are more apt to respond on Twitter than anywhere I’ve ever seen. Martin also says, in response to Jean’s question, that Times journalists also use Twitter to find sources.

What About Other Social Networks (Like Google+)?

Jean says Neiman Marcus isn’t on Google+ yet, but “it’s on our list.” But they are on Tumblr. “We’re looking at what fashion industry people are using.”

Martin says the Times is on Google+ and it’s similar enough to Facebook that they’ve been able to establish a beachhead. It could be unique for the potential in having journalists interact with a certain part of their audience — “a very small part of the audience at this point.” The Times also has a Foursquare account where they’ll post tips from restaurant reviews.

Neiman Marcus is also on Foursquare.

Zagg is not using Foursquare, but they’re using Tumblr mostly as a daily deals site. It’s generated “huge revenue” and “has been very successful for us.” They’re also on Instagram and have experimented with Pinterest. They’re also on Google+, but they’re not really sure how they’re going to use it.

Social Media Overload

Danny asks how you keep your head from exploding — how do you decide what to use?

Drew says Zagg is completely ROI-focused. They focus on Facebook (and Twitter, I think he said) and if they can create revenue from the other channels, they’ll keep using them.

Martin says his head has already exploded. They get the most bang from Facebook and Twitter, but they’ll throw anything against the wall to see if it works. A lot of it isn’t sustainable, so “we tend to cut our losses fairly quickly.”

Jean says you have to have a strategy and figure out if you get juice from these networks when you squeeze.

Advice For People Without Social Media Teams

Martin: “No one is sitting there waiting for your tweet.” You need to do what you can do and build up from there.

Jean suggests setting boundaries. Neiman Marcus has the resources to monitor Facebook 24/7, so they decided to do that. But one of their sister stories actually posts “Facebook hours” on their page.

Danny says that no one has mentioned LinkedIn. Drew and Martin says that they don’t focus on it because it’s not really B2C.

Social Media Tools

Drew says he gets pitched all the time, but he hasn’t seen a paid tool worth the value. He uses Tweetdeck.

Martin says he thinks they pay Hootsuite about $7 per month. They’ve looked at many other tools, and may use some in the future.

Drew says he uses SocialOomph to scheduled tweets — it’s free, and it’s the best one he’s tried.

Jean says Nieman Marcus uses an agency for content management and they use their tools.

Social Media ROI

Zagg has its own URL shortener that ties into the company’s main database. They can track every link/click and every sale that something generates.

Martin says the Times has added a lot of new people recently and that’s what they’re focusing on.

Jean says Nieman Marcus tracks traffic and conversions, but they recognize that attribution is a challenge. But they also know there are things that can’t be quantified — you have to listen. “What’s the ROI on ignoring a customer?”

Biggest Lesson/Surprise From Social Media?

Drew says Zagg created a fake iPhone 5 unboxing when all the iPhone 5 rumors were going around — says it drove something like 40% of all traffic to Zagg’s blog this year. They hated it, they bashed Zagg for doing it, but they still clicked.

Martin: People are surprised when we respond, because we’re a big news organization. People slag us pretty brutally sometimes. In some cases you can’t win, but sometimes responding is useful for the brand.

Jean says their biggest win was a custom Facebook tab they created for product launch this past summer. Users could style looks and submit them to a style contest.

And that wraps up the session – thanks for reading along!

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Facebook | Foursquare | Google: Google+ | Internet Marketing Industry: Search Marketing Expo - SMX | Social Media Marketing | Top News | Twitter


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Marketing Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • wudowan

    Very interesting article. I learned a lot of useful information. I will read your blog all the time.

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