Sometimes its who you know and who they know. Last summer I was introduced to the president of The Loomis Agency, Mike Sullivan. Maybe re-introduced is more accurate. We first met years ago at the wedding of mutual friend, Lauren Mulkey. Now Lauren, in her business development capacity with Loomis, a 20-year old Dallas creative firm, was getting us together again to talk about some ideas to get Loomis more brand recognition in Social Media.
Like many companies, Loomis was sort of half way into social media. But Sullivan knew they could do more. And being a brilliant executive, he consulted with people who had expertise. And he also talked with me. I had a couple of suggestions that they actually put into practice with great success.
Loomis had a few things going for them that I suggested he take advantage of. One of those things was numbers. They have a pretty good sized team. I recommended getting everyone in the shop to get on LinkedIn and Facebook to help Loomis establish a presence there. From an SEO standpoint, having all those users with Loomis as their current employer, and with links back to the Loomis homepage, LinkedIn and Facebook would be a great asset and would give them additional Web real estate at a very affordable price.
Mike Sullivan himself is a pretty dynamic guy. So I also suggested a targeted company blog with Sullivan being very visibly involved. I thought that would be enticing to both prospective clients and prospective employees. It also gives the current staff a solidified vision straight from the top.
Recently I caught up with Mike to see how his plan was coming along. I knew Loomis had done a great job with their revised blog. And I had seen a viral holiday video they produced that was a stroke of genius. So I was curious to get his feedback on the impact social media branding has had on Loomis.
Me: This summer we met for a brainstorming session about corporate brand marketing through social media (social networks, corporate blogging, personal branding of employees, etc.) What ideas from that meeting have had an impact on your strategy?
Mike: First off, I’ve encouraged all of our team members to get on LinkedIn and Facebook and begin using those tools actively. We’ve created a company presence in both those places, as well. We’ve used both tools as a means for generating traffic to our blog site, and I’ve noticed that it seems to have improved search results for our company. If you search “Dallas ad agency,” for example, we’ve moved up quite a bit. Depending on the day you search we pop up just above or below the fold. I believe that’s largely a function of the increased social activity of our team members.
Me: What new steps have you taken to boost your brand awareness?
Mike: I’ve personally built a fairly tight LinkedIn contact base. I think I have somewhere around 290 professional contacts, and most of my team members have fairly large, but tight, contact lists as well. We have extended the distribution of our regular monthly e-newsletter, “Off The Chain,” to this group of professional contacts. I think our total team member list is somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple thousand contacts on LinkedIn. Of course, we have an opt-out option, so we are not engaging in SPAM tactics. But, we’ve received a ton of positive feedback on the content of the e-newsletter and I know it’s been forwarded to others. We used this tactic to launch our “sock puppet” video during the holiday season and that video was ultimately viewed by more than one million people. Again, the content was the rocket fuel for that, but the initial LinkedIn database was the launch pad.
Me: How has this new approach complimented your more traditional marketing efforts?
Mike: I think that’s just what it is-a complement to the traditional business development work we’ve done for years. We still do all of the traditional stuff–OB calling, direct, networking–and the social networking and blogging has been an excellent overlay for that activity. The goal is to show up in as many places as we can, and this helps us accomplish that with limited resources. We’re exploring other ways to use the social tools, as well. For instance, we are putting the final touches on our first monthly podcast this week and will be distributing that the way we’ve distributed our blog and e-newsletter. The social sites will play a big part in that distribution.
Me: Has this had an impact on your efforts to hire or retain talent?
Mike: It certainly has been great for hiring. We were fortunate to be in hiring mode recently and found several excellent candidates through LinkedIn and hired two of them. We always prefer candidates who come with a referral from somebody we know and trust, and both of these panned out that way. The interesting thing is that one of the hires came directly from a referral through one of our team member’s LinkedIn contacts (2nd degree). If it hadn’t been for that tool, we would never have found that particular candidate.
Me: What kind of feedback have you received?
Mike: It’s been excellent. Certainly, great content drives the best feedback. A really good blog post or something like our sock puppet video garners attention and generates a lot of positive feedback. With respect to the video, we had people calling and e-mailing from all over the country. That was fun and effective, and we plan to do it again. Of course, we’ve also had a lot of companies contact us asking if we can do videos for them.
Me: After your research and experience in the process of social brand marketing, what advice would you offer to other business owners and executives?
Mike: First, just be sure to get in the game and encourage your staff to get out there and represent you. Old school thinking tells people to stay away from this stuff during work hours, but I think nowadays our professional and personal lives are blended to the extent that it simply doesn’t make good business sense to try to restrict social networking activity during business hours. Encourage it, and recognize and reward those who do the best job of it on behalf of the company. Writing good blog posts and making smart use of social networks requires good thinking.
Second, stay current because it changes fast. Twitter is a new frontier for us, as an example. It feels like that just popped up and we’re already playing catch up. But I know a lot of people swear by the results they are seeing with it. Staying current also requires a forward-leaning disposition as a company. It needs to be an encouraged activity.
Finally, it still all comes down to quality content. Are you communicating something people want to hear, read, or watch, or not? The marketplace will vote as it always does. Be sure to use the right side of your brain when you’re leveraging all this left-brain technology!