Our Interview with Boston-based Media Maven, C.C. Chapman

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If you are an active member of the social media community, particularly here in Boston, then you undoubtedly know the name C.C. Chapman (@cc_chapman). A Co-Founder and Managing Partner of new media consultancy The Advance Guard, and an avid blogger and podcaster, C.C. specializes in helping brands to better understand the social web and how to leverage the conversational and social nature of new media to build more dynamic and lasting relationships with customers, fans and prospects.

ccRead on to learn why a brand’s customers can also be their best salespeople, how service-selling companies can get started with social media, and why Boston is primed to remain the hub of “inbound marketing” activity.

Q: You’ve formulated a great presentation about passion, specifically how “passion is contagious.” Could you give us a high-level summary of why brands should be leveraging the passion that their fans/customers have for their brand, and how the social web is the perfect place to capitalize on the contagious nature of it?

Think about the last time you bought anything. More then likely you went out online looking to see what people had to say about the products. This might be a quick Google search, or reading reviews on a site like Amazon. Either way, what people have to say about a product or service has a direct effect on purchasing.

We also know that each of us loves certain gadgets, tools and other things that we use on a daily basis. Why wouldn’t a brand want to encourage and empower someone who is passionate about their products to talk, share and expound on their passion in whatever way they want? I think this is something that most brands are completely forgetting about. They get hung up in messaging and the layout of a print ad and completely forget that people are people. They are going to talk about it in the way they want to, and not what someone has written up for a press release.

Q: Could you provide an example of a brand that is doing an excellent job here?

Zappos is really doing great in this lately. They’ve asked people to take pictures of themselves with their products. They did a whole series of videos around people opening up their Zappos box when it arrived to capture their excitement.

Don’t forget Zappos doesn’t actually make anything and yet people love the company and are passionate about purchasing from them. There is a lot to be learned from how they are approaching their customers and why it is working.

Q: How engaged should brands be with their customers online? Should they just create the platform (blog, contest, etc.), and let the users run with it, or should there be a system in place to respond to comments/suggestions?

This really depends on the culture of the company. Some companies just won’t be able to deal with interacting with their customers in the way they should online. That being said, if they can’t, then maybe they shouldn’t be doing this sort of thing because it probably won’t be successful.

To be successful, the brand needs to engage with their customers. Yes, setting up the contest, portal or platform is a big step, but the most passionate people will be excited by having someone from the brand talking with them. They want that contact and personalized approach. They crave it.

Q: Should brands be identifying “brand ambassadors” online and leveraging them to keep it up? For instance, what if a very active account on Twitter (with a host of followers), constantly raves about how they love Starbucks? Could there be a paid relationship?

Sure, there could be a paid relationship there, but that depends on the person, the company, and the deal that is made. But, at the same time in that example if the person already loved Starbucks just think what sending them a $100 gift card and a hand written thank you card would do for them as well. They’d love it!

The idea of finding your biggest fans and then somehow making the relationship with them more formal and beneficial to your company is a great idea. Yes, you have to tread carefully and smartly because this isn’t some actor you are hiring to be a spokesperson. It is different and many companies will approach it in that fashion and blow it. Talk TO the person and figure out what works best for them. They may have some strong ideas on how you can work together, but if you come in with an iron fist it could completely turn them off.

Q: What about a company that offers a service, say a law firm or an investment bank. The passion for these brands may be harder to find and difficult to quantify and broadcast. Do you have suggestions for these types of brands that want to utilize social media for their benefit?

Certainly a lot harder indeed. But, start out small and smart. Begin establishing an online footprint using the various and appropriate platforms so that people can find you. Don’t forget that this is not a quick hit solution, and rather it is something you are going to have to grow over time so it may take a while, but people will start coming to you.

There is no silver bullet solution, but consider setting up a Facebook Page for your service and then doing a few weeks of targeted ads to the towns around you to drive traffic to the page. It is a great cost effective strategy to see if your audience is there while not breaking the bank. The key is to think long term and build a strategy that helps you reach your goals. What works for one company is not going to work for the other.

Q: We like to use the phrase “inbound marketing” to classify the shift we are all noticing in marketing (and advertising and public relations). What’s your go-to terminology?

Honestly, I go back and forth on this because it is changing every day and while a few years ago everyone was saying “new marketing” or “conversational marketing,” I feel neither of those truly capture how things are today. Even “social media” is getting a bit old because the nature of how we do everything online is beginning to play along the social graph and becoming more conversational and social in nature. The last thing I want to do is add any new buzzwords to the world. I’ll let someone else decide what to call it!

Q: Boston, as reported in Scott Kirsner’s piece and has been well evidenced, has become sort of the hub for this industry. Why do you think that is? More importantly, did Stuff at Night miss the boat by not including any of the thought leaders like yourself in their “Players” issue?

There was a Players issue? Guess they must not have promoted that well online since I didn’t see anything about it. *laugh*

I’m a life long New Englander so I think it is very easy. People who live here love to talk to other people, help people out, and come from a variety of backgrounds. With all the colleges we have here, people come from all over the world and never leave. That mix match of people makes for not one set of ideas and I’d argue that it mimics the web in that nature.

People seem to forget that this are has always had a strong tech footprint. Rt-128 may be littered with the shells of a lot of companies, but they are being replaced by the new generation and that is exciting. While I love San Francisco and New York City, you’ll never find me leaving New England. We’ve got something really special going on here.

You can read more from this Boston-based “Media Maven” by visiting his blog at http://www.cc-chapman.com/

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