Dave Kerpen’s #Likeable World View Includes GE Locomotives and Tropicana Orange Juice

February 24th, 2013 by Collin Canright

Dave Kerpen is a likeable guy—or a #Likeable guy, in social media terms. He probably hears that one a lot because he is very likeable as a speaker, and his business is all about the marketing power of social media, with two books featuring “Likeable” as the first words in the title.

His presentation and book titles focus on the “Likes” of Facebook for the sake of simplicity, but his talk Friday, Feb. 19 in Chicago gave a sense of social media marketing’s strategic fullness while blowing some of its myths. BigFrontier put on the talk as part of mobium marketing’s long-running New Paradigm series.

There’s a myth that social media is free. It isn’t. “The number-one cost of social media is time,” Kerpen says. “Your time, your staff’s time, intern time, an agency’s time. If you’re going to do social media marketing well, it’s going to take time.”

Another myth: social media produces instant results. “It’s like a large cocktail party. You have conversations, and as those relationships mature, you will get results,” Kerpen says.

He told a number of stories about social media and business. The story about the Rio Las Vegas is a great one about how a company listened to him on social media—he was complaining about the service at another hotel on the Strip—and through only an empathic tweet gained, over the course of some period of time, at least $10,000 in new business from Kerpen and his large social network.

The network effects of social media conversations and comments are incredible, making listening as well as participating critical for businesses of any type, including business-to-business companies. “There’s no such thing as B2B; there’s only B2P,” he says, “because at the end of the day, we don’t sell to businesses, we sell to people.”

Social media tools today make it easy to target people within a business, especially LinkedIn. You can target ads in both LinkedIn and Facebook extremely specifically: company, title, demographic, location—nearly anything tagged in a profile, actually. Facebook’s new Social Graph search will compound the personal effect of social marketing, for both consumer and business brands. As Kerpen put it:

“Ten years ago, you’d go to find a dentist in the Yellow Pages or a coupon book. Five years ago, you would go to Google and search for “dentists.” Now I can search on Facebook for the dentists my friends like the most. This is a total game changer and potential Google killer.”

B2B brand conversations also take place in ways whose influence you cannot predict. As an example, I came across a short story in Fast Company called “The Juice Train,” which turned out to be a video about a new fuel-efficient train, powered by General Electric locomotives and operated by CSX Transportation. It pulls more than half-a-million gallons of Tropicana orange juice from Florida to New Jersey. GE’s electromotive marketing department produced the video and included quick visuals of CSX and Tropicana. I told my wife about it this morning with positive references to all three brands, and now I’ve written it up in a blog, complete with a link to the fast-motion video, which is extremely cool if you like trains:

You aren’t likely to go out and buy a GE locomotive, nor am I. But I’ll bet you like GE just a little bit more, and the effects of these conversations as they move through social networks certainly can’t hurt, especially because the content is generated by someone who doesn’t work for GE. (For the record, I refuse to call myself or anyone else who makes a comment on a social network a “user.”)

Social media makes it easier to tell and distribute a story, and the best stories a business can tell will provide value to the reader (entertainment, in the case of the GE video). From a sales point of view, “education and engagement last a lot longer than in the traditional sales cycle,” Kerpen says, “but when you do drive sales, you get loyalty through the work you put in. . . . Focus on building relationships, telling stories, providing value, and generating business through pull marketing.”

And don’t worry about making mistakes—because you will say the wrong thing. “At the end of the day, it’s just a very large cocktail party. Sometimes at a cocktail party, we put our foot in the mouth. We say we’re sorry and get on with life.”

View his presentation, “7 Simple Concepts to Become More #Likeable”, on Slideshare.

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