Transforming your customers into your company’s marketing team sounds crazy but just might work, especially when those customers are eager college students.
Host events like HootSuite
According to a recent survey, branded live events are the No. 1 driver of brand recommendations. These events clock in at 65 percent, beating out even a friend’s recommendation (63 percent) in importance when it comes to brand experience. Knowing this, many campus ambassador programs make events an integral part of marketing efforts in order to attract new consumers. For instance, social media metric company HootSuite empowers users and brand ambassadors to host “HootUps.” These gatherings are put together by campus ambassadors and fans of the company, and involve discussions of social media best practices and networking. The events are branded with HootSuite swag, yet they offer students real-world value and the ability to make great contacts. If your events offer consumers and customers something useful, they’ll be likely to equate your brand with providing concrete value to their lives.
After eight SXSW conferences, I’ve learned that the hard way. When my company was first getting off the ground, we were completely lost in the shuffle, despite our best efforts. In 2012, however, we had a 28-foot-long, 15,000-pound secret weapon. To stand out amid the gala parties and blow-out bashes hosted by much bigger tech companies, HootSuite decided to take to the streets. We transformed a Ford E-450 shuttle bus into possibly the world’s biggest owl, in honor of our mascot – mounting a pair of giant eyes above the windshield and affixing enormous plastic wings on the sides.
Cheesy? Yes. Effective, absolutely. By the end of the conference, our logo had been splashed across the pages of USA Today, Mashable and Inc. The conference’s highest profile attendees were clamoring to get on board and party with us. And investors whom I didn’t even know were inquiring about thecompany. In the end, it cost us around $30,000 to buy and outfit the vehicle. Considering that hosting just a single party at SXSW can cost as much, if not more, that’s an absolute steal. This year, in fact, we’re bringing HootBus back for its third ride.
Creating memorable, keep-able promotional items can enhance your brand / campaign rather than getting tossed out. On a hiking trail, Dave shares “rules” and considerations from experience, including many examples and anecdotes, ergo:
Light enough to travel
Will it fly?
Thrifty for lots
If you’ve seen it before, don’t do it
Scarves (muted design, subtlely design, useful in chill too)
Flags (simple design, sized to fold, wear like a cape, bonus for decorating event)
Beer coozies (low cost, party-friendly, connect to home)
Passports (independence, handy for notes, interactive)
Pins and stickers (easy giveaways, make a bundle for excitement, mailable, each unique)
Temp tattoo (inspired by Sailor Jerry rather than just a logo)
Masks (remixed from users, great for events, provides interactive activity)
Plush owls (remixed from user, take like a traveling gnome, shoot from cannon!)
Design for your audience and crew
Workshirts with patches + bandanas
Swag-box exchange and unboxing
Making best t-shirts
Lighters and pint glasses with etched logo (renegade “hippie” culture)
Coasters (allowed us to leave bread crumbs, bars/restaurants find useful)
Recorded spontaneously in May 2013 on Varley Trail, Lynn Valley, North Vancouver
In a spontaneous spiel to colleagues, Dave shares the motivations and practical logistics for organizing Hootups – including sending swag packages and promotional support – and articulates the benefits for the organizer (notoriety and being part of something interesting) as well as resultant perks for the company including signups and culture artifacts like photos, tweets and happy users.
My professional journey has led me – and several of my dear colleagues – to a lovely acknowledgement from MyCMgr.com “Community Manager of the Day.” You can read the whole article – “Community Manager of the Day: Dave Olson” – but i’ve excerpted a favourite bit below:
Who has been an inspiration for you as a community manager? For me, there were three key sources for learning about community building and wrangling:
1. Travelling along with The Grateful Dead taught me the audience is part of the band, so to speak. They encouraged sharing, trading, recording, and loads of instant entrepreneurship with a crazy, spontaneous market outside selling everything from veggie burritos to libations.
2. Cub Scouts taught me the importance of skill learning, working with small teams towards a common goal, and celebrating micro-leveling-up by earning badges. My Mom ran the pack and she also taught me about running small businesses and helped start my first media projects at 7 years old.
3. Hitchhiking in foreign countries taught me to be trusting of strangers, open to new opportunities, and to enjoy the differences between cultures. Plus I learned how to hustle to earn money by selling chestnuts, picking grapes, and being a lazy roadie for rock bands, among dozens of other (very) odd jobs.
I recently presented at #SoMeT12 – a symposium about Social Media in the Tourism industry – held in El Paso, Texas.
On November 8, 2012 a day after the US election, plenty of stories and hugs were passed around to the delegates representing many countries, regions, cities and so on. It was great to connect with everyone and talk tourism and social media, plus enjoy some Tex-Mex food and a wee splash of sunshine in a historic park.
Read on for some fun highlights of my visit:
Social Media Tourism Symposium Official Recap
Mikala Taylor wrote a detailed re-cap of my talk – here’s an excerpt to set the stage:
One of these kids was doing his own thing: and at SoMeT12 that kid was HootSuite’s VP of Community, Dave Olson. Dressed in a burgundy jacket and sporting impressive mutton chops, Olson woke the bleary crowd at 8:30am with an energetic talk about sparking conversations, and how to create a social media journey.“I’ve been to destinations”, he joked at the tourism crowd, before reminding everyone that travel really is just about “making friends and sharing stories.” “Five years from now,” he said, “the tools will be totally different…Social media is just a weird term of convenience. It’s just about listening.”
With an audience of social media enthusiasts, no doubt the tweets and photos flowed on, catch a few below or more at Clemens Schuster’s Flickr Stream (who travelled all the way from Austria for the event):
I spoke with “Everyone Funding Start-ups” podcast, a project of GrowVC – a global marketplace for equity funding – about grassroots strategies for entrepreneurs, including how to build a community of customers and supporters, plus many adaptable “cheap and cheerful” tactics and tools used for building Hootsuite community internationally.
This week’s episode of the Grow VC Everyone Funding Startups podcast features Dave Olson (@daveohoots), VP of Community at HootSuite – the leading social media dashboard for managing social networks. Dave discusses best practices for entrepreneurs looking to create, engage and leverage their community of users and supporters. As VP of Community at a company that provides users with tools to better manage their own communities, Dave is ideally positioned to provide listeners with actionable advice in this critical area of enterprise development.
Dave also discusses HootSuite’s tremendous international growth and the advantages and challenges associated with the creation of a global community. As is often the case with HootSuite, the company turned to its community of users to to assist with these inherent challenges.