Harnessing the Power of Social Media

By Michael Sansolo

When the Produce Marketing Association wants to communicate with its members it turns to the social web. Karl Smith, PMA’s senior vice president for Member Value, says there’s a simple reason for that.

“Social is where the members are. That’s where the conversations are taking place. If you want to be an influencer you need to be there,” he says.

Although PMA uses social media differently than the organization’s retailer and supplier members, the goals are virtually the same for talking to businesses or the ultimate consumer. For instance, at PMA’s recent Fresh Summit, attendees used Twitter to interact with the organization. They shared photos and other information they needed, turning the social web into a type of customer relationship management tool. “The amount of activity was just immense,” he says.

Smith has a long-term understanding of social media. He says he’s been working on social media issues since MySpace was an important consideration. He’s watched the evolution of the medium and its incredible growth through Facebook, Twitter and more. That helps him hold a good perspective on what does and doesn’t work in this new space.

“Social media isn’t simple. People want it to be simple, but it isn’t,” he says. “Some of this isn’t as concrete as a single number like Return on Investment. What we are trying to do is engage. This means that people are interacting with the content we put out on social.

“Now we need to ask: Did they comment on it or share it? On Twitter did they re-tweet or mark it as a favorite? In short, did we start a conversation?”

Smith says, “Untangling the Social Web,” the new eight-part study of the social web does a terrific job explaining the realities and opportunities of this new medium. “The study isn’t a sales job; it is a peer discussion. There’s a lot of authenticity to this report. I think we will be referring back to this document down the road. It can help us know if we are still on track or need correction.”

All 8 Parts of Untangling the Social Web may be downloaded at http://www.ccrrc.org. Michael Sansolo is the Research Director of the North American Council.

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