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Webinar - Q & A - Social Media: Participate or Perish

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Here are the questions submitted by attendees of the Participate or Perish: Marketing Success in a Social Media World. We hope you find them helpful!


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Question: What's the role and effectiveness for the use of social media in the B2B environment?

Michael Della Penna: There are a couple of classic examples of B2B marketers that have used Twitter and other social media outlets. In fact, the Charlene Li report from Altimeter Group highlights some of those who have done the best job at engaging customers. They include SAP and Intel that were in the Top 10. These are B2B brands that have used Twitter, as an opportunity to reach out to other business customers. They have also created Facebook pages to talk to people and to gather ideas and feedback. The one company that I think has done a really great job is They have put up a great website that has actually soliciting feedback on their product from customers - similar to the Starbucks "My Idea" website but in a B2B world. The site asks customers how can build better features, enhance existing products. They have done a really incredible job at improving the product through that B2B social network or website. For others I encourage you to download the Charlene Li report where there are several more.

Question: Can you go back to slide 27, specifically Point 4 of 7 and elaborate more on how to build incrementally?

Tonia Ries: What we're really trying to say with this slide is don't feel like you have to take on every aspect of social media and try every platform all at once. We would encourage you and challenge you to look for a very simple way to begin to engage. Start by listening and that will often help you find the most appropriate way to begin the engagement. Find a simple way to engage customers and look for things that are simply the most relevant to your brand. That means you are basing it on a thought leadership type of discussion which may be more appropriate for B2B brands where you’re helping your customers engage in conversations that will make them smarter about how to use your tool in a business context. In a consumer space perhaps the discussion is around a grand attribute or a cause that is adjacent to your brand. So ideally you don't want to make the conversation to be about your brand specifically because while we all like to talk about our own businesses, it's typically not what your customers are focused on. Look for conversations that your customers are having, that are adjacent to issues that concern your brand and see if you can find a way to authentically start to participate there. Get the feedback. Listen and learn. It’s about the feedback loop. What do they think? Very importantly, what can your culture support? What resources do you have access to? And are those going to allow you to really engage in that conversation at as broad of a level as you want to? Or do you need to go deep or a little more narrower? How can you be a natural part of that community and even add value to the community?

Question: The examples you sited were for large companies - do you have small Mom and Pop store examples?

Michael Della Penna: Yes absolutely. There are many great examples from small businesses and a lot of them were at TWTRCON in San Francisco that I attended. The local burger place or pizza joint are actually using a sense of humor and using Twitter to tweet their lunch specials on a daily basis. They are seeing success in social media channels and seeing an uptick in faxed -in orders, and traffic at the actual location within 15-20 minutes after doing a tweet. So I think this is very applicable to all sizes of businesses out there and can be an effective tool to supplement all the other initiatives that you are doing from a marketing perspective.

Question: What are the best practices on how to monitor competitors' success with social media activity?

Tonia Ries: Many of the same listening tools that we have been talking about that you can use to see what your customers are talking about, can also be used very effectively to see what your competitors are talking about or even to see what customers are saying about competitive brands or competitive organizations. And that creates some really interesting opportunities as well as challenges. First of all, you have a lot more insight into the conversation that is being had around your competitors' brand or organization. But it also creates some challenges as you think about how, if it at all, it makes sense for you to step into that discussion or engage in that conversation. I would encourage you to step very carefully here because there are potential ethical issues and we don’t want to come across or position our brands as though we are trying to take customers from our competitors out on the Web. Think about what opportunities you can create. Look at what the activities are. Look at the case studies. See if any of them apply, not just to your direct competitors, but also to other companies in your vertical market or adjacent industries. Some industries have been more aggressive in adopting certain aspects of social media than others, so you have a chance to either learn from what your competitors are doing or what your colleagues in the business are doing, or to be an early adopter. I wish you luck with that.

Question: If you don't have a large email or customer database, how do you get your POTENTIAL customers to know you are on Facebook or Twitter?

Michael Della Penna: What's exciting about social media is that it is such a viral environment for messages that create value or are exciting. One of the things I often suggest to folks who are in the process of building their databases and getting their feet wet in social media, is to socialize your existing efforts. So for example, if you only have 10,000 email addresses and you're trying to expand very rapidly, think about using one of those social technology tools like social notes to actually encourage your best customers to spread your message. You will see if the offer is right and the incentive is good and if you have a valuable product, your best customers will be really excited to share that with the world (for example post it on their Facebook pages, re-tweet messages). You can encourage people to re-tweet and you will find that the messages and the reach grow exponentially. We had one client recently who offered a $15 rebate for example, 77 other people re-tweeted the offer and those people had an average of 268 followers. So from one tweet, they expanded to tens of thousands as far as reach and ultimately encouraged those people to subscribe to email.

Question: Any comments on using social media to engage with consumers who are older, say age 60 and older?

Tonia Ries: Wow, that's great and I am glad that you are thinking of that as older consumers are currently one of the fastest growing demographic on social sites including Facebook and others. Plus I have a lot of personal anecdotes too about relatives in that age group who are just discovering social media. They are suddenly getting a whole new wave of incoming messaging and so on around things they care about. Family activities, of course, are a big thing that's driving that.

Question: To clarify, please tell us how to tie your existing email opt-in database to Facebook specifically and to measure overlap of audience of fans versus email opt-ins.

Michael Della Penna: Wow, this is a pretty sophisticated audience. There are a number of ways to do it. The first one that you are seeing very commonly these days is major companies, small and large, who are using their databases and email addresses to encourage people to join their Facebook or to follow them on Twitter. Very often you can tie responses and click-throughs to those applicable destinations and to social networks and do some back-end analysis to find out who they are.

Question: You reference "listening" tools but most of these cost thousands and cannot be justified expenses for even the smaller, emerging business that is bootstrapping. Therefore, much of this measurement happens manually. So, given budget constraints, what manual tools would you recommend that will get a company started until they have Salesforce's budget and staff?

Tonia Ries: The easiest tools that don't underestimate just how powerful this information can be are the things that are available to anyone which is "search". If you haven't already experimented or played with search on Twitter, I highly recommend everybody on this call do that. The easiest way is to go to, start typing in some search terms then click on the link to the advanced search. You'll see that you're able to be very specific in terms of not just the phrases you are looking for, but also for things like location, and even information about the person that's tweeting. So that's first and foremost, really easy, and straight forward. It’s a great way to look at what the conversations are and a very simple way because all this information is public and open.

The Webinar chat line was busy with addtional questions we couldn't address before the conclusion.

Question: Outside of big brands such as SAP, Intel, Salesforce, how do you see the *emerging* or startup B2B company using social media?

Michael Della Penna: Very similar to the larger ones; in fact, social media can really level the playing field for a small B2B company. You can use Twitter to identify potential customers based on their conversation, and then build relationships with those customers very rapidly. You can also use Twitter to delight customers with real-time customer support. LinkedIn is a great tool for leveraging personal networks to get the word out about services or white papers or events you might be organizing; the groups feature is a great way to find sets of potential prospects interested in relevant issues. Facebook tends to be a little less business-focused, but you can use it to give user groups or customers a way to connect with each other. You’ll also find many professional associations or Facebook groups built around industries or job functions. You could join these groups on both Facebook and LinkedIn and then post messages or share information. When doing this, though always remember to find a way to add value to the conversation – you don’t want to come across as a spammer!

Question: What about social and email? How to tie back to your email database?

Michael Della Penna: Here again many of the major email marketing service providers like StrongMail (where I sit on the board of directors) are doing a really great job in socializing email and tracking activity from the email to the social internet and back. StrongMail’s products such as Social Notes and Influencers allow marketers to see how messages are shared and help brands track that activity so they can understand who are their key “influencers”. Influencers in many cases are often defined by those who not only share messages with others, but who’s sharing activity translates into actual purchases - which is ultimately the holy grail.

Question: How do the various social media make money - since they carry such a small amount of advertising?

Tonia Ries: Actually, some of the social media sites are starting to find real revenue streams. Facebook recently announced it would reach $500 million in revenue in 2009, reaching a point where it is now no longer relying on investor funding, with most of the revenue in advertising. While these are still small numbers relative to a Google or its overall size, it is a good positive indicator that its advertising strategy can be successful.

Twitter has not yet begun to implement its monetization strategies, but recently added funding at a valuation of $1 billion. It has talked about a number of monetization strategies, including value-added services for commercial accounts, and, with its current level of investor cash, has plenty of time to experiment with some of these strategies.

Question: Do you have more company names to suggest for interest analysis of social participants?

Michael Della Penna: Absolutely. Some of the more interesting social media marketing & analytics tools are – Objective Marketer, which helps people manage social media communications across multiple social networks – Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc. There is also Co-Tweet for Twitter and People Browser which is a data mining and social search engine for real time conversations. Listening tools such as Radian6 and Cymfony also offer great tools for understanding what conversations are taking place around your brand as well as where they are occurring, who is talking and what they are saying.

Question: In the static of the US Population being 307m and Facebook being 300m. Was the FB population a global number or only the US FB users? For quick access to additional social media statistics, a handy site is

Tonia Ries: The FB population number is a global number.

Final comments to the audience as the ultimate take-away

Tonia Ries: I guess what I would say, in addition to all the advice we've given you and the things we've talked about, the last thing I'd say is: "Have some fun." Don’t make it a very serious homework-type of assignment. Suddenly you're interacting with people at a very personal level. That means maybe occasionally on your company blog you'll share some personal information about yourself…what's going on outside of work as well…because ultimately that's how you build relationships with people in a professional environment as well as personal. Don't be afraid to have a little bit of fun and have a sense of humor too.

Michael Della Penna: Tonia and I have known each other for a long time. She was joking with me that we started this presentation with a fairly negative title: "Participate or Perish." So I will end and close this by saying it really is a positive phenomenon. And it really should be entitled as we close this: "Participate and Prosper". The final take away I'll leave you with is: if you embrace this, if you overcome your fear as you should, and you become a student of the marketplace, and when you do participate you will prosper. We wish you all a lot of luck. We're here as a resource as well as Equifax to help you with any questions.

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