Andy Sernovitz: “large companies getting into social media need support and SMBC was the missing piece in that puzzle”

Last week, I was attending the Blogwell and SMBC meetings in Philadelphia. I also had an opportunity to sit with Andy Sernovitz, the founder of SMBC and well known author of the Word of Mouth Marketing opus.

It’s now more than 2 1/2 years since I joined the former blogcouncil, now known as Social Media Business Council, and a lot of water has gone under the bridge. I thought, as Hervé Kabla and myself – co-founders of Media Aces in France – are currently finalising our book entitled ‘Social Media Taught to My Boss’ (in French, but I’m open to suggestions from publishers), that it would be a great idea to sit with Andy and review the history and principles of SMBC as well as take a bit of hindsight and see how things had developed over the years. It’s hard to describe but spending 3 years of field practice in Social Media for a large company implies that a lot of work and effort has been put into these initiatives. Sometimes it’s good to put down one’s tools and muse.

Andy keeps repeating that doing Social Media for large groups is not as easy as doing the same for an individual or a small shop. I know that many people must not believe that this is true. « You are a big brand hence it’s way too easy » a lot of people must think. Yet nothing has ever been more true. Innovating within a large enterprise is a never-ending, groundhod day-like heavy-lifting exercise. This is why SMBC is important. It enables the heads of Social Media like us to get together, to help each other and to learn from one another. This is what Andy is referring to as being the « missing piece in the puzzle ».

And this is also why there are now more than 150 members within SMBC. Hats off Andy!

here are some of the 150 members of SMBC as of now …

Creating and embracing a social media culture (ConAgra Foods)

ConAgra's Stephanie Moritz

Last month, on Nov 10, 2009 the 7th blogwell session took place in sunny Atlanta, Ga. (this is meant to be a joke for I have been twice to Atlanta so far and have seen a lot of rain not to mention flooding). Nearly a month later – and I am a little late for that – now that the dust has settled I wish to recap on some of the best sessions I was able to attend. Stephanie Moritz, ConAgra foods presented her company and its many brands of foods (Hebrew National, Egg Beaters, Peter Pan, Banquet, Slim Jim, Kid Cuisine, Healthy choice…), most of which are huge hits in the US although less or even not at all known in Europe (another tale-telling example of non globalisation; there are many examples of brands which are immensely successful this side of the Atlantic and unknown on the other side and vice versa).

Stephanie explained how a big brand like ConAgra could use Social Media to stir passion within its fans. Here are my notes from that session, the live transcript of which you can also find here courtesy of Gaspedal and the Social Media Business Council.

Embracing a Social Media Culture

By Stephanie Moritz, ConAgra foods, USA

Social Media is everywhere. It is now mainstream. Consumers refuse to be marketed at. They want to participate, they have a passion. The challenge is to adapt it within a large organisation. How do you create inspiring programmes for your customers? It takes:

  • Targeted manageable plan,
  • A plan that supports business goals,
  • A focus on consensus building:
    • Setting a plan that achieves and ties to your business objectives
    • How do your get champions on board?
  • Long term commitment:

    Phil Nieman from Gaspedal and Stephanie Moritz
  • 1st step: understand how social media fits in our culture and objectives. How can you amplify your PR effort using SM
    • Creating a masterplan: define clear business objectives and match them with the SM initiative
    • Enterprise-wide solution. Not just Marketing
    • Establish some guidelines before moving into that space
    • Building the foundation first and listen to conversations. Who Responding to consumers. Addressing issues in a transparent manner.
    • Getting to know the blogging community. We ourselves tried blogs and tried and understand => Building communities
  • 2nd step: getting senior management to become a champion (through CMO)
    • Digital immersion
  • 3rd step: create coalition: there wasn’t much budget or staff. Experts and specialists throughout the organisation have been identified. All cross functional teams were identified. Enthusiasm made it.
  • (Audit) Identified key bloggers and organised discussions on products and how they could work together.
    • Created a Twitter page, spent a lot of time on it
    • Created a facebook page
    • Benchmarks, listened to conversations
    • Attended blogger events and blogger media conferences for the sole purpose of listening

When should a brand use social media? Not everyone should jump on the bandwagon Benchmarks are carried out continuously Key to success:

  • Set clear goals,
  • Create enterprise-wide endorsement,
  • Determine roadmap,
  • Commit.
  • success in social media iniatives

    On Nov 10, 2009 I had both the opportunity and pleasure to present our business case to a crowd gathering some of the most advanced experts in Social Media in Atlanta. Per below is the slideshare presentation in Creative Commons format (download is made available to all).

    Those who’d like a transcript of the presentation can find it here, courtesy of our good friends from the Social Media Business Council.

    Blogcouncil is dead, long live Social Media Business Council!

    Of course, we knew already about it, but it’s been made public only recently that the late Blog Council has changed its name to Social Media Business Council (aka SMBC). We are very pleased to be able to relay that information (note: I am a proud member of smbc) and we wish our friend Bob (picture below) and the whole council a lot of successful un-conferences and blogwell meetings.

    The aim of the name change is I believe obvious, that is to say to send a clear message to the business community – and the social media community – that social media isn’t just about Corporate blogging, it’s about a much broader range of subjects and tools including micro-blogging, social networking and others. This however – I can almost hear a few giggles here and there – that Corporate blogging is over and that we made a mistake by promoting Corporate blogging. Nothing could be more false. It means that Corporate blogging is one of the tools – and a powerful one at that – and that it cannot stand on its own without a few others on the side.

    For your benefit, here’s the press announcement made by the Blog C… sorry, the Social Media Business Council 😉

    Blog Council becomes the Social Media Business Council, moves to
    Posted by on June 30, 2009
    Big news from all of us here at GasPedal and the newly renamed Blog Council: Our community for social media leaders at large companies has officially changed its name to the Social Media Business Council and has moved from to Here’s the press release with more details:
    Chicago, IL — The Blog Council, a community of social media leaders at large companies, has officially changed its name to the Social Media Business Council and will call its new online home.
    “Every day, our members share advice on how to build successful, scalable and self-sufficient social media programs,” said Andy Sernovitz, CEO of the Social Media Business Council and its parent company, GasPedal. “This new name and domain better reflect the wide range of issues our community focuses on.”
    The name change was a collaborative effort, with members sharing dozens of name suggestions before selecting Social Media Business Council through a vote at Member Meeting 4 in New York City.
    • read more on the blog of the Social Media Business Council

    note: picture courtesy of on Flickr, this picture was made available by its author under the Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic creative common licence.