Tourism Tech Corner Interview: Kyle Lacy of Brandswag
This is the second in a new series of interviews with local leaders in the social media and technology industry that will be featured on the Tourism Tech Corner. Today’s interview is with Kyle Lacy of Brandswag, a social media training company based in Indianapolis and Oklahoma City.Brandswag – KyleLacy.com 765.610.5965 @KylePLacy @Brandswag
Kyle Lacy – Brandswag
Kyle Lacy started Brandswag in June, 2007 with his college roommate. They started out as an identity design firm for website development and as of November, 2009, they moved into corporate training and development for social media. They work with companies with between 100 and 2,000 employees and train HR, Marketing, Sales, IT, Upper Management and other departments on the importance of social media as well as why and how to use social media. In short, they teach mid-to large sized companies how to use and implement social media.
Why social media?
One, we’ve been using it for a long time. Facebook started while we were in college. We also saw a niche that we could brand in terms of being young, and we took advantage of it. I like how social media gives a voice to the consumer instead of the other way around, but we also saw a great opportunity and we jumped headfirst into it. Initially it was difficult, because people didn’t understand the concept, they didn’t understand why it mattered, but it’s getting better now and more and more people are wanting to learn about everything.
What are some next steps for DMOs in social media?
It’s not about creating profiles, it’s about figuring out where your customers are. I’ve had conversations with people where I’ve told them, “Don’t you dare go and create a [Facebook] fan page, there’s no reason for you to do it”. I think the biggest problem that we have right now is that organizations look at social and think it’s a completely separate entity from everything else. They have their marketing meeting and then they have their social media meeting, which is stupid because social is just another arm of marketing. It’s a communications platform. There’s no difference between it and direct mail, email marketing, they should all coexist with social and vice-versa.
What I would tell people is if you make a Facebook fan page, you’d better figure out if it’s making you revenue. If, after six months, it’s not making you revenue, you’re either not doing it right or you need to get rid of it. It’s cool to have the social media hype, but we’re not going to get to the past the point of just hype until people make sure this is a viable marketing platform for them. It will be a whole lot easier for everyone if they start measuring their social media initiatives.
What are your thoughts on measuring social media?
You have to measure it. I think the problem is that the metrics to measure social are completely different than a direct mail campaign. I think that’s where people are getting stuck. They’ll look and say: “we should be measuring because we’re spending company time on it, but how do we place a value on all these different initiatives?” “How do we value brand awareness?”, “How do we value customer engagement?”, “How do we value when Christina, who went to visit a state park, put photos on her Facebook page and you got brand engagement out of that?”
You can put a number to those things in terms of coupon redemption rates or the number of people attending an event that you promoted through Facebook, but we have a big issue with the measurement of social being a viable marketing tool. It’s the exact same issue we had with email. Email was new and many people didn’t like it. Then Hotmail came out, a free product, mass consumption happened, Microsoft bought them and now we have firms like ExactTarget that measures email to a tee. Right now, social is in that Hotmail build-out phase. It’s hitting mass consumption. Software as a service (SaaS) companies are trying to create tools to measure that effectiveness, but right now, we haven’t gotten to the point where corporate America has decided that we need to invest a ton of money to make social into a viable marketing tool. It won’t be a completely viable marketing tool until corporate America invests money in it, like when Microsoft bought Hotmail.
If you sit down and measure how your use of email on a daily basis to your ROI, then we can have conversations about how you measure social ROI. It’s the exact same thing. The problem I have is when people say “What’s the ROI for social media?”, then I ask them what their ROI is on email, or the billboard they’re spending $2,000 a month on and they have no idea. You can’t complain about the lack of metrics with social when you don’t measure it on everything else and the only thing that’s keeping you from moving forward is the fear of change.
Social media actually feels a lot like traditional media (print, radio, TV) in the sense that you can easily measure direct calls to action, but it’s still nearly impossible to measure brand awareness or engagement.
Absolutely, and it’s because social is still too new. You either make the decision to invest and try it out or you take the risk of being left behind. Blockbuster is a great example. Anyone who thinks that Blockbuster didn’t see the opportunity of streaming media is wrong. Blockbuster saw it, but what did they do? They made the decision to hold off because they didn’t know the viability of streaming, and Netflix is destroying them now. Even in terms of Redbox, they’re killing Blockbuster because they adapted to the way consumers thought and felt. We actually work with a local restaurant and they’re getting rid of their mystery shopper company because they get all of it on Twitter anyway. I think that 5 years from now, we’re going to look back and laugh that we thought social was for lead generation. It’s more for PR and customer engagement and getting the voice of the consumer so you know how to market to them effectively.
Who “owns” social media, PR or Marketing?
It’s communications. Whatever communications means to each individual organization, that’s where social media should be housed. In my opinion, PR and Marketing should be the same anyway. It’s all spin and it’s all about how to get consumers to talk about you. That’s the whole crux with social. How do you get people to talk about you and what you’re doing? That’s the same as a PR firm that wants to get their client in a magazine. They want to do that because the magazine has readership. I don’t think there should be Vice Presidents of Social Media, I think it should be housed under communications.
What are some new and emerging trends in social media?
Social is going to turn more corporate. SharePoint 2010 comes out this month and it has a lot of social tools. In the next year and a half to two years, I think we’ll see the social media bubble burst. It had to happen for email and the internet in general as well. There’s a lot of Venture Capital (VC) money going into social and as of now, there’s no real income stream. Twitter is probably the best example of that. You can’t have a viable business model if you have $240 million in VC, but you haven’t made any money yet. I think in the next two to three years we’ll see an evening out, but in the next year, I think we’ll see a lot of corporate tools come out to help utilize social media. Like ExactTarget purchasing CoTweet, you’ll see a lot of stuff coming out of Omniture and Google and you’ll probably see more analytics and metrics coming out because that’s what people want. We need measurement. I can’t spend 4-5 hours a day piecing together metrics from several different sources. You’ll see Radian6 coming out with some great stuff. We’ll see a lot of mergers and acquisitions.
How do you think the tourism industry can benefit from social media?
The biggest way tourism can capitalize on social media is by getting people to talk about you. I still think that we’re lacking in terms of storytelling online. We need to get platforms together that allows people to tell their stories. If there’s anything that tourism can be doing it’s sending out emails whenever people visit asking them to take a survey: tell us about your time, let us know what your favorite thing was about hte park, then we’ll create a blog post about it. We’re allowing the consumer to be the voice of the brand and that’s been the conversation for the last several years, but I don’t think it’s come to fruition yet.
What industries or organizations are doing a great job with social media?
There’s a non-profit called Charity Water that’s some of the best I’ve ever seen and they’re great at telling a story. That’s no different than marketing from 60 years ago, It’s all about telling the brand’s story. The difference now is that there’s multiple people that can tell the story instead of one centralized campaign. I think Charity Water is some of the best I’ve ever seen. Locally, Scotty’s Brewhouse is unbelievable with social now. The reason is because their owner, Scotty Wise, decided to take advantage of Twitter and use it as a medium to communicate personally and he’s creating a brand for himself as well.
How can people stay on top of social media?
Convince and Convert from Jay Baer. Jason Falls’ blog (SocialMediaExplorer) is a good one as well as Tech Crunch and Seth Godin’s blog. I don’t really read Mashable because it has to be marketing as well, you can’t just read about social media because you can’t separate the two, they’re one and the same. And of course, KyleLacy.com
Any final thoughts or comments?
Be sure to put a strategy together before you do anything and make sure it syncs with your mission statement and marketing plan. You should not be creating anything unless it has some kind of system or strategy, unless you have a plan for what it will look like six months from now.