If you’re familiar with #SproutSessions, you know it’s a free digital conference where we host a variety of marketing and social talent from your favorite brands to talk shop. We recently took that format and made it live as a half-day, traveling event with speakers and panels that explore what it means to foster real connection on social.
Yep, we’re pretty excited about it.
Sprout Sessions Live is more than a learning opportunity. It’s a chance to make the buzzy phrases that surround your work feel attainable. We launched in our home base, Chicago, where the community did not disappoint. Eighty marketers came together to network and share insights about the evolution of people’s expectations for today’s brand/consumer relationships.
Learn about our takeaways from the Chicago event below and check to see if Sprout Sessions Live is coming to a city near you.
Brands are the new champions of connection
Our CMO Jamie Gilpin kicked things off by acknowledging the elephant in the room: trust. There’s a growing mistrust between people and established institutions in our society. We’re bombarded with this sentiment in headlines and can’t ignore the paradigm shift happening.
People have shifted their trust to the relationships within their control—brands. And we know what they want—real connection.
The wins and losses of relationship building
Our all-star panel brought us right into the heart of what it means to build meaningful connections with customers. Luka Dukich of the Chicago Bulls, Andrew Rosch of Trek Bikes and Mallorie Rosenbluth of Grubhub shared the stage to discuss their evolving relationship with social communities.
Every social media manager knows that a smart approach to content starts with defining what connection means to your brand. For Luka, it’s focusing on community and the universal appeal of content.
The Chicago Bulls are one of the top five most followed sports teams around the globe, (mostly thanks to Michael Jordan). But most followers are outside the U.S. That means Luka’s team needs to consider content that’s relevant to a variety of different kinds of people around the globe. People who may never set foot in the United Center.
“We no longer feel good about just pushing content out. We want to find new places where people are and be a part of the conversation, not control it,” he said.
Luka and his team have found great success with building a community on Reddit. Rather than moderating discussion threads, the social team became active participants. They started relationships with fans there, sending them videos from games so they can share. It’s a small action that goes a long way in organically changing the tone, because fans know The Bulls are present and helping. It changed the facelessness and highlighted real people behind the brand.
“Just creating an account there has changed everything. We don’t want to control the narrative beyond what we should be. We just want to be a part of the conversation,” Luka said.
The power of listening
Mallorie delighted the room with a story of how listening elevated the way Grubhub interacts with its social community.
Imagine you’re craving a Cheesy Gordita Crunch from Taco Bell, but for whatever reason you can’t reach one. You helplessly Tweet about needing Taco Bell delivery service, hoping one day your prayers will be answered.
Well, Grubhub found you. When the company was gearing up for the launch of nationwide Taco Bell delivery, they swept Twitter for Tweets just like that, new and old, surprising them with gift cards in the days leading up to the launch.
The response from the community?
“I forgot I even wanted this but gosh do I want it!” Mallorie said. It was a fun and unexpected win that couldn’t have happened without social listening.
Low risk, big payoffs
Andrew emphasized that making customers the voice of what you’re trying to do is a simple, low risk effort that pays off in a big way.
During the Tour de France, Trek launched a Twitter contest to let a lucky fan announce the race’s roster for the year (a big deal within the cycling community.)
It took the idea of making your brand’s actions about fans by literally handing the brand’s Twitter handle over. It can be scary, but for Trek it paid off. And it’s a move that harmoniously aligns with the company’s mission.
“We just want people to enjoy riding a bike. It’s that simple sometimes,” Andrew said.
The ‘how’ of listening
Sprout’s very own Patrick Cuttica took us from the ‘why’ of social listening to the ‘how.’
One of the biggest ways you can be transparent and build trust is showing who’s behind your brand. That can mean everything from highlighting your employees and culture to putting your brand in the hands of the people that love it. And that’s where listening tools come in.
Data and empathy may not seem synonymous, but the data you get from listening ensures you’re driving relevant experiences. It provides an unobscured view of what people actually want. The takeaway here is that when you think of analytics, don’t dismiss it as less human. It’s actually what drives more human marketing.
Patrick left the room with this thought: “Think beyond audience engagement and campaign management and ask yourself this: are you just doing what you think a social marketer is supposed to be doing? Or are you driving real experiences?”
He also left folks with a sneak peek at Sprout’s product roadmap. But you’ll have to join us next time to hear more about that.
The day wasn’t all presentations, there was a lot of group-led discussion between presentations. To wrap us up, people shared their biggest takeaways. Some felt validated in their everyday work through seeing familiar brands talk about universal struggles, and others felt inspired to push themselves beyond comfortable marketing.
While people continued to mingle, trade business cards and Twitter handles (and grab more donuts), Jamie brought it all together with these parting words: “We’re all trying to do the same thing: connect.”
It was a healthy reminder that no matter your industry, we all have the same goal. If a table of professionals from healthcare, sports and B2B marketing can come together, realize they’re trying to solve the same problems and arrive at the same consensus, it has to be true.