Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Social Media Mavens - An Interview with Graco's Lindsay Lebresco

Originally, I had planned on relaunching The Viral Garden today, but the migration to Wordpress/Thesis has been slowed a bit by my consulting work. There's several changes I will be making when the relaunch does happen, and I'm going to go ahead today and give you a sneak peek at one of the biggest changes you'll be seeing.

Starting today, and every two weeks hereafter, I'll be sharing an interview I've done with some of the top social media minds in the corporate world. These are people that have executed and overseen successful blogging, community-building, and social networking efforts. I want this series to be a resource for YOU, as you'll be learning from some of the top companies in the world on how to create, launch, and maintain successful social media efforts.

And I could think of no better company and person to launch this series than Graco's Social Media Manager, Lindsay Lebresco. Besides being a good friend, Lindsay is one of the top social media managers on the planet, and she and her team have created one of the most successful corporate blogs anywhere, Graco's Heart to Heart Blog. Lindsay was kind enough to answer some questions for me, and walk us through how Graco crafted their blogging strategy, how they measure their efforts, and how they craft their blog content (Graco absolutely nails 'the bigger idea' behind their blog).

MC - So many companies/organizations decide one day to start blogging, and just launch a blog and learn as they go. Is this what Graco did?

LL - Definitely not. It actually took us nearly 9 months (we tend to work in trimesters over here) to really get started in the space. We did a lot of listening to understand what kind of conversations our consumers (expectant parents and parents of young children) were having in the social web. We then matched up what we heard with our company’s goals and brand’s vision and thus our social media strategy, lead by our “corporate” blog, was born. Of course the blog is only one of the social platforms we’re engaging our consumers with but it was definitely started with the most insight and has the strongest strategy behind it. I think there’s certainly room for experimentation in social media and there’s something to be said for brands willing to take a risk to get a reward, but in my opinion, and I think most social media strategists and practitioners would agree, corporate blogging is not the place for dabbling or experimentation.

MC - So basically, Graco listened to its customers and crafted its blog content based on what you thought they would find valuable, and you and your team made sure that Graco's social media goals aligned with your company's larger business goals?

LL - That’s really it! You make it sound so easy there Mack - that actually took quite a lot of planning & time but it was the absolute right foundation to get us started. I’m so glad we took our time and got totally aligned before we jumped in- it’s proven to be at the heart of our success.

MC - As you know, I am a huge fan of what Graco has done with its blogging strategy, and as Graco's Social Media Manager, you've been a big part of that. What's your daily routine as it pertains to Graco's blog?

LL - And wouldn’t it be lovely if after 18 months I had a routine! Since the blog is published 5 days a week, it can be a challenge to create and gather content from all the folks in the organization that are a part of the blog. As you know, we have a multiple-contributor blog platform where we’ve tried to establish different voices that we feel best represent who we are as a company- which is basically a collection of passionate, talented and caring individuals who, a lot of them, are parents themselves. I work with these people to create quality content that we hopes connects with our readers and helps underscore the fact that the people behind the products at Graco are on the same journey our consumers are on or are headed on. So in that regard, I manage a team of contributors.

I also work with product teams who want to talk about new products, I work with HR who likes to showcase a little of the spirit behind Graco by posting company happenings, I work with our channel marketing teams to support our retail partners and programs, and I also personally create content that people tell me they want to hear about.

From a time breakout standpoint, I could spend an hour or more every day pulling together content, editing it, optimizing it and getting it in a format to publish- that usually happens around 5:30 in the afternoon when I realize I’ve forgotten to do it and have just promised my husband that I will be home on time for dinner.

MC - One of the areas that companies struggle with before, and even after launching a blog, is how to measure its effectiveness. What does Graco look at to decide how effective its blogging strategy is?

LL - We use a variety of methods, some of them fairly standard (how many comments, how many links, how many visitors, how many clicked through to, etc) and we also look at the engagement of our readers. Are readers coming back over time?, how often are they commenting?, is the relationship with our blog readers extending to other SM platforms of ours?, etc) SEO is certainly another measure we look at.

For instance, one of the blog posts that continually performs well in search engines and delivers a large amount of keyword traffic is a blog post written by Kim Lefko who is our Global Vice President of Brand Marketing. Her post is entitled “Top 10 Ways to announce your pregnancy” which she wrote when she was expecting her 2nd child. If an expectant mom is looking for creative ways to tell her friends and family she is pregnant, usually right around the start of her 2nd trimester, and she comes to the Graco blog by way of search, what a perfect time (when FTEs start registering for baby gear) and personal introduction we’re able to make with that consumer.

MC - Finally, what's next for Lindsay?

LL - Now this is the million dollar question! As many of our regular readers and online friends know, Graco Children's Products is relocating its headquarters to Atlanta, GA next month to be with our other sister companies and part of our corporation Newell Rubbermaid. Unfortunately I am not making the move because my roots and family are here in southeastern PA. After nearly 7 years of working at Graco, a company and brand that I passionately believe in, it was a very difficult decision to make (especially since my husband is a stay-at-home dad!). I’m exploring several avenues but my desire is to stay here in Pennsylvania practicing social media. So if your readers know of anything…

Thank you, Lindsay! And let me say that if your company is looking for someone to head up your social media efforts (especially if you are located in the Philadelphia area), then you would be damn hard-pressed to find someone more suitable to this role than Lindsay. Seriously, the results literally speak for themselves, here's some of the stunning success Graco has had in social media. In 2007 before the company launched its blog, 68% of online mentions were positive. In 2008, that number was up to 83%, and the company found that almost ALL of the additional online mentions after the company launched its blog, were positive. That's a testament to the success of Graco's blogging strategy, and please email Lindsay if you think you have an opportunity for her!

BTW you can (and should!) follow Lindsay on Twitter by clicking here. And if your company would like to be considered for a future interview in the Social Media Mavens series, please email me. Look for the next interview in this series in two weeks!


Beth Harte said...

Mack, Lindsay, thanks for sharing Graco's insights with us all!

I am so glad that Lindsay touched on one VERY important aspect that I think many organizations side takes months of planning to develop a blog. And by listening to the community first, you may just find out a blog isn't the way to go. Fortunately for Graco, that wasn't the case!

I was lucky to have Lindsay come to my class to present her social media strategy with my students...the results of Lindsay's and the Graco team's efforts were amazing. It just goes to show that social media can be successful and measurable.

To any companies out there looking for a social media and PR pro that will help you move the needle...Lindsay is the one!

Mack, looking forward to more interviews!

Beth Harte
Community Manager, MarketingProfs

Mack Collier said...

Beth I think that's a great point Lindsay makes about planning and I also LOVED this point:

"I work with these people to create quality content that we hopes connects with our readers and helps underscore the fact that the people behind the products at Graco are on the same journey our consumers are on or are headed on."

THAT is huge in helping readers connect with Graco's bloggers as it tells them they are the same people going through the same issues that they are. LOVE it!

Jay Baer said...

Great interview, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of them in your new series.

Stroller Girl said...

A company blog needs planning just like any other aspect of the business, it can't be a haphazard thing.