Ruud Questions: Kristy Bolsinger (RealNetworks)

You're the Social Media Marketing Strategist for RealNetworks.

Strategist: that means you don't actually execute anything? Put differently: Kristy, what in the world is it that you *do*?!

Kristy BolsingerHeh. Hardly. Surely there are positions out there like that, but mine is far from it.

My job is both creating AND implementing the social media strategy for the games division within RealNetworks. I head up social media for GameHouse, which means I get to do a little bit of everything.

I work closely with managers at all levels to help adapt current strategies, and develop new ones, that utilize our strengths and increase our level of engagement in the social space.

Being a technology company there are also many times I get to work with product managers on ways to add social features or build products that integrate into the social space.

Also, a big part of any social media persons day is spent providing customer service and I am no different. As the front line for the company in places like our forums, Facebook and Twitter it is important that I am responsive and attentive to what is happening in those spaces. So building a sense of community and increasing engagement are huge drivers in my day to day activities.

As long ago as 2003 Realnetworks was already very, very social. Real 9 and10 codecs were coming out and Karl Lillevold, the senior engineer on the codec team, was posting on the doom9 forum; helping people rip & convert DVD's to Real's format.He was also an essential bridge between "us" and the marketing department that wanted Real Player to install in a certain way. The less intrusive manner in which Real Player installs and behaves these days comes from those community efforts.

Yet when I look around online, "hating on" Real is about as popular as "hating on" Microsoft. What's going on here?

Kristy BolsingerAny company that has been around as long as Real is bound to make mistakes here and there. Our goal is not to not dwell on past mistakes, but to learn from each one and create from that learning a better experience for our users.

If you look at RealPlayerSP, which was recently released, you will see a product that was designed with our users and their lifestyles in mind.

Similarly, Rhapsody, which has been around for some time, is constantly evolving to meet our users needs. Take the recently released Rhapsody iPhone App, for example. In the games group, we recently merged the RealArcade and GameHouse online casual games portals, and are making great strides as we learn from our long history in the space and improve our customers experiences based on their feedback.

In all areas of Reals business we are actively listening and adapting to what people are telling us they want. This is not necessarily a new thing for Real, but we are certainly taking a new approach at how we gather and address customer feedback.

Is social media as powerful as we believe or want to believe -- or can large companies go on perfectly well *despite* what online public is saying?

Are we overstating our power?

Kristy BolsingerAbsolutely not.

Social Media
like word
of mouth on steroids
I dont think you can overstate the power of todays hyper-connected and extremely social world.

Social Media is like word of mouth " on steroids.

Now, granted, each business is different and can see varying levels of results from engaging in social media. But I would argue that any company that isnt engaging with their customers via social media is doing a great disservice to themselves and their shareholders.

The community at large is talking and will continue to talk whether you are listening or not. There is a wealth of information to be gleaned from these conversations that nearly any business with sound strategy development can take advantage of.

There are also obvious examples of how not listening has hurt brands " such as the Motrin-moms debacle. This situation could have been a much smaller catastrophe for them had they been listening. In this instance, the community was in uproar for nearly 3 whole days before Motrin weighed in and began to address the concerns of their customers. How did that effect their bottom line? I have no clue. But I would argue that it probably harmed brand loyalty amongst those involved in that particular community. Instances like these can follow a company for years to come, long after the damage has been repaired.

Social has been part of the web for ages: email, Usenet groups, IRC, instant messengers, forums ... Why is social media a concern *now* all of a sudden?

Kristy BolsingerThats a great question.

everyone is getting involvedI think the answer lies in the accessibility and widespread nature of the platforms that are currently being utilized.

Social media is a concern now because everyone is getting involved.

The most popular platforms (Facebook, Twitter, DailyBooth, etc.) enable users of nearly every level of technical aptitude to participate. For example, on Facebook I have friends who range in age from 8 all the way to their mid-70s. The experiences are robust in terms of shareable content, yet are so simple to use that very few people have a reason to stay away. Which means they generally dont.

The web is also changing. We carry the web in our pockets. Our homes, now more than ever before, are likely to have at least one computer in them. Most of us no longer rely on dial-up internet. All of these factors combine to make social media a much more easily accessible forum than it has been in the past, and drive more and more people to become users every day.

Is social media a question of scale the way public relations is; the larger the company, the more immediate both the need and the ROI?

Kristy BolsingerThats a difficult question to answer, mostly because it depends.

I think for each and every company the goals for social media will be different. As is the immediacy to determine ROI.

Personally, I believe that if you are unable to show ROI, even at a rudimentary level, that you are doing something wrong regardless of the size of your business.

The expectation of a presence is different for a large company than it is for a small one, and I think its also the main factor determining immediacy.

I would add, though, that as time goes on this expectation is gradually shifting. As social media becomes more fully integrated into the daily lives of nearly every customer, smaller brands and companies will live under the same expectations to maintain a presence as the larger brands and companies currently do.

At this point, the important thing is to select a platform that best suits your needs within the scope of your available resources. Be where you can, and be where it makes sense regardless of the size of your business. If measured appropriately against your goals, the ROI will show.

5 minutes with the boss. The 3 key points she needs to get about social media are...

Kristy Bolsinger1) People are talking about you whether you are listening and/or participating or not. Simply ignoring these conversations does not wipe them from existence.

2) In order to get involved in social media successfully, it is critical to define your goals and know your target audience. Simply jumping in will probably not result in a positive outcome " let alone any type of ROI. You must first define your goals based on your target audience, and then strategically enter the social media space with these things in mind.

3) Integration is key. There is such an overlap between marketing, advertising, public relations and now social media that for one hand to be operating exclusively of the other(s) is just a ridiculous idea. For the brand or company to receive the most benefit out of its social media initiatives they really need to be integrated throughout all areas of communication. This will help ensure both consistency and synergy. Social media needs to be involved in SEO, product development and many other conversations throughout the organization. This is a multi-facetted role that touches many aspects of a business.

What did you want to become when you were 12?

Kristy BolsingerEverything.

If I remember correctly I wanted to be President of The United States. And a veterinarian. And an artist.

Lucky for the citizens of this the US, animals everywhere, and consumers of fine art, I grew up and found something I love doing even more. Things couldnt have worked out better!

About the Author: Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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