Guest Post: Social media – Peeling past the hyperbole to learn valuable lessons by Carol Worthington-Levy

Note to readers: I asked Carol Worthington-Levy to submit a guest article to me because she has a unique voice.  To me the first two paragraphs alone are worth the price of admission!  Enjoy!


I had the pleasure of running a social media session at our LENSER client Summit last week. One of the primary reasons I wanted to run this social media session was because of all the garbage that’s out there about it. Not a week goes by when I don’t see some article about a ‘successful’ social media campaign – only to realize upon reading the article that their measurement of ‘success’ was that the thing actually launched.

On whose scale is that either measurable or successful?  D’oh! It’s smoke and mirrors – our own industry’s media falling into the same tepid pool as the bigger media has, by expanding stories into big headlines that exaggerate, but don’t really state the truth. While I have respect for what our media is up against, I don’t respect their not culling through PR releases to find out what the real truth is before printing it.

Social Media is a mixed bag among our LENSER partners, because it’s feared that clients will waste inordinate amounts of time (time = money) on campaigns that don’t pay off. We don’t want this to turn into the ‘dot com boom syndrome’ (DCBS) where people start pouring money into it without measurement. When Dell, who made $61B in 2009, pours money into this, even a million dollars is like a baby flea on a St. Bernard’s back. When most clients pour hours and hours of labor into it, this makes social media financially dangerous territory if not carefully monitored.

The presentation included Glenda Ervin, of Lehman’s Hardware – one of the nation’s most successful small to midsized businesses. This company sells non-electric tools and products – everything from wood stoves to hand churning ice cream makers – and everything for the farm and the home. This is real ‘off the grid’ stuff, and they’re incredible at finding quality and providing amazing customer service. Lehman’s is on Facebook and Twitter, and of course this was a great story because it seems so ‘counter’ to what you would believe an ‘off the grid’ customer would be using.

However, these media connect customers and enthusiasts to other like minded individuals, and to the Lehman family who still owns and run Lehman’s. They use it to ask their customers about what they’d like to see in the catalog, what buying choices they should offer, and how their products are being used. As people email in answers, the testimonials also roll in! This is manna from heaven in the marketing world. Customers as evangelists sell more product than one could ever imagine.

Another of our presenters was Scott Wentzell, of Thos. Moser, a high end creator and purveyor of handmade solid wood furniture, based up in Maine. Thos. Moser uses Facebook and Twitter to connect a network together that includes fans of beautiful furniture, interior designers, customers and more – and the conversation keeps these people engaged and sharing their values – plus they can share links to presentations by and about the founder Tom and his son David who is the talented designer of all current lines. This connection capability is an extraordinary plus for social media – people want to know the founder and the family, just as they do with Lehman’s.

Our third presenter was Jennifer Levanduski of VWR Science education. Now this was very different indeed, as a large group of her customers are educators and scientists – and they aren’t networking in Twitter or Facebook. Their venues are dominated by the educators and scientists markets – including Physics blogs, forums for Physics teachers and more. These are old platforms that most of us have never even heard of – but in their industry, this is the place to go.

Additional bits in the session included some resources for measuring Twitter for response and outcome, tips on keeping entries in Facebook and Twitter interesting, and more.

The most valuable lessons of the session may well have been these:

  1. Choose your platform based on where your people are going, not on where you just assume they go.
  2. Choose a limited number of platforms. There are hundreds out there, but only one or two are right for you, and you can only maintain a few if you’re as short on time as most of us are. Don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s worse to stop one of them once you’ve started, than to never start it at all.
  3. Limit how much time is spent – that means time budgeting and sticking with it. Social media can be huge sink hole of time.
  4. Keep it interesting. If adding video really adds value – products in use or an expansion of culture, think about it. If you can share and access goodies that are out there already to support your brand and your culture, do it. And never, ever let the same thing show up again and again, or you’re bound to bore your customers and they’ll opt out.
  5. Measure as much and as often as you can. There are measuring tools and you can set up your own tests with specific product to create opportunities to measure.
  6. Write thoughtfully and efficiently. At Lehman’s, they write most of a week’s facebook entries and tweets over the course of about 2 to 3 hours on a Saturday morning. This is not rocket science folks – it’s sharing news and cultural goodies that your market wants to see and will share with others. And it’s certainly not going to keep their attention if you discuss inane stuff that doesn’t move them.

Carol Worthington-Levy

Partner, Creative Services, LENSER

Carol Worthington-Levy is an 8-time DMA Echo Award winner in three categories: direct mail, catalog and digital media (web and email). She’ll be teaching the DMA post-conference session on Creative Strategy, in San Diego this October. Sign up for the FREE monthly LENSER e-newsletter at

5 thoughts on “Guest Post: Social media – Peeling past the hyperbole to learn valuable lessons by Carol Worthington-Levy

  1. Michelle Toivonen says:

    Social media needs more voices like this. This article contains a refreshingly professional point of view. I’ve been to seminars where the speakers advocated tweeting your coffee choice for the morning. Why? Because it “humanizes” you and makes your brand more attractive. I’ve unfollowed many experts in my field after receiving one too many coffee/lunch/gym updates. The Thos. Moser and Lehman’s examples are perfect examples of the reality of “social media” for many small to mid-size businesses. Creating a real connection with clients can be centered around the business. Social media, used judiciously, affords small and mid-sized business the ability to do what they do best: address their clients needs and fill in others searching for their products or services in an affordable way. Thank you for posting Carol’s article here.

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