For this SocialMedia.org member profile, we sat down with Ed Nicholson, Tyson Foods’ Director of Social Media and Community Relations. Ed is one of the pioneers of social media for big brands, and we’re lucky to call him a member since 2008.

Ten years ago, before social media ROI, Twitter metrics, and Facebook strategies existed, Ed Nicholson joined Tyson Foods as their PR guy. He also helped out with community relations and ran their CSR program for hunger relief.

Even though it wasn’t in his job description, Ed quickly became known as Tyson’s “de facto social media expert.”

According to Ed, it all started with blogging — not about Tyson Foods — but about his weekend hobby as a musician.

He says he became a convert in the mid-2000’s when people like Chris Brogan were talking about how social media (particularly blogging) was going to change the way we communicate.

“I sort of bought into that,” he says.

As far as getting Tyson on board with social media, Ed had been there long enough to build up the credibility and trust he needed to get the go-ahead and some flexibility. “Which was great,” explains Ed. “It really let me develop those channels in a way they’re supposed to be developed.”

Ed focused their early social efforts on hunger relief causes — not marketing.

He began blogging for Tyson and working with a community of hunger relief advocates.

“I’m really proud of the way we’ve used the channels to create awareness for the issue of hunger in our country, and how we use them to support that community of folks who are doing some really important work and helping people who are less fortunate. I would have to say that’s a big accomplishment we’ve had in using social media. ”

“The huge potential in these channels has always been about creating communities,” Ed says.

Since then, Ed’s social media job responsibilities have gotten more official (and more widespread). In addition to working with PR and hunger relief programs for Tyson, he now leads a social media team of three, which he admits is “small for a $36 billion company.” Ed calls their approach a “hybrid model,” as they source content from agencies while doing a lot of the community management and engagement themselves.

But if you ask him about a typical day as Tyson’s Director of Social Media, he’ll tell you there are none.

“I’m a news fanatic. I still have to touch some newsprint every morning for my day to start right. And I usually manage to spend some time at the start of the day personally engaging in social channels, which is how I usually end the day, too. In addition to my own Twitter and Facebook accounts, I also help manage some corporate accounts. So I’ll connect in one way or the other early in the day, usually before I get to the office. Once I arrive, I’ll go over media reports, maybe get through some blogs, if there’s time, and from there it can vary.”

The rest of his day might be dedicated to traveling, talking with national hunger relief organizations, working with Tyson’s governmental relations in DC, and dealing with the daily challenges of social media management.

Running social at a big brand comes with both internal and external challenges.

Ed says, “It can be challenge to work for a big company in a time where there’s some distrust of big companies — distrust of big anything. My team tries to help people understand that behind that big company there are people who really care, and they go to work every day and want to do the right thing. That can be a big challenge, and it’s one that I enjoy a lot.”

But consumer distrust is only part of the difficulties that social media executives at big companies face. Ed says that some of his job’s challenges are internal problems, like silos.

“We’re all incredibly busy, and it’s really easy for one hand not to know what’s going on with the other. That can be a challenge.”

He says other difficulties come from trying to help people understand that even when social media doesn’t paint a perfect picture for ROI, it’s still worth doing.

But Ed has hope for quantifiable metrics in social media.

“I think we’re going to see measurement of social media activity perfected, and more importantly, accepted by those who may have discounted it a few years ago,” he says.

Ed’s also excited about growing their team and finding bigger and better ways to add value to their company. (In fact, they’re hiring.)

Want to know who inspires him? Ed’s roster of thought leaders includes Chris Brogan, Charlene Li, Jeremiah Owyang, Valeria Maltoni, Brian Solis, and Beth Kanter.

“Recently, I’ve really been enjoying Mitch Joel’s blog and podcasts.” Ed added, “I really like the way Mitch thinks, and he’s really a fantastic interviewer. He has some great guests, and he leads them into some really provocative conversations.”

Stop by Ed’s Twitter to say hi, talk about the latest in Tyson’s hunger relief partnerships, and ask about his band.

What do you think?

  • Share
  • Newsletter Signup
  • The Family Album
  • Member Login
  • Meet Our Members

    A + E Networks, Abbott Laboratories, AbbVie, Ace Hardware, Adidas, Advance Auto Parts, Aetna, Agilent Technologies, Ahold USA, AIG, Allianz SE, Allstate, AMD, American Eagle Outfitters, American Family Insurance, American Honda Motor Company, Ameriprise Financial, Amgen, Amica Mutual Insurance, Amtrak, Amway, Analog Devices, Andersen, Aon, ARIA Resort and Casino, Ariba, Arizona Public Service, Arrow Electronics, Assurant, Asurion, AT&T, Autodesk, Avery Products Corporation, Avon, AXA, Barclaycard US, Barilla, BD, Best Buy, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of IL, TX, OK, NM, MT, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, BMC Software, BMW, Boeing, Bosch, Bose, Boston Children’s Hospital, Bridgestone, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Brother International, Brown Shoe Company, Buckle, Burger King, CA Technologies, Cabela’s, Cambia Health Solutions, Canadian National Railway, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Canon USA, Capital Group, Capital One, Career Education, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Cargill, Catamaran, Catholic Health Initiatives, CDK Global, CEMEX, CenterPoint Energy, Central Garden & Pet, CertainTeed, Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, Ciena, Cisco Systems, Citi, Citrix, CME Group, The Coca-Cola Company, Coldwell Banker Real Estate, ComEd, Comerica Bank, ConAgra Foods, ConocoPhillips, Corning, Cost Plus World Market, Costco Wholesale, Cox Enterprises, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, CVS/pharmacy, Darden, Dassault Systèmes, Delaware North, DeVry University, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Direct Auto and Life Insurance, Discover Financial Services, Discovery Communications, Dole, Dorel Industries, Dow, Duke Energy, Dunkin’ Brands, eBay, Electronic Arts, Eli Lilly and Company, EMC Corporation, Enterprise Holdings, Ericsson, Erie Insurance, Express Employment Professionals, Express Scripts, Exxon Mobil, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, Fairview Health Services, Family Dollar Stores, Fannie Mae, Farmers Insurance, FedEx, Ferguson Enterprises, Fidelity Investments, First American, First Republic Bank, Fiserv, Flight Centre Travel Group, Florida Power & Light, FMC Technologies, Fortune Brands Home & Security, Freescale Semiconductor, Garmin International, Geisinger Health System, General Dynamics, General Electric, General Mills, Genworth Financial, Georgia-Pacific, GNC, GoDaddy, Goldman Sachs, Gordon Food Service, Grainger, Hallmark, Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Harman International, The Hartford, Hawaiian Electric Industries, Helen of Troy, Hershey Company, Hewlett-Packard, hhgregg, Hilton Worldwide, Hobby Lobby, The Home Depot, Honeywell, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Hospira, HSNi, Humana, Hyatt Corporation, ICON Health & Fitness, Ingram Micro, InterContinental Hotels Group, Invesco, Iron Mountain, The J.M. Smucker Company, JCPenney, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johnson & Johnson, Johnson Controls, Johnsonville Sausage, Jostens, JPMorgan Chase, Kaiser Permanente, KB Home, Kellogg Company, Keurig Green Mountain, Kia Motors, Kindred Healthcare, Kingston Technology, The Kroger Company, Land O’Lakes, Laureate Education, Lettuce Entertain You, Level 3 Communications, LexisNexis, Lincoln Financial Group, Lindt & Sprungli, Live Nation Entertainment, Lockheed Martin, Logitech, Lowe’s Home Improvement, lululemon, Mack Trucks, Manulife / John Hancock, Marriott International, Mattress Firm, McAfee, McDonald’s, McGraw Hill Financial, Medtronic, Meijer, Michelin, Microsoft, MillerCoors, Molson Coors Canada, MoneyGram, Monsanto, Monster Worldwide, Motorola Mobility, Navy Federal Credit Union, NCR, Neiman Marcus, Nestle Purina PetCare, New Balance Athletic Shoe, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Nintendo, Nissan, Northwestern Mutual, Novartis, NRG Energy, NVIDIA, Old Dominion Freight Line, Old Navy, Orange, Owens-Illinois, P.F. Chang’s, Pacific Life, Patterson Companies, Paychex, Pearson Education, Penguin Random House, PepsiCo, PerkinElmer, Perrigo, Philips, Phillips 66, Pitney Bowes, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Praxair, Premier Farnell, Principal Financial Group, Procter & Gamble, Public Service Enterprise Group, Publix Super Markets, Quintiles, RaceTrac Petroleum, Rackspace Hosting, RadioShack, Raley’s, Raytheon, RBS Citizens Financial Group, Red Robin, Reebok, Regions, REI, Rite Aid, Roche, Rockwell Automation, Rogers Communications, Rollins, Royal Bank of Canada, Rust-Oleum, Sabre, Safelite AutoGlass, Sage Group, samsung, SanDisk, Sanofi US, Scottrade, Scripps Networks, Sealed Air, Select Comfort, Shell Oil, Shaw Industries, Shire Pharmaceuticals, Solo Cup Company, Sonic Drive-In, Southern California Edison, Southern Company, Southwest Airlines, Spectra Energy, Spectrum Health Systems, Sports Authority, Sprouts Farmers Market, St. Jude Medical, Stanley BLACK + DECKER, Staples, State Farm Insurance, State Street, Steelcase, Subaru, Suncor Energy, Symantec, T-Mobile, T. Rowe Price, TaylorMade-adidas Golf, TD Ameritrade, TD Bank Group, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Texas Instruments, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Thrivent Financial, Tim Hortons, The TJX Companies, Toll Brothers, The Toro Company, Toyota, TransUnion, Travelers, Trend Micro, Tyson Foods, U.S. Bank, U.S. Cellular, UCB Pharma, ULTA Beauty, Union Bank, United, The United States Postal Service, United Technologies, UnitedHealth Group, Universal Parks, Unum, UPMC, UPS, USAA, USG, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Vanguard, Verizon, Visa, Vista Outdoor, Voya Financial, W.L. Gore and Associates, Walgreens, WD, WebMD, Weight Watchers, WellPoint, Inc., Wells Fargo, Wendy’s, Western Union, Whirlpool, Whole Foods Market, Wiley, Wyndham Worldwide, Xerox, Yamaha Motor Corporation, YMCA, Zurich of North America, 3M

Get our free weekly newsletter

A short email packed with updates on what big brands are doing in social media.

Never display this again