Coverage of this session by Cale Johnson of Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

4:30 —’s Jeff Casale introduces Discover Financial Services’ Social Media Project Manager, Laura Bretz.

4:31 — Laura: So basically, what I do in my role, is manage all of social and digital for Discover Network, which is basically their BtoB side. When I started two years ago on this campaign, we were in our infancy in social — especially on Twitter. Our agency started it with essentially no guidance, and it was mostly retweeting without engagement. It was essentially the exact opposite of social, and it was frustrating.

4:32 — Laura: For us in particular, and for most BtoB’s, social is challenging. We were starting at almost zero — our handle was “@dn_merchants” which didn’t mean anything to anyone. We had no idea where that handle came from.

4:33 — Laura: One of the first things I did was looked at rebranding. I looked at our competitors, industry best practices, and we ended up settling on @DiscoverSmBiz. It’s been a huge help, but rebranding wasn’t enough. We all know that if you build it, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll come. But now, at least people knew who we were and what we stood for, but it wasn’t enough yet.

4:34 — Laura: What conversation were we going to have? No matter what, no matter who you are, people are talking about you somewhere. Even if it’s an obscure subreddit. I think this can be maybe biggest challenge — finding that conversation. Our biggest channel at the time was Facebook, but this wasn’t where the best conversations were happening. For us, it was Twitter.

4:35 — Laura: Be willing to put resources behind this process. Whether it’s an agency putting together an ad-hoc report or you taking a week to wade through tools — finding the conversations has to be done right. Dump your pre-conceived notions, because they’re probably wrong.

4:36 — Laura says most of the conversation they were seeing was, “Hey, we now accept Discover.” We were surprised to see how much people were talking about payments they accept. But thanks to Square and new businesses just excited about now accepting payments, we knew a lot of conversations were happening out there that we could potentially engage with.

4:36 — Laura: You have to have smart parameters. For example, we couldn’t just search “Discover Network” — that wasn’t going to reveal the real conversations. And with “discover” being such a common verb, there was real manual labor in setting up the parameters to find the conversations. Ultimately for us, there was no way to weed out all the irrelevant conversation, but at least we could get close. Laura says you’d be surprised how many people include “discover Jesus” and “accept yourself” in the same tweets.

4:38 — Laura: Prior to Discover, I worked for an entertainment brand where we could say whatever wanted, all the time. But at Discover, everything had to go through legal and that could take up to five days. So, I decided to work with legal. It can seem like their entire job is to squash our entire job — but it’s not. I wanted to make approval as easy as possible for them. I started by giving them 30 canned tweets that were slightly changed (so we weren’t tweeting the same thing every time). It was the same basic messaging with two basic components: “Hey, we’re so excited you’ve joined the Discover Network.” Then, we thanked them and offered them a real benefit: We give away those free stickers that show which payments they accept, which gives them legitimacy. We also do those leather holders that you get your check in at restaurants — which to a small business can be a huge benefit. We put all this together and were ready to put our plan into action.

4:40 — Laura: When you’re doing this, you’re walking a fine line between being a helper and a creeper. We started by focusing on people saying “We now accept Discover,” instead of everyone who just said “We now accept credit cards.” It worked well. When we started, 50 percent of the merchants engaged back with us. Eventually we opened this up to “all major credit cards” — and this surprisingly did even better. We saw 50 percent engagement and a 10 percent organic follow.

4:42 — Laura: This is huge for us. Minus the time it took a community manager to engage, we got all these qualified leads.

4:43 — Laura talks about what’s next: In diving deep into the conversation, we found their customer service team was only responding to complaints that included their Twitter handle. But in reality, if you’re angry because you can’t use your card, you’re not going to find the handle, you’re going to mash the keys and post it. We were missing all these conversations.

4:44 — Laura: I went to customer service and said I don’t want to step on your toes, but this is basically where all of our negative sentiment is coming from. Even though we were dealing with card members, it was really a card acceptance issue. We already had a really efficient way for customers to point out merchants that didn’t accept Discover. They were able to team up with customer service to start addressing these posts.

4:45 — Laura: Now, this hasn’t been without bumps. For example, if someone tweets @Discover, they’re expecting a response from @Discover. So, what we do is a referral: “Hey, this sounds like an issue for @DiscoverSmBiz.” This gives our handle legitimacy and helps us organize conversations, but there are still some bumps (for example, @Discover has 24/7 customer service, but @DiscoverSmBiz has normal business hours).

4:46 — Laura: So, we started reaching out to card members complaining about places that didn’t take their cards with personalized responses that pointed them to their web form.

4:47 — Laura shares her overall takeaways:

  • Find the right conversation: At the start, nobody was engaging with us at all. Now, we’re having real conversations and we’re far out-pacing our competitors (which management likes).
  • Consider your scope: BtoB is really a challenge, so find the right angles.
  • Don’t be a creeper: In social and in life, Laura jokes, don’t be a creeper. Be thoughtful about what you’re doing. But do try new things — BtoB can still be fun, and fresh, and social.


Q: As you were building up your Twitter handle, did you leverage any paid strategy or cross-promotional activities with the main handle?

A: Definitely. To the paid question, yes. I’ll be totally honest that in 2016 we’re not going to spend a lot on paid audience, because you’re going to pay for content delivery anyway. With @Discover, we didn’t partner a ton with them, because they’re already pulled in a lot of different ways across the enterprise. We are looking at this, but not much yet.

Q: Did legal have any concerns over people replying to your name Discover but not @-mentioning you?

A: Yes, there’s been a LOT of education on our part, and we’ve shown them the framework of how exactly we’re going to respond and given them 40-50 canned responses to show how we would respond. That’s helped, and through that they’ve given us a little more leeway. She jokes that she has friends who aren’t above home-baked goods to bribe legal, but she thinks it’s really about working with them and showing that you can be a trusted partner who isn’t going to put the company at risk, even when you’re looking to push boundaries a bit.

Q: I’m running into the issue where competitors aren’t doing much in social, so comparative arguments don’t work too well with leadership. What else can you do to get buy-in for your ideas?

A: A big one for us is to say “we’re the pioneers” or “hey, we’re the first to do this” — and that can be powerful for management. Also, think broader about who your competitors are — we think beyond other big credit cards. For example, Square, who isn’t a credit card, is someone we look at. We’ve had to broaden the definition of “competitor” in social.


  1. jerome pineau |

    This is a really good “teaching post” – I might have missed it but what platforms do you guys use?

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