Lowe’s Home Improvement: OMG look! An emerging social media platform! Hurry, let’s jump on it! — Live from the Brands-Only Summit

Coverage of this session by Bridgette Cude of SocialMedia.org. Connect with her by following her on Twitter.

2:50 — SocialMedia.org's Erin McDaniel introduces Lowe's Home Improvement's Brad Walters.

2:51 — Brad: I'm going to talk about the platforms to join, and the tendency to jump on an emerging social media platform as it comes up.

2:52 — If we're going to talk about therapy, here's a bit of storytelling. We've all been in a situation where you're about to check your email and the email you dread is the one with the subject line “Have you looked at this yet?”

2:53 — You start getting flooded with this email. It's frustrating and battering. How do you determine which one of these social platforms to join. For a lot of brands, it makes sense to be on all of them, but for others it doesn't.

2:54 — Snapchat for example: I think you should think about whether it makes sense for you to be there. For example, it makes sense for a progressive, young-focused brand like Taco Bell to send out a Snapchat to young millenials at 2:00 at night. For us, I don't think it's applicable.

2:55 — Vine, for example, made a lot of sense for us to be there. It wasn't the platform that was as significant to us, but the ability to tell a story in six seconds.

2:56 — What about Ello? I had one of these moments were I felt inundated and frustrated as publications talked about it being a Facebook killer.

2:57 — As a member of the Green Council at SocialMedia.org — immediately, there were a bunch of brands talking about jumping on — but I ask myself, as I'm reading these forums, why?

2:58 — I'm not picking on Ello, but as I'm reading about it, it specifically says “We don't need brands here.” So that's an interesting example to me.

2:59 — Some guardrails to keep you from going off track: Do some research. What is this platform you're about to join? What is this thing? It's ok to experiment in the social space. But in your experimentation, you need to use something that's not brand focus, like your personal accounts, to figure out what the heck it is.

3:00 — Ask yourself if you're wanted and if you belong.

3:01 — Who will you be talking to? Do you know who you're trying to reach on the platform, who's already there? Do you have the resources?

3:02 — What about content? At Lowe's we're very fortunate because we're a content rich organization: We're all about your home. We have a ton of content to talk about decorating and maintaining it. Do you have the content, because if you don't, then you won't have anything to talk about on that platform.

3:03 — Be able to add value. Every channel has a different purpose to serve the customer in a different way. The content you pull together needs to be valuable. It needs to be utility based. Value can be inspiration, aspiration, knowledge, and know how. You have to create content that provides that. If you're not, none of those things matter.

3:04 — For example, Jelly, the mobile app where you can ask questions associated with a picture. We started playing around with it and determine what questions needed to be asked when it first came out. When we brought the brand in, we saw that someone had asked how to mount a television on an exposed brick wall.

3:05 — When we answered this question, the response we got was “Woah, I didn't know Lowe's was on here.” It was unexpected, but we provided something of value. If we can't do that, we shouldn't be a business in the first place.

3:06 — Subsequently, we're on Jelly on and off. The value of the story isn't being the first to adopt something, it's about being a brand that provides a customer with something they can use.

3:07 — Brad shares a video — against the speaker rules 😉 — he explains that Vine is more about the output of it as content, not as a Vine strategy. We were fortunate to be recognized and win some awards. For example, they shared a short video on how to remove a stripped screw with a rubber band.

3:08 — Remember the guardrails: Do research, determine if you belong, know who you're talking to, determine if you have the resources, and decide on the content.

Q & A

Q: To ensure that you're showing up with excellence, how are you staffing from a community management standpoint?

A: Brad: I'd love to say we have an unbelievable budget, but my CMO reminded me that we don't when I asked for more resources. You have to determine how quickly it's scaling: If the platform is going to become about authenticity or earn a lot of groundswell and engagement.

Q: Do you work closely with the emerging platforms and directly with them?

A: Brad: Yes, for example with Pinterest, it made too much sense for us to get on immediately. Pinterest knew it would work out well for us, so we got on board with them and we get on a call with them every two weeks. Vine: Owned by Twitter, we meet with our Twitter reps and talk about what's going on with Vine.

Q: As far as being on a platform from a defensive standpoint — partly out of fear of what could happen internally — for example, we have a lot of departments who might jump on by themselves if we don't first. How do you keep that from going south?

A: Brad: One of the things we put in place immediately was a do's and don'ts playbook. And we're pretty staunch on defending that and helping people understand what those guardrails are. For example, a lot of stores will try to open up their own page. We quickly explain to them why they don't want to do that — speaking on behalf of a huge brand — and they usually back off quickly.

Q: Do you film your videos in house or do you have any agency help?

A: Brad: We have an indoor in-house studio with an outside source. We shoot it with an iPhone very similar to a television spot. You can go to Vine.co/Lowes. Our Vine production is almost as complex as some television spots. Some are not.