Social Media Marketing: Interview with Kodak’s Chief Listening Officer


I read print publications pretty much the same way that I read digital media – keywords constantly pop out at me and help me decide whether an article is worth my time or not. So, I was flipping through BtoB Magazine, past the usual suspects…online ad spending, digital media, marketing automation…and then, a truly novel grouping of words stuck out to me – Chief Listening Officer.

That title was appended to Beth LaPierre of Kodak. On her Twitter profile, she describes herself as “Air traffic controller + advocate for the masses.” I’m a big fan of using social media for listening and anyone who advocates for their audience, so I just had to find out more. And Beth was kind enough to answer a few questions…

I’m so intrigued by your title. I have some preconceived notions about what your responsibilities might be, but I’d like to hear it straight from you. So, Beth, what exactly is a Chief Listening Officer?

Beth LaPierre: Simply put, a CLO is something of an Air Traffic Controller. Just as an Air Traffic Controller facilitates the safe and efficient flow of air traffic, I am responsible for the safe and efficient flow of social media data. I manage the strategy, processes and technologies to handle more than 300,000 new mentions of “Kodak” each month for both our consumer and B2B businesses.

What specifically are you listening for and how does Kodak use that information?

BL: For the most part, my role supports three main listening functions:

  • Social intelligence – This data is used to drive product innovation, monitor sentiment and inform marketing and PR strategy.
  • Brand communications – When we launched our SoKodak campaign in September, we could tell right away that it resonated with consumers by looking at social media data. It’s hard to get that from a cable box. We are able to tell very quickly whether or not an ad campaign or PR initiative will be successful.
  • Customer experience – Kodak’s owned media channels on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are also becoming a medium for customers and fans to contact us for help or to ask questions. Kodak’s customers are at the heart of every listening function.

What are some triggers that you hear that alert you to engage in conversation and respond?

BL: More often than not, Kodak employees are the trigger. Each product category has an incredible dedicated team; they live, eat and breath this stuff.  Product teams keep an eye on relevant online spaces and will even engage themselves.

For example, Kodak Video Camera Marketing Manager David Snook, vlogs as Vlogger Dude to understand how consumers actually use our video cameras.

Social Intel also helps with Risk Mitigation and reputation management. When a Florida news site falsely reported we had pulled our advertising from a popular NickTeen show, we immediately went to work. Fortunately, our internal PR teams are incredibly social-savvy and understand the immediacy of social engagement. With a few rules of engagement in place, I identified and reached out to influential fan blogs, Twitter users and even the show’s Executive Producer. I sent them personal messages to let them know it was just a planned break in the media schedule and that we’d be running spots the following week. They then let their fans know what was going on. This is much more productive than personally responding to hundreds of users. Plus, it’s coming from a source that they trust.

Kodak must see a lot of value in social media monitoring to put this position in the C-suite. If I put you on the spot and made you sell this idea to other CEOs, what is the elevator pitch for creating this position in other companies?

BL: Recently, Dana Anderson from Kraft Foods said, “Should you do social media? That’s like someone asking if they should buy a lightbulb after electricity was invented.” I think this is the most brilliant social media quote to date. Companies, organizations and brands spend millions on business research. Take 10% of that and dedicate it to Social Intelligence. Traditional market research (think Chicago hotel conference room with bad coffee and soggy sandwiches) often takes a rear-view approach. Was our marketing campaign/product launch/busy season a success? Did we choose the right market for XYZ product? What do our customers like about XYZ product? Social intelligence is much more forward looking.

It’s all about the surprises, the needles in the haystack you find when you’re not even looking for needles. I love it when people say “What was your research objective?” It’s not about research objectives, it’s about business goals. Only this time, it’s personal. When was the last time you (talking to the CEO here) sat down with a customer and asked them to talk a little bit about how they use your product/service?

What tips would you give to other marketers to help them improve their social media monitoring?

  • Evaluate social media tools (software, agencies, vendors) only after you’ve identified your audience, your objectives and metrics for success. Write it all down on a sheet of paper and use it as your RFP.
  • Take a design class. Excel charts and PowerPoint presentations are fine, but if you can pull your data into Illustrator or Photoshop, you’re much more likely to get your point across. Good old HTML doesn’t hurt either.
  • Don’t take it personally. If you’re out there looking for people who are saying things about you, you’re going to find sometimes they’re not saying nice things. Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world, it’s an opportunity.

Recommended resources

Developing a Social Media Strategy: 6 Lessons from Kodak

Antisocial Media: Social media marketing success does not lie in you

Social Media Marketing: How enterprise-level social media managers handle negative sentiment

Always Integrate Social Marketing?

New MarketingSherpa Inbound Marketing Newsletter

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  1. Sean Copeland says

    Thanks for posting this article about social media monitoring! It’s a hot topic with us market researchers.

  2. 40deuce says

    Thanks for posting this interview. I’m always interested to see how companies are using and learning from social media, and it sounds like Kodak has some great forward thinkers to come up with a position like this.

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  3. Michelle says

    Nice interview, Daniel and Beth, thanks for sharing. I’d also be interested in learning what the major challenges are for Beth day-to-day and what her career path was to “Chief Listening Officer”. I have multiple requests about how to become a community manager, but I see increasingly elevated posts that revolve around social media and wonder if it is a role designed with a communications background in mind or marketing, or other.

    I’m also thrilled to see social media monitoring have its place across the entire spectrum and filtering throughout the company, from listeners, to PR, to active participation, etc. We were just talking about this during our team meeting and are also focused on the “one voice of the customer” as Forrester calls it. One customer, one voice, across all channels.

    And now off to check out Vlogger Dude…

    Michelle @Synthesio

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