UMass Boston Hosts Panel of Social Media Experts

May 15, 2013

Colleen Locke


With the spread of social media, businesses trying to connect with their customers have more options than ever. The sheer number of choices is, at once, enticing and daunting. So how can businesses figure out what approach works best for them, and use it to cut through the clutter?

Last week the University of Massachusetts Boston’s College of Management hosted a workshop designed to address these questions. More than 130 people attended—a combination of experts offering much-needed insights and business people ready to take their advice. The group discussed how to create or expand social-media efforts, and wondered what will be next big thing to attract and engage followers.

Assistant Professor of Marketing Werner Kunz, who organized the event, set the tone for the day in his opening remarks.

“As consumers, we know that companies want to sell us something,” Kunz said. “Good social media marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.”

Kunz talked about how during this year’s Super Bowl blackout, Oreo tweeted “You can still dunk in the dark.” The post was retweeted 7,000 times and received 20,000 likes on Facebook. He also talked about airline KLM, which responded to flight delays by seeking out people who had checked into KLM flights on Foursquare, then scanning their social media profiles to give them custom gift bags.

Trish Fontanilla, the vice president of community and customer experience for Vsnap, talked about how her company has reached out through social media. Vsnap, a Web platform created in 2011, gives companies a way to send up to 60-second videos to its customers via Twitter or email, capturing a positive tone and emotion not always possible in emails and 140-character responses.

“What I gained out of it was every relationship starts out with the human-to-human relationships. Every business starts right there, and technology needs to support that relationship,” said Leo Von Wendorff, CEO of virtual staffing solutions company VKW Inc.

John Hill, the higher education evangelist for LinkedIn, continued this theme of relationships when he spoke from California about the importance of building a “quality relational network” that represents your brand.

“It’s not who you know, but who they know,” Hill said.

Meghan Keaney Anderson, the product marketing manager for marketing software company HubSpot, said her firm’s new product Social Inbox ties social media into a content relationship management system or database.

“It turns a ‘nice-to-bump-into-you moment’ into a real moment,” Anderson said.

Anderson also talked about the importance of tracking your social media efforts to see what’s working and to “trim away what’s not working.”

“We want to get better, but we forget to clear our plate of the other stuff,” she said.

Brad Blake, vice president and associate director of digital/social strategy at Hill Holliday, said businesses must put strategy before platform, and ask themselves if they need every platform. He said businesses should abandon platforms that don’t help them reach their goals.

Patricia Timmons, project manager for Brigham and Women's Hospital’s Cardiovascular Wellness Service, said she will be using analytics to test the effectiveness of the program’s public health campaign.

“It’s definitely been empowering to hear about Vsnap and some of the tools at Google and HubSpot, to know all of this is here for you, you just have to research and play with it,” Timmons said.

Michael Dell Orfano, a 1991 alumnus of the College of Public and Community Service and the manager of real estate finance company Settlers Finance, LLC, said after attending the workshop, he was surprised by how little he had known about social media.

“My whole purpose of being here is to get a better handle on understanding what I don’t know. I’m responsible for hiring the people that we would hire to make it happen. I need to understand the kinds of people that we need to hire to implement social media for the products that we’re creating,” Dell Orfano said.

The College of Management hosted an introductory workshop to social media for businesses in December; it plans to offer another workshop in the fall.

About UMass Boston
With a growing reputation for innovative research addressing complex issues, the University of Massachusetts Boston, metropolitan Boston’s only public university, offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s nine colleges and graduate schools serve nearly 16,000 students while engaging local, national, and international constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service activities. To learn more about UMass Boston, visit