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Friday, March 5, 2010

Devon Valenti, CoPilot Live North America

Devon Valenti, CoPilot LiveMeet Devon Valenti. She is marketing manager for ALK Technologies CoPilot Live North America and manages CoPilot Live North America's social media platforms.

More specifically, the CoPilot Live Blog, the CoPilot Live Facebook fan page and the CoPilot Live US Twitter account.

Yes, Devon keeps busy on the social media marketing front, especially since CoPilot Live fans, followers and readers tend to be quite passionate about the brand.

You see, they really care about this GPS navigation application for iPhones and other mobile devices and feel no compunction about sharing their opinions and suggestions. [To learn more about GPS and smartphones, check out this interview with CoPilot Live's David Quin.]

I invited Devon - with whom I've been working since January 2010 - to share with us perspective on how social media fits in with the CoPilot Live brand.

C.B.: Devon, please tell me about yourself.

I’ve been working in various marketing roles for about 7 years. One of the things I love about being a marketer is it never gets dull. There’s always a new and exciting medium that bursts onto to the scene to keep you on your toes. You need to be ready to take on these new mediums, decide if they’re right for your brand and adapt them into your marketing plans. I’ve always been drawn to the online side of marketing so when social media started becoming more popular I was definitely intrigued.

C.B.: What is your role at CoPilot Live?

As the Marketing Manager for North America my key focus is on growing our customer base here in North America, but I also collaborate with our global teams to integrate our marketing initiatives on a global basis. In North America specifically, CoPilot Live and GPS navigation for smartphones aren't as well known as in some of the other markets so we face some unique challenges.

C.B.: Tell me more about CoPilot Live. What exactly is it? How does it work?

CoPilot Live is an award-winning, full-featured GPS navigation app that runs on the iPhone, Android smartphones and Windows Mobile smartphones. CoPilot Live combines voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions with useful real-time information such as live traffic, live fuel prices and live local search to guide you on your way. All of our detailed street maps are stored on your phone—not downloaded each trip--so users don’t need to worry about getting stranded if they lost network coverage and hit a dead spot. It is a global brand and we’re currently offering version 8 of our product.

C.B.: What role do you see social media playing for CoPilot Live?

Social media has played a huge role in CoPilot Live’s success so far and it’s become a major area of concentration for us in all our plans going forward. Our core social media platforms—a blog, Twitter account and Facebook page— serve as a direct link to our customers and are the main way we communicate with them. One of the great things about joining the CoPilot Live team when I did was all of these social media tools were already started, pretty much everyone was onboard and believed that social media was a vital part of our marketing plans. In my situation I had the tools available; now I just needed to work on fine-tuning them to be effective for our brand. This meant really engaging customers and making sure it wasn’t always a one-sided conversation.

C.B.: What have been your biggest surprises or challenges to date?

I think the biggest surprise for me was to see just how fast the overall tone on our sites could change. All of the sudden all I saw were negative comments & conversations across all our sites and I was worried how this was affecting our overall brand favorability. Not only were current customers unhappy with CoPilot Live, but now when a potential customer looks at our social media sites all they see are unhappy customers, which will affect their buying decision. You quickly realize you don’t control social media!

CoPilot LiveThe challenge for us was to decide how to respond to our customers and address the issues they had. As a team we learned a great deal from this experience and it really pushed us to adopt a set of social media guidelines—both internally and externally. As a team we had to decide how we wanted to respond to the different types of comments, what was a reasonable response time and what was the appropriate level of information to disclose.

And just as the name of this blog implies, there are many simple things you can do. Make sure to respond to every comment—good or bad. And listen to what they’re saying. They probably use your product more than you so they’re really the experts! In our case, once we started listening and responding to customer feedback, we were able to turn some of our biggest critics into are biggest fans!

C.B.: What do you love most about social media?

I love that it gives our customers the opportunity to interact with each other. And it happens a lot more than you think. If someone posts a question to Facebook on how to use a specific feature within CoPilot Live, most of the time another user is happy to provide an answer as well as a helpful tip on how to use it. A lot of times this leads to a conversation involving multiple users. Not only is it great to see our CoPilot Live community helping each other out, it makes our job easier as we don’t have to respond to every inquiry that comes in!

C.B.: What tools do you recommend for planning or measuring social media campaigns?

I have found www.tweeteffect.com to be helpful in showing how people react to the different tweets we send out. It gives me insight into what tweets gained followers and what tweets lost us followers. Also www.twitalyzer.com is a great tool for measuring your Twitter account across various metrics, such as impact, engagement, influence and clout. You can view various timeframes to identify trends and even integrate the stats with your Google Analytics account.

Thank you, Devon, for sharing your experiences.

I particularly love hearing how you turned your biggest critics into your strongest fans - by responding to every comment and listening to your customers - and look forward to hearing how it all progresses!

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