Take five...with Brian Slattery-Gaston

For this edition of “Take five” we’re chatting with  Brian Slattery -Gaston, our Community & Social Media Director, about how he’s helped build House Party’s community over the years and what that community offers our partner brands.

When House Party was founded almost a decade ago, the social media landscape looked very different than it does today. (Twitter hadn’t yet launched, and Facebook was still in its earliest stages.) How has the rise of social media shaped House Party’s simultaneous growth and development?

There are two key ways:

  • It has recalibrated how brands and consumers address each other: it’s now bilateral, public and with near real-time expectations. The consumer experience and the way constituents share the responsibility of shaping a brand have forced a renewed focus on the importance of the consumer experience and the end user.
  • It continues to legitimize the immense value that word of mouth and user-generated content have in today’s marketplace. We’ve known historically that word of mouth (WOM) happens at a scale and with a level of authenticity that can’t be ignored, but social media’s trajectory has catalyzed a larger-scale acceptance of WOM-marketing principles. However, social media is, of course, no silver bullet. It’s one digital segment of a growing suite of one-to-one marketing tools. We continue to help clients understand the value in balancing online and offline word of mouth to achieve comprehensive goals.

These two developments dovetail nicely with our mission and help us showcase how the best marketing can be done by embracing advocates and leveraging their enthusiasm. Consumers are savvier than ever, and we should be excited to partner with them as equals, demanding more from ourselves as marketers along the way.

Earlier this year we announced that our community had passed one million members. What did that milestone mean to you?

This milestone was a marvelous achievement and something that both the House Party community and the company should be proud to celebrate. Our objective has always been to connect brands with the authentic voices of our consumer advocates (and vice versa!), and to me, this milestone shows that we’re accomplishing what we set out to achieve.

It’s especially significant to my team and me, though, since we interact with our members day in and day out through social media, customer-service channels and our site. We’re reminded daily that each one of those million members is a person whose life House Party has in some way been a part of, so it’s with a great deal of appreciation and enjoyment that we marked that moment.

What are some of the biggest challenges inherent in cultivating and engaging a community like House Party’s?

There are several challenges that emerge. Scale, for instance: we pride ourselves on providing a great value to members and addressing any questions they have in an expedient, personal way, but that becomes more difficult as the community grows. It’s something we’ve learned over time to handle efficiently, though, particularly for a relatively small team.

We also contend with educating newer and prospective members. We get a lot of, “Wait, is there a catch?” and “Do I have to return the Party Pack once the party’s done?” (The answer is “no” in both instances, of course.) But one of the best things about having a large, vibrant community is that they can — and often do — turn to one another for advice.

What are a few of your favorite ways to engage with the House Party community? Any specific interactions that you still remember fondly?

I remember combing through tweets and Facebook posts over four years ago, as we began to really establish our social media strategy. Even now, with a larger team equipped to handle the growing scale, I still love to spend at least 30 minutes each day interacting directly with our members. It’s really valuable to me to ground our overall social strategy in relationships with actual consumers themselves.

I’m also rather fond of the Twitter parties that we do a few times each year, often in partnership with client brands. These seasonally themed engagements celebrate our members and their interests, and the community always responds with a volume of excitement that remains staggering to us each time. (Tens of thousands of tweets, for instance, and national trending on Twitter.) For us, I think the next step is getting more in-person contact and feedback from members. Stay tuned…

You’re a big college-football fan. What do you think of the new playoff system? Who’s going to benefit from it this year?

Simply put: it’s finally here and it’s exciting! NCAA football fans have been perplexed for years by how strength of schedules and “quality wins” factored into bowl selection. While there’ll always be discussions about the biases of selection committees (there’s also controversy around March Madness each year), it’s time to give a true playoff system a try. At the very least, it’s a lot more understandable than the algorithm-driven BCS system of the last 15 years. I suppose I should go ahead and preemptively apologize to my colleagues for the unsolicited football conversations that’ll be coming from my side of the office over the next three months...