Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Social Media: A Video Interview With Sami Viitamäki

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Social media is often perceived by those inside the corporate world as something either too difficult to grasp or as an online time-waster targeted at teenagers. In reality, social media create an ever growing number of opportunities that allow companies to engage into real conversations with their customers.


Small or large, niche or mass focused, each and every company needs to start opening up to the idea that marketing and sales strategy now must include social media and increasing resources to contribute and participate in them.

Sami Viitamaki, a Finnish social media specialist, was just in Rome attending the Mobile User Generated Content and Social Networking Forum 2007. Thanks to the real-time social media networks we are both part of, a common friend, Teemu Arina, suggested Sami to get in touch with me before leaving Rome.

And that is what happened. While Teemu and Sami, both from Helsinki had never met in person, thanks to the power of social media I was able not only to pick up Sami straight at the exit of his seminar with my motorbike, but I had also the opportunity (unplanned) to use one of the two hours we had available, to get a great video conversation-interview started and which I am publishing here today.

In this short clip-set, Sami provides some clear answers to the typical questions raised by those getting closer to social media for the first time:

  • What's all this social media buzz about?
  • What can a company do with these social media?
  • Can you give me some real-world examples of social media at work for a company?
  • Wrong-doings. What should companies avoid doing when first adopting social media?

Here Sami's valuable answers.

Photo credit: Noodlepie - Flickr

Social Media: Who Is Sami Viitamäki - Self-Presentation

In this first video clipSami Viitamäki, social media specialist for TeliaSonera, Finland main telecom company, introduces himself and what he does.

Robin Good: Sami, how do you identify yourself?

Sami Viitamäki: Well I define myself definitively as marketing person, that was my major in school and that's where I did my thesis on. Nowadays I also define myself as a social media person, as I am now pretty much the social media guy inside my company right now. Yes, I used to work at design, and I still love design, that's my passion, certainly but definitively nowadays I am leaning toward the Web, toward what social media can do for customers and companies and how this can enhance things like "dialogue" and "conversation" and whatever you may want to call this social media phenomenon.

Social Media: How Can Companies Use Social Media

In this second video clip Sami Viitamäki provides some indication of how traditional companies can start using social media for their communication and marketing efforts. Sami brings the example of the telecom company 3 and its strategy online.

Robin Good: How a company could use some of those social media tools, tell me. How a company could use for example Flickr to do A, B, C or something else? Give me some example so that people do not think that we are taking them around with nice words but... could you give some models?

Sami Viitamäki: Yes, sure. For example, as I just got out of the Mobile User Generated Content and Social Networking Forum 2007 by Marcus Evans (some product placement there :-) - ironic), it comes to mind an operator in Sweden, and in the UK called 3 and they have their site in which they used to promote software and websites that are made exclusively for the mobile world and it is also like a rating system basically like a YouTube for mobile networks. Mobile network stuff, mobile network and mobile software. People can post stuff in there and they can also rate it on how useful this is.

I've already found pretty many pieces of good software there and useful websites. And that's only user-generated, user-rated, content that educates people on how to use the mobile web, and that's of course good for mobile operators because then they gain more traffic out of it and they don't need to do the education work because people are sharing these things and they want to share them... they want other people to know about the stuff they've found... So that's a fine example of social media.

Social Media: What Social Media Is All About Conversations

In this clip Sami Viitamäki explains what is social media and the buzz around it in simple, non technical terms by introducing the concept of an open one-on-one conversation that companies can engage in.

Robin Good: (as a company they tell me: " don't know what's the buzz of the moment, you need to know of social media here, social media there, social bookmarking and so on, there are all these sites like Flickr and they tell me about Facebook" but... I don't know as a company... it all looks like stuff for teenagers... so while we walk this way, can you tell me how a small, or medium-sized company could use these social media tools for their own benefits?

Sami Viitamäki: Well... for me social media is definitively all about human interaction, it is nothing more spectacular than that. It is basically just like a tool for companies to put a human face up for themselves... We have these conversations over and over again... we used to have companies sending top-down communications, companies making decisions, deciding what's good for people and what's not... but nowadays is more like a conversation... it is having a company as part of an everyday human interaction, one with which people engage in everyday.

Social media give tools for companies to engage in these conversations and provides technologies to expand them on really big scale while getting some really good results with them...

Social Media: The Example Of Sell-a-band

In this part of the interview, Sami Viitamäki describes how social media works in real life by explaining how the online Sell-a-band project works in a way that makes, what we previously called customers, into great, enthusiastic partners for anyone company, small or large alike.

Sami Viitamäki: It's my favourite example. It's Sell-a-band. Do you know it?

It is basically the people's record company. It's a web site and bands can basically post their own music there. If you like the band's music, every band gets three songs that they can put on their website... and if a fan likes the song, likes it a lot, a fan can buy one share of the band's production. One share costs ten dollars. So it is not a lot and fans get a piece of the action by investing in the band. After that there's a meter running all the time, which counts how many shares have been bought for this particular band and then when that meter hits $50,000... 5 thousand members have all bought one share... that's when the band goes to record their album, their debut album... and after that there are so called believers, as they are called inside Sell-a-band, who start promoting the band like crazy, as the whole idea is that they actually get a share of the record revenues after that. So basically fans and bands are coming together to create music and promote that music and have digg off their life basically.

So it's all about collaboration. For example, if you are in any business, would you like your customers to finance your operations? I bet you would because it's just exactly what's happening here.

Customers are financing your operations and they're deciding for you what you should produce. So it is pretty like risk-free business in that sense, and of course it also makes your customers really engaged into your business, promoting it like crazy.

Sell-a-band has been live already for over a year and it has already produced seven recording albums and its fans have invested over one million dollars into their favourite bands...

Social Media: Sami Viitamäki on what not to do with Social Media

In this video, Sami Viitamäki comments on what may be some typical errors that companies make when first adopting social media.

Sami Viitamäki: Well yes, there's lots of ways of doing it wrong, I mean for example if company tries to be the customer. That's a wrong way to do it because the company can't be the customer.

There are a lot of examples where a company goes for example on one social networking service and tries to be just one of their customers. Of course real customers can see that, and that's fake, that is not real.

Also: if you're hiding something online, somebody somewhere will find you out and in the internet age when something is discovered it is blown up in two seconds all over the world. Your secrets are going to be laid open and some of your customers will positively come after your company for vengeance...

About Sami Viitamäki


Sami Viitamäki is a business graduate from the Helsinki School of Economics and a social media specialist at TeliaSonera Finland. He was formerly a researcher at Future Marketing, a research project focusing on new trends and marketing as shaped by digital technology and mobile communications. You can read more about him and his social media discoveries on his personal blog.

Original article written by Robin Good for Master New Media and entitled: "Social Media: A Video Interview With Sami Viitamäki"

Robin Good and Sami Viitamaki -
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posted by Caterina Policaro on Sunday, September 16 2007, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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