Archive for the ‘social media’ Category

Presentation: The Power of Loyalty in Social Media

This afternoon I was pleased to have the opportunity to present at Sprinklr‘s Social @ Scale event in Toronto, as part of an impressive lineup of speakers featuring Mitch Joel, Keith McArthur, Di Gallo, Mathieu Legace and Tara Hunt.

In my presentation – entitled The Power of Loyalty in Social Media – I posited that social media presents an opportunity to drive significant ROI through customer loyalty. That means shifting from one-way advertising to focusing on customers.

I focused on several insights:

  1. Social media is a two-way channel, but over the last ten years social media marketers have increasingly shifted to focus activities on one-way interruption – applying old techniques to new channels, which is exacerbated by updates on networks like Facebook. We need to not only promote, but also protect brands in social media – which means reassessing the advertising-only approach.
  2. Communities form post-purchase, but most marketers are focused pre-purchase. When you force a community to act as a new acquisition channel in that way, you dilute the community.
  3. There is a significant opportunity to drive post-purchase loyalty, advocacy and re-purchase through social media.
  4. The potential for ROI through loyalty is significant and the opportunity is present, as responsibility for functions that drive loyalty are increasingly falling to the CMO.

If we accept these insights, we have an imperative to re-assess our approach to social media:

  • We need to focus our on-channel social media activities on our existing customers. That means:
    • On-channel content – both planned and real-time – should focus on the community of people who are generally existing customers
    • Community management – at scale – becomes a priority with a view to protecting  both the brand and customers’ connections to it
    • Social media support becomes more central to an organization’s social media activities, and shifts from a cost centre to a strategic marketing tool

At the same time, I emphasized there is a place for sales in social:

  • Off-channel content (again, real-time and planned) via paid (posts promoted outside brands’ communities)
  • Couponing and contesting (still key reasons that many people connect with brands)
  • Re-purchase and new product launches

This is a shift from the way that many companies are approaching social media nowadays. This is a challenge to marketers to think differently and shift away from business-as-usual.

What are you seeing in your role – is it time to shake things up?

Marketing, community, support or all of the above?

Something has been gnawing at me for a while, and after a great conversation over brunch with Ferg Devins today I’m feeling inspired to throw this out there.

“When I was your age…”



I first got into “social media” somewhere around eight years ago – first for my own interest and then – soon after – as part of my job. Like many other people at the time, I was interested in the humanizing effect that social media could have for companies. While companies were previously faceless, anonymous entities, suddenly they could have a face, and interact with the people who cared about them.

Over the last few years, social media has evolved away from this – away from personal interaction, and towards what is increasingly push marketing.

Is this a good thing? Let’s take a quick look at the differences before making that call… (warning: hyper-generalized summaries ahead)

As I mentioned earlier, many of those of us who got into the social media space early did so because we appreciated the opportunity to help companies connect with people in a meaningful way. Sometimes that meant interesting conversations; sometimes it meant helping them with a problem; either way it meant interactions with substance. This early focus on relationships, reputation and engagement led social media to naturally lean towards driving loyalty and affinity with brands over time.

Marketing Funnel


While public relations practitioners were early out of the blocks on social, the last few years have seen a shift of budgets towards marketing organizations, and money talks – their role has become increasingly prevalent in social for many companies. That’s not surprising, nor is it an inherently bad thing.

Marketing objectives generally focus on sales – demand gen, acquisition, etc. For consumer-focused companies, many of whom are the heaviest investors in social media, that means reaching people at scale and driving them towards purchase.

The easiest way to visualize this shift is to look at the traditional marketing funnel.

Early social media activities focused more on two areas of the funnel – consideration and – critically – loyalty/advocacy. Communities in particular were by their nature filled with people who already have an affinity or interest in your product, right?

Over time I’ve seen more and more organizations shift the focus from the latter to further up the funnel, primarily on consideration (still) but also awareness and conversion, as companies began to treat social networks as another sales and acquisition channel.

At the same time, the community-building interactions that drove many of us to this space have dwindled with a lot of companies.

Marketing, community or both?

I’m not sure that we should choose between the two, or that one is ‘better’ than the other. In fact, I would argue that organizations really CAN’T choose to only focus on one point in the funnel – and this is where a lot of teams fall down.

People don’t care what department runs social media. I couldn’t care less if you’re in PR, social, digital or anywhere else in the company. You know what I care about as a customer? I care about whether you can meet whatever need I have at that moment in time. In particular, if I need help, I want you to help me. I don’t give a damn about the fact that you’re in marketing – you’ve set up a presence in a two-way channel, and if you don’t use it as a two-way channel then I’m going to judge you accordingly.

I’ve argued many times over the years that customer service IS marketing in today’s environment. I even did an interview on City TV arguing as much back in 2010. If you do well, more people than ever will see it and give you credit for it. If you screw up, more people than ever will see it (just ask British Airways). This is leading more and more organizations to shift customer support into the marketing function.  

So, the problem comes when organizations decide to ONLY focus on content, and to avoid investing in/committing to community management. This happens a lot, as community management tends to get lumped in with content marketing when it comes to measuring social. The reality, though, is that “social media” encompasses multiple functions and while they need to integrate, we need to measure them against the objectives of each of those functions – sales, loyalty and advocacy alike. 

So, this shift towards marketing isn’t a bad thing – it can be a very good thing… unless it comes at the expense of everything else.

Only by recognizing the differences between the different aspects of social, and that we have no option but to embrace them, can we hope to get back to what got many of us into social media in the first place – meaningful, substantial connections with the people who care about the company, and who the company cares about in return.

What say you?

Content Calendars Aren’t Evil – They’re Just Abused

My friend Jeremy thinks content calendars are evil. I disagree: I think content calendars are useful tools, but they’re consistently and brutally abused to the point where they can seem evil.

Content calendars are here to stay

Like it or not, content calendars aren’t going anywhere any time soon:

Most companies are still trying to break outside the mold of corporate approvals. Legal and compliance loom large and it can take a long time to develop the trust needed for them to step back. Clients’ need to micro-manage content for fear of inappropriate content making its way online is another significant factor. Frankly, as an agency guy the risk of bypassing those approvals  is too high to be worthwhile anyway.

It’s important to keep one eye on the big picture. Avoiding planning and taking a day-to-day approach runs the risk of veering away from a strategic approach to content and towards a purely tactical, reactive approach. It’s all too easy to find yourself responding to day-to-day business demands (promote this or that sales message; promote this campaign, etc.) and lose track of the big-picture approach which is rarely so sales-driven.

Content calendars enable consistency across channels. Not that companies should ignore the differences between audiences on their different social channels (you’ve done that research on your communities, right?), but consistency can be helpful when coordinating programs.

So, the key is learning how to use them effectively, rather than become slaves to them. With that said, many people right now are either beholden to their calendars, or mistreat them to the point of abuse.

The Three Abuses of Content Calendars

1. Setting it and forgetting it

Too many people think that once they have a content calendar developed and approved, then they’re all set. However, a content calendar is really just a framework for the time period. Every piece of content should be re-evaluated at the beginning of the day when it due to go live, and again immediately beforehand.

Not every company has the resources to adopt a full always-on Creative Newsroom approach; but if you’re going to invest time and money in social media then you should take the time to ensure that what you’re posting is appropriate at the time and not just when you’re planning it.

2. Content calendar as a crutch

Real-Time Content

A content calendar isn’t the full extent of the content that you post. As I noted in a presentation at Social Media Week Toronto this year, companies should aim to leave room for 10-20% of their content to capitalize on relevant news, events and audience-relevant topics alongside their planned content.

3. Using the calendar as a hammer when you really need a screwdriver

Your content calendar is a specific tool for a specific purpose. It’s great for reviewing content schedules over time, and for seeing that bigger picture. Sadly, though, it’s also (as Jeremy notes) often used for copywriting, content editing and many other tasks. This can get messy and complicated, especially if you’re trying to coordinate multiple simultaneous calendars for multiple programs. Your content calendar shouldn’t be a one-stop shop for every content need – other tools make better sense and will drive you less batty in doing so.

This abuse extends to the software itself too. Excel is great for checking post lengths or combining copy with links, but if you’re trying to write content in excel or you’re trying to review creative assets through it, you’re in for a world of hurt. I’m yet to find an off-the-shelf solution that works for everything (although I do like Divvy HQ), so unless you can build your own tool then you’re likely to end up with a mash-up of various others.

Content calendars aren’t evil

All in all, Content calendars aren’t evil; they can serve a valuable purpose. The problem comes when people use the calendar for the wrong ends.

It’s like Carrie (pop culture reference, ahoy) – the poor innocent calendar gets pushed to the point where it breaks, and everyone thinks it’s evil.

Stop blaming the tool; start blaming the abusers.

Should “they” be allowed to use social media? Who are “they”?

So Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad is using Instagram to paint a more rosy picture of his presidency than the civil war-torn images we see every day in the news. Images of Al-Assad at official meetings, visiting school kids and at a wounded person’s hospital bedside are clearly intended to humanize the president, as are the numerous images of Al-Assad’s wife in a photo op at a community group.

Image from SyrianPresidency Instagram account

Image from SyrianPresidency Instagram account

Kate Knibbs at Digital Trends takes a cynical view, noting, “Looking at Assad’s Instagram account, you’d think he was third cousins with Mother Theresa instead of the son of a dictator, leading one side of an intensely bloody conflict.”

Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson, on the For Immediate Release podcast, are a little more practical, noting that while people like Al-Assad and Chechnyan president Ramzan Kadyrov (also mentioned in the Digital Trends post) may be widely regarded negatively, they employ people who are just as digitally-savvy as many of us.

While I sat with a look of distaste on my face at the clear propaganda as I browsed the account (which has about 32,000 followers at time of writing), it occurred to me:

How is this any more wrong than any government using social media?

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there are two sides to any story.

Crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels

Crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels. People used to live in here. Terrifying.

I just returned from vacation in Vietnam, where the “American War” is still fresh in many memories. While there, we visited the War Remnants Museum and the Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City, the Viet Cong tunnels at Cu Chi, the War Museum in Hue and the Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi. The picture of the war I got through these sites was starkly different to that we see in North America.

Which of these sides of the story is right? While I was conscious that much of what I saw was very one-sided, it also made me wonder how one-sided the picture that we have of other events is.

In this case, how is Al-Assad using social media wrong while Barack Obama, Stephen Harper and David Cameron can use it?

I’m certainly not comparing these people to Al-Assad – and in no way am I making any argument about his offline actions. The reaction to his Instagram account certainly got me thinking, though – who gets to determine who the “bad guys” are, and what they can or can’t do online?

How should we feel about it when the “bad guys” do what our own leaders do every day?

From One to a Million: Managing Social Media at Scale

What if you had to re-examine your assumptions around social media? What if, instead of thinking about conversations in ones and twos, you had to think about them in thousands and tens of thousands? What if you had to manage dozens or hundreds of properties, and millions of fans? What would change?

Last weekend I presented a session at PodCamp Toronto entitled “From One to a Million: Managing Social Media at Scale.” The goal of the session was to prompt people to question some of the norms espoused by many ‘experts’, who have never had to manage social media programs at anything beyond a small scale. Norms such as the idea that you “need” to talk to every person who engages with you – something that is feasible at small scale, but infeasible when you get into the tens of thousands of replies weekly.

This is not to say that those norms are completely incorrect, but that there is a practical reality for brands operating at scale – structure changes, processes change and the norms have to change.

Key points from the presentation:

1. Structure: How do you structure to handle social media at scale?

Brands need to grapple with structural decisions at a global scale:

  • How much do you centralize vs decentralize control?
  • Do you house social within the corporate HQ or at the business unit level?
  • Do you aim for consistency and economies of scale or responsiveness at a local market level?
  • Do you impose social media on the enterprise or allow it to grow organically?

There’s no right or wrong answer; the decision depends on objectives, on your broader business structure, on the scale of your social media activities, on your business’ culture and on the resources you have to hand, among other things.

2. Community Management: How do you go from 1:1 to 1:1,000,000?

Community management at scale requires brands to reassess the norms they hear espoused daily. I offered seven pointers for scaling community management practices:

  1. Moderate to deal with trolls (with an affectionate prod in the slide at Scott Stratten) – if you operate a social media program at scale without moderation, you’ll spend your life dealing with trolls and spammers
  2. Embrace proactiveness – don’t wait for people to come to you; use analytics and insights to drive proactive content to answer questions ahead of time
  3. Recognize you can’t talk to everyone – at some point you need to prioritize or you will drown
  4. Respond publicly when possible (and when appropriate) – answering publicly lets other people (a) see you being responsive and (b) see your answers and possibly answer their own questions
  5. Help customers to help customers – successful companies in the social support space leverage customer forums to help customers answer each others’ questions, and step in when questions go unanswered at first
  6. Build an army of advocates – educate, empower and reward your biggest fans for engaging for you
  7. Know your customer – know who they are, what they want and how they want it to serve information most appropriately for them

(Check out my related post on tips for scaling customer service)

3. Content Strategy: How do you stay engaging while driving business results at scale?

Content strategy is a shiny object right now (in a stroke of amazing timing, Edelman appointed Steve Rubel to the new post of Chief Content Strategist yesterday – congrats Steve). I offered three broad categories of ways to resist the myriad pressures that face social media teams within corporations, and to stay on strategy:

  1. Know your objectives, and use them as a decision making framework.
  2. Know your channels, your audiences and the difference between them.
  3. Execute with rigor and optimize relentlessly.

4. Measurement: Turning a challenge to a competitive advantage

Measurement has historically been a pain point for many PR practitioners, but it’s a point of passion for me – I truly believe that effective measurement can be a differentiator for companies’ social media programs. When you begin to activate social at large scale, statistical analysis of content and program performance can yield invaluable insights.

I’ve in the past on ways companies can improve their social media measurement; this time around I offered another five tips:

  1. Focus on the right things – measure the right things for the right audience to meet their objectives.
  2. Connect your metrics with your objectives – don’t measure share of voice if you’re looking to improve the responsiveness of your customer support, for example.
  3. Know what the numbers mean – do your research and don’t let companies lead you down the garden path with made-up numbers and meaningless multipliers.
  4. Generate and drive insights throughout your program – look at your foundational always-on activities (your program is always-on, right?), at point-in-time campaigns and at the broader conversation ecosystem for insights.
  5. Use full-program measurement – set measurable objectives, use insights from past programs to fuel program development, course-correct throughout and measure results to drive insights for future work.

This was the first time I had presented this deck. I would have loved to have another 15 minutes longer to incorporate more practical pointers, but this provides a solid high-level overview of how to leverage these four elements of a program both at scale and more broadly. I’d love to know what you think, though – let me know in the comments below.

Burger King Twitter Hacking: Take A Chill Pill

Burger King Twitter account hacked

Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked today, with the hacker turning the company’s Twitter page into an offensive mock-up of a McDonalds Twitter channel. An hour and fifteen minutes later, the account was suspended, but not before the news spread across the social media fishbowl at lightning speed.

As often happens, a huge amount of basement punditry has already begun. I’ve already had to call BS when I saw someone asserting that it took Burger King “too long” to address the situation.

Here’s what we do know:

  • The Burger King account was hacked.
  • The hacking occurred on a public holiday in the US and most of Canada.
  • It took just over an hour to pull the account down.

Here’s what we do not know:

  • If the hacker changed the password to prevent Burger King accessing the page.
  • How robust Burger King’s security processes for their social media channels are.
  • When Burger King’s team spotted the hack.
  • Whether their community manager was anywhere near a computer when this happened – who knows if their community manager was out for a hike when this happened?
  • Whether Burger King had a crisis plan for this kind of situation.
  • How long it took for Burger King to take action on their end.
  • If Burger King needed to go through Twitter to to pull the account down, how long it took them to respond.
  • When this is all over, if this will have any impact on the brand whatsoever.

What I know from my experience in these kinds of situations with large brands:

  • Situations like this are chaotic at the best of times. As Ed Truitt pointed out in a nice analogy, battle plans rarely survive the first encounter with the enemy.
  • Holidays are prime time for hackers, as response times from companies tend to be longer. It can take time to reach people who aren’t officially working.
  • The person manning one social channel may not be the same as the person manning another, meaning you may need to reach several people in order to respond.
  • An hour is not a long timeframe in which to have a channel pulled down.

The only real gap I see at this point, as pointed out to me by Kami Huyse and Sara Patterson, is the lack of any public response so far. Social media crisis plans should include pre-approved boilerplate language for social media channels and other communications channels for situations like this. With that said, we’re talking a hacking of a relatively small account here – not a major crisis like a food safety recall or a company-caused fatality. Given the frequent separation of audiences between Facebook and Twitter, the company may have considered the option of posting elsewhere, and decided against it (again, we don’t know).

My point: Let’s hold off on the basement punditry. There’s a whole lot that we do not know, and very few things that we do know. Without someone with that knowledge filling in the blanks, all we can do is speculate.

(Image: Kami Huyse)


Social Media at Scale: Organizing Global Social Media Teams

One of the most fundamental questions in running a social media program at scale is, “how do I organize it”?

How do you scale and structure a global social media program?There’s some good material out there on this. Jeremiah Owyang, in particular, wrote about this some time back from a functional perspective; this provides a good starting point but didn’t consider the geographic and cultural challenges of a global organization. More recently, he released a more focused look at the tensions facing companies who are looking at scaling their social media.

Owyang also identified six tensions that match nicely with some of the pros and cons I’ve identified below:

  1. Corporate vs Business Unit
  2. Global vs Local
  3. Consistent messaging vs Varied content
  4. Specialized software vs Large suites
  5. Individual disruptors vs Established program managers
  6. Enterprise Deployment vs Organic social growth

I was recently asked about whether I had a preferred model for resourcing social media teams. Here, minus a few confidential specifics, is my answer:


A country-by-country model offers significant flexibility and local customization. Freed from the restrictions of a coordinated program, local markets can respond nimbly to local market conditions.

However, a completely decentralized approach can lead to coordination challenges in terms of things like messaging, global marketing campaigns and announcements, but also from a coordination perspective (for example, how do you hand-off community management assignments between teams if they are on different platforms).

In my view, this is a fairly immature approach to operationalizing a global program, and tends to spring from an organic growth of social within an organization (analogous to Owyang’s ‘organic’ model of social).

One core team

This model eschews local market teams in favour of one centrally-led team.

Pros here include control over global marketing campaigns, coordinated messaging, and efficiency in operation. You don’t have people ‘going rogue’ on announcement, and executing marketing campaigns is easy.

However, it is very, very easy for a central team to become insular and to forget or misunderstand local market concerns. The danger of this shouldn’t be underestimated – if your global footprint extends beyond markets with a similar culture to yours, then that local market context is key. This is especially true in technical fields with a lot of local market regulation.

Centralized teams can also lead to tension with markets. Remember that point about teams not ‘going rogue’? If you don’t consider localized needs, they may do just that.

Core/local hybrid (hub & spoke)

This approach involves coordination of global activities by a strong core team, but local implementation by geographically-focused teams.

The ‘hub and spoke’ model allows localization of programs and content, but permits global activations when needed. It also allows the development of common frameworks such as toolsets, measurement frameworks, common content calendar approaches (while allowing local content to vary), aligned approaches to issues management etc., which can be driven through the common structure and process. These can improve programs, reduce risk, and drive efficiencies through a large social organization.

At the same time, it can be challenging to coordinate across a large number of markets from a single team – the overhead involved centrally is high, and involves a significant head count to do so, but to an extent that’s the reality of running a global-scale always-on program.

Core/region/local hybrid (multiple hub & spoke)

This is the most complex structure, with a global lead, regional leads and local market teams. It is also probably the most difficult model to pull off due to the multiple levels of coordination.

Pros of this include lower overhead at a central level (as some coordination is handled by regions), localization at a market level yet still retaining the ability to activate globally. It also offers the same benefits when it comes to globally aligning tools, processes etc. as the core/local hybrid model. Bringing regional leads together as a core global leadership team is essential to ensure that regional interests are heard by the global lead, and to avoid ‘broken telephone’ games.

On the flip side, this model requires the additional investment of regional staffing, and adds an additional level of oversight and review which could be a pro or a con depending on culture and the legal environment.

Clarity and executive sponsorship of this model is critical for it to be effective (i.e. there is a risk of local markets ignoring global direction if strong executive sponsorship is not present).

Which to choose?

The decision between these various models isn’t a black/white one. It’s going to come down to a combination of resources (including budget), culture, the nature of the business and the scale of the social media operation. This is also by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully it’s a useful starting point.

If you’ve operated in a global social media team, what have you found in your experience?

Image: Shutterstock

Introducing the Social Media at Scale Series

As social media continues to establish itself as a bona fide communications function and as companies continue to increase the scale of their social media programs, they’re running into a new set of problems. These problems go beyond the 101 “which channel is right for us” decisions, and onto more advanced dilemmas.

  • Social media at scale brings new problemsHow do you translate a high-engagement approach to community management when you’re dealing with millions of fans?
  • How do you ensure that a large social media team stays coordinated?
  • How do you ensure your content stays interesting and engaging when you’re pulled in a dozen directions by a slew of internal stakeholders?

I know these challenges well – I’ve spent the last six months leading a team planning and executing a global social media program for a well-known global brand (and Edelman client). Before that, I spent two years leading North America-wide teams focused on audiences ranging from top-tier influencers through to consumer bases of millions.

Out of that comes a new series of posts, focused on how to manage social media at scale.

Together we’ll explore topics including:

  • Organizing global social media teams
  • The balance of global/local
  • Content strategy in a multi-stakeholder mix
  • Engagement at scale
  • Advocates vs influencers, and why that difference matters
  • Setting effective and appropriate objectives
  • Measuring social throughout the campaign lifecycle

What else would you like to see in this series?

Forrester says social doesn’t drive online sales, and why that’s fine

Research recently released by Forrester entitled “The Purchase Path of Online Buyers in 2012” indicates that email and search dominate the online space in driving online sales. Social media, says the report, drives less than 1% of online sales.

As reported by Marketing Pilgrim:

  1. Paid search matters most for new customers
  2. Email matters most for repeat customers
  3. Social tactics are not meaningful sales drivers

I can hear the howling from the rooftops now. This is complete anathema to those who argue that traditional marketing in its various forms is “dead”.

Last year I was sceptical about Forrester’s 2011 report given that the data was taken from the clients of a single marketing agency – and frankly most of my concerns remain around methodology and report scope. At the same time, there’s food for thought here. Here’s my take:

1. Social is media, not a medium

We need to stop thinking about social media as a silver bullet, stand-alone silo and approach communications as an integrated discipline where paid, owned and earned media all work together to drive results.

Edelman Media Cloverleaf

Earlier this year I suggested that transmedia storytelling is critical, and that we need to stop thinking of social media as a goal unto itself. A few months later, in my presentation on six essential shifts in social strategy at BlogWorld New York earlier this year, I argued that we (as digital communicators) have reached a point where “shiny objects dominate discussion” and that we need to start thinking about it as an enabler and partner to other communications functions.

Yes, there are specialized skills and knowledge that people require to operate effectively, but that doesn’t mean we should put social on a pedestal – we need to think about integration, not isolation.

Communications functions need to work together. Nearly three years ago, I obsessed over another Forrester report on the social media marketing ecosystem, which the pros and cons of paid, owned and earned media. A key “pro” of paid: reach. Relatively few companies have achieved any kind of reach in social media at this stage; those who have, have mostly done so by paying for it. The whole point of thinking of this as an ecosystem: the pros and cons of each element balance each other out.

2. Sales isn’t always the objective

Thinking of sales – and in this case, just online sales – is narrow-minded. Essential when it comes to effective research, but not in consuming it for broad communications trends. However, I’ve long argued that social media’s strong point isn’t in final point-of-sale, low funnel conversion.

What about long-lead sales (as I said in response to last year’s version of this same report, last-click analysis is very flawed – and much social traffic via apps often displays in web analytics as direct traffic, for that matter)? What about cost avoidance? What about driving people to sign up to receive information over time? What about customer retention, loyalty and advocacy? More broadly, what about organizational reputation (where PR plays strongly too)?

There’s a lot more to communications than just driving sales, and ignoring that as a communicator is blinkered.

3. Of course email matters

I hate email spam as much as everyone else. You know what I don’t hate, though? Email that I’ve signed-up for. As Marketing Pilgrim noted, Forrester’s report shows that 30% of repeat sales involve email in the process. I’m not at all surprised to hear that email is highly effective for repeat customers – they’ve said they want to hear from you.


4. Social can underpin and enhance other functions

Thinking of Facebook and Twitter as the extent of social is narrow-minded – on-domain blogs and rich media content, for example, can both live on-domain and drive traffic to those domains (not saying that content marketing falls entirely within social, but there’s a significant overlap nowadays), and in doing so can affect search. Meanwhile. studies have shown that positive reviews significantly increase the likelihood of people purchasing products online – fueling the comparison shopping engines in the chart above. Social can help to drive that – whether through advocacy programs or through tools like Bazaarvoice.

So is this study going to put the cat among the pigeons? Sure. Are the snake oil salesmen going to come out swinging? Oh yes.

However, those of us who work in the space and driving results at scale know that:

  • There’s merit to the picture Forrester paints here
  • This is one piece of the much bigger communications puzzle, and there’s more than meets the eye.


Six essential shifts in social media strategy

We’ve reached a critical point in the evolution of social media as a business tool. Gone are the days when the GMOOT (Get Me One Of Those) approach will get you anywhere – simply having a Twitter account, or a Facebook Page, isn’t enough. We’re at the point of social media saturation, and something’s got to give.

So began the session description for my recent presentation at BlogWorld New York. The crux: that the days of social media as an experiment are over – it’s time for a more mature approach to social media within companies in order for social media to be viewed as a sustainable communications and business function.

Unfortunately, we’re also at a point where pursuit of the shiny object has reached an extreme, and that this pursuit is conducted within an increasingly transparent fishbowl while armchair critics circle, waiting for the next “fail” from companies.

In this environment, where transparency and scrutiny are paired up with a shift in focus from experimentation to results, and yet where the allure of “the next big thing” persists, companies need to structure and approach social media differently.

My presentation focused on six essential shifts that I see in how many businesses approach social media strategy. Of course, not all companies are in the same situation. Some with mature programs have evolved beyond this stage; some face just a few of these shifts; others face them all:

  1. Moving away from shiny objects and towards social business
    1. Asking “why” to understand demands
    2. Building a social media infrastructure to support the social brand
    3. Taking baby steps in implementation – from crawl, to walk, to run, to fly
  2. Setting better objectives for social media
    1. Setting SMART objectives
    2. Tying back to broader business goals
    3. Staying clear of the “how” and “what” when setting objectives
  3. Measuring effectively against those objectives
    1. Focusing on the right numbers for the audience
    2. Understanding what numbers really mean
    3. Avoiding made-up numbers
    4. Measuring to drive insights alongside determining results
  4. Breaking down silos and integrating across functions
    1. Approaching social media as an integrated function
    2. Breaking-down silos through day-to-day tactics
    3. Integrating through reporting structures, governance and social media organizational models
  5. Planning and executing content more strategically
    1. Considering content objectives
    2. Identifying appropriate content sources
    3. Fine-tuning execution via appropriate content volume, mix and format
  6. Engaging effectively to build relationships and communities of interest
    1. Embracing negative and neutral conversations
    2. Establishing processes to minimize risk

How about you – have you seen companies needing to make these improvements to their social media strategy?

For more on the topic, check out this excellent write-up of my presentation over at SmartBlog for Social Media.

Thanks once again to Rick, Dave, Deb, Shane and the rest of the BlogWorld team for the invitation to speak. This was my fifth BlogWorld presentation, and I always enjoy it.