4 Reasons Why CMOs Still Think Social Media Engagement is Irrelevant

Lost and Confused SignpostBack in January, Louis Columbus, senior manager, enterprise marketing at Cincom Systems, wrote an article titled “B2B Marketers Need To Get Real About Social Media and Customer Engagement.” “One area I consistently see CMOs of B2B companies divided on in their efforts to compete is the value of social media,” he wrote.

“I think it is incredibly short-sighted of any CMO, whether in B2B or business-to-consumer (B2C) to discount its value and say it is irrelevant to their marketing efforts.  Social media is how the current and next generation of B2B customers are choosing to learn about new solutions and stay current on brands they are loyal to.”

Living in an area like Washington, D.C. that’s uber-connected and social and web-savvy, I often think that other professionals outside the region are as connected and realize the value of these tools as much as I do. But like Louis, I meet others who just aren’t as sold as I am.

Fortune 500 companies were quicker to adapt to social media initially, and they have the budgets to create strategy, execute and evaluate success. But if you’re a CMO of a smaller company, you may not be as enthusiastic about the value of engaging your customers socially. There are probably a few reasons for why this is so:

CMOs and other c-suite professionals still think that their companies’ target demographics don’t use social media to look for their type of product.
If your company sells fertilizer or laser printing paper or some equally non-sexy product, then it’s hard for you to imagine that your target customer would want to engage with you on social media or is using the space to research products like yours. But there are probably some creative tactics you can use to reach your customers, even if it means cross-marketing with a related but non-competing product or finding ways to humanize your company and make your product fun.

They don’t have a good understanding of how interacting with these customers on social media fits into their sales funnel.
It takes a bit of technological know-how and some sophisticated tools to truly track the impact social media has on sales. Sharing data among your company’s web analytics software, customer relationship management software, online marketing software, social media engagement platform(s) and reporting system/data warehouse might not be rocket science, but it can be tough to grasp and execute if you’re new to the idea.

Successes other companies experience doing this aren’t widely shared.
We hear a lot about the successes B2C companies experience while engaging their customers on social media. However, when B2B companies achieve some sort of success doing the same thing, they either guard this information closely or it’s not widely covered in the media for lack of sex appeal. As a CMO, if you’re not crystal clear on the successes others are seeing using social media—especially your competitors—then you’re less likely to spend the time and energy to be a pioneer (unless you’re truly a visionary).

These companies probably don’t have the talent in-house to sell the benefits of social customer engagement or create/execute a strategy.

Here’s the catch: because these CMOs and other c-suite professionals don’t see the value of social media, they most likely don’t have the staff internally who would be champions for digital strategy. As a CMO, where do you begin to understand the value of investing in social media and developing a team to execute a strategy when there’s no one in-house to sell you on the idea in the first place? How do you look to an outside team for help when you’re not even clear on what your company’s needs are?

Share with us: Are you still struggling to grasp the value of a social media investment for your company? Are you a staffer trying to sell social to the c-suite at your company?


5 Reasons Why There’s Limited Age 30+ Digital and Social Media Talent

30 plusArik Hanson, principal of ACH Communications, pointed out that when recruiters are searching for strong digital/social professionals over the age of 30, they’re facing a virtual drought.

“I get emails from friends/colleagues around Minneapolis/St. Paul and they’re all looking for the same person: A mid- to senior-level digital/social media counselor/director with deep experience in marketing and some experience in digital/social,” he writes. “They don’t exist, at least not in big numbers.”

Why are recruiters hard-pressed to find a communicator who not only possesses solid experience in traditional public relations and/or marketing strategy but knows her way around digital strategy and execution? And, to top it off, a communicator who can measure digital successes extensively, understand the infinite flow of data that analytics tools provide and use this data to help her employer pivot strategically and tactically.

Well, here are five reasons we thought of off the top of our heads:

The strong digital stars in the 30+ age bracket are running companies.
A 30+ communicator who possesses all the above qualities knows her worth. If agencies aren’t offering top (and I mean six-figure) salaries, flexibility and options like potential partnership, then those agencies can’t convince her that working for them as a W-2 employee is worth her time. Because she has these skills and can prove successes, she knows her best bet is to spread herself thinner by working with a number of clients. At least with the money she makes, she can scale her staff as her business grows.

Twenty-somethings consider terms like “social media” and “digital strategy” workplace norms.
If you’re a 30+ communicator, then the internet, email and the Adobe suite were the coolest technologies available when you were in college. Social media emerged as workplace norms as we were well into our careers (or getting that second or third degree). However, 20-something professionals are barely aware of a world in which these technologies didn’t exist.

Companies just got over the “let the intern deal with it” syndrome.
Because 30+ professionals aren’t digital natives, they’ve been taking the easy way out in the workplace: “Let the intern handle it. She’s younger and knows this stuff better than us.” Companies are just now moving beyond entrusting their digital strategy to interns and seeing it as an integral component of their overall communications and business plans.

Seasoned communicators have to be committed to independent professional development.
When looking for professional development, communicators over the age of 30 are accustomed to attending classes, conferences and seminars in person or online. But when it comes to in-depth digital strategy and analytics training, it just doesn’t exist in large numbers. To get up to speed on these topics, communicators have to be their own teachers and embark on independent study. This professional development route can be difficult to fit into these professionals already hectic schedules.

Companies need seasoned communicators and younger professionals to work together to remain viable in the marketplace.
As social media permeated the business world, companies realized that they needed the expertise of both younger and older professionals to keep up with and surpass the competition. Companies are relying on seasoned communicators to share traditional marketing and public relations experience with younger professionals beyond what they learned in college. In turn, seasoned communicators should be learning all they can from the younger professionals so that as team leaders, they can make the best decisions for the organizations and companies they represent.

Share with us: Do the 20-somethings run your company’s digital strategy teams? Do seasoned, senior employees play active roles in crafting and executing your company’s digital strategy?


3 Examples of How Graphics and Social Media Create Magic

someecardsAs if engagement and metrics weren’t enough to keep up with, guess what? You’ll now have to work on your camera shots and Adobe Photoshop skills.

In January, content strategist and speaker Jay Baer told us that “now, to be a ‘do it all’ social media practitioner you must have some experience and expertise with photography and graphics production.” I totally understand Baer’s point, but what I’m concerned about are a proliferation of purposeless graphics—or cute photos with inspiring, “oh, that’s nice” quotes.

This reminds me of the early 2000s when graphics programs like the Adobe Suite were readily available so everyone thought they were graphic artists.

Graphics in social media only work under two circumstances: if they’re informative (meaning they give us information that we genuinely care about or find interesting) or if they’re funny. Graphics, photography and social can all work together if social media managers put some thought behind what they’re sharing, not just posting photos to get eyeballs or for the emphasis Facebook places on them in the timeline.

Here are three examples we’ve noticed of graphics and photography used effectively in the social media space:

Grammarly (Facebook)
I identify with the graphics on this hilarious Facebook page—especially the one about “The Pop-Up Book of Phobias.” This page makes me feel like more of a word snob than I already am. But the quotes are great and they resonate immediately.

You’ve seen these on Facebook—the black-and-white drawings next to funny quotes against a solid color background. It sounds pretty simple when you describe it, but what makes these e-cards so great is that the quotes are really funny.

The Oatmeal
Instead of making a desperate plea for all of us to pick up newspapers again, Doonesbury should take a cue from this site. The Oatmeal mixes the hilarious antics shared by Grammarly and someecards with the informative nature of the infographic. With crude but cleverly created graphics, this site actually teaches us something about grammar, technology, food and other subjects.

Share with us: Is there growing expectation on your social media team to become photographers and graphic artists? How do you deal with this while still sharing content that your readers will enjoy and share with their networks?


Why Marketing Entities are “Eating the PR Industry’s Lunch”

brown bag credit tutordoctordotcomFor the past two years, I’ve served as the director of the independents special interest group for the International Association of Business Communicators DC metro chapter. We kicked off this year’s programming for the group on Feb. 19 with a panel discussion titled, “The State of the Communications Industry for the Independent Practitioner.”

Our panelists Eileen Kessler, Founder/CEO of OmniStudio; Brenda Foster, Vice President/Account Services at Vanguard Communications; Donna Vincent Roa, PhD, ABC, CSR-P; Managing Partner & Chief Strategist at Vincent Roa Group; and Cindy Stevens, Senior Director of Publications with Consumer Electronics Association addressed indies’ questions about best practices for soliciting business from companies and organizations like theirs, acquiring federal work and the hurdles we expect to jump this year as independents.

During the session, Eileen spoke about the emergence of inbound marketing and predicted that in the next five years, digital media companies will be the norm, forcing the traditional communications consultancy to adapt. In his Forbes.com article, “PR Agencies’ Lost Year?”, Peter Himler of Flatiron Communications makes a similar argument that while PR agencies are fixated on the obvious rise of mobile technology and the visual web, they’re missing real opportunities to use creative hybrids of earned, paid and owned media tactics to broadcast client messages to already overloaded audiences.

“Other ‘marketing’ entities have eaten the PR industry’s lunch through their ready embrace and leverage of new digital content strategies, channels, and data analytics tools,” he wrote.

Himler’s article prompted us to write “Blindsided! Why the rapid pace of social media communication and measurement is leaving PR agencies behind.” In this paper, we explore why the PR industry was blindsided by the emergence of new technology and the choices these professionals will have to make internally and externally to remain valuable players in the midst of the new accelerated pace of communication.

Read Himler’s article, read “Blindsided!” and let us know what you think. What must PR agencies and independent communicators do to constantly adjust to the communications and technology convergence?

What Content Management Systems Should be Today

content management credit arnimadotcomWhen you hear the term “content management system” what comes to mind? Probably a web-based system that allows you to log in and manage your company’s website content using a WYSIWIG editor. This editor looks similar to a Microsoft Word document and provides you text editing tools and options for adding links and graphics.

Systems like this gained popularity when everyone was concerned about having a nice website. We all still want websites that are aesthetically pleasing and make it easy for visitors to find the information we want them to consume. But in the past few years, the word “content” has taken on a new life.

Now, content is not limited to the pages on your company website. It includes written content you share via social media, whether it’s actual tweets, statuses or links to PDFs or other pages you share. It includes short videos you’ve shot in-house. It includes slideshows packed with actionable information. It includes the email communication you send out to your customers.

Where is all this content being stored at your company? On an office-wide shared drive? And when you’re creating a piece of content—say a white paper or annual report—how do you control versioning? How do you manage and differentiate the document changes your communications director gave you from the edits your vice-president of marketing provided?

And taking our thoughts of content one step further, how are you tracking how this content is distributed? How do track which segments of your audiences received which pieces of content?

In a business world where the term “content” has not only catapulted in importance but has varied meanings, the technology we use to manage this content must adapt.

In a recent blog post, Marketing Consultant and Coach Jeff Bullas listed 10 characteristics of the ideal “social media at scale technology.” The first two characteristics—one repository and database for all content (including video) and the ability to plug into cloud-based video platforms—are also important for any standard content management system.

See Jeff Bullas’ blog post and his entire list of the perfect social media at scale product.

Share with us: Do you agree with Jeff’s assessment that we’re 2-3 years away from seeing the type of product he describes in his blog post?


How to Use Content to Build Thought Leadership in 6 Steps

thought leader credit damiencummingsdotblogspotdotcomAt a Washington Network Group entrepreneurs roundtable event last Wednesday night, speaker Angelique Rewers, also known as The Corporate AgentTM used two terms during her talk that caused some audience members to look at her like she’d sprouted eight arms: Content marketing and thought leader.

She explained that content marketing involves creating and distributing relevant and valuable information to attract, acquire, and engage your target audience and lead them to a desired action. “You want to be a thought leader,” she said.

“But the challenge is how do you provide good content without giving away all your strategy, right?” asked an audience member.

You may remember that I wrote a blog post a while back that reassured you that you can afford to give away some of your ideas without fearing that a potential client will run with them and never give you or your business a second thought.

The keys to content marketing and framing yourself and others in your company as thought leaders are to: 1. Give your audience simple information that they can either act on right now or that answers pressing questions and 2. Plant a seed in the audience’s mind that you and your company are the leading authorities on this subject.

Face it. If your audience doesn’t get this information from you, then they’ll perform a Google search and find someone else who’ll give them the answer.

Business owners think that being a thought leader means that you have spout Confucius-like, life-changing tidbits that no one else is close to even thinking about. If you can do this, then congratulations. But there’s not much new under the sun. It just has to be new to your audience.

So here are six steps toward establishing yourself and your team members as thought leaders online.

  1. Think about the pillars on which you operate your business.
    What are your company’s top business offerings? Why do you offer these services? Why should your audience come to you for these services?
  2. Define who you’re serving with those pillars.
    This is an important one. Who is your audience? Who usually buys the services you offer? Be very specific with this description. What do these people do for a living? What do they look like? What do they read? Even better, identify actual points of contact at your client organizations and use them to create a detailed profile of your target audience for each of your services.
  3. Determine what questions your audience asks.
    When potential clients approach you, or your ears perk up after meeting a potential client, what is it that they’re seeking? What problems do they tend to come to your company to solve before they become a client? What are their pain-points?
  4. Consider how you can help your audience answer these questions quickly and the best ways to present the information.
    Now that you’re familiar with your audience’s common questions and pain-points, how can you address these in succinct and interesting ways? Should your company start a blog? Which team members should contribute? Perhaps you should begin shooting short videos? Is there information that could be presented in infographics? Do you have PowerPoint presentations that you can upload to Slideshare?
  5. Create an editorial calendar.
    This step is tricky, but helpful. Determine all the channels through which you’d like to share content (blogging, video, e-books, etc.). Then create a calendar that details when these items will go live and be available to share. For example, you may decide that your company will publish four blog posts and create four short videos per month, release one e-book per quarter, and curate content via social media on a daily basis. Your editorial calendar should provide a brief description of subject matter for each piece of content, estimate when each will be completed/posted, and how all content will be shared.
  6. Be consistent.
    I realize that we live in an instant-results kind of society, but this process takes time. Be consistent with your content creation. Monitor what kinds of content resonate best with your audience and keep giving them what they want.

Share with us: How do you define thought leadership? How are you using content to raise your/your company’s professional profile in your field?


4 Things to Consider Before Opting for Multiple Social Media Accounts

IMG_2190Right now, you’re working on either crafting or revamping your company’s social media strategy. Among the many details you’ll need to work out is whether or not individual divisions within your company should start their own accounts.

The company engages (or plans to engage) audiences on roughly 3-5 platforms.  Sure, there are tools out there that will help to manage a number of accounts across multiple social media platforms, but agreeing to the idea of each department holding its own account(s) could still compound your workload by 5, 10 or 20. Saying no could affect your company’s diverse messaging.

So what do you do? When faced with this dilemma, here are a few things to consider before you make the final decision:

Company size
Consider how big your company is, how many divisions it comprises and how the audiences these divisions serve differ. If your employer is a large company with thousands of employees, offices that are dispersed geographically, a company that produces various products, then yes, multiple social entities would benefit you.  Most likely, these audiences don’t overlap, so maintaining separate accounts will help your employer communicate with these different groups.

Would your messaging benefit from a siloed approach in the social space? Are you speaking to a number of audiences? Are you using social media for different reasons? For example, one division may use social media to communicate product offerings, while another could be communicating breaking news and information to the media. Determine if all the messages your company disseminates would be better served if they were pushed from one account or spread over separate ones.

Does your team have the capability to handle many accounts? If not, are these divisions able to appoint staff within to handle these accounts? And if the departments handle their own social media engagement, how will their activity be governed? Do you have a social media guidelines document? How will these guidelines be enforced?

Before you vote to allow these divisions to hold their own accounts, determine what content they’ll be sharing and where their content will come from. Do they have their own library of relevant content to share or will they be depending on other departments to create or supply it? What will be the workflow process to ensure that content gets to the appropriate person who’ll be managing the account(s)?

Share with us: How active is your company on social media? Do you maintain one account per social platform or multiple accounts for each of your company’s departments? Are these accounts maintained by a centralized team or do these departments take responsibility for their own social media engagement?


Fast Company: A Social Media Executive’s Biggest Gripes about Working with Brands

For our past few blog posts, we’ve been pulling interesting tidbits from Fast Company’s “The Social Media Road Map,” featured in the magazine’s September 2012 issue. First, we discussed 13 key takeaways from the special section. Then we talked about why social media engagement responsibilities will always fall into the hands of a chosen few individuals inside or outside the company.

We’ll continue rocking with the Road Map today by discussing another short article from the section (Insiders’ Secret No. 5) titled, “You Hired the Wrong People.” In the article, an anonymous executive at a social media platform reveals some of his (I’m only assuming this person is a man) biggest gripes working with brands.

“Their CEOs now articulate their social media strategy,” he said. “They track how they’re doing against their rivals But by the time they come to someone like me, whose job is to actually put their plans into action, they have no idea to get what they want.”

The executive’s problem is one that we’ve been noticing lately with our potential clients, which is a huge gap between social media strategy and implementation. Consultants and even internal employees are getting a better grasp on social media and its capabilities. But when it comes to acting on those capabilities, setting reasonable goals and producing results based on those goals, these teams are clueless as to how to proceed.

However, the executive in this article is concerned with the lack of qualified counterparts to work with on the client side to execute strategy. “Companies haven’t empowered the right people, and they’re not hiring or training or converting the right people for these jobs. To be a good social media person at a brand, you have to have a background not just in digital or marketing but also in your product. There are so few people with that kind of blend of experience.”

To the client’s credit, if employees existed with this perfect blend of social, marketing and brand experience, then there’d be no need to contract with the social media executive. There may be employees on the client side with one or two of those characteristics, but it’s unrealistic to expect a counterpart with all three because social media is still just a toddler.

Companies won’t invest in hiring or training or converting the right employees until they can see value in social media overall. It’s the consultant’s job—in this case the griping executive—to show this value until the client decides to invest in internal staff or it continues to pay the consultant’s retainer.

On the other hand, this executive seems bothered by clients who shove social engagement responsibilities into one department. “People are always shoving social into marketing, or they’re shoving it into digital. It’s actually all this stuff: It’s marketing, it’s digital, it’s creative.”

We discussed in last week’s post why this shoving is to be expected, but just to reiterate: Social media will always be shoved into any department that serves an external communications function simply because these are the people within the organization who are deemed best equipped to handle it.

And we should look on the bright side. At least we’re slowly moving beyond leaving social media to the interns.

Share with us: How does your company handle its social media engagement? Is it the responsibility of the marketing communications department or a separate digital strategy team? Social media strategists: do you also struggle with the lack of a counterpart on the client side? How do you work around this?

This post is the third in a series of five posts discussing ideas presented in Fast Company’s “The Social Media Roadmap” section (September 2012 issue).

Why a Chosen Few Will Always be Responsible for Company Social Media Engagement

In last Wednesday’s post, we gave you 13 key takeaways from Fast Company magazine’s “The Social Media Road Map,” that ran in their September 2012 issue. However, their Insiders’ Secret No. 3, an article titled “What Your Social Media Consultant Should Tell You,” warranted a post of its own.

Anjali Mullany, the magazine’s social media editor, says, “If social media consultants are doing their jobs, they should put themselves out of business. Your company will never be truly social if you silo social activity within a consultant or staff manager.”

Well, yes and no.

Saying that a company isn’t truly social if one person, small team or outside entity handles this function is like saying that that same company doesn’t really perform marketing or communications functions if everyone in the company isn’t doing it, too.

Shared responsibility for the actual act of engagement is a respectable goal, but it may be a bit lofty and impractical. Communications and marketing departments have a hard enough time getting buy-in from other departments to reach out to the company’s audiences outside of social media. Expecting all employees to participate in social may be a stretch.

Plus, by keeping responsibilities for social media engagement with a certain internal team or outside consultants keeps a good handle on messaging within the social space.

Because social media engagement is an external communications tactic, it will probably always remain in the hands of those who are already responsible for external communications—unless the company decides that developing a designated digital strategy team is warranted.

Now we’re not saying that the rest of the company should take a completely hands-off approach to social media because it shouldn’t be taking this approach to its overall marketing strategy. Whichever team(s) is responsible for both marketing communications and social media need support from the rest of the company in the form of free-flowing information.

The only way these teams can tell your company’s story to the audiences that live outside the four walls of your office is if you funnel the information to them that’s necessary to tell this story in a compelling way. This involves keeping these teams abreast of company milestones, achievement and impact.

If there’s a new product launch or breakthrough, new clients or partnerships, client or customer testimonials, video or photos from the field, or any other groundbreaking information affecting your current or potential clients, your marketing communications and social media teams need to know. The success of both these teams depends heavily on your ability to ensure that these teams get the compelling information they need to engage your audience and get them excited about your brand.

Share with us: How does your company funnel information through to your marketing communications and social media teams and out to your external audiences?

This post is the second in a series of five posts discussing ideas presented in Fast Company’s “The Social Media Roadmap” section (September 2012 issue).

13 Key Takeaways from Fast Company’s “The Social Media Road Map”

Fast Company published “The Social Media Road Map” in their September 2012 issue—the one with The Office star Mindy Kaling {@mindykaling} on the cover looking like a sexy geek. I curled up in bed with a batch of homemade trail mix (dry roasted almonds and dried banana chips and cranberries) to see where this map would take me. So here are my key takeaways from these 19 interesting yet far from mind-blowing pages that paint the picture of social media’s current landscape:

  1. A YouTube home page, half-page auto-play video ad is $500,000—for one day. This ad reaches more than 26 million unique U.S. visitors, but if you’re paying half a million dollars for that, then what’s your total marketing budget?
  2. Lady Gaga stole the title for most Facebook likes from Skittles, but Big Spaceship CEO Michael Lebowitz says there’s no way to tie this this bragging rights title to a bump in sales.
  3. Fast Company, along with a whole gang of other media outlets, really wants Mindy Kaling and her new show The Mindy Project to win, so I guess we should, too. But will realizing how much of a television industry insider she is make me watch her new show? Unclear.
  4. Let’s just set the record straight that it’s officially uncool and generally frowned upon to refer to yourself or anyone else as a “social media guru.”
  5. The women in the sexy photos used for spam bot profiles on Twitter are real people, and those chicks just might ban together and sue you for using their likenesses. Maybe.
  6. What the hell was Kraft thinking when they asked Klout to refer to their scoring as a “fun score”?
  7. There are already whole books about how to use Pinterest. How does it feel to write a book filled with information that’s probably instantly out-of-date upon publication?
  8. There are at least eight services that help you back up your social media platform archives. Never knew there was a need for this, but I guess it’s always good to keep a record of everything you’ve said or shared for future reference.
  9. “We use the phrase ‘social media’ but they’re really communications services, not media properties,” said Bo Peabody, creator of Tripod (the web’s first social network that debuted in 1992). In actuality, we probably refer to the collection of these platforms this way because each of them serves as a medium through which we communicate. And the plural form of “medium” is…
  10. If you want to see some forward-thinking ways of employing social media, then study the fashion industry.
  11. FourSquare’s first major deal was with BravoTV. Tristan Walker, FourSquare’s former business development executive, said the network had great local content which the digital company used to get people “to get out and explore new things, based on shows like ‘Real Housewives’, which felt very much in line with the product but without a sales pitch.”
  12. To support relief efforts following the Haiti earthquake and the tsunami that struck Japan, social gaming titan Zynga created items within their games for players to buy and donated the proceeds to charity. “In the first 24 hours, we generated $1 million, and it got up to more than $3 million over a week or so,” said Zynga Executive Director Ken Weber. “We had people paying for items in the games, but we also had players who don’t ever pay for anything who got their credit cards out to do something good.”
  13. It’s officially uncool and generally frowned upon to refer to any video you create as viral, unless it truly does become, well, viral. “Rather than ideas propagating for generations, almost everything terminates within one degree of the seed,” said Microsoft Research’s Duncan Watts. “If you want something to spread, generate an enormous number of seeds.”

Share with us: Did you read Fast Company’s “The Social Media Road Map”? Was this truly a road map for you? What new information did you learn from this piece?

This post is the first in a series of five posts discussing ideas presented in Fast Company’s “The Social Media Roadmap” section (September 2012 issue).

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