Category Archives: company organization

Top 7 Reasons Why Brands Fail at Social Media

“Well, the results are in. Social is doing a pathetic job of turning readers into customers. After all the hype has settled…after all the stock clamoring has died down, the truth is staring us in the face: People don’t want to be customers on social media.” Such was the opening paragraph on Entrepreneur.com’s post, “Here’s the Big Problem With Chasing Customers on Social Media.”

success or failureHow many times do you read articles that state something similar? What really gets me is that so many brands continue to approach social media incorrectly and then reports indicate social media failures as opposed to companies’ failure on social media.
So as a first step, I strongly suggest we all get social media right before we start assessing the success of companies’ social efforts. And here are the top 7 points of failure for brand social screw-ups.

1) The wrong person leads social efforts – “66% of CMOs surveyed said their companies are unprepared to handle social media, where the ‘rate of change seems faster than many can cope with.’” There are two types of people responsible for social efforts at a company. a) A young digital millennial that does not have experience driving company KPI (key performance indicators) results, and b) chief strategy/marketing officers that do not understand nor participate in social platforms. This presents a problem where you either have someone that understands social media user behavior or someone that has experience delivering business results … but not both qualities at the same time. What is needed is a hybrid of both and there are few that can bridge both worlds.

2) Going straight to tactics before having a strategy and integrated plan – how many social efforts start with an objective of building a Facebook and Twitter presence? Far too many. A while ago I wrote an article “Where You Start in Social Media Strategy Defines Where You End Up.” It highlights the problem of thinking tactics before strategy. Start by addressing integration of social efforts in overall business strategy. Then build your social strategy followed by a plan, which includes tactics.

3) Measuring the wrong thing – today, most social reporting is done by indicating “reach” and “engagement.” Yes these are important factors. But how many executives can relate reach and engagement to their KPIs? The typical response from an executive is likely to be, “Yeah, but does that increase my sales?” And at the same time, I have often stated that social is poor at direct sales. So what you really need to measure are those areas that tee up sales. Think of the sales marketing funnel where awareness, consideration, and post sales loyalty and advocacy parameters are important functions of sales. For more information, see “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like.”

4) Selling instead of being a valued source – users are immediately turned off by brands that use social presence to sell product. Social should be used to develop long-term relationships and build a reputation as a valued source of information and engagement. This approach will create sustainable loyalty and advocacy. The result is long-term sales, but ironically done so by avoiding a sell mentality.

5) The content is not exceptional – I remember making this point to a boss of mine and he asked, “Does the content really need to be stellar?” Case in point – are you ever wowed by mediocre content? Would you ever share so-so content? There is so much noise in the digital space and you really need to standout. Think like a publisher or a producer who is only successful when they deliver killer content.

6) Talking and not listening – the strongest relationships start by knowing your audience. And the best way to get to know your audience is to listen to them. I love the line – “We have two ears and one mouth so we should listen twice as much as we talk.” As far back as 2009, I raised the issue of a lack of social listening, and the problem is still pervasive.

7) Lack of a social business culture – social success does not come from one person or one group. Ultimate social success will come when sharing, engaging, and commitment to the brand audience comes from every part of the company. I expect to see “social business” be an evolutionary process within companies. This will not just happen overnight and progressing to this culture requires executive leadership.

So as step one, I urge everyone to take their social media efforts seriously and not just wing it. Do the right thing. Then, when we can get enough companies and brands actually delivering a sensible and meaningful social media approach that is compelling to their target audience, let’s evaluate success/failure. Are you ready to…

…Make It Happen?
Social Steve

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Filed under brand marketing, brands, change management, company organization, content marketing, leadership, social business, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

All You Should Know About Social Marketing to Be Successful

I have been blogging now for five years on the topic of social media and social marketing. I have shared a great deal of information with regards to social best practices, case examples, integration, and organizational implementations. There is a wealth of information contained here within The SocialSteve Blog. But wouldn’t it be nice if it could all be pulled together in one article? (Really – that is impossible.) But I will attempt to give you a “Cliff Notes” version of what you need to know about social marketing that I have covered in my blog.

All You Need to Know About Social Marketing

So lets get cracking and I will refer you to some key highlights from The SocialSteve Blog …

The first thing to realize is that brands need to use social media to enhance their brand image as covered in the article “Brands in the Age of Social Media.” Some brands were initially apprehensive to get involved in social media because they believed that they lost control of their brand position. Certainly, objective audience postings are more believable than subjective brand communication, but administration of good traditional marketing practices and utilization of social marketing highly increases company-driven brand influence.

Social media has put brand reputation in the hands of the democracy of users. Thus, brands must build strong relationships with users. And the way to do this from the start is to have complete empathy for the target audience. Yes “empathy” is “The Most Important Word for Marketing.” And once you have empathy for your target audience, “Connections and Relationships are No Different for Social Media” than in “regular” social situations.

So far, I have mentioned some of the general mentalities required for successful marketing, but generalities are not enough. You must understand the “Three Social Marketing Fundamentals.” The first fundamental starts with a strong and inseparable link between content and social marketing. A content strategy and social marketing strategy must be determined in unison. The brand definition is the center point of marketing strategy and content must reinforce what the brand is about without directly referring to the product. The social marketing strategy must then address how the content is to be proliferated such that readers/viewers/contributors share the content and some even become advocates. Throughout my blogging career (really not a career but a platform to share), I have given much coverage to content. It is imperative – crappy content, crappy social marketing; stellar content by the perception of the target audience, damn good chance of winning social marketing. Consider reading through some selected content article highlights:

Content Marketing – A Must for Marketing Communications
4 Ingredients to a Winning Content Strategy
7 Tips for Blogging – Maybe Your Most Important Social Media Activity for Business
The Power of UGC (User Generate Content) for Social Marketing
Evolving Social Media Marketing – From Content Marketing to Contextual Content Marketing
If a Picture is Worth 1000 Words, What is the Value of a 6-Second Video #Vine

The next social marketing fundamental is far too often missed. Social marketing is not about building the social field of dreams and having people show up. Social marketing starts by going to relevant conversations where they exist as opposed to expecting a crowd to show up on your Facebook page or simply following your Twitter feed. You need to go beyond your own social assets and go where the existing conversation exists and start to engage there. Early on, I coined the social media A-Path. The A-Path allows social marketers to traverse their target audience through a sequential path increasing commitment to brand at each stage. The A-Path starts by getting brand Attention, followed by Attraction, then Affinity, Audience, and Advocacy. The early part of this path is accomplished on social channels other than the ones the brand owns and manages. As you progress your audience through the A-Path you slowly wean users to brand-owned social channels. This method is described in “Executable Game Plan for Winning Ultimate Customers with Social Media.” When using this approach, marketers need to understand “When to Ask for a “Call-to-Action’ in Social Media.” Following this approach provides an understanding of how “Social Media Highlights the Important Difference Between Marketing and Sales.” You will also see the relationship of “Social Media Conversion and the Social Media Marketing Funnel.” And one other note on this holistic approach to social marketing … Do not jump to a conclusion that your Facebook “likers” are your audience. Understand “Where ‘Audience’ Fits in Social Media.” It is likely different than you assume.

And now the last imperative social marketing fundamental is to “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like.” Specifically, I am talking about social media marketing measurement. The referenced article outlines that awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy should be measured. Not sales. Parameters to be measured in the four categories are covered in the article. When it comes to measurement and “Social Media ROI – Don’t Be So Short Sighted – Think Longer Term.”

So you have the fundamentals down, right? Now, where do you start? “Before You Start with Social Media” you need to apply marketing basics. The referenced article explains the need to understand the brand and its position, defining a communication or campaign objective, as well as defining a communication plan. A presentation deck is provided to take you through the steps. The deck was later updated in a more recent post, “University Social Marketing Presentation.” And when you put together your social strategy, you must pay attention to “Marketing Demographics and the Ramifications of Social Media.” Consider psycho-demographics as well as standard demographics. Psycho-demographics identify various segments of the target audience’s state of mind. When you identify the various states of mind, you can then deliver contextually relevant content.

Now that you have the fundamentals and a game plan, you cannot stop there. Far too many companies make errors with regards to organizational issues for social marketing. Here are some very important issues …

CEO understanding and support
Social Media in Your Company – Guidance for Where It Fits In
When Looking for Your Company’s Social Media Marketing Leader, Consider ….
Why the “Social Media Person” Needs to Be More than Just the Social Media Person
3 Helpful Tips when Hiring for Social Media

Social media gives the target audience a strong voice. Brands can no longer put out statements and advertisements and expect the audience to simply accept what they are saying. Brands need to listen to their audience, engage and build relationships. Brands have an opportunity to build an emotional bond with their audience. Emotional branding will yield loyalty, word of mouth marketing and overall, long-term brand preference and sustainability. Social marketing is a must in today’s consumer driven world.

You now have the definition of how to drive social marketing success. Let me know what else you need or do not understand.

Make It Happen,
SocialSteve

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The Future of Social Marketing – It Might be Going in the Wrong Direction

wrong direction We are at that time of the year where everyone will start to make his or her predictions for the coming year. I am not here to be viewed as the great prognosticator but rather I do hope to get social marketing on the right track.

Digital/social is not hype. If you look at the vast universe of user behavior in digital/social you must believe brands need to leverage these environments for overall success. And when I look and see how a majority of brands act and deliver on social channels, I literally get infuriated.

This week a study revealed “Only 8% Of Brands Believe Their Marketing Team Is Strong Across All Digital Marketing Channels.” How can this be acceptable? If you are part of the remaining 92%, what are you doing about it?

This past week I had a conversation with a CEO of a big agency. A colleague set up this meeting as I am currently looking for a leadership position in digital marketing. The CEO proceeded to share with me that he had acquired a social marketing agency that he was going to fold into the agency. “Why do I need a separate CEO and CFO? I think the current agency roles, the creatives, the account people, can do social as part of what they do.”

In the world of mergers and acquisitions, you probably do not need an extra CEO or CFO and other executive, general management, and support functions. And yes, we should expect everyone to play a social role as part of his or her job function. But I asked the CEO a question, “Don’t you think you need someone to orchestrate the entire social presence for a brand?” He avoided answering this question.

And in there lies the erroneous direction of brands’ social marketing. I believe that everyone in a company needs to be a social extension for the company. Yes, the creative folks need to make sure their productions include social distribution and engagement; the account folks need to make sure information is captured from social listening; and on and on. But there needs to be a chief engagement officer, chief customer officer, chief social officer, chief digital officer, chief marketing officer … Call them what you want … Place the responsibility in an appropriate place … but someone needs to take charge. Someone that is really competent owning the brand personality. Someone owning the customer engagement. Someone measuring and analyzing empirical results.

I see growth in social marketing participation throughout the functional areas of companies. And that is a good thing. But if anyone thinks that greater use of social media across various groups within an organization means that there is social marketing integration, they are wrong.

If companies want to see true ROI from social efforts, there needs to be a leader that is responsible for orchestrating and delivering strategy, plans, operations and measurable results. In my six years of social marketing, and ten years in digital marketing I continually see chief marketing officers, chief strategy officers, chief digital officers, chief whatever officers that really don’t understand target audience behavior and use of digital/social. I see sharp but inexperienced digital marketers in roles that they are not prepared for.

This scenario has caused many to question the value of social marketing. Social marketing will not have value if its responsibility is not placed in the right hands. I have a sense of optimism given that studies are being conducted that unveil how significant the problem is.

If there is one trend that must change in 2014 in the world of digital/social marketing it is competent leadership and responsibility. Let’s put it in place. Then we can start assessing the true social value.

Wake up.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Why There is Still Social Marketing FUD

Social Marketing FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. Are you one of millions that still suffer from social marketing FUD. It is no wonder. In the past couple of weeks my social practice has led me to meetings with retail store operators, FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) brands, an insurance company, a media company, and a shoe brand. All these meeting proved that so many are still very confused about social media. While this is just a mere sampling, it proves to me there is still a strong problem.

Elmer FUDAnd why is there such a social FUD problem? Let’s start by looking at the people running social endeavors at companies, agencies, and independent practices. How many of them actually do brand, industry, and target market research? How many can produce a creative brief? And how many set a strategy that includes messaging strategy, content strategy, social channel plan, content distribution and earned media plan?

I am not sure if the problem is with the individual leading the social effort or with the person who hired them. It is kind of like the chicken and the egg scenario. What came first? The unqualified person or the hiring manager that has little idea what to look for. I really hate to be harsh, but there is an over abundance of social leaders that have no idea how to produce results. This fact was punctuated in Mashable’s article this week (The Reality of Social Media Marketing Crushes Expectations). Even “Mashable’s social makeover” did not yield results. The reason – a focus on a Facebook strategy. There should never be a Facebook strategy. I am not saying Facebook is not part of a social marketing plan, but that is exactly it. It is a part, not the start of a social strategy. If anyone comes to you and starts their discussion with how they will use Facebook or Twitter as part of the social strategy, do know they are starting in the wrong place and will likely produce poor results.

If you are serious about leveraging the power of social media, make sure your social leader or prospect can answer the following:

1) What is the target audience behavior as it relates to digital usage?
2) What are you looking to accomplish via social marketing? How will results be measured? How do social metrics relate to business KPIs (key performance indicators)?
3) What is the messaging strategy? Content strategy? How will content be proliferated, shared, and produce advocacy? How will earned media be provoked?
4) How does social marketing integrate with other corporate strategies to create synergies and measurable results?
5) What does realistic success look like and how long will it take to produce results? What will be done along the way to monitor interim results to make sure desired outcomes will be produced?

Social media has been around for a number of years now and quite frankly it disturbs me how misunderstood it is. I attribute this lack of knowledge to a majority of so called social media experts and gurus who have no idea how to collaborate and integrate social efforts into corporate initiatives. Social marketing is so much deeper than producing sweepstakes to increase likes and followers or coming up with cute posts. And yet this is the limitation of most social efforts. There are way too many people in social roles creating crap.

For those of you who know me and have followed my Social Steve presence, you know I am thrilled to share social marketing best practices and tips. And while I am happy to enlighten my readers, I am troubled by the need to continually clear the smoking mirrors produced by social media fakers.

Demand more. Make sure you understand how your social leader is going to drive results. If it doesn’t make sense to you, it is likely flawed.

Make it Happen,
Social Steve

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Why Social Marketing Must be a Commitment by Top Leadership at a Company

A few weeks ago I wrote an article aimed at the social media manager suggesting how they can “Drive Social Media Adoption at Their Company.” This article was motivated by the abundance of comments and concerns I’ve heard from social managers. Many have voiced frustration with their companies’ emergence in audience engagement and social marketing. Today, I turn the tables and point my discussion at companies’ executives, CxOs, and leadership.

Straight up, company executives must embrace social marketing.

executive leadershipThis past week, I read an excellent article, “Is Social Media A Career?” where they emphasized that there is a need for a social manager but the activity of producing social content and engagement is “… a cross-departmental, cross-functional set of tools that needs a variety of different people who buy in across a company.” And if we are looking for various people to buy in, it starts with leadership at the top.

The CEO, CMO, CSO, or any CxO has three responsibilities to set the tone for a social culture in the company.

1) They need to make sure subject matter experts in the organization are active on company social channels. There needs to be a diversity of people sharing information and engaging with an audience to reinforce a depth of knowledge, expertise, and care from the company as a whole.

2) Leadership needs to make sure that there is a “playbook” that addresses the companies’ position and set plan for expedited engagement. This playbook dictates that there are people actively searching for relevant information that provides the opportunity for real-time marketing (typically the social manager). But it is not necessarily the responsibility of the social manager to provide information and responses. Organizations need to leverage their experts to address specific information. Yes, it is the social managers responsibility to quarterback the engagement, but the company needs other players to take the quarterback’s signals and execute.

3) Awesome content is the key to social marketing success and you cannot expect the social manager to deliver all content for a brand. The responsibility of content production must be spread around to different experts and departments. Executives need to set a culture where this is not only required participation and support, and where different departmental leaders are enthusiastic to share with the brand’s audience.

As we see social marketing evolve, we will see that the social strategy is not the responsibility of the social or community manager. This must be the job of company leadership. Yes, social managers still play an important role in the organization, but their role is coordination and execution. Social purpose and strategy must be a key element of brand culture. Who is responsible for shaping the culture of a company? It starts at the top.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Driving Social Media Adoption at Your Company

Last week I hosted a webinar on getting your company on board with social media marketing and gaining greater acceptance throughout your organization. The motivation for social media is that “marketing must change because the market is changing.” Just look at the target audience behavior to see their adoption and use of social networks to help determine how important social marketing is.

Social Media Adoption at Your Company

So in this post I’ll share with you the highlights of the webinar. Consider the following key elements to getting your organization to strongly embrace social marketing such that it is not just the marketing department’s efforts. In the words of Dave Packard (of HP), “Marketing is far too important to be left solely to the marketing department.” Marketing your brand and company is everyone’s job.

1) Have a clear understanding of your target audience’s wants, needs, and motivations. Capture their digital behavior, practices and social channels of use. Brief your executives.
2) Develop a social strategy that aligns to the company’s business goals and objectives. Make sure you know the company’s KPIs (key performance indicators).
3) Determine the company’s subject matter experts in all organizational disciplines. Work with them to produce content that reinforces your brand as the most knowledgeable in the vertical you serve. Talk to the internal subject matter experts and capture their perspective. Make a draft article conveying their approach and ask them to redline (and then own) the content.
4) Create positive viruses … Find the people in your company that are willing to try some new social endeavors. Work hard to make them successful. Once they deliver success, shine a big light on their success. People copy success and everyone loves to emulate winners.
5) Extend “marketing communications” beyond the marketing department. Develop a corporate policy that states and motivates employees to share company content on their own social channels. Get executives to acknowledge and thank individuals for promoting company content. Develop brand ambassadors within your company.
6) Be a leader. It does not matter where you sit on the organization chart. If you want to drive positive change, you must make it happen. Don’t wait for someone with an executive title to take charge.
7) Show social metrics even if you are not asked for them. We must show the entire company empirical results that justify social practices. (See “Know What Successful Social Media looks Like” for metrics.)

If you want to listen to a rebroadcast of the webinar please go to the recording … the presentation is available in slideshare there as well.

Organizational change is hard, but in the case of social marketing, it is not hype that should be the reason for change, but rather audience behavior. We see different social platforms emerging weekly, but social media as a whole is the most effective way for brands to build strong relations and product/service preference. Do you have what it takes to drive winning organizational change?

Make it Happen,
Social Steve

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Where You Start in Social Media Strategy Defines Where You End Up

One of the first articles I ever wrote on my blog was “Before You Start with Social Media.” I emphasized that organizations could not just jump into social media without some upfront work. The upfront work was really traditional marketing. But the reality is that social media goes beyond marketing and should touch, influence, and guide just about all departments and disciplines within a company.

This past week, I was working on a social marketing education presentation for one of my clients. I came across a slide by Angie Schottmuller which is very poignant with regards to social media strategy and various brands successes (or lack there of).

eMarketer finds that 80 percent of marketers incorrectly begin with social media tactics instead of goals. I have experienced an even greater percentage amongst the clients I have been associated with. I cannot tell how many have the blind mentality, “Oh, we’ll put up a Facebook page and Twitter handle” and believe they are executing social marketing.

Now I do not have empirical data to provide you, but I am willing to bet a year’s salary that the realization of social media successes have a most significant slant with regards to the starting point as highlighted in the graphic above.

Social marketing should be a customer centric engagement strategy. It is not only driven by business mission and goals, but more holistically derived by the company aspirations intersecting with their target market behaviors, wants, needs, and motivations. (I showed a graphic representation of this in a recent article “Assessing the Social Media Hype Cycle”)

Social media integration in the overall business objectives and approach is imperative. This brings to mind a controversial article by Cathryn Sloane where she declared “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25.” Her main argument was “The key is that we learned to use social media socially before professionally, rather than vice versa or simultaneously.” Yes, having a socially inherent upbringing, using social platforms, and understanding nuances is very valuable. But there also must be a complete business understanding to connect and plan to desired business outcomes. And this only comes from experience. Yes, there are exceptions, but generally speaking, it is presumptuous to assume someone under 25 with limited business experience is going to successfully implement a strategy that intersects business goals and consumer social behaviors.

That said, social media marketing must be placed in the hands of someone with executive responsibility. Social media marketing success will come from collaboration between an experienced business/marketing executive and someone who lives digital social engagement as part of their everyday lifestyle.

So if we go back to the Social Media Strategy Funnel, note

1) social success requires an assigned executive sponsors responsibility to define business mission and goals and make sure there is social execution, alignment, and synergy
2) each department head must clearly articulate their goals
3) target market customer insights must be defined
4) the three items listed above must be inputs to derive realistic social media goals
5) social media goals are not the responsibility of the social media manager, but rather a collaboration between the social media manager and all business and department stakeholders
6) the social media manager then defines social media tactics – tactics are not the starting point

If you want to really see success from your social efforts, put so upfront work in and start at the right. Make sure your social efforts are aligned and integrated to your overall business mission and goals,

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Why Most CEOs and Top Execs Don’t Get Social Media

This past week I attended The World Business Forum Reception at The Yale Club in NYC. The participants included some leading CEOs and VCs from powerful companies. They had a couple of presenters covering the topic of social media, so naturally I was interested in hearing what they had to say to an elite crowd. I was extremely disappointed!

The two presenters were obviously very knowledgeable and had rich social media experience … not fly by night consultants with snake oil to sell. But they missed a golden opportunity to drive the importance of social media, because they could not present social in a simplistic manner that is easy to understand and digest. This continues to be the number one problem defining why social media does not get the appropriate attention from the C-Suite of companies.

A recent Booz & Company / Buddy Media study provides relevant data. Only 1/3 of companies have a senior executive responsible for social media.

http://www.booz.com/media/file/BoozCo-Campaigns-to-Capabilities-Social-Media-and-Marketing-2011.pdf

Social media requires attention and responsibility at a high level in organizations. And if we look at CEOs specifically, far too low of a rate have it on their agenda.

http://www.booz.com/media/file/BoozCo-Campaigns-to-Capabilities-Social-Media-and-Marketing-2011.pdf

I was so bothered by the fact that two well qualified, experienced, sharp social media professionals missed a golden opportunity that I tweeted the following on my train ride home:

Ironically, I then caught up on the day’s news and learned of the passing of Steve Jobs and tweeted:

Now the Steve Jobs reference is quite relevant. Besides all the accolades he deservingly has received for his creativity, drive, and all around pure genius, Steve forced SIMPLISTIC innovation.

I remember being a high school senior in the fall of 1979 in my first computer class. We used a time share system with a telephone placed in a teletype cradle to gain access to a massive computer in some distant land. (Not really that far away.) Our instructor brought this thing in called an Apple Computer on a cart that typically held an overhead projector and said, “This is a computer. It is all in there.” Needless to say, we were amazed. A huge time share computing device was simplified down to that.

Another example of Jobs’ simplicity (and there are many) is the iPod. His instructions to his engineers were to develop a portable music device that had no switches or controls. Thus the simplicity of the fly wheel and push button of the iPod.

I have been to more social media presentations than Bruce Springsteen concerts (50 plus) and I think I have seen maybe a half dozen good ones (social media presentations). Good ones because I see the audience’s body language that says they understand. The good ones are simple. Social media really is not that complicated. Neither is driving social success. Steve Jobs showed his brilliance by producing simplicity.

I have described and presented social media many times in what I hope are simple terms. You can be the judge of that. Here are some examples:

* Before You Start with Social Media
* Simplifying Social Media
* Measuring the Value of Social Media
* 7 Things You Need to do to Turn Social Media Successful Results
* 4 Ingredients to a Winning Content Strategy
* Content is Super Important !!! (But Not King)
* Integrating Owned Media, Earned Media, and Paid Media
* Marketing Leadership (with a hint of Social Media)
* The Most Important Word for Marketing
* Forget Social Media – Let’s First Start with Social
* Where is the WOW in Social Media?
* Social Media Model that Defines the End of the World as We Know It
* Social Media ROI – Don’t Be So Short Sighted – Think Longer Term
* How You Can Execute Social Media Successfully
* Social Media – Concentrate on How, not What
* Social Media Conversation: I Know You’re Talking, But Are You Listening?
* Using the Social Media “A-path” to Capture Ultimate Customers

I will be presenting social media at the Executive Forum Leadership Conference in at IBM’s campus in Armonk, NY. So I will shine the mirror on myself. Can social media be simplified to allow all to understand it and maybe even more importantly, what social success looks like? Definitely so!

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

PS And if you have a problem simplifying it and “making it happen,” contact me … I’ll be glad to engage and see if I can help.

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3 Helpful Tips when Hiring for Social Media

I don’t care if you are hiring someone as a fulltime employee, hiring an agency to support your business, or looking for a position in social media. There are three principles you really should consider. They are so rational and make sense for any position to fill, but often are ignored when securing social media positions.

This coming week I start a new chapter in my social media adventures. I will be heading up social media strategy at a performance marketing agency. In the past, I have been hired as a consultant and someone to lead another social team. I have hired social talent to be part of a team and I’ll be doing that again. Given my interviewing experience on both sides, I thought it would be valuable to share three common mentalities often overlooked. So I hope you take some missteps I have witnessed by both candidates and companies in the social media hiring process and change things for the better.

Simply Show You Are Social

For Candidate:
Be prepared to bring and show examples of your social footprint. This is more than using Facebook and Twitter. Do you blog? Can you give examples of generating earned and shared media?

When I hired some social media managers in February, 2010, I knew I would not find many that have done what I was looking for in a professional setting. I found a number of good candidates that “lived” the social thing. They were producing content and capturing a following in their personal life because they enjoyed doing it. They were engaging and building relationships. Can you demonstrate this?

For Hiring Company:
Social media success starts with having the right mentality. I have emphasized this in my article “Forget Social Media – Let’s First Start with Social.” Let me make the point through two contrary experiences …

Company A: I was interviewing for a position to head up social media for a major retail brand you all would know. The process was going well and I received an email from HR stating, “____ (the CMO) mentioned that he had a great conversation with you and he is interested in you for the role … I will connect with you first/second week of May to discuss next steps.” Then, I never heard back from them and they did not return my call and email. I do not think it is acceptable for any company to go cold after sending such a positive note – even if they are having some internal issues. They should be transparent (I am not saying totally and show their warts) and follow up and say we are having some delays for some unforeseen issues. If this is how “social” they are to their prospect team and this is their culture, how social do they expect their staff team to be with their customers?

Company B: After interviewing with the CEO (a very busy person), I sent a follow up note stating thanks and why I thought I was a great match for the position. You know, the type of follow up letter we always do. Do you ever get replies to them? I never did and least not until my experience with Company B. The CEO returned a simple note and said, “Thanks for the info. Looking forward to continued conversations.” It took all of 15 seconds to do this. Others there returned my follow note as well. This is a “social mentality company.” Yes, I was extremely happy to receive the simple note and you know what – customers really appreciate when they receive responses from corporate staff as well. No surprise … I start working for them on Monday. :)

Know What You Are Looking For

For Candidate:
A common question in any interviewing scenario is “What are you looking for?” To be honest, I have not always been good at answering this question – at least not in the beginning of my job search. Yes, I have interviewed at a number of companies and it took some time for me to know exactly where and how I wanted to make my impact. But I do think this uncertainty hindered my ability to connect with some companies early in my interviewing endeavors. When I knew exactly what I looked to accomplish, I was able to develop stronger relationships even at first meetings. It is okay to go out there and feel your way around for a bit. But realize you need to work to determine a definition of what is right for you and you will see greater success at that point.

For Hiring Company:
There have been a number of companies that I have interviewed with that did not know what the responsibilities would be for social positions and even where the position reported into. I have experienced multiple cases where I was to report to more than one person because of uncertainty. Social media must be accountable to the entire company – yes. But reporting structure is not a replication of accountability.

If you are not sure what you are looking for, set up information sessions and label it as such. Way back when, we used “RFIs” (Request for Information) as a method to learn more about vendors that could solve problems for organizational needs. Bring this same mentality to the social hiring process. It makes no difference if you are searching for agency support or securing a fulltime position. A real “social media expert” would be glad to share information and food for thought with you.

I have a number of war stories on this subject. Yes, I share my experiences, but will not reveal well recognized entities – there are many. Kiss and tell – no. Share lessons learned – yes.

Connecting Social Media to Business Objectives

Here, it is really the same objective for the candidate and the hiring company. It is not important to hire someone who knows social media … It is important to hire someone who knows how to successfully connect social media to the company. There are tons of people out there that understand social media. Heck, most digital natives (or millennials) understand it and get it. But it is a whole lot different to be able to understand a brand position, its target market, what the target market values, where the prospective audience congregates, and being able to establish a social media practice that fits in. If you are the candidate or hired agency, do understand how you measure success and define a social program that bolts into your awareness, lead generation, and sales process strategy and activities of the hiring company? If you are the hiring company, do you know how to determine whether your hired prospect or agency has the ability to integrate social media into your operations and can articulate KPIs (key performance indicators)? Can he/she provide added value by building and increasing loyalty and advocates? Don’t you think a company will experience much greater success with this ability rather than hiring someone that simply knows social?

Wrap Up

Let’s be honest. Nothing I have written here is earth shattering or profound. We apply these mentalities quite often. But for some reason, it has been my experience that this is not the case when it comes to social media hiring. Why? Because social media is new and some look at it like it is a great mystery. While I can accept this, I am suggesting that the solution is simpler than we are making it. And just one more thing (or really three things) … make sure to pay attention to the areas I have covered here. It should result in a solid match for the organization and the hiree.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under company organization, employment, social media, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Social Media – Mentality is the Key to Winning!

We are at the point where just about every company is starting or active in social media in one form or another. No need to evangelize social anymore. Everyday, I scan the news for articles on social media and there are tons. In the past weeks, I have seen a majority questioning the success of social media. But we can not go from everyone’s doing it to the next question of “Is it working?” Something very important is missing.

Are you going about social media with the right mentality and approach? It is not about having a Facebook fan page and Twitter account. It is more about having the right attitude, style, and engagement mentality on these platforms as well as OTHERS. Can you really expect to have social media success if you are not actively engaging, building relationships, and, well, being social?

There is also another piece. When I’ve made a career change, headhunters and prospective companies asked me, “What are you looking for? A startup, emerging, big company?” I always answer the same thing. Size does not matter. Spirit does. Entrepreneurial companies are what attract me, because they are the winners.

Now this term entrepreneurial is thrown out all the time. But what does it really mean. Well let’s start by looking at the formal definition of entrepreneur. According to Merriam-Webster, an entrepreneur is “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” Key word here – risks.

And this is the pinnacle part as it relates to my interests, and even more importantly, social media. No company, and I do mean no company at all, will be successful with social media if they are not willing to take risks and accept some degree of failures to occur in plight for big wins. If your company is waiting for a social media recipe with guaranteed results, as opposed to taking calculated risk, forget it.

On topic to this discussion, I just finished reading Seth Godin’s latest book, “Poke the Box.” I have always found Seth to be creative, inspirational, and one of the best marketing minds. The emphasis of Seth’s recent book is really two-fold. 1) The need to not just have good ideas, but the requirement to get started and release something. 2) Pushing educational and corporate cultures to have a greater acceptance of failure, because from failure we learn and spawn great things. Creativity is totally sapped without an acceptance of failure.

The book speaks to individuals. Yes, social media requires leaders. Leaders that start things and push for success. I often use a rubber band analogy to make a point about introducing social media to an organization and/or change management in general. In order to provoke positive change, it is your responsibility as a leader to view your organization as a rubber band. It is your job to stretch and expand the rubber band, but not push too much to cause the rubber band to snap. Each rubber band size and elasticity varies by culture. Understand the environment you are in and stretch.

So back to social media success possibilities within a company. Is the right mentality in place? What does that rubber band look like? What is the willing elasticity and stretched factor of the organization? Are they entrepreneurial to take risks and accept failures?

Social media is not about being “right.” It is about connecting with people to find the right. Build strong relationships. The right as defined by your target audience. The relationships with your targets will tell you (indirectly) how to be a success.

At the highest level, social media’s objective is getting the prospects and customers to love your brand. Could you have a stronger relationship? Is your organization really ready to take this on as an objective and put appropriate KPIs (key performance indicators) in place to measure this?

Do organizational boundaries exist that prohibit this? I’ll give you an example on the contrary …

I am part of an Innovation Team where I currently work. I represent the marketing discipline on the team. We are about to launch a very cool video application for smart phones (iPhone first, then other platforms). About a week and a half ago, we had a meeting to discuss launch plans. I lead the meeting to discuss our go-to-market and continuing activities and some things that need to be resolved. I brought up the issue of customer support and questioned who was going to own this responsibility. Our COO responded immediately to me – “Your team.” Formally in the big corporate structure, I run the social media team, not a customer support organization. But our COO was exactly correct. I said social media is about getting your customers to love you and customer support certainly plays a key role here.

Here is another point on the potential of the organization getting in the way of social success. .. A number of months ago, I wrote an article “People Have the Power – a Social Media Story.” I told the story of having a problem with my cable provider and not getting resolution from “customer support” but rather someone in PR picking up a tweet I made and working the issue to resolution. From a customer/user perspective, do I really care about organizational boundaries or do I care about a brand that shows me love when they are looking to capture me as a customer and continuing to show me love as a customer. Continuing, seamless love – How powerful is this if you really accomplish this within your brand?

So when you put it all together, I am suggesting that some companies have no chance at all of social media success. Wrong attitude; wrong results. If you are not entrepreneurial, social and committed to building strong relationships and customer love, don’t expect a miracle. Make sure your culture fits the requirements for social success. If this is so, we will see an overwhelming number of winning business cases.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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