The Content Convergence Dilemma: Where’s the Content Department?

By now most companies have figured out that good content is critical in a digital presence.  That content can take many forms – user-generated, interactive, structured (data), marketing, conversational, and others.  What I’ve seen in the last month is that most companies still struggle internally with content ownership – who owns the generation?  Who owns the publishing?  Who owns the maintenance?  Someone please tell me, where is the Content Department?

Legacy organizational functions are aligned around different types of content, but they converge on the end customer.  Marketing organizations are historically built around generation of “finished” content.  This includes web pages, banners, ads, emails and in some cases video.  PR organizations can be built are “unfinished” content, including press releases and snippets prepared to help media organizations generate their own finished content.  Conversational content is managed across many organizations who touch social media functions – PR, marketing and customer service, for example.

There are two major challenges I’ve seen for companies struggling with the ownership of content: Integration of content creation efforts across departmental functions in a truly collaborative way, and the ‘B’ word: Budget.

Integration requires each department to be candid about their objectives (example: blogger outreach vs. strategic messaging) and to be willing to give and take around a content plan and calendar.  If product marketing teams operate independently, they won’t have the benefit of getting the most out of content and to the customer they may appear disjointed or out of sync.

The budget question comes down to the fact that content generation requires funding – manpower, skills, assets.  I’ve seen clients put all the funding for that in marketing, and others in PR.  The latest version is a suggestion at a client to pool resources to have a joint ‘fund’ for content (in this case video), so that each video produced can serve the purposes and goals for both marketing and PR at the same time and each has a vested interest in allocating resources.

How has your company solved the budget and integration challenges?  How do you hire for content creation roles?  I’d love to hear success and lessons learned stories.

photo credit: atrogu via Flickr

Autumn Transitions

It’s that time of year. Summer draws to a close, baseball season makes the home stretch to the playoffs, leaves change and school starts. For many it’s a new start and a change of seasons. Around this time in 2007, I started exploring how clients could benefit from leveraging social media to build and enhance relationships with customers. Today I am excited to share that I am starting a new position that allows me to focus on doing just that. I have joined Fleishman-Hillard as SVP of Digital and Social Media and as a Partner in the Boston office. It’s been more than a decade since I started a new endeavor at this time of year, and in my house it means my kids and I are all making a transition at the same time.

I decided on the move to FH because I saw an opportunity. FH has an entrepreneurial spirit, and social media is thriving and growing as a practice area. I am taking on a role where there is already an established and very talented local team in Boston, and where I will be focused on building our reach, creating and expanding client relationships and broadening our offerings of world-class social media services. I could not be more excited at the wide array of possibilities to work with clients (new and potential) looking for a trusted business partner and leveraging our team’s existing experience to grow and do more great work.

I would like to thank the numerous colleagues, clients and friends at Rosetta for a terrific ride the last five years. There is nothing that thrills me more than doing excellent work with clients who approach working with agencies as true business partners. I especially enjoyed working closely with the good people at Coach, Borders, Maidenform and philosophy (not to mention the roster of other clients who usually prefer not to be disclosed). In any professional services environment the people are the asset – I am proud to have worked with a talented Rosetta team. You know who you are and I can’t thank all of you enough for the support and collaboration.

The industry of social media has grown up, and companies who ask for agency partners to strategize, develop and lead programs need to answer the call with the same level of sophistication and rigor as any other program. More thoughts soon about the convergence of the agency landscape related to all things digital, but for the near term I’m looking forward to jumping in with both feet at an agency that has already embraced the change.

p.s. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how excited I am to be working in Boston.  Those who know me know I have spent much of the last several years on the road, and while no opportunity is zero travel, this actually gives me an excuse to be in town regularly.  My wife and boys deserve a major dose of thanks for putting up with me – of course they now have to put up with me more in person.  I hope to cross paths with many more folks in person in the Hub soon. Love that dirty water…

photo credit: deniscollette via flickr

Interview: EMC Does Social Media From The Inside Out

Recently I had a discussion with a client about doing social media “inside out” – starting with leveraging collaboration tools and focusing on using social tools inside the walls before engaging customers.  I was quickly reminded that storage technology and services company EMC has taken that approach and embarked on a journey with employees, customers and partners worldwide.  I reached out to Len Devanna (a good friend, a former client years ago, and Director of Social Strategy helping lead EMC‘s social media efforts to the next level), and asked if he’d answer a few questions about it.  Turns out it was a timely ask.

Q. How did EMC start on their social media journey?

LD: We formally embarked on our social journey back in 2007. At the time, we saw the world around us changing. The emergence of the social web was big in BtoC, but had not made significant strides in BtoB. Regardless, we saw the trend as a game changer – one that would fundamentally change the way brands engaged with their audience. As we embarked on our journey, we made a few key decisions that, in hindsight, were spot on…

We decided to take an inside-out approach as we wanted to focus on our own internal proficiency with social before taking the conversation beyond the comfort of our firewall. To that end, the first major step in our journey was the launch of EMC|ONE – An internal community platform for our global employees.

Over the years, EMC|ONE has proven to be an invaluable tool and has helped us build an incredible degree of social proficiency across the global workforce. Many of our public bloggers, as example, honed their voice and refined their blogging skills on EMC|ONE before going public.

Not only has EMC|ONE helped build that proficiency, but it’s also fundamentally changed our company. We’re proud to share that the EMC|ONE community consists of over 30k active members while our overall employee population is around 48k. That 30k is active members, so it’s safe to assume the vast majority of the delta are passive consumers. Suffice it to say that EMC|ONE is at the very epicenter of enterprise collaboration at EMC. It’s simply changed the way we work.

Q. Do you think companies benefit when they start with internal social initiatives? Why or why not?

LD: I sure do. I’m of the firm belief that there’s a need to understand ‘social etiquette’ in the digital realm. Many of the ‘common sense’ behaviors that we take for granted in the physical world apply to the digital world as well.

I often joke that, if you’ve been invited to a party, you don’t show up – barge in the door and start shouting about your new puppy dog. Rather you walk in, get a sense of the conversations at hand, and emerge yourself in the relevant discussions. Despite being a no brainer in the physical world, how many countless tweets have we all seen along the lines of ‘I’m eating toast!’. Bottom line, I believe our inside-out approach has helped us better understand such behaviors, and ultimately made us more effective through our social engagements.

Perhaps more importantly, social introduces new ways for us to work and collaborate with one another on a global scale. Much like the arrival of email way back when, these are ‘new’ behaviors that must be learned. EMC|ONE has taught us a great deal about how to work differently with one another – and has literally changed how we collaborate amongst one another on a global scale.

I literally cannot imagine EMC without an ‘EMC|ONE’, and suspect the vast majority of the internal community would agree.

Q. What’s the one key takeaway from EMC’s social media journey you’d want people to remember?

LD: Openness and transparency are key. What I find most fascinating about social is that it forces us to change some rather long-standing behaviors in ourselves.

Specifically – anytime someone wants to start a new community on EMC|ONE, they always want a private area with hand-selected members (be it their workgroup, their business unit, geography, etc). In fact we’ve avoided the notion of silo’d discussions, and rather encouraged open dialogue for all global employees to participate in.

Without fail, community managers come back thankful that we steered them down such a path. What they learn is that a discussion is infinitely more valuable when you bring in diverse perspective. We’ve seen countless examples of employees in different business functions and geographies coming together to collaborate on meaningful topics. That would never happen without an open approach.

Openness was perhaps one of the more difficult notions to sell – but the rewards and lessons learned have been simply invaluable.

I hope the bits above help others along their journey. Thanks for letting us share our story via your blog, Adam.

Thank you LD – this is tremendous insight and I’m grateful you shared EMC’s story here.  I’m even more enamored with the video EMC produced to tell the tale.

Share and enjoy, and feel free to leave questions for Len in the comments.

Photo credit: Facebook

The Unsung Heroes of Social Media

The business side of social media is evolving on a daily basis. People in roles all across businesses are scrambling to keep up with what customers are doing and how their behaviors and attitudes are evolving.  In any industry, those who build experience as practitioners early on have a great opportunity to distinguish themselves among industry peers.  Aside from the typical legions of snake oil salesmen (awesome and still relevant post from Jason Falls rebuking the social media guru attacks), there are a plethora of smart, proven, eloquent thought leaders out there who make it a part of their daily business to advance the industry and do great work for their clients.  Jay Baer, David Armano and Aaron Strout are some of the first that come to mind for me.  Others like Jim Storer and Rachel Happe are building tremendous signal-to-noise ratio services, like the Community Roundtable, that companies would be remiss to ignore.  These folks are all doing brilliant work.  But what about the folks who didn’t build up a personal presence on the speaking circuit, or the dozens of other folks behind the scenes at companies who are really living how social media is changing their businesses?

To adapt a classic line from Rick Pitino before his departure as head coach of the Boston Celtics:
Chris Brogan isn’t walking through that door.  Valeria Maltoni isn’t walking through that door.  Beth Kanter isn’t walking through that door.  Brian Solis isn’t walking through that door and Seth Godin isn’t walking through that door.” (well, unless you go hire them).

The point here is that companies have talented staff who are learning about social media (it can be taught, you know).  No one knows the business better, the brand better, or the customers better than people who work at the company.  Hiring thought leadership, creative and execution help may be the right path for many companies (hey, I’d be hypocritical not to recommend it).  Agencies who are truly business partners can accelerate, execute and innovate, but in the end it’s the folks within the four walls of the company who need to own customer relationships and do the work that social business entails.

So here’s to celebrating those people behind the scenes. They aren’t on the speaking circuit (yet), and in many cases they may not even be allowed to share their stories.  But they are there helping customers, collaborating with colleagues and pushing businesses into new territory with emerging technology. Know some folks who should be recognized?  Send them this post along with a note of thanks for the hard work.

Photo credit: Screen capture from YouTube

Social Media Success is About The Customers, Stupid

How do you define success with leveraging social media?  With each passing conference and industry event, the perennial mainstays of social media case studies tend to remain the same:  Dell, Comcast, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks.  All deservedly so, mind you – each of these companies embraced personalized approaches to engaging customers and building long term relationships.  “Yadda yadda yadda,” you say.  They all in many ways were first to market, which in an industry like marketing tends to benefit those who create the buzz first.

Being first to market doesn’t guarantee success, nor is it a requirement to gain success.  Despite the maturity of social media practices, I still see lots of companies (some of them clients) still either waiting to get in the game or are in it with a heavy dose of skepticism.  Often times this is because they think of success as whether their story gets placed in AdAge or is mentioned by a pundit at a conference.  It occurred to me that companies who think this way are missing the golden opportunity to focus on their customers first.  Here are some simple thoughts on defining success that may help illustrate the point.  What would you add to this list?

Social Media Success is NOT:
…getting a celebrity to retweet a post
…having more positive than negative sentiment from a social media monitoring tool
…having more “likes” than your competitors
…launching a corporate blog
…getting coverage at PR and marketing conferences

Social Media Success IS:
…seeing a customer come to the defense of the brand in a discussion on your company’s Facebook page
…seeing the sentiment from a social media monitoring tool improve over time
…watching customers share and comment on really valuable and relevant content your team created
…hearing a customer or business partner mention a recent blog post helped influence their decision
…getting coverage at PR and marketing conferences because of business results achieved

Success is about building relationships that “move the needle” with customers – smart marketers understand the needs, attitudes and behaviors of their customers and prospects better than anyone. Leverage that insight to build long term relationships with customers (whether first to market with the tactic or not) and success will follow.

Photo credit: cayusa via flickr

Some Brand Haiku Humor

Good friend Aaron Strout had a moment of inspiration on a plane and decided to challenge a few friends to come up with Haikus about recent brand experiences.  In his continuing reign as the Kevin Bacon of Social Media, Aaron was quickly able to recruit a list of talented marketers to join in the fun. See the entire list at Aaron’s original post.  Don’t recall what a Haiku is?  Here you go.

I chose three recent brand experiences (one bad, one good, and one so good it’s bad).

Dropped calls and big fees
AT&T it’s time to
rethink possible.

Long line at Starbucks
The first sip hits my blood stream
Sweet nectar of Gods.

A long lost classic
Thanks for bringing back McRib
Now put it back, please.

You can find more Haikus by following the chain on to Jason Falls, and by watching Twitter for the hashtag #brandhaiku.

photo credit: jadendave via Flickr

On Facebook and the Death of Etiquette

Let’s face it.  Etiquette is a lost art.  Forget “interruption marketing” for a minute and think about how people interact on a regular basis.  New technologies change that behavior as people seek to leverage the convenience they provide.

  • When the phone was invented, an etiquette had to evolve on how to greet a new call, what’s an appropriate time to call, how to converse without interruption.  (Lots of room to improve here still – I can’t understand why politicians don’t have to follow the “do not call” list rules, but that’s another story).
  • Email etiquette arguably doesn’t exist – in a business context, companies have a culture around when people turn to email and when they don’t.  Email between friends and family has a broad range of what’s “socially acceptable,” but over time people at least develop a sense of when people will reply and why.
  • Two years ago, no way I’d tell you that it would be acceptable to converse via text message/SMS with grandparents.  Same with instant messaging.

In each of these small examples, the communication is mostly 1:1.  Email can be broadcast 1:many, but it’s deliberate who the communication goes to – you select email addresses to include.  Enter the world of Facebook, where the communication paradigm is different.  We have 1:many as the default – post once and share with many, who consume the content (status updates, photos, videos, links) at their leisure.  Forget that most people don’t have a common understanding of what they see in the News Feed and why.   The barrier to communication is low – it’s easy to share a picture or post given so many ways to share, from mobile to desktop.

Sometimes people forget that the communication medium isn’t important – the content of the message is, along with the dynamic.  Is it something that should be shared 1:1 or OK to share 1:many?   Making that choice with the context to understand the medium is crucial in relationship building – for businesses or individuals.

I recently asked some folks on Twitter and Facebook about etiquette, and heard many bizarre stories.  From the unexpected sonogram photo to first hearing of a family death, people are choosing Facebook for the wrong type of communication at the wrong time.   Have an example to share?  Do you thing Facebook etiquette is a lost art or a lost cause?

Photo credit: fdmount via flickr