Social Media

Professional Services at the Digital Crossroads

crossroadsI’ve been watching lots of professional services firms evolve to take on the world of digital.  PR agencies are embracing the evolution of communication to online, unstructured and real-time content.  Marketers are embracing the troves of data available and looking at how to craft effective campaigns, content and platforms to reach audiences in new ways.  Ad agencies are extending “big ideas” to be rooted in shareable social platforms.  Even the big consulting firms are finding their way into the digital strategy arena.

These are exciting times for anyone in the advertising, marketing and communications space.  Career opportunities abound, and CMOs of companies in all industries are looking at their agency rosters differently.  Agencies need to “bring it” with compelling, integrated ideas.  In some ways it doesn’t matter if the agency was born from PR, marketing, digital, or advertising.  What matters most is the combination of the ability to understand a client’s business, the ability to generate stellar ideas based on true insights, and the ability to deliver on those ideas.

I am in the midst of a related career transition and will be sharing more details in the near future.  I’m excited to be sharing and collaborating more with peers who understand this space.  I’m excited to be writing again and getting this blog back in gear, hearing from you about what excites you most in the world of digital.  What I am most excited about is the continued opportunity to work with smart colleagues and great brands in a digital landscape.  Describing it as “fun times” would be an understatement.

image credit: PedjaP via flickr

Engaging the Right Audience on LinkedIn

(Cross posted on the Fleishman-Hillard DNA blog)

LinkedIn, one of the established social networks, is making strides in advancing how businesses can leverage the platform to engage followers.  Several weeks ago, LinkedIn launched the LinkedIn Follow Button allowing followers to follow a company page on LinkedIn directly from owned assets like web pages and blogs.

This week LinkedIn launched two new products that allow companies to more effectively engage the followers they have.  These are both significant leaps forward in helping companies engage followers which typically consist of employees, former employees, partners, media and potential customers.

Engagement to the Next Level

The new functions are “Targeted Updates” and “Follower Statistics.” The Targeted Updates function allows companies to breakdown their followers by variables such as: industry, seniority, job function, company size, non-company employees, and geography. Similar to Google+’s Circles feature, companies are able to send targeted status updates to groups of followers of their choice.  Multinational companies can develop content strategies for engaging followers that are targeted and more relevant.  Status updates about events can target the local city or region where the events are hosted.  Companies that serve both SMB and Enterprise customers in a B2B line of business can target status updates to followers who work only at those respective sized companies, increasing the likelihood of engagement through a comment, ‘like’ or click.

The criteria for Targeted Updates appears to be the same selection criteria for LinkedIn’s ad platform.  If this is the case, brands can combine paid ads with shared status updates as part of a regional campaign, increasing the potential effectiveness of both.  This combination of shared with overlaying paid advertising can help brands create a powerful one-two punch on awareness and engagement on a social network that can have a high quality of followers.

The Follower Statistics feature is an analytics dashboard that allows companies to see how effective their updates have been, including how many followers have viewed and responded to the content. The features are still in beta phase and only available to several companies like: AT&T (client), Samsung Mobile, Dell and Microsoft. A more official rollout can be expected in the near future, but for now brands should prepare enhanced engagement strategies for their followers in order to leverage these new products to the best of their ability.

Imitation is Flattery

These features arguably give a nod to Google+ Circles, elements of Twitter’s follow-button and sponsored stories on Facebook.  The major difference is LinkedIn’s more than 150 million professionals, including executives from all Fortune 500 companies and 2 million companies that have company pages.  These new features combined give a more robust option for companies considering audience engagement in different platforms.

Photo credit: tj scenes via Flickr

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