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

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

Co-opetition in the World of Social Media Marketing

Changing markets cause change for those who serve them. As businesses adapt and figure out how social media will impact how they conduct day to day functions, service providers are adapting too.  These days companies have a high probability of encountering any of the following providing social media services:

  • Sole prioprietor (independent contractor)
  • Social media agency (small, medium and increasingly larger)
  • PR agency (traditional, new media, all sizes)
  • Digital or interactive agency (all sizes)
  • Advertising agency (all sizes, but particularly the big dogs)
  • CRM consulting firm
  • Database marketing agency

In an effort to help bring some clarity to the situation, friends (and business partners, and competitors) Todd Defren of SHIFT and Aaron Strout of Powered have collaborated with me to give you a snippet of what makes us different.  We have some overlap and we also have some ways we can complement each other.  We are doing business together and competing.  Either way, hopefully this lets potential clients know more about what makes us different.  How’d we do?  I’d encourage your to read Todd’s post and Aaron’s post to get their commmentary as well.

Todd Defren

This is my company…

One of the top-25 PR agencies in the U.S., with offices in NYC, San Francisco and Boston, SHIFT is an agency that helps organizations of all sizes better communicate with the people that matter to their business.  Sometimes that’s “the media,” sometimes that’s “some loudmouth on Twitter.”  Companies ranging from Quiznos to Club Med, from tiny start-ups to established tech companies, look to SHIFT for counsel and execution on both branded and earned media.

What we do…

SHIFT focuses on “on-going engagement” vs. “campaigns.”  And because relationships change over time, our targets and tactics evolve as-needed.  Thus the portfolio of services a client will tap into can include: Traditional Media Relations (coverage in NYTimes, TODAY Show, eWeek, etc.) + Social Media Relations (dialogue with relevant Facebook Group admins, Twitterati, etc.) + Content and App Development + Community Management (running a YouTube channel or Facebook Fanpage).

This is why you should call me (type of challenge or project)…

We are generally called on by large brands that need to act more like a start-up or by small companies that want to take things to the next level.  If your company needs more overall visibility (“get ink!”); needs to better engage with consumers (“that Social Media stuff!”); or needs to brand or re-brand in the marketplace, it’s worth a conversation.

This is when you should call someone else…

While we bring plenty of creativity to the table, when it comes to execution portion of app development, videography, website development, advertising campaigns, media buying and SEO, SHIFT will turn to quality partners like Powered and Rosetta, among others.

Aaron Strout

This is my company…

Powered is a dedicated social media agency that helps brands fully capitalize on their social initiatives. With 75 employees in four offices (Austin, New York City, Portland and San Francisco) we brings “best-in-class” expertise across the social spectrum to our clients by offering a combination of strategy, planning, activation and management for social presence and programs.

What we do

Okay, I guess I answered this in the “this is my company” section but to add on, we help big brands with strategy and activation (getting their key stakeholders like customers, prospects, partners or employees) to do things that create value for their brand. Those activities might include evangelizing, contributing, participating or learning.

This is why you should call me (type of challenge or project)

We’re really at our best when we’re helping big brands (mainly B2C) connect their social efforts to their marketing efforts. We start by fleshing out a cohesive strategy and then move toward the activation. In many cases, this includes focusing on things like influencer outreach, ambassador programs, Facebook Fanpages, applications and customer tabs and the building and managing of branded online communities.

This is when you should call someone else.

We’re still not particularly good at media buying, custom web development (outside of Facebook and community building), SEM and general site SEO. We also don’t do any traditional PR. For those activities, I’d strongly recommend talking to our friends at Rosetta and SHIFT, both of whom we partner/work with.

Adam Cohen

This is my company…

Rosetta is the largest independent digital agency in the US. Using a patented approach to segmentation, called Personality® Segmentation (yep, it’s patented and a differentiator), which provides deep insights into the drivers of consumer behavior, Rosetta’s teams translate these insights into relevant marketing solutions to attract, retain and strengthen a brand’s most valuable customer relationships. With 720+ team members, Rosetta is headquartered in Princeton, NJ, with offices in NYC, Cleveland, Boston, Chicago, Denver and most recently Toronto.

What we do

We help companies develop strategies and implement marketing tactics, combining the best of insight + technology – from eCommerce to Paid Search to Creative to Analytics to Relationship Marketing. With all the tools in a marketer’s toolbox, we strive to be a CMO’s most trusted partner.  Our industry expertise includes Retail & Consumer Products; Healthcare; Financial Services; Communications, Media & Technology, and B2B.

This is why you should call me (type of challenge or project)

We’re best when we bring to together marketing disciplines and industry acumen to provide measurable integrated solutions.  We shine we get the opportunity to demonstrate business results across tactics – like integrating eCommerce with paid search/SEO, driving the best creative with analytics and measurement, or infusing CRM with Personality Segmentation.

This is when you should call someone else.

Traditional media outlets are outside of our sweet spot (TV, print, radio), along with traditional PR.  Our social media practice is focused on infusing social into all of our marketing disciplines, but we are partnering with world-class agencies like SHIFT on outreach programs and Powered on designing the best approaches to engage and activate communities.


Thanks again to Todd and Aaron for providing thought provoking insights for the topic – these are two guys for whom I have the utmost respect in working with (and occasionally against).  Todd says it best: “Where we compete, we do so with respect and good humor.  Where we can cooperate, we do so with gumption and gusto.”

Did this help provide clarity? Where do you think the market will be in five, ten years? We’re all a ways away from the winning formula and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Photo credit: eworm via flickr

The Marketing Hot Seat: Aaron Strout

hotseatOf the folks who agreed to participate in The Marketing Hot Seat (all of them marketing practitioners in some form), Aaron Strout is the only one who is currently a CMO.  At Powered, Aaron is in a position to talk with peers on a regular basis about justifying the ROI on community. I’ve gotten to know Aaron over the last few years, before he became a Boston-to-Austin transplant, and he was one of the first ten people I started following on Twitter in mid-2007.  Several months ago Aaron asked me to participate in the Experts in the Industry Series (many of the Hot Seat contributors are fellow alums), and it was around that time I began to refer to Aaron as “the Kevin Bacon of Social Media.”  Aaron is the consummate connector and has a relevant, practical and thoughtful approach to the Marketing Hot Seat challenge.  It’s not what I expected, I’m guessing if you know Aaron and his background you might be surprised too.  (If you like what Aaron has to say I’d also recommend checking out his weekly Quick n’ Dirty Podcast with Jennifer Leggio where the talk of social media case studies is an informal breath of fresh air).

  • You’re the CMO.  You have a marketing budget of $1M.  Your company is a consumer product company, relatively unknown / early stage.  Customers who know the product like it. CEO wants ROI within 12 months.  What do you do?

aaronstroutLet me start by saying this is a brilliant exercise Adam for two reasons:
1) you’re getting some great advice from some of the smartest minds in the industry (well, from the other participants at least).
2) the rules of this “exercise” not only require us to be pithy but we also have to prove out an ROI, with all due respect, a topic that many bloggers can usually skate around.

What’s a little tricky about this exercise is that although you’ve specified that we are the CMOs of a “consumer product whose customers like our product,” the fact that we don’t know whether we’re selling soft drinks, software, or soft pillows — products that all require different channels of distribution — makes developing a marketing strategy tricky. Because I’ve only ever worked for companies that sell services and/or software, I’m going to pretend that the product is consumer software (delivered SaaS style).

Now that we know what we sell, I’m also going to assume that we make a profit of $20/month or $240/year/new customer. With these assumptions, we can start to create a budget and an ROI construct. For starters, I’m going to go out and hire three people to manage our marketing activities. You may or may not have intended us to include this in our plan but I’m going to exclude salaries because most companies bucket this as an operational cost:

  • manager of lead gen/SEO
  • manager of social media/PR
  • manager of event marketing

And here are the areas we’re going to spend our money:

  • $400,000 – paid search
  • $100,000 – event marketing/sponsorships
  • $125,000 – PR (think someone like SHIFT)
  • $300,000 – e-mail list rentals
  • $75,000 – research subscriptions/CRM/listening tools

Without going through all the math, lets say these paid activities drive 4,000,000 prospect touches with an average response rate of 2% resulting in 80,000 interested prospects. Assuming a 5% convert, that gives us 4,000 new customers at $240 per customer for a total profit of $960,000. [Note: these numbers may or may not be on target but for the sake of this exercise, it shows you that this is one way to think about the math behind marketing ROI].

Uh oh. That leaves us $40,001 short of our goal. But wait, that’s where social media comes in. Because we’re a smart company and we signed up for a listening service right out of the gate so we know where our potential customers are hanging out. We also have a manager of social media (along with our savvy CMO) that is blogging participating on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and LinkedIn. All of these activities help increase reach and thus new prospects.

Let’s assume that if we’re doing our job right, we hit an additional 5,000 interested prospects with the same math as above. That gives us 250 incremental customers, so at $240/customer, we bring in an additional $60,000 and voila, we’re now at $1,020,000 in annual revenue. Yes, we’re squeaking by but we’ve built a great base for future marketing efforts. And while I didn’t include it here because our new company wasn’t quite ready for community, you can bet your bottom dollar that I would budget in a branded online community to the tune of $200-300K for year two. But that’s a blog post for another day…

What do you think?  Did Aaron nail it?  What would you do differently?

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The Powered Social Marketing Help Desk is Open

lucy_doctorIf you haven’t yet come to know the team at Powered, you are missing some great minds in the social media business. In the past year I’ve gotten to know Aaron Strout (Powered’s CMO) and Doug Wick (Director of Business Development), and both of them are great connectors (I still continue to refer to Aaron as the “Kevin Bacon of Social Media.”)  Separately, as I am working to build our social media practice at Rosetta (more on that in a future post), we have started working with partners like Powered to help our clients with social media initiatives.

To that end, I’m excited to help Powered kick off a new webinar series, the Social Marketing Help Desk.  Please join me as a guest while I attempt to play a best supporting actor role to hosts Doug and Aaron – No powerpoint, no sales pitches, just good conversation about social media marketing… answering questions from you.  Here are the details:

Date: Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Time: 3PM Eastern / 2PM Central
Please click here to register with Powered

Have a question for us?  Drop a comment here or on the registration page and we’ll do our best to include it.  I expect we’ll take some live questions as well.  Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.

Photo credit: Brian_Ford via Flickr

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