I’m not shy when it comes to listing off my pet peeves in our industry. Up until this point, I’ve done a lot of writing or sounding off about the word “engagement,” but today I’m going to talk about what I like to call “the Golden Excuse.” The Golden Excuse is when mid-level social media and digital marketing professionals say something like “The C-Suite just doesn’t see the value, so…” It’s a convenient way to not argue for more spending and to be lazy about finally nailing social media ROI.
I’m not saying that the lack of knowledge in the C-Suite isn’t a valid point. After all, a recent survey by DHR International pointed out that 60% of executives would use social media more if they better understood its benefits. But c’mon, we’re marketers! It’s our job to take information and make it easily digestible by virtually anyone! The problem here isn’t that the C-Suite isn’t capable of understanding, the problem is that we’re not speaking their language.
So why do we have this constant struggle selling social to the C-Suite? I’d love to hear your answers below, but I’m going to throw out a few reasons in this blog post, along with some solutions.
Problem: You’re Not Tying Social Media Tactics to the Larger Strategy
If you’ve been in my audience at industry conferences, you’ve heard me say time and time again that social media channels in and of themselves are not strategies, they’re tactics. What you do in those channels needs to be tied to your big-picture strategic goals. If you do not have an editorial calendar, make one. Thoughtfully plan out your content, when to post, and what audience you’d like to reach. This isn’t 2009, where just having a Facebook page and saying “thanks” is considered social media strategy.
You cannot set about proving social media ROI until you have tied the social media initiatives to a bigger piece of the strategy.
Problem: You’re Not Sure How to Prove ROI
Once you’ve tied the social media tactics to the bigger picture, you can use data to prove your point. Numbers do not lie and the C-Suite loves numbers. Use Facebook Insights to find the stats that sell your point. Also remember that social media data isn’t the only data that sells. You MUST become intimately familiar with your website analytics software, not just your social analytics package. Here are some of my favorite data points that often translate well at the executive level:
- Traffic to the website – Use channel-specific UTM tags where needed in URLs to track which social channels provide the most referrals
- Time spent on site – Are visitors from social channels spending more time on site? Which site is best? For example, Google+ visitors to my personal website spend nearly 13x the amount of time as Facebook visitors, and G+ users visit more pages, too. What can you learn from those numbers?
- Social Goals – Google Analytics has a great way to track social conversions. Learn it. Use it. Love it.
- Negative Feedback Daily – This is a tab in Facebook Insights that shows how many people choose to “hide” one status update or “hide all” status updates. Look at what you posted on the highest-hiding days. Was it a marketing push message? Probably.
- Facebook Power Editor – Not sure there is an audience for your Facebook posts? FALSE. There is always an audience and you can target the hell out of them in Facebook with content syndication.
The data and the numbers exist – you just have to be willing to figure out what is meaningful for your brand and your business and start tracking it with laser focus. Don’t be afraid to use a CEO’s known ticks to your advantage. If she is all about traffic to the website, then make your data support how social drives traffic to your site. She likes a particular product on your e-comm site? Show how you’re promoting it via social channels and how much consumers love/hate it.
Problem: You Don’t Think Like a C-Suiter
You think like a marketer. Marketers love to talk. The C-Suite doesn’t have time for our drivel, so we need to stop communicating like marketers and start communicating like C-Suiters. Further, per the same study referenced above, 50% of executives would use social media more if they had a better experience with social tools, and 60% only use social media sites less than one hour per week.
What would you want to know if you only used social media 60 minutes or less per week or fewer than 10 minutes a day? Think about how you Tweet – make your case in 140 characters or less – “68% of our 10,000 Facebook Fans Want More Cowbell,” or whatever it is you’re selling. ”Victory: 175k New Visits to Our Website from this Facebook Post.”
Entice them. Make it easy. Give them nuggets that speak to your bottom line or your top three goals as a company this year. Simplify social and do the work for them. Just like your content marketing needs to grab customers, your social needs to grab the C-Suite’s attention. You might not get weekly visits in the president’s office immediately, but like any type of learning, the cycle starts with repeated exposure. Continually feed them reasons to take notice of you and your work and watch the magic happen.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking to the attendees of Digital Summit, which took place here in my home area of Atlanta. One of the joys of presenting my ideas at various places is reading all of audience feedback on Twitter afterward. Every audience is different and every time I speak, I make a valiant attempt to cater to their specific needs. Yet I am never sure just what will resonate the most. In this case, there were dozens of tweets of me saying “Social media is not 100% of one person’s job. It’s 1% of everyone’s job.”
There are several reasons I like to talk about this concept within the context of creating more conversations between your audience and your brand. Social media is a very sexy space for businesses. As such, it’s not uncommon for different departments to fight over where it should live within the organization. I’ve seen marketing teams throw down against communications teams and it’s like watching a toddler having his favorite toy stolen out of the sandbox. This kind of mentality stunts your social media growth and creates silos that keep you from creating original and thoughtful content.
The reason I feel compelled to discuss this point is that as a social media marketer, I’ve become more than disenchanted with the various social media efforts from some of my favorite brands. The content doesn’t tell a story and does little to inspire me. Sometimes it’s far too repetitive in nature or a regurgitation of whatever the hot meme or topic is at the moment. It’s tiresome, and wouldn’t you rather be the business that sets the trends rather than the one that follows them?
While it might be important for one department to “own” the social media business, it is far more important that the department be invested in creating a welcoming and collaborative process that includes a variety of practice areas within your organization. After all, the success of your company isn’t due to the success of just one department – it’s the result of hard work and contributions from every department.
One of my suggestions is to create a social media work group with people from all areas of the company. Some of the best ideas I’ve ever heard come from customer service representatives (the original community managers!) and supply chain leaders. These aren’t groups that you’d typically tap for a Facebook post, but they have amazing ideas. There’s a reason we all had to struggle through group project assignments throughout our school days. Collaboration is valuable!
Have your work group meet once a month to talk about different ideas for the coming quarter. With a diverse group of people (who all happen to personally interact with a diverse portfolio of brands in social media), you’ll end up with a wealth of ideas and a sparkling new approach to content marketing, especially in social. Some of the best ideas I’ve seen in action?
- A HR rep on video talking about what it takes to work at one of my favorite companies and how to stand out as a candidate
- Videos and photos capitalizing on our curiosity to see how some of our favorite products are made, featuring the real-lift assembly line workers, not flashy on-camera people
- A customer service representative doing a live FAQ Hangout to explain why a solution takes a day to complete
- A video showcasing how the ingredients from a popular food product get from the farm to my table, with the head of the supply chain leading the way
- A landscaping professional at my favorite eco-brand giving gardening tips that save water and effort
- Get leadership involved – a video from the president of the company showing off the latest volunteer work completed by employees
- A “day in the life” snapshot of staff for things like “Nurses Appreciation Week” or other holidays that celebrate staff
This type of content works because it tells a story and creates a human connection to your brand. But to do it, you have to first be willing to create that same connection, sans all the competition, inside your own walls.
I loathe the word “engagement” as it is used in the social media world. As I said at both SMX and PubCon earlier this year, “engagement is the new ‘synergy’.” It’s obnoxious. It’s a buzzword. It’s annoying to hear. It’s even more annoying to say. The other thing about engagement? It’s likely affecting your social media strategy and you don’t even know it.
The last two times I’ve been a part of the SMX conferences, I’ve spoken about this very thing and the response has been incredible. The point I am trying to make is that getting your audience to interact with your brand is a wonderful thing – if you do it right. But many brands are getting it very, very, wrong and in doing so, are tainting the valuable (free) data they receive about their audience from Facebook.
Facebook marketing is a relevant tactic in social media marketing campaigns when it provides value to the consumer as well as the brand. Take a second, re-read that sentence, and then proceed. The brands that play in the Facebook space well are the ones who understand this core concept. They realize that by creating content that elicits interaction from one of the most qualified samples of their audience available (and free!), they can make powerful decisions with regard to whether or not a product should go to market, A/B testing on marketing said product, crowdsource ideas for future products or promotions, et al.
So many brands, however, throw anything up on the wall to get comments or feedback without even thinking about how they are tainting their own data pool. Some of my favorite and most beloved brands as a consumer have fallen into this trap and it breaks my social media-loving heart. I’ve recently discovered the most awesome Facebook page known to man. Sift through some of the examples below and see if you’re making any of the same mistakes.
Last month I was pleased to be a part of SMX West, a digital marketing conference hosted by the fine folks of Third Door Media, Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. This time around, I had the pleasure of participating in two panels. The first centered around tactics to supercharge Facebook engagement and Twitter reach, one of my favorite topics about which to speak. The second panel, however, was something new at SMX, and something so well received by the audience that I cannot imagine the conference organizers won’t continue include the session going forward.
The panel comprised of nine speakers from various panels from throughout the conference, all of us instructed to pull out five minutes of key takeaways and present them in rapid succession. It was truly a pleasure to present with so many amazing industry icons like Marty Weintrab of aimClear and Jennita from SEOMoz, not to mention my favorite authority on Google+, Mark Traphagen from Virante!
The result was an info-packed 45 minutes followed by some great Q&A by the crowd. That is exactly why I love SMX conferences – the panels are comprised of amazing thought leadership that can help you grow your business and make high-impact changes to your digital strategy, but the people in the audience are highly invested in talking with you, too.
Yesterday, SMX released the video snippet of my five minute presentation. We hope you enjoy it, and I’d love to hear your comments and questions!
Many people are surprised to learn that I am an outdoors kind of person. I absolutely love my lipstick and heels, but nothing makes me happier than spending time in the wild outdoors. This past weekend, I joined a handful of people from the Atlanta Outdoor Club to hike Mount LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s an interesting mountain, with five different trails that all eventually lead up to the LeConte Lodge – an off-the-grid cabin system complete with kerosene lamps and communal dining.
Spring is in full effect here in the south and I have the pollen-induced puffy red face and watery eyes to prove it. Mount LeConte, however, was overwhelmed with the snow melt of spring, and the entire hike proved to be far more arduous than even my avid-hiking self cares to admit. As I made my way up the 6.6 miles of mountain that would eventually bring me to an elevation of 6594 feet, I started thinking about all the different ways that social media marketing can be just like hiking up the side of the mountain.
Social Media Takes Time
One of the things I notice when I meet new people in the digital marketing world is that an astounding number of them still have titles like “E-Commerce and Social Media Manager.” Wow, that’s a lot of responsibility, taking on the management of all e-commerce and all social media. The numbers are shrinking, but I still see a healthy amount of people working in dual roles. I think this can be valuable in some cases, but remember that social media marketing is only effective when done well. It’s difficult to do well if your focus is scattered, and that is often why social media marketing initiatives can fail – not enough focus.
Sometimes You Have to Blaze the Trail
It’s easy to be a brand who watches other brands do inventive and crazy things with their social media while you just sit behind and adhere to best practices. The brands who are willing to step off the beaten path to create the road less traveled by are the ones who gain the most. You don’t have to blindly blaze, however. Take a minute to look at the area ahead of you and calculate your move. Preparation is half the battle when it comes to capitalizing on a moment and deciding which way to go.
Downhill Can Be Just as Difficult
Hikers often look forward to the descent, but it isn’t always easy going. Though the trail can feel a lot lighter, moving in the downhill direction can stress muscles you forgot you even had. In social media, you can’t just set it and forget it. Even when things are going smoothly, you need to constantly check in, stretch a little, and make sure you aren’t causing undue stress in any one area. Use this time to refine your movement and strengthen the areas in which you are most weak. Going faster and feeling more automated doesn’t always mean things are okay. Ask my calves – they’re still on fire!
Pack Your Social Media First Aid Kit
When you’re on your way up a mountain in unknown terrain and unpredictable weather, you need to be prepared for anything. I never hike without my first aid kit or without letting someone else know my plans. What is the social media crisis policy of your organization? Do you even have one? Are you unsure why you need one? The worst time to craft a social media crisis communication plan is when you’re in the middle of a social media squall. Plan ahead. Chart a course. You may never need a backup plan, but when the storm comes in, you’ll be glad you had it.
Tools. Tools. Tools.
One of the best ways to make a hike enjoyable and successful is to have the right tools with you. I get cantankerous when I feel bogged down and tired too quickly. As such, I have a system that allows me to keep my total weight of my gear for a two or three day trip to under 15 lbs. Research tools and smartly invest in the ones that give you the best experience and meet the most of your objectives. I get a lot of flack from friends about how little I bring, but when I arrive at camp, I’m not nearly as tired or burned out. I have the right tools for the experience I want to create. Do you?
On a final note, I’d just like to remind you that while working in social media is a lot of fun, it’s still a lot of hard work. Once you get to the top, however, it feels really good to just sit back and enjoy the view.
There are a few brands that are, in a nutshell, the bees knees of social media. At least in my world. Let’s take a look at why they’re awesome and how they’ve won over the hardened heart of a social media marketer. This post is the first in a series I like to call “Blow This Jaded and Cynical Social Media Marketer Away.” Over my next few blog posts, I’m going to explore some of the brands who have managed to knock off my socks lately, how they did it, and why that means something in this digital day and age.
The first brand I’d like to talk about has as many haters as it does lovers. It’s Delta Airlines, specifically their @DeltaAssist handle on Twitter. I am calling out this particular handle because my customer service experience with Delta as a whole is typically only below-average to average. However, the customer service I’ve received from @DeltaAssist in the last couple of weeks is worth mentioning.
I am a Medallion Elite member with Delta, which means that I am afforded many perks when I travel. For example, I am upgraded to first class more often than not and my companions are extended many similar benefits when they fly with me. I have a lot of issues with Delta, but I am based in Atlanta (their hometown and largest hub), so while I can fly other airlines, I can rarely do it for less than I could on another airline. I was a bit on the fence with my Delta loyalty when they recently announced an additional Elite qualification step to their program. Delta is heckled in the travel world for having some of the worst award redemption options in the industry and an award search engine that is an abomination. No, really, it’s so poor that professional travel bloggers constantly write about how to navigate the award system.
Being on the fence while having Elite status is not a fun position (#firstworldproblem, anyone?). I have to keep flying Delta to maintain my status, and I enjoy all the upgrades and perks, but I also am not entirely satisfied with the Delta experience. I’d love to switch to a more flexible and technically competent airline, but that means starting over again with another airline to achieve status, which then means A LOT of time in coach again, not to mention all the fees I (and my traveling friends) avoid. It’s a catch-22 for someone who travels constantly like I do. I took another step toward staying a Delta loyalist, though, after an experience with W.G. from the @DeltaAssist team on Twitter.
As I type this, I am on en route from Atlanta to Minneapolis, where my friends and family live. My lovely boyfriend (whoa, meeting the family!) is traveling with me and he does not have Elite status. However, as my companion, he is afforded certain perks. Earlier today, I received an email from Delta saying that not only had I been awarded my free upgrade to First Class, but B. had, as well. However, when we got to the airport, his boarding pass showed that he had not been booked into First after all.
We were plenty early, so we went to the Sky Club. Whilst there, I sought the help of one of the Sky Club agents (supposedly some of the best customer service reps – supposedly) in rectifying his upgrade-fake-out situation. She was less than helpful. In fact, she was more concerned with continuing to gossip than she was in helping a loyal flier like me. I say “like me,” because people see my facial piercing and stretched ears and make assumptions about me all the time. You get to know “the look.” I was judged as “not as important” as the man behind me in the cheap suit and she didn’t have time for that.
So I turned to Twitter. I often joke with B. that social media channels are the only places where I have any sort of pull. A lot of companies use Klout to decide how to triage customer service on Twitter and Facebook, and my score fluctuates between 68 and 72, meaning that I typically get a response within minutes. Delta Assist was no exception (though I don’t know how they triage their tweets).
Agent W.G. answered my tweet professionally (and I believe he/she would have regardless of who I appear to be in the social world) and quickly, doing his or her best to rectify the mistake made by the Delta technology (which, at this point, I can only assume is a dust covered relic from the late 80s). Unfortunately, on this hub-to-hub flight, W.G. was not able to correct the mistake so that we were both flying in First. However, he/she offered to credit B.’s SkyMiles account with 15,000 miles.
If you’re not familiar with how miles work, 15k on Delta is more than halfway to a free domestic ticket. It’s a gracious offer from an airline that is typically rather stiff with conceding fault or offering compensation to frustrated passengers. We were both satisfied with that solution and while he’s five rows behind me, those 15k miles will come in handy on one of our upcoming trips, I am sure.
So Delta Assist, and W.G. in particular, earn a spot on the Jaded and Cynical Digital Marketer’s List of Best Brands. Is it because they gave him something generous for free? No, W.G. at Delta Assist is awesome because he/she managed to save me as a customer in THREE tweets. With less than 500 characters in total, W.G. displayed warmth, empathy, graciousness, and made me feel more valued by the airline than I have in the last three months of Delta experiences combined.
It’s a simple thing, being kind. Being amazing in 140 characters or less is not. Thank you W.G. for the great service.
UPDATE: After sending in the compliment about W.G’s service, I received back a form letter from Delta Customer Service that was a precisely the opposite of the personal experience that inspired this series. It was stiff and obviously comprised of “cut and paste” comments. This, Delta, is why my loyalty is in question. When you’re good, you’re great, but then you ruin an entirely positive experience with an impersonal, cold, and unnecessary response. Is it too much to ask to end on a high note?