Monday, December 27, 2010

Bravo for a Longer View of Social

Recessions reward near-term thinking. 

How can we identify more leads...and fast?  What will it take to close this deal today?  Are sales trending up this quarter?

The funding of hard-to-measure investments in brand promotion and public relations are typically relegated to the low-priority list.  It's understandable as many companies are simply in a struggle for financial viability.  Yet, this stings ad and PR executives who war for budget, even during prosperous times.

That's why the advertising industry has sought to educate the C-suite about the positive impact ad investments have on the long-term growth and health of the organization.  Consider this research report from 1991 touting the success of companies that advertise during recessions.  Although now two decades in the can, many of the points raised remain true today.

At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), we have experienced a comparable level of day-to-day thinking when it comes to the funding of social media marketing campaigns.  Part of this can be attributed to the early adopter stage of social media, yet the hesitancy to bless annual social campaigns is also symptom of trying economic times.

And then along comes NeuStar, a long-standing client that has moved aggressively this past year to integrate social media marketing into its mix of external communications activities.  The company's Mobile's Next Big Thing blog has emerged as a must-read for advertisers, technology providers and marketers that have an interest in mobile barcodes.

Most recently, NeuStar introduced a socially-oriented news and thought leadership site called  It's editorial includes an example of content curation at its finest.

Perhaps most impressive is NeuStar's longer view thinking when defining the goals and success benchmarks of the campaign.  Yes...the company has an agenda and it is very much tied to sales. 

However, there is recognition by NeuStar's marketers that the most prudent path to follow to met its revenue objective will take a bit of time.  They planned and then budgeted accordingly.

Full disclosure:  Strategic works with NeuStar on social media campaign.  We helped define a strategy and tactical plan, and now support the execution of the program.               

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Valuable Story from Social Analytics

High value tools such as StatPress and Google Analytics bring an important level of measurability to executive blogging programs.

How do visitors find the blog?  What words do they type into search engines?  What sites link to the blog? Which posts garner strong readership? 

Each December, I take a few hours to assess the impact and relevance of the "Strategic Guy" blog, and reflect on its editorial mission.

Now in its third year, this blog continues to serve as a core part of Strategic Communications Group's (Strategic) thought leadership promotional program.  It attracts a wide and diverse set of readers, and its content is republished by a number of influential content sites, including Social Media Today, The Customer Collective and Gooruze.

Here are a couple of statistics from the past 12 months of blogging:

--10,326 unique visitors
--Average of 1.32 page views per visitor
--23 percent of readers arrived from LinkedIn, 22 percent came direct and 20 percent from Google
--The most frequently used search term by visitors is "Marc Hausman"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Talking Social with Marriott's SVP of Global PR

There are a handful of well respected, global companies that receive constant praise for their enterprise-wide adoption of social media.

Online retailer Zappos is one example.  Computer maker and IT services shop Dell is another.

The reason for this adulation became quite clear to me on Monday after a group of us at Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) spent 90 minutes with Gordon Lambourne, Senior Vice President, Global Public Relations at Marriott International.  Gordon visited with our team at as part of our ongoing professional development and guest speaker series. 

Gordon Lambourne, Marriott's SVP of Global PR
The process of infusing social media into an organization's global operations is complex and full of risk. Consider the following about Marriott:

-150,000 employees worldwide
-3,500 hotels under management
-18 distinct property brands, including high-end offerings such Ritz Carlton and JW Marriott to extended stay business products like ExecuStay
-Rapid international expansion into emerging markets in southeast Asia, Africa and eastern Europe

According to Gordon, Marriott is following a disciplined and structured path to empower its employees to actively engage in social media.  Corporate guidelines are in development and will eventually be rolled out through the company's four global operation centers.

I suspect there are some social media consultants who would chide Marriott for this rather bureaucratic approach to social media adoption.

However, I'm going to applaud Gordon and Marriott for this cautious approach.  The company simply has too much invested in its brand and reputation to allow for social participation by its employees without well defined guidelines.

Plus, Marriott's embrace of social media starts at the very top.  The company's CEO publishes a blog called Marriott on the Move that he personally develops content for and partially measures success by how the blog spurs online reservations.

Gordon summed up Marriott's global view of social media well by explaining, "With social media it is obvious that the more you try to control it, the less you can.  It just may take us awhile to get there."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Social Responsibility Top of Mind

I take an interest in the pastimes and personal pursuits that are important to Strategic Communications Group's (Strategic) clients.  It's smart business. 

For instance, I attended the University of Maryland, yet I also follow SEC college football and the Virginia Tech Hokies.  I've become a connoisseur of European beers.  And a fan of a couple of Indie rock bands.

Last night, I gathered up the family to attend the Hope for Henry Foundation's annual fundraiser.  One of Strategic's clients is a founder of the organization which does a wonderful job providing children with life-threatening illnesses with carefully chosen gifts and specially designed programs to entertain and promote comfort, care and recovery.

Photo Source: Hope for Henry Foundation
My initial participation and support of the Hope for Henry Foundation was commercially-motivated.  Yet, last night served as a reminder that business always takes a back seat to caring about others.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Social Content Gathers Audience and Spurs Discussion

In new business and client presentations when the issue of creation and publishing of social media content arises I often chime in with my "thought leaders have to have thoughts" line.

This zinger typically draws a chuckle.  Yet, I then emphasize a critical point about the foundation for success in social media marketing:  to attract an engaged audience or readership an organization must embrace the responsibility of articulating an opinion, even if there will be those in the market who disagree.

I first wrote about this topic nearly three years ago in a blog post that defined the 3Es of social media content creation -- educate, engage and entertain.  Today, I am more deeply committed to this social media content responsibility having participated in nearly 50 corporate, sales-oriented social campaigns.

Consider the GovCloudTalk program Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) works on in partnership with EMC.  Tim Harder, one of EMC's private cloud subject matter experts, recently published an interesting post raising questions about Amazon's decision to remove WikiLeaks from its cloud platform.

EMC's Tim Harder
Did Harder employ the journalistic best practices demanded by editors in newsrooms across the country in crafting this post?  No...yet he didn't have to.

Social media is all about well presented, informed opinions that gather an audience and stimulate discussion.  And that's exactly what Harder accomplished.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Death Spiral of Commoditization

For a professional services firm, a death spiral characterized by dwindling profits and ultimate irrelevance begins once a perception takes hold in the customer community that your offering has become a commodity.

Consider the market for the provision of rather mundane technical services, such as help desk support and software upgrades.  There is a reason that business has migrated to countries in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe as part of the global outsourcing trend. 

Competitive advantage is achieved primarily through lower cost and in cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and Prague qualified human resources come cheap.

Prior to transitioning our focus to social media marketing four years ago, Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) derived most of its revenue from public relations services.  I became desperate in my pursuit of a viable market differentiation as the practice of effective public relations is people driven.  The "my team is better than their team" argument is tough to sustain.  

Other PR shops made their play with claims of a unique and proprietary methodology.  Yet, it's also a challenge to credibly establish a branded process.

I ultimately landed on a business development offering to compliment our PR services that we referred to as Strategic's Network of Relationships.  It's impact was marginal at best. 

Like public relations, creative design and advertising services have begun the slip to commodity.  I've written about my experience with crowdsourcing and tagged it as a tenable option  for the production of marketing materials, logos, banner ads, etc.

Most recently, I stumbled across an online community of advertising professionals called AdRogues who are actively selling (or should I write "re-selling") creative concepts, designs and layouts produced for other clients and prospects.

Interested in developing a new print advertising campaign at a fraction of the budget as last year's spend?  Check out AdRogues to see what is available.

This community offers tremendous value to corporations and advertisers that desire a "good enough" creative product at a marginal budget.  Yet, for the creatives of the world I'm afraid AdRogues takes them a step further down the commodity path.