Sunday, April 24, 2011

Expectations Setting in Social Engagement

There is an often-asked and absolutely fair question that arises in a fair number of my new business presentations about social media marketing.

The prospect asks, "If we stand up a separate blog or social media Web portal, won't that pull traffic from and interest in our corporate site?".

The answer is "yes" and while the slicing of Web traffic is a consideration (especially for mid-size companies or small businesses), we've found a distinct social media presence is typically complementary to a corporate site.  That's because of visitor expectations.

Let me clarify.  If you were to visit Strategic Communications Group's (Strategic) corporate site, I assume you understand and accept the fact this is a marketing vehicle.  The positioning and its related messaging on the site is promotional.

Now, stroll over to the "Strategic Guy" site or my partner Chris Parente's blog and your expectations should be different.  The content published through these vehicles is thought leadership oriented.  It's practices...lessons learned...and informed opinion.

At Strategic, we've developed a methodology that helps our clients appropriately align social media engagement with measurable sales benchmarks.  Yet, the key word is "appropriately." 

We recognize that in using social as a channel for content distribution you have an absolute responsibility to serve the information needs of your audience, much in the way an editor or reporter adheres to the standards of professional journalism.

We've also come to learn that expectation-setting in social media is also a critical component of client relations and project management.  The Email exchange below illustrates this point.

Upon reviewing an editorial outline and initial set of blog posts, a client writes:

I read this but I so not see the relevance of it to any of the discussions that I had this week with CTOs and senior decision makers who are the gatekeepers to our sales efforts.

Their focus was on the new feature sets, technical workflow, pricing/returns and the technical performance aspects of our product.

How do we measure the ROI on this?

To this, my colleague Ryan Schradin responds:


We appreciate the feedback.

We understand that many times during tradeshows and expos the focus of conversation lies almost exclusively on the product and its specifications.

However, in many of the social networks, on corporate blogs and in social bookmarking sites, it’s considered poor form to only discuss the product and company. Self promotional content such as direct discussions about product features, pricing and benefits is often unwelcome in many of these forums. It comes across as spam.

To reach out to the decision makers online in these social media properties, we need to discuss overarching trends and issues impacting the industry and provide your take and opinion on them.

Topics such as the impact new technologies are having on the space, new challenges that are arising due to the shifting ways people are accessing content, etc.  We use these blog posts as a way of engaging these individuals and creating conversations.

When done properly, we can portray your company’s executives as thought leaders, engage decision makers in online conversations, begin to identify new ways to interact with them online and enter them into the sales pipeline.

We can also tailor editorial content based on some of the challenges that the sales team is seeing impact potential customers. These posts could then be used as a conversation starter with potential customers and to illustrate that your company not only understands their challenges, but can help to overcome them.

If there are some topics in particular that you’d like to recommend, or any opinions or views that you’d like to see included on the blog, please feel free to reach out to me at the number below. I’d love to discuss some of the trends impacting the industry and work with you on the editorial direction of the blog.

All best,


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Unpopularity of Tough Decisions

I see him at the health club every few weeks.  He's a rather unassuming guy, yet typically shares a hello and chats with my kids for a moment. 

I even asked him once about this rather unpleasant job he's taken on.  He politely declined to talk citing the privacy of the parties involved.

Yet, to many residents of the Gulf Coast, Ken Feinberg represents the pain and anguish wrought by the BP oil spill.  He's the one who has insisted a process be followed before they can get their hands on some of that $20B the oil giant has set aside for make good payments.

Image from
And then he has the audacity to raise questions when the information submitted in a claim appears to be a bit...well...fishy.  Like the application for an emergency payment that totaled 2-1/2 times the claimant's total gross sales from its 2009 tax return.

Or the payment request supported with solely a letter from the mother of the business owner.

"I will not pay claims that can't be proven, that lack proof, that are not substantiated," Feinberg told the New York Times.

Amen to that.  Too often people in decision-making or influential positions are swayed by the human desire to be loved and liked.  It happens to politicians, business owners, community leaders, athletes and entertainers.

I don't really know Ken Feinberg.  Yet, I sure do respect him.  He embraces the responsibility of tough decision-making and accepts that he'll never be the most popular guy in the room.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Social Media Goal Setting - One Firm's Approach

As one of the primary sales resources at Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) my methodology was fairly straight-forward for the better part of a decade. 

Chat up as many corporate marketing execs as credible...get a hold of a RFP for public relations support when issued...attempt to differentiate Strategic...hope for the best.

Promoting the use of social media marketing services is a dramatically different game because its adoption remains in its infancy in corporate settings.  There isn't an extensive portfolio of best practices that can be tapped, which creates an imperative to work collaboratively with a prospect to define a unique scope of work and appropriate budget.

Then there is the issue of establishing performance benchmarks that: 1) create a business case to fund a new initiative like social media; and 2) are achievable.

Here is a list of the five categories which typically cite when proposing how to best measure success:
1. Awareness building (audience readership and how it trends)

2. Engagement (topics that produce high readership, comments, retweets, social sharing, etc.)

3. Organic SEO based on a set of key words or phrases

4. Thought leadership (Doother PR/marketing opportunities present themselves as a result of the social participation? (i.e. media interviews, conference presentations, etc.)

5. Mutually agreeable sales benchmarks (lead generation, prospect relationship cultivation, deal capture)
Our preference is to use the initial two to four week period after the introduction of a social site to establish a baseline.  Goals can then be mapped accordingly.

However, some prospects prefer to define success at the onset of a program.  If that's the case, we will make assumptions based on the campaigns we've executed during the past four years.  Admittedly, those are merely best guesses.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Get Personal for Social Success

I have noted, yet rarely read at length those studies from Web consultants and market research firms about the value of a Facebook fan or Twitter follower.

Sure, we are often asked by clients about a number they should aspire to in their social media activities.  I have answered with the intentionally vague response that it is important to attract just enough followers, fans or blog readers to be credible with your most important audiences.

Last week this Email arrived in my Inbox that has me thinking it's time to wrap clarity around the "how many" question.  If this nonsensical missive passed through my spam filter, I assume it has found its way to corporate marketing executives as well.

I think I can help you dramatically increase your Facebook fans.  Please take a moment to look at this page going over our process for increasing Facebook fans and let me know what you think:

FYI, we also have a Twitter followers service that is $29.  Feel free to shoot me an email or give me a call so that I can answer any questions you may have about our Facebook or Twitter packages.  

Thank you,
Jessica Tran
Vice President, ViralSO
Social Media Division

Rather than defining a quantity number, I believe that in a business-to-business or public sector environment it's more important to focus on quality and depth of relationship.

Here are the three questions we typically ask when evaluating a social community we have built for a client:

1.  How can this person positively (or negatively) impact the business?  (i.e. customer, prospect, partner, employee or shareholder)

2.  Do we understand what this person expects of us? (i.e. best practices, a dialogue, some type of action, etc.)

3.  If we called or sent an Email to this person would they respond? 

Social media allows for scalability in the relationship building process which makes it a high value channel for sales and marketing professionals.

Yet, the foundation of success in social is the relationship.  And that is something that ultimately needs to be invested in on a personal level.