Is social media marketing a challenging activity for your business? Do you just set it and forget it? The Social Tools Summit, held in Boston on April 12, 2016, answered many of the questions and challenges faced by businesses. The brainchild of Neal Schaeffer and Brian Mahony, this Summit brings together marketers and social media experts from different types of business, large and small, to discuss social media marketing and the tools we use in our day-to-day work. One of the speakers this year was our own Jannette Pazer, senior digital marketing strategist at DragonSearch. Here is a recap of the seven sessions and keynote address and top takeaways from the event.
Social Tools Summit Overview
Session 1 Overview – How to Use Your Fans and Employees to Build a Social Advocacy Program
One of the hardest tasks is convincing executives that employee advocacy is worth it. You want to create safe content for employees to share. Ami Chitwood, Senior Manager of the Social Media Team at Deloitte, shared that people who come to content from employee advocacy links are more engaged than those coming from other channels. We need to remember that what we are doing in social media marketing is going after relationships people create in their daily lives. While this might be a no-brainer, social must be a day-to-day activity. Social, while largely digital, is also a real world concept. We connect with people we know on social media and react and share content with those same people. Employees share content that resonates with them. The goal is to listen to what your employees are talking about through social media and find your place in the conversation. One way to research this topic is to look at the content your employees are already generating. This will gives you insights into what is important to them and what resonates with your employees. We want to empower our employees to share content on social media in an honest, real, and transparent manner. You have to work hard to find your influencers; gamification can help, but can also lead to people gaming the game. At its core, employee advocacy is taking a network of people and amplifying their message.
Session 2 Overview – Content is King! Long Live Content Marketing
This session started off with a basic, but necessary, definition of what content marketing is… what we produce to educate, inform, or entertain our audiences. You need to research your audience and identify what content is relevant to them. Next, find the experts and influencers and cultivate them. How do you get subject matter experts involved? Thought leaders want to get their name out there, so pitch them your ideas.
A few other tidbits…
Sometimes the people who know the subject matter best are not always the best writers. A better option may be to have your blog writers interview the experts. This relieves the pressure on them to write well and convey their knowledge and enthusiasm.
Finding the right amount of content to publish isn’t an exact science and depends on the industry and product. Both long-form and short-form content have their place, and it depends on what stage in the funnel your target audience is located. If you have short-form content, you are probably in the attention or interest stage. With long-form content, those individuals are closer to action and converting.
Entertaining content can be extremely effective, i.e. the Red Bull Stratos campaign showing Felix Baumgartner jumping from space. This piece of content was pure entertainment and it got people talking about the brand.
A tactic suggested when creating content, was to place prepackaged tweets in the content you are creating. An overview and top takeaways from #SocialTools16
Test your content. Check your conversions against your content, pairing Google Analytics data with your social media insights. Kate Hutchinson, Senior Project Manager, Social Media at EMC, point to success they had posting white papers on Friday afternoons after work. Workers who had spent the entire week doing their jobs were free to then invest in themselves when the weekend came. To understand what your community is interested in, and know what you should promote, look at your engagement metrics for current content, and let that guide your decisions.
Session 3 Overview – The Future of Visual Social
This panel began with the question, “How do you get people out of their comfort zones, sharing real content, all while being genuine?” A suggestion was given for companies in highly technical industries to use images, to help break down barriers to accessibility. You want to build trust with your company.
How do you balance planned vs. spontaneous content? The easiest way to do this is to prioritize posts. Chad Abbot, Managing Partner at Abbson Live shared a shocking truth: People engage with live video at a much higher rate than pre-recorded content. We should take the opportunity to capture their attention. We need to bring people along on the journey. One of the challenges to live video is that you have to build to the climax. This can be done by remembering to tell a story through our video content. Live video lowers the barrier to entry, and makes is easier for non-professionals to use it.
Remember to have good quality content and a content strategy. Next, mesh this with your brand. The trick here is to think like a journalist, and not a marketer. We need to ask the question, “What is interesting to your readers?” Sometimes raw video (which can be seen in movies like the Blairwitch Project or the TV show, Catfish) can help connect with your audience, but this is not something that can work all the time and should be used wisely. You also need to consider what content is appropriate for what channel. How is visual strategy different for B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to customer)? We should have a B2C mindset with B2B.
The panel ended by identifying how Snapchat is the future of visual social, and this is where the next generation is interacting with content.
Chris Penn Keynote 1 Overview
Chris Penn, Vice President of Marketing Technology at SHIFT Communications, gave the keynote address on the topic of innovation. Innovation, he said, is about making something new. It is not creativity. You are taking something old and making it new. Choosing to be innovative is a choice. You use analysis, curiosity, insights and guts. It’s a simple formula. If we look at social media, it is innovation. He continued with this example… we’ve had social gatherings for a millennium, and we have had media for centuries. You put them together and we have something new. A popular misconception is that innovation is opposed to scale. This led him to ask the audience, how do we innovate social media? One would think that you can’t scale innovation, but there are processes to scale innovation. Chris Penn then went on to share the LEAD framework, which stands for Learn, Experiment, Adjust, and Distribute. This process is not invention.
Innovation has a built in staring point, and that is learning. You have to learn and feed your head. You need more stuff in your mental pantry. Where do we go for this? The Internet!! Blogs are a great way to learn. You have to feed your head by learning and reading about new things. He reminded the audience that you don’t know where the next best idea will come from. You must read with an active mind. He suggested creating a, “Things I want to Try” list. Save blog content for later to read if you don’t have time. Stuff will resonate with you and you have to keep trying.
This is where we fall flat. It fails because we are undisciplined. We should use the scientific method, and not just experiment in a haphazard manner. The scientific method starts with a question. Next, you have to test your questions, and include a prediction. You should have a hunch when you construct your hypothesis. With social media there are great analytics tools. Then, you run the testing, and collect the data. Lastly you analyze the data. Depending on your findings, you may have to refine your query and test again.
We utilize beta-testing at this point. We deploy, gather, and repair. You will find out quickly what works and what doesn’t.
Chris Penn stated that at this step we come up with the recipe. This is essentially our SOPs (standard operating procedures). We are human and we forget how we’ve done things. This is why the recipe is essential. We need to refine and fine-tune our recipes. Your recipe should be so good that someone else can create the same results as you do.
Chris Penn left the audience with this final thought: Innovation is a lot like playing violin. Every single person can play it with enough practice and be minimally competent. You don’t have to be the next master. You just have to be competent and make it work for your company. You competitors are likely in the same boat as you.
Session 4 Overview – Influence the Influencers Through Influencer Marketing
This session started with a discussion on how Twitter and Facebook are great for getting to know your influencers. However, in order to do this, you will need a list. Scraping websites and conference rosters are good places to start. Once you have your list, you need to start engaging with your influencers. Twitter chats are a great place to begin engaging with your influencers. However, the question becomes, “Why should influencers jump on board?” Hopefully this is because they see something mutually beneficial. Depending on the situation, it can be important to bring on influencers in person. It all depends on your goals. Ultimately, it is really important to monitor your brand. This will help you find the influencers. The top influencers are not always at the top, and more followers doesn’t always equal more influence. As Wayne Kurtzman, the Social Media Marketing Manager of Pitney Bowes, “Everyone is an influencer or has the potential to be an influencer. Treat everyone well.” Lina Roque Social Media Marketing Manager for CA Technologies followed this with the statement, “An influencer isn’t always a social media influencer.” We are all influencers in the various circles that we travel in and inhabit. You have to identify the right influencer for your product and your needs. You need to answer the question of who your industry is listening to, both online and offline. There will also be times when the influencers are looking for you, such as through Help a Reporter Out, as Jannette Pazer from DragonSearch reminded the audience.
Session 5 Overview – Social Selling and the Changing Dynamics of B2B Sales in a Social Media World
This session centered around busting myths about B2B (business to business) selling. Ultimately social selling is about relationship building, and closing the sale. Social selling is like micromarketing, or to put it another way, social selling is about inbound marketing mixed with thought leadership. Karen DeWolfe, VP of Sales at AwarenessHub told the audience that at the heart of social selling is doing a lot of monitoring and listening. You are not pushing a service as much as you are talking one-to-one and listening. In order to make the social sales happen, you need to find the appropriate channels, such as social, to push thought leadership. You want to engage and stay on the top of your buyers’ minds. People want to buy from people who are like them. You must answer the question of, “What’s in it for me?” By being a thought leader you can begin the process of building that trust. The most important aspect of social selling is that we have to be authentic. Everyone in a business can use social selling, regardless of whether you are in sales process, and everyone is a brand advocate.
Connect with your customers by thinking outside the box. One idea that Amanda Healy, Senior Marketing Campaign Manager for Tibco Software offered, was to put an Easter egg in your email signature. This way, if someone is committed to reading your email, they are rewarded with something fun in the signature. You also must respond back when someone connects with you. An often missed opportunity is a personal response when someone connects with you through social media or email. Canned responses do not enable you to further connect with people.
Session 6 Overview – Social Listening and Analytics – All About Data and What You Can Do With It
Social listening is key to inform marketing strategy. This is good both for your users and other users. You have to look at the data and adapt your strategy accordingly. Todd Grossman, CEO-Americas of Talkwalker shared with the audience that 80% of images on social media don’t reference brands. This is why visual listening is key. Cindy Meltz, Social Media Innovator for Stonyfield Farm shared with the audience that social listening means no longer listening to just brand mentions, but to your whole industry. As one example, Stonyfield uses social listening to find out if people eat yogurt for meals or snacks, which helps with their marketing. Jeff Green, Social Media and Content Strategist for Rethink Robotics shared that social listening varies globally; the challenge comes from determining what is being said in different languages. His company ReThink Robotics, uses social listening to inform advertising language across different countries. DragonSearch’s Jannette Pazer said that she uses social listening to find advocates, guest bloggers, and for collecting reports on market research for advertising. She also shared that Boolean operators are crucial in social listening. They help you find what you need in the sea of data. It is important to note that while the data that comes from social listening is great, we need data analysis to find lessons from the data. Social listening is a crucial aspect of customer support. You need to know what you customers are saying, and what issues they might be having, in order to help them in a quick, timely, and efficient manner. Cindy Meltz also encouraged marketers to reply on the social channel where the comment, complaint, or share came from and to use personalized replies, and not stock responses.
Session 7 Overview – Panel Discussion
The conference ended with a discussion on how to measure the return on investment (ROI) for social media. Allen Plummer, Head of Institutional Social Media and Advertising at Vanguard shared his insight by reminding the audience that social media ROI isn’t a social media issue, but is a marketing issue, and the solution is integration. You have to integrate your social media into your marketing. The two don’t exist in separate categories without any overlap. In order to show the value of social media, you have to get out of your silo and integrate. Social media covers many categories such as marketing, customer care, and advocacy. You have to look at your social ROI holistically, Emeric Ernoult, Founder and CEO of AgoraPulse reminded the audience. Corey Matthews, Digital Marketing Manager of Accenture said that customer care is ripe with metrics you can use to justify your media spend. Data and metrics, though, have to be assimilated into an actionable report. This led to several comments about avoiding reporting for the sake of reporting. There should be actionable takeaways from any report you generate. The panelists reminded those gathered that even the “big brands” don’t have it all figured out. You must build your case and evolve. Social media ROI will look different depending on the brand. No two brands have the same definition of ROI. Think of your business objectives and execute your social media strategy against those goals.
Social Tools Summit Takeaways
- Personalization in social media marketing is key. Customers want to know that they are talking with real people, who are offering real responses. This personalization should permeate everything. One example is in messages on Twitter, when someone follows you, don’t rely on a standard replies, but personalize your message for different situations.
- The importance of conversation can’t be overstated. You have to be conversing with your customers. This should be a natural outgrowth of personalization.
- Thought leadership, while sometimes a clichéd buzzword, was a common theme throughout the day. Thought leadership can be imagined as wind. You can’t see it, but you can see the effect it has around you. Taking the time to build thought leaders, and nurture existing thought leaders, will increase your brand’s credibility and will lead to success on social media.
- The most simple and basic tools, when used properly, can yield the best results. Several people throughout the conference talked about to using Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint for many marketing related tasks.