Archive for “July, 2009”

Engaged social media? Ready, set, integrate.

“Social media is one more tool in your marketing toolbox. Social media-based marketing is one more ingredient in your overall mix. Sure, it may have a different set of rules, but then so does copy writing for outdoor versus magazine versus online. Once you’ve learned the new rules, it’s simply an integration problem, and my bet is that you’re already very accomplished as an integrated marketer.”

Dave Evans, ClickZ, Take Control by Letting Go (via)

It is pretty difficult these days to deny that social media has changed the game and introduced a whole new set of rules for engaging your customers in conversation. As Dave Evans so appropriately noted, once you’ve learned the rules, the next step is to integrate social media. When you look at a given function (like marketing) integration can mean providing training for staff in order to make social media part of daily operations alongside other activities. The larger opportunity for leaders and organizations who are ready, is to weave social media into the mix across the organization. While you’re undertaking this integration, it is important to not abandon your proven approaches for the new shiny social media object. It is also important that you not spread yourself too thin trying to do everything all it once. Instead, focus on those social media activities that provide you with the most value.

A study released last week by Wetpaint and Charlene Li at the Altimeter Group shows a correlation between financial success and a high degree of social media engagement for top brands. Included in the research is commentary about steps each company took to become highly-engaged in social media. Leaders like Starbucks, Dell and SAP (disclosure – SAP is a client) are profiled along with rankings of other top brand performers across segments.

Is your organization ready to get serious about embracing about the significant cultural change to truly reap the benefits of using social media to have conversations with your most important audiences? Here at Social Media Group, we’re helping our clients move their social media integration mandates forward. This is applied social media at its best. If you’re ready, here are five steps to tackle along the way:

  1. Develop a clear mission and purpose. Once you’re ready to move beyond experimentation into a deeper integration in your operations, decide what you are trying to achieve using social media. How will you evaluate your success? Make sure this is clear so your executive sponsors and your key internal stakeholders understand.
  2. Start with the leadership of your organization, and then get others involved and invested in success. Truly integrating social media means work across functions – marketing, public relations, product management and human resources, customer support and sales. To achieve that level of integration, an organization’s leadership must understand and be prepared to act on the tremendous opportunity integrated social media can bring.
  3. Define roles, responsibilities and communications processes. Internet communications is dynamic and the social media-fueled conversation happens in real time. Plan ahead to make sure you’ve got your monitoring and response workflows, message creation and internal communication process sorted out. Plan for what you’ll do when things don’t go as you expect, or you find yourself in the midst of a crisis.
  4. Identify some low-hanging fruit for quick wins early in your integration program. Celebrate those wins internally as a way to gain visibility and generate excitement. Share case studies and learn from your mistakes. At this point, much of the work in social media integration is unprecedented. What works for in another organization may not work in yours.
  5. Evaluate your success as you iterate on your approach for constant improvement. It is easiest to start small and build your activities in phases. Because, (as I mentioned above), work in online communications and social media is frequently done in real-time, so you’ll find yourself making decisions as you go, iterating on your approach to incorporate what you learn.

Our client, Scott Monty, head of social media for Ford Motor Company, celebrated his first anniversary with Ford earlier this month and has begun a series of blog posts about his time with the company and how he has approached integrating social media. On Wednesday, Maggie wrote about the recognition Ford is getting for the incredible progress made to date. The journey continues for Ford and many other organizations who are making bold strides in the shift from social media experimentation towards honest-to-goodness strategic enterprise-wide engagement with social media.

Ford one of Top Ten Brands Using Social Media

When we started working with Ford Motor Company in July 2007, social media was a top priority within the Communications department. They understood fully that they needed to “get” social media – as one senior executive put it, they knew that the business model behind much of their communications was rapidly becoming obsolete. They understood they needed to adapt to a changing landscape.

Later that year, in support of the 2008 Focus launch, SMG designed a program that included inviting digital influencers to media drive events (a first), capturing video for the web, establishing a company Flickr account (on which all the images were licensed under Creative Commons) and perhaps best-remembered, created a Ford Focus social media press release (SMPR) on the Digital Snippets platform. Small things, but big steps for Ford (or any Fortune 10 company) in 2007. Following the Focus launch, we continued our work in integrating social media into the Communications toolkit, supporting dozens of programs and providing strategic counsel on the use of social media.

Flash forward a year to July 2008. Scott Monty joined Ford as Global Digital & Multimedia Communications Manager and the public face of social media. Within weeks, Scott established a number of Ford Twitter accounts and began actively engaging online on behalf of the company, reaching out to thousands of people in support of his goal to “humanize the brand”. Taking our direction from Scott, we continued our work integrating social media into every “traditional” Ford media event, experimenting with content syndication, giving hundreds of online influencers the opportunity to experience Ford vehicles firsthand, developing key social media metrics and working in lockstep with the Communications team on digital crisis communications and aggressive story correction around the Automotive Congressional hearings (among many other things – it’s been a busy year, as Scott can testify!).

Together, Scott and I presented a case study on the results of “setting content free” at Ford this spring at Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Among the good stuff: 5,000 unsolicited blog posts, almost 1.5 million views on YouTube and over 120,000 views on Flickr. Ford now has more than a dozen SMPRs, and making content readily available has become institutionalized. It’s just part of what they do.

And this month we saw public acknowledgment of Ford’s amazing progress in social media. In July 2007 the only Ford social media property was a YouTube channel. In February 2009, Ford was recognized as one of the Top 10 Brands in Use of Social Media According to Social Media Leaders by Abrams Research. The results of the survey were published on

Please join us in heartily congratulating Scott and the Ford Communications Team on their tremendous achievement! And now? Back to work! 🙂

**Side note: Ford was similarly acknowledged by Mashable in February of 2009.

Bias Vs. Astroturfing

Astroturfing (verb): The act of a biased stakeholder imitating an unbiased consumer via social media comments, blog posts or reviews. In essence trying to fake a “grassroots” movement.

This practice, while repugnant to most social media enthusiasts and practitioners, is rampant. It may be something as seemingly innocent as giving a friend’s podcast a 5-star rating on iTunes, all the way to companies sending an all-staff email asking employees to praise company products by masquerading as fake clients.

According to Ars Technica, a New York based Cosmetic surgery company called Lifestyle Lift has agreed to a $300,000 settlement for engaging in astroturfing practices. The accusations range from instructing staff to post positive reviews of services, attacking negative reviewers and even setting up bogus “independent review” sites for the company.

While I am happy that a company has been taught a lesson (and hopefully a few others by example), prosecuting astroturfers is not likely to have an effect beyond the most obvious abuses. The less obvious and borderline corporate examples may get outed and create a tempest in the social media expert teapot. However, the most frequent and likely personal and understated cases underlie just about every rating and review site from Amazon to Yelp!.

The only certain way, in my opinion, to make individuals truly accountable for their expressed ratings and opinions would be bake a personal identity into every interaction one has on the web, like an online bar code that tracks all your interactions. This would in essence ban anonymous and pseudonym postings (while at the same time destroying privacy on the Internet). Therefore I can’t imagine this being a logical solution technologically, nor would it be a desirable solution socially (e.g. do we want to announce our true identity to every site visited? Should a legitimate whistle blower be publicly identified? ).

I would contend that there really is nothing that can ever filter out the biased from the unbiased in social media except massive aggregation (which doesn’t work on niche companies with small audiences). Subjective viewpoints are a part of the human condition and we are all likely to tweak our opinions based on how close we are to the subject matter or content author.

The plain and simple fact is that most people who will take the trouble to rate or review a product will likely have a very positive or negative position on it. We don’t often see people blogging, twittering or even talking about average or satisfactory experiences with companies. So we had all better get used to the sound of axes grinding in social media.

I would like to believe that in general there are more honest people who knowingly follow a few basic rules:

  • Be honest
  • Express yourself authentically
  • Identify yourself whenever possible
  • Disclose personal connections, conflicts or biases wherever relevant

For a more humourous look at the issue, be sure to check out The Onions classic I’d Love This Product Even If I Weren’t A Stealth Marketer article.

SMG is Hiring: The Best Project Manager in the World!

Location: Toronto, Ontario

About the Company:

Founded in 2006, Social Media Group is one of the world’s largest independent agencies helping companies navigate the social web.

It’s a cool time to be us – we’re breaking new ground every day and working with some of the largest and best-known names in both Canada and the U.S., helping them understand the power of social media and the benefits of transforming communications from dictation to dialogue.

The Opportunity:

SMG is looking to hire the Best Project Manager in the World.

We need someone to take ownership and manage some of our many projects from start to finish, leaving out not one detail and missing not one deadline (as well as holding the project team to the same standard).

If you have a passion for and interest in all things Web 2.0, a great understanding of what’s going on out there, kick-ass communications skills and would describe yourself as a ‘perpetual student’ – that’s what we’re after.

We don’t do banner ads. At SMG it’s all social media, all the time; all of our projects are Web 2.0 driven

What’s in it for you:

  • The opportunity to be a true social media pioneer – this is an amazing chance to be on the cutting edge of an exciting new space and make up the rules as you go along.
  • SMG is growing, with some of the biggest companies in North America as clients. There will be tons of room for (personal, professional) growth in the years to come.

Principal Duties:

• Attend relevant new business briefings in order to provide assistance through the identification of scope, resource requirements and project workflow.

• Maintain regular contact with customers to ensure continuous project progress, immediate resolution of issues, positive relationship growth, and escalation of critical issues to Senior Management.

• Lead and manage project life cycle from final project definition, timeline creation, resource allocation and management, development and implementation.

• Submit approved time sheets by the end of the week.

• Review and reconciliation of project budgets monthly. Consolidate and report with solution-oriented thinking on project profit and loss findings, including areas of margin erosion or other quality-related issues.

• Ensure quality execution of project scope, resource management and budget control as outlined in the approved SOW.

• Provide clear direction, appropriate communication and documentation of project status to stakeholders, including risk, budgeted hours for resources, timelines, milestone deliveries, and overall project and relationship status.

• Develop SMG solutions that can deepen the client relationship and add value through new opportunities and ideas/solutions.

We’re a small company that offers tremendous room for growth. If you’re a big thinker, this one’s for you.

What you need:

  • Interactive agency experience.
  • Strong communication and documentation skills.
  • Ability to work effectively with employees at all levels of the company.
  • Exceptional ability to multi-task.
  • Strong problem solving and solutioning skills.
  • Proven track record of delivering projects successfully.
  • Flexibility and comfort in a startup environment

Sound like you? Please send your resume to: Ramona [.] Gallagher [at] socialmediagroup [dot] com by Friday July 24th, 2009.

Is E2.0 Optional?

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend my first E2.0 conference in Boston earlier this month. Unfortunately, I missed about half of it because of a cancelled flight and some operations issues that just couldn’t wait. The sessions I was able to attend however, were outstanding. I have long been a proponent of all things Enterprise 2.0 and it was refreshing to be in the company of a group of like-minded people. The conference is defined as “an event focusing on social tools and technologies that help make companies more creative, agile and productive“, and while there was a lot of coverage about some innovative new tools, it was the sessions about adoption that I found particularly interesting. We’ve been trying to introduce the principles of E2.0 for a while now and, even at SMG, where we often can’t believe how lucky we are to do some of the cool things we do, and even with a best-in-class collaboration tool like Clearspace (among others), it’s a constant struggle.

One of the recurring themes of the sessions was that of corporate culture being the one of the main obstacles to successful E2.0 adoption. Perhaps that’s because the E1.0 workplace created an environment where the individual is rewarded more often than the group. Where we’re encouraged to compete for that promotion, or increase, or bonus, or the employee of the month award.

So we keep what we know to ourselves in the belief that our value is inherent in the knowledge we’ve acquired and opinions and ideas are weighted by experience or position on the hierarchy.

And so, the hero-based culture, prevalent in so many organizations, continues to thrive.

But surely, our value is not in what we know, it’s in our ability to learn and innovate, and we do that so much more effectively when we are sharing ideas and pushing each other outside of our respective comfort zones. Back in 2005, Ian Davis said “Web 2.0 is an attitude not a technology“, I would go even further and say that it’s much more than an attitude. It needs to be ingrained in your culture, your mission statement, your everyday processes. It’s what you are, not what you do. It’s the democratization of the enterprise where everyone’s ideas are valued. It’s social media behind the firewall. Where everyone is not only encouraged but expected to participate through the use of the multitude of social tools available.  Anybody can install the social tools required to enable Enterprise 2.0 but, to quote Grady Booch, “a fool with a tool is still a fool”. If the tools are not being implemented to support a clear executive commitment to embrace  E2.0 then they are guaranteed to fail.

So, if E2.0 means culture change it’s not surprising that there aren’t more companies lining up to try it. But then again, why should they? If companies have been successful with their existing processes up to now and E2.0 appears to be optional, where is the motivation for them to change?

Altruistic platitudes like “empowering your employees” doesn’t do it for me because I think people empower themselves when the right conditions are in place. So is E2.0 optional? I can think of a couple of reasons why it’s not:

  1. If we believe that this is the way millennials prefer to work then it’s inevitable.
  2. If knowledge is your product then tapping into the brainpower of all your people surely gives you an edge.
  3. If your competition is doing it,  then they’re probably going to be eating your lunch very soon.

So no, I don’t think E2.0 is about creating a “warm and fuzzy” environment where everyone is happy and comfortable, I think it’s about creating the conditions for becoming lean, innovative and ruthlessly competitive. What do you think?

Join our team as Manager, Influencer Outreach

We’re looking for a passionate social media practitioner to join our growing team.

Based in our Toronto branch office, you’ll be responsible for providing top-notch service to some of North America’s leading brands.

As a Manager in our Influencer Outreach team, you’ll get to do leading-edge work surrounded by some of the best and brightest folks in the business. It’ll be your job to help develop and deliver strategies, campaigns and programs for our clients.

At SMG, we practice applied social media, not theoretical. Our clients appreciate that our expertise is real and market-tested and that we offer a unique perspective as a pure-play social media agency.

We’re looking for candidates who:

  • are excellent communicators
  • have experience providing client service
  • have worked in the social media space
  • actively participate online
  • are looking to have a remarkable experience doing phenomenal work

At SMG we value honesty, curiosity, innovation, invention, excellence and partnership. Our mantra is to add value in all our interactions at every opportunity. We treat each other and everyone else with respect. And we have a tonne of fun together!

If you’re interested in applying, please check out the job description and send your resume and cover letter to maggie [at] socialmediagroup [.] com and leona [dot] hobbs [at] socialmediagroup [.] com. Please make sure to include links to your websites and profiles on social networks.