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Social Media Training Gets Formal in 2013

James Cooper is a strategist on the Content and Community team at Social Media Group (SMG). Follow @jamescooper

In his list of trends for 2013 on Fast Company, Ryan Holmes addresses a recent Harvard Business Review survey, which reveals that only 12 percent of companies using social media feel they are doing so effectively.

With businesses making increased use of social media, the demand for specialized training will surely grow. As Holmes points out, “social media skills will join email as part of basic business literacy in the digital age.”

Beverly Macy shares similar views with Holmes in her Huffington Post article, which lists her social media predictions for 2013. According to Macy, enterprises that are not fluent in social media will be at a competitive disadvantage. “All employees must be exposed to basic social media training and education to attain a knowledge baseline in the organization,” as Macy puts it.

Holmes stresses the importance for companies to provide “social media compliance training to ensure that workers in sensitive industries from finance to healthcare uphold regulatory standards while taking advantage of social media’s benefits.”

To make enterprise social media training a reality, Macy predicts that most companies will need outside consultation and guidance. She believes that companies will need to develop and integrate entirely new systems to train within the organization. As she points out, “most of today’s education systems inside the enterprise rely on technologies and procedures that do not encompass social platforms.”

And what’s higher education doing to meet the growing demand for social media education? Holmes thinks we can “expect to see more social media coursework at universities, as well as dedicated social media MBA programs, as schools rise to the challenge….”

Having trained clients to use social media at an enterprise-level and instructed social media courses at a university-level, I have long felt that social media training is an issue that deserves greater attention and resources from most companies and academic institutions. That said, I strongly agree with Holmes’ and Macy’s predictions, and I hope we see them realized in a big way in 2013 and years to come.

What do you think? What’s your organization doing to train staff?

Proving Social Media ROI Webinar 01/15/13 – Join us!

How can you conclusively demonstrate the return on your social media investment? Research performed for The Social Customer Engagement Index 2012 revealed that two of the biggest obstacles in engaging with customers on social networks were management buy-in (31%) and determining ROI (28%) – and of course, management is more likely to buy in if the payoff is clear.

But the path to social media ROI is highly variable, depending on your business, your market, your customers and your company culture. And being able to quantify any investment through ROI is also key in justifying your social media budget ‘ask’.

Join us for a debate on defining, and implementing measurable ROI to every kind of businesses – register here for an exclusive Social Media Today Best Thinkers Webinar: Proving Social Media ROI – What is Engagement Worth?

Merry Christmas from Social Media Group!

Is there a Santa Claus?

Randy Cameron is the Art Director at Social Media Group.

Facts carry weight. Facts, researched, confirmed and properly presented, have mass which attract one another. Enough facts, enough mass, enough attraction and a conclusion is born (even if it leaves room for modifications later on). The opposite of facts are opinions. Opinions have no mass – they float in the ether.  They frequently tart themselves up as theory but they have no gravity of their own – they’re held together by the will of the individual who states them.

The very online platforms that allow the free transfer of facts between people on a scale never imagined before have also greatly expanded the ether of opinion. Facts can be deployed to prove or disprove, but increasingly opinion has sidestepped this approach and instead taken on the aura of belief – and beliefs don’t need to be proved. They’re personal. Take issue with an opinion and you may awaken the dragon of ‘offence’.

The following graphic presents facts – these facts have mass – they attract one another and lead to a conclusion.  Although, in this case, if you pay too much attention to the facts you may risk not getting your Christmas present… so think carefully before you draw your conclusion!

Merry Christmas!

A Holiday Infographic from

(This infographic is inspired by the timeless 1997 email meme, “An Engineer’s Christmas”, which is generally attributed to Joseph A. Brendler, CPT, SC, Instructor, D/Physics.)

SMG's Best Blogs of 2012

As the end of 2012 approaches, Social Media Group has paused to take a look back at our most popular blog posts from the year, and we’ve shared them here so you can revisit old favourites or catch up on the classics you missed!

In our most popular blog of 2012 we have Maggie Fox’s wildly popular article titled, “Why Marketers Will Rule the World” where she discusses the impact big data will have on marketing.

Next up, we shared our thoughts on the current state of content marketing metrics in our article, “Paid, Earned and Owned are Dead”.

In her popular post, Wangari Kamande discusses “The Evolution of Social Media Measurement”. Noting our need to quantify and calculate the return on our investments, she analyzes and tracks the journey of social media measurement.

At number four, a post about our client SAP looks to the future of collaboration online.  Check out, “SAP’s Social Layer: Making Collaboration Real” to decide for yourself what the future looks like when integrating new technologies into large traditional business models.

At number five, Karly Gaffney opened up about her need to constantly be connected to social media in her post, “My Name is Karly, and I’m an Addict”.

Next in line, we have Wangari Kamande’s article, “Dealing with the “Unfriend”, “Unfollow” and “Unlike” Factor”, which explores the motivations we have to disconnect with brands and people in the social realm and effective tactics to prevent this.

At number seven, Maggie explores the idea that everything we do is marketing in her article, “Marketing isn’t dead, it’s everywhere”.  Even if you aren’t a marketer yourself, this is a must-read.

Pinned up at number eight, Karly Gaffney discusses the cross pollination of social media sites and tactics in her article titled, “Facebook Taking More Cues From Pinterest”.

At number nine, we have James Cooper’s talk from 2012’s Social Media Week, “Transmedia Storytelling: It’s Not Only For Fiction”.  Detailing the need for humans to share stories, he explores how this historical pastime translates into a modern world.

Coming in at number ten on our most popular blogs of 2012, is Michelle McCudden’s article, “Let’s Stop Saying Viral.” In this, she encourages us to stop using the term viral and consider the deeper meaning behind shareable content.

With many new challenges in sight for the New Year, there’s certainly pressure to stay ahead of the curve. The pace at which the social web is changing is increasing daily and the best way to stay ahead of the curve is to participate, collaborate, dig deeper into our data and share our stories with one another.

To find out more about Social Media Group and how we can help your company become a more social business, please contact us.

Social-Powered Holiday Cheer and Goodwill

Karly Gaffney is a Manager on the Content and Community team at Social Media Group.

Every so often I pull my head out of the social media world and take a look at what’s actually happening out there IRL. I did just that recently, researching holiday campaigns that were taking place in the real world but being powered by social media. As it turns out, there are not only some really cool campaigns out there, many include a charitable element, making it so much cooler.

For those of you who have either been living under a rock or like to stick your head in the sand around the holidays, I’ve put together a list of some great social-powered holiday campaigns from 2011/2012 for your reading pleasure.

The Christmas Spirit Tree

Here in Toronto last year Canadian Tire and TribalDDB launched an innovative “Christmas Spirit Tree” campaign in the heart of downtown at Toronto’s Union Station.

A 30-foot tree was wrapped in 3,100 lights that reacted to social/digital conversation buzz around the Christmas holidays. Posts that included words like Santa, holiday, merry, gift, time and year contributed to the holiday light show.

What was really awesome about it is that the colour and brightness of the lights were directly related to online activity:

  • When the lights flashed white, social networks like Twitter and Facebook were alive with Christmas chatter.
  • Green lights meant Christmas was being mentioned in the news.
  • Red lights showed onlookers that blogs and forums were abuzz.
  • Blue flashing strobe lights were reacting to people posting massages on the Christmas Spirit Tree microsite or sending a text to the specified number.
  • The brightness of the lights represented the total number of messages per minute being shared, so when online sharing was at its highest the tree shone its brightest.

The Communitree

In November of this year there was a great campaign called The Communitree supporting the Philadelphia Toys for Tots charity.  Scented ornament company Scentsicles teamed up with the online Christmas Tree retailer Balsam Hill to create a robotic arm that was controlled remotely via a microsite to digitally decorate a real Christmas tree.

Each ornament added to the tree equated to a $5 donation to the charity and users were encouraged to share their activities on Facebook with each like on their posts adding an additional $0.25 to the cause.

The whole thing took place on livestream and they hired two fun hosts to interact and engage with the visitors both online and through a phone they had on set where people could call in their holiday song requests or to ask questions talk to the hosts. They were also able to tweet them at @TheCommunitree.

At campaign end, they raised a total of $21,330 for the Philadelphia Toys for Tots and there were 2,159 ornaments hung on The Communitree. It looks like their top participant in the leaderboard received 172 likes (x $.25) on his/her post.

Zynga’s Oh, What Fun

Zynga recently launched their holiday “Oh, What Fun” campaign, which turns virtual goods into real-world donations. From now until Dec 31, Zynga is offering players the option to purchase an in-game good that will benefit Toys for Tots this holiday season. Items start at as little as $1, making it a bit of a no-brainer for gamers who want to give back but don’t know where to start.

If you’re a Zynga gamer who plays CityVille, CastleVille, Words With Friends, FrontierVille, Bubble Safari, Draw Something or Farmville, you have the option to purchase a good and make a donation today.

I love seeing brands use social platforms to not only generate awareness about their products or services, but also to spread goodwill and cheer during the holidays.  Have you seen any other really great real world social-powered campaigns?


Many Cool Things – December 7, 2012

Here’s the December 7th edition of  #ManyCoolThings, a Social Media Group culture jam. These are the many cool things that recently caught our attention or inspired us:

Dumb ways to die, smart ways to do viral
Australia’s fastest-spreading viral video, “Dumb Ways to Die”, made by ad agency McCann Worldgroup Autralia to promote safety on Melbourne Metro Trains, has amassed tens of millions of views on YouTube since it was posted on November 14.

Red Bull’s Extreme Rube Goldberg “Athlete Machine”
In the span of six minutes, twelve athletes and virtually every extreme sport in the world (and golf…) join in the “Athlete Machine” to achieve a common goal: obtain an ice cold Red Bull.

Make Infused Liquors, Oils and Syrups in Seconds Instead of Days or Weeks
The folks at CHOW and Modernist Cuisine have devised a great method for making whipped creams, topping and infusions, and all you need are the ingredients you’d use anyway and a whipping siphon. You’ll also need some nitrous oxide chargers for the siphon to get the job done.

The World’s First 3D Printing Photo Booth
Made by the guys at PARTY, this pop-up store allows people to be mapped in high-definition 3D before being printed between 10cm and 20cm tall in full colour, to create a semi-realistic 3D printed version of yourself to take home. (All for about $250 bucks. Not bad eh?)

Fox Steals iPhone, Sends SMS Messages
A couple of kids who saw a fox prowling around wanted to see if they could attract it by playing the sound of a dying rabbit on their iPhone. The rabbit call did more than just attract the fox — the fox took off with the phone!

Map: The most- and least-corrupt countries in the world
Transparency International recently released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index on the perceived level of public sector corruption in 176 countries around the world, and once again, Somalia, North Korea and Afghanistan rank as most corrupt, with scores of 8. (Burma, also known as Myanmar, joined them last year but has since moved up two spots, to just ahead of Sudan).

Screenshot: Transparency International

Harsh truths about advertising and content from Weiden+Kennedy
The presentation suggests that brands and their communications just don’t matter that much to most people. The author, Martin Wiegel, takes a deliberately provocative and personal stance it. According to Wiegel, the presentation “might feel long on what NOT to do and somewhat short on constructive advice about what to DO. But that is merely an inevitable consequence of the fact that a) I don’t have the answers and b) there is no magic forumla or template for success. We’ve each got to stumble along our own paths to reach that.”

Site enables pets to be played with remotely
iPet Companion uses robotically controlled toys to allow web users to play with sheltered cats remotely to keep them entertained.

Dollar Shave Club
Dollar Shave Club couldn’t be simpler. Select one of their razors, pay one low monthly fee, and receive them right at your door. No more over-paying for fancy brand name shave tech. No more forgetting to buy your blades.

Precision colors for machines and people
Solarized is a sixteen color palette (eight monotones, eight accent colors) designed for use with terminal and gui applications. It has several unique properties. I designed this colorscheme with both precise CIELAB lightness relationships and a refined set of hues based on fixed color wheel relationships. It has been tested extensively in real world use on color calibrated displays (as well as uncalibrated/intentionally miscalibrated displays) and in a variety of lighting conditions.

Spreading Local & Digital Holiday Cheer

Jordan Benedet is a Manager on the Client Strategy and Innovation team at Social Media Group. Follow @jbenedet.

For most, the holidays are a time to enjoy the company of family and friends while sipping on eggnog in front of a warm fire – okay, maybe that’s a pretty broad generalization, but you know what I’m getting at here. Besides the frantic last minute shopping at the crowded mall to find the perfect gift for someone special, it’s a very happy time of year. When you put the commercialization around the holidays aside, it is also important to focus and reflect on some of the heartaches and stress that this time of year can cause those that are less fortunate.

Spreading local holiday cheer has a somewhat different meaning to me this year, as I have recently begun volunteering at a local Toronto Food Bank, The North York Harvest. I was informed that demand for food this year is up 16% this year, but overall food donations have not quite kept pace with this increase. One of the main drivers for the increased demand is that food prices are up, and the projection for 2013 is another 3%-4% increase, making it even more important for communities to support their local food bank.

SMG has a long standing tradition of supporting the local Toronto organization Holiday Helpers. What started as two sisters spreading their own version of holiday cheer in 1999, has transformed into a organization that helps hundreds of Toronto families in need every season by providing a special Christmas package containing a tree, decorations, food, and personalized gifts for each and every family member. Imagining the look of excitement on a child’s face when they receive the exact item on their Christmas list is sure to make anyone smile.

Making a difference in your local community is very important, but I also feel that the Internet should be given some credit since it reduces barriers and facilitates spreading what I am referring to as digital cheer. In recent years, online giving, tracked by Austin-based Convio has grown at a double digit pace, very similar to the growth curve of online retail sales. This is truly an amazing trend to observe, because the power of the Internet, and social media has provided a mechanism for charities/non-profits to reach a larger audience than ever before, with the added bonus of systems that allow visitors to easily donate toward a cause. Generating Social Good can also be done via many crowd funding platforms as summarized by Mashable a year ago.

So what happens when local and digital cheer are combined? Well, it can be delicious, let me explain. A colleague here at SMG recently shared a link with me that I thought was absolutely amazing on so many levels. What is appropriately named The Pie Drive, is essentially one man’s mission to bake and sell 80 homemade, flaky, and delicious pies – with all the proceeds going to the local Covenant House charity. After loading up the beautiful pie page, I took my sweet time to make a flavour decision. I would soon find out that the Pie Drive link, and Facebook page was digitally shared so quickly among friends and family that the 80 pies sold out within 24 hours. My hesitation left me with nothing but a digital image to salivate over.

I want to commend Zachary Ginies on the amazing success of his Pie Drive campaign. His efforts of leveraging technology to spread local cheer will surely make many people smile this holiday season, and I look forward to supporting the cause, and eating pie next year!


Many Cool Things – November 23, 2012

Here’s this week’s edition of  #ManyCoolThings, a Social Media Group culture jam. These are the many cool things that recently caught our attention or inspired us:

25 years of cell phone innovation in a single image
Japanese communications company NTT docomo celebrates its 20th anniversary with an exhibition showcasing the evolution of mobile phone culture starting from 1987 to the present day. The extensive chronological display of cell phones on view at tokyo designers’ week, offered a visual documentation of the progress made in terms of size, shape, form, color and materials used in the design of today’s mobile devices.


Old Spice Save the World Advergame
With December 21st the Mayan calendar’s end of the world deadline, Old Spice recently revealed the latest installment in the digital portion of its “Believe in Your Smellf” campaign: a video game called Dikembe Mutombo’s 4 1/2 Weeks to Save the World, which features the retired NBA star and a sub machine gun with pickle laser.

35 Million Directors
Canadian Tourism Commission asked Canadians to submit home videos of their first-hand experiences in their country, in an initiative dubbed “35 Million Directors”, the citizenry responded with 65 hours of video. The result is a two-minute film from DDB Canada that’s made of user-generated clips that were voted on by Canadians called “Canada Shared by Canadians.”

100,000 Stars: An interactive visualization of our galaxy
Brought to you by the Chrome Experiments team, this interactive visualization of the stellar neighborhood created for the Google Chrome web browser shows the real location of more than 100,000 nearby stars. Zooming in reveals 87 major named stars and our solar system. The galaxy view is an artist’s rendition.

The Internet of Things
Through RFID, SMS, QR codes and other technology, connecting objects to each other via the Internet is happening more and more. Basically, everyday items become nodes in the net connected by wireless technology. This raises the question: where does the Internet stop, if anywhere?

Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking
This six-volume, 2,438-page set is des­tined to rein­vent cook­ing. The lav­ishly illus­trated books use thou­sands of orig­i­nal images to make the sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy clear and engaging. The Wall Street Journal calls it “The cookbook to end all cookbooks.

Using customer data to reward customers daily
The STM–Montreal’s transit provider–has a goal to increase ridership by 40% by 2020 and plans to do so through a revolutionary new loyalty program.

Mr. Div
Matthew DiVito (Mr. Div) is a motion graphics designer. Check out some of his transforming designs.

Image: Mr. Div

One of our team members (@brandonXoliver) managed to sneak a picture of his kitten, Belmont, into this post. How could we not leave her in?

Image: @brandonXoliver

Why Marketers Will Rule the World

Today I’m delivering the keynote at Marketing Magazine’s 2012 Social Media Conference, and I’ll be speaking about something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: that the explosion of customer data provided by social and digital have put extreme power in the hands of marketers, if only you’ll learn how to wield it. We’re entering a new era of big data, automation and the ability to drive business strategy by delivering real-time access to the voice of the customer. One of the questions I’ll be asking is whether your team is ready to let go of decisions made based on “gut feel;” and get ready for the Chief Marketing Technologist, who’s much more of a “quant” than a “qual”. Savvy, forward-thinking marketing leaders who “get it” can position themselves to deliver enormous business value and take a seat at the big table if they can figure this stuff out – and keep up.

The average lifespan of the CMO has increased from 23 months in 2006 to over 43 months in 2012. Forbes magazine suggests this is a reflection of the growing strategic nature of the role – and there’s enormous opportunity to solidify this position by delivering measurable business results, thanks to big data. Technology is playing an important role in this. By 2017, Gartner analyst Laura McLellan predicts that CMOs will spend more money on technology than CIOs.

At the moment, however, most marketers are falling down on the job – badly, especially when it comes to technology. A recent survey from ITSMA and VisionEdge Marketing paints a stark picture of marketers and their ownership of their own technology choices:

•    59% don’t specify marketing technology
•    45% don’t recommend marketing technology
•    46% don’t select marketing technology

This is a shockingly hands-off approach, and one that could very well come back and bite you if you allow it to continue. Just this past weekend, the Wall Street Journal ran a story that suggested CIOs, not CMOs, should be responsible for digital leadership in most organizations. The article predicted that a new role, The Chief Digital Officer, would fall to IT because “IT is everywhere”. Russell Reynolds, one of the world’s top recruiting companies, describes the CDO as  “[someone] who can oversee the full range of digital strategies and drive change across the organization.” (I don’t know about you, but that sounds like something marketing should own).

And it’s not just technology where marketers’ chops are being questioned: it’s also the ability to deliver business and operational intelligence (real-time insight into business performance); two things that are of enormous value to the entire organization, and two things that marketing is uniquely well-positioned to deliver in the digital age because of your access to that same massive data stream.  In July, Oracle released a survey of more than 300 US and Canadian executives that showed 93% of them believe they’re losing revenue because they aren’t able to access or act on information already available to them. And they are missing out on something – the New York Times recently referenced a study of 179 large companies that found those adopting “data-driven decision making” achieved productivity gains of up to 6% – that couldn’t be explained any other way.

So what’s your opportunity? To blend the “Art and Science” of marketing; the art is the storytelling (something you’re so very good at) and the science is the technology and strategic business value that you can deliver by leveraging big data generated by social media and other customer interactions online. This is a wellspring of fantastic intelligence, if you have the technologies and skillsets to process and analyze it. In Inc. Magazine, Brian Halligan recently described it as delivering to a “segment of one” – think about sites like Netflix and Amazon, which use a combination of individual leverage (the more I use the site, the more it learns about me) and group leverage (the more people like me use the site, the better the site can predict what I may want or like) to deliver a better customized, higher-revenue experience.

There are many examples of marketers who have leveraged big data in order to deliver business value. Steve McKee, who writes for BusinessWeek, has written about how his team took a look at simple web metrics and their relationships, the increases and decreases in media buys, and used that data to increase the effectiveness of a clients’ media spend by 9%. Pamplin College in the U.S. did a large-scale study to see what the relationship was between social media mentions and automotive recalls, and found a direct, predictive connection.

One of the biggest challenges behind turning social media data into business and operational intelligence is the need to make structured and unstructured data play nicely together (structured data is the stuff that’s easy to put into a database – often things like sales numbers, or numbers of clicks; things that are easy to count and don’t require any interpretation. Unstructured data, however, are text-heavy, things like conversations and facts. Unstructured data is irregular and requires analysis to be understood by everyone – it’s complicated). This will require skillsets you are unlikely to see in a typical marketing department today (unless you’re Target). McKinsey predicts that in the U.S. alone, right now there’s a need for 200,000 people with skillsets in data analytics. And the way you attack data will also need to change; Avinash Kaushik, Google’s digital marketing evangelist says that the ideal breakdown for big data resources should be 15% data capture, 20% reporting and 65% analysis. At the moment, for most of us, that’s flipped, with most resources devoted to capture and very little to analysis and actionable insight.

So what’s next? Like many others, I think it’s the age of the Marketing Technologist – the person who, in the words of Scott Brinker, is “Someone who has a hybrid between business and technology, a strong background in engineering and IT, is an early adopter of technology, but someone who also understands the pragmatic realities of scaling technology. But most importantly, someone who brings those skills and combines them with a deep love and passion for the marketing mix. This is a technologist that reports to the CMO, not the CIO.”

What do you think? And, even more importantly – are you ready?


Many Cool Things – November 16, 2012

Here’s this week’s edition of  #ManyCoolThings, a Social Media Group culture jam. These are the many cool things that recently caught our attention or inspired us:

Dominic Wilcox’s giant ScotchBlue tape flower sculpture
ScotchBlue and Design Milk launched a challenge for fans to create inspirational designs using ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape. Dominic Wilcox came up with the idea to piece together a giant blue flower.


Facebook, retailers testing ‘want’ button. Move could open sources of revenue
Facebook partners with seven retailers to test a feature that lets users of the social network create “wish lists” of home furnishings, clothing and other retail products, laying the groundwork for what some believe could be an eventual push into e-commerce.  

Multi-tasking is bad for your brain. Here’s how to fix it
All the streams from the social web have created a flood of information. With this influx of life and data streams comes the desire to stay on top of it all. But this is a bad idea, according to Clifford Nass whom GigaOm interviewed on the topic. Watch the video for Nass’s tips.

FoldIt – Solve puzzles for science.
FoldIt is an online puzzle video game about protein folding. The game is part of an experimental research project, and is developed by the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science in collaboration with the UW Department of Biochemistry. The objective of the game is to fold the structure of selected proteins to the best of the player’s ability, using various tools provided within the game. The highest scoring solutions are analysed by researchers, who determine whether or not there is a native structural configuration (or native state) that can be applied to the relevant proteins, in the “real world”. Scientists can then use such solutions to solve “real-world” problems, by targeting and eradicating diseases, and creating biological innovations.

For more on FoldIt, watch this short documentary.

Also, check out EteRNA, a sister project of FoldIt in which players help reveal new principles for designing RNA-based switches and nanomachines — new systems for seeking and eventually controlling living cells and disease-causing viruses.

Is this the blueprint for retailers to finally monetize Facebook?
Much has been written about retailers’ failed attempts at “F-Commerce”, but a look at what’s happening on Walmart’s Facebook page reveals what could well be the blueprint for how retailers will finally turn a profit on the world’s largest social network.
Walmart appears to be selling its suppliers promoted posts on its Facebook page, just like it sells its suppliers shelf space in store and half pages in their catalog. Yes folks, co-op marketing has arrived on Facebook.

Digital Marketing BS
What marketing buzzwords are most “electrifying”? Watch to find out.

Unsuck It – Need help translating all of those business buzzwords?
Unsuck It lets you input an overly complicated business term and it provides you with a definition in plain English. It’s just that easy. There’s even an option to “email the definition to the douchebag who used it.”