All posts in “Social Media Strategy”

The Joy Of Discovery: A Good Starting Point in Planning Social Media Strategy

Ruth Bastedo is Director, Business Development at Social Media Group. Follow @rutbas

I come across a lot of business owners and marketers who are wondering how to tackle social media. I spoke last week to a group of women business owners at the Go for The Greens Business Development Conference at Walt Disney World last week, and next week I’m talking to a group of SME’s at The Financial Executives International Conference, “Leading Economic Growth” next week in Toronto. What I hear, is that while most companies instinctively know that they need to address social media in some way, it is still hard to know where to start.

In the immediate term, social media may or may not have an important impact on your business. It’s when you start looking at long term trends, and at the deep impact that social media is having on our fundamental communications infrastructure, that you start realizing that love it or hate it, you cannot ignore potential depth of social media on the way your clients and customers are going to live in the future, and interact with your business.

This is the place to start. Take the time to figure out how social media could potentially impact your clients and customers, as they connect and interact with your brand, products and services. How can you leverage this social interaction to move your business objectives forward?

We call this process “Discovery”. During our Discovery sessions with clients, we go through a number of exercises to look at this problem from a variety of perspectives- but one of the exercises I love the most, is called an “environmental scan”, where we go look at how the future could impact the client’s business, from a variety of different perspectives (demographic, technological, regulatory etc.). Discovery has become a key part of our planning process.

A 2012 comScore report, “Canada Digital Future in Focus” states “Social is quickly moving from a supporting role to a key pillar in monetizing digital.” It sounds like a platitude, until you start looking at the numbers.

According to the research in the report, Canadians on the whole spend an average 45 hours of time online a month, and lead the world in online engagement. Time spent on social networking has now surpassed the time spent on any other category of activity online. If you look at younger demographics, the 18-24 age range, you can see the strongest surge of time spent on social media quarter over quarter. Viewers under 35 also account for 57% of all videos viewed online. Smart phone penetration has reached 45 percent of the Canadian market.  If you’re not familiar with the report, I urge you to download it, and take a quick browse through.

The pace of change is wild. As a business owner or marketer, where do you start?

At the moment, according to a recent US based survey on “Social Software and Big Data Analytics in Business” by Mzinga, Teradata Aster, and The Center for Complexity in Business on how companies are using social media, 64% of companies are using it for marketing/brand experience, 47% for customer experience/service/support, 39% for employee collaboration and 27% for sales.

Those areas are likely baseline areas to get right first, and to use as a starting point to develop meaningful measures of success, that map to your business, and to your strategic business objectives.

In the same survey, 77% of companies said that they currently DO NOT measure the ROI of their social media programs, and 49% say they are not using social media to its full potential.

We are all only at the very beginning of all this. Engage in the “Joy of Discovery”, to make a sensible and manageable start to tackling long term planning, and determe what measures of success are going to be right for the future of your business. It’s a challenge for all organizations to determine what level of investment in social media is appropriate, but the question is no longer a “should I”, but is moving to a “how should I”.

Social Media and the Small Business: Heaven or Hell? (…and 5 tips to make it easier to cope!)

Ruth Bastedo is Director, Business Development at Social Media Group. Follow @rutbas

Last week, I was up in the Muskoka region, which around these parts is affectionately known as “cottage country”, talking to a sold out group of women business owners in the region. The event was organized by the Mukoka YWCA’s Women in Business program, and the topic was “Strategies for Success”- based on an article I did last March for the Globe and Mail on women entrepreneurs, “Ten Strategies for Achieving Success as an Entrepreneur“.

It was a fabulous evening, and it was great to get to know the group of 60+ women business owners, all of whom were keenly looking for ways to build and market their businesses in a smaller community.

The talk was not on social media. It wasn’t really about marketing. It was about how business owners set goals for success and put together the support structure required to reach them- but “dealing with social media” turned out to be a hot topic. I am always struck in these types of situations by the love/hate relationship that small business owners have with digital marketing in general, and social media as a sub-section of that.

Digital marketing is a necessity for all small businesses. Period. You ignore it at your peril. But many, many business owners (and I would put myself in that bucket, in my time as a business owner) have a huge challenge finding the time, resources, workflow and strategy to make it truly effective. Let’s face it, it can be a grind. That’s the hell part. And then all you feel is guilt for ignoring what you know can be an incredibly powerful, game changing exercise.

BUT, it doesn’t have to be this way. Really. It can be heavenly.

It took me a long time to find my groove in the social media space, and I’ve been in digital communications for 15 years. This is hard stuff to get your head around, but if you tweak your approach, and find that magic combination of channels, content, tools and workflow. It can be very easy to execute, and incorporate into a daily routine. Once I hit that right combination, I started seeing results immediately. My social media world is aligned, and for now, does what I need it to do.

Looking at this task from an non-marketer’s perspective, here are 5 tips that I think would be of huge benefit to any small business owner, looking to get a handle on “this social media thing”, with a minimum amount of pain.

1. Access “Social Media 101” content. There’s a ton of it around. One recent post that I thought was a good solid, up to date overview of the major channels is “Social Media 101: Getting Started on the Top Social Networks”. Pick one or two as a starting point for your company. It’s likely going to be Twitter and Faceboook, for consumer oriented companies, and Twitter and LinkedIn for business oriented companies.

2. Determine your marketing objectives. Do you want sales leads? Brand awareness? Do you want to reach out to your customers, and get them to refer other customers to you? Is your marketing effort local, regional or national? It could even be international. Be clear on what you’d like to get out of this time you invest in social media. How can social media integrate or support what you are already doing on the marketing front. Look at models out there that reflect your objectives.

3. Be clear about your target audience. Who are these people? What information is going to be most relevant to them? How are they going to use and engage in social media? In order to engage with your audience in a meaningful way, try making a list of all the ways your content can add value to their lives. This list should guide you in developing value add content.

4. Develop what we call a “content strategy”. This is developing a mechanism to create, curate, source or simply pass on content that is going to be relevant to your clients and customers. People are more likely to “follow” you if you are providing thoughtful content that is going to add value to them. You have to figure out where to find this content, and how often you are going to “share” it with them. Quite often, we develop “editorial” or “conversation” calendars ahead of time, so you know what themes you are going to focus on every week. Download the Social Media Group White Paper on Content Marketing for a good introduction.

5. Find a tool that works for you. There are lots out there, but a good tool makes all the difference in the world. A couple of months ago, I started using a tool from a local company called Get Elevate, which makes it easy to find content, curate it, and send it out via Twitter. There are some good lists out there- here’s the type of thing you should be looking for: 50 Mostly Free Social Media Tools You Can’t Live Without in 2012. Find something that you find intuitive, and easy for you and your staff to use, and that lines up to your marketing objectives.

As a small business, keep your scope small and focused, and before diving in, be clear on what you want to achieve with your social media investment. Test as you go… at least for the first little while. Get help if you have to, professional or otherwise- but social media can be a very valuable part of any marketing plan, but you have to at some point, just start somewhere.

The Role of the Researcher in the Social Media Strategy Development Process

Wangari Kamande is a Research Analyst at Social Media Group.

As a research analyst, I often find that I hold the foundational pieces to what would help set the stage for solid strategy development. The information that I gather while conducting the background work to understand a client’s business, their needs, resources, target audience and goals is extremely valuable. This rich information makes it extremely necessary that a researcher be fully engaged in laying the foundational pieces of the strategy development process.

How does research set the foundation for a sound social media strategy?

  1. Understanding the client’s business and social media objectives (e.g., business activities, marketing activities, social media and marketing goals, how activities are being measured for success). This broad understanding will help filter into doing a deeper analysis into the following;
  2. Audience analysis – Understanding who is talking about the brand or who a brand is looking to engage with in the social-sphere, where they are participating in social, what is their current opinion of the brand or other brands where feasible and their social media usage patterns.
  3. Content Analysis – Evaluation of content somewhat overlaps with the audience analysis especially in respect to analysing what people are saying and the sentiment of their social conversations. However, in addition to the user generated information there is another piece of the content mix that is significantly valuable and that includes the resources and information that a brand has in its marketing communications, PR and advertising tool set – all the traditional marketing pieces that can be leveraged and optimised for social media use and engagement.
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The three broad categories above feed into the development of the following:

  1. Content Strategy – Developing and executing a content strategy that resonates with the target audience
  2. Engagement Strategy – Developing and executing an engagement strategy that appeals and drives a response with the target audience
  3. Positioning Strategy – Having a clear understanding the target audience makes it easy for brands position themselves as the go to source in a specific niche / industry
  4. Listening Strategy – Brands can then tune their listening and customer / client service strategy so that they can effectively serve the needs of their customers / clients.
  5. Measurement – Identify metrics or key performance indicators that will help measure success.  If the objective is to gain awareness, then metrics such as increased engagement, social media mentions, Facebook likes and comments, Twitter followers, retweets (just to name a few) will be indicators. However, if selling is the main objective, click rates, social e-commerce, sales and conversion rates are suitable metrics.

How are you using research to build your brand’s social media strategy?


Connecting Customer Service and Social Media

Ruth Bastedo is Director, Business Development at Social Media Group. Follow @rutbas

This week I was at a talk by Howard Grosfield, the President of Amex Bank of Canada at the Toronto Board of Trade. I was really impressed by how Amex considers social media to be an intrinsic part of future of the customer experience. Grosfield emphasized again and again how important it is for Amex to have customers willfully and actively promote American Express, especially through social media. It goes without saying that in order to encourage this type of advocacy, the quality of the customer service experience is of paramount importance.

You can get a taste of Mr. Grosfield’s take on the importance of customer service to Amex by taking a peek at an excerpt from another talk he recently did at Rotman School of Management, “Selling Service: Building a Brand on the Foundations of Service and the Customer Experience”.

The talk got me thinking about link between customer experience and social media. I revisited discussions in the LinkedIn Group “Customer Experience Management”, to see how much talk there was on the social media front. Social Media is clearly popping up as a factor that is being examined more closely by many companies.

On the SMG front, increasingly our clients are interested in integrating social channels into their customer’s experiences, and moreover, they are interested in providing value add content that supports these experiences in a  more holistic and cohesive manner.

For an overview of the space, I urge you to take a look at this great set of info-graphics, “The 10 Best Customer Service Infographics for 2012” sourced by one of the LinkedIn group members. It’s a really excellent perspective of what’s happening out there, and gives lots of food for thought.

This is a taste of the content below. Enjoy!!


Support Gets Social




Column: It's Time For Facebook to Grow Up

This post was originally published by Marketing Magazine by Patrick Gladney, Director of Research and Insights at SMG. Follow him @pgladney

Last week was kind of like Facebook’s Bar Mitzvah – a time for the social network to grow up and begin taking responsibility for its own actions. Funny that Mark Zuckerberg chose to wear his trademark “hoodie” to ring the bell on Nasdaq the day of the IPO, signaling to the market that he still plans on playing by his own rules.

Zuckerberg may still choose to dress casually, but I would hazard a guess to say that he’ll soon begin to feel the pressure of the Street. Facebook needs to share a strategy that will explain how they plan to achieve revenues that will justify their valuation, especially in light of GM’s public announcement that they will be pulling ad spends from the platform because they can’t clearly define the value of Facebook ads to their business.

With GM as the backdrop, Facebook is working hard to help its advertisers achieve measurable results. Just last week at the CMA conference, Facebook and L’Oreal took the stage and admitted they were still working together to crack the ROI challenge. While most brands by now are committed to investing in Facebook as a content channel play, brands publishing content to generate awareness won’t pay a dividend to Facebook investors, and besides, for large advertisers like GM, awareness isn’t the problem. GM needs people to buy cars.

Working in Facebook’s favour is the fact that they are already an immensely profitable company, earning $1 billion in profits on $4 billion in revenue. Also working in their favour is the fact that their entire mobile platform is yet to be monetized, which is promising knowing that the 54% of users who access Facebook through mobile are two times as active. But unfortunately, activity, including time on site, does not yet translate into sales. Sure, ads on Facebook can be accurately targeted, but accuracy doesn’t amount to anything if the ads perform no better than their display ad brethren.

Early attempts at “f-commerce,” designed to create an integrated user experience where consumers can shop and buy without leaving Facebook, have failed to generate any meaningful results or more companies would be doing it. Mind you, most trailblazing Facebook e-tailers haven’t worked to create much in the way of retail excitement to entice Facebook buyers. Brands need to do more than simply iframe in their e-commerce site and emulate companies like BMW, who last year began selling exclusive limited edition brand merchandise on Facebook. In targeting BMW owners, this initiative helped test the potential of f-commerce to drive customer retention and generate advocacy through the network effect. But once again, we are back to putting the onus on brands to develop great content and customer experiences, with a relatively small amount of measurable sales potential in return.

So is Facebook a good bet? The risk is that the tremendous potential of Facebook turns out to be just that. The long term success for Facebook depends on the ability for brands to measure sales. And now that the company is public, they will be measured against other media companies, which are valued based on revenue per user. According to a recent mathematical model published by the MIT Technology Review, Facebook will have to increase their profit per user by between 160 and 600% for their current valuation to make sense in this context.

At Social Media Group, we’re obviously bullish on the potential of social media. But now that Facebook is a publicly traded company, it’s time for the platform to mature past the stage of experimentation and help deliver solid business returns.

The Agile Agency: creating the best conditions for awesome

This infographic from the good folks at Gist resonated with me. It summarizes the notion of the Agile Business succinctly and lays it all out simply. It is very much worth a look. You see, we run an agile-inspired workflow here at SMG. It takes collaboration, communication and a great team. It also takes work.  I believe it is worth the effort because it creates the best conditions for success. Being an Agile Agency introduces some unique challenges and opportunities. Before I get to those, lets take a look at the infographic which gives a quick overview of what Agile is all about: (Click for the easier-to-read full-res version).


The Agile Business


I was first challenged to think about agile and how it applies to marketing and communications when I worked on the client-side at an internet services company. I witnessed the development team (and large chunks of the business related to the delivery of web services) transition from waterfall development to agile. It was a significant transition, but entirely worthwhile (and needed for the business).  Since the business was moving to agile, I was given the mandate to come up with an agile approach to running our communication and marketing team.

I struggled initially. The agile development work teams tackled one project or problem at a time in a scrum methodology. Our marketing communications team was a service to the business and typically ran over a dozen projects concurrently. Another challenge — we didn’t necessarily have control or influence over the prioritization of our work. For example, quarterly financial reporting had to happen at set times during the year. Product updates rolled out to meet the needs of the customers. Rarely did this happen on a schedule (or in a manner) that set optimal conditions for our team.

But my (incredible) team and I cracked it. We created a wiki-driven central nervous system where we actively documented, tracked and managed all “Active” projects; kept a prioritized “Next” queue of defined projects waiting to be resourced and kicked off; maintained a prioritized (and frequently changing) “Backlog” of projects and a dream list of “Someday Maybe” projects. I came to adore the flexibility, collaboration, communication, knowledge management, improved workflow, increased productivity, transparency, accountability and improved morale that accompanied our successful agile-influenced marketing and communication team.

When I joined SMG in 2009, I knew I wanted to be part of an Agile Agency. With Maggie’s support and collaboration, I became obsessed with creating workflow and defining the processes and supports needed to allow us to see the benefits that come from being an Agile Agency:

  • Accelerated time to market for our client campaigns, and quick starts for our programs (frequently large-scale campaigns and transformation initiatives)
  • Enhanced ability to manage changing priorities helped us roll with the fluidity of social media service delivery — the unpredictable nature of pilot programs and the discoveries that come when we co-innovate with clients
  • Increased productivity is crucial for the morale of our team of A-players. No-one likes to spin their wheels and waste time. In a services business this has a direct impact on quality of work for clients and the bottom line.
  • Enhanced quality is essential. The ability to bring the discipline of fast iterations, frequent and disciplined communications and collaboration to our work has had a demonstrable impact on the quality of work product and results generated for our clients.
  • Increased visibility into projects immediately reduces risk. There is nowhere to hide inside our Agile Agency. We are accountable to ourselves and our clients. Our team knows that a snag or a new discovery is not a crisis, but the opportunity to iterate for improvement. We embrace these moments and support and lead our clients through, frequently gleaning new insights along the way.

I could go on and on. I’m a total geek for this stuff. I’ll own that.

At the start of the post, I mentioned some challenges and opportunities. It really boils down to what is a true clash of cultures between how SMG is (agile) and how the majority of our clients are (not terribly agile). So yes, this brings challenges. But it also brings incredible opportunity for us to lead and support our clients. SMG’s Agile Agency model is about being proactive, nimble and responsive and excellent collaborators and communicators. We strive to inspire our clients with our workstyle and our ability to turn-on-a-dime while producing great results.

I truly hope the agile business movement continues to gain traction and catch on. We are certainly spreading the word by bringing elements of agile business to our client engagements.  After all, in many ways, successful and sustained operations in social media requires an agile approach. The internet is anything but static.


(infographic: h/t Global Nerdy )

SMG Webinar – The Social Enterprise, Dec 8


As companies accumulate more and more experience working in the new two-way communication environment imposed by social media, they encounter new, often unforeseen challenges. Companies must consider new organizational structures, a new approach to content and develop new company policies in order to be successful, just to name a few.

Social Business is a hot topic in social media circles these days, which is why I’ll be presenting a webinar lecture at the Seven Days of Executive Education (7DEE) for the folks at Internet Revolution.  During this talk, I’ll be sharing insights gained from SMG’s applied experience  helping Fortune 500 companies re-engineer themselves for a successful future.   The webinar will take place on Thursday, December 8, at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Interested in hearing more? Then register yourself by clicking here!

Social media adoption, the serendipity economy and flock behavior in communities

Okay, okay – the title is obscure. I’m pretty sure you know what social media is, but the serendipity economy? Flock behavior in communities?

Don’t worry – there’s a connection, and I will explain…

Last week I attended the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, where I managed to catch an amazing session with Daniel W. Rasmus called “The Serendipity Economy“. I found myself compulsively live-tweeting throughout Daniel’s talk. His thesis is essentially that our legacy, industrial-age approach to economics does not fit within our modern knowledge economy framework.

Think of it this way – value in manufacturing is realized the moment a product is created, whereas in a knowledge economy, the presentation I just created has no value until it’s presented. Additionally, because the knowledge economy relies largely on human networks, forecasting much of the value derived is basically impossible (imagine the number of variables. It’s like weather modeling, times a billion!) instead, our challenge is discovering unanticipated value as it happens – and then replicating it (you can download Daniel’s whitepaper here).

Twitter visualization

Image courtesy of Yoan Blanc

Anyway, it was an amazing talk, and one of my biggest takeaways had to do specifically with social media. Daniel rightly noted that there is a huge disruption when you introduce a horizontal technology (i.e. social media) into a traditional vertical structure (i.e. most large organizations), particularly as it relates to adoption. Social, ideally, needs to get to the point of being as widely used as, say, the phone or the PC. Problem? It’s much more skills-based, much more complex and we also don’t have years to roll it out.

So, what’s an organization to do?

In a conversation with a client the very next day, I mentioned Daniel’s presentation, and as we discussed adoption of social media and the very real challenges with integrating horizontal technologies into vertical organizations (so well put!). I was suddenly reminded of something I read in both the MIT Technology Review Physics arXiv Blog and Fast Company, and subsequently did a presentation on in late 2009. My presentation was called “Disrupting Traditional Leadership: Flock Behavior in Communities” and it explored research that showed it was possible for a very small number of leaders to move very large entities, if only you have the right criteria in place:

  1. Distribution: The leaders must be distributed throughout the organization in a fairly consistent way in order to touch the maximum number of individuals. Their own networks must not leave any significant pockets untouched by their mission, vision or goals.
  2. Allegiance: The people in the leaders’ networks must be absolutely loyal. That means the leader must be persuasive, and when he or she moves, their network moves with them, as do the networks surrounding their network… you get the idea.
  3. Communication: To get everyone to move at the same time and in the right direction, messaging about the mission and the action to be taken must be communicated to all leaders and then to the loyal members of their networks quickly, efficiently and consistently.

Interesting model, which raised all kinds of questions for me, including whether it could be deployed to achieve significant change in unexpected places… like large, vertical organizations, who are deeply challenged by quick-moving, disruptive change.

I’m really excited about the continuing challenges presented to us as we help our more progressive clients fully integrate social into what they do. The adoption discussion is a priority for 2012, and our team will be actively exploring new models in an effort to help make our partners more nimble, flexible and just better at leveraging social media. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Yes, B2B is special. But not when it comes to social media.

“I usually see a lot of B2C examples; can you tell me about how B2B marketers should use social media?”

For years, literally, I have been asked this question at conferences and client events. And I always have the same answer, delivered with a grin:

“I know that B2B marketers think you are special. And you ARE special… but not when it comes to social; social media is about delivering value to people in order to earn their attention. And your customers are people, right?”

Interestingly, I always expect to get pushback on this answer, but I never have. It’s also very refreshing for me to see that others (leaders in the B2B marketing space) are starting to see, and say, the same thing (and not just in relation to social, but also across all marketing).

In this video, Jonathan Becher, CMO of SAP, speaks to this exact shift at last weeks’ SAPPHIRENOW – noting that marketing in 2011 is really about marketing to people. It may seem like a small semantic difference, but the mindset is very progressive. The video is worth a watch, and Jonathan speaks to this shift specifically at about 7:00 (apologies for the ad off the top!).

[disclosure: SAP is an active SMG client]

Osama Bin Laden, The White House and Social Media

I remember September 11th the way my parents’ generation remembers the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Except that we invariably ask each other the question, “Where were you when you first saw it on TV?” (for me it was through the window of a restaurant in Union Station, in downtown Toronto. I was on my way to a client meeting). 9/11 was so profound that my husband and I discussed whether it was responsible to bring children into such a world. In the end, we decided that hope in the face of horror was the best revenge EVAR, and our son was born the following September.

But I digress.

Watching this evenings’ handling of the announcement that Osama Bin Laden has been killed, I stand in awe of the White House and their masterful understanding of how news is now realtime, and the role that Twitter plays in the information cycle as “circulatory system”. Knowing that seeing the President announce that Public Enemy #1 is dead, and making that emotional connection, human to human, is of critical importance, the White House brilliantly managed information release around the announcement:

10:00 – watching CNN, we were informed that there was to be an important announcement regarding “national security” at 10:30 – Twitter immediately lit up with speculation
10:20 – the announcement is delayed, and strong speculation that it’s about Osama Bin Laden’s death starts to emerge
10:25 – Twitter is on fire, with a tweet from a CBS news Producer (with fewer than 4500 Twitter followers) confirming a leak that Bin Laden is dead retweeted over 1000 times
10:50 – The White House invites Facebook users to discuss the pending announcement (where the Presidential address is also scheduled to be broadcast)
10:53 – print media demonstrates where it can’t compete so well, with a journalist for a major national magazine noting that this announcement was going to “profoundly screw up” their Royal Wedding edition.
11:15 – Osama Bin Laden’s death confirmed by the White House
11:22 – We’re still waiting for the President to speak on TV

So what does this demonstrate? That the White House and their understanding of how the news cycle now works is absolutely masterful. Why announce on TV first and then let social chatter flutter and die in its wake? Use social to ramp up awareness and discussion – use it to get me to call my mom and ask her if she’s going to watch the Presidential address on CNN in order to maximize viewership against that all-important eye-to-eye moment – and then let us armchair quarterback the whole thing on the social channel of our choice for the rest of the evening.

Impressive. And excellent timing, Mr. President.

Update: as a further illustration of how central social media has become to how we communicate with one another, it appears that a man on the ground in Pakistan actually live-blogged (unknowingly) the operation that resulted in Osama Bin Laden’s death. His final tweet? “Osama Bin Laden killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan… there goes the neighborhood.”