RENEGADE THINKING from the CEO of Renegade, the social media & marketing agency that helps clients make more out of less by transforming communications into "Marketing as Service."

Q+A on Programmatic with MediaMath’s Rachel Meranus

11/2/14

Rachel_Meranus

Embracing change has never been an issue for me.  Hopefully, other marketers feel the same  because marketing is about to change in a fundamental way.  The dream of putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time is about to be realized on a massive scale.  This is the 1:1 marketing idea that Don Peppers & Martha Rogers wrote about 18 years ago finally coming true.  Why am I so confident?

First, ”addressable TV” is right around the corner and this means our set-top boxes will no longer be dumb terminals. Instead these devices will be smart, feeding our preferences back to broadcasters who in turn will aggregate and sell our “eyeballs” to the highest and most relevant bidder.  This is not just good for marketers.  It will also be good for consumers in that we would no longer see irrelevant ads–for me, that means no more ads for feminine hygiene or baby products when an ad for a paddle tennis racquet or a new off-Broadway show would actually be relevant.

Second, outdoor is about to become smart as digital displays receive information about us (with our permission of course!) via bluetooth or Wifi and therefore can serve relevant messages in a flash.  Third, retailers use of beacons will enable our mobile devices to receive personalized messages again on a permission basis in real-time inside or outside of their stores.  And finally, the ultimate reason you can trust this prediction is that this sort of highly targeted real-time messaging is already happening online and on our mobile devices!

Ultimately, behind all of this wizardry will be a marketing operating system like the one developed a few years ago by MediaMath, a leader in what is currently called “programmatic” marketing.  These operating systems will enable marketers to tie just about every penny of their ad spending to measurable outcomes, the ultimate dream of our soon to be transformed industry. So it is in this lofty context that I encourage you to read my extensive interview with Rachel Meranus, SVP of Marketing for MediaMath.

Drew: Can you talk a little bit about MediaMath and your growth in the last few years?
We’ve come a long way since we made industry headlines when we introduced the first demand-side platform (DSP) in 2007.  Today, we’re one of the leading change agents in the advertising industry, helping the biggest brands and agencies evolve through programmatic buying and maximize their marketing performance and ROI.  We are on the path of making marketing a software function and continuing to innovate in the industry by adding capabilities to our TerminalOne Marketing Operating System.  For example, we recently introduced closed-loop attribution functionality, in which T1 ingests attribution data to optimize the bidding and decisioning, enabling advertisers to realize the full benefits of advanced attribution in an RTB environment, and automated guaranteed deals to facilitate automated media buys that are traditionally done directly with a publisher.  We are currently developing our propriety cookieless cross-device targeting and measurement solution, and continually enhancing our data management, creative optimization, and analytics offering.

In addition to growing the scope of our technology, we are experiencing incredible human capital growth – more than doubling our number of employees in the past year and on track to do the same this year.  In June, we raised more than $175 million in additional funding; funding that will support our rapid global growth. We have put experts on the ground around the world with our recent office openings in Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, and Singapore, and in 2015, MediaMath will relocate its New York City headquarters to more than 100,000 square feet spanning three floors of the new 4 World Trade Center.

Drew: Can you give an example of a client that is doing amazing things with programmatic? 
Many of our clients – both agencies and brands – are seeing success with programmatic tactics, leveraging geo-targeting, look-alike modeling, and even building proprietary models to identify new prospects through TerminalOne.  One example of a client that is accelerating their programmatic efforts is ShopStyle by PopSugar, the social shopping and fashion website.  They were looking to leverage programmatic media to create scalable return on ad spend, with a focus on campaigns in both the middle and lower funnels.  Using our TerminalOne Marketing Operating System and working with our OPEN partner AddThis, ShopStyle was able to create more robust and scalable profiles based on user data and implement more granular targeting around behavior and contextual variables.  Additionally, utilizing FBX, ShopStyle by PopSugar was also able to expand its retargeting pool and tactics beyond traditional display.

Drew: The big media buying agencies are all over programmatic and have been for a while now.  This doesn’t seem to be case with most brands and their CMOs. Why the understanding gap and why do you think it is so important that CMOs understand the power of programmatic?
We see quite a range when it comes to a CMO’s understanding and level of sophistication with the technology.  Some jump right in and get their hands dirty. Others are treading lightly on unfamiliar territory.

Traditionally, agencies had more exposure to the ins and outs of digital media buying, but for many brands and their CMOs, they haven’t had this much control over or transparency into their digital media buying.  There is still a lot of confusion about how the technology works, but it’s critical for CMOs to understand the power of programmatic, especially when more marketing dollars are shifting to digital.

With a central marketing operating system, CMOs gain the visibility into how their money is being spent, the impact of their media buying decisions, and the ability to identify real-time opportunities with their audiences.  Furthermore, the more CMOs embrace programmatic – within their own brands or together with their agency partner – the greater opportunity they will have deploying first-party data, integrating with internal systems, and normalizing marketing across disparate media types for greater performance.

Drew: MediaMath has made a concerted effort to engage CMOs through your partnership with The CMO Club. Can you talk about your approach to this partnership?
The value of our partnership with The CMO Club is two-fold.  Firstly, we are able to learn, first-hand, from CMOs across a variety of industry verticals what is keeping them up at night.  We are able to be on the pulse of the major challenges that CMOs face, what they view as the biggest opportunities, and how they’re building out their organizations to keep up with the evolution of digital.

Secondly, the CMO Club gives us tremendous exposure to an engaged, interested audience of CMOs, allowing us to educate and inform them on programmatic marketing, which is where our expertise lies.  We’re helping them to understand how our technology applies to their broader goals and addressing the challenges that they face on a daily basis.

Drew: What’s the hardest part of trying to engage CMOs and what kinds of things are you doing to cut through?
When it comes to engaging CMOs, we look to explain why programmatic should be the basis of any digital marketing strategy and have the lion’s share of digital budgets.  This requires us to explain how the technology fits into their stack, the new or different skillsets that are needed, and the ideal team structure that should be put in place to fully take advantage of a central operating system.

However, there are steps that we’re taking to help educate CMOs about the opportunities, what they can do to maximize the return on investment in the short term – from their current digital efforts, as well as what they can put in place for the longer term.  We’re educating them through tailored content, which varies depending on their level of experience with and understanding of programmatic, case studies, and interactive training sessions.

Another way that we’re doing that is by working with brands’ agency partners who bring trading best practices, cutting-edge tools, pooled media buying, and data co-ops into the relationship.  Programmatic technology creates new roles for agencies in which they are able to leverage proprietary modeling and optimization approaches and data-driven creative services, among others.  This benefits the client outcome and that’s what has led to more CMOs having a greater interest in and understanding of programmatic.

Drew: As a B2B brand, what role does social media play in your marketing mix? 
Social media is an important part of our marketing mix, which we use to raise brand awareness, identify influencers, and engage brand advocates in a competitive space.  As a B2B brand, LinkedIn is particularly beneficial to engage influencers, seed our messages in specialized groups, and participate in timely and topical conversations.  Furthermore, as social channels expand their programmatic capabilities, we are able to leverage our partnerships with them.  For example, we use TerminalOne’s decisioning engine and data sources to power campaigns on Facebook and engage target tailored audiences on Twitter.  For these channels, we regularly leverage our original content – blog posts and research – and news to spark conversations that can generate new leads.

Drew: MediaMath recently unveiled new positioning. Talk me through what led you to make this change and some of the challenges you faced along the way.
The industry has been moving at such a quick pace, with new players emerging seemingly every day.  The industry has reached a level of sophistication in their understanding of technology and is recognizing that a complex chart of logos to represent today’s online advertising ecosystem isn’t the answer to their need for scalable marketing.  Rather, they are realizing that it’s achievable through technological unification and a flexible, open platform. Our new brand message, ‘Performance Reimagined. Marketing Reengineered,’ epitomizes both our goal-based approach to drive transformative marketing results, as well as the technology platform that powers it.

Drew: What advice would you offer a fellow marketer who was about to consider a rebranding campaign?
Evolution is inevitable, especially in the fast-changing world of digital marketing.  Therefore, when it comes to a rebranding campaign, there are a few essential steps to consider before diving in, including the need to:

  • Gauge market readiness for change and have a clear understanding of how your brand is perceived in market.  This requires research and due diligence with a brand’s key stakeholders – current employees, clients, prospects, and industry influencers, as well as having a pulse on the competition.
  • Have a clear, concise mission statement to which everything you do as part of the rebranding maps.
  • Know how this change will impact your company and prepare communication plans – internal and external – that also include a roadmap for what will happen post launch.
  •  Manage expectations.  Shifting perceptions and seeding a market with a new message takes time.
  • Agree upon the metrics by which you evaluate success on an ongoing basis and establish a feedback loop to capture reactions to the effort, including the accuracy of your mission statement.

Drew: Given that MediaMath operates in a relatively new field, do you think bringing greater awareness to the field itself is just as important as marketing MediaMath?
We do and it’s the reason why we are so bullish on our educational initiatives.  We introduced our educational arm, the New Marketing Institute (NMI), in 2012.  It’s an extension of our mission to educate, empower, and engage a new generation of digital marketing professionals, providing an educational platform and different levels of certification.  NMI’s team meets with these professionals where they are and brings our best-in-class onboarding process to them – best practices, access to a central repository of knowledge, and an understanding of the digital marketing technology in which their employers have invested.

We also recommend marketers visit our OPEN portal, which includes a Partner Marketplace, enabling them to gain clarity around the vast number of data, media and technology providers that comprise the ecosystem.  By understanding the value proposition and differentiators among partners, they are armed with the information and tools to make more informed buying decisions.

Drew: Your product is really good at helping brands track performance of their marketing dollars. How do you measure your own marketing success?
We measure our marketing success based on a number of factors, including leads generated, opportunities that can be mapped back to specific efforts, engagement with our original content (blog posts and research), how our messages resonate across social channels, and, of course, revenue.

Disclosure: I’m proud to note that Renegade created the “Train Your Brain” CMO engagement program for MediaMath. 

Why CPA is a Horrific Metric and Must Perish

05/20/14

Author’s note: a significantly shorter version of this post ran on MediaPost.com today, so read on…

CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) is a monster.  In slavish devotion, 41% of businesses consider CPA their top metric (according to recent DMA study) thus making ill-advised marketing decisions that further nourish the CPA beast.  Fiendish is an understatement when you consider the hypnotic power of CPA. After all, who wouldn’t, on first blush, want to determine how much it costs to acquire customers and then figure out how to minimize these costs?

Before providing proof to this thesis and suggesting an alternative metric, let me stop and pay homage to the monster’s creator.  Thanks a lot Google.  Before your arrival, businesses had a somewhat vague notion of what it cost to acquire a customer and even if they could make these calculations, it often took weeks or months.  Now the smallest of businesses can spend a dollar via Google and just about instantaneously know if that dollar resulted in a sale.

But herein lies the true villainy.  Because CPA is so easy to calculate, especially in the case of digital media spending, business leaders have become obsessed with this number and critical decisions are made in an effort to achieve the lowest possible CPA.  This seeming no-brainer for marketing then wreaks havoc across the organization as complaints, returns and churn rates rise while lifetime customer value averages drop.

CPA is Destroying Businesses
Lest you think I’m being melodramatic, let me provide two representative real world examples with the names changed to protect the innocent.  Company A is a tech company that when it first launched a decade ago had a game changing value proposition that helped them acquire several million customers who heaped praise on their service and served as willing brand evangelists.  But in the last 2-3 years, their competitive advantage slipped and the market stopped growing.

At weekly staff meetings, “new customers acquired” was the predominant metric determining not just the mood in the room but the actions for the subsequent week.  If one media type or promotional program was achieving a lower CPA than another, then dollars were shifted accordingly.  Meanwhile, the weekly lost customer count was completely ignored even if it exceeded the newly acquired figure that particular period.

So now we get closer to the real problem with a CPA obsession.  Company A drove down its CPA by running price promotions that attracted “switchers,” those savvy seekers of special deals who abandon ship once a better deal comes along.  These folks were also the first to complain, sucking up expensive customer service time, driving down sentiment on social channels and depressing employee morale.  This particular case does not have a happy ending so let’s move on to Company B.

Company B is a young digital services company that is growing leaps and bounds thanks to a ferocious sales culture.  Dialing for dollars, the sales team calls upon prospects, offering their services with one solitary goal—close the sale.  Management and marketing are all aligned behind this singular obsession, rewarding top sellers for their efforts and spending marketing dollars on lead generation that results in the highest close rate.  And though this goes well beyond CPA as a metric, the menace is parallel.

For Company B, the trouble emerged online as their reputation began to suffer.  Complaints about the ineffectiveness of their services bubbled up on organic Google searches as hundreds of newly acquired customers ranted on Yelp and other social channels.  Undaunted, Company B hired a reputation consultant hoping to drown out the negativity online rather than address the fundamental problem—as an organization, they were focused on the wrong metric (sales closed) leading to the acquisition of a consistent percentage of customers they couldn’t satisfy.

It’s Time for a New Metric: Cost Per Satisfied Customer
Here’s a fundamental truth: what you measure defines your organization.  Company A’s fanatical focus on short-term CPA meant ignoring churn, creating a customer service nightmare and diverting resources from new product development to fill the pipeline.  Company B’s dedication to acquiring any and all new customers as quickly as possible spawned a reputation problem that still dogs them to this day.

Having established the villainy of CPA, we can now turn our attention to a radically new yet simple metric solution: Cost per Satisfied Customer or CSPC (because an acronym is essential here!).  In this calculation, we seek to differentiate between all customers acquired and those that are actually satisfied with your product or service.  By isolating the characteristics of your happy customers and how you came to acquire them, you can then replicate this in future acquisition efforts.

Practically speaking, this is a bit more complicated than I make it sound but fortunately in the world of big data, not beyond the reach of most companies.  The key is the willingness to recognize the problem (not all customers are of equal value and some are even of negative value) and the solution requires more than changes in media buying and data monitoring, including an entire organizational shift from gaining customers to satisfying them on an epic scale.

For Company A, calculating Cost Per Satisfied Customer is not a stretch since their CRM system already tracks means of acquisition and length of service.  These two data points alone can root out the “switchers” who can then be further profiled against the rest of the customer base acquired in a similar timeframe, allowing for the isolation of problematic promotions and preferred prospect characteristics.  This data could deliver a rudimentary CPSC by dividing the marketing spend by the total of non-switchers acquired.

For Company B, getting to Cost Per Satisfied Customer is also doable.  First they would need to look at their customer satisfaction data and isolate both promoters and detractors.  Then they would need to model both groups looking for trends in terms of how they were acquired (lead source, sales person, pitch process) and business characteristics (size, ownership structure, vertical, location, years in business, etc.).  With this info in hand, it would then be possible to concentrate sales efforts on those types of prospects most likely to be satisfied and divide the costs of these efforts by the number of promoters acquired.

A slightly more sophisticated CPSC calculation requires the ability to bring together marketing spend (M), customer satisfaction data in the form of total satisfied customers (SC) and lifetime customer value (LTV). The formula looks like this:  M ÷ (SC x LTV) = CPSC.  And I have no doubt that data geeks out there could refine this more by factoring in the additional costs of servicing unhappy customers as well as a reputational quotient that blends in recruitment and retention savings when complaints decline.

Here’s the bottom line—Cost Per Acquisition is the wrong bottom line and leads to organizational problems that can indeed be disastrous.  All customers are not equal; some can help you grow and others might just put you out of business.  By focusing on Cost Per Satisfied Customer, you can shift marketing/promotional/sales efforts towards those programs that deliver customers you actually want today and for the long haul, thus extinguishing the CPA monster once and for all.

Social Media Innovation + GRAMMYs CMO, Evan Greene

04/21/14

evan greene

As CMO of the Grammys (officially titled National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences),  it would seem that Evan Greene doesn’t have to go out on a limb to create engaging content. Most fans are already engaged, eagerly awaiting the next photo or tweet about their favorite music artist. But he and his team maintain that the biggest contributor to their success is their dedication to listening to those fans and joining them in dialogue, which is not quite as easy as it sounds.

To dig into this more, I had the pleasure of moderating a breakout discussion with Evan at The CMO Club Inspiration &  Innovation Summit in New York City last month.  It was a lively conversation with about 40 other CMOs covering a wide range of social media challenges, many of which Evan and I addressed on the spot (and rather pithily I might add!).  Since I am not a great notetaker, I recorded Evan’s responses, which are transcribed below for your reading pleasure. Given the GRAMMYs extraordinary success overall (ratings were 2nd highest in 21 years) and on social (13.8 million tweets during the show generated 862 million impressions), you’ll want to read on…

Could you talk a little bit about your planning process?
Our campaigns need to engage people and if they don’t, then social media is not going to help and we usually abandon it. It’s really for us about having a very respectful, two-way dialog that we think is engaging on a daily basis. We don’t come from the standpoint that we’re the authority, that we’re the expert, that you should listen to what we say, that we want to tell you what to listen to, who to follow, how to dress, what to do. We simply want to be where music is happening. We want to be a credible voice in music.

And the thing that we’ve discovered, the sort of the universal truth that we’ve hit upon over the last couple of years, is that people generally are looking for two things. They’re looking for discovery and they’re looking for community. And if we can enable the idea of discovery and empower the concept of sharability, then we are, by default, going to be leading to a greater, more robust community.

Can you share some of the innovative things that you’ve done in the last couple of years?
Innovation really is simply how do you add more to the conversation to make it more interesting on a daily basis? So some of the things that we did this year were simple, but engaging. For example, we’ve now live gif-ed our nominations show and the Grammy awards telecast. So we’re now creating gifs in real-time.

We also expanded the size, the scale, and the scope of what we call our social media command center onsite at the Staples Center during the show where we have more bloggers from more diverse areas from more diverse music genres and we try to get more people to tell our story for us. Because it’s one thing if the GRAMMYs talk to you about it and tell you about it. It’s another thing if people that you know and like and respect and trust are telling you about it.

How does content marketing fit into this discussion?
For The GRAMMYs, it’s all about content. Granted, we’re a non-for-profit trade organization, so we don’t have the budgets that you probably think we do. But we’ve made a pretty sizable investment in our content infrastructure because we want and need to be creating a lot of content. For example, we want to be creating engaging, short, episodic video pieces that are easily digestible and easily shareable.

In a lot of ways we’re fortunate because music overlaps and enhances so many different areas. A good example is the intersection between music and sports. So six years ago, at the Beijing Olympics, the biggest story was what’s on Michael Phelps’ iPod as he’s going in to compete for 8 Gold medals.

So we thought, since there’s always been that overlap between music and sports, we created a content program called Champion’s Playlist where we talk to professional athletes and say, “What’s on your iPod? What do you listen to to train, to get motivated before the big game, before the championship?” And this starts to become a shareable experience where you can now overlay what your playlist is with your friends’, you can see how some of these famous athletes, how their playlists overlap with your own. This gives us the opportunity to create a leaderboard, et cetera.

So you’ve done all this stuff. How do you measure it and do you try to differentiate social metrics from your broader metrics?
The easy answer is what are your ratings and how much money are you generating. Well, I look at it another way.  I see all of that as a consequence of everything else that we’re doing right on the front end. If we spend a whole lot of time on the front end, being really true to and respectful of our brand, and really making sure that we do the work to fill the pipeline, and if we create that conversation, if we create that relationship with music fans everywhere, then we’re going to be rewarded by people watching the show, we’re going to be rewarded by 99 percent positive sentiment. We’re going to be rewarded by the fact that our marketing partners are more engaged and happier than they’ve ever been before. Our revenue is going to increase. I think if we focus on the revenue and we focus on the ratings as the objective, it skews the narrative and it skews the story.

It used to be how many Facebook friends you had, right? And then it was, what’s the sentiment? But now the questions are getting a lot more detailed and a lot more sophisticated. And so that’s why listening is changing all the time. That’s why you need people who have access to the full Twitter fire hose. You need people who are doing more than just sort of skimming the surface with Google analytics.

We spent a lot of time talking about listening as a customer service channel and I think everybody recognizes that as a doable thing in social. I’m curious if any of you are listening for customer acquisition opportunities and if you’ve been able to systematize that and talk about that.
It is about credibility, and gaining the trust of your customers. You need to be where your customers are, and not necessarily only your own Web-site, and seek to create evangelists. So if your business is photography sales, you go to a photography forum where people are talking about a new camera. So, from a social media standpoint, don’t try to sell people with a link to your website and a price. Rather than talk about this new camera, utilize the buzz that is already happening organically, and re-tweet or re-post other credible voices in your community. Trust and credibility are powerful tools toward acquisition.

Well, you also brought up an interesting point which is sort of empowering employees to be social voices for the company as opposed to trying to control the conversation centrally.  Can you explain the advantages of this decentralized approach?
The key is, I think there’s so many divergent conversations happening all the time about all our respective businesses and the key is how do you channel those conversations. How do you channel all those disparate conversations into a cohesive dialogue? And I don’t know that there’s one answer to do that but one of the things that we did is we created what we call our Social Media Bible which has all of our correct URLs. It has all of our proper hashtags, all of our handles.

We distribute that to all media, and all of our friends, fans, and followers. We distribute it to artists and managers, labels, anybody that can possibly be having a music conversation. Now whether or not they’ll follow it is another story. But when everybody’s got the same consistent inputs and the same data, the results are usually stronger than they would have been otherwise.

Do you have any ideas as to how one can track word-of-mouth marketing and be able to then put some type of ROI to it?
I think one of the biggest fallacies and one of the biggest misnomers about social media is that it’s free and easy. And I think right now, the next big step is figuring out how you can track word-of-mouth marketing and be able to put an ROI on it.

How do you measure measurement analytics? What’s the value of having a bunch of Facebook friends? Is it the aggregation of tonnage? Is it who’s passing it along? All of that is being parsed right now and I don’t think anybody’s got the answer but there are some companies that are getting a lot smarter about it.

How do you approach social media innovation?
We try a lot of different things and the down side of trying a lot of things is that you fail sometimes. But every once in a while, you get it really right. And if nothing else, we’re always learning. Sometimes we make the right move, sometimes we don’t but we’re always in there. And frankly, the deeper you are into social media, the more you hear about trends first. So you can sort of pivot down the river and play around over here and see if it works and if it does, great! If it doesn’t, you just come back to where you were.

The Non-Linear ROI of Social

07/19/13

I’ve spent a lot of time recently obsessing about the ROI of Social Media.  Not just because current and prospective clients want to see some kind of a return on the services Renegade provides (although that’s a damn good reason in and of itself) but also because it’s a fabulously complex Kobayashi Maru-like challenge.

Consider for a moment all the roles that social media can perform for a company including customer service, recruitment, research, product development, awareness building, crowd sourcing content, referral/lead generation, and yes, even direct sales in a few cases.  Now try to unbundle those roles and show straight line ROI for any of them with the exception of the last one.  Good luck to you.  (By the way, smarter minds that mine like Lux Narayan of Unmetric have concluded http://onforb.es/14mn0NX  it’s just not possible.)

Thinking that social media could be my route to the answer, I sent out this tweet:

Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 9.23.13 AM

 

 

Rob Moore, CEO of Internet Media Labs and a fellow IBM #SmarterCommerce VIP Influencer (which has become an invaluable micro-social network!) was kind enough to respond leading to the conversation below. Rob offered a terrific example of “Non-Linear ROI” which brought us both some comfort that all the social networking stuff we do actually does pay out!  If you have similar tales to share, let me know.

Drew Neisser: First, can you provide a short description of Internet Media Lab?
Rob Moore: Internet Media Labs is a NYC based new media & technology company.  We build technology to help businesses and brands build and manage social relationships more effectively.  We also run a cool co-working space and produce a web show, #InTheLab.

Drew Neisser: Talk to me about how you measure social ROI in terms of your own business?
Rob Moore: Social ROI for us takes many forms, and it is important for businesses to recognize that there are many forms of Social ROI that can be quantified and measured.  Of course, there is the obvious – we make a social connection that becomes a buyer of one of our products or services.  But there is also tangible ROI that comes in different forms: from connectors – people that introduce you to others that ultimately buy – and amplifiers, people that share our message about our products.

It has to be noted, however, that none of this happens without a significant investment in relationship building.  We have amazing social relationships and networks that will have significant impact on our bottom line for years to come.

Drew Neisser: ROI in your case seems like a very non-linear non-direct marketing process. Is that a fair assessment?
Rob Moore: Absolutely.  Up to this point, I would say that most of our ROI would qualify as originating from non-linear connections, i.e. someone that introduced you to someone else, that invited you to speak at a conference, that resulted in a business opportunity.  That is pretty non-linear!

One important thing to recognize as well is that many of those originating relationships happen as the result of seemingly “random” intersections – the serendipity of social.

Drew Neisser: So you met Linda Bernstein (@wordwhacker), who is clearly an influencer and she has been evangelizing on your behalf which lead to various leads which you will close at some point. That sounds like ROI to me. Do you think it’s possible to actually create a model that puts a value on your nurturing of people like Linda?
Rob Moore: First of all, I need to state for the record that it would be impossible for me to put a “value” on my relationship with Linda, she falls into the PRICELESS category!  But that said, you can absolutely model and attribute value to your social relationships, especially when you apply what I call “social forensics” to the analysis: mapping and identifying the true origin of that revenue you just booked.

When you are able to do that, every social relationship can be assigned a potential future value.

I want to be clear that I don’t look every person I meet on Twitter with dollar signs in my eyes.  Rather, I look every new social relationship as an opportunity for mutual discovery, networking and advocacy.  By being authentic and agenda free, trust is formed and friendships are created, the by-product of which is magic!!!

This works both ways for IML, by the way.  We have sponsored many an event, used services, or paid commissions to people and businesses that we have met through social media.  As a matter of fact, our social media ROI balance sheet is a little in the red right now – we need to do something about that!

Drew Neisser: Is this kind of networking / relationship building with influencers scalable?  If so, any thoughts on how?
Rob Moore: It is scalable, but it doesn’t happen without a plan and significant commitment. My friend Angela Maiers (@AngleaMaiers) coined the phrase “Tactical Serendipity”, which I love.  Tactical Serendipity means putting your self in position to take advantage of the random intersections that happen every second in social.  If you can identify where you best social relationships have come from, put yourself in a position to attract more of them – you can scale great relationships if you know where to find them.

Drew Neisser: Also, you’re a seasoned vet with a proven track record which makes it a lot easier for you to network with other influencers like Linda.  Could a junior person at your company have done this? Is this sort of networking something you can teach people?
Rob Moore: Yes I believe this type of networking can be taught to and mastered by almost anyone.  Surely my depth of business experience has been an advantage to me as I have engaged in social, but there was a massive learning curve for me as well.  I think that learning curve can be compressed, though, to accelerate success and positive outcomes.  For junior people, this can be achieved through coaching and mentoring, for senior people new to social it is often just a matter applying existing skills sets and knowledge to well defined social relationship building strategy.

FINAL NOTE: This is just my opening salvo on Social ROI.  Expect a lot more on this subject in the near future.  There are folks out there (like Syncapse) working of formulas to calculate Social ROI and I can’t wait to dig into those…

More Funny Business: Part 2 of Q+A w CollegeHumor’s CEO

06/12/13

paul_greenberg_largePaul Greenberg is CEO of CollegeHumor, a division of IAC that is growing faster than you can say Rodney Dangerfield. At this point, it is easy to believe that Greenberg’s mission for his organization, “To be the best and largest multimedia multi-platform comedy studio,” will be realized soon enough.  In the meantime, I thought you would appreciate more insights from Paul on making viral videos, budgeting, how marketers can work with CollegeHumor and lastly, how to lead a creative organization.

Drew: Is one type of video more likely to viral than another?
Often the ones that go really viral are new sketches. Because it is a new idea, it gets introduced, people latch onto it, they love it and they send it around.  And so for example, we did one that was called, Gay Men Will Marry Your Girlfriends. The thrust is, let gay men marry each other because if not, they’re going to marry your girlfriends and they are going to be much better husbands than you would ever be!

Another one that went really viral was called Look At This Instagram (see below).  And it wasn’t again in the Zeitgeist per se but it was a great take on how people use Instagram and it really kind of turned it on its head and parodied it beautifully and people just kind of I know I’ve seen those pictures a million times, I know what they are talking about, and so we really hit those.

Drew: Are series any different from a virality standpoint?
With series you are less apt to get into the Zeitgeist really quickly and so you build an audience over time.  So we’ll often see in a series episodes further down the chain do better than the original ones or we’ll see them catch up. People will discover Very Mary Kate on its 10th episode and go ‘oh wow, I didn’t know about this, and I am going to go back and re-watch all of them. We see binge-watching all the time, people just come in and they watch fifteen videos at a time, and a lot of times it is going back to start series when they’ve come in the middle.  Not that everything is serialized in terms of its plot, but it is just obviously thematically serialized and so we want to make sure that people love to go back and check it out.

Drew:  So how do you budget for production?
We work a monthly basis. So, I say to the team, ‘here is your pot for the month, some you are going to spend more on some and less on some and you know do what you got to do.’  And we work very closely as a team to make sure that if, for example, we are going to go for broke on a Batman video, we are going to do a couple of more Hardly Workings or batch-shoot those and try to do things cheaply. Overall, we’re very efficient in terms of costs.  We have figured out lots of ways to cut corners: we shoot in the office so we don’t have to pay location and we batch-shoot sometimes. It’s very efficient.

Drew:  Are your videos the primary driver of traffic and new users? 
To an extent, although sometimes the non-video content gets shared just as much as the video stuff.  For example, the article Eight New Punctuation Marks That You Need got over a million views because it just got shared everywhere. And now there is interest in a series of it. So it really depends, [non-video] content can really drive a lot of view as well.

Drew:  Do the video creative team also create the other stuff? 
No. We have a separate production team including separate writers who have to be very topically driven.

Drew; Okay, do we get to the point where there is a cable station called CollegeHumor?
No, I don’t think so.  I mean I feel like being the multiplatform studio that we are, we are as close to a new age cable channel as you can get.

Drew:  So tell me about Coffee Town, your upcoming movie—did you write this in-house?
We actually did finance it but we didn’t write the script. Our agent UTA found Brad Copeland who was the writer for Arrested Development.  Brad wrote his own movie script and was looking for somebody to help to allow him to produce it and direct it.  So we were the studio. Brad wrote it, directed it and we produced it.  We went out to LA and hired a film crew, a real legitimate movie crew, etc.  (see trailer here)

Drew: I would suspect you are hoping to rally your army of CollegeHumor fans to see the movie, right? 
Yeah, oh yeah.  We’ll definitely use the army without question. A big part of this is the fact that we can mobilize 20 million people immediately to say or to at least raise awareness if not to get them off their butts into the theatres. And if we put it on iTunes, we can say, hey click here and you’ll be able to watch CollegeHumor’s movie.

Drew:  What exactly is native advertising and what are you doing in this area?
Native advertising is when the advertising blends more with existing content and it becomes less distinguishable as an ad.  We’ve been doing that for five years whether we called it branded entertainment or branded content or branded advertising or native advertising, About a year ago, we reorganized an entire group around native advertising.  We hired two comedy writers just to write branded content and native advertising pieces and we also reorganized a production team so now we have a native advertising production team that just creates videos for advertisers. Out of those 50 videos we create in a month, maybe less than half are advertising video.  But it still feels like CollegeHumor content and people — advertisers [like KFC, AXE & Listerine] come to us because they are interested in our sensibility.

Drew Neisser:  What’s the best way for marketers to work with CollegeHumor? 
Great question. We need to understand what you are trying to do.  Are you trying to increase sales?  Are you trying to just increase your brand perception?  Are you trying to increase relevancy?  Are you trying to activate an audience to go do something? Is about getting more Facebook likes? What do you want as a brand?  And then we can help you come up with content that fits that goal.

Drew: How involved are you in the content decision making process?
Not that involved, at this point, certainly not day to day. We have a phenomenal team of very creative people who are very good at what they do.  I get involved at a high level making sure that we have a strategy and we are trying to follow it and everybody knows what that strategy.  I’ll get very involved if something is questionable from a legal perspective or a taste perspective. But on balance, and that’s how I try to manage my team – hire the best people you can, hopefully people who are smarter than you, and who are experts at what they do and you get obstacles out of their way and you let them do what they do.  And so I don’t see any need to micromanage the content team. Besides, I’m not that funny.

Drew: Have you gotten funnier since you joined?
Much. Much funnier–I’m hilarious.  Actually it is intimidating in a way because these guys are really funny. And they are so quick. We have our weekly staff meetings and even a lot of the executives are standups [comics], and they are just hilarious. I mean it is like somebody took all of the best class clowns and put them all together in one room, it’s hysterical.  It is a really fun place to work.

Drew Neisser:  Do you ever say to yourself, ‘I can believe I have this job?’
Yeah.  Yeah, it’s awesome. I love creating content and creating products that affect people’s lives in a positive way.  That’s one of the things that’s always driven me from a business perspective.

Drew: How about a few secrets to your success?
One is, never stop working ever; just be as aggressive as possible and want to win and do your work your absolute hardest because there is always somebody who is going to work harder than you are and ideas are wonderful but they are a dime-a-dozen.  Everything comes down to execution and doing it right and doing it well.

Drew: Do you have any advice for new or aspiring CEOs?
The advice somebody once gave me for managing is, only do what only you can do and spend your time doing that.  To that end, I wrote an article on this recently that identified five things that CEOs should spend their time doing:

    1. Set the strategy for what the company needs to be and what we are trying to accomplish and what’s our mission and where are we going.  And that’s not done in a vacuum per se, that’s done with the team but ultimately the leader has to be the one who puts his or her stamp on it and say this is the direction we are going to go.
    2. Then it’s making sure that the strategy is communicated very well and that everybody knows what’s going on and that there’s absolutely no misunderstanding. And making sure that everybody is coordinated so that ad sales and editorial and marketing and PR all know what each of the other ones is doing, to help support that overall strategy.
    3. Then its hiring and firing.  Personnel.  Putting the right people in place, and making sure that they are — smarter than you, they’re experts in their field and they are great.
    4. Then it is getting obstacles out of their way and letting them do their jobs and not micromanaging them but making sure that if there is something wrong, that you are there to help them.
    5. The fifth thing is making sure there’s enough capital to run the business and making sure there is a business plan that can be executed.

Drew: You’ve been on both sides of the creative development process including being a voice over talent and a radio announcer. Do you think that has helped you as a leader of a creative-driven company?
Yes. If there is somebody who is never been a creative before and never been on the talent side, you’re going to make decisions purely based on the bottom-line and probably potentially the wrong ones.

Note: this is the 2nd part of my interview with Paul. Click here to see the first part. 

Q&A: John C. Havens, Speaker Extraordinaire

10/31/11

John C. Havens is EVP, Strategy and Engagement at Yoxi.tv , an organization that discovers and elevates social entrepreneurs by leveraging their expertise for global business opportunities.  I had the pleasure of seeing John speak at the recent BDI All Stars conference and caught up with him afterwards. Speaking 30-40 times a year, John is a real pro and has lots of great advice for those of you trying to connect with device-connected audiences.

DN: Is it harder to engage an audience than it was 5 years ago before WiFI connectivity was a conference mandatory?
Yes, because we’re all trained like Pavlov’s pups to check our devices every 14 seconds.  In that regard, there are less people standing up and walking out of presentations because they have to take a call versus email or text. But it’s critical not to let that digital zeitgeist not get in the way of my cardinal rule of presenting – make every talk a gift to your audience.  Meaning, prepare the snot out of your deck and rehearse like crazy and do your best to know the audience you’ll be speaking to.  If you do all that and imbue your talk with passion and try to connect to your audience (by looking them in the eyes, etc) you should earn the right for them to put their devices down.  Point – you’re the storyteller, so make it enchanting enough that you distract them from distraction.

DN: At BDI, at least 3/4 of the audience seemed to have a laptop or iPad open while you were speaking.  Do you find yourself wanting to say, hey turn those devices off and pay attention?
No way. Odds are, at least half of them are tweeting about my presentation and they’re helping market me in real-time! Besides, akin to my earlier answer, it’s not up to me to dictate how someone pays attention.  Before digital devices, a lot of people would take notes on a pad.  That’s how they learn.  If people retain more about a talk because they tweet, who am I to judge?

DN: Would it be worth trying to get the audience to shut down their devices momentarily while you speak?  You’d have their undivided attention but not the extended reach of their social networks.  Which should be more important to a speaker today?
If I tried to get people to shut down their devices, I might get their undivided attention, but it would be mixed with their ire at being told how they should watch my presentation.  I was an actor for years, and it’s essential to know when working with an audience who and when to try to get people to participate.  For instance, when I played a scary character in children’s theatre, I’d always direct my lines to the oldest boys in the audience – they loved the attention but I wouldn’t actually frighten them.

In terms of which is more important, an audience shutting down or getting the reach of their networks, the hope is people actually register what you’re talking about besides waiting for the pithy phrase that will make a good tweet.  But for me when I speak, the most important thing is blow them away with my presentation – that’s the only thing I have control over. The rest is up to the audience.

DN: Knowing that your audience is on Twitter while you speak, are you thinking while you write your speech—gee that line will make a great tweet?
Sure.  Or at least, “this is a good sound bite.”  Puns, sound bites, short and pithy phrases are all ways to aid in retention. Humor is also great – I’ve read cognitive studies saying that if people laugh at something you’ve really connected with them and there’s a 50% higher probability they’ll remember what you said than without humor.

Another cardinal rule of mine – never make it difficult for people to remember or share what you say.  My old acting agent used to tell me when I came back from auditions they’d call the casting directors to get feedback on how I did.  If they said, “John came in here and blew me away” or “John’s choice was way over the top but he was really passionate,” may agent was happy.  If my agent called and said, “how did John do?” and the answer came back, “John who?” that’s when I was in trouble.

DN: Are social media conferences harder to engage than say a group of accountants who aren’t necessarily trying to be the first to share what they just heard?
Every audience is different.  A hard core Social Media audience like SXSW where I spoke last year is definitely device and dialogue (to their social graphs) focused.  But a lot of times they’re the most responsive because they’re already drinking the digital kool-aid. Accountants or folks not as versed in Social Media oftentimes have a vibe/energy of, “prove to me Social Media has an ROI” before you even start talking. So my focus there is usually to not focus on the tools of the trade but the overall value proposition of connecting with relevant to your audience, wherever they get their content.

DN: You mentioned you were an actor in a former life.  This sort of gives you a competitive advantage on stage, don’t you think?
Sure.  I studied the craft of acting which includes working on your voice, dancing/movement, and projection.  But mostly good acting is about connecting with truth to the person you’re on stage with in the moment.  Meaning, you can’t be thinking, “this line will make the audience laugh” when you’re on stage or you’re dead.  You can try to make a joke, but every audience is different.  Your job onstage is to deliver your message or story in a way that best connects to the people sitting in front of you RIGHT NOW.  If they don’t seem to be getting your message, use techniques like saying, “Does that make sense?” after you make a point.  Or say things like, “anyone else heard of SIRI?” and raise your hand, indicating for them to raise their hand.  People don’t mind audience participation if you genuinely seek their response and aren’t a tool.  What you should NEVER do is single someone out and alienate them, ala standup comedian mode.  Or, if you’re going to try and do that, prove that you’re making them part of the act versus the butt of a joke – say something like, “Hi, what’s your name?

DN: Do you get any feedback from these events and if so, why kind of adjustments have you made based on this feedback?
I don’t get as much specific, actionable critique as I’d like.  My old acting teacher was great at this stuff and I recommend this practice technique for any speaker – record yourself rehearsing your presentation.  Odds are you’ll see that you flap your hand with nervous tension, or scratch your head every 30 seconds.  You have to identify these nervous tics so you can get rid of them and focus all of your energy on speaking in the moment.

I have gotten some good advice on talking about technology.  Years ago, someone told me they liked what I said but didn’t get the context of my presentation.  I delved right into talking about specific social media tools without providing a backdrop for what an audience learned.

So in that sense I try to always do the following:

  • Research who I’m speaking to (marketers, digital savvy or no, what level of the organization, where are they geographically based).
  • Make sure I review the expectations of my talk (what’s been advertised) before I being working on my presentation.
  • Find a bookend for the STORY of my talk. Don’t just list facts – what is the POINT you’re trying to make?
  • Remind people throughout my talk what I’m talking about.  I’m a big believer in the old adage about what makes a good presentation: Here’s what I’m going to talk about, here’s what I’m talking about, here’s what I just talked about.  Less points made well makes for a more memorable presentation than a zillion factoids.

My last bit of advice – change the world with your talk.  Why get up and talk in front of a group if you’re not wildly passionate about your subject matter?  Pretend you’re at a bar talking to friends, or with your family telling stories around the campfire.  This is not about being hokey – it’s an acting technique you need to hone or don’t get up on stage.  If you aren’t completely excited to tell everyone your message, why should your audience be excited to listen?

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