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 with Trish Nettleship, AT&T Business Marketing

08/15/11

I had a chance to catch up with Trish Nettleship, the Social Media Lead at AT&T Business Marketing prior to her presentation at the upcoming B2B Corporate Social Media Summit in Philadelphia.  Trish discusses their newest social media program and the internal training required to make it happen.  

DN: Tell me about the social media program(s) you’ll be presenting at the conference.
We launched a B2B focused blog, the first for AT&T, earlier this year called Networking Exchange Blog. The idea was to bring forth our wealth of expertise, our people, directly to businesses in the industries we serve. We have some of the brightest minds at AT&T, so providing a platform for them to share their thoughts and perspectives on technologies directly to businesses seemed like a great approach to showcasing our thought leadership. We quickly learned that our subject matter experts knew their technologies well, but weren’t as experienced in the ways of social media. We created the Networking Leaders Academy to create an active corps of expert ambassadors who create social proof and digital “trust” in AT&T, it’s people and their points of view on technology. The Academy provides the experts with the incentives, tools, training and support to enable the open and ongoing dialogue with businesses, large and small across the social atmosphere.

DN: What were your goals for this program?
Our initial goal for the blog is about building awareness and credibility in technology spaces not typically associated with AT&T. (i.e. Cloud and Security.)  The goal of the Networking Leaders Academy is to build on the foundation of the blog and empower our experts to do more than just create blog posts, but truly engage with businesses whether it be on blog or in external communities, social networks, blogs or forums.

DN: And how did the program(s) achieve these goals?
We have seen growth in overall awareness of the brand across these technologies. We’ve also seen our experts own credibility and awareness increase through their personal networks, guest blog requests and speaking engagement requests.

DN: Do you see any major differences between B2B and B2C approaches to social media?
The buying life cycle for B2B is typically longer and more engaged. The social media strategy in the B2B space has to take this into consideration. We focus a lot of our efforts on engaging with businesses early in the buying lifecycle. So providing content that is more research oriented in nature is key. If the business doesn’t engaged with us early in the buying lifecycle we may never get a chance to be placed in the consideration set of vendors. Timing, relevant content and the right platform are key to success in the B2B environment.

DN: Has social media become a significant part of your marketing mix?
Yes, our customers want to engage with us on their terms and not be forced into an experience solely created by us. So whether they are on social networks or blogs, or any other digital environment, there is an appreciation of that AT&T is coming to them.

DN: Is there a risk that social media could trivialize your product/service in the eyes of your B2B customers?
No, it’s an evolution of how we engage with our customers or prospects. As more and more businesses are becoming more comfortable in social media, it is expected that we will be there to engage with them.

Webtrends CMO Weighs in on Social Media

05/4/11

After The CMO Club Summit, I caught up with Hope Frank, Chief Marketing Officer of WebTrends to get her take on social media.  As “the global leader in mobile and social analytics,” Hope’s company not only uses social media to market themselves but also  monitors social as a revenue stream making her uniquely qualified to weigh in on this hot topic.

DN: What are Webtrends primary objectives for social media?
We use social media to distribute and facilitate conversations pertaining to WT digital marketing thought leadership, primary research and analysis of buzz and trends online.We also use social media to extend the reach and impact of traditional marketing efforts to grow awareness among key influencers and prospects.

DN: Do you use social media for customer service?
Yes. For monitoring and problem solving as well as for gathering consumer insights.

DN: How important is social media in your overall marketing mix for Webtrends?
It is essential and deeply integrated. Growing our communities, developing and curating compelling content,  experimenting and innovating on social media platforms is part of every effort we execute.

DN: Since the tracking of social media is part of Webtrends’ product/service offering, how important is it that Webtrends be on the forefront of social media practitioners?
Our Digital Marketing team is empowered to lead by example, to solve big marketing challenges, to iterate and to loudly share our stories. We have direct access to the world’s best global tools and experts, it is amazing! We are fortunate indeed to be in this position.

DN: What has worked for you in social and what hasn’t?
We see the largest impact of social media when we execute integrated ideas that launch with compelling content/experiences then leverage our media engine,  then mix social to amplify the message and increase the value. We have also seen great success running self-contained programs in Facebook where we purchase ads that drive to FB apps. We’ve been able to then take FB campaign learnings and apply them to broad based marketing efforts.

It’s cliché, we all know using social media as another “channel” to push out messaging and brand/product news fails. In the early days when we could only support pushing basic messages out and not integrating or engaging deeper, we experienced limited success.

DN: As evidence of WebTrends ability to monitor social media and turn this into social currency (in this case, PR), Hope provided the following links to all the ”brand elevation and buzz analysis” Webtrends achieved during the #RoyalWedding.  The Mashable infographic is quite cool.

 

Social Media Isn’t Easy (Part 2)

04/21/11

When Oscar Wilde observed, “experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes,” he was clearly anticipating the age of social media.  Mistakes abound, some minor, others calamitous but all offering guidance for those who choose to learn from them.  Here are five more mistakes that I’ve observed, each provided with suggestions on how to fix or better yet avoid altogether.

#6 Ignore social media

One in three big brands, across a wide range of sectors have yet to commit significant time and resources to social media. Highly regulated industries like financial services and pharma are particularly cautious given the lack of clarity offered by regulatory bodies like FINRA and the SEC. Other laggards are taking the ostrich approach, hoping that social media will just walk on by and leave them in peace.

Ignoring social media for whatever reason simply won’t cut it. Doing so means the conversation is happening without you, eliminating your opportunity to respond to the negative, reinforce the positive and or close the door to a competitor who is more socially adept. If you are afraid your customers will say bad things, you’re probably right but rather than turning a blind eye, engage your detractors with honesty and fix the problems.

Ignoring social media also means you’ll have no means of fighting a social media fire if one erupts. Domino’s Pizza found this out the hard way when two young jokers thought it would be funny to make a video of themselves putting cheese up their noses and then onto a customer’s pizza. With no social media channels in place, Domino’s HQ floundered and sales dropped nationally. Meanwhile, Ramon DeLeon, the GM of six Domino’s in Chicago, used his long-developed social channels to put out the fire in his area, rallying his fans and growing his sales.

#7 Limit employee access at work

A lot of companies restrict employee access at work to sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, afraid that productivity will drop. As such, there is a limited understanding of the channels themselves as well as the business opportunities that they can create. So instead of having thousands of eyes and ears to watch, listen and learn, the knowledge remains concentrated and the opportunities limited.

The simple truth is that companies that want to make the most of social media need to have a lot of social people across just about every department. The benefits of this open approach are far reaching, allowing the organization as a whole to cast a broader net to catch fresh ideas, important trends, hidden prospects and even future employees.

One company that has benefited from this open approach is the behemoth IBM. Realizing a few years ago that their clients hire IBM because of IBMers, they made an all-out push to become a social business. Presently, IBM has over 30,000 employees on Twitter, over 200,000 on Facebook, over 200,000 on LinkedIn and over 35,000 bloggers. Add these to internal networks and a 75,000 strong network of ex-IBMers and you’ve got a massive community that creates and shares content with unrivaled speed and agility.

#8 Selling too hard

For most brands, social media is not the ideal place for the hard sell yet that hasn’t stopped many from trying. I heard a marketing director of a hospital call Twitter “a dumping ground” and a seasoned direct marketer describe social as “email on steroids.” Typically the result of trying to sell too hard too fast via social channels is nothing — no engagement, no interaction, no referrals, etc.

No one likes a blowhard and there is no quicker way to be unfollowed, unliked or just plain ignored than by tooting your own horn with relentless monotony. On the other hand, if you take your mother’s advice by “yacking less and listening more,” you’ll have lots more friends, friends who will be very interested in learning more about you when the time is right.

Keep in mind that 50% of the people who “like” or “follow” a brand, do so because they hope to get beneficial information or offers. Curate your content carefully, a bit like you might on a first or second date. Once the friendship is secure, feel free to put forth relevant offers. Skittles, in particular, has benefited immensely from an entirely soft sell approach, amassing over 15 million fans on Facebook in the process.

#9 Multiple voices

Perhaps because it is so easy to create content, some marketers feel it is okay to present completely different brand voices even on the same channel. A smarter approach is to establish your brand point-of-view upfront and to employ the various channels like instruments in an orchestra, creating a harmonious and synergistic effect. Defining what you are for and what you are against, will not only give you direction for execution but also it will give you permission to engage with your consumer on your subjects of mutual interest.

Among the best examples of this approach comes from an unlikely category — feminine hygiene. Targeting young women 14-24, Kimberly Clark launched a new line of tampons called U by Kotex. Going against the usual euphemistic approach, U by Kotex established a clear POV with a “bold honest attitude towards all things period and to call BS on everyone who doesn’t.” This POV permeated advertising and social media, helping the brand grab 20% market share and remarkably appreciative fan base. (FYI, the U by Kotex presentation was among the best at the BDI’s The Social Consumer Conference last month).

#10 Misalignment of platforms and goals

With so many different social media platforms to consider there is the natural temptation to try a bunch of them. This temptation is further reinforced by the seeming absence of costs to use these platforms and the presumed “cool factor” a brand may think their getting by using them. The simple truth is that not all of these platforms are right for every brand especially when you consider a particular brand’s objectives.

Dell has been particularly adept at aligning the platforms with specific business goals. Dell’s IdeaStorm.com gathers customer feedback and crowd-sources new product ideas. Recognizing various uses for Twitter, Dell has a variety of accounts including @DellOutlet for deals on refurbished computers and @DellCares for customer support. Dell’s Investor Relations team was among the first to use SlideShare.com, a presentation-sharing site, to present quarterly earnings. And their 24/7 “Social Media Command Center” ensures that customer complaints are heard and addressed regardless of the channel.

Final note: Acknowledging the wisdom of James Joyce when he said, “A man’s errors are his portals of discovery,” I do hope you’ll make a few mistakes of your own and share your discoveries with us all.  (This article first appeared on MediaPost.com).

 


Dear Social Media Santa, Here’s My Wish List

12/10/10

Wrapping up 2010 with relief, if not joy, good little marketers are looking at the year ahead with both optimism and trepidation. Even the marketers that triumphed this year know Santa’s lump of coal awaits those who misjudge the rapidly evolving communications landscape as an aberration instead of a permanent shift in power from brand to consumer. To ensure good tidings in 2011, here is a social media shopping list worth checking once — if not twice — to slay your competition.

1. Social Media Strategy

Although more than half of all large companies have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, fewer than 25% have a clearly defined social strategy. Tactical experimentation pleased some, but left many CEOs wondering whether social media like the mythical Rudolph could really drive results. Since yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a social strategy complete with CEO-pleasing metrics, put this on top of your shopping list — finding the expertise internally and externally to make it happen.

2. Dedicated Social Chair

In 2010, social media was treated by many marketers as a part-time affair, assigned to the junior staffers who just happened to have the most friends on Facebook. Unable to dedicate the time required, they also lacked the experience to put social media into the context of broader customer engagement, thus relegating social to a sexy but modest marketing experiment. Fixing this means assigning at least one dedicated professional who can champion social strategy internally, while coordinating execution across all the departments it can and should touch.

3. A Metric System

Given all the roles social media can play, from customer service to product development and WOM to lead gen, putting precise metrics in place is challenging even for those with well-defined strategies. That said, new tools are emerging that should make measuring results easier and well within the budgets of even the most cash-strapped operations. Startup ArgyleSocial, for example, links social media activity with “real business value,” for under $300/month.

4. An Aggregation Plan

One of the unexpected yet joyous benefits of a strong social program is its potential to significantly improve organic search results. But in order to turn social content into the gift that keeps on giving, brands need to aggregate and archive the content on their own Web sites. HubSpot, a software-as-a-service (Saas) platform, makes this process relatively easy for small business. Larger companies will seek out more robust solutions, including a surprisingly strong social offering from IBM.

5. Customer Feedback Loop

While listening to the customer has long been an important business credo, it is only lately that marketers are turning to online tools like Get Satisfaction that truly enable and track instantaneous feedback. In 2011, offering customers the ability to engage with fellow customers right on the company website will become more the rule than the exception, especially as companies come to realize that a few negative comments increase credibility and ultimately increase online sales. These conversations also enhance search results by creating tag-able content.

6. Social Business Enlightenment

In the brave new world of social business enlightenment, all businesses are social and all social is business. Even large companies will want to present all their employees, not just those in customer service and marketing, with unfettered, yet guided, access to social media tools. These employees will begin to see what the fuss is all about, quickly realizing that social isn’t just something their kids do but rather a way that generates leads, captures sales, services customers, and advocates new product development well beyond this holiday season.

If you’d like to add to this social media shopping list, just send me an email, preferably not addressed to the North Pole.

The State of Guerrilla Marketing

11/22/10

The following is a Q&A with yours truly on the current state of affairs in guerrilla marketing.

Q: How has guerrilla marketing evolved?

Guerrilla thinking has evolved tremendously in the last 24 months. Press seeking guerrillas have shifted away from street theater to something with online legs. Part of this is fishing where the fish are. Part of this is that if you can gain Likes or YouTube channel subscriptions, your initial contact can turn into a more lasting relationship. Part of this is the press itself—the press is more likely to wax on about a social program than a purely street program at this moment in time.

Q: What’s up with street stunts?

Frankly, I’ve never been a fan or promoter of the street stunt approach. They are typically a brief encounter with little residual value. The challenge with guerrilla has always been to provide a reasonable exchange of value between brand and consumer. In exchange for a consumer’s time, the brand must provide some value, either genuine utility or at least a good laugh. The reason the HSBC BankCab is still on the road after seven years is that the value exchange is extraordinary. First, people love to see an old Checker driving around the streets. Second, when they get in the BankCab, it is a refreshing experience complete with a truly knowledgeable cabbie. Third, HSBC customers get a free ride when engenders brand love. We recently renovated the HSBC BankCab, enabling it to run on compressed natural gas, thus making it a more “green” experience. As street programs go, this is about as good as it gets.

Q: What’s cool right now?

The most exciting area of guerrilla right now, is the social to offline movement. Skittles “Mob the Rainbow” program is one great example of this. Skittles solicits ideas from its 10 million strong Facebook fan base, which sometimes lead to hilarious offline executions. For example, fans suggested sending Valentines to a particular postal worker. Skittles did just that and produced a funny viral video which brought the program full circle. JetBlue is using its strong Twitter following in a similar fashion. Earlier this year, @JetBlue tweeted they were on a particular street corner in Manhattan giving away tickets. In a matter of minutes, 300 eager travelers showed up and of course, JetBlue got some nice ink for this as well. In this way, social media has replaced email as the ignition switch for flash mobs.

Q: How does social fit into a guerrillas plans?

Any marketer considering a physical guerrilla interaction would be crazy not to also bake in a social component. The social component should give the program legs, extending the offline interaction online. It also provides a home for videos and or photos taken of the physical interaction thus sharing these experiences with a larger audience. The social component also helps amortize the cost of the potentially expensive offline component. Finally, the social component provides an opportunity for feedback something that is not always easy to get in the physical arena.

Q: Is the physical street experience dead?

Since marketing success has often been about zigging when others zag, a few enlightened marketers will renew their emphasis on the physical experience and the true engagement opportunity it represents. Touching someone deeply often requires a physical touch. Online dating sites do the matchmaking but typically the fire doesn’t flame until the couple actually meets.

Q: What roles are left for guerrilla marketing?

Guerrilla thinking has never been dependent on one particular type of interaction. It has always been about making more out of less, breaking the ice in order to build meaningful and hopefully lasting relationships. Social marketing has proven its ability to maintain and nurture relationships but the jury is still out on its ability to generate trial from new customers.

Q: How has Renegade evolved from a guerrilla standpoint?

I see social marketing as an evolution of our long-time guerrilla practice. The goals haven’t changed but the tactics  we use continue to grow and evolve. Five years ago, three out of four incoming calls would be from clients seeking guerrilla ideas. Now those same clients are requesting social marketing ideas. The impetuous for the calls is the same—help us engage customers cost-effectively.

["Delivery.com Street Stunt in October"][]

What Every Entrepreneur Can Learn from HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan

10/26/10

Here are some of the highlights of my interview with Brian Halligan, CEO and co-founder of HubSpot, one of fastest growing small businesses in the US.

Identify an unmet need

“I was a venture capitalist before I was doing HubSpot, and I was trying to get the portfolio companies to use modern marketing to create blogs to pull people in through the search engines, social media sites, and the blogosphere, and I had a hell of a time making that shift. I had to hire a ton of consultants and a ton of IT people and buy 6 different software packages, and it was very hard to pull off. So that was the gap I basically saw in the market and thought, ‘How do we pull all this stuff together into one simple package and then transfer as much knowledge we can from our heads to their heads and get them to shift the way they market?””

Eat your own dog food

“We are the number one user of our own product. I personally use it every day. A key part of our growth is that we are able to use the product. We feel the bugs at just the same time as our customers feel the bugs, so we fix them as quickly as we can. We know what we want in a software. We’re on the cutting edge of all this stuff. Like Dan Zarrella, for example, is one of our employees. He’s a real cutting edge kind of guy. He’s more leading edge than most, so we try to learn as much as we can from him and build it into the software so that mere mortals can use it, not just Dan Zarrella.”

Replace messaging with valuable content

“The basic idea behind inbound marketing, this marketing transformation I’m talking about, is you want to create remarkable content that becomes a magnet to pull people in. So we create tons and tons of blog articles and the blog articles I wrote 4 years ago still are like magnets, pulling people in through Google. We write eBooks. We create a weekly TV show, HubSpot TV. And we build these Graders, which are basically little tiny pieces of our product that we break off and we offer for free for people to run their site through, and they get a diagnostic on it and they get a score, and based on that score – it’s 1 to 100 – if they get a crappy score, they say, “Well who are these HubSpot guys?” and they end up in our funnel and we show them a demo, take them through a trial and they end up buying the software. So it’s very much part of our philosophy of ‘How do you free up as much knowledge and content as you possibly can and use that knowledge to pull people into your business and try to convert them into customers?’”

Build a community

“There is definitely a big community forming and we do a couple of things to foster it. We have Inbound Marketing University where you can come and there are 15 online lectures you attend – and there’s a test at the end. If you pass the test, you get a badge and you get Inbound Marketing Certified, and those have been showing up on a lot of people’s LinkedIn profiles and resonate these days– our customers are dying to hire them. The second thing is there is an Inbound Marketing LinkedIn group that is very, very active. I don’t know how many people are in there. I haven’t looked recently, but it’s quite an active group in there that’s cranking away. There is a HubSpot partner group. There are a bunch of splinter inbound marketing communities that keep popping up, and we’re just trying to do our best to keep up with them and help them and foster them, and it’s been a big part of our success.”

Inspire a compelling culture

“Culture turns out to play a huge role. When my co-founder and I started the company…in the first two years of the company we didn’t mention the word culture. It wasn’t something on top of our minds. And then about two years in, we did a survey of our employees – the Net Promoters survey. We asked them two questions. Question number 1 was “How likely are you to refer HubSpot to another friend of yours to join us?” on a scale of 0 to 10. Then the second question was “why?” When we got responses from the ‘why,’ we probably had 60 or 70 employees at this point. The two big reasons people like or loved working at HubSpot was 1 – the culture. The culture? We didn’t know we had a culture. And number 2 was that they loved their fellow employees. So at that point we were like ‘OK, it seems like we got something here.’ Why don’t we try to institutionalize the culture and make sure that that doesn’t break. So we hired one of our old professors from MIT to do a project with us to clarify the culture and clarify the mission. Then we tried to institutionalize it in the company. When we do the annual reviews of our employees, the culture is part of that review. There are 7 points in our culture and we grade them. It has become a great part of who we are. I wrote an article about our culture that has been very popular on the Internet. It is called Start up Culture Lessons from Mad Men.”

Don’t try to do it all yourself

“[If you’re starting a business, the] first thing I would find is a great co-founder. It is lonely at the top. Don’t find just any co-founder. A mistake that so many entrepreneurs make is that they find co-founders just like themselves. When you look at the special stars of the early successful teams, like Jobs and Wozniak, there are usually two people with someone who can actually build something and someone who can actually sell something. So my advice would be to find a great co-founder who would compliment you and, very early on, figure out the equity split and figure out the roles, because so many companies die because of a founder conflict.”

Be open-minded about your idea

“Another piece of advice I would give to a founder is to be very open-minded about your idea.  There is a great book called Founders at Work, written by a journalist on the west coast [Jessica Livingston]. She interviewed about 100 entrepreneurs that were successful and I would say that 90% of the entrepreneurs started out with plan A and ended up making money on plan B or C. It took them a while to meander to the idea, so don’t get too stuck on your original idea. Be very flexible and take a while to meander your way to the right idea. The third piece of advice is not to raise venture capital too early. Make sure, if you are going to do venture capital, that your incentives are in line with the VC and that you really want to swing for the fences. Once you are backed by venture capital you are committed down this path. One you become venture backed, you are committed to trying to hit a home run, and you can’t go back to being conservative.”

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