I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Rice this week. He had some great insights that you will find interesting, educational, and rather exciting for social media marketing’s future. Brian is the senior manager of the global social media marketing team at SAP, and he also runs a successful blog called Business 2 Community. The blog is ranked in the top 100 business blogs by Technorati and top 150 blogs by Ad Age. I hope that you find his insights as valuable as I did.
1. How have you seen social media evolve over the past year?
I think one of the major themes that I am seeing is that social media is no longer being considered a fad and more companies are beginning to embrace it rather than fear it. Smart and innovative companies are spending more time listening to and engaging with their audience and as a result more creative marketing campaigns are being created.
2. What are the biggest challenges of managing social media on a global scale?
In my opinion the main challenges remain the same whether you are a large enterprise or a mom and pop shop – they just are on different scales. Most companies are struggling with finding the resources (budget, time, people, etc) necessary to fully engage in social media and at the forefront of this is the development of training programs and company policies around social media. From a large enterprise perspective these challenges can be managed by using a hub and spoke model that allows best practices to be developed and then distributed among other teams in a shared learning approach.
3. How have you seen businesses adapt to the real time digital environment?
Initially some businesses jumped right into social media and began participating and pushing out marketing messages without a clear objective in mind. In this scenario businesses were more reactive than proactive in their approach to interacting with their fans/followers and they limited their potential for success. Now, more businesses are monitoring using either free or paid tools to understand what conversations are taking place, who is leading those discussion and where the discussions are occurring. This has allowed businesses to develop stronger social media strategies and build better communities.
4. What is the biggest hurdle to convincing management about social media ROI?
ROI for social media is one of the hottest topics discussed both on blogs and during tradeshows/events. I think the companies that are struggling to calculate the ROI on their social media campaigns are doing so because they don’t have clear objectives. There have been numerous studies on the B2C side that have shown the value of a Facebook fan or a Twitter follower. In addition, companies (such as Comcast) that are using social media for responding to customer service request have been able to calculate the savings from reducing the number of inbound customer service calls that they receive by handling issues over Twitter.
When looking at lead generation, the use of unique URLs / landing pages that incorporate analytics (such as Omniture or Google Analytics) provide the details into the source of a lead. For a sales point of view, case studies such as DELL’s use of social media to drive consumer purchases showcase the potential of social media campaigns.
I think where people get hung-up on is the fact that there isn’t a clear set of metrics or calculations that can be used across all businesses and industries. The key is setting your metrics up so that they help you determine the success of your individual objectives and campaigns.
5. Describe the importance of a blog for our readers.
From a business perspective there are several important benefits from having a blog.
• It is a great way to showcase the thought leadership of your company through the subject matter expertise of your employees.
• A well-written and actively maintained blog gives customers/prospects a reason to come back to your website again and again. The concept of content marketing is continuing to gain ground as marketers begin to focus more on pull vs. push tactics.
• Blogs can be used as a hub where discussions are cultivated through the comments and interactions of others.
• The SEO factor that blogs bring to the table also provides a long-term benefit for companies. While your blog content should never be written solely for search engines you should optimize your content for search via proper titles, tags, keywords and internal/external linking strategies.
6. What types of content performed the best in your past experiences?
It depends on what you are using as the measurement for success but in terms of engagement there are a handful of buckets that I would use to classify good content.
• Content that helps solve a problem or answer questions.
• Content that highlights other people’s success / 3rd party validation.
• Content that provides commentary on current events / trends that offers a unique perspective.
7. Where do you think digital marketing will be in 5 years?
My hope is that we will continue to see companies that are creating campaigns that are fully integrated across all channels so that they take into consideration both online and offline activities. I think we will begin to see more companies focusing their efforts on activating their communities to become advocates for their brand by treating them as individuals and not as a group. The sites/tools that we use (Twitter, Facebook, etc) may change during this timeframe but the concept of actively listening and engaging with customers / prospects will remain consistent.
8. Where do you think social media analytics will be in 1 year?
I think there will be a trickledown effect where management places more pressure on the marketing departments to provide detailed analytics which in turn will cause the marketplace to place more pressure on the likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc to provide access to more analytics. As these sites/tools compete for advertising dollars, they will rollout more robust tracking and analytics for companies to measure against.
9. What do you consider a strategy in social media? What do you consider a tactic?
I think the easiest way to help distinguish the difference between social media strategy and tactics is to clarify that creating a Twitter account is NOT a strategy but rather a tactic. Your social media strategy should support the business objectives with the tactics supporting the strategy.
10. Where can readers learn more about you and what you do as a digital marketer?