Why the C-suite don’t ‘get’ social media marketing – and how to change that

The boardroom

It’s a sad business reality that, in mid-2014, social media is still a bit of a taboo subject in the corporate boardroom.

Writing in the Guardian, Sharon Flaherty assesses a business landscape where half of global boardrooms ignore social media with ignorance and lack of understanding the rules of thumb:

  1. Ignorance of the genuine value social media can bring to a business
  2. Lack of understanding about how to measure that value

Flaherty cites recent research by Useful Social Media that examines the state of social media use in large corporations, and has a stark conclusion:

Social has hit a glass ceiling – it can’t prove value in the boardroom, and executives are thus finding growth opportunities curtailed. All this talk about social being about ‘ROE’ and ‘ROR’ creates a series of tweetable soundbites, but gets short shrift in a boardroom looking for real business impacts they can understand.

The bold text is my emphasis as that clearly is the problem – not ignorance and lack of understanding about social media and how to use it, but about the tangible, measurable benefits social media bring to a business.

Is the answer, then, to get the C-suite to tweet? To “join the conversation,” as it were? That’s one of the three recommendations in Flaherty’s concluding points.

My view on that is: it depends on what your goal is where C-suite members participating in social media would be a means to an end that leads you to the achievement of a measurable objective. Plenty of CEOs tweet, for instance, although others have had major reservations about using that platform.

Still, I’d be pretty sure that many C-suite members of large corporations in particular who are active participants in the online social conversation have clear and measurable objectives set out.

Now I circle back to the major issue of ignorance and lack of understanding and ask – doesn’t it make excellent sense to first listen to what you hear from the boardroom as epitomized in Useful Social Media’s statement above? Listen, learn and then speak in language and terms that make an impact in that boardroom.

That means presenting hard facts about how many qualifiable leads resulted from a social media marketing campaign and the projected value they bring to the sales effort, for instance, not just how many comments there are on a LinkedIn company page update and how the community is growing.

Excel not PowerPoint, you might say.

Read Sharon Flaherty’s full assessment below and see what you agree with.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Why the C-suite don’t ‘get’ social media marketing – and how to change that” was written by Sharon Flaherty, for theguardian.com on Monday 4th August 2014 11.57 Europe/London

In a recent talk at Hay Festival, Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, advised the audience to keep their phones out of their bedroom when sleeping. Why? Because, most of us wake up, reach for our phones and before even getting out of bed in the morning, have a quick check of our social accounts, messages and emails.

This highlights how constantly internet-connected we really are and just how much of a grip social media has on us. Why then is it that a common complaint among marketers is that the C-suite still don’t ‘get’ social media?

Half of global boardrooms ignoring social media

A poll of senior marketers around the world conducted by Useful Social Media found that only half of all boardrooms are convinced about social media’s value. Now that it is a multi-billion pound industry, surely CFOs, CEOs and CMOs don’t still think social media is a fad? So what is really at the heart of management’s reticence?

“I have run out of fingers and toes on which to count the times a bright-eyed marketing manager within a big organisation has brought us in to pitch only to then hear the words “our CEO does not ‘do’ social” and this ignorance shows no sign of slowing,” says Andy Barr, owner of 10Yetis social media and PR agency.

Can’t calculate ROI, won’t buy-in

According to Barr, a large chunk of FTSE 100 CMOs are still battling to get their heads around the value social can bring because they simply don’t understand how they can measure the return on investment.

This sentiment is echoed by the co-founder of social media analytics provider, Birdsong, who points to the lack of measurement and accountability of social media as a reason why numbers-driven C-suites, simply do not buy-in or relate to social.

Jamie Riddell said: “Social media is not seen to be as measurable as other forms of media such as TV. In order for any media channel to be taken seriously at board level, it’s impact on hard criteria such as reach and ultimately sales, needs to be understood. Your average C-suite executive will be focused on business results that are more than brand mentions or sentiment analysis.”

Regulatory burden

But it’s not just measurement and proof of ROI that’s preventing the C-suite from committing to social; regulatory restrictions are playing a role too. A distinct lack of clarity around the use of social media by financial services firms has meant many are paralysed by the fear of getting it wrong.

The financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, has failed to update its social media guidelines for over three years, despite the tremendous changes social media has undergone in that time. However, any regulatory breach could trigger a hefty fine and the related reputational damage.

Social inexperience

Much needed is education about social media and its application in the corporate world. Founder of the Social Media Leadership Forum, Justin Hunt, says it is particularly the younger marketers who are frustrated by the lack of understanding about social media.

“In some cases, execs are demanding a million Likes on Facebook or a million Twitter followers after they realise they need to be involved. This lack of understanding causes issues with agencies and staff who despair,” he said.

According to Hunt, the repercussion is that some agencies are still buying social media followers on behalf of these brands, despite the folly in doing so. This misunderstanding of social media could in part be explained by the lack of the C-suite’s personal involvement with it.

According to Brandfog, a social media consultancy that works with CEOs globally to improve their social media presence, a whopping 64% of CEOs do not use social media at all, with only 5% of all Fortune 500 company CEOs on Twitter.

Three ways to warm-up the C-Suite

1: Get them on social. Whether it’s posting from their own personal account or a corporate account, encourage your CFOs, CEOs and CMOs to participate themselves and provide support and training to avoid any faux pas.

2: Simulate a crisis. By simulating a potential crisis that could hit the brand, you enlighten the C-suite to the power of social media and also the potential damage it can wreak if you haven’t invested in social media listening and community management.

3: Identify the balance of your website traffic sources. Highlighting the traffic sources to the company website will demonstrate where it is over-reliant and hence vulnerable. For example, if the bulk of your web traffic comes from search, then growing your social traffic to diversify your traffic sources will be an asset when search positions fluctuate or if the company is hit by a Google penalty or algorithm update. Social media is also a significant contributor to search engine optimisation.

Sharon Flaherty is founder of BrandContent. Follow her on Twitter at @BrandContentUK.

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(Image at top via The_Warfield, used under Creative Commons license.)

Defining Twitter by more than the numbers

Twitter user growth

Twitter reported its financial results for the second quarter 2014 this week:

  • Q2 revenue of $312 million, up 124% year-over-year
  • Q2 net loss of $145 million and non-GAAP net income of $15 million
  • Q2 GAAP EPS of ($0.24) and non-GAAP EPS of $0.02
  • Q2 adjusted EBITDA of $54 million, representing an adjusted EBITDA margin of 17%

Depending on which media report or commentary you read, it’s either an unimpressive financial performance, or a strong performance to silence critics.

Either way, a common view in mainstream media reports is that the results exceeded financial analysts’ expectations.

One other significant element in the earnings announcement is growth in the number of users, as the Financial Times chart above shows – a consistent increase every quarter since mid 2010 to arrive at today’s number of 271 million average monthly active users, an increase of 24 per cent over the same period last year.

The combination of financial results that exceed expectations and continuing user growth are facts that the stock market and investors like. Indeed, the FT’s report includes a bottom-line statement:

[...] Shares rose to $51.25 in after-hours trading, the highest price since Twitter reported its first results as a public company in February, prompting the stock to plummet. The stock is almost double the price at which Twitter listed last year.

One other aspect I find interesting relates to what Twitter is, ie, how people now describe Twitter.

In media reports, you’ll see it described variously as a “micro-blogging service” – that moniker arose in the very early days of Twitter – or a “social-networking service,” both labels used in a BBC News report. It’s a “social network,” says the Telegraph. The FT calls it a “messaging platform” while The Wall Street Journal says it’s a “social media company.”

And Twitter? How does the company describe itself? From the ‘About’ paragraph in the earnings report:

Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) is a global platform for public self-expression and conversation in real time. By developing a fundamentally new way for people to create, distribute and discover content, we have democratized content creation and distribution, enabling any voice to echo around the world instantly and unfiltered. The service can be accessed at Twitter.com, via the Twitter mobile application and via text message. Available in more than 35 languages, Twitter has 271 million monthly active users. For more information, visit discover.twitter.com or follow @twitter.

Compare that to the mission statement on the Twitter corporate page:

Our mission: To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.

And note the latest user metrics on that page:

  • 271 million monthly active users
  • 500 million Tweets are sent per day
  • 78 percent of Twitter active users are on mobile
  • 77 percent of accounts are outside the U.S.
  • Twitter supports 35+ languages
  • Vine: More than 40 million users

Clear?

Factory Media talks Programmatic and Native Advertising

HTC One Skatepark

Guest author Chris Talintyre is Head of Audience Development & Activation at Factory Media and talks about the power of understanding huge audiences in real-time and the opportunities it’s bringing to leading brands targeting sports enthusiasts.

As consumers increasingly share content, it’s creating a huge amount of data to analyse giving us insight on not just our readers (think boarders, skaters, surfers, BMXers) but their friends, colleagues and contacts. We can better understand and connect with them through really engaging content, such as the recent work we did with HTC One and the creation of a free world-class skate park at Selfridges.

Given the prestige of the brands we work with, the services we offer must be as cutting-edge as possible. Programmatic platforms are growing rapidly and now account for 28% of the UK display ad market due to their engagement and target abilities. This is what encouraged us to further engage fans and stay ahead of the competition. To do that, we partnered with RadiumOne, experts in programmatic advertising, and created an ‘audience insight’ tool.

Based on RadiumOne technology, it helps us to understand our 22 million strong audience, while giving us extended insight on the global reach of our connected audience – a huge 250 million people – which is pretty informative! We partnered with RadiumOne as we were impressed with the level of sophistication and in-depth insight it could give us on our audience. Our clients come from a diverse range of sectors, and want to be aligned to an active ‘outdoorsy’ audience. Bringing clients into markets they may not naturally integrate into, is a valuable offering for us.

Working with RadiumOne we’ve been able to aggregate at scale, in real-time, sharing activity to build a map of interaction (by using their sharing widget and link shortener). We can track all sharing touch points not just for interactions but more general interactions across the web, for instance, what a user shares more broadly with their friends and contacts. This is in very granular detail and can be right down to the last item bought.

This is where native and programmatic cleverly works in tandem. By packaging up content on behalf of one of our sponsors, into an ad unit (such as a competition or social feed) we can create an engaging experience for the reader. The reach of this content can go much further by also sending it to our readers’ connected audience. We do this based on the preferences made and websites visited by them, so we can serve them with different forms of advertising. It’s engagement in context.

Ultimately, this host of technologies help magnify campaigns to reach more people. Our campaigns are visual, and the audience is vast so we need to tap into every degree of interest through this repertoire of technology. We saw the market opportunity for native and programmatic – now we’re offering an increasingly attractive proposition to leading brands. It was a no brainer for us and we haven’t looked back. We’re excited about winning new business and embracing the other opportunities it will afford us.

HTC One Skatepark Trade Media Video – hires a Skateboarding video by Factory Media

Factory Media is Europe’s largest specialist sports media owner. We focus on bike, board and outdoor sports and work with some of the most recognisable brands in the world such as Nike, British Airways, Jeep and O2.

Chris TalyntireChris Talintyre is a media marketing specialist with over 15 years industry experience. With skills ranging from digital marketing, video, direct marketing, subscriptions, through to social media. Currently working within action sports, developing off and online assets to effectively monetise them and extending brand reach.

The meaning of 100 million Facebook likes

ShakiraColombian singer Shakira has set a new social media record after becoming the first person ever to reach 100 million likes on Facebook. The milestone has formally been recognized by Guinness World Records.

In its report, TheJournal.ie says that the only other page which has more likes than hers is Facebook’s own Facebook page. And 100 million likes has a sharp perspective when you consider it from a metrics point of view as The Wall Street Journal does:

[...] That’s 8% of Facebook’s universe of 1.28 billion monthly active users around the world.

The Journal also notes in its credible report that along with her Facebook fame comes spam, fakes and other headaches, undoubtedly needing an army of overseers to run the Shakira brand on Facebook (and elsewhere on the social web).

And Shakira herself – what does she think of this pinnacle of fan love? Guinness World Records reports her saying in a video message:

“I am honoured and humbled about reaching this milestone, because it’s one that’s purely about connecting with my fans from all parts of the globe. Social media and specifically Facebook has helped myself and other artists bridge the gap between the stage and the audience.  We’ve been able to create a conversation, where both artists and fans can share with one another their thoughts, achievements, the most important moments of their lives in photographs and videos, and have a real, ongoing dialogue.”

And Facebook?

Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s VP of Global Operations and Media Partnerships, said: “The combination of Shakira’s global appeal, her authentic engagement with fans and her use of Facebook as a multi-media platform has positioned her to achieve the incredible milestone of 100M fans.”

Creating a conversation, authentic engagement and a platform where those things happen. A powerful combination.

Take a look at Shakira’s Facebook page (that now shows well beyond 100 million likes).

Be recognized for UK social media excellence in #somecomms 2014

2013 winners

It’s only three months until the winners of the 2014 UK Social Media Communications Awards competition will be announced, and the deadline for entries is now upon us – Friday July 18 is the final day of the extended entry period.

Over the next few months, the panel of judges – I’m thrilled to be one again this year – will be pre-scoring, evaluating and short listing that lead up to deciding who the winners are.

Everything culminates in a really great awards event at the Emirates Stadium in London on October 23 (here are pics from last year: and crazy fun!).

Now in their fifth year, the UK Social Media Communications Awards celebrate the very best in UK social media communications, and recognize and reward the individuals, companies and organizations who are using online platforms to communicate in fresh and innovative ways.

If you haven’t yet entered, you’ve still got 24 hours!

2014 UK Social Media Communications Awards

The art of the business tweet

Wednesday

A question I used to hear a lot from people in business is “How do I tweet?” Today, that question has evolved into “How do I tweet effectively for my business?”

The response is quite a bit deeper than answering the question purely in terms of writing out a text in 140 characters or less and hitting ‘tweet.’ Participating on Twitter is as much about listening to what people are saying as it it about adding your tweet to the conversation. Twitter itself has some great how-tos and tutorials.

It’s also about what to say and when to say it, two topics that are the focus of a neat video that Twitter has just published. Simple in its concept and execution, this video is one of the best I’ve seen that will give you a good and clear sense of some simple steps you can follow that will give you confidence in using Twitter effectively in your business communication.

The video will help you understand these five key points:

  1. Make a plan: what’s your goal and how will you measure its success?
  2. Be clear on who your primary audience is: in this case, your customers.
  3. Create a calendar: decide what you’ll tweet on which day.
  4. Think about what you’ll tweet: is the content relevant to your audience?
  5. When people in your community respond or ask questions, make sure you reply.

And the best advice of all:

How you tweet and how you respond to your followers matter as much as face-to-face interaction. So be friendly, be helpful and be yourself.

Using Twitter effectively in business may not be a science. But it is an art.