interview about social media strategy

Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 10.00.33The leading content portal in Croatia, Dnevnik, yesterday published a relatively lengthy interview with me discussing social media strategy.

The article is published in Croation.

Realising that most readers of are unlikely to be fluent in Croation, I've published the full, unedited, English language version below:

Dnevnik: Your presentation in Zagreb is titled what’s a like ever one for your brand? Can you tell us more about it?

Corporate investment in Public Relations, Marketing and Advertising has, over the past five years or so, shifted away from traditional activities and into digital. Many brands have thrown themselves headlong into social media, not wanting to miss out on the potential benefits – the key word there being potential – without first figuring out exactly what strategic objectives they're trying to achieve.

Hardly a week goes buy that I don't hear a client or prospective client suggest that they should be "on Facebook" or ask if "Google+ is the next platform" where they should activate their brand activities online. The fact is, as experienced as I or my colleagues might be in devising and implementing social media propositions for brands, we couldn't possibly know the answer to either of these questions without first knowing what the brand's current objectives are, what existing activities are already contributing towards meeting those objectives, and what measurements are meaningful to the business.

So, in my presentation, I won't be saying that all brands should be on Facebook or anything other social platform, nor that they shouldn't be, but rather, the point I'll be trying to make is that without understanding how social media activities can measurably contribute to strategic aims, having tens of thousands or even millions of fans and followers in social media is unlikely to make much of a difference. Indeed, without understanding the brand's strategic objectives and measuring progress towards them, even if there were benefits to the brand, that success would be hidden in a slew of data that is meaningless without a strategic context to enable understanding.

Dnevnik: There is a lot of ongoing talk about measuring of your social media activities. What tools would you recommend to companies when it comes to social media measurement?

There are a wide variety of platforms available for measurement, but choosing a measurement tool comes, for me, pretty far down the totem pole of importance. First and foremost, a brand has to identify and prioritise their key objectives – what impact should social media have on their online share of voice or their search result visibility, how much can be saved when social media deflects a telephone call to a customer call centre, how many additional widgets to they want to sell, how many new customers can be converted by the advocates the brand cultivates in social media, etc. Second, reporting needs to be done in a way that stakeholders within the business can understand. Third, a governance model should be in place so that activities that don't yield results can be killed off quickly, and activities achieving the best results can benefit from additional investment. Finally, it's time to find a measurement platform that meets the brands needs, based on everything above.
Dnevnik: What is the number one biggest mistake companies make on social media networks?

We still, on occasion, have brands come to us – and I'm sure this is the same for other agencies – adamant that they want to be on a specific social platform without really understanding what they want to achieve there or, more importantly, without understanding how they might contribute positively to the experience their target audiences have on those platforms.
Dnevnik: Content management is a big deal in the social media world. What is your advice when it comes to content generation for social media networks?

There are three or four social content management platforms that we've worked with clients to implement, sometimes their own choice, other times ours. They each have their pros and cons so it's essential to let the specific use case guide the decision.

When it comes to generating and sharing content, and building engagement around it, the important thing is to get the structure of how you're going to manage that right from the start. We have seen a lot of brands recently come to us with a lengthy spreadsheet of all their pre-existing social media channels, often times using different pages, handles or accounts for each market. This approach forces audience members who are seeking out a brand in social media to realise that they may very well exist in a secondary market, and that it's the market specific account they should follow. This is counter intuitive for users, can unnecessarily split the fan base, and can lead to brands making repetitive investments from market to market in infrastructure and content that could have been reused had it been created with multi-market use in mind from the start.
Dnevnik: You are currently Director of Digital at Edelman but previously you were one of the first people to kick of BBC’s social media campaigns. How different is your work today compared to when you worked at BBC?

I spent about eight years at the BBC, split over two stints. In the initial instance, I was the first Online Community Producer (what we called social media before they coined the term) at the BBC, so my main priority was convincing Editorial Policy, Legal, and other functions of the business that allowing audience members to have a voice on a programme or topical website was something we could, or even should, enable. So in addition to creating the business case for message boards, web chats and comments on pages, I also had to create the governance models, community management processes and training courses to allow us to do this within a risk averse environment.

The second time around, I largely picked up where I'd left off three years previously, but pushing those platforms further across the Corporation, and launching a few new platforms, such as the BBC Blogs, which I was Acting Editor of for my final 18 months of my six year second stint at the BBC.

At the time, because I worked in editorial and broadcast, like many of my peers, I actually distrusted the BBC's PR wing – as editorial people, with our own channels for engaging audiences, we saw little reason to let the "press release people" know what we were up to, nor to involve them in it. Of course, that's all changed at the BBC and elsewhere, as the importance of social media for managing corporate reputation has become increasingly understood. If I were at the BBC today, I'd be looking to the PR team to provide a framework that empowers and supports me in my attempts to engage more meaningfully, but in a de-risked way, with audiences.

At Edelman, my focus on on devising strategies – digital, social, editorial – for all sorts of clients, ranging from International Governance bodies to B2B and B2C brands. It's the organisational and B2B work I most enjoy, personally. With a background that includes editorial, community management, business transformation, functional specification, and user experience definition, I generally act as the glue that bonds a client's initial ambitions with the deliverable at the end of the process we take them through.

Dnevnik: We are living in an era of startups. What would you advice people working in startups. What is the key to success?

I once worked at a start-up, and have since provided consultancy to several. The thing I love about start-ups is the energy and excitement that surrounds them. I don't think I'd like to work for a start-up again though – they have a habit of consuming every waking hour – and, on that basis, and the fact that the startup I actually worked at went belly up in a quite spectacular fashion, I suspect I'm not the right person to provide advice on this!
Denvnik: Have you been to Zagreb before? What are your expectations from the Marketing Kingdom Zagreb?

I've not been to Croatia before, but have been to other countries of the former Yugoslavia and thoroughly enjoyed my time in Skopje and Belgrade. In both those cities there was a lot for me to learn from the creativity and grassroots approach to digital and social media I  found being deployed. For example, in the bookshops of Skopje, tables were piled high with the selfpublished titles of bloggers – essentially, blogs that had been printed and made available in book format. The reason behind this was because, at the time, it was impossible for Bloggers in Macedonia to join Google Adsense, Amazon Associates or other ad programmes that help online publishers monetize their efforts. Printing and selling content in bookshops was the best way for bloggers to make a bit of money. I suspect things are much more advanced in the Croation market, but also hope to find the same levels of creativity, interest and passion.