I just came across an interesting post by Jeremiah Owyang, in which he charts the evolution of social business and makes the prediction that it’s future will be centred around the collaborative economy:

“…the next phase of Social Business goes beyond marketing and customer support, it changes the fundamental business models and relationships that we will have with our customers. The big change that brands will struggle with, as is it means that brands will have to care about the relationship between customers as they trade and rent your products between themselves.”

Whilst I agree with Owyang on this being the next stage of social business adoption, it’s not an unfamiliar or new model (update: which, to be clear, isn’t Owyang’s arguement).

As a university student, in the America of the mid-90′s, I observed a number of bands – Dave Matthews Band and Phish being examples that spring to mind – that followed exactly this approach. They were “gigging bands” who traveled from town to town, usually university campus to campus, playing at sold out venues every night. Fans were encouraged to record and share their recordings of shows, to set up stalls selling home produced merchandise in venue car parks, and to follow the band from show to show so as to create a traveling community of like-minded people.

These bands not only survived but thrived, not on the basis of radio plays and album sales (although both those did eventually come to Dave Matthews), but on the enthusiasm of the community of fans they built around their music and the lifestyle it spoke to. They realised, early on, that by engaging with fans in this way, they could create legions of advocates, spreading their music and encouraging those they influence to buy tickets to gigs and branded merchandise.

For the gigging bands of the 90′s, the community and the experience it offered, rather than pre-packaged albums, was the product. Brands of today can learn from this and apply those lessons to social business.

Four people in front of a television in Stockholm Airport

Communal TV Viewing

I recently purchased, after some consideration, a new flat screen television with built-in wifi. One of the big selling points of TV manufacturers these days is integration with download services (for me, it had to come with iPlayer integration to be on my short list) and social networking platforms.

I just don’t get why someone would want Facebook, at least in its native format, on their television. Facebook is a personal experience, centred around an individual’s profile, whereas television viewing, at least in my household, is a communal experience – something an individual centric, profile based platform can’t natively support.

I’ve thought of a logical workaround, however – a Facebook app that allows all viewers (perhaps it could use the built in sensor to determine which family members are viewing) to be logged in simultaneously, with the newsfeed, potentially filtered by “updates related to what you are watching now”, appearing alongside the programme on screen.

By filtering for programme specific content, the app would deliver relevance, and extend the communal experience of watching to friends outside the home. Watching a documentary about New York? Your friends in New York will see an update inviting them to reply. Got a friend who is watching the same show? The app connects you.

The filter would also stop your kids from seeing content containing certain keywords, your partner from seeing posts from that ex you’ve sworn your no longer in touch with, etc etc – again, something I think presents a stumbling block to bringing Facebook into a communal TV viewing experience.

I struggle to think of any social networking or Internet service that have solved the challenge of communal usage. I’m often frustrated that it’s not possible to create, for example, a household iTunes account. We use my account on the iPads and Apple TV my family uses, but my wife’s phone has to have it’s own account, meaning iTunes content and app services aren’t available on her device.

It’s somewhat ironic that profile based services, whilst opening up a huge variety of communal experiences by diminishing the barriers of distance and time, don’t yet support shared experiences thru a single device. I don’t think there’s a huge space for communal social networking apps, but if someone does it right, perhaps by building an app like I’ve described for TV viewing above, I do think there would be a market for it.

relationship between owned, social and search - three interlocking spheres

relationship between owned, social and search

It’s long been known that social media impacts a brand’s overall visibility, both through it’s reach into social media audiences as well as by generating new inbound links, wrapped in useful context, that search engines index and apply within their algorithm so as to (help) determine relevance.

The latter of these – the “boost” that social media gives to a brand’s visibility in organic search results, is a potentially useful source of outcomes based metrics for social media activities. Let me explain.

Google, according to a 2012 study, usually displays 10 results on it’s first page, 85% of which are organic with the remainder paid. Over half – 53% – of users will click on the first organic result. A further 34% will click on results 2-5. That’s a total of 87% of users clicking on the top five organic results. How much is a top five search result listing worth to a brand? A lot.

And it’s not just a brand or product name that needs to be found within search results – brands also want to be associated with key words related to their product or service offering so they can dangle those links in front of users with little or no brand awareness.

In instances where it’s possible to control for other factors, such as SEO activities, benchmarking a brand’s appearance in search results offers a useful opportunity to, during and after a social media campaign, measure progress towards a number of desired outcomes including:

  • the ranking of brand owned pages in search results (from 3 and 5 to 1 and 2 for example)
  • the dominance of the brand’s pages or pages containing references to it in results (from 20% of first page results to 40%, for example)
  • the crowding out of the results of competitors, etc (three competitors appearing on front page instead of two)

In addition to measuring the (potential) impact of social media activities on search visibility, it is, of course, also possible to interrogate the brand or product website’s analytics to determine what impact, in terms of actual click-throughs, that enhanced search visibility has had. It might also be useful, when doing this, to conduct an analysis of how much a similar number of click-throughs would have cost through paid search placement activities. This allows direct comparison of costs vs benefits.

It’s not perfect, but search visibility and the resultant click-throughs are a reasonable enough place to start when beginning to measure progress towards specific outcomes, and starting to understand how the cost/benefits of social weigh up against those for paid search.

Hidden in Plain Sight (cover image)

Hidden in Plain Sight

I’ve long been of the view that user experience methodology is useful well beyond the design phase of a web based proposition, product or service – it can and should be part of the strategy development process which proceeds it. The techniques used by user experience designers, which range from workshops to interviews to card sorting exercises are just as useful when utilised by management consultants, process designers, pr and marketing professionals, in human resources contexts such as change management, etc etc.

I’ve just come across a useful excerpt from HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT: How To Create Extraordinary Products for Tomorrow’s Customers by Jan Chipchase and Simon Steinhardt on the use of user experience methodology in a corporate context. They write:

If there’s such a thing as a default framework in corporate research, it’s the customer journey map, which provides detailed information about each event in a customer’s typical day, diagrams how she moves from one event to another, and identifies all the touchpoints where she may use the product or service we’re designing. Customer journey maps tend to be very precise in their documentation and technical in their appearance–many boxes connected by many lines. They’re useful for building a basic level of understanding, and certainly no one would accuse them of being arbitrary, but reading them can sometimes feel like a mechanical process.

In addition to customer journeys, which tend to start at the trigger point and end with resolution, Chipchase and Sthenhardt reveal, in the excerpt, a less widely used technique, threshold mapping:

Threshold mapping allows us to map out “default” conditions–the normal state a person experiences a majority of the time (for example, most people feel clean enough throughout the day that they won’t drop whatever they’re doing and hop in the shower if it’s available)–and then understand what happens when a person crosses the line into an alternative condition. Often, the feelings that people experience as they approach or cross a threshold lead them to think and act differently.


McKinsey Quarterly has published an excellent article on the coming era of ‘on-demand’ marketing, with their thinking perfectly aligned with the strategic work I’ve been doing with a number of forward thinking clients B2C and B2C clients over the past year or so.

The article makes a compelling argument for marketing activities that are not just “always on”, but also “always relevant, responsive to the consumer’s desire for marketing that cuts through the noise with pinpoint delivery”.

Consumers, state McKinsey, are beginning to demand:

  • interaction anywhere at anytime
  • the ability to do “new things” that create value for them
  • data driven targeting that personalises their experience (see my recent post on this here)
  • simple interactions

The article goes on to describe how, to get this right, brands need to:

  • focus on assisting the consumer journey
  • generate and make smart use of data
  • deliver new skills and joined up processes, across business functions

McKinsey concludes by stating that, “The forces enabling consumers to expect fulfillment on demand are unstoppable. Across the entire consumer decision journey, every touch is a brand experience, and those touches just keep multiplying in number.”

The McKinsey article is definitely worth a read: http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/marketing_sales/the_coming_era_of_on-demand_marketing



Dachis Group Logo

In about a month’s time, I’ll be re-joining the Dachis Group London as General Manager.

Three years ago, in a goodbye that anyone who was there will confirm was a tearful one, I departed the Dachis Group to join Edelman Digital. In my time in the digital PR world I’ve learned a lot, done my best to avoid adopting a whole new vocabulary and checked-in at more airports than I could ever possibly recall. Oh, and there was that incident where an octopus got loose on the table of a restaurant in Seoul…

The Dachis Group, too, has continued to evolve by fine-tuning their offering, investing heavily in the development of an amazing suite of proprietary social media analysis and measurement software, and recruiting some of the industry’s best talent – all of which has helped the Dachis Group grow an enviable client base.

Whilst we went our separate ways for a while, we’ve arrived in the same place today – firm in our belief that a data-driven model offers digital and social media marketers the best possible opportunity to contribute, measurably, towards meeting strategic business outcomes.

I’ll be starting my new role in about one month’s time – and am greatly looking forward to working with a fantastic team within a dynamic, and growing, business.

[Announcement of my appointment here]

The PR industry spends a lot of time talking about targeting key influencers through social media. Influencers are the people who, because they have credibility and visibility within a particular target audience, can help get a brand’s messaging noticed and trusted. Influencers range from journalists to industry analysts to mummy bloggers – and pretty much everyone in between – depending on who the audience is.

With B2C audiences, using social media analysis and a bit of intuition to draw up a list of key influencers is usually pretty straightforward. This is something that comes quite naturally to most PR professionals, in part because that’s how they make their living but also because it’s familiar – we are all consumers.

When it comes to B2B, however, finding influencers can be a bit more daunting. This is especially the case where a client’s messaging requires in-depth industry knowledge, technical jargon, or a high level of expertise. Also, industry specific conversations are often low volume, or exist behind registration walls, making them difficult to find through traditional social media monitoring and analysis.

So what’s the route to audience for B2B brands with a complex story to tell? Staff.

Moving forward, I suspect we’ll see many more brands, particularly in the B2B space, leveraging the capability and willingness of staff to share, via their own personal and professional networks, corporate messaging with relevant audiences.

A few years ago, I helped PepsiCo Europe devise and begin implementing a new social media strategy. Whilst working with them, I came across PepLine, an internal html newsletter regularly distributed to staff. Some of the content in the newsletter was company confidential, but much of it wasn’t. On those items that staff were welcome to share outside the firewall, PepsiCo added one-click share buttons, making it a seamless process for staff members who found that content interesting to share it with their own personal and professional networks.

It was a simple, yet powerful, way of encouraging PepsiCo’s staff – numbering just under 300,000 employees globally – to share content with people who, because of their connection with a staff member, are likely themselves to have some personal or professional interest in that content.

According to a recent survey, around 20% of LinkedIn users have between 51-100 connections. A further 20% have 101-200, and about 17% have between 201-300. Together, that’s just under 60% of linked in users falling between 51-300 connections so, averaging out across that (which cuts out those who don’t add many connections as well as super-users = so focuses on more typical usage patterns), it’s fairly safe to assume most ordinary employees will have about 175 connections.

Say a piece of corporate content is distributed to 100,000 staff globally. If just 1% (so 1000) of those staff members choose to share it via LinkedIn, the potential reach is 1000 x 175 = 175,000. That number doesn’t take into account any sharing beyond the initial audience of direct connections.

But this isn’t purely about potential reach. It’s about reaching the right audience. Using my own LinkedIn network as an example, the 520 contacts I’ve classified (about 40% of the total) include 251 colleagues and former colleagues, 172 partners (which includes vendors and clients), 64 friends and 33 classmates. Accounting for just the first two groups, and ignoring the 60% of my LinkedIn contacts that are unclassified (oops), I’m connected to at least 420 people who work in, or procure services from, the digital and social media industry – exactly the audience my employer should be targeting with marketing materials, industry insights, thought leadership and recruitment messaging.

Leveraging the personal and professional connections of staff can be a great route to finding the right audience with corporate content, particularly in B2B situations where messaging is unlikely to be relevant to, or understood by, those outside a particular industry. It’s surprising more brands aren’t doing this.

(Note: Several small grammatical amendments were made to this post on 16 April, 2013)

The social media management industry has reached an important inflection point. One where it must demonstrate, with real data, its ROI to the boardroom.

Back in 1999, in a document written by myself and Lizzie Jackson to justify investment in the BBC’s first audience communities, we suggested that online communities would increase loyalty, encourage return visits, and build deeper engagement with audiences. To demonstrate our progress, we created a “weekly message board health check” where we recorded the number of new user registrations, new posts, posts removed by moderators, and highlighted interesting quotes from participants. We had no targets – other than “up, up up” -  nor did we have a strategy beyond serving the needs of participants who we knew wanted spaces where they could interact with BBC brands, programme makers and each other.

Sound familiar? This is the same message, nearly fifteen years later, that many agencies continue to peddle to their clients.

In a recent post, Dachis Group Europe’s Lee Bryant quotes some insight from an Altimeter study of nearly 700 executives and social strategists, highlighting the disconnect between many brands’ social media strategies and business outcomes:

“… we found that only 34 percent of businesses felt that their social strategy was connected to business outcomes and just 28 percent felt that they had a holistic approach to social media, where lines of business and business functions work together under a common vision. A mere 12 percent were confident they had a plan that looked beyond the next year.”

As Brian Solis and Charlene Li put it in the report:

“The crux of the problem is that many so-called social strategies are not innately linked to business goals. They are instead often guided by a peer- or competitive-driven “social for social’s sake” philosophy. And even where clear goals do exist, social initiatives face challenges in the form of a lack of defined strategy, governance, and funding.”

As I’ve written here before, where a void exists between social strategies and business outcomes, brands are destined to fail. Those clients still fixated on “up, up, up” in their numbers of fans and followers might not recognise that failure today but they’ll soon cotton on. Where, however, a brand sets off to deliver against identifiable strategic objectives, not only are they more likely to achieve a positive return on that investment, but they’ll also be able to measurably demonstrate that success.

I’ve benefited both personally and professionally from the rise and increased professionalisation of the community management industry over the years: a well managed community offers an undeniably better experience for participants than an unmanaged one, and I’ve built a career around my ability to bring people and brands closer together in digital environments. That, however, isn’t going to convince senior managers or shareholders that an ongoing investment in social media is justified.

If, like me, you make your living by helping brands engage with audiences online, now is the time to dig out your brand’s strategy and make an honest assessment of how your social media activities thus far have contributed measurably towards meeting strategic outcomes. If the answer is “I don’t know”, “not much”, or “not enough” it may very well be time – before your client comes to the same conclusion and jumps ship to another agency, or reigns in their social media spending, in response – to shift gears. Don’t let that client slip away…

Just about anyone who has looked at the website analytics for a corporate website will be aware that the percentage of visitors using the homepage as their landing point is on the decline. This is likely to be due to a mix of the following:

  • the inclusion of deep links in search results for a brand name (see screenshot below)
  • people are getting better at refining their search queries -  typing brandname careers for example
  • the long-tail of past content appearing in a myriad of search results
  • inbound social media links tend to go directly to content of interest rather than the homepage

Despite the data, many brands and organisations continue to assume their homepage as the entrance point for everyone. Because those visitors have not self identified, through the links they’ve clicked on (whether those are from search results or social), the challenge these organisations face is providing navigation and content to guide a users with a wide variety of potential interests to the content quickly, so the homepage ends up offering a little bit of everything.

There are now, however, ways of getting around this challenge:

1.Wrapping Site Visitors in Relevancy

The first, and obvious one, is for brands to think of every piece of content as a potential landing point. Assuming that users land in the right place in the first instance, it’s easy enough to figure out, editorially and perhaps with a bit of help automation guided by content tagging, what other content might be relevant to that user. Someone who lands on a careers page, for example, might also find it useful to find, on that same page, details of corporate investments in training initiatives, stories of people who work in different roles within the business, details of the application process, etc.

2. Using Data on Inbound Users to Trigger the Display of Specific Content

Enterprise content management platforms are becoming more sophisticated, offering a way to wrap users in relevance not only on specific content pages, but also on what used to be a “generic” homepage. By integrating the CMS with an analytics platform, it’s now possible to trigger the display or priority of specific content to specific users based on what is known about them. Here’s a few scenarios to help illustrate what I’m talking about:

  • A website from Canada clicks on a link to a piece of regulated content (think finance or pharma) published on BrandX’s Australian website. The CMS recognises the geo-IP of the inbound user and flags the content as being non-compliant in Canada, or restricts the user from viewing it altogether, potentially replacing it with the relevant and compliant content for the user’s market.
  • A site visitor clicks on a link from a business or financial news site, for example FT.com or the BBC News Business index. The CMS notes the source of the referral and prioritises last weeks Quarter 4 results and investor relations content on the landing page, since that’s what the user is likely to be interested in.
  • A site visitor, who works at a leading competitor, searches for BrandX and clicks on the homepage link. They CMS recognises the IP range of the visitor and serves up content highlighting careers for experienced hires, in the market where the user is visiting from.
  • A user is a fan of BrandX on Facebook. According to their profile, they attend a technical university in Canada. When they click on the homepage url listed at the top of the brand’s Facebook page, the content they see on the homepage when they land highlights Engineering and Science careers in Canada
  • A user visits a website or Facebook of an opposition group. When the user clicks the link to the brand’s homepage, the CMS highlights content that addresses the concerns of the opposition group, and doesn’t display the stunningly good Quarter 4 results because those might inflame the visitor more, nor does it display careers information because the visitor is unlikely to want to work there

When I’ve mentioned some of these scenarios, all of which are possible to support today, the questions I usually get are around user privacy – “won’t people be upset that the brand already knows something about them and services up content based on that data?”

I don’t think so. To me, this type of functionality is all about reducing the number of clicks in a user’s journey to content they are likely to be interested in. That is, because it’s helpful to the site visitor, few are likely to be upset by it. Anyway, most if not all of the data being gathered is readily available to anyone who bothers to investigate the website’s analytics – the main difference is that in the scenarios above, the data is being used proactively, and productively, for the benefit of the website owner as well as visitors.

Many brands already do this sort of thing with search and social advertising as well as to target branded posts at specific fans – and about the only time one hears anything negative about it is when they get the targeting badly wrong. Now it’s possible to do this on the brand’s owned website.

There are several ways of delivering relevancy to every visitor to a website – through editorial decision making, by thinking of every page of a website a user’s potential entry point, by using tags or other meta data to display related content so as to wrap the user in relevancy, and to use the data available on inbound users to trigger specific content based on that data.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a wide variety of brands, both B2C and B2B. Due to my personal and professional interests, I prefer the latter and have turned it into somewhat of a speciality.

I’m often asked to, because B2B is something fewer people in the industry have had exposure to, explain the difference of approach between a B2C and B2B assignment. The reality is, there isn’t much difference between strategic B2B and B2C programmes, only the tactical targeting, tone of voice, and to some extent the sourcing of content, really varies.

So here are a few observations on the differences between B2C and B2B digital and social media programmes:

1. Most B2B clients realise they need to be highly targeted; B2C clients should

B2B in digital and social media, at least in my experience, tends to be more strategic and highly targeted. Rather than putting content out there in the hopes it will “go viral”, most B2B brands realise – whether they manufacture construction materials, aircraft engines, or chemicals – that there is little point in reaching and engaging with a broad audience when their real target is likely to be much more specialised.

Put simply, with the B2B clients I’ve worked with, there’s a much greater awareness that there’s limited value in building a collection of fans and followers – instead, it’s about building deeper relationships with the chosen few. Of course, there are some, albeit relatively rare, examples of highly targeted, strategic, outcomes focused B2C digital and social media programmes, but not as many as you might expect there to be.

2. B2B products and services often require more specialised explanation

Rather than focusing solely on a relatively easy to understand consumer product, in the B2B space it’s important to help business decision makers understand the applications for, and differentiators of, potentially complex products and services.

Because such products and services tend not to be bought off the shelf – to some degree requiring partnerships for their delivery and implementation – it’s also important to highlight the experience of partnership, and the expertise of those who will deliver.

Due to specialisation, the customers of B2B clients tend to be subject matter experts themselves, so it’s important they be presented with content from, and opportunities to engage with, their peers.

3. Both B2B and B2C require great content

This is one area where B2B and B2C are almost identical – they both require compelling content. That content will vary widely from brand to brand, as well as the tone of voice used, but there are some basic truths: it should be factual, relevant, timely and interesting to members of the target audience. Sure, the words, the images, the videos and infographics will all have a different tone of voice and visual representation, but it still has to be good, really good, to capture the attention of audiences.

4. B2B content sourcing can initially be a bit of a challenge, but it needn’t be

Nearly every B2B brand I’ve worked with has asked the question, “where do we find content?”. Part of the reason they find this more challenging than B2C brands is because they tend not to have a similar level of marketing and advertising resource – no pre-existing content engine – but with the right processes for surfacing great stories, this problem can be successfully overcome.

That process needs to focus on point two above – giving specialised audiences insight into, and where appropriate direct access to, business critical people and processes. A process we’re working with several clients to implement involves the use of internal collaborative platforms to run staff story-telling competitions. Other clients have internal facing magazines or newsletters that are already mining stories from within, so encouraging the people involved in those activities to share their output via digital and social media offers yet another rich vein of content. Another approach, and again one we’ve worked with clients to plan and implement, is to actually create a purpose built digital and social media newsroom to source content.

Whilst B2B organisations tend not to have “creative” and “marketing collateral” they can simply repurpose for digital and social media, with a bit of looking, they can find content.

5. Follow the audience

Another area where B2B and B2C are almost identical is that, in either instance, it’s important to understand where the audience chooses to participate in digital and social media, and to identify the motivational triggers – both internal and external – for initiating that participation.

Tactically, this means that if you’re, for example, a leading asset management firm with pension fund trustees rather than consumers as your clients, you’ll probably want to focus on using LinkedIn, and maybe blogs, twitter, Slideshare and YouTube for marketing your services, but when it comes to Graduate Recruitment, you might need to focus on Facebook. First, find your audience, then follow them there – don’t start with a particular platform in mind.

The same is true when thinking about devices – whether you’re targeting commuters, frequently traveling business people, or teenagers with busy social lives, you’ll probably want to consider mobile and tablet access, whereas other audiences might be more likely to be desktop based.


Whilst I set off hoping to highlight five key differences between the strategic delivery of B2B and B2C digital and social media programmes, I’ve ended up highlighting more similarities. And that’s the reality – B2B and B2C really aren’t that different when in comes to strategic approach, it’s only when it comes to tone of voice, sourcing of content, and specific target audiences and platforms where there’s any difference at all.

1 2 3 4 5 6 182
About Robin Hamman

I've been helping some of the World's most widely recognised brands and organisations devise and implement strategic digital and social media programmes since 1999.

I'm currently the EMEA Digital Network Lead at Fleishman Hillard. I've previously held a variety of roles including Managing Director of Dachis Group Europe, Director of Digital at Edelman, Head of Social Media at Headshift, Acting Editor of the BBC Blogs and Executive Producer at ITV.

In addition to my day job, I help my wife run an online retail business selling wool blankets - if you're feeling chilly, check out JustSheep.co.uk

I hold a BA in Education, MA in Sociology, MPhil in Communication Studies and a PgDip in Law. I've also been a Non-Residential Fellow at Stanford University Law School and a Visiting Fellow of Journalism at City University, London.

Why cybersoc.com? In 1995, I tried to register, for the purposes of researching "ordinary users", the username Cybersociologist on AOL. They truncated my name and I stuck with it....

Published Under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License