Think Digital: Educating Your (more traditional) Colleagues

Marketing and advertising pros who have cultivated strong depth and breadth of knowledge in digital and social are now, more then ever, playing a lead role in shaping strategy. Whether focusing on web, mobile, or social, or more than likely all three, a diverse skill set is absolutely required to develop thoughtful strategy – working at a company or an agency.

Make no mistake, a career in marketing is not 9 to 5 anymore. Perhaps it never was. The pace of innovation and change is too quick for that, and for a marketing professional to remain relevant it is critical to invest time and effort towards learning – learning about new technology, emerging social platforms, trends, and most importantly, the changing behaviors and media consumption habits of people.

That all being said, it’s easy to forget that there are still many in the industry – friends, peers, and colleagues – who perhaps aren’t in the trenches learning, and perhaps still have more of a traditional marketing and advertising mindset. Perhaps these people are the ones who, while understanding your recommended strategies, are a bit more skeptical. Perhaps they don’t know the true power of digital analytics in uncovering meaningful insights, or why nurturing relationships with social advocates can be so critical to your efforts.

But fear not, the power is in your hands! You have the torch, and the power to educate and inform – to turn your colleagues into digital and social savvy savants.

How can you accomplish that? Several ideas come to mind:

  • Host digital or social-focused marketing workshops. Depending on the needs of your company, you could cover a variety of topics. For example B2B marketers might benefit from LinkedIn 101 – a workshop on setting up a profile, and effective participation in groups (I led a workshop like this at Intuit). Alternatively perhaps an overview could be provided on the latest digital trends – spurring ideas for truly integrated, and interesting, marketing strategies.
  • Occasionally share relevant articles, along with your insights and analysis. Perhaps your colleagues don’t regularly read TechCrunch, Mashable, AdAge, or the latest from industry bloggers. But hopefully you do, and here’s a great chance to provide information on trends and case studies that could feed into your integrated strategy.
  • Thirdly, podcasts and books. Personally, I always have a book on the go and I also subscribe to a number of podcasts. Several that are worth recommending to your colleagues are Six Pixels of Separation, The BeanCast, and Marketing Over Coffee.

I’m certain that your colleagues and peers will appreciate your help in educating them about all things digital and social. The end result, in my experience, is usually improved understanding and collaboration.

Worth the effort? I think so.

Thoughts on Rebooting

Thoughts on RebootingI recently finished reading Mitch Joel’s latest book, CTRL Alt Delete. In his book, Mitch shares thoughts on how businesses and professionals essentially need to do a reboot – transforming both processes and ways of thinking in order to survive and thrive in today’s rapidly evolving business environment.

Personally, over the last few years I have initiated a number of significant changes in my own career – shifting my focus to digital and social strategy after having gotten my start in traditional marketing, with a strong desire to play in the intersection of culture, technology and media. I can definitely relate to much of what Mitch articulated. What I have really come to realize however, is that the process of “rebooting” isn’t a one time deal – far from it. The truth is that businesses and professionals, from a career lens, must now constantly examine and adjust things as technology and people’s behaviours evolve.

Here are a few things that I am now thinking about:

1. Creating Utility Through Content

It almost goes without saying that any content a brand produces, whether for social, web or email, should somehow provide a tangible benefit and level of utility for readers. However, the stark reality is that people are getting absolutely inundated with content from all directions – and many brands are still not putting enough thought into what they produce. The end result? One big, giant mess of content.

It’s true that most content has value when it comes to search optimization and the long-tail. However, I think brands need to think much harder about what content they’re producing – perhaps with a “less is more” mindset. I am definitely keeping this in mind for a content strategy I am currently developing. I am also looking for ways to extend the overall experience people have when engaging with content – creating a richer experience through multimedia and deep-linking to my company’s website.

2. Escaping the Box

Over the last few years, I have invested a significant amount of time in digital and social strategy education – including reading an endless stream of articles online, maintaining a healthy diet of books through Amazon, and attending a number of events and conferences. I’ve certainly had my fill of digital and social. What’s missing, however, is exposure to new learning – perhaps not directly related to the discipline of marketing.

Gaining insights from a variety of subject areas can fuel inspiration and enhance creativity, potentially leading to unique and compelling solutions to customer pain points. Understanding digital technologies, including underlying architectures and opportunities for evolution, represent one such notable opportunity for strategists. Another might be learning a new language? Why? Because language is a gateway to culture, and a preliminary step in leads to better understanding – an asset given Canada’s diverse population.

To add further context, my friend (and digital strategist) Rachel Lane shared some thoughts on how she learns in her post “The Education of a Social Media / Digital Strategist“.

So, I am now looking at ways to branch out and broaden my exposure to new ways of thinking. In the immediate future, I am endeavoring to learn more about Design Thinking. Down the road, I intend to learn another language – this goal has now been added to my five year plan. There will be more added, but I think this is a good start.

3. Finding the Right Mix

This topic could entail an entire blog post … or even a series of blog posts. Lately I have read a lot of articles related to personal needs to “disconnect” more. I have felt the need myself. While I enjoy connecting with people online, much of the interaction is very “surface” in nature. At the same time, from a career perspective, it’s clear that 9 to 5 does not cut it anymore. At least not for those of us who work in marketing. The continual need to learn, combined with increased business demands and competition, necessitates that people spend more time focusing on their jobs and their careers.

It’s a reality, and one that I don’t mind because I love what I do. It’s not work. Case-in-point, I wrote the majority of this blog post on a Sunday afternoon.

However, I am still adjusting, and I realize that I need to find the mix that’s right for me. Increased career and job demands don’t necessarily mean that I need to be online all the time. So, I’m striving to manage my time better. I’m seeking (and planning) opportunities for quiet – for deeper thought, learning and reflection.

I’m also going to drink more coffee. No, not just for the sake of it!  I want to spend more time with people, reconnecting with people I’ve met before while also making new acquaintances – hearing their stories and learning from them. Hat tip to Elena Yunosov in part for inspiring me to do this.

These are a few things on my mind. What are some things that you’re thinking about?

Canadian Marketing Association Summit 2012 in Review (Day #1)

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the 2012 Canadian Marketing Association Summit. The annual two day event was packed full of insights and information from true visionaries, with content focussed on this year’s theme of “connections” – how connections with consumers, with customers and with each other are made, maintained, and measured.

I thought I would share a brief recap of the sessions I attended, inspired by a similar post Michael Zipursky from FreshGigs.ca wrote summarizing the recent VISION marketing conference hosted by the British Columbia Chapter of the American Marketing Association.

Key learnings from the sessions on the first day of the conference are below. Click here to read a review of the sessions for day #2.

 

Sir Ken Robinson
“Leading a Culture of Innovation”

 

Sir Ken Robinson, PhD, is an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation. He is also one of the world’s leading speakers with a profound impact on audiences everywhere. Sir Ken Robinson spoke about leading a culture of innovation – his talk was both humorous and inspiring.

Some key points from Sir Ken’s talk:

  • To be creative, we must actually DO something.
  • A systematic approach to innovation is needed – it must be engrained in a company’s culture.
  • Education systems are locked in the past (see Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on how schools kill creativity).
  • The transformation of technologies is unpredictable.
    • Apple’s App Store necessitated development of advanced credit card processing technology.
    • Twitter’s original purpose was to enable people to communicate what they’re currently doing to a small group.
  • Everyone has creative capacities – companies that are innovative understand this.
  • Most organizations are built on command and control – if you want innovation, you must think differently.
  • Innovative companies focus on “climate control” as opposed to “total control” to cultivate possibilities and creative capacity.
  • Companies should focus on developing the talents of everyone, rewarding creativity.
  • Create an innovative culture through habits and habitat – deliberately and systematically.
  • Innovative companies mentioned by Sir Ken Robinson included IDEO, Zappos and IBM.

Twitter: @sirkenrobinson


Bryan Pearson
“The Loyalty Leap: Turning Customer Information into Customer Loyalty”

Bryan Pearson, President and CEO of LoyaltyOne, is an internationally recognized expert and author in the fields of enterprise loyalty and coalition marketing with more than two decades experience developing meaningful customer relationships for some of the world’s leading companies. He is also the author of The Loyalty Leap – an insightful book that I just finished reading.

Some key points from Bryan’s talk:

  • Companies can’t cost cut their way to growth; they must connect differently with customers.
  • There are three ways companies compete
    • On efficiency (Walmart)
    • On product (Apple)
    • On customer intimacy (through which we can all win)
  • Media is fragmented, consumers encounter 5,000 to 10,000 brand messages daily.
  • Companies now have an opportunity to capture oceans of data.
  • Need to focus on moving from product centricity to customer centricity (see blog post I wrote on customer-centricity).
  • The three R’s – relevance, recognition and reward.
  • Through data integration, companies need to deliver better on relevance.
  • Several dimensions to relevance – spatial (location), temporal (event based), individual and cultural.
  • Companies can tailor offers taking the dimensions of relevance into account.
  • Shell leveraged customer data from Air Miles to provide customer offers during a period in which their preferred gas stations were closed for renovation – sales actually increased.
  • Nike is great example of building loyalty without control of channel, through Nike+ apps.
  • By being customer-centric at heart, companies have an opportunity to become relevant.
  • Companies must leverage data collected, but it’s key to be transparent to build trust – always use data in best interest of customer.

 

 

Twitter: @pearson4loyalty


David Shing
“What’s Next for Media?”

David Shing is the Digital Prophet for AOL and recently was the head of Media and Marketing for AOL Europe before relocating to New York in 2011. He literally gave the most fast-paced, high tempo presentation I’ve ever seen – sharing insights on the digital revolution, trends he sees unfolding, and how to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape.

Some key points from David’s talk:

  • Fragmentation is accelerating – portals, search, blogs, aggregators, feeds, social networks.
  • Digital content should entertain, inform and provide utility.
  • Attention is the new currency and simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
  • Nike+ FuelBand is a great example of combining physical, digital and social.
  • Location, location, location – social identity broadcasting (when, where and what) is accelerating.
  • People are getting overwhelmed – defriend and unfollow will be a trend.
  • It’s not about size, it’s about influence.
  • Companies need to create experiences authentic to the environment.
  • Generic advertising must evolve to influence marketing.
  • 0.02% is now the average display/banner ad click through rate.
  • As economic woes continue, consumers will appreciate small acts of kindness – even branded ones.
  • Cause marketing is now 3rd largest for sponsorship dollars.
  • What’s next?  Conversations, not campaigns. Conversations, not chatter.
  • Online videos are becoming increasingly prominent.
  • Companies must be an engine of difference to consumers
    • Foster social utility – it’s like like water, electricity
    • Encourage a remix culture
    • Find the right people
    • Harness pre-existing communities
    • Embrace co-creation, and fast fail foundation

Twitter: @shingy


Jim Lecinski
“ZMOT – Winning the Zero Moment of Truth”

 

Jim Lecinski is the Vice President, U.S. Sales for Google, and he leads Google’s advertising business nationally. His focus is helping major marketers and media agency partners in the Consumer Packaged Goods, Pharmacy & Healthcare, Food/Beverage/Restaurant, Branded Apparel & Durables and Media & Entertainment industries adapt to the new digital marketing realities.

Some key points from Jim’s talk:

  • The traditional mental model of marketing: stimulus -> first moment of truth (in store, point of decision) -> second moment of truth (experience product/service).
  • Recession and technology have changed the model of building brands.
  • A new moment of truth has arisen – online research.
  • Consider:
    • 83% of people regularly rely on review sites when making buying decisions.
    • 93% of Canadian online population conducts research online.
    • 47% of Canadian online population go to product review site.
    • 58% of people indicate online research influenced buying decision “a lot”.
  • TV is still an important stimulus – it prompts more action at ZMOT.
  • With mobile, ZMOT can happen at point of purchase in store.
  • Local searches, coupon searches are growing.
  • The number of sources customers use for information is increasing significantly.
  • How to win the zero moment of truth?
    • Put someone in charge.
    • Find the zero moments in your category.
    • Answer question’s people are asking you (research on Google).
    • Optimize for mobile.
    • Be fast – keep on top of trends and opportunities.
    • Win with video.

Twitter: @jimlecinski


Brent Choi and Andrew Simon
“Maximizing Your ROC – Return on Creativity. How to make innovate thinking work harder for your company.”

 

Brent Choi, Chief Creative Director at Cundari Group, and Andrew Simon, Partner and Chief Creative Officer at Blammo Worldwide, discussed creativity and shared some examples of innovative companies that foster a creative workplace culture.

Some key points from their talk:

  • Creativity is a discipline, a commitment and an investment.
  • Google does it well.
    • Employees allowed to spend 20% of their workweek on special projects not related to their normal workload.
    • Creativity is considered a collective pursuit.
    • Failure is fine – employees are encouraged to openly talk about failures.
    • Google has a vending machine for computer parts.
    • Free lunch offered, encouraging people from different areas of company to talk.
  • General Mills “Bold Experiments” strategy rewards brave decision making.
    • Cited Cheech and Chong promotion of Fibre One brownie.
  • Procter and Gamble has developed a “playground” property which employees can make use of, to incubate ideas while also escaping from the office.
  • To think creatively, companies need to break free and think differently.
  • Bring together people from different disciplines, with different ideas and perspectives.
  • Successful companies are ones that embrace creativity.

Twitter: @brentchoi, @andrewlsimon


Adam Froman
“The Age of Intelligence: From Insight to Action by Harnessing the Voice of the Customer”

Adam Froman, Founder and CEO of Delvinia, believes that digital platforms can be used to create meaningful, human connections between companies and their customers. His talk focussed on how companies can capture attitudes and behaviours of their customers to develop customer-driven strategies and improve customer experiences.

Some key points from Adam’s talk:

  • Much has changed over the last few years, but what hasn’t changed – need to get messages out to consumers, need to collect feedback to derive insights.
  • Voice of the customer has emerged, opportunity to collect feedback leveraging technology and attain 360 view of the customer in real time.
  • Three parts:
    • Ask customers for their opinion and perspective in real time.
    • Listen to what customers are saying about your brand.
    • Observe behaviour to understand how to enhance customer experience.
  • Ask:
    • Companies can use a variety of methods to attain opinions, including surveys, online communities, forums.
    • Three key motivators, from customer perspective – trust, privacy and reciprocity.
    • Opportunity to leverage innovative methods and platforms in collecting data (crowdsourcing cited as example),
  • Listen:
    • Leverage social media monitoring platforms and analytics.
    • Understand community participation (1% are heavy contributors, 9% are somewhat active, 90% are lurkers).
  • Observe:
    • Companies must integrate data to enhance decision making, understand behaviour and attain actionable insights.
    • Tableau and Clarabridge are companies that enable integration of CRM and social data in one place.
  • Five voice of customer key success factors:
    • Accept every customer is digital and they control the conversation.
    • Don’t let technology lead.
    • Think big data and integration of data.
    • Voice of the customer requires collaboration.
    • Voice of the customer is a customer experience.

See You in 2015!

We are going through some amazing, transformative times in the business world. I don’t think it’s a stretch to use those words. Digital technology and social media are providing unprecedented opportunities for companies to truly engage and build relationships with stakeholder groups, on a very direct, personalized and humanized one to one level. It’s scaled caring, to the point where companies and brands can create relationships with thousands of customers – and it’s what people are increasingly looking for in the brands they do business with.

Unfortunately, many companies do not yet fully realize or understand this. I have had a number of conversations with peers who work in marketing, communications and advertising – with companies and agencies. Many of them believe that the value and benefits associated with social media, particularly as presented by well-known social media bloggers and authors, are just hype – stating that they are far removed from present realities within the companies they work for or do business with.

Perhaps that is the case. Perhaps their realities are far different. If so, it is unfortunate, because their companies risk being left behind by competitors who embrace the social capabilities that digital enables – no matter which industry they operate in, no matter whether they are B2C or B2B.

Recently I sent a tweet to Gary Vaynerchuk, a well-known social media luminary and author of best-selling books Crush It! and The Thank You Economy, asking for his perspective on the issue. Gary was kind enough to record a video response, which he originally posted on garyvaynerchuk.com and I have re-posted here.

I have read both of Gary’s books, and I agree with Gary’s perspective. I think, in today’s day and age, it is necessary to have an entrepreneurial mindset – to be proactive, to search for new and emerging opportunities to engage with customers and grow business, and to be willing to take risks while doing so. Digital and social are evolving at breakneck speeds, it’s important to be mindful of new platforms which companies can leverage to build relationships with customers.  Not all initiatives will be successful, but companies that employ a diverse, well-thought out range of engagement activities will uncover some that are “sticky” and favored by customers.

Having the right corporate culture, one that truly supports the new social paradigm, is also key. According to Jason Baker, Digital Strategist at Magnify Digital and Digicate, “The most important thing for any company is to focus on their culture and how their culture fits into telling their story in an authentic and genuine fashion. Anyone can know that you’re a social company. You can blabber on Twitter for as long as you want in 140 characters, but no one can truly connect with your business until you’ve identified your core values, personality, vision, purpose, and/ or cause. Ask the hard questions to extract those answers, then develop an integrated digital strategy that allows you to share those elements in a passionate, authentic, and genuine way.”

Collectively, we are all learning as we go – and sharing insights along the way. Age and experience in marketing and communications, while still important, are not the be all and end all. Look at the number of bright, young minds who are excelling in digital marketing – there are a lot of young entrepreneurs out there. Awesome!

That said, while lots of the talk is on social and digital, I don’t believe that traditional marketing is going away. Actually, I look forward to the day when traditional marketing and digital marketing just become known as “marketing”. I think there is a fantastic opportunity for companies to develop integrated campaigns across a variety of platforms, telling their brand story while engaging and building rapport with customers. Companies need to pick best platforms and engagement styles that are right for them.

It’s important to think strategically and realize that success in digital and social media will not happen overnight. At the same time, companies need to be nimble and fleet of foot, adopting a culture that enables engagement opportunities to be seized as they arise.

For a great example of this, please read my recent post on KLM.

As for everyone’s favorite social media topic, ROI, well let’s not kid anyone here – tangible metrics are important. Here is a great post on the topic from David Armano, SVP at Edelman Digital.

It’s an exciting time to be in marketing and communications, I can’t wait to see what the next few years have in store. See you in 2015.

Challenges Companies Face in Truly Embracing Digital

Over 700 million people are now on social networks worldwide. Numerous companies are successfully engaging with these people, leveraging social media, technology and emerging platforms to engage with customers, generate demand and drive sales. They are also gaining valuable insights and data as a result of their efforts, paving the path for more intelligent business decisions and targeted marketing.

However, in spite of this, many companies have been slow in embracing the digital frontier. For these organizations, several concerns stand out.

Lack of attention and priority to digital

A digital mindset must involve all levels of an organization, starting at the top with senior management. In fact, many companies at the forefront of digital have senior managers who actively engage with customers, whether through corporate blogs, Twitter or other means. Peter Aceto, CEO of ING DIRECT Canada, openly shares a variety of insights on Twitter at @CEO_ingdirect. Without senior management support, as is the case with any strategy or initiative, it will be difficult for digital to permeate through an organization.

A tactical, and not strategic, focus

Related to the point above, a digital strategy must be highly integrated with the overall business objectives and marketing plan. Merely setting up a corporate Twitter account and Facebook Fan page, and regurgitating marketing and communications messages from other platforms, is not sufficient. A digitally strategy must be well thought out, with consideration given towards the needs of the target market and how each unique touch point can be leveraged to engage and create value.

Organizational education and alignment

To effectively build a strong digital presence, specific skills are required. Those people responsible for being the face of a company online must understand how to foster and build community and loyalty with customers. A sense of trust is of the utmost importance. Further, some organizations allow employees from departments other than marketing and communications to engage with customers. In such instances, it is critical that employees understand they are representing the brand, and that external departments buy into and support the effort.

Disparate consumer touch points

Companies are now able to connect with consumers in a variety of ways, through a variety of platforms, both online and offline. The number of different consumer touch points certainly makes it more challenging for companies to ensure that consumers are receiving positive, consistent experiences that are aligned with the brand. Well thought out digital strategies, including proper training and internal communication of brand values, will help ensure consistency.

Dated CRM strategies and research methodologies

While customer relationship management systems are still important, solely relying on them is not enough. Digital provides an opportunity to collect rich and relevant insights about customers, and how they want a brand to fit within the context of *their* lives. One new and evolving way to glean insights is through crowdsourcing, which enables a company to tap into the collective intelligence of a large group of people or community. Crowdsourcing could, for example, be used by a company to determine how it can improve its products and services, brainstorm products and services it should consider offering or, from a philanthropic standpoint, learn about causes its customers would like it to support.

So, how to get started with a digital strategy?  This is definitely a topic for another blog post, or a book (and there are many great ones out there!).  A good first step is for a company to figure out which social media platforms are most relevant for its brand. At minimum, consideration should be given towards cultivating a following on Twitter and a community on a Facebook Fan Page. Staff should get involved, engaging with customers on a daily basis, which will result in credibility and trust being built over the long term.

Ah yes, long term trust. Imagine the rewards that can be created, for both companies and consumers, through a forward-thinking digital mindset and well-conceived strategy.

Do any of the concerns mentioned above resonate with you? Has your company truly embraced digital?

Stand for Something

One way a brand can stand out and build a stronger bond with customers is to become aligned with a relevant cause that truly benefits the greater good.

Consumers, and even customers in business to business environments, certainly expect the companies they purchase from to be good corporate citizens. Fair and ethical treatment of staff members, giving back to the local community, and adherence to green practices just make good business sense. But imagine how your customers might perceive your brand if you *WOW* them by setting a gold standard for social and environmental practices.

Digital technology is making it easier for companies to engage with consumers and support causes in new and unique ways.

Here are several examples of companies that are making a difference.

TOMS Shoes – For every pair of shoes purchased, a pair is given to a child in need. Since the program launched in 2006, over 600,000 shoes have been given to children in the United States, Argentina, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Guatemala, Haiti, and South Africa

Pepsi – Rather move forward with a traditional Super Bowl TV spot, Pepsi launched the Pepsi Refresh Project. Through the $20 million crowdsourcing initiative, which will no doubt be a marketing case study, people are enticed to submit and vote on ideas that will have a positive impact on society. The best ideas will receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000 each.

CauseWorld – CauseWorld is an iPhone and Android app that is similar to Foursqaure and Gowalla, in that it enables users check into check into locations they visit. For each check in, users earn “Karma” points, which they can then redeem using the app to donate money to select charitable organizations. The money is provided by sponsors including Procter & Gamble, Kraft and Sears.

Have you thought about how your company can leverage digital in making a difference?

The Need for Innovation at Retail

I feel that innovative marketing at retail, specifically grocery stores, is currently lacking. Studies have shown that shopper marketing, done properly, can be a very effective driver of brand awareness and product purchase – more than mass and digital media. A recent trip to a Vancouver, BC grocery store revealed both good and bad examples of shopper marketing.

The good: When purchasing deli meats, a Hellman’s mayonnaise coupon was placed on the package. Right beside the deli was a well-placed, visible rack of Hellman’s mayonnaise.  Two complementary products, and a coupon presented in a unique manner  – well done. I had never seen that before, it caught my attention; a “purple cow” in Seth Godin lingo.

The bad: The same grocery store, for the last year, has been playing a short promotional video for a particular brand of meats near the frozen sausages section. I shop there every week, and I don’t think I ever recall anyone stopping to watch the video. It is not engaging, there is no incentive to watch. Who really cares, and who has the time? What a waste.

How can brands be more innovative at retail? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Add value by promoting quick, easy to access digital recipes on packaging.  A simple link to a website, or perhaps Facebook group, will suffice. Enable consumers to easily share the recipes with their friends, perhaps using the Facebook “like” feature.
  2. Consider a cause-related incentive to purchase. People care about brands that truly strive to make a difference, through genuine relationships and partnerships with charities. TOMS donates a new pair of shoes to a child in need, for each pair purchased. How about donating a portion of proceeds for each sale to a relevant charity?
  3. Ensure that your packaging is innovative.  Employ functionality wherever possible, making it easy to store. Also make sure that your design truly stands out, without adding to the messaging clutter found in grocery stores.


Key Considerations for Launching a Social Media Strategy

More and more companies are embracing digital and social media as an opportunity to engage and deepen relationships with customers, augmenting or even replacing traditional marketing strategies. A recent example, rather move forward with a traditional Super Bowl TV spot, Pepsi launched the Pepsi Refresh Project. Through the $20 million crowdsourcing initiative, which will no doubt be a marketing case study, people are enticed to submit and vote on ideas that will have a positive impact on society. The best ideas will receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000 each.

Pepsi is just one many companies endeavoring to be more innovative in an increasingly fragmented media landscape. Such innovation is now a necessity, as brands strive to break through and achieve relevancy in the mindset of modern consumers. However, before going full on in digital and social media, there are some very important questions companies must ask themselves.

1. Is the strategy aligned with the brand and overall marketing plan?

 

An interactive social media strategy should be created and executed in proper alignment with the overall brand strategy. Keeping in mind that social media is based on two-way dialogue, companies must ensure that the brand identity is upheld and in each and every interaction. Like any medium, desired messaging must be consistent with other components of the marketing plan.  Social media should not be a standalone strategy, where possible companies should consider integrating it with other mediums.  For example, a print ad could drive people to a Facebook fan page, with a proper incentive that consumers find to be of value.

2. How will the social media efforts be measured?

 

As with any marketing strategy, metrics are important. While it is always valuable to determine ROI on a given campaign, social media measurement should be considered a bit differently. Effective social media engagement strategies rely on word-of-mouth.  As such, companies need to monitor the conversation that is occurring. What is being discussed? What is their share of the conversation, for a particular market segment? How often is their product and/or service being recommended?

The 4Ps have evolved into the 4Cs – content, connections, community and conversations.

Here is an overview of online buzz generated from this year’s Super Bowl commercials, courtesy of Mashable.

3. Are the necessary resources available to execute?

 

Companies need to consider whether they have the knowledge and skills necessary to properly execute a social media strategy, either internally or with partner agencies. Social media is much, much more than possessing an understanding of Facebook and Twitter – companies that rely on that as a basis for “expertise” are only setting themselves up for failure.  As a side note, in May 2009 a search of Twitter profiles revealed that there are 4,487 self-proclaimed social media experts. As of December 2009, there were 15,740. This represents a three and a half fold increase, within just six months! Yikes! Drawing a parallel, I’ve been skiing most of my life, so I suppose I should be trying out for the World Cup circuit right now, shouldn’t I?

Of course, there are many top social media pros who stand out from the crowd, I am fortunate to know some of them. In building resources to execute social media program, an understanding of both social media and marketing fundamentals is important.

What are your thoughts? What should companies consider when developing a social media strategy?