(Almost) Everybody’s Here Now

The path to cultivating and building influence on the social web has gotten a lot harder than what it used to be. That’s saying something – because building influence has never been an easy task. Companies, in developing digital marketing and communications strategies, have included influencer outreach and engagement as a key focal point for a number of years now. However, the continued steady growth of information and content on the web, blogs and otherwise, has made it much more challenging for individuals to build a standout, highly trafficked online presence – correspondingly, companies will face increasing difficulties in defining and engaging with influencers, and must rethink their strategies accordingly.

According to Wikipedia, as of February 2011 there were 156 million public blogs in existence. Comparatively speaking, various estimates peg the number of blogs in 2005 at around 25 to 35 million. More notably, however, is the rise in overall content creation and consumption. Think about the time that is now spent on social networks, and the resulting information that is being generated and shared.  If attention were to be considered as a currency, the exchange rate right now is quite high.

When blogging first started to truly grow in popularity a few years ago, those who put forth the effort to provide quality, reliable and interesting content were able to create a strong online presence – attracting readers, establishing themselves as influencers. A couple of such prominent bloggers who come to mind are Raul Pachec0-Vega, who writes at hummingbird604.com and Rebecca Bollwitt, who writes at www.miss604.com. Make no mistake, both Raul and Rebecca put in a lot of hard work into establishing their online presences – and success did not come overnight for either of them. However, I find it hard to believe that the degree of success they have earned can be achieved by anyone today, in the crowded attention economy.

This has ramifications for companies, as they attempt to identify and work with influencers to build relationships and establish genuine word-of-mouth about their products and services.

Here are some questions companies should consider:

  1. Is the message that they would like to spread, and engage influencers with, sticky and relevant?
  2. Do they have the capabilities to scale their influencer outreach?  To achieve a similar breadth of outreach compared to years ago, it is likely that companies now need to engage with more influencers – remember though, the quality of relationships with influencers can’t be replaced by quantity. Building personal relationships is important.
  3. Are accurate metrics and evaluation processes in place to identify relevant influencers?

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?

Strategic Planning – Key Components

Early in my marketing career, I was fortunate to participate in corporate strategic planning sessions. From these sessions, I truly learned the value of creating a proper strategic marketing plan, outlining a company’s vision, mission and objectives, as well as strategies and tactics to achieve the objectives. This planning discipline has stuck with me throughout my career, I have employed it at every company I have worked at – achieving success in the process.

Here is an overview of the key components of a strategic plan.

Vision Statement

An overarching inspirational, and statement that outlines an organization’s desired state, or how it wants the world in which it operates to be.  It is a clear statement that is focused on the future.

Mission Statement

Often confused with a vision statement, a mission statement is more oriented towards the fundamental purpose of an organization. It provides direction with regards to process, and the desired level of performance.


Objectives outline the desired goals and outcomes to be achieved. Ideally, they should be clearly defined and measurable.


Strategies are the plans, or methods, that will be employed to achieve the objectives.

Tactics and Timing

The specific actions underlying a strategy, and the timeframe against which they should be executed.

Often, companies develop strategic plans on an annual basis.  However, given the increased velocity of change and innovation in today’s world, I recommend revisiting and revising strategic plans on a quarterly basis, if not more often than that. Doing so will enable companies to be quick and nimble with regards to competition, and enable them to more easily evaluate and pounce on opportunities as they arise.

Here is a strategic planning template, in PowerPoint format, that I really like.

Click here to download. (ppt, 184kb)

Happy planning!