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Taking social media seriously (no cats, please)

The Webby Awards, which honor the best of the web each year, recently published their first social media report with best practices for using social media effectively for your business.

With the catchy title “Cats are Over: 24 Brands Thriving on Social Media in the Post-Cat Economy”, the report packs lots of useful information and examples into the free 27-page pdf document. In their words:

It’s loaded with indispensable tips, facts, and best practices from 24 feline-free Webby Winning brands including Shake Shack, GE, The Onion, The New York Times, Team Coco, NASA, and sage advice from members of our judging body, the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.

I especially liked the content section of the report, which emphasizes a focus on the audience and how the various media can help brands build relationships through relevant, useful content. In my experience, this is where brand-led social can fall apart:  when content doesn’t properly align with the medium (such as lengthy tweets stuffed with messaging) or doesn’t align with the expectations of the audience (such as Pinterest boards that aren’t visually appealing).

The report also has several particularly good examples of innovative uses of social media, including:

  • Kayak.com’s use of content that romances the idea of travel and provides travel tips
  • General Electric encouraging their audience to contribute Vine videos about science via their #6SecondScience Fair promotion
  • And Mullen creating a Snapchat promotion for their client Acura to create buzz around an auto prototype

A consistent theme throughout the report is that of authentic communication – from the brand, to the audience, and per the medium.  The point is illustrated best by the Webby Award winner for best Overall Social Presence, The Mars Curiosity. Again from the report:

The Mars Curiosity Twitter account is an excellent example of how even a technical and institutional organization like NASA can still be fun and entertaining. The Mars Curiosity rover’s tweets aren’t stuffy or stiff, but always informative.
@MarsCuriosity has nearly 1.5 million followers – that’s not bad for a robot.

The future of social learning

Education delivered via the web has the potential to reach broad audiences inexpensively and quickly. Technology has progressed to the point where it is easy for individuals and organizations to make education available, and easy for students of all kinds to consume it. Providers such as Khan Academy, Coursera, edX, and Udacity take online education to a new level, coordinating quality offerings from a variety of reputable sources to build libraries of courses, as well as amassing treasure troves of data about the offerings and the people who participate.

I appreciate the innovation, in technical delivery as well as in the business model of making learning available to a wider audience. But the innovation can’t stop here. The learning model is still largely one of “one to many”, that is, an expert delivering expertise to an audience. The goal should be true social learning, involving networks of experts who share expertise and learn from each other.

I’m enrolled in a free online course via Coursera this fall, getting educated on a new topic, but mostly wanting to experience first hand what the learning environment is like. I have a lot of experience designing instruction for online delivery, delivering instruction in person and online, and in managing online communities. Midway through the semester-long course, I’m satisfied with the delivery from the experts – they’re knowledgeable, clear, and engaging (even funny at times). The modules are designed well, with frequent breaks for validation and retention, and the production quality delivered over my high-speed internet is very good. The forums are lively and the community is encouraged to form study groups online (Google Hangouts, QQ, etc) as well as off line, using meetups.

But I’m not all that engaged. I’m missing what I love about learning and collaborating and sharing expertise: a connection with the people who are also learning. I have participated in thousands of hours of online group learning and the active engagement of people during the learning matters to me. And I suspect to others too; 44% of those who sign up for massive open online courses (MOOCs) do not finish (source).

I will finish the course, and take other courses too. There’s too much promise here to ignore. The initial results of educational reach are promising, and the ability to collect data to improve the offerings can make a real difference in delivery. To be a truly game changing innovation, though, massive online education must continue to iterate toward the goal of creating networks of experts who can share knowledge in their own communities.

Marketing strategy: Networks of influence

Most businesses have set up a presence on popular social media sites such as Twitter, and many are monitoring for brand interaction (such as the number of likes, retweets, etc). But as a marketing strategy, there’s a big difference between using social media for brand presence versus managing a program for brand impact. The power of social goes untapped unless you are using it to access networks of influence.

As I mentioned in another post, I hosted an Ask the Experts Roundtable at the Direct Marketing Association annual conference in Chicago this week. This topic resonated with the crowd ’round the roundtable because marketing leaders are under pressure to show value with social. One marketing leader at a Fortune 500 company told me her bosses want her to “do something with crowdsourcing”. Another, this one from a collection agency, was struggling with how social applies to their product (the product one no one wants!).

Our discussion centered around the concept of empowering a network of authentic voices to drive influence, using social media. These influencers include:

  • Employees with credible voice
  • Advocates who have passion for your product
  • Partners who have interest in your success
  • Customers who care about their purchase
  • Observers who form opinions about your service

Your social marketing program equips these influencers with content, training, feedback, motivation and support to develop authority in their networks. The digital strategy connects and amplifies the conversations, thereby reinforcing reputation and authority.

We also discussed the importance of measuring what matters.  The goal is to measure impact, but also analyze effectiveness of the marketing program itself.  This includes:

  • Program readiness – Strategy alignment, org support, tools
  • Participant effectiveness – Training, reach, engagement, reputation, impact
  • Business outcomes – Branding, marketing, sales, service, recruiting, referral

I used these slides to prompt the conversation around the table: DMA2013AsktheExpertJeanneMurray

Learning to lead a digital strategy: 3 topics for business students

Incorporating digital strategy into business plans involves more than simply using social as a media channel. Over the past month I’ve had conversations with leaders in several top notch MBA programs about how to prepare future business leaders for the challenges of engaging audiences, creating business opportunities, and leading teams in the digital world.

What should today’s business students be learning about digital and social? Three key topics:

1The digital brand experience

  • How brand experience is conveyed through digital (web, events, social media, communities, etc.)
  • Aligning digital strategy with business objectives
  • Driving the brand experience using the many actors engaged in the system (employees, advocates, consumers, etc).
  • Monitoring the market and integrating digital input with other market intelligence
  • Measuring impact and relating the impact to business goals
  • Refining strategy, and deploying through the  ecosystem quickly

2. Data-driven CRM

  • How “customer relationship management” means more than sales automation – determining what data defines the customer/prospect and what meaningful action can be taken on the data by all the people in the system (marketing, sales, service) to service customers and prospects better
  • Defining meaningful data from digital/social interactions
  • Correlating digital data sources with traditional data sources for more real-time view of the customer/prospect
  • Using digital data to understand who else is interacting with the customer/prospect and to service, retain & upsell

3. Collaborative global teaming

  • How to work collaboratively across teams and cultures using digital spaces
  • Sharing work, including when to share and what not to share
  • Working transparently (‘working out loud’), how to build connections across disciplines that lead to innovation and deliberate serendipity
  • Understanding cultural differences and how they are exhibited in digital interactions
  • Leading in virtual environments

Leaders who have a strategic understanding of how these 3 topics drive business will have a competitive advantage over those leaders who still think their intern can lead social strategy by managing a Twitter account.

B2B Social: Using social media to foster authenticity and get results #DMA13

Next week I’m hosting an Ask the Experts Roundtable at DMA2013 in Chicago on this subject.

Here’s the abstract:

Building social into your B2B digital marketing plan is easy, just open a Twitter account. Right? Wrong. The key to effective and influential social marketing is authentic relationships among the people involved in your business – inside and outside your company. In this Ask the Expert session, we’ll discuss:

  1. Who to involve in B2B social, which social venues to use, and what type of content works
  2. How to build an effective program for educating participants and motivating them to stay involved
  3. Key metrics to measure impact and analyze effectiveness

I’ll lead a discussion on how people in a business can participate in social media in meaningful ways. That is, in ways that are strategic, purposeful, and measurable, so the actions drive business. I’m developing a short presentation, which I’ll post here as well.

If you or anyone you know are attending, please get in touch on Twitter @jeanne_murray.

About Me, the longer version

I help businesses reach audiences to deliver value, especially using digital technologies.

My elevator speech

I’m a business consultant with expertise in strategic planning, market development, digital campaign marketing, and online training programs. I’m a collaborative leader with experience in the global information technology industry, enterprise program management, and non-profit development.  I spent much of my career with large corporations, including IBM, and my clients now include universities, small businesses, and non profits in addition to enterprises. I blend a vision for innovation with practical experience and a focus on measurable results.

My themes for this blog: insights on working, learning, and collaborating in a digital world

  • social collaboration
  • community engagement
  • online learning
  • digital marketing
  • data-driven marketing and analytics
  • global business – for profit and non profit
  • work and family

My story

Early in my career, I lived in the Washington DC area, working as an editor and writer for a trade association and a major a consulting firm. Then, realizing we were nearing an age where we’d no longer qualify for student travel rates, a friend and I purchased Eurorail,  TransSiberan Railway and plane tickets for a backpacking trip around the world. Three months living out of a backpack gave me a thirst for adventure and a desire to see more of the world, goals I continue to pursue.

I moved to Durham NC for a different adventure (my wonderful marriage), started working for IBM in Research Triangle Park, and earned a graduate degree at one of the world class universities in the region. I started my IBM career in software development and latched on to this new idea called the internet. Believe it or not, it was an entreprenurial thought in 1999 to use the internet to reach, engage, and build community among a worldwide audience. I and a small band of merry and incredibly talented colleagues launched the very successful ibm.com/developerworks website, which today is used by 4 million technical practitioners per month.

In recent years I’ve led pioneering programs to harness the power of social collaboration for business. I’ve built and deployed digital marketing campaigns that incorporate social touchpoints, community engagement programs to drive employee workforce productivity, and social influencer coaching programs to help experts build relationships that drive business success.

My beautiful family has inspired me and helped me hone skills in setting priorities, clarifying goals, and asking for help. From time to time I’ll share thoughts in this blog on what “balance” means, as a working mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, community volunteer, reader of great books, and runner of long distances.

My next adventure

I’ve started Murray Digital Consulting to help clients on their quest to work more efficiently, reach audiences more effectively and make a difference in the world. Whether you are wanting to incorporate digital technologies into your business workflow, looking to deploy online learning and community engagement or needing greater marketing impact, I want to help you.