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Posts Tagged ‘Red Chair’

The next date on your calendar, especially if you are in Europe next week, should be this:

May 26: Brussels, Belgium. IAB ‘Think Digital’ Conference.

Among the speakers: Rohit Bahrgava, Eric Phu, Ciarán Norris, Alex West, Kevin Slavin, and… this guy named Olivier Blanchard that you may or may not have heard about.

What will we all cover on May 26? Many of the types of strategies and methodologies that brands and their agencies still need a lot of help with. Here is a short list:

– New paradigms of vertical and lateral marketing: brand evangelism and media-aided word of mouth.

– Understanding how to properly blend and leverage owned, bought, and earned media (again, great for brand managers and agencies that understand bought and owned, but don’t fully grasp the earned piece yet). Very important stuff.

– TV & Digital: The next 5 years. Opportunities, methods, technologies, principles and revenue models for brands and agencies.

– Chinese markets and digital: What is going on behind the Great Firewall, and what that means to you.

– The psychology of happiness as it relates to customer acquisition and retention (deeper impact through social recommendations, and stronger loyalty resulting in accelerated growth).

– The new culture of consumer-brand engagement, and what this means to micro and macro brands.

– Don’t just throw money at it: Converting followers and fans into real returns (ROI) for brands and their agencies. (Outlining the social business process model, and answering the why and the how.)

Think of it as a one-day MBA on digital brand, program and campaign management from some of the brightest professionals on the planet, and part 1 of  2 such events between now and July in Europe (Likeminds: Paris [Update: Canceled by the organizers] and Social Media Day/Red Chair: Antwerp – coming up in late June, right after the Cannes Lions). Social Media Day Antwerp will combine a 1/2 day Red Chair-style series of workshops on Social Media strategy and integration (including a full hour of open Q&A for attendees) and a pretty solid DJ party afterwards to celebrate the global event.

If you can’t be in Brussels on the 26th, definitely share this link with your boss, peers, clients, agencies… or send one of your staffers so they can take notes for you. The sooner companies learn and get comfortable with these concepts and processes, the faster marketing and digital budgets can start yielding solid results for everyone (brand and agencies). Wouldn’t that be superfly?

>> IAB Think Digital Conference – Main Site, Program & ScheduleRegister<< (The most important part.)

See you there.

Oh, and if you haven’t read Social Media ROI yet (every manager, executive and agency strategist should have this thing on their desk by now), check out what people who have read it have to say about it.

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“They were worried that I would get bogged down in wanting to do things, not just create strategy.”

David Polinchock / @lbbinc

One of the topics covered during the #LikeMinds Summit this past weekend was precisely this: The chasm between strategy and execution, especially as businesses struggle to understand how to leverage, integrate and operationalize Social Communications (what you do with social media platforms) in the coming 6-24 months.

Unfortunately, because the C-suite tends to look to itself when it comes to “strategic masterminding,” the focus too often shifts from execution at the customer level (the most important thing a business should be focusing on on) to… being the guy who came up with the game-changing strategy that will secure more funding and increase influence within the organization.

When this happens, strategy becomes a product, and that’s bad. Strategy isn’t a product. Strategy exists mostly in support of execution.

Any idiot with a powerpoint deck can deliver a “Social” strategy:

“We’ll create a facebook fan page, a twitter account, a LinkedIn Group, a YouTube channel, a blog, and a Flickr account too! We’ll convert all of our customers who participate in social networking into fans and followers, and we’ll engage them with content at regular intervals throughout the day. We’ll embed hyperlinks into our tweets and facebook updates so we can pull them to our website to increase traffic there. We’ll get lots of extra clicks. We’ll gain mindshare by being there with them on their favorite social platforms. When they talk to us, we’ll respond. We’ll monitor sentiment and mentions. Our social media strategy will be a success.”

Um… yeah, except… no.

Sometimes, companies focus so much on developing and implementing strategies that they forget to focus on what’s important: Focusing on the customers. That’s priority numero uno. As a consumer, I don’t give two shakes what a company’s latest strategy is. I really don’t care. You want to gain 4% market share in the next quarter? You want to dominate the tablet PC market? Okay. Great. What’s that to me? All I want is for you to improve my life. How are you planning on doing that? How does your strategy actually make anything happen on the ground? Have you thought about what happens when your theories actually touch the real world?

The gap between high level strategy and ground-level execution can usually be summed up this way: Do you understand the tactics and ground level dynamics enough to ensure that your strategy will turn into something more than just an inspiring powerpoint presentation? Yes = small or no gap. No = huge gap.

On the ground, in the real world, what does your grand strategy do to make me want to spend more time recommending you to my friends? Spend more time wishing I could fill my garage with more of your stuff? What’s your strategy to make my experiences with your brand outclass and outshine my experiences with every other company? What’s your strategy to be awesome?

Don’t just look at strategy from the top down and the inside out. Also look at it from the outside in. How does it play in terms of influencing customer perceptions and behavior? How does it differentiate you or increase preference?

Let me illustrate the difference between tactically-agnostic strategy and tactically-savvy strategy:

What could you do TODAY that would change the way customers feel about you?

a) Give them a 10% off rebate that may take 30-60 business days to process. (We’ll worry about eroding margins and loyalty later.)

b) Knock their socks off with incredible customer service. (Smiles are free and being helpful makes customers come back.)

– or another choice –

a) Try to nickle-and-dime a guest with a $10 bottle of water in their hotel room (hey, going after that incremental revenue looks genius on Excel. Let’s charge extra for everything! We’ll make billions off premium pillow mints.)

b) Slap a note on the bottle that says “It’s water. Of course it’s free.” (The repeat business, loyalty and recommendations are worth more than the odd begrudged transaction.)

Which hotel chain is more likely to get repeat business and earn recommendations?

Which of these options do you think a disconnected top-down strategy might have generated? a) or b)?

Strangely, few companies have an “awesomeness” strategy. They have growth strategies, sales strategies, reach strategies, campaign strategies, pull strategies… all of which include a lot of content creation, content distribution and push/pull schemes created and directed from the top echelons. Great stuff, don’t get me wrong. But also lots of wasted energy working its way down to customers through less than fluid “channels.” Lots of energy wasted encountering friction and resistance on their way to the customers. Encountering snags and problems.  That’s the execution gap. That’s the part of implementation that too much emphasis on strategy, coupled with an operational chasm between the “strategists” and the “doers” creates.

So, your company isn’t short on strategy. You have dozens if not hundreds of powerpoint presentations to prove it. The quarterly deluge of strategic plans and “bullet points” and budget proposals to prove it. Social Media-related or otherwise. How’s that been working out for you?

Social Media – as it relates to Brand Management, PR, Marketing, Business Development, Community Management, recruiting, internal collaboration, product innovation and crisis management – isn’t about developing the winning strategy. There’s no “win” in developing or delivering a strategy.  Any strategy. Ever. Anywhere. I mean, yes, you’re smart. We get it. Thank you. That’s wonderful. But now what?

The reality here, the nugget, is this: The emphasis on top-down strategy is completely wrong for Social Media and Social Communications. The way to truly make Social Media and Social Communications WORK for business requires a focus on enablement, not strategy. Strategies don’t generate revenue. Strategies don’t win market share. Strategies don’t make customers loyal. Strategies are bullets on a slide, ink on paper, words across a conference table. They’re essentially worthless until you can use them to move a needle.

The disproportionate investment in strategy vs. implementation and execution is at the heart of why “Social” works for so few companies right now.

1. What are we trying to improve? (What should we be trying to improve?) <– Start with customer experience. Always.

2. What will it take to make that happen?

3. Does Social fit in?

4. If so, how?

5. What can Social help us improve?

6. What will it take to make that happen?

That’s it. Those those 6 questions. Start there. Stop talking about it. Move towards something your customers will be able to grasp, enjoy, value and convey.

Next time someone wants to sell you on a strategy, tell them to come back when they can show you exactly how they plan to implement it. Always make the strategist responsible for the execution. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches, and things will get done a lot faster.

Cheers,

Olivier

PS: The upcoming Red Chair double-workshop in Portland, Oregon (PDX) on March 11 and March 12 focuses on precisely that: How to actually put all of this into action. How to make it work. One session is designed for enterprise space management and executives, and the other for account management and Social Media for small business. It would be lovely of you to help spread the word, even if you can’t attend this time around. 🙂 For registration and information, click here.

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You guys asked for me to re-post this piece, and your wish is my command. Share this with hiring managers, your CMO, and everyone looking into considering either creating or filling a position requiring Social Media management skills:

Tip #1: Social Media Directors should know how to do their jobs without having to ask for help every five minutes:

So I look down and the (twitter) DM reads: “Hey, can you help me out? Not sure how to do this. How do I use Twitter to gain traction for my company? Thanks!” I stare at it for a while and decide to blow it off for now, not because I have better things to do (which I do) and not because I don’t really have time to build a Twitter business plan for this person right this second (which I don’t), but because that DM comes from a newly minted Social Media Director at a fairly visible company who basically just asked me to help them hold on to a job they obviously didn’t deserve to be hired for.

I slide my Blackberry Storm into my back pocket and find myself flashbacking to 11th grade: It’s final exams time and I am in hour two of IB Biology. The essay section. One of the kids in my class is behind me, gently kicking my chair, whispering, begging me to move my scrap/notes where they can read them.

And I am almost tempted to do it.

That same conversation starts taking place in my head. I’m in a position to help someone in need. But wait… cheating is cheating. Don’t do it. But still, I feel that I should help. Arrrgh…

I reach for the blackberry, launch Twitterberry (which is not my favorite app, by the way), and respond: “Wait… You got the job, right? Don’t you know how to do this? Isn’t that why you were hired?”

For hours, no response. And then it comes. “Yeah, but I’m in a little over my head. I’ve never worked with Social Media in a business context before. ;)”

Again. This from a Director-level individual now working for a pretty well known company.

Not cool.

I suffer through similar exchanges weekly now, and I am not happy about it. What does this trend say about what types of people are going after Social Media management jobs – and landing them with alarming frequency these days? At the very least, I am worried about how this is going to end up hurting Social Media’s legitimacy in the business world. (Watch the video for my reasoning on this specific point.)

If the video doesn’t launch, you can go watch it here. Thanks, Viddler).

Tip #2: There are three types of people currently vying for Social Media Management jobs. Be very careful whom you consider for this key position:

With this disturbing development weighing on me more and more these past few months, I’ve been thinking long and hard about what is going on in the Social Media “management” world, and I’ve basically come down to two conclusions: The first (which we’ll get back to in a few minutes) is that the qualifications of Social Media Directors may not be entirely clear to the folks interviewing and hiring applicants for those positions. The second is that as a result of this, confusion, we are now looking at three distinct types of Social Media Directors/Managers scampering about in the corporate world, some good, some okay, and some really bad.

The first type is the best type: These folks are super smart, talented, experienced in a broad range of disciplines, have an established footprint in the Social Media space (through blogs, Twitter, Ning, various communities), are recognized as thought leaders (or as emerging thought leaders), and are unquestionably passionate about what they do. Folks like Chris Brogan, Frank Eliason, Amber Naslund, Mack Collier, Beth Harte, Valeria Maltoni, etc. These are folks who are truly writing the book on how to build social media practices and smoothly integrate them in the organizations they work with.

The second type isn’t quite as savvy, but it isn’t lacking in talent, smarts and enthusiasm. These are people who basically don’t know how to be Social Media directors yet, but are learning fast. And most importantly, they are completely open about the fact that they are still in that learning stage, which means that their employers are okay with it. In spite of the fact that they are still very junior, the companies they work for saw in them a lot of potential and decided to hire them toward that end. (I dig people like this a lot.)

The third type is what I would call the bad type. Not bad as in cool, but rather… bad as in unethical, inept and unprofessional. These are the con artists. The shams. The hacks. The folks whose egos and selfishness led them to a moment in their lives when they unapologetically took a job they knew they weren’t qualified for. And now here they are: Social Media Director for Company ABC, soon to move over to Company XYZ, and so on. One position validating the next, one impressive brand on their resume justifying consideration by the next, and so it goes: A perpetual daisy chain of high profile Social Media management job built on unadulterated douchebaggery and thinly-disguised mediocrity.

(Ironically, this third group tends to be the same one that perpetuates the notion that Social Media ROI either doesn’t exist or is “unwise” to try and measure. Yeah. Convenient, isn’t it?)

Note: Having been a Social Media manager for a major brand doesn’t mean jackaloo. Don’t fall for the old name-dropping trick. Even if the applicant was indeed “Social Media VP” for superbrand XYZ, what did they accomplish while in the position? What did they actually do? Hint: You don’t want to be some idiot’s next unfortunate employer. Don’t let someone’s previous job title dazzle you. We’ve already established that any idiot  with a little game can be a Social Media Director these days. Be careful.

Tip #3: Before we go on, here are some red flags to help you identify deadbeat Social Media Directors:

A) Every time you see a major global consumer brand engaging with less than 5% of its active (vocal) customers on a popular Social Media platform like Twitter after 8-10 months of activity, you can bet that their Social Media Director belongs to that third category.

B) If every time you walk into your monthly status meeting with your new Social Media Director and ask them for the latest, they either talk to you about Google analytics, confuse you with endless spreadsheets or launch into a “Social Media takes time” monologue, chances are that they belong to that third category.

C) If you ask your Social Media Director why their efforts aren’t scaling very fast or producing the numbers you expected and they give you a story about engagement not being a numbers game, chances are that they belong in that third category.*

D) If when you ask them for real business metrics, impact analysis and (god forbid) ROI and they either give you a blank stare or explain that these things don’t apply to Social Media, they probably belong to that third category.

E) If they measure Social Media effectiveness mostly in terms of “engagement metrics” and after six months, you still don’t understand what or how they are measuring “engagement” (most likely through some arcane equation that magically merges followers, the media value of a tweet and number of blog comments), guess what: Third category.

F) And when you ask them how they plan to integrate Social Media into customer service, Human Resources, Public Relations, Marketing, Business Development or any other silo in your organization and they schedule a later meeting to address that instead of answering on the spot, guess what category they probably belong to.

The thing about that third category is that they’ll never admit that they don’t know something. Because they get by every day by producing massive amounts of bulls**t, they will automatically default to making something up on the spot or deflecting questions with well crafted excuses. That’s their most damning trait, and what gives them away every time: They always know, and they’re never wrong (except… they don’t, and they are, and now you’re wise to it).

* Simple test to prove or disprove a “depth before breadth” response:

First – On Twitter, look at the number of brand mentions vs. the number of your brand’s account mentions. Big difference? Ask why. Then ask your Social Media Director what they are doing to raise awareness for your presence in the space. Breadth matters, no matter what your overpaid hack of a Social Media honcho tells you.

Second – Look at the number of comments directly aimed at your account. 20 per day? 50 per day? Now look at how many of these requests for attention were acknowledged with some sort of reply. 100%? 80%? Less than 25%? If your Social Media Director claims that they are focusing on depth of engagement instead of breadth, yet they only respond to less than half of the handshakes thrown at them daily, maybe it’s time you found out what he/she actually does with his/her time.

Tip #4: What should you be looking for in an applicant interested in becoming your next Social Media Director ? (The only Social Media Director requisition primer you’ll ever need)

I could go on with my indictment of poser Social Media Directors all day long, but I would rather put this post to a more productive use: Since so many of these hacks are getting through the recruiting filter, why don’t we focus on helping interviewers distinguish good applicants from bad ones, starting with some traits and skills they want and need in a Social Media Director. Think of this as a checklist for would-be Social Media Directors, and please feel free to add your own suggestions by leaving a comment.

  • Applicant has developed and managed marketing programs before. Not just campaigns but programs.
  • Applicant has had a continuous professional presence in the Social Media space (via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Ning or other platforms) for at least one year.
  • Applicant has managed a business blog and/or business community for a minimum of one year.
  • Applicant has built or managed a community for longer than one year.
  • Applicant has at least two years of experience managing projects and working across organizational silos.
  • Applicant has managed a brand or product line for more than one year.
  • Applicant has demonstrated a strong ability to forge lasting relationships across a variety of media platforms over the course of his/her career.
  • Applicant understand the difference between vertical and lateral action when it comes to customer/community engagement – and has working knowledge of how to leverage both.
  • Applicant demonstrates a thorough knowledge of the Social Media space, including usage and demographic statistics for the most popular/relevant platforms as well as a few niche platforms of his/her choice.
  • Applicant has managed national market research projects.
  • Applicant demonstrates a thorough understanding of the nuances between Social Media platforms and the communities they serve. (Example: MySpace vs. Facebook or YouTube vs. Seesmic)
  • Applicant understands the breadth of tools and methods at his/her disposal to set goals and measure success in the Social Media space. (Applicant’s toolkit is not limited to Google analytics.)
  • Applicant can cite examples of companies with successful social media programs and companies with ineffective social media programs. He/she can also argue comfortably why each was either successful or unsuccessful.
  • Applicant has been active on Twitter for more than 8 months.
  • Applicant knows who Chris Brogan, Jeremiah Owyang and Peter Kim are.
  • Applicant is comfortable enough with business measurement methods to know the difference between financial impact (ROI) and non-financial impact. He/she also knows why the difference between the two is relevant.
  • Applicant demonstrates the ability to build and manage a Social Media practice that works seamlessly with PR, product marketing, event management and customer support teams within the organization.
  • Applicant has managed a work team for more than one year. He/she was responsible for the training and development of that team.
  • Applicant has spent at least one year in a project management role outside of an ad agency, PR or other Marketing firm.
  • Applicant can tell a personal story involving either Digg, Seesmic or both.
  • Applicant has been responsible for managing a budget/P&L.
  • Applicant demonstrates a high level of proficiency working with popular Social Media platforms and apps such as FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Ning, Seesmic, YouTube, FriendFeed, WordPress, FriendFeed and Tumblr.
  • Applicant is capable of mapping out a basic Social Media monitoring plan on a cocktail napkin.
  • Applicant is more excited about engagement, building an internal practice and finding out about your business’ pain points than he/she is about firebombing you with the full scope of their Social Media skills’ awesomeness.
  • Applicant already has the framework of a Social Media plan for your company before he/she even walks through the front door, and thankfully, it doesn’t involve setting up a fan page on FaceBook.
  • Applicant actually knows how to use Twitter to help your company build brand equity online and offline without having to DM people like me for newbie level help.

Your turn. What do you think is missing from this checklist?

Let me know if this is helpful. Please, please, please, for the love of puppies, STOP. Don’t hire “that guy” because his resume says he worked with Brand XYZ in Digital or Social. It isn’t enough. (Who hasn’t?) Dig deeper. Get knowledgeable about this space. Don’t get suckered into hiring an unscrupulous hack job looking for another free ride off an unsuspecting company.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

One last thing: Will this topic be covered in Red Chair executive trainings (the next one is in Portland, OR on March 11)? You bet. To register for the Portland event, click here. (The first 5 registrations get $100 off, so sign up fast!)

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Conferences are great. You learn stuff, you meet people, you go back to work all jazzed up and energized… But let’s be honest: There are some things you just can’t get from a conference, like real training and “how to” knowledge.

From my perspective no matter how much clarity I bring to topics like R.O.I. and social media measurement, building and managing social media programs, brand management in the era of the Social web, etc. at conferences, there is only so much I can teach you in an hour, or thirty minutes (and even 10 minutes, in some cases).

Based on feedback from a pretty big number of conference attendees over the last year, it became clear that something was missing from the picture: Think of it as a gap between the short conference format presentations and high-commitment 3-8-month long consulting engagements.

That’s when my mind flashed back to the courses I used to take from the American Management Association (AMA): Full day trainings on just about anything you might need to increase your value to your organization, from Best Practices in to “how to” courses. The format was simple: One day out of the office, learn everything you need to learn from an expert in the field, come back with copious notes, and get back to work with a valuable new skill.

Bonus: The playbook you bring back with you in the form of notes and course content. That’s yours to keep. Forever.

I loved those things. They made me smarter about the world, better at my job, and payed off in major ways – both for me and my employers… which is probably why they didn’t mind paying for them several times per year.

The single-day AMA trainings I was sent to typically used to cost my employers about $2,000 between registration, airfare, hotel and food (about the cost of going to a conference these days), which I always thought was a little steep. (Multi-day trainings went up from there.) Different value than attending a conference, sure, but in the back of my mind, I always knew the model could be streamlined and the costs made more accessible.

Long story short: It’s obvious that business managers increasingly need real social media operational training, not just neat case studies and presentations about social media tools, so I am launching a series of AMA-style trainings to address that need.  If you’re a business manager or social media practitioner and you need to learn how to better develop, integrate, manage and measure social media programs, this is for you. Though the official launch will take place in early 2010, the very first of these trainings will take place in London on December 4th:

Event Number One: Red Chair London

The course I will teach in London is designed for C-level business executives, Marketing and PR directors, Agency honchos and Social Media managers wishing to deepen their operational understanding of Social Media.

The course is designed for decision-makers and managers looking for real training on how to actually plug social media into their organizations and make it work. Not just from a strategic angle, but also from operational, tactical, and analytical standpoint. (Yes, this is what you guys have been asking for. I am finally bringing it to you.)

The day will be divided into four sessions:

  1. 9:00am – 10:30am           Social Media Program Development (Strategy)
  2. 10:45am – noon                 Social Media Program Integration (Operations and Planning)
  3. 12:45 pm – 2:45pm          Social Media Program Management (Execution)
  4. 3:00pm – 4:30pm             Social Media Program Measurement (Data analysis, benchmarking, ROI, etc.)

We will break for morning tea/coffee, lunch, and again for afternoon tea/coffee. (All included with your registration.)

Red Chair London is being kept purposely small (20 seats)  to foster a roundtable-style atmosphere for participants in which all questions will be answered, no matter how technical or complicated. I can handle it.

Registration is only £650 per person (about $999 US), and we have created some pretty awesome group discounts to make it easier for companies to send more than one manager (or client) to the event. (My advice: Pool your resources and buy group tickets instead of just individual ones.)

The best part is that attendees don’t have to fly anywhere or book a hotel. If you work in and around London, you can swing by your office early that morning, spend the rest of the day with us, and go home when we adjourn.  No flying, no hotels, no extra expenses. Simple, painless, convenient.

Although seats should go fast (we’re limited to only 20 seats), I am all about treating my readers well, so here’s a treat for you. (This isn’t on the eventbrite registration page.) The first 6 people to register using the keyword “paddington” will enjoy a special BrandBuilder discount off their ticket price.

Red Chair London will be held at the posh One Alfred Place business Club, which is the perfect venue: centrally located, beautiful meeting rooms, awesome food, providing just the right mix of business focus and comfort. If you aren’t familiar with One Alfred yet, you’re in for a treat.

All that’s left for you to do now is either register or pass the information along to your peers, bosses, colleagues, friends and clients. (Or your marketing, PR and ad agency partners if they don’t seem to know how to take your social media presence to the next level.)

Seriously, if you know someone who should attend, be their hero and send them this post’s hyperlink. Red Chair may not come back to London for quite a while. We have a lot of cities to cover in the next 12 months. Get a jump on the competition.

While we’re still putting the finishing touches on the Red Chair website, you can go register for the London training here.

Event Number 2: Like Minds Immersive

If you can’t make it  to Red Chair London or prefer a lighter version of that type of training, check out December 3rds’ Like Minds Immersive instead. (Hey, not everyone wants or needs to get a Masters in Social Media Operational Management just yet. Baby steps, right?)

Some differences:

  1. It’s in Exeter, not London.
  2. It’s on Thursday December 3rd (the day before Red Chair London)
  3. It only lasts 3 hours
  4. It’s a little easier on the finances (Only £200)
  5. The content is designed to be more accessible to junior managers and folks not yet fluent in Social Media management than Red Chair London.

Who should attend Like Minds Immersive?

  • Devon area business people who can’t make it to London on the 4th.
  • Anyone looking to advance their strategic and operational Social Media management skills but isn’t ready for a full day of advanced training yet.
  • Managers and business owners looking for structured, step-by-step how-to social media training they will be able to apply to their business right away.

You can register for Like Minds Immersive here.

Now spread the world, ye of internet fame, and help me finally bring real Social Media wisdom, best practices and savoir-faire to the world.

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