Leadership Toolset #10: Social Media & Content Marketing
The concept of social media – a reach of millions, limitless targeted messaging, free to all – is a marketer’s dream. Yet many business-savvy professionals just don’t see its value and, if they do, still don’t know how exactly to squeeze that value out of it. But whether understood or not, social media is changing the business landscape, and failure to adapt could have implications that stretch beyond the marketing department. Adaptation requires knowledge of the technology and the willingness to reach out across department lines to build true organizational success.
We invited Alan See, the third most-followed CMO on Twitter according to Social Media Marketing Magazine, to share insight he’s picked up from 25 years of experience helping businesses develop profitable marketing strategies that drive sales and growth. He has served in senior roles at MindLeaders, AT&T, Seapine Software, AberdeenGroup, Teradata, SAS Institute, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, and NCR Corporation in addition to facilitating courses on marketing and management theory as an associate faculty member for University of Phoenix. He has recently started a new business, Alan See CMO Temps, LLC. Alan’s perspective on the subject of social media marketing is as comprehensive as any you’ll find, and he held nothing back in sharing that perspective with us.
Why organizations struggle
The first step to starting any business off and running with a marketing strategy fit for the Digital Age is to clean up any internal organizational issues.
“Organizations hesitant to change tend to be very siloed,” Alan says. He notes that functional areas, whether it’s sales, marketing, IT, legal, finance or HR, often work first to “protect their own turf.” This is a practice that is hugely detrimental to the brand.
“Siloed organizations cause more damage to themselves than an economic downturn,” Alan explains. “Out of fear, each department tries to make itself indispensible, so they’re all pushing their own agenda. Social media calls out this frame of mind because it requires a united brand voice and message.” And it’s that need for collaboration, Alan says, that forces departments out of their silos.
Failure to break through this dysfunction will ultimately become apparent in the customer experience. Alan explained that once the customer experience is negatively impacted, the customer life cycle changes, the customer lifetime value is reduced and churn increases.
Merely breaking down organizational silos, however, isn’t the only challenge to success. According to Alan, organizations are really missing the boat when it comes to change management. Organizations aren’t doing enough to when it comes to getting ahead of and transitioning to new technologies.
“It’s great a lot more organizations are offering development programs to employees, but development programs often don’t address social media. Employees need to be brought up to speed on the technology and how to use it professionally.”
In order to make any corporate initiative work, you need people to buy in to what you’re doing. This is especially true when it comes to social media marketing.
“Just like in geology, if you want to make something, heat and pressure must be applied from somewhere,” Alan says. “The CMO and marketing have to be the spark for that heat throughout the organization and it needs to extend to the department level.”
While marketing must provide the heat and pressure, it’s the top leadership, Alan argues, that must actually lead the initiative. But how do you get executive leadership to engage? According to Alan, you probably won’t reach 100 percent executive buy-in. What you must have, however are a CEO that understands this is a process that takes time and a CMO that possess both passion and endurance.
“A CMO with endurance has a methodology in place and knows how to massage the process over time to get business results. He or she can’t just address the mechanical aspects of social media, like just setting up a profile and posting whenever. That doesn’t accomplish anything of value.”
To make the program a true success, employees all across the company must be involved. Each individual in the company can be a voice for the company, driving engagement from their profiles back to the company. It’s an element Alan feels strong about. But non-marketing employees, he says, are rarely engaged because no one has ever explained the “What’s in it for me?” to them.
“The CMO can’t be afraid to say up front, ‘This is your brand, your network.’ When employees have an inspired personal brand, yes it helps the company, but that is energy, education and networking they can take with them and will follow them to their next job. It’s a real asset to them. It’s their social capital,” he says. “If this isn’t articulated, then you’ll get lackluster performance from them.”
Part One Conclusion
If they want to effectively utilize social media in their marketing mix, organizations need to break down traditional silos and educate their employees on new digital assets. Also critically important, buy-in and engagement must be achieved at all levels of the organization. CMOs need to be the driving force behind the initiative, but executive leadership must set the example for the rest of the company.
Come back Thursday for part two of our interview with Alan See. We’ll get into strategies for executing a content-based marketing plan utilizing social media and how to measure the real results of your plan beyond simply “likes” and followers. Plus, Alan will tell us the most important thing you need to know about marketing.