Leadership Toolset #10: Social Media & Content Marketing
This is part two of our interview with Alan See, a published social media expert who has held senior marketing management positions at MindLeaders, Berry Network and Seapine Software, among others, and is now CMO of Alan See CMO Temps, LLC. In part one, Alan discussed barriers to social media success and provided groundwork strategies to achieve organizational buy-in. In part two, we’ll dive into strategy and execution, including content marketing tactics and how to manage expectations.
Content strategy and execution
Once you’ve got the company behind your plan (or at least the key figures), strategy and execution are the obvious next steps. They key to success, Alan says, is to make your company interesting. And that is accomplished with content-based marketing pushed out through social media.
“Content strategy over time is the key to endurance,” he explains. “Content can’t be salesy, rather it needs to educate. This will establish thought-leadership. Marketers need to constantly be asking themselves, ‘What’s next?’ to keep interest and demand fresh.”
The second element of execution, according to Alan, is moderation. He refers to it as being a “spark vs. a hammer.” One of the keys to moderation of a technology-driven strategy is to not go over-the-top with automation. Automatically sending direct message replies on Twitter is a prime example of this.
“When you use a lot of automation, it quickly becomes clear to your audience what is automated,” Alan says. “It’s this lack of authenticity that will turn the customer or prospect off.”
Just as with timing and moderation, marketers also need to know how to present and deliver that content in a manner that will eventually tie back to sales. In other words, they need to “think about marketing through a sales lens.”
“The CMO needs credibility with sales in order to make this work,” Alan says. “I came up through the sales ranks before I ever got into marketing. That gave me a leg to stand on when pitching Marketing 2.0. I explained we’re not here to do ‘feel-good’ marketing. The content we’re putting out there will give them some meaty talking points for conversations with prospects.”
All of this then begs the question: What makes great content? This goes back to Alan’s question of marketers asking themselves, “What’s next?” One of Alan’s key strategy elements is to engage both clients and non-clients, whether through surveys, online assessments or other means, to produce relevant industry research that can be used across a variety of formats. This can range from something as simple as a stat in a social media post to being the basis for whitepapers and briefs.
These research tools not only result in great content, which builds credibility, but also serve as lead generation and qualifying mechanisms. By asking questions and giving the sales team insight into how a lead answers those questions, marketing is giving sales the talking points they need to have a meaningful conversation. When you mix that with the lead research functionality of LinkedIn, Alan argues, sales will have all the information they need to turn a cold call into a very warm call.
“When you have content generation engines in place, it’s like having a workout program that pumps up your content muscles,” he says. “When content, social media and sales are working through each other, you’re building a holistic approach to marketing.”
Framing results in a meaningful way
That approach, however holistic, won’t matter much if executives are not seeing the results they think they should. The primary challenge with showing results, according to Alan, is setting and managing expectations.
“The first thing I always tell sales people is if marketing could deliver ready-to-buy leads, we wouldn’t need you,” he jokes. “But I do reassure them that marketing will do everything it can to create interest and build their credibility.
“What you have to establish right from the start, though, is that it takes time to build content and to build up the channels used to push that content. It doesn’t happen overnight. For a CMO, this can be difficult because expectations are often set so high on a short time frame and executives and shareholders are constantly asking about the bottom line.”
But as Alan acknowledges, you do need show those executives and shareholders progress in the early stages. That being the case, he gives three stages to break results down in over a 4-6 month timeline:
1. Establish engagement – Show an increase in followers, likes, re-tweets, etc. on social media channels.
2. Cross engagement with launch of content – Once content is delivered, you can begin to show an increase in lead generation.
3. Cross leads with sales – At this point, you know can begin to calculate an accurate ROI for your efforts.
“It’s great when you can hand off results like this, but it’s not always this easy,” Alan cautions. “When you’re setting expectations, you need to establish that this plan will deliver these results according to the conditions present at launch. If you (management) change a variable, such as budget, mid-stream, all bets are off. At that point, you need to reset expectations and go from there.”
The difference between success and failure
Despite all of the factors and strategy we discussed with Alan, he says the most important thing to keep in mind, whether in marketing or life, is trust.
“Life is all about relationships, and nothing moves forward without trust.” He points to a formula he uses to define success:
Trust = (Rapport x Credibility) / Risk
This formula is applicable within the organization between departments and with audiences externally. In nurturing leads or working with clients, rapport, equates to social media, credibility to content, and risk can be reduced when the client or prospect feels they’re being taken care of properly.
“Trust takes time,” he says, “so there’s a real urgency for companies and employees to get out there on these channels and start building their brand.
The analogy I like to use is it took Noah 100 years to build the Ark. He didn’t wait until it started raining. Whether you’re gathering leads or looking for a job you can’t afford to wait until it starts raining to build your network now.”
Part Two Conclusion
A proper mix of social media, content and sales engagement are critical in the success of your marketing plan. The CMO needs to establish that a content-based marketing strategy takes time, and set expectations for executives at the very beginning of the process so results have time to materialize. Ultimately, the success of your program will come down to building trust, and that’s something every business professional should feel urgency to build.
Key takeaways for a content-based social media marketing strategy:
• Marketing must engage all departments within the organization, especially sales.
• Executive leadership must set the example by engaging in social media.
• CMO must articulate “what’s in it for me?” to non-marketing employees.
• Use content pushed through social media to build credibility and rapport.
• Content strategy over time is the key to an enduring campaign.
• Content should generate leads and/or give sales talking points with lead.
• Develop tools to generate information that can be used to build content.
• Set expectations so as to give results time to materialize.
• It all comes down to trust! Trust = (rapport x credibility) / risk.