Social Media Rules Article in Entrepreneur

June 17th, 2013 No comments

Last week, an interview I did with Entrepreneur magazine did whatever the digital version of “hit the newsstands” is.  While many of these thoughts were geared to CEOs of small or medium businesses, the content could really apply to any social media leader living in the real world of constrained resources.

Please head on over there and take a gander.

Amping up Peer-to-Peer WOMMA Connections in 2013

January 7th, 2013 No comments

The below is cross posted on the All Thing WOMM blog.

Happy New Year from all of us at WOMMA! I am honored to be serving as your Board Chair this year and looking forward to an amazing 2013.

2012 was a busy year for the organization – raising the bar on our events, upgraded educational offerings, new councils, the WOMM ROI guidebooks, and refreshed ethical and legal guidance to our practitioners, and some exciting additions to the staff. My predecessor, David Witt, set the tone across all of these efforts by focusing the organization on building brand advocacy – which has become a “true north” for us as the official trade organization for word of mouth and social media marketing.

Before I share with you our focus for 2013, I would like to contextualize it with a few sentences on my history with the organization. I was lucky enough to be present at WOMMA’s first summit in Chicago in 2005. I was a marketer at Dell and the lone member of a large department tasked with figuring out how to employ “viral marketing” for a new product launch (these were the days of Subservient Chicken, after all). At WOMMA, I not only learned the value of marketing by inspiration vs. interruption, I was more importantly given entre into a community of practice. In a medium that moves as quickly as ours, it would be impossible to stay current with simply reading industry blogs or our own experiences alone.

Over the years, WOMMA has connected me with the professionals who have given me advice that has changed my career and accelerated my own practice of WOMM. It is personal experience combined with what we learn from our respected peers that will allow us to continue to evolve WOMM as quickly as the means to spread and amplify it.

Thus, in looking at 2013, I am not here to shift our content direction, but instead to focus on HOW we as an organization, a staff, and a board serve you, the members. We want to take that amazing community feeling and valuable peer-to-peer connections of Summit & WOMM-U and extend it throughout the year and to a deeper bench of each member company’s marketers. For all of those who have approached me and wanted to get more involved, you have been heard. We will be providing many more means and opportunities throughout the year for you to take a more active role and get more value from the organization in the process.

Member Center

Here’s a sampling of some new ways the WOMMA community will be extended:

  • WOMMfest - On February 19, we’ll be hosting a first-of-its-kind coast to coast celebration of WOMM called WOMMfest.  In addition to three anchor events in Seattle, Chicago, and Atlanta, our friends at House Party are powering an opportunity for 50+ member companies across the country to host local WOMMA Trivia Nights. This is a chance to share your knowledge and enthusiasm with colleagues, clients, agencies, and vendors alike. Apply to host a party in your city here.
  • New Member Center - First of its kind member center providing you an opportunity to access a huge library of presentations and research material to build your internal cases for WOMM, but the opportunity to connect with your WOMMA colleagues and fellow council members on a far more frequent basis.
  • Better Events Want to have a role in determining what content is shared on our event stages?  We are assembling member task forces who will determine what speaking and content proposals will make it on stage at WOMM-U and Summit. Email Sarah Stauffer at for more info.
  • More Councils - Our expanding group of councils and evolving WOMM-COM programs will provide great opportunities to get more members of WOMMA companies involved by providing year round education for members at every stage of their careers.

We wake up every day hoping to make WOMMA a more valuable organization for our members.  If you have ideas or feedback, we’d love to hear from you, especially in the member center. It’s your organization, and we hope that in 2013 you’ll help us find ways to make WOMMA even better for your career, for our membership, and for the entire industry.

Start interacting and taking full advantage of your membership right now at the member center.

Happy New Year!

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WOMMA Summit 2012: Advocacy & Social Evolution

November 16th, 2012 No comments

Wednesday night, we closed the book on another WOMMA Summit (disclosure: Spredfast is a governing member and I serve on the board).   Having now had a few hours to reflect, there were some major themes.

Back to Advocacy – In session after session, we heard a focus from brands on meeting the needs not only of their X million fans, but creating content, experiences, and value for their hard core fans.  One of the greatest examples of of approaching this came from Jackie Huba’s preview of her forthcoming 2013 book Monster Business.  Lady Gaga’s marketing strategies focus on the 1% of her fans that want to have hyper-engaged relationships with her.  The 6 Lessons of Gaga’s loyalty strategy are a fantastic reminder that this advocate strategy needs to drive platform choices instead of the tail wagging the dog.

Big Businesses are Dissolving the Social Pillar –Nestle Digital & Social Global Head (and WOMMA co-founder) Pete Blackshaw,Greg Gerik of 3M, and “Turbo” Todd Watson of IBM all shared the communications pillars of their organizations – none of which include standalone “social”.  Instead of being a siloed initiative of a few trained marketers, social has permeated the way the company communicates on all fronts.  This is a beautiful thought, but paying off on it requires investment in socially empowering hundreds of brand managers and SMEs, measuring the results of their efforts, and getting engagement and feedback data to the right places in the organization in a way that energizes the organization.

The Paid/Owned/Earned (and sometimes Shared) media model is here to stay as a meaningful model.  No longer is there questioning about the validity or value of WOM that gets stimulated by ad dollars as the changing dynamics of what it takes for users of social platforms to actually see a connections’ recommendation.  What does differ is how people are handling the integration of paid. Whether it is a new skill being picked up by the brand, executed through specialist agency collaboration, etc. – it is a skill set that must be added to your integrated WOMM team’s arsenal molto pronto.

Measurement is becoming more sophisticated and scrutinized.  Many of the success metrics shared in sessions were about the “quick win”.  This seems to be a result of the continued ROI pressure that social initiatives, along with the entire marketing mix face (backed up by data shared in the IBM CMO study.  But elevating social activity to “business value” needs to incorporate the value of both the quick win and the long game for which social is so uniquely designed.  Dr. Walter Carl shared some great guidance on how to look at the full value picture of social in a more holistic way – giving social credit for some of the “long game” communications objectives it achieves instead of short term sales, coupon redemptions, etc alone.  We need to move beyond activity metrics and the “short game” and start thinking about how to give social credit for the more complex role it plays including soliciting feedback, cultivating offline WOM recommendations, and developing brand advocates who will spark to action in a crisis.

The Legal Socialpocalypse – The Summit closed with some amazing and well-timed reminders from lead legal counsel/cyberlawyers for Coca-Cola, American Express, and USAA.  Reminders included the need for a higher level of rigor in terms of sharing rights-protected material to basic security in the way that social accounts are being managed by individuals in the company (personal logins to control corporate Facebook, anyone?).  Above all, the guidance was to get legal involved early and often so they become involved in shaping a program instead of the late stage “no” guys.

It’s great to see so many companies that were early pioneers in social continuing to evolve and willing to share their lessons along the way for the benefit of the entire industry!  For more details and sharable nuggets, visit WOMMA’s curated tweet and photo highlights the summit sessions: Day 1Day 2Day 3. To see more of the WOM that took place at Summit, check out the Summit Social Hub powered by FeedMagnet.

The Social Organization Rorschach

September 11th, 2012 No comments

(Cross posted from the Spredfast blog)

Last week, Spredfast published our first Social Engagement Index Benchmark Report, characterizing the social accounts, organizations, activities and results of a large swath of the Spredfast user base.  As part of this, we segmented companies into Activating, Expanding, and Proliferating segments.   Data is what it is, what you draw from it, however, is a bit of a Rorschach test. Trust me – the distribution even looks like an inkblot upon close review!

It is only natural to read a study like this and be thinking, “what does this mean about me and my organization?”  Chances are, because you are reading the data through that lens, you may have only drawn 1-2 takeaways from the Social Organization data.  I am lucky enough to work closely with many of our customers and would like to share my top 5 takeaways – culled from reviewing the data wearing differing customer hats.

The Value of Internal Orchestration is Validated – If you have been trying to inspire social players across your company to get coordinated in an SMMS publishing and analytic platform, this data helps you.  As organizations begin to orchestrate across an increasing number of users and social accounts – to bring more and more of the company’s social activity into a place where it can be measured & improved, we see them working with correspondingly greater audiences and even some increased efficiency with the way those orgs engage (deeper in the data – look at Total Engagement for instance).

It’s More than Marketing – If you are being asked to work with colleagues in Care or Support, in Marketing in other countries, in Corporate Communications, Risk Management, etc., you are not alone.  With even the Activating companies coming in at a mean of 3 groups coordinating for social engagement, multiple groups in social are the rule vs. the exception.  While coordination across peer silos in an org can be a challenge without an executive mandate, many companies are successfully making it happen.

Measuring by Content Themes is Table Stakes – the benchmark shows organizations moving beyond social account as a variable to measure success.  With a mean of 94 unique content labels across the entire sample set, we see clear indication that orchestrated companies want to compare performance of social campaigns, product content, and themes.

We Have a Long Way to Go – It may have been a long strange trip thus far, but even the most active, coordinated Proliferating orgs in this study had a mean of 99 social accounts under management.  While I can’t calculate that as a percent of the total number of social accounts that represents, we know that is substantially south of the self-reported average of 178 corporate owned accounts in data collected by Altimeter.  Given that the 178 number is more than a year old and is not the result of full 3rdparty audits, 99 is likely less than half of the total.  While the goal may not be 100%, organizations should be actively making decisions about who and what should be coordinated in social at scale.

Numbers don’t lie, which is fabulous as we’re experts at lying to ourselves.   I invite you to review the benchmark again and do two things:

  1. Challenge your assumptions – question your initial takeaways of the benchmark with a second hard glance, looking for opportunities where your org could be driving more value from social.
  2. Find solace – To all of you doing the hard work of orchestrating social every day, you are the vanguard, and we hope you will see in the benchmark contents that your work is paying off.  Our collective Spredfast hats are off to you!
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Lessons from the Frontlines of Social @ Scale

This item cross-posted from the Spredfast blog.

Who better to discuss the opportunities and challenges of scaling social to the edges of a large organization than 2 companies doing it in a big way, but with very different backgrounds and methodologies: Aramark and Whole Foods Market?  In early April, through a webinar hosted by Social Media Today and moderated by WCG’s Chuck Hemann, I joined co-panelists Aileen Dreibelbis (Aramark) and Natanya Anderson (Whole Foods Market) to do just that.  In the notes below, you will find some of the major takeaways around their approaches to the pillars of social at scale.  For those interested, the full hour of discussion can be downloaded here (

Quick Background on the brands:

Whole Foods has incredibly high corporate brand awareness and history of locally-focused marketing in addition to what is done on the corporate and regional level.  At the risk of punning, the WFM social footprint grew “organically” with local stores having set up pages, handles, etc with little oversight from corporate.


Alternately, Aramark is a private company that (among other things) operates food services on 300+ college campuses – each  individually branded with campus-specific names.  Aramark is challenged to build & engage an ever-overturning collegiate customer base with no corporate brand social “halo” to provide cover.  Aramark is sparking much of their social activity from the corporate center.


Culture-Right Strategy – As Natanya puts it “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”  No matter how beautiful or theoretically desirable a particular social strategy might be, it can’t create value if a brand’s culture can’t absorb it. This adds some danger to the desire to copy the strategy of others without thinking through what truly works in your own organization.  Putting together a strategy that is right for YOUR organization is the foundation of any successful attempt to scale social as you will have to move past the “native” believers. Despite the differences in their journey to take social to the edges of the org, there are major lessons surrounding the pillars to social scale and how they are approaching:

Business-Meaningful Definition of Success – Notice I didn’t say ROI (which has a very crisp, narrow definition) here.  This could be driving awareness, mitigating risk, increasing collaboration, mitigating risk to your brand, improving customer service response, etc.

For both organizations, and for most of Spredfast’s install base, engagement is critical.  For Whole Foods, that manifests as activity taken within their large audiences – with special emphasis on shares.  WFM knows that highly engaged customers become advocates.  For Aramark, beginning from lower audience penetration and facing a shorter advocacy window, building audiences is a primary goal followed by driving engagement.  Critical engagement metrics for Aramark include likes shares comments and (particularly) photo uploads.

Ongoing Training – Both Aileen and Natanya are working within the training cultures of their organizations.  At Aramark, there has been great effort to detail and train campus marketers from the ground up on social – emphasizing how certification, training, and engagement fit in with their overall objectives within the organization.  WFM is able to weave social into a rigorous ongoing training regimen and existing infrastructure in the company. Both organizations treat training as continuous and weave social into the fabric of a participant’s job vs. making it “extra”.

Content Strategy – Both organizations provide some high quality content from subject matter experts from the central core, but local colleges are expected to keep up their own conversation calendars and plan at least a month in advance.  WFM empowers local store marketers to interpret content or messages from corporate in their own way and listens for gems from the local nodes to share.

Technology – Technology can play a number of different roles in operationalizing a strategy.  Even the most basic advantage of an SMMS – having a 3rd party platform through which you can credential individuals in your organization to social accounts – can help protect you from the social risks involved with individual employees carrying native platform credentials around on their phones.  But technology can also help teams collaborate directly in a social platform, share content, route for approval or action, and respond to customer needs.

Agility & Evolution – As the organization learns & grows, and you learn what engages customers and sparks loyalty, you must be willing to frequently adjust and evolve your strategy to incorporate that data.  Aileen from Aramark lists opening up to a frequently evolving strategy as one of the most important and difficult steps in preparing for social at scale.

For more info from this group, you can follow @natanyap@aramarknews@chuckhemann, &@virginiamiracle. Virginia, Natanya from Whole Foods, and Tom from Aramark are also speaking at WOMM-U next week. Find out more about the event here.

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