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!
Categories: Social Data Tags:

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.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

SMMS to Address Scale in 2012

January 10th, 2012 No comments

Crossposted from my new blogging home at Spredfast.  I am thrilled to be there.  More about my new job can be found here.

I am kicking off my second week of growing Spredfast’s professional services offerings to drive customer success and reduce time to value.  It is a perfect fit for me – I’ve spent the last 10 years in roles on both the brand (Dell) and the consulting (Ogilvy) side helping organizations adopt Word of Mouth Marketing and, later, social in a way that makes sense strategically and can be executed well tactically.   Early in the journey, my time was spent was spent convincing organizations that they needed to start listening and get involved.  Later on, the bulk of my work progressed to actually putting together well-organized corporate presences and campaigns while, in many cases, cleaning up some social media driftwood cluttering the ecosystem.  In the last year, however, we have seen complexity explode.  Now instead of simply trying to stem social voice proliferation, we see strategies where the whole company can truly benefit from more and more parts of the organization being heard.  But how can you manage a proliferation of voices – Continents, Countries, Brands, Products, Regions, States, Reps – and NOT confuse the customers who want to find us in their social spaces?

That’s why I’m here.  2012 is the year to tackle this complexity at scale and Social Media Management Systems (great Altimeter review on the space here) will play a critical role for those organizations serious about being able to get a handle on their social footprint – from governance to real time, rolled up analytics – and be able to prove that they are making progress against social business goals.  Getting to that point, however, takes more than great technology configured correctly.  It takes clear articulation of goals, KPIs and strategy.  It takes savvy understanding of organizational dynamics.  And perhaps most challenging – it requires behavior change.   That’s when the fun begins.

As our journey progresses and my knowledge grows about traits of those brands successfully scaling the social business hill, I’ll update this space with some of the broadly applicable lessons.  I hope you’ll join in – “network learning” will get us all further faster.

We Need More Tweets!

September 26th, 2011 No comments

(this cross-posted on Ogilvy’s Fresh Influence blog)

Image by John Moore @brandautopsy

On a panel last week for a WOMMA event at Chicago’s Social Media Week, I had the pleasure of sitting with Keller Fay’s Ed Keller, Brains on Fire’s Robbin Phillips, and Social Media Today’s Robin Carey to discuss social media measurement under the heading of “Is WOM worth it?”.  In the context of that discussion, I talked about the siren song of social media counting (vs. measurement) and the trap that we too-frequently see: social media “cases” that end by rattling off 20 different social media metrics that do not track to a meaningful business metric.  To illustrate, I mentioned that no CEO is not banging the table looking for more tweets (which BrandAutopsy riffed into the above), he’s looking for shareholder value – sales, market share, preference, purchase intent and a legion of other measures that can not be ripped off the back of Facebook insights.

So, with that in mind and the voices of my esteemed co-presenters in my head, I put together a list of 4 potential measurement pitfalls that can kill your social media measurement program before the horses have left the stable:

1) Setting the wrong objectives.  This sounds silly, but often an activity or “client brief” will be mis-translated as an objective.  For example, “run a high-impact event” is an activity, but “increase consideration and share of voice among X audience” attending that event is an objective.  TEST: Can it be measured?  If the answer is no, it isn’t an objective.

2) Determine the meaningful (vs. diagnostic) KPIs before you begin:  Chances are, meaningful KPI’s will require measurement techniques beyond simple, spoon-fed social media metrics like likes and shares.  Take a walk through our Conversation Impact(TM) white paper to determine how to craft meaningful Reach, Preference, or Action KPIs.

3) Find where your audience is interacting on a relevant topic: Yes, Facebook has 800 million people and likely some of them are in your desired “audience” but they may not be on Facebook to discuss their mother’s prescriptions or whatever topic that you may have value to add.  The important second step to “going where the party” is already happening is not just determining where your audience is, but how they are using social media for different things – where do they share recipes vs. look for snowboot recommendations?  While they could light up for FB, Twitter, Flickr, etc it will be critical to understand the relevance of those platforms to their lives to put together a measurable strategy.

4) Plan to measure: If you put together a measurement plan after you’ve already begun, you have lost your chance at a baseline and being able to know the true impact of your efforts.  Ed Keller admitted that he often gets calls halfway through campaigns at which point, there are limitations on the types of measurements that can be taken.  The baseline is going to be the key to your “winning” metric such as “Increased purchase consideration by 45%”.  That is the type of metric that CEOs do care about and will keep your social media efforts on strategy and in budget in 2012.

Sandsculpting Your Social Strategy

August 28th, 2011 1 comment
Archisand sculpts the Intel logo at BlogHer '11

Archisand sculpts the Intel logo at BlogHer '11

Its been a long hot (hottest on record in Austin) summer and its nowhere close to over.

But it has been rich in experiences and inspiration.  The launch of Google+?  The fundamental change in the way we experience earthquakes and hurricanes due to social media?  Interesting enough to get me to follow @irene, but definitely not over the inspiration bar.

This summer, I have had a number of seemingly chance encounters with what I have come to know as “sandsculpting”.  It began when my best friend took her sand work on our annual beach trip just a bit more seriously this year – constructing the “Sand Turtle” still discussed by my 4 year old.  But I don’t think I consciously knew that sandsculpting a professional pursuit until it was out in force at BlogHer’11 (see above).

But it was not the beauty of the creations, but the reasons for pursuing sandsculpting that inspired me to find a renewed love of my own work.  In addition to doing their thing at BlogHer, Archisand had recently built a huge display of scenes from Sydney Harbor at the US Open of Surfing earlier in the week (Video Here).  A colleague who had spoken to them there told me their unofficial story. They were a group of talented architects who got burnt out on what they were using their talents on at work and started making extreme sand castles to blow off steam and flex their creativity.  Eventually some of them were able to turn it into a fiscally responsible pursuit.

This got me thinking about the limiting mindset that much of solid social strategy is “block and tackle”.  The relentless pursuit of relationship and connection can be tedious and exhausting – if we let it.  But good strategy doesn’t have to be “eating your wheaties” alone.  While the basics must be done, it is doing them beautifully that will inspire yourself and those around you.  I have found new inspiration in big, creative sandcastles of ideas (built on the firm base of solid strategy) and insodoing have reawakened my love of my own profession.

If your social strategy has been in motion for a year or more without a second opinion or a new shot of creativity, use your knowledge the weekend eyes of an architect to sandsculpt it into something new that re-inspires you and will be more likely to inspire your customers.