Category Archives: Executive Leadership

5 ways for professional services companies to humanise digital engagement

humanise

Publishing and promoting great content has become table stakes for professional services companies and it is expected by their target market. Competing companies have to constantly produce and promote thought leadership in order to differentiate themselves.

In order to inform, educate and influence their target clients, progressive marketing departments at professional services companies create content which is published on their website and blog and apps and promoted using the likes of search engine optimisation, search and display marketing, email and social media, advertorials and published by the media.

Whilst content is essential, it does not always serve to develop relationships and foster an emotional connection. Developing and promoting content is a costly exercise, so professional service organisations must ensure they are getting a good return on their digital marketing investment.

Here are five things professional services companies should consider to “humanise” digital engagement with their target clients.

1. Performance measurement

Whilst branding, communications and public relations is essential in any professional services organisation’s marketing department, emphasis is not always placed on generating leads for client-facing sales staff.

This is primarily because marketing departments are not measured on lead generation and sales revenue. By introducing “business development” performance management,  marketing departments will need to make the necessary changes to ensure they are developing leads for the relevant service lines in their business.

2. Use more video

Video content is preferred and consumed more readily than any other content. There is no better way to humanise online thought leadership than video. Video is easy to produce, publish and share.

Your clients will far rather watch a three minute video clip than read the written equivalent. Video looks good on all devices and platforms and if you are selling your people and their expertise, a video will build way more credibility with a prospective client.

This medium connects with prospects from a visual and audio perspective and serves to produce a more personal connection with your target market.

3. Personalised email

A great way to create a more personal touch and humanise your email communication is by sharing personalised emails with your subscribers. A salutation such as “Dear Eric” will create a more personal connection between the sender and the recipient than a newsletter.

It is proven statistically that personalised email sent from a known person builds trust. Email subscribers will reply to a known sender and the senders name will become familiar to them over time.

This a great way to build credibility and trust, stay top-of-mind and establish the sender as a “go-to-person” when the prospect needs advice or assistance, wants to meet or requires a proposal.

4. Employee advocacy

Progressive professional services organisations are implementing employee advocacy platforms as an extension to their marketing communication channels. An employee advocacy platform is a good way to democratise your corporate social media and email communication channels to staff members.

Many client-facing staff members would like to share content with their social media connections and email contacts however many are nervous about what to say or they are unfamiliar with some of the platforms.

An employee advocacy platform presents staff members with categorised thought leadership which they can easily share with their social media followers and connections and email contacts. The employee advocacy platform will pre-populate the social media posts and email content for the employee, so it is a simple case of clicking and sharing.

5. Social selling

Social selling is the next logical step for companies using employee advocacy platforms. Staff members are trained on how to use social media effectively to monitor who is displaying interest in the content they are sharing (i.e. likes, shares, comments) and how to engage and interact with relevant social media followers and connections to build relationships, establish credibility and trust in order to initiate offline engagement.

Summary

A great way to humanise your online digital marketing is to introduce performance metrics to encourage marketing departments to develop leads for client-facing staff members, video to present more of a human touch, personalised email from a known sender, employee advocacy to democratise corporate social media and email communication to staff members and social selling to empower staff members to use social media more effectively to sell.

Do you have anything to add? I would love to hear from you. I welcome any comments and please do share this article.

 

4 things B2B marketers get wrong on the social web

b2b marketing

People have turned to the social web in their droves to market themselves and their companies. The very medium that people are using to connect and sell their services also provides all the information, advice, guidance and tips needed to do this properly. Even though this information is readily available online, people still resort to tactics that do not work. Here are the top 4 things I have identified.

I invite you to interact with me on LinkedIn and Twitter  

1.      No research conducted

If you plan to use the social web  to engage and interact with new and existing clients, spend time finding out where they are first. All too often companies use platforms that are not frequented by their target clients. Conduct surveys or acquire research to identify their platforms of preference. You should also consider influencers and brand advocates. Even though your clients may not use a particular platform, people who influence them may do so.

2.      Too much selling and no interaction

According to Wikipedia, “social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks”. If you look at this definition, the word “selling” does not feature, but the words “create”, “share” and “exchange of information” are mentioned. Wikipedia defines marketing as “the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the PURPOSE of selling the product or service”. The first definition does not mention selling and the second definition mentions selling as a by-product, so if companies practiced “social media marketing” properly, information relating to their product, goods or service will be shared amongst their social media communities, and in time, their clients will make a “buying decision”.

3.      Too much focus on quantity and not enough on quality

Whatever platform you are participating on, concentrate on the quality of the conversations and interaction rather than the number of subscribers, connections, followers, friends, shares, likes and retweets. The other consideration is the quality of the people you are interacting with. Are they potential or existing clients, influencers and advocates? If you are having quality interaction with the quality people, the quantity will come of its own accord.

4.      Too much attention on yourself

The biggest mistake companies make is to initiate engagement by talking about themselves and their products, services and solutions. Take the time to understand the markets and industries you work in and their challenges and talk more about that instead. Anything relating to your company and what you do should always be secondary. If you create, share and interact around relevant content, the propensity for your communities to interact will increase substantially.

To summarise, find out where your clients are first, communicate with them on their platforms of process, understand the definition of social media marketing and develop your strategy accordingly and talk to your clients about their industries and business challenges.  

I have only listed four things which B2B marketers get wrong on the social web. What would you add?  

How do you know when your organisation has truly embraced digital?

digital organisation1

Companies around the world are still undergoing digital transition. Some believe they are there already whilst others still have their heads buried in the sand. Digital is a loose term and can encompass many things, so for the purpose of this article, I am talking specifically about the use of digital as an organisation’s “window to the world”. Here are five “digitally transformed organisation” indicators.

1. Digitally educated employees

You generally find pockets of expertise in companies, with groups of individuals managing the website, online advertising, search engine optimisation, the corporate blog, social media channels and direct marketing. Whilst this should still be the case in a digitally transformed organisation, every employee should know what the company does online, know where they can contribute, understand what content and interaction is managed and how the company, and individuals within the company, benefit.

2. The digital channel is always considered

In the digitally aware organisation, every individual will consider how they can use the digital channel in their day to day activities, when developing strategy or planning ahead for an event. Employees will ensure that they have an updated LinkedIn profile, those managing Twitter accounts will generate tweets on a regular basis, employees will take photos and post on the corporate Facebook page, all thought ware and opinion pieces will be blogged regularly and shared across relevant channels, activities and thought leaders will be video-ed and uploaded to the corporate YouTube account and employees will be responsive to online questions, queries and conversation.

3. Optimised paid, earned and owned media

Companies that are well and truly on the digital bandwagon will be reviewing their investments in the three main media buckets of earned, shared and paid (which each give opportunities to influence customers) and will be measuring their returns in order to set their investment at the right level. Owned media includes the website, mobile site, blog and social media accounts. Paid media includes display ads, paid search and sponsorships. Earned media is “word of mouth”, creating “buzz” and going viral. Digital companies optimise each of these to maximise the return on their digital investment.

4. Online channels are the digital extension of the company

The digital channel is described by some as cold, so the digitally astute company will use the the online channels they have at their disposal to humanise wherever possible. With proper use of words and images and video on the corporate blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and email, they give their online presence a personality to which their communities form an emotional attachment. Companies that get this right are the ones who build loyal online communities and produce content that is shared and hopefully goes viral.

5. Digitally transformed companies should have fun online

I left the most important point to last. Digital companies have fun when participating online and this is noticed by their online community. These companies post content, comments, blog posts, images and video that encapsulate the essence, spirit and personality of the company. When they are hosting and/or attending events, these are captured and shared. Client experiences are captured and shared (with their permission of course). When they are doing pro bono work at a local orphanage or school, they take photos and publish them. It is all these collective experiences, when captured and shared that humanises their online presence and encourages their communities to form real connections.

Do you agree or disagree with some of these points? Is there something I have left out? Do you have any comments? I would love to hear from you.

 

How to create a decent Twitter profile and Twitter best practice

More and more businesses and business people are recognising Twitter as a great environment where to keep abreast of breaking news, source information and connect and interact with like-minded individuals. What many are still getting wrong however are the basis such as the creation of a decent profile and effective participation on Twitter. 

I have listed a few tips below that should assist you in deriving more value and benefit from Twitter. If I have left any out I would love to hear from you here on my blog or on Twitter (@DavidGrahamSA)

Creating Your Twitter Account

Your Picture – This is one of the most important aspects of your Twitter profile because that’s what people are going to look at first, before making their decision of adding you as a friend or not. My advice is to insert a real picture of you (or the picture of a man/woman). I don’t recommend adding a logo or an abstract image because people don’t really relate to those. However, people can easily relate to the picture of another man or woman.

Background Image – Do not use one of Twitter’s background images. It won’t be personalized enough. Instead, I suggest you upload your own image as a background. Many websites let you download Twitter backgrounds or even create your own. Click here for a list of free Twitter backgrounds resources.

Name – It is important that you use a real name, and not just a brand or a website URL. People will more easily trust a real person’s name than they will a brand or website address. It makes sense, but still, many people do the mistake of not using a real name.

Username – Your username is what people will see on Twitter. Avoid having numbers or special characters in your username. If possible, try to have a single word or an association of 2 words.

More Info URL – This is your one chance to drive traffic to your website without doing anything. If you can, create a custom page on your website to welcome people coming from your URL on your Twitter profile. You can for example create a page to welcome them and tell them what your website is about and maybe give them a few links so they can easily browse the important pages.

One Line Bio – The bio is another very important element of your Twitter profile. You have to be able to tell people about you in 140 characters or less. Think of it as a mini resume so be as concise as possible.

Twitter Best Practice

Share – Share photos and behind the scenes info about your business. Even better, give a glimpse of developing projects and events. Users come to Twitter to get and share the latest, so give it to them!

Listen – Regularly monitor the comments about your company, brand, and products.

Ask – Ask questions of your followers to glean valuable insights and show that you are listening.

Respond – Respond to compliments and feedback in real time

Reward – Demonstrate wider leadership and know-how. Reference articles and links about the bigger picture as it relates to your business. Champion your stakeholders. Retweet and reply publicly to great tweets posted by your followers and customers.

Establish the right voice – Twitter users tend to prefer a direct, genuine, and of course, a likable tone from your business, but think about your voice as you Tweet. How do you want your business to appear to the Twitter community?

Do you have anything to add to this list?

 

 

The level playing field has turned into a content arms race

This article which I have reblogged from Schaefer Marketing Solutions, emphasises the importance of content in your social media marketing strategy. 

Kremlin cannon

The level playing field has turned into a content arms race

(This article was written by Mark Schaefer and was originally published on the Schaefer Marketing Solutions website. Click Here to access the original article).    

Have I ever told you how much I love Gini Dietrich? For me, she is such an amazing role model for dong it right on the social web. And if you’re one of the five people on earth not already following her Spin Sucks blog, go do that now.

Gini is a smart and savvy friend and we don’t always see eye to eye, which makes her an even better friend. Last week she penned a post about how Facebook seems to be unfairly squeezing money from us by forcing us to use paid promoted posts to reach people who are already following us. It’s a good point of course, but I fell off Gini’s wagon at this point:

The awesome thing about the web and social media, in particular, is it levels the playing field. No longer do you need millions of dollars to spend on PR firms and ad agencies in order to build your brand and reputation among the masses.

Today all you need is a good writer, a self-hosted website and/or blog, and organically grown social networks. With those three things, you suddenly are competing with the big boys for reputation and credibility. You’re seen as a thought leader in your industry. You’re creating kinship among your prospects. And you’re selling in a way that has never before been possible.

All of the tools are free so it’s a really low barrier to entry. And it works.

You see, I have been thinking just the opposite about our social media world. Yes, three years ago Gini was probably right. When the social web was young almost any foray into social media was novel and attracted attention. It was pretty cheap and the entry barriers were indeed low. You could post a video of a bride falling into a swimming pool and it would go viral.

No longer.

Today YouTube is mainstream entertainment fueled by slick corporate video content. People have increasingly sophisticated expectations about what they’re going to find on your Facebook page, Twitter stream, or blog.

I recently saw a statistic that stated there was more information created on the web in the last two years than all of human history combined. I don’t know if that is true or not and I rarely let facts get in the way of a good story anyway, so let’s just say it makes a point — there is an enormous amount of data to get through these days. Heck, even Mashable makes me dizzy.

The content arms race

To succeed on the social web today you better bring your A Game and a bucket of money. To connect with customers today you need to consistently provide useful, relevant, and entertaining content — and that is not cheap. And as the information density on the web increases, so too will the cost to produce that great content.

Yes, yes, I know there are plenty of companies who are still finding niche success with modest social media programs but as soon as their competitors get in the game, the content arms race begins.

As I wrote recently, the social web is NOT a level playing field. There is definitely a first-mover advantage for people who have the money to create useful content and overwhelming amounts of it (which then become entrenched in the search rankings). In the long term, you probably will NOT be competing with the “big boys” (as Gini states) with just a writer and a blog.

Crowd sourced social media advice for Chief Information Officers (CIOs)

I published a blog post titled “What social media advice would you give to a Chief Information Officer today?” which I shared on the social networks where I participate. I have provided selective responses I received.

If you have anything to add, I will welcome your contribution. I will be sharing this article with CIOs within my network. Please share with IT Professionals who may benefit from the sage advice provided by a number of global business consultants, social media, marketing and branding specialists.

Richard Simmonds (@RichSimmondsZA) – Knowledge entrepreneur, business consultant, Twitter and social coach to increase influence of brands

“I am about to post to my blog on something very similar. So here is my copy and it goes about Macintosh “Hawks” and Lance Witten who were suspended this week. Not finally edited but I am sure you will get the gist of it.

Just another reason you should (not) be on Twitter

I chatted to a parent at my sons’ school today and he had inclination to tell me about the two South Africans who were suspended for Tweeting insensitive remarks this week on Twitter.

His comment to me was ‘Richard just another reason you should not be on Twitter’. Of course he has some idea that I am involved in some way with social media and he happens to be the CEO of a rather large company in the service industry.

My response was when will people start to realise that your private, social and work life are not three separate things and that we are living one life and that we remain accountable for what we do at all times.

Social media only amplifies what we are saying, so if you have said it you have said it. As we rapidly move into a world that demands more and more transparency, we must realise that we can no longer hide things and hope things go unnoticed.

Unfortunately being the proverbial Ostrich and putting your head in the ground actually draws more attention to your actions.

Should you ever say something that is out of line or even out of character; don’t apologise by saying you we’re asked or told to apologise as this week perpetrators did.

The advantage of social media is that you get almost instantaneous feedback. Monitor this and when you start receiving negative feedback that is relevant and will potentially damage your personal brand. Move as quickly as possible to authentically apologise as errors do happen and people are sometimes willing to forgive.

What normally happens is that people normally say things that are offensive and then arrogantly hold the opinion and have no intention of apologising until the real damage has been done, then coming with a weak apology that is not authentic will never help.

Social media is extremely effective and simple when you apply basic manners and realise that we deal with real people and not audiences.

As we move into the more transparent world my advice is always to treat everyone as if they were in a relationship with you, think of them as your spouse and how you would communicate with them; as the old adage goes ‘think before you speak’ and try to imagine the response before you post or say something.

No one said that the journey would not have challenges along the way, but I can promise you it exciting – see you in that social arena, called life!

Talking mobility it also seems that there is a bigger push from people wanting to use their own devices (smartphones, tablets and notebooks) and the company to just supply data in the form of a Wi-Fi network at work. Soon the employees will want this as part of the package and not want the company to provide them with any sort of device.

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Cees De Boer (@ceesdeboer) – Member of Executive Board, CFO and COO at Deloitte Netherlands

I certainly would advise CIO’s to embrace social media. Social media will play an important part in B2B in the coming years, and social media platforms will become business platforms that CIO’s will need to manage in some way.

I suspect some CIO’s are still fighting or tolerating it, which in a way is understandable if you look at the traditional “control” role of the CIO. The problem with social media platforms is that they cannot be controlled. They reside in the cloud, and control is limited to policies, and not more. So must be scary for CIO’s.

But the rise of social media platforms is consistent with the rise of cloud. Infrastructure will not be owned by companies anymore. Here is another traditional role of the CIO being phased out. CIO’s will need to focus on buying / building / managing business applications that are of strategic and tactical importance for the business. In my view a social media platform will quickly become one of those business applications.

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Rajesh Harie (@rajharie)

This is a very important aspect of the CIO’s role today and probably warrants a posting on its own. There is an increasing shift in mobility and BYOD, it is predicted that by 2015 80% of South Africans will have access to smart phones. The cost of the devices are already sub $100 and soon it will be closing on the $50 cost making it more accessible to people.

But mobility and BYOD also has its pitfalls as the CIO does not know or control what corporate information gets placed on these smartphones. Which becomes a problem when it gets lost or stolen?

I came across an interesting article which goes into it a little more in depth – With the rise of cloud and BYOD, what does the future hold for the CIO? http://t.co/7kxm7ze3

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Darren Smith (@DazMSmith) – Businessman, New media & web strategist, Strategic Marketer, Communicator, Networker, Idea engineer and Creative thinker

Social media an important subject, and a sadly neglected one. I know of few CIOs in South Africa active (and I mean active and engaged) in social media. And given that it is the CIOs responsibility to take the tech leadership lead in business, how on earth can CIOs possibly do so if they fail to understand how to use social media (if they’ve never really used it).

You can’t lead from the back of the crowd. I get a sense of an attitude of ‘ignorance is bliss’ in business, or even ‘wilful ignorance’ … this sense of “it doesn’t really matter” and business will simply carry on remorselessly. We can argue the point until we’re blue in the face, but the attitude is pervasive in business, else we’d see more senior executive engagement in social.

A conversation I had recently with Sim Shagaya (DealDey.com, Nigeria) was interesting. I asked him what the impact of social was on his own business, in the context of this Forrester report some months ago – Less than 1% of online purchases come from social channels.

His response was enlightening. “Our business is driven mostly by word of mouth (Nigeria having a huge informal economy). Social media is the biggest CATALYST to word of mouth.”

Therein lays the power of social. And no, it is not as measurable as the reports would have you believe.

So what would my advice to CIOs be?

Simple. Forget about social media. Think about The Social ERA. Social media are just tools we might use in the conversation. The social ERA is profound & represents a fundamental change in the way we consume and share information. If information is the bedrock of knowledge, and companies are not participating in the conversation (speaking only to themselves and preaching to the converted), then they do themselves a disservice.

“Get educated. Find out where your audiences are. Listen to them. Engage. Add value. Invite them in to your world, and you may just be invited into theirs. But don’t sell to them. They’ll become brand advocates when you’ve earned their trust. Start using social yourself. With your peers!”

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Neal Schaffer (@NealSchaffer) – Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, Speaker, Author of Multiple LinkedIn Books and University Professor

I actually just presented to IT professionals on this very topic of what they need to understand about social media. Hope you find it useful!

http://windmillnetworking.com/2012/10/30/social-media-for-it-professionals-7-trends-to-follow/

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Claude Super (@claudesuper) – Valuation and information governance consultant

“Take Time to observe Key users and trust them!”

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Dr Nikolaus Eberl (@NikolausEberl) – CEO of BrandOvation, Brand Leadership Expert, Author, Brand Ambassador Program FIFA World Cup, Reciprocation Marketing™

I would definitely point out the lessons from Obama’s recent social media campaign regarding list building and targeting specific user communities.

Secondly, I would point out that with the advent of broadband in mid-2014, content marketing will become the single most important marketing tool in business and that each and every business needs to convert their employees into content providers.

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Mike Said (@Mike_Said_What) – Owner at www.brandstrategy.co.za

There is not a whole lot I can leave you with that has not already been covered but here are a few of favourite tips.

Social media is about being interesting AND interested, not one or the other. It is an INTERaction not an action.

The four Rs of Social Media – Regular, Relevant, Remarkable and Real

And final piece of advice “take control before someone else does” (and that could be your staff or your customers).

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Jochem Koole (@jochemkoole) – Senior social media adviser at Deloitte Netherlands

I feel, most CIOs mainly regard social media as a burden on their (and their department’s) daily work.

This is understandable, since social media enable employees to collaborate with colleagues and customers on the tools and devices of their own choice, while the CIO is responsible for maintaining an existing ICT environment.

However, social media are here to stay. Just like cloud computing, big data, location based services, et cetera. If CIOs are willing to run with this, and restructure their departments, teams, and work to enable a shift from a closed and controlled ICT environment to an open and supportive one, they can reap huge benefits.

IBM decided to lose control, and benefitted greatly: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-ibm-uses-social-media-to-spur-employee-innovation/

Of course, this is a long term investment. It took IBM 5 years. So, now is a good time to start.

Here’s an interesting addition to everything said earlier: “Controlled Private Social Networking”. Might be an opportunity for CIOs – http://www.wwtid.com/2012/10/28/what-exactly-is-social-business-and-what-is-its-future/

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Kaveer Beharee (@Kaveerbharath) – Stakeholder and reputation management strategist incorporating King III

New media has added a layer of complexity, both from a governance and risk management perspective.

Chapter 8 of king 3 contains many principles about stakeholder engagement and communication, which in my ad hoc research, companies do not take into account when developing a social media plans.

King requires board accountability, and a clear mandate to management. We also recommend the SE and Risk committees playing a leading role in developing a communication – and by default – a social media strategy.

The way it looks now, companies are scrambling to develop presence on new media. This is wrong. If the board and committees I’ve mentioned above cannot establish how the company can enhance value or mitigate risk using new media, do not develop presence until they can figure it out.

As an aside…..I publicly shame companies on social media when I receive bad service. I cannot emphasize how poorly prepared and scared to death they are, when they are forced to call me….in most cases to beg me to stop. They just do not have a plan.

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Jonathan Houston (@Jingo27) – Digital Marketing Manager at Deloitte Technology

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. I think that the comments that have been left before mine pretty much cover all the points that a CIO needs to be aware of when arguing that social media is not a problem they need to be concerned with.

There is one more thing that I feel has not been mentioned. You have alluded to it in saying that your social media strategy needs to be like an ERP implementation. The point I would like to make is that ERP vendors are making significant investment into social media. SAP’s Jam is the latest of these investments that shows how critical “social business” is for enterprises today.

I think the biggest shift needs to come from social media being thought of PURELY as a marketing / sales tool. It is so much more than that. It is a business tool and a source of critical information that needs to be dealt with and analysed to make better business decisions.

Whilst the CIO does not need to be physically involved should they chose not to be; they must not let their organisations suffer from their personal decision. Carrying on from that; whether an organisation is involved in social media or not; they categorically cannot ignore the conversation that is happening about them and their competitors every day!

There is an awesome Forbes article which summarises this topic quite nicely : http://www.forbes.com/sites/oracle/2012/11/06/5-ugly-potholes-on-the-road-to-social-business-excellence/

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Nazareen Ebrahim (@NazareenE) – Social Media and Content Manager

I would say to any CIO that

a)     Social media will not die out

b)    It is an imperative portion of marketing and communications in any organisation

c)     It is in the best interest of a CIO to be using some social media platforms in a personal capacity so that they have their own understanding of what social media means and how it works

d)    They will be admired and respected as a leader, by their colleagues and work force, for taking an active interest in, and support of social media communication for their organisation

e)     A CIO has a responsibility to ensure that the reputation of the organisation can be managed in the most decisive manner at all times to maintain a positive identity; disregarding or not paying much attention to social media channels in this instance is like slitting one’s wrists gently but hoping not to bleed

f)     Social media in the post-PC era is about real-time, consistent, authentic communication among brand, consumer, community, influencers and friends; a CIO can only really claim to be leading their organisation in the right direction if they understand the changing nature of our global communications – smart technologies and devices, peer recommendation and the voice that social media has given organisations and their employees.

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Jon Hoehler (@JonHoehler) – Manager, Mobile Technologies at Deloitte Digital

A huge challenge for CIOs is around accessing of social media by employees on the enterprises networks. Any organization will block employee’s access to social media sites in order to “improve work rate and productivity”. Employees will use their mobile / personal devices to access social media portals. http://www.silkroad.com/Company/News-and-Media/Press_Releases/2012/10/Social_Survey_Report_Press_Release.html

From a South African perspective, social media portals are extremely popular. South Africa has over 6.5 million registered Facebook users with over 80% of those users using their mobile device to connect to the social network. I would imagine many of those logins are from employees during their working day.

Users will find ways around the systems setup to garden wall them. A challenge to CIOs around the policies around access to social media platforms but that the same time with trust in their employees that they won’t spend their days commenting on their friend’s wedding photographs.

Embracing corporate and employee participation through organization driven platforms using social media elements dove tailed with Gamification theory is a compelling exercise especially with crowd sourcing of information pertaining to the organization.

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Cliona – http://www.forgood.co.za/Pages/Home.aspx

I guess for me a good message to any CIO would be that social media is a reality and will grow from strength to strength in the years to come.

However for anyone to buy into the concept of social media across the board it has to be a user friendly approach without getting caught up in complex and long drawn out processes.

I have found that by listening to our users that they have a very good idea of what they want to use within the social media framework and as we carry on applying this to our website our traction and user base in growing. And when you align this to technology you have a win-win scenario.

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Adrian Lee (@AdrianLeeSA) – Mobile, Marketing and Business Development

With the dearth of CIOs in the country that are even aware of ‘social media’, they still think it’s something that their teen kids are on.

Firstly, Understand the Channel, each platform serves a different audience type. Twitter is not the same as Facebook is not the same as Pinterest, for example. Somehow there’s always a forced fit when it comes to social media strategy.

Second, Provide Great Content, I use the example of Richard Branson’s twitter handle, which covers topics from new business launches to his own personal leisure pursuits. Look, if the CIO think putting out a dry press release on social media channels will work, he’s dead wrong. You engage with relevant content on the right channels. Depending on their business, some visual platforms will work really well, e.g. Pinterest for a group like Zando’s.

Third, Really Be There. Quoting examples from one of the big 4 local banks who got it disastrously wrong with social media, you can’t set up an official channel and leave it unmanned. Any comments/queries/complaints/praise needs to be responded to in a timely manner (AND state what the response turnaround is). Dedicate the required resources to it and don’t leave it as the part-time role of the digital marketing person.

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Melanie Minnaar – (@MelanieMinnaar) – Founder & Owner at multiplicity

First point would be to have a strategy online, not control – that is in conflict with the social nature of the channel. A high-level strategy is necessary to provide a framework that best serves the brands’ intentions.

Point 2: you can’t switch on and off in social media – if you’re not a key influencer in online circles and are absent from one too many conversations with your audience, don’t expect them to rush to serve your crowd-sourcing needs at the drop of a hat. Likewise,

Point 3: you can’t expect your staff to be fully immersed brand advocates in the online social space if their onine presence is managed in the same way as a TV media schedule – living the brand is fully challenged in this new era of communication.

Consistency – as with core brand management principles; the brand must be represented in a consistent manner through all its communication channels, including digital. Your strategy will inform what this consistency should look like to avoid schizophrenic brands in the marketplace.

On crowd-sourcing specifically I refer to The Twitter Blanket Drive which has grown threefold year on year. I’ve made plenty of mistakes over the past 3 years and most of them were when I did not rightfully acknowledge the channel and defaulted to traditional methods of promotion and communication. The biggest lesson is that the essence and nature of the platform is key for the success of any campaign driven in this manner. Otherwise, take out a radio ad.

Final thought: social communication is about people. If you’re not a people’s person then find or hire people who are.

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Helen Tonetti (@HelenTonetti) – Social Media Specialist and Marketing Director at Video Expression

Be in context and be human’ is the best advice for social media success

So many businesses forget that Social Media is just like conversations off-line, and in my experience can far too often get hung up on the tools and not focus on the conversations.

The best real world analogy is a meeting with your peers and other industry leaders, all there to discuss an emerging trend and instead of bringing your research along to join in the meeting, you start telling the assembled group about a product offer you have, giving out coupons and keep asking members of the group to give you their details so you can send them the offer.

 When the assembled group tries to focus on the topic that the meeting was set up to address, you put on a sandwich board, take out a megaphone and keep shouting out your message until they ask you to leave.

That’s how so many businesses are still approaching social media, as a platform that has tools that allows them to send out messages, not join in conversations, listen, learn and engage.

 It’s not a one way channel where there’s a sender and many receivers, but it’s the business meeting where everyone is on equal footing to participate in the conversation.

Remember that even though you’re interacting on a computer, you’re expected to act like a human on social media, not like a robot. Make sure your business values line up with human values and then act like that when interacting with your audience.

I trust that you found this advice (and the links provided) of use. Do you have anything to add?

Can you talk the CEO into doing social media?

Here is a great article by Dave Thomas I discovered on ViralBlog which provides good reasons why your CEO should invest in social media.

Can you talk the CEO into doing social media?

You are the chief marketing officer at your company and you have to approach the big man or woman about trying something out. The goal, to get them to sign off on putting major time and effort into a social media campaign.

Yes, the company is doing well overall, but you and others know it could be turning an even bigger return on investment.

The sticking point, however, the CEO is not exactly tripping over themselves to integrate social media into your company’s marketing plan. So, where does that leave you?

As many who do marketing for a living know, one of the main goals of any business is to stay a step ahead of the competition. In your heart of hearts, you feel passionately that your company is missing out on a key area, promoting itself through social media.

For many chief marketing officers, it takes a little extra time and effort to sell the head of the company on all the good things that social media can do for your business. The CEO is oftentimes questioning the true value of social media, saying they have trouble getting a true read on its ROI to the business.

Social Media Continues to Grow for Many Companies

When you find yourself in that position, throw a few of the following statistics at the CEO from the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.

Among them:

  • Ninety-four percent of all companies with a marketing department used social media as a portion of their marketing platform;
  • Nearly 60 percent of marketers are devoting what amounts to a full work day to social media marketing development and maintenance;
  • Forty-three percent of people aged 20-29 spend more than 10 hours a week on social media sites;
  • Eighty-five of all companies that have a dedicated social media platform as part of their marketing strategy noted a gain in their market exposure, while 58 percent of businesses that have used social media marketing for more than three years stated seeing an increase in sales over that period.

So, if those numbers still have your company’s CEO questioning the importance of a solid social media effort by your team, share some of these thoughts with them:

Engaging consumers – As more and more shoppers go on-line to browse and shop, not engaging them on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social media platforms is flat out wrong. According to a recent Forrester Research Inc. report, on-line shoppers in the U.S. are forecast to spend $327 billion in 2016, an increase of 45 percent from $226 billion this year and 62 percent from $202 billion in 2011. In 2016, e-retail will account for 9 percent of total retail sales, a jump from 7 percent in both 2012 and 2011, according to the report, “U.S. On-line Retail Forecast, 2011 to 2016,” by Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. That amounts to a compound annual growth rate of 10.1 percent over the five-year forecast period. With those kind of projections, companies need to be socially engaged;

Avert on-line problems – Another reason your goal as a CMO is to have a solid social media presence for your company is knowing what folks are saying about your business. Are customers turning to Twitter and Facebook to complaint about your products or services? Are they taking to social media venues to disperse unfounded rumors about your company? Lastly, is your competition talking about you in ways that do not truly define your company? Three more reasons to be actively involved in social media;

Be seen as an authority – Finally, a strong social media presence allows your company to be seen as an authority in its particular industry. Consumers are more apt to come to your Facebook and Twitter company pages if you are providing valuable links, authoritative blog posts, informative press releases and more. As your likes and followers increase, you can point to these figures in your brochures and other company promotions, giving you more clout with consumers.

While you will not always be able to sell your company’s top person on social media, your goal as a CMO is to promote it wherever and whenever possible.

By all accounts, social media is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Wouldn’t you rather be the CMO who was in front of the social media train than the one running to keep up with it?

Dave Thomas, who discusses subjects such as installing the right home gutter guards and starting a home business, has more than 20 years of experience as a business writer.