Roger Warner

MD, Content & Motion

Content & Motion, the Online PR and Social Media Agency, has made a big impact on the world of social media since its launch in 2008. Roger Warner's 15+ year's experience in PR and natural digital chops are two main reasons.

What were the biggest changes for social-driven businesses in 2011?

   

A rational dose of sanity. Brands began to realise that over-focusing on shiny bits of Social technology can be detrimental. This has been exacerbated by the fact that much of Social Media is free. Historically, this leads to lots of experimentation by renegades within the organisation without the right level of planning.

Whilst experimentation is good, this has lead to organisational chaos in many brands. Lots of schemes are now live without the appropriate backing, skills, and internal connections to make them successful - and some projects being viewed as failures (or delivering a lack of ROI) due to these deficiencies.

Having woken up to this fact, much more time is now spent on planning and the rewiring of people, systems and processes. This is a good thing. Readiness to execute should be a byword for all Social-driven programs. Plus a clear understanding of what the business goals should be. This is obvious, but very necessary right now.

   

"Over-focusing on shiny bits of Social technology can be detrimental."

Roger Warner

What social channels or platforms are growing and which do you think will decrease in importance?

   

Facebook continues to dominate the personal sphere - in terms of connecting to and communicating with friends. Twitter is establishing a clear value and user case as a news feed. Tumblr has seen amazing growth in some sectors - such as fashion - as a superb way of tuning into the zeitgeist. Ditto with more niche services such as Instagram - a superb user experience for following and sharing our visual lives.

Facebook and Twitter are the channels that the mainstream needs to focus on in terms of marketing and CRM. It's obvious - they have critical mass, and so make for a more profitable pool to swim in. We try not to get blinded by THE NEXT BIG THING here at C&M. Services like Quora, Pintrest, and the next newbie are all great - but, whilst they remain important in terms of service development and innovation, still are niche players for communicating with the public at large.

   

"Facebook and Twitter are the channels that the mainstream needs to focus on."

Roger Warner

   

Google has a hand in all of this. Actually, some of the most interesting work that happens on these niche platforms is search-related. A user review on Quora may not have great reach within the confines of Quora, but it may have great residual value on a search results page. Hence, there's a lot of very targeted work happening in the realms of brand content marketing and optimisation on the periphery of the big networks - with Google search as the destination.

Whether or not this a great use of those services is debatable. Highly optimised content is generally of lower value than real user driven content - so the spam effect has a negative impact on what shows up on those channels.

Google's efforts in the Social space remain me-too and lacklustre and will decrease in importance. Google+ has to do something radical in terms of functionality to convince people to migrate from Facebook - otherwise it will simply nosedive. It inherited a large search/email user base - but it will struggle to turn these people into active users.

Per above, Google+'s integration with search will also have more impact on our search experience than our social networking experience on Google+. Once search results pages are integrated with Google+ content, the doors are opened for brands to spam relentlessly with keyword-optimised Google+ status updates.

The fact that Google isn't indexing content from Twitter or Facebook in these results will further harm the overall growth of Google+. This is not a true social integration - it only presents results from one network. Further more, it'll publish lots of SEO spam. This leads to a poor user experience, which in turn is making Google+ a less attractive place to live one's social life. Google is screwing up again.

   

"Google is screwing up again."

Roger Warner

What has been the big surprise in 2011 for social-powered business?

   

I think the biggest surprise for most brands that *normal* people really do want to connect with them, share information about them and be advocates. (I say normal people, not just us marketing wonks - we always get over-excited by this stuff.) Our own research tells us that over half of (normal) people want to follow brands on Social to get news, belong to like-minded communities and get access to deals and offers. 60% of these folks are happy to share their brand information with their friends and the majority want to do so because they feel it increases the social value that their friends feel for them. This notion of 'social capital' and a behavioural understanding of why people want to engage is key - and this I would say is the big positive learning. Most people want to engage for positive reasons, not to complain. This fact gets rid of one of the biggest barriers to entry to date. Brands are welcome - so they can feel happier about joining in.

What has been the biggest disappointment or over-hype?

   

Google+. Ugh.


What smaller companies have demonstrated the power of social business over the last few years?

   

I would suggest C&M client Majestic Wine as a great example. They have 170 stores in the UK, and are taking the right pragmatic steps to bake Social into the way that they market themselves and communicate at a local level. For them, the majority of product and inventory is centralised, and so they can have a very efficient, centralised communications architecture. But they also realise that wine, as a shopping activity, is inherently local and personal. Education and help is really important - that's why people buy from Majestic, for their amazing staff. The brand has replicated this via its Social communications - via it's blog, Facebook and particularly with local, store-based relationships developed via Twitter and Foursquare.

Their staff are the face of the brand on Social - both at a local level and on its main properties. They're open, helpful and full of character. This is textbook social PR and marketing - it works because they provide a layer of value and utility to the retail experience. They're not focused on shiny apps, games and technology - they just want to deliver brilliant service. And this is why they get talked about on Social. Very similar to Zappos. Having a great service culture and showcasing it is one sure fire way to shine on Social Media.

   

"Having a great service culture and showcasing it is one sure fire way to shine on Social Media."

Roger Warner

What's the next big thing for social business?

   

The next big thing is for every brand to appreciate why people use Social in the first place, and to start to build its marketing programs around these principles.

People don't use Facebook to engage with brands. They use it to connect with people.

Most marketers think about and use Facebook solely to connect people to brands. Their interests (and expectations) are wildly at odds with their audiences.

Thinking like a real person is the next big thing. Sorry, I know that's not that radical, but it's the single biggest change a brand can make today to enjoy more success via Social.

Once this mindset is adopted, brands will start to see that their marketing, communications and creative products need to radically change. Brands need to find ways to become communications vehicles, not destinations. The most effective campaigns and programs are small, light, iterative, very ideas based and ephemeral. A simple question posed on a Facebook wall is often more effective than a polished video.

   

"Most marketers think about and use Facebook solely to connect people to brands. Their interests (and expectations) are wildly at odds with their audiences."

Roger Warner

   

So, the next frontier for a marketer is to be more gonzo. Get inside the customers' heads, understand how they are using Social to communicate and start building fast moving creative assets around them. They also need to live a life of data - as a working process to influence the direction of a creative program, not just as a set of information to measure at the end of a campaign.

In practical terms, the fluidity of creative is super important. By definition, if viral videos are your thing, then they are baked at the get-go and can't be manipulated during the course of a campaign. A better way to deliver effective work is to launch a mass of smaller, less fixed assets to support a broader campaign mission: think conversations, questions, polls, smaller services that support a product, content and editorial, etc. Those who are more comfortable with traditional advertising assets will struggle. Those that move to real-time conversational mode will prosper.

   

"The next frontier for a marketer is to be more gonzo."

Roger Warner

What should a CEO or senior strategist be keeping an eye on in 2012?

   

Data. Real time program reports. Dashboards and web reports with clear KPIs need to be used as a working reality, not just a promise in an activity plan.

The value of Social is what people do on Social. It's not the number of likes you have on Facebook or followers on Twitter.

CEOs should be asking, 'what are these people doing?' and their reports should surface this information in clear ways that are described in meaningful terms: how did Social contribute to brand awareness, acquisition, purchases. These reports should be available in his/her browser - populated with real time data.

Strategists should be looking at a different set of reports that look at how people are really engaging with their work. Largely this is a question of content analytics. What language is resonating most? Which content formats are most effective? How does this inform our Facebook Edgerank strategy? That kind of thing.

They should be working hand in glove with the comms teams, creative teams and sales and support teams to be giving them a persistent read on their communities - so that these people can adapt their communications on the fly.

What role do you think CRM will play in the social business of tomorrow?

   

Social is an essential part of the CRM model - and vice versa. Actually it's all one big funnel - and there should be no distinctions between the two.

I think Social Media has been an amazingly positive force for CRM thinking. CRM becomes less about Marketing (capital M) and more about communications. We're having to rethink our content marketing and customer engagement strategies in front of a web-to-lead form firewall in order to remain competitive - we now publish more information for free, in different formats and for different purposes, because we have to.

The Social web - blogs and all - make content available for free on a universal scale. Therefore, brands have to be active in their engagement and dialogue to ensure that they remain a dominant source of influence - either directly or indirectly via customer advocates.

When you take a step back, this content, dialogue and engagement is simply the top of the funnel. Social Media puts brand information in circulation like never before. There is no true value of a Facebook fan, just like there's no true value of a TV ad impression. Connections with people on Social Media are simply the start of a communications process that will lead to a value-based action some time later in the day.

   

"Social Media has been an amazingly positive force for CRM thinking. CRM becomes less about Marketing (capital M) and more about communications."

Roger Warner

How can a company inject social media into its culture?

   

1: By working with C&M : )

2: The best way to kick start Social is to take a comparative look at other brands and consumers in your own marketplace. This will tell you how high the bar is being set in your own back yard, and also what's successful and what's not. What works for Coca Cola will not work for an IBM. So random case studies are misleading - we'd say handle them with care.

Once there's an appetite for Social, we always recommend smaller programs to establish value. It's a huge mistake to get the Powerpoint out and to devise Social as a pure consulting exercise. The number one barrier to success is internal wiring and personal investment in programs. The only way to ensure that Social takes hold is to establish projects that are small, but very, very scalable - and involve some real Social communications with real staff in the process.

   

"What works for Coca Cola will not work for an IBM. So random case studies are misleading - we'd say handle them with care."

Roger Warner

   

It's also super-important that the goals are realistic and expectations are straight to begin with. A fresh-faced Facebook campaign from a standing start is not going to revolutionise the effectiveness of a brand's marketing. But it can revolutionise a subset of that brand’s marketing. Look for opportunities where Social can supplement an existing marketing or PR program. This means you have a benchmark for success - the numbers generated by the program last year before the introduction of Social. When you then succeed with Social you have a simple before and after comparison to make, and most importantly a feel good factor and a whole stack of momentum. Working this way also means you have an established budget line to work from - you don't need to invent a Social Media pot of cash from nowhere.

Is there a downside to social media in business?
What are the risks?

   

The main downside to Social media currently is a lack of sanity and planning. Expectations are sky high, and whilst we feel the same way, the promise of Social is often bolted on to the wrong thing.

If you want to become a Social Business, then that's brilliant. But this isn't going to happen overnight. You need to plan effectively and to be agile in the way that programs are conceived and implemented. Again, much of this is an internal wiring issue. You need people who are motivated in the first instance. It also helps if they're natural born communicators who can deliver brilliant outcomes externally on Social and internally when it comes to evangelising all their hard work.

Of course, the other downside and risk is to launch Social as a business process without the right skills and processes behind it. You don't want to create a channel for customer support that you can't support.

The other thing to avoid is being a bad business. Because if your products and services suck, then Social Media will only amplify the problem. It certainly won't solve any marketing issues you might have.

   

"Expectations are sky high, and whilst we feel the same way, the promise of Social is often bolted on to the wrong thing."

Roger Warner

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