Go to any social media conference now and every other speaker will be touting the benefits of “owned, earned and paid media” as if they discovered fire. But few know how to actually make this work within big consumer and B2B brands.
There are two barriers that I see keeping us from living the dream.
The way that brands task their multi-agency rosters with bits and bobs of particular programs works against integration. Big organizations have diverse business owners each contributing to revenue outcomes like increased sales of products and services. Many of them hire specialist firms to extend their team’s ability to design strategy or execute marcom programs. There’s a certain belief that brand marketers need to pick “best-of-breed” specialists and constantly pit them against each other to leverage the best commitment or price. It’s all quite logical in a way. It also produces far too much friction to really overcome some of the barriers to truly getting all of your disciplines working in a complimentary fashion. The best that most brands ever achieve is a campaign success where 2-3 disciplines (out of 5-6) are aligned enough for a time to produce remarkable results for a short period of time(think Old Spice).
Big teams vs. small teams
Brand + Agency teams have become large. Whenever something isn't quite going right, the answer is to add someone new to the team. It's crazy. The type of innovation we are looking for (“imagine a program where all disciplines were aligned to inspire as much sustained positive word of mouth for a new product – all measured by a common, focused dashboard…”) comes easiest from small, tight teams with common motivations. Either brand managers need to become the team leader of these small teams featuring a few members of different tribes and agencies or brands are going to have to take a chance on a single agency/partner who has enough of the right disciplines within their camp to pull it off.
4 Ways to Get Integrated Social Media Programs to Work
- Behavior-driving Planning Model
It is so hard within a multi-agency team to have a single planning methodology prevail. I am a fan of Ogilvy’s Fusion model not because it’s ours but because it’s designed around driving behavior. Rather than have every discipline chasing its own planning approach measured by impressions, click-to-actions, GRP’s or whatever, focus on a collaborative planning approach that is designed to get people to take an action or actually change behavior. Do you want people to try a new product? Buy more at one time? Exercise every day? And just where are they on the proverbial customer journey? A behavior-driving model can take advantage of the most useful research in behavioral economics. It's a more sympathetic approach to our customer and more effective.
The planning model should also tell the team what they find important. As more brands use contests and promotions to lure consumers to interact on Facebook, some marketers are swearing off contest incentives preferring to generate engagement and word of mouth through "ideas." This is an example of a belief that ought to be shared by the core planning team (I am neither endorsing this particular notion or bashing it - merely using it as an example).
- Unified Story and Content Strategy
Different brand organizations use different tools to align work across their marketing and communications. “Brand Keys,” “Brand Creative Ideas,” “Brand Platforms,” are all models for distilling what a brand stands for and what the most contemporary messages are during a particular season. But few brands develop a holistic approach to content no matter whether delivered via the Facebook wall, television or online display advertising, or in the stories pitched to traditional media. Customers, consumers , people-like-us are losing track of what they ought to expect from different channels. They just want relevant content – if they actually want anything at all beyond a good product that delivers on a promise. Marketers can make better use of the mix of touchpoints with customers if they take care to form clear story(ies) and then manage content cohesively across the different ways and places customers make use of it.
- A Blended Measurement Framework
Instead of having a different metric for each discipline, have a limited number of KPIs - each of which reflects desired behavior and is shared by all efforts. Perhaps, brand marketers feel like they already have this or that sales data is the bottom line. What I see again and again is teams tracking and reporting 10-20 data points and often becoming lost as to which are most important. They count Facebook fans, comments on wall posts, wall postings, individual ‘likes,’ tab interactions, retweets in Twitter, Twitter follower acquisition, blog mentions, “impressions,” and so much more. Some are trying to roll up all types of interactions like commenting and ‘likes’ into a single engagement metric. That certainly helps marketers get focused back on driving engagement (e.g. time-spent or interactions believed to be steps along the way to persuasion and product-related behavior change). Like our planning model – what do we want people to actually do? Let’s count that.
If we need proxy metrics to help optimize an effort, let’s make the effort to confirm that they are the ones indicative of behavior change.
- Prioritize Key Operational Changes
We have to do things differently to expect different results. Brand marketers are used to commissioning one of the agency partners to come up with the creative big idea that all other disciplines will interpret. It's time to evolve beyond the creative idea as the only binding principle. Now we need a small team who will work together to optimize the relationship the brand has with the customer and make certain it delivers great value to both brand and customer.
Since marketing has become more ‘always-on’ and less purely campaign-focused, it makes sense to designate a small strategy team that guides all disciplines through their ongoing and iterative execution. A small team can look at the overall effort and make a call that the paid advertising online is not leading to the level of active fan acquisition, for example, or that the volume of peer recommended trial is not all that was hoped and that 2-3 disciplines might work together to incent more customer sharing and trial. Designating this small strategic team at the helm would be a big shift from the large group model so often put in place.
What other operational changes:
- Run brand program reviews like editorial meetings - look at the data and decide what is working and what is not. Make changes on the fly and try that
- Embrace the pilot - in the race to get immediate results, some brands avoid pilots as they seem like lengthy trials with little business impact beyond learning. As Facebook says, "Fail fast." We can get better results quicker by conditioning ourselves to run quick pilots that can easily be scaled.
- Let the word of mouth guys run the core strategy team - as more brands embrace the importance of brand advocacy and word of mouth, it makes sense that the experts at driving valuable word of mouth be at the front of the bus