Daily Archives: February 19, 2013

Measuring Social Media Success, With Olivier Blanchard

This week in #CMGRClass, we were lucky enough to have Olivier Blanchard, the author of Social Media ROI, join us in our biweekly Hangout on Google+. We were asked to write some questions down ahead of time, relevant to his book and expertise. Given my current position as a social media strategist at SU’s IT Services, I was eager to hear Olivier’s commentary on using data metrics to improve your social media efforts.


One of the issues I’ve run into at work is that my boss and coworkers are unsure of what sort of goals they have for their social media presence. Part of the issue is that no one person is really devoted to working on our social platforms, it’s more of an extension of our phone support services instead. As such, when I asked about specific metrics that I should be looking at in my daily work, they wanted to defer to me to figure it out. That’s not something I would mind doing, but I’m still rather new to this particular organization, so I’m not well-versed in the overarching strategy and goals that already exist. I’m flying a bit blind until I learn them or help my superiors develop some more concrete wants and need in terms of data.

So, when the conversation with Olivier turned to finding and demonstrating value in your social media efforts, I knew it was the right time to ask the question burning in my brain: what questions can I ask to help my employers figure out what they want out of social media? If they’re paying me to look at Twitter all day, I’d love to give them some data and results that they can in turn act on to improve their services and better address customer needs. Olivier’s response, borrowed from Brains On Fire, was “What would you like to be celebrating in six months?” He went on to talk about how social media for customer service might prove to be a better medium for resolving issues, and one person on Twitter may accomplish just as much as three people on phone calls. Speed of response and speed of resolution were other metrics he recommended looking at, but he also brought up the point that if a leader can’t tell you why you’re using social media for business, there’s a problem with the leadership that should be fixed. I agree with that point, and I’ve gotten the impression that social media was adopted in this office more on a hunch that it would be useful, rather than with a clear goal of extending our service mediums to better meet our customers’ needs. Now that we have these accounts, and I’m in a position to influence our direction, I would like to help establish real goals, and I think the language Olivier offered will be helpful in having that discussion with my superiors.

As this problem has been on my mind for a few weeks, I’ve done some research of my own into what Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) similar organizations use, which metrics work, which are just for show, and so on. I found an article on a Harvard Business Review blog, entitled Why Your Social Media Metrics Are a Waste of Time, by Ivory Madison. Madison writes that pageviews and unique visitors, Twitter followers and Facebook likes aren’t exactly relevant to running a business on their own. Instead, she advises that actionable metrics that align with clear business goals are better, something you could present to your CEO with no further explanation. I’m inclined to agree.

What KPIs are most relevant to your business? Were they difficult to establish?

When Building an Internal Community, Start Small and Grow Big


Olivier Blanchard uses Pinterest as an example to promote exclusivity when building internal communities. 

On Tuesday, February 12, 2013 the #cmgrclass instructors made it possible for Olivier Blanchard, author of Social Media ROI, to be guest speaker of the bi-weekly Google+ hangout session.

Prior to the hangout, participants were asked to submit two questions to be asked during the chat. Here is one of mine:

We’ve learned that building an internal community is equally as important as forming online communities. As a Community Manager, how do you go about establishing an internal community within an organization?

Blanchard offered incredible insight. Here’s what he had to say:

In establishing an internal community, don’t be blunt about your motives. If you go around announcing to the organization you’re looking to build an internal community, your colleagues will be pretty unresponsive. Blanchard strongly suggests engineering it as a scarcity model. Initially, you should interact with people within the organization with whom you already have internal relations. These people should, ideally, already see value in community management and the importance of creating an internal community.

By making a small, private group, others will begin to take notice and inquire. It’s not a snob club, but let’s face it, scarcity and exclusivity rise people to want to belong. They suddenly urge to be in the know and become active internal community members. This will happen over time as you give your core group permission to invite others and allow the internal community to grow organically.

Blanchard uses Pinterest as an example. In the early days, Pinterest required newbies to be invited by a current member in order to be eligible to create an account and become an active user. Use this exact model when establishing your internal community, the core group you begin with will reinforce the value and drive adoption amongst other colleagues. As Jenn Pedde would say, “Start small and grow big.”

In terms of value, Blanchard suggests selling value internally as well. Companies tend to hire people to run social media. They see how relevant is has become, but aren’t necessarily sure how to began creating a presence on various digital outlets. Community managers need work at convincing companies, especially those in high leadership positions, of the value and possibility social media can add.

Schedule meetings the decision makers, which can include, but certainly isn’t limited to department leaders, team leaders, product managers, marketing managers. During this meeting, ask how you can help them. How can you be an asset to what is it that they’re trying to accomplish? These leaders will begin to share their long-term goals, what they need more of, and what they’re trying to sell more of. As a community manager, aim to meet that goal using social channels.  By seeking to understand what everyone wants to establish within a company and understanding the desires and motivations of top leaders, you can allow them to see value in what you do. Use social media as a tool and driver of what the big decision makers are chasing. They’ll then begin to come to you with questions and requests. Report to each leader with wins and hurdles and be vocal about what you need from them in terms of content to produce successful outcomes.

How were you able to create value within your organization? Share your story with #cmgrclass!

To Outsource or Not: Community Management Work

The concept of a company hiring an advertising, public relations or social/digital agency to fulfill the role of community manager, as discussed in our Google Hangout by guest expert Olivier Blanchard this week, was intriguing.

Discussion of the plan to staff the function interested me because I’ve worked both as an agency provider to clients as a client buyer.

When I worked here,  i was involved in selecting, hiring, collaborating and sometimes firing agencies and consultants for marketing, advertising, and political consulting work. I experienced how some agencies who hit the mark with their work, and how others just never “got” the precise messaging and branding needed.




In my next professional life, though,  I was a  agency staffer and I discovered that clients don’t always articulate what they want. I also found that, sometimes, agencies aren’t particulary good at interpreting that, or in meeting expectations.

So Blanchard’s comments about companies and organizations using agencies to fulfill social media and community manager work roles was a bit of a surprise. It’s an area especially worth consideration for me, since I’m now a solo communications practitioner who is studying social media at the iSchool. And this is an area of service I’ve considered offering to clients.

The author’s observations resonated, and here is how I consider them very on-point: sm ROI

  • He says there is “actually no problem” having agencies handling your social media
  • He cites some agencies (referencing Edelman) that “are starting to do it really well.”
  • The cases of success seem due to the hiring of “good people” by the agencies and the embedding of those staff in the client’s physical and cultural operating environment.

Sauce for the Goose/Gander

Google+HOA, #cmgrclass, 021613

Like any new employee, Blanchard says, people from an agency hired for this work also need

#cmgrclass Google HOA, 02/16/13

#cmgrclass Google HOA, 02/16/13

time to acclimate to the physical, cultural and organizational factors of the brand, so they:

  • Become immersed in the company/brand culture
  • Understand the product and the brand personality well
  • “Speak the language” of the organization
  • Adopt the company voice and importantly, capture the message tone
  • Become aware of the customer expectations and acceptable interactions

Embedding a social media/community practitioner gets them “on brand,” according to @thebrandbuilder. He cites a couple of potential problems when an agency handles the social/community work for a company, however:

  • The agency rep may be unable to do “peripheral engagement”
  • The result may be more a content creation package than true community engagement
  • The effort  may not convert brand preference or path-to-purchase (sales)
  • The client could pay “an incredible amount of money for what amounts to really crappy lazy content management online.”

 What Does Embedding Get?

Isafamedia - Creative Commons

Isafamedia – Creative Commons

In theory, “embedding” could be a smart move for both client and agency.

Think of the vividness achieved through the reporting of embedded journalists–those in tanks with soldiers– in Afghanistan or in Vietnam. In theory, the heightened reality of being “in that world” should translate.

From my personal experience, I’d say that whether agencies succeed or fail, whether they are “in synch” or “out of touch,” is ultimately reliant on the skills of the “interpreters,” the agency staff people assigned to the account. And I can see some downsides for both parties:

  • The organization may try to hire away the agency rep
  • The organization may decide to cut costs by replacing the agency rep with a full-time employee, leaving the agency person experienced in a narrow way that may not apply to other accounts
  • The client risks losing the voice it established if an agency person leaves (the same risk is present with any employee)
  • If the employee is handling more than one account, it may be hard to switch between organizational voices.

This record of change regarding agency life and death illustrates the fleeting nature of agency-client relations.



The Chobani company used high-profile agencies, and climbed to become the No. 1 seller in its category. Still, here’s what happened with its agencies:

March 28, 2009:             Chobani TapsTDA Advertising and Design

7 months later:                GothamWins Chobani

September 23, 2011:     Chobani Decision Nears, 3 Shops

March 14, 2012:              Leo Burnett NY Replaces Gotham

July 31, 2012:                  Chobani Takes King in the Yogurt Aisle

November 21, 2012:    Chobani’s Head of Marketing Doron Stern Exits



So… please provide your feedback:

  • How do you think a brand can maintain its voice and consumer connection in terms of the normal flux of personnel?
  • Would you be comfortable hiring an agency and embedding an agency staffer in your organization for social/community engagement?
  • If you were an agency, would you be comfortable hiring out staff to do community engagement for an organization?



The VALUE of Social Media

Value by alshepmcr

Photo Credit: by Ashepmcr

Everyone in the business world talks about the importance of creating value, but many would probably have a hard time explaining the meaning of their value’s without resorting to vague explanations like, “We value our customers.”  That’s great, but what exactly does that mean?  How do you conduct your everyday business to realize that value?

There is no shortage of articles, blogs, and books available to help companies develop, define, measure, set, and communicate their values.  It seems almost absurd that a word that is so pervasive in society (and seemingly simple on the surface) would require so much thought and explanation.   The author of the blog Setting corporate values and brand values suggests that a company should ask itself one simple question, when setting its values, “What do I want people to think about when they think of my company.”  While that seems like an easy and reasonable way to determine an overarching company value set, several questions still remain:

  • How is it even possible that a company would not be in touch with something as precious as its values?
  • Why is value such an elusive concept for many companies to define?

I propose this simple answer:   It is precisely because it is a concept, which is not concrete by nature, but inherently abstract, general, and subjective since it is often be based on individual experience and bias.  Consequently, value is in the eye of the beholder, whether that beholder is the CEO of the organization, or the customer with which that organization serves.

Now, let’s pause for a moment to consider value in terms of a company’s social media practices.  Many organizations, big and small, struggle to figure out how to integrate the social media element into their business without the benefit of understanding why they need it, how it works, or how to apply it in a meaningful, beneficial way.  Because of this, it is almost impossible to assign a set of social media values that correlate to the company’s overall values.  Olivier Blanchard, author of Social Media ROI advises companies to consider building their social media program by first gaining an understanding of the fundamentals around how social media works, with a focus on creating value and desired outcomes (for the company and the customer), as opposed to just creating content.  He asks us to think of social media as a driver to whatever is important to the organization by considering the following questions:

  • What do you ultimately want to accomplish with social media and why?
  • What are you trying to improve within the organization?
  • What is important to your organization?

But it is important for one to always remember, the value proposition works in more than one direction.   Companies must not only ascertain what the value of social media means to them specifically, but also if it aligns with their customers, clients, or communities perceived values as well.  All of these considerations are precisely why the “value of social media” and its power is so compelling!

What values do people generally derive from social media?  What kind of things do you see companies do that don’t create value for their fans or followers?  How can an organization figure out what is truly valuable to their customers?