One question I’ve consistently heard from companies re: social media marketing over the last 10 years of consulting has simply been: What are other companies doing with their social media teams?
Implied in that comment are the following sub-questions:
- Where do these social media teams sit in the organization? Who do they report up through?
- How many people should be on our social media team? What should the titles be?
- What should our social media team be responsible for?
Remember, social media is still a relatively new thing–it’s only been around for 10 years or so now. So, I don’t think it’s all that surprising that companies are asking all these kinds of questions about how to build and nurture a social media team.
Rhonda Hughes, head of social at SurveyMonkey, recently took the initiative and polled her friends and colleagues about what other social teams look like. In total, Rhonda collected almost 300 responses (not bad!).
There were four big takeaways:
- Companies still don’t know where to put social–was split fairly evenly among comms, digital, social media, brand and content.
- Most social teams are small–27% of companies had just one social person; 23% had 2 and 16% had 3; that’s a full 66% of companies with 3 social people or fewer! On the flip side, only 11% of companies had 11 or more social employees.
- Social teams are under-resourced. When asked if they were adding headcount this year 29% said yes, 24% said no and 47% said: “I wish”.
- The laundry list of items social media teams are responsible for is long–and growing. Broadly speaking, 60% of respondents said their team oversees both paid and organic social strategy. 43% also manage global social media across both U.S. and international. But, they had a huge list of activities in here that social teams managed–speaks to #3 above.
These results don’t tell us anything we didn’t essentially already know.
We knew social didn’t necessarily sit in one consistent spot in the organization.
We knew most social teams were 1-2 person bands.
We certainly new social teams were under-resourced.
And, we’re all well aware of the laundry list of tasks and to-dos social teams are responsible for on a day-in, day-out basis.
So, what are the takeaways here? I have a few takes based on my experiences working with social teams over the last 10 years:
- Social should sit in marketing, but be run by comms people. Controversial take right out of the gate! 🙂 I think social should sit in marketing for one big reason–budget. Let’s not beat around the bush–marketing teams have money. Comms usually have to fight tooth-and-nail for budget. I’ve seen this scenario play out way too many times for it not to be an almost-universal truth. I also think social teams should be run by people with comms (or journalism, in some cases) backgrounds. Look at some of the social media teams in the Twin Cities–they’re led by and made up of former journalists (Sue Serna at Cargill, Kevin Hunt at General Mills, and a host of folks over at Best Buy).
- Focus on three key positions: Strategist, content builder and analyst. If I were building a social team, these would be the three key positions I would build around. Why? I would never want to outsource strategy–I’d always want that in-house. And, a great content builder is worth his or her weight in gold in 2019. I’d search for a journalist looking to make the transition or someone with a journo background. And, a good analyst is key to merchandising our work across the company and making sure we’re measuring the right stuff. I’ve seen this go terribly wrong when measurement is left to agency partners–again, I want that skill in-house. I’d outsource the rest–even community, potentially, if I had to.
- Laser focus on four key areas: Content creation, strategy, community and measurement. I realize those are broad areas, but I also think focus is absolutely key to running a good social team. I mean, starting an employee social media advocacy program, for example, could easily derail your team for six months! Remember the laundry list of tasks and to-dos above. It’s pretty long, right? I think a lot of times, our own ambition and want to please our bosses is what contributes to these additional tasks. Whereas if we continued to focus on these four key areas, I think the results would be much more impactful.
Last week I brought my son to the orthodontist for his regular check-in. We had an 8 a.m. appointment. Great–early in the day, I thought. They’ll surely be on time.
In the past, this particular ortho has decidedly NOT been on time. Like never. I once waited an hour with my son to get in.
But, I was optimistic. Turns out, that didn’t last long. We waited 30 minutes to get in. Then, I waited another 30 minutes for him to complete an appointment that took a grand total of 5 minutes.
Think about the customer experience of that visit for my son–and me.
Not ideal, right? Borderline terrible. And, keep in mind, we didn’t get a single apology, or even a “thanks for being patient”–from anyone.
I posted about my experience on Facebook, lamenting how broken our health care system is. To my surprise my friends came back with a host of other industries where this lack of customer service and experience matters–home construction, cable TV companies, credit card companies and hair salons (that one surprised me).
And you know what? They’re absolutely right.
Despite all the buzz about “customer experience” in the marketing world, the cold hard truth is this: Most companies and industries suck at customer experience and service.
In fact, it’s a huge surprise when you DO have a great customer experience!
If you’re a chicken sandwich fan, think about your last trip to Chick-Fil-A. You were greeted warmly. They got your order right (probably). And the employee who served you most likely then said “my pleasure.” It was fast. It was easy. And it was pleasant. Not too hard, right? But yet, that experience stands out. Why? Because everyone else is so horrible.
Stats say that poor customer service is costing companies upwards of $75 billion a year. That’s up $13 billion from 2016. Yikes.
The result? Customers are turning into “serial switchers.”
And, apparently, brands (and entire industries) don’t seem to care.
Think about a few of the companies you may interact with semi-regularly.
Your internet provider, for example. Our internet was on the fritz a couple weeks ago. I had to figure out what was up. As you might guess, that required a 45-minute phone conversation before it was fixed. Not a great customer experience.
What about your bank? One of my banks (which shall remain nameless) is making the transition to all online banking. In that effort, apparently, they’re just stopping using deposit slips at branches. I know this because I visited the branch recently to deposit a check and was told they wouldn’t be taking in-person deposits anymore (the teller even handed me a stack of deposit slips so I could use them in the weeks ahead). Meanwhile, this particular bank has a HORRIBLE online experience. This is the same bank that made a big deal recently about “online banking” (welcome to the 21st century lame bank!).
Your favorite local restaurant? We had dinner at a relatively well-known local restaurant here in South Minneapolis recently. We had a lovely meal. Bought a bottle of wine. We were enjoying ourselves. Until the manager came over and asked us to switch tables. Apparently, our table was reserved for someone else at a certain time and we had been at the table too long (just over an hour, as it turns out). Needless to say, we won’t be going back to that restaurant. And, they didn’t seem to care at all.
No, great customer service and experience is definitely the outlier in 2019. And that’s a sad thing.
Last December, I celebrated my tenth year of blogging. Whoops, I guess I forgot to pop that bottle of champagne! I’m usually a sentimental guy, but apparently when it comes to my blog I lost that capacity.
At any rate, I got around to reflecting on 10 years of blogging recently. I’ve written more than 1,200 blog posts in that timespan. With an average of 600 words per post that’s a whopping 720,000 words! Of course, that’s probably the equivalent of one John Grisham book, so I probably shouldn’t get too haughty! 🙂
When I started this blog, I would have never dreamed where it would have led me. For example:
- My blog really led to me starting my own business–now also in its 10th year! A complete life-changer for me and my family.
- I’ve been asked to speak at a number of events over the years in locales like Seattle, Destin, Tampa, Las Vegas and many in the Minneapolis area. I’m by no means on the “speaker circuit” but I love to present and enjoy every opportunity!
- My blog led to me meeting Jason Falls, who was helping manage a piece of BlogWorld at the time. I started helping him out, which led to many new relationships and me seeing a number of Cirque du Soleil shows in Vegas and Los Angeles thanks to then marketing lead, Jess Berlin!
- Many times, my blog led to developing new relationships–probably the biggest and most interesting benefit over the years. Way too many to note here, but a few of my far-flung faves have been: Allan Schoenberg (B2B Voices forever baby!), Heather Whaling (now in her 10th year of owning her own small agency in Columbus), Kellye Crane (founder of Solo PR Pro and one of the true saints of the social media world), Kevin Dugan (only met once, but wish I would have had more time with him), and Jason Falls.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve also learned a ton–about blogging, about social media, about writing, and about human behavior. As I reflected back, these 10 lessons came to mind:
1 – Follow your heart–not other people’s advice
When I started my business almost 10 years ago now, many people said “you’ll have to change what you blog about now–it has to be all about your business!” I always rejected that notion. And I’m so glad I did. Sure, I write about issues and ideas that link back to services I provide. But, I also write about things that interest me–like the #StarbucksCup fiasco a couple weeks ago! There’s no one formula to blogging. I say follow your heart, and your interests. See where it leads.
2 – Write in the moment!
One of my favorite stories from my blog is the time I wrote about Sons of Anarchy. At the time (2013) it was my favorite show on TV. I was addicted. So, I “hot wrote” a post about how many characters on the show actually live by the PRSA code of ethics. It was a complete throwaway post. But, I loved the show, so it was fun and easy to write. I don’t remember that post getting a ton of traction, but a couple days later, the show’s creator, Kurt Sutter, tweeted the post. I was floored. Kurt-freaking-Sutter! All because I wrote in the moment.
3 – Use your voice (and your blog) for good
In 2009, the economy was in a rough spot. Many of my friends were looking for work. I wanted to help. So, I organized a “tweet-a-thon” for two friends who were looking for work. I asked friends from across the country to get involved and tweet throughout the day to support my friends. And, while the tweet-a-thon didn’t directly lead to a job for either friend, it buoyed their spirits and did, eventually, lead to a positive outcome! About a week later, the two friends told me because of the work I had done, they were flying me out to Washington D.C. to attend an event called BlogPotomac–a blogging event I was dying to go to. We had a chance to meet face-to-face at the event and to this day, I continue to call both friends.
4 – Open new doors with your blog
I can’t tell you how many times my blog has helped me open new doors in my life. My PR/Social Media Rock Star series alone has introduced me to so many fantastic people over the years. Two of the first rock stars I featured–Sarah Reckard and LeeAnn Rasachak–are both now good friends I’ve known for 10+ years! Over the years, I think I’ve featured something like 100+ rock stars on this blog. Some of those folks are friends. Others are now clients. And, more importantly, I’ve had a chance to sit down and meet with almost every single one of them. What an honor and opportunity.
5 – Don’t get too caught up in trying to make it perfect
We’ve all seen the surveys that talk about how long it should take you to write a blog post (somewhere in the 4-6 hour range is what I’ve read). Surely, you want to allot time for research, writing, editing and proofing. Just don’t allot too much time. And, don’t get caught up in trying to make it 100% perfect. I got a piece of advice once from a colleague that I absolutely love: “Your 80% is good enough 99% of the time.” It doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s not to say you shouldn’t edit and proof. Just don’t spend 10 hours on it.
6 – Track your analytics but don’t live and die by them
Yes, I track my analytics. Weekly. And yes, I pay close attention to who’s reading what and how my numbers are fluctuating. And yeah, those numbers have dictated some content decisions over the years. But, analytics don’t rule my blog. I don’t let them control me–or my decisions. They’re merely one piece of information I absorb to make decisions. I also look at the way people interact with my content on social media. I also listen to how people talk about my blog when I meet up with people during coffees. It all plays a role in the decisions I make about my blog. My advice: Just don’t get too serious about tracking your analytics and making decisions based solely on them. That can be dangerous.
7 – Always have your blog brain on
You know how you can tell someone is a blogger? They always have their blog brain on? I realized this early on–because blogging inspiration can come from anywhere. At a lunch meeting with a friend. During a conference call with a client. Reading industry articles on Digiday. If you always have your blog brain on, you’ll never run out of ideas. I find many of my ideas recently coming from two spots: articles I see shared from friends and colleagues on LinkedIn; and stories in the hard-copy newspaper. Wherever your inspiration comes from, just make sure you’re always thinking about that blog. Sometimes, the ideas come from strange places.
8 – Realize you and your blog will (and should) evolve over time
There’s no rule saying you can’t change the rules on your blog whenever you want. Over the last 10 years, I’ve seen my blog evolve in many ways. First, the name has changed! Formerly Communications Conversations, I renamed it The Talking Points Blog a couple years ago. I’ve modified my cadence over the years. I used to post 3-5 times a week, back when volume was the key. Today, I shoot for 1-2 times a week. My focused has evolved, too. Years ago, I took a more national approach, featuring people and companies from across the country. A few years back I shifted that strategy to hone in more on people and companies right here in Minnesota (or, the Upper Midwest at the very least).
Last week, a post by long-time blogger and consultant, Mark Schaefer, ruffled a few feathers–and for good reason.
Generally, the post was about how MORE experience could actually HURT you in the marketing profession.
It started with a quote from Olga Adrienko, head of global marketing for SEMRush:
“In our field of marketing, experience is a burden. In other disciplines, the world hasn’t really changed all that much. Take sales, for example. There are certain cold call skills, emotional appeals, sales triggers … and then you’re done. It’s been that way for ages. But in marketing, if you’re not embracing the rapid changes and constantly refining your vision, you will fail completely. If you were successful in marketing 10 years ago, that does not mean you will be successful now.”
That first sentence–“in our field of marketing, experience is a burden.”
Wow. Shots fired. I’ll let you stew on that for a hot tick while I point out another interesting quote from the post–this one from Franklin Goldberg, CMO of the Parable Group:
“Many businesses need to rethink their requirements for high-level leadership positions, especially within the Marketing and Sales departments. Some of the best talent is excluded with prerequisites like “10 years experience required.” I’m shocked that we don’t see more Directors, Senior Directors, VP’s, and even CMO’s in their 20’s. Not only are they digital natives, they have fresh eyes, a drive to try new things, and they aren’t jaded by years of being told things can’t be done. Honestly, being a VP for 35 years might be a major disadvantage.”
That last sentence–“being a VP for 35 years might be a major disadvantage.”
And I’m hardly the only one saying “Wow.”
I shared this post on LinkedIn Friday and a couple hours later, Dave Schneider, CMO of Red Wing Shoes, commented:
“This article is rubbish and fails to acknowledge the difference between what marketing seeks to accomplish (which is enduring) and how it is executed (which is fleeting). It also fails to understand the importance of building organizational “coalitions” within a company to ensure that marketing’s impact can be fully realized; something that is difficult to drive without real, hands-on experience and a few gray hairs. I fully agree that the younger generations can and do teach those more senior in their careers — in fact, I have several “reverse” mentors of “kids” in their 20’s that regularly “teach” me — but to carte blanche suggest that experience has become less valuable is flat wrong as marketing becomes increasingly complex.”
That’s from a CMO with 27 years experience in the industry with outfits like Colle+McVoy, Martin Williams, BBDO and Digitas (hardly fly-by-night operations).
And, he’s got a point. Experience in marketing is about so much more than tactical execution.
Being a leader in marketing (or comms, for that matter) is about more than your ability to adapt to digital. We’re almost at a point where we put too much emphasis on that.
There are so many nuances to leadership that simply cannot be replaced by anything BUT experience. Let’s start a list:
- Managing expectations with peers and other executives (table stakes)
- Building alliances and consensus around marketing and comms programs (again, table stakes)
- Managing difficult personalities that may or may not control budgets (key to success at the higher levels)
- Working with legal and risk teams to manage ongoing issues and crisis situations (how many 25-year-olds do this well?!?!?)
- Understanding how to effectively and efficiently manage an agency relationship (I’ve seen a few 25-28 year-olds really struggle with this in the last 20 years)
- Understanding how to effectively and efficiently manage a team (how much could you possibly know about managing a team of professionals at all different age levels when you’re in your 20s?)
Shall I go on?
Experience in comms and marketing still matters folks. Don’t let anyone (not even Mark Schaefer) tell you otherwise. It matters a helluva a lot. And, it should.
The post also implied that many marketing executies and leaders haven’t evolved over the past 10+ years. AHEM! There are a few of us 40-plussers (and 50-plussers) still out here who actually have been evolving!
A few of us have had our heads up the last 10 years.
A few of us have been pushing ourselves to get smarter and stay current.
So, I’m not buying that experience is dead and that the future CMO is a 28-year-old (nothing against 28-year-olds!).
Experience still matters. Yes, you need to keep up. Yes, you always need to be learning and growing. And yes, you need to empower and listen to your younger team members. But, that also shouldn’t mean a marketing VP with 30 years of experience gets shut out.
I just don’t buy it.
Finally, one last angle. Back to the Schaefer piece. As any good consumer of media knows, the credibility of the person sharing the message matters.
So, when you make a statement like “25 years of experience in marketing might be a disadvantage”, you better be damn credible.
Let’s take a closer look at the two people in Schaefer’s post who shared these statements.
First, Olga Adrienko, currently the head of global marketing at SEMRush, where she’s been since 2013. Before that, she spent time at The Lux Group as a project manager and sales manager. She graduated in 2008 with a degree in international trade and customs.
So, she’s most likely about 32 years old with about 5+ years experience in the marketing industry (all with one organization, mind you). Also, keep in mind, this person has never worked with an agency–large or small. And, they’ve never worked with a larger company in the marketing leadership role. To be clear, I’m not taking ANY shots at Olga here. She’s probably great at her job. You don’t get a title with “global” in it by accident. But, is she the most credible person to be espousing opinions about how experience in marketing doesn’t matter (considering she has just 5 years of it)?
The second quote is from Franklin Goldberg, CMO of the Parable Group. Before this role he was a consultant and worked for a few faith-based organizations. He was also in sales earlier in his career and owned a bookstore. I didn’t see any post-secondary education on his LinkedIn profile (although that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any). As far as I can tell, he has spent only 5 years in the marketing world.
Again, is he the best person to be sharing views about experience in marketing doesn’t matter?
Let me say it another way: Who would you trust to talk intelligently about this topic?
- A person with 10+ years experience in the professional world; but just 5 years experience in marketing
- A person with 20 years experience in the professional world (10 of that in sales and owning a bookstore); and just 5 years experience in marketing
- A person with 27 years experience in marketing with some of the top agencies in the U.S./Midwest; and a CMO of a legendary Minnesota-based company for the last five years.
Would anyone take option #1 or #2 over #3 (which, in this case, was Dave Schneider, the CMO who commented on my post)?
I don’t know–this one seems pretty cut-and-dry. Experience still matters in marketing and communications. I laid out the reasons I believe this is true. I talked about how many people actually ARE evolving. And, although everyone is entitled to their opinion, credibility also matters.
What say you, readers? Does experience still matter in the marketing world? I say yes–with a double exclamation point. Then again, I’m 46 years old with 22+ years experience. Maybe I’m not the most credible person to speak on this topic either…
Last week, the PR Council, an association representing 110 top U.S. public relations firms, announced a new policy for its member firms: Pay your interns!
My initial response? What took so damn long!
Full disclosure: I had two unpaid internships in 1995 and 1996. It was not pleasant.
This has been a lightning rod issue with college students and employers as far back as I can remember. And, for good reason. Not paying interns in 2019 is flat-out ridiculous.
In 1996, when I graduated, things were different. The labor market was not nearly as tight. Jobs were hard to come by. Employers were in charge. College students were desperate for internships.
Today is much different. Job seekers hold all the cards. To the point that many companies have “employer brands” they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote!
Not to mention, paying interns is simply the right thing to do. Let’s review the situation from a college student’s point-of-view:
- College students typically need internships as part of their PR/comms programs. In most (if not all) cases, they end up PAYING to work for an employer!
- Obviously, at this point in their lives, college students have next to zero money. A bi-weekly paycheck would make a substantial difference (especially while still in school).
- Because they crave and need real-world experience, interns are frequently open to doing just about anything–unlike many Xers and Boomers who are long past the point where they will take on certain tasks.
I tried to think about this objectively from an employer’s point-of-view. I tried to find legit reasons for not paying interns. But, I kept coming back to these arguments:
- Employers who claim they are providing free training and aren’t benefiting from interns work are flat-out lying. Today’s interns bring a fresh, young perspective many companies completely lack–especially when it comes to marketing and communicating with anyone under the age of 30!
- The whole “we’re helping these kids out by giving them a glimpse at what life’s like in the real world” thing doesn’t hold water. Not anymore. It probably never did. Not if you want to stay competitive. In today’s market, word gets out if you don’t pay your interns–just take a peek at Glassdoor sometime. With the new era of transparency, paying interns is not only the right thing to do, it’s the right business thing to do, too.
So, I applaud The PR Council for making this decision–really, it took far too long. But, now that we’re here, I hope to see other organizations stand shoulder to shoulder with The PR Council and see if we can make paying interns the norm, not the exception, in the years ahead.