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If you were going to build a social media team from scratch how would you do it?

Look, I’m comfortable in my current position as an independent consultant. In fact, I’m thrilled I get to do this job day-in and day-out. I’ll do it as long as my clients let me.

But, from time to time, I’ve given thought to what it would be like to take one of these lead social/digital roles you see around the Twin Cities and start (or revamp) a digital team from the ground up.

It’s a fun thing to dream about (although again, to be absolutely clear, I have NO intention of pursuing this!).

Social Team

And, I think it’s a good topic to discuss, because I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. And, I think a lot of companies struggle with how, exactly, to do this.

So, here’s my thinking, from an independent consultant, mind you 🙂

Step One: Hire a strategist that’s way smarter than me.

I don’t have a ton of experience managing large teams, but one concept I know I’d embrace if I went down this road is this: I’d always hire people smarter than me for key positions. I’ve never been one to worry about my job (which is what people often worry about in situations like this). I actually take the opposite stance–I think smart people will make us all look better. So, I would hire a really, really, really smart strategist and build around that person.

Step Two: Over-pay for an above-average content producer

After working with large companies across the Twin Cities for the last seven-plus years, I’ve seen the importance of having content talent in-house. I know that may not be the smartest thing for a consultant who makes his living off content development to say. But, it’s true. Content producers benefit by sitting in a chair within an organization. Sure, you *could* outsource those roles–and many companies do. But, I just think it makes more sense to have them in-house. And, I’d be more than happy to over-pay for this role, because I think it’s that key to success.

Step Three: Find a solid community manager–but don’t overspend

I’d want all community management in-house, too. All of it. But, unlike the content role, I wouldn’t over-pay for this. It’s a more commoditized skill set. And, it certainly doesn’t command a higher salary. I recognize community management is a key piece of the team, but I also know there’s a LOT of people out there that can do this job effectively (unlike the content roles).

Step Four: Find a social designer/video producer

Here’s where I’d get greedy. We would need a social/digital designer on the team. Key role in today’s visual-first environment. But, I would also want that designer to have video know-how. They don’t have to be a video expert. I’m not talking about someone with 20 years of experience. But, I want someone who has design chops–but also knows a little about iMovie. I would seek a hybrid here. I know it would be hard to find this person, but I would also be willing to train someone up here.

Step Five: Outsource media buying

Could be controversial, but I’d outsource media buying. Why? Because the skill set is so new, it’s going to be awfully tough to find. The agencies have more “talent” in this area right now. And, I bet if you looked hard enough, you could find a solo who specializes (even a little) in paid social and digital advertising. I think hiring for this role would just be too tough right now–as in, I think you’d be likely to have a revolving door of people looking to learn on your dime. No thank you.

Step Six: Find and develop analytics talent

Another tough role to find right now–but they are out there. And, I’d actually go into this hire with the full expectation that I’d want to (and in many cases, need to) coach this person up a bit. I’d work directly with this person to do that–and probably pull the strategist in, too. I’d look for learning opportunities outside the organization (like Minneanalytics). I’d look to pair him/her with an analytics mentor outside the organization. I’d make this a priority, because this would be a key role on the team.

Step Seven: Outsource the niche areas

Podcasting or audio help? Outsource it. Influencer outreach campaigns? Outsource it. Big ideas for our social campaigns in the coming year? Outsource it (here’s where I’d use agency brainpower). My theory is simple: Invest in the primary digital areas and nurture home-grown talent. Outsource niche and hard-to-find talent areas.

photo credit: Social Media Marketing Mix via photopin (license)

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Why LinkedIn is completely missing the boat with its new influencer videos

In case you missed it, LinkedIn announced some “big news” last week: It gave 500 influencers the ability to post videos right in your feeds.

I say “big news” because I think LinkedIn really missed the boat with this move–and it’s indicative of a strategy that may miss an even bigger boat down the road.

These influencer videos are most likely a nod to the burgeoning growth of video across the social web. Can’t you just hear the conversations at LinkedIn HQ?

Guy K

“Hey, video is blowing up people! We need more videos in our newsfeeds. How do we do that?”

“I know! Let’s ask influencers to post 30 second videos that lack punch and depth and everyone will comment on them and share them!”

I mean, that has to be how the conversation went, right? Why else would they do this?

You see, I think LinkedIn is missing the boat here. The lion’s share of folks on LinkedIn don’t go there to hear from influencers, they spend time there to do one of three things:

  • Find a job.
  • Learn.
  • Or, find out what’s going on with friends/colleagues in their networks (new jobs, etc.0

Now, you could make the argument that people could learn by following these influencers. And, that would be a valid point. But, I would argue most people aren’t seeking out these influencers. If Guy Kawasaki has something interesting to say on a topic I care about (the last time he did that, by the way, it was 2010), I’ll stop and read it. But, I don’t SEEK OUT Guy Kawasaki on LinkedIn. And, I can’t believe anyone does, really.

So, to me, these influencer videos are contrived. They feel forced. And, by and large, they don’t add a ton of value.

Instead, why doesn’t LinkedIn focus on making the user experience even better by figuring out new and better ways for me to connect with people I care about (i.e., colleagues, former managers, college classmates, etc.)?

Since I’m never one to criticize and not offer up ideas, here’s a few free ideas LinkedIn on how to better the user experience:

  • Fine-tune the ability to sort contacts. For some reason, LinkedIn recently changed this. I used to be able to filter my contact list by location and a bunch of other factors. Now, I can only do it by first and last name. What good is that? For someone who sifts through his LinkedIn database A LOT, this is a huge perk that they took away. Suggest refining it ASAP.
  • Create a new “Ask Me Anything”-like experience. If you really want to exploit the influencers (uh, I mean, give them a better platform from which to speak), why not take a page from Reddit’s book and create an “Ask Me Anything”-type platform within LinkedIn where people would ask these influencers questions about a particular topic in real time? Now THAT’S something I think people would find useful–not these throw-away 30-second videos.
  • Offer more robust advertising options. I’ve been frustrated with this for a while now. LinkedIn is such a great platform for so many businesses (and continues to be under-utilized by many). But, ad options still aren’t up to snuff (and, they’re usually more costly than Facebook and Instagram). Why not beef up those options so more companies can participate and engage more effectively? I know this doesn’t really get at the whole “creating a better user experience” angle, but I’d like to see them spend more time here than creating more useless influencer stuff.

That’s my two cents. Your thoughts on the new Influencer videos?

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9 social content trends to watch in 2017

Earlier this week, I had the privilege at speaking at the Florida Public Relations Association Annual Conference at the Innisbrook Resort in Tampa. The #SoloPR Summit is now part of this event–an event I’ve spoken at for the last four years. It’s the one chance we solos have to get together each year and see each other face-to-face. It’s a blast, and I’m grateful to Kellye Crane for starting it years ago, and for Karen Swim for taking the reins and running with it.

At this year’s event, I spoke on social content trends. Specifically, 9 social content trends I think PRs and marketers should keep an eye on in 2017.

I’ve written about a number of these topics before, but today I’d just like to share the presentation here. Enjoy–and I hope you can take a thing or two for the deck (tough to do in deck-only format, I know) and apply it to your “day job.”



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Thanks to social media the chasm between the C-suite and employees has never been greater

A story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune over the weekend highlighted for me a trend I’ve been thinking a lot about lately:

The chasm between senior leaders and employees has never been wider–thanks (in a larger way than you might think) to social media.

The Strib story was about a incoming freshman at Concordia University here in Minneapolis and how she received a letter from the dean of diversity, Cheryl Chatman, inviting her to a diversity session in Aug. The student posted a portion of the letter on Facebook, highlighting the section that had caused her concern.

Jeanine Flowers

The post “went viral”–so much so, that the Strib picked up on it.

A couple days later, Concordia responded with a post of its own on Facebook and the Concordia web site from Chatman.


How does this illustrate my point?

A single quote from the dean in the Star Tribune piece:

“I’m not on social media,” Chatman said. “This is unbelievable to me.” (referring to the virality of the student’s initial Facebook post).

Chatman is not unusual. Like most executives at midsized to large companies, she is not active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or LinkedIn. I’ve written about this before (most of the executives with Medtronic, a HUGE med tech org here in the Twin Cities have no LinkedIn or social media presence at all).

And, take a peek at the retort from Chatman. Again, indicative of how executives respond to situations like this on social media. Sure, she responded, but it was in a long-form letter format (dated–especially when the initial “attack” came on a Facebook post); it came more than 48 hours after the initial post by Flowers (too slow in today’s news cycle); and the response felt a little stilted (very corporate-like).

I’m not looking to take shots at Chatman or Concordia (actually, I thought the Concordia PR team handled this pretty well from a comms perspective). But again, it’s indicative of a larger trend.

Executives have long been far-removed from the employee experience at large companies. I don’t think I’m breaking news there. And, as executive salaries have risen dramatically over the last 10-15 years, that disconnect has grown even larger.

Sure, execs work with corporate communicators to get in front of employees and communicate. But, those messages are often stilted and forced. If you’ve ever worked for a big company, you know exactly what I mean.

And now, social media is making it all the more obvious that execs are out-of-touch with today’s front-line worker. Not only do they live in different worlds (physically and environmentally speaking), they also don’t use anywhere near the same forms of communication (employees=text apps, social media come first most likely; execs=in person and phone probably the two main ways they communicate). Chatman’s quote above sums up a recurring theme–“I’m not on social media. I have no idea what people are talking about there.”

In today’s day and age, I believe it’s borderline dangerous for execs to be this oblivious. They can no longer afford to hide behind such claims. Sure, they can rely on their corp comms teams to keep them up to speed (which is clearly what happened here with Concordia), but since Chatman had no profile online, she had no platform to retort and open up a meaningful conversation.

Look, I’m not saying CEOs need to start being active on Facebook. Hardly the case. But, what I am saying is C-level execs need to start getting a clue. The bulk of your employees are active on at least one social media channel. How can you afford to not even have a single account if this is one of the key ways your employees are communicating now?

I’ll wait patiently for an answer.



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Announcing … Talking Points: Exploring the Future of Media and Communications

A number of years ago, I started hearing about this new event here in Minneapolis: CATFOA.

What the heck is a CATFOA, you ask?

It stood for (actually, stands for, as MIMA has re-ignited the series a bit) “Conversations about the Future of Advertising.”


People were raving about this event. It was organized by then MIMA president, Tim Brunelle and was hosted at the Fine Line Cafe downtown. Tim would bring in fairly well-known speakers from across the U.S. as he tapped into his expansive personal network. And, the topics were timely and spot on–and forward-looking.

It was–and still is–one of the better events I’ve ever attended in this town.

And, it was the inspiration for the development of a new series of events I’m unveiling today in partnership with the Minnesota Journalism Center at the University of Minnesota, titled: Talking Points: Exploring the Future of Media and Communications.

The idea? To discuss the big, hairy, audacious and forward-looking topics in communications and media in a more intimate setting with national leaders in our industries.

For example, our first topic, “The Social Media Skills Gap.” BIG talker. In fact, I’ve talked about it here on this blog before. And, based on what I’ve been hearing, it’s a topic many of you are facing on the corporate and agency sides right now.

So, I’ve asked my friend (and recent PR Week 40 Under 40 recipient), Alex Tan, executive director of social and digital media at Golin, and Matt Rozen, director of social media at Adobe, to come visit with us on Wed., Sept. 14 at the University of Minnesota about this topic (you can register here).

We’ll talk about the gap between junior and senior-level employees when it comes to social media know-how. The trend away from generalists, and toward specialists in the digital world. And how you can create a roadmap for strengthening your team’s digital talent.

We want these discussions to be a bit more intimate, so we’re limiting attendance to the first 50 people who sign up. Since bringing speakers in from out of town and hosting events isn’t free, we do need to charge an admission fee–but we feel $25 is a pretty fair value for an event like this (and will include food and non-alcoholic beverages at the event).

One other thing we plan to do before each event to make the events even more useful: We will survey the audience before the event in an effort to drum up specific questions you’d like to see us address during the presentation/discussion. We hope this will allow us to provide a program that addresses specific needs/topics–and makes the event feel a bit more personal.

I’m really excited about this event series. The Minnesota Journalism Center and University of Minnesota (specifically, Nora Paul, Sue Couling and Betsy Andersen) have been fantastic partners. I think we’re going to offer something that you won’t find anywhere else in the Twin Cities–a chance to discuss forward-looking topics with national experts in the communications and media industries in an intimate and thought-provoking environment.

Hope to see you at the first event on Sept. 14. Register early–remember, first 50 only!

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