SIX QUESTIONS… SIX ANSWERS (SOCIAL MEDIA)
Mauricio interviews Eleftherios Hatziioannou (Former Mercedez Benz Global Social Media Manager) and current Social Media Consultant.
1. What are you currently doing and why is it exciting?
First of all THANK YOU for contacting me all the way from Down Under, Mauricio! This is actually a fantastic intro to this interview. You are sitting in Australia and I am sitting in Germany right now. A mutual friend introduced us as he thought that we have some common interests and there we go now after a short intro on Facebook. This is what I love about the social web: It empowers people from around the world to connect, interact, collaborate and share their thoughts and ideas and so much more. Really powerful!
I am currently doing a lot of exciting stuff. After leaving Mercedes-Benz in late 2010 (after 9 great years at Daimler) I have joined s.Oliver – a European fashion brand – where I am heading the new media activities of the brand globally. This includes digital communication, social media engagement, mobile marketing as well as change management related to the digitalization of the world and its impact on a fashion brand.
I am also a consultant and speaker helping organizations and individuals understand how to embrace the social web for their purposes. I truly believe that the emerging social technologies are a huge opportunity to re-humanize business and life. It`s funny but technology brings us back to basics: To satisfy basic human needs - just easier, faster and on a broader level than before. I have presented this concept recently at the Online Marketing Conference in Athens. You can find the slides on slideshare (http://slidesha.re/OMC11GR) - if you are interested.
What I love about what I am doing is that I can help people to make a difference in their life and well, in business, too.2. Knowing you managed social media for a premium brand like Mercedez-Benz, did social media increase car sales? and how did you measure it?
As I am not working for Mercedes-Benz anymore I am not authorized to speak on their behalf. But let me give you an answer based on my personal experiences and projects with other clients. You should not look at social media only from a quantitative perspective. There is so much more in it in the long run!
Yes, of course it is great to grow your fan base on Facebook, have a lot of followers on Twitter and maybe increase your sales. But this will not happen over night. You need to take it step by step. Listen first! All insights are valuable. The more you know the better you understand the game. At least in this stage of the social media (r)evolution. What is interesting though is that in the beginning you appreciate growth in quantitative aspects. “We grew by 1000 fans in Facebook over the past week”, “we have 500 new followers on twitter this month”, “we served 1.000.000 impressions with our campaign”. This numbers definitely help creating awareness and build momentum because we were used to measure success this way.
However, I find it much more important to look into the qualitative aspects as well. And in this regard we are still at the very beginning. There are no broadly applied KPIs yet which make your performance comparable. But anything is possible: Why not measuring service levels based on the amount of complaints coming in in relation to problems solved on Facebook? Why not comparing ratio of positive mentions to negative mentions on twitter in comparison to the last month to understand customer satisfaction levels? I guess it is pretty clear what I want to say. Social media is more than just a growing number of fans and followers. Social media is all about real conversations taking place. And there are tons of valuable data in it for you. Think about customer feedback or suggestions related to your product or service. The question is how to best handle this inbound stream of information and how to learn from it!
By the way: Eric Qualman - the author of Socialnomics - put it that way: “What is the ROI of your phone?” It is useful and you can do a lot of important stuff with it, e.g. emergency calls, saving time, etc… Can you actually imagine a life without it? And have you ever asked yourself if the money you spend on it every month is worth it?!
3. Do you think social media work better for premium brands than low end market brands? If so - why?
Great question! I think it is clear that most of the so-called premium brands have a strong reputation and people desire to own them at some stage of their life. So there is initially a stronger attraction of people who want to relate with them once they have created social properties. However, this is just a short term effect which will maybe help them to get started. The question is which of the premium brands do really dare to open up to the social web?! There are still a lot of fears like loosing control, getting involved into a PR nightmare or endangering the exclusiveness of the brand by being “approachable”. And this is why you still find so many brands standing on the side of the street and watching the social media train pass by.
If you ask me it does not make a difference if you are a premium brand or not. What matters is if you manage to engage with your audience, fulfill their expectations, serve the needs of your communities. If not- there is a huge chance that you will loose your momentum and people will turn away from you again.
On the other hand there are a lot of examples of small business and brands who are at the “lower end” of the market - as you call it - who do a great job and have a lot of success by using social media. Shop owners, self employed people who now can reach potential new customers easily and build relationships with existing customers using their presence on e.g. social networks. A few years ago such small businesses could not afford to build a digital presence at all and today they can create a Facebook page with just a few clicks - at no or at least very low costs.
Also think of the hierarchy and processes of huge organizations managing premium brands. It is much more difficult for them to get all necessary approvals, e.g. before answering a question or creating a post, to keep the conversations going than for a small business where most of times the boss him-/herself is participating in the dialogue. It is also easier for small business to add a personal touch to their activities than for huge brands which most of the times have clear roles of who is a spokesperson and allowed to speak on behalf of a brand. And believe me most of the times this person has no clue of what social media is all about. But it`s improving - thanks to people like you and me;)
4. Most companies are afraid of consumers tone and voice when opening social media channels. What’s your position about controlling/moderating conversations? Did you have to moderate most of conversations, did you implemented any type of “profanity” filtering so social users were not allowed to add words that are not that “friendly”?
This is a challenge that every single client of mine has. No matter if you are present or not people already talk or will talk about your brand/product. The question is what is better: To ignore their voices or to be part of these conversations. I highly recommend to my clients to be out there and to establish some kind of monitoring. And it does not always need to be an expensive and tailor-made solution. You can use free tools first to keep an ear/eye on it. And this is the least you can do. Be curious about what people think and say about you! In the past you paid a lot of money to market research firms to get you similar data and feedback.
When managing and taking part in communities it is even more important to listen carefully what other members are saying about you. Most of the times there is tremendous value in it: Either you hear what you have done right or you hear what you really need to improve. These are highly valuable data for your product guys and they are free! And it is better to have a place where people can come and post their issue than letting them alone with their problem.
I think no business or brand with an honest business model needs to fear the social web. Communities are smarter than marketers think. People know exactly what is going on and if your product is great or not. If there is criticism which is not fair other community members will step in and tell their point of view. In the best case you don`t need to do anything except of focusing on delivering a great service/ product, keeping your promises and watch/listen to your customers who share their love for you.
It can make sense to define some community guidelines in order to make clear what people can expect from you and what you expect from them. I always recommend to establish some kind of “netiquette” once you get involved in community management. Just to make clear which rules apply. However, be careful with deleting comments. This can become a “shit storm”. Be open and honest when doing so and don`t try to cover up your sh..! People do understand that mistakes are made and if you are honest about it and make efforts to solve the occurring problems they will forgive you. Who`s perfect by the way?!
5. Tell us your what tactics you used to engage social conversations AND how you measured success for them. Did you have different tactics to influence “influencers” and then other tactics to influence “followers”?
The best tactic once again is listening! By listening carefully you understand what people expect from you. And if not - ask them for their opinion. People love to get heard and they really appreciate brands who do care about what they have to say. And so many times they are surprised to really be in touch with an official representative. But expectations rise because more and more businesses start engaging in the social web. Which is great! Imagine a prospect buyer posting a question on your wall and on the wall of your competitor. You don`t react but your competitor does not only answers the question but makes an immediate and special offer.
Everybody is or can be an influencer. We share what matters to us with those who matter to us. So it does not make sense to me to differentiate between an influencer and follower. Everybody is both. Just make sure that you add value and solve problems - no matter whom you are talking to. Besides that I like to divide the social media engagement into the basic activities and light house activities:
- Basic activities are the foundation. You have established social properties. You are part of the conversation. Answer questions. Create relevant content and add value.
- Lighthouse activities can be short term activities which create some buzz and fuel your growth. Such examples are: Being the first mover in your industry to use a new platform, running a surprising or viral campaign, doing some entertaining stuff that people love.
Both levels are important as they will lead you into what I call “The Social Media Heaven”.
6. Finally, the big challenge for social media managers is to show to top executives and board members that social media investment can really add to the bottom line. How would you suggest social managers should tackle this challenge?
Let me share what has helped me along the way. I made sure that I talked to as many people as possible. To make change happen you need to talk to everybody. You need to walk the talk. And it is not only about convincing the top executives in your organization. Everybody needs to be on board! So you sometimes have the stage to make your point in front of “more important” people and sometimes it is just by helping your colleague setting their privacy options of their profile in a way that your boss does not see his/her latest party pics. But everybody is important at the end of the day. I guess it is clear what I mean!? Spread the virus bottom-up-top-down!
I always had an up-to-date presentation with the latest data and interesting findings as well as entertaining videos to show to people who were interested. It was a lot of times a great opener for meetings and always created a “heureka!” moment.
When spreading the word make sure to speak to people in a way they understand. It is a different story to explain social media to a 50-year-old HR director who has no social media profiles than to talk to your marketing colleague who already is your Facebook friend and a subscriber of various marketing blogs. Relate your story to their needs and challenges. Show them how social media can make their lives easier.
Also make sure to give regular updates to your team and management about the progress your are making and the lessons learned. It can be helpful to use some pilot projects to gather some first proof that it is worth going even further. So define manageable projects, pour your heart into them and then go bigger step-by-step. There is a very good chance that you will either be successful or learn what does not work;)
The easiest way to measure “success” - if you need to - is to apply traditional metrics first. First of all because they are understood and secondly because they will definitely help you looking at the lower costs involved in social media marketing. Take CPM (Cost per Mille) as an example: It will definitely be ridiculously low in comparison to TV or print campaigns as it does not cost anything than your time and effort to pay attention and care.
Thank you for asking some really interesting questions. I hope your audience will see some value in my answers. Stay awesome! And make sure to stay in touch with me. Follow me on Twitter (@peopelizers) or like my page on Facebook.