The Social Media Debate

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ represent a growing number of social media/social networking sites. Whether you like them and use them or not is irrelevant, their growth and popularity shows they are here to stay. When I was a fresh-faced graduate the chatter was about having an email address. Networking within an office was unheard of and sending an email to someone sitting at the desk opposite wasn’t the done thing. But today, everything is shared, communicated, written, developed and discussed using social networks – both from personal and professional perspectives. And so the lines blur between our personal and professional lives. Where do we draw the line? Both from a business and an individual perspective?

Recently there have been a few headlines about handing over a Facebook ID and password prior to interview. Should Facebook have any bearing on your job prospects? And Twitter? When I joined my previous company I was already Tweeting about everything to do with marketing. It was my ID, my followers, my network and therefore nothing to do with my company, right? I was happy to carry on Tweeting about my exploits in marketing but was always careful to keep my company’s name out of it. My ID, my decision. But, if your company encourages you to Tweet about your company from your ID and you build followers on that basis the lines become blurred. Who really owns the ID? The legalities of ownership are being challenged in the courts as companies seek to make the very best from the rise and rise of social media.

As a marketer, I want to encourage my team to Tweet, to use LinkedIn to engage, share content and to build relationships. I would argue that if you build Twitter followers as a result of interesting, thought-provoking, humorous or fun Tweets, then those followers really won’t care where you work. They follow you, the individual. But what does your company think? Can your company influence your Tweets (or other social media interactions) to enhance its own reputation? Is it OK for your company to take advantage of your followers, your reputation and your relationships?

Does your company have a social media policy? Have you read it? Do you understand the limitations of what you can / can’t Tweet about from a work perspective? Does your marketing team provide you with Tweets that you are encouraged to share? Do you retweet your colleagues? Or comment regularly on LinkedIn groups?

All of these questions have been posed recently by various people, groups, associations and companies. Who has all of the answers? There isn’t one definitive policy that covers these. So, for the moment, be mindful of what you Tweet, where, when and how much you talk about your company. ‘Social’ is here to stay. What you say today on the Internet won’t just go away tomorrow – it too is here to stay.

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Mobile Marketing: huh?

Mobile Marketing is a term that conjures up many different opinions when you ask people what it means to them. Ask them what return they want from it and those opinions differ too. With consumers and businesses making use of smartphones and iPads to access websites and a plethora of apps wherever and whenever they choose, getting your mobile marketing strategy right is becoming more and more important.

You have a website already and you’re ready to think about mobile, so what next? To app or not, that is the question.

If you have a website, review your digital strategy before you jump in with an app. Think about what your website does today, how and where people use it and the journey you want to take people on. Does your website achieve the objectives you have set for it? What would an app deliver in addition to what your website does today?

Apps are cool. The devices we use to access them are cool. But, does that justify the development expense? Or ongoing costs for new versions? How will you show a return? For most of us with a responsibility to show return on investment (ROI) it will come down to results.

Rather than building an app to it is better to ask ‘whether your website is mobile friendly or not’? Does it play well on multiple formats? Has it been designed with the customer in mind? Do you give your customers a single view regardless of how that customer interacts with your company? If we don’t deliver what the customers what to see, in a format that they prefer, we lose out.

When it comes to your digital strategy, think about that you want to get out of your website and the journey you’ll take customers on. Cool comes later.

Events? Community vs. Commercial

Love them or hate them, events are part of marketing. We organise and attend lots of different events: conferences, seminars, PR launches, networking dinners, customer lunches, hospitality events and everything else, from a sales kick off to a president’s club trip. So, when I attend an event that is a cut above all the others, it makes me stop and think.

I’ve just come back from three days at SQLBits in London. It’s not a commercial event, set up to make lots of money. Nor is it a huge trade show. It’s a community event. It is organised, funded and run by the SQL Server community. It has an event committee of dedicated SQL Server geeks (I hope they don’t mind me calling them that), and a massive team of ‘helpers’. Both committee members and helpers give their time for free, there is no financial incentive.

The committee members all have ‘day jobs’, so organising an event such as SQLBits takes up evenings and weekends. They have regular multi-hour conference calls to make decisions and get things done. And, for each of them, there are lots of sleepless nights to get everything organised. They are perfectionists and they care. They really care about the delegates, the speakers, the sponsors and that everyone gets ‘value’ from attending. The committee regularly reminds delegates to visit the exhibitors, if only to ask ‘what do you do?’ There’s emphasis placed on the importance of sponsors to support the running of the event.

Delegates, speakers and sponsors come to SQLBits events from all over the world. Attendees come to hear about use cases, problem solving, new developments and best practice with SQL Server and various tools that work with it.

Fifteen breakout rooms, an exhibition hall, a black tie event, a pub night and keynotes make up the (jam-packed) conference agenda. But that doesn’t tell you much about the atmosphere, the quality of the presentations, the speakers and their passion for what they do. Nor does it do justice for how well the event runs, or how well respected it is by the community. You only have to check #SQLBits on Twitter before, during and after the event to see that there’s a unique buzz about it and the people who participate in it.

For me as a marketer, what makes it particularly stand out is that the organisers work with the sponsors to make sure they are happy and that they are getting value for money. Year after year, sponsors keep coming back. The opportunity for them to network, be part of a community and to build relationships is what draws them in. It’s not about showing the number of leads collected at the event, nor about categorising them into A, B, or C leads. It is about relationships. Pure and simple.

There’s no event management company. There’s no head of marketing. There is a community of people dedicated to learning, problem solving, sharing and understanding as much as they can. And it works. It just works.

Hello Marketing World!

There’s no doubt that the world of marketing is changing. Those of us who have been around the industry for a few years know that marketing buzz is now around marketing automation, social media and ROI. Long gone are the days where marketing was about ‘simple’ things, such as promotion, brand and getting a name out there.

With this blog, we’ll be posting about our experiences marketing in today’s social media-savvy, budget-conscious, content-rich, lead generating environment. We intend to share best practice, examples of ‘do’s and don’ts’ and we’ll ask for your feedback on what we see in our day-to-day marketing lives.

Feel free to comment. Say hello. Let us know what your views and experiences are.