Social Media

Long Live the Funnel

Contrary to what you might have heard, rumors about the Marketing Funnel’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

The Funnel is alive and well. And it should be leveraged extensively by Marketers. It provides a consistent and universally understood (and somewhat accepted) framework. The funnel does come in a variety of shapes and sizes and colors – with different twists and turns. Despite this variety, few Marketers really leverage this powerful model.

The funnel enables Marketers to have an almost universally understood visual representation of various customer touch points, and makes it easier to track and score a person’s behavior. The Marketo funnel provides a good (although, not the only) framework and consists of six key stages:

  • Awareness: This is the universe of people who know anything about Marketo no matter what social network they participate on, what articles they read, etc.

  • Inquiry: This is when we finally know something about the person; we know at least their their name and email address.

  • Prospect: This is when the individual has taken some sort of action.

  • Lead: Finally This person is treated as a lead and can be shared with a sales organization.

  • Opportunity: The sales team has accepted these leads and added them to their pipeline.

  • Customer: The person becomes a customer and they are passed on to a new revenue cycle for upsell and retention.

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Of course, each of these stages include multiple marketing tactics and scoring approaches.

It’s important, though, to understand the difference between a contact (or a prospect) and a true lead (someone who has explicitly engaged with the company). Obviously, the relationship does not end after an individual becomes a customer. At that point, you can upsell or cross sell them.

You can determine the value of a customer based on the different products they purchase, if they adopted your product sooner than others or if they are part of a referral program, etc.  As Seth Godin points out – “Customers are traditionally undervalued, and prospects are all treated the same.”

Godin continues:

“Once you see the funnel, it’s easy to understand how valuable your existing customers are, and easy to think about how you want to spend time and money in promoting and building your site. Most Marketers are running a flat campaign. Embracing the funnel changes the way you treat people. And treating different people differently is what consumers demand.”

Having a model like the funnel and a good marketing automation tool enables you to measure and understand the cost of each interaction. Sharing this information with the rest of your organization helps build a Marketer’s credibility in a company, especially with the CFO.

The funnel also provides a learning framework for Marketers to test out different messaging and creative at each stage of the funnel. This gives Marketers the option to fine-tuning his current program.

Since I started my first big marketing job in American Express in 1992, I have heard lots of critiques of the funnel. Marketers love the catch phrases, such as ‘The Funnel is Dead.’ Well, I disagree. It’s advantages have has evolved since 1898 when E. St. Elmo Lewis developed a model which mapped a theoretical customer journey from the moment a brand or product attracted consumer attention to the point of action or purchase. (St. Elmo Lewis’ idea is often referred to as the AIDA-model – an acronym which stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action). Let’s address some of the funnel naysayers’ concerns, most of which apply to any marketing or sales model:

  1. It fails to take into account the ‘feedback loop between existing customers and prospects.’ Whether it is the funnel or another framework (such as a Life Preserver Ring of unique  ‘Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action areas’), there always exists the challenge of tracking all the interactions among people (customers and prospects ). It’s always difficult to uncover each discussion about your brand online.

  2. The funnel is too linear. According to these critics, the primary problem with the funnel is that the buying process is no longer linear. Well, I was always taught that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  Most of the companies I work with, however, do have the majority of their customers follow more or less a linear process. They can be broken down into the different stages described in the Marketo model above.

  3. If fails to track retention or repeat business. I must confess this might be the weakest part of most funnel models. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the simplicity of the Funnel’s approach. Most frameworks do not go into any great detail about ‘Retention’ or ‘Lifetime Value’ anyway. The bottom line is that good Marketers constantly score their customers over time. American Express might be the masters at this. They leverage all their great Cardmember spending data to model, score and customize online and offline programs.

  4. It fails to paint a pretty picture, nor does the word funnel doesn’t sound great. I never did judge a book by its cover or a person by their name. If this is what a Marketer is worried about, then they are focused on the wrong things. There are many powerful Six-Sigma names and diagrams, for example, that don’t convey a powerful image such as SIPOC (Single Point of Contact), DPO (Defects Per Opportunity), PD (Proportion defective)

  5. It fails to take into consideration the powerful feedback loops between existing customers and newly arriving prospects that search and social media have wired up. I beg to differ. If you have some of your word of mouth programs coded properly you should be able to track shares, referrals and other types of influencer programs.

  6. It fails to consider some products, such as iPhones, where marketing is integrated into the product. I think it comes down to how you set up your programs. You should be able to track cross-sell and upsell, and even referrals from within a product. With Flurry, for example, you can track your customers behavior when they use a mobile app. It tracks the big 3: taps, tasks and transitions.

  7. The Funnel fails to capture all touch points. Over time, a good Marketer should be able to define these, however. They also should ensure they are in learning mode so that they can constantly update their list of sources. This means they should be tracking referral links, surveying their customers and analyzing where their competitors get their leads from.

And then there’s the McKinsey Consumer Journey (see below) which attempts to demonstrate that the buying process is not linear and that several steps repeat themselves. For the real digital practitioner, however, it’s too simple to say someone goes from Bond to Buy:

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While brands may put the decision maker, the Customer,  at the center of the McKinsey Customer Journey, the above excludes the importance of the experience the Marketer and the company are having with the customers. Life is not all about the transaction. For example, at Marketo, our energy goes into building relationships with Marketers as well as connecting Marketers together. In addition, you don’t have to be a customer to recommend a product. I am probably the biggest promoter of Tesla, but I can’t afford one. I have only tried it via a Freemium ride provided by a neighbor and have read great reviews about it on Edmunds.com. Does that mean I can’t recommend the vehicle to others? Obviously not.

In sum, CMOs and their teams need to know that the funnel is alive and kicking. Rumors of its demise are greatly exaggerated. The Funnel is an easy to use, easy to remember approach to tracking individuals who interact with your brand – either directly or indirectly. It’s simplicity is what makes it special – and it provides the most universally understood way of thinking about an individual’s interaction with your brand. It works not only in a B2C environment, but also in a B2B environment. Marketers should always feel free, however to add their own creative twist on things and rename all or parts of it.  Long-Live the Funnel.

Disclaimer: I am currently an employee at Marketo, so yes ‘I bleed Marketo Purple.’

Note: This will be the second of a series of posts that look at CMO’s evolving role in companies, especially as the “run and gun” campaign approach moves to building longer-term customer relationships. My next article will focus on How to Build a High Performing Band of Marketers.

Training tomorrow’s Marketers on Big Data

Big Data Boot Camp for Marketers

Big Data is rock’n the Marketer’s world. It is signalling a wake-up call that marketers need to be more metrics driven, more technically savvy and more process oriented. At the top of the food chain, CMOs are taking on responsibilities that traditionally belonged to CIOs. And at the middle management level, marketers are being required to be more technical and metrics oriented.

The days of just fishing for eyeballs or operating based on one’s gut instinct are long gone. It is no longer acceptable to just look at demographics or psychographics or just count eyeballs. Instead, marketers need to focus on the numbers — people’s tribes, their behaviors, their interests, their online behavior — both in terms of surfing the website or a mobile app or transacting with a page or shopping cart..

Most marketers would agree, however, that they are not prepared for the incoming Big Data wave: they lack resources, lack data know-how, and they don’t know how to get started.

According to a study from The Economist Intelligence Unit, only 24% of marketers use data for actionable marketing insight. Furthermore, in that same study almost 50% of marketers cited a lack of capacity to analyze big data. Some companies are increasing their budgets for Big Data analytics. The problem is that there’s no road map for getting these marketers up to speed.

Rather than focus on the bells and whistles (the technology) of big data, here’s are 7 steps a marketer a marketer can take to get out of their comfort zone and jump into the Big Data World:

  1. Understand the definition of Big Data, which is usually defined by the 3Vs:

    1. Volume or the amount of data involved

    2. Variety or to how the data is structured

    3. Velocity or the rate at which it is generated and analysed

  2. Subscribe to and learn from few key bloggers, who can teach you the ropes:

    1. SemAngel Blog by Gary Angel: Gary brings over twenty years of experience in decision support, CRM, and software development. Gary co-founded Semphonic and is the President and Chief Technology Officer.  But don’t let the CTO title fool you. Gary is the the brightest consultant I have worked with and can take complex techn issues and break them down into easily digestible and understandable. chunks for markets

    2. Analytics Blog by Justin Cutron: Justin is currently the Analytics Advocate at Google, so he has a boatload of knowledge. In his blog, he breaks down digital analytics for businesses.

    3. Customer Analytics blog by the SAS’ companies – This blog is for anyone who is looking for ways to improve the business of marketing and communicating with customers, which includes everything from multi-level marketing to social media campaigns.

    4. Big Data Hub by IBM: This blog is filled with case studies, videos, etc. from key players at IBM and beyond.

    5. Business Analytics Blog by Tim Elliot: Tom is an Innovation Evangelist for SAP. This blog contains his personal views, thoughts, and opinions on business analytics.

  3. Get your organization big data ready:

    1. Tear down your organization’s silos and engage multiple departments

    2. Give team members homework — tell them to read the blogs mentioned above.

    3. Think about how you will link your current data infrastructure to your project (that means a business analyst, and IT guy, etc. should be involved in the meeting)

    4. Know and recognize that Big Data is a team sport

  4. Work with  framework your organization agrees on, such as:

    1. Define Your Goal

    2. Understand your resources

    3. Review key segment’s Journey

    4. Confirm you are capturing data during each phase

    5. Establish benchmark

    6. Create a small measurable deliverable (test)

    7. Track over time

    8. Establish toll gate reviews

    9. Expand program

    10. Tweak your programs as needed

  5. Define the desired outcome and the one question you want to answer

    1. Yes, narrow it down to one (primary) question

    2. Answer the question and move on

  6. Understand your inputs by breaking down your customer(s) journey

    1. Identify the different sources of data, such as social network behavior, information from third party lists, mobile usage, downloads, etc.

  7. List out different types of potential metrics you could track:

    1. Information related specifically to the customers transactions (or actions)

    2. Information related to a segment’s usage patterns

    3. Information related to the overall marketing program

In some respects Big Data is just an extension of database marketing, a popular term in the 1980s and 1990s because it focuses on leveraging customer information to segment an audience and develop personalized campaigns. The biggest difference now is that we can leverage unstructured data (video for example) and implement just-in-time programs.

I am a big believer in learning by doing. If a Marketer really wants to be figure out how to integrate big data into their business processes, they need to have on-the-job training. (And to that point, I actually believe this is important for the CMO as well as the Business Analyst, although the latter might get more in the proverbial data weeds!). If marketers don’t do this, they will lose their admission ticket to be in the marketing world.

Operationalizing Social Business

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Earlier this week, I sent a Brandwatch research study to my brother, who manages a radio station, about the importance of Twitter. The report indicated that radio stations do not interact with their fans enough, and instead are stuck in the old paradigm of just blasting and broadcasting their message with their traditional one way approach.

The Brandwatch study also highlighted the fact that 75% of their interactions are with celebrities and brands (who pay the advertising dollars) and not their fans. The most important (and probably obvious fact to most people) is that people follow the personalities on the radio more than the station itself.

Even with the opportunity to highlight their DJs and newscasters more, most stations do not have specific goals and strategies for leveraging social networks. While they may be on it and posting a tweet here and there, they’re not optimizing their social media presence. This number increases substantially more when you consider how many don’t know how to operationalize their social efforts.

To get started, here is a basic checklist on how to operationalize your social efforts:

  1. Set up your primary account and keep your   password information in a safe place. Also, don’t let your digital agency or PR firm set up your account. Make sure one of your employees is the lead person and manager of the account in case there are any conflicts. Note, however, that you should make sure that employee shares all info with you and signs a legal document stating they will turn over the account when then leave. There will probably be no issues about this if the employee uses your company domain account

  2. Organize Team and Identify Moderators: Use the DACI approach with clarity around who is the Driver (project manager) of the project, the Approver (who owns the budget in most cases) of the project, the Collaborators of the project (moderators) and who needs to be Informed. While it might be a cost to hire your moderators before launching, getting them on board early can help set up some of the infrastructure you need to build a successful social network presence. For example, they can create a stockpile of back up posts and also be involved in establishing the tone and spirit

  3. Document the tone and spirit of your posts and tweets: Most mature and established companies have documented their brand positioning and how they want to communicate their brand to their customers. It’s more beneficial to do this early on, rather than blindly posting and tweeting. Even smaller companies should take some time to think this through.

  4. Build out your page: Appearance is important, even on social networks. While you’re thinking about your brand positioning, the aesthetics of your page should play a role too. Leverage company branding, photography and graphics guidelines. You should have a cohesive look and feel across all your pages.

  5. Create a content calendar: Build a content calendar for each social network (and their pages) that you manage. Throwing up posts last minutes can lead to too many issues. Vice versa, planning too far ahead won’t allow you you to factor in recent newsworthy topics. Ideally, you want the calendar to cover all content for at least two weeks into the future. You can plan for a longer period of time, but I have found that it is often difficult to plan too far down the road.

  6. Create a stockpile of back up posts: There are some posts, such as standard customer service posts or event announcements or welcome posts, that you will post/tweet over and over again. You might as well have a stockpile of them ready to go.

  7. Identify tools: The cost of good social media tools is quite minimal these days. Many of them are even free. I recommend that you have at least three types of tools ready to go: a posting tool (Hootsuite or Sproutsocial, a listening tool (Radian6 or Social Mention) and an analytics tool (Twitonomy).

  8. Create Rules of Engagement, Workflow Process and Answer Decision Tree: List out desired response times, the type of posts you will respond to, and all potential issues. Then try and place them into categories and assign and and owner to each of them. You’ll be able to be quantify how successful you are by setting these rules.

  9. Outreach to relevant influencers and followers: I am big on focus, focus, focus. Don’t try and boil the whole ocean and sign up as many followers as possible. It’s about quality, not quantity. I recommend reaching out to people who would have a vested interest in your products, services or offerings.

  10. Focus on a few critical metrics: There are so many different metrics to track on a social network. Concentrate on 3-5 levers, establish a benchmark, measure your success against them and keep raising the bar. Make your goals more challenging. Hold each person on the team accountable for these goals. Social Media is a team sport.

Executing well on the above ten areas will increase a radio stations or your probability of success. Remember, it takes a while to build an audience. Remember that Rome was not built in a day and neither is a social presence. Unless you are Nike or Madonna, it might take time to build your presence and generate a high degree of engagement on a social network’s page that you manage. The keys are to be persistent and consistent.

Adoption ‘Technology’ Curve for Small Businesses

When building a new community or functionality on a social network, one of the first questions I ask is ‘tell me about the people who will use it.‘ I want to learn more than just their demographics, their psychographics or even what we called at Intuit, their firmographics (how many employees are at the company, how much revenue have the generated, or their occupation such as purchasing agent or IT professional).

And I also want to know where on the technology adoption curve the target audience(s) reside. And I want to know about the words and phrases they use in their ever day business.

A few years ago, when we introduced Podcasts on the Intuit Community website, nobody clicked on the word ‘podcast.’ So we did some tests in usability and learned that our users — who tend to be older and not residing on the cosmopolitan coasts of the USA — didn’t know what that term meant. Instead, we learned that they related better to more common phrases, such as Radio-on-Demand, so we used that term. We also learned (a few years ago) that they had no idea what a blog was and they had no interest in blogging.

So, it’s important to understand where your users (the people) are on the adoption curve.

As the above chart shows, Geeks started using Blogs a lot sooner than Small Businesses. Sound obvious, right?

It was until we started talking to people that manage online communities and social media activities. At that time, everyone wanted to build a blog, write a blog, and ‘do the blog.’ But we resisted at Intuit because our typical Small Business owners were not ready at the time. Today, they might just be ready. However, Business.com recently did a survey listing out the top social media tools for different vertical/industry segments. And at the top of some of the lists were Webinars. Who knew that something so old web school could still be popular?

I am working on compiling a list of examples like the ones above. So, feel free to send them my way.

Employee Engagement: What’s the ROI

Clock is ticking for Small Businesses to leverage Social Media. Can they speed up time.

Clock is ticking for Small Businesses to leverage Social Media.
Can they speed up time.

A few years ago, I was called into my supervisor’s office because of her “concern” about my commitment to the company. When I asked what triggered this concern, she said I did not have any “pictures of my family or plants” in my cubical. Instead of telling her that she was looking at me an old-school corporate  lens different than her own (my last two years at Intuit, I worked out of a locker and didn’t even have an office), I uploaded some pictures of people from Google Images and put them on my iPad, which I displayed by my desk. Ironically, that seemed to do the trick.

When it comes to engaging employees, the biggest ROI is to think of your staff just like you would a customer: seek to understand their interests, their rituals, and their ways of communicating as well as how they want to be treated.

Your employees are key stakeholders in your company’s success. Several studies show that an engaged and happy worker can reduce a company’s overall health insurance costs and take less vacation time (not sure that’s a good thing). There’s an even more important impact, though. As a recent Tempkin Employee Engagement Study showed, high employee engagement impacts the bottom line:

  • Companies with strong financial results report employees to be engaged 75% of the time —compared to organizations with weak financial results, which report an employee engagement rate of 47%.
  • Engaged employees are more than twice as likely to go the “extra mile” at work. These folks stay late, collaborate with colleagues, and recommend organizational improvements.
  • 96% of engaged employees responded that they “always or almost always” try their hardest on the job (while 79% of non-engaged workers responded similarly).
  • 75% of employees at companies who report better-than-average customer experience levels are highly or moderately engaged, while only 34% of employees in companies with lesser customer experience levels are highly or moderately engaged.

Last year, I was hired by a major software company to help them use social media in their recruitment of college graduates. Like a good consultant, I convinced the company to expand its focus and concentrate on understanding their potential employees as a unique tribe (audience) and to reconsider how the company treated them. I pointed out that even if we did great job-recruiting candidates, the biggest challenge is engaging them in their work (a Gallup poll reports that 70% of first year employees do not feel invested/engaged at work).

Based on my recommendation, the company realized that to achieve a higher level of employee engagement, it needed to think of its staff as a human beings or ‘tribes’ of humans, who have specific and diverse needs, desires, and wants.  The company understood that employee engagement starts during the recruiting process, continues through training, on board, and even after the employee leaves the company. Yes, there is even a possible ‘reincarnation’ phase when an employee returns for a second tour of duty. Schwab calls these “Boomerangers.”

Besides looking at the employee through a realistic life cycle lens, there are several factors that improve employee engagement, a few of which I learned during my tenure at Intuit:

  • Create a Learning Environment. Today, when older employees have to reinvent themselves and learn new skills and younger employees have a desire to absorb information and learn new technology, it’s important to give employees the room to do this. Intuit had a great approach called “Learn-Teach-Learn.” It was a modified version of Noel Tichy’s virtuous teaching cycle. While Tichy and others focus on management playing this role, Intuit was able to bring this philosophy to the front line workers, meeting one of the key needs of its employees.
  • Believe in Voice of the Employee: After working with more than 10 Fortune 1000 companies in the last two years, it’s clear that very few of them allow their employees to have a voice at the table. Although corporate business decision-making is not always a democratic process, it’s important to let every group be heard, otherwise, you could find yourself in the middle of an Arab Spring. (OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration : )
  • Create a creative environment: Employees from any department at Intuit, for example, could sign up for ad-hoc problem-solving pow-wows called “Idea Jams” that lasted a couple of hours. This “unstructured time” ultimately proved productive, enabling workers to apply their brainpower to any challenge that interests them.
  • Reward does always require money : While everyone loves to make an extra buck, sometimes symbols and rituals can go a long way. Intuit created custom imprinted poker chips that were small, easy to carry, and colorful, with each one highlighting one of its 10 company “core values.” When employees witnessed a co-worker living an intuit core value, they awarded them a poker chip. According to Brand Alliance , employee engagement scores increased 10% after their introduction.
  • Identify their personal goals. First time employees on my teams are always shocked when I ask them: “What are your career goals, and what skills sets do you want to learn for a future job at our company or somewhere else?” Google attempts this with their 20% time, but I try to get the employee to be more specific about what skill sets they want to acquire.
  • Allow Social Media participation. Years ago, I presented a How-To-Blog workshop at Dell to a large group of employees. Afterwards, the VP of Marketing stood up and reminded everyone that they could blog “only if corporate reviewed their content first.” When I heard that I felt sorry for Dell’s staff, especially because I came from a corporate culture that encouraged employees to participate in social networks. It is important to trust your employees (after all, why did you hire them in the first place?) and to know that whether you like it or not, they, like everyone else, are social media ambassadors for the company. For better or worse, many people spend a great part of their day expressing their views on social networks. So instead of constraining them, provide guidelines, guardrails, and guidance so they know the implications of posting online.

High employee engagement scores will reduce the potential employees’ misbehavior in social networks. After all, you don’t want your staff bad mouthing you on Facebook or Twitter. Imagine how a happy and engaged employee might represent the company on social networks. At Intuit, we provided an opt-in training program for employees that focused on how to participate in the latest and greatest social network as well as information on the legal and privacy implications of their online activities.

I hope old-school managers, like the one I referred into the first paragraph, reads this blog post, and realizes they need to wake up to the needs of today’s employee.

Future of Work Interview: Robert Brownstone, Technology, eDiscovery and Computer Forensics, Fenwick and West LLP

This interview was written up while drinking a Soy Latte at the Swank Bar in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood.

A “Make Your Own Major” Type of Job

For the last 18 months, I have become interested in the emerging fields of Digital Risk, Crisis Management and Cyber Security. So, I decided to reach out to Robert Brownstone (@ediscoveryguru) from Fenwick and West, LLP. I know Robert from when I sought his advice on the Internet and the Law. Normally, we share stories and exchange ideas while eating Chinese food on Castro Street in downtown, Mountain View.  Our meetings remind me of George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld, engaged in this intense conversations at Monk’s Cafe. Today, however, I telephoned him from the Human 1.0 office in Cambridge, MA, where there is only one restaurant (Italian, not Chinese) within walking distance.

Brownstone started his career on Wall Street as a white-collar crime litigator in fraud cases. He then became law school professor and program director while working as a part-time lawyer. For the last thirteen years, Brownstone has been working out of Fenwick’s Silicon Valley office where he has his hand on the pulse of legal and technical issues impacting, some which impact of the most innovative companies in America.

Bill Fenwick, the firm’s founder, originally hired Brownstone as his “experiment” and gave him the title Knowledge Manager.  He wanted to take a law teacher and litigator, and as Brownstone describes it, “pump my head with as much computer knowledge as possible in hopes that I would continue to spark some new developments and opportunities for the firm.” Fenwick asked Brownstone to focus on electronic discovery, IT, Data Security, and Legal issues with the intention of sharing these learnings in two ways: “in house” with Fenwick attorneys and “out-house” (really called “outsiders”) with Fenwick clients.

Brownstone characterizes his role at Fenwick as a “make your own major type of job,” where he has often finds himself immersed in issues such as intellectual property, the protection of trade secrets, data security strategies, and employer-employee disputes over data. To make all this new information useful, he says, “the secret sauce is understanding  (our) clients’ business and how their internal information systems work.”

Digital Law: Riding the River

In representing many high-tech and life science companies, Brownstone has found that his main challenge is in the area of Digital Law, which is in flux right now with the Courts wrestling with some major issues, such as:

  • How to protect data secrets and information and what to do when their use is in dispute
  • How to handle electronic information over a lifetime –from creation to usage to destruction
  • How to handle electronic information issues when a company gets sued or when there’s an electronic discovery (e-discovery) request 

Clog That Drain: Prevent Data Leakage and Cut Your Losses 

According to Brownstone, there are essentially three ways information can leak from a company:

  1. An employee or some other insider is intentionally trying to harm the company and puts information in front of the public (sometimes via the Internet). The most highly publicized examples would be from the Wikileaks site. Basically, someone is trying to harm an organization through disclosure or an accusation.
  2. An intentional disclosure becomes unintentionally harmful.  An employee, executive, or other insider posts something (i.e. a photo or a tweet) but he or she does not know the FTC prohibits specific kinds of disclosures under certain circumstances. [Having managed online communities and social networks since my AOL days in the mid-1990s, I would say this happens at lease once or twice a year for many companies.]
  3. An unintentional disclosure. Confidential Information gets out via a smart phone, laptop, device, or paper when the item is stolen, hacked or lost. There is no malice or intent on the part of the employee or client, but the information still gets leaked.

Even if the law does not require it, companies can reduce their risk and exposure when it comes to data leakage. Two ways to reduce a company’s risk exposure are:

  1. Role-Based Access Control or what IT folks call RBAC, which essentially means that not everything within the virtual or physical world is open to everyone in the company. For example, different permissions granted to folks who need to access databases, etc. Brownstone calls this approach “narrowing the risk of leakage.”
  2. Encryption, particularly for company-issued devices (laptops, phones, etc.) to the extent the data can be encrypted. Two purposes are served. One: companies can prevent someone who steals or finds a lost laptop “from sucking out, bit by bit, the data on that drive and booting it up in another machine.”  This measure is important.  First, companies want to protect their employees and their data. Second, companies will not have to take a hit financially or in the court of public opinion by having to announcing a data breach. (Note: some States handle this differently and for customer-relations reasons, many companies choose to voluntarily disclose breaches to their users).

The Mobile Horse Has Already Left the Barn

The ubiquitous usage of mobile devices makes controlling a company’s data even more complicated and gives Information Technology (IT) leaders multiple headaches. Brownstone advises companies to consider issuing a second phone and to officially notify, educate, and remind employees that “Anything which involves your company device” is the company’s property.

Brownstone states “this is the cleanest way under the law to handle data on a mobile device – it is a clean way to deal with a complex issue.” He points out, however, “It gets tricky because most organizations, especially hi-tech companies, are in the mode of not wanting to stifle employees from being able to hook as much as possible into the network at any time wirelessly or otherwise” and from their devices of choice.” 

Leaving employees to (literally) their own (mobile) devices exposes the company to multiple security issues. If a company decides to follow this route, it can be difficult to change how employees operate. Brownstone points out though “If the horse is already out of the barn in a data security situation, then it is a lot trickier in advance to establish good practices.” In most cases, employees are already using their own phones for work so it’s a challenge for a company to regain control. 

Warning: You Have The Whole World In Your Hands

Other significant mobile-related considerations involve location services:

  1. Due to GPS technology, employers can potentially track where their staff is and has been and has been at all times.
  2. The frictionless sharing of Facebook, for example, means that employees download an app and opt in to sharing, or when they log-in to a site that uses Facebook credentials, their personal information gets shared.
  3. The Fourth Amendment has not prevented courts from allowing law enforcement to seize an individual’s mobile device.  In some instances, officers practice computer forensics and carry a tool that can do bit-by-bit capture of certain types of data off of a mobile device, e.g. employee data, and by logical extension, employer data. This significant information becomes not just mobile, but able to be seized by law enforcement.
  4. Remember: Not everything stored on a mobile device is encrypted!

Potential Disasters and Detours

I ask Brownstone about some of the more organizational challenges his clients face. He mentions:

  1. Sales people negotiate and close business deals by sending instant messages. If there were ever a dispute about a contract, one General Counsel feared she might not have an actual copy of the final terms of the contract. She asked Brownstone to write her a new policy, forbidding negotiations over IM.
  2. General Counsel and the CIOs/CTOs are not alwasy on the same page (or even in the same meeting). Brownstone illustrates this concern with a story about how he witnessed an IT leader telling his executive team that he had thought he was following Legal Department orders when he had captured, stored, and logged all employees’ instant messages for the prior three years. This turned General Counsel red in the face and feared all of the information would be available if the company were ever subpoenaed and had to collect, process and review all the information. The discovery process alone could cost more than any lawsuit.
  3. Brownstone cites an article that says “Lawyers are from Mars and ITs are from Venus, so you need a translator.” Both groups are infamous for their acronyms and jargon. Getting them to work together during discovery can mean interplanetary mayhem. (You can find the article here as well as some material Brownstone-co-authored on that theme).
  4. Anticipate all the potential data leaks and make a prioritized list. Brownstone recommends working through them over time. Don’t try and conquer the law in one day.

Your Employees’ Own Personal Pages 

Since I am conducting a social media-training program for a Fortune 500 company, I ask about employee-owned Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Brownstone states that it’s more challenging to establish rules for company-sponsored pages than address what employees might be doing with their own pages on their own time:

“The law is really unsettled…and there are some issues that cut across both arenas of company-sponsored and individual pages. For a company of a substantial size, if someone anonymously posts praise or an endorsement of (that) product, the FTC calls it a testimonial, and if they don’t disclose that they work at the company or are a spouse of someone that works at the company that actually runs afoul of the long-standing FTC guidelines for online product endorsements“. [Disclosure: I worked with the FTC on this in an advisory capacity while serving on the board of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association in 2008.]

Brownstone points out that even in the age of disclosure and transparency, publicly traded companies need to be alert: “It is very dangerous for someone to post anonymously even if they are praising the company. In some instances this is called ‘sock puppeting.’ (Read the Wall Street Journal’s article about a famous example of this involving the CEO of Wholefoods)

Brownstone recommends that companies focus on “narrowing the risk” by:

  1. Providing training for employees
  2. Implementing a Rules Based Access Control approach
  3. Using encryption as much as possible (and don’t just depend on the Cloud)
  4. Communicating with your legal advisors as soon as possible so they can advise and reroute rather than react or put out a fire
  5. Cleaning all devices before and after international travel
  6. Having a clearly identified owner for company branded social media pages. 

Note: the law is more stringent overseas, e.g. a company cannot just say they can confiscate an employees device because it is presumed that personal information exists on it.

For More Information

Brownstone speaks at conferences often, offers webinars, and publishes quite a bit. He is also an avid online reader of law and technology items, especially of what lawyers used to call “Advance Sheets.” His favorites include Law Technology News, the New York Times (especially the Business and Technology sections), Compliance Week and beSpacific. He also relies on his mentors including:

  • Bill Fenwick, whom we discussed above
  • Matt Kesner, Fenwick’s CTO
  • Browning Marean of DLA Piper, a large business international firm
  • Kevin Moore, Fenwick’s IT Director
  • Patrick Premo, a Fenwick litigation partner championing efficiency and alternative fees
  • Delos Putz, Professor Emeritus of USF School of Law

(Brownstone provided a bibliography below about eDiscovery, Computer Forensics and Technology).

Brownstone loves eDiscovery and all things “e”.  As he explains, “My wife and friends of mine say it puts them to sleep when I start talking about eDiscovery. But, I have to say as a technologist, I have seen his passion first hand. Our one-hour scheduled Chinese food lunch hours often turn into a two and half hour discussion. Fortunately, he doesn’t bill me by the hour for these talks but freely exchanges ideas as he does in his many presentations around the hemisphere.

Thank you for visiting.

You don’t need a weatherman

Today, agencies need to better define their value proposition, especially in the area of digital and social media, where the cost of getting human assistance and advice continues to drop. For example, I can easily find an SEO expert on the web and put a few groups in a bidding war for their services. Many (not all) the agencies I have worked with try to “catch every fly ball’ and be all things to all people. A PR firm suddenly becomes an expert in web site design or SEO. A traditional agency hires a few digital guys and suddenly claims they have experience. Personally, I think expertise requires a certain amount of time in the trenches and being a practitioner, but that’s probably something to be discussed at another time, on another blog post.

More and more companies are bringing their digital media buys in-house where they can buy the tools and hire the people they need to achieve their goals. They are orchestrating their own ad buys in house. This will probably lead to lower cost and make a more efficient operation.

They don’t need the middleman.

What does this mean for agencies, especially those who focus on media buys? That’s a good question. How do they work better with the tools, the creative teams and the client. Since ‘digital media buying’ is still in its early stages, there’s still time to figure out their future. One area where there is a big opportunity is collecting, analyzing and deciphering data. And taking that data and integrating with other customer / prospect data in your internal systems. But again, companies probably would prefer to do some of this on their own especially if they don’t want to share all their data with a third party.

After all, sometimes, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

Originally posted @ Digital Marketing 2.0

Analytics: Key part of Social Business Center of Excellence

 So you want to build out a robust social media analytics program for your company, eh?

This process should be very similar to the approach you took in building out your digital analytics program. Follow the same trail to the summit.

Like any good journey, you need to make sure to focus on the basics first, such as:

    1. Getting internal alignment from you key stakeholders on your business objective (Hopefully, one objective!)
    2. Obtaining sign-off on the key metrics you want to look at
    3. Understanding your organizational constraints and resources
    4. Identifying and setting up the right tools/technology

But before launching a program, there are some important steps along the way that you should seriously consider:

    1. Work closely with your IT group because they usually set the standards for bringing technology into an enterprise environment
    2. Work closely and meet often with your financial partner (usually there is a finance guy assigned to your team) to show them that you are working on driving the business forward, that you understand what you are doing.
    3. Establish a baseline to measure from and know that every so often you might have to ‘move the goal line’ of desired results as well as the original baseline because your growth my skewed in the early stages of the program
    4. Incorporate Share of Voice vis a vis your direct competitors, your indirect competitors (if you are selling financial software to small businesses, excel can still be viewed as a competitor)
    5. Understand that there can be multiple ROIs for the whole organization since different groups have different objectives in using social media.
    6. Know that if you have an international focus, the same tools might not always work as the ones you use domestically
    7. Build in a mobile component to your social media analytics because as we all know, it is here to stay.

Most of the above applies to an enterprise type or Fortune 100 company. Ideally, the individuals working on measuring your success would be part of a Center of Excellence. Note, however, that this is more than the hub-spoke model, where your social media team resides in the middle with representatives from multiple groups.

One of the challenges with this model is that the groups representing the spokes are not funding a full time or part time person to look at social media, but rather having someone ‘just attend the meetings.’ Secondly, the Hub, the social media team tends to still be influenced by where they sit in the organization. If they sit with the public relations team or corporate communications team, those groups business objectives might not support others divisions. Ideally, I think Social Media today should be a true Center of Excellence, completely funded independently, and set up like finance or human resources, where the group assigns individuals to support others in the organizations.

This Center of Excellence idea is not completely new. The big difference here is that I am recommending it be treated like finance, legal or HR. Not in terms of being more of an operational role, but rather focused on a stand alone entity that embeds its own people into each group and pays for those people vs. having it be someone from a business group’s part time job. After talking to many companies about how they address social media in their organization, many wrestle with either a) individual groups doing their own thing or b) they only have a few hours a week of a business person’s time.

More on the center of excellence next time I blog here…

Oh yea.. Yes, your data jockey (s) should be part of this team too. : )

SEO and Social Search on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

Uncharted territory here — very few people have really put energy into figuring out how to do SEO within a specific social network or how these networks impact SEO on Google. (OK, some folks have looked at this last part). Today, Gary Angel of Semphonic, Inc., and I shared some of our learnings and thoughts.  See the presentation.