Achieving ROI from Social Media

Where’s the ROI? This is a pretty popular question from business leaders and mar/com folk. In many respects the question is driven by a campaign-centric mindset and a short-term ROI mentality.

Whilst doing research ahead of a workshop for Australasian Mutuals Institute recently I came across a Forbes Magazine article describing how US credit union Navy Federal has used social media to create lasting engagement with their community AND generate measurable ROI.

Navy Federal Credit Union - Facebook BannerLooking at the data provided in the article the results are pretty impressive. But there’s a key point underpinning this:

“Our mantra is engage now, sell later.” (Don Varela)

1. Know How Customer Needs Are Changing

Navy Federal Credit Union clearly identified how member needs started to change a few years ago – Navy Federal moved into social about four years ago as it noticed that members were spending more time on social media. I stress this a lot to my clients and it’s one of the reasons Kinship Digital has introduced a social data/share of voice audit – a deep review of how and where conversations are occurring.

2. Dialogue vs Monologue

“We try to do a blend of content, fun, relevant information and education.”

Sticky content usually ticks one of three boxes – it educates, it enlightens, it or entertains.

3. Involve the Whole Organisation

In financial services, supporting military personnel, with a branch network and physical call centre – social media could have been shoved into an isolated silo that ultimately would have increased risk, but NFCU has been able to involve different departments so as to ensure everyone in on-board:

  • 24/7 support plus processes to move engagement into more secure channels when appropriate
  • Use of enterprise technology so as to meet compliance and risk management requirements
  • Transparency – allowing negative posts to be public creates strong community engagement.

Supporting Business Goals – the ROI

The financial ROI is clearly stated in the article – The credit union said its Facebook advertising led to 6,000 new certificates, totaling $90 million and 5,400 auto refinance loans for $96 million.

Another ROI metric to consider is the consistent level of engagement with their community via Facebook – this in turn increases their average daily reach – further amplifying their social efforts.

Social Media Risk Management – An Issue That Requires Constant Attention

As a TEC speaker on social media and a business owner who relies on social media to generate sales I’m well versed in the positives and negatives associated with this growing and ever changing space. Since starting as a TEC speaker over 3 years ago I’ve (continually) stressed the need for TEC members to be conscious of the risks that exist with the use or ignorance of social media – and trust me on this, just because your company isn’t active doesn’t mean risks don’t exist.

Understanding risk and putting in place policies and guidelines to mitigate this risk doesn’t need to be complex – simple steps can be taken that could make all the difference. I encourage you to join John-Anthony Hodgens from Gadens Lawyers and myself for a webinar where we will be discussing the risks and a simple action plan that business leaders can utilise in their business.

The webinar is on 17 July 2013, starting at 2pm AEST – registration details for the social media risk management webinar can be found here.

Manage Your Social Media Assets

Recently I’ve had a number of customers express to me that they’ve lost track of a certain social media account – usually because the person who set up the account is no longer working for the company. Getting control of an account or reactivating a dormant account can be tough and time consuming.

This got me thinking about what simple steps a company (of any size) could take to retain and/or manage control of their social footprint.

The first point that is worth noting is that your social media accounts are digital assets – and we should adopt an asset management mentality when thinking about this

Key Points to Help you Manage Your Digital and Social Media Assets

  1. Create a digital asset register that tracks at least username, password, email account that is linked to the channel – ideally you should extend this to also map/track where content goes if it’s published via a channel – i.e. a Twitter account might feed off to a blog, Facebook etc.
  2. Have at least two people with admin rights over key assets
  3. Have very clear and simple language about asset ownership
    • If the account is going to be used in a general way such as for customer service or as an expert contact be very clear that the brand owns the account (not the employee)
  4. Ensure that the employee stores the login credentials in a centralized location (perhaps in Marketing or HR)
  5. Have clear rules about who is authorised to make profile changes to accounts
  6. Make sure the email account that “owns” the account is one that the company has control or access to. A password can be changed so make sure it’s a generic account
  7. Undertake regular audits so as to keep track of growth and new areas where parts of your business may be experimenting – i.e. Google+
  8. If you have a LinkedIn Company profile – ensure that admin rights are limited to 2-3 employees. By default, anyone with a company email address can make changes
  9. Finally, there are a number of excellent enterprise grade content publishing tools such as HootSuite and Sprout Social – whilst not asset management tools per se they are ideal for having centralised control over publishing and responding.


These are simple tips – in the first instance I’d ensure you at least do an audit and create a register of your companies social media footprint. Ideally you should look to do this type of scan at least every 6 months – as you might find out that you have a profile or presence you didn’t even know about.

Join Our Webinar – Managing Your Social Media Assets

Join Mark Parker for a free webinar as he discusses the points raised in this blog post and shares tips on how to get started.

What Does the NBN Mean for Regional Leadership Development

The National Broadband Network may be a political football in Australia at the moment, but anyway we look at this project, the delivery of high-quality, high speed broadband presents a unique opportunity to rethink how leadership development is delivered to regional areas – a point that is highly relevant for both Australia and New Zealand.

The tyranny of distance remains relevant in the region.

How do business leaders and entrepreneurs in our regional centres such as North Queensland, the Northern Territory, or the Tauranga district access resources, peers, or development options to help them grow their business and also grow as leaders? These regional areas will often have high concentrations of industries such as tourism, agriculture, NFP’s, local government, and professional services – to name a few.

To what extent could existing leader networks such as TEC leverage the NBN and web technology to deliver a TEC-like experience to a whole new community of prospective members

  1. How could TEC utilise the NBN to deliver a TEC-like experience to regional areas?
  2. Would a TEC group necessarily be geographically based? Could a virtual group exist that cuts across state or even country boundaries?
  3. How could resource speakers adapt their content to this type of delivery model?
  4. How would existing tools like Vistage Village or even LinkedIn fit into this model?

These are but a few questions that I think need to be discussed or debated. Put simply, the multi-party collaboration technology exists – the question is how groups such as TEC leverage this technology, the NBN, and then leverage existing IP in new ways.

Social Media Policies Need to Account for Exit Procedures

When I’m out working with clients on either social media strategy or specifically LinkedIn I always seem to come across situations where the list of employees for a firm on LinkedIn includes former staff members. What’s disturbing about this is that many executives are aware of this but often fail to take action.


It’s been widely known that sometimes employees are slow to update their profiles to indicate they are no longer employed at a company – this might be for a variety of reasons not least pride as well as the fear that being unemployed will make job seeking that much harder.

Clearly there are risks associated with this – for both the employer and former employee. Most companies now have social media policies in place – but its clear we need to extend this as follows:

  1. The induction process needs to include a review of their LinkedIn profile plus an outline of how the new employee is to link to and reference their new employer plus an outline what is expected of the employee if and when they leave
  2. Exit procedures need to include specific mention of when an exiting employee is expected to update their profile.

This is smart for all concerned.


Are Your Fans and Followers Real?

Quite a lot has been written this year about fake fans and followers on some of the largest social media platforms. Mashable wrote about this a few months ago along with a Forbes article in August. Clearly this is a growing issue and one that does raise some concerns around reputation and risk management

Fake Followers on Twitter Are a Problem

So how do we keep check?

Social tools developer Social Bakers has released a Beta tool that interprets your Twitter followers and breaks them into three categories – Fake, Inactive, Good.

I ran this across two Twitter accounts I use daily and it returned the following:

  • @smartpen – Fake 1%; Inactive – 22%; Good – 77%
  • @smartselling – Fake 1%; Inactive – 20%; Good – 79%

I’d be interested to learn more from SocialBakers as to how they distinguish between Fake and Inactive – it’s certainly an interesting result and one that raises some key questions as brands and even individuals build large communities of fans and followers

Announcing the Death of the Business Card

One of Australia’s foremost thought leaders on ideas, marketing, and brands – Gary Bertwistle wrote an interesting article today in his newsletter – The Espresso – about his frustration that business people and executives don’t carry business cards:

The Espresso by Gary Bertwistle

I can’t tell you how many times I meet people at speeches I give, and when the time comes to exchange business cards, the person I am talking to does not have a card to give me. It truly staggers me how many senior corporate executives don’t carry the most basic of marketing and branding tools with them – a business card.

Gary Bertwistle, The Espresso, Edition 158

Whilst I understand Gary’s point(s), I’m not sure I agree with him. Business cards have had their day, they are redundant and the sooner we stop carrying them the better.

Quite simply, a business card, whilst useful for telling me how to contact a person pales when compared to what social networking tool LinkedIn offers. As I’ve blogged before, LinkedIn is our business card of the future. A properly built and maintained LinkedIn profile takes what Gary suggests and does so much more.

Not only will my profile tell you who I am, where I work, how to contact me, and what I do, but it also gives you a rich insight into how I’m helping people I know and don’t know. It communicates the types of problems I’m solving – its a rich insight into my company and brand Mark Parker.

Now you could argue that suggesting someone look you up on LinkedIn might lead to a bit of connection request spam – but it’s no worse than someone emailing or calling you once you’ve given them your card. You could also argue that someone might forget your name – a Google search will more than likely turn up your LinkedIn profile as a search result.

Finally, given the saturation of smartphones and tablets, most if not all of us use the mobile apps – so why not punch the name in whilst you chat?

As I noted above, LinkedIn is our business card, our personal brand, and a 24/7 value proposition – sitting there quietly waiting to promote us.

New LinkedIn Skills Endorsement Features

Many of us have noticed the introduction of endorsements in the past week by LinkedIn. Endorsements relate to the skills and expertise that you have listed on your profile – now with one click, a connection can endorse a specific skill that you have listed.

What LinkedIn Skills have been endorsed

All users are being prompted to either add skills to their profile or endorse the skills that a connection (of theirs) has listed. The implications of this are pretty clear when you look at the revised public profile layout that was introduced around two weeks ago.

Key Points re LinkedIn Skills Endorsement

Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t endorse-spam people - Each endorsement you give creates an activity point so spread out the endorsement love
  2. Don’t miss-use - just as recommendations struggled due to miss-use – the same might happen with endorsements. We also need to think about the impact an endorsement might have on our reputation
  3. Skills are even more important - make sure you have the right skills listed on your profile
  4. Skills and Expertise is a section that firstly needs to be on your profile, and secondly can be moved around - so think about having this section reasonably high up your profile page
  5. Be realistic - I’m not sure how many skills should be listed – personally I’d err on the side of fewer rather than lots

Finally, be careful with the options that LinkedIn presents. The system will prompt you to endorse a connection or a group of connections – the screen shot below actually auto endorses the connection for what ever is listed.

Auto endorsing a contact for many skills

My recommendation would be to skip this feature and endorse further down their profile.

The Changing Face of Sales Prospecting

A lot has been written about sales 2.0 and the impact social media is having on sales – particularly B2B. The impact is varied and can range from providing simple and effective alternate contact channels through to a wealth of information about reputation, pricing, and service. Simply, social media is changing how buyers source information and how the traditional concept of a buying cycle that a sales person might seek to control.

I had a personal experience with this recently with two very large Australian companies – in one case I wanted to sell them a product, and in the other I wanted to become a customer. Both have traditional contact channels – email and contact centre – but only one had a social presence as an alternate channel for me. The results were very very different.

Example #1 – Qantas Frequent Flyer Store

Via another business I own – Smartpen – I contacted Qantas because we want to have the Livescribe product listed in their online Frequent Flyer store – I want to sell them the product. Whilst their site had phone and email options, I actually turned to LinkedIn to research who might be a relevant contact.

Qantas Frequent Flyer Store logo

Around 5 mins of searching found a profile for a person I thought would be a good starting point – so I sent her an InMail. Approx 15mins later I had a response from her – telling me she had passed on my details to the right internal person. Another 90mins later that person had contacted me and we’ve now started the evaluation process – so in under 2 hours I’ve gone from zero to engagement.

Example #2 – StarTrack
We’re also evaluating using StarTrack as part of our logistics process. I’m interested in giving them some or all of our delivery business – I want to be a customer.

StarTrack logo

Unlike Qantas, StarTrack has zero social channels (other than a very lonely YouTube channel) and no footprint – company or personnel on LinkedIn – so I’m forced to use either the call centre or email. So 20mins on the phone and they now have my details including our annual spend, requirements, best contact method etc.

“A sales person will be in touch this afternoon, I’ve emailed them these details”

That was 7 days ago, or approx 168 hours.

I rang again today and repeated the process, and still no action…

Now if I look at their major Australian competitor Toll Group I find a much different footprint.

What Are The Lessons From This?

Why is the company that I want to sell products to so responsive? Yet the company who I want to buy from don’t respond?

It’s worth noting that with a bit of further research I actually found StarTrack on LinkedIn – their company is listed as Star Track Express – which is odd given their company name is clearly StarTrack (has been for 25+ years) – and I also know they use Microsoft Dynamics as their CRM.

The key point I will make from this exercise is that in the B2B world, it’s unacceptable for a company – small or enterprise – to not be utilising the number 1 business social network – this is a revenue killer.

This damages your reputation – and when your reputation is built around a brand tag “When Service Matters” – you have a disconnect…

The Discipline of Listening in the Social Media Age

Harvard Business Review published an article last month titled “The Discipline of Listening” – the article was interesting on many fronts in relation to the demands placed on business leaders, entrepreneurs, and CEO’s. We all live in a world that is now uber-connected, uber-social, we’re “on” 24/7 – yet through all this its the old school skills that still resonate, that define the difference between good and great – and this was a point touched on in this article.

As you read the article, you’ll note that GE, one of our global markers of enterprise excellence, now rates listening as one of its desirable traits – in fact its one of the top 4 characteristics of a great leader.

General Electric—long considered the preeminent company for producing leaders—redefined what it seeks in its leaders. Now it places “listening” among the most desirable traits in potential leaders. Indeed, GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt has said that “humble listening” is among the top four characteristics in leaders.

This approach by GE is interesting given the ongoing debate about CEO’s being laggards in relation to social media. It seems too easy to accuse CEO’s of being out of touch because they’re not “on Twitter” or using one of the myriad other channels. Yet on the other hand for GE and executive peer advisory groups like Vistage/TEC “humble listening” is at the heart of how they develop leaders – for close to 50 years now Vistage/TEC has been promoting this idea of what you hear vs what you speak

So I argue it’s not about what emails I’m getting or how cool my iPad is – it’s about what I’m hearing, it’s about the perspective of a peer who has heard something different but who’s perspective I value and trust. Because it’s about being open to alternate views – it’s about being in the now..

I also like how TEC and Vistage takes this a step further…

In a peer environment, I find myself in a position where I can open up and discuss issues with a group of peers who are “in this with me” – I can raise issues or seek feedback on “stuff” – but in doing so I commit to my peers that I’ll take their input – that I’ll listen – because they bring a unique and different perspective. But in doing so I have to be prepared to learn from how they listen to me?

Often what they hear is an indicator of how I communicate – have I communicated effectively? Have I framed my own thinking in a way that will lead me to an optimal outcome? Out of this group discussion though is the most profound question that could be asked of the person raising the issue – what did you hear?

What Did You Hear?

The ultimate litmus test – what GE says is top 4 – is central to this leadership group – have i listened? Have I really listened? Am I an open leader?

Where To From Here?

As business leaders we don’t live in a vacuum – external input is important. we’ve got to get out from behind our devices and really engage with those around us.

So as we embrace the digital and social age it’s important that we retain that core skill of being an effective listener.