Tag Archives: Business

Real World Social Media – The Power of Networking

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

I’ve spent the past 2 years and 9 months working diligently on an AACSB accredited MBA at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, MN.  The university requires successful completion of 17 classes, 2,200 hours of class time and a LOT of group projects of their MBA candidates – whether you attend full or part-time.  My decision to attend St. Thomas was made for a variety of reasons (including their AACSB accreditation) but as I look back on the past 3 years or so – one criterion stands above the rest … the people.

The power of social media has enamored both marketing and sales organizations over the past few years.  In fact, when I began my MBA coursework, Facebook was still a “college” thing rather than the behemoth it is today.  Twitter was called Twttr. And the iPad didn’t exist.

Social media’s influence and impact continues to grow and to be debated but will surely be with us in the near term.  However, we must not forget the power of being social in the real world.

The true power of social networking exists in real life as it has for generations.  The ability to hold a conversation, to emote, to share and to laugh (without the use of LOL or emoticons) will quickly become a lost art form if we forget the most important aspect of our day-to-day the lives … the people we interact with, cherish, work with, or even dislike. No amount of Facebook likes or posts, Twitter Feeds, Apps, Texts, etc. can replace real world communication and networking.  They can enhance or compliment the experience as any technological innovation should do.

While I’ve learned a great deal about marketing, statistics, decision-making, strategy, and yes, even social media during my pursuit of an MBA … as I reflect on my experiences it becomes readily apparent that no amount of technology or innovation replaces the fundamental power of being social – IRL.

(that’s Twitspeak or SMS for In Real Life)


Marketing Technology: Cloud Computing Definitions – SaaS – PaaS – IaaS

Cloud computing stack showing infrastructure, ...

Image via Wikipedia

Marketing isn’t just about branding, creative, etc. – marketing accounts for the rise in global technology usage and stands poised to embrace the “Cloud”.  The Cloud is a virtual environment that precludes the purchase of servers and other technology components to deploy websites, social media sites, etc.  Amazon, Rackspace, Microsoft and Google have offerings in this space and there are three acronyms that marketers need to understand when deploying future marketing strategies – no matter which vendor you utilize.  The three most typical deployment models are:

SaaS – Software As A Service.  Pronounced “SASS”.  Simplest deployment method which allows software to be tapped from a cloud computing resource rather than relying on software installations and implementations.

PaaS – Platform As A Service.  Pronounced “PASS”.  Intermediate deployment that steps away from simply renting applications from the cloud by leveraging the cloud as an operating system (platform).  This also eliminates expensive network upkeep as most service providers provide routine maintenance and upgrades as a part of their SLA (service level offering).

IaaS – infrastructure As A Service.  Pronounced “I-AS”.  The holy grail of cloud computing! You access / rent everything from the cloud … this means servers, storage space, routers, and other hardware, networking capabilities, operating systems, and applications.  This allows for the ultimate degree of scaling as your projects (and customers) dictate.


Social Media ROI – Fact or Fiction?

Image Credit:  http://www.webguild.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/roi.jpg

ROI (Return On Investment) is a rather simple mathematical calculation that evaluates the efficiency of an investment or its performance in comparison to other investments.  How simple?  Here it is:  Gains – Costs / Costs = ROI.  Pretty nifty, right?

Here’s an example – if you use $100 of budget that nets $150 in revenue or gains your ROI is 50% (150 – 100 / 100 = .50).

The basic ROI equation becomes rather tricky in the Social Media realm.  How valuable is a Twitter follower?  What quantitative impact does a Facebook wall comment provide?  Is the quantity of LinkedIn connections more important than the quality?

Social Media is a channel of open communication that exists outside of the normal boundaries of push and pull marketing and is difficult to provide firm ROI in the traditional sense.  And this is where things get tricky …

Trying to prove the value of Social Media in a traditional ROI sense is rather difficult.  You cannot easily quantify the value add of a Social Media presence in terms of traditional ROI gains.  In fact, you’re more likely to show a loss when using a traditional ROI model.  Social Media, as a channel, should be analyzed from a branding, engagement, influence, and competitive value add perspective as a component of strategic marketing initiatives.  This allows for qualitative measurements of individual marketing channels that combined lead to revenue gains.  Strategic marketing encompasses the channels and messaging that will deliver on business initiatives (i.e. sales, hires, brand recall, viral marketing, etc.).  Thus, the Social Media aspect of marketing ROI cannot be measured alone.

I guarantee you that a marketing executive will get fired looked at funny if they delivered an ROI analysis that included this statement: “We spent $50,000 on a Facebook page and have not been able to prove that anyone posting comments on the wall or who has followed the page actually buys our products.  But, it looks cool. And, everyone else is doing it.”

Social Media’s ROI should (typically) be tied to branding and influence initiatives within the marketing budget and strategy.  Branding ROI is component of marketing ROI and should never be analyzed independently … rather, the entire marketing budget (thus, your strategy delivery mechanism) should be utilized against total revenues or gains to determine effectiveness of the strategy.  No results = Bad strategy.  Plain and simple.  Simply creating a corporate Facebook page or Twitter account is a tactical response to a strategic problem.  Changing your channels of communications as part of a shift in marketing mix that is quantifiable in gains (ROI) is a strategic move.

That marketing executive I mentioned earlier would look like a rockstar if their statement included:  “We built a fan base to mitigate negative public comments and bolster positive consumer opinions that would impact our brand.  We leveraged sponsored campaigns on this channel (Facebook) that were tied to the page and tracked click-throughs and sales via web analytics …”  and so on.

At the end of the day, it’s all about ROI.  Plain and simple.  Did your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc. create gains on its own or was it part of a marketing mix that worked in unison from a strategic perspective to deliver gains?  The person signing checks or giving you a budget doesn’t care about fans, followers, comments, and so on … they are concerned with your strategy and its ultimate impact on revenue.  Positioning social media as a progressive and innovative component of your overall strategy makes you look like a rockstar – if, and only if, that strategy, as a whole, actually delivers something quantifiable like revenues, hires, etc.


Sales vs. Marketing – An MBA Opinion (Part 1)

The old adage still rings true at most organizations – sales and marketing do not get along.  In fact, most organizations fail to acknowledge (outside of quotas) that the sales team is ultimately responsible for revenue and unknowingly pit Marketing against Sales and vice versa.  In my opinion, ALL functions of the organization should be aligned to enable revenue growth. Too often, leadership fails the sales organization in properly aligning corporate resources and departments to enable the best performance of the sales organization.  Simply purchasing email lists, attending trade shows, etc. is NOT properly aligning marketing with sales.  Both departments should work in tandem towards revenue attainment.  If marketing, customer support, development, etc. do not have “skin in the game” then leadership has failed to enable a sales team that can deliver revenue.

The root cause of this, in my opinion, is the failure of business schools to provide sales theory and practice to MBA students (heck, even Business Undergrads).  All the marketing theory, product management, business analysis, financial modeling, etc. you learn in B-School means absolutely nothing if revenue isn’t ultimately generated.  There is definitely an innate skill set component to sales that cannot be taught – but, without a proper introduction or understanding of basic sales methodologies in an MBA program there is never an opportunity to understand the importance (and mechanics) of properly aligning an organization for revenue growth or attainment.  And the net result is almost daily conversations like this:


Recruiting Is Marketing

Minneapolis, Minnesota. Image has been cropped.

Image via Wikipedia

On November 17th I’ll be facilitating a roundtable discussion for work at HealthPartners in Minneapolis.  “Recruiting IS Marketing” is the theme for the event and I’m excited to bring the best of marketing and recruiting practices together as well as learn what other major employers in the Twin Cities are up to with their Talent Marketing efforts.

I’m planning on introducing basic concepts like consumer behavior, marketing management, etc. courtesy of my MBA coursework at St. Thomas and how each of them is vital for organizations to leverage moving into 2011 and 2012.  We are fast approaching (believe it or not) a very significant shortage of skilled talent as our economy continues a shift from an industrial base to a knowledge base. The battle lines are being drawn …

Any major marketing organization, like a big box retailer, is in the midst of final preparations for Q4 business (their version of the battle line).  They’ve spent the past 12 months (since the end of the prior Holiday season) leveraging marketing practices to understand, engage, influence, and drive consumer purchasing behaviors.  They’ve built loyal followings and preliminary engagements via social media, have a presence on search engines, have optimized their advertising channels, invigorated their websites, and prepped their operations and processes as part of their execution strategy.  So, why am I talking about retailers and marketing?

Because, recruiting IS marketing!

Talent Acquisition / Retention should be in the business of executing an organizations overall business level strategy.  It is the Human Capital of an organization in an ever increasing global knowledge based economy that enables success or leads to failure.  Recruiting organizations are far too often leveraging antiquated methodologies when it comes to acquiring talent for their companies.  Bridging the gap between their B2C or B2B marketing efforts with their recruiting efforts should be a primary goal for Talent Acquisition in preparation for the impending shortage of skilled talent. A synergy between corporate marketing and human resources creates organizational efficiencies and drives additional value (and results) for both departments.  After all, job candidates are customers and customers are job candidates.

The battle lines are being drawn and plans are being made … the decisions that are made in the coming months will determine who gets the sale (or candidate) and who doesn’t in 2011 and 2012.


Coopetition via Social Media and Personal Brand

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Coopetition or Co-opetition is a business term defined as cooperative competition.  It is a unique strategy where competitors unite within a specific marketplace by leveraging each others assets in an effort to gain market share, drive revenue, protect image, gain recognition, etc.

While most common in the business world (example:  Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s United Space Alliance ),  coopetition extends itself into our personal ecosystems via social media outlets like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Each of us has a personal brand that we build via social networks and that we utilize for gaining our own market share.  Our market may be friends and family, reuniting with former classmates, or even looking for job.  LinkedIn is a perfect example of coopetition … our personal and professional brands live in unison with other network connections on LinkedIn that typically have similar backgrounds or skill sets yet we  leverage the power of their connections or networks to further our own interests – whether to generate new business, get a new job, recruit a candidate, etc.

The power of social media is the opportunity to take one of the most powerful business strategies and apply it to our personal and professional lives – to cooperate and compete … for new friends, new relationships, or new jobs.


I’m Going To Tell You A Personal Branding Secret

“No matter what you did.  No matter who you are.  No matter where you’ve come from … You can always change … Become a better version of yourself.”   – Madonna

Change is a very difficult concept to practice effectively.  While organizational change in our professional lives is an almost constant occurrence, personal change continues to be astonishingly difficult to embrace in practice.

Change is more than switching things up “a bit”.  Change is more than being different from the norm.  Change is an ability to reflect upon the past …  right now … as an opportunity to influence your future.

I’ve been influenced professionally and personally via conversations and interactions in the past few years that would never have occurred without technology like social media.  Our paths are bound together as the distances that have separated all of us in the past become shorter and shorter through social media interactions on a global perspective. For example, personal branding is a global initiative because of Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Google, etc. Your reputation and influence extend further than IRL (in real life) because of technology.

Change is globalization – at both an organizational and a personal level.  We need to think much further than outside the box in order for change to be effective – what’s beyond the box?

The secret is quite simply – knowing that what we were is no longer what we are and taking advantage of the global opportunities that now exist to re-create ourselves …  as a professional organization, as a local networking group, or as an individual.


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