“How I Work”: Scott Vaughan, CMO Integrate

Scott Vaughan“How I Work” is one of my favorite recurring features in Inc Magazine as well as via Lifehacker’s This Is How I Work Series, and recently several sales experts (including  Anthony IannarinoDave Brock and Trish Bertuzzi) participated as well.

Periodically moving forward we will feature a new B2B sales, marketing or business leader here answering what have become the standard “How I Work” questions.  You can catch up on everyone we’ve featured thus far in the “How I Work” series here.

This week I’m excited to feature Scott Vaughan, Chief Marketing Officer at Integrate, a fast-growing demand generation automation start-up out of Southern California.   It seems like Scott is everywhere these days – on the road, speaking at industry conferences, blogging, conducting TweetChats on data quality and more.  He’s a wicked smart guy who surrounds himself with even more wicked smart people.

Scott, suffice it to say, gets stuff done.  Here in his own words is how he does it.

Location: Southern California is home base, but in market 70%+ of the time.

Current computers:  Dell Latitude laptop and Apple IPad

Current mobile devices:  Apple IPhone

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?:  I always try to simplify, constantly purging.

  • LinkedIn, Outlook, Twitter, American Airlines app, Carbonite, MLB, Google, Uber
  • I regularly lay out my ideas or visual storyboards on the back of a napkin or piece of paper (a mobile white board).

What’s your workspace like?:  I work a majority of the time from the road wherever customers or the market is happening, so my office is wherever I am at the moment.  That could be a customer’s office, hotel lobby, coffee spot, or airport.  Between WI-FI, hot spot, laptop and phone, I have what I need 95% of the time.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or lifehack?

A few things for me, blocking and tackling-type stuff:

  • 1-touch email protocol
  • Always have a meeting agenda with discussion points (included in invite) to get to the point (or likely no need for meeting)
  • Set up meeting/next steps before I leave a meeting/conversation, eliminates steps

What everyday thing are you better at than anybody else?:  Looking out and working back. After doing this for a while, I have been told and I pride myself on the ability to start at what the “world/market/business” may look like in 12/24/36 months and work back on the path to get there.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?:  My notepad and my Outlook calendar.   I schedule the strategic stuff on my calendar so I have work time focused on the bigger, more impactful initiatives, and prioritize tactics knocking them out and off the notepad list throughout the day.

What do you listen to while at work?:  Hopefully, the people I am interacting and collaborating with!  When I write or I am in planning mode, I will click on Pandora or Sirius for a mix of music depending on my mood – ranging from Dirty Heads to Tom Petty to Jason Aldean.

What are you currently reading?:  Just about finished with “What Customers Love” by Harry Beckwith and starting “The Quest” by Nelson Demille

What’s your sleep routine like?:  My time zones vary week to week and my mind is constantly think about what’s next.  While I try to do the 11 pm to 6 am routine to get a decent night’s sleep, it often is get whatever sleep I can.  I am definitely not good at sleeping on planes.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?:  Lead first, manage second.

Anything else you want to add?:  It is a very exciting time to be in Marketing and software right now, so it makes it a whole lot easier to be passionate about your career and the work I do.

Fill in the Blank: I’d love to see BLANK answer these questions.  Tony Uphoff , CEO Business.com

The Changing Landscape of Tech Marketing: Q&A with Hugh Taylor

Hugh Taylor bookGuest Post by Maria Geokezas, Director of Client Services, Heinz Marketing

Much has been written about the ever-changing way marketers market and how technology has played a huge role in these changes.  It’s never more apparent than when developing marketing strategies and demand generation engines for start-up technology companies.  That’s why I enjoyed reading Hugh Taylor’s latest book, B2B Technology MarketingTaylor is a former Social Software Evangelist at IBM, PR Manager for SharePoint at Microsoft and VP of Marketing at several early stage technology ventures.  He recently sat down with us to share his insights and experience related to marketing for technology firms during these changing times.

Q:  What drove you to write about Technology Marketing? 

A:   I had several motivations in writing the book.  For one thing, I wanted to share my perspective on what it takes to market a technology product or service to a corporate client.  It’s a distinct discipline, related to but quite different from consumer-based marketing.  I thought it would be worthwhile to discuss the differences and best practices that are involved in B2B technology marketing.  I also thought it would be a helpful tool for product managers and engineers who get involved in technology marketing but may not understand exactly what it’s about.

I’ll give you an example.  A lot of early stage ventures are engineering-centric. That makes sense, because engineers usually build the products that form the basis for early stage companies. However, a lot of engineers don’t have a great grasp of marketing in the B2B sense.  I have had so many conversations over the years where I am told, essentially, “We’ll do the thinking here. You just do whatever marketing does and make it look pretty.”  Uh-huh, there’s more to B2B technology marketing than making things look pretty.

That said, I can’t really blame a lot of folks for having that negative or limited view of marketing. I’ve been in a number of venture-backed situations where the investors bring in a “marketing expert” who spends half a day talking about the brand image of the new company – this is marginally useful and misses the point, to a great extent.  The participants in the meeting feel like marketing is superficial and irrelevant.   B2B technology marketing is about discovering the value proposition of what you’re selling, getting that message out there, and building a pipeline of qualified sales leads. It’s about making the cash register ring.  Once you put it in those terms, you will get a lot more buy in from engineering.  The book is about how it all works.

Q:  Why do you think different people/roles all have different definitions of Technology Marketing?

A:   There are so many different ways that people think about marketing. It can be confusing.  For example, a product marketer in tech is usually involved in gathering insights from users and passing them through to the engineering team in the form of requirements. Some refer to this as “inbound marketing.” However, as we know, the term “inbound marketing” can also mean generating sales leads through inbound mechanisms such as Google ads.  Which is it? It’s both.    Then, you have differences in emphasis.  For some people, marketing is closely aligned with advertising. For others, it’s about communications, public relations, and analyst relations.

If you add some confusion about consumer vs. B2B, you’ll get properly mixed up.  For example, I once worked with someone who had transitioned from marketing for a restaurant chain to working in marketing at a large tech company.  She wanted to get stories about software published in lifestyle magazines like Glamour and Good Housekeeping.  It was an out of the box idea, perhaps too outside the box…

Q:    Your background covers marketing for young tech start-ups to multi-national technology enterprises – what were the biggest differences in marketing for start-up vs large enterprise?  What are the similarities?

A:    The biggest differences have to do with personal responsibilities, access, and accountability.  In startups, you can generally wander into the CTO’s office at any time and lob a question right at him.  At Microsoft, we would have meetings to prepare for a meeting with a VP.  You simply did not associate with people more than one level above you without permission or a really good reason.  And, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  When you have 500 people marketing a $20 billion product, you need some organizational structure or you’ll have pandemonium. But, things can slow down.

In terms of responsibility and accountability, startups are much looser and broad-based.  I ran mar-com at SOA Software, a fairly big venture-backed company, but in that role I was responsible for PR, lead generation, Salesforce.com, and content marketing.  At Microsoft, I did PR for one product within the Office portfolio.  It was a small sandbox, in terms of role, but my budget for PR for that one product was triple what I had for all marketing at a small startup I worked at two years later.

What’s similar is that you’re doing the same general kind of work no matter how big the organization. It’s always about the same things: What is the value of this product or service to the customer? What is the business case for buying it compared to everything else?  Who is on the buying committee? What are their points of view?  How do we get to yes with all of them. How do we reach them? How do we engage and keep their interest?  These are always the same no matter where you are in B2B technology marketing.

Q:   Over your career, how has technology marketing changed?  What has remained constant?

A:    Well, when I started in 1922, things were quite different.  Seriously, even in 20 years, the basic premise of marketing technology has changed with the emergence of the cloud.  The fundamental rhythm and cycle of selling software, for example, is quite different when you’re selling a monthly subscription versus a server and seats license model.  In my work right now, I have a client that sells enterprise licenses in 6-12 month, multi-million dollar cycles in one division and 2-5 day, thousand dollar sales cycles in their cloud division.  It’s a totally different kind of business and marketing – though the fundamental ways of getting your point across to the client don’t change.     However, marketing’s role went from supporting sales to directly driving sales and helping empower customers to get the most out of their subscription to ensure retention.

The psychographics of the customer has changed in the last 5-10 years, at least for several important buyer personas. With the cloud and open source software, there’s a new group of buyer/influencers who want to build things for themselves more readily than was done in the past.  There is also an expectation of more immediate gratification. For example, there’s an expectation that you should be able to go to a website and use a credit card to set up a server and software configuration without any personal interaction with the vendor – all in real time.  That’s amazing, but it’s very different from the conventional, “Let’s meet in a month, do a proof of concept, spend six months haggling over an RFP, and another six months installing the system in your data center.”  Now, if it’s 5PM, you expect your server running by 6 and you don’t want to talk to any salespeople.  Reaching that new kind of buyer requires some rethinking of the communication and lead generation process.

The art of agile demand generation in a fast-growth company

Stay Agile peak signGuest Post by Elle Woulfe, Director of Demand Generation at Lattice Engines

An agile demand gen strategy is a bit like a mountain range full of peaks and valleys.  The programs that generate significant spikes in qualified demand, flooding your lead queues and overwhelming your sales team are the peaks. Being agile allows you to fill the valleys and even out lead distribution so you’re not faced with feast or famine.

But being agile doesn’t mean you need to adopt a formal agile marketing strategy complete with scrums and stand ups. It’s possible to be agile with a lower case “a” and still maintain fluidity in your demand programs.

It really begins with consistent measurement and always knowing where you stand against your goals so you can course correct. Agile is a team effort so everyone needs to know that it will sometimes require extraordinary or at least urgent effort to achieve the goals.  Your team needs to be okay with sometimes dropping what they’re doing to throw a Hail Mary.

When I begin planning, I always start with the highest mountains and like most companies, those are typically live events.  These are the big-ticket items in my budget that have fixed dates and tend to produce the largest spikes in qualified demand.

We put them on the calendar and plan for the flood of MQLs that all the face-to-face activity will generate. By starting with events, I can see the valleys in my demand gen strategy and know how much available budget I have to fill them.

Working down from the highest peaks, I try to fill in the calendar with programs that will produce the next highest spikes.  These tend to be email sponsorships and premium content programs, including some webinars.  I buy media on a six-month basis and select insertion dates that provide enough breathing room around my live events to even out the demand flow.

Now I have a rough calendar for at least half the year that is full of intermittent spikes.  It goes without saying that the backbone of this strategy is always a fully operational, constantly refined set of nurture programs that will cultivate all this early stage, latent demand and pump out a steady stream of MQLs.

Down in the lower valleys, we develop air cover programs that are always running.  These consistently drip unqualified names and inquiries into our database that typically require a considerable amount of nurturing before they can be harvested. But the air cover layer is important – it’s the stuff that builds databases and keeps your brand visible.  These are programs like paid search, content syndication, paid and organic social and display/retargeting.

I make a rough spending allocation for this bucket of programs on a quarterly basis and we constantly retune how we fund the various programs based on the results they’re producing.Agility is a necessary ingredient every step of the way when developing a demand strategy.

While I may have a six-month calendar full of events and programs, I rarely know exactly what our campaigns will look like.  Sometimes we’ll find out on short notice that the content we planned to use for a big email drop isn’t ready. Commence the agile scramble.

We repurpose, retune or repackage something we used previously.  While we sometimes schedule webinars weeks or months in advance, we tend to pull them out to fill voids in our qualified demand flow and have been known to spin up a webinar in as little as a week.  This new series called Show Me Your Stack that we just created is a great example.  Two weeks ago, this didn’t exist and today and we have two webinars planned for next week.

I will be the first to admit that while my demand strategy is data driven, there is a whole lot of art involved and that’s where agility is critical.  You can never sit around and wait to hit your number.  Sometimes you have to move things around at the last minute, seize a great opportunity or fill a void you didn’t expect.  But as long as you develop a rhythm and roll with the punches, you should come out on top.

Source vs motive: A better question to ask new customers

customer-listening-insightMost companies work hard to find out where their customers come from.  In some form or another, new customers often get asked the question: “How did you hear about us?”

The answers are still valuable, of course, but only if they’re accurate.  I’m willing to bet most customers don’t remember.

Our own reporting is often far more accurate than trusting a customer has been paying attention to that path.   Our systems have a better memory, plus ability to remember where it may have started, and which touch points had the biggest impact on velocity and conversion.

A better question  – something that every customer can answer distinctly and that will give you tons of value every time and over time – is why they chose you.

Instead of asking “How did you hear about us?”, ask “Why did you choose us?”

It would be interesting to see if their answers map to your messaging.  If the trends you hear map to your content strategy.  If the words they use are included in your marketing materials, sales templates & scripts, etc.

That insight is rarely found in your CRM, your marketing automation platform, your attribution reporting.  But its value can improve everything.

Matt’s App of the Week: Scannable by Evernote

appoftheweek-300x284This is the latest in a series of weekend posts highlighting a wide variety of applications we think are pretty cool. Most have to do with sales, marketing and productivity. Check out past featured apps here.

I know every smartphone comes with a camera already.  Evernote clearly knows that too.  But what I love about not just how Evernote designs its core product but also its growing family of associated apps is that they know their users are looking for shortcuts.  We want fewer steps, greater efficiency.  Get it done and move on.

I’ve been testing Scannable this week primarily as a means of capturing/saving/sharing receipts, and it’s both faster than taking the photo and a pleasure to use.

First, Scannable immediately identifies the borders of what you’re scanning and crops the image for you.  Then, you can default settings for where the image is stored or sent.  Just a couple clicks and that receipt is scanned, shared, sent.  Done.

Works great with business cards too.

Worth a look.

B2B Reads: generating content & things that get in the way

best-blogsIn addition to our Sunday App of the Week feature, we also summarize some of our favorite B2B sales & marketing posts from around the Web each week. We’ll miss a ton of great stuff, so if you found something you think is worth sharing please add it to the comments below.

In the meantime, here’s some of what we’re reading:

Can you grow your organic traffic without generating content?
You can grow organic traffic without generating content, but it’ll be harder. Leveraging marketing can make organic traffic a lot simpler and easier. Good points, Neil Patel.

The ROI of influencer marketing
Influencer marketing works because it helps companies get validated and trusted if bigger influencers are validating them. Are you using influencer marketing? Good stuff, Monique Torres.

The things that get in the way of doing
We are surrounded by so many obstacles and distractions each and every day. Taking a step back to figure out what distracts you and finding a solution to that can be key. Great reminder, Leo Babauta.

5 little lead generation experiments you can run right now
“We need more leads.” That is the most heard phrase from sales teams to B2B marketers hands down. These are some great experiments to try! Don’t forget though that new leads won’t come in just over night. Good article, Lisa Toner.

25 of the best PowerPoint presentation examples every marketer should see
PowerPoint presentations are never ending in business. Make them stand out more and get your audience engaged. Great examples, Ginny Soskey.

How I find the right words to attract perfect clients
Writing and getting the words down on paper for why you would add value to your prospect can be challenging. Jill Konrath has some great advice to get the right message out.

Business blogging: 5 reasons you have no readers
The best place to start if your business blog isn’t working is to remind yourself why you started this blog. Then, think of these 5 reasons from Eleanor Pierce, and hopefully you can get your blog to be a hit!

The fallacy of the lazy millennial
There’s lots of talk about millennials needing constant attention and are too focused on social media. But that doesn’t make them any less smart. Less focus on the rumors, and more focus on the work at hand. Good article, CeCe Bazar and Dan Tyre!

How to conduct a content audit
Conducting a content audit is the first step before actually beginning to produce content. It will help you figure out where to start and how to shape your future projects. Good stuff, Rebecca Lieb.

15 inside sales statistics from last week’s AA-ISP Front Lines Conference

insidesalesphonesThere are many benefits to attending events like this in person – the leads, the learning, the networking.  Another is great speakers, especially those that root their points in hard data.

Below are 15 of the most important statistics I heard last week, along with their sources.  Feel free to use these in your organization to validate and drive real progress towards you own inside sales, pipeline management and sales acceleration efforts.

  • Your buyer gets 100+ emails a day, opens just 23% & clicks on just 2% of them (Tellwise) Tweet this
  • At any given time, only 3% of your market is actively buying. 56% are not ready, 40% are poised to begin (Vorsight) Tweet this
  • Automated & enforced sales processes generate 88% quota attainment (vs. 78% with merely “well documented” processes) (Velocify) Tweet this
  • 93% of converted leads are contacted by the 6th call attempt (Velocify) Tweet this
  • An outside sales call costs $308, an inside sales call costs $50 (PointClear) Tweet this
  • 46% of high-growth tech companies are growing via inside sales (vs. 21% using outside sales) (Harvard Business Review) Tweet this
  • Positive emotional connection is the #1 predictor of whether a millennial will buy (bad communication is #1 reason they won’t) (Harvard Business Review) Tweet this
  • Only 33% of inside sales rep time is spent actively selling. (CSO Insights) Tweet this
  • 44% of inside sales pipeline comes from marketing, and inside sales average dials are down 20% year-over-year (Bridge Group Inc) Tweet this
  • Sales leaders see lead volume/quality as more important than skills training & process (CSO Insights) Tweet this
  • 82% of buyers viewed at least 5 pieces of content from the winning vendor (Forrester) Tweet this
  • 71% of sales reps say they spend too much time on data entry (Toutapp) Tweet this
  • 37% of high-growth companies use inside sales as primary sales strategy (vs. 27% for field sales, 23% for internet sales, 8% for channel sales) (Pacific Crest) Tweet this
  • Texting after contact leads to a 112.6% higher lead to engagement conversion (Velocify) Tweet this
  • 78% of decision makers polled have taken an appointment or attended an event that came from an email or cold call (DiscoverOrg) Tweet this

“How I Work”: Brian Hansford, Director Client Services, Heinz Marketing Inc.

Brian Hansford“How I Work” is one of my favorite recurring features in Inc Magazine as well as via Lifehacker’s This Is How I Work Series, and recently several sales experts (including  Anthony IannarinoDave Brock and Trish Bertuzzi) participated as well.

Periodically moving forward we will feature a new B2B sales, marketing or business leader here answering what have become the standard “How I Work” questions.  You can catch up on everyone we’ve featured thus far in the “How I Work” series here.

This week I’m really excited to feature our own Brian Hansford, who runs our marketing technology practice.  He’s a jack of all trades – marketing and otherwise – managing our growing tech practice and a wide variety of amazing clients while also contributing consistently to our blog, staying active with several marketing tech platform user groups and more.  He’s a father of two, and an avid photographer and hiker.

Suffice it to say (and I know from first-hand experience!) Brian gets a ton done.  Here in his own words is how he does it.

Location: Redmond, WA

Current computers: Toshiba Portege

Current mobile devices: iPhone 5s and Amazon Kindle

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?  LinkedIn, Twitter, Evernote, Box, Paper.li, Google Alerts, Newsle, Gmail, Instagram and VSCOcam (I’m a photo freak). I use a lot of apps and services to help me discover and share content with people I work with, clients, and my social network.

What’s your workspace like?  Really simple. A glass top desk and a small rolling file cabinet. I have a small good luck bamboo plant and a basic desk lamp that adds some interest. The less clutter I have, the better.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or lifehack? Saying ‘no’ in order to focus on priorities. For about 8 years of my career I took on way too much and it had a significant impact on my family life and health. I’m honored and flattered at the professional and personal opportunities and projects that come up. But in the end it’s only fair to all involved to politely decline if I can’t engage the way that’s needed. Simple is good.

What everyday thing are you better at than anybody else? Professionally, I’m adept at designing business process workflows for marketing teams, which is why I love consulting for companies.  I can envision how people, content, technology and data must all work together for successful customer engagement. Personally, I’m a fairly solid pistol and rifle shooter and photographer.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager? Evernote and my Moleskine notebooks. Writing tasks in my notebooks helps me focus. I’m using Evernote more and more to help with task management.

What do you listen to while at work? I listen to everything. If there’s a good beat and strong bass line I’ll listen to it.  In a past life I was a band geek drummer and classically trained percussionist. My iTunes library is loaded with everything from alternative, classic rock, heavy metal, country, rap, classical electronic, and lots of 80’s songs.

What are you currently reading? “Beyond Pleasure and Pain – How Motivation Works” by E. Tory Higgins. I’m interested in the psychology and science behind human motivation. Fascinating read so far.

What’s your sleep routine like? I try to be asleep by 10:30 at the latest. Up at 5 am to go workout. I need my 7.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?  “Be the hero at the end of the year, not at the beginning.”  My father shared this business advice with me early in my career. The idea is that plans don’t mean squat without execution and effort.

Fill in the Blank: I’d love to see BLANK answer these questions. Beth Comstock, CMO at GE.

The most thoughtful set of core values & principles you’ll read this year

jordanritterJordan Ritter may be one of the more thoughtful CEOs I’ve ever met.  He’s certainly one of the most intentional, and devotes more time to considered, constructive feedback to those around him (employees, investors, peers, job candidates, etc.) than most executives who have achieved his resume.

Ritter was the co-founder of Napster, ran several Silicon Valley-based businesses, and now leads the Seattle-based and still-stealth Ivy Softworks.

I’ve had the pleasure and honor of getting to know Jordan a bit over the past year.  When he recently shared with me his company’s core values, principles & traits, it was no surprise how deep and meaningful each line was, and had for the make-up of his company.

With permission, I’ve included this single page of culture-defining content below.  Whether you’re running your own business, your own department, or simply want to manage your own perspective and approach more intentionally, I recommend the read and reflection.

Values

  • Craftsmanship: Insist on the highest standards. Strive for excellence in everything
    you do. Take pride in building meaningful things that last ­platforms, products, teams
    and cultures.
  • Experimentalism: Be opportunistic with learning, be fearless about the unknown,
    be willing to fail and try again. Seek out ways to challenge yourself and each other.
    There’s no instruction guide ; always be iterating and trying new things. [freedom,
    flexibility]
  • Inclusion:­ Listen with humility, speak with conviction. Be open to influence, nurture
    and invest in each other, dream and deliver together. [Empowering, tolerant,
    collaborative]
  • Obsession: Be obsessive about everything: technology, innovation, reinvention,
    each other and our community. Obsession is the rocket fuel of our creativity.
  • Adaptability: Strive for agility in thought and versatility in action. Befriend change
    and embrace it warmly; it is the only certain thing.
  • Bias towards Action: Insist on decisiveness and execution.  Doing is the engine
    of Done, and Done is the engine of More.

Ethos, Mindset & Principles

  • sooner is better, now is best
  • own it, make it work, get it done
  • done well > done correctly ­style is the difference between accomplishment and excellence
  • be fearless of failure, deliberate with risk
  • always be advancing
  • clean hands make you wrong; ­ get dirty and lead by example
  • challenge the normal, reject the mediocre, embrace the unknown
  • seduce the user
  • shipping is the most important feature
  • work hard, work smart, work together
  • leave things better than when you found them
  • celebrate everything
  • don’t forget to smile; you’re not having fun if you’re not smiling
  • adversity breeds ingenuity, exposure encourages positive progression
  • dirty your hands with endeavor, not speculation

Traits

  • authenticity and transparency
  • self­ sufficiency
  • organized and disciplined
  • critical thinking > problem solving
  • ownership mentality, – accountable & responsible
  • comfortable with ambiguity
  • high capacity for mastery, velocity of learning

How do I know if when my social media activity is “working”?

Guest post by Greg Meyer, customer service champion for Rival IQ

Many companies look at social media as a tool for conversations only. Why try to measure it when the results of an individual Tweet favorite or Facebook share might be hard to analyze in the context of your business? Reframing the question of measuring social media activity helps. First, ask: “what’s the overall goal?” for this activity and then measure with an eye toward reinforcing the overall goal.

tl;dr: there are some brands who tweet a lot – and many of them also produce results. Measuring the end goal will help you to understand if more results came from a particular social media channel.

or

as bank robber Willie Sutton apocryphally answered when asked why he robbed banks, “Because that’s where the money is.”

Here are a few ideas that will help you to measure your social media activity and better understand where you should be investing your time and energy. I used Rival IQ to make a landscape of social media experts – a group of companies that should be an excellent example to model the use of social media to drive business and not just conversation. If you’d like to use this list for yourself in a Rival IQ account, try it out here.

Start with what you know, and expand from there

So, how do you find out whether your social media activity is working? You might consider taking an approach you know is working already and try it out on social media to see if the results are similar.

For example, if you knew that a particular piece of blog content converted to leads/signups/paid customers, you might try:

  1. setting up specific short URLs for distribution on different services
  2. use Rival IQ to measure the frequency and engagement rate on a service
  3. use the Channel Overview (or on Twitter, use the Top Mentions Report) to confirm whether the URLs that were posted frequently or which got high engagement also resulted in better than average improvement on the other metric you’re tracking on the bottom line.

Social media is not a panacea. It’s a channel to use to build audience (who is the potential audience that might listen to what I have to say), activity (in which channel should I post to reach that audience), and engagement (when I posted, did anyone have anything to say about it and did they notice?).

If you don’t know how to start, measure what you’re doing

If you’re not sure what content you’re already producing that is making a difference in your business, start by taking a look at your activity and whether it’s gaining you any engagement today. A common question you might ask is: how much is too much when posting on Twitter? You’ll probably want to look both at the Engagement Total, or the total number of engagement actions in a channel (for Twitter this would be retweets and favorites), and also the Engagement Rate, or the same engagement actions divided by a multiple of 1,000 followers – using this rate normalizes the number a bit and makes it easier to compare the engagement response for both larger and smaller audiences on a social channel.

Here’s an example I built using a graph that shows the Average Engagement Total per Tweet graphed with a secondary metric of the Average Tweets per day for the ten companies in our example landscape. The point of doing this was to determine whether there are diminishing returns in a noisy Twitter account that posts very frequently. This is what it looked like over the period of one week:

gregmeyer1

(Try this graph yourself.)

 

Take a look at the same landscape using instead the Engagement Rate metric:


gregmeyer2

(Try this graph out yourself.)

What’s the Takeaway for Tweeting A Lot?

Using this graph gave me visible and actionable information about the use of social media in this landscape – specifically about the use of Twitter. I believe the graph demonstrates that for the past 7 days, tweeting more than 40 times day had diminishing returns, and that the social media types in this small sample generally get higher engagement at a rate of about 10 tweets per day.

Even if you think you are Tweeting a lot by tweeting once an hour during the work day, you probably have room to run. Adding more Tweets to your day simply increases the odds that some of your Tweets will be seen by your audience.

My Brand Doesn’t Tweet that Much. What should I do?

You might look at a group of Twitter accounts belonging to so-called Social Media Experts and think: “my brand doesn’t do this. I’m not sure this applies to me.” You should be paying attention, even though you don’t have that much content or engage that much on Twitter. It pays to share the same content – you might prepare several versions of single tweet – and use that variety to hook the people who are on Twitter by sharing the same content in different ways on Twitter.

Industry brands that follow “Best Practices on Twitter”, which is simply an observation of “brands that seem to do a good job by staying on brand, engaging with their customers, and getting a good response to the things they post” do an even better job of this practice. I switched Rival IQ landscapes and used a “Best Practices for Twitter” group of companies to see if the activity and engagement remained the same for brands with a large audience.

Even though these brands aren’t tweeting as much for the most part as the social media experts, many of them tweeted up to 20 times a day while still maintaining a high rate of engagement. In fact, the engagement rate for this best brand practitioners in this group averages 20-30x the engagement rate achieved by the social media experts. Having a large audience alone is not the secret to social media success – it’s creating great content and maintaining a strong emotional connection with your audience.

Here’s what the graph looked like for this group of companies who are doing a great job on Twitter:

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What should an individual account do to increase their activity and engagement?

What does this mean for an individual account, especially if you’re not part of a big brand? Put another way, how does the average person on Twitter increase the effectiveness of their activity and build engagement for their desired audience in their desired channel?

Let’s take a look at Anthony Iannarino (https://twitter.com/iannarino), one of the social media experts in our first list. To answer the question for Tony and whether he’s getting good engagement, the principles are the same as those for a big brand.

Here’s what brands should focus on to increase their engagement:

1) Optimizing the engagement rate or total per day. Whether you are tweeting just a few times a day or very frequently, use an analytics tool to measure your results. When you see the accumulated results over a 30 day or longer period, it’s time to analyze the data. Look at each day, view the content for that day, and notice if there are patterns, e.g. as in this graph:

The high points in each graph are the places where you’ll want to start taking a closer look. They represent successes in engaging more than the other target companies in that landscape on a particular day, and also give you the tools to look at larger weekly or monthly trends.

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2) Once you find a peak in engagement, look at the content that drove that success

The graph above has links to review the content for the day that had a high engagement total. Whether your analysis is based on setting up content links and measuring on which day and with which treatment they drove the best engagement total or engagement rate, or simply looking at the content produced and finding the peaks of engagement, finding the content matters.

Then, review what you see. Tweets do best when they include short, well-written content and use either a strategic hashtag or reference a timely content link (or both). The specifics for other channels and for your audience will vary, so if you start from a baseline and then seek to improve you’ll find the right mix for your brand.

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What does “is my social media working” really mean?

Answering the question of “does it work” is a custom answer for each brand. Getting the right data to answer the question starts with some exploratory questions, e.g.

  1. what metric are you trying to move?
  2. are you able to tie a move in that metric to activity in a particular social network?
  3. if so, does engaging more often or less often negatively affect the metric?
  4. if there is a positive impact or neutral, consider adding this practice to a regular analysis or connecting this analysis to another, broader campaign of content production.

Greg Meyer is the Customer Champion for Rival IQ – when he’s not talking to customers, he’s likely to be sharing thoughts on Twitter at @grmeyer.