A few months ago, I sat down with Steven Sefton, Digital and Social Media Director for Zap Designs, to discuss a variety of topics including the changing face of marketing; where different verticals fit; how the UK and North American markets are different; where influence marketing is heading; and much, much more.
Below, you can find part one of that chat (which originally appeared on The Social Penguin), centred around the shifting face of marketing, and how demographic buyer differences between the UK and North America impact tactics.
I hope you enjoy, and you can find the concluding part here.
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Are companies truly embracing social media (or at least seriously considering it) or do many still think it’s a fad?
Danny: No, although it’s much better than it was just a year or so ago. The problem remains poor information and conflicting advice. “Be everywhere”, “be focused”, “blog”, “don’t blog”, “social media is owned by marketing”, “social media is owned by everyone”. And on, and on, and on…
When you have that kind of confusion coming at you from all angles, you can see why businesses are unsure on what to do next. Combine that with the continued and very wrong assumption that social media is purely for relationships, and you can’t – shouldn’t – measure ROI on it, and I’m surprised any businesses are even considering social!
The good thing is, there are some very smart people trying to change the conversation and move us away from the warm fuzz mindset that so many consultants are clinging to as their business model. The trick is in getting these people heard, versus those with the easy soundbites.
What was the last social media campaign that was a success in your eyes?
Danny: I’m going to cheat a little here, and share the one we used as the case study in the opening chapter of our book. MV-1 Canada was trying to launch their dedicated, as opposed to retro-fitted, mobility vehicle into Canada.
With limited budget and no market penetration, they used our model of influence marketing, combined with social campaigns as well as on-foot outreach, and gained a 20% market share in the first 12 months of sale. For anyone that says social media doesn’t equate to real business ROI, I respectfully suggest they think again.
They say social media and digital in the UK are lagging behind our northern American friends. Do you believe this?
Danny: I think it depends – there are some great agencies and consultants in the UK. People like Shannon Eastman, Paul Sutton, Andrew Burnett and more like them are paving the way for some really great forward thinking.
And in Canada, I’d say many businesses are lagging behind their American and UK counterparts, often because of the longer buy-in cycle that many Canadian businesses have, as well as the reduced budgets compared to their US counterparts.
It’s like most things – there are great examples and there are poor examples. I think the greater are starting to outweigh the poorer, and these countries are getting much closer to each other.
How does social media and digital work compare in general by brands and agencies from the UK to Northern America?
Danny: I find the UK is still very much focused on email as the lead social marketing tool, versus say an influence campaign or a social marketing one across networks.
This ties into UK social users preferring email as their primary means of communication from retailers, versus social channels.
Buying signals are also very different. UK consumers are still very much geared towards connecting with companies for discounts and low-cost goods, whereas in the NA market, consumers need more data and information before they commit to offering up their contact details. It’s a very two-way thing.
This means NA marketers need to have a far more tangible offer than a simple discount or special offer, while UK marketers have a slightly easier buy-in. This would suggest the loyalty factor would be something that NA brands focus on, versus the stack-‘em-high, sell-‘em-cheap UK marketplace.
Many companies are still finding it hard to merge the different departments within an organisation. How can companies manage the link between PR, Social and SEO?
Danny: By understanding they all need each other. There are still too many silos within businesses of all sizes, not just the bigger organisations. Companies that understand this and break down these silos are the ones that enjoy bigger success, because they understand the strengths of a fully integrated approach.
Different consumers use different methods to research, connect, purchase and review. If you’re still focusing on one core method over another, you’re going to miss these nuances and then wonder why your conversions sucked.
Understand that all three disciplines work better when aiming towards a common goal. Let’s face it, it doesn’t really matter which department you feel should lead – every single one’s goal should be both the short and long-term success of the business. Gelling currently silo’d departments together isn’t just common sense, it’s business acumen sense.
How do you see SEO, social and content converging in the future?
Danny: There won’t be any divergence – there shouldn’t be today. It’s all marketing, pure and simple.
- SEO – traffic to a destination for the goal of conversion (marketing).
- Social – building two-way conversation for brand awareness that evolve into customers (marketing).
- Content – thought leadership and advice for the purpose of attracting readers to your destination to evolve into customers (marketing).
Buzz words like content marketing, social marketing and yes, influence marketing, are simply soundbites that take away from the simple fact that it’s all still just marketing. That’s the hub – everything else is the spoke that’s used as and when needed.
It’s about how we use social search to define local SEO queries; how paid media drives social activity; how content educates and supports brand acquisition, whether that’s social ads, PPC, SEM, etc. There’s no separation – it’s simply marketing with a common goal.
Realise that, and we don’t have to worry about silos and how disciplines will converge.
Don’t forget to check out the concluding part of this interview here.
image: Rubin Starset