We are very excited to welcome Peter Friedman to our expert interview series today! Peter is the Chariman and CEO of LiveWorld, a social content marketing company that provides management of user content through innovative technology, and leading-edge services.

Prior to LiveWorld, Peter was VP and General Manager of Apple’s Internet Services Devision, where he oversaw the creation and management of social media services such as AppleLink, eWorld, AOL, and Salon. During his tenure at Apple, Peter managed Business Systems Marketing and product line management in the Macintosh division. He’s also provided multiple global brands with strategic social media guidance and delivered hundreds of social media programs including Unilever’s Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, the American Express Member’s Project, and Walmart’s Facebook and Twitter programs.

11 Questions on Content Marketing With Peter Friedman

1. How did you get your start in the industry?

Way back in 1984, in the Macintosh Division of Apple Computer, I was the product manager and later Apple’s marketing manager for networking and communications, which included online services. Eventually, I became the VP & General Manager of Apple’s Internet Services Division. Among other programs, even back into the mid-80s, Apple had a worldwide online community or social network for the Apple industry, called AppleLink. All Apple employees, developers, retailers, user group leads, K-12 and university leads, and even corporate IS execs supporting Macintosh, were on this network, about 50,000 people all together, building and experiencing Apple’s culture and products together through dialogue and relationships. Many aspects of today’s world of social media trace back to that group and other groups at Apple. A core group of us left Apple in 1996 to start LiveWorld, which was and is dedicated to helping large brands deepen their customer relationships – Same as we did for Apple, with AppleLink. Back in the late ‘90s we also created and ran for a while a consumer facing community web site called Talk City. A precursor to today’s world of Facebook and other social networks.

2. What is the biggest challenge facing your industry?

Getting past all the vendor noise and helping clients focus on creating and managing solutions that impact their business. The hype is confusing and distracts from that focus. On the solution side, the greatest potential with social media is real time learning about your customers and markets. The challenge is taking all the data and turning it into actionable insight.

3. What do you think is the future of your industry?

It’s huge and positive. For all the growth, and all that hype, and even for those of us who are longer-term veterans, we’re still at an early stage. A great many people are on social media and using it quite a bit, but the upside in usage is still staggering.

4. How do you address context when creating content?

The most important element to keep in mind is that social media is more about dialogue and relationships among your customers than it is about your brand’s own content. So the critical context is not your brand, but rather what your customers think and care about. How they have conversations and build relationships with each other. Most social media marketing today is still traditional broadcast content, shoved through and at customers, through social media channels. That needs to change.

5. How do you build a successful content marketing strategy?

First, we lay out a client’s business goals and overall brand positioning. We then develop a socialized version of the brand positioning with a basic premise that content in social media is about fostering dialogue and relationships first among, and then with, your customers. Using a party metaphor, we develop a social cultural model that sets the story, tone and context for how customers will experience the brand through dialogue and relationship with each other. From here, it’s relatively straightforward to build out content that supports the cultural metaphor, or the kind of party the brand wants its customers to attend, experience and be the drivers of. A really great example is the Zoetis EQ Stable Facebook page. We worked with Zoetis, the largest animal pharma company, to develop a cultural model for their customers in the horse industry, then the content programming, launch and management of the page. Among other results, Zoetis has achieved a phenomenal 29% engagement rate.

6. Can marketers truly deliver personalized content? How do you address the challenges associated with it?

Yes. While some companies rely on content personalization algorithms to personalize what is essentially broadcasted brand content, we have a simpler and more effective approach. We create a dialogue and relationship model among the brand’s customers as described above. In this model the customers are providing most of the content and by definition they have already personalized it for themselves and socialized it for each other. The brand provided content is designed to drive that dynamic.

7. What metrics matter for your business? And, how do you track these various metrics?

We’re probably the longest around, most experienced social media company. Even so, we are still a small, startup type business, so revenue growth and adding new clients are the top metrics. But we are also looking to build a company for the long term, so helping customers solve their problems and growing our relationship with them is our main focus. Not just get them to buy our products short term. For our clients, we are focusing on deepening customer relationships. That means we look for true engagement metrics, dialogue and loyalty. Not just fan volume or simple engagement volume. Also and perhaps more important is helping our client to learn more about their customers through social media.

8. Does content differ based on channels? If so, how do you address it?

Yes and here I’m talking about traditional vs. social media channels and between different channels within social media. Too many social media marketing programs are still traditional TV, print, digital and PR content models shoved through social media channels at customers. Even if there is some interactive elements, that doesn’t make it social. It needs to foster dialogue and relationships to be social. This is less about clever copy, graphics and widgets and more about conversation.

Then within social media, we also have to understand that each channel (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.) is a different context and experience for customers and as such the content needs to be tailored to it. Today, driven by efforts to scale and publishing tool vendor noise, many companies take a “one post fits all channels” approach. You might as well take the same exact print ad and put it in a high-end fashion magazine, a general news magazine, the local weekly newspaper, on TV and on radio. Perhaps it saves on time and cost, but it fails to leverage the context of the medium, customers notice it’s generic, and in the case of social media see it as spam. Worst of all, when community managers take this one post fits all channels approach, they distance themselves from the actual dialogue dynamics of their customers in each channel.

The best approach is to first recognize that each channel is different. Then balance your channel strategy against your resources. If you don’t have the resources to do multiple channels well, don’t. Better to go deeper on fewer channels, than thin on many. Then pay attention to the unique elements of each channel, and how your customers can experience your value-add through that channel (ideally based on the social cultural model discussed above).

9. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

Define your business goals upfront, and develop a plan that goes with them. Listen and dialogue with your customers to get a sense of what they care about and the type of conversational programming they’ll respond to. Focus your content more on them than on your brand. Better to go deep in fewer channels than thin across many. Learn from your customers as you go and be prepared to change course quickly and often.

10. What are some of your best practices?

1) Define business goals up front.

2) Set a social cultural model as context.

3) Content should be more customer centric than brand centric.

4) Prioritize engagement over fan metrics.

5) Listen to, embrace and engage your customers. Don’t dictate to, control or run away from them.

11. Where can we find you on the web/on Twitter/Facebook/etc.?

Twitter

Facebook

LinkedIn

Pinterest

Instagram

Google +

Peter’s Twitter: @PeterFriedman

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