Let’s face it. Work has always been social. Since people first started working in offices, they have been sharing ideas, solving problems and wasting time together.
We were creating, sharing and approving our charts, graphs, photos and stories with our co-workers, customers and prospects well before we started calling it “content”. As time and tech marched on, this kind of collaboration, which we’ve always done, began to be classified as “social”.
Microsoft’s recent $26.2B acquisition of LinkedIn reinforces that work is social. Work is not just about completing tasks using applications rather it revolves around the people who are working, communicating and collaborating together.
Marketing is one of the most collaborative and social functions in business. We have a myriad of external partners and vendors with whom we actively create and refine the content that comprises our programs and campaigns. We might work with designers, writers, agencies, analysts, videographers, photographers and more over the course of a single campaign. In addition to external team members, we also work with a wide set of internal SMEs, stakeholders and approvers who have a pivotal role to play.
This level of complex collaboration is a critical factor in the overall success of modern businesses. As this Harvard Business Review article notes, the best marketing leaders actively engage in creating company strategy by effectively “linking their departments to general management and other functions”.
A marketer’s work to create innovative and effective assets and content is fraught with challenges. Just keeping up with the 24/7 need to feed the beast with fresh material is a grind. Content must work across multimedia channels, which means working with a range of different creators, many of who will be external independent contractors. Ensuring that this complex team works effectively together requires communication to be seamless and transparent.
And it doesn’t end there. Once you have the content, then you must secure buy-in from approvers and other stakeholders who don’t necessarily understand why you can’t just go viral like that other brand who suddenly started appearing in their Facebook feed.
And it doesn’t even end there. Because once you have approval on the work, another process kicks in as the content needs to be adapted for all the different mediums and launched in an integrated way by many distinct channel owners both within and outside the company. This public Google Doc created by marketing blogger David Sealey lists a mind-bending number of potential digital and physical channels, from affiliates to YouTube and beermats to wearables.
This is the reality of today’s forward thinking, innovative marketer. It’s no wonder a recent survey of marketing and creative professionals showed that one in three people had worked on a project that was late and over-budget in the past 12 months. 66% of marketers surveyed were managing their content creations process in email, and 70% of them admitted that it is an ineffective tool for the job. Managing creative and content development projects with video, photo, psd and jpeg assets in a platform like email is madness. So it’s not surprising that Microsoft – owners of the world’s most popular professional email platform, Outlook – looked for something a little more social. But LinkedIn isn’t the answer for marketers’ day-to-day challenges.
Any social collaboration tool for Marketing needs to:
1) Make it easy for internal teams and external freelancers, agencies and vendors to work together on creating and refining common content. Too often marketers are forced to use a myriad of half-based solutions to deal with each different partner, which is a major creativity blocker and a huge time suck.
2) Provide project stakeholders and approvers with a single place to view, provide feedback on and approve final versions of this content. In that survey I mentioned earlier, 85% of people said that getting clear final approval on creative projects is a major issue, so something is definitely broken right now.
3) Allow for easy sharing of this content with channel owners for a timely, effective campaign launch. This doesn’t mean investing in an insanely complex media asset management system that requires pedantic oversight from someone obsessed with file naming conventions and folder structures. Apps need to be easy for everyone to adopt.
Marketing’s complex process and need for collaboration is why marketers and creative professionals need a social productivity service built specifically for us. LinkedIn is too high-level, while “social” tools like Slack and Basecamp are not specific to unique challenges faced by people working in marketing functions.
Being social is not enough. Marketers need the ability to seamlessly engage with all of the different marketing stakeholders – vendors, freelancers, agencies, internal management, sales stakeholders and channel owners – around our content in relevant ways.
As Microsoft’s LinkedIn acquisition shows us, the trend for social business and collaboration tools continues. Marketing functions are a unique challenge. As you look for social tools to benefit your marketing function, keep in mind their complex collaboration, content creation and sharing requirements, and ensure the solution is built for marketing.
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