How Leading Brands are Winning at Social Media: A Q&A with Hootsuite

Winning handWhen it comes to social media, most marketers are on board. We’re posting. We’re monitoring. We’re engaging. Fist bumps all around! It’s true, there are a few companies out there kicking serious social tail, but there are many more wondering why the magic of social isn’t working as well as they’d hoped.

To get some fresh perspective on what sets successful brands apart, I sat down (virtually) with Kevin O’Brien, VP of Solution Partners at Hootsuite, a leading social media management vendor. If you’re not familiar with Hootsuite, their solution provides monitoring, management and analysis of social networks to help companies streamline and optimize their social efforts. Hootsuite has more than 9 million users, including 744 of the Fortune 1000 companies, so I figured they’d have some unique insights to share on how best-in-class social brands are approaching social.

With over 18 years of leadership experience Kevin O’Brien builds and manages large scale partnership and channel programs at Hootsuite. Over the years he has created successful programs around distribution and reseller partners, app partners, and franchises. Here’s what he had to say:

2014 is well underway, if you had to advise marketers to pick 2-3 areas to focus their social efforts for the remainder of the year, what would they be?

Kevin: First and foremost, I’d tell them to focus on being the show, not the commercial. Where traditional marketing talks at people, content marketing talks with them. Marketers should aim to provide high-quality entertainment and value – never a sales pitch. It’s also important to be agile and responsive to news and trends, and not to be afraid to take frequent risks.

Marketers also shouldn’t overlook that power of building a strong social team. They should focus on hiring master storytellers, while still remaining open to ideas from everyone on the team.

Lastly, they should focus on strategies to scale content marketing, especially ways to repurpose compelling content across various channels, purposes, and industries.

When it comes to social listening and community management, what are some common habits of leading brands?

Kevin: There are a few that I think are really important:

Many of PadillaCRT’s clients have mastered the basics when it comes posting and community management. What advice do you have for organizations looking to take their social efforts to the next level?   

Kevin: As mentioned above, empower your team on social. Increase the footprint of employees participating in social across the organization. For example, one third of all posts that mention a brand by name are customer-service related. Organizations should make sure the customer care team is integrated with the social team so those posts can be tracked, and easily assigned to the appropriate teams for follow up, and quick response. This is essential to driving positive brand engagement, and higher customer satisfaction.

On the sales front, there are studies that indicate buyers are 70% of their way through the purchase process before they even speak with a sales executive. There’s no question that buyers are getting information, and doing their research online and through social channels. As such, companies must empower their sales teams to take advantage of the power of social – set them up with social tools such as uberVU via HootSuite so they can track industry leaders, competition, and prospects, as well as being able to amplify their existing clients.

What are the biggest challenges you see companies encountering as they try to expand use of social in different functions (ie HR, customer service, sales) or geographies?

Kevin: There are two things that stand out in my mind: integration and training. From an integration perspective, organizations are trying to understand how social fits (or should fit) in with the business systems (CRM, support ticketing, talent management, etc.) they already use on a daily basis. Creating a proper workflow for how social monitoring and engagement is integrated with the other critical business systems is key.

Training can be a challenge as well. Employees need to receive proper training on any new technology, including social platforms, to ensure they are successful. This has been a major focus for us at HootSuite. We provide training through an educational arm of the company called HootSuite University, and we also work with organizations to create customized training program as needed.

Last question: What social trend or technology do you think is going to have the biggest impact on brands in the next year?

Kevin: The trend towards empowering more team members on social will help brands maximize the impact of social. Companies are taking a close look at how to put social tools in the hands of employees. And perhaps more importantly, they’re demonstrating a commitment to providing them with the training and skills they need to use those tools effectively. That’s good news for both brands and employees – it creates an opportunity for employees to become brand advocates and helps amplify the brand’s message through personal networks.

Successful companies aren’t sitting on the sidelines and leaving it up to customers, investors, journalists and competitors define their brand on social media. Instead, they’re building a legion of brand advocates who can jump into the conversation on the company’s behalf, and they’re defining strategies for coordinating their advocates to maximize impact. Fortunately, the best potential brand advocates are easy to access and they’re ready and waiting to participate: existing employees. Now, it’s up to brands to give them the tools and training they need to do so effectively.

Image: Images Money via Flickr, CC 2.0

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