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Social media and the campaigns that drive brand success, are nothing without the people that make things happen!
Each week we profile one innovative industry executive and get them to answer 12 questions. Then, we share their insight with you! But this week… we are switching it up! Welcome to our very first ’12 Questions’ podcast.
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But before we get started, why don’t we hear a little bit about Alex and how he ended up in social media?
Yea, so my name is Alex and I founded ContentCal or what was previously known as ASTP, now ContentCal in 2013. I used to work for Sky in NowTV their department that launched the competitor to Netflix. I started the company as an agency because it was a business model that I could learn very quickly from some of my experience at Sky and over the last few years, having gone through some funding rounds and an accelerator we’ve pivoted pretty much completely now into ContentCal. There is a whole other back story that goes with it but we have pivoted quite strongly into tech focused services as a business that provides a calendar solution and a collaboration tool for brands and agencies to work on content creation, content approvals, content editing and everything like that in one system, fully centralised. And then we also, because we existed as an agency before, we provide services that support that.
So yeah, it is an exciting time. We are growing very quickly at the moment. Which is cool and… it’s a pleasure to be on the podcast.
No thank you for stopping by!
So right from the start, what we want to do is kind of get a feel for your use of social media and what you find the most effective and overall what your thoughts are on social media in general.
About Social Media in General
1. If you had to pick, what would be your favourite social media platform?
At the moment, by far is Instagram. Ironically, had you have asked me about 6 months ago I would have said Snapchat. I was in America and literally everyone I met was asking me ‘Are you on Snapchat?’, ‘How can I find you?’ And ever since Instagram have gone on their old copy hard strategy and pretty much replicated their entire app, I’m massively enjoying it. I think it is certainly the most creative platform. It is the most fun with the stories piece, and definitely the most engaging. I just think the biggest problem they’ve got is that they have too many fake accounts, like everyone else. So I think that is the biggest problem with it. But I absolutely love Instagram and I think it’s the most powerful platform for brands as well.
2. So then at ContentCal, what do you guys focus your social media efforts on?
I would say in reality, its still Facebook. Simply because it has such scale now. I mean literally, in my opinion they are the most impressive business that has been created in the last 10-15 years. The kind of main thing is they just have so much reach, and targeting capabilities that no one else unfortunately can copy. They know so much about everybody. I would definitely say Facebook… yeah… hands down.
3. So then what’s your opinion as to the future of social media? And what platforms will lead the way?
So the future for social media is an interesting one because its still relatively new. And I believe quite firmly that cycles of how things are used happen every 10-15 years… 20 years in reality. The thing you’re seeing now is that everybody is becoming an editor of their own magazine or TV show through their own social platforms. So the most interesting thing about the future of that is how if you are a brand and a marketer, how do you tap into it? But also, as just a general person, how is the usage of that going to change over time. Is there ever going to be a boiling point where its not going to be as positive? Or I guess there are non positive aspect about social that is happening now to a certain extent. People are getting too self-conscious about what they read and see on Instagram as being truthful or whatever platform for that matter when in reality its not.
I think the kind of attitude that should be healthy to raise about social from a marketing, or just a general user point of view is that everything is edited. It is a magazine. It is only certain things that you see and they same comes from brands. But I think the future of it is fascinating though.
I mean the connection between people and the fact that you can literally find someone and find quite a reasonable bit of information about people and build relationships is fantastic. But I think for businesses its still such an under-utilised tool at sort of senior level. There is just a long way to go really. Sorry. Blabbing. There is just a long way to go with businesses which is very exciting.
So then, where do you see authentic content going? Do you see it growing or dissolving?
It will grow. Yeah… I do think it will grow. I think um… people are realising the have no choice basically. I mean if you look at the whole fake news scenario that is going on. It is basically proliferated on social media because that’s how much people are reading fake news and sending people back to websites. I think the user and customer base of brands and editorial readership across the globe in a way are getting very hot on the fact that things are not real and people are starting to speak up and say when things aren’t real from brands from publishers, from agencies and etc. So I think it is definitely going to improve. I think everyone in the agency world and everyone in the brand world welcomes improvements in the authenticity of content. I think the days of churning content out for the sake of it are coming to an end. And I hope they do.
About Great Social Media Campaigns
4. Please tell us about one of your favourite social media campaigns to date.
Oooo… favourite social media campaign to date… I can’t say one of the only ones I did at Sky back at in the day, even though some of them are probably my favourite. I mean I could go with the real obvious one like the ALS Challenge, which was… you know, a global phenomenon at the end of the day and one of the most creative uses of social and just a creative thing on the planet to be fair. So that is an amazing one to date. From a brand, it is quite hard because I don’t get the chance to watch many other brands doing stuff these days.
But less about an example about a brand, and more about the mechanics that I like, are things that drive huge amounts of word of mouth. So to give you an example, we did run one at Sky which was “Tweet for a Ticket”. The idea was that you had to Tweet a certain message to get a free ticket to one of NowTV’s first ever launch of the sport product. There are loads of variations on the ‘Tweet for this’, and there are some lovely ones that innocent did years ago. Anything that drives mass word of mouth from consumers in some sort of gamefied way, that collects data and drives fun to a certain extent, because that is what social media is all about… for the people and not the brands. Anything along those lines I absolutely love! And I think the only risk that companies have at the moment, and you will tend to see less of it over time, because its very hard to track ROI unless you are a very big brand that does all of the brand trackers and that sort of stuff.
5. What is your favourite campaign that you have worked on?
Ooo I have done loads so… one of the best ones we did was ran Vine actually. So, when I was at Skyy – NowTV we did ‘The World’s Smallest Movie Festival’. And it wasn’t the idea that it was small in size or scale, but that you had to do a submission into the entries like ‘Best Horror’ in a Vine 6 second video. And it was one of the first uses of Vine by brands, which we absolutely love. We were working with an agency called Holler which are now apart of Leo Burnett which I absolutely loved working with. But yeah… we did this micro-site which pulled in Vine videos. Entries had to be created with a certain hashtag which automatically put you in for #BestHorrorMovie, #BestComedy and it was very innovative for a company… they took a reasonable risk on doing that campaign, because it wasn’t a directly trackable ROI blah, blah, blah, blah…. but it was awesome! When you think about that, unfortunately Vine doesn’t exist anymore but its a good use of different pieces of content, and it was unique and really good fun to do.
6. So when creating a successful social media campaign. What do brands and agencies need to keep in mind?
I mean, objectives are really quite critical, so obviously, I could be really quite boring but I think the problem a lot of companies still have is there are still quite a lot of silos in social media – particularly with my experience on the corporate side of things unless you have got a very good leader. Which, when I was at Sky, we luckily did have. It is the same with companies we work with even at the smaller scale. Unless you have a really good leader that empowers and believes in the social media side of things, but also understands the innovations and its limitations. So there are no unrealistic expectations that are: ‘Now we are on Facebook we should be super successful because everybody is talking about us’ – that is just ridiculous.
It’s anything that has that proper infrastructure in place that goes: ‘I understand that social media and the whole word of mouth piece will drive awareness, leads, sales but it won’t ever be a directly linear campaign type thing that a paid search campaign might be.’ I think it is just about putting it in context and using it properly and just being very aware of what it can and can’t do for your business. Anyone I work with that has that approach and takes the same approach with all of their other marketing channels, I tend to see winning a lot.
7. So then what is the most important KPI brands and agencies need to watch during a campaign?
It depends on who you are, what your doing and everything else pretty much. It’s a bit of a dry one. But I would say it totally depends. If you are raising awareness it would be looking at things like: reach, impressions, frequency of that campaign and etc. If you are looking at community growth / audience pool that you can talk to- despite organic reach being very slow… you should be looking at: likes but don’t just do a like ad campaign do something creative along with it that is going to help you actually generate some engagement. If you are focused on sales, then do through a sales funnel and then re-targeting and blah, blah, blah. So… its a tricky one. And again, it comes back to knowing what you’re doing with your social strategy. Are you trying to do 3 or 4 things where you would then need a social acquisition campaign or just presence. Are you community based? Are you help based? So its’ just about knowing really.
KPIs are different per every business and that’s one of the things I found most fascinating. We must have worked with over 100 businesses in the last 2 years both tiny ones and big ones and KPIs are impossible to standardise. It’s always a good challenge to be fair, and it is always stuff people like to talk about.
The one thing I would say though is doing anything without a KPI is pointless. So always have something. Even if oyu’re spending £25 on an ad campaign. What do you want to achieve from it?
About The Future Of Social Media Marketing
8. What will be the role of social media in the marketing mix of the future?
I think it will continue to play a stronger role than ever before to be honest. I mean again, if we go back to the things we were talking about earlier there aren’t many companies other than Facebook and Google that have the scale that anybody else does. In fact, by 2020 71% of all online media will be spent on Facebook and Google– which is insanity. So I have a lot of friends that work in the more print and traditional based media and they are very concerned. I don’t blame them. But the biggest thing that will happen in the next 12-24 months like every other media channel, it will start to get regulated. The only ones that aren’t at the moment are online: Programmatic (which some social media is delivered through) display advertising, search and etc. etc. So, from that point of view I wouldn’t be surprised if someone puts their hand up and says we need to start regulating these things; especially based on fake clicks and all of that sort of stuff.
So it will play a continually increased role and over the time that it becomes more important, and especially as you start to see the levels of money being ploughed into content strategies and ads people will start to demand some sort of regulation, just likes anyone else. And when industries get regulated, they tend to slow down a bit – it will be fascinating to see but I only see it playing a more increasingly beneficial role to companies and the marketing mix. I think it is pretty central to every angle of marketing: acquisition, paid, retention, advocacy and blah blah blah blah.
Everything really does tie back to social.
It really does, and that’s why I think it has become such a phenomenon.
9. So then what is the biggest obstacle of social media marketing?
Buy in from senior stake holders. I think the biggest obstacle is that there are a lot of people in the marketing industry that don’t get it. I think there are a lot of people in the industry that what they did last year and repeat stuff because that’s what they are comfortable with. so buy in is really difficult. So again, I go back to some of the stuff that I have had to do, getting buy in requires a bit of a bulldozer approach if people aren’t getting it – especially at corporates that are quite slow and even in small businesses. You can never directly track the return on any marketing to be honest with you. But I think that as the younger generation gets older and slips into more management style positions it will become easier and I think people will take it more seriously.
But I think, like I said before, if it gets regulated I think people are going to really start to question am I actually getting 10k video views… is anyone actually watching it? Because in TV you can’t say to someone you got those 10k video views if no one is actually watching it or at least in the lounge so to speak or whatever. But we will wait and see…
10. If you had to give one piece of advice to someone who has just started out in the industry, what would it be?
So… god, when I first started… I’ll tell you an interest story actually. The only reason I got into social media marketing was because I was at uni in Cardiff and I was on my laptop all the time obviously, doing the same as everyone else was really mainly on Facebook, doing no actual work. And then I had this really weird moment that me and my friend would choose all of the bars and all the restaurants and basically anything we would do socially based on what we saw on our Facebook feed. And this was probably pre-big social media strategy… 2007 or 2008… something like that. And I basically while I was studying business, I started to realise that I was making quite “serious purchase decisions” – alcohol and food – all heavily influenced by what I saw on Facebook via my friends.
So, I would say to anyone in the industry or trying to get a role in the industry… off the back of my revelation I started reading a lot- educating myself as much as possible on marketing. I even tried to start working in it as quickly as possible and started a freelance social media consultancy while still at uni.
Just be very aware of your surroundings and why you buy certain things and then start to think about is that linking back to what I’m seeing on my social channels and be brutally aware of that. Because once you start to clog in your head these things, you have almost nailed the strategic approach to social media vs. just the doing bits. Once you start to understand buyer psychology, and the link of that to social that is the bit that I would really go all in on that and then you can work out what you like from there really i.e. paid media, content, listening bit – there are so many facets to it.
So you think the all around approach is better than honing in on one specific skill?
Yeah because you always have time to concentrate on focusing. You could do a year of everything and then spend the rest of your career focusing on one thing. A lot of people say you should pin yourself down at the start, but I personally disagree. Have a look at all of it and see what you like.
11. In your opinion, what is the ad format of the future?
Ad formats are fascinating. It is interesting, because so many companies online and offline are having to come up with new ad formats as a means of continuing to drive revenue effectively. I think there is going to be an increasing problem with adverts that aren’t being talked about. There is a lot of influencer marketing happening. People are being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds and not telling people its an ad. And I think… that right now is the premium, best ad you can buy apart from big traditional TV spots because the millions of followers of these people don’t know that someone has paid them to do that. So I think that as an ‘ad spot’ is quite an interesting one to watch at the moment because as soon as it becomes blatant (i.e. if it becomes regulated) nearly every other post is paid for by ‘Unilever’ or whoever really. It is going to be very interesting to see how that develops over time, because people I would imagine have caught on to more than there aren’t at the moment.
I think some of the good things that have happened from the pressure on the industry is that people have had to become more creative about what their ad formats are. I think people are going to become quite sick of display banners and etc. and people are going to be forced to come up with creative solutions and I think that is good all around for everybody basically.
12. Finally, tell us one thing someone would NOT be able to find about you from looking at your social media profiles.
Ah… you asked me this before and I looked an I didn’t know. There is one fun fact though to be fair. You probably won’t notice this from any of my social media platforms, but I play the drums. Its not that exciting, but when I was younger, I used to be a really keen drummer and I don’t think I have played for about 5 years! But I saw on Dragon’s Den the other day, they have come up with this idea that you can actually plug a drumming system into your computer and actually drum to the air. So I decided to buy myself one of those! It was only like £100 or something like that – so you can basically build a drum kit out of thin air, so that should be cool.
But I don’t think anything like that is on my social media platforms. That is an interesting and good question though, because if you looked on Facebook, you would see a much different Alex to if you looked on LinkedIn or Instagram. And that ties back to what I said earlier really, everything is edited and I think people should really remember that.
Brilliant! Thank you so much for stopping by Alex!
Live from London, you’ve been reading (or listening) to WeRSM’s 12 Questions podcast featuring ContentCal’s CEO and Founder, Mr. Alex Packham. For more brilliant industry insights stay tuned weekly.
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