Friday, February 28, 2014

Checking Out HootSuite During RSA Conference USA 2014

I didn't have time for the RSA Conference USA 2014 this week, or the dissident TrustyCon that sprang up as a reaction to the IT security sector's problems.  The only RSA-related event I was able to squeeze into my calendar was a "Connect" event from HootSuite.  I first noticed HootSuite thanks to their URL shortener but they have other free tools I plan to check out.  You can all check out this awesome action shot I took at the event.

HootSuite is serious enough about building its ecosystem that it offers its own tutorials at HootSuite University and is sponsoring a certification program through the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.  I expect a lot more social media marketing companies to start partnering with brand name universities.  It will be the only way traditional universities can compete with the MOOC onslaught that is revolutionizing education.

I like the concept of a social media dashboard that integrates multiple channel feeds.  The linkbait theme of this HootSuite event was that "social media managers are dead," so companies offering integrated dashboards make social media marketing everyone's business.  Anecdotes about CEOs engaging their audience through social media make for good PR but the ROI of solving one person's problem is hard to measure.

Social media marketers have said that social media should be at the top of an enterprise's purchase funnel.  I never saw a purchase funnel depicted in my MBA marketing class.  That means I got a worthless MBA, but I realized that long ago.  I should have learned from free sources instead, like this McKinsey Quarterly article from 2009 on how messaging must move outside the purchasing funnel.  McKinsey has also discovered that the networked enterprise has a clear payoff.

I had to look up a few new terms I heard at this event.  Dashboard like HootSuite's are useful in "social media audits."  A Google search of that term leads to bunch of marketing offers and this ISACA definition of a social media audit that is probably the most objective view on the subject.  The audit's use of a people / process / technology paradigm mirrors a common definition of knowledge management.  Take heed, KM folks, because you need to work with the marketing department's social media team to make sure everyone is tracking the right channels.  Someone else mentioned "social DNA" but my search results returned more stuff like a proprietary plug-in than a broad new concept.  Lo and behold, KMWorld discussed social DNA in 2013.  I like that the KM community puts its fingerprints all over these social media concepts.  The whole social DNA scheme needs a clearer definition, and I suspect it describes the extent to which enterprise search and other sharing tools have permeated both an enterprise's internal IT architecture and its corporate culture.  Every marketer should know how to measure "effective reach" and social media now extends that reach to multiple new channels.  

Forrester has a succinct discussion of the three types of social media strategies.  I had never heard of the "hub and spoke" strategy but a Google search reveals plenty of opinions on its execution.  Once again, the obvious requirement for KM integration jumps out at me from the hub and spoke model.  I think a social media dashboard that integrates well with a KM suite (namely MS SharePoint) would be awesome in an enterprise.

I had an epiphany after listening to HootSuite's executives and clients discuss the metrics they use to assess audience engagement.  Recent reports on fraudulent likes and followers in leading social media platforms have been a hard wake-up for marketers committed to effective ad spending.  I suspect that shares and retweets are far less prone to dishonesty than likes and follows, because they require users to engage with content instead of with a static social media presence.  In other words, it's easier for a paid liker in some "like farm" in a developing country's Internet cafe to like a whole bunch of Facebook pages than it is for them to share a message from that page.  It's similarly easier for a paid shill to follow a Twitter account than to retweet useful content.  That's my original insight, fellow Web denizens.  Measure your audience engagement with metrics focusing on shared content and not some static page's artificially inflated reach.  Sharing quality content really works.

The folks in attendance were mostly in their mid-20s to early 30s.  Now I know who buys all of the overpriced denim wear I see at hip clothing boutiques all over the Bay Area.  It's these young techies working for mobile startups and social media marketing companies, and they have disposable income for expensive but trashy clothing.  I filled up on free food and drink, and chatted up a bunch of attractive women.  Those are my own personal audience engagement metrics.

Full disclosure:  I have no business connection to HootSuite.  No one paid me anything to write this article.  I may use HootSuite's free tools at some point in the future.  I like free things because I'm a cheapskate.