Econsultancy is a UK based organisation that aims to make the online experience better for consumers and businesses. Aside from that worthy quest, they have an amazing online resource for all marketers, including a truly excellent blog. I ran some questions past Matt Owen, the man in charge of social media at Econsultancy.
1 – Tell us what you do in 140 characters or less?
I talk to digital marketers and try to help them out.
2 – Give us the elevator pitch for Econsultancy?
We always say we’re trying to make the online experience better, one website at a time. A complete resource for digital marketers? We have a lot of things happening – best practice and market data research, events, training, qualifications… so we probably need a ‘freight elevator pitch’ at least!
3 – Econsultancy has an excellent blog, how important is the blog to the business?
Incredibly important. We like to think that everything we do is based around great content. The blog is the best way to ensure that the content reaches people. Our social channels are an extension of that, where we can target content more accurately. We try hard to cut through the usual marketing waffle and just get the most relevant stuff to the people who need it.
The blog is the most visited page on the site, so it drives a huge amount of traffic, and is great for positioning the company as a thought leader, as well as more concrete monetary value. We can promote and upsell reports and services there. Previously we published insight and opinion, but we’ve now added a news operation to the mix, which is a useful way of attracting audiences who may not have known about us before.
We’re in the middle of overhauling the blog as well, with a new look and a greater emphasis on opinion and segmenting useful content –exciting stuff for us.
4 – What do you think of the recent Facebook/Instagram story? Has the world gone mad?
Haha, it IS a LOT of money isn’t it? I don’t think it’s madness though. Some commentators have said it smacks of desperation on Facebook’s part, but I think it shows that Facebook isn’t stagnant and is willing to make brave moves.
I do think there’s a bit of a bubble forming – is Path really worth $250 million? But currently it’s being over-egged in the press because it makes a good headline.
The disillusion on the part of Instagram users will go away over time, providing Facebook can resist the temptation to meddle with the simplicity of the app. Just add sharing in and leave it. It’ll be useful for people to be able to store all their pics within Facebook. I always think Facebook’s biggest problem is that no one really, really loves it anymore. It’s just a useful thing that’s there. Loving it would be like loving telephones. It’s a smart move for FB to offer things people do love, on an personal and an artistic level.
Is Instagram worth $1bn? Probably not, but it’s a great app with a strong user base and it adds to Facebook’s functionality so I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad move.
5 – Do you feel that the social media channel is starting to reach maturity as a business/marketing tool?
That’s actually a really hard question to answer. I think it’s becoming more integrated, and (some) businesses are realizing the incredible things you can do with data now, but I think that’s true of the marketing industry at large.
We’re seeing big increases in marketing-sales automation, and lately more tech/sales crossover as well. I think the really successful companies will be the ones that adopt more of a spoke and hub organizational structure going forward, with more collaboration and information sharing, which social is ideally positioned to lead, as it tends to work most effectively when it’s inclusive within a company.
I think in general businesses will just have to adopt an ‘ego-less’ model, with staff who know a bit about everything and have a specialism. We’ll see…
People tend to think of ‘maturity’ in terms of ‘does it turn a profit?’. Of course it does, but I think a lot of people still struggle with the dreaded ROI question. The return is whatever you want it to be. If you use it as a PR channel, it won’t make as much cash as a sales-orientated campaign. That’s obvious, but still not understood by a lot of users.
That said, it’s still early days for social. Listen to a talk on digital and you still get people saying ‘oh, I work on Twitter or whatever it’s called…’ there’s that odd disconnect, which leads to devaluation. Every blog I read on Twitter has ten comments which say ‘Twitter is a waste of time full of people talking about their lunch’, which is true, but so is every real life conversation you’ve ever had, otherwise it’s all advertising.
Relevance is always the key. Find the right people, at the right time, and give them something useful.
Whether that’s a discount on a coffee or an extended technical collaboration, it’s just about knowing the customer better and responding to them in a timely fashion, it’s not rocket science. Platforms can help you find the audience and the individuals, but you just need to up your level of service and be fairly transparent about things.
The bigger problem is that social is easy to get on, which means it’s easy to do badly. Businesses need to get out of the ivory tower mindset and just get on with it. Sure top customers should get special treatment, but there are more intelligent ways of finding and approaching them than a Klout score and a pre-written Direct Message. I’m glad to see that a most of the low-level gurus are being cleaned out now, but again, that slight disconnect does still leave room for snake oil in a lot of markets.
Mature? Not yet. There’s plenty of room left for change and innovation. Useful, profitable and measurable? Absolutely.
6 – Twitter has yet to really crack the monetisation issue, if you were in charge, what would you do?
On day one I’d instigate a ‘pro user’ version. Added filters, searches and integrated ad serving. Bolster the business guide. Give people more relevant ‘who to follows’ for starters, and give some sort of – and I hesitate to use this word –influence rating. I believe with the right level of data, it’s absolutely possible to work out factors like ‘how many retweets will X person generate on average in a year. You can base this on internal data, but also link it to their wider social and online graph.
On the back end some clearer metrics and analytics would be good for advertisers. It’s still very difficult to work out who clicked on a tweet because it was promoted and who clicked on it organically. You can figure it out, but frankly, you shouldn’t have to. We’ve built a tool internally so that we can segment more easily, which given the amount of information Twitter has, would be very easy to put into action.
I do occasionally think that as a company, they don’t really innovate. When you think back on it, most of the innovations like Hastagging, search filters etc etc, came from users, rather than Twitter. They’re a great company but they could do a lot more.
Oh – and a ‘leisure filter’. A large button I can click that means my tweets only go to users I’ve set as ‘friends’. My business contacts have no desire to read about me going to see Slayer, so give me an easy way to remove that.
7 – What does the rest of 2012 hold for you?
Lots of exciting stuff! I mentioned the blog update, but we’re also working to beef up our video offering going forward, so lot’s of playing with cameras around the office. Lots of new reports, and an expanded events calendar. We’ve also just launched ten new digital graduate certificate courses, we have more students coming on board for our MSc’s, and we’re looking at the problem of resourcing. We’re looking at attracting people with degrees in different disciplines to digita. Maths or English students probably don’t consider online careers, but they’d make great analysts or copywriters, so we’re encouraging that crossover. We’ve also just launched our Sydney office, and are continuing to expand in the US, MENA and Asia. Interesting times all round.
Big thanks to Matt for his time! You can follow him on Twitter here.