Our Interview with "Scalable Intimacy's" Mike Troiano

For the latest edition of HEAT, we picked the brain of one of our favorite social media gurus, Mike Troiano (@MikeTrap), to find a little bit more about how he has made the transition from “varsity ad guy” to popular social media branding blogger at http://scalableintimacy.com/. Mike, currently based in the Boston suburbs, is constantly providing his readers and followers with insights into how brands should operate in a “social” online environment (my favorite tip from Mike: “Brands on Twitter that don’t follow you back might as well stick to print. Or draw on caves”).

Read on for Mike’s thoughts on how social media can help brands build scalable and intimate relationships, the “socialization” of B2B marketing, and the importance of maintaining a stable “buzz” at the social media cocktail party.mike

451: You have a extensive background of experience working in the ad business. When did you realize that you wanted to make the shift into digital marketing and found Ogilvy & Mather Interactive? Actually, was it your choice?

MT: No, that one actually wasn’t. I was working for Martin Sorrell at the time as a kind of troubleshooter, and he sent me in to fix “a problem at Ogilvy with American Express.” The solution to that problem became O&MI.

451: When you first started the interactive side of the agency I bet you never could have anticipated that the Internet would look like it does today, littered with social media technologies. Am I wrong? Did you anticipate that this would eventually be the web’s next big progression?

MT: Looking back, the signposts were there. It was obvious to us that e-mail and chat were the real engines of AOL, not the “professional” content. But did I envision that leading to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter et al? No way.

451: So tell me a little bit about where you are now, and how you are attempting to make sense of the shift in the way that we all interact with brands and media. Are you 100% invested/convinced in the viability of the social Web to be the central focus of marketing for the foreseeable future?

MT: Yes. I would go so far as to say that while the move to digital media was incremental, the move to social is transformational. At the risk of sounding like a pretentious geek… we’ve reached the end of the broadcast-dominant paradigm. Brands need to make the leap and engage to stay relevant, or – eventually – they’re going to dry up and blow away.

451: You do a great job describing your blog and overall thesis of social media marketing on your blog’s “Manifesto,” but can you give us a high-level overview of what you mean by “Scalable Intimacy” as it relates to social media?

MT: Scalable Intimacy is how I think about the true promise of social media… to enable brands to build the kind of “intimate” relationships that are only possible with authentic dialogue, on a “scale” sufficient to impact the operating results of the enterprise. That’s it.

451: That overview should segue nicely into a question about your blog post on engagement vs. activation. In essence, is the ROI of effective social media quantifiable in measurements like sales, response rates, signups, etc? Could we aggregate all of that and just say, “qualified leads?”

MT: It goes beyond sales and beyond leads. Activation might enable a brand to answer a critically important product question in a timely fashion, or reduce their unit customer service response cost, or grasp the external reality in a way that influences their business strategy. It depends on the business goal, really. Engagement is about creating the means; Activation is about delivering the end.

451: Do you have any examples of companies that have effectively developed marketing content online that is engaging enough to drive a good amount of activation?

MT: The usual suspects… JetBlue, Dell, Zappos, all do both to one extent or another. HubSpot offering a free SEO audit to people who visit it’s content-crammed blog… that’s activation. Tony Robbins interspersing product promo with inspirational messages on Twitter is another. Chris Brogan using his online influence to drive attendance at his shows… It’s everywhere, I think, at least among people who seem to know what they’re doing.

451: It is typically harder for the B2B marketer to be “social” with their brand. Have you found that the social web opens up opportunities for these marketers that may not have existed before?

MT: I guess. If you’ve ever been to a B2B trade show, you know there’s a strong social component in meatspace. When a critical mass of decision-makers in those industries are on the social nets – as is inevitable – it will happen there as well.

451: Where do you see this all going in the next 5-10 years, and what will the typical brand manager/marketer look like?

MT: Wish I knew. What I do know, though, is that brand managers will start to look a lot more like sales guys, and a lot less like MBA-types. It’s time to get dirty and go sell some sh*t. Old school.

451: Lastly, riffing off the “social media is a cocktail party” analogy. What if you’re a brand that has a “drinking problem,” likes to take things to the next level, and is often too edgy or over-the-top? Do you play in the social media marketing sandbox too and risk doing something controversial, or do you stay out?

MT: Social media is about doing stuff that’s worthy of attention. If the attention you get is negative, adjust your behavior. Most attention is good, though – just don’t be more “drunk” than the people you hang out with.

Mike Troiano is the founding CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Interactive and an established tech venture entrepreneur. Currently, Mike serves on the board of Crimson Hexagon, a Cambridge-based technology company that distills meaning from the online conversation. Read his professional blog at http://scalableintimacy.com/ and check out his personal blog at http://troiano.me/

What the Heck Is SEO?

If you own a business you probably have a website (if you don’t, get one…fast!). If you have a website, then you have undoubtedly heard the term “SEO”. Well, what exactly is “SEO”? It’s a question I ask people regularly and I am still amazed at the myriad answers that I receive. The simple answer is that it’s an acronym for “Search Engine Optimization”. Most people get the search engine part; it’s the optimization part that usually has them stumped. Regardless of their level of understanding, the typical response is “I’m not really clear on how it works, but I know I should be doing it.” And they’re right! If you’re not optimizing your website for search, you’re missing out thousands of potential business leads!

So what is it? SEO is a unique, and highly effective, approach to internet marketing that aims to improve the quality of leads driven to a company’s website via search engines. More technically, SEO is the strategic and thematic alignment of specific keywords with content and HTML code. The goal is to increase the relevance of keywords within the text copy so that search engines will view it as pertinent and easy to index. Put a bit more simply: it is the process of making a website more attractive to search engines. The more attractive it is, the higher the rank.

seo1As an inbound marketing strategy, SEO takes into consideration two things: the nature of search engine spiders and how they crawl the web, and the way in which a potential consumer will search for services. Research shows that people are inherently drawn to the top five entries on the first page of a search result. The higher the search rank the more credible the source is perceived. Imagine if your company’s website came up first when a potential customer searched for the specific services you provide or the products you sell. Your company would be perceived as the best, most relevant source for whatever it is you sell or provide.

The purpose of any company’s website is to attract online users and business, and numerous studies have shown that the majority of online users find what they are looking for via search engines. This means amazing possibilities for business lead generation! In today’s Web 2.0 world, people want to find information on their own and be engaged by it. They do not want to pick up the phone and listen to a sales call when they can search for the information they want, when they want to search for it. As a business, that means that you want to be front and center whenever a search is performed on your particular services. Let your customers find you on their own – which they happily will – and when you ask them how they heard about your company, don’t be surprised when they say “Google”.

Looking For Leads? Play Ball!

A successful inbound marketing campaign, one that provides a higher ROI for clients than traditional marketing communications plans, has a lot of similarities to a winning baseball club. In order to win consistently in baseball, you need to be able to take the lead by scoring more runs then your opponent. To maintain the lead, you need quality defensive play and pitching.

 

Inbound marketing, also known as “non-interruption” based marketing, blends similar fundamentals into one winning strategy. Toting a core “lineup” of developed products or service offerings, backed by defined messaging, effective inbound marketing strategists get on the “offensive” by engaging with prospects in a meaningful and targeted way. The professional inbound marketer, like a .300 hitter, knows his/her prospects better than his opponents do. He is familiar with the specific channels that his prospects are using to communicate online and offline, and then implements the tactics (search marketing, social media marketing and public relations) that establish the “connection” needed to deliver more qualified new business leads. These tactics and strategies are more effective than old marketing standards like cold calling and traditional advertising. More often than not, these techniques merely manifest as wild swings-and-misses.

 

And like any successful baseball team, an inbound marketing program needs to be managed with exceptional scrutiny. An effective offensive strategy develops the appropriate web platforms, including an optimized and web 2.0 friendly website, and measures traffic and lead capture on a daily basis. When spikes and other issues arise, adjustments are made, like managers culling through their dugout and bullpen to see what other tools they have at their disposal. Company blogs can be developed to proactively spread the company’s message, public relations tactics can be employed to seed the internet with on-message editorial content, and other social media channels are identified and utilized to interact with prospects on an opt-in basis. The ROI of all tactics are tracked through statistics such as conversions, back links and traffic. If something is not working, it returns to the bench.

 

Quality defensive play alongside excellent starting and relief pitching helps to maintain all runs scored by a potent offense. Likewise, any good inbound marketing campaign leverages the appropriate techniques to cultivate a new lead, and hold on to it through sale. Search engine optimization techniques can help a company “defend” against negative news and information on the web, while other social media monitoring tools enable the quick identification of current client issues that could damage a future relationship with a prospect. Even traditional public relations tactics, such as crisis communications, blend well with a defensive strategy that focuses on maintaining the lead without starting a new conversation. To nurture those leads, provide your prospects with the content they can’t live without to ensure they remain engaged; accessible white papers, frequently updated blogs, a steady stream of search optimized press announcements, and an open dialogue across all social media platforms. Like any good set-up man in baseball, an inbound marketing campaign holds the door open for the closer to seal the deal.

 

Here at 451 Marketing we play ball for our clients everyday in a way that generates leads by keeping our eye on the ball and making the appropriate contact. Let us know if you’re ready to know more about following our team to victory – www.451Marketing.com

What is 451 Marketing?

I often get asked to force-fit our agency into predetermined labels. For instance, I was recently signing up for an event and was asked the question: “Are you an advertising agency, a public relations agency, an interactive agency, a social media agency, or a marketing agency?” I had to choose one, so I chose “marketing agency.”

The truth is, we have elements of all of these pre-existing terms and categories, but we are really much more than that. Further, the term “marketing agency” makes most people think of the stodgy traditional shops, which we are not. On one hand, our expertise can easily be categorized – lead generation through new media. But one might ask if that categorical description is something that people can mentally digest…quickly? After all, if we are going to label ourselves shouldn’t we do it in a way that is straightforward and potentially unique? Maybe we could go with – “Lead generation through the strategizing and execution of social media campaigns, traditional public relations, PR 2.0, search leveraged public relations, search engine optimization, mobile marketing, advertising, and branding and positioning”… I know, way to long.

How about, “451 Marketing, the agency that makes a lot of money in a short amount of time for their clients by using quantifiable techniques?” Getting closer, but still think people would probably want something a little more refined. We could try something that talks about our commitment to being at the forefront of our industry, describes our constant efforts to know more, apply more, and educate each other on the latest and greatest in new media. We need to create some way to convey how we bring better ROI’s for our clients compared to our competitors? Maybe, “451 Marketing, constantly working to be at the forefront of new media and delivering ROI’s like no one else?” Nah… not in love with it, still to long. I think we need something that captures it all in one succinct impactful statement.

Maybe something like… 451 Marketing, “The Leader in New Media CommunicationsTM“. I like it!

AJ Gerritson, Founding Partner at 451 Marketing

Credit where credit is due…

Regardless of your political affiliation, I think anyone would agree that no small part of the success of President-Elect Obama’s campaign was due to their groundbreaking use of New Media. While presidential campaigns have been using interactive marketing for several election cycles now, the technology becomes more and more advanced with each one. In 2000, the web was still the new and exciting medium. Everyone knew the magnitude of its power, but we were all still trying to figure out what to do with it (thus the gold rush of the late 90s). Gore and Bush both had professional websites that broadcast information about their positions. Howard Dean took the next step in 2004 by using the internet to raise amounts of money that took all his competitors by surprise.

In this year’s cycle, however, we’ve seen an even more extraordinary leap in the effective use of technology. This year is the first one since what we generally refer to as “new media” has gained a meaningful number of users. Barack Obama and his team recognized this from the start and harnessed it to do so much more than just raise money. Bring in record numbers of money they did, but they also did a lot of things that left McCain’s campaign behind, much the way Kennedy left Nixon behind because of his inherent understanding of television.

So what did he do beyond his regular marketing campaigns and public relations efforts? He ran targeted opt-in text messaging campaigns, twitter updates, RSS Feeds, Blogs, webcasts, podcasts. I wonder if John McCain could even identify what most of those items are. I don’t mean that to be derogatory, rather I mean it to point out the difference in generation. The fact remains that Obama embraced a technology that is no longer in the future. The “present” has arrived for Web 2.0, Search Leveraged Public Relations, PR 2.0, Mobile Marketing and a host of other technologies. Now that we’ve seen how a political candidate can use it well, I’ll be a keen observer of what will come next in 2012.