Marketing Week interviews Eleftherios in anticipation of the Social Media Conference 2012 in Athens (English translation)

This interview was done by Epameinondas Tsakalos of the Boussias Group. It was published in this week’s issue of the Marketing Week (Greece). You can also find a Greek online version of it here. We have translated the interview for you. Enjoy!

MW: Most of the marketers have understood by now that they need to get started. What do you recommend to them before they begin crafting their social media strategy?

The very first thing I recommend is to really understand your business: Which business are you in? What is your USP? Who are your customers? What are their needs? What sets you apart from the competition? What do people love about your product/ service and what not? This sounds trivial – I know – but let me tell you that it is very important to understand yourself first and to get the basics right. Why do I say that? Because I repeatedly experience it with clients who move too fast and take the second step before the first. When you start engaging all of a sudden you will be an open book. Problems and inconsistencies will come out sooner or later. And you will not be able to move backwards in case a “shit storm” happens or other issues arise. I also find it very important to play around and explore the magic of social media yourself before setting your business up for it. Walk the talk. In short: Do your homework first!

MW: To grow fast is what all brands want to achieve as they get started. How can they gather fans and followers? Can media spendings help to grow faster?

I believe there are a few general rules which do apply to any social media platform: The best way to grow the number of your followers is of course to do interesting stuff and put great content out there. This is still is the strongest magnet of all. Give people something nobody else can. Never forget that you are part of a living community now. So listen and/or ask pro-actively what “they” want from you and engage them in conversations. Also you should make it easy to spread the word for you. Fans want to tell others how great your product/service is and that they use it. They will do the hard work – if you let them do it. Once you`ve created momentum and the ball started rolling more and more people will join in. This is the so-called snow ball effect – which also applies to social media. It can make sense to spend some of your media budgets on the respective platforms to kick start your campaigns. Just make sure your ads lead somewhere where it is worth going to and like or follow. Content AND conversation is king and a little bit of media spending can do magic.

MW: Although it is not easy to gather fans some brands have succeeded in doing so. Should they open a bottle of champagne now and celebrate or are there other metrics they should also consider when evaluating their performance?

Regarding the champagne bottle you better ask Gary Vaynerchuk – but never underestimate the power of positive thinking and celebrating successes. You have to acknowledge achievements and show appreciation towards your team and also the community. In terms of growth – of course it is great to show a growing number of fans/ followers. It helps in so many ways, e.g. to prove to the sceptics that what you`re doing is getting somewhere or to unlock more budgets next year which you`ll need to create more cool stuff. However, remember that size doesn`t always matter! I`d rather have a smaller and deeply engaged community of heavy fans who are  loyal customers than millions of what I call “zombie fans” who are only around because they wanted to win the iPad. Quality beats quantity – especially in social media.

MW: There are many brands with high numbers of fans/ followers but very low engagement rates indeed. How can they improve their user engagement?

I just mentioned earlier how important it is to listen carefully to and proactively have conversations with the community. This is a two way game now. Make sure you`re not just an arrogant broadcaster – like brand marketing used to be in the past. We arrogantly did spend media dollars to push the message out – no matter if it mattered to people or not. Show your appreciation by really caring for your fans and followers. Do original stuff and build personal relationships whenever you can. It is crucial to find the right balance between shouting your message out and allowing others to share their thoughts and be part of it. Show genuine interest in what people are saying. They’ll let you know if they are happy or not. In terms of handling the day-to-day business – it will be helpful to have a basic editorial plan in place which allows you to plan your communication and also keeps enough room for short term reactions on the latest trends and topics discussed in your community. People are smarter than we – the marketers – think. They know exactly if you care or not. So make sure you really care!

MW: You have been Social Media Manager for Mercedes-Benz. What do you think are the characteristics and skills of a great social media manager?

I think that you need to look for people who are really passionate and who love to interact and communicate. From my experience – a social media manager should have a strong personality in order to handle the pressure. They need to stay cool when things get a little bit rough. They have to deal with many different things at once, e.g. complaints from customers, lack of understanding/ support internally, lack of time and resources. We all know that change does not happen over night. The social media management in many cases is still some kind of change that needs to be managed. Many organizations are still at a very early stage and have to build teams, know how and processes first. It`s simply not their daily business yet. One last thing that really stands out for me is that if you want to excel you need to love human beings and have a deep interest in their needs and well being. Social media is about re(a)lationships at the end of the day.

MW: CEOs want to measure performance and they want to see ROI (return on investment). How do you measure success in the social web? And which KPIs should be considered?

And the CEO is right! A business must be profitable. What we have to understand though is that to focus on short term financial performance only is not the right approach – at least not in this specific area. We have all experienced first hand what can happen if money rules the world. I don`t need to elaborate on this. Social media is about people and their needs. They want to build and nourish relationships, share what matters to them with who matters to them. I highly recommend to you to develop a set of specific KPIs based on your tailor-made social media strategy. It will allow you to track your performance along the way. These metrics should not be about growth only. They should consider more qualitative aspects, too. But what is quality in this context? It depends on your business. Some examples are: Tonality/sentiment of comments (what people are actually saying about you), turn around rates (how many complaints have you been able to solve successfully via your social media engagement), interaction rates (how many reactions – comments, likes, shares – do you get on your posts), ideas/ product innovations derived from social media. And yes, you can also look into more quantitative metrics such as referral traffic to your website/online shop and turn over generated via social media, etc…. It is the right mix of metrics that counts!

MW: Talking about Social Media one platform really stands out these days. May I ask you to give your thoughts on Pinterest which seems to spread very fast lately:

This did not happen by accident. They have brought together a great team and are backed up by very experienced investors. They are moving fast in terms of product development and the platform has had an incredible run since they started back in 2010. I read recently that by reaching 10 million unique users in a month they even set a new record in the history of the web. I believe that the secret behind their success is their “visual” approach to social networking. People love pictures! They bring together people with the same interest and let them organize and share common interest based on images. The power of photos has already been proven in the past by Flickr or even the iPhone app “Instagram” which allows its user to become photographers by taking pictures easily and applying a few filters which make their personal shots unique pieces. The so-called pinboards on Pinterest can also be co-created/ co-curated – this allows brands to not only put there stuff out but blend it into the content of the rest of the community. Brand content and community content become one! If you ask me- Pinterest is highly interesting for some very “visual” industries like fashion, architecture, design, food, travel. But again it all depends on your overall strategy and where you stand right now. If you have not done anything else yet – I believe that Pinterest is not the right first step.

MW: You named your consulting business “Peopleizers” and your title on your business card is “human being”. Can you please explain your philosophy and approach?

My main focus lies on the people factor in life and business. People as decision makers, people as customers, people as employees. I love people and believe in the human potential. People can do amazing things. It really blows my mind when I see how much of the human potential is held back. Too many people live lives they don`t want to live, work on jobs they don`t like. And this is a vicious circle I want to interrupt. Only happy employees can make your customers happy. Only happy customers will refer you to their friends and family. And only with a loyal customer base the CEO can build a company that will last. Companies who are not “peopleized” are in big trouble – as social media will dry them out. Who wants to deal with a business that obviously emphasizes dollars more than people? I actually started capturing my thoughts on this matter in a little book called “From Wall Street to Love Street” which I recently started writing. It should be ready this summer.

“Human Being” is my title – that`s right! Let me explain it with the words of the author and speaker Robin Sharma: “A true leader doesn`t need a title”. Anybody can become a leader in his family, team or society. I highly recommend his book “The leader who had no title”. I think that Greece needs such leadership today more than ever. The reason for choosing such a title for me is basically that I want to be respected and loved for who I am, what I stand for and what I do – not for a little bit of ink that is printed on my business card.

MW: One last question. On April 27th the Social Media Conference will be held in Athens. Why should I attend and what can I expect from your keynote?

You should not miss out the chance of meeting great people and expanding your professional network. I know from my personal experience that it helps to get an outside view on things sometimes. It can help tremendously to look beyond your own activities and learn how others deal with the same challenges. With regards to my keynote I hope that you`ll meet a passionate guy who loves what he`s doing. I also hope that I can share some of my experiences with leading brands and my work in social media in the past few years and that it will be valuable to you. See you in April and let`s have a coffee – if you want!

Do you agree? What are your experiences and lessons learned? Feel free to leave your comments.

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  1. Nathaniel Hansen
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 13:54 | Permalink

    This is GREAT stuff, Lefti!!! A HUGE bravo from the US of A to you!!!! Nathaniel

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