Taking email’s place, the belief that social media is the next great communications medium is a common one. Yet, coming from Ragy Thomas -- former Interactive Services Group president of email powerhouse Epsilon -- the idea carries more weight. Online Media Daily got the opportunity to grill Thomas on social media’s assent, the idea behind his new company Sprinklr, and its mission to pioneer “social media management.”
What is “social media management,” and does it finally offer brands standardized social measurement?
Social media management refers to an organization's ability to manage a disparate social media environment. It allows companies to internally collaborate across teams, departments and geographies to externally publish to and manage conversations across multiple accounts and social media channels.
Utilizing an integrated social media management platform across business units offers brands the ability to implement standardized social measurement. However, the industry as a whole is not at a point where the measurement is standardized across companies.
You contend that 2012 will be the year businesses make a significant investment in social media management. What evidence backs up that claim?
Anecdotal evidence that Sprinklr has indicates significant investment in social media management spend in 2012. For example, across the hundred-plus brands we have visibility into, we see the leaders beginning to allocate seven-figure budgets to implement global social media management infrastructure in 2012.
Just in the first three weeks of December, Sprinklr signed on 10 global brands as clients. In addition to what we see at Sprinklr, Jeremiah Owyang from Altimeter has done significant research on social media spends by large companies. His new report, due in January, will have the specifics. He indicated that the average budgets in 2012 could potentially double from 2011.
How will businesses’ social media outlays measure up?
The overall percentage spend is still in single digits for many companies. However, Forrester Research has predicted that social media will have the highest cumulative aggregate growth rate across all channels through 2014. Their report expects social media marketing spend to catch up to email marketing spend in 2012.
What social insights did you take away from your time as president of email marketing specialist Epsilon Interactive?
If you've been involved in sending over 100 billion opt-in commercial emails like I have, you tend to learn the limitations of email as a channel. The recipient doesn't control who to accept messages from. And since emails clog up a private inbox, users have to painfully delete every message as it becomes irrelevant.
The biggest insight for me is that social media basically is the next evolutionary version of electronic communications. Essentially, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, etc. are communications frameworks where the recipient controls who he/she receives messages from by explicitly subscribing to (friending or following) someone. And the framework distinguishes public messages from private, allowing users to passively ignore ones that aren't relevant.
In the area of social media management, what are most brands doing right?
Most brands are moving cautiously into social. Most brands have started listening to social conversations, which is a great first step. The next step is to tie the listening to engagement by enabling and empowering business owners to respond. Leaders like Dell have established internal social media councils and are taking a global approach to social media management.
What are most brands doing wrong?
Brands need to start putting some enterprise focus on social media management instead of seeing it just as a community manager's problem. Unless you establish processes and workflows to harness social conversations and further business goals, you are not tapping into the true power of the channel. Brands have to respond across departmental silos to adapt.
What’s your take on the contention that social is only appropriate for a certain type of brand?
Social is appropriate for all brands. However, it is true that consumer-focused brands are going to be able to tap into social media much more, as they can have real-time access to the voice of the customer and are relevant to a larger audience.
Despite ongoing efforts by Google and others, Facebook seems to be tightening its grip on the social sphere. Is that an accurate assessment, and if so, is it bad for “social” progress?
Facebook is definitely the 800-pound gorilla in the social space in terms of scale and sophistication. But as the story of Myspace reminds us, perceived size and scale don't make companies invincible. The rapid growth of Facebook is not bad for social progress. They've upped the ante in terms of speed of innovation, and that has been incredible for the entire industry.
Social is synonymous with consumer privacy-concerns. If they’re not careful, what privacy pitfalls could brands fall into in 2012?
It is critical that brands respect consumer privacy while engaging in social media conversations. A coherent social media policy for employees is a “must have” for brands. As the much-publicized Chrysler "motor city" tweet from March taught the world, the policy needs to be extended to agencies and other third parties involved with social media.
If brands aren't careful about privacy, they can cause serious damage by inadvertently sharing sensitive corporate information or accessing private consumer information. Marketers need to make sure they understand the policies of social networking platforms and demand to know the source of any third-party social data that they use for business purposes.
Whose social strategy would you love to take credit for?
Brands like Dell, Samsung, Microsoft, Virgin America, Nike, Cisco, Target, SAP, Newell Rubbermaid etc. are doing incredible things in social. Virgin America is a great example. Their social team has the capability to notify in-flight crew if a passenger tweets on board. Sprinklr provides a SaaS (Software as a Service) Social Relationship Management platform and social media services to these companies, but the credit for social strategy goes to the leaders within these companies.