Beyond the Numbers: Interview with Emoderation’s Tamara Littleton

Sit down with two people from different companies and ask them about social media marketing. Within minutes, each will have likely painted different pictures…and that’s a good thing. Imagine if social marketing consisted of a handful of equations that every brand could plug into and churn out the same predictable results every time. Pretty boring, right? From how brands use data to how they even define social media marketing creates a mosaic of competing yet often complementary view points.

To capture and document some of these view points, we’ve embarked on a journey with marketing leaders, consultants and analysts from some of the world’s top brands and agencies. We’ll take you inside the mind of each interviewee as he or she shares thoughts on how their organization views and uses social media today, as well as predictions on what’s to come.

We kick off our series with Tamara Littleton, CEO of Emoderation, a social media consultancy focused on multilingual community management, social listening and social crises management. You can connect with her on Twitter here. Enjoy, comment and share!

How does your organization define social media marketing, and how does it fit into the larger digital marketing picture?

We define social media marketing as the use by organisations of social media channels to engage, share information with, listen to, and increase their audiences. Engagement is a much misused term in campaigns, but it is incredibly important in defining social media marketing as opposed to, for example, search ads. Engagement is a two-way process. Social media sites are not broadcast channels, but a great way of interacting with people, listening to and gathering feedback, and answering customer questions.

Social media marketing absolutely has to fit into a bigger digital marketing picture. In fact, it goes wider than just digital marketing – it’s an important part of employee communications (particularly for a distributed workforce like that of Emoderation), customer service, crisis management, communications, research and development, as well as marketing. So your social media team has to have a link through to each of those departments, so they can escalate posts and resolve issues quickly.

Social listening in particular is gaining importance. Brands now realise that there’s a real wealth of information on social channels that they can use to their benefit. If there’s an issue with a product, you’ll probably first hear about it on Twitter. Catch it early, and you could resolve the problem quickly. The sheer volume of information on social media means you can get great data on what people love or hate about your product. Analysing it to become something meaningful that you can action is the tricky bit.

How have you seen social media greatly impact your business?

Social media is a fundamental part of our business, so it’s had a massive impact. When I launched Emoderation in 2002, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist – we were mostly working in virtual worlds and forums. The explosion in social media channels has led to brands being far more savvy about how they use social media, and actively managing their reputations online. That’s where we come in.

When is social media data most critical to your efforts: During the planning process; while you’re executing a campaign, so you can change course or allocate more resources; or afterwards, to measure your success?

Social media is critical at every stage of the process, but particularly during execution. Data you collect during the campaign – which posts are the best performers, which countries are responding well to particular tactics, how your audience is responding to your approach and so on – should be constantly fed back into the strategy and planning process, so you can adjust the campaign in real-time. If you do this, the success metrics will be easier to review.

What’s more valuable, competitive intelligence on brands within your industry, or being able to look at the efforts from brands in other verticals?

Both are valuable. But I always like to look outside our immediate industry for inspiration. If you spend too much time looking inward, it can distract you from seeing where the real competition is coming from. I doubt the banks would have seen the supermarkets as a threat 20 years ago. Car manufacturers don’t expect to compete with Google. Looking inside your industry keeps you focused, looking outside gives you inspiration.

Social media channels are increasingly moving to where paid content is promoted more than organic content. How do you feel about this, and how has it affected your social strategy?

I think brands (and agencies) have been lucky that they’ve been able to do so much for free on social media to date. Facebook in particular is immensely powerful for marketing. And I can’t think of another channel with as much influence where you’d expect not to pay for something to be seen by your target audience. Can you imagine not paying for search ads now? We work closely with agencies, and integrated campaigns will always combine different elements to be really effective. If anything, it means that great content is even more important. If you’re paying to promote content, for example, you’d better make sure it’s great content that people want to share. The way we work ourselves and for our clients is we use a mixture of the two and a lot of our approach is about identifying organic content to promote for maximum effect.

What do you see as the single most disruptive force coming to the world of social media marketing?

Personalisation. If you expect consumers to give up their data, the return needs to be worth it. And for a brand, the more you can use automated tools to personalise products and services, the more effective your marketing is going to be. There’s a lot of talk about personalisation, but it’s complicated to do well at the moment. I think there will be an explosion in tools to help brands achieve personalised marketing.

What are the social media metrics you don’t have access to today but would like to be able to leverage in the future?

I’d like to see more combined complex metrics showing very specific data (for example, showing momentum, influence, gravitas, intent and emotion by geographic area). So if I have a new range of shoes, where should I open my shoe shops, based on real data? If I have a shop in London, social media data might tell me that high numbers of people – who are influential within their networks – are talking about my shoes in Leeds. Or there might be people who are travelling down to London from Leeds to buy my shoes. So I could confidently open a shop in Leeds and know I have a market there.