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Olivier Blanchard – The Twitter 20 Interview on Social Media ROI

Authors: Jay Baer Jay Baer
Posted Under: Social Media
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donaldson0001sA passionate advocate for the ability of social media to fundamentally transform brands, Olivier Blanchard is on a mission. Based (like @spikejones also a Twitter 20 subject) in Greenville, South Carolina, Olivier has moved his Brand Builder consultancy into the social media realm, with a focus on smart strategies and sharp measurement.

His series of blog posts and presentations on social media ROI calculations have struck a chord online, and he’s now one of the go-to thinkers in that emerging sub-discipline. A native Frenchman, Olivier tweeted in his adopted English in this live Twitter interview.

1. @jaybaer: How has the rise of social media changed the way you build brands? (h/t @nazgulk)

  • @thebrandbuilder: The approach has definitely changed. Brands now have to think about real engagement instead of just pushing messaging.
  • Also, brands have to completely rethink the way they look at communications. The old PR funnel is definitely eroding.
  • And there are also new issues of transparency and personal accountability to manage for most organizations.

2. @jaybaer: How do you mean the PR funnel is eroding? Decreasing importance of conversational intermediaries, like the press?

  • @thebrandbuilder: The PR funnel is eroding: The PR department no longer serves as the gatekeeper of corporate communications the way it used to.
  • PR used to control communications and messaging. Social Media/direct engagement tend to bypass PR departments altogether.
  • It isn’t to say that PR is less important today, but its role is evolving. Especially when dealing with social organizations.

3. @jaybaer: How do you feel then about things like @pitchengine that blend the traditional PR distribution role with social?

  • @thebrandbuilder: Services like @pitchengine have their place in the world of new/social PR. But PR pros need to look beyond “pitching.”
  • Ultimately, in order for PR to reclaim much of its relevance, it needs to de-automate many of its processes and engage more.
  • That said, I see Social Media as a huge opportunity for the PR world to reclaim much of its importance and relevance.

4. @jaybaer: Interesting point on “de-automation” Much of social media is hand-crafted. Operational & staffing sea change, no?

  • @thebrandbuilder: Yes. Social media is not a fad. It is a fundamental shift in the way people and companies communicate. Major sea change.
  • The skill sets of communications professionals are changing fast. Organizations are hitting some rough seas with that right now.

5. @jaybaer: Because social media fundamentally changes communication paradigm, do you see differences between B2C & B2B best practices?

  • @thebrandbuilder: In terms of communications, I don’t see a difference between B2B and B2C when it comes to best practices, no.
  • But, communications tactics will continue to be different between B2B and B2C. That’s a given.

6. @jaybaer: People come to social from all over. What are the core skills needed for a career in social media?

  • @thebrandbuilder: First, you have to look at social media as a multi-disciplinary field. Not all social media roles are the same.
  • Social Media roles can be strategic (management and development), tactical (execution) or analytical (measurement).
  • Within the tactical type of role, you may need some people to have cust. service skills or community building skills.
  • So… the skills really depend on what the specific role within a social media program will require.
  • Experience working in the social media space is definitely a huge requirement in my opinion. ๐Ÿ˜‰

7. @jaybaer: What’s the most effective way to utilize social media? For customer acquisition, or for customer retention?

  • @thebrandbuilder: Net new customers vs. boost loyalty? Hmmm… Both. I guess it depends on what the organization’s objective is.
  • In many cases, Social Media may be most useful in increasing customers’ frequency of transactions, even.
  • Social Media, like most communication “tools” can be used simultaneously to accomplish a variety of objectives.
  • Customer acquisition usually requires SM to be used in concert with other tactics and tools, though while greater customer loyalty can be achieved with Social Media (good relationship engine) on its own.

8. @jaybaer: Is social media improving customer experience? Companies can’t hide their inadequacies any longer?

  • @thebrandbuilder: Social Media can and should improve customer experiences, yes. If done correctly, it can have a very positive impact.
  • But as with all things, Social Media can be a double-edged sword. Transparency can backfire. And does.
  • That’s an area where companies working with solid social media advisors will have an advantage over companies that don’t.

9. @jaybaer: Facebook Connect, geo-based apps, Sidewiki, are making social connectivity portable. Good for brands, or scary?

  • @thebrandbuilder: Very good for brands. The web increasingly lives on mobile devices. Mobile, IMO is much more important than social.
  • Giving customers/the public more options to choose how and when they interact with brands is a welcome evolution.
  • There is no reason for brands to be scared by any of this. They need to embrace new technologies and cultural shifts

10. @jaybaer: Is there diminishing returns principle w/ brand creating content & interacting w/customers? Is more always more?

  • @thebrandbuilder: I look at that as seeding, really. You may lose some volume of engagement on traditionally heavy channels, but at the same time, brands gain engagement across other channels. That increase in breadth = more opportunities.
  • Also, this requires brands to take a more proactive/smart approach to engagement and building relationships with people.
  • Most of these channels are opt-in, unintrusive, and portable. That means more meaningful and frequent engagement.
  • Some brands may lose some level of volume, but it’s a quantity vs. quality equation. Their conversions will increase.
  • What little imaginary reach brands may lose initially, they will make up by seeding well across a broader ecosystem. ๐Ÿ˜‰

11. @jaybaer: Are you suggesting that prospective customers engaged with the company in social will close at a higher rate?

  • @thebrandbuilder: Yes. social Mmedia (used properly, that is, not as a push channel) is mostly opt-in. People who participate choose to.
  • Aside from an increased frequency of interactions, more mindshare, more exposure, more information about products, customers who become members of a brand’s community are much more likely to transact with that brand more often.
  • They may not “close” faster, but they should see high transaction rates in terms of frequency and yield. And, these customers should also produce more recommendations/positive WOM (helping bring more customers to the table).

12. @jaybaer: Measuring that lifetime customer value impact requires a mashup of sales and social media data that’s not readily available, no?

  • @thebrandbuilder: Social media and sales data shouldn’t be too difficult to obtain. Gross sales data, especially. Every company has that.
  • In terms of measuring social media data, you can pay for a Radian6 type dashboard or create your own via a variety of tools.
  • In terms of Lifetime Customer Value, I’m not a fan of that type of index. Customer value is way too variable for me.
  • The purpose of all of this is to try and change customer behaviors. So looking at LCV isn’t something I spend time on.
  • When it comes to measurement, I tend to focus primarily on activity and behavior deltas.

13. @jaybaer: So you suggest looking at aggregate impact of SM on revenue using variable isolation? Revenue + SM = Revenue+

  • @thebrandbuilder: I… think, yes. Though it’s a two-step approach. 1) I look at the impact of social media on non-financial impact.
  • Basically, how does my social media activity impact things like mentions, sentiment, traffic (offline + online), touches, etc.
  • Step 2) I look at the effect that these changes in customer behaviors have on actual transactions.
  • If an organization is sales-focused, I try to help them break that analysis in terms of frequency, reach and yield.
  • In some cases, sales are not a factor in the measurement. In that case, we just look at non-financial impact.

14. @jaybaer: But the question I always get is how do we know social media was responsible for the increase or change?

  • @thebrandbuilder: I’ll bet! Actually, social media isn’t responsible for anything. It’s like asking how did the telephone help my sales numbers.
  • That said, the result of the engagement conducted via social media can be accurately measured. That’s step 1.
  • And changes in transactions and customer behaviors can also be pretty accurately measured. That’s step 2.
  • By incorporating measurement of all activities, along with benchmarking, you can connect the dots. That’s step 3.
  • You can also poll customers, do promo code seeding across a variety of channels, etc. to prove cause and effect.

15. @jaybaer: Your presentation on social media ROI at is best I’ve seen. Going crazy on @slideshare What do you think of it?

  • @thebrandbuilder: What do I think of the fact that it’s doing well on Slideshare? I’m thrilled. And surprised. It’s Econ 101 stuff. ๐Ÿ˜€
  • That said, I wish more self-professed “social media gurus” would watch it before trying to create magic formulas.
  • And I wish I could get it in front of more execs who don’t yet understand social media very well. That would be nice.

16. @jaybaer: How do you feel about loyalty-specific, but non revenue-based metrics like Net Promoter Score?

  • @thebrandbuilder: Can I plead the fifth on the Net Promoter Score question? ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m not a fan.
  • Because I come from the client side of the fence, I prefer hard business metrics to marketing world metrics.
  • I generally don’t have a lot of faith in the relevance of scores and indexes based on… subjective equations or data.

17. @jaybaer: Did you plan to focus heavily in social media ROI, or did it just happen?

  • @thebrandbuilder: It was not planned. I am fundamentally a business strategist who focuses on brand development and management.
  • Social media happens to fit extremely well into brand management, but I hadn’t planned on it becoming such a huge uch a huge part of what I do. It’s easily 80% of my business right now. That’s crazy.

18. @jaybaer: You had your blog before your consultancy. What made you decide to do your own thing?

  • @thebrandbuilder: Great question. I’ve wanted to strike out on my own for years, but was afraid to. I wasn’t really ready.
  • Last year, I went to work for a company specifically to learn the skills I needed to be able to do this.
  • Once the skill set was complete, I was good to go. That was step one. Step two was motivation.
  • I really wasn’t happy working for people who weren’t qualified to be my boss. That “frustration” helped things along ๐Ÿ˜‰

19. @jaybaer: You were in the French Marines – the only #twt20 guest who was. Takeaways from that experience you use now?

  • @thebrandbuilder: 1) In that type of culture, you learn really fast that bullsh*t has a life expectancy of exactly zero minutes. ๐Ÿ˜€
  • 2) You also learn very quickly that excuses have an effective range of exactly zero meters. ;D
  • And 3) It was my first job, my first management role, and it was tough as hell. I learned that adaptation is critical.
  • All in all, my experience as an officer in the Fusiliers Marins very much shaped my professional style and values.

20. @jaybaer: Do your kids really have 9 pet rats? WTF? Once you get to 3 – or even 5 – how do you keep that ball rolling?

  • @thebrandbuilder: They did! Fortunately, rats have a life expectancy of about 3 years, so their numbers are already shrinking. ๐Ÿ˜€
  • They bought a baby female rat who had already been… accosted by an older male rat. 1 turned to 9 overnight. Yeah.

Wow. A lot to chew on here. Interesting discussion of metrics and measurement, the role of public relations in social media, and the positive impact of a stint in the French Marines.

What’s your favorite answer from Olivier Blanchard? Also, who would you like to see on a future Twitter 20 interview? (Next interview scheduled for October 8, 2009 at 11am eastern with @garyvee).

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