How to Make the Most of Social Data & Analytics


I gave a lecture at a social media marketing class at St. Edwards University this week. The topic was How to Make the Most of Data & Analytics. Below is the Slideshare presentation.


CMO Mondays: Snapchat files for IPO


Last week, Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc., filed paperwork for an IPO, with an expected valuation of $25 billion or more. In 2014, Snapchat introduced advertising into the platform. In 2015, it generated $60 million in revenue from that advertising, and, in 2016, it expects to exceed its target of $350 million in revenue. Snapchat is targeting $1 billion in revenue in 2017.

Snapchat reports 150 million users daily and 235 million users monthly, including 41% of 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S., according to Nielsen. Snapchat shows strong signs of being a healthy business. With continued user and revenue growth, Snapchat will be a hot company for several years to come – even with the new scrutiny of the public markets.


But, long-term, Snapchat could face a similar issue as Twitter: being a company that offers only a niche audience advertisers. Unlike Google and Facebook that offer a large and broad range of audiences to advertisers, Snapchat caters mainly to younger Millennials and Generation Z audiences. Facebook touts ~1.71 billion monthly users – approximately 25% of the world’s population. By comparison, Twitter has ~313 million monthly users. Twitter has struggled in recent years to win over investors – primarily because it is compared to Facebook. Twitter has only ~18% of the monthly users that Facebook has. And, Twitter has been criticized for its slowing user and revenue growth while being unprofitable. Twitter’s stock price has dropped from $69 per share at its peak in January 2014 to $18.79 today.



While we can expect that Snapchat will continue to grow its user base at a nice rate for the foreseeable future, as it captures more of share the 34-year-old and under audience, the real test will come when Snapchat can no longer rely on that audience for user growth. It will need to stay relevant to the new young audiences entering their teens and twenties, while expanding its relevancy to older audiences. And, it will need to do this while achieving profitability. Otherwise, in a few years, we could be seeing Snapchat face similar issues that Twitter has faced in recent years.

CMO Mondays: Have We Become Too Specialized?

A CMO recently asked me what is one of the biggest pitfalls I see brands falling into. The number one issue that I see is that marketers have become too specialized and too siloed, and therefore the full potential value of the brand is not capitalized.

Growth in complexity from technologies, channels and data.

As you can see from the slides above, marketing has experienced a proliferation of new technologies and channels, and this intimidates marketers and executives. In an effort to make marketers’ jobs easier, companies building products for marketers have actually made their jobs harder and more complex. So, now you see this trend of marketers becoming over-specialized and marketing teams more siloed. Someone might only know analytics, or only know social, or PPC and display, or brand and creative. And, they advocate for one discipline over the other because that’s what they know and are comfortable with. It’s the lens through which they view the world. But, great marketing isn’t about technology or channels. It’s about audiences. It’s always been about understanding audiences’ human behavior to create products, communications and experiences that enroll those audiences to buy into the brand. If we know our audience inside and out, then deciding which technologies and channels to apply to engage those audiences becomes much easier.

The exponential growth in data hasn’t helped in this matter. The need for data has reinforced our nature to play it safe and created some false positives. This is symptomatic across business – not just marketing. “Advertising is dead.” “Why invest in creatives when the data will just tell us what content audiences want? Then, we can use tools to automate content creation.” These philosophies are easy to spout in an era when marketers are being pressured to lean budgets. But, when everyone is swimming in the same direction, opportunity presents itself in the opposite.

Great marketers think more like anthropologists and communicate like orators.

The growing need for general marketers.
The best marketers are Renaissance people. They don’t live solely in the art bucket or science bucket, but, rather, they bridge the two. Great marketers think like anthropologists and communicate like orators – painting a view of the world and enrolling us into that view. They study human behavior from a mix of hard data (think analytics), soft data (think observations) and experience (think intuition) to arrive at universal human truths about customers and their wants and needs. From these truths, great marketers create solutions to those needs – whether they be in the form of products, services, business models, experiences or, simply, stories.

Two Thinking Systems
Perhaps my favorite article on this subject is “The Second Road of Thought” by Tony Golsby-Smith. Here, Golsby-Smith discusses how “the western world bought the wrong thinking system from Aristotle.” An excerpt below:

“This ranks as one of the worst investment decisions our civilization has made, and it has led us into using the wrong toolkits for our enterprises ever since. The thinking system we invested in was Aristotle’s ‘analytics’, and we made the choice around the era of the Enlightenment which ushered in what we today call the Scientific Age. That decision has proven so sweeping that it now monopolizes what most people characterize as ‘thinking’. Thinking processes are dominated by the culture of the sciences, and you get no better evidence of this than our universities, the home of thinking, where any subject must position itself as a science to be taken seriously. Traditional approaches to strategy sit fairly and squarely at this table of logic and Science.

What few people realize is that Aristotle conceived of two thinking-systems, not one. We made the big mistake of just buying one, and allowing it to monopolize the whole territory of thought. We should have bought them both, and used them as partners. Instead we have only one thinking tool in our hands and we are using it for all the wrong purposes. Here is how it happened.

Aristotle was the first person to codify thinking into a system. He did this for a reason: he lived in perhaps the most dramatic social experiment of human history, the invention of democracy by the Greek leader Kleisthenes around 450 BC. This political system did what no other had tried to do: it delivered decision making into the hands of human beings. Prior to that, regimes were governed by the king of the gods. That meant that no matter how sophisticated they might have been in terms of Engineering or Mathematics, they were not sophisticated about human reasoning, especially where decision making was concerned. Clearly, Kleisthenes’ political reforms created a great need to codify the processes by which humans think and can arrive at ‘truths.’ If ever there was a do-it-yourself manual, this was it! Ordinary humans were playing god in Aristotle’s Greece.”

Golsby-Smith goes on to describe the two roads of thought:

  1. THE LOGIC (or ‘analytics’) ROAD: This is ‘where things cannot be other than they are’ and is tied to the realm of natural science.
  2. THE RHETORIC (or ‘dialectic’) ROAD: This is ‘where things can be other than they are’ and is tied to the realm of human decision making.

The Logic Road is the process by which we diagnose what already exists, whereas the Rhetoric Road is the process by which we humans design the future. I would argue that while marketing is experiencing a renaissance right now, it is headed squarely in the direction of ‘analytics’ because of the overwhelming technologies, channels and data discussed above. As business and finance has disappointingly placed statistics (which is the mathematical application of diagnosing the past to predict the future) at the center of its theory and practice, so now marketers are following this trend. But, the breakthrough brands that capture our hearts and minds (and wallets) in the future will be those that master the art of rhetoric as equally as they master the science of analytics.

The art of storytelling
David Ogilvy was quoted as saying “It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night. I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea.” Never has this been more true. Audiences today experience an attention deficit from the devices, channels, messages and alerts that bombard their senses every waking moment. Content is more fleeting than ever, and audiences’ retention is shorter than ever. Yet, great storytelling increases audiences’ sense of trust and empathy and increases their retention. This enables us, as marketers, to direct human behavior. Indeed, neuroeconomist, Paul Zak, taught us that character-driven stories consistently cause the synthesis of cortisol (a hormone that focuses our attention) and oxytocin (a hormone that creates a sense of empathy and connection). In other words, the better crafted and more relevant the stories we marketers tell about the brand, the more our brand will stand out to and connect with audiences. There is, apparently, scientific benefit to the art of storytelling. See the video below for more details on Zak’s research.

So, all marketers should be trained in storytelling. The Coca-Cola Company has invested in having screenwriters train their marketers, and IBM has recently been hiring screenwriters. If you want your brand to stand out, invest in striking creative and crafting remarkable stories. Yes, by all means, leverage new sources of data to glean insights about your audiences that can inform that creative. But, people today – more than ever – need to be inspired. We need brave brands (and brave marketers behind those brands) to take chances and inspire audiences into action.

The science of analytics
Meanwhile, every marketer should be trained in basic market research and data science, so that they know how to run their own analysis, as well as review others’. Not every marketer needs to be a practicing statistician by any means. But, the important thing is to understand what questions to ask when reviewing data, so that we know how to interpret and apply its findings to actions that the brand should take. Critical is knowing what you’re looking for in the first place in order to design an analysis and measurement approach that can glean the knowledge you seek.

The tactics of channels and technologies
If you have a handle on storytelling and analytics, then channels and technologies become fairly simple. From the data, we glean what story might resonate with customers, what channels they engage in, what their behaviors are in each of those channels, what content formats they engage with most, and we have a sense for what we need to measure in order to learn and improve over time. The trick is then to tell the brand’s story consistently and natively in each of those channels. And, we look for technologies that meet the specifications we need in order to tell that story effectively in each of those channels, and to capture the data we need to measure and learn from our activities.

The need for speed
Given the pace of business is only increasing, it doesn’t make sense to have large groups of hyper-specialized individuals trying to figure out how to work with each other, interpret each other and take actions away from each individual’s contributions. When one does not have context (experience) for what another person does, it’s difficult to make create action. Rather, if we want to move at the speed of business, we should have less, more well-rounded people collaborating. Thus, every marketer should gain experience in both the art and science of marketing. Read Scaling Agile @ Spotify by Henrik Kniberg & Anders Ivarsson to see how this approach has worked in agile software development at Spotify.

Marketing Mondays: Instagram Stories

On August 2nd, Instagram introduced its new Instagram Stories feature. For brands that have been using SnapChat Stories, this product is almost a carbon copy with some differentiators. For those that have not yet explored SnapChat, I’ll explain a bit of the context behind both of these products.

Instagram Stories is a new feature in which users can share multiple photos and videos in a slideshow format (your “story”) without having to worry about over posting. Each story disappears after 24 hours and is not posted to your Instagram feed or profile grid. For Millennials and, even more so, for Gen Z, this feature provides the ephemeral nature of sharing that drew these younger audiences away from Facebook and toward SnapChat. And, for Instagram (and Facebook), this provides a feature that can (potentially) lock in its own users, preventing them from testing and moving over to SnapChat.

Why did Instagram copy SnapChat?
There are a limited, albeit large, number of potential users available in the world. The world’s population is ~7.4 billion people. China is the largest market with ~1.4 billion people, followed by India at ~1.3 billion people and then the U.S. with a mere ~324 million people. Meanwhile, there are ~3.6 billion internet users today, globally. Every social network, chat app and content publisher is vying for those users’ eyeballs and time, so they can sell ads to brands. The larger companies, such as Google and Facebook are investing heavily in bringing internet to the other ~4 billion people that don’t yet have access to the internet, so they can grow their reach and ability to sell ads.

As seen in the chart below, Facebook alone dominates in the number of users that it has captured with ~1.6 billion users globally, as of April 2016. But, when you add in its other properties – WhatsApp at 1 billion users, Facebook Messenger at 900 million users and Instagram at 400 million users – Facebook’s reach becomes even more astounding.


So, with this much reach, why would Facebook/Instagram copy the Stories feature from Snapchat? Because each platform captures a different audience segment. And, Facebook knows it needs to both guard its existing audience, and capture the next generation of young audiences that brands so aggressively covet. In fact, that’s why Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 – to reach younger audiences. While Facebook started in 2004 as a closed network for college students to connect with “friends”, it quickly expanded as a platform for anyone to connect with close friends and family. Today, it is a catch all network to connect with anyone that you’ve ever met.

Younger audiences that recognized this trend, and wanted to capture and share their lives on a platform where their parents weren’t watching their every move, jumped over to Instagram. Instagram offered a simple, visual platform to publish selfies and other photos with beautiful filters, presenting an ideal – or even aspirational – image of users’ lives. And, the user’s profile settings could easily be set to private, so that only people whom the user accepts can follow the user and see her photos.

Facebook saw their young user base making this jump to Instagram, so they bought the platform – for a sum that only four years ago was considered mind-boggling, but, today, is considered a steal. As Ben Thompson writes in his post, The Audacity of Copying Well, Facebook and Instagram offer complementary use cases. Thus, instead of simply absorbing Instagram and its features into Facebook, Facebook had the foresight to understand that the best thing it could do with Instagram was let it live on as its own entity so not to alienate Instagram users, while integrating Facebook’s ad technology into the Instagram platform, offering brands the ability to target Instagram’s younger audiences.

The Snapchat generation (Gen Z), which came after the Millennials that grew up with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, grew up with warnings from parents and broader society to be careful about what they post online. Photos, videos and statements can live on forever on these open platforms and be discovered with a simple Google or Facebook search. Enter Snapchat.

Founded in 2011, Snapchat offered an alternative to social networks as well as mobile text messaging, both of which kids’ parents had access to. Snapchat, after all, is a photo messaging app first and a social network second. Snapchat offered a private place in which to share photos that would disappear within 24 hours. The very nature of the platform, the value proposition, was to be ephemeral – to provide a refuge where young audiences could be their youthful selves without fearing future repercussions for actions and statements made today. Like Instagram before it, Snapchat saw droves of young users adopting the platform. And, in 2013, Facebook offered Snapchat $3 billion in cash to acquire the platform. But, in an amazing show of confidence, Snapchat founder, Evan Spiegel, turned down the offer with a long-term view of growing the business. Today, Snapchat has over 200 million users and growing and is valued at over $22 billion. No wonder people consider the $1 billion acquisition of Instagram a steal, given its user base of over 400 million people today.

In fall of 2013, Snapchat introduced Snapchat Stories, which has since become Snapchat’s power feature – the ability to create slideshows of your life through photos and videos. The experience is almost rough and clunky, giving the appearance and feel of being more “authentic” and real. It was around this time that Facebook, after its failed attempt at copying Snapchat features through a new app called Poke, decided to offer $3 billion to acquire the growing photo chat app. Ever since Snapchat turned down Facebook, Snapchat and Facebook/Instagram have increasingly competed over features to captivate their users’ attention. For example, in August 2014, Snapchat launched Live – a feature that allowed users to follow (and contribute to) live events. In January 2015, Snapchat launched Discover – a feature that enabled users to discover new Snapchat Stories and content from publishers and influencers. Later, in June 2015, Instagram launched a new Explore page enabling users to discover trending content and places based on its users engagement (similar to Snapchat Live). In September 2015, Snapchat acquired Looksery to power its new animated lenses feature, dubbed “Lenses”. And, in March 2016, Facebook acquired MSQRD, which offers similar imaging features. So, it was only a matter of time before Facebook attempted to copy Snapchat’s power feature. This time, though, it may work.

Should your brand use Instagram Stories or Snapchat Stories?
Instagram Stories already seem to be getting plenty of engagement. The stories appear on the top of your Instagram app and seamlessly integrate into the Instagram experience. I’ve been seeing a range of brands, influencers and regular users (friends that I follow) testing out Stories, and it’s a fun addition to my content feed. Given the head start that Facebook/Instagram have on Snapchat in developing their ad tech and revenue model, I can see Instagram Stories hitting a positive nerve with brands as a great way to elevate the content that they share on Instagram and, eventually, targeting new audiences with promoted Instagram Stories.

But, as usual with social media, there is no clear cut answer as to whether or not a brand should participate in Instagram Stories or Snapchat Stories.

A good place to start is comparing the core users for each of the platforms with the audiences your brand hopes to reach. Snapchat’s core users are 13 to 24-year-olds, falling squarely in the Gen Z bucket. Furthermore, 77% of college students use Snapchat. And, the platform touts ~100 million daily active users amongst its ~200 million total users. Meanwhile, Instagram’s core users capture both Gen Z and Millennials: 41% of its users are ages 16 to 24, and 35% of its users are ages 24 to 34. Instagram touts ~75 million daily active users amongst its ~400 million total users. Some fast math will tell you that Snapchat and Instagram likely capture a similar number of Gen Z users, while Instagram also gives a brand access to the Millennial audience that is growing in buying power.

So, if your brand’s target audience falls within these core user bases, then it’s time to experiment and test which platform proves to support your business goals.

How to use Instagram Stories
This video from 9TO5Mac provides an excellent tutorial on how to use Instagram Stories.

*BONUS: How to use SnapChat
Many people over the age of thirty find Snapchat daunting and intimidating. If you haven’t explored Snapchat yet, below are two must read blog posts from Mark Suster explaining the platform: how to use it and why it’s important.

Now get out there and experiment.

A Contrarian View on Innovation in Advertising & PR

Lifecycle of a Technological Revolution_today

With the revolution of media and technology disrupting the marketing industry, and business models altogether, marketers are trying to navigate through the storm. On the communications side, TV dollars are shifting to digital. But, digital ads aren’t nearly as effective nor transparent as we want them to be. The traditionally distinct and siloed roles of marketing communications (once upon at time, just known as ‘advertising’) and PR are converging.

Because of the advent of social media, and the frustration with traditional and digital advertising, marcomm is moving into earned media with influencer marketing, native advertising and more responsive campaigns and editorial content teams. Because of the rise of the new influencer – everyday people and celebrities using blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, SnapChat, Periscope and other platforms to create personal media companies – PR is expanding beyond traditional media relations and ‘the pitch’, and into influencer marketing, sponsored content and responsive editorial content teams as well. It’s a race to the middle where the lines are blurred. That’s why agencies and publishers are partnering to create wholly new content companies that service brands.

If we take a step back from the race, though, things haven’t changed much since 2009. The big three: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter had launched and matured as three distinct and valuable social communications platforms for users. Since then, other social platforms have launched – Foursquare (and Swarm), Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, SnapChat, Meerkat and Periscope being the most touted. But, each of these just feels like an iterative evolution of the discontinuous leaps that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube made. Platforms, and the content they enable, shifted to become more visual, shorter and ephemeral. When Meerkat and Periscope launched, didn’t it feel like they already existed? And, the fundamental rules for how to engage audiences on those platforms is the same; we must adhere to the Reciprocity Theory.

So, I actually take a contrarian point of view: innovation has slowed in media technology. We’re at the tail end of our current technological revolution’s lifecycle, moving past the discontinuous revolution and into the iterative evolution. While folks in the industry are making claims that: “Advertising is dead.” Or that, “Data will tell us what content to make, so we don’t need creatives anymore.” I’m claiming that we need creative more than ever. The discipline just needs to evolve too. As the roles of advertising and PR converge, storytelling becomes an even more critical discipline for marketing.

Just pushing the message through TV and radio and print and display ads is lazy creative and lazy advertising. Great creative has always been about great storytelling. Now we just tell that story across new media platforms/channels in partnership with the new social influencers and in partnership with our customers. Sometimes those influencers and customers are the same. Great creative (‘the story’) is the glue that holds the story together, wherever we’re telling it. It’s what inspires people to participate.

In the late 2000s in the entertainment industry, we began exploring transmedia storytelling. This is where we would develop a core story – characters and the world in which they lived. And, then we’d plan out those stories across media (books, graphic novels, movies, TV, web series). It was a shift away from the linear model of: writer publishes book –> studio buys book and makes movie –> network turns movie into TV series. Instead, we developed it all at the same time. They lived together as extensions, or chapters, of the same story instead of separately as different and distinct adaptations of the story. This style of storytelling became particularly popular in the fantasy/gaming/comics genres, as we could delve deep into the story of a world we were creating.

Now, in marketing, we have the opportunity to take the same approach. How do we create a core story – the story of our brand, which reflects the story of our customers and employees – and tell that story through new (and traditional) media platforms and people? Like a vision, the story we tell requires an intuitive leap of faith. It must inspire. It must create new possibilities. Is that so different from great advertising fifty years ago? Maybe. Maybe not. But, in an increasingly ephemeral world, wouldn’t it be nice to have some moments that impact and last?

How to Gauge the ROI of Your Paid Traffic Channels

This post originally appeared in Outbrain’s blog on March 19, 2012. Since it’s still relevant in the context of today’s changing media landscape, I thought I’d repost it here now.


With average click-through rates on traditional online advertising, such as banner ads, falling to 0.09%, it’s clear that capturing the attention of online audiences is increasingly difficult.

Jakob Nielsen and Kara Pernice’s research in “Eyetracking Web Usability” found that audiences’ eyes naturally gravitate towards the content on web pages versus the media running adjacent to the content. The heatmap below highlights users’ viewing patterns on the following three types of webpages:

– an article in the “about us” section of a corporate website (far left),
– a product page on an e-commerce site (center), and
– a search engine results page (SERP; far right).

Eyetracking Web Usability

What does this tell us? That content matters. Quality content is valuable to your audience and helps drive deeper engagement with them – more so than with traditional advertising.

So how do you take advantage of quality content to engage your potential consumers? Here is a step-by-step approach on how to get started: define your business objectives, develop a solid content strategy, give your content a paid media boost and measure ROI of your efforts.

Define Business Objectives

First, you must define your business objectives. Note, that we say “business objectives”; not “marketing objectives”.

Paid media is often measured by the number of impressions delivered, and the CTR (click-through rate) achieved on those impressions. But, as discussed above, industry average CTR is only 0.09%. This means that for every 1,000 impressions served, only one person, on average, is clicking on that advertisement. Fewer are staying on, or engaging with, the pages those advertisements are driving to. Furthermore, a recent comScore study found that one third of reported ad impressions are never actually seen. So, traditional means of measuring ROI aren’t very effective — or, even, accurate.

Instead, it’s best to align your marketing objectives with your actual business objectives. For example, do you want to…

– Generate new sales leads?
– Showcase your company’s industry leadership?
– Educate existing clients about new products/services?

Develop a Content Strategy

Once you define your business objectives, you must identify your audience’s consumption habits.

– Are they trusting referrals from friends in their social networks? If so, which ones (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)?
– Are they searching for information on Google? If so, what keywords and terms are they searching for related to your business?
– What kind of content do they enjoy consuming (video, text, photos, presentations), and where do they consume it (social networks, blogs, etc.)?

Armed with this information, you can then develop a strategic content plan to engage your target audience. Produce quality, engaging content incorporating the keywords and terms that your audience notices and searches for. This will improve your SEO (“search engine optimization” or organic search results). As shown in the heatmap above, this is where people’s eyes gravitate when searching online.

Creating content that your target audience values will also improve the quality of people (or sales leads) landing on your content and the duration of their engagement with your brand.

Paid Media

So, where does paid media come in?

As Forrester’s Sean Corcoran describes in Defining Earned, Owned And Paid Media, “no other type of media can guarantee the immediacy and scale that paid media can. However, paid media is shifting away from the foundation and evolving into a catalyst that is needed at key periods to drive more engagement.”

Corcoran is describing a tectonic shift from paid media being the foundation of a marketing strategy to contentbeing the foundation of a marketing strategy.

Paid media can serve to launch that content to a scaled audience, targeting the websites where your consumers live online. Quality content, distributed at scale, and leveraging social media can help to optimize your cost of marketing.

Measure ROI

Having produced content that your consumers value, and distributing that content through the channels in which your audiences live, you should see an improved quality of audience, and engagement and retention rate over time. At the same time, you should find that the aggregate cost of paid media should decrease because your earned media is creating a viral lift of your content. Your effective CPC (cost per click) should go down. And, finally, if you have aligned your marketing goals to your business goals, you should find that the latter are being met.

The Modern CEO’s Social Business Agenda and Technology Paradox

This post originally appeared on CommonSense.

“Technology can accelerate a transformation, but it cannot cause a transformation”  Good to Great by Jim Collins

About a year ago, I was facilitating a conversation amongst a group of CEOs and C-Suite executives on the topic of Communications. As a conversation starter, I presented the group with the following market trends (stats sourced from IBM’s 2012 CEO C-Suite Study “Leading Through Connections”).

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 8.34.18 AM

This led to a fascinating conversation around the effects of social media and big data on organizations, and how CEOs can harness these trends to drive positive business impact for their organizations. I noted a mix of emotions ranging from excitement to confusion to intimidation in the room. Across the board, it was clear that addressing these market forces is top of mind for the modern CEO. I also noticed an inherent tendency to respond to these forces with tactical, technology solutions – to fight technology with more technology so to speak. I’ve noticed this same tendency with companies that we consult for.

The Technology Paradox

Today’s C-Suite and the organizations they lead are falling into a trap: a conundrum I’ve come to refer to as the “Technology Paradox”. At the core of the issue are two opposing forces affecting organizations, embedded in the market trends I shared with the CEOs and in their and their organizations’ inherent response (1) the external market force of social technologies disrupting industries and the structure of the workforce, and (2) the internal force of organizations reacting with tactical, technology solutions vs. responding with strategic, human solutions.

Technology Paradox

Examples of the Technology Paradox in action:

  • “Everyone’s talking about this new Pinterest thing. Let’s start a Pinterest page.”
  • “We need our workforce to be more collaborative and less siloed. Let’s get everyone on Jive.”

As Jim Collins taught us in Good to Great, “Technology can accelerate a transformation, but it cannot cause a transformation”. So, while CEOs must transform their organizations to adapt to and meet today’s challenges, largely driven by social technologies and their impact on the market, CEOs cannot begin the transformation with technology solutions.

Leading During a Revolution

CEOs have dealt with technological revolutions before – from the two industrial revolutions to the digital revolution and the era of personal computing. Even “social media” itself is nothing new (here is a great history of social media written by venture capitalist, Mark SusterPart 1 – Social Networking: The PastPart 2 – Social Networking: The Present and Part 3 – Social Networking: The Future). But, perhaps what may make today’s challenges different is that CEOs are facing the effects of a confluence of technologies – cloud computing, social media, and post-PC devices (mobile) – that have now reached interoperability and scale. Together, these technologies are democratizing and personalizing information at an unprecedented scale and accuracy, and driving a global social revolution.  Customers and workforces – citizens, even – are not only more informed, but also more perceptive, discerning and cynical of those pushing messages at them; certainly of those underestimating their intellect. It’s critical to understand this context because once one does, it’s clear that, while technology may be driving many of today’s organizational changes and challenges, the answer lies not in technology alone. The answer lies in understanding human behavior and the nuances of each organization’s corporate culture. Technology is merely an enabler.

Thus, as C-Suites respond to today’s challenges, they must think and act through the lens of managing during a time of revolution, and focus on better understanding, trusting and empowering their employees and customers. What are the levers they can pull to drive change? Recognize the innovators and early adopters. Who are the avid guarders of the status quo, and what are the opportunities to change their perspective? Most importantly, how can you communicate in a relevant manner with your various stakeholders and constituencies (from board members to investors to employees to customers), to gain the support of the influencers in those constituencies and motivate change?

Developing a Master Narrative

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 6.38.49 PM

Here at W2O Group, we’ve used an ACES model (outline below) to help construct communications plans.

CEO Master Narrative

  • Analytics. Harness the power of big data to drive actionable insights that can drive business impact
  • Content. Develop content that is catered to your constituencies in the formats they prefer, and syndicate that content to the channels/communities in which they consume and engage
  • Engagement. Create relationships and trust by becoming a valued community member (which I’ve written about before here) in the communities in which your various constituencies engage
  • Strategy. Lead with strategy, purpose and desired business outcomes. Incorporate strategy in every step (analytics, content and engagement)

Using this model a CEO can begin to construct an effective narrative to motivate behavior and transformation within her organization and amongst stakeholders.

Below you can find the slides I used to facilitate the conversation amongst the CEOs.