techcrunch_disrupt_2011

TechCrunch Disrupt @Venture Panel

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

– Margaret Mead

Shervin Pishevar of Menlo Ventures shared this quote to characterize to the Silicon Valley culture, just before announcing the Menlo Talent Fund on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco last week. He described it as a “quick decision angel fund” to help entrepreneurs launch their ventures with up to $250,000 in seed funding. With a prominent “Jedi Council of Mentors” and eight companies already funded, he claimed to fund within 24-72 hours of a pitch and offered to “back your dreams and change the world together.”

While this sort of rapid funding approach sounds enticing and may accelerate the deal process and help VCs avoid missing opportunities, it seems like little more than an option to me and not entirely strategic. The Menlo announcement gave way to an interesting discussion about the role of venture capitalists and their relationship with entrepreneurs.

What do entrepreneurs really want from VCs? According to host Michael Arrington, they of course want money, but they would also like for their VCs “not to screw it up,” suggesting they should stay out the way until the companies really need them. Put more diplomatically by other members of the panel, startups should expect their investors to add some intrinsic value to the venture, not just their money. According to Joe Kraus of Google Ventures, there was a time when the VC’s role was primarily to help hire the senior management team and make business connections. Today, he said it’s also about knowing what the business needs and teaching the skills they know best and young entrepreneurs aren’t expected to know yet, like how to hire great engineers.

James Slavet reiterated the point by explaining that venture capitalists aren’t necessarily good at everything, the same way no single employee can do everything. He challenged entrepreneurs in the audience to identify the areas in their relationships VCs where you can get the most value and to understand value can show up in different ways at different times. Slavet predicts the future of venture capital will see fewer firms investing in companies at a wider range of stages, but said it’s hard for a VC to be a generalist and said operating experience, flexibility and specialization within a particular category will always be useful at any stage.

There was a general consensus among the panel that the physical proximity of a startup to its venture capital partner matters to its success, based mainly on contacts and the notion that not being in the same market slows down a company’s ability to hire and limits the number of potential exit opportunities. Arrington suggested this may be more symptomatic of Silicon Valley investors being lazy. After all, there are startups all over the world who are plenty successful. Regardless, it was a poignant reminder that even in our connected world, success comes down to trusted relationships and doing business with people we like.

Wherever a company or its investors or based, venture capitalists should be able, and expected, to make valuable connections for their portfolio companies. Everybody’s money is green. It’s the money that adds the most value to a business that matters most.

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Measuring ROI from B2B Marketing: Part II

Every marketing tactic has unique properties that influence the value that can be assigned relative to its cost. Whereas Part I addressed ROI on a macro level, this post focuses on how to value the most common marketing and communication programs on their individual merits.

Online Advertising
Even though display advertising can and should be measured through to a conversion (easy to do in Salesforce), expectations for clicks should be within those of industry averages (.2-.5%), with even lower expectations set on driving leads. The possible exceptions would include programs specifically geared toward capturing contact information prior to authorizing the download of a research paper or other thought leadership piece.

Key metrics: Impressions (eCPM)
Clicks (eCPC)
Leads (eCPL) – may include leads attributed to the campaign that did not come from a click
Sales (eCPA)

Benchmarks: Compare CTR against industry averages and past campaigns to reflect engagement
Compare CPM against other publications with comparable audience reach/composition
Compare lift in awareness against competitors (third party) during the flight periods

Recommend: Track site visitors and associated leads by traffic source

Print Advertising
Print advertising, while more expensive and less measurable than online ads, should be considered in any ROI analysis. Measuring the impact of print ads can be accomplished with a specific call to action or program (custom landing page, guarantee, contest, promotion, etc.), but its effectiveness is more often relegated to the level of confidence management has in a publication’s ability to reach a qualified audience.

If not centered around a specific promotion or product launch, investment in trade publications is best kept to special issues tied to your industry, which is often tied to a specific industry event.

Key metrics: Impressions (eCPM)

Benchmarks: Compare CPM against other trade pubs with comparable audience reach and composition
Compare lift in awareness of the company during the flight periods

Recommend: Create CRM lead source for “print advertising” and train Sales to associate related opportunities

Paid Search (SEM)
Search engine marketing serves both awareness and a demand generation objectives. However, paid search will always drive some number of unqualified leads and a process must be devised to manage them without becoming a distraction for Sales. While sometimes a nuisance, the value of SEM for awareness, as a defensive measure against competitors’ efforts and the occasional opportunity to land a substantial new client make paid search worthwhile to continue testing and measuring for its effectiveness.

Key metrics: Impressions (eCPM)
Clicks (eCPC)
Leads (eCPL)
Sales (eCPA)

Benchmarks: eCPL against past SEM campaigns
eCPA against total ad spend

Recommend: Track site visitors and associated leads by traffic source.

Event Sponsorship
Regional and vertical event sponsorship can create great awareness and meaningful interaction with qualified prospects. While practically speaking there will always be impressions made and conversations had that will be impossible to track, Marketing must develop a process for entering information from business cards obtained at events into the CRM system.

For this to work optimally, sales leadership must take a proactive role in ensuring opportunities from events are captured as thoroughly and accurately as possible. For example, a conversation with a former client where no business cards are traded but it results in securing an RFP needs to somehow be attributed to participation in the event. Or when a lead captured at an event gets passed from one rep to another it needs to be entered accordingly.

Key metrics: Potential audience – Reach/Frequency of the event’s advance promotion efforts
Actual audience – How many people attended the event?
Share of Voice – How well were we “heard” at the event?
Conversations – How many people did we “touch” during the event?
Leads – How many new contacts/leads were put into the CRM system (eCPL)?
Opportunities – How many new RFPs were generated from new or existing clients (eCPL)?
Sales – How much booked revenue from our participation in the event (eCPA)?

Benchmarks: Survey company representatives afterward to compare against other sponsored events
Compare revenue between regional event investments (holds regional sales reps accountable)
Compare revenue between vertical event investments
Compare regional events to effectiveness of vertical events

Recommend: Create a lead source option in CRM for each sponsored event and track qualified
leads/opportunities accordingly

Hosted Events
Investment in a company’s own custom events arguably attract a more highly qualified audience because the invited guests are its most important clients and prospects. For this reason, it is less likely new business cards will be obtained for entry into the CRM and it will be more difficult for Marketing to measure the effectiveness without direct input from Sales about new opportunities obtained as a result of client interactions during or immediately following the event.

Key metrics: Potential audience – How many people did we reach with the invitation (Sales must help)
Actual audience – How many people attended the event?
Opportunities – How many new RFPs were generated from new or existing clients (eCPL)?
Sales – How much booked revenue from our participation in the event (eCPA)?

Benchmarks: Survey company representatives after each event to compare against all sponsored events
Compare revenue derived from our own events against each other

Recommend: Create a lead source option in CRM for each sponsored event and track qualified
leads/opportunities accordingly

Webinars/Conference Calls/Podcasts
Webinars can be used for a combination of awareness, thought leadership and lead generation. Similar to custom events, webinars generate a highly qualified audience since the company typically controls the guest list. Although costs increase when partnering with another entity, so does the size and potential to reach new prospective clients. Unlike live events, it is much easier to track the effectiveness based on the number of people who register and attend the event.

Key metrics: Potential audience – How many people were invited to the webinar?
Registrations – How many people signed up to attend the webinar?
Attendees – How many people actually attended the webinar?
Opportunities – How many new RFPs were generated from new or existing clients (eCPL)?
Sales – How much booked revenue from our participation in the event (eCPA)?

Benchmarks: Compare growth in attendance over each webinar
Compare growth in sales over time, including impact of different topics or marketing partners

Recommend: Import event registration information into CRM and track leads accordingly

Conference Speaking Opportunities
Part event marketing and part public relations, speaking at conferences cannot be overlooked for its value in the marketing mix. The challenge with measuring speaking opportunities is that we often have no way of knowing the actions taken by audience members who were positively influenced by something our executive says on stage. If the speaker interacts with a prospective client, their information should be passed to a sales rep and recorded in the CRM, yet this easier said than done since the CEO does not (nor should he be expected to) think about ROI measurement from marketing at this granular level. Therefore, it is beholden on everyone in Sales to be mindful of where every lead comes from and to track it accordingly.

Key Metrics: Number of qualified speaking engagements secured (monthly/quarterly/annually)
Number of leads that can be directly attributed to speaking opportunities

Benchmarks: Number of our speaking opportunities compared to prior period (monthly/quarterly/annually)
Frequency of individual competitors appearing on stage during comparable periods

Recommend: Create a lead source for each event where we speak and track qualified leads accordingly
Hold PR firm accountable for number of speaking opportunities

Public Relations
The ability to consistently secure editorial coverage will build awareness, lift overall industry perception and increase sales as described above. But the more quantifiable metrics are the number of editorial placements, and to a lesser degree the type of placement (mention, roundup, feature, etc.) and how prominently a company is featured therein.

In years past, an accepted measurement of ROI from public relations investments was to calculate the advertising rate for the comparable amount of space secured. Today, systems offered by companies like Vocus, United Business Media and PR Newswire offer monitoring across all media with sophisticated scoring to measure things like:

• Type of media
• Type of coverage – feature story, profile, mention, round-up, etc.
• Quality of coverage –positive, neutral or negative
• Consistency, frequency, message saturation and diversity of coverage
• Share of voice against competitors

Depending upon the size of company and the importance it places on editorial coverage, it may be worth investigating third-party PR monitoring services, but often management is satisfied with simply being mentioned consistently in key trade publications and business press.

To the extent that editorial coverage secured can be directly attributed to a lead or a sale, that information should be captured in the CRM. This can be as simple as adding “editorial coverage” in the lead source field, to indicate when a new opportunity comes from any form of editorial coverage.

Key Metrics: Number of editorial mentions in trade and business press (monthly/quarterly/annually)
Number of leads that can be directly attributed to editorial coverage

Benchmarks: Number of editorial mentions compared to prior period
Number of editorial mentions of competitors in comparable time period

Recommend: Hold PR firm accountable for quantity, scale and frequency of trade media placements
Hold PR firm accountable for number of placements in trade analyst coverage
Create lead source for major editorial coverage and associate web and sales leads accordingly

Social Media
While a social media presence is not always a high priority for B2B marketers, it is advisable to at least maintain a Twitter handle, a Facebook page and a LinkedIn company profile, which need to be updated consistently in order to remain credible. Social media activities are relatively low cost to maintain (an hour or two per day of a junior level marketing staffer or intern). While it may be difficult to directly attribute revenue to the social channel, it is highly measurable in other ways and can be a big driver of awareness and thought leadership.

Key Metrics: Frequency of blog posts, Tweets and LinkedIn and Facebook status updates
Number of Twitter followers and Facebook “Likes”
Traffic to blog page

Benchmarks: Compare by channel to frequency of key competitors’ audience size and frequency of updates

Recommend: Report amount of hours spent and frequency of communication by each social media channel

Website Traffic and Analytics
A company’s website is the transom across which leads that cannot be attributed to a specific program will make their way into the company’s sales process. Monthly or annual benchmarks for traffic and leads should be established, but more importantly just looking at and discussing site analytics can lead to great marketing opportunities.

Key Metrics: Monthly unique visitors
Number of leads via the contact form
Source of traffic and leads

Benchmarks: Compare recent traffic and lead patterns to those immediately following the launch of a new site

Recommend: Monthly reporting of unique visitors and leads

Client Communication
Communicating with clients and prospects via e-mail is relatively easy and inexpensive and a newsletter can drive leads by introducing new products, promoting a hosted event or just serving as a trigger to remind a buyer to include the company on its next RFP. Whether completion of a lead form is tracked from a click or you rely on reps to indicate that a client mentioned having received our email, leads from dedicated mailings and newsletters should be tracked in the CRM whenever possible.

Key Metrics: Size of mailing list and frequency of sending to the list
Email open rate and click rates
Lead forms completed as a result of clicks from within newsletters

Benchmarks: Compare size of mailing list, open rate and CTR trends over comparable periods of time

Recommend: Report on frequency of client communication, open rate and number of leads generated

Product Marketing and Collateral
While not an obvious marketing program expenditure, marketing typically spends an inordinate amount of time on product positioning, differentiation, launch promotions and collateral. For the most ROI-obsessed marketers, a field for “product marketing and collateral” can be created in the CRM as a place for sales reps to track when a particular sales deck, individual piece of collateral or knowledge they obtained from a product specialist resulted in their winning a piece of new business.

Key Metrics: Number of man-hours spent on product marketing related programs
Number of opportunities cited by reps as being the result of product marketing initiatives

Benchmarks: Compare growth of new opportunities from product marketing over comparable time periods

Recommend: Identify a new vertical (Education) or product (Brand-DR Connect) and measure product sales

Instilling ROI Values in the Organization

To avoid the traditional tension between sales and marketing, align their objectives from the beginning under a common value proposition and goal. Marketing can take on planning, implementation and measurement of programs while Sales is recognized as the catalyst for winning deals. Account management (operations) also has a role in retaining customers and increasing their lifetime value.

Avoid Sales not entering leads through training and by making the lead source a required field in the CRM. Sales should also be discouraged to attribute leads to a marketing activity just because they want to “help” Marketing. Incentives should be focused on encouraging an honest assessment of where leads come from and enlisting everyone on the team in tracking our ROI so we can make more intelligent decisions about where to place our marketing dollars based on real experience about what works and what doesn’t.

Summary

Key recommendations for measuring return on investment from marketing can be summarized as including:

• Enlist Marketing in refining metrics and benchmarks and determining specific goals
• Make lead source a required field in the CRM and frequently update lead source picklist
• Enlist PR firm in defending their value for media relations activities and reaffirm goals
• Train Sales about the importance and how to properly account for marketing-related leads
• Regularly analyze deal size by source
• Undertake win/loss analysis to determine LTV measurement

Multiple touch-points with an audience, at varying costs and at varying scale and quality will influence each sale, make it difficult to attribute revenue to any single marketing program. Attempting to create a common unit of measurement or scoring system across programs, while possible in theory, would be a futile effort since integrated marketing by its nature is designed to leverage the combined effect of all programs rather than any individual component.

Although it is useful to understand which marketing programs drive new business most efficiently, and the marketing organization can use the key metrics and benchmarks contained in this report to make future recommendations, ultimately management and investors should be more concerned with the cost to acquire a qualified lead (eCPL) and the most effective rate at which to drive awareness (eCPM).

How we make decisions about future expenditures is dependent on our personal experience, recommendations based on others’ experience and our belief in the audience composition of a particular program as described by sales people presenting new opportunities we may know little about. Sometimes the risk of not participating in a program can be as much a determining factor as there being a high likelihood for something positive to come of the investment. No matter what the program or how it was selected, there is always the need (and likely the ability) to test and verify.

The primary reason for tracking the return on marketing investments is to make better decisions about where to make subsequent investments based on the success of prior decisions. However, there are no guarantees that any investment in marketing will result in acquiring a new client or maintaining an existing one. The metrics, benchmarks and recommendations contained in this post are merely guidelines and observations based on my experience. I would appreciate your feedback, as I continue to understand and share insights on this important topic for B2B marketers.

Return to Measuring ROI from B2B Marketing: Part I

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Measuring ROI from B2B Marketing: Part I


Unlike consumer marketing, where sales from advertising expenditures are a direct operating expense and measuring conversion rates and lifts in retail sales are resident to the business model itself, measuring the sales impact from B2B marketing initiatives is often a more challenging task.

My clients often ask, and this post seeks to answer:

• How do we determine the overall impact of our marketing investment?
• What return on investment we should expect from individual marketing initiatives?
• What benchmarks can be established to compare the effectiveness across our programs?

When measuring the impact of marketing, it is important to do so in the context of the larger corporate agenda. If the stated company objective is to grow revenue while maintaining high customer satisfaction, the related marketing objectives might be to increase awareness while better educating existing customers about products and services they aren’t currently buying. Only from this understanding can sales, marketing, product and operations align under a common value proposition that gets everyone on board with measuring the impact of the company’s external marketing and communication investment.

What to Measure
“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count;
everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”

– Albert Einstein

Measurement of B2B marketing effectiveness is a relative one, and somewhere between hyper-obsessive measurement and doing nothing, there lies the opportunity to monitor how a company’s investment in marketing is affecting the bottom line.

The best unit of measurement for B2B marketing is cost-per-lead because it holds Marketing accountable to driving new inquiries at some measured cost while giving Sales a familiar metric by which they can also be held accountable. Ultimately a cost-per-sale analysis should be applied, but a cost-per-lead metric is the most common metric by which sales and marketing can share responsibility for their combined efforts.

Since all marketing programs will reach some percentage of both current and prospective customers, applying a CPL metric removes from the equation events that are out of Marketing’s control, such as competition, objection handling, timing, etc.

Actions a target audience may take along the sales funnel that can feed an ROI modle are:

• Impressions
• Clicks
• Leads
• Conversations (at events)
• Inquiries (by phone ormail)
• Qualified meetings
• Opportunities (RFPs)
• Sales
• Retention
• Lifetime Value (LTV)

There is wide variance in the types of B2B marketing programs available, and an equally broad range of ways to measure their associated impact. Whether considered individually or collectively, B2B marketing programs can be justified and evaluated by their:

• Cost
• Potential to drive revenue (or other rationale made by management)
• Size of audience
• Quality of audience
• Measurability/accountability

Marketing Spend as a Percentage of Revenue
According to a 2008 IDC study, on average B2B companies spend 2.8% of revenue on marketing (ranging from .8% in the services sector to 5.8% for IT companies). Spending levels depend largely upon the stage of the company and its strategic need to invest in awareness initiatives. The study showed marketing programs represented 61% of total marketing spend, with an average of $293,000 of program spend and $16.8 million in revenue for each corporate marketing staff member.

Return on Investment Benchmarking
Ultimately, a company needs to ascertain its ROI from marketing in order to assure shareholders that the expense is warranted, and to more intelligently make investments in the future based on the results experienced in the past.

While every marketing investment will return a different result, at a macro level we can calculate is how the overall amount invested in marketing (entire spend and salaries) relates to revenue. For example, spending roughly $500,000 to generate $20 million in revenue (2.5% of sales put toward marketing), would be a gross ROI of 3900% (ROI = Gain from Investment – Cost of Investment/Cost of Investment).

Such a gross metric, while interesting, is not that useful for making decisions about where to invest in specific marketing programs. On an individual basis, my rule of thumb has always been that it’s reasonable to expect an average gain of 10x the amount spent, or an ROI of approximately 1,000% from any single program. Some will generate more and some less, but using this as a basic metric provides a starting point from which to create historical benchmarks.

Measurement by Objective
While ultimately, the goal of any organization is to drive sales growth, the process typically begins with marketing programs that drive awareness and leads, each of which have unique properties when it comes to measuring ROI.

Awareness (CPM)

Awareness among customers and prospects, and — more importantly — their attitudes and feelings toward the company, is an important metric by which to determine the impact marketing is having on sales. It is also somewhat difficult to measure.

At one (very expensive) extreme, custom research companies can develop custom panels of would-be customers who can be studied year-over-year to show trends in industry attitudes toward your brand. In the online advertising industry there is another less expensive, and potentially more effective, solution is offered by Advertiser Perceptions, which measures awareness, attitudes and perceptions about specific media vendors by marketers and the agencies that represent them.

At the other end of the spectrum, surveying your own customers is an easy and inexpensive barometer of perception. An adept management team should also have an instinct for whether the company’s marketing is resonating with customers based on their direct feedback from the sales channel. If sales are going up and customers are echoing certain brand values and calling for products and features by name, then something about the company’s marketing is clearly working.

Leads (CPL)

I’ve found marketing to drive demand generation in the B2B space less important than the “air cover” a national sales team can benefit from as they seek to ensure their prospects have heard of the company and have a basic understanding of how it’s different from competitors whom they may perceive to all “sound alike.”

Leads are a viable metric for determining the relative effectiveness of all marketing programs, and wherever possible a contact form should be used to obtain for more information. However, lead-generation as a marketing objective is likely to be inefficient for a high-end sale because it is more likely to attract smaller, unsophisticated advertisers when the company has likely already identified and is pursuing through its national sales force.

Sales (CPA)

Fundamentally, all marketing activities exist to support revenue. Marketing’s impact on sales can be felt at many levels – from positioning to equip sales reps with the right words and collateral, to sponsorship and advertising, editorial coverage, promotions and event marketing – done with the intent of driving revenue.

Unfortunately, it’s harder to measure the impact of great sales collateral and a well-differentiated positioning strategy than it is to track a click-to-sale ratio. These intangible measures can only be captured through the close alignment of sales and marketing to ensure market feedback is systematically incorporated into future iterations of product marketing and corporate positioning.

Retention

Conventional wisdom says it costs five times as much to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. Therefore, some emphasis should always be placed on cost-effectively generating new opportunities from existing clients and sales management should undertake a periodic customer retention analysis to determine the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer.

In Measuring ROI from B2B Marketing: Part II, I will take a closer look at the differences between different B2B marketing tactics and how each can be measured for their relative effectiveness.

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ad:tech SF 2011 – Arianna Huffington keynote

I’ve been thinking a lot about cause marketing lately, and based on her recent IMPACT post had fully expected Arianna Huffington to touch on the subject during her keynote address at ad:tech San Francisco. What I didn’t anticipate was to hear so much passion and such a commitment to connecting journalism and online advertising to a higher calling for humanity. 

In an inspiring speech that quoted great poets and thinkers, both dead and alive, Ms. Huffington plainly laid out the case for embracing cause marketing, capitalizing on the power of local media and reminding us all of the importance of disconnecting for our own health and productivity.

Just as Shakespeare kept to the formal constraints of the sonnet, she suggested that today we must find ways to use the tools of social media to tap humanity and the noblest part of ourselves. Echoing Guy Kawasaki’s talk the day prior about moving from engagement to enchantment, she encouraged us not to dwell on those things that are disfunctional and suboptimal in our world, but to focus on the what is being born all around us today that allows us to connect at a deeper level than ever before.

As an example of cause marketing, she cited the Chivas Regal “Live with Chivalry” campaign where the value of nobility is used to sell whisky. If marketing and advertising is a leading indicator of what’s happening in our culture, we need to identify its meaning and tap into this large and profound trend.  We are moving to an era when doing good is not just good for humanity, but also good for the bottom line — where it doesn’t just affect our business, it affects our lives.

Expressing disappointment in the mainstream media, she spoke of how they have let us down by not focusing on solutions and placing too much emphasis on what is not working rather than so many things that are. Whereas mainstream media suffers from ADD by only covering a story for a brief time before abandoning it, in digital we have OCD and the ability to cover stories obsessively until there is a solution.

This is made even more powerful when we engage our communities at a local level. Local, she said, will bring together communities at a time when the media is increasingly more disconnected than ever from our lives. All human existence is local, and that’s where people trust what’s going on around them and feel empowered to get things done.

Taking pride in quoting will.i.am and Shakespeare in the same speech, she referenced a comment he made about how in “the olden days” we consumed news on a couch — today we consume it on a galloping horse. Reinforcing this idea at the local level, she spoke about plans to replicate a popular Greatest Person of the Day feature on the Huffington Post by creating the Greatest Person of the week throughout Patch sites in more then 800 cities. We are longing to connect with each other as human beings at the same time there is a greater explosion of everything life, and that’s why AOL is betting on local.

Finally, she spoke about the need to disconnect from our hyperconnected existence and to unplug and recharge. We can start by simply getting enough sleep and cited “overwhelming medical evidence” about how essential it is for our health and our creativity — likely a tough concept for the always-connected ad:tech crowd.

In closing she cited third century Greek philosopher Plotinus and his teaching about knowledge, wisdom and creativity. And knowledge has three degrees: opinion, science and illumination. The Internet has addressed opinion and science, but not illumination. Many of the leaders running our government, media and financial institutions have very high IQs and access to all of the data and information in the world. What they are missing is illumination, which is ultimately about wisdom.

“My crystal ball sees more explosive wonder, combustible energy to more truth, transparency wisdom, enchantment…and much more digital advertising!”

The entire speech is available online here:

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How Hollywood Engages Audiences Socially

varietyVariety’s Hollywood Creative Masters SuperSession at CES featured five top producers sharing insights on how they are embracing digital platforms to engage consumer audiences and build fan bases for their TV shows and movies. While the methods and reasons for using social media vary from movies to television, and whether content is live or scripted, there was a clear consensus about its value for both engaging existing audiences and mobilizing new ones. 

Here are a few of my key takeaways from the session:

1) Embrace the Digital Natives

Tailor your social strategy to the audience you want to reach. Gale Anne Hurd, executive producer of The Walking Dead, referred to herself and the panelists as “digital immigrants,” whereas the social audience is comprised mainly of “digital natives.” By embracing the audience in the language they speak and thinking of story telling in a more three-dimensional way, audiences will engage the franchise wholly too.

Ms. Hurd went on to explain how the primary use of social for The Walking Dead had the advantage of tapping into an existing audience of online fans of the popular Robert Kirman comic series. Whereas Conrad Green, executive producer of Dancing with the Stars, called social media important, but not a major marketing driver since his audience is primarily 50+. Instead, referring to DWTS as a temporal experience, social is used more effectively as a trigger to spark dialogue among younger audiences around controversial contestants like Bristol Palin.

2) Tailor Digital Media Assets to the Experience

One way to make entertainment franchises less temporal is to extend them across media and over time. Tim Kring, executive producer of Heroes and creator of Conspiracy for Good, encouraged embracing fans across multiple digital points of entry, citing that 73 percent of viewers are also on a connected device while watching television. Green elaborated with an example of a contest they are working on that will allow viewers to predict how the judges will vote and to win prizes accordingly. He also pointed out the unrealized potential of how audiences can have more involvement through more innovative use of mobile devices, especially live streaming from audiences’ cameras.

3) Involve the Audience in the Story

Audiences are no longer just consumers of content, they are also creators and promoters of entertainment media. By providing tools and assets for the community to use and interact with, there becomes the opportunity to create more audience engagement.  Bonnie Arnold, producer of How to Train Your Dragon, also spoke of the need for continuity between releases, and in her case spoke of the nine books, a DVD release a Cartoon Network deal and a Christmas television special as ways to keep audiences sated until the sequel in 2013.

Mr. Kring spoke of extending the mythology beyond the core television or movie asset by allowing the story to take on a life of its own online and elsewhere. For example, the back-story about a sword seen on the show could only be found on the packaging of a retail product. By doing things like this, the story ran so deep that the producers had to refer to the fan wiki in order to learn whether one of their own characters was still alive!

4) Keep it Authentic

As with all social media endeavors, having authenticity with audiences is paramount. Advertising and sponsorship are critical, but they can also be a program’s biggest threat when engaging consumers. By involving the creators and allowing them to vet everything used for marketing, promotion and authenticity don’t have to be an oxymoron. 

5) Rely on Instinct

From the real-time nature of feedback from Twitter to television rating reports, the poential exists to react too soon to the whims of an audience. After all,  as Ms. Hurd stated, the audience isn’t supposed to “like” the villans. Whether it’s in real-time or not, the audience will provide feedback, and often it mirrors the opinions of the producers had in the first place. Both Kring and Jeff Ross, executive poducer of Conan, cited the symbiotic relationship with audiences, but also the need for producers to rely on their instinct when it comes to programming according to what audiences want.

6) Protect (and yes, promote) Your Assets

Not entirely off-topic, but certainly top of mind was the issue of piracy. While Kring suggested even those who pirate movies could be your biggest fans, and therefor advocates for viral promotion, others held a more protective view. Ms. Hurd spoke of the need to make a good first impression with audiences, citing an unauthorized leak of a trailer that could have been interpreted as the movie having technical flaws when really it was just an early view of the technology. More to the point of piracy, she called for an industry campaign to show consumers how piracy could prevent the creation of quality content and gave an example of how a unified release of properties globally could reduce the need for international audiences to steal content the would otherwise have paid for.

7) Create a Great Product

Perhaps it goes without saying, but when you take a point of view, tailor content to the desires of your audience and produce a high quality product, social media, and more importantly box office and ratings, success is sure to follow.

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