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“The age of ignorance in social is over. You absolutely cannot afford to NOT know what the ROI on your social is, and there really isn’t a good excuse for not knowing anymore.”

I’m heading to SES Chicago next week to sharpen my online marketing skills.   SES is the leading global event series about search and social marketing. The highly respected conference hosts industry experts and thought leaders with the end goal of preparing each of us to be more successful.

John Lee, Manager of Brand & Social Marketing at Webtrends, is a featured speaker at this year’s event.  In 2012, John was recognized by PR Daily for creating both the year’s “Best Branding Campaign” and “Event of the Year.”

BusinessInterviews.com:  Let’s start out with Webtrends.  Tell us about the company, what they do, and how we can benefit from your services.

John: Well, you might recognize that Webtrends name if you’ve been in the digital space for awhile – we’re the people who helped start the analytics industry way back in 1993. Obviously, it’s been a long time since then. Today, Webtrends is a digital marketing company, and it’s really all about giving you the in-the-moment measurement and optimization you need to deliver better customer experiences.

BusinessInterviews.com:  What can people expect to walk away with after attending SES Chicago?  For those who have never attended, what will they experience?

John: It’s a chance to re-think, re-learn and challenge what you know about search and social. The beauty – and difficulty – of digital is that it changes so rapidly. Thankfully, SES puts you in the middle of peers and industry experts alike so that you go home with tips you can use right away.

BusinessInterviews.com:  Can you tell me about your background and how you got involved in social media and online marketing?

John: You might say I’m part of that generation that grew up on social. I’m 28-years-old; social was never a channel or marketing tool – it was just a way of life.  That being said, to me, social on its own isn’t really all that special. It’s when you put in the framework of building a business or completely changing how people experience marketing that it becomes something amazing.

I was fortunate to start my career running in-house marketing departments in the agency space. And honestly, the focus there was anywhere but social. That experience was incredibly valuable, though, because as I began to understand what it really means for marketing to drive tangible, measurable business, I saw an untapped opportunity that only social could answer. In other words, how social could be more than just something to check off the marketing list or something to outsource to interns, but actually be a powerful catalyst in driving revenue.


BusinessInterviews.com:  Social Media is everywhere and on everyone’s minds.  But clearly, most businesses are not leveraging it properly and probably don’t know how to even begin.  Can you talk about the basic fundamentals behind effective social marketing?

John: The best piece of advice I can give is to be authentic. Be real. Give users something to connect to. The more you think about social as a channel to be leveraged or a challenge to be mastered, the more the miss the point. Social, at it’s core, is about being human. It’s about connecting on a one-to-one, human level. Success doesn’t come from some formula or the perfect tweet; it’s about understanding that your users have both professional and personal sides and being a brand that connects with both.

The other incredibly important thing is measurement. Lack of measurement is the number one reason why social fails. But it’s not a mystery. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Social can and should measurably build your business – I’m talking dollars and cents here – and not being able to quantify that is a recipe for failure.

BusinessInterviews.com:  I see you have written many articles on the subject of social marketing on the Webtrends as well as Clickz.com.  Aside from sharing your expertise, how does writing articles contribute to the success of a brand?

John: An article is only as good as its content. In other words, just because you write it – or tweet it – doesn’t mean anybody will care. It’s not about you as a writer, or even you as a brand; all that matters is whether the content you deliver is actually valuable to your reader.

BusinessInterviews.com:  Word of the street is that you have pink shoes.  Will these shoes be making an appearance at SES Chicago?  Can you tell the story behind the shoes?

John: Pink, blue, silver, orange – we’ve got a nice little family now. They definitely have a history at SES – we’ll see if they come out of hiding for Chicago.

The shoes were actually part of a campaign called #didyouseethat that we ran on-site at a few events. On the surface, they’re just some crazy Nikes. But really they were a way to connect with people on a human level – who doesn’t love shoes? – and give them a positive social experience, no sales pitch or marketing message attached.

The best part is that it’s actually also incredibly valuable as a lead generation tool. There’s this misconception that B2B social campaigns can’t both be fun or exciting AND drive business. That’s a lie. You think people first, you’ll get the business too. You think business first, and the social world will collectively tune you out.

BusinessInterviews.com:  As we look to the future, how do you see social media and marketing evolving over the next 5 to 7 years?

John: 5-7 years is a long time to project in social, but we’re already seeing some pretty significant shifts that’ll shape the industry over the next year or two.

In B2B, you’re going to see the concept of social lead generation re-thought and re-built. Twitter’s new Lead Gen Cards are an amazing example. A year ago, the notion of bypassing a landing page altogether and delivering a desired asset to a social user without ever leaving the tweet itself was unheard of; now it’s the center of our social strategy and what we’ll talking about at SES.

You’re also going to see more brands try to humanize their social campaigns. We’re talking less product focus, fewer marketing messages and a greater emphasis on social you can experience. The challenge, as some brands are already seeing, is how to make sure those experiences are still measurable and beneficial to a company’s bottom line.

And that’s really the other foundational change. The age of ignorance in social is over. You absolutely cannot afford to NOT know what the ROI on your social is, and there really isn’t a good excuse for not knowing anymore. To date, a lot of brands have done a great job making things look good and feel good on social, but at some point, you have to be able to quantify awesome, and so the pressure’s going to be turned up.

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