Content RulesI had the chance to connect with C.C. Chapman (@cc-chapman on Twitter), the co-author of Content Rules, and a sought-after marketing strategist, to get the latest and greatest in the world of social marketing.  C.C.’s strategic consulting encompasses work for some of the most admired brands, such as American Eagle Outfitters, Coca-Cola, HBO, and Warner Bros.

It was great to hear C.C. confirm that brands are “finally starting to wake up to the fact that they need to do something about social.” Where he sees a lot of them falling short is “diving in head first” or, what he calls “shiny toy syndrome.”  A lot of brands are still not thinking strategically and are “chasing whatever the hot tool of the week is.” C.C. reminded me that social and content need to integrate with all aspects of a company’s business – from customer service to sales.  “If you’re not integrating it, if you’re just trying to snap it on like a Lego and hoping that it’s magically going to work, it’s going to fail,” he says.

Rather than repeating some of the mistakes of their predecessors, C.C. suggests that today’s marketers can learn from the best when approaching social marketing. The top leaders setting the social agenda and the best practices for C.C. are Ford, HBO, and Cisco.

Ford is his favorite, as the company has embraced social in every aspect of its business.  Ford is active in almost all social media channels one can think of – not just using each social network as a single destination point, but tailoring its presence based on the passion points of fans.  For example, Ford has multiple Facebook Fan pages for some of its marquee brands, such as Ford Mustang, which has close to 1.7 million fans; Ford Focus with over 300,000 fans; and Ford Racing, which has over 125,000 fans and counting. “They’re a massive company, but it wasn’t overnight that they magically embraced social”, points out C.C. Ford’s team, led by industry legend Scott Monty, has been following a long-term strategy, which is “really the only way to be successful,” adds C.C.

Similarly, HBO has been integrating social into every aspect of its company – touting close to 4.5 million fans on Facebook in the United States alone. The company makes use of subtle things, such as adding a hashtag to the opening credits of its shows and to its HBOGo app, which allows its millions fans to watch their favorite HBO programming on the go – via iPhones, iPads, and iPods.

C.C. also sees a lot of big brands being truly creative with their marketing campaigns (now increasingly social in nature). He really likes Gap’s new jeans video campaign – the Pico Creative Loft series that tell the story of the company’s 1969 jeans brand in a documentary format (here’s a peek at one of the videos from the campaign). And before any of you skeptics out there can say that social marketing is better suited for end consumer brands, C.C. is quick to point to Cisco – a company that C.C. always brings up as a great example of how such a company can use social media effectively because “they do it better than anybody – they’ve really got social down pat.” The company uses video and humor (watch its 100th episode Cisco Unified Computing Celebration here). Cisco’s secret to marketing success? It knows its target market and know how to win them over, says C.C.

Success in social marketing comes with setting specific goals from the get-go, C.C. says.  He always advises companies to start with the end objective in mind. “Is it more views, more email sign-ups, sales, donations? Work back from there.” Specific outcomes work best. Increasing the number of views is not enough, but increasing the number of pages views by 10 percent is a very actionable goal that marketers can meaningfully pursue, he points out.  Besides such concrete metrics, C.C. says companies need to monitor what is being said about them and measure how engaged current followers are, in addition to tracking the number of people following a brand’s Fan page or reading a company’s blog. C.C. is also a believer in the power of online influencers – those who have the clout to make or break a product.  But he is also the first to tell you that companies need to know their customers first and foremost and go after channels and content that are engaging for them on their terms.

C.C. shared our enthusiasm at Awareness for the potential of integrating social media management platforms with CRM systems, as “the more information you have about customers, about the industry, about everything, the smarter business you can be.” He adds that “it’s all about relationships.”

His parting words for today’s Chief Marketing Officers serious about social? “Don’t create a separate social department.” When companies allocate social resources, they need to integrate them directly into their marketing, PR, and customer service – the first three areas that, according to C.C., have to be integrated with social. He then goes on to advise newcomers to social marketing to start small, but “make social an aspect of everything your company does, making it easy for people to talk about and share your campaigns.” Finally, empower your customer service department to listen, respond, and interact with customers over social channels. Success with social marketing comes from “empowering and training your people to be able to use social channels and to know that they’re ok to do it.”

In case you missed it, here is a webinar we recorded with C.C. and his Content Rules Co-Author, Ann Handley:

As always, we invite you to share your social success stories and your reactions to the insights and advice provided by C.C. Do you empower all of your employees to interact with customers across your social channels?  How do you ensure that employees are trained about both the risks and rewards of being a more social, open, and transparent enterprise?

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