Marc Schiller is CEO of ElectricArtists, a groundbreaking digital agency in New York with a client roster that has included such major and broad-ranging clients as American Express, Starwood Hotels, A&E Networks, The History Channel, USA Network, Microsoft, Netflix, and The Los Angeles Lakers.
The company has created some of the most innovative and original work in the social media arena, from the first marketing presence in Second Lift back in 2006 to the much more recent Trackingtwitter, a site that tracks (and rates) major brands and products on Twitter.
Marc spends a great deal of his time considering how social media influences marketing, and how marketing can leverage social media. He’ll share some of that thinking with the attendees of our Peer Summit in New York on October 8.
Being the impatient types, we asked Marc if we couldn’t have a sneak peek now as to what he’ll be sharing with the audience next month. Happiily, he obliged.
Q: So what will your keynote topic be?
A: I’m really focused right now on what to look out for and to act on in 2010. We’re putting together our thoughts on themes, and on what’s growing in importance.
Q: Can you provide some examples?
A: Marketing has become a conversation. So really for brands it’s a question of adapting engagement models and tones. For most this is a big shift. If you look at a brands’ presence on, say, Twitter it is purely conversational. They are only seeing 140 characters: the text. And it’s not only about Twitter. Facebook is creating a shift, too.
The second area is that attention is being distributed to more and more channels and sources. When their presence is no longer confined to their Web site how do brands adapt, manage, and integrate channels?
Finally, I’ll be looking at how the shelf life of content is shrinking dramatically. Content must continuously stay fresh. There’s a lot of noise in all these channels. How do you make sure that you’re not adding noise and adding real value?
As we get into the fourth quarter of the year social media is growing up. This is a major shift. Personally speaking, just in the last two weeks I’ve noticed that three generations of my family are on Facebook. You now have one destination, one platform, for everyone.
It’s pretty remarkable, and if you look at the numbers there’s a chart — maybe you had published it [we did]. In the first quarter of this year there was a dramatic increase in women 35-54 on Facebook.
Q: Yes, but this year it’s all about Twitter, it seems, while last year all we could talk about was Facebook. So taken individually, are these social channels the Next Big Thing, or the Next Big Flash-in-a-Pan?
A: That’s always the big question. That will always be the challenge. But as these big channels mature, the companies that are building the platforms are getting smarter and smarter. The early work done prior to MySpace and Friendster, is now adapting more quickly to offerings and utilizing platform changes. Sure, if Facebook takes their eye off the ball they could lose it as fast as they got it. Facebook is the number one photo sharing site in the world. MySpace was not. Friendster was not. As the Web becomes more social the importance of sharing becomes critical. Facebook understands this and doubles down on those aspects. With Twitter it’s still too early to know how they will adapt to the models and platforms evolving, but signs are there that they’re making the right moves.
So the question can’t be answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, but the two major players are making some smart moves. And, of course, it’s not solely about Facebook and Twitter.
Q: So how do you convince clients to play in this sandbox?
A: We’re in a good place. We no longer have to convince clients. They’ve now taken a lot of the work we did early with them at the 30,000 foot level down to earth. They know they need to be where their customers are. They know they must listen, learn, and put together an implementation plan. For a lot of them it’s not so easy. When you enter the channel there’s an expectation that exists. The major brands have to meet that and delight their customers. You just can’t do that overnight. What we’re going to see in 2010 is a lot of brands will enter channel for the first time. But they’ve been setting up internal structure to do this for 24 months prior.
Q: So who owns this stuff? Who do you trust to handle the implementation of social campaigns?
A: The client has to own this, ultimately. In past it was very difficult to build infrastructure to own this internally. That’s why as an agency we focus on strategy. We enter, test and learn in the space. A creative agency or a strategy agency ultimately cannot own it over time. It has to be a cross-functional team. The channel that we’re talking about, the social space, has a blend of servicing, branding, and PR. It’s all in one channel but it has to be looked at from a cross functional platform.
Q: And what about the difficulties of measuring effectiveness?
A: I think measuring is still in the early stages. I’ve been very, very skeptical of quantitative measurement in social media for a long time. We’ve really resisted going deep with the systems that are out there for a long time. In just the last five weeks we did a deep dive and analyzed every major player in this space who are looking to track, measure and listen to social media. None of them was at the level I felt to really lock in effectiveness. Sentiment is the buzzword, but when you go deep into the software meant to measure it, it’s so primitive.
Q: There’s a lot of talk about real-time these days: monitoring, measuring, reacting. How important is real time, really?
A: Critical. We’re finally at an age in which we have a real time Web. Elements of it have been real time for quite some time, but we’re getting to the point where the structure of the Web is real time as well. As marketers, real time is something we put at the top of the list and make sure we’re addressing. You see that with the immediacy of the content. We’re really focused on the idea of the shelf life of content shrinking. That’s because the Web is becoming real time. Just one example: Twitter is essentially a broadcast tool. So smart marketers are dayparting their tweets accordingly.
Q: Yes, but broadcast marketing always been dayparted.
A: Of course it has. Now we have additional elements.
Q: Provide some examples of really successful social media campaigns.
A: We’re starting to put those together now, not campaign, but infrastructure-based. The numbers that Dell are putting forward that they’re seeing thru the new channels are impressive — we’re paying attention: $3 million attributed to Twitter alone. We’ve seen strides in the broadcasting and cable space; the approach the networks have taken have matured enormously. USA Networks has made sure its online audiences are actively programmed with original content. In fact, this is true across all of NBC/Universal.
We’re also looking at servicing, companies like Comcast and JetBlue. We think some of the smaller brands have created a really terrific channel in social. I’ll have a list in October for the Peer Summit. These examples will be about maturity, and about thinking about social media as more than just Facebook.