There’s a new trade group in town. The Social Media Advertising Consortium (SMAC – pronounced “smack”) is newly-formed, but burgeoning body dedicated to best practices, measurement, defining and shaping one of the fastest-growing channels in digital advertising. We caught up recently with Executive Director Maura Curtin to learn more about what SMAC is up to…and what its plans are for the future.
Q: Tell me about how SMAC came into being.
A: Tom Gerace, the CEO of Gather.com, and who also founded BeFree, it was his initiative. Working on the publishing side of the business he saw that agencies, publishers and brands needed a common business structure to work in this new world of social media. He talked with a number of people who became part of the board, and brought me on board after they incorporated in March. When I joined it was really just a big idea — with bylaws. My whole background has been in startups, such as the launch of iVillage and I joined News Corp when they purchased MySpace to create the business to business marketing strategy there. I did startups within big companies like “Women’s Wear Daily” for Fairchild Publishing. They brought me in because I understand the space and have startup experience.
Q: SMAC has been growing rapidly. The membership roster is very impressive.
A: One of our biggest assets in our members. We just have really smart people who are leaders in social media. Weber Shandwick joined this week, as did Neo @ Ogilvy . Every couple of days it seems we get a major new member. Coca-Cola just joined!
Q: What are SMAC’s first goals and initiatives?
A: Right now we have three working groups. The one that is furthest along is creating a common social media vocabulary. The working group is headed by Libby Pigg of Edelman Digital. We’ve defined between 90-99 terms in social media that address what’s going on in this whole business structure and we’re launching a wiki. We’re having it edited and uploaded to the website. People will be able to comment on definitions of terms and add links to external sites.
Our second initiative is measurement methodology. What are you measuring inside of social media when you’re doing a campaign? What are you doing and how are you measuring it and what is defined as success? Right now every publisher, agency and brand have different key performance indicators that they’re looking at. For example, some are based on how many fans you have. Others are based on who the fans are, or how much time they spend with your product or brand. We’re working on sort of a social media index of campaign goals and results. If this is your objective, how are you going to be measuring it? Heidi Browning [EVP, Microsoft & Digital Innovation at Universal McCann] is working on this from a board level.
We’re looking at case studies, brands and partnerships. Every time we do a call we get bigger and bigger and bigger. We’ll be looking more closely at this at WOMMA in November, and hope to release recommendations at the end of the year. We’re partnering with the ARF with the goal of creating something extremely tangible and useful to everybody doing business inside of social media.
The IAB has done some of this work, but not necessarily enough, which is the consensus within the group. Media planners have such a different business model now.
Finally, we’re working on best practices. If your goal is branding, for example, here’s a case study. We’re going to be rolling this out at a rate of one [case study] each month. Whenever there’s a conversation about social media, the question is always “who’s doing this right?” We’d also like to look at companies successfully practicing social media on a smaller scale [rather than the big brand stories that are more familiar].
Q: Looking off to the horizon, what are some of SMAC’s longer-term goals?
A: A level of education in the industry. We’ll talk to agencies and brands about training we can offer. We’ll do webinars. Organizationally, how do large corporations deal with this whole new world of social media internally? What does that look like? How do large companies build internal social networks that don’t function as Intranets? We want to build that conversation out. We’ve also been talking to partners about doing a big event next year to take these conversations out into the open.
We’ll always continue to be the voice in the industry as everything grows and keeps evolving. Who’s going to be the dominant force in social media in six months? Will it still be Facebook, or something else? Who’s coming up behind them? Venture capitalists are getting interested in us. That’s another aspect of SMAC: thought leadership and working with venture capitalists to determine what’s next in social media. On our Web site I think our wiki will be exciting. The ability for folks to add commentary and put in applicable sites.
One of the words we’re looking at is “hub.” Our definition is…grouped around whether it’s Oprah or Hannah Montana. What are the applicable sites there? The social community could be on Facebook, or on MyStarbucksIdea.
A social network like MySpace could gain enormous mass and just dominate. Then we saw the migration to Facebook, and now a migration to smaller and smaller niche social networks, or to places like SocialVibe where brands can become advocates and support causes.
Q: Much of what you’ve mention involves B2C marketing. Are B2B marketers being left out of this equation? Certainly they stand to benefit from social media, but it seems that segment of marketers
isn’t being addressed adequately.
A: A lot of my marketing background has been in B2B and how you engage other marketers into your business. In social media many of the same tenets apply. It’s offering something of value to your audience, and being honest and authentic. Social network strategy is totally adaptable to B2B. However you’re thinking about social networking strategies to consumers you can take those same tenets and adapt them to business to business. One interesting b2b social network is Startup One Stop- where entrepreneurs are sharing information about starting a business and offering support to one another. Other obvious leaders in the B2B space are LinkedIn (a SMAC charter member), Plaxo, and Co-Tweet.
Q: Thanks so much for your time, Maura. Is there anything you’d like to add?
A: I’m recruiting interns to help SMAC — this space is growing so fast, it’s not easy to keep up.