Last week, Ogilvy & Mather announced the launch of ‘Social@Ogilvy.’ This new worldwide practice will be led by John Bell as global managing director and will connect social media experts across the agency.

We had a chance to speak with Bell about this new branch of Ogilvy. He also gave us some insight into the movement away from Facebook commerce and how the social landscape may change over the next year.

Why have you decided to launch Social@Ogilvy now?

We believe in the increasing power of social media and technology and the true power that is integrated marketing. Social has to be at the core. So we want to help companies understand that social is bringing impact to the core of businesses.

Social@Ogilvy is a horizontal practise that sits across the whole company. All of the team members are also embedded in other business units. We’ve created this unit as a knowledge sharing platform but it also has strategic plans with revenue goals. For us, the business of social is not a separate silo so we don’t separate it in our approach across the company.

What is happening with 360 digital now that you’ve launched Social@Ogilvy?

360 digital was a part of PR at Ogilvy and it quickly grew to include CMO and marketing. It was the seedbed for Social@Ogilvy. These three solutions have now expanded to seven solutions including advertising, direct marketing, and digital marketing.

We made a judgement call and have now added social shopping, and customer care. A lot of client businesses are moving to those solutions but time will tell if our approach is dead on.

For companies looking to move to a social business, what are some top tips you can offer?

The most important thing to establish is horizontal collaboration in at corporate level including legal affairs, marketing, product development, social business strategy, etc.

As for more practical steps you can do now? Make sure you have an audit of what you are already doing in the social space. You then need to put this inventory against your proposed social business strategy.

You also need to establish a common measurement and evaluation model. The moment you put that at the centre is the moment tactical things become strategic.

Is Facebook commerce dead?

Was it ever really alive? Facebook does a great job at helping discovery and showing preference for products and services. In terms of transactions? Look at Amazon. You are never going to top that in Facebook. Best idea is to do the handoff and have your shop where it’ll be served best. So put Facebook plumbing in the store instead of your store in Facebook. Those who are saying f-commerce is dead are probably onto something.

Can old media content providers, e.g. publishers, maintain revenue and quality with the current trend towards free content?

We’re already seeing a resurgence of paid content like New York Times is doing. Because of the wealth of free content, there’s always a market for paid premium content. I’ll pay good money for something crisp and that doesn’t weigh a ton. People will be more comfortable with it as bought content becomes more commonplace. For instance, over the past weekend, anyone who subscribed to the New York Times would get a Nook for free. So they gave away the device to get people hooked on content.

What are your top tips for engaging audiences in meaningful conversations? And how often should we engage?

When we launched Social@Ogilvy during Social Media Week, we were prolific in our postings. Someone in our company said we were over publishing but our audience was still connecting.

The best model is to listen to what people are interested in and look what they are searching for so we can deliver the content that they want. Listening as a discipline is one we’ve always had and we’re just adjusting accordingly. Businesses need to remember publishing is not the same as responding to someone. We need to have willingness for direct conversation.

You also need to have the KPIs that are right for you. The Like structure is too flimsy for some and doesn’t show an extension of effort whereas commenting is more solid.

How will the digital landscape change over the next year?

I think a lot more brands will embrace formal content marketing and it will have the commitment equal to what is given to advertising and PR.  Content factories will be a lot more common as people will be ready to create, optimize and distribute content with direct sales goals in mind.

We’ll also see best practise examples of social CRM where we combine the information we know about customers and their advocacy behaviours with the right mechanisms to reward them. This will not just be based on customer values over their lifetime.

One thing I think is very important to watch out for is platform enthusiasm. Take Pinterest for example. It’s all we’re talking about at the moment as we try to analyse and make a judgement if it will endure. Nobody knows. It calls for sober minds to look at what your investment in innovation will be. Businesses can’t move to an ever changing model based on the development of new platforms.

You need to detail what your criteria are for new opportunities. An ecommerce site trying to address women may take Pinterest seriously. If your target audience are C suite execs, Pinterest may not be one of your top 5 platforms.