Six months ago, Adam Kmiec sat across from a group of Walgreens marketing execs, who quizzed him on what he could do for their social media program. As numerous other brands have this year, the pharmacy/grocery retailer was looking to hire its first social media director. Kmiec, who at the time was with Chicago-based agency Marc USA, was getting a scent of the job he would soon fill.
“It was something baked right into the interview process,” Kmiec (pictured) told ClickZ News. “For social to be successful, it needs to be able to scale and it needs to get local. If you treat Facebook and Twitter vertically, it’s really tough to get that to scale. If you treat social horizontally, and think about how every store plays a role in the community of our customers, social has an angle to help customers connect with our stores…We need to think of social not as real estate but as a way to connect with customers.”
If job listings during 2011 are any indication, executive social media marketing roles are here to stay. It’s been a testament to the rise of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and geo-social platforms like Foursquare.
Compared to Kmiec, Sabrina Caluori’s climb to VP of social media and performance marketing for HBO was more evolutionary. She had served as director of marketing for HBO.com for four years prior to being elevated three months ago to the newly created position. Caluori also had four years working on the HBO account while with digital agency Deep Focus, often managing the cable brand’s community presence on MySpace. Now, she oversees 40 Facebook pages, eight YouTube channels, and eight Twitter accounts.
When asked about the creation of her new role, Caluori responded, “What we started to realize is that the landscape is shifting, that social was not just a marketing tactic but was becoming a core communications outlet. It requires not only a tactical expertise but also a horizontal viewpoint. Social media is now part of the business in a larger way.”
Kevin Scholl assumed the role of Red Roof Inn’s first-ever social media manager on Sept. 5. He answers to the hospitality brand’s marketing manager and – in seven weeks on the job – has focused on content management for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TripAdvisor. He authors messages that vary from community engagement tactics to promotions to customer service replies.
“[Red Roof Inn] concluded that social media was an avenue of communication that they couldn’t ignore,” he said. “They said that this is a space we need to be in. And we are going to put the time and resources into it to make sure we are doing it correctly. So their focus was on bringing in somebody who had a background in both technology and the curation of content. I work within the marketing and sales department. But they wanted somebody who didn’t have a traditional marketing background. They understood that social media is not about traditional communication; that it is about engagement.”
Office Politics Part of Integrating Social Media
If Caluori wants to buy Facebook or Twitter ads to push HBO programs such as True Blood (9 million Facebook “likes” and 322,000 Twitter followers), she has to pitch the idea to higher-ups first. Indeed, in-house marketers know all too well that social media is still a proving ground. She said when Facebook and Twitter come out with new ad units, it’s her team’s responsibility to inform and educate the other HBO marketers who are focused on broader initiatives.
“We are sort of like the [research and development] unit where we will test some things out and show them, ‘Here’s how it can be applied to other shows,'” Caluori (pictured) said.
Kmiec from Walgreens said one of his key goals when joining the brand was getting the entire sales and marketing department on the same page. “I wanted to make sure everyone across the organization had a commonly shared vision for what we want social to be,” he said. “Every organization is going to be different. Some use social for customer service; some use it for insights. We had to have an understanding in terms of what social means for the company. And what we will look for in terms of it being successful a year out.”
Ever the marketers, Kmiec and his team like to sell their social initiatives with a “return on amazing” theme. He pointed to Walgreens’ recent goodwill program on Facebook Places and Foursquare. For a month through Oct. 8, every time someone checked in at a Walgreens via the geo-social platforms, the retailer pledged to donate a flu shot to an uninsured, underinsured, or financially in-need person.
“When you are able to do amazing things in the social space, your customers notice, your strong partners notice, your stores feel supported, and your organization can really rally around what that idea ends up being,” Kmiec said. “We feel that when you do things that are amazing, it leads to the hardcore ROI everyone is asking for.”
Red Roof Inn Social Exec: Focus on Conversation
Scholl from Red Roof Inn has a hearty challenge ahead of him, as only 25 percent of the hotel brand’s locations have an individual social media presence. He expects that figure to change dramatically in the next year, while simultaneously working on the brand’s national social media agenda.
“We don’t just want social media to be a tool for listing promotions,” the social manager said. “We also want content that engages the community while sometimes thinking of sales and marketing as an afterthought. We want it to be a service-side tool rather than a sales and marketing tool.”
Scholl (pictured) offered the following advice to social media directors just entering the scene at a brand: “Make sure you are paying attention to what the community cares about. There’s a challenge with social media about determining whether or not you are being successful with it. Well, you can have a million likes on the Facebook page. Some people seem to be satisfied with that idea. But if the conversation is not worthwhile, it doesn’t matter how many likes you have because you are not going to convert them to anything. You should care about what they care about.”
Meanwhile, many agencies have had social media marketing teams for quite some time. Caluori’s role five years ago at Deep Focus is one example. Another is the Pepsico hire of Shiv Singh, who for years led Razorfish’s social media practice. But some agencies are still getting up to speed themselves. Take digital shop Metia, which hired John Porcaro six months from his previous role as global CRM director at Xbox. As head of social, among several tasks, he helps clients understand how social media fits into their global email and display advertising initiatives.
“Metia took a look at the marketing climate and decided there was a really high demand from clients for social media integration,” Porcaro said. “They saw the attention social media was getting and that it was becoming such [an important] channel.”
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