The power of social media is something that every business and all their employees, from CEO to office junior, needs to understand.
Ryan Holmes, CEO of the social media management software company Hootsuite has written The 4 Billion Dollar Tweet – a guide to understanding and maximizing the use of social media.
Careless tweets and other social media errors can cost a company dear so Holmes’ book is intended as a straightforward guide to making the most of social media while avoiding the pitfalls.
ZDNet talked to Holmes to find out more.
How is the book going down?
It’s going really well. It was exciting to get it out. It’s my first book and you kind of want to keep polishing and keep working on it, but the time comes when you have to get it out. The act of creativity is an interesting one.
I wrote it for all the software managers and community managers and online marketers who I look upon as the CMOs of the future.
They understand the value and importance of social but often communicating that to their leadership – sometimes CMOs and sometimes CEOs – is still difficult and often hasn’t been conveyed in the right way.
I see numbers that say that only 10 percent of CEOs are on social media. Now the way I see it if this was 1999 or 2000 we might be talking about ‘if’ senior managers should get on email. That’s changed completely. Now we know that they all see it as an important communication tool.
What was the motivating idea behind it?
I think it comes down to that gap: The number of CEOs and other senior managers who really don’t understand the value of social. As we see it, the customer experience, or journey, is increasingly happening more and more in social.
This really means, where do [customers] want to live? Where do they choose to interact with an organisation or brand? They are not going to want 800 call trees, they’ll go to social – from awareness of your product, through acquisition, to support and maybe through to advocacy if you do a good job.
They increasingly want to do this in a social context. So how can leaders understand this? It isn’t rocket science but it is important.
That is why we are putting through a number of points on why they should be thinking this way. And from there, we give them an overview on how to do it. The book is high level. It’s a 30 minute read – very visual – and that’s intentional.
I have so many books as gifts and, to be honest, so many of them go on my book-of-shame pile because it’s difficult to find the time. I wanted to make a ‘no-excuse’ book that you could get through in 30 minutes.
A lot of execs are unaware of the power of social media. How can you counter that?
With any technology there is a downside and upside. If we step back to the title of the book, The 4 Billion Dollar Tweet refers back to a tweet that Donald Trump sent out to Lockheed Martin in December 2016. Now because of that message, four billion dollars of market cap, five percent, went from the company.
And my question to leaders is: if Donald Trump tweets your company today, are you prepared? Do you have the DNA in place?
There is all this publicity around Trump but it could be anybody – an influencer, a politician, an artist, whoever. It could be just about somebody who had a bad or good experience and it goes viral.
So the question is are you ready and if you think about the good versus the bad aspects, it is what happens if you mess up. That is the elephant in the room for a lot of executives.
So yes, there is a risk of that. But if you think about the upside of being out there and connecting with your customer, it far outweighs the potential risk. So, you just need to have that DNA in place – that support that’s around you, that team who can help you.
If something happens that is bad you need to respond intelligently. If you say something that is off-side, you need to apologise quickly and you need to make it right.
And at the end of the day, the news cycle does move on and it won’t be there forever, but you need to learn from it.
So in terms of the management of this kind of incident, who do you see as the point people? Is it all in the marketing department?
I think it’s a combination of groups. The customer journey happens in a number of points in the organisation. So I think from a brand perspective, marketing? Absolutely. Plus support and as for social, where does that live in your organisation?
Now it lives in various places. If you think about social selling, that is an increasing trend that we are seeing so the sales people are going to social.
That means using social to reach out to customers and respond to them and create a dialog.
I explore that in the book. Why do companies have to address this? That’s because there are so many different touch points.
Can you go through the plan you have in terms of what the execs should be doing?
Point one is get help. A lot of people are on the sidelines and don’t really ‘get’ social media so get help and go and talk to people about how you do this.
Whether it is with an internal team or engaging with an external team you need to do that.
The second step is figure out your voice. What are you going to be talking about? What are you an expert at? What are your hobbies? What are you going to be doing on social that you figure out is going to be interesting to the world?
Step three is, pick your channels. If you are a consumer brand then Snapchat is probably a great channel for you. If you are a fashion retail brand then maybe it’s Instagram. If you’re in technology maybe it’s Twitter. You have to figure out the channel, whatever it might be.
So now, you’ve decided on the channel then now you have to work out how to create content that is entertaining and interesting. And that’s really going back to knowing where your pillars are, where you are going to be deploying it.
Again, getting help is an important step in that.
Finally, you get your content out there. Then you learn from that. You have a feedback loop and work out what is resonating with your audience.
The final thing is that if you make a mistake, you much know how to deal with it. Understand the power of a good apology. The fear of messing up is never a good reason for not doing something. That is true in life and the same thing is true in this.
What about your background. How did you come to found Hootsuite?
I’m an entrepreneur. I started my first business in High School. I started a paintball company. I started a restaurant in Vernon, BC, about four hours from Vancouver.
Even then, working in that restaurant, I was thinking about how good it would be to have a tool that could use the effectiveness of social media.
I thought about how I could target people based on gender, age, interests, etc. Then I started to develop the idea and I though, this is just the most exciting time to be developing tools like this. So from there I started a business selling digital products and services – helping customers get online.
From there came the idea for Hootsuite and I started to build out eight different products for the suite. From there it has been an amazing trajectory.