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I’m working with a company in the B2B space that has an interesting but very common website case:

  • They have an old, basic and static site
  • It has very weak SEO
  • They’re paying significant amounts of money for Google Adwords each month to get them page ranked
  • They’re not tracking anything

Luckily, they want this to change.  In conjunction with a website design overhaul, we’re going to completely up-end this model and flip it on it’s head (or side, or whatever).

One of the main topics of conversation has been the issue of Google Adwords - do we use them or not.  My answer is no, not right now.  A few further thoughts to that end [Disclaimer - I had a quick call with the team at HubSpot, as I would like to use their product in this process, and some of these thoughts stem from a conversation I had with Vas]:

  • Firstly, there is nothing in place right now to determine the effects of their Adwords: they don’t know who’s clicking, what they’re clicking on, if they’re qualified leads, etc.  All they know is that they’re the first (sponsored) link that shows up on Google for one of the keywords.
  • There was little research done to choose those keywords, and it was based loosely on product lines.  The list also hasn’t been updated in many years.
  • They have little to no effective SEO built into their site, which hasn’t been changed in over five years.

Essentially, they’ve put Adwords in place and let it run.

They’re simply paying the meter to reserve a parking spot, and hope they don’t have a cop come around and write them a ticket or tow the car away. Because that’s what would happen the minute they stopped paying the meter if they’d relied on their existing website.  The Adwords are only giving them short-term benefits while they’re still paying.

What we’re working towards is building their own parking lot where they won’t have to worry about paying the meter: An architecturally strong website, with sophisticated SEO, continually updated content, metrics in place to determine how people are accessing and using the site, and developing more paths for people to get there.

Does that mean we nix Google Adwords?  For now, yes. There doesn’t seem to be much point in using them if they don’t know what they’re bringing to the table. It’s sort of like parking in the first available spot before you know if it’s close to your lunch meeting near City Hall (”It’s around here somewhere,” he said.).  There might be spots closer.  Heck, City Hall could have it’s own free parking lot.

But only for now. Once we’ve gone through the process of developing a much stronger foundation - our website, and once we understand the best keywords to use (though, ideally, we’ve keyword-maximized the site so well that it can stand alone)….once we’ve really built something with a long-term future…..only then should Adwords be used to supplement these efforts. We’re building their own parking lot that they can park in on most days, and telling them where the best spot to pay for is next time they have lunch near City Hall….

Generation Progress had some great questions about how to think about quality vs. quantity in a social media program, and how to connect to constituents in a personal way, but still under the auspices of a brand.

Please feel free to give Generation Progress further advice in the comments section!

Specific questions that Generation Progress has:

  • We have found it difficult to connect with followers on a personal level through @GP_tweet, and have resorted in several instances to connecting through personal Twitter accounts instead - what recommendations might you have for connecting in a meaningful, valuable way through an organization’s Twitter account?
  • How might we foster a more conversational discourse through social media? Our email group, GP-Talk, is a vibrant community that we would be thrilled to share with a larger audience - what might be a better media for such a community?
  • Quantity or quality? Should we have a presence on social media platforms that are not ideal for our structure, just so that people can find us? Or, is it best to keep social media limited to the outlets that we can utilize well and are suited to our model?


Rachel Happe, Co-Founder of Community Roundtable
Karen Rubin, Product Owner at HubSpot
Cappy Popp, Co-Founder of Thought Labs
Mike Langford, Founder & Head Tweeter of Tweetworks

If you have any further advice for Generation Progress, feel free to leave them in the comment sections!

Additional Event resources:

Gradon Tripp, Founder of Social Media for Social Change
Joe Waters, Director of Cause Marketing for Boston Medical Center
Ken George, New Media Production Manager for WBUR
Brian Halligan, CEO and Co-Founder of HubSpot
Kate Brodock, Founder and Principal of Other Side Group (Moderator)

Case Studies:

Sam Vaghar, Managing Director of Millenium Campus Network
Julie Soforenko, Marketing and Outreach Coordinator of ACCION USA

We’ve included a decent clip of the general discussion, followed by a full transcript.

Note: This transcript was recorded in real-time and is therefore an incomplete record of the panel discussion.  Which is to say that this is the jist of what was said.  Before attributing any quotes, please first seek permission from the speaker.

Q: Please introduce yourself and answer the question, “What is your definition of social media?”

Joe Waters: I’m the director of cause marketing of Boston Medical Center – and we do a lot of “between non- and for-profit” partnerships, like Project (RED). We partner with many for-profits (point of sale or percentage of sale programs, generally) — a lot of that to raise money for the medical center.  One big event, Halloweentown, is put together with iParty, and has been a big fundraiser and very attractive to the what we call “the four-legged four-armed monster” — mothers with kids.  I write a blog on cause marketing, as well.

Social media to me is (1) two-way communication (I like sites that talk back to you, like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs), and (2) user-generated work.  We’re seeing the idea of someone sitting in an office and generating content going away.

Ken George: Public radio, online production manager for WBUR.  Thank you for pledging to your local radio station.  I recognize that pledging is a particular type of fundraising, and I’ve been working on pushing WBUR toward social media in the past year.  What Obama did with social media to engage and mobilize was great, and I’d like to see public radio do that, too.  We have monthly social media gatherings at the station.  It’s important to break down the walls between the customers and us.  I think a key part of the definition of social media is Creating Value.

Gradon Tripp: I’m in business development at Firstgiving.  We use the tools of social media to raise money for non-profits.  I think there’s a lot of nonsense out there about social media.  I think it’s the just new tool of communication, like a telephone.

Brian Halligan: HubSpot is an inbound marketing company.  The tried and true marketing techniques don’t change much across the for- to non-profit spectrum, and you and I are getting better and better at blocking out traditional, interruption-based marketing messages.  The old rules are broken and getting more and more broken.

My co-student at MIT created a blog in the early days and was very smart about engaging others.  And this helped develop my theory that marketing needs to move from outbound – interrupting you – to inbound.  I think of social media as interactive, two-way, many-to-many.  It’s great for marketers because you can really lower your marketing costs.

Q: Why did you start using social media, and what’s the process of bringing people onboard?

Brian: When we first started using social media, we initially researched for the idea of our company by checking on the social mediasphere.  Blogs, emails, etc. are all important channels to be used, and social media is one of them.  And we measure over time the conversation rate for each channel, including social media.  Step 1 is creating remarkable content, such as a blog.  You want to optimize the blog title, short and sweet, for both Google and concise sharing, such as on Twitter.  You almost need to be a professional title writer for social media.  Then step 2 is to market it through all the channels.

Joe: We have to be a proactive, progressive fundraising operation – our customers don’t make enough to be our main source of donations, so we have to widen our net.  Getting into social media was the next step, and we always want to be ahead of what our partner companies are doing, and now that they’re getting into social media, we can help them with our expertise, helping with the audience, the tools, building a presence, and when they see us as an organization that’s helping add value, that makes a difference when of the many nonprofits they work with, one of them is helping them achieve their marketing goals.  It helps us stand out, compared to a nonprofit they work with who they don’t hear from except for once a year when planning the annual fundraiser.

Ken: My eureka moment came when we got comments through some Flickr pictures.  It has taken me a good 6 months to demystify social media, and it was scary at first given our prestigious brand, which we’re rather protective of.  As a journalistic organization, WBUR is concerned with brand and appearance issues, like avoiding biases.

The goal is to demystify social media to the WBUR folks, and getting our listeners into the building has been a large part of that.  Our progress has been in fits and starts, but I think we’re out in front of the comparable public radio stations out there.

Gradon: We have tweetups – take a word, at the letters T-W, and it’s a twitter word.  But many of them are just having a beer.  So I wrote a blog post, “Let’s have a social media fundraiser.”  And this one event that was supposed to just raise a few thousand dollars turned into a $20K fundraiser.  Our most recent event raised $30K — half cash and half in-kind donations.

Q: How do you convert followers into volunteers or funders? Followers into doers?

Gradon: You ply them with alcohol.  Our fundraising events aren’t different – raffles, silent auctions, alcohol.  We had a successful event, advertised as $45 for an open bar in NYC, where that’s a cheap night out.  After 90 minutes of that, we bring out the raffle tickets.  Things like that – raffle tickets, silent auctions – are the tried-and-true tools of fundraising, and it’s not like social media is going to replace that.

Everyone asks, “What’s in it for me?” We teamed up with content producers who thought we were doing good work and asked them to point back to us, in the channels we work in.

Joe: On twitter, you’re getting a lot of branding and marketing people as early and heavy adopters, and so as a non-profit guy you can have conversations with them about what they’re doing, what their clients are up to, and even looking at collaboration.  And a nonprofit talking to a for-profit PR director — that’s an easy and productive connection to make.

Brian: There are several types of content we push out through twitter: blog articles, webinars, video

Joe: Is twitter the death of blogging?  Or does blogging fade as Twitter grows?

Brian: Everyone wants to be a publisher.  If you create interesting blog content, that works for both social media tools and Google.

Kate: And HubSpot has great video spots.

Ken: Some parts of fundraising, pitching for pledges, doesn’t work as well on social media, since public radio-style pledge drives tend to be very direct appeals, which doesn’t translate as well to social media. But the visits to the station are very powerful.

Gradon: Ken does something subtle — a week before a pledge drive, he’ll ask followers to respond, “Just say hi.”  I.e., If you like WBUR, let us know.”  Which helps prime the pump.  Very clever.

Q: Local vs. National scale efforts in new media, what say you?

Brian: It’s about your product – can it be scaled nationally?  If so, social media works, because it too scales nationally.  But if you’re a local business with local services, it doesn’t quite work.

The Facebook search bar is one of the most used search engines, and I think it will grow to be a way to find local services.  But slicing and dicing down to your neighborhood is still tough.  Far more benefit taking something small and expanding nationally.

Gradon: We’re seeing charities raise money online where only a small portion of donors are in the state of the services rendered.  The rest live elsewhere.

Q: What is value of using social media to get information, feedback, to avoid mistakes?  Research value?

Gradon: I don’t think one should be afraid of making social media mistakes.  Jump in.

Brian: It’s a great way to get Beta feedback quickly.  Obama’s campaign was great at that market testing.

Joe: I was listening to Blue State Digital talking about social media – they’re the ones who did Obama’s web campaign – and they’re very nice about it, but said that email is the killer app because everyone still reads their email.  It’s a better way to reach people, and it’s more actionable.

Gradon: Social media is a tool in the toolbox.  Still, the largest response rate is from email.

Brian: At HupSpot, we track a metric called reach.  The social media side of our marketing list is growing.  I think when someone wants to communicate, you’ll need to tap email as WELL as twitter, facebook, etc.

Joe: Zappos is a great example of doing more of having a logo online, giving the logo purpose and personality. But it is labor-intensive.

Q: What are 1 or 2 really important things for the audience to take away about how to use social media?

Ken: At WBUR, it requires a bunch of people to believe in it and carry the torch.  The other crucial thing is consistency.  Someone in my organization wants a blog, I give them that, and they post perhaps once a month.  It is a time investment, which is something that many don’t realize.

Brian: When my parents watched TV in the ‘70s, they watched the ads.  A bit by bit, through TiVo, the remote, Internet content, that interruption-based marketing model has melted.  We’re starting to see more and more Fortune 500 companies grow through expertise in the social media and Internet space.  You can see it in the quick churn rate of Fortune 500 companies, how many new ones there are every year.  My advice is to just get on with it.

Gradon: You get in, you do it, you don’t question yourself, and if you believe in yourself, you’re figure it out and thrive.

Joe: You need to be really into social media, or you need to find someone in your organization who is.  You know the book, “He’s Just Not That Into You”?  It’s like that.

Kate: A lot of companies try to restrict who can blog or communicate about the company’s activities.

Brian: I think it’s dead wrong to keep employees from blogging.  If you were to rank all the marketing efforts of your organization, let’s say there are 15, and if you replace the worst one replace it with a blog, and I guarantee in 6 months, you’ll have a new bottom ROI marketing initiative that is not the blog.

Gradon: Sometimes it’s Steve the mail guy who IS one of the best faces of the company.

Kate: If you can draw parallels between problems like blogging on company time with how companies have dealt with other issues, like personal email, personal phone use, etc., it’s not really that different.  To prevent employees from blogging when blocking personal email isn’t done seems misguided.




Q: Isn’t spam an issue?  Having your audience feel like you’re selling to them?

Brian: Well, with Twitter you can choose who you follow.

Joe: The twittersphere really sniffs out sincerity quickly.

Gradon: Zappos doesn’t ask you to buy shoes.  Instead, it’s a balance between demonstrating personality and providing value.

Joe: It’s about presenting yourself as a progressive, thought leader in the industry.

Kate: It’s about value.  It’s not marketing.  It’s linked to who you are, and it’s where people go to get information.

Julie: How do balance your personality on twitter vs. expertising yourself?

Gradon: Chris Brogan is a thought leader in social media.  He writes more blog posts in a week than I write in a month, and a lot of the time it’s, “I had an idea, here it is.”  You get a mix of “if you run a company, here’s what you should be doing” and “It’s Wednesday and that means spaghetti day.”

Ken: I’ve struggled with how to balance my personality Ken George with WBUR.  It works best when it’s blurred, but it’s a challenge.

Brian: They’re real currency and social currency.  And if you have 5 minutes with Chris Brogan, you shouldn’t ask him for money, you should ask him to link to you on his blog.  You’ll get way more out of it.

Q: I work for AIDS Action Committee.  We’ve found it difficult to make the conversation two-way.  How can we do this better?

Gradon: Before you ask a question to your audience, you have to answer them. Talking to people.  If you are the thought leader in the Boston AIDS community, think about what you have to offer.

Joe: One of the things we’ve talked about at BMC is, “What are our issues to talk about?”  Health insurance, because people worry about that.  Emergency services, because people are fascinated with it – think about the success of ER.  For the 2 or 3 things trending in your area, get talking about it if you’re not.

Q: Have you every used a controversial blog posting to spur discussion?

Gradon: My philosophy is to let others be negative, to be bigger and better than that.  When I’m negative, it’ll be about a small thing about a site’s layout and then I’ll compliment the site for its content and mission.  One time we had an item make it on Digg, and that brought a lot of negative trolls.  Digg is full of those.  And we let them have their way on the message boards and soon they left.  It was easier not to engage.

Brian: I would suggest being polarizing.  We did well on Digg at the beginning of HupSpot by posting polarizing articles about Google and Apple.  …  Or think of it this way: If someone makes a negative comment on your site, use it as a way to show what great customer service you have.

Ken: Occasionally people cross a line, and you do need to set standards about what  will be censored.  We moderate after comments are posted, and that works for us.

A great event tonight on leveraging social media for your non-profit or social entrepreneurship efforts! Thank you to panelists Brian Halligan (HubSpot), Gradon Tripp (First Giving and Social Media for Social Change), Ken George (WBUR) and Joe Waters (Boston Medical Center), and also to our two case studies, Julie Soforenko (ACCION) and Sam Vaghar (Millenium Campus Networks).

Thank you also to TiE Boston for their support.

We’ll post up content here as it gets edited (it’ll all be up by the weekend’s end), as well as resources for everyone, including relevant speaker info. If anyone has any follow up questions, please feel free to post them in the comments section here, or email me directly.

To start, a few highlights of our twitter feed, #tiese. Sidenote, we were trending #2 in Boston for some time (a thank you to @cappypopp).

For the full twitter feed, look here. Stay tuned for further content.

Do you have any lingering questions or thoughts that we can all talk about in the coming days?

TiE Boston New Marketing and TiE Boston Social Entrepreneurs present…

The 140-Character Mission: How Social Media Revolutionizes Social Entrepreneurship

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

MIT room 3-270 (click for map)

77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139

Networking and dinner begins at 6:00pm

Register now to save your spot : <>

The question is: Are the two disciplines of “Social Media” and “Social Entrepreneurship” friends on Facebook?

Absolutely, we say. The common adjective is no accident. Already Twitter, Facebook, and the rest are revolutionizing the business and marketing of social impact. Every day, it seems, another grassroots effort testifies to these platforms and their ability to spread a message to thousands, even millions. Followers become funders, messages become movements, and social networks beget social change. (They can even help elect a new president.)

On Wednesday, April 8th, we are convening a panel of experts and high-impact entrepreneurs at MIT to ask, How does the speed and reach of social media alter the formulas for successful social impact? What happens when marketing evolves from broadcast to conversation, fundraising changes from large donors to e-microdonations, or collaboration moves from sweaty basements to vast social networks?

Panelists bio’s available here:

Brian Halligan | CEO and Co-founder | HubSpot | <> (@bhalligan)

Ken George | Head of marketing and new media | WBUR Boston | <> (@kengeorge)

Gradon Tripp | Founder | Social Media for Social Change (SM4SC) | <> (@gradontripp)

Joe Waters | Director of Cause Marketing | Boston Medical Center | <> (@joewaters)

Social entrepreneur case presenter: Sam Vaghar | Managing Director | Millennium Campus Network | <> (@samvaghar)

Remotely Twittering guest: Amy Sample Ward | Consultant and Blogger | <> (@amyrsward)

P.S. If you’re already on Twitter, follow the conversation and share your thoughts on social entrepreneurship with the hash tag #tiese.  Or go right now to and tweet this:

Check out this great panel on social media and social entrepreneurship: — It’s 4/8 at MIT in Cambridge, MA. #tiese

A few of this week’s articles on marketing:

Top 4 New Facebook Page Features Businesses Will Love (HubSpot Blog; Ellie Mirman) - Thoughts on the new Facebook page changes.

Top 10 Media and Marketing Books of All Time (AdAge) - Be sure to check the comment section, there were a few other suggestions.

WebTV: TV or not TV (B2B Marketing Online) - A synopsis on the benefits of using video in your B2B marketing strategy

Six Ways to Make Web2.0 Work (McKinsey Quarterly)

Do you have any great articles you’d like to share?

We’ve been discussing (beating to death) the topic of measurement and ROI in social media for a while now.  How do you measure ROI?  What elements go into that measurement?  How do you talk about the lack of a “traditional” ROI measurement to bosses or clients who want to see it?  Can you make a convincing argument or feel good about results without it?

Well, if you’re in the industry, hopefully the answer to the last question is clear.  As Anya said this morning:

“The answer is clear: You don’t need hard numbers and a specific percentage point ROI to know if your efforts in social media and marketing are worth your time and money.”

That’s part of the point that Professor Andrew McAfee made this morning at the Boston Social Media Breakfast.  And it’s what I’ve been wanting to hear from someone of authority for a while (he’s said it before, in his blog).

A few of his points (among many others):

  • Why can’t you look at the data, not have an ROI, and still feel ok with the results?
  • Business leaders should be able to think about a situation and whether it’s outcome is good or bad without a bold and highlighted ROI number in front of them.
  • Business leaders should also trust each other without being provided an ROI (Please note: I’m not saying trust anybody, this is in conjunction with the above point)
  • Really, what has ROI ever meant?

I’d like to add one thought or expansion  that I think McAfee was hinting at.

Playing with the elements of the ROI equation has always happened.  It’s as follows:

Once you’re past your core finance or marketing class in business school, where they ever-so-conveniently but ever-so-unrealistically give you the perfect numbers, you’re usually figuring out what specific elements are the best to put into the equation and sometimes it gets pretty creative.  What’s your gain?  What are your costs?

But more importantly, what are we talking about when we say return?

ROI has really never been straight forward.  It can be different in different companies.  In some cases, the inputs have been easier to recognize.  In most cases, the ROI measurement has been used long enough in a company or industry that it takes about 30 seconds to compute and either write out bonuses or work longer hours.

I found something to think about in a really quick search I did (not the best market research, but oh well):

  • Only 7% of senior-level financial executives say they are satisfied with their company’s ability to measure [traditional] marketing ROI.
  • In contrast to the low level of satisfaction among financial executives, an April 2006 survey of senior-level marketers by MMA and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found that nearly one-fourth (23%) were satisfied with their company’s ability to measure ROI.
  • Though one-third of marketers in the MMA-ANA survey agreed they could forecast the impact on sales of a 10% budget cut, only 16% of financial service executives expressed agreement with that statement.

Traditional ROI measurements have never instilled a large amount of confidence in marketers.  Yet people continue to rely very heavily and narrowly on this number.

Part of the “problem” of ROI in the social media space is that, in a sense, we’re back to square one in choosing the best inputs, figuring out what the best measurement for ROI is, for each company or campaign, without a heck of a lot of the above mentioned standards you find in traditional ROI measurements.

We’re uncomfortable because we’re stuck on the same old numbers.

As Brian Halligan of HubSpot stated in his talk at the breakfast, they do a full set of intangible measurements as well.  What’s your reach?  How many websites are linking to?  What are people saying about your brand? Etc.

The point is, people who are so strictly concerned with the numbers that go into ROI and have been looking at the same calculations for the last 10 years are missing the concept altogether.  It’s the return on your investment.  To Andrew’s point, if you can take one step back (and it’s really just one little step!) and think about the concept of ROI, you may get a little more comfortable with the input numbers that go into it.

He’s right: business people are smarter than they give themselves (and others) credit.  But any good businessman knows what it’s like to analyze something with less than perfect data, and decide whether it “looks good” or doesn’t.  If you find yourself consistently second-guessing in situations like this and looking around for numbers, frankly, I don’t think a perfect ROI calculation will make you any more comfortable….nothing probably will.

This is a bit of an extreme, but a while ago I did a post on Saul from Freshbooks.  I won’t forget what he answered when asked about ROI.  He said that he pays no attention to ROI.  He doesn’t care about it.  He works his magic and he recognizes that there are beneficial outcomes to his actions.  Now, he’s lucky and has a boss who “gets it” so he gets the go ahead for his initiatives.  But he couldn’t have gotten to that point without going with his gut a little more and thinking about the overall concept of ROI.

When the “Return” and/or “Investment” portion of this equation is different than what you’ve been measuring, don’t just say “the hell with this” and back away (in my humble opinion, I think this an absolutely horrible a pretty bad characteristic of any business person, the inability to think more broadly or creatively about these sorts of things, the answer is there with a little more work).

Rethink what returns means.  Rethink what investment means.  Then look at the results, and I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to figure out whether they’re good or bad.  That’s your ROI, right there.

Honestly, I feel the same way that Andrew and Saul feel about ROI, but kept thinking I needed to have the perfect answer for people, particularly potential clients, when they asked.  Well, maybe I’ll ask them everything I just asked you and see where that gets me instead.

For the record, Matt Cutler of Visible Measures also had a great talk this morning, but I remember that I pretty much listened and watched and said “that’s so cool!” for most of his talk, which isn’t a bad thing…. I was particularly pleased with his analysis of the DNC and RNC speeches by McCain, to which he applied a simple cloud map… I went to find it on their blog.  I didn’t find it, but in doing so I realized that the blog is really great (new information for my RSS feed!)

And one last, but not least, thank you to Bob Collins for putting SMB10 together. 

UPDATE: Please check out David Meerman Scott’s short answer from the New Marketing Summit a few weeks ago.  It’s up on his blog.  It’s a great addition to the conversation.

I had a good friend ask me for a couple of blogs and publications to read to get up-to-speed on the new media space as she interviews for marketing positions in her last year of business school.  I thought I’d share them with everyone while I was at it.  Keep in mind, this isn’t my complete list of new media blogs, but the ones I thought would be most helpful for her starting out.

  • Tara Hunt at Horse, Pig, Cow - Knowledgeable on the field, and focuses a little more on the societal aspects of this (for instance, she’s conducting Hero Camp next week, which I very regrettably can’t go to).
  • Tom O’Brien at A Human Voice
  • Adam Cohen at a thousand cuts - He’s a numbers guy by profession (works in SEO) but has great insight all around.  Also a really nice guy.
  • Chris Brogan - He’s very knowledgeable and very well-respected in the field.  He writes frequently and is usually on top of the industry.
  • Zach Hofer-Shall at &. - Does a good job of highlighting the shift between old Web and Web 2.0.  And again, a nice guy.
  • The Collective Intellect Blog
  • HubSpot’s Blog - Good for numbers and measurement stuff.  And they’re pretty light-hearted. Oh, and cool product to boot.
  • iMedia Connection - Great for everything, they have a ton of industry experts writing for them.
  • David Armano at Logic & Emotion
  • Mashable - Good for industry news.
  • Brian Solis at PR 2.0
  • Mitch Joel at Twist Image - I like this blog a lot, it’s on top/ahead of things.
  • Social Media Explorer

I also gave her this blog

Do you have any to add?  Feel free to pass along a link.

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