Pivot Preview: Social & Beauty

Let’s just start with the fact that Sephora has nearly 4 million fans on Facebook and over 700,000 followers on Twitter.  Clearly this is a company that is doing something right on social media and well worth a closer look.  Thanks to the kind folks at Pivot, I got the chance to interview Bridget Dolan, VP of Interactive Media at Sephora, prior to her presentation at the conference next week.  I am certain you will find her comments as enlightening as I did.

Drew: What role(s) does social media play in Sephora’s overall marketing strategy?  Do you assign different roles to different platforms?
Social media plays a major role in Sephora’s overall business strategy. We value the engagement and conversations we have with our customers through our multiple social channels and encourage this social engagement throughout the organization.  After seeing how successful the Sephora Facebook and Twitter pages have been, we implemented a Pinterest integration when we re-vamped Sephora.com in April 2012, and have also since created a Sephora Instagram account. Both have seen a lot of organic growth over the summer and we are always looking at new social platforms for other ways to engage with current and potential clients.

Facebook and Twitter allow us to hear from our clients real-time and react one-on-one; we respond to every single customer question and give our clients a voice. We then learn from our clients and use that information to inform our strategies throughout the organization.

Pinterest and Instagram allow us to react to micro-trends, like showing your spirit with Olympic nails.  We also provide Sephora fans a look behind the scenes of what it is like to work at Sephora, be at our shoots, and which products we are obsessed with. BeautyTalk allows us to foster a beauty community on our site, to get customer questions answered by Sephora experts and other beauty enthusiasts. Tumblr lets us tell our trend and brand stories from another angle – insights from our beauty editors.  YouTube lets us share our expertise and teach customers how to apply makeup and see the latest trends – which encourages them to shop, play and enjoy makeup.

Drew:  A recent Forrester study said social media drove less than 1% of sales for most companies.  Is Sephora performing above that average and if so, why do you think that is the case?
Sephora is a huge company, and driving 1% of overall sales is still a big piece of the pie. I do believe that social media is influencing a lot of sales that can never be tracked: watching a Sephora YouTube video, then shopping at the store on the weekend, or liking an Instagram post on your phone in the coffee line, and buying the products online when back you’re at your desk.

Drew: Have some social platforms proven to be better at driving Sephora sales than others?  If so, please explain.
Facebook is our largest social media platform, and is still driving the most sales for us by far.  But the velocity of Pinterest growth combined with its shopping-centric nature have made it a very promising sales channel since we launched on that platform 6 months ago.

Drew: Is driving sales the wrong metric for social and if so, what metrics do you use to rationalize your investment?
Whenever we can measure direct sales, we do, but it isn’t the only metric to consider – really social media is about engagement.  We are fostering a long-term relationship with our customers.  We want her to be inspired to try new things, find information through sources she trusts, find products that really get her excited, and help her to use the product to its fullest with confidence post-purchase.  Social media helps her with the entire purchase cycle, and keeps her engaged with our brand for all of her beauty needs.  If you can create a venue to engage your most valuable customers, and enlist them to be evangelists for your brand to all of their friends, plus they will answer all of your other customers’ beauty questions because they are just that passionate… it is priceless.

Drew:  A lot of brands would kill to get nearly 4 million fans on Facebook.  How have you been able to attract so many fans?  Media?  Promotions?  Both?
Bridget: Sephora has truly passionate fans that love beauty and love Sephora.  The beauty category is a natural fit for social – our customers have always talked amongst their friends about beauty products they loved, but Facebook makes it much easier to connect with other Sephora fanatics.  We have done a bit of advertising and a few promotions, like Fan Fridays, but we mostly view Facebook as a place to have fun with our customers, and I think they can tell how much we love talking to them.

Drew:  Is there one Sephora social program that you are particularly proud of?
I think BeautyTalk is one of the more innovative undertakings we’ve done in social media.  We created a robust community on our site where our clients can come to ask any beauty question or talk about beauty,  organized by category. This allows our customers to find really rich answers with multiple points of view, combined with real-time advice from our experts.

Drew:  How has Fan Fridays been working for you?
Fan Fridays has been a great program, and our customers love it.  When we have an early access product or really hot promotion, we can be out in as little as 20 minutes.  We keep trying to support the growth, but it can be hard to anticipate which Fan Fridays will go wild until your wall lights up and you realize you need even more for next week… again.

Drew:  You have over 100,000 followers on Pinterest which is way more than most brands.  What are you doing on Pinterest that is gaining so much traction?
Beauty is inherently a visual category, but right now things like nail art and gorgeous product shots are inspiring our customers to re-pin our images. We also have integrated Pinterest deeply in our site so every product and brand image is pinnable. We do all of our own photography in house, and that investment pays off in a place like Pinterest.

Drew:  Is there a brand out there that you think is just killing it in social?  If so, which one and why?
I think it is the “brand” that Eva Chen created for herself.  She is literally on every social media channel – trying innovative things, living the life, inspiring people every day with videos, pictures, products, quotes.  And she is creating a unique footprint in each venue that is relevant to that platform and her followers in each.

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7 New Rules for Public Speaking in the Age of Social Media

This is the most widely read and tweeted article I’ve written to date and appeared first on FastCompany.com.

It was painful to watch. Jon Bond, the former ad giant turned social media honcho, was actually getting heckled at the Pivot Conference. A feisty crowd to begin with, Bond’s admission that he “didn’t like Twitter” was like throwing fresh meat at rabid dogs. But rather than raise their voices, they let their fingers do the shouting. So while Bond continued to speak, a steady stream of snarky tweets projected on the wall behind him, acted like foghorns essentially drowning him out.

Being a great speaker was never easy but now, with your audience likely to have a mobile device in hand and real-time access to multiple social channels, the challenges have gotten that much greater. To get a sense of the impact of social media on conference presentations, I interviewed a bunch of regulars on the social media circuit. In the process, they helped me identify these seven (somewhat snarky) new rules for public speaking in the social media era.

1. Don’t Panic if They Aren’t Looking at You
Sure it is disconcerting when you gaze out at the audience and no one looks back. But whatever you do- don’t panic. Just because they are transfixed by their mobile devices, doesn’t mean they aren’t all ears. Explained Jenny Dervin, VP of Corporate Communications at JetBlue who received raves at a recent BDI event, “I think the body language tells you if they’re paying attention – it’s far more distracting to see people whispering to each other than it is to see someone tapping on an iPad.”

2. Stifle the Temptation to Ask for a Device Moratorium
As tempting as it might be to ask your audience to shut down their devices, every speaker I talked to thought this would be a huge mistake. Former actor and speaker extraordinaire John C. Havens suggested, “I might get their undivided attention but it would be mixed with their ire at being told how to watch my presentation.”  Havens also reminded me that in the old days, “before digital devices, a lot of people would take notes on a pad,” which isn’t all that different than tapping out a tweet.

3. If You Aren’t Nervous, You Should Be Now
When I first learned public speaking, an experience advisor suggested that you “imagine the audience is naked,” to quell the initial butterflies. Today, speakers are probably better off reminding themselves that they are the naked ones. If your facts are wrong, your audiences will Google then tweet the corrected data before you can say, “I’m just sayin’.” And if that isn’t scary enough, as author and speaker Jeff Jarvis proclaims, “the lecture, as a form, is bullshit” so you better ask yourself what you’re doing up there anyway!

4. If You Don’t Speak Tweetese, It’s Time to Learn It
Let’s just imagine for the moment that your audience is absolutely riveted by your every word. Chances are some, if not many of them, will want to share your wisdom with their network, not tomorrow when they get back to the office but right at that very moment. It is for this reason today’s effective speakers are not just sharing their Twitter handles upfront but also mixing in tweetable quotes. Added Havens, “puns, sound bites and pithy phrases are [also] ways to aid in retention.”

5. Congratulations! You May Be Speaking to Millions You Can’t See
The irony of speaking in the social media era is that audience in front of you may be far less significant than the collective reach of that particular group. Explained Frank Eliason, SVP of Social Media for Citibank, “I’d much rather have the broader reach, it is one of the better measurements of speaking at events.” Havens confirmed, “odds are half of them are tweeting about my presentation and they’re helping market me!”

6. The Reviews Are In – In Real Time
Rather than waiting to ask a friend after the fact how you did, today’s skilled presenters welcome this feedback in real time. Eliason offered, “it’s fun to respond to a tweet when I am on stage and it personalizes the interaction with the audience.” JetBlue’s Dervin finds these tweets helpful as well, “I go back in the stream to see what landed, based on how many people tweeted the same quote—it’s an instant evaluation of my key messages.”

7. When All Else Fails, Surprise the Audience with Honesty
Bringing this article back full circle, Jon Bond perplexed the Pivot crowd with his admission of not liking Twitter. While this honesty may have cost him some street cred with a Twitter-loving crowd, I recently saw another speaker use honesty to extraordinary advantage. Ray Kerins, VP of Corporate Communications at Pfizer, transfixed a BDI crowd with tales of a crisis that had befallen ChapStick on Facebook the day before. By admitting that Pfizer’s social media activities were a “work in progress,” Kerins earned credibility that reverberated through the Twitterverse.

Final Note
All of those quoted above are very effective speakers, and though each has their own distinctive style, there are a few other commonalities I’d also like to point out. First, none of them depend on word-laden PowerPoint presentations. Second, most are good storytellers and use humor, often self-deprecating, to connect with their audiences. Finally, each of them manages to keep their presentations short enough to allow time for a healthy Q&A. And speaking of healthy Q&A’s, you can find my complete interviews with Dervin, Havens, Eliason and Jarvis right here on TheDrewBlog.com.

CMO Insights: Mobile Advertising and the Fifth P

I caught up with Jeffrey Hayzlett at The CMO Club Summit in LA and look forward to hearing him speak next week in NYC at Pivot. He is a highly engaging speak with strong and clear points-of-view.  In the interview below, Jeff discusses his next book, the growing impact of mobile advertising and adds a 5th P to the old marketing pillars: product, price, place, promotion.

DN: As 2011 winds down, are you thinking “good riddance” or “darn I’ll miss it?”
2011 was a great year for my company and me, personally. I spoke all over the world, Australia, all over the US and met some great people and great companies. Yahoo!, Microsoft, Google and MGM were just a few of my favorites. My book, “The Mirror Test” was released in paperback. And I just became celebrity editor of the largest circulation magazine in the world, “Tweeting & Business”, coming out this month. It’s been a great year. I tend never to look back, just move forward and go!

DN: Looking back at 2011, what new things did you try?
I’m always open to trying new things; I love to take risks. But I also think it’s important to continue to examine your company inside and out, drive change and make tough decisions. It’s exactly about what I wrote in “The Mirror Test”.

DN: What else happened for you in 2011?
I wrote another book this year and it will be coming out in January. It’s called Running the Gauntlet: Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change and Grow Profits. Gauntlet takes the concepts from The Mirror Test to the next level. I’m really proud of the book. We included some amazing new interactive elements as well that will make the book unique.

DN: Is the current economic uncertainty effecting your plans for 2012 and if so how?
Overall it’s not, I’m driving change and continuing forward. You have to. I have to take my company and my plans and move forward—whether I succeed or fail is up to me. I don’t look at the economy and let that stop or influence anything I want to do.

DN: Looking ahead to 2012, are there some emerging trends that you hope to capitalize upon?
Mobile advertising is growing fast than anyone–Google or Yahoo! included–predicted. As a marketer I would have a plan in place for mobile campaigns. And social media continues to evolve. Video is surpassing the written word online. I’ve tape many of my blogs as video as well.

DN: Can you boil down your Pivot presentation to one or two key insights or thought-provoking take-aways?
I’m fortunate to be on a panel with Gayle Weiswasser, the Vice President of Social Media Communications at Discovery Communications. We’ll be talking about the traditional 4Ps of marketing. But with a spin. The four P’s aren’t going away, but they have been joined by a powerful 5th P — the social element — people. Since it’s a panel, you never know which direction the conversation will go–which I love.

However, key points I usually work into any conversation about marketing and social media are: Never, ever discount the Power of One. Just one follower, whether they are an evangelist or a critic, will tell their friends and followers. Don’t ignore the critics. The recent incident with GASP in Australia is an excellent lesson on how NOT to do it. I call the ROI of social media “return on ignoring”. You can’t ignore the comments–positive or negative. Feedback from your customers is critical; in the past I’ve used that feedback to develop new features and products customers loved and bought like crazy. As marketers it’s critical we really listen and respond. That creates brand ambassadors for your company.

Being Bullish About Customer Engagement

Jay Samit, CEO of SocialVibe, an innovative and rapidly growing digital advertising platform, will be speaking at next week’s Pivot Conference in New York City.  (By the way, last year’s conference was both inspiring and enlightening and was among the best of its kind.) Here’s my brief but informative interview with Jay who is particularly bullish about 2012 and his promise of consumer engagement.

DN: As 2011 winds down, are you thinking “good riddance” or “darn I’ll miss it?”
For SocialVibe, 2011 has been an amazing year. When the economy is tough, brand managers need to justify each and every ad dollar they spend. This has been the year for value-exchange engagements. Hundreds of brands have jumped on the bandwagon increasing our reach to over 600 million consumers per month.

DN: Can you boil down your Pivot presentation to one or two key insights?
Impressions are the least effective way to measure advertising. Measure consumer engagement. Value exchange advertising turns consumers into brand evangelists generating millions in earned media.

DN: Looking back at 2011, what new things did you try?
SocialVibe expanded our value-exchange engagement platform beyond Zynga in 2011, to encompass Facebook credits, premium content, and mobile. With a broader reach of over 150 million American consumers per month, we are now able to pair the product message with their exact audience. The result: millions of consumers opting in to spend over a minute with their favorite brand and sharing that message with dozens of friends online.

DN: Is the current economic uncertainty effecting your plans for 2012?
SocialVibe is expanding globally in 2012. The success of our London office has us now running social media advertising campaigns in dozens of countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. With a reach of over 660 million consumers, Japan and Asia are SocialVibe’s next area of expansion.

DN: Looking ahead to 2012, are there some emerging trends that you hope to capitalize upon?
Providing a rich media solutions for small and medium size businesses is a key growth area for SocialVibe. Today we reach hundreds of millions of consumers for the top 300 brands in the world. In 2012, we want to give smaller businesses access to this targeted, engaged audience of consumers.

DN: Are you particularly proud of something new that you tried or recommended in 2011?
Great topic for another story: SocialVibe is now providing our advertising solution to the Presidential Election of 2012. We have clients from both sides of the aisle. The amazing thing is that political ad campaigns generate results even better than brand campaigns because people love to talk politics.

DN: Finally, among the trends I’m tracking are complexity (for marketers) and data-overload (for consumers). How are you responding to these?
Consumers on the Internet are inundated with marketing messages and have learned to tune them out. The secret is to enter the conversation by finding the “pause moments’ when consumers can and will pay attention. SocialVibe has published over 100 case studies illustrating how brands in virtually any category can achieve great results.

What Conference Organizers Can Learn from the Texas Rangers

When the mighty Alex Rodriguez watched the final strike whiz by him it was a fitting end to a pathetic performance by the most successful franchise in the history of professional sports.  The unheralded Texas Rangers had not just beaten the Yankees, they had demolished them on every front, a fact that made me exceedingly cranky while attending several recent social media conferences.

Stewing in defeat as a sub-par speaker droned on, my mind drifted back to the Rangers, wondering how this particular collection of players managed to out-hit, out-steal, out-field, out-pitch and even out-fun the nearly immortal Yanks.  It didn’t take long to conclude once again that payroll alone does not determine outcome, that coaching, chemistry and clutch performances by both stars and unheralded newbies carry the day whether you’re on the field or at the podium.

Conference Organizers Must Coach the Presenters

In their series against the Yanks, the Rangers manager played “small ball” to perfection, stealing and bunting runners into scoring position at every opportunity.  This was undoubtedly the result of careful coaching long before the big games.  Conference organizers take note.  If you aren’t holding highly structured advanced calls with your panelists and speakers, the quality of the output will suffer dramatically.

Speakers need to be coached, given tight limits on the quantity of slides and told in advance the kinds of questions they might be asked by the moderator. Importantly, there needs to be a moderator, who can cut off the windbags before they ruin it for the rest, keeping the conversation moving and summarizing the results at the end of the panel.  Without these things the audience will drift away, checking email or worse yet complaining to others via their Twitter feeds.

Chemistry Matters

In their victorious 2009 season, the Yanks were all giggles, with AJ Burnett using whipped cream to douse the daily hero.  This year it was the Rangers who had all the fun, making a goofy antler sign with two fingers after each of their nine stolen bases.  Their chemistry was particularly apparent in the dugout during the games and in their on-field victory celebration, when they sprayed each other with ginger ale not champagne out of respect for Josh Hamilton and his past struggles with alcoholism.

Some of the panel discussions I saw recently struck out, challenging drying paint as a major league soporific.  The panelists seemed completely content to agree with each other and the overall energy was just plain foul. And while an enthusiastic moderator can liven things up, the organizers really needed to think through the topics of discussion, seeking opposing views as well as differing personality types to keep everyone including the audience on their toes.

Clutch Performances Carry the Day

In the recent American League Championship Series, the Texas Rangers out-hit the Yankees on all measures, scoring twice as many runs with a team batting average that was 103 points higher than vaunted Bronx Bombers.  As expected superstar center fielder Josh Hamilton came through in the clutch as did many of his lesser-known teammates, including a rookie shortstop named Elvis who managed to get a hit in all six games.

At the recent Pivot Conference in New York City, clutch performances by a range of presenters from the always stunning Arianna Huffington to the erudite Doug Rushkoff, from the scholarly Kit Yarrow to a rookie named Alexa Scordato, carried the event over the top, distinguishing it from a host of also-rans.  These presenters commanded your attention with both style and substance that entertained and enlightened, making one’s decision to leave the office a clear victory for all concerned.

Final note: Despite losing to the Giants in the World Series, they Rangers have left a mark on baseball, playing the roll of David to the Yankee Goliath.  Bitter as I was, I couldn’t help be touched when the series MVB Josh Hamilton admitted shedding a tear of pure joy after the final out. To push this analogy just one step further, I only wish all conference organizers had this kind of heart, striving for the extraordinary even in the face of limited resources, doubling up on prep time long before the game’s afoot, insuring all attendees head home happy.

PivotCon Day 1+

Last night was the first night of the Pivot conference here in NYC.  I was slightly annoyed at having to give up a precious Sunday night off but found myself stimulated by the speakers, panel and interview with the author of The Facebook Effect, David Kirkpatrick.  Overall, it was a good show followed by some quality networking. And the truth is I probably would have worked anyway.  Here’s a quick recap from last night.

Carol Phillips, a Notre Dame professor and President of Brand Amplitude, provided some great insights into Millennials, the focus of Sunday’s conversation. According to Phillips, Millennials are:

  • not as likely to engage with advertising
  • excellent filters
  • unless there is a coupon or something in it for them, they won’t bother following brands
  • reject ads that don’t mean anything to them (DN: what group doesn’t?)
  • will accept ads on phone if they get free stuff
  • they actually love brands and they talk about brands
  • they use brands to express their identity
  • more brand conversations that older consumers
  • brands that go their own way resonate w them
  • brands trying to be cool can be uncool
  • Lady Gaga is an exemplary Millennial brand
  • striving to be awesome
  • delaying by marriage and buying cars
  • unique personal narratives will define then

Carol noted that for Millennials, brands happen at intersection of culture. She pointed out that NASA has done an especially good job of appealing to them.  As proof, she showed NASA’s engagement on Twitter, Facebook and Slideshare presentations created by four Millennials on why NASA was relevant.  AstroMike, a NASA character, garnered over 1 million followers on Twitter.  NASA also orchestrated a geo-caching scavenger hunt partnering with location-based service Gowalla. For Millenials, engagement begins with discovery and ends with advocacy. So the challenge for marketers is to figure out how to “be found” to get Millennials to tell your story.  As Carol put it, “its not what you say, its what you do.”

More to come.