Episode 37: To Boldly Go Where No Marketer Has Gone Before

Many CMOs take their client base for granted. Even though they may put a lot of time and effort into building that base and retaining customers, most marketers are fortunate enough to have an existing network of consumers to work with. When Trip Hunter set out to promote Silicon Valley’s first-ever ComicCon in 2016, he needed to start from square one. Trip’s genius advertising prowess—along with some help from Steve Wozniak—helped the con bring in over 60,000 attendees. Great Scott!

Silicon Valley ComicCon wasn’t Trip’s first crack at delivering a dynamite marketing strategy. He’s been implementing cut-through tactics for nearly 20 years with brands like Renegade, Fusion-io, and Primary Data. A strong believer in the “no risk, no reward” theory of marketing, Hunter is the quintessential renegade thinker!

Trip Hunter discusses some of his boldest marketing ambitions on the Renegade Thinkers Unite podcast with host and former business partner, Drew Neisser. You can listen to the episode here. If you don’t have time to listen to the whole podcast, you can check out these sample questions and answers below:

Drew: There were a lot of comic cons already when you started this two years ago. How did you make sure that Silicon Valley ComicCon was unique?

Trip: Steve Wozniak is one of the partners of both companies that I work at and he wanted to do a ComicCon that was not just about pop culture. He wanted it to include science and technology because in his mind, these two things drive each other. And so I don’t think there are many shows out there that balanced content between technology and pop culture as well as we do.

Drew: What role did social play in the overall marketing program?

Trip: We started with nothing two years ago—we had no social following at all. So it takes a while to build that up and once you kind of hit a certain level, it starts to grow pretty quickly. But one of the reasons that I think it was successful was, we focused on creating ownership. So we weren’t just talking to people, we were engaging them and asking them how they wanted to shape the event. That empowerment allowed them to recommend guests; one person said I want to do a cosplay show for dogs. I don’t think anybody had done a doggy cosplay, and that became a huge component.

Drew: How did it go?

Trip: The press loved that! That came directly from the people that we were listening to. So again I think it’s about listening and then giving people the ability to help shape and create the event.

Drew: What was one risky marketing stunt you pulled off at Primary Data?

Trip: For the launch of Primary Data, we wanted to do something that was also big and about moving just because moving data is what we do, and so we brought Nitro Circus into South Hall, which is a building at the San Jose Convention Center. These guys have these massive ramps that take all day to set up. The first guy goes off the ramp on his motorcycle—this is an enclosed building and the ceiling is 80 feet in the air—and as he goes by one of the giant lights he reaches out and taps the light. I went over and said, “Well, I’m not sure this is going to work.” And he said, “No, no it’s going to be fine. That light was a good three feet from me.” So we changed things around, but the next time he went off it, he did a backflip and it was right next to the ceiling. It didn’t seem to bother anybody, so away we went and Nitro Circus did a big indoor show and people loved that.

Drew: What was the story there?

Trip: Again, it had to do with moving data: showing that moving data is difficult, but also showing that there are very few people that know how to do it. Nitro Circus in this instance was one of those very special groups that knows how to do this and nobody else does. At Primary Data, what we’re trying to do hasn’t really been accomplished yet and so we’ve kind of put ourselves in that vein. Now granted, that’s a pretty thin line. It’s about Nitro Circus—they’re just amazingly cool to watch, and for a launch party, it doesn’t take much more than that.

Drew: What is the toughest lesson you’ve learned when it comes to marketing?

Trip: For me, the toughest lesson has been staying up with the evolution of marketing and I think it’s really easy for us to become complacent in the channels that we’ve tried. Just because it worked before doesn’t mean it will work again. It is one of the things that Silicon Valley ComicCon has taught me especially as I move back to B2B marketing is the importance of social and all of the different channels working together harmoniously.

CMO Insights: How the Grammys Became More Than a One Night Affair

The Grammys have brought us some of the best moments in television, and the most spectacular performances in music. From Michael Jackson’s moonwalk across the stage in ’88 to the Elton John and Eminem duet in ’01, and most recently Lady Gaga’s tribute to David Bowie, the Grammys have been the place for historical moments in music. And if you’re like me, you brim with excitement before the show, and are unable to stop rehashing the night’s best moments for days after. One night a year, the telecast captivates people around the world and easily dominates the conversation on social. However, is the show on your mind for other 364 days? Well, I spoke with Evan Greene, a friend of mine and CMO of the Recording Academy, to hear how his team approaches the challenge of marketing a show that airs one night per year. Key words here: social, social, and more social.

Drew: What does your marketing purview include?

Evan: I can tell you that anything that touches the Grammy brand ultimately runs through the marketing area, whether it’s marketing and brand strategy, PR, social media, digital content and yes, partner strategy. We represent the biggest brand in music, and for other brands, there is value in aligning with us. We partnered with other brands to utilize the impact and the marketing reach of brands that are complementary to our own. Also, we are a 501(C) 6, a not-for-profit trade organization, and this affects our marketing strategy.

Drew: How does it affect your marketing partnerships, specifically?

Evan: We put together marketing partnerships so that we can leverage the impact of the Grammys, which is unparalleled in terms of credibility and prestige. On the flipside, the value that partners bring to the table opens up other marketing channels. Now, because of the prestige of our brand, there is a value associated which means there still needs to be an economic model in place.

Drew: Was there partner integration for Lady Gaga’s performance? Did Intel do the projection?

Evan: Yes. This was the first time when we partnered with a company to actually help us enhance the performance. If you notice, there was no Intel visibility or attribution on the telecast because we wanted it to be subtle. We focused on making the performance memorable, something that people would be talking about for a long time. At the end of the day, Intel received a tremendous amount of credit and earned media.

Drew: And with that comes months of hard work and constant communication between Intel and the Grammys.

Evan: Yes, there was a lot of heavy lifting and coordination. We put something together that had never been done before. There were things that happened on the Grammy stage from a technology standpoint that have never been put on television. It really was the next generation of Grammy moments, right before our eyes.

Drew: Every year, you challenge your agency to do some new things. Let’s talk about the new things that you did this year in terms of marketing and social.

Evan: This year we started thinking about the inspirational power of music and the intersection between music and sports. Sports came in because it was SuperBowl 50 and it ran on CBS, eight days prior to the Grammy Awards, which created an extraordinary opportunity to bring the two together. We engaged our agency of record, Chiat/Day, which in my opinion is one of the best shops on the planet.

Drew: How was the concept further developed?

Evan: We started from the standpoint of how do we celebrate sports and music. How do we align the best in music with the best in sports, globally? What came out of that was a powerful tagline, called “Witness Greatness.” We looked at the music that inspires the athletes who in turn inspire the world. “Witness Greatness” really is about the inspirational power of music, and we could apply that in a number of ways.

Drew: So you were able to move beyond just the “Witness Greatness” tagline?

Evan: Yes, it was not only the theme and tagline, but also the visual representation and how we applied it. We then applied the theme to social and made sure that any visual we associated with represented greatness. We made sure to elevate that conversation whenever and wherever possible.

Drew: How did your team focus on the witness portion of “Witness Greatness”?

Evan: We have a companion stream, sort of a shoulder programming experience called “Grammy Live.” It shows different angles and elements, not necessarily the telecast itself, but it shows backstage etc. This year, we inserted a camera inside the base of the Grammy statute so that we could actually witness greatness in a different way-from the position in the POV of the statue itself. We got some great footage and content that had never been captured before. 

Drew: After the Grammy team fully adopts the theme, I’m guessing the next step is for the media to pick it up?

Evan: Yes, and was amazing when the media starts quoting our taglines, and when other members of our social ecosystem started organically using the “Witness Greatness” hashtag. When I think about all the touch points, from those doing social to the persons pitching media stories, to our marketing partners, there is a consistent look and feel across the board.

Drew: Any favorite projects from the “Witness Greatness” theme?

Evan: There were a couple of components that I found particularly exciting. If you go on our YouTube page, youtube.com/thegrammys, there is a video that we did with Kendrick Lamar in his hometown of Compton. We went on the street, and asked people to sing a couple of lines from his song Alright, which has become sort of an anthem over the past year. We created a video of all of these individuals singing particular lines of the song, and at the end, it culminated with an impromptu performance and the tagline was “Greatness Comes From Everywhere.” This served as a drive to the Grammys. 

Drew: I know the Grammys has worked with user-generated content in the past. Can you give an example of how you used UGC in past seasons?

Evan: Several years ago, we had a campaign called “We’re All Fans,” and it underscored the idea that what makes an artist great are the fans. With that in mind, we invited fans to upload videos of themselves and become part of the campaign. That was probably the most organic example that we had. People actually got to see themselves as part of the national Grammy campaigns, creating mosaics of Lady Gaga and other global superstar artists.

Drew: How was UGC executed for this Grammy season?

Evan: The idea really drives the execution. This year, our campaign was about creating the conversation, engaging with fans and having them share what about their favorite artists represents ‘Greatness.’ So in terms of UGC, we didn’t invite video submissions this time around, but we focused on having respectful dialog with our fans and followers about inspiration and greatness.

Drew: The reviews have been very successful on social. Obviously, you’re at the center of the social media conversation during the show, but you’re still very present months after it aired. How is that even possible?

Evan: I think we’ve been very successful and I am happy with the work of our social team and everybody involved in that effort. I think we can get better, I really do. The core reason for this year-round success is respecting fans and speaking with trust and authenticity.

Drew: What are some of the mistakes you are seeing other organizations make with their social media?

Evan: When communication seems gratuitous, and it is focused purely on making a sale or driving behavior, consumers see right through that. We simply want to be a credible part of the music conversation. When you look at the brands that resonate and break through, it’s the ones that earn your trust. If you speak with authenticity, and you respect your audience, then that becomes the cornerstone of trust. Trust is how you build a long-term relationship.

Drew: Being a nonprofit, how do you allocate the money brought in from the Grammys?

Evan: The money that we make doesn’t go to pay dividends, meet a quota or achieve net profit goals. It’s filtered right back into the music industry so we can create more in-school music programs and empower the next generation of music makers. We give back in a variety of different ways to enhance and srengthen the industry platform that the Recording Academy sits on.

Drew: One of the other things that you’ve done over the years is expand the Grammys from Grammy night to Grammy week. I feel like this was Grammy month. Where are you right now in terms of the scale of the Grammys?

Evan: I think we’ve made a considerable amount of progress over the years, but we still have a ways to go. What has struck me is that we’ve built this massive brand with a tremendous amount of impact by virtue of a single television event held for three-and-a-half hours, one night per year. The marketing opportunity that creates is enormous. If we take a proactive brand management approach, how impactful and powerful a brand could we be if we continue to extend throughout the year?

Drew: What a challenge! How do you rate progress? 

Evan: I think we have expanded the impact of the Grammy as a brand, beyond simply one night per year. I do not believe that we are anywhere close to being there yet where people started thinking about the Grammys as a relevant brand they need to interact with in June, July, and August. But like I said, we’re making progress and there are a number of exciting things on the horizon.

Social Media and Content Marketing

Every once in a while one’s past and present collide in fun and unexpected ways.  Such was the case when several Duke alums gathered for a conversation on social media in front of a crowd of about 150 fellow Dukies.  With the ambitious title, “Like it Or Not: The Pervasive Influence of Social Media,” representatives from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, The Wild Geese and American Express faced the challenge of connecting their time at Duke with their current careers along with the more daunting task of dealing with yours truly as their moderator.  Happily, it turned out to be a vibrant, informative and thought provoking conversation that concluded with an extensive audience Q+A.

Since many more people wanted to attend than the space allowed, I thought follow up interviews with the panelists would be of interest (to at least some of you). First up is Susan Hammes, Vice President, Digital Brand & Social Media Development at American Express. Susan has been in the middle of some truly noteworthy social campaigns at AmEx, a company that in my humble opinion leads the way in social & content marketing (as you’ve read about before on this blog — see interview with AmEx CMO John Hayes).

Drew: How did your end up in working in social media in content marketing?
Started working at traditional Advertising Agencies and over time discovered a passion for digital marketing.  In particular, I’ve always been passionate about finding right person, right message, right context, something that is critically important to social media and content marketing.

Drew: What role if any did Duke prepare you for your future career?
Duke taught me the importance of curiosity, empathy, and passion – the three keys for just about any career, but particularly essential in marketing.  Duke also taught me importance of working hard and playing hard.  These are ingredients that are necessary as a marketing professional.

Drew: What program or programs that you’ve touched at AmEx are you particularly proud of?
Most recently, I worked on a social content program called #PassionProject.  This was a program designed to put the customer at the center and provide them with a tools to help them realize their dreams.  I’m particularly proud of this as not only did it far exceed our business objectives, we also truly impacted the lives of the participants of the programs.  I regularly received notes from the participants that said we had changed their lives – given them the tools, the compass, and confidence to take their passions to the next level.

Drew: What’s the most exciting part about working in SM/Content marketing right now?
The ability to forge a new path forward and to use technology to create stories and experiences for people.

Drew: What’s the most frustrating part?
Measurement.. and not having enough time to experiment and learn all the things we need to learn.

Drew: Do you see a future for “organic” social media (vs. paid) and if so, what does that look like?
Yes. Influencer marketing and Social influencer marketing will continue to be a critical role.  However, like the past, paid social will continue to play a huge rule (although it will continue to evolve as the platforms and users shift their social platforms to an ever broader set of platforms).

Drew: Zeroing in on content, what are some tips you can provide to others about creating successful programs? Feel free to provide pitfalls as well.
Customer First is the most important aspect.  It is critical that you start with what the customer is looking for – which is to be entertained, informed, inspired.

Identify the emotion that you want to elicit.

And finally, ensure that if you’re doing branded content- that there is a clear and authentic role or enablement role for the brand/product.

Pitfall – don’t think that content will just be discovered- need to think through the owned/earned/paid ecosystem of distribution to help the content be searched/discovered.

Drew: Finally, how import do you think it is for marketers to be active in social media themselves?
It is critical that marketers use and follow social media – this is to understand your consumer.

CMO Insights: Innovative Marketing

Geoff CottrillConverse is the creative world’s favorite party guest, which may be why it has so many friends—over 37 million on Facebook, to be exact. Just how did the sneaker brand get so popular? Not by being the life of the party, but by practicing good people skills and good social etiquette, says CMO Geoff Cottrill. Rather than stepping on toes and dominating the social conversation, Converse lets its audience guide the dialog, knowing that the brand belongs to those who wear it. Geoff shared these insights and more with me during this year’s CMO Club Awards, where he won honors for innovation in marketing—and after you read our conversation, you’ll understand why.

Drew: Have you been able to link your innovative marketing activities to the kinds of business metrics favored by CEOs?

We are fortunate to have a massive and loyal following who is willing to post content on our behalf. To know that we have millions of friends on Facebook and hundreds of thousands of photos tagged #Converse on Instagram is humbling. But for us real success is defined by our ability to build meaningful relationships that are true to our core values, spark creativity and inspire advocacy.

Drew: The Converse page currently has more than 37 million likes – one of the top 10 most popular pages on Facebook. How did you build such an active following on social media?  

As a global brand that speaks to personal style and expression, social media presents itself as a natural forum for us to communicate with our consumers. It’s absolutely a focused part of our overall communication efforts but at the same time we understand that we are not leading that communication, nor do we want to. We are a welcomed party guest. We keep it simple.  Be interesting, think creatively, think globally, believe in what we are saying, and take a step back to listen and watch.

Social media is a tremendous vehicle to learn about your consumers, what they like (or don’t like about you), what they are interested in hearing from us, what they’re doing in their lives, and what they are saying to each other. This brand belongs to the people who wear it.

Drew: We love your campaign to support up and coming musicians by giving them free recording time and promoting them via social media. How did you decide to get involved in the music industry?  

One of our goals as a brand is to give back and help inspire a new generation of musicians.  We talked to a lot of musicians and it became apparent that studio time was costly and unaffordable for many emerging artists who had turned to home studios and their bedrooms to record.  By opening Converse Rubber Tracks, it’s a way for us to say thank you to musicians all over who have helped us become the brand we are and to provide a place for new artists to have access to resources they may not be able to afford. It is Converse’s way to invest in the future of music.

Drew: Marketing seems to be getting increasingly complex in terms of ways to spend and ways to monitor. Has it gotten more complex for you and if so, how are you dealing with that complexity?

We don’t see it as being complex because our philosophy hasn’t changed. We strongly believe in building goodwill in communities and creating long-lasting brand ambassadors for the brand. It’s not just about selling sneakers.

Drew: A CMO has a lot of choices in terms of where they invest their time.  What have been your top priorities in the last 12 months?

In the next few seasons, Converse sees a huge potential of opportunities within avenues such as our wholesale accounts and securing key leadership positions with these important retailers through exclusive partnerships and product offerings. Another category with tremendous opportunity is young men and to truly get after the young male consumer from a head-to-toe perspective, encompassing footwear to apparel to accessories. The plan to reach them will be through the re-launch of the CONS segment, targeted specifically to their street culture, sport-inspired lifestyle.

Drew: Have there been any big surprises in terms of what’s worked really well and what hasn’t?

Our consumers are always surprising us! But we see these surprises in a truly positive way because we can always do better and are constantly seeking improvements.

Drew: What’s your perspective on content marketing?   

Our philosophy on content marketing is built on driving meaningful relationships that are true to our core values, spark creativity and inspire advocacy. Whether it’s about showcasing a musician that has just recorded at Converse Rubber Tracks in Brooklyn, a showcase we put on at SXSW, a street art exhibit in Beijing or a Three Artists One Song collaboration – we focus on developing stories that are compelling for our consumers. 

Drew: Converse has been in business since 1908. How do you balance respecting the tradition of the Converse brand with innovative marketing?

Converse has a long history in music. It has been worn on stage by legendary punk bands in the 1970s and adopted by kings of hip-hop, new wave, rockabilly, grunge and others throughout the decades. Musicians and creative people are our core audience, and we need to do everything possible to foster this community. We want to be useful to the community and never take advantage of it or overstep our place. We want to bring cultures together and celebrate music. In other words, we want to be in it, without getting in the way.

Drew: How do you evaluate/measure the success of your marketing?  

We believe that success is not measured in the traditional sense (i.e. ROI).  The number of deep relationships we can foster with the creative community—not media impressions, and content views, measures success for the brand.

Drew: Do you agree with that notion that marketing is everything and everything is marketing?  How do you as a marketer impact the entire customer experience? 

Marketing is not everything and everything [is not marketing] to Converse. It’s has always been the brand’s intention that our products and consumers drive the marketing, not the marketing driving our product. Our approach to the consumer experience is to invest and grow our connections to consumers. As a brand, Converse is on a mission to own “sneakers” and this will be communicated across all our messaging. We want the word “sneakers” to become synonymous with unleashing the creative spirit.


What is Social Brand Management?

Some might think that the phrase “Social Brand Management” is a multidimensional oxymoron given the prevailing notion that companies have ceded control of their brands to the consumer AND that social may be the last place brands can be managed. Fortunately, Social Brand Management is among the many misconceptions being tackled at this week’s Social Media World Forum in NYC.  Nicole Bohorad, Senior Manager, Social Media Marketing at Capital One is on the Social Brand Management panel and as you will see from the interview below, provides some terrific insights into how her company is grabbing the reins from the proverbial marauding hordes.  (And at the risk of killing the suspense, I did not ask Nicole, “what’s in her wallet?” but be my guest if you’re coming to the conference!)

Drew: So what exactly is “social brand management?”
We see this as guiding people’s perception of our brand, and the ability to direct consideration for and involvement with the brand, through the use of various social channels and social technologies.

Drew: How do reconcile the common desire to “manage” social and the desire for social to be “organic?” Does one necessarily negate the other?
Of most importance, we focus on social being organic. We know our customers recognize Capital One’s brand equity in being clever & funny, and this is something that compells them to share stories about our core values – best value, ease of use and great user experience. To do this effectively, however, we must manage the process by amplifying reach to our most active and supportive customers on social. They then act as evangelists for other customers who are not as loyal or new to the brand. We do this through tactics, including content calendar strategy, social listening and moderation, public relations and advertising to inform our content around topics customers want to hear.

Drew: Can you give me an or two example of how Capital One is “managing” social right now?
We are actively participating in moderation through engagement with customers in live Tweeting events, such as with History Channel’s Mankind The Story of All of Us. This series includes a focus on the creation of commerce and money, so it gives us an opportunity to bring value to the story and engage with fans of the show while talking about our expertise.

We are also monitoring the success of our content performance on Facebook and develop page post ads that highlight the most engaging content. We’ve found, specifically, that our focus on travel interests does quite well, so by including this content in ads, our fans are able to endorse their interactivity for their friends to notice in their newsfeeds and take interest.

Drew: Has social matured this year and if so how has that effected your approach to social?
Yes, it has. Key channels, such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, have started to really differentiate their platforms across user base, content posting strategy, reason for using the channel, and accessing the channel (such as mobile). This has caused us to fine-tune our content with a focus on using each one for a specific purpose, such as a real-time news and interests for Twitter, and travel memories and sports stories (around our NCAA experience) on Facebook.

There has also been a greater focus on analytics measurement, where channels have to prove their effectiveness – not only to show how content and ads drive actions and business back to our site and product use, but also how the channels are playing a greater role in affecting media consumption – for example, how Twitter conversations are affecting consideration for brands on TV.

Last, greater linkable search capabilities, such as Google’s ability to tie Google+ with YouTube, and social listening tools that tie into social channels, have proven to add a critical new layer that informs product insight and organic content development.

Drew: Did you try any emerging platforms this year and if so, how did it go?
We launched our Google+ page in May with a focus on travel (tied to our Venture Card), as we saw this was an area ripe for content development. Google recognized the quality of our posts and featured us in their Travel Circle, giving us exposure to more fans with a passion for travel. This has helped us become a financial category leader on the channel, with more than 80,000 featuring us in their circles.

Drew: Capital One has expanded well beyond credit cards in the last few years. What are the tricks to managing social with so many lines of business under one brand name?
Not only that, we have extended our social presence in both Canada and the UK. Luckily, we have strong brand standard guidelines that help guide us in the way that the brand is represented consistently on social channels. We also have a strong brand personality stemming from our TV campaigns that we work to maintain across channels. But we don’t have all the answers yet, and we are continuing to test and learn as we go.

Drew: What’s on your wish list for 2013 in terms of social brand management?
We are going to be refining our brand engagement approach on core social media channels. We want to monitor analytics more closely to define how we attain key brand and business metrics from social content. We also want to test new channels to see where we can extend our brand conversation with consumers. We hope to look at how social can affect brand affinity when coupled with TV viewing behavior. Last, we want to refine our approach to social advertising as it relates to building the most loyal customer bases on social channels who can share our message.

Thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed this post, feel free to subscribe to TheDrewBlog.  

Growing Your Customer Base

Starting a new company can be a daunting challenge unless the entrepreneur capitalizes on the inherent advantages of being small–you can and should be more nimble, more innovative and less risk adverse.  One clear example of that approach is PerkStreet Financial, an online bank that according to Jennifer Spencer, Digital Communications and Community Manager, has “grown our customer base and our staff while spending less on traditional media to focus on how to get the biggest bang from unexpected places, like social media channels.”  I caught up with Jennifer at a recent BDI conference and found what she had to say extremely enlightening and inspiring.  Hope you do too.

Drew: Can you give me a bit of background on Perk Street?
Our CEO, Dan O’Malley, was an executive at CapitalOne, and although his career was going great, the higher he climbed at that company, the less he liked what he saw. He didn’t feel good about seeing people get into debt to ‘earn’ rewards, so he left to start PerkStreet. Our company emerged from his idea that smart spending – using a debit card, living within your means, and avoiding credit cards – should come with rewards. So he founded PerkStreet Financial in 2008, and launched our game-changing cash-back debit card. Today, we’re giving our customers over a million dollars per year in rewards for avoiding debt and spending on debit.

When I found PerkStreet (on Twitter!) I was a debit user who wasn’t getting anything back from my big bank except the runaround when I needed help and fees just to keep my money there. I loved being a customer at PerkStreet so much that I sent them my resume. That’s the kind of passion we all have working at PerkStreet, and a lot of our customer community reflects that sentiment.

Drew: So as an online financial institution, what role does social play in your marketing mix?
Opening a checking account isn’t a snap decision. Social lets potential customers join our community and get to know us before they apply. It also lets people share their excitement about earning cash back on debit, and spread our content to their friends easily.

Drew: Do you think social plays a bigger role because you are an online institution?
I think it does. I don’t know about you, but I certainly feel better about trusting my money to people who put a face behind a name. Everything we do in social, from signing our names to all Facebook responses to using Twitter at live events to help people find us quickly, does that.

Drew: How are you measuring the impact of social on your marketing?  Can you share some results?
Our social measurement is focused on engagement. We use Google Analytics and SproutSocial to pull those numbers together for us. We are always testing, and seeing what messages perform best in which channels, and what that means as far as traffic to our blog, our site, and applications. We get a lot of current customer traffic to our blog, for instance – Facebook is the largest driver of traffic to our blog this quarter, followed by Twitter at 2nd, and Pinterest at 5th.

Drew: A lot of banks/financial institutions  are still afraid of social from a compliance/regulatory standpoint. How are you all overcoming those concerns?  Does it come from having a start-up mentality?
I think it comes more from every department understanding how important it is to our brand and our business to make connections with our community. Our compliance team really “gets it” when it comes to social, and having open communication with them helps. We respect what the other is trying to do and we collaborate to find ways we can work together, since ultimately it will benefit our company and our customers.

Drew: Can you give my readers an example of 1 or 2 social programs that you have done that really worked well for you?
Any time we use social to gather user generated content, it’s a success. Our graphics team is doing some really great stuff with inspirational quotes to help spark conversation (here’s one our fans loved!) and we’ve used VideoGenie to let our customers easily record their own stories for us to add to our website.

Drew: Is social also a customer service channel for you?  If so how does that fit into your overall plan?
Social is a customer service channel as well. Any place where customers can ask questions then becomes a customer service channel, and we need to be there to respond. We use tools like SproutSocial and HelpScout to assign tickets among the social and customer service teams so we can get the best answer out as quickly as possible. With so many banks out there getting slammed for terrible customer service, social channels are a low barrier way for potential customers to see how we treat our current customers. It’s all part of people joining PerkStreet not just because we have good banking products, but because they see that being a PerkStreet customer is a great experience.

Drew: Are you doing things with visual channels like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr?  If so, what / why and did they achieve your goals?
As far as visual social media, we’re sticking with Pinterest for right now (although the Timeline update to Facebook has arguably made that a visual channel.) No one likes to talk about personal finance, but people are always talking about the things finance affects: home, heart, and health. That kind of content is getting shared like crazy on Pinterest, and we’re excited to be a trusted resource for it.  Our goals for Pinterest, while we still get to know the medium, include driving traffic and using what we find there to inspire visual content on our blog, both of which have happened.

Drew: You talked about quarterly planning-can you elaborate on your campaign approach to social?
We don’t have a campaign approach to social, but rather a social approach to campaigns. As I mentioned above, we do a lot of engagement measuring. We take that into consideration as we approach a campaign, and figure out what messages work best in which channels. A campaign has to move beyond social, even if it starts there.

Drew: What kinds of social things are on your radar for 2013? Or what’s on your social wish list? Bigger footprint?  More engagement? Better analytics?
Like most folks who work with Facebook every day, “more data from Facebook” is always at the top of my wishlist. Right under “Commute to work by unicorn.” Seriously, though, I think the road ahead for PerkStreet will involve more ways we can engage current and potential customers on a very personal level. That might look like an expanded Twitter presence, online chats, and lots of video.

Drew: It’s unusual for a financial institution to feature customer testimonial videos on their homepage.  Can you tell me about how you gathered these and the rationale behind it?
For the “Share Your Story” campaign, we awarded the first 50 video submitters an extra $10 in perks in their accounts to help us get the ball rolling. We used VideoGenie to make it easy for our customers to create and submit videos to us, and also accepted submissions from their own cameras or phones, as well as quotes and photos for the video-shy. In the end we received over 200 unique submissions from our customers in about two weeks, with most of them coming in a few days. During the peak, we were getting submissions on average every 8 minutes. There was so much good stuff in there, we couldn’t help but feature it on our homepage.

Drew:  Do you think these videos have had a measurable impact on new customer acquisition?
We are still testing this homepage to see how it’s impacting conversion. I don’t have any conclusive data to release about it, but if I had to guess, I would say it has performed well from a conversion perspective. There’s little that makes people feel more comfortable about a product than being able to hear from someone they can identify with that the product is working for them. On some level, that’s what social media marketing is all about. Testimonials and reactions from authentic sources influence people all the time in social channels. One thing I love about that homepage is that the content was made by real people in their living rooms, and you can tell immediately. It’s incredibly authentic, because it’s real.

Drew: I love all the interesting content on your blog. Do you see this more as a retention tool versus an acquisition one?
It really serves as both in a very interconnected way. A lot of people find our blog when looking for good, frugal life advice and it leads them to learn more about us, to build a deeper relationship, and ultimately, to open an account. Our blog also supplies great information to our current customers, and gives them added value beyond just our banking products. They visit the blog, learn from it and then share our content with their friends, who learn more about us and open accounts of their own. This way, the cycle begins again. Ultimately, we believe that even if we’re measuring our performance by new account acquisition, we are doing a better job all around if what we’re sharing adds to customer retention and loyalty. No matter what your goals are, content is always going to serve a multiplicity of roles. This fact can’t be ignored or the cycle breaks down.