Social Studies: Online Marketing With Lisa Jenkins

ImageIn addition to being a treasured friend of Editorial Emergency, Lisa Jenkins is a trove of marketing know-how. She's presently VP of Client Services at L.A.-based firm The Marketing Distillery.

Prior to landing this plum gig, she brought her copious imagination, enthusiasm and common sense to Warner Bros. Records, House of Blues Entertainment and other high-profile entities. Among the titanic brands she's advanced are Sony PlayStation, AT&T and Lucasfilm.

Lisa's also the co-creator and co-host of the inspired pop-culture podcast The Nerd Out. We relished the opportunity to pick her marvelous brain.

EE: Give us an overview of what your company does.

LJ: In the broadest sense, The Marketing Distillery is an online marketing agency that specializes in what is increasingly known as social media. We build websites, manage profiles on networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, get online-publicity rolling, establish partnerships, dream up events, and a lot more. Unlike other companies, we do all this with a very strong emphasis on metrics, analytics and return on investment — because social-media marketing in the absence of results is called "fun."

EE: How is ROI measured, and what are some of the pitfalls businesses face in allocating their marketing budgets?

LJ: The two primary things are impressions and engagement — engagement is the Holy Grail. You engage people by making the brand something they want to touch, play with, talk to, have some sort of connection with.

One major pitfall is limiting your online presence to news and promotions and failing to have a personality — that's sales, not marketing. Or vomiting out a lot of content without any parameters for success. Is success just getting people to see the content? Is it just having a ton of people like you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter? You can get obsessed with the numbers, but I always say I'd rather have 100 people who are super-engaged with the brand than 5,000 who can take it or leave it.

EE: Given that engagement is so vital, how do you guide clients in their efforts to engage people?

LJ: I keep them focused on brand, audience and editorial voice. Make sure you understand who your brand's audience is and speak to them in a voice they can relate to. And make sure that whatever content you're sharing with those people is interactive — instead of "Hey, look at this," it's "Look at this and tell us what you think and you'll be entered to win a copy of this." You need to find the right hook, which can take a lot of trial and error. Finally, the social-media platform has to be the right match for the brand.

Also, don't do social media just because you think you're supposed to. That's another pitfall: "We have to have a Twitter page." Do you really? Why? Does Twitter make sense for your brand? Is your audience ON Twitter?

EE: How do you balance social-media content that's directly related to the brand with more "extracurricular" material?

LJ: I have a very special rule: the rule of thirds. A third of the content you're pushing out can be promotional. Another third should be specific to your industry, your community, the world you operate in. The final third should be interactive. That way you're striking a balance between shouting your own message and engaging with other people. As lifelong consumers, we get excited when brands connect with us, and your interactive content is the all-important connective tissue.

EE: What is brand evangelism, and how do you take advantage of it?

 

I'd rather have 100 people who are super-engaged with the brand than 5,000 who can take or leave it.

LJ: Brand evangelists are people who are going to talk about your brand in a positive way. You have to corral these brand loyalists into a manageable group, and then you have to identify people who may not yet realize they're big fans of your brand. Once you've helped them make that realization, they're going to be very important, especially because, as newer recruits, they can be even more excited and actively engaged with the brand than the longtime fans.

One great way to "activate" brand evangelists is to go where people are talking about you. You can find those online forums with Google alerts or third-party for-pay services. When you do, you say, "Hey, this is Lisa with Brand X, and it means so much to us that you like our product. If you ever need anything, here's our e-mail." People go bananas for that sort of thing.

EE: Not even giving them anything or inviting them to enter a contest?

LJ: We all like to know we're being listened to. Don't get me wrong; everyone likes free stuff. But when you take the time to reach out to someone, you win that person's loyalty for life. The flip side of that is when someone posts something negative about you and you don't respond directly — that can turn into a PR nightmare.

EE: Aside from what we've already covered, what advice would you have for a brand that can't yet afford your services but wants to get to that level?

LJ: I love teaching companies how to do this and then sending them out into the world to kick ass on their own. To set yourself up properly with social media, make sure you have a website that's simple, has good content and is easy to view on a mobile phone (it does not need to have Flash). Then link to your Facebook and Twitter accounts from every page.

Have someone in your office who, even if they're not solely a social-media person, has an hour or two every day to spend managing your brand online. They need that much time to respond to people quickly, post new photos and updates, and head off any customer-service issues. But they should also be cruising around on social-media sites and reaching out to like-minded people.

I do recommend blogs. But if you can't update that thing three times a week, don't bother; it's not worth the time. Also, blogs are great for SEO. A post doesn't have to be long, one line and a picture — done.

Then it's a matter of making sure you have quality content, following the magical rule of thirds, and trying to be a good person who listens and shares.