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Driving Social Brand Value Effectively: A Conversation with Social@Olgivy’s Peter Fasano

The digital media hype curve continues to rise and fall, bringing a dizzying array of marketing ‘gotta have its’ with each twist and turn.  Since my early days in digital media, Peter Fasano, now Senior Vice President for Social@Olgivy in Atlanta, has been one of my touchstones in the ever changing, never a dull moment industry.  Over the years, Pete and I have journeyed together as consultants and agency specialists to help brand marketers tap the full potential of emerging media channels and I asked him to share his views on the key strategies needed to drive business value within the digital landscape.

What has been the most rewarding part of your digital experience to date?
I’ve been fortunate to have a variety of experiences working and learning from others that have been particularly rewarding.  My experiences have taken me across a lot of different platforms – from web and application development, which involved search, to social media and user experience, which is what really gave me the opportunity to weave an integrated story in my career.  I feel this is essential for leading a social brand in today’s business environment.  It requires you to have a multi-hat perspective, without it, the dimension and toolkit you have at your disposal to consider and plan your digital strategy will be pretty limited.  I’ve become pretty practical in the things I like to explore and do – for me, it’s about what the next ‘big thing’ does for the business vs just the mass branding it can accomplish – driving effectiveness is ultimately why we’re here and fires me up on a daily basis.
What is the #1 essential strategy ingredient for building best-in-class emerging media initiatives?

Fundamentally there should be an understanding of what your customers are doing already in emerging media, where are they playing, how do they access these channels, how often, what is the amplification reach potential they have in them, etc. You need to have a clear picture of this up front to determine if it makes sense to use the specific emerging channel you have in mind to not only reach your audience in those spaces but more importantly, to know if you can actually engage them there to do what you as a brand want to do.

I’ve worked with a few brands that have invested heavily in these programs very early on before they got that fundamental understanding – places like MySpace, Second Life, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter – thinking they ‘have to have an account’ on Instagram, Pinterest, whatever is the next latest and greatest channel.  It’s the ‘gotta engage everywhere’ syndrome.  But, there is always a resource cost to start and maintain each of these things.  It’s usually a year later when marketers find out there is a complete misalignment with their customers and those particular channels because they can’t activate them in ways that are truly in line with their business. That’s when they realize their ‘gotta have it’ efforts were a complete waste of time.

Let me give you an example…I had a client who did a low cost game on Facebook that attracted one million fans in 8 days, which is insane growth.  Six months later, they want to run a big sports campaign featuring hockey with their new huge Facebook fan base.  Now, the rules of their promotion stipulated you had to be a resident of US.  If a deeper profile analysis was done up front, the team would have discovered that a large part of their Facebook fans were residents of Latin America, who happened to really like the original game that drew them to the brand. But ultimately, their long-term interests had nothing to do with credit card or hockey.  So, the brand ended up with basically a vanity number that did very little to support their business later on.

The question you need to be asking is: Am I growing the correct connections, subscriptions and relations that will drive business value back to me in the future.  There is a big cost to social connection that marketers shouldn’t ignore – the start up, the moderation, active apps I need to maintain, etc. Retaining and maintaining your social and digital ecosystem is a huge thing to think about.

Who do you think is the most underrated social media channel and why?

Over the last five years we’ve seen a huge race to acquire as many fans as possible in these channels.  In our current times we are so busy developing programs for acquiring new relationships through social specific channels, but we haven’t looked back at relationships we already established in other previous online and offline mediums.  While e-mail is considered a marketing dinosaur compared to social, it is a direct conduit to the true identity of the users whom brands are interacting within all the other social and digital channels. I believe its importance is totally underrated – taken for granted or dismissed as not relevant to the next-generation.

E-mail becomes the core basis for what many are calling Social CRM, where you can draw on the social media connections and bring it all together in a 360 degree view of how your customers and prospects interact and ultimately relate with you.

Do you have a favorite all time virtual collaboration tool?

Google Sites has been a super valuable visualization tool for me.  You can use it to write, create, draw, share with a broad or limited number of people, much like using a wiki.  It allows me to quickly collect and collaborate on ideas with others and helps to free my team from restrictions of format and focus on the actual ideas. Google Sites also eliminates the need to manage lots of document versions or locations and the hassle of whether your concept is fitting on slides or not.

Prediction: Does Twitter remain a standalone social media player or become next year’s M&A casualty?

Twitter is a huge passion point of mine – I really believe in it. I was lucky to work with the team behind it in their early days as we had conversations about what brands needed from social platforms and also wrote a Marketers Guide to Twitter that they use with agencies.

A lot of business today is done in countries with little internet connectivity.  Most digital things work in the US, but when you go outside of that you find extremely limited technology capabilities in most markets.  Simple text interaction is what works and that is where Twitter is really shining because its a social media expression that is low cost, yet very powerful way to share video, photos and other multimedia capabilities that keep evolving through other channels.

I definitely don’t see Twitter as a M&A casualty.  They are well funded and starting to learn how to use their data to drive value back to brand marketers.  Twitter is also fostering unique experiences outside of their platform. Consumers interact with Twitter and Twitter feeds event if they do not Tweet or have an account. When you look at all the monitoring capabilities of Radian 6, Sysomos, etc that analysts rely on for understanding market sentiment and behavior – Twitter powers all of it.  It’s a search engine in itself.  Twitter has reached a market size of ½ billion users globally so I believe it definitely sticks around.

One of the early pioneers of social media, Peter Fasano is a highly sought after digital strategist and manager who has led multiple teams in providing social media marketing, product development, and team-integrated solutions to Fortune 500 clients.  He is a member of the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association and Social Media Club. Throughout his career, Peter has contributed to numerous publications on brand social business evolution as well as the business plans of several start-ups.  You can follow him on Twitter @pfasano

About Michelle Batten

Michelle Batten is a seasoned digital marketing & advertising leader. She has spent two decades in the interactive arena, working with Fortune 1000 brands + start-ups to define and execute their digital initiatives. An emerging media visionary, Michelle is currently serving as Head of Global Marketing for Mobile & Innovation Intrapreneur for Amadeus, a global travel technology company. She is also the President for the Chicago American Marketing Association. Her passions include culture + tech evolution, mentoring, experiential travel and foodspotting.

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