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Kicking off a new monthly series called In the Tank, where we talk to experts within journalism, marketing, and communications about their tips and best practices for success. Up first is Chris Rightmire, a Social Intelligence Lead at IBM, who highlights how companies can best ensure social marketing results (no one likes a shouter!).

Tell us a bit about your role as a social intelligence lead at IBM?

There are two main areas where social intelligence can serve an organization:

1) The first is understanding how our social activations – paid and owned – are impacting the business. It’s great to get a ton of “likes” but do these translate into new customers in our pipeline? We need to understand our impact on the business before we understand how much to invest in social overall. 

2) The second is around understanding our audience and using that knowledge to not only inform our social content and campaigns, but also overall marketing messaging and even product design.

How has social intelligence changed the way companies can reach and engage their audience?

How do you do, fellow kids? Using intelligence in a research capacity can get rid of that! How edgy can we be? What types of content are trending? We can use research to ensure the why of our brand’s social presence aligns with what is going on in social media communities. 

From a more technical/paid side, there are a ton of ways we can use social engager information  (i.e. who engaged with our social posts) to target audiences that have already shown an interest in our brand.

What are some of the biggest mistakes a company makes on social media?

When people think about social marketing they think about making an organic Twitter or Facebook page, jumping on a (hopefully) relevant hashtag, and maybe using some boosted posts. However, it’s not 2012 anymore, organic reach is a thing of the past, it can be very difficult to build up an owned social presence organically, and paid shouldn’t be used as a salve to uplift poor performing content.  I would love to see companies begin understanding relevant community conversation and infusing that into their content. You have to be interested to be interesting.

We see a lot of consumer brands like Wendy’s and Steak-ums that have been successful in reaching a millennial audience by cutting through corporate speak, but we’ve also seen other brands try to mimic it and fail. How can a brand/company best find its voice on social?

Think about why your company does what it does. Hopefully, it produces a product that fills a need in the marketplace. Doing that builds up a certain expertise, now think about where that expertise would be valuable online. If you make the fastest computers on the planet – you could use that expertise to help the huge “Build Your Own PC” community. Think about how an extremely knowledgeable PC enthusiast would conduct themselves online and mirror that.

What is your best tip for a business looking to elevate their social media presence?

Find your why. Why is your brand on social media? If the only thing you can think of is to “build awareness” or “generate engagement” – it’s not worth your time and resources. Only take the time to build a social presence if you will be adding value to social media users – are you making them laugh, learn, or look closer? If so, it’s just a matter of experimenting (and measuring) different types of content and social networks until you get it right.

Want to hear more from Chris? Follow him on LinkedIn or check out his latest project, Ad Spend 2020.

Interested in sharing your insights in journalism, marketing, or communications in a future installment of In the Tank? Drop us a line.


Matt Bretzius

Matt Bretzius is President and Partner at FischTank PR.

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