An Interview with SMM Guru: Brian Chappell
By Joe Hall
Brian will tell you that he doesn’t call himself a guru, but in my opinion, others should. Last week, I came by a video on IM Broadcast that caught my attention. In this video social media marketer, Brian Chappell, responded to people that claim they are Social Media Marketing Gurus, but in reality they lack any real experience. Brian’s video reminded me about the constant discussion in the SEO community about fake SEO’s. I wanted to get a better understanding of what exactly successful social media marketing looks like, so I asked Brian if he would be willing to answer a few questions for the Marketing Pilgrim community.
Here is my interview with Brian Chappell (an active member of the SEO community, works at Ignite Social Media and blogs at BrianChappell.com)
Joe: As you know, the inspiration to do this interview comes from a video that you recently posted at IM Broadcast. In this video you make a distinction between someone who is heavily involved in Social Media on a personal level, and those who work as Professional Social Media Marketers. What was the inspiration behind making this video?
Brian: Basically, the intention was to voice a bit of frustration I’ve had lately. I have seen an increase in bloggers who call them selves social media consultants /social media gurus. When in reality, I know most of them have simply branded themselves via simple social marketing tactics that cannot be replicated for businesses and brands.
Joe: In the video you talk very briefly about some of the complexities involved in promoting a brand or idea in Social Media, can you explain some of the complexities that stand out the most?
Brian: Most of the major social networks, Facebook, Myspace, Hi5, Friendster are not fond of businesses organically networking inside them. I have seen many business profiles get shut down because they caught wind. The networks want your ad spend, so why would they let you organically build a profile?
To make things worse, these companies have some of the worst customer support you will find on the web. From my experience, they aren’t very quick to give you a solid explanation of what you did, nor do they like to let you back in without starting again from scratch. Tell that to a client after their profile has been axed.
This isn’t to say it can’t be done; in fact, we do a lot of that work at Ignite. The bottom line is that you have to be diligent, patient, and transparent. Telling the community about a product or marketing message, commenting too quickly, sending too many friend requests etc. are all things you can do that will potentially get you flagged.
Joe: Are their any specific business models that work well with Social Media Marketing? For example do ecommerce companies do better than say companies that might normally be found offline?
Brian: Absolutely. In fact, some companies might find it extremely difficult to market their products. Tech/ Gadget companies, though, will always be well off when it comes to social marketing. Companies that profit from ad sales (content rich sites) such as Huffington Post, Wired.com, and those like them are social powerhouses. Any site that can publish creative, controversial, and viral content without having to worry about legal ramifications, are going to work better in the social marketing sphere.
E-commerce sites are typically some of the tougher scenarios. When an ecomm site comes to me and wants “social media,” one of the last things I think about is how can I get the site on Digg.com. There are a multitude of other things to do to add value that should be done first.
Joe: Can you point to a few examples of successful Social Media campaigns, and explain why they are successful?
Brian: HP’s 31 Days of The Dragon is one that comes to mind. HP increased their laptop sales by 85% just by getting 31 mainstream bloggers to run contests giving away the HP Dragon Laptop. The campaign was great because the inherent conditions of the contest created a viral / link storm. It was more than just a giveaway.
Another is Dell’s Outlet Twitter, as they’ve grossed over 1 million so far from the Twitter account. It’s easy to track and is one of the few examples where you can attach a clear ROI. We are now seeing this as a common strategy that e-commerce sites are implementing.
There are plenty of others, but these are some of the most successful ones I can think of.
Joe: From what I have seen, a lot of the Social Media success stories come from brands that are already well developed. How can companies that are just starting out use social media to build their brand?
Brian: I think social media potentially can level the playing field more so than traditional SEM or SEO. If your content/product resonates with the audience— if it’s captivating enough— you can transcend the expensive limitations that Organic Search and Paid Search have.
Depending on what you’re marketing, whether it’s a product or a concept, getting users involved from its conception can be very valuable. Integrate your target audience from the get go with beta testers, feedback, promotion etc. Your audience themselves are your most valuable brand evangelists down the road and can really help foster the growth of your idea.
Joe: Can Social Media Marketing help in other Internet Marketing areas like SEO? If so, give us the details! (i.e. how do we build links?)
Brian: Absolutely. Links are only one side of the SMM spectrum, however. Lots of folks tend to say SMM is all about the links, but I tend to disagree.
I’ve done a fair share of link building in my time, and social media is a great avenue to leverage natural links. Times are changing with the Google Algorithm (as they have been), so links are becoming less important. Site owners need to worry more about building quality relationships than thinking about only the link and anchor text, as has long been the trend. Links will flow in from great content, tools, ideas and relationship building.
There are several social factors and user data that the engines are incorporating and should be understood when strategizing. Google has so much user data today it’s mindboggling. Make your site sticky, make folks want to friend you, bookmark you, keep those bounce rates low etc.
Here’s a small tip, most people don’t utilize this tactic enough: If you have content and an existing user base, think of how you can widgetize your content or create a tool that a user would like to put on his own site. You can crush your competition if you do this right and launch a successful widget. For thought leaders on this subject, follow Matt Inman and Pat Sexton.