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Underscore’s Tom Hespos on Social Media and The Future of Communications (Part II)

Tom Hespos is the chairman and president of Underscore Marketing, an independent media agency that creates and manages digital marketing programs. The Makegood recently spoke with Tom about Social Media, Online Marketing and the changing digital landscape. (Read Part I)

The Makegood: On your corporate blog, you write about brands on Facebook. Can you explain the ‘Bodyform’ example and tell our readers why you think it was successful?

I thought the Bodyform video was a terrific response to what many brands would perceive as negativity toward the brand. What happened was that momentum began to build behind a rant that someone wrote on Bodyform’s Facebook page. Many brands would have ignored this, deleted it or otherwise bungled it. But Bodyform applied some creativity, a bit of self-deprecating humor and some great social media chops, and they managed to turn a negative into a positive by putting out a great video response. It’s a great example of the social media jiujitsu that brands need to master in order to sap energy from negativity and turn it around into a big win.

The Makegood: How do you define success and the deliverables of compelling communications in social media? What would you tell companies that only focus on generating new leads and clients when using social media?

Just as in any marketing campaign, the results have to be gauged against the brand’s goals and measured in a way that makes sense.  This is why my agency customizes measurement strategies for its clients when it plans new initiatives.  So I define success differently from client to client and often from campaign to campaign.

As for the more direct response-oriented advertisers, we’ve had success deploying social media tactics for them when they’re open to measuring their success against what they invested in the program.  For instance, we might look at a forum post and apply technology to help answer some key questions – What did exposure to that forum post lead to over time, in terms of leads and sales?  What is its contribution to SEO?  Did it spawn further conversation that had an effect on leads and sales?  The effects need to be looked at holistically, otherwise DR advertisers will simply abandon it and go back to purchasing nickel clicks to get cheap leads.

The Makegood: What’s next in online media and how should companies be prepared in order to stay ahead of the fast changing digital landscape?

There are a number of potential developments on the horizon that I think advertisers need to plan for.

The first is the threat of governmental regulation of ad targeting and data collection practices pertaining to ads. Many of the things going on behind the scenes in the ad technology business are inviting more government regulation.  And it’s a shame because we have some very smart people tirelessly fighting to keep regulation from coming to pass, so that white hat marketers can continue legitimate data collection and ad targeting.  But I think it makes sense for advertisers to prepare for a day when regulation takes away many of our targeting options.  Looking into scaling up tactics like contextual targeting and anything else that works without cookies would be a good start.

I think advertisers also need to prepare for a shakeout of the LUMAscape.  Programmatic buying and selling has seen more than its fair share of venture capital.  A lot of companies are chasing a small fraction of digital display dollars.  There’s quite a bit of redundancy.  Since that part of the market exploded, we’ve met with companies that want to do many of the things an ad agency is supposed to do, and the companies overlap service offerings with each other quite a bit as well.  It’s unsustainable.  So we’re either going to see consolidation or a shakeout there.

Finally, we’re seeing more potential partners than ever before – publishers, technology companies, content creators and all other sorts of companies that can help us with digital marketing initiatives.  I’ve found that a great way to prioritize is to spend more time with the companies that add scale to potential opportunities, and spend less time with companies looking to find yet another way to whittle down pools of ad inventory to reach only a select group of consumers.  I put the latter kind of opportunities into a bucket I call “anti-scale” and I don’t focus on them as much.  Anti-scale opportunities can leverage some very compelling technology and innovative approaches, but whenever a client looks at a successful $50K test and asks “what would you do with $2 million?” it’s often a challenge to fulfill on that request.  If we concentrate on things that are pro-scale, we won’t have that problem.

The Makegood: Thanks, Tom.

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