Digitas’ Jordan Bitterman on the Current State of Social Media

Article contributed by Katie Bronnenkant, Director of Product Marketing, Namely

Jordan Bitterman is the Senior Vice President and Social Marketing Practice Director at Digitas. Jordan has extensive media agency experience having spent time at agencies including Ammirati Puris Lintas and Foote Cone Belding. We recently spoke with Jordan about his career and his current role.

The Makegood: Jordan, you started working in media about 18 years ago, right about the time the internet started getting mass attention. What motivated you to begin working in this, at the time, new and unknown media?

JB: I was working in traditional media planning at the late, great agency Ammirati Puris Lintas on our company’s largest account: Compaq.  Working on a technology account provided insight into the digital world that was otherwise unavailable.  Those years were an education in servers, workstations, routers and other concepts which, at that time, had still been a language foreign to anyone outside of the IT community.  I found technology interesting and saw its potential to affect the future of media and marketing in an explosive way.  Ammirati launched a division called APL Digital to help our clients make sense of it all.  I jumped at the opportunity to move onto that team.

The Makegood: As SVP and Social Marketing Practice Director at Digitas, you are responsible for overseeing the agency’s social marketing practice. Can you tell us a little bit about what your role involves?

JB: The current state of social marketing, very much resembles the mid-90s of digital marketing.  Back then, there were a few clients who had an instinctive knowledge of how to leverage new technology to promote their brands; the rest needed further education and a plan to get there.  Today, we find a landscape that is eerily similar.  Some brands have taken to social media like it has been there all along, while others are trying to determine what role their brand should play.  Just as before, there are many “old world” examples that can serve as inspiration in this new, socially networked world.  It need not be stressful or intimidating.  The core mission of Digitas’ Social Marketing Practice is to demonstrate the benefits to be gained through leveraging the social graph and to map out and deliver against a plan to reach our clients’ goals.

The Makegood: It was recently predicted that in 2012, more and more brands will be increasing their focus on social media strategies. Do you think that a social media strategy is important for all brands?

JB: It is.  It’s almost impossible to list all the reasons why, so allow me to provide two.

First: companies exist because of the relationships they have with their customers.  Throughout time, there has always been a need to be present in the channels where customers wish to connect: Call us toll free! E-mail our customer service department! Visit our website!  Building relationships through social channels is the latest in that tradition, but it many ways it also has the ability to be the most impactful.  Social marketing is a true dialogue.  That dialogue takes place within the customer’s own community, so it has the potential to be personalized and to reverberate.

This leads to the second reason: social enables brands to focus more of their resources on their current customers rather than converting prospects.  While it may seem like a difficult and even non-intuitive decision to prioritize current customers if a brand is looking to add new ones, it is actually the people who are already brand users who can (and will) do much of the heavy lifting.  People who have a great experience with a hotel, a car company or a pizza chain are likely to share those stories which, in turn, move their friends, family and followers along the consideration line.  If their comments are negative, brands still need to be present because conversations that take place in their absence are far more damaging than the ones they can help address in the moment.

The Makegood: Can you tell us about a recent successful campaign that you are particularly proud of?

JB: I am particularly proud of the Alfac Holiday Drive work we orchestrated. It was a national gone local social and mobile effort in correlation with the brand’s new extended partnership with Macy’s and took place during their Thanksgiving Day parade. Initial results included raising over $550,000 towards fighting cancer, reaching over 46 million people and ranking as the top checked-into event ever on GetGlue as well as generating thousands of tweets and Facebook photos supporting the cause.

The Makegood: Thanks, Jordan.