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August 2, 2011

Operationalizing Social Media: An Interview with Paul Madden

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Paul Madden

Paul Madden first earned a reputation in the Internet marketing industry for his daring in the darker arts. Today, he’s a thought leader in the sometimes taboo realm of social media automation. In his constant quest to streamline processes and identify efficiencies, Paul’s social media strategy combines human interaction with automated tasks to create a social media presence with the fast pace made possible through automation and a personal touch only people can provide.

Paul, owner of Automica Limited, will speak at this month’s SES San Francisco session called Twitternation and Automation, where he will share tools and insights to illuminate the strategy behind effective automation tactics on Twitter. I got a chance to talk to Paul about his session and also get his thoughts on social media adoption and the growth of new platforms going forward.

About a year ago, you did an interview with State of Search. Bas asked about the hot thing marketers needed to pay attention to at the moment. You said changing signals, namely the shift from linking signals to social signals. With Google+ it seems that Google finally is on its way to owning a piece of the social graph and your prediction will be in full force. How do you see Google+ adoption going forward?

Whilst its been well reported that the uptake of Google+ has been faster than both Facebook and Twitter I am still waiting to see how many of those early adopters have stuck with them. I think that until Google+ either has a unique selling point or is integrated into our social day via a better client app, or similar, I think they risk it stagnating before it gets established.

I do see that the agenda at Google is to try and slowly move away from the pure link economy, that they created, and introduce more weight to the social signals. I have seen a number of changes recently that would lead one to believe that they are devaluing the volume of link signals in favour of quality and social but its still early days.

If we see them take a bold move and push that agenda quicker whilst making Google+ relevant to the general user rather than just the marketer then I think we have a viable long term network, that’s the way we are planning our work anyway. I just look forward to their API so we can do our spammy tasks easier…

I think we’re all used to seeing duplicate messages on different social media platforms. For instance, if you follow someone on both Facebook and Twitter, you might see the same message posted via a syncing application. Do you recommend this strategy for a business interested in integrating different social media platforms?

I think that depends on the strategy of the business and the messages they are posting. If you are shouting, as many businesses do, then doing that across all platforms is a really bad idea. If you are using real people and they cross post then that looks reasonably natural to me.

I would suggest that businesses need to look at the people they are reaching out to and segment them by platform and message and then do what they can to make the posting of any related messages as efficient as possible. If they can do that then make each platform and account say the same message in a unique way then that’s where results can be found.

Which general purpose social media platforms to you recommend a small, local B2C business consider as part of their online marketing efforts? (Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, others?) What different strategies do you suggest a business use for each that utilizes the platform’s strengths and users’ preferences?

As some may know, we specialize in the spammier end of the social media rainbow. That means that my normal advice would be to use every tool you can find to get your message in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

I don’t think you can beat Twitter for the immediate conversation at the moment and Tweetdeck is the tool I suggest for all my clients’ in house people. If they wish to automate then Socialoomph is a great service.

Facebook I see as a community building platform and probably the place to encourage your loyal customers to interact with you and each other.

I would also suggest that all clients who are providing a product or service get as much activity started in the review platforms as possible. Normally we start by looking at where the reviews are coming from for their competitors and aim to match or beat them in that arms race. Obviously that has to be done ethically as I am sure everyone does…

Apart from that it depends on the product or service, if you have something action packed, go video, if its something visual, go Flickr or Tumblr etc. Find the social medium that has the best chance of engaging with people as engagement is the main aim of all social.

We all know the huge reach of a celebrity who’s active with social media, and can appreciate the value that can be leveraged when you get an influencer to mention or support a business, product or service. What’s your process for identifying influencers within your niche on social media?

You have to inhabit the niche, sure there are tools like Klout etc but nothing can replace watching the niche and taking it all in.

So what we tend to do is create a number of searches (columns in Tweetdeck if its Twitter) and run them for a few days. We watch who engages with whom and look carefully at what they talk about and why. After that its a matter of trying to find a way to reach their friends and to try and talk about subjects they are interested. I don’t ever expect that to mean that we get engagement but I do hope that it means we start to form an association with their subconscious mind. I would then suggest that we look for a way to reach out to the most influential person in their feed or to the main person directly, often that means sending something as an offline gift or looking for a cause that makes sense for them. After that, I suggest asking… people are often far more accommodating than you’d imagine, especially if you have managed to get an association in their subconscious mind first.

You’re a master when it comes to streamlining and automating processes. Your session description mentions that “operationalizing message distribution and measurement” will be part of the discussion. Sounds fancy. What does this
mean and how can it be done?

For me “operationalizing message distribution” is the heart of our way of working. We try and take all the outputs we want to create and then work our way backwards to identify the stages we have to complete to get that outcome. To try to break that down let’s look at something like building a realistic, useful and powerful Twitter profile. The stages might be (in simplistic terms): create a real account, build a following, engage with influencers, broadcast the message. We then look to do each of those processes in the most efficient manor with scripting, tools, outsourcing and people. Once you have joined all the stages together into a workflow that’s proven you have an efficient model you can scale.

What are the keys to automating a social media presence so that a business can maintain the personal, attentive feeling they want to provide to customers?

I think we may have to separate some of the slightly scarier things we do from what happens in our clients here. I think you need to focus on engagement and engagement is best done by people. People are the most efficient way to connect with an audience but that doesn’t mean that they need to get involved before there is engagement. By that I mean that you can use automation to build and send your messages (even the day to day messages like “man is it lunchtime already??” or “I soo need a desk fan”) but when someone engages make sure they get a real person answer, its social media and we are social animals. You can’t automate millions of years of evolution, mostly…

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6 responses to “Operationalizing Social Media: An Interview with Paul Madden”

  1. Julie Joyce writes:

    Fantastic interview…although I do try not to be so impressed with Paul (ha!) I constantly am. He has a truly amazing mind.

  2. Ryan B writes:

    Great interview with Paul Madden. Social media continues to surprise us all.

  3. Ashley Hardy writes:

    I hope will see Paul at the SMX conference in New York this September, very inspiring individual but anyway obtaining information on this specific subject matter has been tough to say the least, appreciate it this should help. I will look out to see if I can locate even more beneficial topics to add to the chat and come back to find out if others contributes to this. Check our this site http://www.rankexperts.com and learn more about different ways to build and improve your organic search engine rankings and various link building strategies.

  4. seo expert writes:

    I must say we get a better insight into social media in this interview with Paul. But I feel, social media responsibility should been touched as one can spread bad news about anyone through SMM. What’s your say?

  5. John Minter writes:

    I liked your overview on the interview with Paul. He as usual has many words of wisdom!

  6. Kent writes:

    Learnt something new here – duplicate messages on different social media platforms because I do the same thing for Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook. I think Paul Madden is right. Shouting the same message in different platform is a bad idea, we should use the right message on the right platform.

    Thanks for the interivew, Virginia! :)



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