Monday, April 26, 2010

Edelman Digital: WOMMA Interview With David Armano

Originally posted on WOMMA.

WOMMA: After the social media hype is finally done, where do you see it fitting into the marketing profession?

David Armano: I don’t see it fitting neatly into the “marketing profession” and this is going to be challenge for organizations. That said, marketing will be a key element. Social media often touches customer service, PR, marketing, IT, and even HR responsibilities. I see the need for a center of excellence or “core team” in large organizations that help train and develop competencies, which can then be implemented through ALL of these disciplines. I see the need for more integration as well, not only between the different departments but also with partners. Think of all the different agencies and firms a large company works with. It’s all very complex, but I’m convinced that there needs to be multiple hubs or better yet nodes within an organization that plug into a centralized social media resource. It’s the best of both worlds.

WOMMA: The phrase “word of mouth” is usually pegged to marketing. What other ways should brands think about word of mouth?

DA: “WOM” does seem to be limited to marketing and it’s a shame because it’s so much bigger. Employees of large companies rely on word of mouth just as much as “consumers”. We look for references for prospective hires, and “word of mouth” also tells us when a team has done something worthy of taking notice. Ratings aren’t just for products, in a way they also work for people. Just look at all the reputation building that is going on in the world. Edelman’s trust barometer indicated that people increasingly trust expertise and often times expertise is built upon word of mouth, both within the marketing world and outside of it.

WOMMA: You attended SXSW. What or who did you see there that Word readers should keep their eye on?

DA: Well, the founders of Foursquare for starters and lots of platform developers not to mention user experience professionals or brilliant minds such as Microsoft’s Danah Boyd (client). SXSW is special not so much because of the size but also for its diversity. There are marketers there for sure but there are also hard-core developers and geeks from all over the world. There are also folks from smaller firms such as Altimeter Group who really grasp the big picture of where this is all going. Again, it’s way bigger than marketing.

WOMMA: How does a brand move past thinking about their image and begin thinking about their personality?

DA: Let’s be honest—a brand worries about their personality when they are in decline. Does Apple worry about their personality? Perhaps their brand police do, but really I see a laser focus on amazing products. Is Facebook focused on their personality? No—they are focused on keeping you addicted to their platform. I think that it’s more important for a brand to be valuable and authentic. If your brand’s product is a commodity, like toothpaste—then you are more reliant on clever marketing. But honestly, I think even innovation can happen with toothpaste.

WOMMA: Many brands are WOM-Curious but are stalled when confronted with the overabundance of specialists, experts and gurus. What is the shortlist of traits that they should look for in a WOM agency or consultant?

DA: Call it a WOM, social media, marketing, advertising agency or even a business consultancy—you are looking for the same things:

* Relevant industry experience

* Professional business conduct

* Case studies

* Talent and of course, “word of mouth”. What do others say about this firm or individual—what is their reputation? Referrals are just as important here as they are in every other facet of life.

On a personal note, when I made the news public that I had joined Edelman there were literally hundreds of responses on Twitter. I couldn’t find anything negative—in fact it was the opposite. This was probably the best indicator of my decision that I could have hoped for. Edelman Digital

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