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Social Media Strategy Tips For Launching a New Program

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Hi and welcome to the social media research brief podcast. I know you want to hear what the new and social research so. Let's get started today. I'll be talking jokin. Nada and education services leader with a high the energy and passion for driving growth innovation and motivating global teams resulting in increased profitability customer satisfaction product. Sales he's been leading certification programs for the last eighteen years Hennessy. Architects of the Connect Certification Program. He is a frequent industry speaker. Currently serves as vice chair on the Advisory Board of the National Institute for Social Media and their and their social media strategist certification. Joe's also the member should trust you for said AH Industry Trade Organization for Education and Certification Jealous. Thank you for joining me today. How are you over a million my pleasure to be here minus as well as I really appreciate the time you took? And then I'm really looking forward to sharing your story today and I'm just GonNa Start with a little back story about how Joe and I actually got connected acted Joe and I actually are both certified social media strategists and we both went through the certification process through the National Institute for Social Media And then from there. We have been serving on the advisory board for the NASM for just over. This is my second year is your second year two or your third yes Second year as well okay. So we're about the same time we join. What's really nice and you know John? I've talked about this. A lot is that we come from very very different industries but through the social media strategy connection. We've really learned a lot from each other. I'd say over the last year and a half. I think it's been great and I think thank Joe you can probably agree with that definitely. I've been exposed to all kinds of information and the research that you do and the analytics a a whole different world I didn't know existed. And that's the beauty of it and I'm I've been thankful we've had that opportunity and that's actually how we got here because Joan I have been talking. He is actually going to be presenting and the Training Leadership Conference in Nashville Tennessee. And just a couple of weeks I believe it's November thirteen eighteen fourteenth in their rights right which is hosted through the Customer Education Management Association and as he was sharing this with me. I just thought it was such a great story with a lot of really good takeaways so I invited him and here we are so. Why don't we get started at the very beginning? And if you can just talk like a little bit about an axis and what the company is all about and then more specifically about your initiative and how you got started their certification. Sure you're connects is is a company based in Ottawa Ontario. Where a software as a service company? It's relatively young company. They got started in Nineteen eighty-four and we we have one product. It's called rapid response. And it's an enterprise supply chain management and planning tool. We don't have a huge number of customers. We we have about a hundred and five or so. But they're all big names like Toyota Nissan and Gen. Uh Ford Lockheed Martin where we're in multiple verticals articles and supply chain was a totally new industry for me so there was a lot to learn about that as well because I came from a tech background I worked for computer companies and networking company's now. I'm here with a software company and the product is one that for instance if you were star bucks and you needed to track the beamed that grown Columbia all the way to the Barista dispensing the coffee in a shop somewhere. You gotTA track from being to the end points and and all the problems and logistics. That can happen in between and that's what our software is all about so when I joined it was back in July Twenty fifteen and we were still under under three hundred employees. Were well over. Seven hundred right now. So we've had rapid growth and it was a very small company feel and I was a remote employees being here in Atlanta so there was some challenges to company was really starved for a certification program. They needed a way to validate the skills of the employees. But also the partners that we have a very strong partner ecosystem. It's grown six-fold since the beginning but we wanted to make sure that the partners is that we had that we're working on the engagements were skilled and knew what to do because we didn't need them to go in and make things worse which falls back on us and damages our reputation and then we have to pick up the pieces if anything goes wrong but we also wanted to make sure our people knew what they were doing and doing it properly. Operative following best practices and the partners as well so a certification program was the way to do this so I was brought on board into a new organization. Called all knowledge services was kind of fancy name for what was traditionally customer education customer training. They had an existing training group but it was very small. But but I was Brian Board to architect and launch a certification program for them so I started July Twenty fifteen and then we launched the program at our large large employees partner knowledge. Transfer Event in January twenty sixteen. So you were involved in the architecture of the certification program but then you also are the face of the social engagement piece of it to engage with the community bring on new certification applicants. I have about twenty years experience in the certification industry prior to joining us. My my largest GIG so to speak was with a company called brocade in at the time. San Jose's they've been since bought out by broadcom brocade was an up in comer at the height of the DOT com. Boom brocade much like connects. US was in desperate need of a way of getting people trained and certified so they asked me to come in build the program and I did and we rented ended up over the first eight years and then we hit a tipping point where we decided we needed to go big not just as a certification program but but as a training organization and as a company they also had acquired a company that sold high piece which is basically they were competing now with Cisco so we it had to do something to take the program to the next level and it was about that time I noticed social media was starting to take a foothold. I'd heard of something called facebook. Book learned about Lincoln and heard about twitter. And I thought okay. I'm running the certification program. I really don't have much of a marketing budget. So don't maybe there's a way I could promote the program through social media so I talked to the marketing people and because the certification page was was the second most popular on the brocade community site. So we've proven our popularity and drawing capabilities. So they said okay. We'll let let you have your own facebook page Lincoln Group and twitter account so all of a sudden. Now I'm in charge of three different social media outlets and trying to figure out what to do do because my goals that then much like my goals now were to make noise about the program but to attract new people because our customers for brocade okay where. It types there the techies the people that work in the data centers the ones that were strongly seeking to get all different kinds of certifications so they could improve. Their skill sets make their skills more portable change companies. Get make more money or get a raise them in their own company and get promotions for certifications weren't important competitive advantage for the candidate. Though I took to building social media up to that and over the last six years I was there. We ran at about twenty to twenty five percent of the traction that corporate social media outlets at 'cause. I was pretty happy with that background when I came to connects us thought we sort of have the same problem. Connects US launched a certification program. We had a press release and I was thrilled. Because that's kind of unheard of and for the company needs to put that much backing behind it. I knew there was a strong push from the CEO. Down which was great. Because I had executive buying so we launched the program we had our testing events and then it was a matter of okay letting people know. We're here hey come take our tests eight partners we're here come come. Validate fiscal's and and incentivizing employees to do that as well so I thought well my old friend social media what a great marketing strategy. THAT WOULD BE I. I turned to our executive for for the Knowledge Services Group and proposed the idea and said I wanNA talk to marketing and she said Yep go ahead so I spoke with marketing and because it was a small company they were rather conservative conservative. I was not really a known quantity. I was only employees for about four or five months. They weren't quite ready to let go so they wouldn't let me have my own social media outlets but they did stay. We will support you. If there's something you want to post we'll put it out on our corporate feeds for you but I also learned during that time time that social media in the supply chain industry isn't quite what it is in the. It space typical customer in supply chain is more up a manufacturing logistics or maybe even a factory worker or a planner working with spreadsheets. All Day. They're not social media types. They may use social media. They don't look to social media for their information buzz whereas in the IT space they were all over it so the company told me you know we've got a facebook page but most of our followers are our employees. So I thought okay. That strategy probably isn't going to work here. It's different environment also. I was relatively new and I didn't really want to force myself into a situation. That's not good and I needed to be conservative and dial things back as well. I figured I had my opportunity at some point so one thing I did notice was Winston was used quite a bit by the company and that seems to be their most effective active social media outlets also I saw that the HR recruiters that we had were using their own Lincoln accounts to promote job openings. Living's in job postings now we have a website we have postings out there but they were trying to spread the news even further and encouraging the employees to share them and make things though I won't say viral but in that direction branch out and reach as many people as possible so after discussion with my VP. She said one. I should do the same list. Certification station just start posting and marketing said. Yeah they would support that. That's fine and this is from your own. Personal Lincoln accounted self right. Yes not taxes Kemp my own personal one but I had the discipline to know what to do and what not to do on social media. No I started did doing posting. Now when I had the program and I had to facebook page and the Lincoln group I kind of likened it to producing TV shows like late talk show. You've gotta schedule Guest Entertainment Bit. You've gotTa have content going out constantly and there was a lot of pressure so in a way I was thankful because I was still trying to ramp up the program and wouldn't have the time to devote to the social media that I did prior so what I tried. The limit. Things to keeping with the conservative approach connects us to was to celebrate the success of people that achieved are higher level certifications and and any posted. I made was always with the person's permission so I didn't just go out and throw a name out there and we even want to have any creative Commons violations. They said it was a very interesting approach. The company took so I I started constructing posts and working with my VP. We tried to optimize them to work on linked in not just for. Pc You put from mobile so she basically said try to keep the texts three lines or less and then I had to work to get the graphic image so that it was clear and figure out what the dimensions were because Lincoln's documentation was in the greatest as to what the posting size should be an and they change from year to year. So we figured out and then also also in a joint agreement with marketing whenever they would be opposed there would be to hashtags use HASHTAG can access. And then when I created called connects assert so whenever I would post something I put us both hashtags whenever they would post something for me they would use both Hashtag so I track that they could track that now. Can I just ask a couple of times. This is really interesting. So you are working with marketing but kind of on your own little venture because you didn't you know like you said you weren't responsible for doing doing all of the social content. Did you have to get approval from the marketing team. Or did you just kind of gives them a heads up like hey this is gonna be publishing. Can you do the same or or how did that whole relationship work. I basically just did it when I started with the company and I I met with the marketing people. One of the first things I told them was. I'm a huge defender of the brand. You'll never have to worry about me doing things that are off the brand the color Palette those the fonts and everything logos will always be on brand so they said Oh great we have one less statal for them to fight so nice gain their confidence that way and I just started posting with our corporate brand and our and the logos designed designed for me for certification program and there was no pushback at all. That's line because I know that's the challenge now. Is that marketing like any marketing. The department and they're going to be protective of their their own of course but with you coming in their thinking in their heads probably well this is the certification guy. Now he's GonNa do some marketing you know. La There's that little and you said you know marketing can. They can be conservative and they have to control a lot especially with social. You see how it can get out of hand pretty quickly. So I'm sure it was just a trust thing though and where they pretty open as far as sharing with you like what their strategy what they've been doing up to this point and how you you Senate and was it a lot of build up conversations along the way or did this all happened. Pretty rapid fire given you were launching vacation. We did talk strategy addity and well. I didn't see their social media calendar I knew they had one and they were very helpful and talent tons of telling I mean the audiences. And what's affective what's not and what their approach was and they saw how I could fit in which is why they were willing to pop in posts every now. Oh and then I also wrote some blocks for them about supply chain for the corporate blog because they're always looking for content there so I developed a good rapport with them and some trust and they were very pleased with what I was doing. They saw it. They didn't complementary but it didn't overload their social media feed which is just all about supply chain change so they were just promoting the products and industry testimonials and other collateral that they had so what I was doing was ancillary but supplementary creek to the overall message that the company wanted to portray them as. They were pleased with what I did. I think it's great and they probably thought it was fantastic once. They got a feel for how he worked and they saw that they do. You mean you're not only helping them. You're promoting on your own but you are also giving them new content. They probably loved you for it. Yes especially in some of the metric eyebrows raised for instance. There was one post early in twenty sixteen we did and it hit dot and four thousand like some linked in one of these X.. Almost I fell off their chair. This instant impact so I earned their trust speaking of metric. I didn't have any target metrics because this is all new use. I didn't know what was even valid goal but I didn't need to be able to track especially for the corporate post what the likes and engagement numbers were so I would ask ask them each month for the numbers but as marketing grew the the work has gotten bigger and it was getting harder and harder for them to get the metrics numbers still. Finally I played lead the social media. Strategist card I said. Look I started five social media strategist. I've gone through the training. I've proven I'm trustworthy. I've run outlets. I showed them examples of what I did. When I was at Brocade Post Zip file? That is there any way I can feed myself. Teach me to feed and I'll feed myself so they basically gave maybe the keys to the castle and I have the ability to log into the corporate facebook linked in and twitter accounts. Now I don't touch those and don't post or anything like that but I you can grab metrics and I'm able to self serve and get metrics as well as something. We instituted call to action. One of the things we talked about in art. Discussions is likes to fine those vanity metrics. That's good but we want to get people to do more. We want an action. So each of my Lincoln posts they gave me a Special URL to include. And I put it in the words learn how to get connected. Certified they click on it. It goes to the certification page on the connects US website so so we have a tracking url. And I needed to be able to get those statistics so they gave me access to the Google analytics account that they have. And I'm able bill detract. The Click throughs so not only. Do I get the metrics on the number of views and likes but I also get the click through as well and we see exactly exactly what kind of interest were going and then have you been so as this is evolved where you went from. Hey can I see those metrics to get in the keys to the cast as it has evolved than that it become your task to report to others on the success. Of how this initiatives going from your part of the puzzle Hustle I would normally generate monthly reports on the certification metrics exams delivered certifications granted which ones etc in an executive summary. And then I added a slide at the end on certification metrics by type so give you an example we had about fifteen thousand in six hundred in two thousand sixteen and by twenty eighteen. We're up to one hundred twenty three thousand. Wow Santa me the impression and this year I'm already at about one hundred ninety thousand hoping to crack two hundred thousand for the year alone while he got a couple of months here before the year's over. Yeah that's yeah pretty doable. Now can you tell me and beginning. How long did it take till you started seeing some traction in the beginning? Because I know that's a frustrating pain point when you first I start you wanna see the numbers and you want to and it just takes time but do you have like an idea along that might have taken before you started to see the metrics really go how you wanted them to. I would say it was about a year later because one of the other limiting factors was we needed to have more exams built into the program when we launched. We started it's two exams and we had a goal with about fourteen to fully fill out the roster so I needed to get a lot of the basic exams Cams Rolling and throughout twenty sixteen. It was a bill so as we added more exams. Of course our metrics were going up because more people were were taking in passing and we were leveling off people to the point where they're ready for the advanced exams so by mid twenty any seventeen. We had all of our advanced exams in place and now people could start working their way up to the skill chain. We have a program for the employees plays in the par partners in the consulting area where they can become a certified consultant that levels one two three and those are the ones. I really do the postings postings about so we needed to have the infrastructure in place for that so it took about a year to see an impact from the metrics and then a year and a half for things to really go street towards the sky honestly that is not long at all when you think about an unknown entity you had to get buy in on your end and then you had to get by Ryan from your market which you said. They're not socially maybe vying for certification or using social media for that purpose. So you were kind ahead of coming from both ways so I mean a year here and a half is really probably at the time felt long but it's not a long to build it up. I mean when you think about it you had Very a niche market and it takes time. But you did it and that's awesome. Yeah I wanted to reach what I call the fusion reaction stage when when I was at brocade I knew things were where I wanted them to be when I started getting requests from people to do posts and when the program kind of fed on its own popularity and I finally reached that stage at at connects where somebody said. Oh I just got certified. Did you do a post about help me sure I I would never use. That was the the measure of popularity. People were really taking to it and they were proud to have their name out there because this is all new to them. They weren't used to having a certification program or that kind of recognition and social media before and marketing wasn't going to highlight the employee of the a month or something like that in social media so now they were able to get recognition. have it out there. They could show off their skills and something to be proud of so that that intrinsic value was really blossoming and. That's what I knew. The program was really taking foothold. Yeah what was that term. You used again using using reaction it just kind of builds on itself that right once you get people proactively coming to you wanting you to promote them. Because you know what they're going to do they're going to turn around and share share with their friends and family because now you've got them excited about it that's even more visibility and awareness which is exactly what you were hoping to do here. And to further other at night the interest this year we introduced digital badging. We just rolled it out in September and that starts to take off as well people now I can show off their skills and was a digital badge. People can click on the badge and immediately go to a page that shows not only did they get certified but what are the skills in that certification Asian and they can look up those individual skills and the route that the person took to get certified and then by clicking on those skills the platform that we use shows the analytics for jobs so it shows you the insights as they call them and it shows jobs that are available in the market that they have tracked for that skill. That's a really neat program and there's just roll down September. You said right yes right now. We are getting people sharing their badges at about forty five percent rate which is at the high end of the benchmark that the organization that we use credibly says we should be at so we. We know we're doing well along those lines and it's another way people can show off their skills in social media whereas all we offer it in the past was the ability to put their certification into the linked in profile with that in program that we have that stores all of our certification records. So we've kind of giving them an extra benefit now. They've got something they can show. I love Dan. That's one more thing to make them stand out and they're again they're proud of it. They're only an intern. They're benefiting your company as well by them being proud and sharing it with. I thought there's an getting others excited about it. That was a pretty smart move there. Then the social media helped drive all this by putting out there in the public. People became aware of our program. Participants disappoints in candidate became aware. And we're able to show off what they knew. And we can't have became like a competition. SORTA like Pokemon go away where I want to collect as many certifications as they can and kids are still playing that thing you guys can be the wave of that but in the grown up world. Right right you've done a lot in a little bit of time really since you've started this and it promoted it what kind of in your mindset. As far as keeping strategy strategy forefront one of the things we WANNA do is make sure that we set realistic targets for the coming here and KPI's are always important so As we plan out new exams going to have another program expansion in twenty twenty will be to plan out the badging back then promotion of that as well well and and align that with marketing strategy. So here's a case where I really will need marketing. Help to help drive the exams that I'm doing because they will be in line with new corporate initiatives so that that kind of strategy will take place and then it's just a matter of. I already know who my audiences this is. So there'll be a lot of strategizing going on and making sure that We stick to the the original social media strategy analyzing whenever audiences and and coming up with a regular calendar of how we want to roll things out shawl fun stuff and now I'm thinking too. I wanted to ask because you have you've more or less blake. We say become the face of the certification. Socially do you think that that in the end that actually helped. It's because you're jill posting this year the certification guy and you think that drove the engagement any differently or created some kind of personalization station trust factor. Yes one of the things and it's really not an ego situation but I wanted to be the face of the program so so that people could reach out realize it's not just this autonomous object or entity that sits inside a company. There's a real person that runs the program that person who's approachable. We'll communicate with you at any time during the day since we have a worldwide markets. I'm answering emails and working with people on weekends and in all hours because of time differences. But that's okay I it comes with the territory so I wanted to personalize it and had them talk to the person not the company me and it makes for a lot better communications and relationships and using my personal account definitely helps along those ones because people will send me emails els directly instead of trying to send a generic email to connects us. Help address some without so that help. And that's great because if I you know we were talking about how as we're deciding what to do you go corporate. Do you go personal. And I think it is great especially for something like you're saying like a certification nations. I think putting that personal approach the certification guy in here. You are celebrating their successes. I do think that makes more of an impact and thanks to the NASM. I and Social Media Research Association. I've learned a lot about analytics and had to track them and hone in on. When is the best time to post for my audience until through these organizations nations Do Post like you. I've learned a lot about analytics and one to get the most. Thank for my buck. So speaking in no one I put something out there. Get the most traction. You've you've had some great success. That's why you were telling me about your presentation and the story you were going to share. I just thought it would be great for the INS as well so I think your story Harry is very important to share and how you made it happen and you got the buying and the health and how it all kind of work you have a lot of great success here in a in a pretty short period of time nine I think it right and then excited for your presentation. Yes and thank you for all the help you give me professional guidance and wisdom along on the way because a lot of this was the pants in the beginning and I've learned the proper way now after getting certified learning how to do a proper strategy but also getting into the details of the analytics and some of the specific analysis that key as well because vanity metrics are good to a point. And that's what we've been living off so now we want to go beyond that and we have to figure out what we want from the Social Media Strategy Neck WanNa keep the popularity out there but the badging will help. We'll ride that out for a long period of time and then come up with something new to get people interested. Yeah and those metrics numbers. Don't lie ain't against you really good insight on the vanity metrics. I'll tell you what people like specifically what they're engaging with specifically and you can really just hone your content and what you do based on what the numbers are telling you. And it's a win-win I would agree with me. You've had a great experience with this and this is why I wanted to have you on and share your story. Sorry so I thank you very much doing that. And for your time especially as you're doing your day job and preparing for your upcoming Presentations so thank. Thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it. Oh thank you. This is a lot of fun and I've learned a lot and look forward to learning more and I'm sure we'll talk again at at some point in the future as things change and new things happen. I always liked to check back in with people and see how things are going. And then the other thing I'm GonNa do is I'm going to play on with your permission of course links to all of your social sites so people can learn not only and more about this than certification. But they can get to know you better and I'm hopefully connect if they have any questions about how you do what you do. or how they can do the same thing for their organization so I will put that all up in the show notes. We'll be great thank you. I really appreciate Marianne. Thank you so much in that wraps up. Today's social media research free feature to listen to our other episodes listed on the website website. Or wherever you listen to podcasts. And don't forget to subscribe leave a rating and share with your friends and colleagues ten.

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