First up on our ‘Traffic Builders’ interview series is Beatrice Whelan! Beatrice is an award winning social media and content strategist with over ten years’ experience in the B2B tech sector. Her current role is Global Content Manager for Social Media & Events at Sage. Beatrice also sits on the board of the Irish Internet Association (IIA).
1. First, could you give a quick overview of your background and career to date? Also, one fun or interesting fact about you would be great (if you like!).
I started my career in digital at Google on the AdWords team. It was a great start and I learned a lot. However I wanted the opportunity to use some of the skills I learned during my masters in digital media so I left Google and became a web designer.
Five years in web design taught me a lot about SEO and the importance of great content.
During this time I became really interested in blogging. I joined KLCK Bloggers Network, a community of bloggers, and went on to run the network and Blog Awards Ireland with the founders of the network, Amanda Webb and Lorna Sixsmith.
In 2010 I started my own digital marketing business. It gave me great respect for entrepreneurs and insight into the challenges that small businesses face (I also had red hair then!).
When Sage offered me the role of Social Media & Content Manager I jumped at the opportunity. My experience as a small business owner meant that Sage really appealed to me. I felt like I could empathise with the needs of their target audience.
I’ve been in Sage for over four years and have taken an active role in the development of our social and content strategies. My current role is Global Content Manager for Social Media and Events.
When I studied History of Art in university I never thought I would use my knowledge of image composition outside of a career in the arts and yet here I am using it as part of our Instagram curation strategy. You will use everything you learn at some point.
My fun fact is that I was a social media ambassador for the ESB eCars project a few years ago so I live tweeted my road trips around Ireland in an electric car (while never tweeting and driving at the same time of course).
Being on the other side of the brand-social influencer relationship was also a great learning opportunity for me.
2. This blog is about SEO but more broadly traffic generation and converting traffic in line with your business objectives. What role do you think social media plays in this sense?
I think that blogs are the biggest traffic generation engine a website can have but they are also incredibly social and lend themselves really well to social content. I’m a strong believer in the inbound marketing methodology; use SEO and social traffic to bring top of funnel traffic to your blog and then use a call to action to navigate that traffic to the next step to becoming a customer.
Social traffic is starting to match the SEO traffic to websites, especially for publishers.
I think measurement has got more sophisticated and the tools have got better so marketers can track the ROI of social traffic. The growth of native social content challenges the traffic acquisition benefit of social media but clever marketers are finding ways to overcome this and are using tactics to do lead generation natively also.
It’s a really interesting time when real quality is shining through and having the best results. This makes us all better marketers.
3. How do you think social media (for business specifically) has developed over the past 5-10 years, and where do you see it going in the future?
Social media has grown up a lot over the last 10 years. The channels have become more sophisticated, introduced more complex algorithms and advertising products. At the same time, in larger organisations social media is being used by all of the organisation, not just marketing.
As part of the digital transformation of business, social media is being used for recruitment, sales, customer service and internal comms.
I can see a move towards a greater distinction between social channels and this is leading to businesses responding with detailed strategies by social channel rather than a catch all ‘social media strategy’.
We are already seeing people and agencies that are experts in a particular social channel. Content is following. Marketers realise that the same content that works on LinkedIn won’t work on Facebook and are developing social content strategies specific to each channel.
In the early days people created a blog post and shared it in the same way across all social channels – this doesn’t work now, it didn’t work then either but we now have much greater attention to ROI and that is making social marketers use data to make better decisions.
The growth of native social content and social as a news source is also a very interesting development that will continue in the future.
We could see channels like Facebook becoming the de facto news source. This has a lot of potential consequences for news organisations and for consumers.
At the same time the user base on Facebook is maturing and new social channels like Instagram and Snapchat are starting to take over and that is now where the younger demographic is.
Four years from now Instagram will have the user base that Facebook has now, an algorithm it doesn’t have now, as well as a more mature audience. The wheel continues to turn. Dark social continues to be the important but often forgotten channel – just look at Whats App. Do you see a theme – Facebook. They know all of this and even if Facebook as a channel matures and declines, Facebook as a company is ready for the future.
4. What has been your favourite role or large project to date, and why?
My favourite role is definitely the one I’m in now and the projects I’m working on now. This week I was working on a global blog strategy and a global Instagram strategy.
It is infinitely interesting to me. I work with great people. I’m constantly learning. I love the variety of the work and I think that’s why I enjoy it so much.
The artist in me wants to create so to be able to create in a very meaningful way gives me a lot of satisfaction. I feel a certain amount of confirmation when our audience responds positively to something I had a hand in creating.
It gives a great sense of fulfilment, that we understood someone enough to know what they would want, what they would respond to.
5. Do you think your average small or medium sized business is making the best use of social media? If not, why not?
I think that many businesses are not sure what they should be doing so they are feeling their way in the dark trying to hit on something that works. Many don’t have the data or access to expertise to put a real strategy in place.
The danger is of course that after trying and failing for a few months the business assumes that there is no ROI to social media and gives up or just continues to carry on in vain.
I don’t think that the same scientific approach that is applied to other areas of digital is always applied to social media and this leads business to see social as a nice to have, fluffy part of their marketing rather than a strong source of customers.
On the other hand there are some great examples of small businesses that have done a fantastic job at using social media.
These businesses have great focus. They have picked one thing that they want to be known for on social, have a strong social value proposition and concentrated on one or two channels.
6. What advice do you have for businesses in terms of tracking the ROI and impact of their social media efforts?
If it can’t be measured don’t do it, no matter how exciting it is, don’t do it. Get everything set up, get all of your tracking codes in place and then execute.
Ensure you are tracking from the source channel to conversion, even if the best you can do is last click attribution it is better than nothing.
Google Analytics is free but it is worth paying someone to set it up properly for you and automate the right reports so you get the ROI delivered straight to your inbox every day. If you don’t sell online you can still track your ROI – how many people visited from Facebook and filled out your contact form – that’s a conversion.
7. You are launching a new book (‘Trending: The Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Events’ in May 2016, which sounds very exciting and perhaps represents a new chapter for you (pun firmly intended!!). Can you tell us a bit about the book and why you decided to embark on the project?
I find the link between social media and events really interesting. It is the best convergence of online and offline marketing. Event attendees want to have an experience they can share on social.
Digital and social media is disrupting events completely and dramatically. Social media is an intrinsic part of how people experience almost every event now.
Live streaming, social media and virtual reality have blurred the distinction between being virtually present at an event – and actually being there.
The book is a way for me to get all of the knowledge and experience in my head out onto paper and share it with the world. During the last few years in my job I’ve lead the social media marketing for some pretty big events like Sage Summit and the Sage sponsorship of Dublin Web Summit.
I’ve also worked on very social events like Blog Awards Ireland. I learned a lot managing these projects and I noticed that there was a bit of a gap in terms of published expertise on the topic so I decided to write a book.
It’s also a great way for me to develop my writing skills and to be as much a producer of content as a planner of content. I think every content strategist should also regularly consume content (reading) and create content (writing) to improve their skills.
8. What strategies and tactics do you plan to use in promoting the book and getting the attention of those who are frequent event-goers?
I was really lucky to get the domain I wanted, so I plan to launch a website there with a blog and use all of the best practice content and social tactics I use for my job to also promote the book. The book is aimed at people like me whose job it is to do the social media promotion for events so I plan to target them using social channels and using the right targeting and of course retargeting.
I plan to turn some of the chapters into blog posts and do a lot of SEO so that my website and book becomes the go to source for people using social media for event promotion.
The book is also aimed at everyone with an interest in social media marketing and I’ve written it in a way that you can use the book to learn about social media through event promotion. I’ll also be speaking at some events and popping up on some podcasts so watch this space.
9. And finally, what is your biggest social media no-no?
Facebook competitions. They are lazy, uninspiring and so 2011 – come on people, you can do better!
Thank you Beatrice, for participating in this interview!
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