I recently keynoted social media enterprise platform company Falcon.io‘s Spark conference on the topic of influencer marketing. I had a chance to meet with their founder and CEO, Ulrik Bo Larsen, at the event and get his perspective on all things social media marketing. They had just announced an enhancement of their platform to encompass Paid Social and bring different departments together, thus the title for this podcast. However, being a European company and having a distinctly different take on the market, I asked Ulrik a number of questions in hopes that they will help you Maximize Your Social. Listen to the full podcast for the details!
Welcome to another exciting episode of Maximize Your Social. I am recording from a train maintenance facility in Copenhagen, Denmark, where I am speaking at the Spark marketing and social media marketing conference run by the folks at Falcon.io.
Falcon is the European enterprise equivalent to the popular North American social media dashboard Hootsuite. I’m really impressed by how much of an innovative tool they have developed, so I thought who better to have as a podcast guest than Falcon’s own CEO, Ulrik Bo Larsen.
I used to run a conference called the Social Tools Summit. Maybe a lot of you have invested lots of money in a tool to find it hasn’t changed a year or two later. But social media has changed and Falcon represent a really innovative company, never sitting still, which Ulrik gave an inspiring presentation about to open up today’s conference. He spoke about moving forward with customers as they move forward. I was talking about throwing away organic social, throwing away your own content and working with influencers – the topic of my next book “The Business of Influence.”
So today’s podcast will be about Ulrik and Falcon and the unique perspective and advice they have for our marketers tuning in. It’s about understanding the unique IP that the folks at Falcon have in developing and innovating with this tool.
The De-Siloing of Organizations
Neal: Ulrik, I don’t want to date this podcast as I like to provide content that is evergreen. What are the successful things you see brands doing in social and digital these days? I know you may focus more on the problems but let’s celebrate the successes.
Ulrik: I think what we’ve had a front row seat to witness is a lot of these things people want to achieve on these channels often start with a marketing message, a specific message or product, and to create awareness around a brand. In the mid-market and among some of the more innovative enterprise companies, there is a growing realization that these things are very intertwined.
Let’s say you put out a piece of content or part of a campaign and message. What started to happen is finely tuned marketing events would have somebody barf on them because of other customer service or public events people really disliked. What we’ve had a front seat to witness is the necessary changes to siloing due to changes in consumer behavior We have been very vocal about rebuilding a broad tool/platform that encompasses a bunch of different use cases on a number of different channels by unifying and defragmenting the challenges across both fragmented channels and silos within the organizations.
I think it is interesting that what ended up de-siloing certain organizations wasn’t Accenture talking about it as they spoke about it 20 years ago and nothing happened. Because of consumer behavior and these specific channels, it started to happen.
Focusing on the Customer Story
Neal: Speaking of some of the titles of people in your company – customer success, customer experience marketing – is that marketing or customer support?
Ulrik: There is a very specific story there where our co-host and one of our team members at this event who is our customer experience VP who ran marketing. What we realized is the core of our message in marketing should be the customer story. It should be examples of what we do and who better to to lead (because she is a great executive) than somebody who really understands and can tie the two things together.
At the moment, we don’t have a VP of Marketing. We have we have a VP of Customer Experience executive and another for Demand Generation. It’s because of this dynamic that we are really trying to live and breathe.
Neal: I want to give a shout out to my friend, Dan Gingiss, who’s book Winning at Social Customer Care I have to recommend. He writes about social customer care and experience. He’s been talking about customer experience for the last year or two. What about the areas where you find brands can do more? Where are the general areas for greater improvement?
Bringing Content and Performance Marketing Together
Ulrik: in a broad sense, it’s running things on autopilot or doing the same thing as you were doing two years ago when the landscape has changed. There is a number of different permutations of this.
It would be great to tie this together with the people in performance marketing and what they are doing. They are off on another end of the spectrum. They do all these things but what they don’t have is a better payload and all the work they do. We think bringing together the content and performance marketing people with our specific and unique tooling is one thing we think needs to be different. We have observed the problem of content and performance marketing people doing one thing on one side and the content people working somewhat siloed even within this small segment of the org.
Neal: The great marketing author, Seth Godin talks about the ‘lizard brain.’ Something in our brains that says we want to do repeatable things because they make us feel good. I think we find that with social media marketers. We finally have an editorial calendar down, we have our mix down, will just repeat this whole process and the content becomes stale and out of date. The consumer has moved on and the way we utilize these technologies has evolved. I think that’s a great message: If you’re still doing the same thing you were doing 2 years ago, you’re completely missing the boat at this point.
The Continued Shift Towards Visual Social
Any other big things you see marketers missing out of? I personally see chances to engage as a brand the very few brands do. I see the visual social brands under perform. Any thoughts on that?
Ulrik: I think a lot of things are moving towards visual content. This changes the expertise you need internally. All these things are coming together so you need to engage with a new set of agencies to help you produce some of that content. You need to start your own teams in ways to maneuver the changing landscape of working content formats. It’s video, is visual video, portrait instead of landscape, all these things I see constantly happening. You need to be ready for that and embrace the intricacies of visual social as an exciting line of work rather than say “OMG, I thought I had it down!” – because that’s never going to happen.
We work with more than 1,500 enterprises and the conversations I have with their leaders are a lot about how the orgs are set up. There is a reason why we combine paid ads and content. A lot of folks have built up content teams and now struggle with “how do I get the reach I need?” I really think there is a lot of value in bringing those folks together and give better payload to the ads guys.
Neal: One of my clients was a social media team and all the content came from a performance marketing team that did traditional advertising. Their Instagram content looked like ads. There is definitely something to be said for bringing the content team together
Ulrik: Yes, because they are great as a lot of the three letter acronyms. They really understand them to the bone and you need that stuff. Is great to internalize them and your staff internally. There is even a way to collaborate with external agencies via the mental model of how we think and build a product.
Neal: Ulrik, I know it’s a busy day for you. I won’t keep you too much longer but there are a lot of North American and Japanese marketers that listen to this podcast. For those Japanese and North American brands, how can they best engage and what would be different for them engaging with a European consumer versus a North American or an Asian consumer?
The European Social Media User
Ulrik: First of all, there’s this thing about Europe, our American friends, and people who build technology companies: Tthey want to go to Europe, land in the UK, and then maybe Ireland. There may be differences in personalities, certainly so in the different states of America but that is minute compared to the differences in cultures over here. You often get into a more refined setup with regional and local markets where you take some of those content pieces and localize them to these markets. That’s the big challenge for American brands and we’ve had a front seat to this multi brand, multi-region set up for our larger B2C customers. That challenge really starts in Europe and I think that we have a unique vantage point working with international brands and multinationals because of that experience, -sometimes ahead of our dear colleagues in the US.
We set up shop in the US back in 2014 and we have a sizable team there which is growing in NYC and the tri-state area. We are in our fourth US office. We started in Broadway, we went to Williamsburg because hey, we wanna be the cool kids! We are now moving back into Manhattan in the financial district and we are growing out of that office already. What we find is what we are doing is pretty ubiquitous. We certainly don’t see ourselves as a European specialized vendor. We have the fastest current growth in the US. In terms of network usage parity between those two things, there’s a little less Twitter over here and there’s a little more WhatsApp.
If you squint your eyes, those are some of the bigger differences from a channel standpoint. Then there’s different levels of sophistication in the market where the US is definitely ahead in terms of the experience level on teams, how many tools tried, how many tactics tried, just in general experience level there’s certainly a head start in the US. So it’s exciting for us to work with a growing number of brands over there.
Neal: So the EU comprises of different cultures. The culture in Dublin is different to the culture in Copenhagen.
Ulrik: Even the south of Germany is different from the north of Germany. In there you may be operating with the realm of difference you see in in the US. But as soon as you go to France, Eastern Europe or South, the Latin countries and the Mediterranean, it’s very different.
Neal: It’s funny, as when I am in Japan and they ask about tools, I try to point them to European tools vendors because the American tools vendors have this ‘American first’ perspective and if you want to use said tools outside of the United States, you’re screwed. I’ll never forget a friend that worked at a very large fortune 50 software company who tried to push an American tool that didn’t handle the Japanese language so he had to find a Japanese partner. I think in Europe, you understand the need for multilingual capabilities and the ability to target local communities and you are way ahead of American tools in that aspect.
Ulrik: Happy to hear that!
The Road Ahead
Neal: We are recording this at the end of 2018 and looking ahead to 2019. What are the focal points that marketers should focus on as we begin the new year? And how will Falcon help them through that?
Ulrik: The way we think about the near-term and mid-term future for these platforms is they need to be bootstrapped with tooling and platforms that create longevity on all customer interactions, all the profiles built up, all those built up repositories of these kinds of things. As a tool vendor and product company, having that mindset is really important. Is also important to think out of other things outside of social. There are three important types of data that flow through a platform like ours. We like to call this the ‘three centers of gravity.’ That’s people, content, and performance data.
Let’s not talk too much more about performance but I think the people part is what we refer to today as CDP or customer data platforms. Every tool used needs to have its own customer data platform. It needs to aggregate certain things that happened within the realm of that. It also needs to fit in with the rest of your stack. A lot of things have been developed around the CDP narrative.
What’s interesting for us and slightly more novel even though it seems mundane on the surface is that the content piece of that middle layer is something people often think about when they use our tools or those of our colleagues who also help content marketers. Our customers use tools like ours because of the distribution power, the planning, the calendar and the opportunity to collaborate and create good things. What really happens is the content created in those scenarios becomes the lifeblood of a bunch of different things. I think it is the lifeblood of influencer marketing and employee advocacy.
You need to have a tool that understands the lifecycle of your content so you can activate it in different ways. This is the ‘center of gravity’ we are looking at. With our announcement today on the ads piece, it’s really taking all that great content your content team does and making it easy for the performance marketing people to set up stuff in a seamlessly integrated way. What we are saying is that we are creating something that plays really nice with every other profile and CRM vendor. You need to have tools that handle data in a really good way that integrates whatever happens within the realm of that tool. That could be very narrow, niche tools or a wider platform like ours but those platforms need to get their stuff together and serve that data for other systems you may have in place.
Neal: It’s been great exploring your platform as I was invited to speak here and prepare my own content and knowing that you have that CRM piece because data is going to be so critical when companies want to work with influencers. Yes, there are influencer marketing tools but at the end of the day, you shouldn’t have to use 10 different tools and if you are already engaging through content, why can’t you capture that in the same tool and that tool can help you through the lifecycle of your content and engagement with different people internally and externally. I think that’s an awesome direction. I also believe the Falcon business model is more for the medium to large enterprise, so if you’re in that category, you owe it to yourself to check Falcon out. Ulrik, thank you so much for inviting me to be here in Copenhagen. It’s awesome to get you on and share your views.