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Q&A: Tiffany St James Discusses Big-Business Social Media Strategy

Q&A: Tiffany St James Discusses Big-Business Social Media Strategy

Formerly a UK government digital consultant and its first head of social media, and 2013 TED speaker and finalist in its global talent search, Tiffany St James's latest coup is the co-founding of Transmute- an agency created to help large and multinational businesses prepare for digital transformation. 

Before Tiffany joins the judging panel at the Performance Marketing Awards on April 28, PerformanceIN wanted to gain some insight into big-business social media, its changing landscape and what she'll be looking out for in the PMAs.  

As a former director of communications for DirectGov and head of social media for the UK government, are there major differences between overseeing outreach from a government and a multinational business?

Tiffany St James: Setting up a centre of excellence and having one central strategic lead is common both to Governments and Multi-National Businesses. They both need to understand people capability, business unit or government department maturity in using digital and social media and share strategies, good practice, provide tools and measure in the same way.

The differences lie where a business is largely trying to increase sales and Governments deal with information and citizen transactions; different tactics and strategies come into play. Additionally large businesses, not being subject to the scrutiny of tax payer and the media, have more freedom to implement tools, systems and processes on a global scale and to experiment internally with less criticism.

There is surely no linear approach to implementing a social media strategy in a business. What kind of analysis and observations do you take into account before setting out a plan?

TSJ: There’s a simple 4 step process that allows any size business to rapidly understand its position to get to a strategy, thoroughly but swiftly. We call this environmental analysis:

1. Business analysis: how is the company currently performing, if at all on social media. Consider what business documentation exists that you can review: Business Plans, Digital Strategy Marketing Plans, Customer Service, CSR, Products and Services.

Review your current social media presences; what’s working well and what’s not. Chart and capture all channel and practitioner information.

People capability – what capability and capacity do your people have who use, or are about to use social media. What are their information gaps?

2. Direct competitor analysis: who are your direct competitors and how are they performing on social media?

3. Industry sector: who is using social media well in your industry sector, outside of your direct competition. 

4. What does good practice look like outside of your industry: what can we learn from the best applications of social media?

This can take a  week or 3 months depending on how much large an organisation is, how much of this information exists, and what depth do you want to go into.

Is it the case that marketers are still approaching social media with the mentality that it’s hit and miss, mysterious, and are therefore still hesitant to invest in it? Or is this attitude diminishing?

TSJ: I don’t think that marketers have necessarily approached social media as it’s hit or miss, but I do think that campaign-led work has not always been underpinned by rigorous measurable objectives, clearly depicted by social media only contribution. With the evolution of good work, good metrics and increasingly more sophisticated audiences, clients, brands and agencies are working harder to prove good results in both campaigns and business implementation.

Based on your experience, what are the timeless fundamentals of success in social media marketing?

TSJ: Set clear objectives, understand what your success measures look like, define your metrics, tools and platforms. Test and scale; take advantage of the uber-optimisation that social media allows. Measure, measure, measure but LOVE your customers, there’s not always a boardroom measure for that but it will pay dividends.

At this time last year, would your measures of success for social media campaigns have been exactly the same as they are today? Has the playing field changed?

TSJ: Effectiveness and proving the worth of campaigns is an increasing focus by clients, agencies and judges. Demand has grown for more than community size, growth, and reach and what change campaigns make is increasingly sought.

Facebook post reach is becoming increasingly limited, sponsored posts and ads are in more demand, and paid options are cropping up everywhere. Is this something to be embraced as a necessary part of social strategy in 2015?

TSJ: Evidence always points to paid and organic social media marketing being more effective together.

Does this in any way devalue the guerrilla feel of social media in your opinion or is it just an accepted part of marketing evolution?

TSJ: Whilst social media marketing still has a guerrilla feel, great guerrilla social media marketing should always be expertly planned, the client  business objectives should always lead the strategy and if that happens to be paid and organic then yes of course that’s acceptable.

I’m sure you’re no stranger to the social media crisis in both the public and private sector. What measures should marketers take to mitigate backlash?

TSJ: Always listen, have a process in place to mitigate social media complaints and potential crisis before you begin any work. Be transparent and accountable, never undertake business practices that could cause offence or ridicule in this transparent world we live in. Negative complaints usually stem from only 4 reasons:

  • Mistakes and incorrect assumptions by audiences.
  • The result of an unhappy customer experience.
  • Satirists or jokers, usually named, trying to draw attention to themselves.
  • Trolls, people who hide and want to cause maximum personal, emotional abuse.

It's great to have you on the judging panel for the PMAs. What are the types of things you’ll be looking for when assessing the competition?

TSJ: Effectiveness against clear objectives and innovation.

Have you witnessed any trends over the last year which are likely to ring through the winning entries?

TSJ: There’s been a rising trends across marketing and digital awards in the UK of organisations that have baked in worthy solutions in  providing additional benefit for particular communities ousted the scope of particular campaigns and despite my heavy focus on effectiveness ideas, well executed simple ideas are also prevelant.

With Standard Entries for the Performance Marketing Awards closing on January 30, and Late Entries on February 6, there's still time to get your digital campaign of 2014 in the running for one of 26 awards spanning the full breadth of performance marketing - and have your company's excellence and innovation recognised by an industry audience at London's Grosvenor House Hotel in April.  Find out how to enter here

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Mark  Jones

Mark Jones

Editorial Executive at PerformanceIN. Mark reports performance marketing news and manages PI's network of guest contributors.

Originally from Plymouth, Mark studied in Reading and London, eventually earning his Master's in Digital Journalism- before making his return to the West Country to join the PI team in Bristol.

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