Summit Insider: Toby Bloomberg on Marketing’s Similarity to Kinetic Art and Becoming a Blogging Diva

Yesterday, we introduced this year’s Summit Insiders. Summit Insiders is a collection of marketing experts whom we’ve invited to join us on the ground at Summit to share their insights, observations and experience via social media, blogging and other digital outlets. We sat down with Toby Bloomberg, one of our Insiders to talk about marketing, reinvention (the theme of this year’s Summit) and more. Here’s what Toby had to say:

toby_insiderWhat advice would you give you give to those starting in the digital marketing industry?
In three words: Integration times two.

I like to compare digital marketing to kinetic art … multiple pieces are integrated to create movement. In the digital marketing world the interlocking pieces might look like this: social supports SEO -which supports content development-which supports-mobile which supports website analytics and on and on and on. If an element breaks or is not optimally integrated a chain reaction occurs which impacts not only the brand value but your customers’ experiences.

As digital continues to evolve the decision process of which tool to include in your strategies becomes increasingly complex.  Will incorporating augmented reality help your customers better understand your product? Or is it wearable computers or sensor technology what will add value?  How do you determine where resources should be dedicated? That’s where setting visionary but practical goals and understanding your target audience serves as your ‘north star.’

However, integration is not limited to ensuring the right channels and tactics will move the brand forward.  Integration also involves internal communication processes. For many organizations their structure is to create internal silos of subject matter experts (fondly called SMEs). For sure, one person can’t know everything. However, too frequently these groups are housed in different departments and report to different people within the senior leadership team.  Creating and putting meaningful processes into a work environment is not always simple; but if not developed, results can be devastating from brand disconnect, frustrated employees to the ultimate … customer loss.

Communication, especially among this group of employees, is not a nice to have but a critical business practice that must be open, trusting and frequent.  In the best of worlds, a minimum level of senior leadership would include a VP of Strategic Digital Marketing Integration who holds responsibility for customer experience. Integration time two leads to bottom-line success but only through deliberate planning.

How has blogging helped your personal business?
When Diva Marketing Blog was launched in 2004, it was the beginning of an exciting  new wave of business communication. Since I was early to the game, Diva Marketing set me apart from traditional marketing strategists by positioning me as someone who held an innovative approach towards to the new and often confusing world of interactive marketing.

I quickly realized benefits from investing time and resources creating original content far exceeded a unique positioning. The blog gave me an interactive platform to test new concepts like an eBook I wrote based on Twitter interviews. I crowd sourced issues like blogger/influencer relationships that led to new insights shared by an extended community. Diva Marketing opened doors that extended my network to include colleagues from as close as the next town to India and Australia. Some people were from small businesses and nonprofits and others from Fortune 500 corporations.

The most import advantage that came from Diva Marketing was that it helped establish and reinforce my credibility for the work I wanted to pursue.  In the world of today’s social networks e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram … you know the drill, it’s challenging to build a thought leader position through a series of sound bites. It takes longer, more meaningful content along with sharing your point of view to establish trust and confidence. Today the content might not be only from a traditional blog but perhaps a series of videos, podcasts or presentations uploaded to Slideshare. Social networks then become a supplementary resource to expand, promote and discuss your ideas.

All good you but ‘show me the money’ you might say. Remember those relationships I mentioned? They led to the money. The relationships that I build through blogs and social networks resulted in projects, speaking engagements, eventually a full time job with a major media corporation, my being part of Adobe’s Insider program and maybe the next. It’s interesting to think in this world of high technology high touch and personal relationships are still what make the wheels of business go-round.

You grew up with your Dad in the marketing research business. How do you think the business has changed since that time and in what ways has it remained the same?
Thanks for the shout-out about my dad. His business was primary data collection so my response will reflect that aspect of research instead of secondary website/social network insights or my response might be a book! Let’s start with the end (of your question) at the beginning of my answer. Good research focuses on determining what issue must be addressed in order to make smart business decisions. That remains the same.  However, technology has certainly impacted the market research game from both a positive and negative perspective.

On the plus side, data collection is easier to obtain and response rates are usually high. Costs are lower and return of the information is crazy fast. You can often see raw results in real time.  From a social media lens, the doors have swung wide open for organizations to create on-going ‘listening’ programs. The ‘back yard’ conversations of unfiltered, raw voices are often rich in passion and emotion that might not be found in traditional research. More companies are using consumer generated content as early warning signs of service and product concerns, as well as, to identify brand champions. In addition, new mobile apps like Jelly might be the way to check the consumer’s pulse for new product development.

On the minus side, free survey software turned everyone and anyone into a ‘researcher.’ With limited understanding of how to craft the ‘right’ questions, and as important no one on staff to analyze the data, companies frequently make critical decisions based on ‘garbage-in/garbage-out’ reports. One might say .. you get what you pay for.

In social media listening programs we often pay attention to voices who are the loudest (or most frequent) or those with a perceived high social media influence factor. These people may not be a fair representation of your customer-based. Far reaching decisions about product development, marketing or advertising programs may be impacted by perceptions that are not based on the truths of the majority of your customers or prospects.

Reaching out to individuals and as the saying goes “join in the conversation” or connecting through private direct messaging may not be statically valid but might be invaluable as a means of gaining qualitative insights. Leverage social comments and discussions as a starting point to build traditional research studies that will confirm and extend the learnings about your customers. Listen, hear, participate and use social research as strategically as you do traditional research.

More about Toby Bloomberg
Toby Bloomberg is recognized for her expertise in combining social media with traditional marketing values (strategy, customer insights, segmentation) while maintaining digital conversation authenticity.  Her adventures in social media began in 2004 with the launch of her award winning blog Diva Marketing. She has worked with Fortune 100 brands and small business in both B2B, B2C, as well as, nonprofits.  Most recently Toby held the position of director of social media integration for Cox Digital Media where she supported a portfolio of over 70 TV, radio and newspapers properties in using social media as a catalyst to build stronger brand-to-audience relationships.

You can follow Toby on Twitter at @TobyDiva, or read her blog at Diva Marketing.