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Alex Permain

Marketing Week (MW): Marketers are not yet finding social media effective and it is seen as an experiment, according to CIM research. What’s your reaction to this?

Alex Pearmain (AP): I’m not surprised people aren’t making money out of it. Digital marketing is typically measured by looking at where the last click came from, or for more traditional marketing, you’d look at brand-led metrics. Revenue is very difficult to attribute to social media. There isn’t yet a sophisticated enough understanding and application of measurement processes to do that.

MW: Where would you say O2 is in terms of its social media strategy?

AP: Having a single ‘strategy’ for social media is quite difficult because it effects so many different customer touchpoints and so many parts of the business. Unless you are the chief executive, no single person can totally direct social media for a business.

My role is setting the overall direction and empowering colleagues to make the most of it. In some areas, our content strategy is very well developed. That might be embracing our customers’ nostalgia about mobile phones on Facebook [when conversation turned to the 10 year anniversary of the brand] through to customer engagement on Twitter about new product development.

O2 phone

I want to integrate social media with our products and services. So in this year’s January sale, people could create a poll with their Facebook friends and ask them which handset they should buy. We know that customers take advice from friends, so this made it easier for them.

MW: What’s the point of social media if it can’t make money?

AP: Social media can make money, but businesses need to have a broader view of how it can do this. If someone invests in direct response and wants a return within 10 days, I would query the use of social media.

However, if it is a longer-term approach to drive customer engagement and customer value, then social media is more appropriate.

MW: How can a marketer persuade management to invest in social media?

AP: Don’t shove the youngest guy in the room in front of them and say “we must do it because it is what the kids are doing”. Marketers need to present social media marketing as part of an overall integrated marketing strategy.

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