Produced by Jason Zagami

In todays episode I talk with Social Media expert Ben Blakesley to give you advice and resources to up your social media game. 

Podcast Transcript


It’s actually really really easy to say, and that is add value and be consistent. Those two things alone will probably get you where you want to be.


That’s Ben Blakesley, he’s the head of social media and editorial content for Citizens Bank. Before that he was the Head of Global Social Media for Reebok.

Ben is a published author, speaker, and absolute leader in the Social Media space. I’ve been lucky enough to work with him on some recent projects and today we get to hear his thoughts on social media strategy and execution.

I’m your host, Jason Zagami and this is the CPM - Digital Marketing Stories Podcast.

Ben and I are going to dive into what works on Social Media in a business or Brand context, common mistakes marketers make, useful tools, resources and end todays segment with two great social media stories.

The most common mistake made on social is inexperienced marketers pushing a mid-century, mass media brand messaging strategy on social. We’re living in a different era and it’s a revolutionary platform.


So I don’t know that this is a new concept, but it’s certainly a needed concept for all businesses to understand. It is not about you and your message. It is about what the consumer wants.

Once of the things I do to help illustrate this point with people that I’m working with is, I ask them “in your business who are your competitors?” and they will list off their obvious competitors. If you’re a bank it might be other banks in the area. And then I say, well guess what. In the social media and content space your competition is a bunny eating raspberries. Your competition is your friends baby pictures. Your competition is Beyonce.

Because we’re competing for a share of that consumers mindset. A share of their attention. So your content can’t just be good from the standpoint of it’s good for a bank. It has to be good for standards of the world. Is it good enough to draw peoples attention away from giving their eyeballs and attention to Beyonce and other things that draw their attention.

So. I think that’s one of the key points. It’s not about you, it’s about what the consumer cares about and how can you draw their attention and retain it.


For those who’ve grabbed the attention of consumers on social and begin interacting socially, it’s crucial that you clearly define your brand voice, tone and mission.


There are a lot of mistakes that social media manager can make and do make on a regular basis. From an organizational standpoint, I think shiny-object-syndrome is certainly a problem where it’s lacking consistency and being a little bit schitzophrenic going here to there and essentially committing random acts of marketing, we’ll call it, instead of having a focused consistent strategy.

That’s one thing. Another thing is, as brands are seeing another brand with a snarky tone of voice, and they’ll jump in and go too far without having the understanding of how that affects consumers and how that affects their brand perception. Not everybody should be Wendy’s. Wendy’s does a great job at what they do on Twitter. I have a lot of friends over there and a lot of respect for what they do, but not everybody should be that. It doesn’t fit everybody’s brand. So, jumping on those hottest trends when it doesn’t make sense for your brand is another mistake a lot of people make.


You can infer the mistakes marketers make by the questions they ask. And Ben gets to field a lot of questions at his speaking engagements.


There are definitely a lot of bad questions. One of the questions that I always find funny is, that seems a little misdirected to me is always, “well what’s the next new platform that’s come up?”, and that’s the wrong mentality to have. It doesn’t really matter. It’s always the right message at the right time to the right person. And you adjust that based on whatever platform you decide to be on.

The people who tend to have their minds in the right place here is when they just say “How do I get started?” or “What resources do I need to put in place to do this?”. Because they’re clearly thinking about the larger picture here and I usually answer with something like “Add value, be consistent”. And then if they’re asking the resource questions, you can do this on a small scale or a large scale.

It all just depends on what you’re trying to achieve, what you’re willing to put in to it.  But the fact that they’re thinking about this is not just a free thing that doesn’t cost any money. It’s a resource intensive activity, that’s a key thing. You might not be sinking a lot of dollars necsisarily into this, but your time is valuable, I would think. So, you’re choosing to spend your time in this place on social as opposed to somewhere else that could also be growing your business. It better be worth it.


When it comes to spending your time and resources on social, without data and insights, you’re flying blind. In some cases it makes sense to use the expensive enterprise level tools, but in many cases the free tools will provide everything you need.


If you say Facebook is my jam, I’m going to spend most of my time on that. Then Facebook and the Facebook Insights is really all you need, you can do all your scheduling, you can do your reporting and learn about what’s working and what’s not and learn about your audience. You can do that all within the platform.

If you’re saying I want to have a bigger endeavor and I want to see how my program overall is doing with multiple platforms or multiple pages all combined. That’s really when you need one of those aggregators. From an enterprise level, using Sprinklr is what I’ve typically used in the past. I really enjoy working with them, but that’s a really expensive thing to do. So there are all kinds of entree level things. I started with Hootsuite the freemium version and it was really valuable for me. Regardless of what tool you use for that aggregator because there are a lot of good ones, the key is really, can you find one that provides you good reporting insights? Because the scheduling and all those other good things you can do in various ways and they’re all pretty good at that. The reporting this is to make sure that you’re getting out of it what you want to be getting out of it. And that you’re making informed data driven decisions is probably the most important thing.


While monitoring and interpreting data is an important part of social management, the other half of that coin requires constant improvement and adaptation.

The thing is social media evolves so rapidly, it’s not possible to produce educational materials that stay ahead of the curve.

They only way of doing that is the sharing of ideas in real time. Find and follow leading publications, thought-leaders and join relevant user-groups.


It used to be that Mashable was the place, I remember like 10 years ago, that’s what I would always recommend here. But now there’s just a lot of them and in Social Media is not necessarily a small niche anymore that only a few people are doing, a lot of publications are talking about them.

I read things like Digiday, things like Fast Company, things like INC. All these Marketing in general publications. But where I get the most value is from user groups. It almost sounds old school to talk about user groups in that sense but I’m a member of a few private Facebook groups. I’m going to give a shoutout to the brand socialites group which is essentially a group of people who work for some of the biggest brands in the world and are either their social media community managers or leaders of the social media program there. And I think there are 300 or 350 of us and we just simply talk to each other about what we’re dealing with, ask questions about how did you approach this at your organization, and that peer to peer sharing is one of the most invaluable things that I can find. So, finding  those groups for your specific niche or your specific area are really great. I know there are a few in the music industry that’s like: we are people in the music industry that do social media in music. That’s a great thing.

And then beyonds that connecting with some of those larger publications and following the right lists on twitter can be really helpful too. As you go to conferences and network with people, that’s a great place to get introduced to more of these groups rather than just saying I’m going to take this online training course, which tend to be hit or miss.


I love real world examples of digital marketing successes and failures. Smart people learn from their own mistakes, while wise people learn from others.

I don’t have time to learn from a lifetime of my own mistakes. So I rely heavily on lessons from others. I asked Ben to share some of his favorite stories.


I have a million favorite Social Media stories. I’ll share two of them. One of them is bigger scale and one of them is smaller scale. Both of them are ones I’ve been involved with, because those are the ones that I know the in’s and out’s of and how they came to be and the impact they had. Both of them are individual and person focused which to me is the magic of social media.

If we go back to the early 2010, 2011 timeframe when social media was still very much a novel thing for a lot of people it really made a positive impact on a lot of peoples lives and now those thing are happening but you have to dig through a lot more mud to get there because it’s a crowded space.

The two stories I want to share, one is, when I was at Reebok we had this idea that we have access to the CrossFit Games as the Title Sponsor of the Reebok CrossFit Games. So, we have some access that a lot of people don’t have. We also know that the CrossFit community is a passionate community and for some reason CrossFit and romance go hand in hand. People they meet at the gym or they meet at the box or they and their significant other workout together and it brings them closer together.

So, we put a call out there and said hey, what CrossFit couples are out there and which ones are ready to take that next step and commit themselves to each other and get married? We had way more entrees for that than we thought we probably would. Hundreds and hundreds of them. And through that we were able to identify a couple, Oliver and Christina Drews. We brought them to the CrossFit Games in 2016 and they were married on the competition floor by Dave Castro the Director of the CrossFit Games. And to be able to impact someones life like that in such a positive way, that’s what I love about social media. That could not happened before social media existed. That was a pretty amazing thing.

And then the second story I want to share, is the small moments. Any good social media marketing person will tell you that listening is a key part of social media and social media marketing for an organization. Listening for ways to make people’s day or make peoples lives better is a great way to spend your time as an organization. At Reebok were listening all the time for people who needed help in some way. One of my favorite examples of this is, somebody was just posting, they were using crying emojis all over the place and said my car was broken into, all my CrossFit stuff was stolen. I don’t have a lot of money. This ruins my day and I don’t know what I’m going to do now.

Because we were listening. we reached out to here and said, hey that’s terrible. Send us your address. We outfitted her with tons of new gear and obviously changed her day around and restored her faith in humanity a little bit and said the world is not a terrible place. I know someone did this terrible thing to you, but there are other people who are willing to help. Those small moments I’ve been a part of in every single organization I’ve been with, and those are the ones that if you keep doing those it just makes the world a better place. And I think that it can ultimately make you a stronger brand with a lot of good will.

I want to thank Ben for coming on the show. I’ll post a link to his book in the show notes. You can find him on Twitter at Ben UNH.

Visit Seedling.Marketing to find more on this episode. I’ll include links to the resources Ben mentioned.

As always, thank you for listening and let me know if there’s a topic you’d like me to cover. You can find me on twitter @jasonzagami

Ben’s Book: Get Social: A Practical Guide to Using Social Media for Business

Music Credit

Omnibeats - Rap Beats

Ty Dolla Sign type beat - Loft (radio ready r&b/rap beat)