Ep. 64: Social Media Strategy and Generating Growth with Billy Ash
In each episode of The Playbook presented by FanFood, host Rob Cressy discusses how leaders are modernizing today’s customer experience through technology in sports, entertainment and hospitality. We invite industry veterans to talk about how customer expectation have changed in today’s world, and how businesses need to change accordingly for greater operational efficiency and better guest experience.
Billy Ash, Chief Digital Officer and Managing Partner at Today’s Business joins Rob Cressy to talk about social media strategy and how it can be used to generate growth. Why are so many companies missing the boat on social and not seeing the opportunities in front of them? How important is having a written social media strategy and what are the key elements in one? How can social media help customer experience and humanize your brand? How do you know if a branding campaign is working and why is it crucial to tying your results to tangible goals? To see how your restaurant, establishment, or venue can benefit from FanFood’s platform please get in touch here.
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Rob Cressy: (00:07) Welcome to The Playbook presented by FanFood. A discussion around how leaders are modernizing today’s customer experience through technology in sports, entertainment, and hospitality. I’m your host, Rob Cressy. And joining me today is Billy Ash, chief digital officer, and managing partner in today’s business. Billy, great to have you on the show. Billy Ash: (00:32) Rob, it’s a pleasure. Thanks so much for having me looking really excited about this. Rob Cressy: (00:38) Can you give a quick overview of who you are and what you do? Billy Ash: (00:40) Yeah. As mentioned, my name’s Billy Ash. I am the Chief Digital Officer here at Today’s Business. We’re a full-service digital advertising agency. We also have a sector of our company called TB Sports that really works on the athlete side. We represent about 50 different professional athletes and a hundred different influencers in the athlete or athlete region. But my primary role is overseeing all of the operations as well as the strategy for clients. So, we do everything from affiliate marketing to website development, SEO, Google ads, and of course, a ton of social media. Rob Cressy: (1:19) So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to loop all of this into customer experience in delivering results. Because when we look at business strategy and social media strategy, how that ties in to actually delivering results for companies is extremely important, but guess what? The customers are going to have to be at the center of this. So, let’s start with the business strategy side of things, as it relates to all things digital. I know a lot of companies out there think that social is something that we can just put an intern on, set it, and forget it. And what they fail to realize is the huge opportunity that is there to create a one on one connection point with your customer and do so in a way that’s going to deliver actual business results. Billy Ash: (02:09) Yeah, and I mean honestly, the 2020s proved more than ever that social has gotta be a huge portion. Whether you’re breaking beer or the Cleveland Cavaliers, social media is a huge portion of your customer experience. It’s a huge portion of how people really engage with your brand. I mean, every single time I have a bad experience on an airline. The first thing I do is tweet at them and hope I get some free airline points, but yeah, social is customer experience. That’s where, I mean, I’m not going to find your customer service page on your website. I’m just going to tweet at your brand. Rob Cressy: (2:46) Which makes complete sense. But why is it that so many brands don’t realize it? Because the thing for me that is the biggest disconnect is the word opportunity. Just because we’re living in this digital world, we have this opportunity to create a positive brand interaction for someone digitally. But if someone was going to do it to us in person, would we treat them the same way that we do someone on Twitter and just say like, you walk into a store and it’s like, Hey, Billy. Buy what I’m selling. Buy what I’m selling. Buy what I’m selling. You’re like, I didn’t say anything. You’re like, buy what I’m selling. Buy what I’m selling. That’s the narrative that I see from so many of them. So, why are so many companies missing the boat on the opportunity that is there right in front of them?
Billy Ash: (03:38) Stuck in the times. Some also just don’t have the operations. Honestly, it’s tough. And in our past experience, one of the first clients that we had at today’s business was a very, very large cable provider. Cable and internet, one of the largest in the world. They may or may not own Madison Square Garden. And the second week we had that client, we had Sandy, and thank goodness that they signed with today’s business because we manage their entire social media response of all of the outages that they had and were able to turn almost 80% of that into a positive response. And it’s still to this day, one of our biggest case studies on why social media is such a large portion of your customer experience and yes, was that a national or a huge hurricane that it was awful, but how else were they going to get all of those responses? I mean, they actually had the New York Jets tweet at them and say, when are we going to get our electricity back in Florham park where their practice facility is? So crazy. Rob Cressy: (04:55) Let’s get specific here because I want to help the listener on all right, well maybe we don’t have all of the infrastructures of what it takes, but when looking at strategy, the way that I see it is you want to be very intentional about what it is that you’re doing. Because by design strategy is designed. And so many companies take this spray and pray approach with social. You know what, Rob and Billy, it doesn’t work for us. Oh, really? Is that because you’re just not having any set goals and what is your target audience and what is the content buckets that you’re doing? So, let’s get very specific here so that we can give tangible results on, what do you think is important in a social media strategy? If we’re going to help build one. Billy Ash: (05:43) The key to a social media strategy is what you already know. It’s what’s putting it out there. I mean, from the optimum point, it was very, very clear. Tell your customers, they can tweet at you. Whoops, I dropped their name. It was very clear that they could tell their customers, Hey, you can tweet at us. And that’s why, and they knew that they had those infrastructures and that was their customer service. Yes, we had a content plan in regard to it, but they utilized it for customer service. So, that’s what they used it. They had a huge purpose for it. They knew what it was. They weren’t really trying. They sold, reworked on the B2B sector. They sold millions and million of dollars worth of voiceover or voice phone activations and things around those lines. That’s what their plan was. So, whatever industry it is, to my point would be, what is the goal? Find out if it is new customers? How are they engaging? What are they engaging? Finding that out. I mean, from a conversational standpoint, we’re constantly looking for things. For instance, we do a ton of real estate. We look for local news. If there’s a water break we want to let our teams or our fans know about it. We know exactly what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to engage with that local community. We don’t care about national. We want the local community. And furthermore, one of our clients was an NBA team. And at that point, the NBA team only had one and it was the Cleveland Cavaliers, we actually have the right to use their name, I’ll say it. was the year after LeBron left and they only had really one social media person on their team. And we went into them and we handled all the social media for not only the Cleveland Cavs but Quicken Loans Arena, Dan Gilbert. And we monitored all of their social media. So, for each one of those accounts, we had different operas or different incentives or different real tactics. The Cavs was about selling some merchandise and responding to fan engagement about positive interactions. Quicken Loans Arena, you’ll never understand how many people have broken cup holders and Quicken loans arena during a game. And our goal was response time. One of the case studies that we had was getting a customer service representative to you. If you tweeted at the stadium, they got their customer service to you within 10 minutes. So, you never had to leave your seat. If there is a problem within 10 minutes, you could just read at them and somebody would be there. And that went from Cleveland, a tweet, to our office, to their office, back to actually resolving this situation. So, I mean, it’s about understanding what your true initiative is and then setting up benchmarks to do that. I mean, it wasn’t just, okay, we’re going to monitor it. It was, okay, we’re going to monitor. This is the person that we’re going to respond to. This is the person where they’re going to go to. It’s an operational thing. Cause that’s what social media has become. It’s not the stats. Rob Cressy: (08:51) I want to hammer home, the engaging side of things. It is so important because you know what is one other area where a lot of companies fail? They believe the act of posting means success. You know what, Rob and Billy, we posted on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, were good. We didn’t see the results. It doesn’t work. Well, guess what? Let’s look at that content. Are you having one note or what I do when I work with companies is I like to do a thing called content buckets? And we’re going to write down seven things that are aligned to your goals, that are different areas that we can talk about on any certain day or basis. Well, why in the world would we do that? Because we want a variety of messaging because there is a totality of a brand you are not just, buy what I’m selling. And we’re also not just conversing with no KPI whatsoever. There’s sort of a delicate balance between building brand and engaging and promoting and selling and informing. So, you really sit there and say, all right, well, what are some things that are important to who we are as a brand? And I really believe the human side of things really needs to be emphasized a little bit more because you know what else can be part of a company’s social media strategy? How about you tell people about your company and the people who work there, where you are going to humanize this stuff. And why does that matter? Because you’re doing something that the majority of companies out there do not do. We’re letting you know that this company is run by humans, not robots. Billy Ash: (10:32) Yeah. And I mean, I couldn’t agree more. I mean, there are so many things that I want to hit on. There’s a huge company that we work with the Menlo Club and their CEO, Dean Murphy is one of my advisors. And somebody I really look up to. He’s got a huge podcast or a couple of them, but he had, we do a lot of marketing for them. And he had brought this up to us three years ago. And at this point, he was spending almost $250,000 to $400,000 a year on athletes marketing. We did a lot of it for him and he came to us and he was like, listen, it’s just not working like it used to. He goes, I sell men’s clothing. I don’t think males look at other males and like, I want to get those jeans. It’s not the girl. He goes, I think I should be the face of the brand. And that’s now why he has three huge podcasts. He did put billboards all over LA in Hollywood saying who the F is Dean. And it is about presenting. Okay, I could be the face of the brand. And that’s what he said. He looked at me one day. He goes, Bill, you wear all Menlo Club. You own your own business. You could be the face of the Menlo Club. He’s like, that’s what it is. It’s humanizing. He goes, these athletes, they’re great. I love that they wear my clothes. And he still does a decent amount athletes, but he’s really scaled back on that and just worked on his and showing about his podcast. All the people that run his podcasts have their own podcasts about the backend of it. He brings everyone into it. His stories are all about or used to be all about them in the office. So, that’s what I really took from him was, wow. He was like one of the first people that were like, this is all about the face behind the brand. So, just really like couldn’t agree anymore in terms of how businesses have changed and they’re leveraging that social media Rob Cressy: (12:31) And you know, what else I would do. One tip that I always give about the engagement is, you know how you get people to respond back to you on social media? Ask them a question. Because Billy, how many times have you answered a question of mine if I didn’t ask you the question? Zero. Billy Ash: (12:49) Not just what do you think of this? Like, please. If you want to actually ask a question, ask a question. I love LinkedIn polls but make them good. They’re my new end. Now, and don’t clog up my feed with them because that’s my head. But yes I love those because it is engagement. People want to answer questions. They want to give their opinions, but it’s just not a, what are your thoughts on this random picture? Or here’s a picture of me, and this is a long sentence about motivation. What’s motivating you today? That’s not engagement. One example that I have is a sunglasses company that we work with and one of their initiatives was getting college students. So, they went out to all of the big fraternities at all the major universities and said, Hey, we’re going to make you custom sunglasses for your year. Just be our ambassadors on campus. And they just started engaging with them, sharing all of their content. Trying to get them on Barstool. Doing everything that they can with their other partners to get these fraternities, and that’s engagement. And it was just really like, Hey, we’d love to work with you on this. Are you interested? We’ll send you a ton of appreciates. Are you interested? And Hey, you need to raise money. You can get 20% of all of the sales that you drive. Just different opportunities, but it was based on an initiative and a real plan that outlined it. Like, this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to hit these big universities. These are the things that we can do. And you know, seemingly it’s been work. Rob Cressy: (14:33) I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the balance between building brands and producing better results or tangible results. I think it’s one of the things that a lot of companies struggle with or think about. Whereas if you’re not seeing a one to one ratio of, Hey, we’ve got a social media marketing person that we’re spending X dollars to do our stuff here. Well, that means that we need to be bringing in that much or else this isn’t worth it here where, Hey, what if all of our stuff is just going to brand the challenge of that of course is if you don’t invest in the brand then when all of a sudden the pandemic hits all of a sudden you’ve got nothing? Because everything has become a commodity right now. We can buy anything from anywhere from anyone at any time. So, you’ve got to give people a reason to want to look forward to hearing back from you again. But then on the flip side, we’ve got the straight ROI driven type of social content right here. So, what do you think is sort of the dynamic between the two of those?
Billy Ash: (15:44) It’s a loaded question, right? When somebody says I’m building my brand, what does that mean? I’ve seen so many people saying, Oh, we’re doing branding. You know, we spent $5,000 on display advertising every single month. Okay, awesome. Oh, we’re doing branding, you know, we’re, we’re running YouTube ads, we’re running Facebook ads. Awesome, great. What are the results of your brand? What is your upper funnel traffic? How do you know what’s actually good in branding? Branding is fine. It’s absolutely fine. But it’s not fine to just throw money out there and think that’s branding. I just got off the phone with a client and I swear you’re striking a chord with me. You need an upper funnel. You need to know what’s working. Branding campaigns are absolutely fine if you know what your upper funnel. Do you have a white paper? Do you have a discount code? Do you have an email popup? What is that upper funnel traffic and then, yes? Then run your branding campaign. If you don’t have any way to say that your traffic is good, other than somebody spent 30 seconds on your site which half of it could be mobile and then not even realizing that they got rid of the browser right now because they moved to a different app. It is insane. What people just call quality traffic. Like if you have a 99% bounce rate on your branding campaign, you’re running bad ads. It doesn’t matter what you say cause it’s not working. Just ads out there, there’s too many of them. All of us are, not to mention all the ad blockers, but all of us are inept at it. If you don’t have an ad that’s tailored to somebody if you’re not messaging or like you had talked about, and engaging and I went back in terms, yeah, you can engage, but make sure it’s quality. That’s what it’s about. So, yes. I am all for branding because you’re right. If you don’t have that email base right now, how are you going to hit him with the 50% discount, especially during an election year? Sorry, ad space It’s just more expensive this year, especially this month. It is what it is in terms of the ROI world. Because that’s what I always work on is the ROI. That’s what our agency is built on. Honestly, our strategists lose their minds and don’t know how to work. If our clients don’t tell them what the ROI is. And that’s why we’re always so gung-ho on what is that under that upper funnel conversion? What’s that, Oh, they show good intent. They really wanted our brand. They looked at four items. Okay, that’s a good thing. Not they spent 30 seconds on my site or I got 5,000 impressions in a 3% click-through rate. That’s not engagement. That’s not your stats that you’re looking for in terms of your branding campaign, Rob Cressy: (18:26) What would it have been better if instead of saying brand building, and by the way I loved everything you just said, I had said community building? Would that change your mindset? Because for me, the way that I think about the brand is I’m community-driven in my approach, where I actually come from the world of banner ads. That was my past life. I did that for seven years, slinging banner ads, text links, co-registration, CPC newsletters. I know that world. And if someone says, I spent $5,000 on banner ads, barf. Unless they’re going to say something about retargeting, that’s a different conversation because that’s part of a larger team. Billy Ash: (19:08) Not even talking about 500. Rob Cressy: (19:12) Right. But nonetheless, I think about branding as why would I create an Instagram post? Because I am building a community. And as part of building a community, there is an element of showing up. But of course, like you were talking about with the upper funnel, you want to be able to drive them somewhere. So, is it drive them to the podcast or to the newsletter to something tangible that you can own. And quite frankly, I believe that newsletter, podcast, your mobile messaging marketing are way more valuable than driving someone to just a generic website that does not have an opt-in of some form or the ability to give you something to convert. Because really what this becomes and as I’m seeing the way that you’re doing this, this becomes an ROI on conversion metrics eventually. Because you say, I know for every thousand people we get to download this white paper, two people are going to convert and each conversion is worth $5,000. And therefore, if we only spent $5,000 on this campaign and we brought in $10,000, well, crap. We just made $5,000. So, we now know this is worth us doing, building our community, and getting people in our funnel. Billy Ash: (20:27) Yeah. And I mean, I couldn’t agree more and I 100% percent agree in terms of the other mediums. Getting somebody to subscribe to your podcasts, huge, huge. Getting somebody to subscribe to you on YouTube. All of those things are enormous. And that needs to be yours. Emails, I would say both of those could in some cases be better than emails. You can even get somebody to subscribe to your website and get the push notifications on your website. So, there’s a lot of things that you can do with that. And I just think, yeah, as you had mentioned, it is about understanding, okay, it’s going to cost me this much in terms of an e-paper download. My e-paper downloads convert at this much, at the end of the day, this is what an eat paper download is actually worth for me. Because in any advertising the only thing that a real ad person or a marketer should understand is money in and money out. Isn’t always direct. That’s why there are thousands of platforms out there that work about attribution and how long a buying cycle is and how many touchpoints there are. It’s incredible. But it is about actually getting the action, right? What are you going to get out of this? What are you asking somebody to do? It can’t always be going back to our original, come and buy my product. Come and buy my product. We get enough of those. Literally, we get enough of those. Do something different. Rob Cressy: (22:04) And through this all I hope we can all understand now how we can use social in strategy, in the digital world to improve the customer experience. Because you know what that white paper is? That is actually elevating the customer experience. Because if you want five tips to launch a podcast, well guess what? If you’re someone who’s interested in launching a podcast, you’re going to say, thank you very much company. I very much appreciate it. And then subsequent marketing right there, you might say, you know what? Since you liked these five tips that create a podcast, well, here’s five things that you probably didn’t know about podcasts. And you’re like, Oh, thank you very much. And guess what we’re doing? We’re building a relationship. And you know what else we’re doing? We’re using technology because we’re finding other ways within the marketing and digital world to better engage our customers. Billy Ash: (22:55) Exactly. And you know, as I said, it’s multiple touchpoints, having those all together. It just needs to be full circle. And it needs to be thought out. That’s why social strategy is not a social strategy, that goes into what’s your business strategy, and how do you really want to execute that? And what role does social play in that? And that’s the only way that I’ve seen it work. Rob Cressy: (23:22) Billy. I loved jamming with you. Where can everybody connect with you? Billy Ash: (23:27) All of the social, you can find me at @Billyashjr. You can find Today’s Business @Today’s_Business. TBSMO.com is our website. It is launching this week. So, we’re pumped about that. And yeah, thank you so much. I really appreciate everything, Rob. Rob Cressy: (23:46) And as always, I would love to hear from you about this episode. Do you know what I want to know? I want to know one brand that’s social media that you love. You can hit up FanFood on Twitter @ FanFoodondemand. On Instagram @FanFoodapp or on LinkedIn. And as always, you can hit me up on all social media platforms @RobCressy.