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Successful influencer marketing & strategy building [S2E1]

In this episode, we sit down with Nada Alkutbi from IBM to discuss successful influencer marketing and strategy building.

With special guest, Nada Alkutbi from IBM

This is Sharing Social, the monthly show where we talk about all things social media! Video, TikTok, influencer marketing, personal branding, Facebook ads, social listening – the list goes on! For this series, we’re delighted to announce our collaboration with ContentCal! Each month the Iain Scott and Rebecca Holloway (Base Creative), and Andy Lambert (ContentCal) will be sitting down with a special guest. We’re going straight to the top, tune in to hear interviews about social media strategy from global brands and how you can implement these techniques yourself.

In this episode, we sit down with Nada Alkutbi to discuss successful influencer marketing and strategy building.

Nada is an experienced digital and social media expert at IBM, and has recently been appointed as the Social Media Leader across Europe, Middle East and Africa. Previously, Nada has worked as both a digital marketing and social media strategist for IBM in the UK & Ireland.

Among her achievements, she spearheaded the IBM social influencer marketing programme, driving engaged visits to and quality audience generation for events, and played a key role in the design of the global IBM Influencer Council, to establish a centralised approach to influencers and to give teams the tools needed to develop and measure their own programmes.

She has also led the UKI employee advocacy programme helping IBMers to improve their social eminence and presence.

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Episode highlights

Read the full transcript

Iain Scott  0:04  

Welcome to series two of Sharing Social, the monthly show that connects the people behind the hashtags with content, ideas and insights. Starting off as an in-person event, and moving to virtual and now evolved into a podcast. If you missed the first series, and want to hear from the likes of Will Bonnaddio from Electric House, or Harry Gardiner from Nexus PR, you can listen to that series on Spotify, or Apple, now. This series we’re turning it up a notch or two. It’s a collaboration between digital marketing agency Base Creative and the social media platform we know and love, ContentCal. Each show, we’re bringing on a very special guest to share their knowledge and their insights too. And we’re not just recording today’s episode. We’re also broadcasting live on Facebook and YouTube. And for those who are listening live, you can get involved and ask questions to our guests using our social channels. Firstly on Twitter, @ShareSocialLDN and on Instagram @sharingsociallondon

My name is Iain, I’m founder of Base Creative and I’m with Becca, who works with me as a Social Media Consultant. And we’ve got all-round social media superbod, founder of ContentCal, Andy Lambert, who was a guest on an episode of our last series we loved so much, we invited back as a permanent slot for this series. But today, the hero for this episode is Nada Alkutbi, Social Media Leader for Europe, Middle East and Africa at IBM, who we’ll hear from in a few moments. And I cannot wait to get Nada’s view on social strategy, social content, and in particular influencer marketing, because that is the theme of today’s show: successful influencer marketing and strategy building. Now, probably a good time actually to bring Andy to bring you in that smiley, hugely energetic face of ContentCal, and you’re in plenty of videos and your social media roundup. I mean, it’s if I can’t get away from you when I go on LinkedIn. That’s okay. No complaints from me. Not yet. You’ve taken a live stage virtual and in real life. What is it like being such a famous influencer?

Andy Lambert  2:19  

Oh my word Iain. No, we’re not going there. So yes, either way, I’m just pleased that people want to listen when I’m very excited about certain topics. And yeah, people seem to want to follow but either way. Yeah, let’s not detract from who’s the real star of this show, as you say, Nada, thank you. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your likely very busy diary to have a chat with us. Because I think you’ve got such brilliant stuff to share, just for everyone’s kind of just everyone’s background, really, I mean, what you’ve got nine years experience in digital and social, and a really interesting career even before IBM, but particularly within IBM. But before we get into that, how are you doing?

Nada Alkutbi  3:03  

Thank you so much. I’m doing well. Thank you. I’m delighted to be here. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Andy Lambert  3:10  

Absolute pleasure. Absolute pleasure. So your current role, Social Media Leader, and that was a fairly new role for you right this year, about six months into it? So well, firstly, belated congratulations. And I’d love to hear a bit about how your career, particularly in IBM, has led you to this place. I think I’d be fascinated for others to know that.

Nada Alkutbi  3:31  

Oh, absolutely. Thank you so much. And so yeah, absolutely. So I am new in this role. So I am the Social Media Leader at IBM, and I cover the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions. And yes I started this role just in March this year. And prior to that, I was a Social Media Strategist at IBM in the UK for four years. So I did that role for four years. And then for four years before that, I was a Digital Marketing Strategist, also at IBM in the UK. So yeah, so very new in this role. In this role now I’m essentially responsible for the overall direction and social strategy at IBM and EMEA. And basically, whilst ensuring that we are aligned with the IBM Global social discipline.

Andy Lambert  4:21  

Amazing. I mean, it sounds like an absolutely massive role. Can you give us a bit of a flavour for what your kind of day to day looks like? How big is the team? How big is the kind of influence you need to make within or the impact you need to make within IBM?

Nada Alkutbi  4:36  

Yeah, absolutely. So I essentially work with about 30 social media practitioners in EMEA. And EMEA covers nine markets in about 122 countries. But I also collaborate and work really, really closely with the global social discipline team, and also various disciplines and comms run amplification, and obviously, marketing. So in my roles, everything I do is all-around kind of building brand relevance, and for IBM and driving growth. So we are focused on various projects,  experimenting and running pilots and editorial councils and running our influencer marketing programs. So in terms of my day-to-day, it does look very different every day. So some days I’m focused on kind of our running experiments and pilots, other days, I’ll be building the social strategies for our events and signature moments. And then other days, you’ll find me working on our editorial council and influencer marketing campaigns.

Andy Lambert  5:40  

That’s incredible. I mean, it seems like such a massive role to me. So I mean, have you found it a bit of a transition from going out of them because I guess in your previous roles, being more involved in the kind of day to day piece, I know you’ve been a strategist all throughout it, but more involved in the day to day to taking more of a leadership oversight position? Has that been a bit of a transition for you to get to grips with? Or how have you found it? 

Nada Alkutbi  6:02  

Yeah, absolutely, because I think the biggest change is doing less execution. Of course, I still kind of work on building our social strategies, which I did in the previous role as well. But I think that is probably the biggest difference. Like, I feel like I’m working on fewer things at the moment on fewer calls. But working on bigger, more strategic projects. And it is challenging, obviously, kind of my experiences in digital and social media marketing, and I’m confident when it comes to social media. But I think it’s, there’s lots of new things that I’m kind of involved in at the moment and kind of just different projects. And it does, yeah, it’s I do feel like I’ve been pushed outside my comfort zone, it is challenging, but I’m also really enjoying it. I think the other thing that’s different and new is also, obviously, I spent kind of eight years working in the UKI, with the UKI market. And now I kind of cover and work with colleagues across 122 countries across nine markets. And I think that’s been one of the greatest things, actually, in this role is just getting to learn more about the different cultures and languages and different teams and their norms. And so that’s been fascinating. And yeah, we’ve really enjoyed that aspect.

Andy Lambert  7:25  

I bet it has been incredibly eye-opening, I bet. But yeah, that’s a fascinating role. And as I congratulate on,  that’s a long time to be working in IBM great to be progressing it forward. 

Talking about the like, the strategy piece, because that’s been a constant throughout the course of your career, right. And we often talk about social media strategy, like you need to have a strategy. And lots of people say that, but like, what does that actually mean? Talk to us about, like, what goes into creating your strategy, there’s, I have a load of other questions related, but let’s try and explore the strategic element in as much depth as we can.

Nada Alkutbi  8:04  

No absolutely. So our mission in social is essentially to build belief in IBM, through relevant story-driven content and ongoing connection and dialogue with our audiences. So basically, everything we do in social media helps us build the brand and grow the business. And so for me,  obviously, we know that social impacts the whole entire funnel. And for me, a successful social media strategy is one that inspires through storytelling and advocacy. So those are the kinds of big areas that we focus on. At the moment, we are focused on our strategy being audience-first. So basically, always starting with the audience in mind. And a kind of outside-in approach, one that is data-driven. So really important that we obviously look at the data, understand our audiences, and also understand what kind of content performs well, and why and always being informed and led by the data. And then finally, it’s got to be one that is tailored for the platform and the channel. So any content we create, it’s not one size fits all. We’ve got to make sure the content is tailored for the specific social media channel and platform. So in terms of social media strategies, some of the things that I personally have worked on building have been around our signature moments and events think so both the global think about work closely with the global team on that but also last year when I was in the UK role, building the social strategy for our UKI think event.

And for that our objectives were around kind of the four C’s. So firstly, looking at the social channels that we’re focused on. So which channels we want to be on which channels are best engaged with our audiences, like prioritising LinkedIn and Twitter for example. The second C was around champions. So employee advocacy, and really enabling and empowering our employee advocates to be social. And of course, focusing on external influences as well. And then the third C’s around cadence. So I really believe that less is more. And it’s important that we focus on quality over quantity. And we have seen when we publish fewer pieces of content that drive higher engagement, and then the fourth C is around the content. So producing high-quality content that is social first and tailor to the platform.

Andy Lambert  10:35  

Very nice. Yeah, I love that four C methodology. Is that something that you had personally developed? Or has it been part of IBM’s kind of mantra? 

Nada Alkutbi  10:43  

I think it has been part of IBM’s mantra. And I think even though we developed that last year, even for our recent Think event, that’s definitely been something that we’ve looked at in terms of less is more, really focusing on influencer marketing. And, we talk about being,  creating social-first content as something that’s really important to us, being audience first and audience-led. So, yeah, I think it still is important, it’s something that we all kind of follow in all our campaigns as well.

Andy Lambert  11:16  

Nice. Okay. So from like, the strategic elements, so it makes sense in terms of how you set it up, and how you structure it and how you prioritise those kinds of key moments as you describe that the Think event is in this example. So then how would you demonstrate the success of that strategy? What are the things you’re tracking and measuring? Talk to us about how you then report that up? Because I think a bit of an underlying theme here that I’d be interested to explore with you is that typically, social media and content marketing, in general, doesn’t have the requisite perception across the senior leadership of many organizations, right? So, people say we should do social, we should do content marketing, but it doesn’t really drive the strategic ambitions of a business. So yeah, it sounds like IBM is not in that camp. I’m kind of interested to hear from you.

Nada Alkutbi  12:05  

It’s a great question. And I think for measurement I mentioned earlier how our mission and everything we do in socials around like building the brand and growing the business. So in terms of building the brand, and the KPIs and the measurements that we look at, are all around the upper funnel metrics. So that’s looking at platform engagements, which are your likes, comments, shares, and I think that’s a really good indication that our content is resonating with our followers and audiences on social and then obviously there’s the middle part which is CX (customer experience). So that’s obviously really important to monitor inbound DMS and comments that we’re getting making sure that our audiences know that they’re heard and that we’re responding and commenting back and engaging in a dialogue with them and then lower funnel that’s basically around the conversion piece. So traffic is driven to our landing pages, engaged visits, what percentage of new visitors we’re driving through the different social tactics and channels and then, of course, any registrations that we’ve driven through the event and  responses as well.

Andy Lambert  13:13  

Really interesting so yeah, analytics across the strategy then are full-funnel ultimately. And then does that get reported across the business? Or is it just within the marketing function where they’re interested in seeing this. Curious to know how high level like the value of content marketing is seen across the organisation? 

Nada Alkutbi  13:34  

Yeah, absolutely. So I think what’s really important is we’re able to report back to our stakeholders on the performance of our campaigns so in this case, having the tools to be able to look at those KPIs and pull those analytics and the performance to then share not only with our marketing stakeholders but also  the sales teams and the wider business. So for us  having the tools is really important being able to pull those results regularly on a quarterly basis or a monthly basis or if it’s ad hoc for specific events and be able to show that journey so being able to show this post promoting the Think event drove 300 engagements per post, our benchmark is I don’t know for example 150 so it’s above benchmark and also you can see all the positive comments there and a positive sentiment towards the content. And then in terms of tracking the full journey, we track all our tag links, so we’re able to then attribute any registrations or responses directly back to that specific social media post. So I think that attribution is really important because yeah, absolutely, we’ve got to show the results that we’re driving from social media.

Andy Lambert  14:54  

Love it, two key points stand out for me. Clearly attribution, because not enough people really think about attribution modelling enough. And sometimes it seems more complex and scary than it actually is really, because essentially, what I’m presuming you’re adding is a UTM, a unique UTM per each post, right? So it’s not, it’s not rocket science to do it. It’s just about, it’s about doing it really, which is the key difference. And then the other thing, the other piece you mentioned, which I’m a huge fan of is about benchmarking. Like it’s so hard to understand in social, what does good look like? What do we expect is 300 likes good? Is 20 comments good? I don’t know! Like benchmarking your own experience is such an important thing? Because that’s how you can level up. I mean, yeah, what do you use for your benchmark? Are you just looking at your averages across previous events? Or…?

Nada Alkutbi  14:55  

Yeah, that’s it, I think that’s a great question. So I personally would say, it’s always good to just benchmark against yourself as well as how well your content performed last year. So we often would look at things like year on year improvement. So we benchmark against the Think event in 2020, and see how many registrations we drove for that event? And, the average engagements per post last year versus what it is this year? So are we increasing our engagements proposed by 10%? Or 20%?  I think it’s always kind of setting those targets and being able to improve against ourselves year on year. I think it’s always interesting to also compare against similar accounts as well. So,  within whether it’s comparing against other markets,  I mentioned, there’s the nine markets. And Amir,  perhaps there are other accounts across the other countries that we can compare the performance of our UK channel with DAC or SPG. So I think there’s different ways to compare and benchmark is obviously hard because I think he knows that some accounts have different followers. And it varies. But I think at least being able to benchmark against your own account that how it performed last year, and I kind of like increasing your followers, are you improving your engagement per post and engagement rates year on year, I think is a good benchmark to do.

Andy Lambert  17:12  

Love it, it makes a whole heap of sense. So before we move on to some of the other kinds of important elements that you’ve been particularly proud of, as well, you’ve mentioned influences a lot of employee advocacy and all that stuff. So I’m really keen to dive into that before we do actually, what I’m interested in is, is about kind of the culture of social media within IBM and have you seen that shift to become more of a social-first organisation is the importance of social media rising in importance is it still seems a bit of a niche endeavour not connected to business objectives? Because IBM is a leading light in the B2B industry, right. Really curious to understand the internal perception of social?

Nada Alkutbi  17:53  

Yeah, no, I think it has continued to increase. And I think COVID and obviously getting through the last year and eight months, I think has shifted things a lot. And I think, our audiences, stakeholders, sellers, and clients, obviously a lot all on digital and all on social and, all the stats obviously show that people are spending more time on LinkedIn and reading thought leadership content. And we know that the buyer journey all starts, 70% of it starts online. And so I think it has continued to grow in importance. And I think everybody has time for digital social. So we have been really busy in the last year and a half, kind of making sure that everybody feels empowered and enabled. And they’ve got everything they need to support them to really continue to nurture and engage with their clients on social media. Because obviously, it became one of the key channels for them to communicate and to continue those relationships. So we definitely saw an increase in interest in digital and social, more enablement, and,  just pivoting towards being more socially active and having,  improving their social eminence. But I also think influencer marketing continues to be important. And I think our stakeholders and the marketing teams emcee that. So investing more time and effort and resources into influencer marketing campaigns as well. And I think you just over the years, I can just feel like social has become so important. Like we’ve got a big signature event or a campaign, social plays such a huge part in that. And I can really see the difference, which is great to see. So yeah, it has grown in importance. Definitely.

Andy Lambert  19:45  

That’s brilliant to hear. So you mentioned the point about influencers, increasing the importance of the channels so that it seems like a very nice segue for where we’re going to head next because,  this is it seems like it’s been a really key part of your strategy. Add the external influences piece so yeah talk me through like completely, you know end to end how this initiative started who how you’re outreaching them the whole thing.

Nada Alkutbi  20:12  

I’m really passionate about influencer marketing. And I’ve been working on influencer marketing campaigns for years, both, looking at internal influences and external influencers and marketing. And I think, just in terms of the stats, we all know that people trust other people. So 90% of people are more likely to trust peers over trusting brands, we know that influences can help us build brand awareness, credibility and trust within our target audience. And they can really help us change perception for what we want to be known for, or what we want to position ourselves as. And also another thing around influencer marketing is they can help us reach new audiences that perhaps we wouldn’t be able to reach ourselves through, like our own branded channels, for example, and I’ve had it through the programs that I’ve been involved in, in manage, we’ve managed to create some of our best quality content thought leadership content through influencer marketing campaigns. And so I just think, every team really needs to dedicate some kind of the resource and time and effort into working on developing their influencer strategy, focusing on both external and internal influencer marketing.  We talk in IBM about how important it is that you focus on the things that will drive the biggest impact. And for me, I think influencer marketing is that thing. So really, really important. I think, from the events that I talked about, Think and our various other campaigns, you can just see the results where influencers have helped us drive client registrations for our events, they have helped us drive engaged visits and convergence, and helped us drive it a high percentage of new visitors to our landing pages as well. So the results just kind of speak for themselves from those campaigns. And so, yeah, so in terms of I’ve been running influencer marketing campaigns for three years since I was in the social role. I think we’ve come a long way. And,  being able to then identify influencers that we turn into IBM advocates and build that long term relationship with a set of individuals isn’t easy, and it does take time. But my recommendation for teams would be to start small, see the results and then scale? Because I just that’s one of the main key learnings for me for running influencer marketing campaigns.

Andy Lambert  22:41  

Really interesting. So let’s dive into that a little bit more. So talking about how we find influencers in the first place, how would you go about doing that? Because that’s 90% of the challenge right there finding the good people to work with.

Nada Alkutbi  22:55  

Absolutely. So we work with a third party agency that helps us identify influencers based on the topics we’re interested in. So we are very interested in hybrid cloud influencers, then we’re able to identify influencers based on those topics that we’re interested in and want to be known for. And I think it really does help working with a third party agency to do that because otherwise, it can be a manual process to try and find your external influencers who talk to sustainability or quantum computing. So it really is helpful working with third party agencies, because they do the identification of the influencers for us. The rate they’ve got their own kind of measurement around like how they rank the influencers based on authority, reach, resonance, and relevance. And then we’re able to identify which influencers we potentially want to work with. I think, for me, what’s been really useful is introducing those influencers to our IBM SMEs, to build that relationship with because often you have, those individuals would want to connect with like-minded individuals as well, like our experts. And then once you’ve identified the influencers, what’s your strategy and plan? So what are you going to do with this list of individuals that you want to connect with? Is it that you want to introduce them to your SMEs? Or is it that you want to involve them in your campaigns, get them involved to speak at our events, or to co-create content? So thought leadership content is another key benefit from working with influencers as well.

Andy Lambert  24:39  

That’s really interesting because it’s, that’s often a massive challenge, because there’s so much creative opportunity when you work with someone, right? There’s just so many different ways to collaborate, which is really interesting. But before we go into that a little bit more, is there a certain size of influence you typically work with? Is there a difference in the impact that you’ve seen from people with hundreds of 1000s to millions of followers, if you go that high to those ones that might be a little bit more micro in their influence with more kinds of niche communities? Have you seen a difference in performance between those? Or do you only work with people above? 

Nada Alkutbi  25:14  

So yeah, reach is one of the things, obviously, we would look at, but it’s not absolutely everything. So I think for us, we’ve worked with both macro and micro influencers. And I think for me, it really is about selecting the right influencer, that is like the expert in that topic. So you’ve got to pick someone who is a thought leader and I think the other thing to think about is like, what social channels are they active on? So if our target audience is mainly on LinkedIn, then I might prioritise someone who’s more active on LinkedIn, for example. And also, there’s a lot on the content, like you were saying about, is it something that is, I want to try doing a LinkedIn live? And therefore, do we want someone who regularly does LinkedIn live sessions? Or is it someone who’s a blogger and writes the content? It’s always someone who’s like a keynote speaker. So there are different personas. And it’s really important that you look at in your brief, when you’re in your strategy, you think about your objectives and what you’re trying to do with the influencers? And is it that you want them to get involved in speaking at the events as panellists? Or is it that you want them to write content and write long-form articles and blogs? Or is it that you want to do a LinkedIn live session or a Twitter chat and Spaces session with them? So they’ve all got different strengths and different platforms that they’re active on. Obviously, there’s a developer community as well, it’s tapping into Reddit and various other platforms that perhaps the developers and our target audience are on as well. So I think that’s a key consideration more than how many followers they’ve got. It really is just all about helping us reach our target audience. And who do we select to engage with that can help us position IBM as the leader in hyper cloud and AI, and can help us raise awareness of what IBM is up to today. And really, that’s kind of the key objective.

Andy Lambert  27:24  

Yeah, I’m totally with you on that. So having gone through this journey over quite a number of years and evolving your influencer strategy, and just as a side note, absolutely, with you on that whole kind of channel led approach, because I think it’s an underutilised thought process when we talk about influencers because yes, they will influence additional reach additional channels. So reach beyond what you’d get on your own social channels, but getting you active on channels, where you’re not active already finding someone that has an influence on TikTok, or, as you say, Twitter Audio Spaces, whatever, at such a powerful way of opening up a new channel for a business is using someone that already does well on that channel, starting from scratch. So I love that approach. But having had all of that experience and like what, what are the kind of main learnings you would take away? And what advice would you potentially give to someone who was early on in doing you know influencer marketing?

Nada Alkutbi  28:20  

Yeah, so I think for me, it’s being really clear on your objective. So that’s what I’ve been coaching the teams on at the moment is, everybody wants to kind of tap into working with influencers and running influencer campaigns. I think it’s really important that we’re very clear on our objectives, what we’re trying to achieve, which influencers we want to select and associate with the brand and who are really relevant and, and the other thing that I’m really big on is like co-creating the brief with the influencer. So I would say that it isn’t just about us also dictating what we want to do. I think it’s really important that we have that conversation with the influencers because they know their audiences best, they know what kind of content resonates best for their audiences as well. So it’s a great way to then experiment and pilot and try new tactics and new platforms and channels. And then finally, I think it’s so important that we also think about what’s in it for the influencer. So it’s thinking about, is it giving them opportunities to collaborate and meet with our executives or behind the scenes, or what? Sharing with them upcoming announcements or product launches? So it’s always thinking, What’s in it for the influencer? What will they get out of this collaboration, are they  the right person for us to even collaborate with? So all these considerations are really important.

Andy Lambert  29:48  

Yeah, I like that. I really do because, yeah, just from our own personal standpoint, we’ve probably made some missteps in the past of just paying an influencer and expecting something to happen where actually when we co-created content together and been an active participant and let more of the lead happen through the influencer and actually, in many cases potentially not partnered with anywhere near as much money for it to happen. Because there’s value for everyone beyond getting paid. I think it’s really interesting when it just requires a bit of creativity and kind of that open-mindedness. Yeah, to understand that, what that influencer can achieve, and that the upside for them, because I guess the nice thing about being an IBM is that you have so many amazing things you could potentially offer someone.

Nada Alkutbi  30:40  

Yeah, exactly. And I think isn’t such a great opportunity to get creative and to try something new. And I think it’s so important that we do that in social. And I think we’ve got that opportunity to really like just to experiment and try something new and try different platforms, obviously, doing your research, but really giving it a go. And I think that’s when you kind of learn. And even if it doesn’t perform well, and we fail, you kind of learn from failure. And that’s how we grow. So I really think it’s a great opportunity to get really creative.

Andy Lambert  31:13  

Yeah, I love it as a really nice kind of point to move on to the final bit that I wanted to discuss. Because you did touch on internal versus external influencers. So let’s talk about your internal influencers. So when I actually first came to hear you for the first time, we were talking about employee advocacy. So I mean, you have a gigantic sales team, right, so huge opportunity to facilitate and mobilise that team. I’m a massive evangelist for the power of social being distributed across an organization. So give us a bit of a flavour for how this works and how you’re evolving your program.

Nada Alkutbi  31:56  

Yeah, absolutely. So again, really passionate about employee advocacy, and enabling and empowering our internal influencers to get social. And I think they often do have relationships with clients and, therefore, a better position to engage with our audiences on social. And so I absolutely think it’s so important and so key for our employees to also get social, engaged with our audiences, and also for them to develop and improve their own social eminence and presence. It isn’t easy because I think the challenges are, you can’t run loads of enablement sessions, and then not quite sure who’s going to get social, who’s going to do it, right. So I think the approach at the moment for me is to really think about return on investment from everything we do, and how we spend our time and being more strategic in the programs that we run. So maybe working more closely with the specific team on actually creating social content or supporting them in creating social-first content. So working closely with our subject matter experts to create blogs or involving them in our marketing campaigns. And then again, introducing them to the influencers as well. So it’s kind of integrated into everything else that we’re doing. It shouldn’t really just be an add on and it’s not just about amplification. So it really has got to be authentic – they’ve got to want to do it. So it’s focusing on those IBMers that see the value in being socially active and are keen to build relationships and engage. And again, as I mentioned earlier, I think it’s important that you start small, and then scale so that you’re able to see the results quicker.

And it’s also important, maybe, to break down your employee advocates into different tiers. So having like your tier-one top tier who are white-glove service. So those are the execs or kind of small group of IBMers, or individuals that you do one-to-one sessions with and really work with comms to develop a visibility plan and content plan for them. And then there are your tier twos, who are your real subject matter experts, those thought leaders that are willing to be involved in your marketing campaigns, speak at your events and webinars and help you produce thought leadership content. And then perhaps your tier three is all the other IBMers that might want to get social. So we’re thinking about how to scale that enablement. How do we keep their skills up today? How do we engage with them and communicate with them? What platforms? It’s challenging, it’s not easy to do. But I think we’ve come a long way. And I think we’ve got huge opportunities there to really tap into and collaborate with employee advocates more.

Andy Lambert  35:04  

It sounds like you’re on this journey at the moment. And I appreciate it’s a massive, massive task, right? Because there’s still a lot of unknowns, because it’s still a fairly new discipline, if you will, right? It does come with quite a degree of reputational risk as well. So where would you say you are at in your journey, if you had to kind of picture and lay it out as to? I really like the tiering system, by the way, actually. But yeah, where would you say you’re at IBM?

Nada Alkutbi  35:33  

I think we have come a long way in terms of raising awareness, what it is and how important it is. So I think we’ve reached that point. And I think the next stage is just centralising and streamlining the process and the strategy a bit more. Because I think one of the challenges we have is you just got different teams doing different things on different platforms and slightly different ways of doing employee advocacy in the country and in markets, which is okay, but I do think it’s good to understand the current landscape at the moment and take away some key learnings on what are the things that are currently working well, what are the things that we want to continue, stop, start to continue doing. And then, taking those insights, developing an approach moving forward in terms of how we make it even better? And absolutely does come with risk. I mean, from a brand safety perspective, and also just making sure that our employees feel like we’ve got social competing guidelines in place. So that makes sure that everybody adheres to those guidelines as well. By but also, for still feeling kind of empowered and confident to get social as well.

Andy Lambert  36:53  

Yeah, that’s always a delicate balance, isn’t there, between “yes, you have free rein, we’d love you to do it and run with it. Have your own voice and personality”, but also, “don’t go too far”?

Nada Alkutbi  37:06  

Definitely a clear list of dos and don’ts. we’d encourage our panellists to follow, yeah, totally.

Andy Lambert  37:12  

I love it. I love it. No, it’s a fascinating insight. I really like everything that you’ve spoken about. There’s a kind of narrative of starting small experimentation, establishing what works and recognising that it’s all a journey, right? This is not the final piece. And we haven’t got it all nailed on. But like just working through it and trying to get better with every day. And I love that it’s actually quite reassuring when you hear someone talk like that from an organisation, the size and scale of yours, right? Because you realise that it’s okay when we’re learning every day, we haven’t got it all figured out. Because we’re all trying to figure this out as we go, right. Yeah, I guess this is probably a really nice time, actually, in turn, to hand back to you, Iain, Because we’ve been capturing some questions as we’ve been streaming this live so great to hear what we’ve got going on.

Iain Scott  38:04  

Yeah, I mean, I’ve loved that. No, thank you very much for sharing that insight. I think, also, what resonated with me really well, was measurement. I mean, I’m a huge data person,  well, how are you tracking social, how you’re actually tying outcomes to an original post, I think it is great to hear. And so creating the brief with influencers, as you mentioned, is an obvious way forward, because, as you say, those guys are gonna know their audience better than anyone else. If you don’t have a script, it’s just not gonna work, rather than write the script themselves. Becca, you’ve been missing out and creating some questions as well before the show and during the broadcast.

Rebecca Holloway  38:53  

I just wanted to say thank you so much. For these, it’s been really, really helpful and some of these questions you’ve already touched on a little bit, but our first one is here. So when new networks or types of content like Audio Spaces, like Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces, come along, how do you decide if and when these become a part of your social media strategy?

Nada Alkutbi  39:17  

Yeah, that’s a great question. So I think with emerging platforms, it’s so important that we do audience research first and then also stay up to date with all these kinds of new emerging platforms that are being introduced. And I think it just goes down to having a dedicated team to actually be able to do that analysis and do that research to understand where our audiences are hanging out. I still believe that we should go wherever audiences are at so if they are hanging out on Clubhouse then let’s experiment and see if we can do something to again join a room and collaborate on a specific topic and have presence. Or, if it’s Twitter Spaces, we’re all up for experimenting and piloting. And so it really is just doing that analysis and doing that research, to develop a point of view on IBM’s approach on Clubhouse, IBM’s approach on Twitch and all these different platforms and TikTok, and understanding the platforms as well. And a lot of these platforms are also led by employees. So it just makes employee advocacy even more important, because they’re not really places for brands to have a presence. They’re more places for individuals to join a conversation and to take part. And so that’s another consideration.

Iain Scott  40:44  

I’m really interested in one particular platform. And mainly because Social Sharing had a stint on Clubhouse. In particular, then, what’s IBM’s stance on Clubhouse? What’s your view of it? Has it got a future?

Nada Alkutbi  41:01  

I think so. We did run a few pilots on Clubhouse to test the platform. And again, they are platforms to involve our advocates in and to choose the relevant rooms that we might want to tap into and take part in, rather than obviously setting it all up ourselves and expecting people to come to us. So I think it’s really clear that we’re open to experiments. I think if any of the teams are really interested in joining a Clubhouse, then, when we look at what that is, and how we can support them in doing it correctly and in the right way and getting the support that they need. But yeah, so I think we will always look at those platforms and think, is this a platform that we want to be on? is it relevant for us and our audiences? And just looking at the pros and cons, and just taking away the key learnings from the pilots and experiments that we run so that we can improve further in the next experiments and pilots.

Iain Scott  42:12  

Yeah, I was listening to a talk this morning. And it was someone who didn’t really use social that much. But he has written a book, and it’s a very popular book, but he said, Instagram isn’t for me, I just don’t take good images of myself or other things. And neither is Facebook for a similar reason. But Clubhouse is exploding for him because he’s a very eloquent voice. He speaks very well and he talks sense. I think that’s all that you need. I’m interested in your views about Clubhouse. Becca?

Rebecca Holloway  42:46  

Okay, so the next question is about benchmarking. So what is the biggest challenge that you face when reporting campaign results back to stakeholders? Specifically, what happens if you haven’t met your benchmarks?

Nada Alkutbi  43:01  

That’s a really good question. I think the biggest challenge is presenting social KPIs to stakeholders that are not so familiar with the KPIs that we care about in social. So I think that’s the biggest challenge when we present results that we think are really important and social, like the upper funnel metrics, which obviously indicate if the content is resonating. Well, and they are important, I think often, when I presented this before, some people didn’t quite understand what engagement is, and what does that mean? And how do you actually track brand awareness and relevance? And so I think there could be some confusion around the KPIs. And so I think it’s educating our stakeholders and what our social KPIs are, what they mean, the definition for them, and also just being able to explain that they are important, and it’s not always all about opportunities and responses. We’ll get there. But social plays such a big role, upper funnel, and just having a conversation with our audiences, raising awareness of what we’re up to today, doesn’t always necessarily mean that will convert into opportunities. So often I get asked, how many opportunities do we create from this post? And actually, a lot of times, it’s about the relationships and it’s about the conversations that we have.

Iain Scott  44:31  

Sure, it’s about things you can’t yet track or measure, which can be difficult, I’m sure, to keep the strategy going. I’m quite interested in the pushback you’ve had then, Nada, in the past nine years, eight years.

Nada Alkutbi  44:48  

And coming up to 10 years. It was 10 years in October. Yeah.

Iain Scott  44:54  

What was it like pushing the social media agenda eight years ago, nine years ago? Even when you were working more on the digital marketing strategy, it was a very different landscape and very different conversation with those leaders and managers.

Nada Alkutbi  45:09  

Yeah, I think so. And that’s why I would really like to see how far we’ve come. And I think yeah, with digital so when I did the digital role, I sort of spent half my time doing digital marketing and social media marketing and, and I think you naturally will kind of always prioritise where budget is being spent. And at the time, social was just all organic, and just our own social platforms. And I felt like we spent more time obviously on our search campaigns and paid media, content syndication, and all the other digital tactics over social. And I think with social, it was really hard because it was a bonus. It was a nice to have, if we’re able to do social and great I remember at the time as well, as any team could just create a Twitter handle and start tweeting. And so I think we’ve come a long way with social competing guidelines in place and very specific social brand guidelines as well that we follow. And realising as well over the years that it’s so important that we streamline our presence. Having more accounts doesn’t mean we’ll drive more engagement. In fact, I think,  less is more and everything we do, and I think that’s something that we’re seeing more of now. It’s really thinking about our presence. If we could start from scratch, what would it actually look like on social media in terms of our own social platforms and channels? So I think it has changed a lot. And I think now we’ve also got more resources and focus in social because it is a full-time role. And even within social, there’s different disciplines and expertise that’s needed with looking at emerging platforms and doing that research looking at influencer marketing, internal-external editorial councils and social-first content creation. So yeah, so I think it has come a long way.

Iain Scott  47:03  

Probably a huge push back when you first mentioned influencer marketing, I imagine, even now the words “influencer marketing” leave a bitter taste in people’s mouths, so sometimes people reference negative BBC documentaries about people being scammed. Now, we’re talking about a different type of people, certainly from hearing your interview with Andy. Did you get major pushback when you started to even use that term for its marketing side at IBM? 

Nada Alkutbi  47:29  

Yeah, I think I think the pushback mainly came from perhaps people not fully understanding what influencer marketing is and what we’re trying to achieve. So I remember spending a lot of time just going through what influencer marketing is, even until now, trying to educate our stakeholders and teams on the stats that I talked about earlier. Influencers have significant authority and credibility in the marketplace, and can help us reach new audiences that we simply can’t reach ourselves, just always being able to provide the stats and the facts to support the argument around why influencer marketing is important. And I think with everything I do, I always start with the why anyway. That’s when you’ll see people kind of when they really understand it will be like, absolutely, this is a no brainer, we should be doing influencer marketing. And I think even our stakeholders and their sales teams as well. I’ve had such positive feedback from them when I’ve introduced them to external influencers. And they’re like, you’ve selected the right people here that are real experts in hypercloud, and AI, that we should be building relationships with and collaborating with, and they just simply have enjoyed having conversations with those like-minded individuals.

Iain Scott  48:48  

So the data never lies, essentially, you’ve got the backup, why this is a great idea.

Nada Alkutbi  48:53  

Exactly. I think it helps a lot. Because I think when I first started back in the day, actually, I didn’t have much data to support the success of this, but I just knew this was the right thing to do. And, I also think about sticking with it, because it can be really difficult to see the results. And it does take time. You definitely don’t see results overnight. And it does take time to build those authentic relationships. Because social is about people. And it’s about relationships that you build with those individuals.

Iain Scott  49:25  

Absolutely. Spot on. Becca, we’ve got one more question.

Rebecca Holloway  49:29  

We do have a final question which ties in really nicely with what you’ve just talked about, actually. So do you have an example of a really successful implementation or collaboration that exceeded your expectations?

Nada Alkutbi  49:39  

Yes, so I go back to the example I touched on briefly on Think. So we worked with external influencers around kinds of data and AI topics and the cloud. So the topics that we cared about for the event and we worked with just a handful of influencers, like four or five. And those thought leaders and experts basically got involved in the events, they took part as panelists. We ran LinkedIn Live sessions before. Those are the things I was talking about in terms of experimenting. It was co-creating the brief with those individuals, where they said, “I’d like to do a blog and I’ll publish this on my newsletter. I’ll also offer to do a LinkedIn live session on this topic” and that’s what worked so well. So we created good quality thought leadership content before the event. In terms of engagements, those metrics exceeded our benchmarks for what content we published and our own branded channels and also in terms of attribution and the whole measurement side of things, we can see that the links we gave them helped drive engaged visits to our landing pages and registrations for our events. So we can just see how influencers drove five times the number of registrations that we drove from our channels, and I think that’s a big kind of learning and a big successful story where it really does show how powerful working with influencers can be.

Iain Scott  51:14  

That was one of my questions, actually. That was a great example. To finish up on the show, recap on what we’ve spoken about with influencer marketing about measurement, how key the data is, and also about strategy. Firstly, don’t forget you can get involved with the next show. By keeping an eye out for the next topic and live broadcasts and for your questions through our social channels, on Twitter at @ShareSocialLDN and on Instagram @SharingSocialLondon

A big thank you to Nada, Social Media Leader for IBM for being on the show today and sharing your insights. Quick reminder, actually, how can people get in touch with you? If they’ve got a question, what’s the best social channel to use?

Nada Alkutbi  52:06  

I’m on social media 24/7, because obviously it’s my day job. So I live and breathe social. You can find me on LinkedIn and connect with me on there. And DM me on Twitter. So yeah, I’m passionate about social media on all social media platforms. Yeah, pretty much all day and outside of working hours on Instagram and other platforms.

Iain Scott  52:29  

Thank you very much for that. And again, that’s a wrap for our first episode of Sharing Social season two. We’re back next month. I cannot wait. From myself, Becca. Andy and Nada, thank you very much for listening. We’ll see you next month.

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