Shopify’s Dan Fricker on how to truly value social media marketing

Dan Fricker, social media lead of Shopify

Dan Fricker, social media lead of Shopify.

Dan Fricker has built a career out jobs that didn’t exist a decade ago. His title at Shopify—a job he’s held down for all of a month—is Social Media Lead. In the past, when he worked with the CBC he was “Senior Manager, Digital & Social Media,” and when he was with Telus he handled “Social and Media Relations”—vague titles that seek to describe complicated and constantly-evolving work. At the end of the day, Fricker works to take a multitude of social media channels and convey a single authentic message for the massive organizations he works for—one post or tweet at a time. We asked him how companies should manage their social media strategy, given that it bears on marketing, customer service, public relations and even employee engagement:

What are some of the challenges of working with social media, when it comes to large-scale corporate structures?

Things like the topic of ownership—who owns social, does it fall under marketing, or does it fall under customer service? These debates and turf wars and internal politics surface for everyone, but I’m of the mind that social isn’t something to be owned by any one department or discipline. It’s in fact a shared resource, a utility that impacts every area of the business. Finding ways to centralize social strategy but almost decentralize the execution through partnership and collaboration with different units across the organization is something I’ve tried to do in my past work experience.

 What are some misconceptions people have when it comes to social media and their business?

There’s a lot of debate around the measurability of social. The interesting spot I find myself in often, as I imagine a lot of fellow digital marketers would, is that efforts online are intensely measurable. There’s a thousand-and-one different numbers that we can track to determine the efficacy of full-on campaigns, or down to each and every individual tweet that we put out there.

There’s this pressure to determine the infamous ROI of social, and yet when you look at other major marketing channels over the last few decades that we’ve used—billboards in the sky, ads in newspapers, even commercials on television—those extensions of campaigns are traditionally measured in eyeballs or ears. You’re measuring the very top of the funnel. But one the challenges of social is that you’re able to better track your customer’s movement down that funnel, beyond just awareness. After engaging with you in social, are they now considering your product or service? Have you converted them into a paying customer? Are you keeping them around as a loyal ambassador? All these different steps of the funnel are now so much more intensely measurable.

And it’s all very complicated—it’s not really a five-step process. So I think there are some misconceptions around the ease of measurement. Yes, there are a number of things out there that you can put numbers to, but it’s not as clean-cut as I think we’d hope it would be, even if it can seem that way at first glance.

Why should businesses prioritize their social media?

It’s a direct consumer channel. It’s a space where you’re able to speak directly to the people you’re trying to sell your product or service to. What better way to determine or gauge or have an impact? It has a certain level of immediacy and, for lack of a better buzzword, authenticity. Certain brands have a desire to create this very polished brand extension—like on their Snapchat, they want to have the perfect lighting, and making sure everybody’s using mics accordingly, and have set design all taken care of and what not. Ultimately, that’s missing the point. You want to be raw,  real, and to connect with your consumers in a personalized way just as humans do.

I know you’ve mainly worked with larger organizations, but should smaller businesses be thinking about their social media?

One thousand percent yes. I teach a social media class at the University of Toronto, and I’m lucky enough to have such a range of students that come in for that course. Anywhere from small- and medium-sized business up to enterprise-level marketers. I think it’s really interesting to see how they all sort of take these discussion topics that we cover and apply them to their various needs and customers. It’s not going to be a one size fits all; it’s obviously going to scale depending on the scope.

I think the first question is around resources—what do you have to put towards a social strategy, and how can you use that in a meaningful way? If you’re a team of one and have a full-time day job running your actual business, I wouldn’t recommend being on every single platform. If you only have 5% of your time to be on Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and so on, it’s not worth it. That would dilute your brand and your ability to develop meaningful connections. Find out where your audience is online, and focus your efforts there. Even if it’s just a smaller impact, it’s better than nothing.

Drew Sauveur
Author: Drew Sauveur

Local business owner and resident of Durham Region

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