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Digital Marketing Interview Series with the Program Director of Social Business at IBM

This week, we had the pleasure to interview Amber Armstrong (@ambarmstrong), Program Director of Social Business at IBM, to gain her insights on the ever-changing world of social media marketing:

  1. Many marketers have trouble developing new content ideas constantly on a daily or weekly basis. What are three techniques they can use to come up with fresh content?

    Our challenge is too many ideas!  First, think about your audience.  What do they care about?  What is happening in their world?  How can you make their day better?  How can you solve a problem for them?  Don't rely just on what you think you know, but research. Twitter is an amazing resource for business data (side note: check out the #IBMandTwitter partnership). Second, realize that your audience is made up of real people. Bryan Kramer's book Human to Human does a great job of explaining how there is no B2B or B2C - just human to human. Your audience thinks about Valentine's Day. They celebrate holidays. They watch sporting events. They eat food.  Make these things better for your audience.  Third, make the content snackable. Your audience should not need to decipher your message. Use simple, impactful graphics and get to the point quickly. Infographics, slideshares, interactive websites all do a great job of this.  You can also extend the reach of your content by displaying it in various formats. 
  2. Many Marketing Managers and Directors worry about finding the right metrics to measure the return of their digital marketing programs. What are 3 metrics Marketing Managers and Directors can use to assess their digital marketing success?

    For earned marketing, my favorite metric is clicks. It tells me if someone digested our content. I also look at reach (participants in our social communities), engagement (comments, replies, likes), and amplification (shares, retweets).  The ultimate goal is to drive clicks, but these metrics all play a critical role in the overall process of engaging with our audience.  I'm a huge advocate for employee brand advocacy on social, so I also track the number of IBMers who share our content and the number of resulting clicks. For paid marketing, I look at registrations and marketing pipeline.   
  3. With the abundance of content on the web currently, what are 3 ways marketers can use to make their content stand out from the crowd?

    Keep it simple!  Size things appropriate for the channel where it will be delivered.  Make it personal and engaging.  If you provide value and ask your audience to engage they will.
  4. With the digital landscape changing rapidly, what are 3 changes you think will emerge in 2015 and how can marketers adapt to them?

    The last few years have included some of the most dramatic changes that I have personally participated in during my marketing career.  Social is not only important, it is mission critical.  That is only going to continue, but it's going to get so much better overnight!  Companies will display exactly the right message to the right person and at the right stage of the buying cycle.   Successful  marketers are already in an Always On model.  This will be meets minimum soon.  The growth and change in influencer marketing is one of the things I am most excited about.  My goal is to have trusted other tell the IBM story - from their perspective.  It is often not entirely on brand and that is fine.  It's their perspective - not ours.  It's also a two way street.

    We use our brand channels and internal influencers - our employee brand advocates - to share thought leadership content from our influencers and they amplify our content in return.  The net result is that our audience gets the content that is most relevant to them from brands and influencers that they trust.
  5. What skills have you found to be the most important when it comes to digital marketing?

    The biggest traits that I look for in marketing candidates is a natural curiosity and ability to perform in a fast paced team.   

    What we can do in digital today is so dramatically different from what was available to us even a year ago. With so much change, it requires dedication to stay on top of it all. Retargeting has dramatically changed the way we interact with customers. Social today barely resembles social of two years ago. Customers no longer visit brand websites naturally - they are driven there through off domain properties or search.  They expect you to be where they live online, not to have to search you out.Two pointers for marketing candidates: 1) Your resume is your social presence.  I prioritize candidates based on Twitter and LinkedIn engagement (not reach).  2) You can demonstrate your curiosity by staying in tune with the industry. I ask every candidate about their favorite marketing publications and the most impactful marketing trend.
  6. You have a long list of credentials. You’ve worked as the Manager of Demand Generation for the Software and Product Innovation program at IBM and now you're the Program Director of Social Business Marketing at the company. How did you get your experience and what advice do you have for young professionals who want to excel in the marketing field?

    My first recommendation is to start with a plan.  I began my career at a small software company. I wanted to move to a larger company with a more diverse growth opportunities, so I went to UNC- Chapel Hill and the Kenan-Flagler Business School for my MBA. Once I joined IBM, I picked a target executive role and made a list of all of the skills that I need to get that role.  I've spent the last eight years cycling through roles that check off those skills. My roles at IBM have taught be about business partners, marketing consulting, branding, content creation, demand generation, pipeline analysis, global marketing execution, and digital execution through paid, owned, and earned marketing.  In each role, I've had an open dialog with my executive leadership about what I would like to accomplish during my time in the role and what I see as the next step.  Knowing where I want to go makes it easy for them to identify the right roles when they come available.  My favorite thing about being in the Social Business Category team is that Maria Winans (@MariaWinans) give us full freedom to innovate and try new approaches. Follow #NewWayToWork to see how we combine thought leadership, influencer marketing, and social engagement with a product launch.


    Amber is Program Director of Social Business at IBM. In her role at IBM, she manages paid, owned, and earned marketing execution. She is passionate about personalized marketing and ensuring that audiences receive exactly the message that is most relevant to them.   Her Social Business category marketing team led the first successful brand level employee advocacy program at  IBM and recently launched an external influencer program aimed at amplifying user and thought leader generated content.  Prior to her current role, Amber led demand generation, business partner,  and country execution teams for IBM.   When not tweeting about Social Business, you'll find Amber in the kitchen mastering dishes from across the world and  training for half marathons and triathlons You can reach Amber on Twitter at @ambarmstrong.