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Rebecca Lieb Interview: SES New York Sneak Peek

I’m proud to present another series of pre-show interviews for one of my favorite online marketing conferences: Search Engine Strategies New York.  This time I’m sitting down with Rebecca Lieb of Econsultancy, perhaps one of the smartest and most influential women in the online marketing and social media space. Rebecca is solo host to a session entitled, “Igniting Viral Campaigns” on Wednesday March 24th.

Garry: Welcome Rebecca, and thank you for taking the time for this interview.  The term “viral” has been around for a while, do you think the industry would have defined a “viral campaign” two to three years ago any differently than it does today?  How would you frame some of the key milestones that changed the game in the last few years?

Rebecca: Rather like the industry craze for “clicks” around 10 years ago, it’s become clear to marketers that “viral” does not always equate with sales, ROI or other desired campaign results. Viral shouldn’t be a goal unto itself – it’s a means to an end. We’ve thankfully come a long way from the “build me a chicken” mentality of several years back, when Burger King’s Subservient Chicken was viewed as the ne plus ultra interactive marketing campaign. It was successful for Burger King, sure. But one size chicken does not fit all campaigns – or campaign goals.

Garry: Attempting to take campaigns viral can be extremely hit or miss.  Can you think of any examples where a seemingly great idea fell flat, or a relatively weak idea took off?

Rebecca: Sure, one kind of bad viral is when something goes viral for all the wrong reasons. “That’s Why I Chose Yale,” a recruitment video on YouTube, has comments disabled for a reason. It got written up in The New Yorker of all places, as a particularly spectacular and embarrassing failure. Maybe there is such a thing as bad publicity?

Another example I’ll likely cite in my talk is a very viral beer video from a few years back. People LOVED the spot, but no one could remember what brand was behind it. That violates one of the most basic tenets of advertising, no?

Garry: Well, unless you setup a sweet PPC or SEO campaign in advance, but you’re right, generally a bad idea.  In recent months, we’ve seen the dawn of real time search, an explosion in hyper-local, and a widespread adoption in social media.  In light of all this change, do you think it’s wiser to start extremely niche, or more general/widespread?

Rebecca: As with every other type of marketing, it’s best to start with your target, or with a selected target audience. Let your goals drive the campaign – I cannot stress that enough!

Garry: Fair enough, let’s focus on goals and ROI for a moment.  Many are calling for better ways to monetize social media. Are they missing the boat? How do you define the value proposition for participating in social media?

Rebecca: There are lots of possible ways to monetize social media, as well as to value it. Shameless plug: we at Econsultancy just published a major research report on this very topic. It all flows from goals. Yes, social media can result in sales. Look at examples like Zappos and Jet Blue and Dell for this. But there are other possible goals as well: Branding. PR. Word of mouth. Reputation management – and that’s just for starters. One big reasons marketers are having so much trouble measuring social media is because they don’t know what they’re trying to do in various social media channels, so they have no clue what to measure.

Garry: You’re hosting a solo session entitled, “Igniting Viral Campaigns”.  Can you give us a sneak peek, maybe a single example of what you plan to present at SES NY?

Rebecca: Well, certainly all of the above, plus a whole lot more, of course – examples, as well as theory and strategy. You’re just going to have to come to the session!

Garry: Great hook.

With that, I want to once again thank my guest Rebecca Lieb for finding time in her schedule to talk to me about viral campaigns. Start off the year on the right foot, book your tickets for SES New York today.

About Search Engine Strategies

Search Engine Strategies is the definitive digital event for marketers, corporate decision makers, webmasters and search engine marketers (SEMs), including pay per click (PPC) advertisers and search engine optimization (SEO) professionals. Attend SES New York, network with your peers, meet with industry experts, and learn the tips, tactics and strategies that will grow your business online.

About Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca oversees the U.S. operations of Econsultancy, the leading source of independent advice and insight on digital marketing and e-commerce. Earlier, she held executive marketing and communications positions at strategic e-services companies, including Siegel & Gale, and has worked in the same capacity for global entertainment and media companies, including Universal Television & Networks Group (formerly USA Networks International) and Bertelsmann’s RTL Television. As a journalist, she’s written on media for numerous publications, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Rebecca spent five years as Variety’s Berlin-based German/Eastern European bureau chief. Rebecca also served as The ClickZ Network’s editor-in-chief for over seven years; for a portion of that time, she oversaw SearchEngineWatch.com.

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