Q&A with Erik Qualman on Digital Strategy, Client Relationships and the Future of Social Media

Social media has changed the way businesses work, think, and act. It's an integral component of long-term success because it connects brands with consumers. I recently caught up with digital thought leader and my good friend Erik Qualman to pick his brain on the subject. We discussed the importance of creating a unified social media platform and what CMOs should be thinking about today. Below are his thoughts on how companies should treat social and his advice for marketers working in the business today.

Sam: Where do you see people wasting time with regards to social?

Erik: I see a lot of companies setting up separate social media campaigns, which is a waste. Your social strategy should be your business strategy and vice versa. The two items that drive the success of any business are getting the right people on the team and word of mouth. These two items are being driven by social media (LinkedIn, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.). As an organization, if you aren't integrating and interweaving social into your entire business strategy, you are wasting a lot of time.


Sam: How are functional leaders outside of marketing embracing social media in their day-to-day lives and business strategies?

Erik: Digital leaders understand the concept of STAMP. Specifically, that all business and personal success is driven by:

Simple: Digital life is complex, those that simplify it win.

True: Be true to your passions.

Act: Nothing happens without that first step. Fail fast, fail forward, fail better.

Map: Be flexible in your path, firm in your destination.

People: Surround yourself with the right people both offline and online.


Sam: Why is it now so important to other functions?

Erik: People are starting to comprehend that social media is less about technology and more about relationships. Social media is living and breathing, it's your customer and employees. As such, it touches every facet of the business, from customer service to recruitment. As such organizations like Red Cross, Dell and Zappos are training their entire company on social media interaction.


Sam: If you started in social today, what would you be doing differently than you would have been four years ago?

Erik: Many want an immediate ROI. This can happen in about 10% of social media activities... however, the other 90% ROI is a much longer time period as it takes time to engage and develop these relationships. Great companies understand this, other companies are too impatient and lose out. 

I'd focus on fostering the right culture within the organization - one that is customer centric rather than department or job responsibility centric.


Sam: Where do you see social heading over the next 24-36 months?

Erik: We will continue to see consolidation (e.g. Tumblr/Yahoo, Instagram/Facebook, YouTube/Google). Google+ has shown us the benefits of having various social items compatible with one other. Consumers will start to demand that the social tools work better with each other. We will start to see more robust capability for users to see what their friends/peers like for everything (Socialnomics) not just restaurants and hotels.


Sam: What are the essential features of a good marketer in the digital age?

Erik: Humility. Willing to listen. Not afraid to fail. Understanding both qualitative and quantitative data.


Sam: In your opinion, what is the single greatest challenge that CEOs will face during the next 3-5 years? Why? Any advice for them?

Erik: CEO's need to learn that in order to learn in this digital world they need to increase their rate of failure. This is particularly difficult for publicly traded companies. Experience doesn't make you better, evaluated experience does. So it's imperative to use qualitative and quantitative tools to review both success and failure.


About Erik Qualman

Erik Qualman is the author of Digital Leader and Socialnomics. Erik is listed as a Top 50 MBA Professor and served as the Head of Marketing at Travelzoo®. He currently sits on the board of several companies, is a highly sought after keynote speaker and has given keynotes for companies like Coach, Sony PlayStation, IBM, Facebook, Starbucks, M&M/Mars, Cartier, Montblanc, TEDx, Polo, UGG, Nokia, Google, and more.

Sam Decker's picture

Sam Decker

Sam Decker is a current member of the Spredfast board. Sam most recently served as the CEO and co-founder of Mass Relevance (now Spredfast). Prior to Mass Relevance, Sam was founding Chief Marketing Officer at Bazaarvoice, a provider of SaaS social commerce technologies serving over 1,000 brands, where he was responsible for building the company’s brand, products and platform.