The Social Data Opportunity: Q&A with Michael Della Penna

Michael Della Penna brings 25 years of marketing experience to Responsys as its new Senior Vice President of Emerging Channels. Before joining the company, Michael founded SuiteDialog, which specialized in building social CRM solutions and digital marketing programs. He also founded Conversa Marketing, another social CRM venture that was acquired by StrongMail Systems in 2010 and he held senior roles at Epsilon, Bigfoot Interactive, CNET Networks and ZDNet.

I spoke with Michael about his views on cross-channel marketing, the ever changing social media landscape, his new role at Responsys and of course, his favorite social networking tools and apps.

Q: At Responsys, we talk a lot about the importance of cross-channel marketing in building lasting customer relationships. From your standpoint, why should companies integrate mobile and social into their marketing strategies? What’s the value of a truly integrated approach?

A: Mobile and social offer an opportunity for brands to connect with customers where they’re spending more and more time.  However, smart marketers realize they not only have to be where their customers are, but be there in a strategic and relevant way.  That means creating a great and unique experience across these channels – one that leverages the power of the medium and offers the consumer value or a unique benefit as a result of engaging with the brand on that channel.  Executed well, mobile and social offer marketers the opportunity to further drive engagement, advocacy and marketing success.

Q: You have a strong background in email marketing and more recently in the social media and social CRM space – how have you seen email and social converge during the last five years or so?

A: The conversation has changed.  Just a short time ago marketers were struggling to understand how “unstructured” social data could be used.  Fast forward to today and we’re seeing marketers craft their strategies from a much more holistic point of view and use a variety of data from multi-channel interactions to create better experiences for customers across channels. Responsys’ new Interact Social Data Cloud is the perfect example of how email and social are converging.  Brands now have the ability to use permission-based social data including profiles, sentiment and/or social graph information to create and execute more relevant email communications. Furthermore, with the integration of data from multiple channels, marketers have the opportunity to add predictive and engagement targeting programs to their personalized communications and programs.     

That said, I think most brands feel that they could be doing a better job within these emerging channels and in particular with the orchestration of messaging across multiple channels.   In fact, despite the rapid rise and adoption of social media, many brands have yet to formalize their strategic roadmap and communications for social and mobile and are struggling to keep up with the growing number of accounts across social networks in particular.  Consequently, we have seen many brands implement a lot of point solutions to address various tactical needs — whether it’s campaign management, analytics, or listening.  This has created data silos, integration woes and perhaps most importantly an inconsistent customer experience. Over the next several years we will see some solution consolidation and marketers will continue to work towards  combining social, mobile and email data into CRM systems so that they can create a more consistent experience for each customer.  

Q: We announced the Interact Social Data Cloud at Interact earlier this month – can you talk about how this will help our customers leverage their social data and how it fits into the Responsys social offering overall?

A: Our approach to the Interact Social Data Cloud and how it fits into our New School Marketing philosophy is three fold.

First, we are helping to make social data actionable to New School Marketers by giving them the ability to leverage social data for email marketing.  The recently announced Calmsea partnership adds to our integration with Bazaarvoice (which utilizes social ratings and reviews) and enables marketers, through the permission based acceptance of an app, to collect data based on a consumer’s social profile and footprint. Then, marketers can access that data to create targeted email marketing campaigns. In fact, the Interact Social Data Cloud has the ability to contain a lot of powerful information. Aside from Calmsea and Bazaarvoice, other inputs may include engagement, sentiment and API integrations that would allow us to build on the wealth of information that’s contained within the social data cloud. This is really about helping marketers move beyond a simple like and/or comment and leveraging that data to drive relationships and results.  It’s very important to us that everything built for the Interact Social Data Cloud was done in such a way that it is actionable for marketers. For example, customers can currently pull in social data using Filter Designer in the Interact Suite, to easily create campaigns in a drag and drop, automated, rules based way.

The second area is really giving marketers the tools to build, execute and coordinate social and multichannel campaigns. This includes the continued build out of Responsys’ social campaign management capability, which allows marketers to build an email campaign and include the corresponding Facebook and Twitter posts.

The third area where Responsys is spending a lot of time and effort is around our social service offering. We’re an organization focused on building marketing success for our clients, so we believe the services component is an incredibly powerful opportunity. The service offering includes the ability to help marketers understand how to better connect with consumers in  social channels and enable them to build more engaging programs that result in better data and improved conversion.

Q: The Facebook IPO was big news last week. What’s the biggest Facebook opportunity for marketers, in your opinion? Any tips for those who haven’t done much beyond building a brand page?

A: The success of Facebook and its huge market cap is not only related to the amount of individuals using the platform, but the wealth of data and information it has about its users. The ability to look at engagement and gain the insights from a like or a comment on a particular post is an incredibly powerful piece of info and ultimately, marketers should be thinking about how to use that to create better one to one relationships with each customer. Making likes and comments actionable is what’s going to help strengthen the relationship between the brand and the consumer, and Facebook is an incredibly powerful platform that’s enabling marketers to achieve that.  

Q: What are your social networks of choice and the mobile apps you can’t live without?

A:

Social Networks:
Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn

Mobile Apps:
Navigation and Guidance: CooCoo
Games: Words with Friends, Temple Run
News app: Zite
Fitness: MyFitnessPal.com
Entertainment: OpenTable, Fandango, Live Nation
Music: Pandora
Photo sharing: Instagram   

Q: The social media space moves at such a fast pace – any tips for keeping up with all the latest products and tools and cutting through the noise?

A: In short – I have my favorite, news sources, events and analyst firms. TechCrunch and the app Zite are a few ways that I keep abreast of news and developments in the social and mobile space
. I also think it’s great to attend a couple of conferences a year to hear case studies and perspectives from industry experts. A few good ones are the Realtime conferences in SF and NYC and the Mediapost Social Summit. I also follow research and analyst commentary from Forrester and Altimeter Group.

Q: What are you most looking forward to in your new role at Responsys?  

A: I love the part of my job that allows me to spend time with our clients who are forward thinking and not afraid to test new marketing techniques and tools. Every interaction with a client is an opportunity to think about what’s next and to push the envelope when it comes to marketing innovation. Those are the types of types of discussions that excite me the most.

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Laura Schierberl

About Laura Schierberl

Laura Schierberl leads content marketing at Responsys, where she is responsible for building awareness, driving industry thought leadership and influencing the buyer’s decision journey through compelling content. When she's not disrupting marketing during her day job, Laura enjoys reading food blogs, exercising her energetic labrador and plotting her next visit to Australia.