Social Media’s First Graduating Class Finalist #2: Geoffrey Colon of Microsoft
As we announced in this post, Simply Measured has spearheaded a search for Social Media’s First Graduating Class: the marketers who set up their brand’s first Facebook page, sent their brand’s first Tweet, live-streamed their first event…the list goes on. These are the folks who started as interns, assistants, and community managers, and now head up social at major organizations all over the world.
This first graduating class has unique insight into the history of social media and what the future holds for our industry. We asked you to nominate these thought leaders, and the people have spoken — we have our finalists!
We spoke with Geoffrey about his journey.
Give us an overview of your career and how you got into social.
I began in the music industry as a DJ from 1991 until the mid 2000s. Back in that era, word-of-mouth was generated hand-to-hand. I moved to New York City in the mid ’90s, and that’s when I first saw where digital was going.
After that, I created my own company focused on promoting and selling culture, rather than just a product. I wanted to do influencer marketing. I went to a couple companies and said, “I want to do music integrations with your brands because music is a universal language that connects with people even if you’re not speaking the native tongue.” Some brands got it, and one really did: Red Bull. They were my first client, and I worked on their Red Bull Music Academy. We did all lifestyle marketing for it, reached out to communities, and didn’t do anything around the product. We created experiences for producers and DJs.
In the mid 2000s, I discovered LinkedIn and Friendster. I saw the business implications for social media as more of a networked society.
I then sold off my agency and went to work in the tech startup community in New York called the Orchard, which distributed music online very early on. That’s when I realized that digital distribution was going to change how content reaches people and how we communicate. So I really tried to get that company to use social media to its advantage.
In 2007, Bond Strategy and Influence asked me to come on in a strategist role. My intern there told me that I had to join Facebook, now that it didn’t require a EDU address. A few months later, they launched Brand Pages. It was clear that this was the emerging area of the brand economy. So I helped the WWE, The Food Network, and USA Network launch their first Facebook pages.
We were also really early on using live-streaming on Facebook. We went to USA and asked, “Can we do some live-streams where we do Q&A with the cast of some of your shows? We’re going to do it with Ustream and post it to Facebook!” It wasn’t about the numbers — it was about where the world is moving. 10% of your budget should always be put towards testing new things.
I went from Bond to 360i and worked with Coca-Cola and helped them launch their Twitter feed. From there, Ogilvy called and asked, “Do you want to come and work on IBM?” I had never worked on B2B, but I thought that social media was even more relevant for B2B than it was for B2C, because it’s about people.
So I went to Ogilvy to help IBM launch their Tumblr page — IBM was the second brand on Tumblr, after Adidas. We did a lot of creative things to reach a younger audience. We were the first company to launch a Shazam-enabled ad. From there, Microsoft called.
I’ve been at Microsoft for about three years. I think Microsoft is in a really interesting place to do some new things.
Which events have changed the social game?
When Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2008. That was live-streamed on Facebook. I think Mark Zuckerberg recognized early on that that is where social was going.
I also think that there was a failure that changed the game. Sean Fanning and Sean Parker launched AirTime — you could go on, you had a channel, you could chat with people.
It was similar to ChatRoulette. The important takeaway from that was the concept of everyone having one channel to amplify or broadcast whatever they want down the line. That is a huge game-changer. While Airtime failed, I think Sean Parker understood that we are all public and that’s where the market was moving. I don’t think we’re far away from the day where you wake up and you’re like, “Hm, I wonder what I want to program on my individual station.” We’re going to move into a world that isn’t just about sharing third-party articles. You’re actually going to become the creator. Everyone will be a producer.
Speaking of which…what’s coming up for social media marketers of the future?
I think we’re all caught up in VR and IoT, but we need to understand that we’re moving into an individualized space where what you have on your mobile phone is very different than what I have on mine. How those two things sync together is going to be very important from a marketing standpoint.
Everything that marketers have done in the past fifty years has been for scale. That’s not going to work going forward.
Hyper-personalization is going to be massive and it’s going to be really interesting to see who can adapt to that and who can’t.
What do you think social needs to do to mature and rise to the level of some of the other digital marketing channels?
This is where the metrics always fall into place. People are always saying, “I don’t see any return on investment!” I find that funny: What kind of concrete ROI do you receive from putting a 60-second ad on TV?
I think it all goes back to how these things impact influence and behavior. Social can be more influential than other channels. The metric you want to watch is basically a Net Promoter Score. How many people are sharing things around a topic that either we have created or that we have participated in? That then helps influence people to take action, which can ultimately lead to the ROI.
The reason Search is so beloved is that it’s always the last-mile for a lot of decision journeys. How many metrics have added up for us to actually impact our Search numbers? If we took social out of the equation, would our Searches go down?
So, where social plays a big part is not its own channel. It is part of a larger marketing ecosystem. Social acts as the demand, search acts as the supplier.