Request A Demo

What True Collaboration in Digital Marketing Looks Like (And How I Learned It)

Last year we talked a lot about the “de-siloization” of social.

Stop doing social in a silo. Go make a friend on the email/display/search/SEO/web/personalization/video/some other team.

I’ve been amazed and impressed by how many social marketers have begun the effort to start working collaboratively with other functions in their organization’s marketing department. Many of them have succeeded. Just a few weeks ago, I was talking with a Director of Social who works hand-in-hand with the Director of Content, and who has even established a quickly growing relationship with the Director of Product.

Others are still working on it. It isn’t easy for those outside of social to wrap their minds around social marketing, because the vernacular is not one that naturally translates to other digital marketing functions. I know because I’ve been there.

2017 Digital Marketing Predictions From the Experts

December 8, 2014 – My first day at Simply Measured. I knew little of social marketing. I knew about social marketing but had no idea how to work with social marketers. Search advertising–done that. Display advertising–done that. Email marketing–flirted with it. Product marketing–done that. Social marketing? Feeling unqualified at the moment.

Note: That’s why you’ll never see me write a “Social Marketing 101” blog. Applying marketing principles to social? Yes. A checklist for building your social plan? Ask Lucy (more on her later).

There was a lot to learn, and I had to learn it fast if I was going to fool my new employer into thinking I was a good hire. There are already enough TLRs (three letter acronyms) to learn when joining a company; now I’ve got to learn all this social jargon on top of that? Yikes.

There are so many different social networks, and they all call things different names.

What’s this “engagement” thing people keep talking about (it was 2014, after all)?

EngagementWhat’s the difference between a comment and a reply?

Am I supposed to call Instagram a “digital magazine”? 

A Whole New World

That’s what it feels like to be a non-social marketer having a conversation about social marketing. Picking up other digital channels was much easier. There were common metrics, and the underlying principle was pretty much the same: You created media, served it to an audience, and then watched what they did and made adjustments.

Social is and was different to learn. Why?

People talk back.

In fact, they even talk amongst themselves independently.

This was different from any other digital channel to which I’d been exposed. People don’t buy pre-roll ads against one another to communicate something, and they can’t leave a comment below your paid search ad. In most other digital channels, mainly excluding email, you control all but one (albeit big) thing: competing bids. But social, even social advertising, felt so filled with uncontrollable factors, I had a difficult time seeing how it could collaborate with other channels, let alone do it in a productive way.

I’ve gotten better since my first day, and I’d like to share some of my lessons for figuring out social and how to effectively work with my teammate in social. If you’re a social marketer, this will provide some perspective on what it’s like to be on the other side of those conversations with your marketing counterparts.

If you’re a non-social marketer, this post will provide easy ways to think about some of the metrics and tactics you hear when collaborating with your counterparts on the social team.

Metrics: Making You Look Like You Have Your Act Together

We all like to metric-drop. Metrics make us look like we have our act together. It’s scary when people use metrics we don’t understand. Every marketing channel, digital or traditional, has channel-specific metrics. These typically live in the high-to-mid sections of your marketing funnel. In an ideal world, we are all using the same metrics at the bottom of our funnels — leads, new customers, revenue — but we use channel metrics higher in the funnel as leading indicators for downstream optimization. Not a social marketer? Here are some ways to consider some channel-specific social metrics when you hear your colleagues metric-dropping.

Disclaimer: I’m not implying there is exact parity between these metrics. Just think of these comparisons as starting points for better understanding.

    • Impressions – You probably know this term already if you work in digital advertising. Social impressions are the same as impressions in digital advertising: the number of times your social posts were shown to someone. If you work in email marketing, think of number of emails delivered. Per my disclaimer, this isn’t a one-to-one comparison, but hopefully a helpful thought-starter for our friends in email marketing.

Although uncommon now, there was a time when social marketers would cite “potential impressions” as a way of approximating the number of times a post may have appeared when the actual number was unavailable from the data source (the social network). You may hear your counterpart in social say this phrase, but likely (s)he has moved on to counting actual impressions.

    • Reach – You probably already know this one, too: the number of unique people (for now, let’s just avoid the specifics of cross-device attribution, etc.) who saw at least one of your social posts. Remember, one single person can be exposed to a social post multiple times, so reach will always be less than impressions.
    • Engagement – This is the most commonly used social-specific metric. “Engagement,” as a broad term, is one we often use in marketing, but it is meant in a metric-based way in social. Different analytics providers define engagement differently, and some brands go as far as to customize the way they calculate engagement, so you may want to clarify with your teammate in social just how you are formulating this metric.

With all that said, it’s not that confusing in principle. It’s just the number of times somebody interacted with your social posts. If you’re in video advertising, you may think of this as somebody hitting the “Play” button on your video ad. If you are in email marketing, this is somewhat similar to someone opening your email. Engagement is not the act of visiting a website or purchasing a product; it takes place on the media itself, which, in the case of social, is a post.

    • Followers – Often used interchangeably–although it is not synonymous–with “audience.” Not terribly dissimilar to when someone signs up for your email newsletter, when people want to continue to see posts from a brand they follow the brand’s social profile. This is an indicator to the social network algorithms that the person is interested in seeing more content from the brand because they have voluntarily elected to “follow” them.

Social marketers value gaining followers, as an email marketer would value a name added to the house list or an added member to the cookie pool of a display advertiser, because followers are usually more reachable with posts and likely have higher brand recall.

Tactics: Even Harder Than Metrics

For me, this part was harder than learning the social-specific metrics. Those are pretty much just memorization, but understanding the tactics implemented by social marketers requires an understanding of the goals and purpose of social at an organization.

For example, if social’s only purpose at your organization was for customer service, it would have a generally different set of tactics than if social’s purpose were to drive leads. So as to not get too far in the weeds, let’s focus on social as a marketing function: find people and usher them through the funnel.


Here are some common tactics employed by social marketers:

  • Content Calendar – Every marketing channel is a blend between proactivity and reactivity. The content calendar is the proactivity part of social. A content calendar is a digital, or sometimes hard copy, schedule of what content will be distributed when, through which social channels. For example, “Next Tuesday at 3:30 pm we are going to post the product announcement on Facebook.”

I’m oversimplifying here for easy understanding. More complex content calendars include things like audience segment, campaign alignment, and distributor. While not the same, think of this as similar to an email nurture flow. It is premeditated content distribution.

  • Responding – This is the reactive part. Remember, one of the things that makes social different from other channels is that people talk back. What do you do when someone says something to you? Well, you respond. This one is pretty straightforward.
  • Listening – As I mentioned earlier, the other thing that makes social different is the fact that people use the same channels in which you are trying to market for their own personal conversations. Listening is what social marketers do when they want to figure out what people are talking about on social that is relevant to their brand (sometimes referred to as “earned media”).
Valentine's day trends, Simply measured. Social media listening
Top Trends Within the #Valentinesday Conversations Powered by Simply Measured’s Social Listening

This makes it possible for social marketers to distribute content based on emerging interests among their target audience. You do something in a similar vein when buying behavioral targeted display ads: build media that will appeal to people with a certain set of interests as defined by their behavior across an ad network or exchange. Again, it’s not an exact crossover, but a helpful jumping-off point to better understand this tactic.

  • Influencer Marketing – Lastly, let’s talk about influencer marketing. Influencer marketing is based on a simple and widely accepted marketing principle: people respond better to a message from a known and trusted source than one they believe to have an agenda, such as the brand that’s trying to get them to buy its product.

This is why marketers repeatedly rate word-of-mouth as the most effective marketing channel. Social marketers strive to find and build relationships with people who have established trust and positive sentiment among a target audience segment. They then give those people incentives to post things on social that are related to the brand and its products. It is an easy and effective principle, but a difficult one to enact.

But Back to Lucy 

I said we’d come back to Lucy.

Lucy runs content and social marketing here at Simply Measured. Like many of you, she has a role that is multifunctional. The reason I bring her up is because going through the learning process I’ve outlined above has unlocked a partnership that has made it possible for us to collaborate.

Lucy LinkedIn

As a product marketer, I am focused on a different part of the funnel than Lucy is, but her perspective (as someone who knows our social audience) has made me think about my own work differently and has led to greater alignment across our funnel. For example, the whole reason I wrote this blog post is because she analyzed and discovered that “How-To” content is what our audience finds most compelling (I hope you find this blog compelling!). And, it goes both ways. Here’s a blog post by Lucy in which she applies things on which I’ve worked.

Clarifying the Role of Social Media

Alright, I can hear kumbaya in the background, so I’ll stop. The takeaway is this: marketing works best when not performed in silos. Language and workflow often stand in the way of understanding and collaboration, but are easily surmountable when translated properly. “Social in a silo” is so 2016. Let’s go beyond functional awareness of what our teammates do and move into true collaboration.

Moving from Functional Awareness to Collaboration

Let’s talk about how we get completely aligned. In short: data. While collaborating across functions starts with basic awareness of workflow and nomenclature, collaboration can’t happen without a common goal.

If you work at a for-profit business, your common goal is, well, profit. We use marketing metrics, such as website traffic, to determine how different marketing channels pour people into our digital storefront — our website — but ultimately we’ve got to be talking about dollars and cents. Even if you work at a not-for-profit organization, you are still focused on measurable outcomes, such as donations.


These bottom-of-the-funnel metrics are where channels connect and channel language barriers fall. Leads, customer acquisition, revenue, and ultimately ROI, are what connect us as marketers. If you’re in social, you’ve got to be able to bring these metrics to the table. If you’re a marketer who doesn’t work on social, start asking your colleagues in social about these metrics.

If your organization isn’t able to measure the impact of social all the way to the bottom of the funnel, get that fixed. Not only is it imperative for budget allocation and effective execution of social campaigns, it is also required for collaboration to happen. Lucy and I do different things all day, but do you know what we both care about? Revenue. That’s where our paths cross, and that common goal makes collaboration possible.

When it comes to social, do you have the key to collaboration? Do you know how social plays a role in traffic, leads, purchases, and revenue? If not, Simply Measured can answer that question and give you the metrics that translate across all of marketing. Click below if you’d like to learn more.

Learn about the complete social analytics solution

Request a Demo of Simply Measured

Find Out More

Colin Zalewski

Product Marketing Manager at Simply Measured with a passion for full-funnel digital marketing. I enjoy a round of golf, a Kentucky Mule, and warm evening walks with my wife and dog.

Never Miss a Post!

Request a Demo