Is Fractional Capacity what your organization needs?

July 10, 2024

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In this interview, discover Neal Shaffer’s expert insights on digital marketing, social media, metrics, AI content creation and more.

1. You are a Fractional CMO. How does that work in practice and what are the main activities you work on?

Well, I should explain that I did not become a fractional CMO by design. My main role was as a social media marketing consultant. I have helped a lot of companies since I began in 2010 by developing their social marketing strategy.

 

 

Back in 2018, I had a local client who wanted to work with me and develop a deeper relationship. They said, “Neal, can you actually come into our office, four hours a week? Develop and implement a strategy, and report to the CEO? Help our junior marketing team, learn and develop our digital marketing?” So that’s really what launched what I call a fractional CMO service.

The term fractional CMO is something I first learned in a speech in Japan. I think it’s a new way of working and I think if you are an expert in something, it can be a fractional CMO/CFO/CRO, it doesn’t matter what function it is. It’s this lifestyle of helping multiple companies at once in a fractional capacity. I think it’s a great way to have an impact not only with the businesses you serve but also impact you personally to grow your experience.

2. In your book, The Age of Influence, you say that influencer marketing generates a high ROI for companies when used intelligently. How does that work?

The problem with social media is that organically it’s very hard for businesses to be heard, and the whole idea about social media is about inciting word of mouth. The only way to do that is to get people to talk about you and that is the role that influencers can play. 

I’m not talking about the Kardashians or people with millions of followers. Even the influencer marketing industry defines a nano influencer as someone that has 1000 followers or more.

 

Person using a smartphone, browsing instagram

 

There are a lot of people out there who are content creators that talk about certain niches and they’re building communities and those communities trust them. Working with these people across any social media platform is going to get visibility that you cannot get organically.

In terms of inciting word of mouth, some of these people might want to work with you from an affiliate marketing perspective and affiliate marketing is a type of influencer marketing. On their post caption, they might have a discount code, which can lead to business that you can track the ROI of and know how they performed. So, we’re not just talking about brand awareness; it can work for sales as well.

One of the biggest ROI factors of influence marketing is the content that influencers create because smart companies are leveraging this content for their own organic social media, for their ads, product pages and even shopping cart. 

They’re finding that it converts better than their own content. It helps reduce ad spending, and because they’re getting a lower cost per click using this influencer generated content, they’re finding that they’re reducing the costs that they used to have for creating content by leveraging an army of influencers to create the content for them in a much more authentic way.

 

 

3. Back in 2009, you wrote a book about maximizing LinkedIn. What has the last twelve years brought to LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is a very comfortable environment for most professionals and it also has been successful in inviting younger generations. There are still some that prefer LinkedIn the old way but considering that millennials are a majority of the workforce at least in the United States, it’s only natural that LinkedIn is going to change over time.

I think that’s been a good thing for LinkedIn and they’ve been able to adapt. Whereas Facebook just gets older, LinkedIn has become younger or the average age of active users seems to have become younger over time, and I think that’s one of the secrets to their continued success and relevance.

 

 

4. How did you become a keynote speaker and what advice do you have for younger speakers who want to make a name for themselves?

I started very organically; I started by giving. Back in 2008, I just launched a blog about LinkedIn that became nealschaffer.com. I would offer advice on LinkedIn and I became known in local networking groups as the go-to person for LinkedIn. Then I spoke at a panel at UCLA in July 2009.

Afterwards, I started getting asked to speak more from word of mouth and it was in September 2009 when I published my first book where I offered to speak in exchange for them buying copies of my book. That gave me the ability to start charging like most speakers.

With each speech you have to deliver and you have to make sure you’re going to get recommended to speak at other events. You want to:

  • be there before the event starts,
  • hang out until after the event ends,
  • get feedback from the organizers,
  • ask them if they have any referrals,
  • network with the audience.

5. What are the biggest mistakes companies make when using social media?

I think that many companies still see social media as a promotion channel instead of a conversation channel. They see it as a way of leveraging paid media when that’s really not the intent of social media.

 

Letter box stuffed with mail

 

They’re posting content just talking about themselves on social media rather than talking about the pain points that their community might have or that social media users might have. They might be too serious when social media users just want to have fun. They’re posting content that looks like stock photos or web content, instead of truly social content.

They’re just not leveraging it as frequently as they should be, they’re not following back other people, they’re not engaging in conversations and not replying to conversations. They’re not proactively trying to reach out to new people. They’re not acting like a person within social media and that’s what companies need to do to be successful.

6. What are the most important metrics to measure the success of content marketing?

The most important thing for marketing is to align your metrics with a framework. The most common framework is a funnel, in which you need to develop relationships with people or businesses to convert them. They need to first know that you exist. They need to begin to like, know, and trust you. You then need to convert them into becoming customers, and then hopefully they become your advocate. So that’s a very simple way of looking at a funnel but that’s the way that I prefer.

Different content marketing initiatives are going to target different stages of the funnel or stages of the buyer’s journey.

For instance, how many web traffic visitors did the content attract? How many new followers did it attract to your social media? How many leads did it generate in terms of coming to your website, but also signing up to receive something?

 

Game scores

 

Just them coming to a website or them becoming a follower of us on social media or even engaging with our content is a way for them to begin to know, like, and trust. I think the next level is to get their e-mail address, so that we can drop them into a marketing funnel and better keep in touch.

Then obviously we have the conversion: How is the content marketing contributing to actual conversion of business? And then advocacy, how does our content marketing bring old customers back or get them to sign up for our brand ambassador program, etc.?

I believe those are the most important content marketing metrics by funnel category and every company has different metrics they use. But those are the ones that I like, to focus on the big picture and make sure that everything we do is serving the big picture.

7. What are your thoughts on AI and content creation? Are they a good and helpful match or a disaster?

Leveraging AI or natural language processing tools for content ideation is great, if it saves you more time to do more strategic things.

Now the actual content creation, I believe, should be done by humans. The AI can provide you with the analysis and give you some sample ways of saying things. For very short form content such as FAQs or ad copy, it’s great because you can get multiple variations very quickly and it can help you accelerate the ideation. But that breaks down when you get the long-form content like blog posts or chapters for books.

People resonate with storytelling and it’s the job of the human to make sure that their content represents that. That’s something an AI is not built to do and therefore you still always need a human touch.

 

Woman looking through a magnifying glass

 

8. What is impactful content on LinkedIn for you?

Impactful content on LinkedIn will always be defined by answering the question of did it engage people and drive them to whatever action you desired them to do after consuming the content. Unfortunately, as with any other social network, the algorithms decide who will see what content that you publish.

LinkedIn themselves have said that they want to see content that provides knowledge and advice. In other words, not only do they want to keep users on their platform, but they want your content to add more value to their day and make them more productive and successful. Thus, educational content that truly adds value will be impactful by definition.

On the flip side, we are all human beings, and as such we are visual animals. Visual content is the most impactful type of content, and LinkedIn is no different. Although LinkedIn is not Facebook, there is still no denying that open, authentic, and at times emotional content that is displayed visually can have an impact.

We’ve all seen numerous posts of videos and professional selfies that tell a story and draw us in. In a similar vein to what I mentioned before, there are an equal number of visual data attached to posts as well as the currently popular carousel posts which are truly trying to educate us and can have impact as well.

Whatever you post on LinkedIn, it should add value through truly educating, incorporate storytelling, and ideally being visual. Adding authenticity to the mix to make it sound like only you wrote it is the final layer to add on top to maximize its chance of succeeding in the algorithm and maximizing potential impact.

About the author

Neal Schaffer is an authority on helping innovative businesses digitally transform their marketing. Neal has served as a Fractional CMO for several leading organizations helping them with their digital, content, influencer, and social media marketing. Neal also teaches executives at Rutgers Business School and UCLA Extension. He has also authored four marketing books, including The Age of Influence (HarperCollins Leadership), a ground-breaking book redefining digital influence.

Neal Schaffer

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