Social Media Technology Thought Leader Interview Series
Ivan Fernandes, MediaCom Global Director, Social Media Technology,
interviews Graeme Boyd, Social Marketing Manager, Xbox EMEA.
Welcome to the Social Media Thought Leader Interview, our series of regular interviews with some of
the world’s best and brightest innovators. Conducted by Ivan Fernandes, MediaCom’s Global Head of
Social Media Technology, these conversations contain numerous ideas and insights that brands can
use to enhance their social media development strategies.
Every two weeks, we take a look at key changes in the social media technology landscape and the
implications they have on the way brands engage with their customers.
In line with our philosophy of “people first, better results”, Ivan works to reinforce MediaCom’s position
as the agency that best understands consumers in the digital sphere. Ivan oversees work around digital
measurement and social media technology to inspire our clients to make the most out of paid, owned
and earned media.
If you are a thought leader and would like to participate in a future interview, please contact Ivan at
[email protected]
Graeme Boyd, Social Marketing Manager, Xbox EMEA
After starting his career in publishing, Graeme has been at Xbox since
2006, where he is now the Social Marketing Manager for EMEA.
Previously Consultant Community Manager within the EMEA Digital
Marketing Team, he has extensive experience delivering targeted
campaigns and played a key role in growing the Xbox community into
the highly engaged community that it is today.
Key takeaways from this session include:
The best way for social media practioners to gain credibility is to demonstrate the value
returned to the business. Social media isn’t that different from traditional marketing channels:
it’s a new way of communicating with your intended audience but with the difference that it’s
always on.
There is considerable scope for integrating social into exisiting channels, such as TV, which are
not being exploited to their greatest extent; the two-screen behaviour of consumers is a
phenomenal opportunity.
Be sceptical about what you’re doing, question the value of every number and every target, and
imagine you are explaining your work to your CFO, not your CMO.
The key thing is to be absolutely clear about why you want to be involved in social media, and
what you hope to get out of it.
Ivan Fernandes, Global Director, Social Media Technology, MediaCom Worldwide
1. Tell us about Xbox Social in 140 characters or less?
OMG! OK, Xbox Social is all about connecting to our fans in fun, credible and relevant ways, then
measuring the value of those connections.
2. How and why did you get into social media business? Tell me about Xbox Social – how it
was created (Social division) and what you do. What makes Xbox platform different from
your competitors?
I was at Xbox for 5 years as Xbox EMEA Community Manager before I moved into my current role and
began to focus more on social media. As a CM I had always been involved with social and totally
believed in it as an important part of our marketing mix, but we did not have any clear or driven EMEA
social media strategy in place. That was my first responsibility – define our EMEA social strategy at the
most basic level, then work with our Global team and the EMEA subs to put it into action. We’ve being
layering onto that strategy with more sophisticated thinking since. We like to start simply, do the basics
well, and build gradually from there.
I don’t necessarily want to say that we’re so different from other brands, but we do absolutely believe in
the importance of local relevancy in social media, and the importance of having your internal
stakeholders buy into social with energy and enthusiasm. Hence why we set up our Xbox EMEA Social
Media V-team, which centralises strategy and guidance in EMEA HQ, but outsources execution to the
local markets.
3. Can you tell me a little bit about Xbox Social Media and how it works?
In terms of channels and size, we focus on Facebook and YouTube mostly, since those are the
channels with the best regional growth and reach. We are currently running 26 Facebook pages across
22 EMEA countries with over 3.2M Likes and high engagement rates that we’re very proud of. We also
have and 7 official YouTube partner channels with over 19,000 subscribers and over 500k video views
per month. Twitter is a channel we love at Xbox (and me personally – I have over 20k Followers and
spend far too much time on there…) but it’s a very resource-intensive platform. We are looking at ways
to implement a feasible local approach here too.
We place a lot of stock in our Xbox EMEA Social Media V-Team model. We find it improves the
experience from a user point of view since they are consuming locally-relevant social media content in
their local language (marketing 101 that, but an important point nonetheless); and it improves the
experience for the local markets, since they are closer to their social media channels, and therefore
their fans. They develop a real sense of ownership of their channels and a deep connection to the
thoughts and opinions of their customers.
The challenge, of course, is that our local teams have several things taking up their time, of which social
media is just one. We do our best to provide them with the tools, content, campaigns and messaging
they need to take some weight of their shoulders. But ultimately much of the credit goes to them for their
energy, enthusiasm and desire to play credibly in the social media space.
And it’s worth noting that I’m talking exclusively about our Xbox EMEA channels here. Our Global
colleagues have a massive Xbox Facebook Page with over 18M Likes, a YouTube channel with over
87k subscribers and a Twitter handle reaching 550k Followers. We love those channels, but we’re very
mindful that our EMEA channels need to be locally relevant, in local language, and adhering to local
guidelines and regulations.
4. What are some of the more important new business strategies being deployed at your
Xbox Social?
For us, our FY11 was all about establishing our social media strategy and v-team, and growth. FY12
and FY13 are about focussing on engagement and user retention to drive growth. Engagement on our
channels is equally – if not slightly more – important to us than our reach numbers, and our focus for the
past 9 months has been to drive engagement as hard as we can. Happily we are seeing that as our
engagement rises and we drive more user activity on our pages and channels, we also drive more
organic growth. It’s a much more cost effective way of encouraging reach growth.
1. How is social media technology affecting the marketing landscape today?
At the end of the day social media isn’t so different from traditional marketing channels. It’s a new way
of communicating with your intended audience. But it is much more intense in the sense that it’s always
on, it’s instant, and consumers have a much higher expectation that they will be acknowledged by and
listened to by brands in the social space. The opportunity here is that it allows brands to foster much
deeper relationships with their customers to ultimately drive sales, loyalty, lifetime value and advocacy.
The challenge is that all of these social media channels take time, resource, investment and patience to
get the most out of. Hence our focus on getting the basics right on Facebook and YouTube (and Twitter
where relevant) and demonstrating the value returned to the business - I truly believe this is the best
way for social media practitioners to gain credibility and influence in marketing departments and
businesses around the world.
2. Are there any social media technologies that have caught your eye recently?
In a general sense, I think mobile is causing the biggest shift in the social media world. Most of the
hottest new social start-ups are heavily mobile, or mobile-only, and Facebook is clearly trying to improve
their mobile offering and consolidate their audience there - 40% of Facebook views are already by
smartphone. Closely related to mobile, dual screen activities are extremely interesting, but I’ll come to
But when I think about specific social media platforms, Pinterest is clearly on the up and I love the
opportunities it provides for fashion, style and design brands, but I’m yet to see a good reason for Xbox
to be involved. I’m also fascinated by the way the audience make-up is evolving – in the US it’s 86%
female, in the UK it’s 56% male.
Instagram is clearly in the spotlight at the moment and I’m intrigued to see how the Facebook
acquisition will affect both platforms. I think Facebook has more to gain from Instagram’s smart mobile
UX, established userbase (over 40M at last count, although many have threatened to jump ship…), and
slick sharing features than its functional photo-altering capabilities.
And I’m watching the proliferation of location-based social media with great interest. I’m a huge
foursquare fan but again, unsure of its value to Xbox specifically. Then platforms like Path, Glancee,
Highlight and PlaceMe are taking location-based networking to even more personal levels – often with
quite concerning implications. I think that’s indicative of a general movement in social media: Now that
Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have consolidated as the Big 3, new networks need to find a niche and
exploit it incredibly well to gain traction. Those niches aren’t always the right fit for brands, and there is
no use in trying to shoehorn your brand onto a platform just because it’s the hot new thing.
3. What are some of the most exciting breakthroughs that you are seeing in the technology
or methodologies related to Social Media?
There are two things I’m particularly interested in at the moment. The first is social TV, or more
generally, how social media can fit into the two-screen behaviour of consumers these days. 64% of TV
viewers watch with a mobile, smartphone or tablet in hand – that’s a phenomenal opportunity that’s
really never been see before. I’m fascinated by the interplay of simultaneous active watching and social
media engagement, and very intrigued to see how brands and content creators exploit that. Britain’s Got
Talent is doing some very cool (but admittedly very simple – although that doesn’t mean it’s not clever
or elegant) stuff with context-senstive #tags on screen during their shows. Those #tags flag key talking
points to the audience and give the viewers conversation topics to become part of. They also give the
show’s producers a wealth of data, including volume of attention for particular acts and associated
sentiment. Simple and smart, and I’m hoping to borrow the idea for some stuff we have coming up in the
future. I’m also very interested to see how Zeebox performs over a longer period. It’s a really clever way
of exploiting the second screen social behaviour, and I know lots of brands are getting excited about the
prospect of driving direct sales from Zeetags. However, in my experience I much prefer co-watching via
my usual channels – i.e. my Twitter app or Facebook profile. I think we need to be careful about foisting
too much info and data onto users. All that said, I wonder if there are interesting ways that videogames
could tap into this second screen social media behaviour…
The second is the emergence of Kickstarter as a force to be reckoned with in the videogame
development world. Recently the original creators of The Secret of Monkey Island, a classic point & click
adventure game, took to Kickstarter to raise money for the new point & click game their fans
desperately wanted, but big game studios were reluctant to fund. By harnessing their fanbase through
social channels and riding a wave of community goodwill, the project was backed to it’s $400k target
within 24 hours, and now sits at $3.3m raised. This is an extreme type of crowdsourcing that could only
be possible with social media – videogamers are no longer just telling us what they want, they are telling
us what they want AND putting up the money to pay for it.
4. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing social media technologies/platforms in
the coming year? What's currently missing?
Generally, social media is facing the same major challenge it has for the past five years: What’s the
ROI? In my opinion, we haven’t helped ourselves in the social media industry by avoiding, denying or
obfuscating this question. There is no doubt in my mind – we absolutely have to solve this problem, and
we have to accept that the answer may be different from brand to brand, or from business to business.
The more we look for a holy grail of social media measurement, or complicate the issue with barrages of
stats that are often meaningless, the deeper we dig ourselves in. We need to draw clear and robust
links between social media metrics and tangible value to the brand, and educate our businesses and
the wider marketing community on that value.
Social media marketers have to be open, transparent, honest, stop hiding behind legions of unproven
data points, and start building credible ROI and value models for their business. The best piece of
advice I’ve been given is to be sceptical about what you’re doing, question the value of every number
and every target, and imagine you are explaining your work to your CFO, not your CMO. That should
help cut out the fluff…
Social Media
1. What are the possibilities? What would be your top tip for a brand looking to start
harnessing social media?
There are multiple possibilities: the key thing is to be absolutely clear about why you want to be involved
in social media, and what you hope to get out of it.
Do you want to gain a deeper understanding of your customers via research and first-hand insight? Do
you want to drive customer loyalty and purchase frequency? Do you want to drive direct transaction? Do
you want to open up another communications channel? Do you want to divert calls to your customer
support centre?
You don’t need to have all the answers and you can learn very quickly in social, but you need to have a
clear view on what you want to achieve. And it helps to have that clear view approved and supported by
your boss…!
2. Which verticals are most affected or benefited by social media? Do you recommend
different social media strategies for different types of companies (like retail versus
business-to-business) and can you give some examples?
Absolutely. There is no one-size-fits-all social media strategy, just like there is no one-size-fits-all
marketing strategy. They have to be flexible from business to business, and from brand to brand. Small
retail businesses will use social in a far different way to big brands (and often far more successfully,
since they understand the LTV benefit of personal connections and dialogue). And brands that can
credibly drive direct to transaction or add sales are very well placed to demonstrate the value of social;
ASOS or Burberry have some great examples here.
Greggs has a very clear view about using social media to gain customer insight and understanding, and
my global Xbox colleagues do a phenomenal job with the @XboxSupport Twitter handle, which diverts
huge numbers of calls to support centres and therefore delivers significant value to the business.
Once you have a clear view on why you are involved with social media, you can begin to build a
credible ROI/value model for your business.
3. Do you think social media metrics are important for brands and businesses? What do
you think are the most important metrics to track?
They are crucial. The most important metrics to track are the ones that reflect your reason to be
involved with social media, as described already. And then it’s very important to socialise those metrics
in your organisation and ensure you have buy-in from a wide group of stakeholders. Of course, you
should certainly track all the sub-metrics that social allows you to, but you need to be clear on your key
At Xbox EMEA we focus equally on two key metrics: Reach and Engagement. We’re fascinated by the
relationship between the two and the factors to which engagement drives reach. We’re currently
building a value/ROI model around these metrics, and we’re looking to increase our emphasis on
customer insight, lifetime value of our fans, and direct transactions.
4. How should brands organize for social media success? Are there any hard and fast
social media guidelines to follow?
Make sure you have an internal champion who is supported by the business. Be clear about what you
are trying to do and what success looks like. Try to keep hands-on content and editorial in-house as
much as you can and if you can’t, make sure your agency are incredibly connected to the brand and
that you have a good crisis management plan in place. Work with people who genuinely care about
social and aren’t blinded by the dazzle of it all. Learn fast and be honest about stuff that didn’t work very
well. Measure, measure, measure. Report, report, report. And move quickly to build a ROI/value model!
5. It seems like every day there is a new network being launched. And they are becoming
much more specific. How can a business owner know where to direct their efforts?
Wait and watch. It looks cool for brands to be involved with the hot new social media platform, and you
might get some coverage in the trade press, but you’re unlikely to make a difference to your customers
in the short term. That said, if there’s a clear and measurable benefit to your customers by your
presence on a new or small social media platform, go for it.
6. How do you measure the ROI of social media? Is there an effective way to marketing
You have to define this based on what you want to achieve. Just like any other form of marketing, your
ROI is based on your objectives and the targets associated with those objectives. If you’re looking for a
quick way to assign a big value to every Like on your Facebook page, you should probably spend that
time thinking about why you want Likes on your Facebook page.
I think we all need to stop holding a gun to social media’s head. We need to view it less as a marketing
Johnny-come-lately that needs to prove itself with a sexy new ROI model, and instead apply to it the
same measures, metrics and diligence that we apply to our other marketing channels. There is good
marketing with sensible, considered spends that create measurable results. There is bad marketing
which doesn’t connect with the customer and pours money down the drain. Bad marketing did not arrive
at the same time as social media.
1. What does the future of digital innovation look like in the next five years?
I think social is here to stay in the digital world. Not necessarily social media as we know it now, but
social as an inherent connecting part of your digital experience. Google+, Facebook and even Twitter
are clearly moving in this direction, but I think we’ll continue to see decentralised digital experiences
connected by social platforms. I’m excited to see that Xbox is already embracing this, both as a product
and in our marketing.
2. Finally, what does 2012 hold for you and Xbox Social?
An increased focus on the value of social media to the business, and a continued desire to engage our
social media fans in the most valuable way – for them and for us.
Thank you very much, Graeme!
Ivan Fernandes, Global Director, Social Media Technology at MediaCom Worldwide