Social Media Interview: Curtis Hougland, Founder & CEO - Attention

Who are you and what does your company do?

We are a self-service, global social media marketing agency. We were behind one of the new media agencies in 1992 and one of the first social media agencies in 2005. As a result we've developed a sound understanding of what's fact and fiction in social media.

How and why did you get started in social media?

I worked for AOL, Amazon, Time Warners through the early 90s, that's how I got started.

What do you believe are the benefits of using social media for business?

I think social media is a behavior rather than a set of channels. As consumers we have a biological need to share and socialize, as marketers we're always underestimating this. It's the reason why more people live inside cities in the history of civilization and it will reflect purchasing behavior. Word of mouth can simply be someone sharing a link with a friend through text. If you take that to its furthest conclusion, it allows us to stay relevant with customers- when and where they are engaged emotionally with an issue. As a result the advocacy and influence in social media translates more directly into sales than reach based marketing and its benefit is the ability to participate fundamentally where consumers are making the decisions.

What do you think are common mistakes business owners make when building brand awareness on social media?

A common mistake would be to elevate the channel over the behavior. You never start with a Facebook or Twitter idea rather it's an idea based on consumer insight where you try to apply it to the channel behavior depending where the audience is in social media. We often think of Facebook and Twitter as strategies in and of themselves which is rarely the case.

What qualities do you think social media managers should have?

A social media manager is increasingly a content creator with the flexibility to conceive and create content quickly and somewhat provocatively- that's probably the most important skill set.

Unlike a few years ago, they need to understand how it's performing on a quantitative level and in a more sophisticated way rather than from simple engagements. They also have to  be coordinating and gather information across the enterprise, in the way that a reporter does, with an intellectual dissonance to the subject.

How do business owners know if their social media campaign is working?

It depends on the objectives. The main question to ask is, are more people interested in buying my product today versus yesterday? Social media awareness allows us to understand where someone stands in the purchase cycle. Using all that information, we can learn how we're driving the intent of purchasing the product, I think that's what social marketers are increasingly trying to measure.

How do you see social media evolving over the next 5 years …what do you hope to see?

Commerce is becoming everywhere. The idea is that every moment is not only sharable but buyable. The buy button will become as ubiquitous as share buttons, to encourage the ability to purchase from whichever media you're on- wherever and whenever you're emotionally engaged. That will probably be the biggest trend over the next 5 years.

If you could share one best practice about using social media to grow a business, what would it be?

One best practice is to understand what objective you're trying to achieve. There are too many social media activities and it's not always clear what they're trying to achieve. You can probably divide all of them into things that get attention or things that drive intention- so I guess it's attention versus intention.

What are you favorite platforms for social media marketing?

'Like to buy' campaigns are doing well on Instagram, it allows for a good measure of purchasing intent.



Manal Bouchacra

Manal Bouchacra

Manal is interested in social media and is working on her creative writing skills. Outside of work she enjoys the gym and hanging out with friends and family.


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