Adobe director of social media strategy EMEA, Marc Blinder argues that, as social media transforms the corporate world into a more democratic place, brands need to keep it human if they want to engage in conversational marketing.The emergence of social media has changed corporate business and the tone of conversations that major companies now use in talking to their customers. So says Marc Blinder, director ofsocial media strategy EMEA for Adobe, while talking at The Drum Live.The former Californian political campaigner was discussing the impact that social has made on boardrooms and whether or not the people making the corporate decisions should also be steeringtheir own social strategies, or whether it should be delegated to one department to handle.He explained that Adobe had heard from chief marketing officers and marketing directors that they wanted their social and analytics to work in tandem, something the company was attempting to reconcile, but added that the use of social should be split across all parts of a business.“PR has a role to play, marketing has a role to play, HR has a role to play as has recruitment as we try and get people to come and work with us. As digital media becomes central to business leaders around the world, we think that more and more of it will have a social element. More and more departments will be responsible. You will see that every piece of the business will have to think about social some of the time,” explains Blinder who goes onto discuss how the people steering the social media platforms can be chosen.“The people who are participating in social media from all of the different departments tend to really get it and know how to represent the brand pretty naturally. Of course there’s training and tools to manage it so that certain people only have permission to do certain things. Maybe some people moderate, some people publish and others build apps. Once you start to get involved and people see how it’s done, it’s not too hard to get people on brand.”On the decision as to how a company’s tone of voice should be decided, Blinder is clear in his assessment that the need for this has altered the approach of even some of the world’s largest companies as they directly communicate with customers.“It is hard to overstate how big that change is,” he proclaims. “This generation of consumers would be horrified if you cut and paste from a press release as a one-to-one communication. They just don’t expect it, none of us should expect it, and we’ve already seen oodles of companies make that transition and it’s just a matter of time before the rest do.“Fortunately, it’s easier because the people who work in the company are already human beings who find it easier to have a more conversational tone of voice with the customers once you have got in the right mindset. It’s a big change and brands should expect it. Where it will take longest to turn around will be the highly regulated industries such as the pharmaceutical companies who still don’t have a clear guidance. How human are they allowed to be?The same with financial services which has strict rules. But we are seeing really big, stodgy companies do some really good, engaging conversational marketing and that’s great. However, it may not need to get up to the board level. It depends how involved they want to be, but as long as they have the general sense that they have this persona for their brand then they should keep it human.”Blinder claims that social media has begun to make the corporate world a more democratic place, with consumers now offering their own views on what companies they love or hate should be doing togain their custom.Asked about his views on the platforms companies should look towards, Blinder believes only the forums with large-scale use, such as Facebook and Twitter, are worth a major company focusing on.“If you are working for a big company and you’re worrying about platforms, any platform that has less than 100 million users, you can ignore,” he explained.“Do we have to worry about every new thing that someone’s doing? Vine for example – which I love because it puts great content onto Twitter – if you’re a brand and you don’t feel confident about yourTwitter strategy, why would you worry about your Vine strategy?”As to the value companies should afford to social metrics such as Facebook likes, Blinder believes the best strategy is to target a number and devise a social strategy around building a fan base and community. “You want some real scale, however the purpose of that is not to monetise the fans right away but to have a big enough community using social media,” he advises. “If you don’t have a big enough user base or fans, then it’s just not worth the board or the CEO paying any attention and giving over the budget. So you have a leap of doing nothing important, to people who take it seriously and want to do something big to either change their brand perception or make a lot of money and then work backwards from there and set the goals – be it 100,000 fans or 500,000 fans.”He continues: “A much larger number of fans set a much greater tone of conversation on the brand page. A whole lot of brand pages tend to be customer services issues more than anything else… To me it’s about having people in the right environment. Clearly you want the right fans. No one would ever say ‘Let’s go spend a bunch of money on ads, get fans from some country we don’t do business in and is really cheap to do business in’. Why would you do that when you can use analytics tools to figure out your right demographic, their age, the right segments about the things they want?”Social media is still seen as a cost efficient communications channel by many companies, but one that can effectively engage directly with customers on a level that more expensive forms of marketing cannot, offering the ability to broadcast to customers without the cost of a call centre.“We do see it as a great opportunity for cost savings but, in the long run, social media practitioners will want the thinking to be that they are making money rather than just saving money this way. The operational efficiency has a short runway – so it’s a way of proving efficient customer service or for recruitment.”As with all marketing, the need for measurable return on investment is key to marketers who must show that what they are doing can contribute to the company’s bottom line. Attribution is something Blinder describes as “a huge issue” in the marketplace at the moment, proving that effective analytics tools can help measure the customer journey and measure online data to help provide continued insight.“You have to think across each company ‘what matters most to us?’ Is it the first touch points where we are starting the conversation with the consumer? Is it the last click where they convert? Is it all the clicks in between? How do we measure that value? That is a really big question. What we found was that sadly there isn’t one answer.”Blinder also recommends against companies falling into the perceived influence trap of looking at the number of followers each complainant has, describing that as “a dangerous game” to play. “It’s an inappropriate way for a large corporation to act and I doubt that there’s actually that much relationship between the number of Twitter followers you have the amount of money you have in the bank. You look at a lot of shareholders; they probably barely know how to tweet or even have an account, so it’s a game that has a lot of risk,” he warns.Blinder was interviewed by Andy Oakes at The Drum Live. The Drum Live issue, published on 19 July, is available for purchase at The Drum store.