The ArC Story: Lessons Learned and Looking Ahead

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I promised Gini Dietrich that I would write down my resolutions for the New Year. This meant putting into writing a review of the course ArCompany has taken with an eye to the plans we had from the outset.   I was filled with trepidation about seeing that in writing because, as anyone with experience knows, the social media space is filled with big dreams and colossal failures.

I’ve done a lot of thinking over the holidays and I’ve come to realize that–especially in this new space, in this evolving world of social media intelligence–failure is a constant reality. This is more a function of the nascency of this space, and the lack of true business case models especially in a market that has yet to truly evolve.

As much as we recognize the inevitability of Social Business, the companies, for the most part, are slower to embrace, let alone, understand the need for it.

Looking back…

historyWhen we first started this company, this is the foundation upon which it was built:

I need to form a company that will help companies move to that eventual next level. There remains a huge education gap when it comes to social. Many have not totally bought into the promise of social. Their implementations are weak and non-committal….

If you’ll notice, the statement we made a year ago continues to identify the market that exists today.

Regardless, here’s what we set out to do:

  • We evolve businesses for the inevitable and use data to drive validation and make smart decisions;
  • We show business how to evolve at their own pace;
  • We educate and train on best practices and how to manage and foster relationships at each customer touch point;
  • We introduce technology within the framework of the customer relationship: collaboration, workflow, business intelligence, content and community mapping;
  • We analyze initiatives to validate implementations and strategies, and ensure they map to business objectives.

Regrouping early in the game…

frustrated

One thing we advocate as a principle in this company is the need to be nimble. Businesses need to evolve with the market… not the other way around. Why continue to push a premise that no one will buy? It didn’t take long for us to understand that “Social Business” was not readily understood… nor was it needed yet. This was pretty significant for us. As a new company we knew what we set out to do and we put all our energy in selling this mission. You can imagine our frustration when we had to change the strategy.

After deliberating we understood that we could not easily sell the concept of the Social Organization but we could easily convince companies that there is gold in the data and it could be extremely beneficial in decisions they make regarding markets, their products and even their competitors. So we decided to change the positioning of the company to this:

ArCompany….turning social media intelligence into business results

Now it made enormous sense. We realized we couldn’t tell companies what they were doing was wrong. We needed to change our approach and allow companies to see the benefit of social intelligence for themselves. We needed to show them the power of the data and the results that followed. Eventually these baby steps would allow business to move in the right direction without them realizing that we were slowly “dismantling that precious infrastructure” they had established over the course of time.

We continued to learn our lessons…

lessonsAs we evolved as a company, we also realized other things along the way:

  • Community Management was a much needed service we had to provide. Both Amy Tobin and Andrew Jenkins convinced me of this. For those of you who have done it, the work is intensive, painstaking and requires a lot of time and effort to do it justice. We realized that the whole question of ROI would naturally come into question so we modified the service to ensure that we were continuously optimizing for performance. While engagement was important, we also had to prove that growing and nurturing community would net positive business results.
  • Enterprise clients still continue to exhibit some hesitancy when it comes to social media. We knew this going in but what made this more challenging was the realization that finding an internal champion didn’t necessarily mean the sell-through would be easier. Convincing one was part of the battle, but convincing those whose compensation was tied to performance was a much different story. Regardless of practices that no longer seemed to work, falling back on “what was known” was much more comforting than treading on the “dark side”. The experience that my teammates have in the enterprise space provides an unparalleled view into the mindset of these executives to whom we’re selling. We’re extremely lucky to have these insights from Bob Jones and be able to morph our approach to respond appropriately to their misgivings or challenges.
  • The ArCompany Blog continues to be a strong presence for us: and we use it to draw awareness both to our company as well as the immense talent that resides within our team. It’s been our marketing machine and continues to build visibility for us. However, I am very proud of the strides we’ve made with Social Justice…

Social Justice Series continues to receive the strongest engagement…

This was Amy Tobin’s baby and I love how she evolved the series. Initially it called out companies who made some missteps in social media. From the start, there was strong resonance both on Twitter and on our blog. But when challenged to profile companies who were actually doing it right, Amy did just that.

The series itself provided ArCompany with a very different perspective on the smaller organizations who, without necessarily the benefit of big budgets or strong market presence, were making amazing strides in social corporate responsibility (CSR) and leveraging social to develop advocacy and influence consumer perceptions about their brand. More importantly, it brought to light a stronger understanding and appreciation for those who operate in the CSR space.

I urge you to read some of these posts. : Simply Straws is Simply Brilliant, Fed by Threads Tackles Hunger in America with Gorgeous Apparel, Nisolo Shoes: A Business built to do good

We are headed in the right direction

By last quarter we started exhibiting signs of momentum. As we began to onboard clients it was clear that the market was beginning to catch up to our way of thinking. We’ve experienced interest in evolving facets of the business within social selling and social CRM.

We’ve also been at the table with C-suite, who admit they need to learn and evolve with the market changes and demands of the consumer. We have an inherent understanding of the gaps that exist and how we could help to close them.

We’ve also experienced opportunities to innovate in this space, and leverage social media to change the way organizations operate. We know now that even the more established organizations want to jump on this data intelligence bandwagon and develop more sustainable operating models.

Social is not longer reactive. We’re beginning to prove that in spades. We’ve gone beyond the campaign and we’re advocating for companies to weave it into the fabric of their organizations.

Are we there yet? Hardly, but we’re making enormous strides and if I were to make a prediction, it would be that 2014 will be a changing year for ArCompany.

Here are our goals and promises to ourselves :

  • Continue to evolve the company with the market
  • Strive for innovation and develop new capabilities to capitalize on the data
  • Make a difference. Define how ArCompany will enable/promote CSR in our own back yard
  • Push the limits on creativity and challenge each other and our partners
  • Persevere and motivate each other despite the odds
  • Establish a stronger foothold for our content and thought leadership outside of ArCompany

I’m pretty sure we’ll make a huge difference this year. In this space, there’s no where to go but UP!:)

Image source: magicalmusings, glassgiant

Founder at ArCompany, and Co-founder of Salsa AI, Hessie is a  seasoned digital strategist, and intelligence analyst having held senior positions for top ad agencies including Ogilvy, Rapp Collins, ONE and Isobar Digital. She also has extensive start-up experience in social tech, online publishing and artificial intelligence like Yahoo! Answers, Overlay.TV, Jugnoo and Cerebri AI. Hessie is the co-author of EVOLVE: Marketing (as we know it) is Doomed! She is also  an active writer for Cognitive World, Towards Data Science and Marketing Insider Group.

0 thoughts on “The ArC Story: Lessons Learned and Looking Ahead

  1. JoeCardillo says:

    I really like that you put time and energy into CSR / business for good. I think one of the pitfalls of business trying to be more engaged in social (especially enterprises) is that they have a hard time understanding it’s a multi-dimensional place, where the choice is not to always be right or an evil empire, but instead be held accountable for consistently getting better and more efficient for the world around them. Keep up the great work.

  2. hessiej says:

    JoeCardillo Hey Joe! One thing I realize as we move along this space: putting your money where your mouth is, walking the walk is not necessarily that easy. Putting ourselves out there could leave us open to criticism and we’re vulnerable to negative perception… but that’s ok. It’s the reason we learn and we evolve. I welcome all comments, negative and positive. If we are arrogant enough to believe that what we’re doing is the right thing, irrespective of what the market is saying, then we’re doing ourselves a disservice. I love that our peers are being honest with us and giving us the feedback we need to make ourselves successful. With people like you taking the time to follow us on our journey and helping us iterate along the way, there is already validation on the value of true community! 

    As for CSR — Amy McCloskey Tobin continues to encourage the team that we need to be giving back in one form or another. This is one venture I’m looking forward to developing.

  3. JoeCardillo says:

    hessiej I do like that Amy McCloskey Tobin character… =)
    And couldn’t agree more about honest approach + appreciating (constructive) feedback, being humbled is a huge opportunity to grow, individually, professionally and as a team.

  4. AmyMccTobin says:

    I love this post and I’m revved up about our 2014.   There is nothing more satisfying than helping a client that lacks millions of $$ for traditional marketing grow their brand awareness (and Top Line) by using social media to reach the right community.

  5. hessiej says:

    AmyMccTobin I think we’re helping level the playing field Amy. Many have proven that you don’t need the big bucks to get the visibility you need. You just need to leverage social and make it a part of your job and your culture. Organizations will embrace this sooner than later.

  6. AmyVernon says:

    Excellent post, hessiej . It’s so important to look at where you’ve come from and how you’ve changed. I continue to grow more impressed with the whole ARCompany team. 🙂

  7. hessiej says:

    AmyVernon hessiej Thanks Amy! We’re just getting started!  The nice thing is that we’re paving our own path and we’re capitalizing on opportunities as we see them! It’s the influence from our amazing peers like you –who continue to challenge the status quo –that will help all of us evolve this industry and corporate mindsets.

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