We recently caught up with B-to-B Dream Team captain Helen Stoddard of Twitter to explore her take on the brand experience industry, attracting the right audience, measurement, maximizing budget, and more. Here’s what she had to say.
Congratulations on being named captain of the Event Marketer B-to-B Dream Team — what an honor!
HS: It’s SUCH an honor. I am thrilled to be named to this elite team, especially given the caliber of all the nominees. I love shining a light on the brand experience industry, and I couldn’t be more excited that the work we are doing at Twitter is being recognized. As much as this is an honor for me, it’s also a celebration of my team. There is nothing I can do without a fantastic group of people on my team, strong vendor partners, and an amazing marketing group at Twitter. I have the great opportunity to work with fantastic marketers and brand stewards.
Let’s start with a little bit of inspiration. Do you have a favorite book or motto — something that inspires you?
HS: Yes! My favorite book is actually an art book by David Hockney that I discovered at the public library when I was ten years old. It captivated my imagination and opened my mind in amazing ways to see art differently, and it’s stayed with me all these years later.
I also have a question I like to ask myself regularly: Are you willing to test your potential? This is important because we all have potential, but in order to reach it, you must be willing to test it and challenge yourself.
Speaking of challenging yourself, what are your biggest business challenges?
HS: My challenges are no different from any other marketer. We live in a time and place when our audience is more connected than ever before. We are fighting for attention. Getting participation is harder. My mission is to create unique, engaging experiences that could only happen with Twitter to get people excited and participating.
It sounds like brand experience plays an important role in your organization’s overall marketing efforts.
HS: Absolutely. We put a lot of emphasis on how we are reaching and speaking to our audiences. We recognize the importance of touching and feeling the brand, especially because ours is a platform, not a physical product. Brand experience is incredibly important because we want people to walk away understanding the bold, human, electric characteristics of our brand. So we work to dimensionalize these characteristics in order to dictate the physical connections people will have with the brand.
So how do you dimensionalize the Twitter brand and bring it to life at your events?
HS: There are three key elements. It starts with how we can creatively pull our brand characteristics through the experience — the look and feel of the brand. We look at visuals and the décor of the environment. Does it feel like us? It should be bold, human, and electric. There should be surprises and pops of energy. Next, we examine engagement points. We look at what’s happening in the room and what attendees can do, who they can engage with, and who is performing. Finally, we always include a specific call to action. Why are people there, and what are we asking them to do? We want to create an experience or moment, so we decide if we want our participants to vote, share, engage, participate, be on stage, etc.
Who are you trying to reach, and how do you make sure you are attracting the right audience?
HS: Great question. To start, every event must have a specific target audience based on what the event is trying to accomplish. It could be related to sales or business in general or be targeted directly to consumers. Part of the work we do is understanding exactly what our goals and objectives so that the right audience can easily be found. It may sound simple, but to attract the right audience, you have to know where you are going and why. You must do the work at the top and be crystal clear about the goals and objectives for the event and the brand. That makes it much easier to get from point A to point B.
What are some ways you get to know your audience better?
HS: It’s quite simple but something that many overlook. Ask a question and then listen for the answer. If you do one and not the other, you end up missing 50 percent of the information. At Twitter, we have access to the ultimate tool to let anyone have a voice, and we use it. But we also remember to listen to the answer.
And what about measurement? How are you measuring success?
HS: Well, there are two sides to that conversation. First, there’s all of the technology available to us. As marketers, we can literally track anything and everything: attendance, demos, places visited, moods, etc. This shows the overall impressions. But the second side is focused on the quality of those impressions. Think of it in terms of social media: we aren’t looking just for a singular retweet, but rather, are they part of the conversation? Relating back to the call to action, are they taking the action we want them to? These two sides — one is a hard measure, and the other is soft. But you have to focus on both to get a full picture.
You touched on technology. There’s so much new tech coming out all the time. Which tech trends do you see as most relevant to our industry and the events you create?
HS: Actually, I think the most useful or relevant technologies are often a bit unglamorous. It goes back to data capture and audience tracking. The most relevant tech helps marketers be clear about who you are bringing into the room and why, as well as helping to keep in touch before, during, and after. Those things are the most beneficial and the most critical to our success. One of the biggest challenges is resisting the urge to jump on the hottest new thing to hit the market. Technology needs to help me tell my story — or it’s a distraction. Sometimes, some of the simplest things can be the most compelling.
Do you have any advice for marketers looking to use Twitter for their events and experiences?
HS: Yes! I absolutely used Twitter in previous roles with other companies before joining the team. The power of social media in general, especially Twitter, when it comes to events is that you only have a limited number of people in your room, at your event, at any given time — but an unlimited number of people can experience it if your attendees amplify it online. So my recommendation is to always make sure you have a conversation that plays out online. Figure out your story and how best to tell it through this channel. Twitter offers brands an amazing opportunity to tell their stories before, during, and after each event — all while amplifying the message and engaging in a dialogue.
What advice do you have for maximizing budget?
HS: One of the things I look at for this is the relationships we have with our vendors and partners. How can we work with them to not only make our events a success but also stretch those dollars, and perhaps bring something additional to the table? We also try to look at ways creativity can help with small touches that leave lasting impressions. An example might be serving flavored popcorn in fun branded boxes that are adorable and inherently Tweetable. We always try to look at creativity in terms of how we express ourselves.
Where do you see the future of brand experience heading?
HS: For me, I see that creativity, storytelling, and engagement — with the right connected audience — leads to success. There is a lot of opportunity for experiences to be better and deeper than they are today. As an industry, we need to be better at using data and insights to create the best results. Experiences will become more impactful as they are increasingly hyper-targeted. That will allow us to get much deeper engagement. Instead of getting a thousand people to spend one minute with us, I’d rather get a hundred people to spend a thousand minutes with us.
Thank you for such an insightful interview, Helen. Last question — what is your spirit animal?
HS: It’s actually not an animal at all! I am absolutely obsessed with donuts; so I’d have to go with my spirit “thing” being a Krispy Kreme pink-glazed donut!