A Digital Fireside Chat with Ashley Brown
Today, Spredfast welcomes a new member to our growing team, and we’re thrilled to introduce Ashley Brown as Spredfast’s Vice President of Social Strategy. As a pioneer in social media with a rich background in technology, communications and big brands, I sat down with Ashley to allow him share a personal introduction and preview into the social marketing road ahead in his new role.
You have an extensive background in social, digital and brand marketing. Tell us a little about your background, work passions and yourself.
I grew up wanting to be a diplomat. I have an M.A. in international relations and I speak French and German. But after failing oral exams for the Foreign Service twice, I took that as a sign that the universe wanted me to do something else. So I made the switch to PR, and got my start in the food practice of Porter Novelli in DC.
Now I love food, but I am really passionate about technology. One thing led to another and I joined a boutique healthcare PR firm in New York. I worked on novel therapeutics and biologics, which was incredibly interesting. This brought me to the attention of Microsoft, so I moved to Seattle for a role managing consumer PR for the Windows business. While I was at Microsoft, social media began to impact the business in a major way and I started blogging.
Coca-Cola gave me the unique opportunity to stay in technology and social media and to build a team from the ground up. It also meant I could spend some time back in Atlanta, where I grew up. While at Coke, my team grew our social channels 100% year-over-year for three consecutive years, led our major investment in content with the launches of Coca-Cola Journey and Coca-Cola Unbottled, trained more than 5,000 employees in social media best practices, established the Company’s first social listening program, and helped embed social strategy throughout communications and marketing.
Today, I’m passionate about taking social programs to the next three levels. We’re entering an unprecedented time in the history of marketing and communications, when we can put the right, data-driven message in front of the right person at exactly the right time. That’s an extraordinary opportunity.
Social has fundamentally changed the dynamic of 1:1 and 1:many communications. What’s your personal “why” on the value of social marketing?
Today, people are able to speak truth to those in power. This is a positive force for humanity, and it’s an opportunity for brands to connect with consumers, turn issues into wins, and embrace the idea that everything (and everyone) communicates.
From a marketing perspective, brands can form meaningful relationships with consumers and super-fans on a scale that was impossible a decade ago. They are also able to target customer segments precisely and finely measure those activities. Social data, is feeding insights back into the business that remove much of the guesswork from messaging frameworks, marketing plans, and the creative process. There’s a great deal of work taking place now to fully understand the power of social analytics and to ensure the data we capture is actionable.
For communicators, social completely changes the game. Brands are no longer entirely reliant on media. They can take a story, via owned or social channels, straight to the consumer or influencer. Social also gives brands the opportunity to more effectively and quickly manage issues and crises than was possible even a few years ago.
Across the enterprise, social media is shining a bright spotlight on the need for compelling, well-designed, and useful content. That’s a win for all of us.
Social marketing has many levels and layers. What areas get you most excited?
First, I’m excited by the rethinking of corporate structures and processes that social media needs to be successful. Much like the early days of television, when a new medium radically transformed agencies and marketing departments, social media will require brands to transform how they work.
Many companies still look like they did in the 1990s. Legacy corporate structures must adapt to meet the cross-functional nature of the social web, and I think this will have a major impact on staffing, budgets, prioritization and focus, and capability building.
Internal communications and employee advocacy programs will get renewed focus. Marketers will develop earned media and influencer expertise, while communicators will increasingly have a say in how paid media dollars are spent. This blending will hopefully break down silos across the enterprise, resulting in more agile, relevant campaigns.
I’m also eager to see the social team of the future come into its own. As social media leaders know, the best social teams aren’t simply composed of community managers working alone. They draw on designers, communicators, data experts, media planners, photographers, videographers, illustrators, direct response experts, legal teams, and a whole host of other skillsets not typically found on one team or in one function.
Finally, I’ll go ahead and bang the data drum. Operationalizing all the data we now have at our fingertips will take the “guess again” factor out of marketing and communications and result in smarter, more cost-efficient strategies. This is a major part of the impact calculation that’s mostly been ignored until today.
What drove your decision to join the Spredfast team?
I come from a technology background, having focused on technology PR and communications before my time at Coke. After spending the last four years embracing the “blue sky” experience of building out Coca-Cola’s social and digital team, I’m excited to connect my passion for social strategy with my technology roots. I was immediately attracted to the speed, innovation and intense focus Spredfast has in the market. The company’s dedication to helping brands achieve big-picture success with a high level view of impact is increasingly important for any social brand. The sunshine and blue skies of Austin sealed the deal.
What will you be focused on in your role of Vice President of Social Strategy?
In my new role, I’ll be working with Spredfast customers to partner in creating cutting-edge social strategies that connect with the Spredfast social marketing platform. This will include helping our customers develop creative social marketing solutions for their businesses, building efficiency and collaboration across their internal teams, and ultimately leaning into social measurement to build data-driven, success-oriented social programs. I’ll also advocate as the “voice of the customer” internally to bolster our promise to the market that we’re committed to evolving with – and for – our customers.
As a leader and strategist in social, you’re constantly expanding and participating in the social marketing dialogue. Where can the Spredfast community connect with you for real-time thoughts, ideas and discussion?
I loved LinkedIn. It’s my morning read and where I get most of my news and keep up with what’s going on in the world. I’m also a huge Twitter fan. I also author a blog, The Dash, where I deep dive into the things that I find interesting – social media strategy, technology, data, and cities/urban design.