3 Ways Heineken USA’s Newcastle Brand Wins in Social Media

Chris Dessi & Quinn Kilbury

Heineken USA’s Quinn Kilbury sits with Silverback Social CEO Chris Dessi

On May 15th, 2014 I sat with Quinn Kilbury, Brand Director Newcastle at Heineken USA just moments after he stepped off stage at the Westchester Digital Summit. Quinn sat on a panel titled “Navigating the Digital Landscape” along with colleagues from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, ESPN, and The Financial Times.

I chatted with Quinn about his role at Heineken USA’s Newcastle brand and how they have evolved to be a powerhouse brand in the world of social media. He shared three compelling points that I’d like to share with you, and I think will help your social media strategy.

1. Understand that it’s “just marketing”

Quinn made it very clear that you can have a huge audience in social media, but if the audience isn’t going to buy your product, it means nothing. He pointed out that ESPN’s content is inherently social. Heineken (Newcastle) needs to work a lot harder at that. They can’t pretend that a beer is ESPN. It’s not inherently what people want to find online. Kilbury noted that If they’re going to invest money on a social media platform, they need to have a marketing objective and plan. Quinn also pointed out that the social platform must have an age gating system.

2. Give the Internet what it wants

Quinn stressed that as a major brand, you need to know what you mean to your consumer, and you need to give your consumer what they want. The consumer certainly doesn’t want to be drinking beer through the Internet. Stressing that you need to know what you mean to your consumer. Your content can be compelling and fun, but geared toward the wrong target and that could lead to disaster.

3. There’s a time to pay and a time to not to

Everyone on the panel agreed that you need to be in social, but the rules change every day. They’re spending the most of their time figuring out how they can keep up with the changes. They’re also figuring out how to work with the large social platforms. Understanding that there is a time to pay for media, and a time not to pay and allow for your organic distribution to work for you is paramount. Quinn noted that the major social networks like Facebook and Twitter will work very closely with you to help you and your brand better understand this delicate dance. He even noted that Facebook has office hours in our office every week. Noting that “If you want to have success you can’t fight what they’re doing.” referring to Facebook & Twitter and their consistent changes to algorithms etc. He stressed to work with them. Partner with the big social platforms that you leverage.

See the full interview below:

Purchase a ticket to next year’s Westchester Digital Summit in advance.

CBRE is Crushing it on Instagram: Silverback Social Asked Them 8 Questions to Find Out How

Here at Silverback Social we’re students of social media. We also love to share the wealth of knowledge that we’re exposed to as a result of being at the tip of the spear in social media. Recently we stumbled across the amazing work that CBRE is doing in social media, particularly Instagram. That’s right, CBRE, the world’s leading commercial real estate service is crushing it in social media. So we thought, wouldn’t it be cool is the worlds best social media agency and the worlds leading commercial real estate service sat down for a chat to better understand just how they’re dominating Instagram.

CBRE on Instagram

CBRE on Instagram

Answers are given by Andy Garrett | Senior Director of Global Marketing and Larry Koestler | Digital Marketing Manager
CBRE | Americas

1) As the world’s leading Commercial Real Estate service and investment Company, you guys are obviously already successful. When did the need for moving to a platform, such as Instagram, emerge?

Andy Garrett: So much of our success has been about pushing into new areas and uncovering opportunities. In the world of commercial real estate and amongst B2B companies, Instagram is really still in its infancy. It’s been a platform dominated by B2C brands and power-users. But we saw an opportunity to shake things up a bit.

Instagram has presented us a unique opportunity to demonstrate the elasticity of our brand, transcending the B2B and commercial real estate space and becoming a meaningful part of the consumer conversation.

Larry Koestler: Real estate plays such a huge part in all of our lives, both professionally and personally. Instagram has really been a great way for us to celebrate this impact, focusing on the art and science of structures from around the world and the people inspired by them.

2) Has there been considerable growth in your business as a result of the company’s Instagram? What is the ultimate goal—growth or increased engagement? Do you believe these things must be mutually exclusive?

Andy Garrett: For us at CBRE, Instagram is first and foremost about inspiring our people, our stakeholders and our audience groups. The early success has been both exciting and tangible, manifesting itself in the growth and engagement of the account.

3) How do you gauge which content your audience will enjoy the most?

Larry Koestler: We’re a global company, with offices in every major market and over 44,000 employees. That provides us the benefit of curating from an amazing pool of content to feature in our posts. Whether it’s stunning views of some of the world’s most iconic structures or a behind-the-scenes look at our new Workplace 360 offices, our audiences have responded in the most positive of terms.

4) What has your most popular Instagram post been? Why do you think that this particular post was so successful?

Larry Koestler: To date, our most-engaged post has been a photo of an amazing digital signboard at the Sydney Airport created by our CBRE Sydney team.

Andy Garrett: I’m thrilled with that post. It celebrates the imagination and creativity of our teams and shows the level of camaraderie and collaboration we have here at CBRE. Our team in Sydney did an amazing job with this and it shows the power of creativity to allow ideas to spread beyond their original jurisdictions. I’m very proud of our team in Sydney.

Larry Koestler: I think people responded so well to it because of the pride it instilled with our people and for those that work with us around the world.

5) What would you say to someone that did not believe that social media was an integral part of expanding various aspects of their business?

Larry Koestler: Social media has long since shed the tag of being a trend or curiosity. Today’s modern companies must look at social media as a core component of their marketing strategy. It represents a channel where barriers have been eliminated between organizations and their audience, allowing much more relatable and accessible interactions.

6) When you first decided to “storytell” your company through Instagram, since your competitors didn’t think to use that platform before, were you hesitant or doubtful that it would have a negative effect and if so, what precautions did you take?

Andy Garrett: Great stories should be told, regardless if those around you are telling their own or not. We believe we have a really great story to tell and we feel Instagram is an amazing place to do it. The buildings, clients, cities and people we serve everyday around the world inspire our story and it’s built on a 100+ year history that is rich and varied. It’s a story we are proud of and thrilled to be able to share in an organic, exciting way.

7) What other initiatives or ideas do you plan on having in the future to make sure you stay well ahead of your competition?

Koestler: There is so much we want to do on Instagram. We have really passionate people from around our organization constantly sharing ideas. So we’ll continue to keep our eyes and ears open, acting thoughtfully and purposefully to continue innovating and reaching our audiences.

8) What are the specific goals and purposes that your company uses the Instagram platform?

Andy Garrett: Instagram has been an amazing way to tell our story and connect with our people, stakeholders and audiences around the shared passion of real estate.  We’re going to keep having fun and connecting with our audiences and continue shaking up the notion of what Instagram could be for B2B and real estate companies.

Andy Garrett | Senior Director of Global Marketing

CBRE, Inc.

200 Park Avenue | New York, NY 10166

T +1 212 984 8185 | M +1 805 895 6828

[email protected]

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Larry Koestler | Digital Marketing Manager
CBRE | Americas

CBRE, Inc.

2800 Post Oak Boulevard | Suite 2300 | Houston, TX 77056
 [email protected] |

Connect with me on LinkedIn

 If you have any additional questions for Andy and Larry, please ask them in the comments section below. 

What I Learned from Gary Vaynerchuk at the Westchester Digital Summit

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk

Despite people being tired from a long days event, they sure got re-energized when Gary Vaynerchuk got on stage to close off a wonderful event filled with brilliant speakers from a diverse bunch of companies. Gary’s presence lit up the stage and his enthusiasm and spunk made everyone laugh. You could tell if you looked around that the audience got another whiff of energy and paid close attention to his insights.

Gary’s presentation included informative and insightful knowledge and advice. He was very engaging and took a poll of the audience. More than half of the crowd voted that they get annoyed when others call them and have to speak to them on the phone. Gary’s point was proven correct – people expect everyone to be on their own time. They don’t like it when others call us and interrupt our time.

Gary’s energy continued to keep everyone fully engaged in his presentation. Furthermore, he spoke about how in today’s day and age, you need to be involved in the media. Companies have to change the way they are marketing and adjust their needs and market in the age we are living in. If they can’t find that market, then they need to react to it and change to keep up with the times, especially in this constantly ever-changing world of technology.

To close off the presentation, Gary emphasized that we are all battling for attention when we sell something. We are constantly trying to sell and promote our product or brands, whether it is through a hidden message or in a more obvious way. However, technology is battling this struggle with us. With the technology and the world we are living in, Amazon will eventually take over big box stores. Gary hypothesized and believes that in the far future brands will go directly to consumers.  Smart technology will eventually take over Amazon.

Gary Vaynerchuk’s lively presentation was a perfect way to end the second Westchester Digital Summit. There were many insightful speakers and conversations that made everyone take away something from the conference.

By Talia Zapinsky

Intern, Silverback Social

Talia Zapinsky

Talia Zapinsky




4 Lessons on Event Management from Dad

Growing up, I thought I knew everything. Seriously, just ask my friends or family. Parents nodding in agreement about their own kids can breathe a sigh of relief. Somewhere during, or shortly after college, I realized how little I really knew. I also realized that the things my father taught me growing up make a lot of sense.

See, growing up, my father never forced his wisdom on me. This is evident by my rooting for the perennial loser Mets and Jets and him popping champagne with the Yankees and NY Giants. What Dad did was lead by example. This is highlighted by the way he has run events for the better part of my life. Here are some of the lessons he has taught me. Lessons that have helped me through countless events, and the many twists and turns that comes with them.   Zanzarella Men

1) Do Your Homework– I know, the last thing you want to hear as a kid. Most of the events my dad produces now he has been doing for 10+ years. As a child, I distinctly remember my dad in preparation for a new event. He would bring me to various similar events, local and further. As a child with infinite energy, I was all over the place. Dad was focused – he would methodically take into account the set up, flow, types of vendors/sponsors and attendees. He would network, see where the value was and incorporate this knowledge into planning his own event. I rarely attend an event now, of any subject, without coming away with a minimum of 2-3 pieces that impressed me.  Many of these I incorporate into events I plan today.

Example: While working at Jackson Lewis PC I was in charge of managing their Employment Law Conference and Golf Invitational. Between caddying and assisting in the running of golf events for years before, I was able to bring a lot of best practices to the three-day event.

2) Stop Selling Sponsorships – Dad is the sales guy who was great at his job because it never felt like he was selling. Dad is a relationship guy who puts an emphasis on value. When he started his own business, with zero clients, he leveraged the relationships he had built during his time as Managing Partner of WZFM to get things off the ground. When it came to events, he would add value around those relationships. He was meticulous in reaching out to, working with, and following up with sponsors to see where he could add value for them. Often times he would go above and beyond because with my father, it was never about one event. It was about building relationships so that sponsors would come back year after year.

Example: My father has been running a Kid’s fair for nearly 20 years. After the event he goes to vendors and speaks with them individually while handing them a survey to fill out. Most of those vendors sign on 365 days in advance of the next years show. They know the product is good and they have trust built on the relationship. There is no selling going on.

3) Shit Happens – Stay Calm and Act Natural – Anyone who knows my dad knows that he is about as calm as it gets (golf course excluded). With events, something always goes wrong. It can be something as small as an AV problem or something as large as two presenters having to go to the hospital at the same event (true story). Whatever it is, you have to roll with the punches. The more prepared you are, the easier this is to do. Be up front with your crowd,

Example: At the inaugural Westchester Digital Summit event, we called one of our presenters about 15 mins in advance of his presentation since he had not checked in yet. When he answered, Silverback Social CEO Chris Dessi asked him if he was on his way or if he needed us to send a car for him. Turns out he was in Chicago and had the dates mixed up. In those ten mins we moved a presenter from a breakout room to the main stage, made an honest announcement to our attendees and the show continued on schedule. Our speaker was flexible, our attendees understood, and we had the team in place to act appropriately when the news was delivered.

4) There is No “I” in Event  – Having the proper team and staff in place are the difference between a good and a great event.  My dad had my mom and they were an unstoppable duo. However, this doesn’t just mean the team you work with to produce the event. This means AV, security, food and beverage, photographers etc. The support these people provide behind the scenes goes a long way to the success of the event and the marketing of future events.

Example: Thankfully I have never had a bad experience with an in house hotel AV team. I have had some truly great experiences when I have outsourced AV to pros like Corporate AV. AV is not my strong suit so to have a team in place that is prepared, attentive, and able to provide this service for digital based conferences has been a big weight off my shoulders and allows me to focus my attention elsewhere.

Other Lessons from Dad:

Learn to love to read

Place an importance on health and wellness

Listen to your mother

How you do anything is how you do everything

You learn more when you listen

What lessons have you learned from your Dad? Add in the comments below.

How I Met My Husband & Planned My Whole Wedding From My Computer

How I Met My Husband & Planned My Whole Wedding From My Computer

How I Met My Husband & Planned My Whole Wedding From My Computer

I always dreamt I’d meet my husband through a mutual friend at a local event or party. I also envisioned that when I got engaged I would be buying every wedding magazine on the shelf, spending hours at every bridal show and store in the area for inspiration, and crowdsourcing ideas from family for every detail down to the color of the napkins.

Little did I know that I would meet my husband on the free dating site Plenty Of Fish that my girl friends put me on one summer evening against my wishes, and that I would plan my entire wedding without taking my eyes off the computer screen or my phone.

As you can imagine, the Internet has completely revolutionized the way we do everything, from meeting people, planning our weddings, decorating and organizing our homes, preparing for holidays, clothing our children, etc.

And with Match, eHarmony, Plenty of Fish, Etsy, Pinterest, virtual seating charts, wedding blogs, personal wedding websites, there’s no reason to leave your house to find your soulmate or enter a store when you’re engaged (unless you really want to).


Did you know that more than 1/3 of marriages in the US start with the couple meeting online, according to a study by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences? When it comes to dating and marriage, the Internet is “altering the dynamics and outcomes.” And (perhaps surprisingly), people who ‘meet’ online have “higher marital satisfaction” than those who initially meet in person.

And did you also know that since 2008, “using social media to communicate wedding details” is up 78%, “creating/sending save-the-dates of invitations online” is up 40%, “using an online RSVP service” is up 31%, and 23% more brides are “setting up personal wedding websites” (according to and

Not surprisingly, soon-to-be-brides are increasingly accessing the Internet and wedding apps on their mobiles to plan for one of the biggest days of their lives. So once you have met and fallen in love with the man/woman of your life, ditch the overpriced wedding magazines and planning binders, and instead open your web browser. Everything you absolutely need to plan and execute your big day is at your fingertips (trust me on this):


I absolutely love Etsy. I first joined in 2009 and since then it has been my-go-to site for gifts, decorations, home items, wallets, soaps, etc. When I got engaged the first thing I thought was how exciting it would be to browse Etsy and find great items to make my wedding as authentic to our personalities as possible. With tens of millions of items on the site, there’s no way I would not be able to find what I want/need.

In April 2012, the site launched a wedding hub where brides-to-be (and husbands-to-be if they’re so inclined) can find literally everything from wedding rings, dresses, accessories, invitations, cake stands, card boxes, and more including creating a registry (which I was most excited about). Etsy is a one-stop-shop (pun intended) for everything bridal, especially if you appreciate unique, handmade items to give your day that added personal touch. So far from Etsy I have ordered my wedding bouquet, invitations, boutonnieres, corsages, flower girl wand, bridesmaids and groomsmen gifts, cigar bar box, first Christmas ornament, and I’m not done!

And the best part is that you are supporting small businesses and individuals instead of contributing to the $40 billion wedding industry.


I created an account in early 2012 at the request of my professor for a 3D Branding of Space graduate class. The site was still catching on and I had no interest in joining, meanwhile once my account was made, I was hooked! While I was supposed to be creating my retail brand for my final presentation, I also planned my wedding, bridal shower included, before the end of the semester. I was also able to find wedding timelines, worksheets, questions to ask vendors, invitation how-tos, guest book ideas, mad libs for RSVPs, DIY tips, and more.

Pinterest is fantastic because it is like a visual map where you can place all your ideas/wants/thoughts/inspiration in one place for very easy, quick access. I consider it to be my ‘inspiration board’, in a sense (which has come in handy for my mom for my bridal shower – totally did that on purpose). You can also allow people to pin to your boards should you want your mom, siblings, cousins, friends to contribute ideas as well, which I’ve done (one of my cousin’s is practically living vicariously through me!).

And with the Pinterest app, you can take all your pins with you wherever you go and even pin along the way – no wedding planner or bulky binder needed (I have 3, ask me if I use them). The app really comes in handy when, for instance, you’re in a bridal store and the consultant asks what kinds of style dresses you like. Although, whipping out the Pinterest board dedicated to gowns on my cell phone didn’t exactly have the kind of shock value I was looking for (I was excited?).

Wedding Blogs

Wedding blogs, such as Mrs. Why Knot, Offbeat Bride, Once Wed, Wedding Chicks, and Wedding Bee, should be your go-to for advice, ideas and DIY tips, and tantrum throwing (“yelling” at a magazine just doesn’t have the same effect).

Not sure how to execute a steampunk wedding (or what steampunk really means)? Not sure how to tell people they’re not invited or can’t bring a guest? On a budget and want to create your own décor? Want to get creative and design your own invitations? Looking for advice on a vendor? Need to diplomatically kick a girl out of your bridal party? Done, done and done.

Wedding bloggers have created a community of sorts for desperate brides looking for answers, and those enjoying the ride. I have downloaded so many DIY ideas for my engagement party, bridal shower, and wedding day that I don’t know where to start printing! From triangle banners, church programs, invitations, to RSVP mad libs and Manzanita wish tree tags, wedding blogs are chock full of brilliant ideas, no matter your theme or season. I’ve also sought advice and ideas from fellow brides-to-be (and former brides who chime in from time to time) for my ceremony, reception, and theme, which I found to be helpful when I felt like I hit a brick wall.

And if you have any thoughts/ideas/feelings you want to share, some wedding bloggers are open to guest bloggers, so if you feel like you need to shout something exciting from the rooftops, or even give a soapbox rant, your fellow bride(zilla)s will be there to yay (or nay, but take it with a grain of salt – not everyone is a fan of cowboy boots, barn weddings, fake flowers, black for bridesmaid dresses, and blush for a bridal gown). More often than not, it’s comforting to know you’re not the only one going through whatever scenario, and sometimes it helps to speak to strangers on the Internet when you don’t want to ‘burden’ your mom, fiancé or bridesmaids.

Personal Wedding Websites

I have one on WeddingWire, but you can also create your own personal wedding website on TheKnot, eWedding, Wedding Paper Divas, Wix, WedSite, and various other sites.

With a wedding day timeline, virtual guest book, RSVP page, and section for your guests to request music for the reception, who needs to print invitations and waste postage? All the information your guests need is in one place, from ceremony time, to reception location, accommodations, gift registry access., maps/directions, and more. Just email/Facebook/Tweet the link to the special, important people in your life (who know how to use a computer, of course), and remember to update it when necessary!

Most wedding websites are even optimized for mobile devices, so if your cousin spends more time on her cell phone than on a laptop, she can access your site easily and conveniently.

Should you decide to mail invitations, add the link to your wedding website at the bottom, or on the back, so your guests can access it if they have any questions. And once the wedding is over, take screen grabs of your site to add to your wedding scrapbook.

Social Tables

Kylie Carlson, Founder of the Wedding and Event Institute, states: “Social Tables is a powerful floor plan design and guest list management tool that will transform how future weddings and events are designed and coordinated.”

For the virtual savvy bride-to-be, you can dodge questions from guests about who they’re sitting with, and avoid the stress of hand-written seating cards and scribbled circle charts. Instead, just import your Excel guest list, drag names to their respective seats, and voila! You can even add notes (ie who is a vegetarian, who has food allergies, who wants the prime rib, etc). Once the chart is complete, share this interactive seating plan with everyone (including your venue) prior to the wedding so not only do your guests know where they are sitting, but they become familiar with who will also be seated at their table.

The best part is Social Tables is 100% cloud based, so you can bring it with you anywhere that has an Internet connection. No software or printer needed.


One last thing you can’t forget! Once your engagement and/or wedding day arrives, be sure to Skype in those who are unable to make it, so that everyone is there to witness and join in the festivities, whether near or far.

Now get off Facebook, find your spouse, and start socializing your wedding!

Social Media In Schools: 3 Issues That Should Concern You

New Jersey has recently passed a bill requiring social media to be taught in middle schools. The social media curriculum will include topics such as responsible use of social media, cyber safety and security, and potential negatives consequences of inappropriate use.

The bill has been passed in an effort to combat cyber bullying and to educate young people on best practices and appropriate usage of various social networks. With a greater number of social media platforms more accessible now than ever before, young people are much more able to make a social impact online without realizing (or caring about) the consequences of their actions.

Not only can youngsters use their phones to send text messages to their friends, but they can also use a myriad of mobile apps to connect instantly with their classmates and peers. Many teens, instead of sending a text, are simply tweeting at their friends, sending them a Facebook message or Direct Message over Twitter, or a photo/video message via Instagram Direct. Using these social media platforms to connect with friends can be as easy, if not easier, than texting.

The discussion of social media in schools raises three important concerns:

Who will be responsible for choosing the curriculum included in this new social media education?

Young people are using social media regularly (in many cases, on a daily basis). If teens and adolescents are going to be spending a significant amount of time online, it stands to reason that they should be well educated on how to conduct themselves appropriately while they do so. However, the passing of this bill has brought up some debate over who should be doing the teaching. Many people believe schoolteachers should play a role in educating young people on the proper use of social media. Others feel that the task of teaching teens how to conduct themselves online is the parents’ responsibility. Personally, I think the teens are already much more knowledgeable about the latest social media platforms than their parents or teachers do. Since teachers and parents are collectively using social media much less frequently and much differently than younger users, how much value would there be in the curriculum that the teachers and/or the parents produce?

Will a focus on teaching social media draw focus away from other important school subjects?

Middle school is a crucial period of development for students to learn how to be independent, how to manage their time, and how to be responsible for multiple projects at once. Adding a whole new curriculum of social media instruction could potentially drive students to spend a disproportionate amount of time on social media “studies” as compared to their other traditional school subjects, such as reading and math. Also, will social media classes become an elective option similar to a band/orchestra class or foreign language? And if so, might students lose interest in these extra-curricular activities simply to spend more time online?

How could a state-mandated school curriculum possibly keep up with the rapidly changing nature of social media?

The most popular social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) have only been around for about ten years, and a number of others have been around for even less time. This means that even the people who have been on these social platforms since their inception have only had a decade or less of experience using them. This lack of experienced users, combined with the ever-changing nature of social media, could make it quite difficult for any person or group of people to come up with a general, all-encompassing curriculum surrounding best practices on social media that can easily remain up to date. How often would the curriculum need to be revised to include the latest social platform or most recent viral online incident?

At this point, it seems a bit early to tell how the introduction of social media education will play out in schools. However, the passing of the bill (among other things) is a clear indicator that social media is here to stay, and people need to pay attention to it. Many organizations (corporations, non-profits, etc.) are requiring their employees and team members to go through social media training, illustrating how to professionally represent their organization on the Internet. Many companies also have elected to establish a social media department to manage the company’s online presence.

It’s safe to say that social media is going to play a significant role in how both seasoned professionals and young people interact, and the time to start getting educated about social media is now.

Do you think social media should be taught in schools? Tell us in the comments below!

4 Reasons Why Traditional Agencies Are Dying

John Zanzarella

John Zanzarella

In “To Sell is Human” by author Daniel H. Pink, he describes how individuals are becoming more elastic in their job responsibilities. Whether they know it or not, part of what they do is selling. The same kind of elasticity has been happening to agencies for years. Clients want a one stop shop for everything, and why wouldn’t they? It’s the easiest solution, one point of contact, one check to write, one Christmas card to send out. 

On the flip side, specialization has been around since the beginning of time. There is proven value for businesses to operate with a singular focus. Nearly all agencies that offer a myriad of services started with one that they excelled at.

This is not to say that there isn’t room for both to succeed, but when it comes to digital and social specialization offers more room to succeed and here is why:


  1. Community Management and Real Time Execution – The digital advertising darling of the modern day happened early last year. By now you have all heard how Oreo (powered by Mondelez) turned a Super Bowl anomaly into a marketing case study with their “You can still dunk in the dark” campaign. The idea was designed, created and approved within mins and has had a lasting effect that extends well past the most recent Super Bowl. This type of foresight and quick thinking is excellent but it wouldn’t be as effective without a team in place to manage and engage. Multiple community managers should be assigned to brands to devote the time to properly post and engage.
  2. Custom Creative– Content is king, that’s universal in all verticals of marketing. Incorporating custom creative is a must for social and digital marketing. Real-time, unique content generated on behalf of a brand. While this is important, the context around the custom creative is where you add value that resonates with the consumer.
  3. Analytics – Marketing budgets are scrutinized time and again for ROI. Traditionally, analytics for social media have been scoffed at as not possible or positioned with “how much money is a ‘like’ worth”. Agencies that specialize in social know how to find the appropriate numbers but more importantly how to use them to adjust a brands social ecosystem accordingly. Analytics companies like Sprout Social, Socialbakers, and Topsy help your reporting. This combined with strategy around a defined ‘point of conversion’ will allow for tangible ROI.
  4. Managing Expectations – Traditional agencies like to operate in the black and white. Number driven proposals bring in business. The truth is results don’t happen over night. Agencies that guarantee you x amount of likes or revenue are likely wasting your time. The truth is, building an engaged and tangible social presence takes time. That time goes to a carefully planned set up, implementation and execution to create a successful campaign.

Business is cyclical. There are places for both full service agencies and specialization. Silverback social is an agency that specializes in social.  Maybe I am biased. With that being said here are three social specific agencies whose work we love:

  • VaynerMedia – Led by CEO Gary Vaynerchuk, VaynerMedia has experienced explosive growth in the last four years and helps Fortune 500 companies like GE, PepsiCo, Green Mountain Coffee, the NY Jets, and the Brooklyn Nets find their social voices and build their digital brands through micro content and other story telling actions.
  • Deep-Focus – A digital agency for the social age, Deep-Focus creates a plethora of content around social insights that come from their community management. Content – check, Community management– check, Context – check.
  • 360i – At 360i, the learning never stops, literally. Their agency focuses on education of both individual employees as well as brands. They have a long list of accolades and an impressive client roster to boot.

So what do you think? Are traditional agencies on the ropes?

Reach & Reverse Engineer Your Way to Success

I was unceremoniously fired in 2009 from my job at Buddy Media. When it happened I was so stunned I couldn’t speak. Literally. No words. Nothing. In slow motion I gathered my things and left. The Director of HR escorted me past a gauntlet of gawking colleagues and into the elevator. I felt naked. 

The elevator doors closed and it dawned on me. Stunned, I turned to her and blurted out, “My wife is pregnant, what will I do?”

I was “pushed” off the cliff but I refused to let myself fall.

Reaching as far as I could, I set a new goal: I’d never let anyone else have control over my income or my future.

From that goal, I reverse engineered and started my own business.

Soon I stopped falling and started climbing, even gliding. Eventually, my voice came back, my confidence returned.

Today, I am soaring.

1. Don’t over think it. If you do it will just scare you and freeze you in place.

We all have fear. Some is innate, activating our fight or flight instincts. Some fear, however, is learned. That fear is insidious. It seeps into our unconscious paralyzing us to the point where we choose “safety” over pursuit of our passions. I believe that “learned fear” is the disease of our time. Battle it by taking baby steps. My first step was silent contemplation, and meditation. Another was obsessive note taking. The last step was challenging myself to dream as big as I possibly could, imagining that money was no object, and stepping toward that challenge. I had nothing to lose. Neither do you.

2. Keep moving and work in broad strokes. Set the roadmap, and the details will fall into place.

I had been challenging myself to think of a big idea that would motivate me and propel my business. While I was searching, I stumbled upon the Long Island Digital Summit. I fell in love with the concept. A few Google searches confirmed that there was no Westchester Digital Summit to speak of. Green pastures lay before me…

The point here is to reach as far as you can conceive. Spend time on the ideas that are outside the realm of normalcy. Innovate, but above all, execute. Innovation does not exist without execution. I made the commitment to execute when I navigated over to and for a whopping $7.99, purchased the URL

3. Those who don’t believe in you or your vision are poison. Leave them. Immediately.

I approached my former business partner with the idea of the summit, and he balked. “That will take a great deal of work”…no kidding, I thought. A few months later I chose to leave my business partner and ventured out on my own. I wanted to make the Westchester Digital Summit a reality. I felt it in my gut. I reached out to someone I knew who could help — John Zanzarella, Jr.

4. Surround yourself with likeminded people who will support your vision.

I had met John Zanzarella Jr. while he was still at Jackson Lewis. When I spoke to him, he mentioned that his Dad has been doing this type of work for years with Zanzarella Marketing. We shook on it that day — 50% 50% partners. We needed speakers. I reached for someone from Facebook. They signed on. I reached for the person who motivated me to get into social media, Gary Vaynerchuck. He joined as our keynote. John and I discussed a venue. I wanted the County Center. It held 3000 people. I wanted 3000. We got 755, but if I hadn’t reached for 3000 we’d have never had as many as we did.

5. Being a touch delusional is OK.

When I first shopped around the idea for The Westchester Digital Summit, most hedged. I was convinced that LinkedIn and Facebook would send speakers. People snickered and guffawed. In the end, I had to turn away over 37 applicants for speakers who wanted to be involved. Since last year’s event I’ve purchased sixty-seven URLs like,,, you get the idea. In less than two years, Silverback Social has ballooned to seven full time employees and our revenue has increased 2,927%

This year’s event will be at the Ritz in White Plains on May 15th. We’ll host speakers like Gary Vaynerchuk, David S. Kidder, and Ghislaine Maxwell. General Electric, The Financial Times, IBM, Facebook, Linkedin, RebelMouse, Fox Sports and ESPN are speaking as well.

Take a pledge to fulfill your own greatness. Reach as far as you can, reverse engineer and pursue your passion.

4 Steps to Help You Transition From Corporate to Start-Up Life

When I joined Silverback Social, I left a large law firm with unlimited resources and a thriving marketing department.  Since you are one LinkedIn search from finding out what law firm that is, I will save you the typing, it was Jackson Lewis and they were a pleasure to work for. Five years in, I realized that while I really enjoyed working there, I should take the tools I learned and see if I could be a part of something new and exciting. To join a great group of people who were building something great was a no brainer at this point in my life. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but what I didn’t realize was that a lot of the processes I used and my mind set would have to be drastically altered. Three months in, I am slowly starting to make that adjustment. 

1)    Embrace the volatility – I have always been very organized, both personally and professionally. Bills, paid on time. Tasks, clearly mapped out for me. I would look at my schedule for the week and plan/visualize what I expected from my meetings. I learned quickly, that this was not the case anymore. Cash Flow for small businesses is always a priority. There are days where playing accounts receivable trumps everything else on your to do with and that’s OK. When I first started at Silverback I had a short list of things to do. Quickly that short list became longer. Quickly, what I thought was a priority was trumped by new and exciting opportunities that became priorities. Those were then trumped by something else, and that’s OK.

2)    Get creative with tools – No longer did I have a one-stop shop for printing, scanning, faxing (not that I ever used that anyway) and an IT department a 4 digit dial away. I quickly started using free applications:

  • Sunrise – Sunrise is a fast, effective tool for managing schedules. If you’re a Google Calendar user, for example, the app syncs between the two services in real-time. If you’re on the road a lot, the time zone support is handy and automatically adjusts your appointment times to the correct hours. The weather feature, based on your location, is also a helpful addition to plan your busy days. Most importantly, adding and editing events is a cinch.
  • Genius Scan – turns your iPhone into a pocket scanner. It enables you to quickly scan documents on the go and email the scans as JPEG or PDF. It isn’t the prettiest scan but it is effective for signing contracts and other one off scan projects.
  • CardMunch automatically converts business cards into contacts with a click of a button. Perfect when you don’t have a CRM system in place yet.
  • Your Network – I realized quickly that many of the people in my network thrived on my enthusiasm at my new opportunity. They were willing to help me in a variety of ways and teach me some valuable lessons. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your own network. You will find out that the best interactions are when you are able to help someone even more they than they can help you.

3)    There is always more to do – Sure, this is true of any job but it is more important in a startup than ever. My leaving Jackson Lewis was not going to stop them from continuing to grow both in size and revenue. They replaced me with a very smart and savvy internal hire who joined the other 8 marketing managers all brilliant hard workers. At Silverback, there is always something more to do. There is a certain responsibility:

  •       To the CEO who agreed to hire you to help build his life’s dream
  •       To the employees who work tirelessly with one another for a common goal
  •       Most important, to yourself – To know at the end of the day, fail or succeed, you left it all on the line to build something unique and of  value.

4)   Build your own brand – Most startups have little to no marketing money. This fact forces companies to be creative, or in this case choose the option that is right in front of you. Take some time to build your own brand, it will help you meet more people who can help your business, more people who can help your career and it spreads brand awareness. Don’t feel like you have to be on TV, or an author like our CEO Chris Dessi. Before that he was a blogger, reached 500+ LinkedIn connections, and started his own website. These are great first steps that anyone can take to make him or herself more relevant. While anyone can do this, in a Startup you’re encouraged to do this. You have a voice, you have unique experience, and you have value and flexibility to find ways to work with anyone you meet.

Has this been your experience? Add any steps you think I may be missing in the comments below.



I Have a Secret, & It’s Called Whisper

Whisper App

Whisper is a mobile app that enables users to share secrets anonymously. Users can place text over various backgrounds that illustrate the theme of the secrets they share. The app claims to provide complete anonymity to its user. However, with today’s social media tools at everyone’s fingertips, it may be difficult for users to keep their identities hidden.

The idea of Whisper is similar to that of the popular website PostSecret, which was founded by Frank Warren in 2004 as a way for people to share their secrets in the form of postcards. PostSecret contributors anonymously send physical postcards to a central mailing address to be featured on the website. After generating a huge following, PostSecret even published a number of books of fan-submitted secrets and confessions. Founder Frank Warren also hosts live events for PostSecret fans and contributors to meet each other and listen together to more secrets and stories.

There is an enormous sentiment of community and trust among PostSecret fans. Whisper, only having been around for a couple of years, has the potential to generate a similar community based on trust and common feelings. However, the nature of PostSecret’s process of gathering physical postcards via snail mail enables PostSecret contributors to maintain their anonymity to a greater degree than Whisper contributors. Whisper, which allows users to quickly and easily upload their deep dark thoughts and confessions directly from their mobile devices to an online network of countless other users, might not be able to hide users’ true identities as to the same extent as PostSecret. The nature of the sharing process is different, and so the level of trust among users is also different.

Will Whisper prove to be as influential and popular as PostSecret? Does true anonymity really exist anymore on the Internet or on social media? There’s really no definitive answer yet, but it’s definitely important for Internet users to be wary of what they share online.

Silverback Social CEO Chris Dessi spoke to Fox News last night to weigh in on Whisper. Would you share your deepest darkest secrets on Whisper? Let us know in the comments below.