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5 Questions: Sara Meaney of Hanson Dodge

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by: Karen Marchione (@kmarchione)
21 October 2011

I’m very excited to have Sara Meaney from Hanson Dodge appear on our “5 Questions” blog this month.  Sara is Hanson Dodge’s VP and partner, social media and PR.  Hanson Dodge is an interactive agency based in Milwaukee, Wis., focused largely on the active lifestyle consumer.

I was first introduced to Sara a few months ago when she presented to fellow clients at the Chicago, Ill., and Madison, Wis., user meetings as well as Silverpop’s Agent ROI Digital Marketing event.  Sara is an expert in the area of social media and presented on the topic of “Digital Chocolate + Peanut Butter: How Social Media and Email Complement Each Other for Better Marketing Outcomes.”  View her full presentation here.

[caption id="attachment_2518" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Social Media Expert Sara Meaney of Hanson Dodge"][/caption]

In this month’s blog, we focus on social media and how it interplays with email.

1) Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get so immersed in social media?

My background is a mixture of client-side and agency marketing communications experience. Social media became a major part of how we connected with our potential clients when we first set out as a startup in early 2009. Not only did we find it cost-effective, but it was highly effective in terms of the results we saw in response to how we utilized the various platforms available to us. We were blogging regularly, we hosted a weekly BlogTalkRadio show where we hosted thought leaders in the marketing and communications world, we were creating multimedia content for channels including Vimeo and YouTube, Slideshare and Flickr and people were finding us online as a result.

We had a lot of fun and learned a lot by using the channels directly but we applied traditional best practices of strategic communications to build our business and service our clients. Social media channels happened to be something we leveraged very well and we quickly became known for that aspect of our work. Social media quickly became a major focus of our offering and ultimately led to our organization’s growth and eventual business merger with Hanson Dodge Creative, a well-established agency with nearly 30 years in the industry.

2) When we talk about consumers of social media, who are we actually talking about?

Frankly, anyone using the Internet to find or consume information is a consumer of social media, whether they know it or not. If you’ve watched a video, read a product review, searched for information on Google or purchased a product online, you’ve likely consumed social media. The reality is that while not all Internet users have social media accounts or create content directly themselves, they have participated in or benefitted from the sharing of that same information by and among others. That’s one of the most powerful premises of how online influence actually works.

That said, the direct users of social media platforms span all age and demographic groups, and the users are skewing older every day as platform adoption grows. It may be surprising to learn that of the nearly 120 million daily U.S. visitors to Facebook, 50 percent are over the age of 35. And that LinkedIn has more than 10 million global site visitors per day, 70 percent of whom are over the age of 35 (source: Of course, how and why each demographic or psychographic group uses each platform can vary wildly.

3) How do you see email and social media complementing each other? What are some of the trends where social and email play off one another?

Even in light of the growth and hype surrounding social media as a communication channel, email is still very relevant as part of a healthy integrated marketing communication mix. Simply put, social media platforms and email feed off of each other. They need each other.  For example, email can be designed to drive traffic to social channels for unique offers and exclusive content, while conversely social platforms can serve as sources of email lead capture. Blog posts can serve as valuable sources of content for the publication of enewsletters for email-driven audiences, while the distribution of enewsletters can in turn drive traffic to a blog or a website to encourage deeper experience and discovery through related content.

Here are two trends that are having an impact on how email and social media play together now and potentially more so in the future:

  • The proliferation of smartphones: Internet access points are shifting toward mobile devices. This will require us to rethink how we design emails for mobile consumption and how emails redirect users to either social platforms or Web properties.
  • The social inbox: Emails that include three or more sharing options result in significantly higher click-through rates than those that don’t. Email campaigns are no longer limited to one-to-one communication; social sharing and social connectivity within emails can convert your email programs into powerful social amplification campaigns.

4) There’s a big focus today on building your brand through Facebook and amassing your fans. In your opinion, what’s the value of a fan?

It all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and what you expect that fan or email lead to ultimately do. With many social media channels, the value of a fan is dependent upon what action you’re valuing from them. Let’s just work from the assumption that if you’re a fan of a brand on Facebook, you either have experience with that brand (already a customer) or aspire to have personal experience with the brand (an advocate or open to buying). So is the goal for that fan to buy again? Or would you get more value from them if they were a frequent evangelist through likes, comments, shares, +1s, or ReTweets?

Ultimately the value of a fan is determined by how active they are in the areas where you need activity. If your goal is to directly convert fans to sales, that’s what the value metric should be.  However, if your social media program is designed to drive awareness, then reach and engagement and feedback should be the basis of your value metrics for your fans. Fifty million inactive Facebook fans are not the same value as 50 million active, commenting, sharing, retweeting and liking fans. Sharing activity is the social currency, and moving fans to act on your behalf is a new form of commerce.

5) How do you determine the best cadence for posting to different social media outlets? Any no-nos marketers should be wary of?

The answer to that question is ultimately up to the community itself. More important than how often you post is what you post and what the community needs and expects from you. Less isn’t always more. And more isn’t always better. It’s usually a good idea to start with the amount you can manage and maintain as a brand team and build up to more frequency, more variety in the topics of content and more platforms for distribution. Starting too big and pulling back more often leads to disappointment, confusion and loss of community trust or confidence. The more active the community becomes, the greater the opportunity for engagement and response.

It’s also reasonable to expect that activity can and should ebb and flow with current events, noise in the marketplace, promotions and other relevant external influences. It’s not an exact science, but rather it requires listening and paying attention to the level of response from the community in order to gauge the best balance for your activity.

Hanson Dodge Creative is America’s leading active lifestyle agency. The full-service firm specializes in helping global brands attain market leadership through the strategic integration of world-class branding, relationship marketing, social media, e-commerce and advanced interactive technology. Clients include Wilson Sporting Goods, Trek, Wolverine, Thule and Kmart. Established in 1984, Hanson Dodge is located in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward.


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