Bateman Group Welcomes Caleb Bushner to Head Digital Strategy Group

Last week we shared the news that Bateman Group launched a digital strategy group out of our Content Studio and hired Caleb Bushner to head our expansion as vice president of digital strategy. We have been planning for this milestone for some time and are confident that Caleb’s imprint will be both impactful to our clients and valuable to the agency as a whole.

Caleb was most recently Chief Strategy Officer of Free Range, the storytelling and innovation firm. He is an incredibly talented digital strategist and leader, having led marketing programs ranging from award-winning brand awareness campaigns to sophisticated omnichannel analysis and optimization strategies. He has worked with companies ranging from startups and Fortune 500 businesses, including JPMorgan Chase, Rainforest Alliance, Mattel, The United Way and Kraft. Before Free Range, he served as the associate director of Digitas’ social media and influencer team for Taco Bell.

Caleb recently sat down with San Francisco Associate Sammi Ezrilov and Brooklyn Account Coordinator Maria Naccarato of our Impact Team for an AMA. Here’s what they shared from their time with him:

IMPACT: Give us some background: how did you become interested in all things social?

CALEB: I got interested in social media (and digital communities, more broadly) back in business school in 2008. It struck me as a vast reshuffling of how relationships are oriented — between individuals, businesses, and entire communities — and it was happening before my eyes. So I wrote a thesis on it. After graduating, I came back to business school to help teach a class about social, and it just became that much more interesting the deeper I went. It’s got all the complexity and craziness of technological AND human systems, so there’s a compounding aspect of fascinating and frequent change.

Plus, I’m really impatient, and the space is constantly moving, which has always kept me interested. Add several years across three social media and martech companies, a stint doing social at Taco Bell, and some integrated digital campaign strategies for nonprofits, and I’ve had a chance to see a lot of the industry.

IMPACT: From your perspective, what makes social so important, particularly for our Bateman Group clients?

CALEB: I think social is important because, ideally, everything is social. The goal of nearly everything Bateman Group does is to spark a chain reaction among people. If we place a great byline, it’s going to be shared across social media. If we help a client do something noteworthy, people are going to talk about it on social media. Whether or not we originally posted it to Twitter, it will wind up there. Whether or not we had a plan for it to be on LinkedIn, it’ll get there too.

We are well served when we can start thinking about the channel-agnostic path that humans take when they want to talk about something. We can do a better job of reaching our audiences and amplifying a message if we’re already thinking about how it can work on and across the places where those people want to talk about them.

Ultimately, if we take the perspective that anything can be social, we get to look at it beyond a mere channel and see it as something more essential — humans and human systems — and then we can help our clients better think about how to authentically operate on that deeper level.

IMPACT: Do you have any tips for communicating social impact to clients?

CALEB: All the standard client service skills apply. Make sure to understand the client’s needs — what number is important to their success? Let’s do everything to help them understand how to measure it and then how to reach that number.

A lot of clients look at social content the same as their personal posts: “I want to have a lot of likes on my sunset photo on Instagram.” Which is fair. I want to have a lot of likes on my sunset photo, too. But we can help them see that there’s an even deeper level of impact that can be achieved. Sure, revenue and ROI are obvious things to drive for (and we should absolutely do that), but there are additional factors that increase business results. Think about how much it costs to recruit and retain talent. To foster a good employee culture. To build a positive reputation among the public. To buy advertising. These are second-order outcomes, but they are very real and they have real value attached to them.

IMPACT: What are the most effective tactics you have used to drive engagement on social?

CALEB: The most effective tactic is really simple: be active and interesting. If an account can’t be interesting, it’s going to have to pay to get exposure. I had an old boss who said, “advertising is the cost of being boring.”

In other words, social media does not lack for accounts that are saying something. If you’re just saying something, too, it will be hard to rise above the noise. But if you’re saying something INTERESTING — something that adds value to the audience — it will be much easier. So, figure out what your brand stands for and how it stands out. Then, build a consistent cadence of posts that can bring that outstanding value to audiences. Don’t expect fortune and fame to show up all at once, but over time it will have a compounding effect.

IMPACT: What is your favorite social platform and why?

CALEB: A campfire in the woods with good wine and better friends. And no smartphones in sight.

Less facetiously, I’d say Instagram. In fact, I once saw a study saying that Instagram was the ONLY social platform that a majority of people claimed to actually enjoy being on. I like Instagram because it helps me really see what my friends are up to. Typing “I just had a beautiful hike at sunset with my best friend” is a pretty unremarkable Facebook or Twitter post, but a photo can make it real — it can show rather than tell.