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Social Media Portal interview with Dom Sparkes from Tempero

Tim Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 03 April 2013

Social Media Portal interview with Dom Sparkes from Tempero

Profiled interview with Dom Sparkes, founder and CEO of social media management company Tempero

Tempero logoSocial Media Portal (SMP): What is your name and what do you do there at Tempero?

Dom Sparkes (DS): Hello. My name is Dom Sparkes and Iím the CEO and founder of Tempero Social Media Management.  My role is to guide the company in doing great work for clients whilst ensuring we enjoy what we do. The two things (should) work in perfect harmony.  

SMP: Briefly, tell us about Tempero (for those that donít know), what is it and what does Tempero do?

DS: Tempero is a full service social media management company Ė specifically focusing on strategy, insight, engagement and moderation.  In essence, we help our clients create, manage and benefit from social media activity as cost effectively as possible.

SMP: What are some of the main products and services that the company provides?

DS: Our strategy service concentrates on why and how social media should be delivered.  Creating a simple campaign is relatively easy but 20 language, multi-territory, cross-platform projects require highly detailed planning and management.  Our insight department feeds into that process, reporting on potential markets, influencers and advocates in multiple languages.  The engagement team divides customers communications into online customer service and conversation management Ė helping consumers and generating content.  Finally, our 150 moderators ensure brands are protected and users are safe.
Tempero webiste screenshot
SMP:  How did the name Tempero come about?

DS: Very simply, we were lucky.  Tempero is the Latin for moderate and we liked it.

SMP: Who are your target audience and why?

DS: In the main, large organisations that need to protect their brands and audiences whilst maximising their spend on social media activity.  95 percent of our clients are global, household names.  We are set up for enterprise level social media.

At the same time, Tempero Pollinate focuses on projects that arenít driven by commercial parameters, allowing our team to push the barriers of what can be done whilst helping charities, staff and innovative projects benefits from our 10 years of experience.

SMP: You recently attended VirComm 2013 what were your expectations and what were the most useful things you took away from the event?

DS: 2013 was the second year we sponsored VirComm, not purely for exposure, but to support the community management industry.  Our expectation was to see a continuation of last yearís positivity and shared learning, but if Iím honest I feel the conference now has the disadvantage that knowledge has increased dramatically over the last 12-months and the volume of useful takeaways was far less.  It still beats agency focused social media events, but being a conference snob, I think Vircomm 2014 will need to change direction and Iíd be happy to continue our help.

DS: You presented on the Social Media & Social Networks Panel - what did you want the audience to take away? And were you able to do this?

Hopefully the audience didnít just take away a few laughs at the expense of poor Susan Boyle!

The main focus of my input was a feeling that Ďcommunity managers (CMs)í and Ďsocial media managers (SMMs)í can learn a great deal from each other.   Their job specs are obviously blurred but if you agree that community managers generally focus on the essence of Ďcommunityí and social media managers have a Ďmarketingí bias, you can start to think about how each can develop.  Generating conversation and passion centres have been the mainstays of CMs for years, whilst many SMMs have developed their role via the marketing department and understand traditional marcomms.  

This is of course a massive generalisation and from the follow-ups I know some donít agree.  Debates around job titles can become tiresome but I strongly believe each role will progress more quickly and solidly if they understand core aspects of each otherís heritage.

SMP: What surprises or highlights have stayed with you from the event?

DS: There was a great panel session with Jules Standen from GearSlutz, a very popular pro-audio forum.  Jules is in the planning stages of expanding the forum into social media channels and he surveyed his users about what theyíd like to see in terms of Facebook and Twitter etc.   In a nutshell, Ďnot on their nellyí was the consensus.

Now the audience for that forum is perhaps older pro-audio gear heads, but I was surprised that as a very tech savvy audience, they donít want their community sullied by what they see as the disruptive influence of Facebook and Twitter.

Iím a big forum fan and itís nice to see the major networks donít always rule the roost.   Theyíre not going away anytime soon but if the GearSlutz audience is anything to go by, the major players are going to have to adapt to avoid similar feelings elsewhere.

SMP: What are the low moments of what you have been doing so far (in regards to Tempero and providing safe digital environments for young people)?

DS: Thatís a tough one.  I suppose something that gets very disheartening is that it sometimes feels parents arenít as educated as they should be.  Iíll use the example of the school my nephews go to.  The school put on an Internet safety evening, and two people showed up.  I hope thatís not a UK wide problem but I have a feeling it may be.  That said, the responsibility of childrenís safety lies with parents, industry and the government. The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), Childrenís Online Protection Unit (CEOP), the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) provide a fantastic range of advice, but they all need support from the industry and parents to get that information shared and used.

Photograph of Dom Sparkes, founder and CEO of social media management company TemperoSMP: What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far (in regards to Tempero and providing safe digital environments for young people)?

DS: Perhaps not directly related to safety as such, but a huge highlight of the last few years in terms of childrenís based projects, was the Tate Movie Project.  This was a partnership between Ardmann Animation and the Tate, and they created a 20-minute movie purely from drawings and ideas sent in by children.  That was probably one of our moderators favourite ever projects and it showed how user-generated content and social can create something really special.

SMP: There seemed to be a little vibe of old school community management versus social media at VirComm (some of that sentiment found its way onto a blog, then within the e-mint forum Ė why do think this is)?

DS: Good!  I hoped to create a little of that through my input on one of the panels but it must also be remembered VirComm was born out of e-mint, a very popular community managers community so thatís a big reason for the old school vibe.  

Iíve probably covered my thoughts on this within question above, but to add to thatÖ.

The blog you mention wrote an article that upset a few folks as it could have be interpreted that they were saying community management was dying.  I think people over reacted a little if Iím honest, but CMs are very proud of their heritage. The role is fascinating as it combines so many different skill sets and I have a feeling some CMs feel social is lightweight compared to traditional community management. At the same time many social media managers donít appreciate the expertise the old timers have (and I donít mean that in an ageist way).  Thatís why I feel they can both learn from each other.  Looking ahead, itís highly likely the roles will eventually merge into one and the debate will disappear.

SMP: How and why do you think the role of community management has changed and how it may evolve over the next five years?

DS: Thanks to social media, community management is now an almost standard weapon in the marketerís armoury, as opposed to being something with perhaps a slightly nerdy association and ignored by senior execs.   The essence of the role hasnít really changed although many forget what CMs are best at and should be used for Ė creating and nurturing groups of like-minded people that have a shared purpose within an environment that will hopefully benefit the users and the brand, organisation or project.

Without that focus, itís easy to see why communities lose their way and weíve seen many brands jump in based on the lure of potentially huge audiences, only to realise users only truly interact if the brand cares and offers something genuine.  

Understanding this is vital for the evolution of social media management.  Sure, as a practise itís now more commercial, accessible and professional, but without the foundation that CMs have professed for years, it would lose its real power.

SMP: What would be your advice for someone entering the community management and / or social media industry as a career and what sort of skills and background might you expect them to have?

DS: Thereís the obvious Ďget your social presence sortedí, but I wonít go into that Ė thereís a ton of advice on that subject.  For me, community and social media managers need an understanding of many subjects and the CVs I pay most attention to have experience that covers many basis Ė not just managing a Facebook page for three-months.   I like to see people that have worked within marketing departments, had responsibility for customer service and offer life skills, patience and attention to detail.  

For those out of college or university, the right work experience and internships are priceless so my advice would work your socks off to cover as much ground as possible.  That can help give you a broad understanding of the bits of the jigsaw that form a rounded community or social media manager and it really does work.  Iím incredibly proud of someone we had with us for six-months before she was poached for her dream job at Ogilvy.  Definitely our loss but I was pleased for her none-the-less.

For those looking to move into social from existing roles, taking part in your organisations social activity (online not down the pub) is a good start, as is having an active blog or other presence.  Internships can work for those in careers too.  One Tempero alumni joined us as a director of photography from the film industry for some work experience and left as a social media manager for one of our clients - Sony.

SMP: What do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities for agencies and brands in the community arena (and dare we say social media arenas)?

DS: Thereís a great quote from the new version of Battlestar Gallactica ďAll of this has happened before and all of this will happen again.Ē  Thatís true in agency land and weíll see social media work go in-house and then back out again as brands realise running a team of 200 to look after their social activity isnít necessarily core business.  It happened with web builds and it will happen in social.  With this comes the problem of commoditisation and certain key skills will be squeezed by procurement until senior management realise the huge value in moderation, analysis and online comms.  Those issues aside, the opportunities are huge and Iím most excited about how community and social media can genuinely influence product/service development and the entire purchase funnel.

SMP: Whatís the next big step for social media / networks and what impact may this have in what agencies and brands do (and in turn the services that Tempero provides)?

DS: Data protection and privacy issues are looming large and EU legislation could dramatically curtail the best efforts of many brands and agencies in maximising the value of social media activity.  We largely have ourselves to blame, expecting free services in return for signing up to terms we donít read or understand.  At the same time, the big networks need to restore trust as people will become very savvy about the value of their social footprint and theyíll be pressured by legislation and the public.

SMP: Whatís going to be the most interesting aspect regarding community management, social media / technology for the next 12 to 18-months?

DS: I hate this AND the next question!  You have to think of things that make you look intelligent whilst not repeating others.  I prefer to just get on with it, but if we must ☺.  Iím going to combine them and plug Tempero though a little bit while Iím at it though, be warned!

1. From Temperoís point of view, we believe to get the most out of social media the core elements of insight, engagement and moderation must to be integrated.  I hope this will become good practise as it really can drive results throughout organisations.  I also hope this will mean good things for agencies as it will be difficult for brands to do it all.

2. The EU could ruin everything for everyone by over-legislating data protection and privacy law.  Iím all for protection but Iím also pro targeted marketing when itís done correctly.  Just think of all the double glazing direct mail youíve had over the years, wouldnít you prefer to be sent stuff you might actually want?

3. Many have said it, data is the new oil but connectivity is the new gold Ė just look at the size of the Verizon/Vodafone deal.  How we connect will have a huge impact on social media Ė it has already but when data plans, complete Wi-Fi connectivity, 4G and device independence are 100% issue free and flying, social will penetrate our lives from dawn till dusk.

4. Behind the scenes, tech will improve in a variety of ways.  Automated moderation will cease being worse than iPhone predictive text, sentiment tracking will be more accurate than a train timetable but everyone will realise people need to drive software to make it really sing.  Our view is ĎHuman led Ė algorithm acceleratedí ô

5. Untrained interns will NOT be used to run brand campaigns.  Itís unfair on them and potentially disastrous for organisations.  I know thatís not interesting but consider it a plea!

SMP: What are your top five predictions for social media for the next 12 to 18-months?

See above!

SMP: What are your top five community and/or social media tips for agencies or brands?

DS replies with:

1. Donít rely on technology

2. Donít undersell your expertise even if it you havenít got social in the title

3. Please train anyone representing a brand thoroughly

4. Plan for disaster.  If it strikes youíll be glad

5. Don't rely on technology!

SMP: Is there anything else we should know, or is there anything that youíd like to share?

DS: My wifeís pregnant ☺

SMP: Best way to contact you and Tempero?

Twitter @domsparkes
Twitter @temperoUK

SMP: Is there a video (your best one) that youíd like to point us to (this way we can embed that in the interview)?

DS: Nope, come and see me in person Ė much better!

Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

DS: I have two breakfast addictions.  Crunchy Nut Cornflakes at home.  Eggs Benedict when out.  I always get the egg down my front if itís a conference speaking day.  My wife has ordered a bib.

SMP: Whatís the last good thing that you did for someone?

DS: Gave up my seat on the tube.  Gents donít do that enough and as my wife is pregnant I notice that even more.

SMP: If you werenít running or working at Tempero what would you be doing?

DS: Playing drums at Wembley stadium.

SMP: When and where did you go on your last holiday?

DS: Tenerife a few weeks ago.  My in-laws have a place there and despite the dodgy bits, the weather and food can be excellent.

SMP: Whatís one of the best communities that youíve seen and why?

DS: I run a little studio at home so the music forum I mentioned earlier GearSlutz is invaluable.  It has critical mass and genuine nerds willing to help on it.

SMP: Whatís the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

DS: Coffee.  De-spam.  Irreverent chat with the work family.

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

DS: Anything that allows me to wear my underpants outside my trousers without being laughed at has got to be a winner.

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