Meet W20 Digital’s Haifa Barbari



Haifa Barbari is a director of the Digital Strategy and Account Group at W2O Digital, a W2O Company.  She has expertise in the development of promotional and non-promotional communication activity for HCPs, patients, congress events, symposia, internal motivation of sales force and brand teams; multichannel marketing strategy and engagement planning for consumer and healthcare brands; and internal platform creation, including strategy development, stakeholder management, internal communication and best practice sharing.  Barbari was at Newhouse last week for #SocialCommerce Days, where we got to talk with her about social media and commerce, as well as the evolving relationship between online and offline interaction.

Q: What is social commerce?

A: Social commerce is an evolution of the power of community and influence, and how that community and influential voice within that community can impact someone’s action.  It is really not a promotional sell at all.  It is actually connecting the community and providing guidance on HB_picmaking a decision through the collective community.

Q: Where do you see social media going in the next few years?

A: I see it evolving to continue to be a point where people go to understand any given topic.  It is already the go-to place for understanding more information and connecting with peers, and that is going to continue to evolve.  It is going to take more of an exclusive spin, as well.  There will be more niche communities created for people with very specific, targeted motivations and interests.  Right now social media is very open, and it will continue to be open, but I think you will begin to see groups and social communities forming that are definitely more exclusive and personal.  It will continue to build on what we already have.  The landscape and capabilities will look very similar, but it will continue to evolve and more will be provided as we get to know people and their motivations, preferences, and wants better.

Q: How far do you think communications professionals should take their education in social media?

A: Social media covers so many aspects of communications.  It is important to understand the social media landscape and the tools you use to understand the conversation that is happening.  It is also important to understand customer behavior, as well as the competitive environment.  Where are your competitors?  How are they engaging?  If you don’t understand and know what to look out for, it’s going to be very difficult to participate.  When it comes to social media, I am a firm believer that word of mouth and the power of influence happen all around us.  Connecting with communities, be it offline or online, continues to evolve, so understanding social media, how and where people learn, and how they listen to their peers is really critical in reaching them, and it is very similar in terms of the conversation happening offline.  It is just amplified, and you actually reach people at a global level.  Word of mouth is powerful.  It’s always been there and continues to scale with the introduction of social media platforms, communities and devices.

Q: How do you think companies should respond to customer concerns regarding the lack of privacy in social media and social commerce?

A: Companies are moving into engaging in social media with their customers and building their own digital presence, and it’s a great thing that they keep asking that question around privacy and what information to collect, store and share.  At WCG we don’t go behind closed doors because that goes against all regulations and is really unethical.  There is a lot of publicly available data out there that you can pull from and understand behavior from, and you don’t need to invade people’s privacy.  Companies should keep that at the forefront.  Be ethical in what you do.

Q: Can you explain the relationship between online and offline interaction?

A: Online and offline interaction is very much connected and has increased vastly with the introduction of device.  A number of years ago, you would have an interest in a decision you had to make, and your initial reaction would probably be to find out more.  That would happen within your immediate, real-life, face-to-face environment.  The online environment has opened up more avenues for you to research, reaffirm and support the decision you are making.  So that online-offline integration must be mirrored in a way where information that someone is seeking is available because we have more than one point of view that is provided to us in our day-to-day lives.  Connecting the offline experience with online information and experiences is important for a brand so you can provide your information and relate content and valuable services to your customer based on where they are and what they want.

Q: Do you have any advice for Newhouse students?

A: I am extremely impressed with everyone I’ve met here.  Everyone is really smart and curious.  They are open-minded and realize there is a need for understanding different parts of communication.  My advice would be to continue to be curious and understand how different forms of communication are integrated and impact the end customer.  Making sure you understand how to communicate to folks in the right place is going to continue to be important and evolve.  We are in an environment where the speed of evolution is extremely fast, and the introduction of new technologies happens all the time.  So take your curiosity, motivation and eagerness to learn with you moving forward, because with that you will stay at the forefront of the emerging technologies and opportunities out there.