Episode 25: Xenia Muntean, the founder of a social media collaboration tool shares how to streamline and reduce mistakes when distributing your content.
Hey everyone, this is Rudy Fernandez from Creative Outhouse. What a pleasure it was to speak with Xenia Muntean, the CEO of Planable. It’s a content review and marketing collaboration platform. She had some sharp insights into how companies need to rethink how they get their social media content done. Like let’s face it, social media can continue to be handled in a loose way. It’s officially reached the grownup stage and requires the same type of processes and review is more established media and Xenia had some smart thoughts and solutions to that. I enjoyed her thinking and the conversation you will to check it out. Welcome to Marketing Upheaval.
Rudy Fernandez 0:47
Welcome to Marketing Upheaval. My guest is Xenia Muntean, co founder of Planable, a social media collaboration and approval platform for agencies and large brands. She was named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for 2019. She frequently speaks about social media content trends, including at Cannes. Xenia, is an expert on creating social media programs and has a lot of insights into content distribution and collaboration and how it could be better. So this is gonna be a great conversation. Thanks for joining me.
Xenia Muntean 1:19
Well, thank you so much for inviting me as well. I’m excited to do this.
Rudy Fernandez 1:23
Well, first thing, before we talk about Planable, and social media content, you’ve had just, I think, an extraordinary meteoric career. I think you started your first social media company when you were still at university, I believe.
Xenia Muntean 1:39
Yeah, that was an agency. So we’re doing a lot of social media content production for our brands, and I started it during my second year of university.
Rudy Fernandez 1:48
So you started in Moldova, where you’re from? And then went to Romania. And now it’s just, it’s just taken off.
Xenia Muntean 1:58
Yeah, your research is very much on point.
Rudy Fernandez 2:01
Congratulations. So do you find that your age is a benefit when you approach new business?
Xenia Muntean 2:11
Yeah, that’s a good question. I think, you know, in the beginning, I was thinking that people are going to oppose more to talking with me because I’m very young. I don’t think it hurts anything. Because I’m building a software company. We are social media marketers, they are young as well. So I think it’s even better. I think it helps. Because we’re on the same page. You know, we are millenials. We don’t like to work in Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office. You know, we – they can resonate with me and my mission at Planable.
Rudy Fernandez 2:48
Yeah, that’s right. I think the younger generations have a much better handle on it.
Xenia Muntean 2:52
Yeah, I agree. Yeah.
Rudy Fernandez 2:54
So tell listeners about Planable. Just so they know a little bit more about the company and what it does.
Xenia Muntean 2:59
So I started Planable, as you mentioned, after I had my own Social Media Marketing Agency, and I started the company together with my co founders, because all of us worked in the industry. And we were, frankly, a bit frustrated with how everyone was working in the industry. For the people that are not very familiar with how social media content planning happens. It’s usually you plan your content, calendar content, you know, editorial calendar, in spreadsheet, and that spreadsheet walks around in the entire team. And if you’re an agency and you’ve got clients, you’re sending that spreadsheet to clients, and it’s just entire back and forth. It happens on email, that is basically a waste of time. It’s not streamlined at all. It’s very fragmented, you’re keeping the assets for the content itself, like the videos that you use the images itself, you’re keeping them somewhere else like a Google Drive folder. So it’s very broken, and it’s not seamless work. And a lot of time, you know is being wasted just by doing all those tedious tasks like having to format that spreadsheet, having to copy paste everything from that spreadsheet to like a scheduling tool, you know, just trying to centralize all the feedback that you’re receiving from everyone from your internal team, but also from clients and stakeholders. So it was not a pretty process. And having grown up with, like apps, mobile apps that have beautiful design, very good UI, you actually expecting something else from your professional workspace. So I was trying to find something that was collaborative, designed for teams. When I didn’t find that and when I spoke with my co founders as well, and they were working in different agencies at the time and they had the same challenges. We decided to build Planable to do just that: to empower marketers to just be more productive in their day to day work.
Rudy Fernandez 5:00
So people design the content for various social media platforms, for example, and that lives somewhere on a cloud so that everyone has access to it and see, okay, this is the right message that’s wrong message is not about a lot of back and forth.
Xenia Muntean 5:15
So yeah, the idea of Planable is that everyone is literally on the same page in real time. It just helps the content creators and a brand marketing team, create everything, create older content, and actually visualize how those posts for Facebook and Instagram are going to look like in the end, which is a task. This is like an internal joke that I you should be, you know, tell to every social media manager that I meet. Every one of us have a fake Facebook page, where we go in there, we like mock up the social media posts that we’re planning to publish, just to make sure that it’s going to look good, right. So I had this fake Facebook page back in my agency days. It was like a test unpublished page I was going in there I was creating the post, just to see how it’s going to look like. Sometimes I was even taking screenshots and sending it to my clients because they were asking, well, how is actually going to look like. So instead of spending time in Photoshop to mock it up, I was just going down that the fake Facebook page. So the idea of Planable is that it empowers visual cooperation, everyone can see exactly how their content will look like in the end, you can experience it as though it’s already live. So I think that’s this type of accuracy and this ability is crucial for efficient collaboration, and then publish it in the end to those social media channels.
Rudy Fernandez 6:39
You know, imagine seeing your message spread across the different channels, also helps you understand how it all fits together as a campaign helps the client as well.
Xenia Muntean 6:49
Yeah, that’s actually one of the other benefits, right? Because you can just see how everything ties together can make sure that it’s cohesive. Makes sense, you know, message after message. And it also helps you understand if you if you’re not sending confusing messages across different channels. It just helps you have a more united brand, I would say.
what are some common mistakes you think brands are making in terms of their content in terms of consistency?
The headcount of social media managers of the company has grown a lot in the past few years, it has become very, very important function of the entire marketing mix. Yeah. So the fact that you have social media managers in different departments and different business units in different regions, and they are all working across the world, and you’re not giving them a platform to work together on the same page, I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes because you’re onboarding some new social media intern in there. They might not know the brand, values, tone of voice if you’re giving them rights to publish. So they are being more secure with distribution of content, having some mechanism in place to ensure that your brand is safe so that you’re not going to post an empty Black Friday tweet like McDonald’s did a few years ago. I think having those kinds of safety mechanisms in place is extremely important. And those types of mechanisms are in place for traditional media. Like TV commercials are reviewed and reviewed so many times over and over again, there’s no mechanism like that for social because in the beginning, it was just a toy for marketers, there was nothing serious – you are giving it to your intern, there was no dedicated team. So there was no workflow system, no reviewing approval system, though for everything else. There is for additional marketing there is platforms like Planable are only now starting to appear because now social media marketing has become so important for organizations that they need to improve the way their operations around to this function of marketing.
Rudy Fernandez 9:12
Yeah, I haven’t thought of that, but you’re right. A TV commercial, for example, is reviewed quite a bit. And it’s almost like social media is growing up. You know, it’s just this natural process of being a grown up medium.
Xenia Muntean 9:26
Yeah. And with social media, it’s instant drive. Once you post something like the internet never forgets. Yeah, it’s gonna be there forever. Someone is going to take a screenshot and it’s faster than filming, maybe with your phone, a TV commercial, like it just takes a second for you to spread across social media and you’re never going to be able to take it back. So you need to be even more careful than with your TV commercials and also the budgets are big nowdays. So there’s a lot of money involved in this. Some brands, you know, are spending more on that. And then on traditional marketing, so it has become extremely, extremely important for brands, so they need to treat it with more care, I think.
Rudy Fernandez 10:16
Oh, absolutely. We’ve talked to on this podcast to a crisis manager who, you know, says problems often come from the bottom up, you know. So any employee who posts something representing your company that is horrific or inappropriate, suddenly that that becomes a forever thing that you now have to make your issue as a big company so that I could see what something like this as part of your governance, and a big company to say, we have to go through this platform and these people have to approve it. And that this, your system is a lot better than emailing back and forth.
Xenia Muntean 10:51
Right. And then there is the other side effect, like the brands that do don’t do social media at all just because there are – mistakes are going to happen. I see that in pharma brands, because it’s just such a regulated industry, there is a workflow in place to get approvals from legal for stuff like TV commercials and print and so on, there’s a little workflow to get approval for this amount of content that you have on social, right. It’s not one post a month, like you have with TV commercials or even you know, a longer period of time. So there’s no work. So they’re just entirely avoiding it. Because damage could be quite a big a big one, we can just run away from it, because there’s no processes in place for that yet. So you need to build those processes. Because the more you delete, the harder is going to be to integrate yourself into the current system.
Rudy Fernandez 11:50
Yeah, it’s a reality for going to market anything.
Xenia Muntean 11:53
Yeah, I agree.
Rudy Fernandez 11:55
So you wrote an E book, and in it, a couple things I want to ask you about that. You had talked about a concept that you called content paralysis. I think you talked about that a little bit already. But do you want to explain what that is?
Xenia Muntean 12:10
Yeah. So in this new world of marketing that we are today, there’s this insane demand of content from consumers. So brands have become a bit like publishers nowadays, right? They’re producing a lot of content, social, a lot of content on their content hubs like blogs and resource hubs that they have needed advertising as well, media publishers, and so on. So there’s dozens of formats of content that brands are working with. And for every format of content, there’s so many pieces of content that they’re producing, every day, we may do. We actually did the report a few months ago and industry for that. We asked marketers, how many pieces of content they’re publishing every week, and the number was something like 15 pieces of content every week. So that’s quite a lot. So this demand is not scalable at the moment, you can’t cover it all. Because from what we’re seeing in the industry, there is no proper architecture inside a lot of marketing teams nowadays. So that means that they can’t build and scale their content production because their team is not aligned, because they don’t have systems in place to communicate well between each other, because different teams are isolated. And because their entire workflow and operations as a content team is a bit broken. So they’re going to reach a point of what we call content paralysis. They’re not going to be able to skill and produce more content than then they’re doing at that moment. We’re seeing that more and more in the industry. And I think marketers need to be very aware of not just watch content they produce the strategies, the tactics, but also how all of that happens. What are the nitty gritty is what is the unsexy thing behind actually producing the content, your operational side of it. And I think not enough people are paying attention to that. And I think more people need to raise, you know, their hands to improve this standard of work.
Rudy Fernandez 14:26
Absolutely. That much stuff going out your doors, you better make sure it’s all correct and within your company purpose and values. I understand the need to have to constantly produce content because audience is so splintered, and you don’t know who’s going to see what, etc. I’m just overwhelmed by the amount of content that we have in the world that I can’t keep up with the smallest fraction of it, when just do you think that’ll just keep going that will just keep having all this content and it’ll be more and more and more is it will there be some sort of plateau at some point.
Xenia Muntean 15:02
I think humans and brands are going to produce content. And they have been producing content forever. We are creators at the core. So I don’t think that’s ever going to stop. But I do agree with you that there’s an issue of quantity over quality at the moment. And you know, I would go for content before quality first rather than quantity. And two, it doesn’t matter if you’re producing less content, but it’s big and it’s a huge effort for your team. in both situations, you need to think about operational questions, you need to think about how to structure your team, how should you collaborate? What should teamwork look like for your own organization? So the problem is still there but I’m a big fan of quality of quantity.
Rudy Fernandez 16:01
Thank you for saying that, by the way, as someone who owns a creative shop, I’ve seen that. It’s just so much content is not -it’s just “Herem let’s put some bullet points in”. This is a really old saying old ad guy, Bill Bernbach. He has my favorite quote about advertising. And it was this. “When a person talks to himself, we call him crazy. When a company talks to itself, we call it advertising.” And I think a lot of content is that, let me tell you how great we are. I think good content takes longer to develop. And sometimes people are just in a hurry to get something anything out.
Xenia Muntean 16:38
Yeah, I totally agree. I mean, there was a quote by think Mark Twain with something related to the fact that she wrote a lot because he didn’t have time to write, you know.
Rudy Fernandez 16:50
That’s right. I think it was in a letter he wrote, he said, I apologize for the length of this letter I didn’t have time to make it shorter. Obviously, this this platform That were multiple people can look at it and evaluate it and make comments and it streamlines that process. Do you ever run into the flip side of that, where you’ll have the client saying move this make this bigger and making design decisions when in fact, they don’t know about design. And what I’m getting to is, I found that often when creative is presented, people understand the thinking and why things are the way they are. But we move so quickly, you can’t do that. They just get it just gets sent back and forth. And then people make comments. So how do you think that sort of back and forth affects the actual creative and the content?
Xenia Muntean 17:38
I think the way we did Planable is that it’s so flexible that you can build whatever way of working again, you need. Whatever way of working, you’re comfortable, you can move as quick as you need to that so if you move, that you’re the type of team that just is extremely nimble and you move you ship content fast. You can make double that for yourself. So it fits very well into the type of, you know, workflow marketers have in different in different companies. If you’re the type of person that you know, wants to take time and explain that to the client, you can do that as well. You can showcase the work the client, when you’re ready.
Rudy Fernandez 18:23
Going back to your ebook you said, for each team member, you should include the primary responsibilities and review them daily, weekly and monthly, which seems like a lot. But now that you’ve mentioned it, you do need some sort of governance do you recommend that people create some sort of governance and review it that frequently in terms of what shouldn’t go out content wise?
Xenia Muntean 18:44
I think it really depends on your flow. So you know, there’s brands that plan we can do there’s brands that plan monthly. I wouldn’t recommend planning more than a month ahead cuz then it’s just really not real time at all. But I think it really depends to your specific flow and the way you build content. But it’s extremely important to do this type of analysis, like to look into how your team is working, and to audit everyone’s responsibilities, what everyone is doing. Because that’s going to give, if you have a team of 20 people, you have to have a clear understanding of what everyone is doing as part of your entire marketing effort, who’s in charge of publishing, who’s in charge of the creative cycles in charge of analytics, strategy, and so on. And those facilities have to be very well defined. Because otherwise, every time you have a new person, and you have to employ them, it’s going to be very hard to clean the entire system. Auditing the way your team works, and closely looking into how your team works, takes a lot of time, you know, to be deep dive and time consuming this type of initiatives. If you don’t do it, you’re not going to find a bottlenecks. You’re not going to understand what are the issues that you have, and you’re not going to be able to truly fix and improve your process to understand what’s not working. And the more you postpone that, the more you accumulate what I call this operational debt. That means that it’s going to be harder and harder for your team to work together. Because those issues are humiliating, and this debt is increasing in time. So you need to do it as early as you can, though, it’s painful.
Rudy Fernandez 20:31
Yeah, I bet. How have you seen he Planable and it’s technology transform? What’s the before and after look like when Planable is brought into an organization?
Xenia Muntean 20:43
I love that question. So I think before Planable a lot of the teams were using tools like spreadsheets and emails and they had a lot of mishmash of tools. You know, phone calls, texts, emails, spreadsheets. Some we’re using Trello, somewhere using Slack some were using Google Docs or Microsoft Office. So we’re using literally whiteboards and stickies on a wall. You know, a lot of meetings after meetings. So I think those tools didn’t work for them. That’s why they switched to Planable. And, and it made them more productive. A lot of our clients are saying that they’re saving about 30% of their time on those tedious tasks that they were using and that they’re not as stressed and overwhelmed as they were before. Everything is really, really organized and really clear and they have more visibility on what’s happening. And communication has improved. Communication between themselves internally but also communication with their clients. They don’t feel you know, inundated with emails anymore. So I think things have changed a lot for some of the people that switched from generic tools to Planable.
Rudy Fernandez 22:09
So what do you think, is next in the evolution of Planable? In terms of the technology, because obviously any technology have to keep moving foward. What are the next goals or things that you see maybe incorporating into the platform?
Xenia Muntean 22:25
Our big goal is to just raise the productivity of marketers everywhere. We’re doing that for social media content already. But we want to move into more formats of contents. I think that’s the next step for us. And just taking cooperation to the next level, we think we’re doing a very, very good job with improving the way teams team members collaborate. But we want to do that at a lightning speed. So this is collaboration and content formats are two of our biggest goals.
What are some of the big barriers that you hit when you go and try to pitch to people?
Pitching is is hard, but he has to do it a lot as a founder, you know, pitching, pitching, you know, to, to customers as well. So the change itself is hard. People are used with the way they’re working. And I think that’s the biggest barrier to just make them understand that it’s a problem. And that we can really start to solve that problem that they might have not thought about. Obviously, convincing people that have already identified that problem in their workflow is the easiest way. Because then the solution is just simple, right? Like, bring everyone on the same page and use once they go to for all those other tools that you’ve been using. But for those people that are, you know, happy with their current workflow, even if they didn’t haven’t identified that it’s actually not very productive. I think just shining some light on that problem is the biggest barrier.
Rudy Fernandez 24:10
Okay, that makes sense. So a lot of it is automated, correct. A lot of Planable is automated your technology? What aspects of content, do you think are things that ought not be automated? Or should it all be automated?
Xenia Muntean 24:23
I think it just all the tedious mechanical tasks should definitely be automated. I think the creativity aspect of content production can’t be automated at the moment. And my personal opinion is that it shouldn’t either I think it’s such a human based and immense human based function. Just the empathy affects the communication skills of it the psychological aspects of building like the cultural aspect of building content, guys find it hard. I mean, maybe one day, AI is going to be able to automate it. But I can’t imagine that in the next few decades. And I don’t even know if I want that.
Rudy Fernandez 25:16
To be honest, that was honestly a loaded question, because that’s what I wanted you to say.
Xenia Muntean 25:20
There you go.
Rudy Fernandez 25:22
Are you seeing some trends and content that you see happening that are that are exciting?
Xenia Muntean 25:26
Yeah. So think a few trends and content and, and, and your future. And I know, it’s probably nothing new for people that are, you know, following the trends, but you know, storytelling. So VR, and VR is probably you know, one of the big trends that are going to happen in the future, because it’s just you can create very immersive content experiences, doing really, you know, takes a lot of time to think about them to invest energy resources into producing experiences like that. We’re probably not going to stop seeing those types of storytelling of your stories happening anytime soon, just because of the type of resources it requires. Yeah. And in terms of father no more formats of content that we’re already seeing that are, you know, more innovative, you know, we’re seeing interactive video, Netflix, pioneering that with their movies and shows, to interactive video, I think it’s going to take off once. There’s going to be more platforms to allow that. In the end, it’s up to the platforms. When Facebook introduced live videos. There’s obviously has been surge in live video production, the same you know, with 360 images and it’s just really off to the platforms to take a spin on those formats that are emerging, but I think interactive videos, this is one of the next ones that are really going to conquer the space. Chatbots are here. And it requires a lot of structural content to build really personal experiences with chatbots. So I think that’s already here, like the Lego case study where they created a chat bot to help parents choose the right toys for Christmas for their kids. First of all, solving real problems for parents, the second, it’s personal experience, because they’re asking, you know, all those questions about your kids in order to help you select the right product. Those are very useful type of very engaging type of content experiences that are all already here. And then I hope we’ll see more interactive video and maybe in the future storytelling with VR.
Rudy Fernandez 27:48
Yeah, maybe. And none of us will have time to work will just be absorbing all this content,
Xenia Muntean 27:53
We’ll all be consuming branded content.
Rudy Fernandez 27:57
So if all the changes you see in marketing next year, two, three to five years, all the changes to marketing, what excites you the most and what concerns you the most?
Xenia Muntean 28:07
I think what excites me the most and scares me the most at the same time is this deep, deep personalization of content. It can have, you know, the effect of being very useful and very efficient for the end users. Because you’re just getting exactly what you need. But at the same time, there’s this creepiness effect that you might get with the personalization. So I think, one single trend for both sentiments.
Rudy Fernandez 28:45
I’ve heard other people and I have the same concern.
Xenia Muntean 28:47
Yeah. And it just creates this paranoia widely. You’re giving personalized content and then you’re asking yourself, where did you get the data? It’s all fun. Yeah,
Rudy Fernandez 29:03
It’s useful tool. It’s creepy. Yeah. Yeah. Xenia, thank you so much. This has been such a wonderful treat for me. I’ve learned a lot and enjoyed talking to you very much.
Xenia Muntean 29:13
Well, thank you so much as well. I was had a blast.
Rudy Fernandez 29:17
Yeah, I think you’re amazing. You’ve done some terrific things. And I hope you continue.
Xenia Muntean 29:23
Thank you. Thank you.
Rudy Fernandez 29:26
Hey, thanks for listening to Marketing Upheaval from Creative Outhouse. To learn more about Planable and their platform visit planable.io. For show notes, previous episodes and previous to upcoming episodes visit CreativeOuthouse.com/podcast. And if you liked this podcast, give us five stars. Subscribe, share it with friends. Our producer is Susan Cooper. Special thanks to Gopal Swami and acoustic music for creating our ear con and to Jason Shablik for his audio advice. Well, that’s it for this episode of Marketing Uphaveal. Remember, if the current state of marketing has got you confused, don’t worry. It’ll all change. See ya.
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