Edelman’s Dave Fleet on How Entrepreneurs Can Effectively Utilize Social Media for Their Startups

The Edelman offices are stunning. I am lounging in a chair, with a book, and enjoying the very spacious waiting area. Dave Fleet points out that Edelman has actually won an award for it. Fleet is the VP of Digital at Edelman’s Toronto office, and is a veteran in PR and social media. I ask him: If you had one piece of advice for startups and organizations getting into social media, what would it be?


“Open your ears, and listen to what people are saying online already. You can learn so much from that; whether that’s where people are, what they want, what they like, what they hate, that’s where the first really valuable bucket of information is for companies.”

To help you listen, Fleet recommends Radian6, and Sysomos for higher-budget organizations, and Google Alerts, Twitter Search, and RSS Feeds for people on a lower budget.

Good advice. Now, how do these same startups and organizations get their people to improve with social media?


“I think you can argue to an extent that participation in social media helps,” replies Fleet hesitantly. “Participation in social media on behalf of a company is critical; there’s a huge difference in building your own personal brand and throwing out quotable quotes, and actually building something tangible for a business.”

“A key skill that is really undervalued is writing,” he adds (to my delight). “It’s being an effective writer. You have so much less space in social media: it doesn’t mean it’s easier, I think it’s actually harder. Not to downplay the skill level in longer form writing, but it’s really hard to write effectively in 140 characters.”

Fleet then starts explaining the important difference between embassies and outposts: embassies are places where you go to set up your company presence like your Twitter channel and your Facebook page, it’s the stuff you have control over. In contrast, outposts are activities taking place on someone else’s property, like commenting on Techvibes or in Red Flag Deals; they’re places where you send people to be ambassadors for your community.

Regardless of where you are, you need to be respectful of the rules of that place; so perhaps acquainting yourself with rules on certain hubs and larger properties would be valuable to pick up as well. 


Great things can happen when you lock a designer, a developer, and a marketing person into a room together. I wanted to know what the social media equivalent to that would be.

“Some of the key buckets you would look at would be the “always-on” activities; these would be the content and community management. The ideal social media program follows an always-on foundation and there are always projects and campaigns run on top of that. That means you always have that conversation and relationship building,” observes Fleet.

“So the next piece would be project management and campaigns, and I think measurement is critical because you need to know whether things are working or not so you can optimize and prioritize.”

To summarize Fleet’s answer, every social media team needs: A content developer, a community manager, a project manager, and a metrics jock.


This is the answer I receive when I ask Fleet what advice he has for students. I ask Fleet for some of his tactics on networking:

  • Learn from doing. Get your hands dirty.
  • Be a sponge: the moment you know something, it is probably out of date. Stay on top of those RSS feeds and Google Alerts.
  • Good hires are hard to find; so make yourself a good hire and easy to find. Be proactive and do not wait.
  • Connect with people online. Start a Twitter list of people who you should be engaging and want to build a relationship with.

Fleet’s insights make for great strategic guidelines for startups trying to get into social media, and serve as great reminders for those of us trying to figure out how to use social media more effectively. If you want to further peek into Dave Fleet’s mind, have a look at his blog. Thanks for the advice and the interview, Dave!