Social Actions Beat Social Proof

Over the last week or so I thought I would try a little experiment … after all, social media and its immediacy allows us to test and learn simply and easily, right?

I wanted to test whether different phrasings would impact click through rates from social media sites to destination addresses.

Now, usually I either share a link without introduction, or explain that I was “reading” an article with its link.

Now we know that 90% of people visiting your website will just “read” or “lurk”, that 9% will modify, comment or add to your content and that only 1% will drive activity. The 90-9-1 Principle is what Jakob Nielsen calls Participation Inequality.

So, in effect, announcing that I was “reading” an article planted me firmly in the world of the “lurker”.

But the concept of social proof – whereby one’s actions shapes the actions of those around us – suggests that my “reading” of an article would open the door to others who were also of the “lurking mindset”. So what happens if we re-shape that interaction? What if I was “commenting on” rather than simply “reading”? What if I was “pre-ordering”? How are these “social actions” playing out and are they a different order of magnitude?

Based on the analytics coming out of it seems that there is an impact – and it is in the 20%-25% range. Taking out the spikes for particularly hot topics I normally average about 150-180 clicks per link. But using the “commenting on” prefix I am regularly hitting higher levels of between 200-230 clicks. Over the coming days I will try variations on this theme:

  • Tweeting at different times of day
  • Re-tweeting the same link at different times
  • Using different social actions

The cool thing is, that a little attention to your choice of language and the framing of an outcome can have a positive impact. And I have a feeling that it may well have an impact on the types of audiences (participants rather than lurkers) that you are reaching. Now, THAT would be brilliant.

You Are Not the President of the Communications System

I often think we misunderstand the moment in which we are living. Sure technologies are transforming the way that we work. Sure these fancy mobile devices are making us more connected and connectable. And yes, all this data is allowing us to find, engage and even predictively sell to our customers.

But where are YOU in this moment? What is happening in your present moment – there between breaths and tweets?

When you work for a brand or an agency, you often spend a great deal of your creative energy on “cutting through” the noise of our everyday lives. It’s as if it is possible to excise your experience of life as a professional from everything else. But what if you were able to dissolve that distinction – and what if you were to open the imaginative floodgates between your different lives?

My view is that it is inevitable – and that it is happening whether you like it or not. It’s what I call The Social Way. But rather than being something to be feared, it’s something to be embraced.

To succeed in The Social Way we need to rethink a few things. Like customer relationships. And what it means to be innovative or creative. And we need to think about respect.

But don’t take my word for it – listen to Dan Wieden – founder of creative powerhouse Wieden + Kennedy. As he says, we need to rethink the way we use communications systems – after all, you’re not the president. Respect and storytelling – they go hand in hand. They both start by listening.

And thanks to Martin Weigel for sharing.

Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

I was pretty excited during the last week to read the great insight and ideas that are appearing again. It is nice to see some deeper levels of consideration and analysis appearing in articles across the web – rather than the more simplistic commentary that clogs up our brains and bandwidth. I hope you enjoy these stimulating posts!

  1. We tend to trust what people tell us. Whether they are people from agencies, consultants that we are working with or friends, colleagues – or even competitors. But just because someone says something, doesn’t make it true. In the world of digital and social there’s a lot of bad advice floating around. Craig Wilson asks, what’s the price of bad advice?
  2. Often we think about the behaviour of people – our customers, our employees and so on. But we often overlook the larger, connected behaviours of groups. Mark Earls suggests that we are missing the point and that we need to think about behaviour beyond the individual. Awesome.
  3. And on the subject of “awesome” – this. Read it and weep in agreement. Understand it and know that the path ahead in your career is full of challenge. And then proudly go forth preaching the gospel according to Olivier Blanchard.
  4. When it comes to managing a social media crisis you need to keep a level head. And one person who knows how to keep their head when many others are losing their is Matthew Gain. Here are his five best ways to respond to a social media attack.
  5. It’s great to see creative industries ramping up on Newcastle, NSW. Gordon Whitehead shares the news that a new screen industry group has been started up and they’re looking for script ideas. Pull that dusty script out of the drawer and get about the Film Republic.

Inbound Marketing for CMOs

One of the benefits of the rise of digital marketing has been the abundance of analytics. No longer do we need to rely on what people “say” they are going to do or “would do” in a certain brand scenario. With the right tools in place we can actually observe their real time behaviour. We can see how customers arrive into our sales/business process, where they spend their time and where they reach a decision point – to convert or not.

We can even go further. With a mobile and/or social layer integrated into our digital business process, we can remove barriers, accelerate the movement from one part of the sales process to the next and close the loop on the customer feedback and advocacy. Perhaps most importantly, however, the real innovation is happening in the way that the marketing funnel has been inverted. These days, it’s not about creating awareness and outreach but about creating a centre of gravity that draws your customers to your business.

But many businesses fail to grasp the opportunity. Especially in retail.

This neat infographic from the Marketo folks provides a handy snapshot for marketers, explaining how traditional and “inbound” marketing differs. And once you see the opportunity, check out the Sticky 360 degree approach. It may just be the solution you need to your inbound marketing challenges.


Adjacent Storytelling

Often when I speak with other marketers, they complain that their brand, products or services are just not “sexy enough”. They are interested in social media and in producing content but simply cannot find the angle to make their brand shine. But this is not a problem of social media. And it’s not a problem of branding. It’s a problem of storytelling. And the only way to attack that problem is not with demographics and data (as much as I love them both). It’s with imagination.

Take a look at this “best job” video connecting a bunch of brands from the P&G stable. Not only is it interesting to see P&G stepping out from the long shadow of their powerful brands – it’s fascinating to see how “adjacent storytelling” can really showcase beauty and triumph in the mundane existence of our everyday lives.

So, what is “adjacent storytelling”? To me, it’s secret sauce.

How many times have you been asked to make the “logo bigger” or “more prominent”? How many times have you been pushed to mention a product or brand name three or more times in 30 seconds? This infantile understanding of branding comes from the triumph of data over imagination.

Adjacent storytelling is not about naming your brand. The adjacent story is there – the one that you see out of the corner of your eye. It’s the story that stays with you long after you have forgotten the wording. It’s the feeling that reminds you that your experience is not singular and that we are connected more by our commonalities than by our differences.

The adjacent story is the story of your brand in the hands and lives of your customers. Someone, somewhere, once had a problem that needed to be solved. This too, is the adjacent story. It’s the story of the problem, not the story of the solution.

Every brand – every product or service – has this story buried within. You need to scratch the surface to find the beating heart of your brand. But don’t stop there. It’s time to go deeper. Let’s hear less about you. Let’s hear how, together, we can change lives of those around us. Of those most important to us. Let’s explore how we can change this world.

That’s the adjacent story. And here you were thinking this was a blog post on social media!

Got a Glitch in Your eCommerce Process? It’s Time to Reinvent Retail

You know the story … you just want to buy a product online – but the process is infuriating. You are asked to register before the purchase. The search doesn’t work or the half-hidden check boxes add you in for cross-sell or up-sell opportunities without your knowledge. At every click the website seems to prompt you to close the browser and go somewhere else. In short – the customer experience stinks.

And while many of us understand this frustration as consumers, rarely do we apply this knowledge to the online stores that we build, rollout or activate on behalf of our businesses/brands.

Now regular readers will know, I have long running dissatisfaction with the customer experience offered by most retailers. Big department stores are the worst of culprits – with skeleton staffing, low staff morale/motivation and little attention to customer needs and loyalty – but poor retail customer experience is endemic. And for my money, this is what is largely driving customer online. It’s not that consumers don’t have the money to spend – it’s that they don’t want to spend it with the companies on offer. So, yes, it’s a brand issue.

But coming back to the eCommerce experience. What would happen if an online shopping experience was played out in the real world? Check out this re-enactment from the Google Analytics team. Great stuff. And you know the same happens in-store. It’s time we reinvented retail, don’t you think?

Be the CMO of Your Own Team

I’ll get this out of the way up front – I have never been a CMO. But I have always had an interest in making sure that Marketing has a seat at the strategy table – and that really means one of two things – you need to drive revenue or your need to manage costs.

In all my professional roles – certainly covering the last 15-20 years, I have been interested in understanding the business decision making process. I dug through the jargon and pushed to determine the real situation. I even threw out the old metrics by which we measured success – choosing instead the same measurements that applied to those I supported (usually sales). It didn’t matter whether I was working agency or client side – it’s always the same goal. Grow business by delighting customers. Drive innovation and manage costs. Do your best work and encourage the same in your team.

Now, the reason I mention all this, is that it is never too late (or too early) to apply the same principles to your own role. No matter whether you are an intern or early in your career – or whether you do, in fact, hold the role of CMO. Your challenge and opportunity is to step up. Become the CMO of your own team. It might be a team of one, but it will be noticed. Systematise your work and your outputs and allow creativity to flourish where it can. Have an agenda, have a plan and measure your own success. And learn. And ask questions. And talk to your customers.

Google Visualizes Your Brand

One of the benefits – and strategic advantages that Google is able to tap into each and every day – is the huge volume of data that is generated by our collective use of the free website measurement tools known as Google Analytics. Not only do these tools provide rich data and analytics capabilities to organisations and individuals the world over, that information is also aggregated by Google.

So while we are able to learn more about how people find, use, convert and engage on our websites, so too is Google able to tap this data store to reveal trends, understand behaviours and make sense of our globally connected work and life styles.

Add the abundance of information that comes from our daily use of the Google search engine, and this data store is awe inspiring.

Over the last few years, Google has made a range of tools available to tap into this data. Google Trends provides fantastic insight to search data – but the new Brand Impressions tool from Google thinkinsights team takes it a step further. You simply enter a brand name and wait while information is drawn from Google+, YouTube, Google Images and Google News, Google Maps and of course, Google Search. And in a few moments you have a nice, interactive infographic built specifically for your brand (or your clients’).

Here’s what was revealed when I queried global software brand SAP. Fascinating. And I am sure this is only the beginning. Over time, this tool is bound to improve – making it a great addition to your strategic insight toolbox. After all, data is great, visualisation can be breathtaking, but true insight is divine. Time to put your thinking caps on!


Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

How do you tell your business stories? It all starts with words. Or it should. My view is that a great brief, a brilliant project or idea needs to be articulated in words. We need to hear that description, passion and connection from the person at ground zero of ideation. And if you can’t be there in person, then you need to write. This week’s five must-read posts are about this challenge.

  1. With limited capacity to draw, I have always relied on language to tell stories, communicate and engage audiences. So no surprise then to see a post called How to Write appearing in this week’s list. Great stuff from David Ogilvy courtesy of Stan Johnson.
  2. What do Ogilivy’s words mean in practice? Copywriter, Robert Pirosh, explains eloquently – I like words.
  3. And once you have the words, the story and the soul of an idea, how do you apply creativity to strategy to bring it to life? Some great tips from Nien Liu.
  4. For someone who doesn’t have time to blog, Paul McEnany sure delivers quality content – great context setting up a series of videos. Listen to the voices and at the way people describe themselves in the great working class vs middle class debate.
  5. And speaking of that debate – what happens in the grand showdown between hipster and bogan? Find out in the rise of the cashed up bogan.

Topic Talks Unleash the Storytellers

We’ve had TEDtalks and we’ve had Ignite – we’ve had Vibewire’s fastBREAK and we’ve had TEDx. All these events have a number of elements in common – they require the speakers to deliver short, focused talks. They promote presence – being in the room, and they honour in-person storytelling.

But while these event formats have been successful, for the most part, this format of short, sharp, in-person events have remained on the periphery of our culture. TED attracts an elite business focused crowd and Ignite appeals to the startup and innovation communities. fastBREAK is about creating an intergenerational conversation on important topics of our times – and TEDx seeks to make the TED brand experience more accessible while maintaining an air of exclusivity.

And that’s what is so interesting about the new Topic Talks series (April and May 2012). “For the passionately curious” this series of talks kicks off with Ray Martin, Thomas Keneally, Gretel Killeen, Patrick Lindsay and Sebastian Robertson. And they are physically accessible – with dates set for the Cremorne Orpheum theatre, Parramatta Riverside and Randwick Ritz.

It’s a great opportunity to hear accomplished storytellers – but I am equally interested to understand where the series may go in the future. It would be great to hear from under-represented voices.