Telling a Data-Driven Story

During the last election, I was constantly amazed by the way that politicians of all persuasions bored us to death with FACTS. It was as if they were following a mantra which was to wheel out fact after fact as though they would eventually convince us through the weight of their overburdened arguments alone.

We would hear about HOW many jobs had been created. Or HOW much debt had been accumulated. But hardly, if ever, would anyone dive below the facts to discover anything deeper. Once upon a time, journalists would have done the hard work of contextualising the facts – connecting the dots, explaining the WHYs and WHEREFOREs – and otherwise telling the story that the facts alone never reveal.

But in a world where journalism has been cut to the bone, telling the story or investigating the underlying realities is a luxury that media proprietors cannot afford. And worse, the public has been lulled into accepting the shrill, scant messages that flash across our Twitter streams as though it’s some form of dyslexic gospel. Hashtag #auspol. Hashtag #outrage.

But there is another way – and it requires a more comprehensive strategy than we have seen from our politicians. It’s also far more comprehensive than we have seen from the majority of the businesses vying for our attention and our wallets. It’s a strategy that puts a little joy back into the communications and the storytelling that we share. It reminds us that for all our grievances, aspirations and needs, we remain, resolutely and wonderfully human.

Inspired by another great Leslie Bradshaw presentation:

The data is useful, but only when it tells a story. What ever you do this week, don’t get lost in the digits of digital.

FingerprintsCreative Commons License Kevin Dooley via Compfight

Yammer’s Community Management Playbook

As a boy I can remember my Nanna holding court at a friend’s house. We were sitting at a 50s laminex kitchen table (you know the kind with the fake marbling and the shiny metal edging) and there were copious cups of tea, home made cakes, scones and biscuits carefully laid out. But no one was eating. The conversation was coming thick and fast – with this coterie of grandmothers exchanging tips, sharing stories and laughing at each others’ family stories. It was a community gathering firmly held together by the will of these formidable women.

Even as a child I could sense the power of connection that was taking place. I could feel the energy. And I knew, almost instinctively, that there were rules to be followed.

Many years later, when I began to get involved in corporate “communities of practice”, I noticed many of these same rules applied. Well, not necessarily applied – but were vital for the health of a community.

With the massive shift to digital and social media, online communities – and community management – has emerged as a discipline in its own right. And while it is largely viewed by business as a “fluffy” or “touchy feely” role, organisations such as Yammerare connecting communities to hard numbers and strategic outcomes. In many cases, having an active and engaged community manager is becoming a strategic advantage.

But for those organisations who remain skeptical of the business benefit of social media, concepts such as community management can feel as removed from business reality as fairy stories. This is where the Yammer Community Management Playbook comes in handy. It’s a step by step primer on the establishment and maintenance of communities. Take a read. It may just save the future of your business.


Report – CMOs: Time to Re-Cast the Marketing Funnel

It is often said that companies only have two functions – marketing and innovation. Despite this, most corporate marketing practices are based on century old theories and frameworks that no longer adequately accommodate the complexities faced by today's CMO. Rather than the inside-out view offered by the traditional marketing funnel, marketers need to develop a view of the customer journey that takes into account the challenges and opportunities presented by digital and social technologies.

To be released tomorrow this "big picture" report provides an outside-in view of the “connected customer” and key stages in next generation customer experience. The report provides a vital framework for marketing leaders seeking to move from a transactional relationship with their customers to one based on what I am calling the “5 Ds of Customer Engagement”.

But wait! There’s more!

You can go beyond the report and join me for a webinar on this topic to understand:

1. Six trends driving change in digital marketing
2. How the 5 Ds of customer engagement reflect the new realities in customer engagement and marketing
3. Key recommendations for marketers seeking strategic approaches rather than simply digitizing "business as usual"

And the best thing to remember about a webinar is that they are recorded. If you can’t join live, register and watch in your own time and tweet me with any questions.

Why a Facebook Only Strategy is Doomed to Fail

strategicprinciples Facebook’s recent decision to shut down The Cool Hunter’s Facebook page should have sent shivers down the spine of every marketer. For years the vast scale of Facebook has attracted brands like a moth to the social media flame. Promising TVC-like reach with the added benefits of interactivity, community building and interest-graph targeting, it seemed that Facebook was the answer to the prayers of digital marketers the world over.

But a Facebook only strategy is doomed to fail:

  • Facebook is well-known for changing their terms and conditions without consultation. If you are not on top of those changes you can find yourself in breach and at risk of being shut down
  • Many brands run competitions on their Facebook pages without understanding the restrictive rules for doing so – see particularly Item E (iv) about the use of the Facebook “Like” button as a competition entry mechanism. Again, transgression could see your page shut down
  • Facebook is a walled garden designed to keep interaction and activity firmly on the inside. If you are going to the trouble of engaging your connected consumers, building your community and deepening the brand relationship, you run the risk of being “Cool Hunted” and losing that entire investment if you are shut down
  • Facebook, while large in scale, is only one social network. Digital marketers should be aiming for quality of engagement and deep next gen customer experience over “reach”

Three steps to reclaim your digital strategy

Facebook can still be a useful (and powerful) platform – but it should be part of your strategy to drive marketing and business outcomes. For example, it should not BE your strategy. There are three steps you can take to reclaim your digital strategy:

  • Use a continuous digital strategy. In a digital world, strategy is not “set and forget”. Following a proven approach to set, refine and extend your digital strategy provides deep resilience in the planning and execution of your strategy
  • Strategy drives decisions. You must have a clearly articulated and documented strategy. It should provide a guiding principle. “Share the Message, Own the Destination” will not only drive the content and conversational approach, but will also inform your technology choices
  • Use technology to scale. While social media offers one-to-one communications, this cannot scale in a business context. There are a range of technologies that can assist you to scale the execution of your strategy. This topic is the focus of my future research, be sure to subscribe for updates.

News Analysis: Google Takes on Financial Services

In the UK, Google is set to launch a new financial services division with a new credit business the first product to market. As Adam Clark Estes reports, the initial offering will provide businesses with a small line of credit linked specifically to Google’s AdWords program.

A number of items within the announcement are worthy of attention:

  • It’s a new product within a new division of Google
  • The plan is to expand to countries beyond the UK in the “next few weeks”
  • Credit cards will be issued with very competitive rates

Why This Is Important

  • Financial services is a fresh field ready for disruption: Disruption in the financial services sector has been a long time coming. The sweeping tide of digital has washed through most sectors but has been held back from regulated sectors like financial services, healthcare and pharmaceuticals. Innovators are seeking a way into these lucrative markets
  • Google understands speed to market: Many industries rollout new offerings over extended time frames. It can take years for innovations in one national market to reach another. Google’s intention clearly intends to move very quickly to cement a foothold
  • The loan book is the thin edge of the wedge: As I suggested at a recent personal lending conference, disruptive competition is likely to come from outside the financial services industry. Cash Converters in the UK last year saw 154% growth in their personal loan book; in Australia they experienced a not insubstantial 28% growth. This is not about bit players – it’s about trends – and there is a wave of change coming. Google plan to be surfing this wave

The Bottom Line: Connected Consumers Shift to Where their Sense of Trust Takes Them

Despite advertising and branding blitzes over the previous 24 months, most financial services companies are viewed with suspicion by many of their customers. Long term lock-in has allowed FS companies to claw back GFC losses and to grow. This move by Google (and the accompanying announcement by Amazon) will capture the imagination of Connected Consumers – the tech savvy early adopters of a disaffected consumer world. Google has been building trust with Connected Consumers for years, turning every search result, every click and every app login into a brand experience. This may be the first step in what could truly be a transformative monetization strategy.

Your POV

Would you take a loan from Google for AdWords? What about cash? Where do you see this leading? Add your comments or send us an email.

Please let us know if you need help with your digital strategy efforts.  Here’s how we can assist:

  • Assessing social business/digital marketing readiness
  • Considering new digital community strategy
  • Developing your social business/digital marketing  strategy
  • Designing a data to decisions strategy
  • Create a new vision of the future of work
  • Deliver a new customer experience and engagement strategy
  • Crafting a new matrix commerce strategy

The Social Power of YouTube Search

Creating a YouTube channel for your brand is a no-brainer. As the second largest search engine – and especially influential with younger audiences – YouTube can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your digital strategy.

But just as we must optimise our blog posts and website pages to achieve decent ranking on Google’s search engine, we also also optimise our videos for effective search results on YouTube.

The interesting thing for me, however, is the focus and importance that is placed on the social dimension of the YouTube search algorithm.

Take a look at this great infographic from Martin Missfeldt – showing how it’s not just about the number of views or keyword relevance that are important. Other elements that impact your ranking include:

  • Sharing – through social sites like Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon and Google+, as well as the number of sites that embed and link to your videos
  • Reactions – the number, type and style of interactions have a massive impact – including votes, responses, playlist additions, comments, reactions and so on
  • Audience retention – how to your videos rate competitively, do they hold your viewers throughout the clip?

This social dimension means that – when combined with the overall strength of your YouTube channel (authority, trust, subscribers etc) – your success with video is largely reliant on your ability to create a vibrant community rather than casual video viewers. And that means really understanding your audience – not just uploading a ready-made TVC. And it makes me wonder whether this is Google carrying A/B testing on their search engine … because for ages I have thought that the future of search is social. This may be one of the early steps.


How to Listen with Free and Paid Social Media Monitoring Tools – Pharma and Healthcare

Yesterday I spoke at the 2012 Digital Pharma Seminar hosted by Princeton Digital and VIVA!Communications. The topic was “building a digital roadmap” … or more precisely, where to start with digital strategy for pharmaceutical companies.

In highly regulated and competitive industries like pharmaceuticals, there is, however, a greater level of attention paid to the area of “listening and monitoring”. And the Medicines Australia code of conduct, edition 16, explicitly addresses social media in section 12.9 as follows:

Information provided to the general public via any form of social media must comply with the provisions of Section 12.3, 12.4, 12.5, 12.6 and 12.7 of the Code.

The focus, essentially, is on the provision of accurate and scientifically reliable information – not promotion. So I thought it may be useful to modify my How to Listen Infographic specifically for pharma. It also includes a small selection of tools that can be used to support your monitoring efforts – including free sites like and Google Alerts – as well as “for fee” and “freemium” platforms like Radian6, NetBase and HootSuite.

Be sure to let me know if you have improvements or other suggestions!

When Your Brand Tells My Story – P&O’s 175th Anniversary

About four years ago I started looking at the future of brands. I wanted to explore in a series of articles what I felt was coming down the track – and to think through the implications from a branding point of view. I decided back then, that there were five key aspects that marketers would need to address:

  1. Play – how do we bring a sense of playfulness and engagement to brands – particularly in the “digital” space
  2. Micro – understanding the power of small interactions and the way these customer interactions crush the slow moving “big idea”
  3. Performance – what does it mean for a brand to “live” in a digitally-connected, always-on world
  4. Content – how content is at the heart of your brand (whether you know it or like it – or not)
  5. You – the personal dimension of branding – and what I now call “the social way”

Interestingly, I still hold these elements in my mind when I look through various campaigns and digital programs that flash across my various screens. And for better or worse, most advertising or the digital equivalent leaves me cold, detached, emotionally vacant. Every now and then I do, however, see cause for hope.

The P&O microsite celebrating 175 years of cruising history is one such ray of hope. There’s a touch of playfulness (and even some elements of the P-L-A-Y content model), micro interactions in the form of passenger stories and images, the potential for commentary and interaction, and a nice easy-to-use microsite.

Edge_P&OCruises_175 Years_Image3 copy

But this is still seems to be a brand under management rather than a truly “social brand”. Surely there are thousands of stories of P&O passengers that have already been shared on social sites like Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr or YouTube – could it have been possible to tap into what already exists? Perhaps orchestrating the permissions etc was beyond scope or budget … and yet, I wonder how a more open platform might have seen the number of submissions leap ahead – or generate more buzz around what is a great storytelling idea.


Contrast this, for example, to vibrant immediacy of the visual storytelling offered by This is Sydney Now. Drawing on the Instagram API, it shows in real time what is being tagged and shared on that photography-inspired platform. It’s voyeuristic, messy and highly addictive. To have your photo appear, all you need to do is to take a photo on a smartphone and include the geo-tag location information (a simple on/off option in the Instagram app).

Now imagine if there was 175 years of that sort of storytelling available? Now that would be a story to blow your mind.

Selling the Vision Not the Technology

I have worked in technology marketing for many years – but I also worked in FMCG and QSR marketing – and the same holds true for any initiative. You have always got to veer away from telling the story of HOW.

The story of HOW is attractive for marketers because “how” is often the greatest business investment. In technology companies, the “how” is your sunk costs – investment in the development process, the computer hardware and the partnerships that you needed to create your new product. And because the bill can reach many millions – or even billions – very quickly, there is much riding on it.

But the story of HOW is an internal story – at least at first. And in the sales/marketing process, it’s a “convincer” – most effective during the consideration or conversion phase of the marketing funnel.

But people – and by people, I mean “your customers” – don’t buy HOW. They buy WHY. If you are not focusing on the WHY story, then you are not inviting your customers into the conversation (and by conversation I don’t mean a hashtag) – it’s the vital first step. Just watch Simon Sinek’s riveting video on the subject.

That’s why I love the way Google have been positioning Google Fiber – a different kind of internet (100 times faster than today’s average broadband). It’s only available in Kansas at present, but if you click your heels three times, you may well find it appears in your city too. Of course, here in Australia, we are patiently waiting for the rollout of the National Broadband Network.

Make no mistake, I am a fan of the NBN. It is vital infrastructure that will allow Australia to compete with global, connected markets well into the future. And no, no matter how beefy your antennae are, wireless WILL NOT cut it. But so far, when it comes to the NBN, we’re getting an awful lot of HOW and WHAT but almost no WHY. It’s like the marketing is stuck in 2nd gear – watch the first half of the Google Fiber video clip below.

Until NBNCo changes gear, they will find it slow going.

Are You an ENFJ or Are You Just Happy to Follow Me?

I have always liked “persona mapping” as a way of communicating types of behaviour to my marketing teams. It allows us all to “work from the same page”. There are a variety of ways that you can do this – behaviour mapping, Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, demographic segmentation and so on.

But while this is a useful theoretical exercise in developing your marketing strategy, how does it apply to social media?

Generally, in social media, I look for the underlying behaviour in the social objects that people leave in their online wake. I look for clues to understand their motivations rather than seeking to contextualise their digital interactions. For example, knowing who drives knowing how – so understanding the social platforms that people use reveals interesting and useful information that you can use to chart your path to engagement.

But check out this infographic from the folks at – they’ve taken the MBTI approach and mapped profiles against social networks. How does it play out for YOUR profile (you can take this online MBTI test for a rough approximation). How does it rate for you?