In my first “official” marketing job, I dealt a lot with branding. And print. We did brochures and collateral. There were events to host, conferences to attend and exhibition booths to use for conversion. And there was this largely irrelevant thing called “the website”.
But I had an inkling that there might be something to this internet lark, so I kept at it. I created campaigns that would start with an envelope delivered to a desk, would follow it up with an email message, exclusive code, some marketing information and an invitation to an exclusive event. Then the event itself was pure “money can’t buy” access to the best talent at our firm, thought leadership and good food and drink. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was designing omni-channel experiences. And they were extraordinarily successful.
In fact, they blew everything else out of the water.
One of the reasons these program worked was because we could track marketing activation. We knew when invitations were delivered in person and via email. We knew when something was ignored. We followed up religiously. And we adjusted the program as we went. It was agile before “agile”. There was no name for this kind of marketing, because it was simply about paying attention. I was doing my job.
These days, marketers have forgotten what their job is. They seem to think it’s about content. Or about technology.
It’s neither of these things.
It is about paying attention – to your customers and to your business. You have to balance doing what’s right for your customers and doing what’s right for your business. Sometimes it is a fine line. Sometimes it’s obvious. And walking this fine line will help you make decisions about everything else – about the content you develop or amplify and the technology you use. After all, it’s no use having the best YouTube channel if your audience all live on Facebook. And you won’t have a job long if you spend all your budget on Snapchat ads when your buyers are all middle aged men in suits.
It’s the balance that’s importance – one eye on your boss, one eye on your customer. Respect for the company that pays you and respect for the person who pays your company.
And is with this simple focus that I can confidently look to Snapchat and know that there’s not much value there for most marketers, right now. As this infographic (via MarketingProfs) shows, there are some astounding “engagement” figures and certainly plenty of stickiness. But a decade of social media use has made us wary of the big numbers that sound as hollow as “reach and frequency”. And there is no reliable analytics platform that can provide anything more detailed than a “like” here or a message there.
That doesn’t mean that Snap won’t improve. But it’s a long way away from being a sophisticated digital platform for marketers. And while that one glad eye might be turned towards your audience, marketers will need to keep that serious eye on the stormy CEO who holds the marketing budget.
Software companies have built and scaled their businesses by creating and nurturing developer ecosystems for decades. They start with a few, dedicated and passionate evangelists and stoke that passion with fire, autonomy and cool technology. Just look at the dedicated developer programs like those run by SAP or Microsoft, Salesforce or even IBM.
Years ago, when I worked for SAP, we realised that the developer ecosystem was not keeping pace with the demand for software and services. Looking into the future, we recognised that the changing demographic and technological landscape posed a risk to future earnings. So we did something about it.
Over the following 12-18 months we put in place highly targeted programs designed to attract more computing students into the ecosystem. The aim was to build overall capacity, not to create a talent pipeline for ourselves – and it worked spectacularly. Well within 12 months we had vastly exceeded our targets in half a dozen countries, and were able to scale back the acquisition aspects of our program, focusing then on a more operational cadence to our efforts. In short, we kept the fires burning.
But we learned a very important lesson. We learned that because the technology continues to change and advance at an ever increasing pace, it’s essential to train your ecosystem of developers on not just what the technology does today, but on what it will do tomorrow. We learned that our ecosystem of developers – and the corporations and partners that hire them – receive greater value, faster, when we show them our secrets, share our best practices and actively engage them in planning for the future. It’s a win-win-win outcome.
The courses are available through Blueprint, Facebook’s global training program, and focus on the three core pillars of the news cycle: discovering content, creating stories, and building an audience.
No doubt, the course will prove a vital and useful resource for journalists of all ages and experience.
But it will do more than this. It will create a language, focus and framework for journalists and the way that they discover and create content and grow their audiences. Of course there will be a Facebook focus to the courses, but the principles will also apply to other social and digital media properties. And at some time in the future, you can expect there to be certification and qualification programs. There may even be university level partnerships.
And all of this works to create a deeper, richer and more focused ecosystem.
Facts and figures are boring. Yet almost every B2B brand relies on facts and figures to tell the story of their products or services. Countless whitepapers, videos and presentations wheel out the features and functions or a particular platform, technology or product line, yet everything that we know, as marketers, as data analysts, tells us that there is a better way. A more efficient way. In fact, neuroscience has provided vital clues that help us understand not the power of logic to drive purchase, but the importance of emotion to tip our decision-making.
So at the point of decision, emotions are very important for choosing. In fact even with what we believe are logical decisions, the very point of choice is arguably always based on emotion.
But it is one thing to know something and quite another to do something about it. Just imagine being the marketing director pitching in a new campaign to your CMO where there is little reference to product features and functions. Imagine the questions. The feedback. The personal-professional risk.
This week I recorded a podcast with the NewsModo team. We talked about branding, social media and content marketing. But mostly we talked about how storytelling allows brands to tap into the minds and emotions of their customers. One of the examples I had in mind was this video from the recent election campaign. The video captured my imagination because it’s a great example of how facts and figures can be incorporated into a campaign that drives not just action but activation. In fact, if brands (and political parties) can learn anything from the election results, it is this … listen to your audiences, understand what drives their collective mindset and help or encourage them to act on that mindset.
When you have a moment, check out the NewsModo podcast. There have been some great guests – and it may just inspire your next, best idea.
Throughout the year I am consistently asked for the state of the social nation. Business leaders and Boards ask about strategy and the shifting digital trends. Executives ask about statistics, business models and ROI, and community managers and social media strategists get into the social media plumbing – what’s hot, how can you prove it and where should we spend our limited time and resources (ie budget). And where that conversation involves a small or mid-sized business, the conversation may range across all those areas.
In almost every one of these kinds of conversations that I have had over the last 2-3 years, I invariably fall back on the Sensis Social Media Report. More than any other report from consulting company or rating agency, the Sensis Report has established itself as the most authoritative overview of the Australian digital landscape. And because it has a grounding in small business, it feels gritty and real, as if the data and analysis could actually be applied in the real world.
So what does the 2016 report have in store for us?
Insights for leaders and Boards
As the social media early adopters have been saying for close to a decade, the shift to digital and the rising tide of social is more than a passing fad. Organisations that have failed to tackle digital transformation in this time, will now be feeling the pinch across a range of business indicators, from innovation and customer service, to talent acquisition and retention, sales and marketing.
And they will be feeling this pressure because their audiences – that is, their customers, employees, suppliers and partners – have already switched from the one-way direction of broadcast communication and engagement to a more nuanced, targeted and multi-directional format offered by the digital and social web.
As the Sensis Report shows, Australians are:
Spending more than 12.5 hours per week on Facebook alone (this is a 50% increase over 2015)
More actively using ratings and reviews with 60% relying on blog posts and reviews ahead of buying decisions
Loving Facebook with a relatively steady number of regular logings (32 per week) but an increased length of engagement (up from 17 to 24 minutes since 2015)
Still finding value in Twitter – with a 2% growth year-on-year (up to 19%).
Activation: This is a wakeup call for those leaders and Boards who have yet to commence or accelerate digital transformation efforts. This needs to be a PEOPLE DRIVEN program and should focus on the process and cultural change required to deliver value AHEAD of the technology. For those organisations that are on the transformation path, there is more work ahead. In fact, transformation is the new BAU. Assess your organisational digital transformation maturity according to this model.
Insights for executives
For those responsible for delivering business outcomes, the focus needs to shift from an ROI model to a business impact model. The ROI model works where there are fixed budgets and program lengths. But as we shift away from business as campaign driven to business as “always on”, so too do our budgets, structures, processes and KPIs.
The Sensis Report shows, Australians are:
Deeply connected, using an average of 3 internet-enabled devices
Reaching saturation of smartphone adoption, up 6 points to 76% and overtaking laptops as the dominant device
Demanding mobility – with desktop and tablet ownership stable over the last two years.
Activation: The responsive web is the place to be. It’s no longer enough to have a brochure site full of corporate information. The web is now a service channel and your digital strategy needs to take this into account. This means staffing, technology, processes and training need to be mobilised within your business to serve your audiences.
Insights for businesses (all of you, yes, even small businesses)
Last year’s Sensis Small Business Report indicated that small businesses invested less than $2000 in technology each year. For a small business to exist online, that kind of expenditure is insufficient. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this level of expenditure just gets a business a seat at the customer table. Small businesses need to start thinking about business plans that include digital as a longer term investment, rather than a simple expense.
Rachel Beaney has provided some great insight into the business opportunities arising from the Sensis Report – take a look at her recommendations in full here. Some of Rachel’s key takeaways include:
Keep an eye on emerging platforms as the demographics shift from 20s to 30s
Understand where and when your audiences use social media
Frame offers via social media
Build trust through content
Use ratings and reviews to build credibility.
Holly Galbraith provides a focused analysis of the Sensis Report for the tourism industry. Holly’s analysis can be read in full here.
UPDATE 2: Thanks for the great feedback via Twitter and email. I am pleased you are finding the course useful. As we have already hit the limit on the previous discount coupon, I have released another code. Use THIS LINK before midnight on Sunday to enrol.
UPDATE: The special 100% discount sold out. But I have released 50 more discounts @ 100%. Use THIS LINK to access the Mastering Twitter for Business course. It is only available for this weekend.
Have you ever wondered why CEOs like Richard Branson and Elon Musk spend their precious time on Twitter?
I do love a review of social media. It reminds me of how far we’ve come and maybe gives an inkling of where we might go. It can also provide a guide by which you can assess, review and benchmark your clients and their activities. BUT. And with social media there is always a BUT.
For the vast majority of those who work in social media roles, or who work in social media with their clients, reports such as the Percolate State of Social Media 2015 are more practical than you might expect. For they provide a roadmap to future business capability.
That’s not a benchmark, it’s a roadmap
[Tweet “That’s not a benchmark, it’s a roadmap. Time for social to become business #socbiz”]
Every second on the internet, masses of content is being produced. Around 2500 Instagram photos are uploaded, almost 10,000 tweets are sent, 2000 Tumblr posts are published, 1800 Skype calls are made and 50,000 Google searches are conducted. It’s mind blowing. But it’s not useful.
What IS useful is thinking through the implications of this:
Media is being produced by individuals not just by media companies
Content is curated, shared and distributed entirely through digital channels
“Phone” calls are making the phone obsolete
Knowledge is sought on demand.
Looking deeper, we see not the symptoms of these technologies but the behaviours which underlie them.
We prize creation over consumption
We value networks over channels
We crave connection over function
We seek satisfaction over perfection
If we take a similar approach to the headlines from the Percolate report, interesting opportunities appear:
Social media moves beyond social – we need to build “social media” capacity within our organisations in preparation
Customer service shifts to experience – customer service is no longer back office, but front of house. Time to prepare our teams as ambassadors rather than problem solvers
Crisis management hits the risk radar – have you developed a crisis plan? Now is the time
Social business is everyone’s business – similar to the first point above. But think about social media not as a marketing function but as a core business capability. This is where the digital rubber meets the transformation road.
Social becomes business
The fundamental shift that is recognised in the report is not the NEED for social media, but the need for SOCIAL BUSINESS. As social impacts all aspects of your business from the boardroom to the reception desk, the need for an organisational wide strategy and enablement program becomes paramount.
How can this be done programmatically – and (despite the name of this blog) without chaos?
The answer lies in becoming a responsive organisation. Using agile methodologies applied to business functions and outcomes. It means disrupting yourself before you are disrupted. Now is the time when social becomes business.
Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
— Donald Rumsfeld
My morning starts with a river of data. First up, there is email – a quick run by the inbox alerts me to urgent issues, questions, client inquiries and news. Every email I open, every link that I click and every article that I read is marked, tagged, tracked and collated. And then it’s over to LinkedIn’s news feed to check what is happening in the industries I care about. Having built a substantial network of well-connected and insightful connections over the years, I get a very quick sense of what is trending globally, what is vital locally and what needs to be reported or responded to. Finally, I switch to Facebook. I am blessed with opinionated and smart friends who share and increasingly, the richness and quality of news and insight available through that network is out-pacing all other channels.
But what am I doing here? I am working with Donald Rumsfeld’s mantra. I am looking to these networks to tell me the things that I don’t know that I don’t know. Essentially, this data is helping me look beyond my radar.
The same approach can be applied to marketing. In fact, for marketers to remain relevant and responsive – we need to be looking beyond our own radar.
For as long as marketers have been marketing, we have used media to reach our customers. We’ve equipped our teams with megaphones and messages and marched them to the perimeter of the business compound. To reach our customers, we buy and create media – after all, as the adage says, “fish where the fish are”. But this is the inside-out marketing model from the 20th Century – and social media has turned it inside out.
But it’s really not the big numbers that are important here. It’s what you do with them.
The known unknowns of our customer data
Just as I do each morning, marketers need to be thinking selectively about their customers. Rather than aiming to speak – or “connect with” all 2.5 million Twitter users in Australia, why not start somewhere easier? Why not start with the “known unknowns”? Why not start by figuring out WHICH of our customers are using Twitter or Facebook (ie a lot of them), and improving our understanding of those people?
Most modern CRM platforms have fields that allow you to collect the Twitter handles or Facebook profiles of your customers. Why not start by understanding how many of your existing customers have this information included in their profile? This gives you your known unknowns:
Run a report on your completeness of social media profile data in your database
Use Facebook custom audiences to match Facebook profiles to your existing email database
Do some profile matching via Twitter to do the same
Run an email campaign asking for that one additional piece of information. Provide a useful incentive. Make it worthwhile.
For most organisations, taking these small steps would take less than a day. And it paves the way for much deeper exploration.
Combining Voice of the Customer and Analytics as your over the horizon radar
Once you know who your customers are on social networks, it opens the door to a much richer experience for both you as a marketer and your customers as consumers. And what you’ll find on social networks is not the well-manicured conversation of corporate marketing – you’ll find the very direct “voice of the customer”. Generally, however, our “social listening” platforms are built around our own keywords. Our products. Brands. They are only sometimes built around understanding our customers pain points, needs and expectations. This means we are again working from the inside-out – working with the known knowns.
Thankfully, powerful natural language processing is beginning to provide the analytics horsepower we need to decipher social streams. I have explained previously about the way that IBM and AusOpen collaborate to transform customer experience at the Australian Open Tennis events – but analytics is no longer the domain of big business. With platforms like IBM Watson now available at an affordable rate (starting at around $50 per user), you don’t need to be “Tennis Australia” nor a data scientist to understand what’s going on with your market. You just need to understand your business.
Take a look at this video to see how you can use Watson and Twitter data to analyse retail sales. Look at the way that the language in the real time reports is structured around the way that marketers work. Rules are setup and then data populates accordingly. But most interestingly, because Watson works with natural language – it works with the language of the marketer as well as working with the language of the customer.
For marketers, this means that Watson does the hard work of identifying the most interesting facts contained within your data sets, letting you focus on making the right decisions about what happens next. For example (at 2:13), “sales by state” is flagged. Watson chooses the best representation of the data (in this case, a map) but also provides a “ribbon of data” that can be used to interrogate and analyse at a deeper level. Typing in a search related to what you need to know (eg “tweets by hashtag”) turns that data into a report that lets you see immediately what happened to your sales data and why.
Suddenly that river of Twitter data becomes understandable. A connection can be made between your business results and the social media data coming from a particular channel in a particular location.
And in case you need to tell the story of your digital marketing and your analytics to your executive team – or to your customers – with a few clicks, the visualised data can be compiled into ready made infographics. Now you not only have a custom radar to understand your customer – you can link your customer and business value together. Will this make you a better marketer? It will certainly make you more relevant to your customer – and that is a win all around.
What happens when two of your social media friends get together? Well, this week Sum All, the social media dashboard and Buffer, the social media management tool, hooked up to share some salacious social data. By working together they were able to compare the the effectiveness of posting frequency. And they came up with some pretty interesting insights.
For those who are active on social media, the recommendations may come as a surprise. After all, it’s easy to schedule or post multiple updates to run WITHIN AN HOUR – not just across the course of a DAY. But it seems for the most part, that INFREQUENT posting may be the most effective route. For example:
Twitter: probably the noisiest of the lot, Twitter can explode on a particular topic. Just look at “today’s” fascination first with llamas and then later, with #TheDress. Research suggests that the level of engagement begins to decrease after only the THIRD tweet each day – and that means #TheDress flooded most people’s quotas
Facebook: there’s an ongoing debate over the Facebook newsfeed algorithms and the level of organic reach, but the research also indicates that two posts is the max point for “Likes” and comments
Blogging: perhaps the most interesting of the stats – is that doubling your blogging efforts from around once a week to twice a week doubles the number of inbound leads. And here we were thinking that blogging had died a quiet death
The big question is …
As with all research, there will always be outliers – and exceptions to the rule. But for those who actively manage brands on social media, how do you find this correlates with your experience? Have you tested for post frequency? What about time of day? Or “best day” for posting? My thinking and experience suggests:
B2C brands may need to post more frequently – especially where there is a customer experience / service angle
Brands that are in the early stages of growth will always take effort to establish a follower base. Activity can ease off as community activity begins to increase
Standard time of day posts still tend to work when your audience is receptive – during work breaks and in the evenings (note this can be challenging where your audience is comprised of shift workers)
Some channels work better on weekends. And yes, that can mean email too. Be sure to test all opportunities to engage.
You’ve probably met the type – or had them pitch you. They’re the FUD masters, sewing fear, uncertainty and doubt, knowing that at the end of the conversation they have a lead to follow up or maybe even a project. They talk big numbers, after all, 40% of the Australian population use Facebook, 3 million on Twitter and well, everyone in the country on Google. Surely you can’t afford NOT to have a presence in these digital territories.
In the world of small business, we’ve been hearing these pitches for years. These “Social Media Expert Gurus” (SMEGs) would sweep in, dazzle business owners, soak up budgets and then disappear when it came time to report back on results and outcomes. More recently, we are seeing larger enterprises follow this same course. Sometimes the entree comes through the Board or senior executives. They are swayed by the “social media savvy” and “digital swagger” of the SMEG and quickly find themselves signing up for hefty retainers attached to uncertain outcomes.
But the immediacy and impact of social media can be addictive. And even the most cynical executive can find themselves enthralled.
Every time someone reads, clicks or shares a link or piece of content that we have created, it sends a small dose of dopamine into our brain. This release provides us with a sense or reward, pleasure – and encouragement. It’s why (for the marketer) digital marketing or social media can be addictive. It is also why those who don’t use social media fail to understand the way that participation can become contagious – or how content can go “viral”.
Adobe have taken aim at this phenomena with their Mean Streets video. It’s a fantastic take on the rollercoaster of social media vanity metrics – Likes and Fans. Will it help you spot a SMEG in the crowd? Perhaps not, but you know who to call when you need to be bailed out.
From almost any angle, businesses are under pressure. Connected customers are out-flanking business efforts to control the flow of goods and services and manage relationships in an increasingly connected economy. The global economy continues to struggle under the weight of misguided policies, sovereign debt and an entitled corporatocracy that aims to “maximize the status quo” . As Seth Godin points out, this industrial focus on our economy has a limited future:
Today’s industrialists define our economy, but they offer very little promise for tomorrow. They’ve long bought ads to polish their image, but mostly work to alter the culture in ways that will ensure they’ll get just a little bit more yield out of each of us.
But as Mary Meeker’s 2012 recap on the state of the internet suggests, disruption is the new normal. And when it comes to digital, disruption comes in many colours.
Five Impacts of Digital Media
Writing on the invention of the printing press, Elizabeth Eisenstein suggested there were five impacts that transformed society of the time. In 2012, we too can see these impacts playing out in our personal and professional lives (and all the spaces in-between):
Experts coming under pressure from new voices who are early adopters of new technology
New organisations emerging to deal with the social, cultural and political changes
There is a struggle to revise the social and legal norms — especially in relation to intellectual property
The concepts of identity and community are transformed
New forms of language come into being
Educators are pressured to prepare their students for the newly emerging world
Nielsen Social Media Report 2012 signals the end to the industrial age of marketing
Showcasing each of these five impacts, the Nielsen Social Media Report for 2012 signals not only that “social media has come of age”, but that digital has truly arrived as a force that can no longer be ignored. Once, the staunchest defender of an analogue ratings system, Nielsen’s own transformation confirms that the industrial age of marketing is closing and that a new era has arrived.
Marketers are not only under pressure to respond to the mega trends outlined above – they must also address the five pillars of enterprise disruption which are playing havoc with business strategy and engagement tactics. These days marketers must consider:
A strategy of mobile only, not mobile first: Not only are mobile technologies different in form and shape. They are taking over our patterns of adoption and consumption. With mobile devices already outselling PCs in India and China, it is expected that this change will impact Australia, the US and Europe in 2014. With long lead times and a dearth of digital skills within organisations, marketers will need to move now to serve their connected consumers who prowl the digital landscape. And rather than thinking mobile first, marketers need to think mobile only
Social is mobile: Mobility is not only an issue for interruption – or even permission based marketing. It is an issue for social engagement platforms. App usage now accounts for more than a third of social networking time. There is still significant space for growth – and marketers will need to understand how this mobile+social dimension impacts the customer experience
Social TV is disrupting broadcast: While the focus is currently on Twitter as a social TV enablement platform, this is an area ripe for disruption. Just as publishers were slow to respond to digital and are now facing significant business model challenges, broadcast networks have also been slow to invest, experiment and learn from social technologies. This has opened the door to innovative startup who will continue to outpace the industrial age broadcasters
The buyer’s journey has changed forever: The marketing funnel as a concept is over 100 years old. In a digital world, its linear process is also a mark of the industrial marketing era. It’s time for marketers to re-cast the marketing funnel for consumer engagement.
Download the Nielsen report and let me know what you think. Will it change the way you plan and execute your marketing efforts in 2013?