The Many Colours of Digital Disruption

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

Nielsen Social Media Attitudes

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?

Social Media: How to Listen

Businesses are often advised that the first step in any social media program is to LISTEN. But who do you listen to? What do you listen for? And how do you do it? This infographic steps you through the process I follow. It should get you started. You can download this PDF from Slideshare, or get a copy of the image here.

The Social Marketer – Feeling the Social Media Love

There is one big difference between what I would consider “traditional marketing” and “social media marketing”. It’s love. Or perhaps more precisely, it’s passion. Mixed in with a bit of love. And as there are a bunch of posts on the love theme this Valentines Day week, I thought I’d climb aboard the love bus.

Now, if you are a brand marketer, you might love what you are doing, and love what you are creating through your brand, but that’s not the sort of love I am talking about. When you pour your professional creativity into a new product or service and stake your professional reputation on its success, your interest in the brand/offering you are building can consume you. And while this takes a huge personal commitment from you, there is no one else who will love what you are doing quite like you do. I know, and I’ve been there.

And even if you are tweeting from the dark side of the focus group mirror, or blogging on the behind-the-scenes tour, this is not being a “social marketer”. It’s sharing your passion. Sharing your love. Sharing your work. But ultimately, it’s sharing your brand. It is good brand marketing practice.

The social marketer, however, starts from a different place. As Michael Brenner suggests, it’s about feeling the love.

For the social marketer:

  • The brand is a means to an end. The brand exists, the people exist – we don’t need messaging, but a tune to dance to.
  • Marketing is about bringing the brand to the people, not bringing the people to the brand
  • The glare of the logo is a distraction and a barrier to forming relationships. What we need is a name and a face, not a 12pt white space exclusion

Sure, the social marketer cares about (and is probably even MEASURED on) brand awareness, recall and yes – sales. But they are by-products of the main game.

The social marketer is in the process of transforming the way that we all do business. You probably have one in the ranks of your company. There may be more. How do you find them? How do you join them?

I call it “The Social Way”.

There’s more to come.

Content Marketing and the Junta 42

Groff "in the hole"Back in 2008, Joe Pulizzi started looking in-depth at blogs that focused on content marketing. He found 81 blogs – and the Junta 42 were the viewed as the leaders in what was then an emerging field.

Two years on and the field has exploded, with almost 400 blogs being tracked as part of the Junta 42 list. This growth mirrors not only the interest in content marketing and social media, but the general explosion in blogging as a method of communication.

Each of the blogs in the Junta42 are ranked based on a number of factors, explained as follows:

    1. The number of posts in last quarter that pertained to a content marketing topic. Those posting on 3 or more days per week received the highest number of points.
    2. Substantiveness of Posts. Here we worked to weed out posts that fell short of adding value to the collective body of knowledge about content marketing. For example, blogs that simply linked to other blogs or articles without adding new information, perspectives or ideas to the commentary received lower scores than did blogs that consistently delivered unique ideas, thoughtful insights, deep coverage, rich media and the like – you know, high-value content – to the community.
    3. Google PageRank. (All blogs were checked on the same day.)
    4. Previous Ranking.

The latest version of the Junta 42 provides a handy reference to some of the leading content marketing blogs – a very useful resource for those marketers working with social media as part of their strategy. The August 2010 top 42 content marketing blogs are:

1 Brian Solis
2 Copyblogger
3 Conversation Agent
4 TopRank Blog
5 PR 20/20
6 Marketing Experiments
7 Convince and Convert
8 Spin Sucks
9 Marketing Interactions
10 ConverStations
11 Simple Marketing Blog
12 Influential Marketing Blog
13 Direct Marketing Observations
14 Post Advertising
15 Web Ink Now
16 Social Media Explorer
17 Writing on the Web
18 Inbound Internet Marketing Blog
19 Rexblog
20 eMedia Vitals
21 Vertical Leap
22 Conversation Marketing
24 Mack Collier
25 Buzz News
26 FASTforward Blog
27 IdeaLaunch
28 Site Booster
29 Freelance Copywriters Blog
30 Social Media Examiner
31 Priority Integrated Marketing Blog
32 Branding & Marketing
33 Shopper Culture
34 Vertical Measures
35 Proactive
36 Web Marketing Therapy
37 ContentMarketingToday
38 Servant of Chaos
39 Ducttape Marketing
40 TippingPoint Labs
41 Sparksheet
42 The MineThat Data Blog

Change Your Briefs

I can remember hand coding my first “proper” website. It was for a small business that I was running out of an artists’ studio on a dilapidated pier. We specialised in helping publishers move from the print to the new web-ready world. Well, it was almost web-ready – it was the days when there was “an Internet” and a “World Wide Web” – and they were two different things. They were completely different experiences.

Being impatient and a risk taker, I bet my money on the graphical world wide web and created a website. It felt like I was working at the edge of the world – and in a way it was.

Fast forward to 2010 and it is a vastly different world. Knowledge of “the web” and how it works is far more widespread. Indeed, it has spread far beyond my own meagre expertise. There has been a massive transformation in the shape, technology and the platforms that enable our polyphonic internets – perhaps matched only by the huge shift in the way in which we use it. (And I do mean “use” in a very loose way.)

However, the way in which digital agencies are “briefed” has remained relatively static. Gareth Kay suggests that it is time that we changed our briefs – and has put together a great presentation, PostDigitalBriefs, that challenges us to do just that. But best of all, Gareth provides us with a way forward.

Take a good look through the presentation yourself, but my key takeouts are:

  1. Know what we want people to do
  2. Understand which behaviours we want to shift
  3. Differentiate and articulate your social mission vs the commercial proposition
  4. Identify the triggers that will prompt people to share
  5. Make it easy for people to participate
  6. Know where your constituents are and the social rules that operate there

Postdigitalbriefs2 – August 2010

View more presentations from Gareth Kay.


My Kinda Sport: Puma After Hours Athlete

What does it mean when we say that a brand “gets it”? I don’t necessarily mean in relation to social media – but in general? It means that we have reached an intuitive accord – that our values align. That there has been some form of exchange – I’ve been delighted unexpectedly by a purchase, surprised by the sales process, charmed by the account team.

In the world of advertising, we don’t see enough of this. It’s why the good work stands out so far. And while we should see more of it in social media, in reality it’s still rare. I think, in part, because we are still feeling our way – tentatively looking at the envelope rather than pushing it around.

But here’s something I like. It’s not necessarily social – but it tells the story of being social. Perhaps it’s the start of a story yet to unfold.

This ad (HT to Sean Howard), from Puma and Droga5 reminds us that sometimes, simply being social is the most challenging feat of athleticism many of us are likely to experience. Do we need special gear for that? It seems we do.

@oldspice, Old Dogs and New Tricks

I can remember the smell of Old Spice from my youth. It reminds me of old men. Men much older than I am now. Or so it seemed. In reality, they were the young men of my parents’ lives. They were the dusky, active men of 70s – surfers, sailors, layabouts. They went water skiing in the summer and to the snow for winter. They drove real 4WD vehicles (for a reason), smoked way too much and drank VB. Or was it Tooheys New?

Whether this is accurate or not, it’s the brand image that is hard baked into my mind.

So it was going to take some effort to recast that brand association.

Now, I know that I am probably not in the target market for old spice body wash, nor even in the right geography, but it seems that the @OldSpice man campaign has been a great success. Take a look at the case study below for a neat summary. And if you want more detail, check out Jordan Stone’s post on the We Are Social blog.

But beyond the statistics, what can we learn from an old, sleeping dog like Old Spice? What can we see from the way that brand perception was able to shift through a coordinated, integrated trans-media storytelling point of view? What roles did broadcast, celebrity and social media play in amplifying and extending the brand interactions – and why were they potent? I’m going to think on this in relation to the P-L-A-Y framework for storytelling and get back to you.

Using Social Media to Solve Business Issues

melcrumReport I have been running as a free site for a couple of years now. The aim was to “connect the connectors” – to bring those with jobs to those who want them. When I started there was only a trickle of roles available, but it has grown quite nicely now – with regular placements coming through.

At first I wondered whether it would be useful to the community – but then I started hearing about the successes – great jobs finding great people, unexpected connections and so on. But there was also an unexpected benefit … I started to gain an insight into the way that companies were thinking around recruitment for social media. It became clear that there was often a mismatch of expectations – and that while personal engagement with social media was often expected by employers, what was required was professional business experience. In short – employers wanted the disciplines of marketing and management, coupled to the creativity and energy of personal social media.

Earlier this year, I spoke with Alex Manchester about my observations and experiences. These, together with input from folks like Euan Semple, Lee Byrant, James Robertson, Ross Dawson, Shane Morris, Philippe Borremans, Lee Hopkins and more have been incorporated into a new report featuring case studies from AEP, Aviva, BT, CBA, Deloitte, ERM, IDEO, ING, NetApp, Scottrade, Telstra, The Coca-Cola Company, Van Marcke Group and Virgin Media.

Published by Melcrum, the report covers a range of topics:

  • Creating the business case for social media
  • Developing a social media strategy
  • Social media technologies (and CMS integration)
  • Governance, policies and more
  • Return on investment
  • The role of social media in the future, including job roles

There is in-depth discussion in each of these areas – particularly useful for those putting together business cases for social media and its activation within your business. The chart below, for example, shows the top three outcomes documented in social media business cases. Interestingly, innovation and idea exchange rank highly (and yet often prove to be the most difficult), followed closely by employee engagement.


The report is now available in hard copy via the Melcrum site and you can download a free executive summary. I believe Alex will also be releasing more extracts on his blog. Don’t forget to subscribe.

The Promiscuous Idea

CK, George & GregWhen Drew McLellan and I pulled together the first The Age of Conversation book with 100 of the world’s leading bloggers, social media was still a rough and ready frontier. Two more editions and three years later, many of us are still having the same conversations – partly because more businesses and more people are beginning to see value in the space, but also because innovation is like a spiral, folding back on itself in ever more complex ways.

With this in mind, I thought I’d publish here, my article from the first book – the Promiscuous Idea. To me, it still feels as relevant as it did in 2007. If you haven’t got a copy, consider buying one. It’s a great primer – and all the profits (still) go to a great cause.

The Promiscuous Idea

We are living in a time of proliferation. Never before has the marketplace of ideas been so free, the barriers to entry so low and the willingness to collaborate so powerful. In moments, a concept can be explained, shared and tracked on a single blog — on the other side of the world, this idea can be modified, expanded upon and discussed. Seconds pass and more voices are heard — a version transmutes into new forms … being picked up as a podcast, a video, an older-style presentation deck. From a single creative impulse, a legion of additions, modifications and transmutations can spread in minutes, hours, days and weeks.

Even months later an idea can come full circle. Someone, somewhere can stumble upon a “stale” idea, investing it with new energy, new context and a new perspective and the cycle of proliferation begins again. What this means is that our ideas are constantly in a process of reinvention.

What links an idea and draws us to it is the “story”. And the power and gravitational pull of the story brings us back to it time and again. In the Age of Conversation, whether we are marketers, activists, educators, politicians, academics or citizens of the world, we are all becoming the connected storytellers of this new era. This presents new challenges but also significant
opportunities for brands, consumers and communities.

We are now dealing with a different type of story. Where once we had a beginning, middle and end, as readers and storytellers we can fall into a story at any point. We can link into the middle of a raging debate or witness the genesis of an idea that can change the world, and the narrative that we
are dealing with is no longer linear but multi-textual, layered, overlapping and promiscuous. The ideas and stories care not for their creator but freely leap from one mind to the next — sometimes appearing simultaneously across the globe — with storytellers tapping into a powerful worldwide zeitgeist.

The new art of conversation relies not on a sense of ownership but on a willing openness on the part of storytellers of all kinds. In fact, the jealous storyteller may well find that “their” ideas, brands, concepts or other “intellectual property” will laughingly thumb its nose at its creator and walk off, hand-in-hand with the idea-next-door. Whether we like it or not, our brands, ideas and
stories are no longer our own … they are out there promiscuously reinventing themselves word by word.