Top Social Media Trends for 2015

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In the world of social media and content marketing, we talk about the “Three Bs” of content. You can either:

  • Buy – pay for the creation of content
  • Build – make content yourself
  • Borrow – share the great work of other

And around this time of year, we start seeing blog posts, articles and presentations on the trends for the year ahead. And while I have my own ideas about what is coming and whether (any of it) is important, my former SAP colleague, Natascha Thomson has put together a quick-to-read presentation on the 2015 trends which I thought I’d borrow. Since leaving SAP, Natascha has been running her MarketingXLerator consultancy from San Francisco’s Bay Area. You can contact her via her website.

Celebrate the Stuff You Already Own

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I never wanted to be a businessman. All I wanted was to do my craft … and climb mountains.
Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia

Origin stories are vitally important for your business. They are vital for the way that your customers perceive and engage with you and they are vital for your employees. But the reason they are important is because they provide us all with a narrative that speaks to our sense of purpose.

Often when we think of purpose, we think of our “mission” statements – or our “vision”. But purpose goes beyond these often banal statements. Purpose speaks to our hearts not to our heads. If it is not a driving energy, then it’s only words on a page.

The challenge is that our “purpose” is hard to define.

And in many ways, this is why it is so important. It is what marks us out as unique or worthy of attention. It’s both an energy that propels us and a sense of gravity that attracts others.

Watching this video was an interesting experience. It’s not really a documentary about the clothing brand, Patagonia. It’s the story of the business’ owners and customers. It is brand storytelling at its finest. As Mitch Joel explains, this is how your brand should tell a beautiful story. And one of the things the video does well is that it shares Patagonia’s purpose. In doing so, it not only attracts an audience, it brings them into the experience of the story.

And while not all of us have the kind of budget that allows us to produce a 30 minute case study of this quality, every single business has an origin story. And telling that story can transform your business and the relationships you create around it. So I wonder, how are you telling your origin story today?

Six Marketing Visionaries Look to the Future

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The Economist Intelligence Unit has interviewed six marketing visionaries who are sharing their insights of what the future of marketing looks like.  The “Future of Marketing” initiative is sponsored by Marketo, and publishes conversations with Seth Godin, John Hagel, Aditya Joshi, Marc Mathieu, Jim Stengel and myself. It makes for great, and varied reading, with each person taking a particular path to the future:

  • Seth Godin encourages us to make stories worth telling. He argues that marketing is about everything and that today’s marketer must be embedded within what  the company makes, working and pushing towards what the customer wants.
  • John Hagel says that marketing is just experiencing the tip of the iceberg in terms of transformative change. We are going to see more marketers having to work with what he calls the “three As” – attract, assist, affiliate. The “power of pull” means we need to work to attract customers, help pre and post purchase, and find new models to help customers help each other.
  • Gavin Heaton discusses PANDA – a framework for the future of marketing. Tapping into purpose, analytics, networks, digital and art (yes art), marketing will not only remain relevant as a business and consumer facing profession, it will help drive brands and companies to deliver greater value to its stakeholders, customers and networks.
  • Aditya Joshi looks at the skill base at the marketers of the future. And by future, he means now. Clearly we need to be investing in marketing teams to build out strategic thinking, analysis capabilities to derive insights and develop actionable plans and technology abilities to help organisations straddle marketing and IT.
  • Marc Mathieu also speaks of massive change. Technology is infusing how we connect with people, learn from them, connect with entrepreneurs and engage with audiences. But perhaps the most challenging aspect is a central shift in purpose – “Marketing used to be about creating a myth and selling; now it’s about finding a truth and sharing it”.
  • Jim Stengel breaks the future into three components, personalisation, automation and purpose (yes it’s a theme). He also flags storytelling as a mechanism to encompass the whole approach. “You don’t have a story unless you have purpose, have ambition, and are trying to make a difference in the world. More and more, people care about where brands come from”.

Take your time and read one of these interviews per day. There are insights that you don’t need to wait five years for – they are practices that you can embed in your thinking now and prepare for out to 2020. After all, the future is a moving feast. Take your seat at the table.

Why Clients Really Fire Agencies-And other insights from the SoDA Report

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No matter whether there is a change in CMO or marketing director or whether it’s time for a review, agency management can be an emotional challenge. Over years of collaboration, organisations build collaborative ways of working together – processes, systems and tools become intertwined. People become friends. Colleagues. Even partners. So what really happens when a client fires an agency? Darren Woolley has an answer that may surprise you.

As Founder and CEO of TrinityP3, Woolley has a particular view on how and why the client-agency comes undone. “The sum of the parts equal an underlying whole … which is they no longer feel the love and commitment”. The challenge, however, is that this is an emotional response to a situation, but the business focus remains on the work being performed. As a result, the agency may respond to the client’s feedback technically or creatively while not addressing the client’s feelings of dissatisfaction. This is a recipe for disaster.

In his chapter for the SoDA Report on Digital Marketing, Woolley goes into more detail, suggesting that there are four critical junctures for the relationship:

  1. When a new marketing leader is appointed – it’s review time, so the focus on rapid relationship building is essential
  2. Before the honeymoon ends – don’t wait until the goodwill is gone, start proactive account management from day 1
  3. Quiet periods – the challenge is to remain visible, provide value but don’t appear to be wasting time and money
  4. Performance pressure – when the work is underperforming, tensions are bound to arise.

Navigating the professional and emotional tightrope is always challenging. But going that extra mile really never hurt any relationship.

The SoDA Report’s Digital Marketing Outlook is a great snapshot of the industry. Covering topics from the modern marketer to technology, with a couple of handy case studies thrown in, it’s a fantastic resource to inspire your 2015 planning.

Facebook Charts the Course to 2025

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Strong third quarter earnings were posted by Facebook this week, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg set the stage for a year of investment ahead, with a ten year horizon. Facebook’s expenses are expected to grow between 50% and 70% next year, and the company looks set to not only aggressively scale its various app based technologies, but also recruit the best and brightest talent.

With almost 8400 employees, Facebook has grown 44% since last year. As CFO Dave Wehner explained:

… we’re investing where we think there is a great opportunity for long-term growth and that’s going to be really investing and continuing to grow the talent base of the Company. So, we’re investing in the people and that’s a big part of it.

On the user side, Facebook reports that over 1.35 billion people use the social network each month with 64% logging in daily.  On mobile – yes mobile – 703 million people login daily – signalling a massive 40% growth since last year.

Not content to simply keep pace, Facebook are pushing ahead with a substantial technology investment planned. The plan with 3, 5 and 10 year horizons is for Facebook to develop and grow multiple products to scale ahead of monetisation. On that agenda are WhatsApp, Messenger, Search, Video, NewsFeed, Oculus and Instagram.

Interestingly enough, for the majority of its social network users, Facebook is a single, broad product, with an abundance of features spooling kraken-like into our digital experiences. The push to hive off products across the social network platform (like the recently calved Messenger), however, signal a more strategic understanding of both the business opportunity and the audience behaviours.

With a core platform providing a consistency of experience, Facebook is well placed to aggressively invest in a next generation computing platform – based on augmented reality and Oculus. However, there are significant hurdles to overcome, even with a 10 year horizon. And that heavy investment will need to be focused around transforming the ungainly augmented reality hardware that limits the broad appeal of Oculus in order to avoid a fate similar to Google’s ill-conceived Glass.

Leaving that aside, Zuckerberg’s understanding of audience and scale and the commercial approach to technology and monetisation underpins both the investments and the product strategy. Turning his attention to Search and News Feed, he explained:

Some of the things like Search and some of these other products, this may sound a little ridiculous to say, but for us, products don’t really get that interesting to turn into businesses until they have about a 1 billion people using them. And so for Facebook, we’re there with News Feed and that’s why in the near term our priority is really around continuing to grow and serve that community and making sure that the business around News Feed and those mobile ads fully reach their potential. [my emphasis.]

Throwing these large numbers around seems trite until we break it down. Thinking through platforms at scale – with 1000 million people as a user base for several products at a time – means operating at a scale that few of us can imagine. In Zuckerberg’s own words:

But I do think that this is such a big opportunity ahead of us. I can’t think of that many other companies or products that have multiple lines of products that are on track to reach and connect 1 billion that have a clear path of how we can turn them into a business.

The path to 2025 has been laid out – and it looks like quite a journey ahead. But looking back to 2005 I could hardly imagine the 2015 we have in front of us. I’m guessing Facebook’s investors are consulting their psychics and calling on their resident futurists. And well they might, there’s certainly a lot at stake.

You can read the full transcript of the earnings call on SeekingAlpha.com.

The Surprising Truth about Transforming the Customer Experience with Digital

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Are your employees doing the right thing? Are your teams empowered to make the right decision for your customers? At the Constellation  Research Connected Enterprise conference, moderator, Esteban Kolsky, Board of Advisor, Constellation Research, grilled a panel of customer experience innovators on just how “digital” was transforming the customer experience.

The panel included:

  • Dan Steinman, Chief Customer Officer, Gainsight
  • George Wright, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Thunderhead
  • Howard Tarnoff, Senior Vice President, Ceridian
  • Dave Pennington, Principal, Business Strategy, Microsoft.

It’s a great, short video with a few surprises. Some of my favourite quotes:

  • There’s no such thing as a sales process – there’s only a buying experience
  • It’s time for marketing to shut up
  • What’s the next disruptive thing? It’s engagement
  • The days of the check-in call are over
  • It’s not all about the data
  • Engagement doesn’t mean offer management

The Surprising Truth

But the most interesting thing to me was the focus on culture. We see it over and over again – and it is the most difficult challenge for organisations. While you can buy technology, you can’t buy the hearts, minds and engaged focus of your employees.

And while they may have all the customer data ever needed, without the right focus, support and attitude, you still won’t get the sale.

Need to harmonise your approach? Or bring technology and people together? We can help.

Three Newsletters for Digital Leaders

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As much as we write about the end of this or the end of that, one consistent form of communication that refuses to die, is email. Love it or hate it, newsletters and the like continue to go from strength to strength.

And there is nothing more telling about the role of email than when some of the most innovative digital thinkers start their own newsletters. Over the last few months, newsletters, not blogs or podcasts, have been started by at least three digital leaders that should be on your must-read list (or at least in your “Primary” Gmail tab). These are:

  • Rosie & Faris’ Strands of Genius: Part business diary, part link collection, this newsletter by Rosie Yakob and Faris Yakob has a particular advertising and innovation focus that is hard to find. It is peppered with the dynamic duos’ personal sayings, interesting perspectives, and content that favours insight over statistics (though there are plenty of both).
  • Kris Hoet’s Warped: A weekly curated email featuring the best ideas, trends and awesomeness from the previous seven days. Kris keeps an eye on innovation and trends emanating from Europe.
  • Dave Phillip’s Work Study Dad: Short and sharp – Dave’s Five Things newsletter focuses on social media marketing and culture and contains only five links to items worth reading.
  • Natural Disruption: The newsletter from our Disruptor’s Handbook team keeping you up-tod-ate with disruptive trends, technology and ideas.

And yes, I know that makes four. Make some room in your inbox for all of them ;)

Oracle and the Future of Enterprise Software

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Constellation Research’s annual customer conference, Connected Enterprise is like no other conference you’ll have the pleasure of attending. It is two intense days of keynotes, forums and meetups. But it’s also immensely collegiate. Anyone you meet in the audience at this conference could have been presenting on the stage. In between sessions you will rub shoulders with startup innovators, enterprise CEOs, analysts, inventors and even artists.

But if you were unable to make this year’s conference, some of the sessions are now available online. In this interview, R “Ray” Wang, founder of Constellation Research, speaks with Mark Hurd, CEO of Oracle. They discuss the future of enterprise software and delve into the disruption that large scale businesses will face in the coming years.

It is a rare opportunity to hear directly from Oracle’s new CEO. Some of the standout topics include:

  • The challenge of the next generation of leaders and how Gen Y will change the way we consume software in the enterprise
  • Oracle’s clear strategy around “The Cloud” (“best of breed in applications, segment by segment … AND suite”)
  • The flexibility of integrated SaaS and PaaS and the challenge this presents for system integrators.

This also means that Oracle will be well positioned to tackle the challenging mid-tier and small business end of the market. And that will make it interesting for the startups who survive on servicing smaller customers. What’s that? More acquisition targets for Oracle?

Igniting Marketing Ideas at Firebrand

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Over the last couple of years, Carolyn Hyams has been building out the Firebrand Ideas Ignition blog as part of her role as Marketing Director for Aquent, Firebrand Talent and Vitamin T in Australia. With posts from the Firebrand team and a host of guest bloggers, it has become a great place to get the latest insight on topics from digital through to communications and marketing, with a touch of business and personal branding thrown in for good measure.

Some of the best recent topics include:

I have also contributed a few posts, including:

Be sure to check out these topics and more.

Content Marketing in Australia 2015 – Are you creating content worth sharing?

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At a recent event hosted by Livefyre, Neal Mann, digital strategist for News Corp Australia posed a challenging question – would you share the last piece of content that you created? Answering his own question, Neal revealed the single largest challenge facing Australian brands and marketers using content marketing as part of their strategy:

Most people don’t say yes. They don’t. Because they’ve not actually created [content] to engage an audience, they’ve created it to get it out the door … It’s worth highlighting engagement on Facebook and marketing. There’s a big difference between paying for engagement which is kind of the initial stages of what happened with social. Now, if you look at the US brands in particular that are notoriously in news, they’re creating content that’s cool.

The Pepsi Max test drive pranks, for example, saw widespread engagement, with some of the videos – like the one below – delivering over 40 million views (and counting). And the Pepsi YouTube channel has also grown as a branded media channel with over 729,000 subscribers.

But this kind of content is rarely being produced here in Australia. There is sill a focus on buying engagement rather than producing engaging content – material and media that are worth sharing.

The release of the Content Marketing Institute – ADMA benchmark report for 2015, seems to provide at least some of the answers to why this might be the case. Presenting the findings from over 250 Australian marketers, the report shows:

  • Content marketing effectiveness is lagging: Only 29% of marketers consider their companies effective at content marketing – though this extends to 44% where there is a documented content marketing strategy in place
  • Marketers need to commit and plan content marketing: Only 37% of the respondents indicated that they have documented content marketing strategies in place. A further 46% indicated that there is an undocumented strategy
  • A disconnect between demand generation and marketing: With 60% of marketers indicating that web traffic is a measure of success for content marketing, sales lead quality languishes at 29% with customer renewal rates at 19%.

Interestingly, the report also reveals that 63% of marketers intend to increase their content marketing budget in 2015. And with this in mind there are some key activities that marketers can work immediately:

  • Develop and document a content marketing strategy: Unless a strategy is clear in the minds of the marketers, agencies and suppliers – as well as the business management – it’s almost impossible to track effectiveness. For assistance in developing your content marketing strategy, reach out to us here
  • Measure and innovate to improve effectiveness: Once you have a strategy, you need to stick to it. Simple frameworks and dashboards can help you measure what works, change what doesn’t and consistently improve over time
  • Commit to creating content worth sharing: Almost every business has employees who are also customers. If you can’t encourage your own employees to share your content with their friends, family and business networks, then you need to reassess your creative approach. It’s time to invest in creative rather than paid media.

As Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute says:

There are two critical factors that differentiate effective content marketers over the rest of the pack – having a documented content marketing strategy and following it very closely. Those two things make all the difference.

And with budgets under scrutiny and competition fierce, it may be time to reach out for assistance. After all, isn’t it time that you started making content that you are proud of? You know it is.