Mean Tweets–The Greens’ Sarah Hanson-Young Tweets Back

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Public figures attract a lot of bile on social media. But there is a special kind of hatred that seems to be reserved for politicians – especially female politicians. The very public campaigning against Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will certainly be remembered for the dog whistling and sexism that passed for public debate. It marked a low point in political discourse – one from which we have scarcely recovered.

It certainly seems that many in the Australian population still struggle with successful women on the public stage.

So what is a politician to to? Resort to the broadcast media? Or create their own?

South Australian Greens Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young has taken a leaf out of US Talk Show Host, Jimmy Kimmel’s book, and has started sharing some of the more colourful – and downright rude – messages that she receives via her YouTube channel. Introducing “Pleasantries with Sarah Hanson-Young”, the senator explains:

As a federal senator, I receive a lot of correspondence. Today, I am going to share with you some of the more heartwarming messages.

What I like about this forthright approach is that, where possible, Twitter identities are shared. It’s great to see some of this kind of “feedback” get the ridicule it deserves.

But even better than that, it’s great to see some of our politicians giving some creative thought to the way that they engage with the public. If only more of them actually engaged with technology they might not pass such ill-informed legislation as the Data Retention laws – and we’d all be better off for it.

The First Rule of the Consumerverse

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Let’s face it, big numbers are sexy. The bigger they are, the more business leaders, marketers and yes, even economists, become excited. So any report on social media that delves into those massive network numbers is bound to cause a flurry of activity. But the big numbers are not what should be interesting us in the latest Global Web Index report on social media engagement. The first rule of the Consumerverse is:

“It’s the little numbers that matter most”.

But before I explain why, let me share the big numbers with you. According to GWI:

  • Over 170,000 internet users were surveyed across 32 markets
  • Data is collected in the last six weeks of every quarter, making this Q1 2015 report as up-to-date as possible
  • Stratified sampling ensures that responses are representative of the internet population aged 16 to 64 in each country
  • Outside of China, over 80% of internet users have a Facebook account (indicating a plateauing)
  • Tumblr and Pinterest continue to show impressive growth
  • The average internet user has 5.5 accounts and is active on three platforms
  • More internet users now visit YouTube each month than Facebook.

Now, these are fascinating figures. But the dot point that drew me in most was the last one. In bold.

Why is this important?

It comes down to one of the basic tenets of online participation – what we call the 1% Rule:

  • 90% of users are “lurkers” – read, consume and observe
  • 9% of users intermittently produce content, engage in comment or discussion
  • 1% of users create content.

The GWI report highlights this gap – the participation gap. The figures – on the surface – indicate that internet users have a growing preference for consumption. We visit but don’t contribute. But this has always been the way.

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But what if we turned the big numbers inside-out?

  • Only 18% of internet users DON’T visit YouTube
  • Only 27% of internet users DON’T visit Facebook
  • Both are approaching saturation points in terms of consumption
  • YouTube still offers significant room for contribution growth.

In my recent presentation, experience is the currency of your brand, I talked about the importance of understanding your customer journey and overlaying that with your business’ sales cycle. This is often a challenging task. But it reveals important insights.

What we call “engagement” is the most trafficked element of the customer journey, yet is often disconnected from the complete picture. It operates in isolation from the sales cycle – from the technology (devices), spaces, channels and processes that deliver business and marketing outcomes. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Start by looking closely at your own “little numbers” and find the insights they reveal. It’s the first rule of the consumerverse.

Experience is the Currency of Your Brand

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Back in 2007 when Drew McLellan and I got together with 100 other marketers from around the world to create the first edition of The Age of Conversation, we did so with a particular plan in mind. Social media was in its early stages and we weren’t yet clear about how it would play out. Where the value lay. Or how to bring it into a framework for business. On the back cover of the first edition I wrote:

If ideas are the currency of our times then this is, undoubtedly, the Age of Conversation, for without the art of dialog, the cut and thrust of debate and discussion, then the economy of ideas would implode under its own heavy weight. Instead, the reverse is true. Far from seeing an implosion, we are living in a time of proliferation – ideas built upon ideas, discussion grows from seeds of thought and single headlines give rise to a thousand Medusa-like simulations echoing words whispered somewhere on the other side of the planet. All this – in an instant.

The book itself, which has now had three editions and around 500 contributing authors from 15 countries, turned out to be far more than a book. Each of the authors would unbox their copies and share “book selfies” with their audiences. (This was way before Instagram – and Twitter had only been around for about a year.) There were blog posts, pictures – and even a Second Life book launch. But it didn’t stop there. In 2008 over 100 of us got together in person to spend a weekend together. Known as “Blogger Social” it confirmed something special.

What we realised was that “ideas weren’t the currency of our times”.

Experiences were.

The new consumerverse

Taking this concept into the world of business, it became clear that we were living in an inverted universe. The keys to the pandora’s box of innovation were no longer kept in the corporation’s cupboard but were available to all. In fact, our customers could innovate faster than us. They had the tools, the technology and the time.

RethinkFunnel Consumers were driving this new universe and the centre of gravity was not us or our businesses. It was them. In this “Consumerverse”, analytics are revealing, on the one hand, the hit and miss randomness of broadcast messaging, and on the other, the growing importance of guided conversation designed to engage consumers.

Every view, click, link and interaction can now be digitised. With low energy bluetooth beacons now cheaply available, we can track, follow and engage people through their digital device in the “real world”. Just as we would track users on our website, seeing where they go, where they stop, where they buy etc, so too can we do this in today’s wifi-enabled shopping malls and open areas.

But we’re not talking the “internet of things” … we are talking the “internet of me”. Increasingly, vendors, brands and businesses are building value into networks. And the value answers the consumer’s question – what’s in it for me (WIIFM)?

Consumers make decisions at the speed of networks

One of the strongest answers to the WIIFM question is “speed”. With access to networks and knowledge, as consumers we are able to make decisions at the speed of that network. What we are looking for is:

  • Trust – can we believe what we are told? Is there a way to validate that trust through the network – who else trusts and believes this person/brand/business?
  • Authenticity – is opinion offered openly and without hidden inducement?
  • Authority – is there deep knowledge or experience on offer?

And with 60% of buyers making a decision before engaging a sales rep, we’re effectively living in a world where there is a mis-match between the buying journey and the selling cycle. We need to find a new way to engage our customers at the right time, in the right channel with the right answer to WIIFM.

The importance of the customer experience map

cx-mapWhere once we’d develop detailed account plans for “selling”, these days we need to build maps to help our customers buy. And to do this, we need to understand the journey they take to purchase. This means mapping the journey across five dimensions:

  • Device
  • Space
  • Engagement
  • Channel
  • Process

How do we do this effectively?

When we understand that “experience is the currency of your brand”, we have a focus for engagement and interaction. From here we can bring our social. mobile, analytics and cloud capabilities to bear on the challenge. We can answer WIIFM at every customer touchpoint. And we can build experiences that not only centre on the consumer, but are designed to create value for both our customers and our brands.

I go into more detail on this subject as part of Sitecore’s #DigitalSurvivor webinar program this week. Register for free and join me to discuss how we can all survive in today’s customer centric environment.

You can join us live this Thursday, 12 March 2015 at:

WA: 11am-12pm
NT: 12:30pm-1:30pm
QLD: 1pm-2pm
SA: 1:30pm-2:30pm
ACT, NSW, VIC, TAS: 2pm-3pm
New Zealand: 4pm-5pm

Rethinking Marketing: From Media to Experience

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In the marketing industry, we have been talking, writing and even creating a shift in the way that we do business for over a decade. Early blogs and (what is now called) social media provided an inkling into where the shift was going – away from paid media into “owned” and “earned” media. This was a difficult, but relatively understandable transition because we were essentially talking the same language – the language of media. Accordingly we shifted from media planning and strategy towards “content planning and strategy” – we were still talking about the same processes behind the brand curtain – it’s just that some of those activities happened on the other side:

  • Paid media – traditional advertising like print, television, radio, direct mail, retail/channel and the kind of placement that you have to pay for. The benefits of paid media is that you get (mostly) what you pay for – control over the context, content, use of your logo and other branding, messaging, focus and tone of voice.
  • Owned media – your own properties like your website, microsites and blogs, forums or branded communities. To an extent, your Facebook fan pages, Twitter profiles and YouTube channels etc fall into owned media – though you have less precise control over interaction/commentary, overall look and feel (ie your Facebook page is always going to look like it belongs to Facebook).
  • Earned media – the word of mouth, social mentions (tweets, status updates, mentions, reviews, blog posts) and so on that are produced about your brand by your fans. You have little influence over the structure, timing or even appearance of your messaging or branded assets – but it ranks as one of the most influential forms of media.

But while we (marketers) were talking about the different kinds of media, technology companies and startups were out there changing the form and function of that media. They weren’t interested in the marketer’s view of media – looking instead for ways that technology could extend, enhance or accelerate the flow of that media from brand to consumer. Accordingly they focused their efforts on four technology trends – creating an enterprise-scale IT model known as SMAC which combines Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud. And while this works from an inside-out point of view, it must be revisited and reframed to deliver value and relevance to our customers.

Experience as the beating heart of brands

It’s easy to rant about poor customer experience. We see it on social media all the time. Sometimes it is warranted. Sometimes it isn’t. But SMAC has removed the barriers to entry for the vast majority. All we have to do is take a photo upload it to Facebook or Twitter and tag it with #fail and it will reach not only our friends and connections but others who monitor and amplify these kind of failures of brand experience (yes, these people really do exist).

Take a look at this single tweet from Mashable about a “Valentines Day flower failure”. With over 5 million followers and hundreds of retweets – a poor customer experience can turn a bad day into an unfolding disaster.

The point, however, is that we – as consumers – experience brands at a very personal level. With this in mind, it is worth reframing SMAC and media from the outside-in. It’s time to understand the behavioural triggers that arise out of SMAC and create engagement that works for our fans, customers, and advocates.

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  • Social: The Social dimension has the potential to deliver powerful, personal yet scalable CONNECTION. It offers a single conversational channel, builds trust and offers a way to accelerate a resolution or conversion process
  • Mobile: The Mobile dimension delivers LOCATION. With a connected device in your pocket (close to your beating heart), a mobile phone is the convergence point where the digital and the “real” worlds collide
  • Analytics: The power of big data is not in crunching everything known about a customer. The real value is in delivering AWARENESS to a network. This effectively means creating USER context from the social, mobile and business data signals available
  • Cloud: And the cloud provides the mechanism for SERVICE. To remain relevant to customers, brands must re-acquaint themselves with the value of service. And Cloud provides the mechanism to do so.

Combining SMAC with an understanding of customer behaviour means that SERVICE can be delivered conveniently at the right time, in the right space in the right context. And even in the right environment.

Is it the future of marketing? Don’t look too far towards the horizon, for this future has already happened. Only some heard it knocking on the door.

Australian Online Retail Grows – But Did You?

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eWAY-holiday-retail-spendingAn interesting report has been released by eWay – the online payments gateway that powers more than 17,000 Australian online stores. Showing a 20 percent year-on-year growth for the mid-November to mid-January period, the results bode well for the struggling retail industry.

The report reveals that with traditional sales kicking in on Boxing Day (26 December), the industry received a much needed boost. Over $35 million was spent not in-store, but from the comfort of our living rooms. But rather than a “holiday spike”, there was a consistency in spending online. “It was very steady. eWAY recorded higher sales and transactions volumes in October than we did in December”, said Matt Bullock, founder and CEO of eWay.

Processing 1 in every 4 dollars spent locally online, eWay have extrapolated their data to reveal a surge in retail over the Christmas/New Year period. Interestingly, this seems to have been mirrored by the retail growth experienced by Harvey Norman. Fairfax media reports that after a surge in its share price, Harvey Norman explained, “The big sales increase was in the December-January period. It’s only a week, and there are 52 weeks in a year, but it’s a positive sign”. And while sales were strong across the board, sales of the FitBit seem to be riding a #BackToFitness trend associated with new year resolutions and holiday over indulgence (yes, guilty as charged).

Unfortunately, the data from Harvey Norman does not reveal a split between online and offline sales. eMarketer, meanwhile, has released estimates claiming that retail ecommerce will grow 14 percent this year, passing $10 billion. This would seem a safe bet given eWay’s calculation that Q4 2014 sales accounted for close to $4.5 billion.

But what does this all mean?

Without a doubt, the retail industry is being disrupted. Consumers are discovering, debating and deciding on products well ahead of reaching out to retailers or visiting stores (with stores often only used for the convenience of immediate delivery). So if you ONLY have a bricks and mortar store, now is the time to being investing in your digital strategy. And if you already have a digital presence, now is the time to build out your customer experience strategy.

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.

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.

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.

13 Trends in Online Communities

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In July 2014, the folks over at GetSatisfaction surveyed professionals working in marketing, product development and support to understand their use of online communities. With more than 800 responses, the report reveals that, in many instances, companies are in the early stages of community building. Sixty-one percent of respondents have a customer community, and 33% of those had only been running for a year or less. An additional 25% had only been running their community less than two years.

Over the last 2-3 years, there has been a growing awareness of the value of customer communities, but as the report also reveals, many don’t know where or how to start. There are always staff and resourcing challenges, questions of quality and know-how and cost. There will even be some who don’t see the value. But the value of building a community of passionate customers is certainly not lost on brands like Apple whose recent iPhone 6 launch announcements flooded the internet for days.

Not all brands are going to have the instant appeal and fanboi cache of Apple. But even unsexy brands can rock social media. After all, we are all drawn to someone or something that makes our life just a little better or easier. And that is exactly what customer commuities do – they help our customers help other customers. Amazing concept.

Bye, Bye Buyosphere – A journey of disruption, disrupted

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Focusing on the customer journey is never easy. After all, customers are fickle, transitory, loyal and contradictory. I am somebody’s customer. You are. We are all somebody’s customer. And being a customer is an emotional experience. We buy on whim, impulse or trigger. We may plan, research and save as long as we like, but decisions can be swayed by friends, connections, a good salesperson. Or even a lingering smell.

But knowing this doesn’t make easy for businesses – even marketers don’t make it easy for marketers. With every click, interaction and purchase, with every review, tweet, blog post or call, connected consumers like us are shaving away the stubble of established brands. We are eroding the protective layers that brands have built up over time to insulate themselves from us.

We know this has been happening for some time. It is a shift of power in the buying process away from brands to consumers. It is digital disruption in its purest form – connected consumers tapping into the opportunities and power of the internet to out flank the efforts of brands. And helping us to chart this disruption – indeed helping us to move from idea to practice, has been Tara Hunt, author of (amongst other things) The Whuffie Factor, coworking pioneer and theorist (in a very accessible way). In many ways, Tara has been a harmonising voice in a technology dominated world – reminding us that its the people that matter most.

Tara’s 2009 presentation on vendor relationship management has influenced the thinking of many (or even found its way into the thinking of many surreptitiously), including myself. But never content to let ideas percolate in isolation, Tara  went beyond the theory into practice, bootstrapping and launching Buyosphere, a fashion suggestion and style matching website. I can remember signing up myself, wondering how it may work out here in Australia. It was an idea ahead of its time.

In late 2012, after growing and struggling to scale, Tara stepped out of Buyosphere, taking a role with Toronto based communications and engagement company, MSLGROUP. As she explained at the time, “If we were going down, let’s go down in a blaze of glory. Or at least with a product we could be proud of.”

Yesterday, in classic style, Tara shared the next stage of the journey – saying goodbye to Buyosphere:

Once upon a time there were three startup founders who had a dream. They were going to build something that solved fashion search. And they spent 3 years of their lives, their entire savings and pretty much all of their energy on it. Fortunately, they built something great and learned a whole bunch. Unfortunately, they ran out of money, time and energy and had to go back to work and once they abandoned the site, it never took off. xoxo Buyosphere. We love you.

Watch this video and you will hear the very personal, emotional and exciting journey that Tara and the team went through. It’s the journey that so many of us take – or wish we had taken. And while I too, feel sad, to see from a distance, that Buyosphere has ended, I also feel great hope. There have been lessons learned and friendships forged. This is a story of disruption, disrupted, not destroyed. And I for one can’t wait to know what’s next – not just from Tara but from all who build on her experiences.