More Waves of Digital Disruption: From DoubleClick to Twitter via Facebook

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FB-adcreation When DoubleClick launched their self-service advertising network it was a revelation. It provided marketers with a powerful sense of control over their advertising, its placement and spend. At the same time, it caused a level of disintermediation – with marketers taking on the media planning that was once the domain of agencies. Technology was, in effect, causing an in-sourcing within marketing departments – by providing the tools, techniques and education to succeed, DoubleClick was putting the power and knowledge in the hands of marketers who began to understand the intricate power and relationships between data, planning and budgets. DoubleClick represented a wave of digital disruption that we are still feeling today.

It was a no-brainer for Google to acquire DoubleClick in 2007 and roll its advertising network into its product line. And as they leveraged their massive advantage in search to bring additional context, targeting and data insights to bear, this advertising network became available (and useful) to smaller advertisers – to small business owners and startups – monetising the “long tail” of the internet and generating another wave of disruptive innovation in the marketing world.

And while Google has done wonders with its AdSense product, the DoubleClick heritage and its clunky user interface left it open to disruption. Into this gap stepped Facebook with its billion strong, socially connected audience, offering a slick, audience oriented interface.

With Facebook advertising, there was none of the legacy media planning/buying jargon or process dominating the interface. It was about creating very limited (or should I say “constrained”) styles of ad units and then targeting them by a range of data points – from the standard demographics (age, sex, location), to the more sophisticated  targeting of interests, connections and combinations thereof. Facebook took its cues from the disruptive trend that began with DoubleClick and pushed it further, generating a massive business in the process. Recent results showed that Facebook’s revenue rose 61% to $2.91 billion in the second quarter of 2014. This more than doubles Facebook’s profit year-on-year, up from $333 million to $791 million.

Recently, Facebook streamlined their ad creation process by following good user-experience design – focusing on the desired outcome rather than the process of advertising. By asking “what kind of results to you want for your adverts?”, Facebook were able to help novice advertisers improve their advertising. It didn’t require education or training. And it certainly did not require some certification. They used their knowledge, insight gleaned from the data generated by millions of ads and design expertise to help their advertisers make better ads.

Sure there is the more advanced ad building tools, but for many, this is good enough – and a vast improvement on the previous toolset.

And now, Twitter are also upping their game. I suspect they are hoping to disrupt the markets that DoubleClick created, Google grew and Facebook co-opted. Taking a similar approach to Facebook, Twitter now offer objective based campaigns – again, turning their big data to the advantage of their advertisers, customising workflows and creating niche outcomes like “app installs” or “leads”.

It’s an advertising product that is still being rolled out across Twitter’s global client base. It will be interesting to see how it performs when it starts being trialled by local Australian clients. But one thing is for certain – it won’t be the last wave of disruption in the digital marketing sphere. Learn more about the new Twitter offerings in the video below.

Challenges Facing the Digital Economy #SMWsyd

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As part of the planning and advisory work that I am doing with Social Media Week, Sydney, we took a few moments out recently to share our thinking on the challenges that are facing Australia’s digital economy. This video captures the hot topics according to Tiphereth Gloria, Joanne Jacobs, Katie Chatfield, Ross Dawson, Jeff Bullas and myself.

It’s shaping up to be an excellent conference. Hope you can make it.

LinkedIn Publishing – Where the Personal and Professional Brand Meets

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LinkedInPublishing When LinkedIn started publishing content via its LinkedIn Influencers program, it moved the social network for business professionals in a completely different direction. For many business leaders, this was a great, simple and powerful way to share business philosophy and insight. It was blogging without needing to have or create a blog. And because each item was automatically shared with your LinkedIn connections, there was no extra work required to distribute your writing.

But there was a problem. It was a closed system, and only a select group were granted access.

Taking a leaf out of the book of every digital business launch from Google+ to the now defunct Plurk, LinkedIn relentlessly kept tight control over their publishing platform. The early focus was on high quality insight from big-name business leaders like Virgin’s Richard Branson and Ryan Holmes from Hootsuite. Take a look through their various posts and you’ll notice something interesting – a collapsing of the personal and professional. The most popular articles (and the most interesting) tend to blur the lines between an individual’s business experience and their personal decision making. And I have a feeling that this has set an agenda which will be important to watch.

Eventually, the invitations started to broaden and other voices began to be heard, with new articles and more content filling our LinkedIn streams. LinkedIn Pulse would aggregate and promote the most popular posts, channels and authors – effectively filtering business-related news for us. All we had to do was choose where to focus.

A couple of weeks ago, LinkedIn announced that they were extending their publishing platform to 25,000 more LinkedIn members. So now if you are quick, anyone with a LinkedIn profile can reach an audience – or at least, reach your own connections. For the moment, you have to apply, but no doubt, this system will be extended to others in the near future.

The thing that is most interesting to me is not that LinkedIn is moving in this direction, but that business professionals are flocking to it. Up until recently, convincing executives to engage with social media was almost impossible. Despite widespread adoption of social networks by consumers, many business leaders remain sceptical, unconvinced and unlikely to commit the time required to see the benefit in social media.

But LinkedIn may have solved the challenge by making social media simple and obvious. After all, we all like to be “influencers” – even if there are 25,000 of us.

This is, however, not just about professionals, reputation and publishing. In the mixing of these professional and personal profiles, there could be something greater at play. Is this a way for LinkedIn to stake a claim against Facebook’s social domination? Will we see more insight, personality and flavour in the lives of our business leaders? Will personal and professional brands start to collide in new and exciting ways? One can only hope.

And in the meantime, my first LinkedIn article has just been published. It’s a departure from the marketing and digital focus I have here on ServantOfChaos. Hope you like it.

Synthalitics – setting a new benchmark for customer engagement

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Have you noticed recently that your web browsing experience is becoming narrower, more confined and focused? What about those pesky ads that follow you from one website to another? Do they annoy or help you? It seems that all it takes is one visit to a retail website, and next thing you know, that retailer’s ads are stuck to your computer screen, appearing in every available ad spot across the web.

If this sounds like you – then you’re not alone. You’re actually part of the newly emerging real time web that combines big data and analytics to track and target you in search of that all-consuming sales conversion.

Businesses are putting their data to work

There has been significant progress in the world of analytics in recent times. The masses of data that has been collected for decades is now, thanks to the meshing of powerful, purpose built hardware and software, available to business decision makers at the touch of a screen or click of a mouse. This on-premise information is a rich source of vitality data that – with the appropriate mapping and analysis, can reveal hidden truths about our customers, their lives, lifestyles and even their futures.

Meanwhile, customers are themselves, increasingly self-tagging, self-identifying and self-analyzing their daily activities, weekly routines and personal aspirations. This information, in turn, is floating around the web, being stored, collated and cross-referenced to improve the effectiveness of our communal and personal web experiences. From the captcha codes that Google uses to improve its OCR book scanning to the social media check-ins that Facebook and ad networks use to micro-target and re-target advertising, the potential for augmenting a business’ on-premise data with publicly available “big data” is revolutionary.

The emergence of synthalitics will change marketing

“Synthalitics” is the combining of public data with business data, cross-pollinated with customer’s business and credit history, matched with their real time social and location-based information – and made available for a business rules engine at point of interaction. It may sound far-fetched, but it already available in a crude form that will improve as software and hardware improve. Just look to real time bidding advertising networks and ad re-targeting.

These are the pesky ads that follow you from one website to another. The technology clearly works, but advertisers have yet to apply creativity and insight to the re-targeting process. Rather than playing the same ad over and over, ad networks and advertisers will need to become more nuanced in their efforts and connected in their digital storytelling before these feel anything other than intrusive. But this will happen. And what currently appears clunky will, in very short order, become common place – and if we (as consumers) are lucky, it may even become useful.

The growth in real time bidding (RTB) display advertising indicates that businesses are rapidly acclimatizing to this digital world. In the US, RTB spending was expected to hit $3.34 billion in 2013 representing a massive 73.9% growth over the previous year. By 2017, eMarketer suggests this figure will hit $8.69 billion. The automation of digital display will create a gulf between those brands that understand and can integrate digital formats into their strategy and those that can’t – and clearly, this will accelerate through 2017.

Synthalitics deliver one-to-one engagement at scale

However, RTB is just one part of the digital story. Marketers need tools that can absorb the vitality data, augment it with big data-like, location based, self reported data (available through smartphones and social check-ins) and corporate CRM data and synthesize it in such a way that it reveals new and potentially predictive patterns (see diagram below). This is about knowing who your buyers trust.

imageIncreasingly, sales and marketing teams will need to work through a central platform to be able to contextualize business critical information about a prospect’s digital behaviour, needs and expectations. Or if no central platform or suite of tools are available, the need for frictionless data and aggregation points will become vital. The gulf between digitally-enabled and analogue businesses will grow, with the former over-running and out-innovating the latter.

Businesses without a digital transformation agenda need to rapidly reassess their strategy and go to market models. In short order – synthalitics will transform marketing and sales as we know it. And it is synthalitics that will deliver on the promise of one-to-one engagement at scale.

The question for you and your brand is not whether you are READY, but whether you have even STARTED.

The Buyer’s Journey Takes the Long Road

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A marketer’s job would be so much easier of customers followed a set path. In fact, if buyers could fit into a convenient model that allowed us to identify, track, monitor, engage and convert them, life would be rosy. But this is never the case.

If we take a moment to consider the buyer’s journey based on our own experiences, we can yield insight but also understanding. Think, for example, of your last major purchase:

  • How much time did you devote to research before your purchase?
  • How many times did you test, validate and change your mind?
  • How long did you wait before you actually engaged with a salesperson?
  • Who did you ask for advice, reviews and input?
  • What were the prompts that helped to trigger your decision and purchase?
  • How much time did you spend online (email and mobile included) in the leadup to the decision?

Now, consider that your customers are going through very similar processes. Oracle Eloqua’s latest infographic provides some insight into this process. Clearly, their focus is on automating the process of marketing, but importantly, they are also showcasing the important role of integrated marketing. After all, we rarely make a decision based on a single interaction.

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The New Physics of the Consumerverse

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If you weren’t able to get along to the inaugural DiG Festival in Newcastle, you certainly missed an amazing event. But not all is lost. The DiG Festival team are making a great number of presentationsavailable for viewing. They’ve just posted mine – and it seems they’ve nicely edited out some of the glitches I had with the slide controller. Would love your feedback – drop me a message in the comments below.

The Digital Tool Landscape

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For years, I have been collecting tools that help me get things done. Some of them run on my computer or on a web platform. Some of them have become obsolete or were closed down when the startup money ran out. But almost always, digital tools have some value to the marketer – even if it is just to stimulate our thinking about the way that consumers engage and participate online.

As the market has matured – and as we have found more business focused benefits that come from digital engagement – categories of use have begun to emerge. We can now find various use cases for digital technology, white papers, research and even case studies. But often we still struggle with determining which tool to use when. For example, we may look at crowdsourcing for insight rather than ideation, or collaborative platforms for brainstorming rather than development.

Now, rather than just applying trial and error, this great interactive tool from strategy+business can help you choose the right tool for the right job. Now, you can spend more time doing and less time trying to figure out how. No more excuses!

To Be Talked About Online, Be Hyper-real

The french mime Jyjou*

About a million years ago, when I studied theatre and movement, I was fascinated by what appeared “real” on stage and what looked like it was a person slouching across an open space. There was a real difference between an actor who was able to inhabit and own the stage and someone who seemed to shrink within its open space. For some actors, this ability comes naturally but many have to work on it. And it is these techniques that interested me the most.

For a while I studied with Leisa Shelton, a brilliant and patient teacher. We would spend hours in quiet, but intense, routines, learning to stretch our bodies, extend our arms from the shoulder to the fingertip, create difficult but beautiful arcs across our shoulders, and walking with fluidity. One of the core “figures” we’d work on was drinking a glass of water – amazingly technical and challenging to master.

Leisa had, herself, studied for years in Paris, working with Ecole de Mime Corporel Dramatique de Paris-technique Etienne Decroux (1983-89) and was a member of the Meryl Tankard Co (1990-93). As a result, she generously shared not just her abilities and experiences but her stories which brought her theory and theatre practice to life for us all.

But there was one particular story that has stayed with me. It was about the physical proportions of Rodin’s The Thinker. Taking into account the position of the viewer, Rodin had created his famous sculpture larger than “real life” in order for it to appear in-proportion from the audience’s point of view. Parts of the sculpture – especially across the shoulders and back, were significantly larger than they would be in real life. And the lesson for us in this, was to appear “real” on stage, we had to work to extend the appearance of our bodies on stage, not just to be seen, or for aesthetics, but to appear real.

The same principles apply in the digital world. In fact, we are seeing a greater blurring of the distinctions between the on and offline world – they are merging into what we call “life”. This is made ever easier by the five forces impacting the future of business – social media, mobility, big data, unified communications and cloud computing. As consumers we are ever more connected and connectable – and enterprises continue to struggle to keep pace with consumer expectation and business demand.

However, we DON’T need to be in all places at all times. We need to take a lesson from Leisa Shelton and Rodin. We need to be larger than life in the spaces that we do operate. We need to be hyper-real – 10-20% bigger than we are in real life. And now, more than ever, we need to be PRESENT. That means we must be hyper-real and IN LOCATION.

Take a look at this great video promoting the upcoming release of the movie Carrie. It’s 6 million+ views come not just from a great idea, but from brilliant execution. They captured a real world impact and amplified it into our digital lives. They put a physical experience into our consciousness through digital storytelling.

In a world where our experiences dominate our perceptions, businesses, governments and not-for-profits can no longer be satisfied with a DIGITAL ONLY presence. To be talked about online, you have to be remarkable in the real world. You must act with purpose. And serve with intention.

It’s time for leaders to step up and own the space.

The french mime Jyjou*Creative Commons License jyjou via Compfight

Brandwatch Vizia Shakes Up Social Media Command Centers

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The concept of social media monitoring seems like a no-brainer. Marketers use keyword driven technology tools to tap into the vast oceans of social media data to reveal mentions of their brand, products and company and then determine how best to respond. It’s a model that replicates the traditional “media monitoring” approaches that have been in existence for decades.

But in the shift to digital, it’s not just advertising that is being overtaken by digital derivatives – news, commentary and analysis is challenging our ability to understand, collate, curate and respond to shifts in community, political and consumer sentiment. New forms of media engagement like social media has further complicated the situation, to the point where some form of digital or social media command center is not just useful but necessary.

Where once the news cycle evolved at a slower pace, this digital transformation has accelerated our need to understand and respond to these challenges. Our monitoring solutions must now be real time, contextual and their insights actionable. And we need to view them not as pretty visualizations to fill out our reports mid- and post-campaign, but as vital business intelligence systems that can inform our decision making. We need to think of these social intelligence systems as an MRI for brands allowing us to understand what resonates with customers, where the blockages are and what has velocity and vitality.

In short, the age of command centers is ending and the need for social intelligence is just beginning. It’s less about a room with big screens and funky graphs – and more about getting that vital information to the right people in your organisation at the right time.

This is where the new Vizia platform from Brandwatch comes into play. Announced today, Vizia combines a spectacular (yes, indeed) user interface with a business model that provides unrestricted access to users across your enterprise. This means that the same data source can be accessed and analysed by Marketing as well as HR, by Customer Service and the Executive Board. It puts data into the hands of the business decision makers at all levels of your organisation – in realtime.

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You can find out more about the features of Vizia here.

As a next generation command center – or social intelligence platform – Vizia is shaking up the market which has been relatively uneventful for the last couple of years. With market consolidations and jockeying for position there has been little innovation – even amongst the smaller players and new entrants, but Brandwatch’s Vizia with its multi-screen display and generous licensing model is set to reinvigorate the market.

It’s particularly worth investigating where you need:

  • Broad access to social intelligence data and reporting
  • To showcase social initiatives across your business
  • A way to manage online crisis communications
  • To capitalise on real time marketing opportunities

Take a few minutes to watch the explanation video on the Brandwatch blog – it’s worth it to see the software in action.

Telling a Data-Driven Story

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

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

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

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

Inspired by another great Leslie Bradshaw presentation:

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

FingerprintsCreative Commons License Kevin Dooley via Compfight