Influencers and Social Recommendation


In a world where the impact of traditional advertising is shrinking and where the option to simply block ads from our internet use is an easy option, it is clear that marketers the world over are having to rethink the way that they do business. In fact, they’re having to rethink the way that they do everything.

Some are leaping onto the hackathon bandwagon. Some are becoming more social. Some agencies are diving head first into data. And some are imploding, sending shockwaves through the lives of the freelancer networks who rely on their steady patronage.

And while everything is changing, in many ways, it all remains the same. Back in 2009, I came up with a concept I called the Auchterlonie effect. It was the digital version of playground storytelling and the concept seemed to ring true. In order for a story to spread through a network (think a class of 12 year old boys, or a group of connected Twitter friends), there are certain conditions which need to be met. It is about building and spending your social capital within that network. It is about generosity, action and reputation.

Years later, and despite various efforts to map and score our “influence”, it still remains elusive. But we do know a little more about the conditions and the triggers. And this infographic from the Smiley360 folks helps connect some of the dots. It’s just that there are always new and emerging dots that we have to take into account.


Retail Disrupted-Consumers Get Smarter says IBM Study


I have a love-hate relationship with shopping. Actually, when I think about it, I quite like shopping as an experience. What I don’t like the way retail transforms that experience. You see, retail shopping is filled with frustration:

  • There’s no or limited stock
  • Loyalty programs are more of a burden than a benefit
  • The digital experience is out-of-kilter with the in-store experience
  • Customer service is an after thought.

And it seems I am not alone. The 2015 IBM Smarter Consumer Study: Shoppers Disrupted gauged global sentiment about consumers’ shopping behaviour. The extensive survey of 28,500 online respondents across 15 countries saw more than 1,800 Australians respond to the survey.

Some of the key findings include:

  • Australian shoppers are less loyal than ever – 10% act as advocates while 37% act as antagonists
  • 38% of 20-39 year olds prefer to shop online
  • Online shopping is up across all categories (esp consumer electronics)
  • Shoppers prefer to be in control – and that means a mobile experience.

You can register and download the full report here.

Now, much of this is not new. I have been analysing the structural, technological and strategic problems with retail for years. But Australian retail, in particular, has been slow to respond to the challenges (and opportunities) of digital disruption. And when they do respond, they often do so with the blinkered vision of incumbency. Does this leave the door open for nimble competition or does is just breed consumer mistrust and apathy? I’d love your thoughts.

The big question, of course, is when will retailers fix these problems? Those that do will reap the reward of an increasingly digitally-savvy customer base. Those that twiddle their thumbs will see their customers switch allegiances – or worse – become antagonists.


Even Your Boring Brand Can Be Sexy on Social Media

Man sleeping

I often wonder if there is such a thing as a “boring brand”. Sure we have exciting, innovative and even “cool” brands – these are easy to spot. Big budgets. Celebrities. Airplanes. But not all of us work for or with these kinds of brands.

And that is the real opportunity. But to understand that opportunity, there are three steps you must take:

1. Think beyond your product

It may be your job to evangelise your product, but the challenge for social media is to step outside of your comfort zone. Rather than thinking of the product you are selling, think of the problem you are solving for your customers.

One of the  best examples that springs to mind for me is an old NRMA ad where the product being sold is roadside assistance. A middle aged couple are dressed up, driving to an evening at the opera. Along the way the car stops in the rain. He has forgotten to renew their roadside assistance insurance. While attempting to fix the problem, somehow the hapless gentleman removes the distributor cap and attempts to hide it in his tuxedo while his wife hits him with her handbag.

What is the ad selling? Not roadside assistance. Not even insurance. It’s selling peace of mind for all the non-mechanics out there.

2. Build customer relationships

Given that customers these days buy in their own time (not just when suits brands and marketing campaigns), we need to find ways to build customer relationships ahead of the buying curve. Learn to speak the language of your customers. Participate in their activities. Show that you “are one of them”.

This is something that startup Canva do exceptionally well. They manage to balance on the one hand, a community of designers; and on the other a growing community of business people who need graphic design for personal or professional reasons. It is clear through their Canva blog and their Design School that “sometimes you win, sometimes you LEARN”. And the more you work to bring both together, the more value is created in and around the Canva platform.

3. Advocate for your customers

As shown in this interesting infographic (below), Tampax’s Awesomely Active Girl Challenge was a great way to engage women, encouraging them to remain active during their period.  But it’s not just a matter of encouraging activity – it’s about being “awesomely active”.

As brand ambassador, surfer, Bethany Hamilton explained during the 2013 campaign, “I am happy to be partnering with Tampax Pearl Active because they offer high performance protection for high performance girls just like me who would never think of letting their periods keep them from hanging ten or biking hard. This contest is all about cheering on each other and celebrating those active moments when all eyes are on them”.



Man sleepingCreative Commons License Timothy Krause via Compfight

The Sum of All Your Social Media


What happens when two of your social media friends get together? Well, this week Sum All, the social media dashboard and Buffer, the social media management tool, hooked up to share some salacious social data. By working together they were able to compare the the effectiveness of posting frequency. And they came up with some pretty interesting insights.

For those who are active on social media, the recommendations may come as a surprise. After all, it’s easy to schedule or post  multiple updates to run WITHIN AN HOUR – not just across the course of a DAY. But it seems for the most part, that INFREQUENT posting may be the most effective route. For example:

  • Twitter: probably the noisiest of the lot, Twitter can explode on a particular topic. Just look at “today’s” fascination first with llamas and then later, with #TheDress. Research suggests that the level of engagement begins to decrease after only the THIRD tweet each day – and that means #TheDress flooded most people’s quotas
  • Facebook: there’s an ongoing debate over the Facebook newsfeed algorithms and the level of organic reach, but the research also indicates that two posts is the max point for “Likes” and comments
  • Blogging: perhaps the most interesting of the stats – is that doubling your blogging efforts from around once a week to twice a week doubles the number of inbound leads. And here we were thinking that blogging had died a quiet death

The big question is …

As with all research, there will always be outliers – and exceptions to the rule. But for those who actively manage brands on social media, how do you find this correlates with your experience? Have you tested for post frequency? What about time of day? Or “best day” for posting? My thinking and experience suggests:

  • B2C brands may need to post more frequently – especially where there is a customer experience / service angle
  • Brands that are in the early stages of growth will always take effort to establish a follower base. Activity can ease off as community activity begins to increase
  • Standard time of day posts still tend to work when your audience is receptive – during work breaks and in the evenings (note this can be challenging where your audience is comprised of shift workers)
  • Some channels work better on weekends. And yes, that can mean email too. Be sure to test all opportunities to engage.



Marketing and Dating: How to Get a Date by the Numbers


Dating is big business. There are generic dating sites designed to help you find a date, a life partner or someone just to hang out with. There are also incredibly focused dating sites that are designed to introduce you to other people who have the same particular passions and interests as you. Maybe you are looking for a “sea captain” or perhaps you just hate it when Movember finishes and need to sate your passion for the tache. Whatever the case, if you look hard enough you’re bound to find a dating site designed just for people like you (yes, you crazy cat lady).

In many ways, the challenge of dating is the same challenge that marketers face. We’re all looking for that one-to-one connection – though often we struggle to a way to meet and start a conversation. In both cases (marketing and dating), digital disruption is creating both opportunities and challenges. And at the heart of this is data.

Inga Ting reveals that what we say in our dating profiles and what we want are often completely different. Dating sites – just like data-driven marketers – are less interested in “stated intentions” and more interested in actual behaviour. By looking at online behaviour – the things that we like, connect with, share and return to – marketers can adjust their profiling to reach and more deeply engage potential customers. This algorithmic approach relies not on focus groups and market research but on an adaptive approach which operates between your stated profile (self designed) and the actions you take online. In the world of online dating it means operating in-between spaces:

Behaviour-based matching is adaptive. It compares what you said you wanted with how you behave to work out things you might not even know about yourself.

For example, you said you wanted a partner with a steady income but you keep messaging “pro-bono computer game testers” and “freelance writers”, so the algorithm changes its recommendations.

Our profile

But, of course, while there can be volumes of data about ourselves online – we are also highly visual. The rise of photo based apps like Tinder for example shows that sometimes dating (and even marketing) is only skin deep. Relying on your photo and your location information, Tinder matches people based on whether they are close and interested (you swipe a prospective date’s photo to the left to reject and to the right to connect).

For those who are serious about dating, perhaps a single app is not the answer. The “multichannel” approach that works for marketers may yield better results. Take for example, the data from Axciom’s infographic (ht Will Scully-Power) that reveals that, in Sydney:

  • Single females outnumber males at all ages except the 18-24 age group
  • Potts Point is home to the most singles
  • Wine enthusiasts are most likely to reside in the Eastern and Inner West suburbs

If you were a male in the highly competitive 18-24 age group, a multichannel (or omnichannel) marketing approach to maximising your chances would include:

  1. Establishing your base profiles on high traffic sites
  2. Create a profile image that shows your passion for fitness and interest in fine wine (please be tasteful)
  3. Spend time in cafes in Potts Point using Tinder

Of course, you could pepper your profile with quotes from Shakespeare, but that may be overkill. Remember, that the algorithms will override your stated profile anyway – so your true intentions will always be revealed in the data – based on who you swipe right and who you swipe left, who you message, like and connect with. And like all good marketing, the question comes down to ROI, engagement and outcomes. I hope you get your algorithm right!


No Left v Right Brain – And Other Mythconceptions


I love this infographic on various urban myths that permeate our modern existence. By author, David McCandless, it visualises some of the most Googled myths and misconceptions – with larger bubbles indicating that it is a common search term. Some of my personal favourites include:

  • That you SHOULD wake sleepwalkers
  • That bats are NOT blind
  • There is no solid division between the LEFT and RIGHT hemispheres of the brain.

What surprises you?


Why Do People Leave Jobs?


When I begin working with clients I work to understand what their ambassadors think about them. I look to their customers and suppliers to get a sense of what is working and what is not. But there is no better source of insight than a company’s employees. These are the people who are actively engaging and promoting the company every day. They are the face of the brand and are – in many instances – the custodian of customer experience. If an employee is having a bad day, your brand is likely to feel the impact.

This infographic from Bamboo HR is based on interviews with over 1000 US-based employees. And they look not just at the reasons that people leave, but the conditions that make people unhappy. Because unhappy employees perform worse than happy ones. No surprises there, right? But there is a substantial difference between an employee who is unhappy and a company culture that MAKES people unhappy. And far too often, the reasons that people are unhappy is not to do with the people that they work with, but the conditions that they work under.

Take a look at the statistics in this infographic. Do these situations worry you? Do some of these apply to your business? Do you even know?

There are ways to fix this and it may be easier than you imagine. Let’s chat!



Influence: Be the First to Give


In the digital world we are fascinated by influence. We want to know who has influence and we want to know who is influenced by whom. We strive for influence in our personal and professional lives and we reject the overt nature of influence that impacts us through advertising and messaging (even though it still affects us).

Robert Cialdini’s book on Influence is a must-read for marketers. His six principles of influence work together to connect intention and action and are vital to the success of any marketing activity. However, in digital and social marketing, the focus tends to rely on just two elements – social proof and liking. It’s partly why we often feel marketers and brands are “yelling” at us online. There is a simple antidote to this:

Be the first to give.

In this infographic from Everreach, summarising the six principles, they call out that proactive use of reciprocity as a “weapon of influence”. Working this way creates a faster and more immediate bond between brands and their customers. More importantly, it sets the scene for the remaining elements. So, next time – before you ask someone to buy, think about what it is that you can give.


Disrupt Your Strategy – Planning for Audiences not Generations


I have never been a fan of demographic profiling. Sure, this information, at scale, can reveal certain things about a population – and this can be useful to understand whether there might be a connection between our age and (for example) our propensity to over-eat. Or contract disease. Or buy new cars every four years.

But populations don’t interest me. They feel like a dead weight around my sense of, and interest in, humanity. Instead, I prefer audiences – which is perhaps why I studied theatre rather than statistics.

It’s also why I am continually fascinated by digital technology and transformation – and it is why social media continues to attract the attention of people, corporations and governments. For digital transformation is not just about bringing the non-digital world online – it’s challenging the very nature of what we consider “our selves” to be.

As marketers, we are constantly drawn to the idea of demographics – the cashed up profiling of the Baby Boomers, the anxious, try-harder Gen X-ers and the slacker Gen Ys. But like any generalisation, these labels are easily unpicked. There are plenty of Baby Boomers who are slackers and plenty of cashed up, power wielding Gen X-ers. And Gen Y are just starting to flex their creative, financial and intellectual powers – and there is more goodness to come. Rather than simply relying on this style of profiling, we should be working harder to understand these audiences. We need to map their behaviours, attitudes and interests, not just their age, sex and location.

This is why I quite like the work that marketing automation firm, Marketo, has done on Generation Z. And while, yes, they have started out with the age-focused label, the research carried out by agency, Sparks and Honey, reveals the patterns of behaviour, interests, attitudes and insights that can help build a deeper understanding of this audience. While the data reflects a US-based audience, there are cultural parallels that are useful indicators such as:

  • Do-Gooders – an interest in making a difference in the world
  • Shift FROM Facebook – Facebook lost its allure when the parents arrived. Gen Z are embracing newer platforms like snapchat, secret and whisper
  • Creation trumps sharing – Gen Z embrace the prosumer ethic of digital media creativity.


But to really understand this “Gen Z” audience, I would go further. I wouldn’t stop at the age of 19. I would ask:

  • Why would my brand be relevant to audiences exhibiting these behaviours
  • Why would these audiences choose to purchase my product/service/thing
  • Which values embodied by my brand augments the life, behaviour, experience or purpose of this audience
  • How do these behavioural profiles help me understand my customers regardless of age / demographics

And when it comes to planning, insight and future proofing your brand, I’d look to opportunities to self-disrupt your strategy. Ditch the path of lazy profiling, put the work in to really understand your audiences, and then invite them into the process of creating a brand that has a purpose. Start by delving into the data behind the Sparks and Honey research (below) – and then work on your own business by starting with the audiences you rely upon.

The A-Z of Personal Branding


What do you do before a meeting? Do you Google the person you are meeting? Do you look up their profile on LinkedIn? Do you stalk them on Facebook? Do you go to the trouble of talking to people that you know in common?

No doubt, a large part of this research will be done online. And while I often wonder if there really is such a thing as “personal branding”, it seems clear that our “digital footprint” has an impact on the people we meet, connect to or pass on our digital travels.

And given this is the case, there are some basic things that are worth doing. I call it the “4 BEs” – be found, be known, be trusted and be successful. But the folks from Placester have put together this interesting infographic that goes into some depth around personal branding. You don’t have to do all 26, but covering most of these will see you well on the way to making sure that your personal brand, digital footprint or online identity has all the bases covered.