Asian Connections: Embracing the Digital Trajectory

Fifty four percent of the world’s population lives in Asia. That’s 3.7 billion people. And according to We Are Social, Singapore’s recent report, Asia is home to over 1 billion internet users – 80% of whom use social media (see full report below).

The numbers are impressive. And yet, they tell only part of the story.

The most compelling aspect is the trajectory of digital consumption across Asia:

  • New internet users every month: 11,350,000
  • Videos watched (in June 2012): 45,000,000,000
  • New Facebook users each month: 10,000,000
  • Mobile internet users now outnumber PC-based internet users in China: 388 million vs 380 million

Consumer Adoption is Disrupting Patterns of Media Consumption and Impacting the Buyer’s Journey

The shift to digital in Asia is characterised by the widespread use of mobile and smartphones. Almost half of the people in Asia are willing to make transactions on their mobile phones (43%). And 60% of internet users in Asia use social media to inform purchase decisions. This combination is impacting not just the top end of the marketing funnel but various points across the buyer’s journey. 

Digital Adoption Will Drive Marketer’s Thirst for Mobile Solutions

Given that more than half of Asia’s population is under 30, marketers seeking to engage these high spending, younger audiences will need to develop new digital approaches.

However, with 82% mobile penetration across Asia – and a growing population of mobile internet users – digital approaches should increasingly follow a Mobile First with a Social Heart strategy.

Marketers Will Turn to Marketing Automation to Scale Execution

While digital and social media marketing promises one-to-one conversations with customers, the rapid growth in the population of “Connected Consumers” challenges marketers’ capacity to scale. As a result, marketers will begin turning to marketing automation vendors to provide personality rich brand communications at scale.

The Shift to Digital Requires a Re-casting of the Marketing Funnel

While the information in the We Are Social report focuses on Asia, we are seeing similar shifts in markets the world over. Marketers can no longer rely on past practices as a relevant method for predicting future outcomes. Forward thinking marketers will need to begin rethink their understanding of their consumers from the outside-in. This will require a re-casting of the marketing funnel.

Look for my upcoming report CMOs: Re-casting the Marketing Funnel for Consumer Engagement, available for free later this month to all Constellation Research clients. Want to know more? Email me.

Go Where Others Don’t – The Digital Newsroom of Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia

msftv There is a lot of talk about brands becoming publishers – as if it was a simple transformation achieved by the stroke of a budget making biro. But what does it really take?

In Australia, Medicins Sans Frontieres or “doctors without borders” aim to put this to the test.

Médecins Sans Frontières is the world’s leading independent organisation for medical humanitarian aid, providing relief after natural disasters, helping victims of conflict and running emergency feeding programs. Working in war zones much of their work happens far from the eyes of the world.

And while MSF are known as a “below the radar” organisation – this poses real challenges for sharing stories, building awareness and engaging with potential sponsors, donors and the interested public.

For the month of October, MSF TV aims to address this challenge head on, creating a digital newsroom to bring stories directly to the public. There are:

  • Seven channels of video content aimed to stimulate conversation
  • Conversations amplified through the #msftv hashtag on Twitter
  • Live updates and headlines from around the world
  • Interviews from those on-the-ground
  • Hosted debates on Facebook and on MSF TV
  • YouTube channel with an archive of episodes and issues from the MSF TV site

The rise of digital opens new opportunities for brands to go peer-to-peer

Marketers generally think in terms of business-to-business or business-to-consumer communications. But the rise of digital has changed the landscape. It’s not one-to-many but one-FOR-many communications. The old B2B and B2C distinctions are crumbling under the weight of social media – with communicators now working in a peer-to-peer conversation.

Very few organisations have followed this path thus far. It’s complicated, challenging and exciting. MSF and their partner agency, Republic of Everyone, are trailblazing. They truly are going where others don’t. But we can only expect more to follow.

What’s New with News Limited in Australia? Digital Subscriptions. That’s What

An interesting cast of folks assembled at News Limited's Sydney office to be briefed on the upcoming digital subscription offer being rolled out for The Australian. Those present included Katie Chatfield, Tim Burrowes, Tiphereth Gloria, Craig Wilson, Karalee Evans, Bronwen Clune, Laurel Papworth, Gary Hayes, Ross Dawson, Melanie James and a few folks I didn't have the chance to meet. Here's a selection of the main points tweeted at the briefing.

Where Are You on the Trust Barometer?

Whenever the social media conversation shifts to “influence” – who has it, how you can get it and what it’s worth, you know we’re talking trust. After all, what we perceive as “influence” is simply a combination of trust and relevance – a heady mix of the right audience, a trusted shepherd and a call to action.

Don’t believe me?

Nicholas Christakis has an interesting post on the power of twitter and its ability to influence a large following. As he explains, Alyssa Milano with her celebrity and her 1.3 million strong Twitter following would normally be considered “influential”. But when she tweeted out a link to the Amazon page of a book called Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks & How They Shape Our Lives, the roar of social media silence was deafening.  There was not ONE clickthrough. Not one sale.

It seems – finally – that we are seeing the reality of trust and the power of relevance. That’s why I am particularly interested in this report from Edelman Australia – the 2011 Australian Edelman Trust Barometer.

Launched today (see the Tweetstream), this is the third survey to be carried out in Australia, but we are already seeing some interesting trending:

  • Coming out of the GFC, we saw an upswing in trust in government (54%) and businesses (52%)
  • Trust in NGOs (65%) is the highest of any Australian institution, with the Media well down at 32%

The full report is embedded below and can be downloaded from Slideshare. It makes for interesting reading.

But what does this mean for brands and marketers?

As one of the launch panellists, Vanessa Hall, pointed out, trust is created through the interplay of the message or story the brand wants to tell, the expectations of your customers/stakeholders and the promise that exists between the two (my interpretation here). This is where the challenge comes – after all, our customers are rarely interested in the brand story, and their interpretation of your brand promise is often different from where you (on the client or agency side) tend to see it.

And with social media, individuals are now well equipped to engage with brands in a public (and searchable) sphere. Positive and negative brand experiences can be published, shared and amplified around the world in minutes – and this makes “trust” all the more important. As the report points out, “Trust is a protective agent …”. And yes, it can lead to tangible sales.

But, we need to consider the following trends:

  • Aligning our business purpose with a greater good (CSR is a good start)
  • Strong support for NGOs (consider partnering with an NGO to build your trust profile)
  • Multiple voices in multiple channels (while CEOs have increased level of trust and respect, use expert voices across your business and in multiple channels to build a network of influence)

Perhaps, most importantly, you need to think about all this in relation to YOUR business. Where do you sit on the trust barometer? And how are you going to improve?

The Words of a Visionary: Marshall McLuhan Speaks

Much of what we are living – in terms of digital technologies, connected social networks, information saturation and knowledge search was imagined by theorist Marshall McLuhan. His books like Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man and The Medium is the Massage are the philosophic underpinnings of many media studies courses – and are must-reads for communications professionals the world over.

This year is the centenary of his birth and in his honour, the site Marshall McLuhan Speaks has been setup to share a collection of clips. It’s a great way to watch, hear and learn about McLuhan’s ideas as spoken during lectures, interviews and speeches. While it’s unclear who is behind this great media resources, it’s believed that McLuhan’s daughter, Stephanie, is involved.

My Media Diet – 2010

Around this time of year we all get a little reflective. I think back on what has worked and what has not – I look for what resonates for me and builds into a trend. I think about the lessons I have learned and then consider what could have been better. What I am looking for is the anatomy of the perfect day.

AnatomyWorkday-600x862

And one of the most interesting exercises is to look at my own personal media consumption. I don’t necessarily look at ALL the things that I have read, listened to or watched – but rather what seems to be trending. What is building from an idea into a behaviour or a habit.

Increasingly – in 2010 – it’s more about what consumes ME.

What I mean by this is that my consumption is becoming far less passive. I need and expect media with a purpose. I am less patient and more exacting. And I am far more reliant on my personal networks than ever before.

So what – in particular – has changed? To begin with – let me just say that everything has changed. 2010 seems to have been the year when my digital dalliances became full-blown behaviours. I believe this has been driven by two key shifts:

  1. Improved ISP broadband speeds (I increased both my connection speed and the download limit this year)
  2. Ease of consumption – a new router, an iPad and an iPhone now mean I can more easily and readily consume content. After all, ease of use drives consumption.

But in terms of the media itself …

Books

TV/Movies

  • 2008: A couple of movies borrowed from local video store; and shows from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  • 2009: A couple of movies downloaded from the web; and shows mostly from Australian Broadcasting Corporation (eg Gruen Transfer, The Bill, Bed of Roses).
  • 2010: Catching up on older, quality series (especially since The Bill has ended!) via online download or sometimes iTunes. I am particularly interested in strong narrative arcs – Six Feet Under, True Blood, Supernatural (hmm, I can see a theme here); and when it comes to TV, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Q&A program is must-see viewing.

Music

News

  • 2008: Newspapers delivered to my door on weekend. No magazines. A handful of feeds and a lot of blogs
  • 2009: Newspapers delivered to my door on weekend. SMH.com.au during week after scanning Twitter for latest news, Facebook status/feeds,WotNews, SocialMedian alerts. And around 200 daily feeds
  • 2010: No more newspapers delivered to my door. News scanning via Twitter, confirmations via The Guardian and other digital editions. I have been largely ignoring the local online instances of the mainstream press, relying instead on sites like crikey.com.au. I extensively use Feedly to corral several hundred RSS feeds into a manageable form and I simply love the personal curation available through Paper.li.

Digital advertising

I have never been a big fan of online display advertising. I think I have clicked on half a dozen banner ads in the last 10 years. I am more interested in particular eDM communications and offers  to which I have subscribed. Winners here include Torpedo7, City Software, Saba and Sportscraft. I continue to avoid most branded fan pages on Facebook but will generally follow branded Twitter accounts.

But what about you? What makes your perfect day?

Support Independent Media in Australia – New Matilda

There are precious few independent voices in the Australian media landscape. There is Crikey, group blogs like Larvatus Prodeo and a handful of individual bloggers, but the nation’s dominant media players maintain a stranglehold on political and social debate. In the face of this domination, these alternative sites provide much needed space for debate and deeper conversation.

When New Matilda collapsed earlier this year, it shocked and saddened many people. Yet shifting people beyond that shock is difficult. Getting people to financially support the production of independent media is exceptionally hard.

So in an innovative move, New Matilda has turned to the crowd to source much needed support. Now, through Fundbreak, you too can make a contribution to independent media in Australia. Every dollar counts.

Re-intermediating the Media

189/365One of the things that most excited me about the World Wide Web was the way it crushed the distance between an idea and its reality.

The mere fact that I could, with a few spare hours and a scrapper’s knowledge of HTML, create a website – a “place” on the internet where nothing was before – seemed to me, a revelation.

Over the last 20 years we have seen a dramatic transformation in the media landscape. The promise of the early web has been delivered. Now, you or I can produce web pages and whole sites without the need of complex programming or large scale resources. We can produce “media” or what largely passes for media, using a $50 webcam, a microphone borrowed in the downtime between Singstar sessions, and a point of view all held together with a dash of passion.

The easy availability of technology and the digital publishing platforms sent waves of transformation through all forms of publishing – from books, magazines and newspapers to radio, TV and beyond. The full effect of this slow moving tsunami is yet to be seen or accounted for – but the lasting transformation is in the nature of power.

In the wake of these changes, the power that was once centralised in the hands of the publishers and broadcasters has been fragmented – tossed like so many pins into a new global haystack of content, opinion and conjecture. As Ben Shepherd points out, the winner here has been the search engines and content organisers like Google:

Google came in and created a tool that allowed internet users to find what they needed quickly and easily. It reinvented search and has allowed consumers to get anything they want, whenever they want, and for the price they want – generally for free.

But we are now experiencing another wave of transformation. Where the first wave shifted the base of power away from the broadcasters towards the content organisers, this next wave of disintermediation is moving information – and recommendation – away from the search engines. As a result we are seeing people powered networks (best characterised by sites like Twitter and Facebook) benefitting from this new shift in the locus of power. Tom Ewing describes it simply:

This shift is best interested, I think, in thinking about the difference between corporate brands and ‘personal brands’. The corporate brand entering social media is urged to give up control, to surrender some of its autonomy. But Twitter’s most popular users – its A-Listers, the celebrities – are using it to regain a level of control over their presentation and perception, through disintermediation.

This trend, while still small, will have Google worried, for while they seem to struggle with the human dimension of the social web, they certainly understand the power principles inherent in social network design and its resulting viral expansion loop. Interestingly, however, most social media participants, once they reach a certain scale, invest in the creation of what can best be termed “old-school media properties” – turning what little influence they do hold into a business modelled around advertising, sponsorship and editorial.

This seems to be a zero sum game to me – properties built on new foundations seem to sit uncomfortably within business models that they themselves, helped discredit. But what has been missing is a way to re-intermediate the new media – bridging the gap between business, brands, advertising, media buying and planning, and these long tail publishers. In the last few weeks two new players have stepped into this space. MediaScope, the brainchild of Denise Shrivell is “an online directory connecting advertisers, marketers and small business to 'alternative' media opportunities in niche, below the line, emerging and independant platforms.” It is due to launch in the coming days.

Media Cafe is also staking a claim in this space – but bringing perhaps a fuller community based publishing model to market. Currently in pre-release mode, Media Cafe is also open for the population of data ahead of a launch. Interestingly, Media Cafe appears to be putting new social properties on the same footing as traditional media properties. This aspect alone is likely to raise eyebrows, but will it unleash a new wave of innovation and transformation. No doubt both MediaScope and Media Cafe are banking on it.

Paid or Earned Media – Making Gravity is Hard Work

Whether you are walking down the street, watching the TV, surfing the net or even driving a car, you are the subject of some form of advertising. From the branded cap on the boy walking down the street to the billboard behind him – marketing is hard at work trying to capture your attention. Constance Hill and Bruce Henry suggest that we see around 3000 marketing messages each day. But no matter whether we see 100 or 10,000 messages – clearly we are exposed to a significant number. But how many do you recall? How many seep into your unconscious, adding a negative or positive neuron to your thoughts around these brands?

Now, add into this mix the dozens or even hundreds of blogs that you read and the tweets that you view on Twitter each day. Combine this with podcasts, music streams via blip.fm, videos on YouTube and email – and suddenly you have an abundant media stream that can appear overwhelming. As Sean Howard says, “In today's world everyone is a publisher, everyone has some level of influence, and everyone has a network of influence that is difficult to define let alone measure”. It makes the life of the media consumer rather complex.

As a marketer, however, you do have a specific objective. What you are aiming for is MAKING GRAVITY. With paid media you are using your marketing budget to have your content inserted into spaces that your audience inhabit. It is an expense which you measure in terms of how many people you have reached with your communication.

Earned media (or what Craig Wilson calls engagement marketing), on the other hand, is both different in nature and in measurement. Rather than being an expense, it is an investment. Its effectiveness is directly related to what you DO rather than what you SAY, and the value that is exchanged is not currency, but trust. As I have explained previously – it is about changing behaviours:

Every time we forward on a link, retweet a message read on Twitter or any other type of social network interaction, we are CHOOSING to act. We are not just using our network of connections to FILTER the noise, we are using it to SHAPE our experience. It is a choice. And understanding this distinction places us in a context where STORYTELLING emerges as vitally important?

Paid media has been an effective marketing approach for hundreds of years (if not longer). But it thrived in a time where attention was abundant and our media consumption choices were limited to a set number of channels. These days, media is abundant but our attention (and maybe more importantly, our respect) is scarce. Graham Brown has an excellent five minute piece on the challenges presented by these changes.

But the fundamental difference with paid vs earned media is the refocusing of effort. No longer do you spend your creative energies (and budgets) on producing executions that gain attention – you spend it on building trust and creating Auchterlonie Effects (stories that can be easily shared). Indeed, in the best traditions of storytelling, earned media propagates itself – becoming promiscuous in the process.

The reason that promiscuous ideas are important to your brand is that you WANT them to be shared. In social media, every shared idea, link or concept creates an exchange of value within a PERSONAL network – so the act of sharing is a recommendation of sorts. Over time the person who “adds value” to their network builds an abundant store of social capital. It is like branding – we can’t necessarily point to a PARTICULAR item – but to the recurring and ongoing sense of positive exchange relating to that person.

When YOUR brand story or content is the subject of that exchange, you are effectively providing a reason for connection between people in a network. And as these connections grow, as they are passed from person to person, you are creating points of gravity around your brand ecosystem. Your challenge then is to work with a continuous digital strategy to “share the message” but “own the destination”. The thing is, gravity can only be earned. And while you can employ paid media to complement your earned media – you need to make sure you have a compelling story to tell and to share.

You Are What You Tweet

As we gear up for what is likely to be a challenging year, it is fascinating to look back 12 months to see what was BIG, or important or "going to happen" … and see what has changed in the intervening period.

Last year, I participated in an interesting meme looking at my patterns of media consumption. How is it different this year?

Find out in my latest MarketingProfs post.

Oh, and also check out Beth Harte's awesome discussion on ghost writing and social media.