The State of Social Media in 2015 – A Future Business Roadmap

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I do love a review of social media. It reminds me of how far we’ve come and maybe gives an inkling of where we might go. It can also provide a guide by which you can assess, review and benchmark your clients and their activities. BUT. And with social media there is always a BUT.

For the vast majority of those who work in social media roles, or who work in social media with their clients, reports such as the Percolate State of Social Media 2015 are more practical than you might expect. For they provide a roadmap to future business capability.

That’s not a benchmark, it’s a roadmap

Every second on the internet, masses of content is being produced. Around 2500 Instagram photos are uploaded, almost 10,000 tweets are sent, 2000 Tumblr posts are published, 1800 Skype calls are made and 50,000 Google searches are conducted. It’s mind blowing. But it’s not useful.

What IS useful is thinking through the implications of this:

  • Media is being produced by individuals not just by media companies
  • Content is curated, shared and distributed entirely through digital channels
  • “Phone” calls are making the phone obsolete
  • Knowledge is sought on demand.

Looking deeper, we see not the symptoms of these technologies but the behaviours which underlie them.

  • We prize creation over consumption
  • We value networks over channels
  • We crave connection over function
  • We seek satisfaction over perfection

If we take a similar approach to the headlines from the Percolate report, interesting opportunities appear:

  • Social media moves beyond social – we need to build “social media” capacity within our organisations in preparation
  • Customer service shifts to experience – customer service is no longer back office, but front of house. Time to prepare our teams as ambassadors rather than problem solvers
  • Crisis management hits the risk radar – have you developed a crisis plan? Now is the time
  • Social business is everyone’s business – similar to the first point above. But think about social media not as a marketing function but as a core business capability. This is where the digital rubber meets the transformation road.

Social becomes business

The fundamental shift that is recognised in the report is not the NEED for social media, but the need for SOCIAL BUSINESS. As social impacts all aspects of your business from the boardroom to the reception desk, the need for an organisational wide strategy and enablement program becomes paramount.

How can this be done programmatically – and (despite the name of this blog) without chaos?

The answer lies in becoming a responsive organisation. Using agile methodologies applied to business functions and outcomes. It means disrupting yourself before you are disrupted. Now is the time when social becomes business.

The Known Unknowns – Small Steps Big Gains with Watson Analytics

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Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
Donald Rumsfeld

My morning starts with a river of data. First up, there is email – a quick run by the inbox alerts me to urgent issues, questions, client inquiries and news. Every email I open, every link that I click and every article that I read is marked, tagged, tracked and collated. And then it’s over to LinkedIn’s news feed to check what is happening in the industries I care about. Having built a substantial network of well-connected and insightful connections over the years, I get a very quick sense of what is trending globally, what is vital locally and what needs to be reported or responded to. Finally, I switch to Facebook. I am blessed with opinionated and smart friends who share and increasingly, the richness and quality of news and insight available through that network is out-pacing all other channels.

But what am I doing here? I am working with Donald Rumsfeld’s mantra. I am looking to these networks to tell me the things that I don’t know that I don’t know. Essentially, this data is helping me look beyond my radar.

The same approach can be applied to marketing. In fact, for marketers to remain relevant and responsive – we need to be looking beyond our own radar.

For as long as marketers have been marketing, we have used media to reach our customers. We’ve equipped our teams with megaphones and messages and marched them to the perimeter of the business compound. To reach our customers, we buy and create media – after all, as the adage says, “fish where the fish are”. But this is the inside-out marketing model from the 20th Century – and social media has turned it inside out.

Turning to sites like Twitter or Facebook – or even LinkedIn for the B2B marketer – can feel like facing a firehose. The torrent of information coming through is astounding. Just take a look at the recent social media statistics for Australian audiences:

  • Over 13 million using Facebook
  • 13.5 million using YouTube
  • 2.5 million using Twitter

But it’s really not the big numbers that are important here. It’s what you do with them.

The known unknowns of our customer data

Just as I do each morning, marketers need to be thinking selectively about their customers. Rather than aiming to speak – or “connect with” all 2.5 million Twitter users in Australia, why not start somewhere easier? Why not start with the “known unknowns”? Why not start by figuring out WHICH of our customers are using Twitter or Facebook (ie a lot of them), and improving our understanding of those people?

Most modern CRM platforms have fields that allow you to collect the Twitter handles or Facebook profiles of your customers. Why not start by understanding how many of your existing customers have this information included in their profile? This gives you your known unknowns:

  • Run a report on your completeness of social media profile data in your database
  • Use Facebook custom audiences to match Facebook profiles to your existing email database
  • Do some profile matching via Twitter to do the same
  • Run an email campaign asking for that one additional piece of information. Provide a useful incentive. Make it worthwhile.

For most organisations, taking these small steps would take less than a day. And it paves the way for much deeper exploration.

Combining Voice of the Customer and Analytics as your over the horizon radar

Once you know who your customers are on social networks, it opens the door to a much richer experience for both you as a marketer and your customers as consumers. And what you’ll find on social networks is not the well-manicured conversation of corporate marketing – you’ll find the very direct “voice of the customer”. Generally, however, our “social listening” platforms are built around our own keywords. Our products. Brands. They are only sometimes built around understanding our customers pain points, needs and expectations. This means we are again working from the inside-out – working with the known knowns.

Thankfully, powerful natural language processing is beginning to provide the analytics horsepower we need to decipher social streams. I have explained previously about the way that IBM and AusOpen collaborate to transform customer experience at the Australian Open Tennis events – but analytics is no longer the domain of big business. With platforms like IBM Watson now available at an affordable rate (starting at around $50 per user), you don’t need to be “Tennis Australia” nor a data scientist to understand what’s going on with your market. You just need to understand your business.

Take a look at this video to see how you can use Watson and Twitter data to analyse retail sales. Look at the way that the language in the real time reports is structured around the way that marketers work. Rules are setup and then data populates accordingly. But most interestingly, because Watson works with natural language – it works with the language of the marketer as well as working with the language of the customer.

For marketers, this means that Watson does the hard work of identifying the most interesting facts contained within your data sets, letting you focus on making the right decisions about what happens next. For example (at 2:13), “sales by state” is flagged. Watson chooses the best representation of the data (in this case, a map) but also provides a “ribbon of data” that can be used to interrogate and analyse at a deeper level. Typing in a search related to what you need to know (eg “tweets by hashtag”) turns that data into a report that lets you see immediately what happened to your sales data and why.

Suddenly that river of Twitter data becomes understandable. A connection can be made between your business results and the social media data coming from a particular channel in a particular location.

And in case you need to tell the story of your digital marketing and your analytics to your executive team – or to your customers – with a few clicks, the visualised data can be compiled into ready made infographics. Now you not only have a custom radar to understand your customer – you can link your customer and business value together. Will this make you a better marketer? It will certainly make you more relevant to your customer – and that is a win all around.

The Sum of All Your Social Media

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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.

 

Web

The SMEG Police Brought to You by Adobe

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You’ve probably met the type – or had them pitch you. They’re the FUD masters, sewing fear, uncertainty and doubt, knowing that at the end of the conversation they have a lead to follow up or maybe even a project. They talk big numbers, after all, 40% of the Australian population use Facebook, 3 million on Twitter and well, everyone in the country on Google. Surely you can’t afford NOT to have a presence in these digital territories.

In the world of small business, we’ve been hearing these pitches for years. These “Social Media Expert Gurus” (SMEGs) would sweep in, dazzle business owners, soak up budgets and then disappear when it came time to report back on results and outcomes. More recently, we are seeing larger enterprises follow this same course. Sometimes the entree comes through the Board or senior executives. They are swayed by the “social media savvy” and “digital swagger” of the SMEG and quickly find themselves signing up for hefty retainers attached to uncertain outcomes.

But the immediacy and impact of social media can be addictive. And even the most cynical executive can find themselves enthralled.

Every time someone reads, clicks or shares a link or piece of content that we have created, it sends a small dose of dopamine into our brain. This release provides us with a sense or reward, pleasure – and encouragement. It’s why (for the marketer) digital marketing or social media can be addictive. It is also why those who don’t use social media fail to understand the way that participation can become contagious – or how content can go “viral”.

Adobe have taken aim at this phenomena with their Mean Streets video. It’s a fantastic take on the rollercoaster of social media vanity metrics – Likes and Fans. Will it help you spot a SMEG in the crowd? Perhaps not, but you know who to call when you need to be bailed out.

The Many Colours of Digital Disruption

Nielsen Social Media Report 2012

From almost any angle, businesses are under pressure. Connected customers are out-flanking business efforts to control the flow of goods and services and manage relationships in an increasingly connected economy. The global economy continues to struggle under the weight of misguided policies, sovereign debt and an entitled corporatocracy that aims to “maximize the status quo” . As Seth Godin points out, this industrial focus on our economy has a limited future:

Today’s industrialists define our economy, but they offer very little promise for tomorrow. They’ve long bought ads to polish their image, but mostly work to alter the culture in ways that will ensure they’ll get just a little bit more yield out of each of us.

But as Mary Meeker’s 2012 recap on the state of the internet suggests, disruption is the new normal. And when it comes to digital, disruption comes in many colours.

Five Impacts of Digital Media
Writing on the invention of the printing press, Elizabeth Eisenstein suggested there were five impacts that transformed society of the time. In 2012, we too can see these impacts playing out in our personal and professional lives (and all the spaces in-between):

  • Experts coming under pressure from new voices who are early adopters of new technology
  • New organisations emerging to deal with the social, cultural and political changes
  • There is a struggle to revise the social and legal norms — especially in relation to intellectual property
  • The concepts of identity and community are transformed
  • New forms of language come into being
  • Educators are pressured to prepare their students for the newly emerging world

Nielsen Social Media Report 2012 signals the end to the industrial age of marketing

Nielsen Social Media Attitudes

Showcasing each of these five impacts, the Nielsen Social Media Report for 2012 signals not only that “social media has come of age”, but that digital has truly arrived as a force that can no longer be ignored. Once, the staunchest defender of an analogue ratings system, Nielsen’s own transformation confirms that the industrial age of marketing is closing and that a new era has arrived.

Marketers are not only under pressure to respond to the mega trends outlined above – they must also address the five pillars of enterprise disruption which are playing havoc with business strategy and engagement tactics. These days marketers must consider:

  • A strategy of mobile only, not mobile first: Not only are mobile technologies different in form and shape. They are taking over our patterns of adoption and consumption. With mobile devices already outselling PCs in India and China, it is expected that this change will impact Australia, the US and Europe in 2014. With long lead times and a dearth of digital skills within organisations, marketers will need to move now to serve their connected consumers who prowl the digital landscape. And rather than thinking mobile first, marketers need to think mobile only
  • Social is mobile: Mobility is not only an issue for interruption – or even permission based marketing. It is an issue for social engagement platforms. App usage now accounts for more than a third of social networking time. There is still significant space for growth – and marketers will need to understand how this mobile+social dimension impacts the customer experience
  • Social TV is disrupting broadcast: While the focus is currently on Twitter as a social TV enablement platform, this is an area ripe for disruption. Just as publishers were slow to respond to digital and are now facing significant business model challenges, broadcast networks have also been slow to invest, experiment and learn from social technologies. This has opened the door to innovative startup who will continue to outpace the industrial age broadcasters
  • The buyer’s journey has changed forever: The marketing funnel as a concept is over 100 years old. In a digital world, its linear process is also a mark of the industrial marketing era. It’s time for marketers to re-cast the marketing funnel for consumer engagement.

Download the Nielsen report and let me know what you think. Will it change the way you plan and execute your marketing efforts in 2013?

Social Media: How to Listen

Businesses are often advised that the first step in any social media program is to LISTEN. But who do you listen to? What do you listen for? And how do you do it? This infographic steps you through the process I follow. It should get you started. You can download this PDF from Slideshare, or get a copy of the image here.

The Social Marketer – Feeling the Social Media Love

There is one big difference between what I would consider “traditional marketing” and “social media marketing”. It’s love. Or perhaps more precisely, it’s passion. Mixed in with a bit of love. And as there are a bunch of posts on the love theme this Valentines Day week, I thought I’d climb aboard the love bus.

Now, if you are a brand marketer, you might love what you are doing, and love what you are creating through your brand, but that’s not the sort of love I am talking about. When you pour your professional creativity into a new product or service and stake your professional reputation on its success, your interest in the brand/offering you are building can consume you. And while this takes a huge personal commitment from you, there is no one else who will love what you are doing quite like you do. I know, and I’ve been there.

And even if you are tweeting from the dark side of the focus group mirror, or blogging on the behind-the-scenes tour, this is not being a “social marketer”. It’s sharing your passion. Sharing your love. Sharing your work. But ultimately, it’s sharing your brand. It is good brand marketing practice.

The social marketer, however, starts from a different place. As Michael Brenner suggests, it’s about feeling the love.

For the social marketer:

  • The brand is a means to an end. The brand exists, the people exist – we don’t need messaging, but a tune to dance to.
  • Marketing is about bringing the brand to the people, not bringing the people to the brand
  • The glare of the logo is a distraction and a barrier to forming relationships. What we need is a name and a face, not a 12pt white space exclusion

Sure, the social marketer cares about (and is probably even MEASURED on) brand awareness, recall and yes – sales. But they are by-products of the main game.

The social marketer is in the process of transforming the way that we all do business. You probably have one in the ranks of your company. There may be more. How do you find them? How do you join them?

I call it “The Social Way”.

There’s more to come.

Social Media People on the Move (Australia)

Are you changing roles? Have you hired someone into your team?

If so, please let me know by filling in this form (or use the full screen version here). I will publish updates every few months – or as required.

Content Marketing and the Junta 42

Groff "in the hole"Back in 2008, Joe Pulizzi started looking in-depth at blogs that focused on content marketing. He found 81 blogs – and the Junta 42 were the viewed as the leaders in what was then an emerging field. 

Two years on and the field has exploded, with almost 400 blogs being tracked as part of the Junta 42 list. This growth mirrors not only the interest in content marketing and social media, but the general explosion in blogging as a method of communication. 

Each of the blogs in the Junta42 are ranked based on a number of factors, explained as follows:

    1. The number of posts in last quarter that pertained to a content marketing topic. Those posting on 3 or more days per week received the highest number of points.
    2. Substantiveness of Posts. Here we worked to weed out posts that fell short of adding value to the collective body of knowledge about content marketing. For example, blogs that simply linked to other blogs or articles without adding new information, perspectives or ideas to the commentary received lower scores than did blogs that consistently delivered unique ideas, thoughtful insights, deep coverage, rich media and the like – you know, high-value content – to the community.
    3. Google PageRank. (All blogs were checked on the same day.)
    4. Previous Ranking.

The latest version of the Junta 42 provides a handy reference to some of the leading content marketing blogs – a very useful resource for those marketers working with social media as part of their strategy. The August 2010 top 42 content marketing blogs are:

1 Brian Solis
2 Copyblogger
3 Conversation Agent
4 TopRank Blog
5 PR 20/20
6 Marketing Experiments
7 Convince and Convert
8 Spin Sucks
9 Marketing Interactions
10 ConverStations
11 Simple Marketing Blog
12 Influential Marketing Blog
13 Direct Marketing Observations
14 Post Advertising
15 Web Ink Now
16 Social Media Explorer
17 Writing on the Web
18 Inbound Internet Marketing Blog
19 Rexblog
20 eMedia Vitals
21 Vertical Leap
22 Conversation Marketing
23 WeBlogBetter.com
24 Mack Collier
25 Buzz News
26 FASTforward Blog
27 IdeaLaunch
28 Site Booster
29 Freelance Copywriters Blog
30 Social Media Examiner
31 Priority Integrated Marketing Blog
32 Branding & Marketing
33 Shopper Culture
34 Vertical Measures
35 Proactive
36 Web Marketing Therapy
37 ContentMarketingToday
38 Servant of Chaos
39 Ducttape Marketing
40 TippingPoint Labs
41 Sparksheet
42 The MineThat Data Blog

Change Your Briefs

I can remember hand coding my first “proper” website. It was for a small business that I was running out of an artists’ studio on a dilapidated pier. We specialised in helping publishers move from the print to the new web-ready world. Well, it was almost web-ready – it was the days when there was “an Internet” and a “World Wide Web” – and they were two different things. They were completely different experiences.

Being impatient and a risk taker, I bet my money on the graphical world wide web and created a website. It felt like I was working at the edge of the world – and in a way it was.

Fast forward to 2010 and it is a vastly different world. Knowledge of “the web” and how it works is far more widespread. Indeed, it has spread far beyond my own meagre expertise. There has been a massive transformation in the shape, technology and the platforms that enable our polyphonic internets – perhaps matched only by the huge shift in the way in which we use it. (And I do mean “use” in a very loose way.)

However, the way in which digital agencies are “briefed” has remained relatively static. Gareth Kay suggests that it is time that we changed our briefs – and has put together a great presentation, PostDigitalBriefs, that challenges us to do just that. But best of all, Gareth provides us with a way forward.

Take a good look through the presentation yourself, but my key takeouts are:

  1. Know what we want people to do
  2. Understand which behaviours we want to shift
  3. Differentiate and articulate your social mission vs the commercial proposition
  4. Identify the triggers that will prompt people to share
  5. Make it easy for people to participate
  6. Know where your constituents are and the social rules that operate there

Postdigitalbriefs2 – August 2010

View more presentations from Gareth Kay.