I notice that I last posted in June last year and that this wasn’t even a proper post, just a reference to a speech I had given in Istanbul that was conveniently YouTubed. In my defence, I have been busy doing other things such as building a house and involved in an interesting experiment in online education. Interestingly, my blog views haven’t decreased dramatically over that time, which I think says something instuctive about the whole content thing. It suggests that content is not a volume game, where frequency or even timing of posting is key, rather it suggests that content is a relevance game that is not driven by the act of publication, but driven by the act of search. This is why content socialisation is far more important that content publication. As I have said before, spend only 10 per cent (or less) of your content budget actually producing content and the remaining 90 per cent on socialising that content. Socialised content is the gift that carries on giving. Once it is out there it will carry on working for you without you having to do anything else. And this socialisation has to start with an understanding of what content (information) people actually want from you – identifying the questions for which your brand is the answer. Remember, the social digital space is not a distribution space where reach and frequency are the objectives, it is a connection space where the objectives are defined by behaviour identification and response.
Here endeth the predictable critique of content strategies.
Given that it is still January I believe I have permission to resume posting with a 2017 prediction piece. I was prompted to do this by reading Ashley Freidlin’s extremely comprehensive post on marketing and digital trends for 2017. This is essentially a review of the landscape and it its sheer scale is almost guaranteed to strike terror into the heart of every marketing director. Perhaps because of this, Ashley’s starts with saying that the guiding star for 2017 should be focus, so in that spirit I shall attempt to provide some basis for focus. Continue reading →
A few weeks ago I was in Istanbul speaking at the Digital Age Summit. A video of my presentation is now on YouTube and I have finally got around to posting it.
See also below the summary slide, which pretty much covers what I said. Some other soundbites include, why a mobile is not a channel but is a behaviour detection device, why consumers don’t want content, why marketing has been in the Ice Age and why the algorithm is the most powerful instrument of social control invented since the sword.
Also – check out the presentation by Matt Wallaert from Microsoft for a new way of thinking about your business / market and competition.
I especially like the idea of creating value by reducing levels of engagement, given the senseless chase for ‘engagement’ in social media. It correspond to my idea of a brand as a waiter – just tell me about the specials, take my order, bring my drinks but at all other times just stay out of my life – don’t think that because you are a waiter you have a right to ‘join my conversation’. (I don’t think I got into this in my presentation – there was probably already too much in there).
I don’t get to go to SXSW because I have to pay for my own airfare. I can only go to the conferences that pay the airfare for me to come and speak. Such is the life of an independent consultant. However, I am fortunate enough to know some people who work for an organisation sufficiently large and enlightened to pay for some of its people to go to SXSW and since these people know what I am interested in – they can point me to the bits of it they think I might be interested in. And they pointed me to a presentation by Kristina @Halvorson.
It starts with an expose of the famous Oreo “dunk in the dark” Superbowl tweet which sent the marketing industry into such paroxysms of ecstasy. The basis for her criticism was essentially the fact that while this tweet rocked the marketing world, it didn’t rock the world of the consumer for whom it was intended, basically because the actual numbers it reached were miniscule (in comparison say with the total numbers who tweeted about the event or watched it on television, or who might be considered Oreo’s target audience). Music to my ears – so much so that I am going to use this example in a presentation at a conference in Hamburg in two days time. (This is a conference which is paying for me to attend: In-Cosmetics 2014 if you are interested). Continue reading →
I have been a little off-the-pace in January, which is why I missed a couple of pieces on content marketing which gained a lot of attention. Fortunately, I was having a coffee last week with Stan Magniant, the Head of Digital and Social, EMEA for the MSL Group and he brought me up-to-date. The first is Content Shock produced by @markwschaefer and the second is the Slideshare presentation Crap. The Content Deluge by Doug Kessler at Velocity Partners. Both are sceptical of content marketing and both are totally wrong in my opinion.
In brief Content Shock is wrong because it is applying an old-fashioned channel, content, consumption thinking in a space where such thinking is redundant and The Content Deluge proposes that the answer is simply to make better content, without recognising that the game is no longer about content, it is about real-time information.
But I thought, rather than just do another blog post, why not build on the spirit of The Content Deluge and ‘Do a Slideshare Number’ – so here it is. Warning: the start of the presentation is deliberately designed to be uncomfortable, but hopefully not inappropriate. Feel free to comment if you feel that it is.
Content marketing. Now here is a trending thing. Of course, from the earliest of days, content has been one of the primary areas of focus within the social media space, but it feels as though this thing ‘content marketing’ is now reaching some sort of critical attention mass.
A few years back everyone needed something which could be called a social media strategy – mostly just so they could say they had one. You didn’t really need to understand it, you didn’t really even need to implement it, far less measure the value it created – still don’t one might say – you just needed to have one (preferably with a Twitter account and Facebook page tacked onto it) for when you got asked the question. So it is now with a content marketing strategy. I suspect that few marketing folk will be able to make it through 2014 with their credibility intact, if they are unable to hold aloft a content marketing strategy.
But here is the thing. What exactly is content marketing and what is a content marketing strategy? Also – how does it map against this thing called native advertising (or is native advertising just an ad person’s attempt to try and appropriate a trend which is currently playing more to the strengths of PR and journalistic, rather than advertising, types?) Actually, I think we can answer that last question easily. Native advertising is just an ad person’s attempt to appropriate a trend which naturally plays more to the strengths of PR and journalism, rather than advertising. End of story (and hopefully end of talk of native advertising).
Content: what content?
Of late, I have become a skeptic of the term content, especially this thing called ‘engaging content’. It wasn’t always so. In some of the first presentations I gave on social media some six or seven years ago I can remember my mantra was “get it a link, get it out there and get it working for you” – albeit the intent here was to try and get organisations to understand that content shouldn’t be highly produced and live on websites – it should be very low cost, produced in volume, launched from content hubs and live ‘out there’ in social (Google) space. Conversation, Content and Community were what I preached as being the Holy Trinity of social media. Continue reading →
Scale is a very important concept in social media and I think there are three reasons for this.
We are all inclined to define the value of scale in terms of reach and frequency, because this is how we defined value in traditional media. However, social media doesn’t deliver reach or frequency very effectively.
There is the question of scale as a unit of measurement of this thing we call engagement. The problem is that almost any form of traditional, marketing activity can never register at the social end of the engagement scale.
The social media revolution leaches scale from the business models of every industry it touches and completely changes the scale dynamics (in essence, big stops being beautiful – certainly in a marketing or product design context) – and this is the main long-term challenge all businesses need to address.
Scale is not achieved through reach and frequency
Measurement and metrics in traditional marketing were all about reach and frequency. This was because marketing was defined as a channel and message challenge and the channels were expensive – thus requiring that they ‘reach’ a large number of people to make them cost-effective to use. Thus media came with an audience already built into it, and that is effectively what we were buying when we bought, or gained access to, media – we were acquiring scale. A great deal of time and effort was spent devising creative messages (content) and campaigns and we gave these scale by putting them into media channels.
Social media doesn’t have scale built into it: it doesn’t come with an audience attached. Continue reading →
Here is the the webinar on social media measurement I gave for eMarketeers last Friday. You can view it here on YouTube (I haven’t tried to upload it into this post because, funnily enough, YouTube does a better job of sharing video than pretty much anything else out there). There is a little blip about 30 minutes in, where my connection into the webinar dropped out, but this only lasts a couple of minutes.
This is actually chapter 6 from my book. I have put it here in order to liberate it from a restrictive means of distribution – so it can operate effectively in the social digital space. The liberation of content from a restrictive means of distribution is, of course, what the social media revolution is all about. Apologies therefore for its reference to other chapters and concepts not similarly liberated (unless you wish to buy the book of course).
Back in chapter two I mentioned that I think one of the most profound changes that the world of social media is heralding is a shift of trust from institutions into processes. The reason this is so important is that trust (and its close cousin influence) is the single most important commodity upon which all societies are built.
We live in a society where trust lives in institutions. We trust banks to look after our money, because there isn’t another way to create the bonds of trust necessary to conduct financial transactions at any form of scale (insert your own joke about trust and bankers here). We trust the media to present to us a representation of the truth (insert your own joke about…). We also trust governments… (say no more). We are, perhaps co-incidentally, at the moment suffering a reversal in our trust of institutions but perhaps this may be more than just co-incidental. Part of the reason may be that we are starting to see other ways to scale the creation of trust, that don’t rely on its management within institutions. There is nothing like a bit of competition to create dissatisfaction with the established order. Continue reading →
Here is a quick riff on an analogy. Small data analysis is all about looking for needles in haystacks. Big data analysis is all about turning hay into needles (or rather turning hay into something that achieves what it is we used needles to do).
Being more specific. Small data analysis (i.e. the only form of data analysis we have had to date) was a reductive process – like everything else in the world where the data and information channels were likewise restrictive, largely as a result of their cost of deployment. Traditional marketing, for example, is the art of the reduction – squeezing whole brand stories into 30 second segments in order to utilise the expensive distribution channel of TV. Academic analysis likewise – squeezing knowledge through the limited distribution vessel that is either an academic or a peer-reviewed publication.
As a result the process of data analysis was all about discarding data that was not seen to be either relevant or accurate enough, or reducing the amount of data analysed via sampling and statistical analysis. The conventional wisdom was that if you put poor quality data into a (small) data analysis box – you got poor quality results out at the other end. Sourcing small amounts of highly accurate and relevant data was the name of the game. All of scientific investigation has been based on this approach.
Not so now with big data. We are just starting to realise that a funny thing happens to data when you can get enough of it and can push it through analytical black boxes designed to handle quantity (algorithms). At a certain point, the volume of the data transcends the accuracy of the individual component parts in terms of producing a reliable result. It is a bit like a compass bearing (to shift analogies for a moment). A single bearing will produce a fix on something along one dimension. Take another bearing and you can get a fix in two dimensions, take a third and you can get a fix in all three dimensions. However, any small inaccuracy in your measurement can produce a big inaccuracy in your ability to get a precise fix. However, suppose you have 10,000 bearings. Or rather can produce a grid of 10,000 bearings, or a succession of overlapping grids, each comprised of millions of bearings. In this situation it is the density of the grid, the volume of the data and, interestingly, often the variance (or inaccuracies) within the data that is the prime determinant of your ability to get an accurate fix.
To return to haystacks, it is the hay itself which becomes important – and rather than looking for needles within it it is a bit like looking into a haystack and finding an already stitched together suit of clothes.This is why big data is such an important thing – and also why a big data approach is fundamentally different to what we can now call small data analysis. It is also why there is now no such thing as inconsequential information (i.e. hay) – every bit of it now has a use provided you can capture it and run it through an appropriate tailoring algorithm.