Tagged: social media

How do we measure the value of content? A look at Coca-Cola.

How do we measure the value of content?  Given the amount of money many brands are currently sinking into content, this would seem to be a pretty important question to answer – especially since the conventional ways for measuring the value of content are not really designed to work in this new world where the brand positions itself as a publisher or media organisation – producing forms of online magazine.

To date we have generally measured brand content in two ways: either its effectiveness as a piece of advertising (usually via a direct link through to increases in sales) or we have measured it in the context of how it sits within a website (often through its place in a journey designed to lead through to online action or transaction).  In both of these instances the amount of content we produced was relatively restricted – either because it was expensive to produce or because producing too much of it lead to confusion.  However, the new approach dictates that brands produce a continuous, high volume stream of output – much like a conventional publisher.  No doubt this is why the publisher model is one that many brands like to reference.

Coca-Cola: leading the pack, but in the right direction?

Coca-Cola is one of the most high profile examples of a brand that has embraced the content and publication model.  In its, now famous Content 2020 video, chief creative type, Jonathan Mildenhall outlines how Coca-Cola is shifting from “creative excellence to content excellence”.  The corporate website has been declared dead and instead been transformed into a digital magazine and its stated ambition is to “make a Coke story part of your daily habit – whether it’s on Google+, Facebook, or Flipboard.”  Now that is some form of ambition.  I can’t even identify a traditional publisher whose content (at least in the online space) I consume as part of a daily habit.  The closest for me is the BBC – but even then I tend to come across their stories rather than making any conscious effort to visit their site (or use their app).

Set against this background, there has been a fascinating blogversation taking place between Ashley Brown – the prime mover at Coca-Cola behind the brand as publisher push, and Mark Higginson – from the University of Brighton.  Back in February Continue reading

Please listen to Kristina Halvorson’s presentation at SXSW

FireShot Screen Capture #103 - 'Go Home Marketing, You Are Drunk' - www_slideshare_net_khalvorson_go-home-marketing-you-are-drunkI 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.

Please take the time to look at this (and / or listen to the accompanying words on SoundCloud) because it’s observations are spot-on.

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

Gagging for it: why content marketing is a fantasy

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.


Why the tag (and tagging) will replace emails (and emailing)

MZtagProbably the biggest change to management practice in recent years has been the rise of email.  Almost all forms of management, from review of information to actual decision making, take place within email.  Even decisions that may take place in face-to-face meetings (real or online) frequently require the validation of a confirming email.  This is all going to change.  Rather than spend time dealing with email, managers in the future are going to spend time dealing with tags.

This is why.  Email is basically a form of distribution, it doesn’t really have any function outside of this.  A tag, on the other hand, is a form of connection.  It is a mechanism that allows the right people to be connected with the right information.  We are just starting to realise that value within this new social digital space is only created when we harness its power as a medium of connection, rather than a medium of distribution.  The things that exist within the social digital space (like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) are actually best understood as infrastructures, not as media platforms.  Media is all about distribution, whereas infrastructures are all about connection.

Connection is something that best takes place within communities and there is huge value that can be generated by creating communities of connection.  These can be communities of connection with, or between, your customers or consumers – or communities of connection within your business.   Take a senior executive, show them how they could create and use a community within their business and I can guarantee you that the first thing they will do is breathe a huge sigh of relief and say, “phew, this will allow me to get rid of email”.

Activity within a community is created by the act of tagging.  We already know how you can use tagging to identify spaces, create conversations or ‘file’ information.  But tags can also be used to allocate action.  They can be used not just to identify what something is, but what needs to happen to it and also to identify when the appropriate action has been completed.  Here is a very basic example of this process in action.  Suppose as part of your monitoring of the relevant digital spaces, the monitoring team pick up on an important customer issue that they are unable to deal with.  But rather then having to go through a laborious process of identifying the person who could take action, alerting them and giving them the relevant information – this issue could simply be pitched into the appropriate action space by attaching a tag to it (according to a system of tags already designed).  The relevant people would be watching this tag space – and therefore see when they need to pay attention to something and once the relevant action is completed, they could then pitch the issue into ‘job done’ space, again by putting another tag on it.  You don’t ‘flag’ information, you ‘tag’ information.  The tag space becomes the equivalent of an intray – and your workload (indeed your whole job function) becomes defined by which tag spaces you have to track.  Hence why people will find themselves checking their tags, rather than checking their emails.

This is a whole new way of doing business and it is not just limited to tagging.  Communities tend to dissolve the artificial boundaries that exist around hierarchies – mostly because these boundaries are defined by restricting access to information.  However when you have a community, the value of the individuals within it is not determined by where they sit in a hierarchy, but via the value of their contribution.  Good ideas don’t have to be passed up a chain in order to register with a ‘decision maker’: the idea and the decision maker can be instantly connected.  Indeed the concept of needing a single decision maker starts to melt – decisions can start to be taken, or at least very significantly influenced, by the community.

Most organisations, of course, are still doggedly trying to extract value from social media as a medium of distribution.  It is why we are so obsessed with numbers, reach, engagement, content etc.  However, I think we are approaching a moment when this obsession is starting to loose its grip.  It is interesting to see the extent to which community platforms such as Jive and Yammer are really ramping up their marketing efforts as they position themselves to take advantage of what they hope will be a much bigger pipeline of interest.  I have also recently been deluged by information from Get Satisfaction.  I have long been a fan of Get Satisfaction: they have been one of the tools I have been waiting for to ‘take off’ – although I now notice that their response to the opportunity seems to have been to wildly increase their price.  For a service that started off as being free (indeed started off as being a tool to allow customers to build their own communities about organisations- a bit like Trip Advisor, but for brands) it now seems that the entry level cost is $1,200 per month.  But of course you don’t really attach that sort of a price tag to yourself unless you are pretty confident you can create a lot of value and that there will be a significant demand for your service.



Connection: the most important C word in social media

As I have previously observed, there are a lot of Cs in social media (content, collaboration, community, conversation, consultant etc. etc.).  However, I now think we are in a position to decide which of all these words is the most important – and I hope that that 2014 will be the year we come to recognise the all-conquering importance of the Connection word.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the #SocialAtScale event organised by Sprinklr – an enterprise platform that, perhaps more than many others out there, is all about connecting disparate streams of social media activity (Jeremy, correct me if I am wrong).  This event was essentially a discussion about where a number companies are ‘at’ when it comes to managing social media.  The stand-out example for me was Microsoft (a Sprinklr client, who were also co-hosting the event).  Microsoft, of course, has a long history of involvement in social media and has probably been the bravest in de-centralising their approach: basically just telling people to get out there and get on with it.  I rather liked this bravery.  But it now appears that Microsoft is looking to tame the chaos somewhat and re-assert some element of control, one of the reasons it has turned to Sprinklr.

The new Microsoft approach to social was outlined by Georgina Lewis, who talked about rationalising the numbers of channels and platforms and the mantra “hashtags not handles” (incidentally, this is a mantra which I heartily endorse, not just from the control perspective, but because a hashtag is a space, and a handle is a place – and social media is much more about spaces than places).  However, I couldn’t escape the feeling that this was an approach that was primarily about controlling the output, based on the assumption that uncontrolled output was likely to involve inefficiencies or confusion.  So I asked Georgina about how listening (input) factored into the process Continue reading

We need to talk about content marketing

talkaboutkevinFINALContent 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

Social media and the big scale question

Scale is a very important concept in social media and I think there are three reasons for this.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

It is official: the internet of things will be the next big internet thing (for a few months anyway)

I think we can now officially declare that the internet of things will be the next big thing (sort of Big Data now gets even bigger).  I note it is now officially capitalised and acronymised – as in Internet of Things (IoT).

See this from Business Insider.

Don’t waste time ‘joining the conversation’ in social media

You can waste a huge amount of time having conversations in social media, just as you can waste a huge amount of time having any sort of conversation.  This isn’t to say you should not be using social media to have conversations – but simply having or creating conversations is not a sufficient objective (as is the case with the similarly vague concept of ‘creating engagement’).

Now while it is good to see that businesses are starting to understand the benefit of using social media as a way of listening and responding to the customers (see this recent article in the Guardian), moving away from seeing spaces such as a Facebook page as an opportunity for ‘Brandfill’ (love that concept from Paul Armstrong), the simple act of having, or joining conversations, cannot be seen as an end in itself.  As a business, the time you need to invest in having conversations is precious: it can only be done by capable people, not by machines or mass-produced content.  Therefore you need to be highly selective about what conversations you decide to join and what you want to get out of such conversations.

Social media (like any form of conversation) is a low reach, but high engagement activity.  If you are going to do it, the value you create from each contact has to be an order of magnitude greater that the value we are accustomed to generate through conventional, impression-based, audience marketing.  I would suggest (see chapter 3 of my recent ebook) this means that the only basis for conversation is with what I call the Gang of Ten – i.e. the ten people who identify themselves by the fact that, right now, they are either complaining about you, praising you or asking a question for which your organisation provides an answer.

Any other sorts of conversations are either a waste of time, or could be counter-productive if the desire to see conversation as a commodity (much like we erroneously measure and value ‘engagement’) encourages organisations to insert themselves within conversations where they do not have permission to enter or have little or real value to contribute, or expend effort creating conversations which no-one really wants to join.


The three stages of social media

Take a look out there at what organisations are doing in the world of social media and you will see there are basically three groupings: those who see it as a form of media, those who see it as a form of infrastructure and those who understand it as an agent of change.

In this piece I look at what each of these stages look like and what business opportunities (for agencies and consultancies) these stages present.

Stage One: social media as a form of media

This is the stage where organisations see social media as a way of reaching an audience, i.e. doing the job that we have always used media to do.  Because it is ‘social’ media we don’t call it reaching an audience, we call it ‘engaging’ with an audience – because that sounds more social.  This is the stage where the challenge is therefore seen as maximising ‘engagement’ and creating audiences of followers (we tend to call a social media audience a community – again because this sounds better).  This stage usually involves the production of a great deal of content, largely because social media is seen as an extension of conventional channel and message marketing – and because there appear to be so many more channels, the task is seen as filling them with something that consumers will see as engaging.  The task in this stage is identified as being a channel and message task – the same as that associated with conventional mass-marketing.

Measurement in this stage is likewise based on how we used to measure effectiveness in the world of traditional channel and message marketing – that is reach and frequency.  In pursuit of reach and frequency, organisations will tend to select the tools or platforms based on where it is their consumers appear to be (our consumers are ‘on’ Facebook, therefore so should we; our consumers are posting pictures on Instagram, therefore so should we) which is an extension of the thinking behind conventional media planning.

The agency opportunities in this space are considerable.  Most organisations will want to outsource the management of their various social media platforms, because they don’t have the people or skills immediately available in-house.  This is a process I call social media childcare – looking after the Twitter kids if you like.  Each new campaign will also need to be given a presence within social media and indeed campaigns can be created specifically to generate social media response.  All of this creates business for digital, social and PR agencies and also opens up new creative and content avenues – especially in terms of video production as brands become seduced by the chance to create a viral campaign.

Stage Two: social media as a form of infrastructure

Organisations enter this stage when they realise that the real value in the social digital space is derived from understanding and responding to the way customers, and indeed employees, actually use social media.  They are using it to talk to each other, have conversations and ask questions – i.e. they are using it as a form of infrastructure not as a form of media.  The organisations at this stage have either got there because they have worked this out for themselves, or because they have not been able to establish what value chasing reach and frequency metrics (generating likes and maximising engagement for example) is actually delivering to the business.  Incidentally, helping organisations get to this stage is what my business is about.

In stage two, the focus of social media activity will shift – away from pushing out content to an audience of people, towards listening and responding to what it is that consumers or customers actually want to talk to an organisation about.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the introduction for many organisations to this stage comes from customer service, and the realisation that customer service is not just a business cost, it is a source of value creation.  The task in stage two is identified as a behaviour identification and response task and the output of strategies in this stage shift from being things (messages, content, campaigns) to being processes – the process of matching answers to consumers’ questions in real time for example.

The commercial opportunities for agencies in this stage are less (one of the reasons many agencies wish to keep their clients in Stage One) but they are still considerable.  The organisations which make the tools that help businesses listen and respond will do well as will the agencies that provide intelligence based on the ability to listen to relevant conversations.  Within this stage, there is a much greater focus on the organisation itself, and the processes for managing flows of real-time information – creating business opportunities for those consultancies and platforms, that facilitate this.

There will still be ‘old-fashioned’ campaign-based opportunities here, simply because it will be recognised that social media presents an opportunity to allow consumers to contribute to conventional marketing activities, even if it is realised that social media is not a very effective channel to carry these activities to a significant proportion of them.

Stage Three: social media as an agent of change

This stage involves giving scale and effect to what an organisation learns in Stage Two.  It is probably very difficult to get to this stage unless you have passed through Stage Two (although it is possible to get to Stage Two without passing through Stage One).  It is also possible that the main trigger that will get the majority of organisations to this stage will not be an ability to proactively recognise commercial advantages, it will be the fact that consumers and customers have got here first – i.e. they are using social media to fundamentally change the markets and terms of business, and this forces organisations to react.

It has become fashionable to call organisations in this stage ‘social businesses’.  Personally I don’t much like this term because it is not the purpose of business to be social, it is the purpose of business to create customers and profits.  I prefer the term ‘connected business’ because this implies a business that uses the power of connection to constantly be in touch with, and responding to, the needs of all of its stakeholders (and thus be better able to create customers and profits).  Stakeholders want connection and response – they don’t necessarily want a business to be social (whatever that means).

(Note: see this interesting piece by Chris Heuer, which covers this debate)

The most important thing about Stage Three is that organisations will be changing the way they operate in fundamental ways.  A connected business will look, and be structured, very differently from a business that is adapted to work in the old-fashioned channel and message, command and control, world.  As a result, the commercial opportunities for servicing (or creating) such businesses will lie in areas of leadership and change management counselling, management consultancy and new forms of data analytics based on the construction of algorithms and the layering datasets gathered from the explosion of data sources that are emerging as objects, as well as people, start to acquire connected, digital identities (what is being called the Internet of Things).

As you might expect, most organisations (probably 80 per cent) are at Stage One, around 19 per cent are at Stage Two and almost none have yet reached Stage Three although a larger number are starting to recognise that this represents the destination.

– Social media: its not complicated –