Listening is getting more useful. Many brands are well past the first phase of social data mining (the fancy term for ‘listening’) where they bought a license for Radian6 or Sysomos and then dusted their hands saying “done.” They learned that tools were a small part of the answer. Next, they needed people who could prime these tech pumps with the right queries and then pull actionable meaning out of the backend.
Now we want to look forward with predictive data not just sort through what happened yesterday. We want something that can help predict content marketing success. That is a lot harder than it sounds. It’s not just hard from the technology side. It is hard for teams just honing their content marketing skills and workflows to identify relevant trends, create content and distribute with the speed of a quickly spiking Internet meme.
There are some interesting companies focused on mining emerging data for predictive trends. This will clearly be a big growth area for social data.
Bottlenose wants to become the more useful listening platform. Their focus is on predictive analytics with all of the normal listening and benchmarking capabilities thrown in. The Nerve Center, Trend Dashboard and Sonar utilities all reflect their desire to be a brand’s single listening tool. One of my pet peeves in technology partners is a lack of focus on the simplicity of the displays. Most are too complex forcing tool jockeys to tune and interpret the many variables to come up with useful data. Bottlenose (like Percolate) seem to understand that and have a fair respect for design. Their displays are nicely trim and spare leaving me hope that they can more easily be converted into action.
When to use them:
If your organization has committed to one of the big providers (e.g. SalesForce, Marketwired) and are committed to content marketing, I would add Bottlenose to the evaluation spreadsheet.
Their distinctive strength appears to be in delivering useful trend and predictive analytics that a nimble content marketer can then apply to their current marketing and their visual simplification of the data.
To become the one listening resource for a brand, Bottlenose needs parity with Radian6 or a similar partner. That may be tougher than it sounds. That means being transparent about the source content they are searching. Most tools fall short here. Also, the well-known pitfalls of machine-scored sentiment needs to be addressed.
As most brands don’t yet fully understand how to evaluate the ROI of listening, it may be tough for most to acquire Bottlenose as the ‘second tool.’
From Bottlenose Labs<
Take a look:
The product page scrolls through the main tools or utilities including the Trend Dashboard. You can also drive the generic version of Sonar here by just inserting terms to get one of their spiral displays.
I have been interested in Trendspottr for a while. The service is wonderfully simple. It mines Twitter and public Facebook data, applies some secret-sauce algorithm to reveal trends and topics that will likely gain in popularity over the next few hours or days.
Here’s how they describe themselves,
“TrendSpottr is a predictive analytics service that identifies the most timely and trending information from any big data stream. Our core technology analyzes real-time data streams such as Twitter and Facebook and spots emerging trends at their earliest acceleration point – hours or days before they have become "popular" and reached mainstream awareness.”
They smartly make it easy to apply this data to advertising, email alerts and even an embeddable widget on top of the main dashboard interface.
When to use them:
Trendspottr is a simple add-on service to any community + content-driven marketer who is committed to proactive publishing. If you already manage content calendars and Twitter and/or Facebook are a significant part of your social ecosystem, then Trendspottr can help you increase your engagement and reach numbers by revealing what trends you can ride on.
The danger is that a brand community director will try too hard to align their brand with the latest Miley/Cats-stealing-dog’s-beds/Batkid meme. Used in moderation, it will help brands be more contemporary and relevant.
Take a look:
The Dashboard page allows you to register for a free 30-day trial. That is a great deal. It would be strengthened if they offered a bit of a tutorial on setting up the dashboard effectively. Imagine that you sell home cleaning products. How would you set up a dashboard of trending topics (popular enough to be trending) that intersect with your category and even your brand? That’s the wizard we need.
There are 1.5 billion smartphones in the world. According to Business Insider,
“The annual smartphone growth rate in 2013 is projected to be 44 percent, which is just ever-so-slightly down from 2012′s 45 percent but is still a torrid pace.”
With cameras built-in to most of these phones, that’s a lot of photographers. And with over 16 billion photos published via 3 year-old Instagram, a ton of people are getting better all the time at ‘pretty good’ photography.
We are all adopting new behaviors about capturing, publishing and sharing pictures. Brands can take advantage of this change (and should).
Empower your crowd of could-be photographers
Percolate has done quit a few smart things. I particularly like them because they are committed to design. Not ‘make-it-pretty-design’ but putting design at the heart of their products where they really listen to users and solve problems via design first, technology second. This includes their approach to image capture.
Photographer 2.0 is one of the great features in their platform for sourcing content. Simply put, it’s an app that allows a distributed group of photographers –like your employees in your marcom department – to grab images and send them to the Percolate content workflow. These images pop into a database ready for publishing via your content + community team via Facebook, Instagram, dotcom and more.
Imagine giving select people within your marcom team, the enthusiastic designer in the product design lab, the event-team, even the sales team, the simple instructions to be on the lookout for interesting visual moments. It could be behind-the-scenes at the brand film shoot, on the floor of the trade show, even a spontaneous customer testimonial. The IOS and Android app acknowledges that ‘pretty good’ and authentic photos are valuable.
You don’t need 1000 employees shooting images to make this worthwhile.
Empower a crowd of photographers
This same idea can be broadened outside an organization to engage a world’s worth of photographers. Imagine yourself a home furnishings brand like Ikea or a property insurance company. What if you could enlist 500 photographers from 35 countries to capture images of what they consider “home?” As part of a focused program (aka “campaign”), you could get unique content that really brought the idea of home to life via the visual images. These come from experienced photographers working in more of a journalism mode (nimble assignments).
Here’s how they explain it:
“Scoopshot currently offers the media and brands unrivalled access to more than 280,000 photographers, and counting, in over 170 countries worldwide. Scoopshot's service is used by more than 60 publications globally including Metro International, WAZ Media Group, the Daily Star, De Persgroep, Ebyline, MTV3 Finland, Expressen and Hürriyet.
Scoopshot has recently launched a new web-based platform, Scoopshot Labs. The new service, published May 2013, aims to make crowdsourcing and authentic mobile photography accessible to everyone, individuals and companies alike.”
As brands adjust their ideas about where content comes from, crowdsourcing visual imagery either through a field-force of friendlies (people who know your brand like employees or agency partners) or through a world-wide, efficient marketplace deserves a section of the New Marketing playbook.
Nate Elliot, Forrester analyst in the social media track, published a report with the headline and subhead, “Why Facebook Is Failing Marketers: The Leading Social Network Has Abandoned Social Marketing.”
His position is that Facebook has devolved into a “push” media company and thus abandoned its early claims to be a new kind of “social media marketer.” Essentially, Nate says that the smart advertiser money is leaving Facebook. The report synthesizes interviews with 395 US, Canadian and UK business executives.
In short, Nate’s argument doesn’t hold water. He may be hearing some cooling of enthusiasm from marketers in favor of spreading their investments across digital and social. But the headline prematurely signals the demise of Facebook, which remains a strong platform for many brands.
What the study really says
POINT 1: Two charts make it clear that 395 business executives are unsure of the measured value of all digital and social media from Facebook to LinkedIn to even banner advertising. When asked of all the options out there whether they were very dissatisfied to very satisfied, all responses averaged between 3.54 to 3.84. All of the choices are in the middle. This is hardly the wholesale critique of Facebook that Nate makes it out to be. This simply restates what we all know – industry-standard measurement isn’t there yet.
POINT 2: Facebook can be hard to work with. If you are not spending significantly in annual ad spend and if you have not cultivated a good relationship with a Facebook “rep”, brands have a hard time getting the attention of those at Facebook capable of doing interesting things. They have a small staff (4600+) compared with Google’s 45,000. They simply cannot service marketers (clients) as brands would like. This sometimes breeds “dissatisfaction.
Connecting and activating fans with affinity for the brand
POINT 3: Facebook isn’t for every brand. It certainly isn’t the only play in social media for most brands. Still it remains a very valuable platform for many as it allows brands to establish addressable relationships with customers and people who have an affinity for a brand. Many brands have not had an efficient way to connect directly with customers. The relationships are held by retailers, brokers or some other sales channel. Facebook can help change that.
Helping small business have an “addressable” relationship with their customers and prospects
POINT 4: Facebook can work well for small to medium business. That means it can become a valuable platform for brands who maintain a sales channel or agent-based model. Brands can help their agents master digital and social media, including Facebook, to build their business.
Continuous innovation and better targeting (including mobile)
POINT 5: Facebook continues to innovate and invent new advertising opportunities. Some feel more “push” than “pull.” We should expect that they will continue to release improvements on targeting. We should not judge yesterday’s ad choices too harshly as more is on the way. Look-a-likes, email list targeting, friends-of-fans are all strong innovations. And Facebook has made great improvements in their mobile ad solution such that only last week they announced, “the company noted that mobile ads accounted for 49 percent of its advertising revenue, up from 41 percent in the second quarter”
POINT 6: At the same time, they are operationalizing their ad sales operation to make it more efficient. This makes them feel like a traditional media company where every question is met with a stock ad sales answer. All one has to do is work in China with Sina Weibo and experience their exuberant “let’s try stuff” approach to advertisers to see how institutionalized Facebook is becoming. If you want more bespoke solutions, brands must invest money on the platform. That’s what many major brands have done.
The “smart money” isn’t leaving Facebook
Point 7: Brands continue to invest in Facebook believing in the value while also spending in other platforms. Big FMCG’s have been operationalizing their use of the platform and the way they measure value. Facebook provides a strong global platform for many of these brands. It helps the global center at a FMCG stimulate change by having a world’s worth of their brand marketers mastering a single platform.
As reported in the NY Times, Q3 financials for Facebook stated that the marketplace of brands continues investing in the platform, “The company’s revenue rose 60 percent, to $2.02 billion, compared with last year’s third quarter. Most of that, about $1.8 billion, came from advertising”
Of course, other platforms matter as much or more. For B2B, LinkedIn can be a tremendous platform. Twitter is hungrily releasing new features that appeal to advertisers. Pinterest will have formal ad offerings any day.
No brand should put all of their eggs in one basket yet some of those eggs belong on Facebook.
Digital and social sales enablement is going to have a grand year in 2014. That’s because more B2B and B2C brands will implement (not just plan or “do PowerPoint”) actual programs that help customers value and connect with salespeople earlier in the buyer journey. These connections will happen before buyers have even figured out what they might buy to solve a problem, possibly before they even know which problem they have. Conversely, we will equip salespeople with the content and data they need to be of greater service throughout the journey.
If you are a Caterpillar dealer (client) servicing the general contracting and construction trades or if you are an insurance agent selling property and casualty to small business or if you sell cloud services to large enterprise, you want to be first in-the-door when a customer is contemplating a purchase. And just as diaper manufacturers kill each other to romance moms even before they have a baby, you essentially want to be close to a customer before they actually have the need for your service or product. In many cases, you want to help them decide they need your type of solution when all they know is they have some business problem.
Sales people suck at that.
Historically, their idea of qualified leads is someone who knows they need a backhoe or new property insurance or are shopping for cost effective, reliable cloud services. They haven’t really had the bandwidth or the means to know who is contemplating what at the mouth of the funnel. And that's no slam on sales people. They just haven't had teh means t do much better. Meanwhile buyers are self-educating well before they come in contact with a sales rep.
Matchmaking Through Content & Data
This year, we will all be distilling data to equip sales people with more information about customers – even identifying them as potential customers earlier in the journey. We will also get serious about content marketing and sales support. That means connecting all content used in the customer experience from marketing to sales enablers to what our Twitter handle spends its time publishing.
If I had to start afresh in developing a strong social and digital solution for sales people, I would focus on three things to start:
1. Create a single story platform for everyone
I am a huge fan of what I choose to call the “story platform.” Imagine if all of your marketing and PR and your sales interactions were rooted in the same 3-4 narratives about your company. All of those impressions and touchpoints would accumulate in your prospects minds. You would become know for those 3-4 qualities. All of your communications and customer experiences would be reinforcing each other. That means that all of the content you publish for customers to discover on Google and that you equip the sales force with all reinforce each other.
Walla! This is how we build brand in a content marketing model.
2. Fuel salespeople with on-demand content
Salespeople need content their customers will find valuable. That usually means content that helps them with a business problem that may lead to buying a product or service but may just be helpful. Giving a contractor ways to forecast housing starts in their market over the next 5 years is helpful. It can also inform their Caterpillar equipment purchases.
Brendan Cournoyer put it this way on Content Marketing Institute,
“… According to the CMO Council, salespeople spend 40 percent of their time looking for or preparing content for customer communications. That’s a lot of wasted time, wouldn’t you say? It can also lead to problems like inconsistent messaging, inaccurate information, and even legal or compliance issues in some highly regulated industries.”
Creating the right content for a sales-focused relationship is harder that it looks. Making that content available and usable with no friction for the sales person is half of that challenge. We need Flipboard meets KaPost meets ShareThis. It’ll happen.
3. Convert data into sales intelligence
There are at least three great sources of data to add to your customer intelligence today: search, social and content data.
We mine Google search to understand what customers and prospects are most concerned about. We even created a live dashboard that told us in real time what questions customers were trying to find answers for based upon search data. We then turnaround content to deliver those answers (and return great in those queries).
Everyone talks about mining social data for insights. Its simply a lot harder than hooking up Radian6 and plopping a bunch of keywords. For the insurance agent serving small business, they are not just looking for people explicitly talking “insurance.” They need to know what those business moments are that trigger concerns around risk or that ought to. Buying new storefronts, stocking up on inventory for a selling season, making it through natural disasters, expanding into a new state – to name just a few. Give me a good social analyst any day and I can come up with new selling opportunities.
We cannot forget the data that streams back from the very content we use in marketing and sales. Simple things like which LinkedIn post earned the most engagement and an understanding or hypothesis about ‘why,’ or more complex analysis about when and where your prospects read and share your content can inform how you sell better.
Brendan Cournoyer offered an example from what his company does (video marketing),
“For example, when integrated with your marketing automation system of choice, text-based content will tell you that an individual clicked on your link… and that’s basically it. In contrast, the right video analytics tools can tell you how long they watched for, how many times they watched, and even if there were parts of your video they viewed more than once.”
How is your social sales enablement?
What data are you converting into usable sales information and insights? How have you aligned all of the content used in your customer touchpoints? How have you made relevant content available for your sales team to share with customers at all the right times?
We are constantly looking at software and services that add real value in any part of our content activation model. There are new startups everyday. People will ask you, “have you heard of XYZ…” Half of the time you’ve not only heard of them but 5 people in your organization have already met them and scratched their heads about why or how to apply them to the business. The other half of the time, no matter how good you are, you just haven’t heard of them.
I shared about three interesting content partners with different sources of content in a previous post. Three more caught my eye as very interesting. Rather than content sources, these providers either offer good workflow or some distinctive publishing capability.
Businesses that sincerely want to tune-up their content marketing capabilities while keeping it simple should look at Kapost. They provide a cloud based content workflow that a business person can easily understand. From soliciting content ideas from across a group to the actual publishing, distribution and analysis, Kapost looks pretty good.
When to use them:
If your organization has committed to a content marketing program featuring owned content sourced from multiple people and distributed across owned and shared (e.g. blogs, Web sites, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc…) and have been managing workflow via email and Excel spreadsheets, it may be time to check out KaPost.
While not a B2B resource per se, their platform does make sense for B2B players who use content marketing explicitly towards driving demand and leads.
Take a look:
My favorite little interactive on their site is the ROI calculator. It’s built into the ‘business case’ page. Fill in your revenue target and 3-4 other estimates and the widget calculates how the “Content Marketing Machine” can enhance your goals. Not sure this is more than sales-y fairy dust but I appreciate that at least one technology company is thinking about how to communicate the business value of what they do.
These guys also promise a ‘soup-to-nuts’ approach the defining content, publishing and tracking. They have an analytics front end that crunches a ton of data (insert big, abstract number here) to reveal story opportunities. It reminds me a bit of the promise behind Percolate’s ability to help identify the stories brands ought to be creating content about. We have our own version of that in a platform that analyzes search data in real time to make recommendations on story ideas.
The heart of Kontera for me is about creating and publishing native advertising. Presumably, their platform converts content into advertising formats and delivers them across networks that allow for native advertising (content rich and relevant advertising).
When to use them:
If your organization 'gets' paid, owned, earned media or is even more confident in paid media, Kontera or a system like theirs might be a good way to go. Here’s how they describe that part of their service:
“Kontera’s Content Marketing platform has pervasive reach across Mobile, Social, and Display. With activation on more than 15,000 exclusive publishers, the majority of the comScore top 1,000 sites, and the top social destinations, with all content analyzed and correlated down to the specific page and conversation level.”
If you are the media guy or gal or you believe in POEM in a big way a system like Kontera’s that can deliver content as advertising might be useful.
Take a look:
Their marketers' page features a good summary. It highlights the emphasis on the front-end analytics and the publishing via paid, owned, earned.
Refreshingly, these guys are focused on sales relationships. How can a salesperson maintain a valuable, content-centered relationships with customers and prospects. They promise useful analytics on content and prospects. Here’s how they put it:
“The heart of idio is the decision engine that analyses content (content analytics) and customer interactions to expose meaning. For example, semantically analysing an article so that the correct descriptors are stored as metadata, so that the article is understood with multiple topics rather than just a title.”
A little geeky but sensible. Ultimately, they offer a way to publish highly personalized content for a sales interaction fueled by this relevance engine.
When to use them:
If you use content marketing to enable sales or, specifically, sales teams of any kind and those folks are ready for a more sophisticated approach to managing relationships, idio might be worth trying.
The challenge with many sales enablement systems is how well they cater to the novice or non-techie and to the advanced ninja at the same time. Most sales forces have that type of range. I recently judged internal online marketing awards for a major global brand from their dealers. This is a big-iron kind of product. I did not expect really sophisticated digital marketing examples and I was really impressed. From beginner all the way to the most advanced use of digital sales enablement.
Take a look:
Check out their case studies page to download some industry generic white papers and a small collection of cases from eConsultancy, SlimFast, and Guiness.
Check out their infrastructure partners from Eloqua to ExactTarget. They are making a big case around how ell they integrate into existing platforms and investments.
New methods of crunching "Vast Data Sources" (bigger than “Big”) to reveal meaning will give us the ability to understand our customers and prospects as individuals. Then if we can just figure out how to deliver individually relevant content and service to 50 million customers, let’s say, on a daily or on-demand basis, we will have arrived at that nirvana of brand/customer relationship.
I have heard IBM and others call it “the connected customer.” The concept is easy to grasp and near impossible to pull off…so far. If we could analyze all of a person’s publicly available data and conversations like what they are saying everyday on Twitter, we could learn practical information about what they care about and need. Marketing then becomes a welcome answer to the questions people are implicitly or explicitly revealing everyday. You would understand if I were about to relocate to another city and therefore be in the market for a new house, a mortgage and property insurance. If you were an insurance company, you woudl find that valuable. Combine that with customer data and you now may have a way to understand and optimize lifetime customer value.
Big Data Helps Us Be Of-Service to Customers
It’s all very geeky. Often described in direct marketing language, this social customer relationship management approach tends to reduce us humans to single cell organisms just waiting to be “stimulated” by the direct marketers finely tuned cattle prod. But I think that is just the narrow laungage-set of a particular marketing discipline. This is about finding out what people may need from us and giving us more opportunities to be of-service as marketers.
IBM is exploring what it really takes to convert social data into usable ‘signal.’ Check out the IBM Accelerated Discovery Lab. I was inspired (disc: IBM is an Ogilvy client and I do not work directly for them but remain an authentic ‘fan.’). This outfit is committed to applying big data to real business problems like helping pharmaceutical companies discover new drugs, how to improve medical imaging analytics and converting customer social data into a valuable marketing system.
Understand and Connecting with the Individual is the New Marketing System
This video from the Accelerated Discovery Lab gives us a glimpse of how this can actually work. It is a view of the future of marketing.
Problem: A financial services company wants to connect with customers in the market for houses, cars and travel. The quality of their leads is rubbish.
Solution: Crunch billions of data ‘bits’ from Twitter to understand intent and psychology and build individual profiles of hundred of thousands of valuable leads. If you are a bank, insurance company, credit card company, this ability to connect individually based upon reliable ‘data-qualification’ will be how youy do things in the future.
As usual, the media has begun its see-sawing articles about the IPO intentions of Twitter. Either it is an ascending giant or a floundering service whose potential is as stalled as its user growth.
I realize this type of coverage just is to be expected but, still, its kind of tiresome. Investors will bet on the leadership or just plain bet. As for marketers, it’s time to operationalize your Facebook investment (we know how it works now “scale”) and go into a hefty ‘try and learn’ phase with Twitter.
A Response to the Challenges
Challenge: Ironically, Twitter is well-designed for mobile yet suffers from a dearth of mobile advertising options and inventory
Response: Really? Praise and condemn Twitter simultaneously for being too ‘mobile?’ No marketing platform can be too mobile in 2013. Twitter’s mobile-friendly format is a huge plus. Just look at the mad growth of WeChat and LINE in Asia (and now Europe). Both are platforms specifically designed for mobile.
Certainly, Twitter needs better mobile advertising formats. That is true of the entire mobile space. Just look at Mary Meeker’s comments on the stage that mobile advertising finds itself. She remains confident that we are in early days and that mobile ad monetization will happen. Betting against mobile advertising seems unwise to me.
Challenge: It’s just a PR platform
Response: More irony that on the day of the day of the IPO announcement, the New York Times ran an article about world leaders relying on Twitter to connect with constituents and to deliver more transparency and access to government via the United Nations. World leaders on Twitter. That’s powerful.
But critics would say that substantiates Twitter’s role as a PR platform. That’s kind of like saying PR is just PR. The communications disciplines are all meshing together. None work separately anymore. Advertising works with PR, direct marketing needs mid-funnel marketing, ecommerce flourishes because of social and so on. PR, itself ,is valuable as the earned voice for brands. Combined with other marketing, it drives business and should not be undervalued.
Sure, Twitter needs a rich set of advertising options to run a viable business. Those will come. These advertising options will be richer still because of who is on Twitter (influencers) and the interconnectedness of Twitter to other marketing functions like …customer care, for example.
Challenge: Twitter will need to massively grow beyond its 218+million users to become relevant to advertisers
Response: I doubt Twitter will reach 1 billion users anytime soon. They could reach 500M. Their growth has measurably slowed. Still assuming that Twitter, or any platform, must reach massive scale to be a strong marketing platform is overly simplistic.
Twitter has a lot of influencers: government leaders, celebrities, business leaders, sports figures, journalists. It’s a pretty good crowd. They tweet to their thousands of followers and often sending these updates automatically into Facebook. Followers retweet and also funnel messages into the broader reaching Facebook. Journalists routinely trawl for story ideas through their follower feed.
Twitter should and will grow. At the same time, they should embrace their influencer-rich nature and put more energy into researching the role that Twitter plays in the customer journey. Brands need evidence that Twitter can “sell” in the broadest sense.
Challenge: With its limited 140 characters, Twitter cannot compete with image-rich services that are all the rage.
Response: Twitter’ simplicity is it beauty. In many ways, the limited feature set of Twitter has driven adoption by marketers who can easily “get” what Twitter can basically do. Compare that to the mysterious feature set and purpose of Google+. I guarantee most brands are stumbling through their use of G+ based upon a rather blind belief that it will help their search rankings…in Google.
I tweet pics all of the time. It may not be as elegant as the Instagram app but it could be. And Twitter Cards are a great innovation and one that will build their advertising base. These information panels allow us to use visuals to advertise and even sell direct.
Twitter plays a valuable role in the marcom mix. I cannot speak to valuations - most are a bit frothy - but we shouldn't simply evaluate Twitter's value based upon today's stories.
(image from: http://www.pillowfightsj.blogspot.com/ )
We think of the practice of ‘content activation.’ That means using the right content in the right way to drive the right action. I know, a lot of ‘rights’ in that sentence. And, of course, ‘right’ is a purely subjective measure. But it’s more than just content marketing. It’s a more comprehensive planning model from defining the right narratives for a brand all the way through optimizing the content you did create against a goal.
Content activation suggests purpose. We are, at the end of the day, all trying to drive some type of behavior from people. We are designing complete systems for brands and partners are key. There is clearly a lot of interesting investment out there in companies that offer some value to brands as publishers (see chart from Venturebeat and StrategyEye).
I wanted to highlight three that have some strong value depending on what you need to get done.
Sourcing quality content is a chore. While we all believe there is a ton of terrific content available across the Web, if you are a brand who wants to apply content to driving thought leadership, discoverability, lead generation via great content, you need great content. NewsCred’s strength is sourcing (and licensing) millions of articles from the likes of the New York Times all the way to China Economic Review and the Financial Times. Quality stuff.
When to use them:
If you have proved the value of content marketing to your brand and business goals to leadership and want to deploy high quality articles on a relevant topic for your brand and customers, NewsCred would be a great partner to source that quality.
If you are a financial services company with strong B2B business, you might have a purpose to building a stream of terrific finance content on risk management. That might be your play to deliver more value to your business customers, maintain high discoverability in Google and even enable a sales force or group of agents to build direct relationships with business customers.
Take a look:
NewsCred offers content across 9 verticals including FinanceWire.
Check out AIG’s CyberEdge ipad app which delivers the latest content on data security powered by NewsCred
Percolate wants to be the default end-to-end platform for brands committed to content marketing. They have a process at the front end that relates a bit to Facebook Publishing Garage or our own Story Development Workshop geared towards finding out what the brand out to be talking about. James Gross, founder, frames it as building the interest graph for a brand. We call it establishing the story platform. Public relations veterans call it a message platform. Clearly these are not all the same thing yet they all do start to define what is that native topical territory for a brand.
Here’s how James Gross, founder puts it:
“Percolate is helping solve the most fundamental question brands have in social: What should I talk about? The system takes away the blank boxes of software by recommending relevant content for the brand to create.”
They provide a software platform to then follow those ideas and topics all the way through content creation, publishing and analytics. They have a deal with Getty Images and have the library as well as an image editor available right there to keep the Community/Content Director in the groove.
When to use them:
If you don’t have a communications or brand leader adept at defining what the brand can mean and what it’s core narratives out to be, Percolate can provide a starting point. When you want to add operational efficiency to your content marketing to trim down publishing times, Percolate may the right platform.
Take a look:
Take a glance at their Case Studies page. It’s not much more than screen grabs but it is suggestive.
Check out the MasterCard Future of Payments Stream inside their newsroom (“Engagement Bureau”). Not sure they have the display quite figured out but you will see Percolate in action.
Like most of the technology partners in this space, Skyword is not strictly technology. Yes, they talk about ‘platform’ and complete solutions. Still one of their key strengths is in managing a network of writers (and a growing number of visual content creators). If you want to solicit content from a growing network of qualified writers and manage the process of content submission, Skyword can be pretty helpful. It’s kind of like Visual.ly in that regard. The curated network of content creators is their secret sauce.
When to use them:
Once you feel confident that content marketing – the creation and publishing of content to drive people to some behavior – is valuable, Skyword can help scale your efforts by providing a source for great content.
Take a look:
Check out their page “for Brands” with its downloadable pdf
Check out this case study from IBM Midmarket which outlines the benefits of the content creator network
Next week I am speaking at Social Data Week in San Francisco. My colleague, Irfan Kamal, speaks at Social Data Week in NYC. When I heard that DataSift was organizing events dedicated to social data, I jumped at the chance to attend and share our own approach at applying data to the work we do for big, global brands.
Folks from Dell, CBS, Twitter, Marketwired, and, of course, Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble are all there focused on the role data plays in social media or, more importantly, the role that social data plays in business.
I will share about a unique study we did globally. We crunched over 7 million brand conversations to understand what people care about most in relation to brands. What drives casual and passionate advocacy. It’s a great way to use data.
I am not sure if there is still space to attend on either coast but here’s the link to find out more and register.
Next week is our second annual Social Media Matters conference in Hong Kong. Last year, Thomas Crampton and our Social@Ogilvy team worked with event organizers from All That Matters to create a regional event designed specifically around the interests of brands in digital and social media.
I have the good fortune of introducing our Global Brand Advocacy Study (supported by CIC, Salesforce, Visible) and provoking a great panel of brands including IHG, Shangri-La International and IMAX. The study looked at what people share and care most about from brands in China, Brazil, the UK and the US. Since I am a fan of all three brands, I look forward to hearing how each goes beyond simple social network engagement to cultivate their best advocates.
- This year’s highlights at Social Media Matters are brand and platforms. Coca-Cola, Ford, Philips, Nestlé, American Express and Unilever, among others will all be in the house.
- Platforms including RenRen, Sina, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook among others will also be there.
- And, of course, great partners like CIC, SocialBakers, and Visual.ly and more.
We have been designing and rolling out “how-to’s” or playbooks for the past 5 years that help established marketing and communications teams learn new tricks. This is part of our training heritage. We designed how-to’s for our Social teams before there were any playbooks to refer to. We simply had to codify best and new practices and we used training, tools and reference guidebooks like playbooks to do it.
The “playbook” term comes from sports. Football, I am pretty sure. The metaphor is a good one. What tools can our marketers use as they are planning and executing marketing programs? What can they be thumbing through even as they have a program in play or players on the field, if-you-will?
We design quite a few around social engagement and content marketing. Even within these broad topics are specialty playbooks on listening and insights, crisis and issue management, real-time responsive marketing and more.
Loads of people have jumped on the bandwagon of creating guidebooks or instructionals. Most are narrative documents that one must read cover-to-cover to understand. Most are tactical in nature and meant for the practitioner or maybe the strategist. Few are designed to the core needs of a marketer at a particular brand. Most don't go beyond a narrative document intended for a good read.
Designing for Use
No one reads. Now one reads instruction books. Especially long ones. The beautiful magazine layouts help but not enough.
We learned about designing these playbooks around the use-cases facing marketers at a particular brand.
- Any brand needs to be prepared should a crisis erupt online or an issue take on a life of it's own. Sections on managing issues or whole playbooks on them are relevant to all.
- An FMCG marketer might always be under pressure to introduce new innovations. Our Listening and Insights Playbook is designed to make using social and digital data for innovation easier.
- A B2B marketer already lived and died by lead generation, so designing around routines in content marketing that lead to that make sense.
We also learned that long, narrative copy was only a first draft. What marketers need is a mix of tools they can use and the barest of instructions for actually using them.
- In the Listening and Analytics playbooks, our keyword criteria tool is a simple but functional form for marketers to document the terms they will use to fuel their social listening technology and search mining efforts. We give them the tool and show them how to use it and suddenly they are half way towards getting useful results from a Listening Post™
- Every community manager needs a way to peer onto the qualitative soul of their content. Engagement metrics will tell you how a Facebook post or linked content is doing but not why it’s doing well. Our Content Evaluator is a simple method for analyzing the strengths of particular pieces of content so best practices can be repeated and applied.
Some quick suggestions:
- Start with use-cases that map to what the particular brand values. If your “Listening Playbook” starts with “how to listen to social media,” you are off on the wrong foot already.
- Show how a new marketing practice can deliver against those goals. Before diving into the detailed “how-to’s”, do a “step-by-step” on how common marketing goals can be met through new practices.
- Break down the routines that are common and organize around tools and smaller tasks. Instead of lining up the 20 things they must do to get value out of listening, break it down into 5-7 key tools – from templates to software – and show them how to use these. That’ll get the job done.
- Provide a custom FAQ in the brand’s parlance that offers yet another way into the materials. Think about the common questions these particular marketers will wonder using their particular language.
Rolling Out to Change BehaviorNo matter how well-designed, any playbook runs the risk of becoming the phone book that holds open the door but is never cracked. Four steps we have learned to actually get the playbooks into use inside the organization include:
- Make them short and to-the-point. I would rather create 3 small playbooks that cover off on essential tasks than one giant one. Shorter is just more usable.
- Introduce them with authority and clarity. The playbooks need to be seen as a priority to help change behavior to drive business. Make sure the right executive voice introduces them on the webinar and then do the webinars that show local marketers how to use them and get them invested.
- Work closely with 1-2 markets to build success. If you can create 1-2 bright spot markets where they are showing demonstrable success, others will follow.
- Make it good looking to executives. Yes, it is ironic that the most common format for playbooks is a pdf file, often printed out and bound. That has a lot to do with the established economics of enterprise communications. On the other hand, it is terrific to have a beautiful printed book that executives can show-off inside the company.
Nothing captures marketer’s attention today like content marketing. It’s been adopted by every pundit and marketing expert as the wave of the future. And for good reason. Picture this – in the future, we will have all the data integrated into useful dashboards that allow us to deliver just the right content or experience to every individual in our 50 million-person database. This will be valuable content that helps them get through life and inspires them to share with their social connections. We will cultivate great, long-lasting relationships with our customers and stakeholders. It will be efficient. Salesforce calls it the Connected Customer. I sometimes refer to this data-driven, technology-enabled approach as new marketing. That’s because I believe it will eclipse the channel-based marketing practiced today.
There’s plenty of best practices being shared everyday. Today, I was thinking about three simple lessons-learned worth passing along.
Know the Complete Value of Your Content Marketing
I spent some quality time with a blue-chip B2B marketer in a Asia Pacific market recently. They have been pioneering certain aspects of content marketing. Certainly, they have gotten great at creating iconic and shareable content that achieve pretty significant reach. Locally, they are trying to localize and operationalize their use of content via LinkedIn and other platforms. The trouble is they only value lead generation.
I am all for lead gen. Especially in B2B. Still, there are other business benefits from building a sustained relationship via valuable content. If we establish valuable content around the business or personal needs and problems that our products ultimately deliver against, we build an expectation and, potentially, a preference for our brand. Customers will think of us first.
If our content is truly useful or remarkable, our immediate followers will pass it along via their social graph. Their friends will find it more interesting because it came from people they know. This increases discoverability and the relevance of our content. And let’s not forget organic (and paid) search.
“B2B customers are in fact 57% of the way through their purchase process on average today before they even make contact with a supplier.” Google and social media are two of the places buyers spend time before they pick up the phone.
And certain types of content can build trust. When we put our own experts out there sharing their POV, we can humanize our brand and allow people to build trust in people. It still surprises me that marketers see the responsibility for trust-building as a public relations-only task.
I love lead gen. It certainly matters a ton towards true sales opportunity. And yet, content marketing delivers a lot of sales-related value beyond simple lead gen.
Strive to Rise Above the Clutter
With billions of pieces of content shared everyday across the social Web and the reality that according to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, “every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003”, the pressure is on for us to create high quality content not more content.
That’s an important distinction. Some marketers might be less discriminating believing in the principles of repetition and consistency – that we want people to come across our message/content several times to ‘stick.’ Too much mediocre stuff is just noise and will be filtered out no matter what. So stop chasing “impressions.”
According to Nadia Cameron in the Australian blog, CMO:
“Research conducted earlier this year by the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) and the Content Marketing Institute found 96 per cent of Australian marketers are using content marketing to reach out to customers, allocating 25 per cent of their budget on average to these activities. Yet a recent whitepaper published by analyst firm, Altimeter Group, found organisations continue to fail in their content marketing quest.
For McCance, the big issue is the level of cut through marketers can achieve in a world increasingly populated by content. “This wasn’t such a dominant strategy a few years ago and you had a higher likelihood of breaking through,” he said. “But in many industry sectors now, marketers are pursuing a content marketing strategy and it cancels people out; there is a huge level of noise in the environment and it’s getting harder to break through to your target audience.
“People are setting the bar for their content marketing strategy at a ‘thought leadership’ level, and having something smart to say. We find that while the information is a ‘nice to know’ for customers, they will probably do what they’re doing already. It’s not causing them to change their actual behaviour.”
We need to be ruthless in creating value. Do we understand enough about the specific needs and pain-points for our buying customer? How about the actual product users or recommenders within an organization? Are we then converting that insight and understanding into content that pays off on those demonstrated needs?
Cameron’s article goes on to conclude, “Instead, B2B marketers need to turn their attention to ‘commercial insights’ that disrupt the customer’s mindset, CEB claimed.”
Insights are good. Disruptive insights also good. Still, we simply need to remain committed to understanding our customer and creating content that will be found valuable by them.
Be Diligent About the Data
Clearly, we are now all fascinated by the prospects of using data to create the right content, understand how people respond to it and how we can fine0tune it to be more relevant by our individual customer/followers.
Mining search and social data for insights or information that can be used to create the most useful and compelling content is a great, fundamental practice. So is looking at performance data on specific pieces of content. Pete Blackshaw at Nestlé publishes a “Top Posts of the Week” leaderboard that signals to marketers what is performing well. That begs marketers to look into the most successful content to understand the lessons of great content and apply them.
It’s easy to do this once. It’s harder to make it the way we do things. Those brands that make data-driven content an everyday practice will benefit more than those who don’t.
As I sit high above Mumbai streets, comfortably ensconced in air conditioning and strong-enough Internet connectivity, I wonder about the incongruity of India’s 1.2 billion-plus population to the 121 million connected to the Internet to the 88 million connected to the Internet via mobile devices.
One ride through town with its mix of seemingly chaotic traffic and rough street-level living contrasted to the tree-lined streets and high-rise enclaves elsewhere only makes a quick understanding harder. I am grateful for people like Karthik Srinivasan who heads up the Social@Ogilvy team in the region and Ashwath Ganesan who heads it up in Mumbai and have a deeper view of their own culture.
By 2015, India will be the largest Facebook “nation” on the planet. Facebook usage has growth 47% from 2012 to 2012. LinkedIn has grown 36% over the same period.
Overall growth in connectivity has jumped 41% from July 2011 to July 2012 according to Comscore. That’s compared to China at 5% or Brazil, another big growth market at 6%.
That 88 million mobile-connected is expected to jump to 165 million by 2015.
Social media users seem to be younger with 75% under 35. But that is not an uncommon early trend.
A Country is Not Just Numbers
But these are all numbers. The real questions are whether the use of social media will continue to rise and spread and affect purchase behaviors as it has in so many other markets; how quickly will reliable Internet connectivity to the home spread or, more importantly, how web-enabled phone usage will continue to grow; and whether ecommerce will continue to grow.
I am guessing that the answer is yes to all with a simple caveat of 'how fast.'
I also suspect that the 1%-5% that India’s marketers reportedly spend on social media marketing today remains far below consumer behavior especially when you consider the fast-growth trajectory. I look forward to learning more this week. Especially if it means getting out of the air conditioned tower I sit in now.
We examined brand advocacy across 23 brands in 4 categories. We looked at over 7 million mentions across China, Brazil, the UK and the US. We wanted to understand what drove brand advocacy – what do people really talk about when they share about brands. This is all found in the Social@Ogilvy Brand Advocacy Study: How to Build a Global Passion Brand
And there were some surprises along the way. Apparently there is a broad social advocacy gap for many brands. For all the “brand satisfaction” racked up by hotels, for example, they are only driving 1 in a 100 customer stays to an actual brand mention. Most brands have a lot of work to do to close this gap.
Know what people love
One of our key findings surprised us. In the US especially, I think we all believe people talk about advertisements a lot - especially the funny or provocative ones. And people clearly do share about ads.
“We looked at advocacy mentions of ads, benefits, features, costs and customer service. In all markets, features (e.g. the characteristics of skin cream) were the most often mentioned. In comparison, mentions of ads/commercials typically garnered the fewest mentions.”
It turns out, there are big differences across countries, product categories and individual brands in terms of what people are most likely to share about.
The table compares discussion breakout vs. category averages for the two highest advocacy passion brands: Kimpton and Kiehls (US only).
Kimpton Hotels over indexes in the hotel category on benefits and customer service. Conversely, they under index on advocacy associated with the more rational based features and advertising. Conversely, Kiehls over indexes in the skincare category for Features.
The value of brand advocacy is becoming clearer everyday. Intuitively we believe in the positive mentions and the passion people share about brands they care about is key to purchase decision and loyalty. The evidence is mounting that our belief is well placed.
“Brands that do not generate substantial advocacy will need to pay more for reach and consequently have costs substantially higher than those brands that drive high advocacy. In an environment where costs to reach consumers continue to escalate, this advantage could make the difference between a company with outstanding shareholder returns and one that fails to perform.”
There is no “social” category at the Cannes Lions. I buy the argument that most marketing will become ‘social’ in the future. Therefore, why have a category? You could say that about a lot of categories like, say, mobile. Today, there is enough range of best practice and not-so-best practice in social out there that a category that shines a light on the ‘best’ may accelerate great work.
But we don’t have that…yet.
So, how social was the work at Cannes? The answer depends on your definition of ‘social.’ A program that merely shows up on a popular platform like Twitter or Facebook may be a bit social but perhaps only ‘social-by-association.’ A program that grabs a disruptive idea, crafts a killer piece of shareable content, and clocks high viewing numbers may also be social. It may under leverage all of the neat ways to promote more sharing and involvement. But who cares? A winner is a winner.
This year’s Cannes Lions were more social than last year. The mere fact that 100 Days of Oreo pulled in a Gold Lion is a positive sign. One can say that a persistent, enduring social program earned the world’s top award for creativity. That’s great. Period. My one caveat is that it rewards the simplest, most ‘traditional’ use of Facebook by brands – what Facebook calls “the new print.” Essentially it’s an artful use of posts to create shareable visual content. It pushes the creative print design and copywriting capabilities of adevrtisers and their agencies.
On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is not social and 10 is “full social”, I give the work a “7.” There is terrific work in this year’s awards. If I hedge at all to rank it higher, it is likely that most of the work doesn’t use all of social practices that might scale authentic sharing and word of mouth.
Take time to review the work
Some of the world’s most creative work shows up at Cannes. You would be foolish not to review as much of it as you can. And there is a lot. The following ten cases are all award winners yet not necessarily the top winners. Each had something interesting going on in ‘social’. But dive into the gallery on the Cannes Lions site before they tuck it away behind the firewall, it will be time well-spent.
Shareable content drives behavior change
A wonderfully co-created event/content that puts the brand through its paces
A disruptive idea as content that earns all sorts of media
Social grassroots activation to fix a civic problem
“Hacking” Facebook to Raise Disease Awareness
Harnessing the advocacy of travelers to get more travelers
Sparking an online conversation about civility
Sustained social content driving sharing
Crowdsourced detective work to find missing children in China
The advertising world descends on Cannes this week. #OgilvyCannes will be there in full force. I am looking forward to pretty much what is the anti-Cannes experience – sessions, seeing the work, valuable meetings with brands and partners and the press.
I know. It’s about parties. That’s often what is described as the real Cannes. A highly social event where agency and brands, from the tippy-top of the organization to the creatives in the ranks, get to stay up late and celebrate hard just as they worked hard to get their work there.
The Business Connection at Cannes
The real reason we are there with the type of investment it takes to get there, is that we believe creativity sells. While more cynical minds might disagree, no amount of pomp and circumstance could get so many agencies and brands to spend all that money. We go because creativity has a big business impact.
Jonathan Mildenhall, VP Global Advertising Strategy & Content Excellence at The Coca-Cola Company, captures this POV succinctly in a recent blog post.
“I have long been an absolute believer in the correlation between outstanding creative success and outstanding commercial success. In this year’s marketing platform for Cannes Lions I am quoted as saying ‘If Cannes has taught me one thing, it is that creativity drives effectiveness. You can not have one without the other. That knowledge has been instrumental to my career. I have been going to Cannes for nearly 20 years and can’t help but notice that the the client organizations recognized as Advertiser of the Year often enjoy periods of historic financial success at the same time.”
He references the work of James Hurman, who analyzed data on advertising creativity to demonstrate the connection to effectiveness of that advertising and the overall business performance of the advertiser.You can see a summary presentation here. He offers some defining characteristics of 'creativity.' And within that he hits on word of mouth.
"Creativity's third effect is that it makes advertising more likely to generate 'fame' and conversation."
Much like Twitter is now being used by television studios and networks as a barometer for success, how consumers talk about and share with their social graph about marketers will increasingly become the indicator of success.
Awards as a Predictor
It stands to reason that quality awards programs like Cannes Lions will put a premium on the results of a campaign - more objective than subjective - and on the creativity - more subjective than objective. There should be a correlation.
The big question is whether this year’s awards are predictive for what may win and, therefore sell, next year. I believe that we will see a shift towards more authentically ‘social’ work and more work that doesn’t resemble traditional advertising nor have an iconic video at its heart. Sure, creativity sells. But so does social and so does delivering value to people.
How Social Are They
I am looking forward to seeing tons of work. We have a bunch in there including quite a few that have ‘social’ at the center of their program. I believe it’s time for Cannes to adopt a super-category for Social. Next year, perhaps. For now, there are sub categories in other disciplines.
No doubt there will be many campaigns up for awards. Likely, not that many ‘always-on’ programs will be considered. They often lack that big piece of disruptive advertising which catches the eye of weary judges. I have already seen some terrific programs, like the Ogilvy Thailand anti-smoking videos, that have disruptive video at their heart. While that can be a terrific hook for driving word of mouth (see “Disruptive Ideas” in the Principles of Social Design here), too many creative rely solely on hitting a home-run with a precious piece of content.
We will see how many brands put social at the center of their programs this year. Meanwhile, the entire Ogilvy team will be sharing valuable content, sparking conversations and interviewing interesting people all week.
You can follow us:
and follow me as I trudge the road of Cannes;
I didn’t go to business school. Perhaps, I shouldn’t broadcast that fact. One look at my LinkedIn profile and it will be clear. The closest I got to Wharton was walking by the building on my way to semiotics class at Annenberg. I became a creative director. Then, somehow, I became a business leader. I don’t mean that in some self-aggrandizing way. I run a practice that is a business inside a big company. I count revenue. I innovate. I scale. I have a team. I try to delight customers of all different types everyday.
I have learned a few things trudging this uncharted course. Most of my lessons come from the great people who have come through my professional life. I am lucky to know some great folks.
I admire LinkedIn. I like the new direction they are heading with their content play, LinkedIn Today. They were nice enough to ask me to write as one of their ‘Infuencers.’ Considering they have folks like Jack Welch and Tim Brown from Ideo in there, I jumped at the chance. I also, decided to write more about my business leadership experiences. I realized there were tons of subjects I cared deeply about. And thanks to folks like Kaitlyn, Virginia, Heather, Irfan, Hastie, Rachel, Chris, Brandon, John, Adam and so many other great people, I feel like I have some neat experiences to share.
Here are my first three posts on LinkedIn Today. Enjoy!
We started Social@Ogilvy eight years ago. Our team was called 360 Digital Influence then and we were a team of so-called experts in the art and science of social media marketing and communications. There was one big problem – hiring experts….
No, this isn’t about an alternate reality created by computers where enlightened heroes punch their way through. It’s funny that one of the defining, dystopian science fiction movies of the past 20 years, The Matrix, is the name of the organizational structure of so many corporations today….
Company culture can be a huge motivator for people. At it’s best, it can provide a sense of belonging through shared values and an intangible, emotional belief that we are on a shared journey….
What causes us to share something we have discovered online with a friend, family member or our modern version of social connections – those who follow us on Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook?
Research has been done to reveal that ideas or stories with emotional resonance and in particular ‘emotional arousal’ get shared more often. Tucked inside of Jonah Berger’s book, Contagious, is a particularly strong section on the specific types of emotional cues that trigger engagement including this quality of arousal.
Good stuff. But for the marketer how practical on a daily basis? Also, our lives are a bit more multi-dimensional that repeated tugs at our heartstrings. Some days we are just trying to find an easier softer way to get the bison onto the dinner table.
I have shared about our Principles for Social Design both here and in my FastCoCreate posts. (Now in this handy and much simplified Slideshare preso) These are learned from research and from experience. They combine planning around the messenger and how an experience is designed to make it more likely that people will pass it along.
This post unpacks the 7 Driver of Word of Mouth. The previous post did the same for the messenger or Networks of Influence.
The 7 Driver of Word of Mouth Unpacked
Value Exchange: Have we offered a clear value exchange? Will the user find some utility, entertainment, or reward by taking the time to engage with us? What will the brand get from that attention and advocacy?
We often shorthand this in conversation as the reason someone would “care to share.” Seem like common sense? Then why do marketers routinely over estimate the fascination people have for some brand experience? Do people really need another branded recipe guide? A third-rate game that features brand imagery as the backdrop? A scavenger hunt to unearth the product attributes in a playful way?
We all need help getting through the day. Why don’t USB drives have an external display of space remaining? That would be useful. Brands have the unprecedented opportunity to distill insights from social listening and other sources to better understand what would be valuable to people. Let’s do more of that and less post-justification of our snazzy brand campaign and how much people will dig it.
Disruptive Ideas: Have we surprised or challenged expectations?
This is the advertising creative’s gift to mankind. Most award-winning advertising strives to have some cultural tension at the center of it where the advertising shines a light and even turns it on its head. But how do you find a disrupting idea? This is the art and science of creativity in marketing that is difficult to bottle up and sell.
In simplistic terms, first find a cultural tension:
- Discover everyday issues and struggles that may illicit mixed emotions
- Use insights from research and social intelligence to get to a ‘truth’
Next, find a way to disrupt it:
- Define a role the brand can play
- Offer a compelling point of view
- Challenge conventional thinking
I know. Not a very satisfying recipe. Finding that just-right disruptive idea (like Dove’s Ad Makeover) is a bit like pornography – we’ll know it when we see it.
Great Story: Do we have a great story with emotional and rational interest?
Back to emotion. The research tells us that emotion rules the day in so much of our decision-making. Often, we will post justify the emotional decision we made with a bunch of facts this the reason we ought to give both. Still, I am amazed at how many marketers insist on sticking to the facts. Electronics firms do this all the time when trying to convince people to but their new mobile phone or laptop. The feature wars are over. It’s all about the emotion.
My favorite quote recently from a communications professional was, “Public relations is so much more than storytelling.” You can just riff endlessly on this, “Marketing is so much more than storytelling.” “Great presentations are so much more that storytelling.”
Call it the story backlash. What it doesn’t change is the fact that we all do love a good story. Thinking and communicating in stories matters when we are trying to inspire people to share or relay our ideas through their online and offline social graph. It’s way easier to share a good story then some marketing “messages.”
Douglas Van Praet has a good series in FastCoCreate where he discovers his own 6 drivers of decisions. A lot of what he talks about is the power of emotion and the unconscious mind.
“For too long, standard marketing theory has had it backwards. The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!”
Fresh Interest: Do we have something new or interesting to talk about?
Who doesn’t like something unusual to share even if about a product or a brand? Turns out loads of people like that. I remember telling a bunch of hiker friends about the bug shielding qualities of Avon’s Skin So Soft. My social capital went “ca-ching.”
If we want people to talk about us, then lets give them something to talk about and in a form they can share.
Finding fresh interest is every marketer’s challenge. We wrestle with the truth behind “new and improved” claims when the facts are not all that much is new. In advertising, the creative can “punt” on this issue. Seen enough times an advert will make it’s impression regardless of the quality of the “newness.” Not so much in social. If we want people to remark to friends about the new lip balm, we may really have to re-design it in this cool little screw top ball…..
Social Proof: Can people show their involvement such that others can see?
Robert Cialdini documented significant shifts in behavior when people were confronted with messaging and/or evidence that others – turned their thermostat down, recycled plastics, took 3 minute showers, and so forth.
Given a choice between A or B, many times we will look to how others chose. Sure it’s a form of conformity and we all do it so get over it. When we display what other have done given a choice or a set of behaviors, we make it easier for people to decide. This comes to life in the New York Times most emailed articles and Amazon product reviews (“most people gave it 4 stars”). I would argue that social norms are a related and useful concept, especially when we are talking about changing behaviors. Being able to say that most people in Monroe County click their seatbelts on immediately upon getting into the car in order to motivate others to do so is a form of social proof.
Creative Participation: Do we invite people to play a creative role?
- Create an experience that involves people
- Ask them to be creative
- Involve people in the story-telling and content creation
Then they will be more likely to become invested in the process and outcome and share it. In Cialdini’s work, he talks about the persuasive power of public consistency. When I publish a badge that declares my support for heart disease prevention, then I am more likely to give to that cause (or take a supporting action_ when called to do so. I would argue that when someone nominates or votes in the Chengdu Pambassador program – all public actions showing up in our Facebook timelines – that is a form of public commitment that can spark future actions.
If I took the time to submit my child’s photo to the Gerber baby contest, I will likely promote that program. These are all creative roles. We need to be conscious of different levels of commitment. Not everyone will go so far as to submit the picture. But they may vote on a series of images. Or they may send an email with a link to friend with a particularly cute baby. We think in terms of a “ladder of engagement” where there are simple, five-second things to do at one end and more complex, time intensive things to do at the other end. The Forrester “Technographics” data set seems to reveal that there are demographic tendencies for who will do something intensive like create and submit a video in a contest, for example. That guidance can help set up the right ladder and avoid common problems like building a program that expects 55+ women in the middle of the country to create five minute video submissions.
Simple Advocacy: Do we remind people to share and make it easy?
If we want people to share something or even to take an action, we ought to clearly ask them to do so and them remind them to do it. We also, ought to make it as easy as possible. We ought to have a reckoning when it comes to UX and UI design. It's time we set aside all pretensions and embrace the art of making things clear and easy. Remember the Heath Brothers in Switch. They talk about Shaping the Path and within that gestalt, Tweaking the Environment.
Have we been ruthless in our design and persistent (but not annoying) in our 'ask?'
More and more, our jobs as marketers are to drive behavior. Sometimes that’s getting folks to buy something or more of something. Sometimes its to spend more time or interact with a brand in the hopes that will lead to them thinking about the brand in a moment of need. And more and more often, the behavior we all want is to drive people to advocate.
The best of marketing has always been about behavioral economics and those proven strategies that ‘nudge’ people to buy or take an action. Recently, behavioral science has been popularized and, even advanced, by some pretty smart people.
Robert Cialdini has the six drivers of persuasion (neat compressed summary here). The Heath Brothers have the “Rider” and the “Elephant.” Jonah Berger has his own six principles (“STEPPS”). Dan Ariely has his stuff. Paul Adams from Facebook has his own synthesis of what drives people to action.
There are great concepts born from research across many of these works. In fact, sometimes there is just too much in the behavioral canon to practically apply to a business problem today. In my article for FastCo Create last week outlining The Principles of Social Design, I made a point,
“Many of them, like ”loss aversion”--the tendency for people to move more quickly to avoid losing something rather than to gain something of value--are more like a bolt of fine, durable cloth than a ready-made suit of clothes. You need to know which ones to stitch together to tackle a particular problem.”
Practical Principles of Social Design
I am well aware that the Facebook sales and marketing team popularized the phrase “social by design.” This was used to package up the best practice approach to using the Facebook platform to drive engagement and advocacy KPIs from consumers.
Early on, Facebook found themselves having to educate traditional marketers on brand and agency sides about how Facebook was different than interruptive advertising. I find it ironic that that same group at Facebook has latched onto the mnemonic that Facebook is “the new print” to describe the popularization of clever graphics in use by brand after brand to generate object “likes.” It’s an old-school concept that any art director can understand. It just may not advance the people-centricity of the platform like ‘social by design’ did.
Facebook did not invent word of mouth behaviors. They merely built a platform that takes advantage of a some of them.
We (my team at Social@Ogilvy) have learned from 8 years of social media marketing and communications and a ton more time in related disciplines before that. We are sharp students of academics in this field. In fact, our original work was based upon Robert Cialdini’s six drivers of persuasion.
We needed a more practical synthesis of the best research-based ideas that predict why people will advocate (all forms of word of mouth including sharing content). Here is how we updated our original drivers into a new, highly useful “Principles of Social Design”
There are two parts to the principles. The first defines the messenger and outlines the various networks we might engage with to stimulate sharing or advocacy. These networks influence us all in new ways. Some are more influential because the network is made of family, friends or people with shared interests. The second part are the word of mouth drivers. These are the ways we design communications such that thye authentically capture the attention of people and networks of people and drive advocacy and, even, actions like sales.
Networks of Influence: The messenger matters. Trust in institutions and traditional media goes up and down (mostly down). And while there are new potentially influential voices in many markets and within certain contexts, sometimes what our friends, family and social connections say matters more.
Community Networks: How can we use communities to drive social behaviors? People come together around different affinities and interests. Sometimes that can be a brand. More often it’s a topic that matters to them – think about Maker communities; people who love the Outer Banks of North Carolina; or first time moms. If we can be of-use and deliver against the drivers of word of mouth, we can expect ideas and content to spread across the community.
Influencers: Who are the professional and amateur (and in-between) voices who may have some authority and potential influence on this subject? These may be popular bloggers, celebrities, popular Twitter users. Their subject matter expertise may be narrow like gadgets or raising adopted kids. If we deliver on the drivers of word of mouth, we can encourage influencers to share across their social graph. Sometimes this is akin to a mom reading about new family wellness techniques from a CNN Health editor, and sometimes it is a little closer to them like a tip from a mom you may not know yet who seems similar to you.
Content Network: How can we use our owned and controlled online and offline properties to extend the model? If for no other reason than to be found via Google, we need to use our own content network to publish relevant content such that when someone needs to know
Combine a thoughtful strategy around using the right Networks of Influence with The Drivers of Word of Mouth (see FastCo: The Principles of Social Design) and you are now designing with the Principles of Social Design. That’s what it takes to reliably spark sharing, advocacy, word of mouth and more.
Next post: An Inside View of The Drivers of Word of Mouth
More brands are considering how to put content at the center of their marketing. Coca-Cola has put a stake in the ground with “liquid and linked.” Ford is doing it with their Content Factory. Intel is committed.
Driven by the direct relationships brands now have through their social media platforms with customers, we are all seeing the value in not just using content more effectively but to operationalize it – get a bigger bang for a lesser buck.
It’s easy to believe this is a significant shift for marketers that will affect how budgets are organized, which positions are hired, how success is measured. It’s another thing to have the answers as to how all that will align for business as different as a global FMCG, a B2B tech company or a regional retailer.
Now is the time to get sharp, smart, educated, and generally collect a few different POVs. Here are three that I have found helpful:
Jeremiah Owyang and the gang at Altimeter have shifted their sights on the content marketing space. I expect great insight from them over the next few months. It starts with a pretty good list of content marketing tech companies like Percolate,Visual.ly, Stipple and more.
Rebecca Lieb and team at Altimeter drafted a great starting point for brands organizing around content. From the Executive Editorial Board to the Center of Excellence (this time for content vs. ‘social’), they cover some reasonable choices. There are more options out there, yet this paper does a good job of dispelling the idea that you are a mere brand journalist away from becoming an effective content marketing enterprise.
As you would expect, there’s tons of content out there about…content. I have found the Content Marketing Institute routinely valuable with their nuts and bolts articles about how others are doing this out there. This article on the 3 building blocks is a good example of foundational and smart stuff.
(Thanks to Just Jared Jr for the horrific image)