BA staff armed with iPads

Staff at BA’s corporate and first class lounges are being issued with iPads to help staff communicate with each other across airports, as part of a general overhaul of BA’s IT services.

The iPads will also allow staff to research frequent business class flyers. The “Know Me” programme is to personalise customers’ travel plans and enhance customer experience.

BA staff get iPads for better customer service

Fly by BA Business Class and you could be recognised by name!

Staff can find photos online and store them next flight manifests to identify key customers as they arrive. This is intended to be just another service for customers wanting that personal touch from their airline — the idea is that, if a customer tweets or blogs that they were angry at a delayed flight, the next time they arrive at the business lounge a member of staff will be there to apologise and make sure they’re looked after with extra care. It’s entirely manual — no automatic facial recognition technology is involved.

If the scheme proves popular it may be rolled out to other customers beyond business class.

Is this a sinister use of customer data? I always err on the side of open data and photographs and social media profiles are public, by definition. It is up to the individual to regulate how public their social media data is.

I am not a BA frequent business class flier but the idea of being recognised and named as I arrive would give me a positive view of the customer experience.


Six types of social media user

At this point, no single customer engagement channel can deliver marketers a complete picture of consumer behaviour.

Google knows what you’re interested in, but not what you’ve done. Facebook knows who your friends are, but not what you buy. Pinterest knows what you share, but not how you act on it. Foursquare knows where you are, but not what you like. You get the idea.

Social media measurement is critical to success, but brands have been unable to get their arms around what it is and what it means.

Aimia, a loyalty management firm, has unveiled a new segmentation model that analyses trust and control as drivers of six distinct social media personas. The model is detailed in a white paper: Staring at the Sun: Identifying, Understanding and Influencing Social Media Users. The paper argues that specific social media personas can be identified and more efficiently engaged by understanding their online behaviour.

“Today’s approach to social media measurement – racing to rack up the most likes, retweets, followers, and recommendations – is the wrong approach. Marketers must define success not by social media activity but rather by customer value and engagement,” declares Aimia. “Marketers often struggle to understand the true motivations and purchase intent behind customers’ social media activity. Segmentation by persona allows marketers to more successfully identify, understand and influence customers in social channels.”

via The 6 Types Of Social Media Users | Social Media Today.

How far can social media take the traditional enterprise?

Social media still rests a little uneasily in many enterprises. At the large end of the scale, it is hard to adapt older marketing communications workflows to react to the 24/7 nature of social media response. There are also issues of transparency after a generation or more of secrecy and spin.

Smaller enterprises can react more flexibly but the resources and skills are difficult to find and afford. Social media excellence takes time and needs rewarding. However, these are operational matters that are being addressed.

At a strategic level, there is a more pressing issue: does intensive social media involvement imply changes to all business processes and even commercial models? With changes from digital delivery and social media in the recorded music business, commercial video, publishing, printed media and, indeed, many other industries, should all enterprises be consulting the digital crystal ball?

Certainly, enterprises are developing online communities and trying to create stronger brand relationships, from sectors as disparate as carmakers launching new models to professional services firms developing inner customer “sanctums”. FMCG brands are also finding ways to engage customers in product development and testing via social media.

LONDON Advertising's new office

LONDON Advertising’s new office reflects its business model

Start-up advertising agency, LONDON, has found a way of simplifying the creative process, on the one hand, while using experienced professionals and a digital delivery system to handle campaigns anywhere in the world with much lower costs. Significantly, they have been transparent about their costs, a key part of digital transformation and an anathema to the traditional advertising agency.

There are two main approaches to digital transformation: the first is to evolve by developing products or services which have digital DNA built-in, whilst gradually adjusting the enterprise, its skillsets and workflows to accommodate this evolution.

The second approach is more radical: set up a lab, a skunkworks, a new manufacturing or service facility and get new talent to take responsibility for its outcomes. Such a laboratory can adopt a trial-and-error approach and learn very rapidly. Finding the balance between a successful skunkworks and the mother enterprise will be a challenge but less of a challenge than not doing anything at all.

Guest blogs: if you dupe on your own site, add a canonical link

In addition to the etiquette of not duplicating your guest post for another blog on your own blog, consider the fact that search engines do not reward publishing duplicate content. In fact, it can be positively detrimental to your search engine optimisation efforts to have duplicate content published.

Google Webmaster Tools

What is a canonical page? Why specify a canonical page?

One of the benefits of writing a guest post on another blog is so that you can link back to your blog and gain search engine rankings. If the article you write is duplicated exactly on your blog, search engines will sense that there’s duplicate content and penalise both pages. This isn’t good for you, nor the blog you guest posted on.

If you want your audience to be able to see the article on your blog, then one way to circumnavigate the duplicate content issue is to add a canonical link tag to the page on your site. The canonical link tag would look like this:

<link rel=”canonical” href=””&gt;

This way, you’re saying to search engines: “This is duplicate content, but the other page is the one you should index — it’s the ‘original’ article.” You can’t call your own page the ‘original’ unless you put the canonical link tag on the other blog, and that’s probably hard for you to achieve. So by putting it on your page, at least you avoid the potential penalty from serach engines for duplicate content.

With all that said and done, do you actually need the article on your blog as well? It’s much better etiquette to simply link to the other blog and they will undoubtedly link back to you and appreciate your sense of etiquette: reputation enhanced!

Check out this excellent resource in the link below:

Thanks to Y J Tso at for the orginal idea.

Facebook content marketing advice from Nissan, versus its dealer network (small businesses)

Sunday might be a great day to post more content on Facebook

Sunday might be a great day to post more content on Facebook


The success of Nissan’s main brand page indicates that there could be advantages for its dealers in terms of engagement if they redirect their focus.

The parent company has resource to pour into social media marketing and it may have patterns of engagement that are worth looking at.

Let’s recap our findings:

  1. Bring cohesion to your messaging. What role does your business play in the lives of the people who have “liked” you on Facebook? It’s probably more than their daily dose of cute jokes. Don’t drop those entirely — nobody wants to follow a boring stream of company sales speak.
  2. Small businesses like dealerships should aim to post content that connects their industry to human-interest topics, such as local traffic information, suggestions on the best weekend road trips or even the occasional discount offer. Think about how your audience might relate to your business in their personal lives and you are almost guaranteed to find content-worthy points of intersection.
  3. Try posting more rich media. Firstly, it’s getting the highest engagement, by far. And secondly, it’s more likely to be shared. Ask yourself, would you be more likely to share a status or a photo? For most people, I think photos have a tangible quality that induces sharing.
  4. Rich media can be expensive to produce, but there are also cost-effective alternatives. Try using content from the main brand’s assets. There’s also aggregation, or content curation. You could look for someone within the company who possesses both a decent camera (doesn’t have to be a pro) and an eye to match. You could even ask consumers to get involved. Activating the community to generate content would kill two birds with one stone.
  5. Try posting more content during non-business hours. Part of content strategy involves understanding what mindset people are in when they read your content. And someone sitting around on a Sunday afternoon might be in just the right frame of mind to read about how remarkable a new model is that just arrived. It could even get them off the couch and up for a drive to check it out.
  6. Understanding what works is an ongoing process. People’s interests can change over time and, with many product categories, even by season. Fortunately, social media has made it easier than ever to gauge what’s of interest to a target audience. And the more you know about what interests them, the more likely you are to create content that tightens the relationship they have with your brand.

What separates good, and great, content marketing

If you are part of the digital marketing industry you will have probably heard of Joe Pulizzi and his organisation, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

Joe has been a pioneer of content marketing for over a decade and has made it the CMI’s mission to help brands create quality content and distribute it through multiple online channels.

Coke and Google

Coke is emphasising that the future of marketing is digital content

The purpose of content marketing is to differentiate yourself from your peers and your competition through the use of creative, original digital content. Such content has a very beneficial SEO (search engine optimisation) effect and you will be found online, enjoyed and reap the resulting financial rewards.

Content marketing is not new. In the 1920s and 30s, manufacturers used printed newsletters to help their customers solve problems. They used storytelling, diagrams and photography to engage their audience, create brand loyalty and tell stories. The cost of such publications made it only available to larger brands.

The speed of publication and distribution has increased a hundred times since then. Prospects and customers can accept, read and ‘like’ a piece of content online within seconds.

The barriers to entry are now negligible. Photography, video and smartphones, as well as cloud computing, have brought tools within everyone’s reach that could only have been dreamed about just ten years ago.

A content strategy does not consume budget in terms of the cost of technology or distribution: it is either time-consuming for an internal team to create and curate content or it can be partly or wholly outsourced.

To avoid outsourcing, how can you accomplish the creation of original content? Through storytelling! A well-formed story is an essential part of an online marketing strategy. And here’s the rub: you are part of your story and you have direct access to the elements that can create compelling versions of it.

One of the reasons that you might not be creating much interaction online is because you don’t have compelling stories. Online tactics including search engine optimisation, lead generation and social media should be focused around telling a compelling story to engage your audience. After all, we know that facts tell…and stories sell!

Take Coca-Cola. The brand has recently released a series of videos that provide their take on the future of content marketing and more specifically the importance of storytelling.

Coca-Cola Content Marketing 2020: Part One
Coca-Cola Content Marketing 2020: Part Two

So what separates great content marketing, according to Joe Pulizzi, from the merely good?

  1. Add value: People resent being constantly bombarded with sales material. If you are in a competitive industry (which, let’s face it, most of us are), try to add value and solve their problems. Create content that is not sales-focused but customer-focused.
  2. Avoid jargon: Create content that focuses on what the audience wants to know, in their language. Avoid your jargon and learn theirs.
  3. Think ‘stories’: Motivate your team to look for the elements of great storytelling in everyday organisational life. I regularly go into enterprises and pick up several stories immediately, things that are in front of people each and every day but, because of familiarity, they become invisible.
  4. Team participation: By encouraging participation of your team in content creation, you can accomplish a few things. Looking for content on a regular basis will make them more aware of the elements of your enterprise and provide them with increased exposure online as an advocate for your brand.
  5. Coke content marketing video

    Coke hopes to transform one-way communication into dynamic storytelling to add value and significance to peoples lives

    Brand-less: Joe advocates that “your story travels further the less you mention your brand.” The more you provide quality content that is relevant to your readers, without necessarily referencing your brand, the more likely they are to read and share that information.

  6. Search out influencers: Search engines are still very relevant but there is an increasing trend towards increased referral-based business. If you can influence key influencers and they share your content with their network, that will produce a huge return on your efforts.
  7. Content ratio:The 4-1-1 Content Marketing Ratio — for every six posts shared on Twitter or Facebook, CMI advocates the following formula:
    • 4 shares of other influencers’/company’s content
    • 1 original piece of content
    • 1 sales pitch
  8. Give them the means: Have you ever wanted to share an article and spent more time looking for the social share buttons than you did actually reading the content? Place your social sharing buttons in a very visible area.
  9. Concentrate on quality: If you have to choose between quantity or quality of content, sheer quantity will hurt your brand. Posting great content once a week is far better off than posting mediocre content five times a week.

Be consistent with your content

It is now commonly accepted that one of the commonest headaches provided by the explosion of opportunities for content online — and subsequent marketing communications opportunities — has been allocating responsibility for content creation and creating an internal process to make production consistent.

Moneyball movie poster

Oakland Athletics’s General Manager Billy Beane is played in Moneyball by Brad Pitt

Blogs, social media and email marketing are all hungry for creative content whether it is created from scratch or curated. The point is that it doesn’t happen by magic.

The biggest culprit to content marketing success is a lack of consistency and, in some cases, a total content failure. Research from IBM, in 2010, (thanks Rebecca Lieb) found that about 80 percent of corporate blogs never post more than five entries.

If you have seen, or heard, of Moneyball, the story about how Oakland Athletics revolutionised baseball in 2002 by focusing on the statistics (sabermetrics) that had been previously thought unimportant. Manager Billy Beane took a team, with a payroll up to a third of the bigger teams, to success by concentrating on being consistent in the areas that really mattered.

Apply this to content marketing. Many companies are looking for the big burst, the piece of viral inspiration, the devastating campaign instead of putting in the time, day in, day out on the steady production of good content.

Simply put, most content marketing initiatives fail because content, for whatever reason, dries up. You will succeed at content marketing because you keep your brand promise, develop content around that promise and stick at a process. Every week, every month, you stick at it. Consistency.

Old Spice ad

Men, and women, seemed to like the Old Spice guy!

Take the 2011 Old Spice/Twitter/YouTube campaign. It was brilliant. Probably, one of the best real-time content marketing and social media examples ever.

It was also one of the worst. Why? Because it stopped. They treated that content marketing initiative just like another campaign, because it echoed content from an offline campaign…they gave it a time limit.

Like any savvy publisher, they could have continued to adapt and evolve the content. They could have continued the engagement (and revenue growth).

There’s a simple moral here. Develop a consistent approach to content creation, or curation. Call it a Content Strategy, or whatever you like, but include it as a heading in the next version of your marketing communications planning.

The corporate content ownership dilemma

With the increasing importance of content, particularly digital content, in many enterprises’ marketing communications programmes, it is interesting to speculate on which corporate discipline will take ownership of ‘content’.

It has been called the Content Convergence Dilemma, the power struggle over who owns corporate content, who controls its generation, publishing and maintenance? Will Content Departments emerge to create and co-ordinate content?

PR is the discipline listening to online communities

PR is the discipline listening to online communities

If product marketing teams — for instance — produce content independently, the enterprise overall won’t have the benefit of getting the maximum out of content and, to the customer, content may appear disjointed or uncoordinated. Content integration requires each department to be candid about their objectives and to be willing to negotiate, and contribute resources, to a mutually-agreed content plan and calendar.

You might think that the drive for more corporate transparency, coupled with social media’s voracious appetite for content, would have internal corporate departments vying for the rights to push out content.

In reality, brands’ internal departments defer to PR and say, either, “You do it” or, “Tell us what you need and we’ll see how we can help”. PR is not necessarily the repository of all the skills that are needed. They will depend on Marketing, or outside agencies, for copywriting, graphic, coding, video and editing skills crucial to content development.

However, PR professionals probably have the best feel about what content will appeal most to an enterprise’s communities. They already participate in communities, offline and online. They’re the ones tracking what the mainstream media want to write about and talking to editors and journalists. They’re the ones who often monitor social media in PR programmes — talking to community members and customers, running polls, testing out hashtags, flagging potential landmines and running buzz and sentiment monitoring.

Brands can derive huge value from PR’s ability to create, manage and tweak the workaday content calendar. It’s from their efforts that Marketing should be monitoring the nuggets to develop into the big ideas which have already been proven within online community interaction.

This case study illustrates how a PR team’s community relations groundwork led to insights into an audience sector, what concerned them and how media campaigns could be constructed around the insights.

Social media will continue to reveal key marketing information and public relations could develop another string to its bow as early testbeds for accessing, developing and trialling creative ideas.

Social media in 2012

The tension between social media (to the consumer) and social media marketing (to enterprises) will increase as a majority of brands finally work through how they can participate successfully in social media.

Social media will be a part of most larger, B2C enterprise’s marketing communications armoury, as an option rather than a tool, and coming to terms with the fact that these platforms are controlled by consumers. Marketing communications departments will continue to re-organise internally on that premise.

B2B businesses will increase their efficiency in populating sales pipelines from unexpected (social media) directions and business blogs will develop more sophistication in interacting through social media channels.

Could Path be one app to watch? — “The smart journal that helps you share life with the ones you love”.

Expect more campaigns like Old Spice and Tempurpedic: advocacy campaigns on social networks are going to be more popular in 2012 as enterprises realise the power of their social fan base.

The launch of Google+ in 2011 gave Facebook a brutal warning of a coming battle for knowledge, and the hearts and minds, of the consumer. The stakes are high for these two companies and their primary streams of revenue are at risk. The only limiting factor in their peaceful co-existence is time: we are simply not able to spend enough time on both of them.

Watch for Google to integrate social into everything in 2012. As a Google executive now famously said: “Google+ is Google.”

Arab Spring protestors

Could staff in enterprises repressive with social media be the next 'spring' protests?

Customers will begin to understand and clamour for technologies that cause social interactions within their organisations. The 59% of companies that prohibit, or aggressively control the use of social media at work, will discover that they are the equivalent of Arab dictators and employees are the empowered ones: could there be a Spring Freedom 2012 within oppressive, large enterprises?.

Survey have consistently found that, among the marketing communications programmes businesses planned to invest in during 2012, email and social-media marketing topped the list.

The difference between content marketing and content curation is simply who’s writing the blog posts, composing tweets and creating videos. So while it’s a good idea to share interesting industry-relevant news with your online network, enterprises will need to create some content of their own in 2012. This implies planning and production. We are all both businesses and publishers these days: the more original your content, the better.

Content production: should you just give it away?

In the last decade, the digital story has moved from persuading enterprises that they even needed a website, to a place where “content marketing” and “storytelling” are now a serious part of corporate marketing communications tactics.

Either as a micro-enterprise or as a larger company, is it always an advantage to create and give away digital content?

To study the relative merits of content production and dissemination as part of a marketing communications approach, let’s explore six main scenarios in a content marketing continuum.

1. Modesty

The first scenario in sharing content is to not to share it at all: the enterprise does not focus on online thought leadership, concentrating efforts on other approaches. Many businesses don’t blog, create white papers, produce podcasts, or anything we would consider to be modern content marketing. Apple Inc doesn’t blog or release white papers but lets its products speak for themselves.

2. Playing away

The second scenario is creating thought leadership by participating in communities and content opportunities not under your control. Most consultant/speaker/authors in the social media space are prominent in social media. The exceptions spend considerable time on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Empire Avenue, building bridges and making contacts. They write guest blogs and reply to posts on other blogs. Their presence is their Gravatar and the digital footprint they leave on other sites.

3. Earning revenue

The third scenario is producing your own content, but doing so for a fee. Many online gurus offer a free email newsletter and a series of free tools to build a distribution list (for major online figures, subscribers often number well into six figures). He then offers paid products to that list, creating a passive income stream.

4. Garnering leads

The fourth scenario is a familiar one to many B2B marketers: producing content and making it contingent on capturing data. Clearly, this approach can generate a significant volume of inbound leads for the sales team. Content of value to business professionals will always succeed: the ‘price’ of parting with data and subscribing to a list is very minor compared to the knowledge imparted.

5. Teaser

The fifth scenario is when companies produce significant, freely-distributed content but do not reveal their core operational secrets. For instance, a firm of accountants could offer a plethora of tools to calculate tax, monitor cashflow and run basic book-keeping but not reveal their auditing and analytic processes that make the firm competitive.

6. The Full Monty

The final scenario is unrestricted content creation and delivery. For example, any company could adopt practices that give them a huge digital profile: they could spread their content as widely as possible on their own and other platforms. They could offer content freely and without any restriction, arguing that a data collection form is the enemy of a wide digital footprint. They could also create content for the majority of the market that doesn’t know who they are, instead of the minority that does. An enterprise can still use content production to maintain close relationships with current customers and prospects, giving them sneak previews of new content before it is made more generally available.

Which of these scenarios is ideal for your business? IThere is no right answer, just the answer that’s right in your circumstances.

The best way to identify it is to test. Set up a dashboard using the Four Types of Content Metrics to measure the effectiveness of your efforts and then create related pieces of content. For example, create two related white papers and give one away free and exchange the other for contact data.

There is a Content Marketing Testing Plan here that you can download free to help you with content production planning.

Marketing on a shoestring: inbound, outbound tactics and SOSTAC®

I orginally wrote this as a reply to Jane Hatton on another blog about her new enterprise Evenbreak, which matches employers, who value diversity, with disabled candidates.

Jane, there seems to be a lot of confusion between ‘marketing’ and ‘marketing communications’ in recent discussions online.

The difference is more obvious the bigger an enterprise gets, when responsibilities are delegated to separate departments and outside agencies but it is still an important distinction for a micro-enterprise to make.

Smaller enterprises invariably have to heap a bundle of management responsibilities onto one person. To draw a parallel in accounting, even a small firm distinguishes between book-keeping (keeping accurate financial records) and management accounts (financial information for decision-making), even if the same person is responsible for both and they can merge into the same activity. So marketing and marketing communications should be seen as distinct activities with different purposes.

Jane Hatton working lying down

Jane is herself disabled and can only work in this position

Marketing used to be functionally divided into the four ‘P’s — Product; Place; Price; Promotion. What you are talking about in your post is promotion: but before promotion begins, a true marketing approach means that you need to have ensured that your product and price are market-ready and market-acceptable. Small enterprises can rarely afford the luxury of market research or trial launches so it is normally carried out as part of day-to-day operations, using feedback from early adopters..

In any case, many pundits now advocate — in the era of Web 3.0 and social media — using the five ‘E’s — Experience (instead of Product); Everywhere (instead of Place); Exchange (instead of Price); Evangelism (instead of Promotion) and, finally, Enablement — using crowdsourcing, polls, wikis, viral effects, SEO, blogs and social media.

‘Everywhere’ indicates the universal nature of the Web but I suspect there is still a natural limit to Evenbreak’s reach — probably mainland UK? Exchange is the practice of having a pricing model which allows some initial functionality free and gradually charging as additional features are used.

What you describe in you post is Promotion — now better-labelled Evangelism and Enablement. Two commoner names for these (marketing communications) functions are Outbound Marketing Communications and Attraction Marketing Communications (or Inbound or Digital Footprint or any number of terms which online snake oil sellers are trying to make their own).

You may think I am being pedantic in continually using the term Marketing Communications (MC) — and I may be — but the division is useful if it persuades an enterprise to return to the marketing drawing board if some of the fundamentals of a service prove unacceptable to its marketplace through sensitive, two-way MC.

What you have described, very thoroughly, is an Inbound MC Programme, with the exception of the hard copy letter, passed by the Chief Executive, and events. These I would class as Outbound MC — Evangelism.

I have worked for a start-up over the last few weeks and, because he had done his market research quite carefully, I helped him plan both Inbound and Outbound MC Programmes which I am helping him to execute.

Why both? Because he need short-term results and I have facilitated acquiring data on his target individuals at 30p a shot (commercial property landlords in development mode) and using a home-based B2B telemarketer whom we can task, flexibly, at a minimum of two hours at a time.

She sets up appointments and feeds the data into an online CRM system which also links into the email marketing database for a number of follow-up emails according to landlords’ response and resulting position in the sales funnel. Plans for a webinar in the new year are in hand.

We run a modest PPC AdWords Campaign, partly to help us research and optimise our Keyword List.

We are also running an Inbound MC Programme — blog, social media, links, SEO, guest blogs, LinkedIn Q&A, digital PR — but results will take two to three months to come through and, meanwhile, the Outbound MC Programme is getting the sales funnel moving immediately.

We use Paul R Smith’s SOSTAC® Planning System [] and have created two documents — a Marketing Plan and Marketing Communications Programme — using the SOSTAC template. Rather than written in stone, they are in Google Documents and available to the whole team and continuously amended to take account of marketing intelligence and remarks from telemarketing and data from the CRM system and a Digital PR Dashboard (also in Google Docs as a spreadsheet).

The Dashboard has all the indices necessary to monitor and measure the progress of the MC Programmes and help us decide how much telemarketing or inbound activity to commission each week to meet sales targets.

When referring to your (Inbound MC) tactics, you say “most cost nothing but time and imagination”: time and imagination are in short supply, probably more so than cash. That is why my customers pay me — to supply them. They also pay for dedicated execution which is a key part of creativity. Ideas need to be delivered!

I am a great admirer of your enterprise — in both meanings of the word — and, if I can advise in any way, I would be happy to provide some of that free time you mention.

Google rolls out Analytics to YouTube

YouTube has replaced Insight, a tool that let users see detailed stats about their videos, with Analytics, which offers a similar interface to Google Analytics.

Screen shot of YouTube Analytics

A familiar analytics interface

Analytics gives registered YouTube users all the data from Insight in a more straightforward interface, with several handy new options.

It offers:

  • a summary report for your content on YouTube,
  • a data filter that allows you to filter reports by content, geography and date,
  • an interactive map that accompanies most reports, showing you the geographic distribution of the metric you’re interested in.

You can now also easily see which videos are driving the most views and subscriptions for you, as well as how long viewers watched your videos.

Finally, you can now download the currently displayed report (rather than all data).

Google says it will be rolling it out to “everyone on a modern browser over the course of the day.” A detailed FAQ covering all the features of Analytics is available here.

Best statement on Google+ aims I have seen

Christian Oestlian, Lead in Social Advertising at Google, recently gave a talk at AdTech New York where he said:


Christian Oestlian, Lead in Social Advertising at Google

Christian Oestlian, Lead in Social Advertising at Google

“We don’t think of Google+ in terms of what other people are doing today. Certainly, there’s that feature-race, where we want to make sure we have enough products featured in and around Google+ to make it interesting. But for us, even if there was no social service out there today, we would want to implement this strategy.

Google+ is about transforming your relationship with Google. The number of people going to Google on a daily basis rivals virtually all other properties out there. If we can take that experience more social, interesting and personalized, that’s something we want to do no matter who else is engaged in the same space.”

All businesses are now storytellers

No doubt as an assiduous marketing professional, you are well aware of Seth Godin’s book ‘All Marketers Are Liars’. The book is actually about telling and using authentic marketing narratives but, ironically, Seth got his own storytelling wrong.

Fortunately, his publisher has given him a second chance and the new title now represents the gist of his story much more accurately. Few of us get a such a second chance in a world with instant, 24/7 media.

As a creative content creator, Godin’s new title will become one of those stories that will illuminate my own narratives and illustrate the importance of authenticity and accuracy.

As Godin says, lying doesn’t pay off any more. That’s because when you fabricate a story that just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, you get caught. Fast.

So, it’s tempting to be economic with the truth but it doesn’t take long for the reality to catch up with the story. We can spin a tale about a piece of technology or a customer service policy but once it is exposed to social media, we’re lost.

Godin’s book talks about two sides of a universal truth, one that has built every successful brand, organisation and candidate and one that we rarely have the words to describe.

Every day, we see brands fail because they failed to ask and answer these questions. We see worthy candidates fail to demonstrate authenticity in a most public way and flawed ones bite the dust. Ask US Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Perry.

There are small businesses that are so focused on what they do that they forget to take the time to craft the story of why they do it. And so on and so forth.

If what you’re doing matters, really matters — and it should do to you — then I hope you’ll take the time to tell a story: a story that resonates and a story that is authentic and true.

Websites don’t have content: they are content

In the past, it was easy enough to outsource content production to creative agencies. But the ubiquity of publishing platforms, mushrooming of publishing opportunities and power of technology means organisations can, and probably should, publish relevant content and reap the subsequent marketing rewards.

Apart from the complexity of understanding blogging, social media and technologies like video and podcasting, there is the challenge of creating content. Excellent content educates, interests, amuses or challenges your key audiences and gets them to interact and engage.

Let’s take a small diversion into Web design. As design has become more user-centred, disciplines like user-analysis, information architecture, transactional and visual design and usability testing have emerged and contributed to the clarity of Web-based content.

While these were important steps towards developing great content, there was still a conspicuous gap between infrastructure and the content that went into it. Web content was considered outside of the scope of the theories of user experience and often left, by an agency or studio, to the client organisation to ‘sort’.

Content production should be built-in to a website development project

Content production should be built-in to a website development project

Content is still often considered as the last-minute stuff that goes into the design and is created in a hurry or migrated from its various locations to the new design. Content has, until recently, been considered merely an adjunct to the primary process, instead of being the core of the process.

One systems designer, Dorian Taylor, captured the essence of this conundrum when he asserts that “…the Web doesn’t have content, it is content”.

Giving content a peripheral role creates problems that are not easily rectified with a tweak to the design or even through more fundamental changes. Putting content centre-stage means changing some of the basic ways we think about content.

The form of an object must be based on its intended purpose. If the purpose of a website is to inform, sell, share or entertain, then the consumption of content is the function. If the content is not created before design begins, then form is not following function: the function is being compromised by the form.

The elements of design – from the architecture and navigation to the look-and-feel to the code functionality – are all components that come together to help the content reach the user effectively. If the content is an afterthought, the experience is likely to fail.

Content development has become too complex to be left in the hands of a website manager, junior marketing executive or site moderator. Not everyone is, or should be, an expert at content strategy and management.

Neither can authors within an organisation necessarily be expected to know enough about content management – keywords, content standards and modelling, re-use models, content for metatags, microformats and writing for syndication. Decisions about content strategy should be made at marketing director and board level or outsourced to a creative agency who has a grasp of content creation.

When website developers say that the content elements of online projects are a major sticking point, they recognise that the launch is being held up by a poor, or non-existent, content development process.

The absence of quality content can often be attributed to a few key failures or omissions. Content on an old site could be unsuitable, inconsistently structured or difficult to migrate neatly to the new site. The content could also be trapped in attachments, such as PDF files or in email, which can’t be moved very easily.

The content, whether written or migrated, could be unusable for the new site or app. It may describe out-of-date functionality or not be written in ways that are suitable for integration with the new design: the new design may not be able to accommodate the content. There is no way to provide the necessary information or instructions within the design that has just been, no doubt, approved in a lengthy sign-off process.

A situation could arise where there is simply no planned content for certain areas – often new, key areas – because there was no appreciation of how long it takes to create suitable content, or there is a lack of awareness about why accurate, readable content is so important.

There could be simply no budget allocated for content development. Content can be a major budget item, so the redesign proposal opted to omit content provision so as to lower the project cost. At a late stage, the client organisation is told they are responsible for content development themselves and they realise they have no time, budget and/or expertise to start creating content.

Six social media marketing tactics for small businesses in 2011

Try and get some sort of perspective on social media marketing as a small business and you’re overwhelmed with advice, most of it unstructured and amateur. So many experts: so little expertise!

Here are six tactics to put into action quickly, improve your digital footprint and get results. You can safely delegate an intern, or find a part-time resource, to get this moving immediately.

  1. Produce interesting content in multimedia: videos are relatively easy to produce and use via YouTube. Rather than just write blogs (although, remember that a blog is the heart of a social media campaign), put some thoughts down on video. Editing tools are ubiquitous and adding music and titles is simple.
  2. Message integration: your enterprise’s ‘story’ should already exist and it will tell your key communities just how your enterprise brightens their lives or solves a headache. Retell that story in several forms, illustrate it with metaphors and use it across Yellow Pages, offline PR, ads in your industry handbook and…social media. Keep telling that story in different ways and use your keyword list to stay digitally on message.
  3. Make your blog professional: don’t just play at blogging. Plan an editorial schedule three months ahead and designate writers. Conform to your keyword list and hold a brainstorming session to find ways of telling the enterprise story in different metaphorical settings.

    Social media brainstorm meeting

    Collaboration is important for generating social media content

  4. Hyperlocal marketing: if your enterprise is geographically critical, social media marketing works brilliantly at a local level. Use Google’s free Local Business Centre, register on Google Maps and ensure you are listed on Facebook Places, Gowalla and Foursquare. Encourage customers to checkin with point-of-sales requests or discounts.
  5. Digital PR: social media marketing is digital public relations, with one important difference. It is very much a multi-directional conversation and your influence has to be subtle to influence people to talk about your enterprise.  But this is not a reason to avoid planning resources, activity and content. Plan social media marketing like a PR campaign.
  6. LinkedIn as a sales pipeline: if you are in a business-to-business enterprise, use LinkedIn as a sales pipeline (from your point of view!). LinkedIn now has profiling and listing tools, so go to it! From your communities’ point of view, you will be an interesting company that is helpful and full of resources and ideas.

Staff can be your marketing fifth columnists, if you let them

So often this question comes up in discussions about social media marketing strategy: why on earth allow employees to openly represent an organisation online?

The general answer runs something like this: “If you are afraid of what your employees will say about you online, then your problem is not your employees — it’s your organisation.”

There are nuances to this general principle, of course: for example, staff shouldn’t claim to speak for the organisation in any official or legal sense. But, generally speaking, organisations afraid of losing control over unofficial communication will make the situation worse by banning social media use at work.

There is also a very simple, practical argument against organisations wanting to stop staff Facebook or Twitter access.   With more people set to go online via their mobiles than desktops in the near future, your efforts are likely to be futile.  Much better to have an internal social media policy in place instead.

But the strongest reason is this:  allowing staff to use social media won’t result in them talking your organisation down, just the opposite in fact.

Forrester came out with pretty damning research among 5,500+ information workers in North America and Europe. Half of (49%) of information workers were online detractors and only 27% were promoters, for a net score of minus 23%.   Not surprisingly, directors are promoters but staff — including supervisors — are detractors.   So forget the notion of middle management always being loyal!

At the same time, this statistic is worth everything and…nothing.  According to another AdAge article: “In case you’re wondering if you should allow employees onto social networks (and trust me, you can’t stop them), try this fact: workers who use social media are among the most positive of an organisation’s supporters — 48% would strongly recommend a company’s products and services and only 22% were detractors, for a net score of 26% — among the highest of the groups we surveyed.”

This is part of an instinctive reflex to defend your ‘tribe’.  So you might denigrate your boss or your work to friends and family but seeing a stranger criticise them online is totally different!

Letting staff use social media shows that you trust them to act responsibly and don’t treat them like children.    If you treat them like adults, they’ll more often than not respond in kind and become your organisation’s online advocates.

Arguably, the hardest part of leveraging the power of social media is generating an initial burst of activity. More and more often we read powerful case studies of companies who tap their biggest fans to help generate quality word-of-mouth coverage. While there’s no question that customers are one of the most effective assets in social media marketing, organisations of all sizes often overlook their built-in, positive social network — their employees.

Staff who are equipped with information are more likely to be advocates on their company’s behalf. Consequently, it is the responsibility of enlightened marketers to arm their colleagues with the tools and messages to enable effective word-of-mouth communication online.

Here are a few ways to empower your employees to give your word-of-mouth campaign some momentum.

  1. Extend the “all-staff” e-mail. Internal “all-staff” e-mail is the media through which employees hear about all milestones, product updates and announcements. But why stop there? After each important announcement (intended for the outside world, of course), add a drafted tweet or status update — complete with a link to the appropriate news release or landing page. Not only will your well-connected employees share the announcement, their networks will listen — they will be “breaking the news” from the inside.
  2. Develop social-media-friendly content. For instance, is there a company PowerPoint that your sales or business development people use frequently?  If you’re fortunate, the PowerPoint summarises the value of your business in ways your website, blog or your e-mail signature just can’t. Get that presentation uploaded on SlideShare, tag accordingly and get your entire staff to upload the deck to their LinkedIn profiles, via the SlideShare application (you can also use Google Presentation on LinkedIn).
  3. Persuade staff to “like” where they work. The chances are that all your staff is on Facebook: how many of them have actively “liked” your company? Some people may prefer to keep their personal life separate from their professional life but it never hurts to ask. Most likely, most will accept — and several of them may turn into active (and valuable) participants.
  4. Axe the fax and socialise your business cards. Why is a fax number still a standard component of business cards while social media outlets are omitted? Include a link to a blog, a company Twitter account, LinkedIn or Facebook company page and provide potential customers with a meaningful way to interact with your brand. This also applies to your employees’ e-mail signatures. Present your staff with a template — complete with all appropriate social links — and watch your network — and positive digital signature — grow.

AIDA can clarify social media strategy

It’s useful, sometimes, to get back to the basics when social media marketing threatens to overwhelm us with an avalanche of innovation, platforms and analytical tools.

Remember that old chestnut in sales and communications, the acronym AIDA?  AIDA stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action.

This is the most rudimentary of sales and marketing funnels and, yet, is more relevant and useful today because theories and distractions can often cause us to forget the requirements of a successful sales engagement.

Each section of AIDA represents a stage in your sales and marketing process and can help you set your expectations, decide what to monitor and visualise the relationships between each part. Understanding the flow of the tools and tactics will also help you get your measurements and analytics in line with your goals.

Here’s a closer look at the breakdown of this marketing funnel, some tips on how to apply it to your social media strategy and a look at how the model is evolving in the digital age.


Awareness is social media’s bread and butter.

You can’t easily display your inventory via Twitter, set up a shopping cart on LinkedIn or fill orders through YouTube: these networks are not going to be your selling environment. Instead, they are your communication and outreach tools — the spokes that lead back to your hub (catalogue, blog, site landing page).

Awareness  is getting people to know you exist and that you can solve a problem they might have. At this level, conversations, interaction and content are king. A few metrics you might want to measure around your brand are buzz — mentions and conversation frequency — and sentiment.


Now that you have their attention, you need to get customers interested in your product or service. You can bolster interest with content that shows how you can solve customers’ problems and reflect your unique approach. Features and benefits weigh heavily at this level and social media can help you convert interest into desire.


AIDA sales funnel diagram

The simple AIDA model has added a 'C' and 'R'



Social media can help bolster desire through communication and engagement but, to fully satisfy someone’s desire to buy, you need to have a site that is streamlined and optimised. Recently, I tried using a popular car rental site to make a reservation but it was so difficult to find out what was available — and its cost — that I gave up, despite having a generous discount code. The user interface killed my desire and I went to a competitor’s site, which made getting a quotation and reserving a car really easy.

Some of the metrics that matter at this level are bounce rate, time on site, pages viewed and incoming links.


Now that your prospects are likely to take action, you need to make it easy and obvious for your customer to complete your desired action (purchase, sign-up, lead form, event ticket, subscription).

If you have created some targeted landing pages set up for your products or services, those are what you want to link to — not your homepage. Even if you’re not running PPC campaigns, the same strategy of linking to targeted pages through social media is applicable. A few of the metrics you will want to look at here are CTR (click-through rate), retweets (of deals and links) and conversations about specific products.

The action stage is also where you can finally calculate some of your sales metrics, like conversion rate and ROI. This is where you can see how everything is performing and the final impact your work is having. Often, these are the metrics that your boss and directors are looking for.

New additions to the marketing funnel

Over the years, the traditional AIDA has evolved and added two extra levels. These levels represent not only a shift in the technology and methods that are used to market, but the people behind it.


How are you getting your customers to buy from you again? One very simple way to reinforce their pleasure in buying is to follow up via the same social media you used in the first place. If you know they purchased via a link on Facebook, send them a Facebook message saying “thanks” and provide them with your customer service contact information.

Use Twitter for customer service. Monitor the online conversations around people who are already using your product and see if they have any questions or problems that you can resolve quickly. You can build social loyalty programs and use the communities you create to keep customers coming back. This is where CRM (customer relationship management) can play a leading role and  social CRM solutions are emerging to fill that need.

A few things you might want to monitor here are repeat buyers, the use of loyalty codes, post-purchase and product use sentiment.


Advocacy is the dream of any marketer, where your customers do your marketing for you. It’s when customers love your products, brand, services and people so much that they can’t help but talk about you. This is why you want to make it easy for people to share your brand. Any hindrance to this — be it a bad website interface or an anti-social company ethic — will really discourage this extremely valuable source of traffic and interest.

If it’s an option, I’m far more inclined to click on a “Tweet This” or “Like” button than I am to take the link, shorten it in, and post it to my various social networks. Remove any barriers to referrals and then both encourage and reward it.

Some metrics to look at here are mentions, conversations and referrals.

How to get your blog posts working harder

Use a catchy subject line

The subject line is arguably the most important element of any post: titles that pique curiosity are more likely to be opened. When this is combined with strategic keywords that match the topic of the post, you have a blog that’s going to perform well.

The idea is simply to generate curiosity such as Why isn’t your team performing: perhaps they’re not in ‘flow’? You’re now wondering what ‘flow’ is all about, aren’t you?

Many of us don’t have large subscriber bases, so we need to develop a catchy title that also includes keywords that will get indexed by Google. Brian Clark at Copyblogger does an excellent job of this. One of his generally-accepted SEO copywriting tips is to place these keywords near the front of the title.

You should occasionally test your titles to determine what resonates most with your audience. Titles that offer immediate practical help, like How to get your blog posts working harder will result in higher traffic from a community than those that are too clever and thought-provoking.

Offer easy-to-skim content

When you organise your content so that it’s easily skimmed and assimilated, you tap into a secret of blogging. Time is precious and you have a few seconds to get two or three points across:

  • Blog as if you are talking directly  to one of your community members: my audience is business professionals and marketers. They expect you to get to the point quickly and avoid technical jargon.
  • Learn to write in a terse, accurate style: if you scan any news source, you’ll notice the paragraphs are short — only a few sentences. The Guardian’s Style Guide is useful and accessible.
  • Use subheadings: this helps both you and the reader. I tend to write my first draft quickly for flow and readability. Then I go back and organise with subheadings, while also reorganising and eliminating entire paragraphs so that my readers don’t have to.
  • Create lists: lists are the ultimate organising tool, which is why they’re frequently retweeted — thereby attracting valuable links back to your blog. Keep them to a few items otherwise you’ll make it confusing.
  • Use italics and bold text for emphasis: if someone reads your blog post word-for-word, it’s usually after skimming it first. Help readers do both by emphasising key points with italics and bold text. Use caps, ellipses (…) and exclamation marks only when they are really justified.

Mix content types and opinion and facts

Delivering great content requires a mix of qualities that keeps your readers coming back for more. The key isn’t always the quality of the message but how it’s delivered:

  • Offer your opinions: if you’re an expert in your field, then your opinion is relevant. Who do you respect more, the waiter who says everything on the menu is excellent or the one who looks you in the eye and recommends her favourites (or suggests avoiding some dishes)?
  • Use multimedia: make it a point to use images, screenshots and video to communicate your message with more punch.Link to your experience and case studies: advice has greater credibility when it comes from a practical, proven situation.
  • Leave out the rubbish: make the effort to edit out anything that doesn’t support your title or enhance your post. Include details to create a mental picture but leave out anything else that is not strictly relevant.


WordPress Excerpt feature

The 'Excerpt' feature in WordPress


Be aware of SEO factors

Learning the basics of search engine optimisation (SEO) is a necessary aspect of blogging if you expect to build a sustainable reader base. While SEO can get complicated, you can be very effective by simply tuning into your audience and writing for them:

  • Excerpts: the excerpt of your post is the brief description included with the return of search results and is an extra option in most blogging platforms. A well-chosen description encourages click-throughs. If you don’t build an excerpt, the first couple of sentences of your post will be used as a default. Get in the habit of summarising your post in the first couple of sentences.
  • Keywords: learn the common words and phrases being used by your audience. For example, do they use the term entreprise or business? These subtle distinctions need to be made so that you can be found when they’re searching for your expertise.Links: the SEO experts universally agree that inbound links to your blog are useful for achieving a high ranking. How do you get these links? The most reliable way is to write content that people want to link to.
  • Anchor text: link to the keywords (known as anchor text) in your post that are aligned with the words you expect to be used by someone searching for your expertise. The classic mistake is linking to click here instead of more relevant keywords such as digital marketing or whatever relates to your expertise.
  • Link to earlier posts: link back to your previous posts to encourage your readers to hang around longer. This increases the likelihood they’ll respond to a call-to-action, such as subscribing to your blog or newsletter.
  • Tags: tags are handled differently in every blogging platform. Just be sure to use tags that are relevant to the post you’re creating, as well as the audience you’re blogging for. Only use tags that directly refer to your post to avoid undermining their effectiveness through dilution.
  • Categories: categories obviously help your blog visitors go deeper into the subject matter or topic that interests them most. Search engines also index your categories for the same reason, so choose your categories carefully. Too many and it is confusing to readers: too few and they are pointless. Aim for six to ten categories.


WordPress tagcloud

Tag cloud generated from WordPress


Encourage interaction and action

While blogging is a platform for publishing, the ultimate objective is to encourage engagement and interaction. Just as an engaged audience gives a speaker feedback on his live presentation, the comments to your blog will do the same.

You can and should learn from every single visitor to your blog by responding and seeking to better understand her point of view. Every comment probably represents the perspective of many others. The more you learn, the easier it is to focus your efforts on what’s most relevant to your audience.

Why else do you want comments? Because comments are social proof that your blog is popular. And this, in turn, encourages more traffic and subscribers to your blog. To encourage more comments, you may not only have to remind your audience to do so but show them as well. Write a post on commenting and use your blog as an example.

Show your readers exactly how to comment, and even go a step further to describe how to share your post by retweeting or using the Facebook Like button.

Latest Forrester report shows ‘Joiners’ still increasing

Forrester has tracked the growth of social behaviour from 2007, when they first named social media participants. Forrester categorises online social behaviours into a ladder with six levels of participation; they use the term Social Technographics to describe analysing a population according to its participation in these levels.

Category ladder

Forrester's social media user categories

They called active, content creators, well…Creators,  comprising13% of online adults who write and maintain blogs, update Web pages or upload video they created, at least monthly.

Critics, 19%, post ratings, comment  on and review content. Collectors, 15%, tag Web pages and use RSS. Joiners, 19%, are active online social networkers.

Spectators, 33%, read blogs, watch video and listen to podcasts. Inactives, 52%, may be online but barely take part in any activity.

There have been increases in more complex social behaviours such as exhibited by Creators but, for the first time, there is a change in the growth trend.  Forrester’s latest 2010 Global Social Technographics report demonstrates that much online social behaviour has plateaued.  Why, and what does this mean to marketers?

Is it sensible to believe that Creator behaviour will ever be universal? Not every person has a burning need to be a reporter, an industry expert, a video producer, a musician, a thought leader, an editor or a broadcaster.  The fact that more than 1 in 5 online adults are exhibiting Creator behaviour is a testament to how social technologies have lowered the bar.

Further growth in Creator behaviour will come much more slowly than in the past.  This will cause marketers and those who produce social tools to focus more on how social content is consumed rather than how it is produced.

In fact, there is already evidence of this trend — look at Twitter’s new Web interface, which doesn’t change how people tweet but instead makes it significantly easier to consume others’ tweets. Look for other social tools to follow suit, offering new ways to make tweets, blog posts, product ratings and other social content easier to find, read, use, save and share.

There is one behaviour that is not plateauing, nor is it likely to stop growing for some time: Joiners. These are people who maintain a social networking profile.

While growth in other behaviours have stagnated, Joiners grew again from 2009 to 2010.  As social media has become a major communication channel for many people, it becomes hard to avoid.  Even those with no intent to share continue to join so they can keep in touch with friends, children and grandchildren. Today, avoiding social networks is about as easy to do as avoiding email — it’s possible, but it comes at a substantial cost in terms of relationships and knowledge.

The fact that Joiners continue to grow means marketers must continue to focus their attention and budgets on social networks in 2011. More people will spend more time and get more information through social networks and, where consumer time and attention goes, so will marketing investment.

Inbound marketing reading list update

World Wide Rave

World Wide Rave

Just titles that I have found useful and a way of building an inbound marketing library.

Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs (The New Rules of Social Media)
Brian Halligan, David Meerman Scott and Dharmesh Shah
Traditional outbound marketing methods like cold–calling, email blasts, advertising, and direct mail are increasingly less effective. People are getting better at blocking these interruptions out using Caller ID, spam protection, TiVo. People are now increasingly turning to Google, social media and blogs to find products and services. Inbound Marketing helps you take advantage of this change by showing you how to get found by customers online.

The New Rules of Marketing & PR
David Meerman Scott
The imminent fall of traditional mass media marketing means new opportunities for legions of smaller companies and independent professionals who need to reach niche markets cheaply and effectively. The way Scott sees it, this is also good news for consumers: the online culture of integrity and information tends to produce quality content for less, as opposed to the vapid, one–sided and pricey advertising of print media and television.

World Wide Rave: Creating Triggers That Get Millions of People to Spread Your Ideas and Share Your Stories
David Meerman Scott
A World Wide Rave is when people around the world are talking about you, your company, and your products. It′s when communities eagerly link to your stuff on the Web. It′s when online buzz drives buyers to your virtual doorstep. It′s when tons of fans visit your Web site and your blog because they genuinely want to be there.

The Longer Long Tail: How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand
Chris Anderson
Chris Anderson first explored the Long Tail in an article in Wired Magazine that has become one of the most influential business essays of our time. Now he takes a closer look at the new economics of the Internet age, showing where business is going and exploring the huge opportunities that exist: for new producers, new e-tailers, and new tastemakers. He demonstrates how long tail economics apply to industries ranging from the toy business to advertising to kitchen appliances. He sets down the rules for operating in a long tail economy. And he provides a glimpse of a future that’s already here.

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies
Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
Groundswell is a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other instead of from companies and has created a permanent, long-lasting shift in the way the world works. This book exists to help companies deal with the trend, regardless of how the individual technology pieces change.

Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust
Chris Brogan and Julian Smith
Today′s online influencers are Web natives who trade in trust, reputation, and relationships, using social media to accrue the influence that builds up or brings down businesses online. Two social media veterans show you how to tap into the power of social networks to build your brand′s influence, reputation, and, of course, profits. In this revised paperback version, learn how businesses are using the latest online social tools to build networks of influence and how you can use those networks to positively impact your business.

The New Influencers: A Marketer’s Guide to the New Social Media
Paul Gillin and Geoffrey A Moore
One of those landmark books that has everyone talking and for good reason. The book is an important contribution to discussions of the sea change in marketing and public relations techniques. The democratisation of publishing and broadcasting enables fresh, and previously unheard voices, into the mainstream. With those voices and their new and constantly evolving delivery channels, marketing and public relations will never be the same again.

Get Content, Get Customers: Turn Prospects into Buyers with Content Marketing
Joe Pulizzi
The rules of marketing have changed. Instead of loud claims of product superiority, what customers really want is valuable content that will improve their lives. Get Content Get Customers explains how to develop compelling content and seamlessly deliver it to customers — without interrupting their lives. It’s new marketing and it’s the only way to build a loyal, engaged customer base.

Personality Not Included: Why Companies Lose Their Authenticity And How Great Brands Get it Back
Rohit Bhargava
The age of the faceless corporation is over. In the new business era of the twenty first century, great brands and products must evoke a dynamic personality in order to attract passionate customers. Although many organizations hide their personality behind layers of packaged messaging and advertising, social media guru and influencer, Rohit Bhargava, counters that philosophy and illustrates how successful businesses have redefined themselves in the new customer universe.

Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs (The New Rules of Social Media)
Brian Halligan, David Meerman Scott and Dharmesh Shah
Traditional outbound marketing methods like cold–calling, email blasts, advertising, and direct mail are increasingly less effective. People are getting better at blocking these interruptions out using Caller ID, spam protection, TiVo. People are now increasingly turning to Google, social media and blogs to find products and services. Inbound Marketing helps you take advantage of this change by showing you how to get found by customers online.

Never hire a “Social Media Expert” (via Momentum)

Those who really understand how to use social media marketing successfully will have a previous grounding in another marketing communications discipline.

Producing good content is one of the keys to success and there are proven professionals in content production like PR pros and creative agencies.

As this blog says, social media is not new: it goes back to AOL and bulletin boards and user groups.

Anyone with a PC and a back bedroom can be a social media guru. Look for deeper criteria if you are hiring one seriously. Check out what content they produce, for what purpose and how they measure its success. Look out for how it is plugged in to other marketing communications disciplines and to an organisation’s P&L.

Excellence in social media looks at an organisation in the round, its marketing strategy and tactics. A lot of social media is not in social media.

Never Hire a "Social Media Expert" By: Tim BakerOne of my biggest pet peeves is the “social media guru.” You know the type, the person that  spends all their time on Twitter retweeting Mashable articles and Chris Brogan’s blog posts and thinks that having 40,000 followers makes them an instant expert in marketing. These people are bad news for many reasons, but what makes them most … Read More

via Momentum

Making business sense of social media ROI

Olivier Blanchard is perhaps the most sought-after expert for those looking to connect the dots between social media and ROI (return-on-investment). This is an interview from SmartBlog on Social Media.

The chatter around ROI seems to be as loud as ever. What would you attribute this to? Are we at a pivotal moment for business proving value for social media activities?

The chatter around social media marketing ROI is as strong as ever for two reasons: the first is simply because ROI points to one of the most important questions an organisation can ask before green-lighting a social media programme: I could spend this budget somewhere else — why should I spend it on social media? Before any other questions can be asked, you have to start with “why”.

The second is that most social media “experts” seem incapable of:

a) being able to define ROI … and

b) plug social media into a profit-and-loss statement and actual business objectives.

Most social media marketers, having no true management background, simply don’t understand how to tie social media measurement and performance to business measurement and performance. This lack of business management experience is a major problem in a field where everyone seems to have become an “expert” overnight.

Olivier Blanchard, Principal at BrandBuilder Marketing, Principal at BrandBuilder Marketing, a Greenville-based Brand Consulting and Marketing Management firm

Olivier Blanchard, Principal at BrandBuilder Marketing

As long as these so called “experts” fail to answer the ROI question, the chatter will continue. Ironically, the question can be answered in about three minutes. All it takes is someone on the social media side of the table who understands how to plug new communications into a business from the board’s perspective.

Have you noticed a recurring point where businesses and organisations decide to get serious about applying ROI to social activities? Is it based on experience, resources allocated or both?

Every organisation is different. Some want to establish upfront measurement practices that include ROI from the very start. These are organisations with a specific focus or clear goals. ROI is based on accomplishing those goals. The programme won’t get the go-ahead until every “t” has been crossed.

Others don’t get around to asking about ROI until six to 18 months after a programme has begun and budgets need to be reviewed. Trust me, when 10% of your group’s budget is being cut, you start asking hard questions. Social media programmes not clearly in support of specific business objectives had better come up with a good answer when the budget hatchet starts to come down.

Typically, companies that start by identifying ROI before a social media marketing budget is assigned, people are recruited and the project is even outlined, fare better than their counterparts.

How can those who are in the trenches, but not selling product or services themselves, best justify their social efforts/hours to their bosses and peers?

By aligning their activities and objectives with key business objectives. The fastest way to ensure that your budget is renewed or validated is to show that you play a part in making the P&L positive.

Perhaps your group saves the organisation money by using social media. Customer service is an example.

Media buying, reach, could also show some interesting cost reductions, with social media increasing reach while reducing relative cost-per-impression. Perhaps your group generates not sales but leads by using social-media channels in interesting ways. There are dozens upon dozens of ways to ensure that your programme can be shown to contribute to either reducing costs or generating revenue. What you don’t want to be is a “cost centre” alone, or worse yet, the project team that can’t articulate its value to the organisation. Which happens.

A corporate blog: more important than it ever was

Seth Godin on blogging…

“Blogging is free. It doesn’t matter if anybody reads it. What matters is the humility that comes from writing it. What matter is the meta-cognition of thinking about what you’re going to say. How do you explain yourself to the few employees – or your cat – or whoever is going to look at it?

How do you force yourself to describe — in three paragraphs — why you did something? How do you respond out loud? If you’re good at it [blogging], some people are going to read it. If you’re not good at it, and you stick with it, you’ll get good at it.

This has become much bigger than, “are you Boing Boing or The Huffington Post?” This has become such a micro-publishing platform that you’re basically doing it for yourself… to force yourself to become a part of the conversation, even if it’s not that big. That posture change, changes an enormous amount.”

Tom Peters on blogging…

“I will simply say that my first post was in August of 2004. No single thing in the last fifteen years — professionally – has been more important to my life than blogging.

It has changed my life. It has changed my perspective. It has changed my intellectual outlook. It has changed my emotional outlook, and it’s the best damn marketing tool by an order of magnitude I’ve ever had… and it’s free.”

A definition of Social CRM

Paul Greenberg on Social CRM:

“First, there seems to be a consensus on the definition already. We all agree on its general characteristics. We see it as the use of social and traditional CRM tools and processes to support a strategy of customer engagement. Or some permutation of that.

Second, there’s too much other work on Social CRM to do. Its time to start figuring out and documenting the business models, policies, practices, processes, social characteristics, applications, and the methodologies that we need to actually carry it out. There is some great work going on in those Social CRM areas already with folks like Graham Hill, Denis Pombriant, Thomas Vander Wal, Brent Leary, Prem Kumar, Chris Carfi, Bill Band, Natalie Petouhoff, Mike Fauscette, Michael Maoz and Ray Wang, among others (please forgive me if I didn’t mention you. There are many others). But we need to create a repository for all this work – and an institution that can represent it agnostically. Right now, the body of practice out there is all over the place. Even with this, the work on Social CRM’s “how” needs a dramatic escalation now.”

Paul Greenberg

Paul Greenberg, author of the best-selling CRM at the Speed of Light: Essential Customer Strategies for the 21st Century

And here’s his definitions:

“CRM is a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes and social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”

And here’s the tweetable version:

“The company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation.”

Social media: a marketing dilemma for the micro-enterprise

Social media are now mainstream. They are a pervasive part of nearly everyone’s everyday life, providing, of course, you have access to a PC and smartphone.

For a micro-enterprise, the dilemma is this. The moment has passed when it is simply a question of using, or not using, social media. Nearly every solo entrepreneur is already on at least one social media site like Facebook or LinkedIn: they’d be crazy not to be.

The primary decision is purely a marketing issue: there is a substantial difference between involvement in social media and social media marketing.

Smallholder selling lemons

Would social media marketing be relevant to this drinks stall?

Marketing is used to identify customers, to retain customers and to satisfy customers. It is also about being crystal clear about who these potential customers are and exactly how your product or service will satisfy them, beyond expectation. So, as a micro-enterprise, you should ask yourself the same question about using any tool in marketing: will my community of potential customers actually use social media? They might not.

If the answer is no, then use social media for other business functions like advice, sharing ideas, making useful contacts and administration.  If yes, then get ready to face up to all the possibilities, good and bad, presented by regular and immediate online communication with prospects and customers.

Your marketing strategy should include a digital marketing plan which should consider tools like a website/blog (which are increasingly combined), email marketing, social media marketing and content production. It will include marketing communications (identifying and retaining customers) and customer service (satisfying customers).

I have met small businesses which flourish without using social media marketing but rarely come across a business where social media hasn’t been relevant at all. We are all human and most of us are hypersocial. Social media gives us a reach and interactive capability which would have been unimaginable even five years ago. I have come across people that find the technology, etiquette and emphasis on ‘social’ quite challenging.

As a micro-enterprise, you can adapt and change and learn quickly. Your flexibility is your strength. Larger businesses are struggling with the transparency, openness and honesty that social media demands. You could even build social media into your product or service and become what has been called the hyper-social organisation*. And really differentiate yourself.

*The Hyper-Social Organization: Eclipse Your Competition by Leveraging Social Media; Francois Gossieaux and Ed Moran; McGraw-Hill Professional

We’ve been hypersocial for a while

Suddenly there seems to be a bandwagon around social media and its tipping point has been reached, the latecomers declare. The worst thing about being late into a momentous trend is to display your ignorance by assuming that your arrival heralds the tipping point.

Responsys declares that “social networks are now a true marketing channel”. This is ironic coming from what was, essentially, an email marketing company, not so long ago. The phrase ‘true marketing’ rings totally untrue in the world of social media where the basis of communication is determined by consumers and not corporations.

Responsys advertisement

Display advertisement from Responsys

But all to the good. Social media is certainly all-pervasive and how most of us consume the Internet. We link to people rather than sites, the social rather factual. We are hypersocial beings, most of us anyway, and we need to group ourselves around interests, discussions and (occasionally) brands. The hyper-social organisation is even being studied academically.

Could hypersocial be defined as ‘one who manages their social network identity, often via frequent updating of status, at the expense of real, human relationships’. And what of the hyposocial? Are you hyposocial if you have a drink with some mates, turn your smartphone off and consume some ‘old media’ like England’s World Cup campaign?

The Urban Dictionary defines it thus: “To possess a distinct lack of social skills. From the Latin prefix -hypo, meaning ‘Less than normal.’ [Greek prefix, actually, but let’s not quibble]. It is a descriptive word used to define individuals who display qualities that are against social norms, ie not bathing, use of inappropriate subject matter with peers or co-workers, distinct anti-pop culture attitude and dress. Can be shortened to simply ‘Hypo’.”

Most of us are electronically hypersocial and corporates are still trying to come to terms with a world in which they have to match the pervasive, transparent and exposed nature of social media. Marketing is becoming what it always should have been: listening, absorbing and understanding before communicating.

Social media? You really need a reason to get stuck in?

Recently, I have been involved in a number of debates about the usefulness of social media in business. I was slightly taken aback that the business value of social media even needed debating. However, many people are simply immersed in their everyday business and personal challenges and have not had the time to consider or explore these issues.

This short article is to get you started in the ‘why’ social media is so important to future business success. I am not going to pound you with statistics: they now overwhelmingly point to majorities of people being online and involved in social media, even if we need to remember the digital disenfranchised and many businesses that operate perfectly well without any online presence.

Social tools, networks and media have enabled customers to do what they’ve always wanted to do — be heard and to have the power to turn their ideas into ways to make the products and services they love even better. These tools are also allowing them to reach more people like them, with common interests and information needs, creating powerful communities not possible only a few short years ago.

So, if you are in business, and can afford to ignore your customers, and potential customers, clustering online and willing to help you deliver them what they want, then you are missing a huge opportunity.

That’s why the best advice about social media, customer service, or anything other business initiative has always been to master the basics before proceeding to the more advanced topics.
Social media will still be here next year (and even the year after). Take the time to first address any serious issues or problems within your customer service organisation before pushing ahead into social media. And if you really can’t wait and feel compelled to jump right into social media while revamping your customer service organisation in parallel, at least start small and stay focused.
Choose a particular channel — whether it be Twitter, a discussion forum, or an online user group — and put enough resources and effort behind it to make it work. Put in the time. Engage with customers. Show people that you are serious and that you plan to stick around for the long term. If you respect your customers — and the community — they will likely both respect you back.
And that’s a pretty good start. If resources, in terms of people, are either scarce and you can’t find an in-house social media champion, think of hiring an agency. In a future post, I’ll give you some tips about choosing one. Or find a guru like me who has not only been immersed in this stuff for a while and already made all those classic mistakes and learned from them!

What a company develops from venturing into social media marketing is social capital. There are sound economic reasons for the importance of social capital. Oliver Williamson won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2009 for his work on transaction costs. One element of his research found that trust reduces transaction costs — in other words, if you’re doing business with someone you know, the cost of doing it decreases.

The Cluetrain Manifesto

The manifesto that started us thinking about being connected

Remember The Cluetrain Manifesto? It was a set of 95 theses organised and put forward as a manifesto, or call to action, for all businesses operating within what was suggested as a newly-connected marketplace, as far back as 1999. The ideas put forward within the Manifesto aimed to examine the impact of the Internet on both markets (consumers) and organisations.

In addition, as both consumers and organisations are able to utilise the Internet to establish a previously unavailable level of communication both within and between these two groups, the Manifesto suggested that the changes that will be required from organisations as they respond to the new marketplace environment.

Here is a summary, in their words: “These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.

“Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humourless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.

“But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about ‘listening to customers’. They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.”

So social media marketing barely needs an ROI, as the current demand is phrased. You just need to decide whether you want to be in business in five years or not. Ignore the sea slowly being sucked away from you and the social media tsunami will catch you unprepared.

Buzz monitoring tools: an introduction and a list

Buzz monitoring is an essential Digital Marketing and Digital Public Relations skill. It is the digital equivalent of research, focus groups and surveys. Digital listening includes information that was previously unavailable to a marketing communications professional, including online forums, social media conversations, pictures, blogging, audio and video. Its digital nature means that you need a new approach and awareness of not only what can be monitored but how to turn that data into actionable information.

Ackura BuzzMonitor
With a professional buzz monitoring platform like KMP Digitata’s Ackura Buzz Monitor, you can monitor the social Web and find your brand mentioned on millions of blog posts, viral videos, reviews, audiocasts, photos, Twitter updates. You can undertake real-time monitoring of mentions of your organisation, product, issues and competitors.

Ackura Buzz Monitor homepage

You can analyse buzz about outcomes of specific marketing campaigns and social media investments. You can be aware of which content is making an impact, what needs to be managed and uncover key influencers online by topic, based on user-determined weightings.

The process of listening, watching, analysing, deciding and engaging is complex at first but that’s what agencies like Juice are for. If you want to make a start in a more modest way or for a smaller business, this post contains a list of useful buzz monitoring tools, some free and many with fee levels.

Key Conversation Indicators (KCI)
Similar to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), KCIs establish social marketing metrics for brands and/or social campaigns to measure online buzz, as well as gauge a social programme’s success.

KCIs can measure social engagement, sentiment and opinion, as well as specific consumer actions. Although the metrics measured are different for every brand, some of the items you might consider measuring are:

  • Conversation volume
  • Sentiment
  • Topics of conversation
  • Ratings
  • Favouriting
  • Friends and followers
  • Passalongs

Establishing the criteria you want to measure and track will help frame the direction of your research and social media strategy.

Free listening and monitoring tools

Google Alerts
Google Alerts is the mother of all monitoring tools. You can target keywords that are important to your brand and receive streaming or batched reports — choose your own flavour.

The original blog search engine, Technorati, has been helping bloggers and blog users stay informed for years.

Trendrr from digital agency Wiredset uses comparison graphing to show relationships and discover trends in real time. Use the free account or open an Enterprise level account for more functionality.

Lexicon is a native tool to follow language trends across Facebook by looking at the usage of words and phrases on profile, group and event Walls. For example, you can enter “love, hate” (without quotations) to compare the usage of these two words on Facebook Walls. You may enter up to five terms, where each term can be a word or two-word phrase consisting of letters and numbers.

What are people talking about on Twitter? Beyond the integrated search facilities of Twitter apps like Twhirl and TweetDeck, Monitter provides real-time monitoring of the Twittersphere And can also track trends and add widgets

In the world of Twitter, URL-shortening is a vital tool. Tweetburner also lets you track the clicks on those shortened links, giving you some hard numbers.

twendz is a Twitter-mining Web application that utilizes the power of Twitter Search, highlighting conversation themes and sentiment of the tweets that talk about topics you are interested in. As the conversation changes, so does twendz by evaluating up to 70 tweets at a time. When new tweets are posted, they are dynamically updated, minute-by-minute.

Allows you to create a custom-made page to display search results across a number of search and social media platforms. Addicting!

A web-based personal news aggregator that can be used in place of a desktop client.

A blog search engine that also analyses and reports on daily activity in the blogosphere

BoardTracker is a forum search engine, message-tracking and instant alerts system.

Watches comments/follow-ups on blog posts and similar content such as Flickr or Digg.

FriendFeed Search
Scans all FriendFeed activity. FriendFeed is an important social media aggregator.

HowSociable provides a simple way for you to begin measuring your brand’s visibility on the social web.

Searches a variety of online services, including Twitter, blogs, videos and MySpace and includes a tool called IceSpy to monitor online subject trends.

Keotag Labs
Keyword searches by bookmark link, generates tags and searches tags by keyword.

Subscribe to 20 different search engine feeds at the same time. Enter a search term and click the ‘make monitor.opml’ button to get a list of RSS feeds in OPML format.

Samepoint is a conversation search engine that lets you see what people are talking about.
Discover, learn and share new websites and ideas.

A Web, blog, image, video, and social media search engine, Surchur has just relaunched their online dashboard. The “dashboard to the now” delivers a well-designed and comprehensive view into the real-time web.

Tinker from Glam Media Labs is a simple way to discover what people are Twittering about now.

Not only a great way to manage your Twitter account, but the keyword search means you can see what people are saying about you. You can also monitor Facebook status updates. TweetDeck is an Adobe AIR desktop Twitter application. Like other Twitter applications it interfaces with the Twitter API to allow users to send and receive tweets and view profiles. According to TwitStat, it is the most popular Twitter desktop application.

Twitter Search
Twitter’s own search tool is a great resource. There is an undeniable need to search, filter, and otherwise interact with the volumes of news and information being transmitted to Twitter every second. Twitter Search helps you filter all the real-time information coursing through their service.

Track conversations across nearly all social media platforms and reply to them from one place.

A monitoring service to send email alerts when selected articles are edited on Wikipedia.

Yahoo! Sideline
A TweetDeck-esque tool from Yahoo! installed on your desktop. Sideline is an Adobe® AIR™ desktop application built with the Yahoo! User Interface Library (YUI). It allows users to create and group custom queries by topics of interest for the Twitter public timeline.

Think Google Alerts but for social media. Receive daily email alerts of a developing news story, a competitor, or the latest on a celebrity.

Professional applications

Meltwater Buzz
Meltwater Buzz  allows you to monitor blogs, social networks, Twitter, forums and other social media sites to get a complete picture of what is being said about your organization, your products, and your competitors. It contains an automated sentiment monitoring tool.

TruCast provides keyword-based monitoring of the social Web with an emphasis on blogs and forums. Its dashboard applications provide visual representations of sentiment and trends for your brands online.

Radian6 pulls information from the social Web and analyses and provides consumer sentiment ratings for your brand. Radian6 is focused on building the complete monitoring and analysis solution for PR and advertising professionals so they can be experts in social media. It now has some automated sentiment monitoring tools.

Ackura BuzzMonitor
Identifies the crucial online sources that companies should monitor in order to make accurate business decisions. These sources can be found amongst consumers, suppliers, competitors and government. It is a complete service for larger marketing departments to help them make sense of the social media landscape and maximise its opportunities.

Techrigy’s SM2 is a software solution designed specifically for PR and marketing agencies to monitor and measure social media. As businesses and consumers increasingly utilise and rely on social media, agencies need the tools and expertise to stay competitive.

Collective Intellect
Collective Intellect (CI) is a real-time intelligence platform, based on advanced artificial intelligence. Its solution provides automatic categorisation of conversations based on CI’s proprietary filtering technology. According to CI, its technologies provide credible groupings and reduce the “noise” seen in other keyword-based searches.

Uses a keyword approach and returns news, blogs, images, video, and social network activity about a brand, a brand’s competition or a product. Useful options include filters, facilities to organise material into projects, to flag items and to add notes. Prices range from Personal @$14 pcm (one project; one user; three phrases) to Max @$199 pcm (unlimited projects; 35 users; 175 phrases).

Offers real-time monitoring and alerting across mainstream news, blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed and others. With collaborative features, daily email digests and trend analysis, it’s competitive with other offerings. Free trial version as well. Unlimited filters, real-time alerts, particularly strong on Twitter monitoring, continuous updates, trending, reporting, data export.

A real-time monitoring and measurement tool for social media conversations, to measure key metrics around buzz and sentiment, engage with key influencers and opinion leaders and to conduct comparisons between competitors and topics.

Dialogix monitors the entire social media spectrum, as well as most newspaper, TV and news websites in the world, with a particular focus on Australian websites. Find every news article, comment, blog post, Tweet, YouTube video, forum post and more with ease and be confident you’re not missing a thing. No limits on data for any of plans and no limits to the amount of users who can access the system. Bronze: unlimited data, unlimited users, $595 per month. Silver: unlimited data, unlimited users, sentiment analysis charts, basic key influencer profiles created without contact details, $1,495 per month. Gold: unlimited data, unlimited users, sentiment analysis charts, key influencers ranked by social authority and database of their contact details, $2,495.

Tracking a brand or a product is one thing but turning that tracking into a measure of consumer sentiment about a brand or product is something completely different. For that, Jodange has an algorithm called TOM (Top of Mind), which produces consumer sentiment about your brand or product across the Web with some clever algorithms. £2,500+ per month.

Question on LinkedIn: How are you helping traditional clients embrace digital?

There are two strands to an organisation’s evolution into digital thinking.

The first is a communications challenge: this involves integrating website, email marketing, social media presence, SEO, blog…with the internal processes behind content production. Allied to this reorganisation is a change of attitude to one of listening to digital buzz, analysing and adapting to feedback from relevant communities.

The second challenge is realignment to new thinking: in the hearts and minds of senior management. They are already under pressure but time must be made for a workshop on how digital interaction needs a new management philosophy, one of openness, transparency and honesty.

Under traditional command and control hierarchies, this doesn’t come easily. Information used to be power. Now sharing information is power among the digital communities talking about your business every day.

Digital embraces recruitment, customer service, marketing, sales and manufacturing.

My help consists of a programme of workshops allied to some direct, hands-on help in getting marketing communications systems re-engineered. The returns can be phenomenal.

List of social media marketing metrics

Social media marketing strategy arguably has two concerns: one is about producing the nitty-gritty metrics that are used to justify investment in terms of time and resources and to steer future involvement and activity.

The other concern is about lifting your ahead high enough above day-to-day activity to get a clear enough view of social media marketing from a wider organisational viewpoint.

An organisational approach to social media marketing measurement looks at the macro-figures that really matter: sales, profit margin, customer satisfaction and loyalty. Concentrating solely on the social media detail is not the full story.

On the other hand, just standing back and looking at the bigger picture is not going to be enough for your colleagues and boss: they are going to want to see hard evidence that social media marketing is going to bring tangible business benefits.

When we talk about social media, we’re really talking about attracting and developing interaction. The goal of any social media marketing strategy is to provide the right tools and content so that communities can interact with your brand and act as your brand ambassadors.

Here’s a ‘long list’ of indices that can give you measurements of interaction and participation:

  • Your brand mentioned
  • People storing and sharing content
  • More frequent website and blog visits
  • More blog comments
  • Referring your brand’s content to their friends
  • People in communities using interactive content more frequently
  • Incremental enquiries, or quotations, or sales
  • Improved cost of sales

Customers and prospects interacting with your brand content are far more likely to score high on other measures. So how can you boost community interaction? The tools and onsite functionality you need are going to depend on your business, your strategy and your goals. What you’re ultimately looking for is a wide range of tools to help people interact.

This list of metrics should help you work out what can be measured and also what kind of tools/functionality you may want to introduce. In doing so, you’ll able to determine the relative success and adoption of new features. You may also unearth trends and spot opportunities or issues. In any event, monitoring how the sum of community interaction changes over time can really help you position your organisation as a community-centric organisation.

You can apply different weightings to different interactions (for example, a ‘love this’ rating is worth less than a ‘follow item’). Social media managers can then identify the buzz and act accordingly (better promotion, interviews, videos).

Tracking and making sense of interaction is a fundamental part of social media marketing. You can score different interactions and devise an algorithm to create some kind of overall interaction index. It might help you condense interaction measurement noise into a single metric.

Before we jump into the list there are a few caveats:

  • Not all of these will be relevant to all sites (for instance, ‘posts’ won’t be any good for sites without blogs and a comment facility)
  • ‘Print page’ as an interaction measure is barely worth looking at…or is it? In any case, some of these things are more important than others
  • There is some crossover: for example ‘bookmarks’ and ‘wishlists’ may be the same thing on your site
  • Some metrics will have sub-metrics
  • Avoid confusion: if a widget just doesn’t do what it should do then it doesn’t matter whether 10,000 people installed it last week: they’ll still hate it
  • Human power is needed to really understand the detail behind the numbers and to act on that knowledge: interpretation is key to turning metrics into indices that you can act on
  • It’s about quality not quantity: this list is not exhaustive
Here’s the list of possible social interaction indices:
  1. Alerts (register and response rates by channel, CTR, post-click activity)
  2. Bookmarks (onsite, offsite)
  5. Email subscriptions
  6. Fans or friends (become a fan of something/someone)
  7. Favourites (add an item to favourites)
  8. Feedback (via the site)
  9. Followers (follow something/someone)
  10. Forward-to-a-friend; share
  11. Groups (create/join/total number in group/group activity)
  12. Install widget or app (on a blog page, Facebook, iPhone)
  13. Invite/refer (a friend)
  14. Key page activity (post-activity)
  15. Love/like this (a simpler form of rating something)
  16. Messaging (onsite)
  17. Personalisation (pages, display, theme)
  18. Posts
  19. Profile development (update avatar, bio, links, email, customisation)
  20. Print page
  21. Ratings
  22. Registered users (new/total/active/dormant/churn)
  23. Report spam/abuse
  24. Reviews
  25. Settings
  26. Social media sharing/participation (activity on key social media sites)
  27. Tagging (user-generated metadata)
  28. Testimonials
  29. Time spent on key pages
  30. Time spent on site (by source/by entry page)
  31. Total contributors (and % active contributors)
  32. Uploads (add an item – articles, links, images, videos)
  33. Views (videos, ads, rich images)
  34. Widgets and apps (number of new widgets users/embedded widgets/apps)
  35. Wishlists (save an item to wishlist)

What is strategy?

The question “What is strategy?” has triggered many doctoral dissertations, countless hours of research and healthy debate among academic management thinkers. Perhaps this is why many of us also struggle with it.

Nonetheless, if you are seeking to steer a business to sustained success, you need a pragmatic view of what strategy is and how you can take a strategic approach to your marketplace.

Strategy is different from vision, mission, goals, plans, tactics and actions. It is a framework of carefully-considered business choices that we make, on where to compete and how to succeed. When people say “I have a strategy for this”, they really mean a worked-out plan based on a strategic framework.

The widely-accepted business school definition (from Johnson and Scholes’s Exploring Corporate Strategy) is “Strategy is the direction and scope of an organisation over the long-term: which achieves advantage for the organisation through its configuration of resources within a challenging environment, to meet the needs of markets and to fulfil stakeholder expectations”.

So “strategy” is a framework — the direction or scope of an organisation planned at the highest level. Take the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo, commanding 67,000 troops from an exposed position on the Mont St Jean ridge. His strategy had been set almost a year before when he made a detailed reconnaissance of the southern approaches to Brussels with his staff.

Wellington at Waterloo

Wellington rallies his troops during the Battle of Waterloo. “The nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.”

Like any successful field commander-in-chief, the Duke had a keen eye for ground, particularly reverse slopes which protected his troops from direct artillery fire. His strategy was based on a defensive battle, hiding the true extent and location of his forces from Napoleon. Of course, he was leading a complex, multi-national army with three army groups under himself, the Prince of Orange and Field Marshal Blücher and the strategy included collaboration between the three groups.

The point I am making is that strategy was painstakingly developed over months — including meetings between the three army group commanders, while tactics — how he managed his dispositions during the battle — were what contributed to the victory on the day.

Your strategy will be determined by burning midnight oil and developed in the form of a business plan which might well have a section called strategy. Business schools have a host of tools for creating a strategic framework — Boston Matrix, Benchmarking, Competitor Analysis , Core Competencies, Five Forces Model, GE Industry Matrix and so on. Smaller enterprises simply need to grasp what their potential customers see as value and how to meet it, where to compete for that business and how they will do it.

Where does marketing planning fit in with the overall strategic planning of a business? By marketing I don’t mean merely promotion, or marketing communications, a common misconception. The definition from the American Marketing Association (AMA), the US equivalent to the CIM, reads: ‘Marketing is an organisational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organisation and its stakeholders.’

Strategic planning is concerned with marketing, of course. But it also involves decision-making about production and operations, finance, human resource management and other business issues.

Marketing has a key role to play in strategic planning, because it is the job of marketing management, or the solo entrepreneur, to understand and manage the links between the business and its environment. Sometimes this is quite a straightforward task. For example, in many small businesses there is only one geographical market and a limited number of products (perhaps only one product!).

Marketing is often seen as the voice of your customer within your organisation. This is becoming a key differentiator because, through social media technology and processes, customers can now actually collaborate in the conception, framing and development of product blueprints as Unilever’s customers did with the Dove brand. This is one aspect of what we mean by social business.

So to have a marketing strategy, a social media strategy, a content marketing strategy, a networking strategy, a sales strategy are all nonsense. Your main strategic framework  and business plan cascades down into plans for each of these areas.

Create a strategy and write it down. Use it as a section in your business plan to cascade into plans with tactics, actions and forecasts. Change it from time to time, as circumstances change. But please don’t wave the word around as a panacea for all business ills — “I have a strategy for that!”. You will confuse your bank manager, your advisors and stakeholders. And, worst of all, you will also confuse yourself.

Getting ready for the new LinkedIn Company Page

Social media is an area with many aspects to it and has important implications way beyond being a new marketing communications channel. Nevertheless, the basics are important and this post gives you a quick overview of the coming changes in LinkedIn’s Company Page and how to prepare for them.

Organisations will get a new LinkedIn Company Page “later this year”: this is an advance warning to start preparing your digital assets so that, when the new format is released, your content will be ready.

The main difference in the new layout is that a landscape cover picture at the top of the page is a key feature, similar to cover shots on Facebook and Google+. Updates get more prominence – compared to the About Section – and the layout has been streamlined to make navigation simpler and more intuitive.

The changes to Company Pages will only affect only the layout of your Company Page. In other words, no new features will be added; only the look-and-feel will be fresh.

LinkedIn is deleting the tabs that used to appear at the top of the page: instead, those sections have been highlighted in the right sidebar.

Some page elements, such as Recent Updates, Recruitment (We’re Hiring!) and the Products and Services sections of your page, are more prominently featured. The About Section will be moved to the bottom of your Company Page.

LinkedIn has now made the Follow button yellow and a bit more prominent. The button is directly across from the logo so that a natural eye movement will follow a grey strip to the right. These changes should increase the number of follows you get.

Mobile app changes

Another improvement for Company Pages is that they can now be accessed from LinkedIn’s iPad, iPhone and Android apps: they will have real-time notifications of actions taken by Connections and include the facility for Members to edit their Profiles on their mobiles.

Targeted content

The dialogue box that helps you target appropriate groups with company status updates.

LinkedIn is providing a more obvious option for targeting your Company Updates to certain segments of your audience. LinkedIn will be rolling out two new features for company pages, Targeted Updates and Follower Statistics.

Targeted Updates enable you to target company status updates to specific groups of followers so you can deliver the most relevant content to the most appropriate audiences. Companies can segment by variables like company size, industry, job function, seniority, geography and to include/exclude company employees.

While targeted updates will be displayed only on the LinkedIn homepages of the followers you target, all status updates you publish will be visible to anyone who visits your LinkedIn Company Page, regardless of whether those visitors were included in the initial targeting criteria.

After you post an update, you will be able to view metrics such as number of followers targeted, impressions, clicks, shares and engagement, as well as being able to review that post’s original targeting criteria.

The new Products and Services Section

The new version of the Products and Services page works in a very similar to the current one. The main difference is that it is now in the right sidebar and it also allows display of the names, job titles, companies, and Profile images of LinkedIn users in the visitor’s network who have recommended particular products/services on your page. This is a useful facility because it emphasises and displays testimonials much more prominently.

Below these highlighted users, you’ll find any videos you’ve added to the page in a similar way to the existing page layout. The layout is a bit more customisable, like the business pages of other social networks such as Facebook and Google+.

Five prin­ci­ples of social objects

Jyri Engeström

Jyri Engeström

Jyri Engeström, co-founder of Jaiku and now Google employee, has always been an advocate of understanding social objects. Social objects are one of the key building blocks of digital content.

The social sites we visit today are not just friend networks — they’re also built around objects that connect people with shared interests.

These social objects could be anything from a photo on flickr, a video on YouTube, a track on This concept may not be new information to some of you — Jyri has been talking about “social objects” for years now.

So what are Jyri’s Five Prin­ci­ples?

  1. Define your object. This is the easy part, but perhaps most important. The social object will be the center of your network. On eBay, it’s whatever item you’re selling or buying. On Amazon, it’s a product. On Flickr, it’s a photo and so on.
  2. Display your verbs clearly.What do you want people to do with your social object? Do you want them to comment? Rate it? Share it? Watch it? Make sure whatever action they should take is clear and highly visible on the site.
  3. Make the objects shareable. This is almost a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many sites have not made it easy (or even possible!) to share the object which their site is centered around.
  4. Turn invitations into gifts. Want your friends to join you on the network? Don’t just spam them with an invite, send them something of value. Jyri mentioned how a purchase of a Skype headset years ago also included a set for a friend. Also, PayPal had originally offered a small amount of money posted to the account of your friends who signed up for the service.
  5. Charge the publishers, not the spectators. On any network, there are those who are creating and those who are passively consuming the content. You shouldn’t charge the latter, only the former. The people who are actively using the service and are getting value from it in some way are the ones who would be willing to pay for additional features or, in some cases, just to use the service itself.What is interesting, though, is how well this information has held up over time. Or has it? Do you find this useful?