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?

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.

Brands take enhanced pages on Twitter

Asda's enhanced Twitter page

Asda has posted a YouTube clip of its latest TV ad in its permanent tweet.

Asda, Cadbury, Sky and Electronic Arts are among the first 20 UK companies to set up enhanced pages on Twitter. They  went live on Twitter yesterday evening (1 February).

This is the first batch of premium Twitter pages from companies other than the handful of launch partners who unveiled enhanced brand pages in December.

Companies can now post a branded banner and a permanent tweet containing media or a promotion, at the top of pages.

Asda has posted a YouTube clip of its latest TV ad in its permanent tweet. Its branded banner includes its “10% cheaper or we will give you your money back” price guarantee.

Cadbury is promoting its latest TV ad for the Creme Egg Goo Games with a YouTube clip in its permanent tweet.

Electronic Arts has set up a brand page for its Fifa Sports game, while Sky has a page for its Sky HD service, promoting the customer service it offers on Twitter.

In the UK brand pages are free, but there is also a minimum media spend required, understood to be in the region of £25,000.

Cadbury Twitter page

Cadbury's is using its brand page to promote its tier-one sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympics

According to Twitter “An enhanced profile page increases your brand’s Twitter presence by prominently featuring your most important content and visually branding your page. Your enhanced profile page is completely public — users can view it without joining or logging into Twitter.”

As Twitter gets more serious about generating revenue, it makes sense to create a more welcoming environment for big-name brands — the types of users who may want to buy more ads on the site after they see how successful their enhanced pages are.

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.

Top 15 Content Marketing Predictions for 2012

With nearly 80 contributors, the predictions were plentiful. But, for whatever reason, here are my favorite 15.  Enjoy!

I believe that Google+ will become a new blogging platform and that in addition to sharing content, users will start creating their own content right on the G+ site. – Ali Goldfield

2012 is the year more organizations embrace the convergence of employee personal branding and corporate branding through content marketing strategies. – Bernie Borges

Content Marketing jobs will be at their peak due to the constant need and hunger for lead nurturing mechanisms. – Celine Francisco

Brand marketers will continue to hire their own brand journalists and build out their own editorial departments. So if you’re a publisher…watch out! Your own advertisers and sponsors will be competing more and more with you. – Daniel Burstein

As real-time becomes the norm and journalists search Google for thought leaders to quote, more and more marketers will newsjack their way into the media. – David Meerman Scott

2012 will be the year of hard work – and the year we all focus on building our content brands: getting famous for great content not just for great widgets. – Doug Kessler

New button is added to social sites… The “Shut Up” button to quiet trolls and people that don’t add any value to the conversation. Okay, maybe it’s not a prediction, just a wish. – Douglas Karr

Media agencies will either create new content marketing specialized groups or expand the roles of “search strategists” to “content strategists” and include effective and efficient content distribution to their responsibilities. – Gilad de Vries

Mobile can no longer be treated as an isolated channel or a “nice to have”; it will become a primary way to speak to customers and prospects. – Gordon Plutsky

Creating content around the needs of the customer, not the needs of the brand has been proven time and again to work. More companies are going to see the value and ease of providing that in 2012. – Jason Falls

There will be a slew of top brands that start to buy established niche media properties instead of starting from scratch. – Joe Pulizzi

Content Marketers will begin to to place even more focus on video storytelling by expanding the distribution of video content at the retail level through the gaining momentum of QR Codes. – Nate Riggs

I think you’re going to see a lot of activity around Social TV. We’re starting to see critical mass around key live events (Super Bowl, Awards Shows, etc.), the same programming that networks charge big dollars for. Social TV integration will either support those traditional ad spends, or be used by those who can’t afford a :30 spot during the Oscars. – Rick Liebling

Brand marketers will realize an editorial function is needed to define their overall content strategy and planning. Content will be tweaked for different media. Brand marketers will not only distribute their own content, but also start curating third-party content to reinforce their messages. – Pam Didner

And my favorite, from my friend Paul Conley, is below (in its entirety).

I expect that 2012 will see two changes in who creates the content in B2B content marketing.

First, public-relations departments and agencies will move into this role in a big way – and do a better job than the marcomm-type folks who dominate the space now. The reason is pretty simple: marketers don’t have a culture that is open to journalism. And make no mistake: if you’re in the content-marketing game in B2B, you’re in the journalism game. News happens. Often when you least expect it — like when your feel-good interview with an executive turns into major news because it contains an off-the-cuff remark about your industry that infuriates people and moves share prices. Most marketers don’t handle things like that well. They don’t have what journalists call “news judgement,” so they get blindsided when they create content that becomes news.

Second, I think traditional B2B publishers, who moved into the “marketing services” space with great fanfare in the past two years, will retreat. In fact, they already are. This was never a good idea. Legacy publishers don’t get the Web. The only thing they had to sell in the market was the one thing they shouldn’t be selling — the ability to co-opt their journalists!

So, what’s your favorite?  What did we miss?

via Top 15 Content Marketing Predictions for 2012.