Tag: Social Media

Welcome To The Centralised Web

Digital Strategy12 Comments

The number of industry stats that get published every week is truly remarkable, but two in particular released in the last few weeks really made me sit up and take notice:

  • Smartphone and tablet sales are continuing to grow as PC sales decline [1]
  • Google and Facebook account for over 70% of mobile advertising revenue [2]

As a long-time citizen of the web, I fell in love with the Internet precisely because unlike the traditional media that it would go on to fundamentally disrupt, it grew from the premise that it is open and decentralised. Anyone could access the network and establish a presence.

It struck me then, that those two stats – particularly when taken together – are a clear signal that things are not like what they once were. While the web is still vast, expansive and continuing to grow, for many users their entire online experience revolves around just two web properties: Facebook and Google.

Facebook users check the smartphone app an average of 14 times a day, while Google handles over 4 billion search queries a day. Not being on Facebook can be seen as either a badge of honour, or being horribly out of the loop (but mostly the latter). I’ve long contended that as we continue to share more and more of our digital selves on Facebook, the gravitational pull of Zuckberg’s network will grow exponentially making it increasingly harder to leave. While in the case of Google, we have simply outsourced our memory while simultaneously gaining access to the entirety of our digitised knowledge.

Add to this the impending demise of Google Reader (and by extension RSS which gave us the ability to consume what we want, where we wanted), the pervasiveness of Android devices (750 million and counting) and the recent launch of Facebook Home, there will soon be no escaping either of these two online behemoths anytime you’re connected – which is already close to ‘always’, especially with Google Glass on the way.

Why the aforementioned mobile ad spend is important is that where the dollars are spent is where innovation and content will follow. Publishers and developers who still primarily look to ad-supported as their monetisation strategy will by default seek to develop closer and closer ties with the networks that control the ad dollars.

The unavoidable truth is that in a post-PC world, Facebook and Google will command our attention more than ever. When two companies have effectively become our gateway to the rest of the Internet, we run the serious risk as marketers of turning it into something bland and derivative as we rinse, recycle and repeat ideas we’ve seen work elsewhere in order to get a higher search rankings, likes, +1’s or shares.

Let’s hope we don’t.

i-will-follow-the-rules

 

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What’s in a brand?: Debating the Pros and Cons of Brand South Australia

Marketing0 Comments

brand-south-australiaEarlier this week, the South Australian Government lifted the lid on a new brand for the state created in collaboration with international branding firm, Kato Partners, and Adelaide creative agency kwp!

To say the reaction was mixed would be disingenuous. If a Metacritic score existed for it, it would have an average of 21% based on Adelaide’s reviews. Or to put it bluntly, the natives were really pissed.

There already are a few excellent blog post about the brand (such as Sputnik and Erica Nistico, amongst others) so I won’t bother rehashing what is and isn’t a brand but  summarise what I liked and didn’t like about the logo and the brand.

Things I like about Brand South Australia:

  • It’s bold, clear and to the point.
  • It’s flexible and actually does work in different contexts. Don’t like the colours? Drop in an image that better represents your organisation (if I were still working at Adelaide Uni, a graduation shot of Bonython Hall would be in there so fast).
  • They certainly solved the main problem they identified in the research (“no one outside Australia knows where South Australia is”).
  • The projection on the Festival Centre was really quite excellent.
  • The insights driving the strategy seemed spot on and the methodology thorough.
  • I can get on-board with the doorway idea. We already are in some areas (arts, wine, mining) so hopefully we will also aspire to be in others.

Things I don’t like about Brand South Australia:

  • The brand values – “Creative. Innovative. Industrious.” – seem hollow and amorphous. While a staple of corporate brand guidelines around the world, in this context, they feel too intangible nor provide direction.
  • It looks like it belongs on the Pope (of Chilli Town).
  • What happened to Tasmania?
  • It’s geared too much at an international audience. South Australians know where South Australia is. Ultimately we need to be the biggest advocates of the brand so it would have been nice if there was something more than a door for us to rally behind much like the oft mentioned Canadian maple leaf.
  • That font is really uninspiring.
  • The hashtag was confusing. The original, compact #brandsa devised at the media briefing was replaced by the official #brandsouthaustralia which inexplicably gained a few letters before the event was over #brandingsouthaustralia

For me, the verdict is still out. Although I’m not in love with it right now, I can see myself growing to like, even love it, if we as a state becoming the living embodiment of this new brand narrative.

To the Economic Development Board’s credit, the government agency tasked with this mammoth undertaking, they never said a change was going to overnight and it would take time for South Australians to identify with it.

And whether we like it or not, a stake has most clearly been put in the ground that has polarised the state. But as every marketer knows, if what you’re doing doesn’t piss someone off, you’re not doing it right*.

* Hats off to Central Institute TAFE Marketing Director Kenley Gordon for lending me that one from the Social Media in Tertiary Education Conference. I now use it everytime I’m pitching a new idea.

** Also a big shout out to Adelaide City Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood who showed me his socially-enabled calendar i.e. every event in his diary now comes with social media notes including relevant hashtags and the Twitter handles of anyone he’s meeting with.

 

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Social media in higher education: Where do we go now?

Social Media1 Comment

The following is my guest blog post for the Higher Education Development Association to be published mid-June.

Social media is everywhere. Particularly in higher education, every institutions home page now proudly boasts a complement of follow buttons from the ubiquitous Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to the fast growing Pinterest, Vimeo and Google+. Matter of fact, some publications estimate as high as 98% of institutions are active on at least one social media platform.

So how are we going?

While it’s hard to make a call on how effectively we as a sector are using social media, it’s a safe bet to assume that most institutions are struggling to understand exactly where it fits into the existing communications mix and what they should be posting which is ironic given the sheer volume of content we generate. The problem is that social media is often treated like another channel, lumped in with television, radio, print and (to a lesser extent) email without much consideration to the seismic change it has had on society, culture and the way we interact with each other.

Social media isn’t just another channel to broadcast messages. It is more than a specific platform but a monumental change in human behaviour.

To illustrate what I mean, consider the students who are the lifeblood of our institutions:

  • They are as old as Amazon and eBay
  • They grew up with instant messaging, mobile phones and SMS
  • They have always turned to Google and Wikipedia anytime they have a question
  • They rely on social networks to stay in touch with their friends and make plans for the weekend

Most tellingly, the way they communicate is in stark contrast to how their parents do. They are no longer ‘locked in’ to a medium but are happy to converse non-linearly across multiple platforms. A conversation that begins in the classroom can spill over onto Facebook and IM before finding its way to a blog a few days later igniting a debate in the comments followed by rebuttal post on another blog. This is accompanied by a back channel discussion on Twitter with complementary photos uploaded to Instagram and indexed using the same hashtag. While this may seem confusing to digital immigrants, for digital natives like them, it is very much the norm.

Free social media

The future isn’t coming; it’s already here.

As a sector, higher education has typically required that people engage on our terms when we are ready. The level of paperwork and hoops prospective students must jump through to study with us not to mention deal with while they’re here sends a clear message: you must do it out way.

For our students, technology and the Internet isn’t something new to be fawned over; it’s been part of their lives as long as they can remember just like electricity, gas and water that’s it’s just expected.

We must take off the kid gloves and fully embrace social media. It must be taken out of development, walled off from the big, bad world and put into production.

In a world where we can pick and choose the mediums we participate, organisations can no longer dictate the rules of engagement. For higher education to continue to engage students and remain relevant, Universities must deliver dynamic, transmedia experiences that respond and adapt to the learning style of each individual student, a la the Khan Academy, or risk alienating future cohorts.

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Can Brands Take A Holiday From Social Media?

Digital Strategy, Social Media10 Comments

As a social media strategist, I often preach the importance of consistency. After all, how can you hope to build a relationship with your audience if you hardly ever post or disappear for days or weeks?

But with many businesses about to shutdown for the year (if they haven’t already), it begs the questions: can brands take a holiday from social media?

The short answer is yes, but with a few caveats:

  1. Set expectations early
    Let your followers know in advance that you will be closed so that they have time to ask any burning questions before you leave. You can even schedule a few posts over the holidays – e.g. “Happy New Year!” – with a note letting people know when you’re back. People are generally understanding, and don’t expect you to be on call 24hrs unless of course that’s your business.
  2. Check in periodically
    It’s advisable to log in every now and then (daily, if possible)  if  to check the pulse of your community. In an era where an issue can flare up on social media in the blink of an eye, you must still be vigilant. Consider turning on notifications and giving them a cursory once over. Mentally file what isn’t critical and time sensitive as “to do later” and investigate any potential issues straight away.
  3. Have a crisis management plan
    If something does go wrong, make sure you’ve got a plan in place to deal with it. Nominate someone with the requisite knowledge and experience to deal with an emergency as the primary contact on social media. You DO NOT want a Nestle on your hands and you can’t afford to leave it until you come back.
  4. Do as your business does
    If your workplace shuts down, it’s much easier to take a break from your regular posting schedule. But if you work somewhere like retail which remains open throughout or where your customers may need to contact you urgently, then it’s important that you are also present. Going back to the issue of consistency, you need to be there when your customers need you, not just when you want to be.But most importantly…
  5. Keep your ears open
    One of the side effects of our rapidly growing connectivity is that the line between personal and private time is now more blurred than ever. In this always on environment, companies have no excuse for neglecting their customers particularly as their customers now expect brands to interact with them on their terms. With that in mind, if your business allows it, you can take a break from proactively engaging and stimulating conversation with your community without risk of them forgetting about you provided you are still keeping track of the conversation and are ready to address any major concerns.

Community management is emotional and stressful, that’s why to avoid burnout take the time these holidays – if you can – to get off the posting schedule and rest, reflect and recharge for next year. This will be better in the long run for your company, your community and most importantly, for you.

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From Little Things…

Social Media0 Comments

When you look at the numbers behind social media, it’s hard not to be swept up in the excitement.

700 million users on Facebook!
200 million on Twitter!
25 million on Google Plus in the first month!

The numbers are staggering and on the surface appear to be a compelling reason to get on board. After all, with stats like that who wouldn’t want a piece of the action? But while I believe without a doubt that every business needs to be engaging in the social web if not now then definitely within the next 2 years, they must learn to change their approach.

Think niche

As marketers, the numbers that have been drummed into us as important by mainstream media are all about impressions and reach, which is what makes the size of Facebook and Twitter so appealing. But don’t be seduced by them.

You will never, ever reach 700 million people even if you are a major brand like Coca-Cola. Social media platforms are not so much a single network as they are a collection of linked micro-networks (or nicheworks) with a shared architecture, each one brought together around different areas of interest. It doesn’t matter if a community lives on Facebook or a specialist platform for Nigerian beekeepers living in Holland, the size of the network isn’t what holds it together, it’s the strength of the connections within that community.

Hold me, thrill me

To (poorly) paraphrase Seth Godin in “We Are All Weird“, we are at the end of the age of mass, where brands can no longer hope to be all things to all people. For communicators, this means speaking to people (after all that’s what we want: conversations) as individuals, not a target market. The question becomes not how many eyeballs can we reach, but how valued a member of the community can we become (or in the case of a Facebook, how valuable the interactions we facilitate on our page). Granted, some brand can be very successful not engaging in unique conversations because they have scale (see: Coca-Cola and their 36 million Facebook followers) but for the majority who don’t have access to that kind of audience simply broadcasting will have little impact.

The secret sauce (or at least one of) to social media engagement is not to be all things to all people (that’s mass), but becoming something great to a few: your most passionate, loyal and engaged customers, and empower them to advocate on your behalf. Not to say that you should ignore the rest, but with the fragmentation and abundance of competing messages, it’s an uphill battle to win the attention of someone who may not be so hot on you. Better then to put your energy towards doing something that genuinely thrills and excites the few who do care about your brand.

"Hugh MacLeod Advertising Advice"

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