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If you’ve been in a communications role for a decade or more, chances are you have lots of experience in traditional comms. In recent years, there’s no question that social media has had a significant impact on communications. While social media has overwhelmed many communicators with a dizzying array of platform choices and a firehose of data to make sense of, it also provides them with new ways to connect with reporters, influencers and customers more efficiently than ever.

Over the years, one thing hasn’t changed: communications is fundamentally about building relationships. To me, social media augments ways communicators can build those relationships. Like I’ve said before, it doesn’t replace phone calls, email conversations with or face-to-face conversations with reporters. But many times, a brief back-and-forth discussion on Twitter or via the comment thread in a blog post can go a long way to answering questions from reporters (and many times, your customers too). This is especially true if your company uses its social presence to respond to news-related items.

One thing that has changed: press releases aren’t what they used to be. While there’s still a place for them (company earnings information, acquisition news, corporate reorganization updates to name a few), social media platforms provide companies a more efficient way to communicate news. The problem is that not enough companies use social media to communicate and respond to news.

I’ve blogged about what I think it takes to be an effective communicator in 2015 (see here and here). Hint: combine that newsworthy sensibility with a little bit of tools and technology. It may require you to step out of your comfort zone, but doing so will yield solid results.

One example: a tool I mentioned before called Nuzzel. It’s a website/ mobile app that highlights articles people you are connected to are sharing. While that’s useful on its own, the real power is that you can use it on any public or private Twitter lists you create. See my Pioneers private list in the Your Custom Feeds section near the bottom right in the image below. In my view, that alone makes creating Twitter lists worth the hassle. Imagine clicking on one link to see the stories that 25 of your top reporters are sharing, or the 17 strategic topic influencers, or the top 15 subject matter experts in your company. All it takes is to create those private (or public) Twitter list, then connect your Twitter account at Nuzzel.com. From there, you are one click away to seeing what’s being shared most on Twitter or Facebook at any point in time.

Image for Lionel's Summit Post

 

If you’re not sure who the online influencers are, or if you need help identifying the topic conversations that are most relevant to your brand, W2O can help. Our analytics services are built to help communicators and marketers understand the online conversation that’s happening about your brand, identifying strategic topics that affect your brand (and that you can impact) as well as identifying individuals who are most influential about your industry, your competition and your brand even as they change over time. Those are people you need to foster relationships with. In many cases, those influencers are reporters you already know. Engaging them via social will deepen the existing relationship—especially when you focus efforts to adding value to their online conversations.

On September 14th, a global panel of social experts from across industries will converge in London for the #PreCommerce summit, hosted by W2O EMEA, with a special focus on how we work, live and create in the digital time. Social media has forever changed our world and it’s our responsibility to evolve with it! More on what to expect from the event here. Register for free here, or by clicking on the image below.

London Summit

Each summer, I love to catch up on reading.  Last week, while on vacation, I read The Innovators by Walter Isaacson, Spam Nation by Brian Krebs and Head of State by Andrew Marr.  All three are great reads.  Here is what I learned that applies to what we do every day.

The Innovators

Study Next Practices, not Best Practices – in every example of technology innovation, the new innovators, whether it was Gates or Jobs or Cerf or Berners-Lee, were improving on the latest invention.  No one studied how companies are using innovation and then decided how to innovate.  If they did, they would have never seen the future they helped create.  Lesson here is to always focus on what is new that will evolve an existing model.  Don’t wait for market-based applications of that same innovation or you’ll be perpetually behind.

Small Groups Innovate – small groups with very different mindsets do really well.  Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore and Andy Grove were a great team that helped to create and build Intel.  Very different people.  Ballmer and Gates.  Wozniak and Jobs.  Dorsey and Williams.  No innovations noted in the book were created by large groups or big committees.  In fact, those were the exact groups that couldn’t believe new ideas would work.  Small, diverse teams that could challenge each other to think differently won.  The best innovators realize they need people smart in areas they are not smart in to succeed.

Vision, Programming & Execution are Key Parts of Innovative Teams – each area is intense.  Someone pushes the boundaries on what is possible.  Someone else can create the impossible and yet another person can make it all real.  Each role is critical to success.  Lesson here is that execution and vision are equally important.  One does not succeed without the other.

Sometimes the Answer is Right in Front of Us – Richard Stallman was the forefather of open source software, yet he never finished the kernel, which Linus Torvald did with his creation of Linux, ushering in a new era for software.  The last mile is hard, yet worth it.  Said another way, it often takes multiple people/teams in different places and often at different time points to build the innovation that matters to the market.

Transformational Innovation Occurs Over Time – we could connect PCs back in 1969, but it took time to build microprocessor chips, create software to run our machines, organize files in new ways and then put it all together.  Lesson here is that this is always happening.  The question is what pieces are being put together right now that will eventually transform how we work today?

Overall, it is super clear that the best examples of innovation occur via small teams, over time, who can see around the corner a bit faster than the rest of the world.  It is never about an individual. It’s always a team effort.

Spam Nation

Spammers are professionals – this book centered on Russia, in particular.  Spammers run companies, pay competitive salaries for engineering talent, offer strong benefits and act as stand-alone companies, often with a mix of legitimate and illegitmate businesses.  Lesson here is that when there is money to be made, talent will flow towards it, whether it is legal or illegal.  It’s hard to believe, but true.  It’s important that we look at security issues as they really exist, not via the lens we have in the US.  Yes, people are going to work every day to try to take our money and sell us goods that could be dangerous to us.

Canadian Pharmacies Selling in the US are Rarely in Canada – spammers are expert at hijacking sites, driving traffic to those sites and creating the illusion that you are buying prescription drugs from Canada.  They are often coming from other countries around the world made by suspect manufacturers.  If it sounds too good to be true, it normally is. Those who want to deceive us create illusions we can believe in.

Cybersecurity Affects All of Us – today, spammers can make a lot of money selling us illicit or suspect goods.  If they are slowed down in the future, which is starting to happen, they will simply turn to the next way to make money.  Like innovation itself, it is important that we understand what is at risk for us, personally and professionally.  Security will be a growing issue for us in the years ahead.

Head of State

This is a page-turner.  Written by Andrew Marr of The Financial Times based on a plot created by Lord Peter Chadlington, it is centered on a future EU Referendum to stay or not stay in the EU.  From there, crazy things occur.

 

Enjoy, Bob

PreCommerce Summit London

The W2O Group PreCommerce Summit London 2015 on Monday 14 September in London’s City Hall will focus on how we live, work and create in the digital world, and the challenges of the generational digital divide. With technology at our fingertips, we are living in a time where having multiple online personas is normal; work, life and play meaning that we have never been more empowered to control what information we want, when we want it and how we want it. But is being connected making us more disconnected?

Coinciding with London’s Social Media Week, our event convenes industry leaders, senior marketing and communications professionals, entrepreneurs, influential journalists and bloggers from across a broad range of industries and interests. Our distinguished panel includes:

·         Marvin Chow, Senior Director at Google

·         Jessica Federer, Chief Digital Officer at Bayer

·         Anna Gruebler, Artificial Intelligence specialist

·         Dina Rey, Head of Digital at Roche

·         Kriti Sharma, VP Data Strategy at Barclays

·         Simon Shipley, Marketing and Innovation Manager at Intel

·         Anita Yuen, Global Head of Digital Fundraising at UNICEF

We will be sharing more information about our panel, new members, as well as event highlights and topics in the coming weeks.

The event is by invitation only, so to reserve your seat, please do so early at W2O events.

See you on 14 September!

Snapchat has increasingly become a topic of discussion among brands in terms of driving business value and ROI. It has evolved since our initial evaluation of it in 2014, citing it’s lack of data tracking and its ephemeral nature, but it still has some gaps to fill. Our team has some strategic ideas around optimizing the platform currently and some that could hopefully come to life in the near future. You can view the complete list of insights here and below:

 

#1 If Snapchat can provide full transparency on users of their service, advertising can be done in an appropriate and highly focused manner. The data can be anonymized to respect privacy, while still achieving targeting goals. This data must be accessible to the brands advertising. It cannot be held only by Snapchat, since it is critical for planning.

  • IDEA — Open up a limited API, ala Facebook’s 30 days of data – brands must be able to access anonymized data to plan. Facebook has shown the way on how to do this and still preserve the integrity of the data.

#2 – Work with brands to develop relationships with Snapchat Stars – we all know the power of influencers. The stories feature of Snapchat is where influencers are emerging that have major impact for a brand. These stars are similar to what is occurring on YouTube, Vine, Instagram and other channels. For example, if BRAND X focused on beauty brands and emerging influencers for make-up tips, how- to’s for skin care and other related topics, this increases authenticity, supports the drivers of Snapchat traffic and helps your brand understand who has influence in Snapchat vs. other channels.

  • IDEA– Enable a brand to work directly with influencers in a category – this leads to more targeted earned and paid media; it helps the influencers gain additional influence; and it adds much needed authenticity for any advertiser. It is widely believed that advertising alone will not be accepted by the Snapchat audience, so new models of partnership are key to success.

#3 – Create a “Snap to Buy” feature – we need ROI. If Snapchat creates a “snap to buy” feature where users can purchase products or download important buying information for later use, we can better track funnel activity. This can work for a brand by partnering with emerging stars, “map” them discussing a topic, provide the option to buy direct (within the chat), and deliver directly or to a local outlet. For consumables, this scenario could generate simple couponing or co-marking opportunities.

#4 – Develop new content partnerships between talent, media networks and brands – a traditional ad won’t work in Snapchat. However, new models can open up opportunities. In other words, brands will sponsor other brands. Snapchat’s new media service called Discover, which will host branded propertieis for Yahoo, People, Cosmopolitan, the Food Network, Daily Mail, Vice, CNN and others.

  • IDEA – an example can be given for a TV show and a BRAND X brand. BRAND X works with the talent on a TV show. The talent on this show then Snapchats on a key topic that also includes the BRAND X brand. This would be a powerful way to integrate great content, keep the topic aligned with Snapchat user’s interests and work in a brand appropriately.

#5 – Innovate in geo-location – Snapchat is already innovating with picture filters automatically uploaded from your location.  Since interaction with geo-location based content is already accepted by Snapchat users, we think of new ways to build value.

  • IDEA 1– this is purely a matter of creativity.  We could create a contest based on geo-location use of certain backgrounds.  Once a certain level of use is reached, prizes are made available.  New filters that are highly topical could be provided by BRAND X brands, e.g. Olympics and any sports-related shots for certain sports, however the backgrounds feature the local athletes for that user to make it more personal. Or BRAND X sponsors Movember with idea that men are all shaving in the near future.  And on and on.
  • IDEA 2 – align Snapchat content from brands down to the store level.  If the retail networks of a country are aligned to geo-location, BRAND X can offer unique content and coupons/offers at the zip code level and you can snap to buy and it goes right to your closest store.

#6—Improve how “Stories” is handled within Snapchat – the “Stories” experience does not appear integrated with how users typically use the app, which is to interact with friends.

    • Stories are essentially paid content from brands in the Snapchat app
    • Most of the time, people use Snapchat to interact with friends
    • Stories do not appear “inline” when you interact with friends, but rather only if you go to Explore —> Discover in the app, which is a couple clicks off the beaten path
    • This is like moving paid content on cnn.com off the front page and into a section called “Paid Content”
    • If brands are having success, that’s what matters — but it’s an odd way to integrate paid

#7 – Partner with users to create a “brand studio” – populate the studio within Snapchat with brand content (images, video, quotes and other content) that can be used by anyone.  And encourage users to add their own ideas, make requests and participate in making each brand studio as cool as it can be.

  • IDEA – co-create content with communities directly.

Innovative ways brands are using Snapchat:

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

All the best,

Bob Pearson

In my earlier post on the topic, I discussed using technology to stay connected to reporters. It’s pretty common these days for brands to make communications team members responsible for producing content on social properties and company blogs. If you are in a content production role, using some level of technology during the development process will result in more informed, relevant content overall.

These days, we’re swimming in data, and it makes sense that it gets confusing for a lot of folks in Comms or Marketing. That doesn’t mean you have to become a technologist or data scientist to gain some level of insight that informs the content you develop. In my experience, it’s an iterative process. Start somewhere, and expand from there. Find a few things that work for you, that you can incorporate into a daily (or at least regular) routine. Success will lead you down more specific paths.

While there are tools to help you get a sense for the content and the influencers that are moving the needle, there’s no substitute for real analytics insights. W2O Group’s analytics chops were a big part of why I decided to join the company in the first place. Understanding what content and topic trends with free tools is a start, knowing who the topic influencers are takes some real effort. Beyond that, we identify the sources that inform the influencers. Putting that level of insight together with a solid understanding of content is where the magic happens.

In my view, the best content strategy focuses on providing balance between things that matter to your customers, things that tie your company to broader industry trends in a seamless way and the things you want to communicate as a brand. In other words, you have to earn your way in to market to your customers.

Credibility Builders

A good place to start is to look more deeply at the analytics behind the content you’ve been publishing. If you work for a big, established brand that has regular social media reporting meetings, take advantage of them. Whether someone in your company’s analytics team or an outside agency delivers the results, ask questions. If you’ve got a lot of questions, ask the presenter or team to meet separately. Many times, those reports show trend level-level items in a week, month or quarterly basis. They’ll usually also show some level of reach. Those are both useful from a directional standpoint; but in my view, it’s more helpful to dig into engagement metrics at the content level. Whether you’re responsible for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, or other social properties, engagement metrics are things such as Likes, Shares, Comments or retweets. When you’re looking at these metrics, pay attention to how they are helping acheive your objectives. Once you can get to this level of detail, keep it simple: do more of what’s working, and less of what’s not.

That’s definitely true in terms of managing blog content as well. Like I mentioned in my Content Hub post, there are a handful of metrics that really matter. In my view, the two most important are 1) the # of inbound links and 2) the # of shares into social platforms. Links (especially ones that come from other sites directly to your blog post) are the lifeblood of blogs. Inbound links are the best indicator that a blog post is hitting the mark. And speaking of social shes, if more people are sharing your blog post on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or elsewhere, that’s validation they see value in the content itself. Data backs up that social shares continue to matter.

Beyond inbound links and social shares, I’d add time on site, # of comments and # of page views as blog traffic metrics that give you a good sense for what content’s working (or not). Working from the inside out, thinking about content from an external perspective, start with credibility builders I mentioned in the image above.

You’re probably already paying attention to things that matter to customers in terms of traditional media. In the digital realm, it’s as easy as reading comment threads on your company’s social properties (or @ replys to your company Twitter account). That’s how I found much of things that became systemic issues we needed to address on the Dell blog.  Regarding the broader trends part, when done well, adding your brand’s perspective to a broader industry trend makes your company relevant to a wider audience. Finding those trends quickly and efficiently is the hard part.

So, how can you get a better feel for what’s happening around the web? Using aggregation sites like Techmeme.com and Mediagazer.com (and the search feature they both offer), are a good place to start if you’re in the tech or media industry. Otherwise, Facebook and Twitter already offer some level of trending stories. Facebook’s Trending section tends to be consumer-oriented, but it does allow you to offer feedback on what types of stories you’re interested in seeing in your trending feed. Twitter’s Trends feature on the left hand side of your profile page offers a tailored view of what’s happening now, but much like Facebook, seems too general to be of much use in this context. Twitter recently unveiled Project Lightning curated news served real-time, but Instagram’s already rolled out its version and some feel Twitter will be playing catchup with it and Snapchat in this regard. The curated news space is heating up quickly, so there will be plenty more to come.

For now at least, here are three curated news tools I’ve used to help cut through the clutter:

  • Nuzzel – I just start using this service recently, after reading this article. In that short time, it’s become my favorite. It’s a service that surfaces the stories that your friends and connections shared most often. In other words, it delivers a curated list of headlines based on either your Twitter or Facebook contacts.
  • Newsle – This is a service LinkedIn purchased about a year ago. It surfaces stories that feature contacts in your LinkedIn network.
  • Prismatic – This one is a social news recommendation engine, but it doesn’t seem to be as closely tied to the people you follow.

And then there’s Google. They’ve been on a tear recently, starting with last week’s rollout of the redesigned Google Trends website, then launching YouTube Newswire. They followed it up this week by introducing the Google News Lab, and the related Google News Lab site. Even though Google positions all three as journalistic endeavors, I’d argue there’s usefulness for PR folks as well, specifically with Google Trends. At the very least, I think it’s worth following @GoogleTrends on Twitter.

In spending a bit of time on Google Trends, I’m impressed with the level of real-time data it makes available to anyone on the web. Beyond showing trending news and topics, it displays real-time demographic data, topic queries  and in some cases, questions users are asking related to those searches. And make no mistake, having access to real-time questions is massively valuable to brands, especially in issues management mode. I sure would have loved to have a tool like it back in my Dell days. Why? Answering those questions directly in the content your company publishes is the best way to ensure its relevance to customers and reporters.

A few quick examples:

Google Trends can show you changes in real-time in things like the 2016 Presidential race. Like this tweet where they show how Bobby Jindal’s announcement to run for President affected searches for Donald Trump, who had led earlier. Click on the image below to get to the before and after images.

Google Trends - Trump vs. Jindal

Going to the Explore section, you can enter your own topics to compare. One caveat: it only works for topics that have enough volume. Here’s a comparison between Facebook, Google and Twitter. The cool thing thing: it shows more than just a volume graph—it also allows you to see the demographic and query data for all three.

Google, Facebook and Twitter on Google Trends

But probably the best example is the U.S. Supreme Court rulings currently happening. The top section shows the most relevant articles. Those are the ones I’d read first, (and potentially link to), followed by Top Questions for the U.S. Supreme Court, plus separate top questions for U.S Supreme Court Justices and the Affordable Care Act, searches over time, search interest by state, etc. In other words, tons of real-time information. Click this link to go to the Google Trends page itself, or click the image below to see a larger version:

US Supreme Court - Google Trends

While I understand there’s a very limited and finite amount of time for Comms people to spend researching trends and news, finding some time is a worthwhile excercise in my book. There’s definitely a purpose here. I’ll blog more about that soon.

I recently published a post on LinkedIn that charted my career path from Archaeology major to Chief Blogger. Along the way, I spent the vast majority of my 18 years as a member of Dell’s Communications organization. What really helped me forge a path was infusing so much of my Comms work with my passion for hardware, software and web technology. Thinking that way made the transition to digital communications a natural one. Especially these days, if you want to stand out as a member of the Communications team in your organization, applying a bit of technology can go a long way.

A few caveats:

1) Before you embark on sharing company-related content or engaging customers (or reporters) online, make sure you are aligned with your company’s social media policy and training guidelines. Many companies these days have a training or certification process that you’ll need to go through. Make sure you take care of compliance issues first.

2) Don’t think of traditional comms and social or digital communications as two opposing things. Like I’ve said before, they are complementary.

3) Just start somewhere. I’m not suggesting you have to become a technologist to be successful. You don’t have to become an expert in all things digital. Pick even a couple of things you can start doing to connect with reporters or make more informed contenet for your customers.

Whether you spend your days maintaining relationships with reporters on the corporate side at some of big media outlets, or if you maintain connections for a specific part of your company’s business, the good news is there’s never been more ways to build those relationships. There will always be a place for ongoing phone calls (or emails) with reporters. That doesn’t go away, nor should it. In my view, digital tools offer multiple ways to increase touch points with reporters.

Where are the best places to interact with reporters online? Twitter and the comment section of their blogs in my opinion. In my experience, starting on Twitter will lead you to their blog posts. My advice, check their tweets. Most reporters these days have to care about personal branding. And that means when they publish someting, they’ll tend to promote it via Twitter, LinkedIn or elsewhere. Read the links they share to get a sense for what interest them. Pay attention to the context they provide in their tweets. Share the articles they publish when it makes sense. @ reply them when you have some perspective to add, or questions to ask. If you have more to say about a post they wrote, take the extra step to comment on their blog posts. And be thoughtful when you do comment. Add to the conversation instead of trying to force your agenda down their throats.

So, what if you are starting from scratch? If you don’t have a Twitter account, create one. Then follow all the reporters you need to stay connected to. Even though it’s a painstakingly manual process, spend time to create Twitter lists for all (or at least the main reporters you interact with). Though it’s the most manual process, I still recommend taking the time to do it for all the reasons in the paragraph above. You can start small, then add reporters to your list over time. Once you’ve created your list, bookmark it in your browser.

Another option is following reporter lists maintained by top tier media outlets (see point #3 in a previous post). To find these lists, all you have to do is find the outlet on Twitter, like the Washington Post for example. Then click Lists. Scroll through the page and you’ll see general lists like Post people, and beat-specific lists like Video / Photo/ Design, Post World, Post Business and op-ed writers at Post Voices. Then click the Subscribe button. If you’re ready to go deeper, looking at a service like Muckrack.com might make sense. Beyond basic Twitter lists by outlet, they can help you keep track of interactions with reporters over time, campaigns, organize your reporter lists in ways that work for you, etc.

Beyond connecting with individuals, some tools can help you keep up trending stories. If you’re in the tech space, bookmark Techmeme.com now. I’ve mentioned it several times before, but still feel it’s one of the best tools to see what tech stories are moving the needle in the blogosphere. See screenshot below. Newest stories appear on the right hand side, and Top News shows the most impactful articles, with the main story featured with an accompanying image. The More section shows related stories from other outlets. The Tweets section underneath highlights significant tweets related to that topic. Just spending a few minutes looking at a trending story and related conversations around it  gives a good sense for the context and the sentiment around that  topic.

Techmeme.com

Mediagazer.com works the same way. Like the name implies, stories there are focused on the media industry, and that includes a lot of articles about the changing state of journalism. If you care about that, bookmark it as well. And speaking of the changing state of journalism, Nieman Journalism Lab is my favorite site to keep up with. The For Immediate Release podcast is a great source for how social (or digital) and traditional PR mix. Shel Holtz is one of the best in my book at understand where tech and PR intersect. Besides Shel, other individuals who are great on this topic are Mathew Ingram, Jeff Jarvis, Josh Bernoff, Richard Binhammer and Scott Monty.

If you like to keep up with a list of media outlets, but want more efficient process than visiting each one manually, RSS feeds are a useful tool. I’ve blogged about Feedly, which is a great reader especially if you read a lot of articles on a tablet. If simplicity is key, I highly recommend Digg Reader. It’s great for tracking a handful of media outlets, and it makes it easy to add sources.

If you are in communications and have yet to jump into the digital side of things, take steps to change that. There’s much to be gained once you start somewhere. They key is to incorporate some of these activities in your daily routine. Doing it right will lead to more engagement with reporters about the stories they write, which results in better relationships. And regardless of how technology changes the landscape, building those relationships will always be essential to PR and Communications.

This column first appeared in the June 1st issue of PRNews

The new definition of owned media is simple: If we create and approve content, it’s owned. It wasn’t long ago when owned media simply was the content on our website. Today owned media has moved from being a site to becoming how a customer experiences the brand’s voice in any channel

The paradigm has changed so dramatically that we as PR pros are required to meet customers and prospects at their favorite online hangouts. We can and must share the same content that is housed on our website on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and with key bloggers. After all, we are in the business of storytelling and story distribution. Facebook, bloggers and other platforms consistently reach more potential customers than our website. The good news is that our voice has become portable. Good and bad news: we control the official, but often not the initial, experience with our brands.

On the positive side, our websites can do almost anything we want. They can serve as a company store or teach consumers about an issue, a technology or disease.

The goal itself hasn’t changed too much really. We still want to take the company’s story and share our version of the truth directly with customers in the locations they prefer to hear from us.  

Timing has become important. It’s critical to reach customers throughout their PreCommerce journey, while they are learning, sharing or just having fun. Waiting until they visit our website compromises our ability to influence the final outcome. It’s imperative that we touch the majority of conversations, buying decisions and search behavior occurring outside of our official company channel well before final decisions are made about a purchase or even our reputation.

Customers learn about a new product via search, explore what others believe about it in forums, ask friends on Facebook about it and visit a company website to confirm what’s already been learned. After all that, the customer who decides to buy the product will usually do so at a site offering the best terms.  

How effectively we use owned media defines its success and proves our value. Here are five key examples of how to optimize the new version of owned media. 

 

1. Supply chain of language. Normally there are 15 keywords or phrases that the majority of customers are searching for to find your story or a related topic. It’s more important than ever that you develop a supply chain of language, so that you use the same keywords on your website, in social channels, as tags for new content and in press releases and statements. If you coordinate across the owned media supply chain, you’ll greatly increase search engine optimization results.  

Communicators are becoming the new search experts by necessity. Telling a good story is only as helpful as a potential customer’s ability to find it.

 

2. Network coordination. Are you sharing the same messages and a similar story across your website, social channels and via spokespeople? How do you offer different content by channel to match the customer’s journey?

We must become experts in how customers choose to learn about our brands to develop the right network strategy. We need to work as one team. 

 

3. Understand the role of each media channel. Are we teaching customers and prospects via YouTube, answering questions on forums and posting interactive contest on Facebook? What is the role of each channel? Can we imagine the customer journey, document what really happens online and ensure that what we provide matches with the customer’s needs? 

 

4. Ensure visits are customized. When we shake hands, we are connecting with another person. Customers search for certain keywords that lead them to our site. It’s a digital handshake. This little bit of information enables us to provide the exact content they want when they visit our site. 

Are you doing this? Imagine having 10 experiences available to match up with different keywords, so if you are looking for a job, you get the job site right away because you were searching for “company x, engineer of abc.”

 

5. Focus on the customer experience. Are we consistently monitoring all media we own to ensure the consumer’s experience is consistent?  How do we know? When I think of doing this effectively I recall advice from Gayle Fuguitt, president-CEO of The Advertising Research Foundation, who said, “Brands are built in the brain.”

 

Customer’s brains involve ten channels of online media, plus mainstream media, ranging from audio to search to video (see PR News, May 26, 2014). Are we building brands in the brain or are we simply sharing content and hoping for the best?  

 

3 Ways Owned Media Saves Money

Here are three ways I’ve learned to save money via effective use of owned media:

1. Use ads strategically to drive earned and shared media. Facebook ad buys are a great example. Don’t saturate your audience. Use ads strategically to drive your owned media story to the right people. Remember what Daina Middleton, head of global business marketing at Twitter, says: “Marketing through persuasion is over. Marketing through participation is here to stay.” Make it easy to find content you want to participate in.

2. Responsive experience improves conversion. When you provide the right content the first time via a website, your conversion is far higher. Dramatically. Create libraries of content based on the type of person who will visit your site and use targeting expertise to match visitors with the right experience.

 3. Content ‘capsules’ can replace Websites. You can now embed the equivalent of a portable website in any social channel, for example, via Business Wire’s news capsule.  If you take your best content for a story and create this type of portable website, you avoid the costs of driving people to your website and it costs a fraction of what you normally pay.                                      

 

All the best, Bob  

I always enjoy speaking at the Internet Retailer Conference, which is the largest e-commerce meeting of its kind in the world.  This year,  I was asked to discuss “how to choose the right social media partners”.   My deck is here and below if you’d like to read it.

I was a client for many years at Rhone-Poulenc Rorer (now Sanofi), Novartis and Dell.  And, today, I’m often asked by our clients who they should consider for various social media activities.

Here’s a brief summary of what I believe we all can do to improve the search process and identify the right partners.

We need to acknowledge that the current way that most agencies are selected is a broken process.  We have checklists, requests for information (RFI) and requests for presentation (RFP) documents that ask the same questions each time and check off the same boxes over and over again.

When questions are predictable, so are the answers.  Think of when you were in school.  If you just have to memorize material for a test, you may pass, but you didn’t learn much.  We know that is not the right way to go.

Instead, we need to move from an RFP to a Request for Knowledge or an RFK.  Clients need to test the working knowledge of the agencies who may be hired.

Every agency says “I wish they would give us a chance to show them how much we know on X topic”.  Well, in an RFK scenario, you sink or swim on what you know, what you have done and how you will innovate in the future.

My presentation walks through 12 areas that are important to address.  In each case, you’ll see the questions I recommend asking of agencies to assess who will be the best partner.  You don’t have to use all of them every time, but it is important to learn about each other in new and more effective ways than we often do today.

I look forward to your ideas on how to further improve the process.

Enjoy, Bob

Do you find yourself asking, “What did I miss in social from May 2015?” Well look no further – now you can get the Social Scoop each month so that you never miss a thing in this ever-changing industry. May was all about ways to engage the audience and which top social dog is doing it better. Enjoy & socialize!

Facebook: GIF Support Has Arrived

What it is

Watch out Facebook world, your News Feed is about to become much more animated! Facebook announced that they will begin supporting GIF images, but there’s a catch.

How it Works

  • There are no uploads allowed – if you try to upload the GIF, Facebook will roll it out to users as a still image
  • Facebook users can paste a link from a GIF hosted on a 3rdparty site (such as Giphy, Imgur, Tumblr) into the status box and then select publish
    • NOTE – you are not allowed to upload GIFs directly from your computer or mobile device, but must paste a link to the GIF in the status update to enable the GIF to play
  • GIFs will play on autoplay, based on your current video autoplay settings
    • If autoplay is disabled in your settings, you can click on the GIF to play it instead
  • GIFS are available for play both on desktop and on mobile devices

What it Means for Brands

Animated GIFS are not yet available to Facebook Pages, however Facebook is exploring ways to roll this out in the future. Facebook has notably been against animated GIFs, for fear that they would clutter the News Feed. This is a strong point to keep in mind – uploading GIFs everyday isn’t going to appease your fans, but will be great content for engagement when the time comes for brands to express themselves in a fun new way.

Facebook vs. YouTube: The Battle of Video Advertising

What it is

Facebook has surpassed YouTube in total number of video views on desktop and more Page owners are uploading video directly to Facebook than they are via sharing from YouTube videos.

So What?

  • Facebook is taking a huge slice of YouTube’s audience for itself, becoming a direct competitor in video advertising
  • Advertisers and content creators are starting to understand that there is more value in uploading content directly to Facebook, rather than publishing to YouTube and sharing then on Facebook

So Who’s Winning?

Facebook YouTube
Videos play automatically on Facebook as a user scrolls through the news feed & users are drawn to content that they don’t have to ‘look for’ and play The World’s largest search engine behind Google – people will be looking for your videos on here
Facebook has ramped up it’s video functionality, with the launch of Video Tabs, Playlists and embedded videos Still the top place to get discovered by new people via search, especially any video content that you’d like discovered organically
Facebook makes it very easy to target specific consumers with video, making it great for both targeting and engagement purposes Good for SEO and driving views (however, views have become a less important player to advertisers in recent years – compared to interactive engagement elements)

What it Means for Brands

YouTube is still the video content king for now, but Facebook is quickly approaching the throne. They should both be factors in your video content strategy and have their own strengths and weaknesses – for now, YouTube is still your top player for video reach, but for video engagement, head over to Facebook.

Pinterest: “Buy Button” Revealed

What it is

Pinterest revealed a “Buy’ button that could dominate social media commerce. While Facebook and Twitter already have similar tools, consumers don’t trust these social giants with their personal information and they use Facebook and Twitter to share, not to buy – Pinterest, they trust. People go to Pinterest with the mindset to shop.

Why it Will Work

  • While Pin It, Rich Pins, and Promoted Pins already help buyers get all the information they need to make a purchase, they still have to go to the brand’s website to buy
  • The new Buy button will eliminate the middle man and allows Pinterest users to order products they find directly with one button, without having to click on the company’s website or app
  • The Buy buttons pass information and traffic on to retailer sites and apps where users will complete the purchase
  • For recipes for example – where a full cart of ingredients is needed to complete the recipe – users can click on the “Get Ingredients Delivered” button and it will open a shopping cart with all the recipe’s ingredients for purchase

What it Means for Brands

With so many different Buy/Acton buttons, brands of all industries can partner with Pinterest to help develop the discovery-purchase-experience flow for consumers. Brands can ultimately drive more sales, which keeps the dollars flowing through Pinterest. However, brands should be aware that Pinterest could start charging them to increase the reach of their Action button, would be a whole new game in itself.

Twitter: Tweets Appear in Google Search

What it is

Google and Twitter announced their partnership in enabling tweets to show up in Google search results on mobile devices. This comes after a bid by Twitter to increase their real-time content across the Internet.

How it Works

  • When clicking on a tweet in Google search, you’ll be redirected to Twitter, in which you can view and engage with the Tweet, and of course discover new content
  • Searches will include key phrases and hashtags
  • This new service is currently only available in English and on desktops

Why it’s Good for Google

Google now has access to the streams of tweets known as firehose, which sprays 9000 tweets per second into the Internet, giving them index to even more information than before.

Why it’s Good for Twitter

This partnership gives Twitter the visibility in search that they need to be the top social channel for news. The more information they can get out to the online community, the more visitors they can get to the site, and the more people who will sign up for accounts with the platform, giving them the power of virality that they want.

What it Means for Brands

The update allows brands to reach a global audience at all times, especially with real-time, breaking content. Brands should ensure they’re content is strong and relevant to show up in top searches, giving exposure to Pages on both Twitter and Google.

Twitter: Introducing Audience Insights

What it is

Twitter introduced audience insights, making it easier for advertisers to understand key audiences on Twitter

How it Works

Advertisers can use audience insights for multiple things, depending on the type of awareness and campaign they’re trying to achieve. This tool can be used to:

  • Learn about potential customers – helps identify the best segment to target within an ad, all the way to which creative (image, video clip) would be most compelling for your audience
  • Learn more about current followers and the people who engage with your page – helps you tailor your targeting and content for the correct audiences
  • Compare audiences – see how your information about your followers indexes against Twitter’s audience

Getting Started

Audience insights is available to all Twitter advertisers and analytics users for Twitter-specific data. To get started, log in to ads.twitter.com and select ‘Audience Insights’ from the ‘Followers’ drop down, or login to analytics.twitter.com and choose ‘Followers.’

What it Means for Brands

Advertisers can discover valuable insights about their followers, as well as the users who have engaged with their content. They can also identify new audiences to capitalize on and target during campaigns, including user demographics, interests, purchasing behaviors and more.

Click for a detailed deck!