For a while, the biggest problem with Silicon Valley is that it huffed its own exhaust. It was very reminiscent of the famed South Park episode, “Smug Alert!” In that episode, Kyle’s family buys a Prius, becomes overly high and mighty, then moves to San Francisco where they can be surrounded by people who are high and mighty, like them. Rather than breathe regular air, people in San Francisco, breathe their own farts. I’m serious. Watch this clip.
That video while, tasteless, is a great example of what the valley was like. There was a belief that if it wasn’t from the valley, it wasn’t cutting edge, different, unique, exceptional, innovative, etc. We saw companies open up “West Coast” offices in San Francisco or the valley. The idea of these offices was to get closer to the companies (eg Facebook, Google) who were shaping the world and to attract better talent.
5 years ago, this made a lot of sense. The epicenter of innovation was San Francisco/The Valley. That was the hub. If something game changing was going to happen, it was going to happen there and certainly not in Chicago, New York, D.C. or any other city in the country. But, over the last 5 years, we’ve seen two interesting shifts happening:
1. “Startup Culture” and the innovation that comes along with it, was being seen in markets like New York. For example, Brooklyn created the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, which has spawned MakerBot and Etsy. At an even broader level, there’s the Made In NYC initiative, which has credible startups like foursquare, Adapt.ly, BirchBox and Timehop. Today, cities like Austin, New York, Chicago and Seattle have just as many smart people and innovative companies as the San Francisco bubble. Innovation is happening everywhere, it’s no longer, just in one city.
2. The Valley realized that they’d become myopic. The best talent and thinking wasn’t happening in their backyard. No, it was happening in places like Sydney, Berlin, Stockholm, India, Shanghai and Seoul. As the rest of the country chased Silicon Valley talent, Silicon Valley was chasing talent across the globe. Smart companies realized this early on and essentially cut out the middleman. They forged partnerships with companies based in Mumbai, Croatia, Costa Rica and Slovenia. You need only to look at the efforts by Zuckerberg to advance immigration reform, to see how important the global talent marketplace is.
Despite these major ripples, companies have been slow to adjust. Large organizations today, still believe the quick fix answer to their problems is to open up a San Francisco office, maybe run a few hackathons, create an app and launch a few pilots with some startups. Problem solved, right? Hardly. That’s not even a bandaid. With a global playing field, it’s quite narrowminded to think that the only path to future growth and innovation is thru Silicon Valley.
Even if you’re an organization that doesn’t “sell” globally or doesn’t have an office beyond the borders the United States, you operate in a global marketplace. Talent, supply chain, financial investments, manufacturing, etc. are all global. Like it or not, you’re global. You’re competing with companies for talent, partnerships and pure natural resources. The world is bigger than San Francisco. It’s bigger than the United States. Readjust your sights. Think global.
Polaroid’s real-life Instagram logo camera can also print your photos http://engt.co/1pkQ0KY
In what can only be described as life, imitating art, imitating life…Polaroid (yes that Polaroid) is bringing out a digital camera that’s modeled around Instagram, which of course is modeled around the Polaroid. What I like about this story is that it shows, they’re are still new ways to capture the emotion in creating a moment…and then convert that emotion into printing a photo, to savor the memory. Photo printing is not dead. We just need better reasons to print.
How H&M Churns Out New Styles In Just 2 Weeks http://read.bi/1pkQ3Xd
A lot of it, is logistics. But, those logistics mean nothing without the big data being used to spot trends that will stick and drive sales. Predictive analytics, not regression analytics is what’s driving H&M forward.
CoverGirl Ad Becomes a Protest Tool Against NFL’s Roger Goodell http://on.mash.to/1pkQ4dF
A very powerful article that shows how easily brands can be dragged into a conversation that they don’t want to be a part of. Cover Girl launched a campaign, as part of their NFL sponsorship, that highlighted how to use makeup that helped consumers embrace the “look” of their team. Great idea! But, with the recent domestic violence cases surrounding the NFL, the ads were edited by consumers to highlight the fact that P&G (maker of Cover Girl) was paying money to support an organization that was seemingly taking domestic violence, lightly.
Tech has raised the bar on customer experience higher than ever; here’s why you should care http://bit.ly/1pkQ8tR
We’re an organization that’s focused on the customer. We want to understand her, her needs and be there for her, at the right time with the right message and the right feeling behind that message. Technology, in some ways has created barriers between people and companies and at the same time, made us all closer and certainly more accountable and accessible. This interview gets to the fundamental reason why it’s so important to be customer first.
Southwest Airlines Understands The Heart Of Marketing Is Experience http://onforb.es/1pkQ9Ow
A great in depth look at Southwest Airlines’ major rebranding effort. “The average distance between the stem of the brain and the top of the heart is nine inches. Great brands don’t just bombard the eyes and the ears. They understand true advocacy begins only once you reach the heart of your customer.” Brands have a soul; they’re more than the glass, metal, nuts, bolts and logo.
I was on Tinder, for a week. Yes, I’m married. Don’t worry, it was an approved experiment. Let me take a half-step back. Every month I pick 1 new social platform to experiment with. In the past that’s lead to a month with Vine, EyeEm, SnapChat and others. The month I spend with a platform is designed to:
Make me smarter and more knowledgable about the platform
Help me understand the customer experience for the platform and what, if anything, we can glean from it to enhance our digital, mobile and social products and capabilities
Enable me to speak intelligently about the marketing opportunities for the organization. I’ve always felt that it rings a bit hollow to offer a perspective on an opportunity, without actually being someone who’s actually used the platform…not just read Mashable’s writeup about it.
With that in mind, I recently connected with a sales rep from IAC. Now, you might be scratching your head about IAC. They’re the holding company organization that owns Match.com, OKCupid.com and yes, Tinder. IAC is no small fish and from an advertising reach standpoint, they’ve proven to have a very sustainable digital advertising/marketing business. So when someone from IAC said, there’s some amazing things we could do together, including some future opportunities on Tinder.
Far be it for me to say that there’s no marketing opportunity for our organization and Tinder. Up until a week ago, I wasn’t a Tinder user. Up until a week ago, I never downloaded the app or saw someone else use it, live. Screen grabs, write ups and jokes on late night TV was everything I knew about Tinder.
Before I explain what I learned and what I think, let me first explain the ground rules I had for using Tinder:
I Swiped right for everyone. Everyone.
Ok, technically, not everyone, because if I saw someone was related to someone I knew, I swiped left. I didn’t want to get into explaining this experiment/trial to a friend.
I was 100% focused on the advertising and marketing opportunities. I didn’t read bios, I didn’t look at picture sets, etc. I just focused on the potential marketing opportunities.
If there was a match, I didn’t message a user, nor did I respond to anyone’s messages to me. I wasn’t hear to find a “date”, I was here to understand the marketing opportunities.
So with that out of the way, here’s a marketer’s point of view about Tinder.
It will have an ongoing, but limited user base. If you believe that people date multiple people, then date 1 person, then get engaged, then get married, Tinder plays in the dating part of the lifecycle. As people mature out of dating to just dating 1 person, Tinder will loses active users, but those users will always be backfilled by new user entering the dating lifecycle. This could be people new to dating or people who have exited a relationship are back at step 1 of the dating lifecycle.
Dating sites are usually manual entry driven. That leads to inaccurate data. Tinder is built on the best, richest, most accurate data set ever, in the history of marketing: Facebook. As a marketer, I’d feel better about targeting ads on Tinder than I would on Match.com.
Being a mobile only platform is also intriguing because it brings in location based data for the purposes of marketing. This would allow us to be more contextually relevant than relying on user entered location info.
Tinder’s entire customer experience is genius. It’s a fantastic game. Swipe. Swipe. Swipe. It’s fun. The layering of push notifications keeps you coming back in. Notifications make sense, in this case. Someone swiped you back. Someone sent a message. These are both things that stoke the flames of our natural curiosity and keep us using the app. I’m sure their daily active user rate is off the charts. If my goal is frequency of messaging, Tinder’s model is intriguing.
Scale and frequency are great. Most companies want to make sure that they’re marketing is on brand and it’s reaching the right users (demographics, psychographics, etc.). For most companies, then, Tinder is probably a fantastic option. But, I believe you need to go a little deeper; you need context. Just as it would be somewhat insensitive for Kleenex to run Facebook ads targeted at people who recently changed their relationship status from married to divorced, does an advertiser really want to be “talking” to people while they’re having personal conversations and looking for Mr./Mrs. right, even as joked about, it’s Mr./Mrs. “right now”? I’m not sure and I’m sure for some companies, the answer is yes.
The user experience that Tinder created is fun. I know I already mentioned that, but let me talk about it from a different angle. The experience is so intuitive and smart, that it won’t be long before see it adopted across an entire host of categories. For example, imagine Tinder’s interface leverage for recipes or if Netflix were to adopt it rather than their current method for building out a customer profile. The 1 button sign up, combined the simple aspect of swiping, is brilliant. I think we’ll see it become a widely adopted model, just as the the “pull to refresh” interface has been copied by just about everyone.
Taking my marketer hat off for a second, I have to say, Tinder is equal parts the future and a sad state of the world. The game mechanics make “dating” fun. If I were in the dating market, I could completely understand the appeal. It’s simple to join. Simple to participate. Simple to stay informed. But, it does reduce us all to a headshot.
Maybe that’s reality and Tinder, like the Matrix, is showing us what reality, truly is. That as much as we talk about looks not mattering, and beauty being more than skin deep, the reality is we’re all visual people and a headshot is in fact the bast way to find compatibility.
I sure hope that’s not the case. I’d like to believe that dating is still about the butterflies we get from a voice, a moment, a single touch, a look, a whisper and of course the grand gesture.
With Tinder, everything is instant. As a marketer, that’s exciting. As a hopeless romantic, I want to believe that finding a match, goes beyond a swipe and is more along the lines of what Pablo Neruda once wrote
By the way, you won’t find me on Tinder anymore. I deleted my account (surprisingly easy) and the app.
Want to See Aziz Ansari’s Next Stand-Up Show? Check Twitter, Then Give Him Your Phone Number. http://on.recode.net/1lyPuht
Talk about a heck of a promotion and a great use of twitter to build personal relationships and tap in to your most rabid fans. “Here’s how it works: Ansari sends out a message from his Twitter account, telling fans who live in Chicago to head to his site, where they enter their cellphone numbers, which enters them into a lottery for tickets — all without knowing where the show will be. When Ansari did this in San Francisco, he got 35,000 signups in three days.”
A closer look at the #Emmys http://bit.ly/1lyNvtx
Social and TV, go together like beer and brats, BBQ and bourbon, and of course happy and healthy. The twitter insights team composed a detailed breakdown of how viewers tweeted, during the Emmy’s. “There were 1.1 million Tweets about the show (+-3 hours) during the live telecast (8-11 p.m. ET) according to Nielsen.” Not too shabby, eh?
Newcastle Asks Fans For Photos, Which It’ll Convert (Very Badly) Into Ads http://mklnd.com/1piMcyC
Must have beer on the mind…I know, it’s the 2nd beer themed content for this week’s Friday Five, but it comes from Heineken’s competitor: Newcastle. They’re asking fans of Newcastle to submit photos, which Newcastle will turn into ads to promote their beer. This is crowdsourcing at its finest. It’s a simple and cost effective way to scale content, while making the customer part of the brand experience.
If a Self-Driving Car Gets in an Accident, Who—or What—Is Liable? http://theatln.tc/1piNTMu
Bonus time!!! Yes, this week you get 6 in Friday Five. This is just such a cool and interesting article. As the ideas of self-driving vehicles starts to become a reality for consumers, who’s to blame when an accident happens? The answer might surprise you!
E-Commerce Is Not Eating Retail http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/08/e-commerce-is-not-eating-retail/
This article will make you feel great about the direction we’re taking. It’s not about Ecommerce vs retail; it’s all about serving the needs of the Omnichannel customer. Think “and”, not “or”, when it comes to commerce.
You will find no shortage of lists that outline the Top Content Marketing Challenges. From team size to budget and from the lack of tools to the lack of process; everyone has at least one challenge. There’s nothing wrong with these lists. They’re a great start to understanding the challenges being faced by organizations large and small.
That said, I’d encourage you to dig beyond the top 10 lists. When I think about the biggest challenge facing marketers today, in content, it’s much more ambiguous and complex, than the need for a tool to manage content. To me, the biggest challenge is the lack of agreement on what “quality” means. I’m serious. In most organizations there’s a process to generate quality content. It often starts with research, which leads to an insight, that becomes the foundation for a brief, which enables a team/company to develop creative that’s high quality. Simple enough, right? Except, that quality, in traditional marketing channels is generally determined by a combination of research (Eg focus groups, copy testing) and a checklist that governs the usage of colors, fonts, logos, photography, tone and more. In digital/social channels, the checklist still exists, but it’s rare that digital/social creative is placed in front of focus groups.
While, the checklist approach to quality ensures that content is on “brand” it doesn’t mean it’s high quality. The focus groups and copy testing are designed to help predict performance, but clearly, if that research was devoid of flaws, no agencies would ever be fired and everyone would hit their forecasted numbers. The truth is that great content is both art and science. Despite hundreds of years of advertising history, nailing the right blend between art and science, has gotten more difficult, not easier. The number of ad formats, marketing channels and means for consuming content, have contributed to making this tougher for marketers.
In theory, no one wants low quality content. Ask a room of marketers if they want high quality or low quality content and you won’t find a single brave person who raises their hand for low quality content. Think about it, just term “low quality”, sounds bad. When most people think of high quality, they think of high-resolution images that are shot (not stock). They think of a perfectly edited/retouched photo – after all, clearly a crack in a baked cake never happens, unless of course you’re a real person. High quality means professionally produced. It also means expensive. Quality, as you can see, conjures up a lot of thoughts and feelings.
When we think about evaluating marketing initiatives, we often want a defined objective or KPI. But, when one of the KPIs is, “produce high quality content”, we have a challenge, because the definition of quality is often completely ambiguous and arbitrary.
As an example, let’s review the following, widely considered, successful content marketing efforts.
We have to start with the obligatory Oreo, Dunk In The Dark, tweet. If you’re reading this at a conference, drink!
The genesis of the tweet has been covered to death. I won’t rehash that information, but I do want to call out the following:
The image used, was a reused and recycled image; something that had been used by Oreo earlier in the year.
It’s overly compressed – you can see the JPG artifacts from over compression
It was produced in roughly 15 minutes, but if you look at the Cannes Lion submission form and apply a general billable rate to each role, it took $2,000+ to create this recycled image. If you needed 4 tweets like that per day for 365 days a year, you need a $3M a year budget for just twitter content.
I think the most important nugget is #1; it was a recycled image. Blasphemy! Having worked at agencies for 11 years and with them for another 6, I can tell you the idea of recycling a creative asset is usually a no-go. Creative team members never want to do the same thing…even when it clearly works. We don’t really have an on the record anecdote from Modelez, but it’s widely accepted that the Dunk In The Dark tweet was a quality piece of content that was very successful. With Oreo out of the way, let’s talk about Samsung’s efforts during the Oscars. With more than 3.4M retweets of the original image taken by Bradley Cooper, this out of focus (gasp!) photo from a cell phone broke the record for the most retweets ever.
With that type of scale, this had to be a piece of quality content. After-all, if it wasn’t quality, it wouldn’t have been retweeted so many times, right? By, all measures of scale, an out of focus, fuzzy, low detail image bested the White House’s hi-resolution and historic photo. Many people think this was a cheap photo. It was anything but. without Samsung’s $20M + sponsorship of the Oscars, it’s likely that photo never happens. Thus, if you thought $2K for Oreo’s tweet was expensive, there’s no doubt, the “Ellen Selfie” was more than 100X the cost of the Dunk In The Dark tweet. By, the way, I also think it’s fascinating to understand the impact that distribution played in driving the 3.4M retweets. This chart does a great job of showing that despite Brad Pitts, bigger start power, Ellen, herself generated 2.5X more retweets.
Moving away from scale and virality as benchmarks for success, let’s look at interest. Interest leads to intent and intent leads to purchase, right? That’s the model, just about every marketer coming out of school, has been taught. Red Bull’s Stratos project, that had Felix Baumgartner jumping from just outside the Earth’s atmosphere, into the desert in New Mexico.
The jump was historic. It broke all sorts of records and became must see content. As we know, must see content, is high quality content (I mean, there’s a reason people watch The Bachelor and Michael Bay movies). At the time, the Stratos project, broke the record for concurrent youTube streams; with nearly 8M people viewing the jump, in real time. Impressive, right? What I like more is that they turned that stunt, into an ongoing campaign. Footage from the jump was integrated into commercials, end caps, packaging, print ads and more. As someone who worked on BMW Films, the re-usage of the content impresses me more than anything. The more often ways you reuse the same footage, the more efficient that investment into the original piece of content, becomes.
Now, if there’s one thing we all know, it’s that what consumers say, really matters. Last Super Bowl, people, just like you and me, crowned the Budweiser ad that featured a dog and a horse, the best Super Bowl commercial of the bunch.
If you don’t think these polls matter, check out the story about Career Builder essentially firing its agency because their Super Bowl ad, wasn’t voted the best. Yes, I’m serious. If consumers love it and love it enough to vote it the best, it must be high quality, right?
Now, for me, I like to go a bit old school. With no internet, no mobile, no tablet, no streaming and still with the majority of people having black and white televisions, the first moon landing was seen by more than 500M people.
Think about that for a second. There were more people who tuned in to watch grainy footage on their black and white televisions, without the internet, than there were people who watched Felix Jump and retweeted the “Ellen Selfie” and shared the “Dunk In The Dark” image and watched Budweisers’ Puppy Love commercial.
We walked through a lot of examples of “quality” content. Hopefully, what you’ve taken away is that it’s really difficult to determine what quality, really means. Quality is unfortunately, quite subjective. There are people who believe Just Bieber is an amazing musical talent. The millions of records/songs sold would seem to justify that. To his fans, he makes quality music. To me, he is a blight on the music industry. I like Michael Bay movies. Some people don’t. There are even people who think Nickelback makes quality music. You can find out which of your friends on Facbeook like Nickelback and unfriend them, by clicking on this link. You’re welcome.
At Walgreens, we don’t have it all figured out. From the many conversations I’ve had with my peers, across the industry and the globe, I don’t think anyone has it mastered. For me, that’s part of the fun and the excitement. It’s why I love the role I’m in and the company I work for. While we haven’t cracked the code 100%, there are a few elements, that I think are important:
Have a clear definition of quality. Every company needs their own approach and “formula.”
Protect the customer experience. Every piece of content, even gasp! content that’s designed to sell (I know, I know, crazy…) should eliminate friction in the actions you’re asking the customer/user to do.
When creating content, take into account 3 things: Your Brand (the content needs to be on brand), Your Customer (it needs to be relatable to your audience), The Platform Context (content that works great in Facebook, doesn’t necessarily work well, in twitter and etc.).
It’s early days in some respects. In others, as the moon landing shows us, the challenges quality compelling content has been around for a long time. Can you imagine how difficult it must have been to link up a feed from the moon to people’s living rooms in 1969?
Set your bar high and be clear in what you’re willing to accept as quality content. Remember, a perfectly perfect circle, that’s the right color, with the right logo, with the right font, isn’t necessarily quality…even though it checks all the boxes.
There’s no shortage of conferences you can attend. Some are mammoth in scale and complexity, like SXSW and CES. Others are more intimate in nature, generally covering a very specific topic. I love a great conference. Unfortunately, not all conferences are great. Most, are good and some are bad; but, few are great.
Time away from the office is priceless. When you attend a summit/conference, you’re giving up face time, meeting time and time to work on critical initiatives. That an organization wants you to attend a summit is a privilege. Beyond the time investment there are also financial investments being made. For example, attending SXSW Interactive can easily run north of $5,000 for the conference pass, hotel, airfare, food, drinks, etc. This isn’t to say that SXSW doesn’t deliver a return on that $5,000, it’s more to provide context, that knowledge isn’t free.
Having attended as both a participant and presenter at several conferences across the globe, I’ve developed a set of filters to determine if a conference is worth the investment:
Commitment to Quality: This starts at the top. Conference circuits are a business and the leaders who run that business, have hard decisions to make. For example, how many sponsored presentations are part of the day’s agenda? But, it takes really solid leadership to say no to something that could generate revenue while infringing on the overall conference experience. A commitment to quality is reflected not only in those decisions, but in the editorial staff that’s putting together the day’s sessions. It’s not easy to get A level talent out of the office for an hour or two, to get on a stage and share their knowledge. However, a savvy editorial team coupled with strong leadership and great attendees, makes for a heck of a carrot when recruiting speakers. Many conferences claim to be high quality, few are high quality across every dimension.
Vendor to Buyer Ratio: To run a conference, money has to come from somewhere. You either need attendees to form over anywhere from $500 to $2,000 for a “pass” or you need vendors to help fund the operation via advertising, speaking opportunities or the chance to connect with attendees that are “buyers.” Granted, this isn’t 100% black and white, as many conferences apply a combination of the two approaches. To my knowledge, I’ve never seen a formula that outlines the right ratio, but in my experience, when you get exceed 2 sellers for every 1 buyer, you cross a threshold that stunts innovation, learning and sharing, while casting a cloud over the entire summit experience. While 2:1 looks scientific, the reality is, this is equal parts art and science. It’s not just how many, but the quality and seniority level of the vendors. Again, this goes back to an overall commitment to quality. If you value the overall quality of experience, above all, you tend to end up with not only the right ratio, but also the right vendors.
Content and Speakers: Again, no magic formula here and believe me, 10 attendees can listen to the same session and walk away with 10 different points of view regarding the quality of said session. That said, I try to keep this simple. I want 2 things from the content and speakers. First, I need a mix of inspirational and practical sessions. This isn’t easy. The practical ones, while not often fun can be the most valuable. And the inspirational ones, while having high talk value, can leave you struggling for how to apply the concept to your business. Too much of one and you have either a boring conference or a pointless one. Second, I want speakers from varying walks of life. Their backgrounds should be diverse, as should their roles, seniority and business verticals. This variety often creates compelling dialogue and enriches the overall conference experience.
There are only 2 conferences / summits that consistently hit the mark across my 3 pieces of criteria: iMedia and Brand Innovators. In full disclosure, I’ve had the opportunity to attend their summits, sit on advisory boards that guide programming and have become friends with several members of the summit staff. I think it’s important you know that, but I think it’s also important that you know, that level of investment and connection to these summits wouldn’t happen, if I didn’t find them both to offer incomparable value.
iMedia and Brand Innovators are similar in their approach. First and foremost, they realize, the goal of a great summit experience, is to inspire, connect and enable its attendees. The value they both place on quality is unmatched. From the speakers to the location to the vendors and everything else in between, they deliver a nearly flawless experience. But, what separates iMedia and Brand Innovators from so many other conferences, goes well beyond that aspect. They both have, in my opinion, the right approach to a summit size. They’re small enough to be manageable and provoke honest, real dialogue, but large enough to learn from a diverse wealth of knowledge. It’s similar to having a great party. You need the right mix of personalities and number of people.
I have a high bar for attending summits. You should too. Your time is valuable. Make sure when you attend a summit that you’re time is well spent. If you attend an upcoming iMedia or Brand Innovators event, you’ll be increasing your odds of making that happen.
Managing a company’s social media footprint is challenging. Even as the landscape sees more consolidation (e.g. WhatsApp), it also sees more diversity and fragmentation. It seems that for every acquisition and merger, 10 new social platforms/networks launch to take their place.
As marketers we’re wired to want to be first, fast, innovative, different, unique and game changing. But, as protectors of a company’s brand and accountable for the success of a company’s efforts in social media, we often need to temper our enthusiasm for being first, with being right. This isn’t an easy balance to maintain. The internal and external pressures are enormous. Nearly every social marketing and content leader I know is inundated with questions from internal stakeholders asking why they aren’t doing X like Y brand or how come they aren’t on Z platform. We need only to look at the number of brands looking to mirror Oreo’s “real time marketing” approach to know, headlines and internal stakeholder questions, drive actions.
There’s nothing like a provocative headline to stir up a high volume of emails from internal and external stakeholders. My inbox the past few days, has been filled up with people wanting my take on Nate Elliott’s latest report, proclaiming, “Instagram Is The King Of Social Engagement.”
That’s quite a headline. It’s almost enough to make you drop everything you’re doing in social media and transition all of your dollars and investment to Instagram.
At the heart of a great enterprise social media strategy is the ability to answer one simple question, “why?” Yes, a 1 word question. You need to be able to answer why you’re investing in something or why you’re not. The ability to answer why, comes from having a the right filters in place to guide your social strategy.
Before I continue, it’s critical to understand that a solid social strategy can not be created via paint by numbers, nor is it something you can copy and paste from another organization. If twitter works for your organization, great. If Yelp! is critical for your organization, fantastic. What works for us at Walgreens, may not work for your company. We’re also well aware that works great for Red Bull, may not be applicable to us.
When we think about where we need to invest our time, effort, resources and dollars, we ask ourselves 3 simple questions:
Does it have the potential to scale. The operative word is “potential.” Not every social platform scales immediately. And not every social platform that scales immediately has the potential to sustain that scale.
Is it at the perfect intersection of our brand and our customers. It seems simple, but you have to be very honest and critical. “Perfect” is a high bar.
Does the platform allow us to create content that’s:
Liquid: Everywhere, All The Time, On Demand, Screen Agnostic, Scalable And Right Sized
Loved: Sought Out, Share-Worthy, Memorable
There are certainly other variables we consider, but they’re ancillary to the 3 key questions we ask first.
Being this back to the powerful proclamation that “Instagram Is The King Of Social Engagement”, we didn’t over-react, because we have a great handle on “why.” When I read the headline and accompanying research, I’m perplexed as to why this is news. After all, the law of the web has always been that you can generate high engagement on low volumes. Is that truly any different than knowing that it’s wet when it rains? It’s simply not news.
As I read the original Forrester blog post and then the onslaught of media coverage around that headline, 3 thoughts came to mind:
The base for Instagram brand followers is small. This immediately skews the data. The average brand has under 1,000 Instagram followers, so getting 40 people (4%) to “like” a photo is fairly easy. With FB and twitter, brands often have 100s of 1000s of followers or in our case, millions. With a larger base, the engagement rate always goes down.
“Engagement” has and continues to be a nebulous descriptor. While yes, you can double-tap to like a photo, you can’t click thru to anything in Instagram. If you try to include a link, Instagram converts it to plain-text. If you’re a business that’s not in the business of branding, but rather in the business of direct response, omni-channel retailing, conversions, etc., is liking a photo a valuable engagement? I can’t answer that for you, but it’s a question to ask yourself.
As scale increases, mature ad products become important. For every person who complains about Facebook cutting organic reach to 2%, remember you can pay to reach the other 98%. Also, with Facebook’s advanced targeting, you could choose to pay to reach only a certain audience group. Twitter, YouTube and other social platforms also offer this level of maturity in their ad products. At present ads on Instagram run a brand nearly $1,000,000 a month and similar to when Apple launched iAd, Instagram must approved your ad creative. While these are still early days for Instagram, the data is very clear: advertising on Instagram doesn’t scale efficiently.
The above 3 thoughts, for us, are pretty big. Instagram could be big, it might not be. It might be great for your business, it might not. It might now be right, now, but could be ready in 6 months. Only you have the answer to “why.” But, in a world where page views are monetized, it looks like Forrester and other publications are generating a lot better return on covering this story than most present day efforts by brands in Instagram.
One of my mentors, who I still call on for advice, shared with me her approach to meetings. I was relaying that info to someone today and it dawned on me, I’d never shared this great advice more broadly.
I think many of us take 1 of 2 paths in a meeting. We speak all the time or we say nothing. Those who say nothing, of course, are given the horrible label of “wallflower.” [sarcasm font] Wallflowers of course aren’t leaders [/sarcasm font]. The other end of that spectrum are people who talk all the time; they yearn to hear their voice heard. Well, at least that seems to be the prevailing thought.
So with that said, as I was entering a point in my career where I was routinely finding myself in meetings with the C-suite, my mentor shared with me her philosophy for when to talk in a meeting:
Speak First: If you’re the first to speak in a meeting, you set the tone, frame up the context of the meeting, outline what’s to be discussed and the decisions that need to be made. As the first person to speak, all other commentary will have to pivot off of your opening remarks. This is a great role when you’re the sponsor of an initiative, but not responsible for overall completion of the initiative or the tasks required to complete it.
Speak When You’ll Own: When you’re responsible for key parts of an initiatives, you need to fight for your fair share of the resources, budget, scope, timing, support and more. You need to both pick your spots and speak in a tone and octave that enables you to explain risks clearly and the reasons you need what you need. Also, since you’re responsible for the “task” it’s critical to make sure people understand you have that responsibility. Equally as important is making sure you understand what’s being asked of you and what scope changes are becoming your responsibility.
Speak Last: The last word is undervalued. The recency effect is very powerful in large organizations. As the person who speaks last you can sum up the key points (which are almost always captured flawlessly by scribes), outline the next steps, assign responsibilities, express satisfaction/dissatisfaction and more. The tone you set when you speak last, often sticks and it’s remembered. The “speak last” approach is something reserved for the person who owns the responsibility for the overall initiative.
It should go without saying, but obviously speak when you’re asked a question too.
I didn’t get this advice til a bit later on in my career. It’s something I’ve been working on for the past year and have tried to lean in to since I returned to Walgreens. Try it out.
It’s 2014. I can tweet from 36,000 miles up in the sky. I can turn the lights in my house off and on from my phone. I can adjust the temperature in my house from 1000s of miles away, with just a few taps on my phone. Taking selfies on stage, during a live event is common place. We have public political discourse on platforms like Facebook and Reddit. Edward Snowden can live stream in for an interview at SXSW. With platforms like IFTT I can have have every photo I take on Instagram be automatically backed up to my Google Drive account and then have a text sent to my wife, letting her know they’re backed up. Yeah, technology is amazing. It really is. Tech has evolved to a point where anything is truly possible. We don’t think in terms of “can we do that” – we think in terms of “how we’ll do it.”
With such maturity in technology, business adoption of digital/social and the marketplace as a whole, it’s perplexing that we still don’t have a truly enterprise social platform. Oh, we have platforms. We have no shortage of platforms. These platforms are like tools that go into a toolbox. Ask a social marketer what’s in their social toolbox and you’ll get a wide variety of answers. The toolbox will run the range of small and niche platforms that do 1 thing exceptionally well, to platforms that do nothing exceptionally well, but do everything. You’ll find platforms that you pay for monthly on a credit card and you’ll find platforms that are hundreds of thousands of dollars and billed every quarter.
There are platforms for publishing (Hootsuite). There are platforms for sourcing (Percolate). There are platforms for monitoring (Sysomos). There are platforms for analyzing (Crimson Hexagon). There are platforms for reporting (Simply Measured). There are platforms just to make data look better in the form of dashboards (Geckoboard). We have platforms for everything. What we don’t have is 1 truly enterprise social platform that can do it all, and do it all exceptionally well.
We had the promise of such a platform. Remember the marketing behind…SalesForce’s Marketing Cloud? It was to be the end all, be all answer for a social business. But, it fell flat. Actually, it imploded. Don’t take my word for it though. Marc Benioff, SalesForce’s CEO, at DreamForce 2013, all but admitted, Marketing Cloud never realized its vision. The revenue numbers reported at the end of fiscal for SalesForce back that up as well. I’m not picking on SalesFore, more so, it’s important to note that if a company like SalesForce can’t get it right, you can’t expect others to as well. It’s hard. Social, at scale, is hard.
At any marketing conference, you can bet, leaders of social are discussing the tools/platforms they’re using, with one another. If you were to listen in to these conversations, it would sound a lot like something connected to something via tape, bundled together with rubber brands, with Google docs in there somewhere, filling a gap. It’s a mess. And, honestly, as we close Q1 of 2014, I can’t believe it’s still a mess.
I always say, don’t shake a stick at something, if you aren’t willing to offer a recommendation for how to fix what’s wrong. With that in mind, here’s what I think a truly enterprise social platform needs to have…actually, before I get into that, first let me outline what companies building platforms need to understand:
The “Plumbing” Isn’t Easily Changed: If you’re already working with a suite of platforms and partners, and chances are, you are, changing platforms and partners can be painful. While there are some platforms you can change out with very little pain, the fact is, often times, changing platforms brings upon legacy challenges. There’s also the likelihood that there are some platforms you’d like to retain. With all that in mind, what makes a buyer’s life easier is if your platform works more like a connector than a pipe. If you’re coming into a situation where there’s already existing plumbing in place, your platforms ability to connect and play nice with all the existing platforms that are in place, makes your platform enterprise ready.
The Seat License Model Is Antiquated: There’s simply no reason you should be offering a seat license model, if you’re claiming your platform is designed for the enterprise. A truly enterprise approach would mean that anyone, at any time, from any team, any partner, across the globe, should be able to access and use your platform. What makes your platform sticky in an organization is having it used by a significant number of people. The more people who use, enjoy and rely on your platform, the better. When you charge per seat, what you’re conveying is that you don’t want your platform used at the enterprise level. Let’s use some simple math to illustrate this point. Let’s assume your platform uses a $100 per person per seat per month approach. At a company like Walgreens, where we have 200,000+ employees, you’d in essence be charging $240,000,000 a year. Yes, I said, $240,000,000. Even if I go with a 90% discount, and it’s only $10 a person per month, we’re talking about $24,000,000. That’s insane. Beyond the fact the dollar amount is ridiculous, it also positions your company as someone who nickels and dimes. If you have a great platform, price it like one. Don’t try to compensate for how much your platform lacks, by charging on a per seat basis.
Sell The Platform or Services, Not Both: Building on my nickel and dime comment, don’t adopt a car dealer mentality where after I’ve bought the car you keep selling everything from warranties to undercoating. If you make a killer platform, make a killer platform and charge a fair price for it. If you’re great at enterprise services and strategy, start a consultancy. When you try to sell both, it makes buyers wonder if the reason you’re pushing your enterprise services so hard, is to compensate for an inferior platform.
Ok, now on to what a true enterprise social platform should look like. It’s actually quite simple. A social enterprise platform needs 7 core features:
Light Listening: A light listening feature needs to answer one simple question, “what’s going on, right now.” That’s it, it’s that simple. I’m serious. This feature needs to address the business scenario that often arises, where someone asks, “what do consumers think/feel about X.” This feature takes the pulse of a situation. It’s directional. It doesn’t have to be 100% accurate. It needs to be accurate enough to offer some directional context.
End To End Publishing: Your platform should allow for the sourcing of content, review of content, editing of content, distributing of content and the evaluation/measurement of content. Many platforms do 1 or 2 of these things really well. But, no one does them all at an A-level.
Rich Analytics: Where light listening answers the question, what’s going on right now, rich analytics answer the question, “what happened.” Hindsight is supposed to be 20/20. Rich Analytics need to be 20/15. If we’ll accept 70% accuracy for sentiment analysis with the light listening portion of a platform, the rich analytics must be 90%+ accurate. You also can’t lock this data behind a wall. It needs to exportable into a wide variety of formats. It should also have the ability to mashup other data sets. For example, a conversation volume chart, is a nice 1st step. If everyone is talking about a specific link on your website, wouldn’t it be great to be able to see your Omniture data related to that link, in the same enterprise platform?
Customer Care Management: If you want to be a serious enterprise player, you need a customer care module. The key here is that module must work as a stand alone feature, because in many orgs, care is handled by a separate team. It also needs to fit into the other modules for situations where an org has 1 team working across all aspects of social, including care. Most platforms can only do 1 of these flows well.
Mobile At The Core: We don’t want to hear it’s mobile web friendly because it’s built in HTML 5. That’s a nice first step. But, your platform better have an app there iOS and Android ready. Simply put, 75% of everything I can do from a desktop experience needs to supported in your app.
Flexible Integration: This is the hardest part. I get it. I want you to integrate with Simply Measured, but you see them as a competitor. I get it. But, I also need you to figure it out. Again, if you want to be enterprise and you want to become the irreplaceable plumbing, you’d better figure out how to play well with a whole host of other platforms and partners.
Multiple User Roles: Probably the easiest feature to nail. Some people need to be administrators, capable of changing, creating, deleting, etc. Others require just read only access. There’s also a host of other roles in between those two end points.
I don’t pretend to know how to build software. It’s not easy. I can appreciate that. I can also appreciate that in the Wild Wild West that has been the last 5 years, in social, it was much easier to build a half baked platform that sorta did 1 thing really well. Clients were lining up to buy your version of Windows ME and there was little reason to think bigger and establish a higher bar for quality of experience.
It’s 2014. Social is growing up faster than we all thought. The bar is high now. It’s no longer amateur hour. I’m sure I missed a few things in this post. But, I’m also confident I hit on 90% of the pain points and requirements, expected by Sr. leaders in social.
You can do better. You need to do better. If there’s one thing history has shown us, the first one to really nail it, wins. In this space you don’t want to be 2nd place.
Cut the cord they say. Just stream everything. Join Netflix. Don’t buy music, just listen to it from iTunes Radio, Pandora of Spotify. Move on to the new revolution of gaming, where platforms like the XBOX One require an always on connection so you can download content…on demand.
In theory this sounds amazing. And the geek in me relishes that promise. As a digital marketer and dad, I’m always connected. It’s part of the lifestyle. This morning, I was checking emails, while both kids were streaming Netflix. There were no hiccups. No congestion. No buffering. Everything just worked. Then again, I was in Minnesota, not at home.
We recently moved back to Chicago. It’s a big city, right? We bought a condo. Our building is awesome. It’s in a fantastic location. It has indoor parking (a rarity in Chicago). The combination of hardwood floors, high ceilings, big windows and awesome views make for the perfect new home. Well, not perfect. Almost perfect. There’s 1 big problem. Get your small violin and kleenex box out. The problem…the bones of the building are a bit old and we’re stuck with DSL. At present, there’s a “Cable Committee” (GIANT eye roll) investigating alternatives, because I’m not the only one feeling stuck in 1997.
So you might say, well, what’s so bad about DSL? Great question, glad you asked. Before I answer, let me take a step back and provide some context. My first connection to the web was via AOL 2.0 on a 28.8 modem. We graduated to a 36.6 and we were blazing! When I left home and went to college I had my first taste of a T1/T3 setup. The entire University of Minnesota was wired for speed! Of course, these were the days when infrastructure outpaced demand. Well, until Napster, Grokster and Limewire appeared. As sharing networks like that gained traction we had finally had a situation where demand/usage matched the speed of the infrastructure. I’ve always been pretty fortunate when it comes to internet speed. Be it Omaha, Minneapolis or most recently, Camden, NJ, the pipe has been wide. At our last place in Camden, we were operating on a 100mbps connection. That’s just ridiculous. More ridiculous, we paid less than $60 a month for that. Today, we get about 12mbps at a cost of nearly $75 a month. Think about that…1/9 the speed for 25% more cost. How does that make sense? It doesn’t, but that’s a topic for another day.
For the past month, we’ve been living the DSL life. Is 12mbps slow? Is it really that bad? Well, based on the current global speed data, that puts us in the company of Aruba, Mexico, Kazakstan and Vietnam. For even more context, that’s just above Guam, Brazil and Qatar, but well below Uruguay, Ukraine and Slovenia. The United States speed average is 21mbps.
Ok, so now I’m off the soapbox. The 460 words above were equal parts rant and context. Similar to my experiment a few years back, when I deleted by Facebook account, at about day 3 of living with DSL, I started to ask myself, how can the experience make me a better and more informed marketer. There are 4 things I’ve taken away from the experience:
We’re years away from a truly connected home that relies on the cloud. It’s not desire. It’s not interest. It’s not consumer spend. It’s something basic: infrastructure. I wrote on the subject of infrastructure strangling mobile’s growth in 2009. It did. It has. And, the recent changes to net neutrality are keeping mobile from becoming dominant. Companies should be “designing” heir experiences to a lower common denominator. Microsoft is the biggest culprit here. The XBOX One was designed as an always on experience. It’s constantly checking for updates and downloads. This was annoying on the 100mbps pipe in NJ. It was damn near catastrophic in the new place. I purchased a new game. Inserted the disc. Instead of playing immediately, it needed to download an update. That update took almost an hour. By that point, I didn’t even want to play. I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling. As we think about new experiences to create for consumers, a major filter for me will now be, are we designing it to the right lowest common user?
I’ve become less connected and more selective in what I do on the web. If you’re crippled by speed you have to adjust and change your behavior. For example, I’m back to a behavior I had in the mid 90s. I now setup all my updates before I go to bed and let them do their thing while I sleep. Before, I would have multi-tasked and done these types of things while I was also streaming a Netflix movie, after dinner. Speaking of Netflix, I haven’t watched 1 single thing. The experience is simply far too compromised. We need to create experiences that inspire a consumer to choose interacting with us, than all the other things they could do on the web. That’s a high bar.
I’m thankful I never got rid of, nor did I stop investing in “analog” content formats. The 50,000 songs I have on my computer enable me to not rely on streaming Spotify. The 100 or so DVDs I own mean I’m not stuck waiting and waiting and waiting for Netflix, HBO GO or Hulu+ content. We think the world is digital and that digital provides a benefit over analog. Often times this is true. But, we need to consider that sometimes analog is faster, easier and better. My favorite example is list creating. No matter how cool a list making app is, it’s rarely faster or easier to use than a pen and a piece of paper. That’s what we’re up against, every day.
The future is clearly mobile. I’ve used my cell phone or iPad, both on Verizon, as hot spots, more in the last 4 weeks than I ever have…combined. Seriously. As I looked into options to move off of DSL, the only consistent and real option was to use a LTE whole home device. I think it’s likely, I’m going to head in that direction. With that in mind, the consumption of content will happen more and more, away from home. In my role, it reinforces the need to make sure content is liquid, linked and loved.
This post wasn’t written to make you feel sorry for me. If you do, great. I certainly appreciate it. If you can set me up with something faster, I’d really appreciate it – no, this post was more about forgotten technique of walking a mile in your consumer’s shoes. IDEO’s famed Method Cards are designed to get consumers to look, listen, ask or try. As marketers we can get so caught up in the data, spreadsheets, decks and white papers that we forget to simply act like our consumers so we can understand them better. While I can appreciate that, I’d still really love to have my fast internet speed back…