Your (Social Media) Party

Author: Hamish Anderson

I have had numerous conversations with clients in recent months about social media, with specific focus on explaining to them what social media is and how they can better use it. Too many clients see social media engagement as “being on twitter and Facebook”. They are truly missing the opportunity and the point. Startlingly, I have had to point out to too many, that the comments section on their website for example is a social media platform too. As such, I’ve started using a crude metaphor to help explain things to them.

The Social Media/Party metaphor

Social media is not a broadcast medium. It is an avenue for conversation and a successful social media policy should be built on the principles of hosting a successful party. At first you may think I am slightly daft for proposing this, however, let me explain.

If you host a party and want it to be a success and want people to talk about how good it was for years to come (and let’s face it, everyone secretly wants this) then it is all about setting the right mood. Generally, success depends on:

  • Providing your guests with an environment they feel comfortable in (location, music, alcohol, refreshments);
  • Allowing them to mingle, move around and to chat as they want
  • As the host, making sure you move around the party, talk to everyone, listen to what they have to say, comment, and be yourself.
    • Sure, depending on the type of party (a birthday or something) you may want to give a speech which everyone listens to, but as a general rule, everyone is pretty free to do as they want and to talk as they wish without “having” to do anything.
    • Being yourself (relaxed, confident, fun) is essential, people want to know you enjoy them being there without being uptight about everything going on.

The same is true of a successful social media policy. If you want your social media efforts to be successful, and prompt people to talk positively about your brand, then you need to draw synergies with the above. To have a successful social media strategy:

  • Interact with your audience in an environment they are comfortable with
    • The right platform is key as there no use trying to connect with your audience on a platform which is not relevant to them
    • A key is to watch them and learn before trying to ‘host them’
    • Don’t try to change the way they use the platform, or at least don’t force them to do it.
    • Engage the audience, listen to what they say, respond accordingly; throw in the occasional information about things they may be interested in. Don’t overpower the conversation
      • There is nothing worse than being at a party where someone controls the conversation & brings the conversation back to themselves, or where they are forced to do things they don’t want to.
      • Similarly, a host may broadcast occasionally (eg the birthday speech) but they will not do it all night. If people want a broadcast medium they will sign up for it, such as a newsletter (or in terms of my analogy, will go to a conference where they know they are there to listen).

Hosting your own

OK, so you (or your client) now want to host their own party, and now you want to know what the appropriate platforms are to host it? Not so fast! Back it up.

You wouldn’t host a party without a good premise for doing so would you? People want to know why they are coming there over making the choice to go elsewhere and want to know it is worthwhile. So, do you have something which will entice them? Basically, do you have the content to entice; do you have a content strategy? If not, take the time to work out what you have to say to people, do you have answers for their questions, do you have confidence in your ability to interact with people and enrich them through your interaction?

If you can answer yes, then excellent, now you may want to consider where you will host your party(ies). Firstly, take a look at your content/premise for interaction and work out the best way to communicate this in an engaging way. Do you want to learn from people, do you want to work to increase understanding of your brand and so forth? Remember to consider that social media doesn’t have to be one of the broad spectrum platforms, nor a broadcast medium. Something as simple as a comments section on your website blog, or a forum on your website may be a good way to start getting to know your guests and begin your interaction. Remember however, you need to engage with them, thank people for their comments, respond to positive and negative feedback alike, learn from this feedback and grow from it.

With this knowledge, you should then look at what other environments resonate with your target audience. Find where there is overlap of where your audience is and the right platforms for you and you will have determined where you will host this ‘get together’.

Final thoughts

  • Do not become pre-occupied with one group of people at the expense of everyone else
    • Sure you may be engaging and lovely to this one group, but if you ignore the others, then the party will quickly fizzle. Social media is about growing your presence and connecting with all sorts of people/customers/prospective customers.
  • The party can run itself to an extent but if you are absent, what positive outcome have you got as a result of your initial hard work?
    • If spend all your time in away from the party (maybe you are asleep after putting the hard work into organising the party, but none into the party itself) in another room and the party rages around you, how will people remember you as part of that positive experience?  What will you get from the experience?
    • More worrisome for you will be what you do to get people back if they move on from you due to your absence and engagement?
  • It is ok to sometimes control aspects of the conversation or platform at times to protect the party
    • Same as you may want to lower the volume to stop things getting out of hand, you may need to control the conversation at times
  • This party has the potential to rage indefinitely if you do it right. Make sure you have a support crew to help you when things grow
  • Learn from what people say. In your conversations, listen to others, make notes and do everything you can to make sure they get a positive outcome from their conversation.
    • If you do this, people will talk to others about how good the party was and others will come to the party next time, your reputation will precede you, and isn’t this what you are looking to achieve?

Now enough talking from me, time for you to let me know what you think, or perhaps, for you to kick-start your own party! Oh and if you need an ‘event’ organiser, I am sure we can help!

Please also feel free to read some of the other blogs we have posted including:

2010 – What did we learn?

Author: Hamish Anderson

We are now 11 days into 2011 and well into the year. Most people I know are back at work, and the memories of the silly season are slowly being forgotten as people begin to realise the year ahead needs to be planned out and prepared for.

Having read a few blogs and articles already posted and written about 2011, it seems that the popular thing to do is focus on what to expect from 2011 (be that technological advancements, trends or similar). Having read them, I think many of them are useful and insightful – but I am postulating that in planning for 2011, we as marketers should be doing one other key thing; reflecting on key aspects of 2010, learning from these and only then making decisions for 2011.

Thus, below I have summarised some of the key events which I believe have revolutionised the marketing and communications landscape and which will have significant bearing on the year that will be 2011.

It’s all about being Social

Though 2009 saw the rise of social networking, 2010 saw continual growth in the number of users and in the diversity of use of social media. New figures compiled this week found that on average in any 2 hours of 2010 (http://blogs.cisco.com/socialmedia/things-that-happen-in-social-media-in-2-hours/)

  • 25,000 new users joined Twitter
  • 5.4 million tweets were sent
  • 5 million new status updates were published on Facebook
  • 1.6 million Facebook applications were installed
  • 167 million videos on YouTube are viewed

These figures are just mind boggling really. And these are the figures which focus on 3 social media platforms only. With other major platforms in existence, the figures above represent only a portion of the social activity which is shaping the way people interact. Throw into the equation the fact that people are relying more and more on social media and the opinions of those they interact with prior to making any purchasing decisions, and it is evident that the marketing landscape has changed. The challenge which arises from this for businesses is: “How can they meaningfully partake in the conversation”. Answer this, and you are one step closer to planning 2011.

Search: Content Relevancy and Social Relevancy

In 2010 the emphasis shifted from pure content delivery to one of active engagement, based purely on the rise of social media. Given the above social media usage figures, its’ really no surprise that social media posts have started to have relevancy within search engine algorithms. In late December 2009, Google announced that Google search would now include social media posts and news articles, bringing the relevancy of searches to new levels. Google even launched www.google.com/realtime as a dedicated portal where individuals can perform searches and see real time results only.

Further testament to the rise in popularity of social media relevancy is the fact that in 2010, figures showed that Twitter had the 2nd most number of searches performed on its site (and through affiliates) of any search engine, behind Google, and ahead of Bing! and Yahoo. Research has shown that people are using social media to conduct research prior to purchase decisions. What this has meant through 2010 and now into 2011, is that businesses must consider not only content relevancy on their site, but social relevancy of their brand as a whole and what it is that the market and the press is saying about them.

On the other hand however, although real time search results have been elevated in importance on search pages, the market has not completely discounted the value of other search results.  Furthermore, social media and social chatter has not pervaded every industry completely, meaning the opportunity for well constructed SEO campaigns is as strong as ever. Therefore it remains as important as ever that businesses construct and maintain a strong SEO campaign. This will be as important as ever moving into 2011. However, emphasis will also need to be given to social relevancy and the efforts business makes in partaking in the conversation.

Media Convergence

Whilst the concept of media convergence has been in existence for a few years, it was in 2010 that the concept became a part of life and a new and heavily contested market. 2010 will be a year remembered as the year:

  • Apple introduced the iPad
  • The dominance of the iPhone was attacked by a myriad of other producers
  • Android platform
  • Research in Motion platform
  • TV manufacturers began to integrate internet browsing ability to their screens

These three events alone revolutionised life for consumers (and promise to continue to do so) and through this, for the way marketing is conducted. In many ways, media convergence has driven and influenced much of the activity outlined in the above 2 points. That is to say, the ability for individuals to access the internet from their mobile phone, to post to Twitter or Facebook, to receive feedback and to generally stay in touch with others is unparalleled as compared any other time in our history. Thus individuals as consumers are now in a more powerful position than ever before. Content is literally at their fingertips.

Marketers have had to respond accordingly, and will continue to need to do so, on an ongoing basis. In 2010, innovative companies rose to the challenge, launching new apps, or new marketing programs, aimed at targeting the media savvy and converged media audience. Just look at The Australian newspaper which worked with Apple to launch Australia’s first iPad ready publication. Whether or not it was universally accepted and applauded, is not as important as the fact that it opened up a whole new medium and marketing channel for users.

With the rise of converged media and the growing improvements in geo-targeted advertising, it is inevitable that marketers will need to improve and refine the way they communicate with their target audience. Timely delivery of information which adds meaning to the user interaction is going to be of growing importance to the marketplace as a whole. 

Takeout: Integration is Key

So what were my takeouts from 2010 as regards marketing? In one word: Integration. Failure to integrate marketing channels, failure to integrate with your audience, and failure to integrate feedback from your audience with your ongoing marketing will cause your business to miss huge opportunities which exist within the market. Successful integration however, offers huge opportunity for savvy marketers.

Moving into 2011 it is critical that you look at the activities you undertook in 2010 and work to understand how the influences of the market and technology worked to change the marketplace as a whole. With this understanding you will be better placed to determine what marketing activities you should be considering, and better placed to predict what may come from 2011. The links below are some of the better blogs written about the predictions for 2011 and these may also help you plan ahead.

Happy 2011 everyone!

2011 Predictions

Having researched and read a nuber of different articles, the common predictions for 2011 include:

  • Integration
  • Increased use of an ever evolving Cloud environment
  • Increased online transactions
  • Increased reliance on smart phone
  • Geo-targeted advertising

And some interesting blogs for you to review if interested…

Apportioning your Marketing Budget

Author: Hamish Anderson

Since the first marketing report was written, marketers the world over have had to deliberate (often with themselves) how to best allocate their marketing budget amongst the various options available to them. Today, when there are so many different options available, and with markets converging and diverging simultaneously, what is the best way to split your budget so as to achieve the best results for every dollar you spend?

Here are a few things you may want to consider when trying to work out how to apportion that marketing budget for the year ahead.

Tip 1 – Ignore the options

I know many marketers – and truth be told I have been guilty of this in the past too – who lose weeks when writing their marketing plan. It is not that they are inefficient, but rather that they get too easily get caught up in flights of fancy, postulating on how they can use some new emergent form of marketing, or integrate a campaign across various digital channels, or reap the benefits of creating a new campaign that goes viral. However, to use an old analogy, that could perhaps be a case of putting the cart before the horse.

Whilst it may seem innately obvious, a good thing to always remember is that one of the first things you need to do when looking at your marketing year ahead is work out what your goals are, how they can be broken down into short and long term goals and if possible broken down again from here.

Tip 2 – Determine the ROI you want to Generate

Similar to the above – yet potentially more important given the need to determine how you split your budget – is determination of what constitutes financial goals and what other goals cannot necessarily be given a numerical value and therefore need different classification. An example of the latter may include something such as increasing your membership database of ‘refer a friend’ contacts.   By doing this, you are giving yourself a total aggregated goal which you have to achieve. Similarly, in knowing what your non-financial goals are, you can quantify what constitutes success for your initial outlay. Remember, investment in marketing activity – especially as concerns platforms such as social media – is no longer necessarily only quantified by a gross dollar value, but by other factors such as time invested. Thus, have you considered ROI in terms of number of new customers which result from specific activity and which thus saves further investment in other activities (I have previously written about this in my article “ROI – More Sense than Dollars”. )?

Tip 3 – Consider how your market has evolved

Most marketers have an understanding of how technology is evolving and the newer technologies which exist. However, it seems that many of these same clients have a misunderstanding of how their market are utilising technology.

Consider this: At the end of Q1, 2010, 48.1% of all phone’s sold in Australia were Smart Phones. Why is this significant? Well Smart Phone’s allow users to easily access the internet to conduct searches whilst they are out and about. Sure, this is not really a surprising fact, however, have you considered what this means for your search budget? Are you investing any of your budget into paid search? Or are you relying purely on organic? Sure organic has definitive advantages over PPC, BUT, think on this. Techcrunch.com reported that on a Smart Phone:

“A single search ad on a PC takes up about 4 percent of the screen real estate, whereas a single search ad on a smartphone takes up about 20 percent of the screen. The relatively larger size of the ads results in higher click-through rates on mobile (as much as 3 to 5 times as much)”

Sure, there are more paid ads displayed on a PC/desktop than a Smart Phone, however, the value of holding a strong PPC position is therefore even more important when considering the growing use of smartphones. Therefore, have you considered investing more in PPC than you have in previous years?

Tip 4 – Are you taking learnings from the market?

It is one thing to say you are listening to what your customers are telling you and evolving your service or product to better cater to their needs/meet requirements or so on. In fact it is very important to do this, however, what are you doing to capture a larger share of the market?

Whilst it makes fundamental sense to seek to maintain your existing brand advocates, are you listening to what the broader market want? Are you seeking to meet their needs and therefore increase your market value/share even more? Are you using social media for example to listen to the broader conversation, or are you using it only as a platform to seed brand information?

Either way, whatever you are doing, make sure that you consider what the return is, and what you can justify as a viable spend as well as what your returns are likely to be, ahead of committing funds to it.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, every marketing situation is unique. Even the most meticulous plans may need to be changed and maintain some fluidity throughout the year. However, planning ahead is essential if you wish to have any marketing success. My tip for ensuring things go more to plan, is to make sure that you have evaluated your requirements, determined what is a suitable ROI and how you plan to implement everything. I don’t guarantee this will lead to success, but it will put you in a better position.

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