Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category
November 29th, 2013
As we are fast approaching December, the predictions for 2014 are kicking into gear. I usually give these a bit of a wide berth, but Forrester’s top technology trends for the next three years peaked my interest.
You can download the Forrester trends to watch report here, for $499, or get a great summary from Forbes here, but I wanted to pick out five from the list that I felt were most relevant to the comms sector. I’ve offered my brief thoughts under each point as summarised in the Forbes article. Let me know what you think.
To start us off the author of the report, Forrester analyst Brian Hopkins, introduced the report as follows: “Now that consumers and employees have continuous connectivity and an endless supply of apps, the CIO must drive the nimbleness that will be demanded by employees and customers, while he or she must also do so securely. These trends are so woven into the business drivers, that IT leaders must become much more strategic, providing the rationale for the changes that are afoot.”
1. Digital convergence erodes boundaries
Physical and digital worlds are converging. As a result consumers expect uniform service whether they are in the physical world or if they are in the digital world. The convergence of the business and personal use of technology is also fuelling this trend.
This is very interesting from a comms perspective, the levels of service that customers receive online and offline have been unequal partners in the last few years, but the move to digital convergence will see excuses for poor service according to channel disappearing as a result.
2. Digital experience delivery makes (or breaks) firms
“A great digital experience is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a make-or-break point for your business as we more fully enter the digital age.” The report points to a growing number of firms that have chosen a mobile-first approach, but then falling flat because “systems of record cannot keep up with engagement needs.”
To a greater extent, customers’ impressions of a business are established through digital engagement forcing businesses to recognise that “software is the brand.” Some CIOs are losing their influence over the decisions in these areas as digital experience agencies are engaged by chief marketing officers and chief technology officers to a greater extent than by chief information officers.”
Again the barriers between the digital and physical worlds are collapsing and those that still see digital and mobile as a secondary experience will not only lose business, but also damage their reputation.
3. Sensors and devices draw ecosystems together
“The Internet-of-Things will move from hype to reality with the ubiquity of connectivity and proliferation of devices, and wearable computing will go from niche to broader use. This will turn the traditional “spray-and-pray promotional campaigns” into marketing to ecosystems that emerge as a result of these changes.”
Our society’s obsession with devices and connectivity will have a deeper impact as improved infrastructure allows us to move from only using a limited amount of device capability, to exploring full potential with accessible connectivity and brands offering more useful ways to engage digitally. As a result, disconnected marketing campaigns that do not work across devices and experiences will result in failure.
4. “Trust” and “identity” get a rethink
“The report suggests that trust has been irreparably harmed as “it’s impossible to identify ‘trusted’ interfaces, many data breeches come from trusted insiders, and the concept of ‘trust’ doesn’t even apply to data packets.”
Consumerisation of IT means that a greater number of IT devices and apps are being used in the workplace, especially by the digital natives. IT’s need to catch up with this will continue to be the norm. Forrester also points out that “the minimum cost of a data breech is $10 million, and in many cases it can be much larger”, and so it cannot be ignored.”
Data breaches may not seem an obvious element for comms, but as digital is now the face of most brands and the first touch point for customers, data security will become increasingly important for all brand functions. Leaks and accidents will not be as readily accepted as a cost of doing digital business, at least by the customer.
5. Firms learn from the cloud and mobile
“Many firms have cloud strategies and mobile strategies, but the report makes the point that the benefits of the cloud will be limited by the speed with which traditional applications are re-written to take advantage of cloud. Without this redesign, benefits will be limited.
Additionally, mobile strategies that have been a part of IT strategies across industries for a couple of years are now insufficient given the need to think of mobile as only one part of a broader omni-channel approach which requires a new kind of “application architecture that must be capable of supporting systems of engagement.”
This is another important point in terms of the technology needing to keep pace with the connectivity, where as in the past connectivity has been the weak point in the technology race.
IT infrastructure needs to switch from a wired bias to a cloud-based accessibility blueprint, ready for the consumer that is not afraid to try new tools at the drop of a hat and on the move.
November 19th, 2013
This post was originally published as a guest post on Mob76 Outlook
We often hear about the never ending growth of the big western social networks. User number announcements for Facebook and Twitter are now international news, but this is really only the tip of the iceberg.
In the West we usually assume that social networks revolve around U.S culture, but that is far from the case.
Global social network data tells us a much more interesting story, and this post delves into the key figures from BI Intelligence’s global social media census 2013.
According to the census, Facebook is truly international, with Eighty-six percent of its 1.16 billion users living outside of the United States.
To read the full piece, please follow this link
November 18th, 2013
I am the first to admit that when it comes to being creative, although spotting a good picture story has often been part of my job, I’ve generally favoured sound over visual. But while planning a recent trip to India, my girlfriend persuaded me to buy a classic SX-70 Polaroid camera, the first box-type plastic camera of its kind that uses ‘Time Zero’ integral film.
Not only did it take me back to my childhood, it also proved a challenge when trying to skillfully capture the bustling markets of downtown Delhi, an elephant’s expression, the ever-changing countryside whilst aboard a rickety old train or the saddening sights of poverty at its worst; mainly because you only had one chance to get it right.
It is a nostalgic time right now, and photographs actively promote nostalgia. Time is an important element for a photograph, whether it’s a frozen shutter-speed-size gap of the present captured within a photo border, or an Instagram selfie, the self-portrait of the digital age.
Images tagged #selfie began appearing on the photo-sharing website Flickr as early as 2004. But it was the introduction of smartphones – most crucially the iPhone 4 (in 2010) that made the selfie go viral. According to a recent report, 60% of UK mobile phone users now own a smartphone and a recent survey of more than 800 teenagers in America found that 91% posted photos of themselves online – up from 79% in 2006.
But has the selfie become the ultimate symbol of the narcissistic age? One recent mobile app that has left me intrigued from a cultural standpoint has been the emergence of Snapchat. Snapchat presents the concept of temporary photography and takes the process of disappearance seriously.
Photos are seen just once, before disappearing in 10 seconds or less, rendering them similar to other temporary pieces of art such as ice sculptures or decay art.
For those of us who currently live with status updates, check-ins, likes, retweets, and ubiquitous photography, social media has invited us to use apps like Snapchat to record our own kind of documentary vision, through which the present is always apprehended as a potential past.
Ever since the introduction of Instagram’s faux-vintage filters, the emergence of temporary photography has led to the burden of creating durable proof that you are in-fact here and you did that. Furthermore, temporary photographs are not made to be collected or archived; they often serve to keep the creator feeling elusive – like a flickering thought that may never be logged to memory.
By separating itself from the growing need to record and collect life into the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr, temporary photography encourages an appreciation of the importance of experiencing the present for its own sake. But if Snapchat becomes mass-market, and becomes popular with digital agencies as part of their marketing campaigns, will photos saved to more permanent locations like Facebook become correspondingly more scarce and perhaps seem more important?
How will this impact the reputation of brands and the future of content creation? Please share your thoughts below.
October 7th, 2013
One of the hottest trends in mobile consumer tech right now and a topic of great interest to the Liberate Media team is the idea that people can tap their phone to receive a range of services and how brands are partnering with start-up’s to innovate in this area. Here are a few examples worth taking a look at:
Tapit recently worked with JCDecaux on Nike’s outdoor media panels, giving people the opportunity to simply tap their phone to instantly download the Nike+ running application. Accessing the Tapit platform, Nike and their agency teams could see in real-time which outdoor media locations were generating interactions as well as other rich data such as time of day, frequency, operating system and model of phone. Big brands are using the likes of Tapit to enhance their outdoor media assets beyond an ‘opportunity to see’ medium, suddenly transforming each outdoor asset into a dynamic content delivery point that people can effortlessly interact with using their smartphone.
Uber identifies your location for you to then request a vehicle, only for it to arrive and pick you up, with the payment automatically charged. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through their apps, Uber makes cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and creating more business for drivers simply by tapping their devices if set-up correctly.
Postmates aims to re-define the shopping experience buy allowing users of its app to order their lunch, groceries or office supplies to be delivered in under an hour. They believe that ordering online isn’t necessarily the quickest option when the item you want is most likely sitting in a store around the corner. They offer users the chance to browse over 20,000 products from more than 3,300 stores, helping them find exactly what they’re looking for. Its nearby tab even updates dynamically based on your location, giving you a constant stream of nearby restaurants or local merchants.
Taking the ‘convenience tech’ business model of the likes of Postmates further, Instacart recently created an offering where customers can pay an annual fee of $99 to receive free deliveries for a year. Consumers are already comfortable with subscriptions so long as they’re priced reasonably and deliver value. Instacart Express offers a 14-day free trial of the service before payment of the full yearly fee is to be paid.
This mobile ‘tapping culture’ is starting to prove very popular indeed. Users are addicted to the instant gratification and simplicity it offers but at the same time, there is some inefficiency in using hyper-specific services such as laundry versus dry-cleaning. Nevertheless, what is most interesting to us is the competition among the many start-ups in the sector to figure out the most universal model to appeal to the widest cross-section of mobile users.
October 2nd, 2013
Since the dawn of time, human beings have employed a wide variety of techniques and social conventions to control who we communicate with. As Wikipedia details, ‘in a social context, a convention is a set of agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms, or criteria, often taking the form of a custom.’ We are taught from a young age to offer up our bus and train seats to elderly passengers, not to kiss our partner in-front of our parents, always offer guests food or drinks, treat managers or anyone above us with respect, tailor our choice of clothes to suit the occasion and for those who lived in ancient China, even experience castration as a means of gaining employment in the imperial service! Those who rebel are either labelled outcasts or praised according to the cultural context.
In an ever-diversifying society experiencing a decline in traditional moral values, many choose to favour the ‘personalisation’ of the latter, but some social situations are even more multi-layered. We might share details of our love life with friends at a bar that we wouldn’t necessarily share over a family meal. Conversely, we might tell our families about medical or financial decisions that we wouldn’t discuss at a nightclub, or a first date. And we lower our voices when we want to make sure the couple next to us doesn’t overhear.
So how are these age-old social conventions echoed and extended into the digital world?
In 2013, it is a well-known fact that more people seem to be spending less time speaking face-to-face, choosing to communicate digitally instead. But the early web was vastly different from today. Users faced a stark choice between posting information on public sites or sending via private email, with little in between. The new generation of social media tools help bridge the gap and create an un-interrupted flow of ‘always on’ communication. Twitter gives you the choice to make your tweets and lists public or limit access to people you’ve specifically approved. Facebook allows us to decide whether our profiles will be visible to others with a specific email address, whether friends-of-friends will be able to see our photos, and even whether our profiles will show up when someone searches for our name. Because the web now has many aspects of broadcast media, people often talk about the information we put on social media sites as ‘public,’ as though posting on Facebook is like appearing on national television. In reality, this isn’t the case.
But is leaving a tip for your waiter the same as liking a friend’s Facebook post or sharing a piece of content? Is the daily ritual of showering and brushing your teeth the same as posting a Facebook status up or tweet? Do Facebook Fan Page followers obsessively scan every wall-post in the same way they might attend their local church or mosque and is marriage the offline equivalent of updating your relationship status rather than remaining single or indeed, anonymous? To publish or not to publish? That is the question. Facebook has opened us up to the possibilities of sharing experiences online, but these tend to be only one part of our lives, i.e. the good bits.
Some companies, such as Visible Nation, the world’s first social comparison platform, believe that we all need social data to be honest and allow us to make real decisions but in many cases, anonymised data is the way forward.
Of course, when it comes to the online world, there’s more than enough room for improvement. Not everyone chooses to remain anonymous. Many users find social media tools inconvenient or hard to use, and some are careless about posting information that could become embarrassing or indeed, present a threat to them in the future. We hear daily failure and success stories about how abiding closely to social norms online have either paid off or backfired. Facebook has had its fair share of casualties, with users losing their jobs, stalked by ex-partners and falling prey to hoaxers.
But we shouldn’t be too impatient. The offline world has a centuries-long head start in developing privacy-preserving tools and social conventions. But more importantly, will future technological developments in social media and product design mean that we will develop a new form of social etiquette?
Progressing onwards from digital social etiquette to the current hot topic of social recommendations, the likes of Yelp, TripAdvisor and Amazon all hosting user reviews isn’t enough these days. Crowd insights are no longer as meaningful as before because they’re “user generated.” It used to be that consumers would be given purchase recommendations from acquaintances, salespeople, and perhaps even celebrity endorsements on TV or radio, but now they have even more options leading to a diversity of choice that has powerfully influenced consumer preference.
But consumers do share one overarching priority: personalisation. And some companies are already catching on. Spotify took music to a new level by personalizing playlists by taste, and also by enabling sharing with people meaningful to its users. Much the same, Etsy‘s Facebook connection lets people discover gifts for friends based on Likes and interests. Within the crowded mobile application sector, Loyd Mobile, the world’s first social discovery app has created a platform to provide users with an insight into what apps their friends, brands and favourite celebrities are using, at the same time simplifying the navigation of the ever-growing number of apps on the market in a fun and sociable way. Another example is HireJungle, the world’s first peer-to-peer marketplace that allows users to hire/hire out goods and services by posting unlimited free classified ads.
A new consumer is starting to emerge but trust, taste and time will be key in driving today’s new era of social recommendation services.
September 27th, 2013
It’s fair to say that Social CRM is a hot topic on this blog, posts such as ‘70% of those helped by social customer service return as a customer’ and ‘the dawn of the paid complaint’ being two recent examples.
However, the pull of social CRM is now going very much mainstream, as proved last week by a piece on the One Show, BBC One’s 7pm magazine show, which was sparked by stories on BA (see paid complaint story above) and Virgin Media who charged a dead man for late payment, the bill for which was then posted online by a disgruntled relative.
The feature itself included an insight into London Midland’s social team, showing how they deal with Twitter conversations, but focused mainly on an experiment to see whether complaining to a business through Twitter gets you a faster response than email.
The One Show contacted the following organisations: BT TV, Monarch Airlines, South West Water, EDF Energy and Barclays, who are also the most complained about organisations accordingly to their industry regulators.
The Tweet simply asked the companies to contact the sender regarding a problem. So which got the quickest response?
Well, as we would expect, it was the Tweet. And all five organisations replied personally and quickly to the tweets.
The response times were as follows:
Monarch Airlines – 3 minutes
EDF Energy – 3 minutes
Barclays – 7 minutes
South West Water – 11 minutes
BT TV – 70 minutes
After 24 hours only one company had responded to the email and that was Barclays – in 7.5 hours.
So if proof were needed that social complaints and social CRM is now completely ingrained in our society, you only need to look at the One Show.
You can watch the One Show feature here.
September 19th, 2013
This week we received a video from fast-food company Chipotle called “The Scarecrow,” which depicts a kind of fantastical, dystopian world that makes a heart-wrenching statement about the sorry state of industrial food production.
Digging a little deeper, it appears that in less than a week after its release, the video has attracted over 3.1 million views on YouTube, almost 20,000 Facebook likes, and more than 4,000 comments.
At a time when consumers are constantly being bombarded with poorly produced, un-remarkable and over-branded videos online, this one certainly made us sit-up and take notice. From an integrated, strategic, post-production, seeding and brand messaging point of view, it appears to be a very polished execution indeed.
If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look:
As a call to action to involve people in the Chipotle story on a worldwide scale, this is a truly inspired effort in a similar vein to Felix Baumgartner plummeting to earth while 8 million people watched Red Bull’s YouTube live stream – soaking up significantly less budget in the process.
It teaches us an important lesson in that (other than great post-production and story-boarding) it really doesn’t take a pile of cash to be an effective content marketer.
Chipotle and other big brands with strong content strategies may have ambitious programs and big budgets to fuel them, but even the smallest brands with more modest resources can tell the wider brand story whilst not focusing too much on specifics and also encourage their audience to feel part of it at the same time.
Chipotle might be a fast-food company, but its story isn’t about how you can find a Mexican lunch easily. Instead, it’s about what the brand, its products and services stand for – good food that’s locally and responsibly sourced. ‘Cultivate a better world’ is the brand’s key message being incorporated into the animation.
But ‘better world’ isn’t a corporate-led message, rather a relentlessly customer-focused one; a call to action to create a better world for our children, for the planet’s animals, and for us all. The video also links the content to the restaurant chain’s Cultivate Foundation, which has contributed more than $2 million so far to help fund initiatives that support sustainable agriculture and family farming.
Yes Chipotle’s animation might be part of a wider content marketing strategy for the brand, but it feels a lot more important than marketing alone.
Start-up’s and smaller brands can learn from this and recognise that content marketing shouldn’t be approached as a task, tactic or channel. Nor as a blog to link to a website for SEO purposes, a Twitter feed to broadcast PR coverage or a Facebook page to collect ‘likes’, but as a strategic opportunity to engage audiences in innovative ways that bring fresh and exciting results by helping them to see the bigger picture.
September 18th, 2013
Although the title of the piece stirred some emotion in the world of social, as I’m sure it was designed to do, the recent Quartz article titled: RIP, Social media managers – tweeting is everyone’s job now, included some interesting insights into the evolution of social media job roles, and how we now see social as part of a range of job descriptions.
The piece has been attacked by some for suggesting that social media related job roles are decreasing, where as I believe the piece is simply stating that social is becoming more of an expected skillset within other roles, and rightly so.
The key stats used in the piece by Vickie Elmer @WorkingKind, were taken from jobsite ‘Indeed’, using data that covers jobs listed from end of August 2012 to end of August 2013. The highlights included:
- Overall, jobs with social media in the title grew by 50% over the last year, a much slower rate than in the recent past
- Jobs that mention social media in the description, but not the title, gained 89%
- In the previous year, social media jobs grew twice as fast—by more than 100%
- Indeed says that the genre is less seen as a separate entity within an organisation and becoming more specific, and sprinkled within many departments
- Job seekers who search beyond the social media title will find 13 times as many jobs that include work connecting and sharing via the growing array of social media outlets
- Positions with photo sharing app Instagram in the title gained 644% and those involving Vine grew at 154%
- Jobs titled Twitter fell by 22% in the last year
- The biggest growth in social media jobs were related to the term “social media expert” which Indeed say experienced a 1,600% growth in the last year
Apart from the huge growth in the term ‘social media expert’ which is as scary as it is annoying, the figures seem to suggest that social media is moving from a siloed job role, to a more generally expected skill. This reflects the deeper relevance of the medium and the higher responsibility of varying job roles to understand and utilise social.
Amy Crow, Indeed’s communications director commented: “We are seeing an increased demand for social savvy candidates across the business – from human resources to product to customer service. In addition, we’re seeing this demand span many levels, from executive assistants to senior vice presidents.”
As reported previously on this blog, digital is more important to the economy than we realised, but we’re now beginning to see the importance of social across the board.
I think this is a positive move, and although the suggestion in the title (RIP social media managers) is unlikely to be true any time soon, the data shows encouraging development in the jobs market as it relates to the impact and demand for social media-related skills.
September 13th, 2013
An interesting piece in the Guardian caught my attention this week. The piece titled: ‘Why responsive ads are the future’, by Cameron Hulett at Undertone offered a useful insight into the promise of mobile advertising and why this isn’t yet translating to multiple screen ads.
In the piece, Cameron suggested that advertising is still typically purchased on a screen-by-screen basis, and highlighted the missed opportunities that this represents.
He confirmed: “This year 30m smartphones and nearly 10m tablets in the UK have generated one-third of online traffic, yet advertisers are still struggling to make digital ads cost-efficient across these new channels.
“Mobile specific spend alone will reach almost £1bn in the UK this year, according to eMarketer. While that signifies a growth of 90% within the past year, it is still a mere drop in the ocean in comparison with the expected total digital ad spend of £6.1bn. Two thirds of the UK population now own a smartphone and are being exposed to mobile advertising, so it would be easy to assume that mobile digital ad spend would have increased dramatically. The question is what’s holding back brands and publishers?”
The piece goes on: “Brands are suffering general banner ad fatigue, and this is especially the case on small screens. So instead of moving to mobile at the rate they should be, they are being attracted to rich media opportunities elsewhere, for example via video, where they can see the potential on tablets and the enhanced engagement that interactive canvases can bring.
For publishers it’s a slightly different story. The Association of Online Publisher’s Census last year found that 72% viewed the main barrier to mobile adoption to be the fragmentation of mobile devices, and just over half put it down to not having the in-house skills and resources to manage it.”
For my part, these arguments make complete sense, but is there a deeper issue that we as an industry are finding more difficult to overcome, whether ad-based or content development focused, that of channel blindness?
Those that have been part of the industry for the last 10-15 years have seen the development of channels via web, mobile, tablet, and not forgetting print, but consumers, at least in the case of those under 30, don’t really differentiate between these screens.
Whether accessing content via mobile, tablet, TV, Laptop/desktop, the channel isn’t the relevant element, the content is. Although design between these channels has and continues to differ due to technical boundaries, we need to see a screen as just that, a window to content, not a differentiated channel.
There may be plenty of people reading this thinking; “Well yes, but isn’t that obvious?” And I’d like to think it is, but the evidence suggests otherwise. The technology isn’t following this path yet.
I agree with the closing of the article, even avoiding the sales message…: “It’s time for publishers and brands to embrace the new technologies that enable cross channel campaigns to be delivered from a single creative unit. After all, they allow publishers and brands to deliver a unified message across multiple devices to consistently track traffic across platforms and ultimately reduce the time and cost associated with multi-screen campaigns.”
…but I think the message needs to be clearer: multiple screen engagement is essential, and designing campaigns and outreach for the specific technology is crucial, but the goal should be one story, one delivery, multiple screens.
This is facilitated via responsive design to a greater degree, but it’s the mindset behind the campaigns that needs to evolve, from mobile/web/TV specific, to content viewed through separate screens.
It should be the window to the content that changes, not the content itself.
September 12th, 2013
A topic of recent interest here at Liberate Media has been how brands are starting to blur the lines between social media engagement and physical reality, especially with the overall consumer experience in mind.
We’ve seen the Nismo Watch track and rate its user’s performance across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram via Nissan’s proprietary Social Speed software. Nordstrom pulling in the punters after it published ‘seal of approval’ Pinterest stickers over its in-store merchandise. Honda achieving impressive engagement with its latest Vine campaign and now Asda is launching an initiative it hopes will be just as successful.
Asda’s Chosen By You range is being selected and tested by real-life consumers, giving this campaign added authenticity. It also encourages users to offer feedback on the products, packaging and point-of-sale displays via social media, adding to brand PR value at the same time.
The supermarket chain is asking its customers to tweet and publish Facebook posts about the range inserting a #ChosenByMe hashtag, with the best being added to a hub page on the Asda.com website, before being selected to appear on in-store packaging with the customer’s permission. The hashtag has already been used thousands of times across both networks by fans keen to have their say:
Dom Burch, Head Of Social Media at Asda told Marketing Week that the initiative is designed to make people’s relationship with the Chosen By You range more ‘emotional’, and to help bridge the gap between the store’s value range ‘Smart Price’, and premium selection, ‘Extra Special’:
“We’ve had Chosen By You for the last four years and it’s helped customers re-evaluate Asda food and that unloved bit in the middle [between Smart Price and Extra Special]. We are trying to take that to the next level and be more overt about the best parts of it. We are hoping it will be more emotional as the [blind taste testing and market research that goes into selecting Chosen By You products] can seem quite clinical.”
If harnessed well, a brand’s social media channels can actually become a gold mine; especially for product managers. What many outside the field of digital marketing and PR deem ‘useless information’, can in fact become a valuable tool for driving product innovation, taking the customer along for the ride at the same time.
The key is to put the right process in place and incentivise the customer by rewarding their efforts with an emotional experience, creative satisfaction or quite frankly, the chance to win a great prize. In order to do that, product managers not only need to step back and re-think the way they manage their product lines, but also work closely with their 3rd party PR and marketing agencies and in-house teams to develop original and engaging ideas. Listening skills, interacting with customers and executing on social media information should become primary to any product development cycle.
Once you have those steps in place, social media will not only become a key component within a brand’s PR and digital marketing strategies, but also in driving product innovation and maximizing new revenue opportunities.