Online Brand Sentiment
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Tips for Managing Online Brand Sentiment

Love, hate, frustration, happiness, security, excitement, satisfaction desire, apprehension, impatience. A  small selection of common emotions that we feel pretty much every day, as we go about our lives. Many of these emotions are felt and experienced as we interact with hundreds of brands throughout the day. Perhaps it’s the steaming hot coffee and service of Starbucks in the morning, making you feel satisfied, or the feeling of desire of the latest 7 series BMW,  as you take the bus home from work, through to the painfully complicated payment system for something you wish to buy online, leaving you frustrated and angry.

The power of social media channels has created a new world of venting and consumer voice.  For example with a Product recall—you can sure there’s more than one blog post about it. And then there is disappointing customer service? A quick mention of the brand shared with a few thousand followers won’t go unnoticed.

This last point is what I aim to bring a bit of focus to in this article; how do brand managers and online marketeers really get to understand the diverse and highly fluctuating landscape of ‘real – time’ customer sentiment with regards to their brand online, what tools do they use to uncover these feelings from their online consumers, but perhaps most importantly, how can this insight and tracking ability be used effectively to drive strategic thinking to tackle the issues or build on successes?

Quality vs Quantity

Playing the numbers game on visits, shares, re-tweets and mentions online is what Katie Delahaye Paine, author of Measure What Matters: Online Tools For Understanding Customers, Social Media, Engagement, and Key Relationships,  says are  to quote “quantity” or “vanity metrics.”

She says that if we look at numbers only, it can give us a false sense of hope that our content is generating leads for our brand or business. With sentiment analysis, we dig deeper and look at “quality metrics”.

“Quality metrics include opinions, feelings, satisfaction ratings, the quality of shares, comments, re-tweets, replies, ratings or conversations, as well as the overall quality of engagement over time. The benefit of this measurement and analysis is that it can help uncover and drive learnings from the key aspects of your brand;  awareness, appeal, service, and content and allow you to uncover the positive, negative or indifferent aspects of your brand being shared online and importantly react to it.”

Of course, the overall quantitative analytics packages are hugely important, but used in isolation can be highly misleading in terms of online brand engagement.

So… How Does it Work?

Sentiment analysis platforms are like all other online data mining systems, they are based on bespoke algorithms. In this case it’s algorithms which recognise certain words as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’, letting you know if your brand is being adored or floored.  If someone tweets using the word “awful”, “disappointing” etc. then the sentiment analysis will assign that post as ‘negative’.  You can get problems though if someone uses sarcasm or irony as the tone…  most tools, takes everything at face value.

It is commonly known for the term “opinion mining.” Opinion mining aims to determine how a certain person or group reacts to a topic they are being referred to. They react because they are either interested or involved.

Social media monitoring tools, some of which will be discussed below, generally have a high level of customisation in their search terms, and provide flexibility in the number of different things you can search for at the same time.  This means that often you’ll be able to monitor your competitors too if you want to, and compare how their sentiment measures up.

In this video, Claudio Pinhanez , Senior Manager at IBM Research Brazil, talks about sentiment analysis in social media and explains why we should analyze data and how we can explore it. He uses the World Cup in Brazil that has just passed as an example citing interesting examples of  a team, player or the country of Brazil’s brand image, amongst other interesting scenarios.

Sentiment Analysis Tools

Many tools are out there to be utilised by brands. Using the right tools in a dedicated fashion, with adequate time and budget assigned to investment in regular “online listening and monitoring” will help you gather, analyze, and manage conversations about your brand. This can then provide real insights and learnings on the levels of engagement your content marketing efforts are generating and the general online reputation you are creating online via content that your audiences are creating. So, below are just 4 0f the dozens of tools (ranging from basic, to comprehensive) that I have looked into to see how they may help provide value with regards to online sentiment analysis and their respective ability to provide valuable insight.

 1. Social Mention

This is basically the social media equivalent to Google Alerts; a useful tool that allows you to track mentions for keywords that you will have pre-defined in video, blogs, Q&A, hash tags and even podcasts. It also indicates if mentions are positive, negative, or neutral.

When Mention spots that somebody talks about you or your brand you can instantly see this through one of their apps (Web, Desktop, iPhone or Android).  Alternatively you can get daily summary alerts which shows you the mentions for a particular day.

It is good at tracking what people say about you or your business online to allow for instant or well timed responses, to avoid escalation procedures. Visit site.

2. Trackur

Trackur is another relatively comprehensive online monitoring tool that enables users to track a wide range of keywords, issues across mainstream and social monitoring. The ability to see the influence of the content creators around your brand too is a good advantage with Trackur, to enable you to gauge the importance of a response (if any).

Whilst being quite a clunky and unrefined user experience, it has a powerful analytics engine and it’s customization features allows it to be white labelled for end user, agency and reseller contexts. Visit site.

3. Google Alerts

This ‘old school’ alert mechanism is the ultimate hands off experience when it comes to online reputation monitoring. It is often overlooked in many online discussions around sentiment or online reputation monitoring and analysis. As a big fan of its simplicity and the nature of its email (or online reader) alerts I see it has having some great advantages.

  • It’s free
  • It’s fast
  • You can monitor things you wouldn’t always think of as obvious beyond the brand mentions such as buyer behaviour, site security / spam and content distribution.

Whilst alerts clogging up your inbox may not be the ideal scenario for most people, a good tip is to set the ‘Deliver to’option as feeds that way you get all these alerts in Google Reader and can setup different folders for different alert types. One not to be ignored and usually it is used alongside a dedicated tool, rather than stand alone.  Visit site.

4.  Meltwater

Meltwater’s stand out feature is that it uses use low-level crowdsourcing to enable it to catch irony and sarcasm. Melt water actually employ people to read sample data and assign it a sentiment rating.  These ratings are then used to update the algorithm in the hope that it will identify the sentiment more accurately.  As a result, Melt water claims that its automated analysis is up to 80% – well ahead of the standard 50 – 60% accuracy that others claim to have.

Another great advantage of this platform is that it does’t limit the amount of results you have access to. Other tools such as social mention offer a certain number of results per month for a certain price, but this has limitations at times where the brand or product is in the spotlight and suddenly the posts increase by a factor of 50 – leaving the company having to pay extra to see those results.

Meltwater by contrast  lets you have all the data that’s out there and it really powerful, but is one of the more expensive tools on the market at over £7k per year. Visit Site

From Insight to Action

These small selection of tools, from the dozens available in the marketplace, all provide great power in the form of data mining and providing insight on audiences emotions towards your brand, product or service.  As can be seen from this very small selection, each tool can provide numerical evidence of sentiment and semantic web data and others also have the advantage of rating the importance. Like all big data activities, the real challenge is defining the why, what, who and when. Why are we measuring this in the first place, what tool(s) are we going to do use and what will we do with the data, when are we going to take this action and who is going to do it? Below are some tips on helping to answer these questions and enabling sentiment analysis to form part of your digital strategy.

1. Define it’s Importance

Don’t invest based on the tools being there and needing used, invest on the need based on the online following you have and the outbound content. If you have a very low online audience and your online footprint relatively small for example, the timing of an investment in sentiment analysis, almongst a tiny audience, could be questioned.

2. Set KPI’s

Without KPI’s set you’ll never really know if you are meeting your goals. Of course you can be loose in saying you want to increase overall positive sentiment over time, but this then doesn’t then feed back adequately enough into the investment in time, people, software and other resources. KPI’s should be set that relate to data returned on specific content posts, campaign sentiment, brand sentiment, mentions etc etc, individually and in combination and importantly linked to other analytics to include traffic sources, conversions and product / content views based on the sentiment around the specific content. Importantly like all KPI’s these need to be adjusted based on learnings, resource availability, your competitors activities and your own content trends.

3. Share the Sentiment

It may well be the task of an online marketing or brand manager to run the reports and setup the configuration, but it must be the responsibility of the organisation as a whole to have visibility of and know what online and offline activities may be contributing to the emotions being presented by the online audiences. For example an online retailer could be getting negative comments on online customer service off the back of a team profile feature online. Written responses or addressing these concerns online can only do so much; the root of the problem may lie deeper in people and processes.

4. Beware of Comparisons 

In today’s world consumers love to compare online and this extends to their and other consumers’ opinion, not only on price or product features, When comparing one brand with another,people will often express something along the lines of “I love company X but hate company Y” or “company X’s blue widget is so much better than company Y’s”. Under analysis, this could produce a neutral result as the negative sentiment cancels out the positive, when in fact there was a clear expression of positive sentiment about company X and negative sentiment about the other. Being able to spot and disentangle these kinds of issues at the data processing stage is important to establish a robust foundation for the sentiment analysis.

5. Analytical Minds

Sentiment analysis, like any data or semantic web analysis for that matter, is not straightforward and without proper analytical minds, is open to substantial mis-interpretations and subsequent poor decision-making. Online content producers are the ones taking action from sentiment and in fact their content has likely been the catalyst for sentiment ranges, along with other behaviours, but are online marketers the best people, or person equipped to analyse sentiment, amongst other things? If you have the luxury in your business, think carefully about the distinction of analysis and marketing. Even a marketeer with fantastic analytical skills may be too close to, or be unwilling to accept change to his or her content activities, to truly drive change the changes required. It is also vital that this analysis does not site in isolation and is monitored alongside other data collection and analysis tools including Google Analytics, E-CRM packages and Facebook Insights etc.

6. Test and Refine

Content Marketers around the globe will all likely agree that the same pieces of content read or shared by similar audiences do not always produce similar results. A/B split testing has shown this in contexts of conversion and online behaviour and audience diversity and a range of factors, many of which we’ll never truly be able to be understand due to the granularity involved in reaching the behaviour of each individual will always show trends different from what we imagine. With a strategy that has sentiment improvement at its core, you should invest time in testing, analyzing and refining your messaging to over time understand what really drives lasting change. Reverting back to point 3, this can also drive change elsewhere in the organisation if the sentiment is directed towards an offline context.

So, in conclusion, sentiment analysis can help you gain insight into so much about how consumers feel about your brand, your campaign, your product and your service. There are lots of tools that can help and the choice is really important depending on your business, your time, your budget and resources. Most importantly though it’s essential to think about the right steps to taking action to this sentiment and thinking strategically about how you can actually improve, maintain or change this sentiment over time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Video Content Marketing Strategy for Brands

Tips for integrating video as part of content marketing

“The next big thing in content marketing is video,”

…so said, nearly everyone in 2013.

Rather than attempt to convince you of this as a consumer of brands or a business, in this article I’d like to show and advise as to how as part of integrated content strategy, video content can work hard for you and deliver results.

The growing popularity of online video

Online video is big business and it’s visibility and the demand for it is statistically astounding. The Content Marketing Institute report the following stats to help paint a picture:

  • On-line video has increased eightfold in five years.
  • In 2016 the gigabyte equivalent of all the movies ever made in the history of film will move across networks every 3 minutes.
  • It will take 6million years to watch all the video that will uploaded in one month, in 2016.
  • Video will be 55% of all internet traffic by 2016.
  • Video on demand will triple by 2016.
  • Mobile video traffic will increase by eighteen times by 2016 (from 2011).

The key drivers encouraging video content marketing

Video is a great way to narrate stories, persuade prospects, impress your audience, and take your business to the next level. From a business perspective, it’s often difficult for companies and individuals to grasp the starting point of a strategy for using video within their own business. It helps to start with the purpose and  look at the key drivers for using online video for business, as part of a multi – dimensional content marketing strategy.  The main reasons to use video from your businesses perspective are:

  1. Customers buyers are becoming increasingly influenced by video.
  2. Marketers need more feedback about their content.
  3. The pressure to show content ROI is increasing.

With these reasons a very clear reality in 2013, it’s vital that businesses find the right video content to produce and distribute as part of a wider integrated content marketing strategy.

Video as a Marketing Tool

Simply put, videos are generally quicker and easier to digest than text-heavy content. Video also enables your brand’s content to stand out from the online clutter of text. The data backs this theory up: ROI Research reports user interactivity with content that incorporates video at twice the rate of other forms of content. Video content marketing is all about creating a memorable visual representation of your brand either through you or your customers, advocates or peers. To work well, you need to learn how to use this storytelling medium to be a key part of your content strategy. Here are some key tips to ensure success in video content marketing as part of your other tactics.

Key Video Tips:

Tip 1: Align with your brand

Branding involves clearly communicating your product or service offering and showing distinct differentiation across all customer touch-points. It is important to ensure your videos both clearly use your brand identity and key messages but perhaps more importantly support and build the brand through style, pace and quality. The best brand videos understand how the brand needs to communicate through video to match the essence of what the brand stands for. You only need to look at Nike and Red Bull for example to see how the videos match the brand proposition and position; perfectly. Another fantastic example of branded video content comes from B&Q who not only have on their video channel their excellent TV advertising, but cleverly used videos for DIY, providing tips and instructions. Real value that matches their customer – centric brand.

Tip 2: Use Video to Display or Demo Product

Content marketing often works best when it provides a window into the inner workings of a product or company. Traditional forms of marketing in the past would have shown product photographed alongside advertising led narrative to seduce the customer. Of course this still needs to happen to deliver an initial emotional response to a brand, product or service, but in age of heightened competition real differentiation can be heightened by product video and demonstration. When considering the best way to demonstrate your difference, think about how video can really help your audiences to see your product in action and ensure you plug it in to your product display on your web and social channels as part of your integrated content strategy. Ikea, do this really well and in the context of real environments their product videos feel very connected to real life.

Tip 3: Be Human

I a world of online shopping and many services being handled online or via the phone, there is often a disconnect between customer and consumer, and as humans we all crave that interaction. Even though technology has made our roles less face to face, video has an opportunity to allow people to see and understand the personalities within a business at a small or on a large scale. Steve Jobs and his apple keynote videos and guest presentations were a perfect example of how he, as a leader, and often rebellious, controversial character helped strengthen the apple brand and customer’s affinity for the head of the company.

Tip 4: Leverage Audience Generated Content

User generated content is a great way to deliver brand or product oriented content for your business. The quality, control and nature of these videos can be pain points for a brand but on the plus side, if done positively this authentic video content from fans and audiences can add significant value and indeed proof points of quality or the life enhancing nature of a product. Perhaps though, the key advantage of user generated video content for your brand is it’s vitality. Creators of content are much more likely to share their own content and their peers are more likely to then engage and re-share due to common friendships and online behaviours. This snowball effect often means that the success of the video can outreach company created brand videos. In order to encourage this an in incentive is often required; think creatively about what this could be. Finally, make sure you then use this user generated content to create a video or series of videos from this to show your true connection to your audiences or to help support the wider campaign.

One of the best examples of effective user generated content can be found from Coca Cola, and it’s decision to give its marketing creative brief to consumers in North America, Asia, and Latin America instead of a high-powered ad agency, as is the norm. An incredible quantity of content was created with more than 3,600 submissions including animation, illustration, film, and print advertising. Out of those 3,600, 10 of the highest quality were chosen and shown to creative directors and other ad professionals from around the world with one winning ad eventually shown. Surprisingly, the winning ad, “Happiness is in the Air,” was ranked in the top 10 percent of ads shown globally after its debut on Valentine’s Day during “American Idol,” proving that user-generated content can test very, very well.

Tip 5: Try Short Form Videos

Vine and Instagram video have proved increasingly popular from a brand perspective over the past year. These short videos stretch creative minds and the popularity of the platforms should be leveraged where possible if your audiences live there and you can encourage a folliowing. Companies such as GAP and Samsung have developed loyal followings on Vine and the nature of the videos allows the brands to be more creative and less “salesy” with their message, which in this day and age connects well with the majority of savvy audiences in 2013. Brands also account for 40 per cent of the 1,000 most-shared Instagram videos, according to data compiled by marketing technology company Unruly.

Integrating Video for Effective Content Marketing

On its own, video can deliver interest and engagement, but when not appropriately connected to your brand’s online content and marketing activities it has the danger of being isolated, not supportive of your brand and campaigns. Here are some key tactics to ensure you make video connected to and an important aspect of your content marketing activities.

  • Create a branded YouTube or Vimeo Channel and cross promote through website, email signatures, business cards, other social channels
  • Embed click through on your youtube video to deliver the user to a key landing page where action can be taken
  • Ensue video sharing is encouraged and use incentives where appropriate to encourage shares across all of your brand’s other social channels
  • Integrate video into all social channels available to your brand
  • Widen your scope and awareness by investing in pre-roll video online to key demographics
  • Make sure to create or reference already established hash tags # on your videos, to help gain campaign discussion and aggregation
  • Use video in email marketing (that will link through to a website landing page). Simply having the indication of a video via email will drive up click through rates.
  • Ensure your video titles and descriptions are SEO friendly and that any inbound likes use keyword rich link anchors.

Finally, it’s worth noting that not all video needs to be expensive. It has already been discussed how short form videos can show authenticity and differentiation and also how user generated videos have the power to be highly effective.

It is worth though, making sure that your content marketing budget is appropriately proportioned as if video has the power to work for you, then you should make sure that it has the appropriate proportion of your budget as there can be no doubt that video has more power to differentiate, connect, visualize and share than any other online content form.

Please… NO MORE Lorem Ipsum.

Good old “Lorem – Ipsum”; the poly-filler or generic padding of web design. It’s a big part of what makes some web designers and web owners often skim over and ignore what a piece of design is trying to communicate, focussing instead on whether their logo is big enough, how lovely the button styles are, or how #amazeballs the parallax scrolling on the website is. As an advocate of the importance of appropriately and contextually used content, it says something different to to me. It says:

The content doesn’t matter very much. I’ll just use this space to represent some sample content. Those that see this right now or when it’s lively likely don’t care. I have no real idea how much content ,or in what format the company wishes to present this for their audiences.

A great design is only great if it delivers the content that matters in a clear and accessible way.  Designers need to consistently design their digital products centered on the content and facilitating the most interaction and engagement with that content. For me, content IS the heart of successful web and digital application design.

How can a digital designer get a feel for page design, user experience or interactivity without a sense of its purpose, the audience needs and what it is all attempting to communicate? Writing from my experience of working on web projects over the past  decade, I have seen many examples of the projects that end up getting the best results for my clients; they are the ones that are designed around the message, and not those that are designed first, before real content and focussed messaging becomes an afterthought; something to fill a gap, that might be ill – defined.

For many it is a different way of working, but through working at Mammoth and realising beforehand the importance of branding through content – it is now the first aspect of “design” we consider. It does demand that clients think harder about what users want from the website or service, and how their content can deliver it. It’s more effort, but that can only be a good thing.

So this is a plea for the end of Lorem Ipsum and why we all need to say no…

 Why using Lorem Ipsum will make your project fail.

  1. It shows a disrespect and lack of understanding of your audience and how they want to engage with your brand.
  2. Lorem Ipsum shows you are approaching the project the wrong way round. Always think content first.
  3. Designing the site around real content that answers genuine questions is what will get results for your site.
  4. It shows a lack of collaboration between designers and content creators – the best projects see copy, imagery, video and design working iteratively, hand in hand.
  5. It often shows you don’t have the central message clear from the start. If you don’t already have brand driver and the main story established then don’t design. You essentially have nothing clear and established to start with.
  6. Designing around the content helps refine the thinking about the best way to communicate it; not how “nice” the page looks. The project is stronger for it.
  7. The words on a page and the design of the page are inextricably linked. You can’t do either of them properly in isolation.
  8. Valuable content is everything to a successful strategy at any level; large or small – one dimensional or multi-dimensional. If you treat content as an afterthought, you will fail in a content rich, time short online user landscape.

Content is key, and before design starts it is important to create or streamline the content that needs to be communicated. The… what, why, how, for whom, by whom, when, where, how often, what next?” Once this thinking is done, streamlined, tested and is matched to the brand – content creation and online design can work iteratively and with cohesion. All for the good of the users and the business.

No more Lorem Ipsum.

Content Marketing: Building brand loyalty and lasting relationships

2013, if you haven’t realised it as yet, by the vast amount of attention it is grabbing, is the year of Content marketing . Study after study have shown that content marketing can turn the unaware into aware, the non-engaged into advocates and web browsers into customers. It does though require effort, resources and quality creators. To be successful, content marketing relies on sharing a regular dose of quality content and producing this takes a big investment in time; not to mention being creative with it.

What Could Content Marketing do for You?

Content marketing if done well helps you and your business build relationships with customers and stakeholders. Surely, that’s what it;s all about in today’s world. A quick sale or smash and grab approach to any sort of custom or engagement will not last. Nowadays with people continually engaged with digital and social content, making sure you’re part of that connection and engagement through content will put you on the right track to success.

Build Trust, Engagement and Relationships

Content marketing can ensure you and your businesses’ reputation is visible, enhanced and supportive of relationship building. It helps those that see your content get what you and your brand stands for,  allowing relationships to be built and puts the consumer in the mindset of how you or your products and services could enrich their lives.

Anything worth having takes effort. Content marketing is no exception. It won’t guarantee overnight success, but it is sustainable, scalable and in the digital world a cost effective option. Done well, it will build trusting relationships and in turn an amount of social media advocates acting as your own business development department (for free!).

In an E-Consultancy survey on content marketing in October 2012 the value companies were placing on it, was clear to see from some key outputs.

  • Over 90% of respondents believe that content marketing will become more important over the next 12 months.

  • Nearly three quarters (73%) of digital marketers agree that ‘brands are becoming publishers’.

  • Less than half of companies have dedicated budgets (34%) or individuals dedicated (46%) to content marketing.

  • Increased engagement is the most commonly cited objective for content marketers, with 52% of in-house marketers and 58% of agency marketers listing this as one of their top three business objectives.

McDonald’s… They’re Loving it.

Researching the best content driven campaigns I read about this “Our Food – Your Questions” campaign ran by McDonald’s Canada. I especially like it because it’s totally user-centric putting them in control of the initiating and response questions as they ask McDonald’s the questions.

Launched in June, the Our Food, Your Questions  program invites any Canadian to ask any question whatsoever about McDonald’s food on a special website. To ask a question, participants must connect with either Twitter or Facebook, providing social visibility and a ripple in the pond viral effect.

mcdonalds our foodSo far, more than 16,000 questions have been asked (they are getting 350 to 450 per day), and nearly 10,000 have been answered. The program scope is only around McDonald’s food, so questions about non-food topics are directed to other resources, and some questions are of course duplicates. But there’s no dodging the tough questions, and that’s the amazing thing about this program.

It could have been easy for them to say, “It’s too risky,” but this is just the type of marketing edge McDonald’s needed. It has all the qualities attractive to today’s consumer — engagement, great customer service, offering transparency (and thus building trust) — and does so on a platform that makes sense in today’s social age.

Content Marketing Types

Once you’ve decided that content marketing is worth pursuing (which it will have to be eventually) you need a plan of action. It is often easier for bigger companies; they have an advantage to when it comes to producing editorial-style content with a budget to research, edit, produce and respond to their content campaigns.

If you’re an SME and don’t have the budget to work with a professional, it’s important to make sure that the type of content you create is playing to your strengths. Think about these content types below to see what mix might work for you.

1. Blog posts and articles

A great way to gain credibility, spark opinion and build though leadership. Whatever industry you are in, you have expertise that your audience will be interested in hearing about. A blog filled with advice, ‘how-tos’, opinions and topics related from your industry can be a brilliant way to present and share your knowledge and connect with your audience. If you have a flair for writing, blog. There’s no excuse.

2. Video Content 

Video content is the most effective way to engage and get across information. If your brand is visual or you have stuff worth showing off to the human eye, get the camera out and start sharing. YouTube and Vimeo are great platforms to connect to a new audience and it is much easier than you think to put together a professional looking video. Vine, a new smartphone app allowing you to shoot and publish 6 second videos, built your way at once or via stop motion has allowed many brands and individuals to get even more creative and social with their video content.

3. Images and infographics

Graphic images and infographics can be a great way to share tips and tricks with your fans in a n engaging and highly accessible visual way. This kind of content is often much easier to share – which is a great thing as long as people know that your company created it in the first place! Make sure you put your company name and URL in the image/infographic somewhere.

4. Social

Independently, but best integrated to the above content types, social media is a fantastic way to stay connected and inform and respond to your audiences. At an individual level it can allow you to provide excellent levels of customer service, at a more holistic level it can attract fans, improve your SEO and enhance your brand by having engaging content and the ability for content to easily attain viral context.

Top Tips

1. Put together an editorial calendar or schedule

Your content marketing strategy will be much more successful if you are consistent with it. Set yourself a target for each week, and stick to it! Assign certain days of the week for certain content activities (allowing time for research).It can be a good idea to plan ideas for content in one go and add them to an editorial calendar or schedule. Don’t forget to be flexible as the environment and your customers can be unpredictable.

2. Collaborate

Creating quality content week after week can be difficult. Think about utilising your network, lifting some of the pressure and getting help. If you have a team of staff working within your business, consider spreading the responsibility for creating content. This also allows these people to become more engaged within the company and also this may be attractive brand enhancing element as users get to know the staff, who are also content creators.

3. Stay professional and on brand

This is so important. Being silent and not engaging online is not as bad as being off brand or unprofessional online with content. When you’re updating your business’ blog, or Twitter feed or Facebook page, it can be tempting to stray outside your area of interest. Take my advice; don’t do it! It’s vital to stay professional and on brand. A good way to do this is to set out from day one what topics and interests you are going to post about. Also ask your audiences what they wish to see and hear and get them to contribute. Getting your audience writing content for you is worth it’s weight in gold.

4. Stay Humble. Stay Persistant

It’s NOT possible to be an overnight success in the digital world. Look at any successful blogger or YouTube broadcaster, and you’ll likely find that they were creating and sharing content regularly for a long time before they received success. This will also be true of you and your business. It’s important to stay motivated and keep going, even if it feels like no one is paying attention at first. A moment may arrive that gains some traction and builds momentum for you, your business and your content. Experience will help you attain higher levels of impact and increased chances of traction amongst audiences.

In Summary…

No matter how big or small your company is, you have the ability to use the principles of this marketing strategy and use it to reach out and connect to your audience. They want it, crave it and have time for it, so there’s no excuse. Find the right mix of type, resource and timing and success can be only round the corner.

It’s important to plan and research before jumping in with both feet. Before you get started it’s important to think about what kind of content will best showcase your business’ brand, and what kind of topics and interests it will be most relevant for you to cover. What have your competitor’s done? Are there examples abroad that could be mirrored or tweaked to suit your business? Taking the time to put these thoughts together in a strategy will be much more beneficial in the long run than jumping right in with both feet into writing and creating any sort of content.

Keep engaging your audience with quality, on brand and timely content, and you’ll see the benefits.

Developing Facebook Apps for Brands: Why Light and Simple is Best.

Facebook applications can be a great way to increase a company’s fans’ tie to their social presence, while simultaneously delivering valuable user and customer data. For a large number of brands, apps can be essential to their healthy Facebook presence in order to add value to their growing fan base through online sales, personalisation mechanisms, incentives and competitions and more.

For the majority of brands though, producing their own apps is not essential, nor should they be. If you are perhaps thinking of a Facebook app for your brand I am not trying to convince you otherwise. If your current, or future Apps work by definition because they have a function and output for the user that supports the brand, aids user discovery and interest – and adds value to them as a consumer, then it’s going to be a good investment of your time. Ultimately for the organisation, data is collected, the app and brand messages are shared and the successful app can go a long way to establishing or strengthening social media and online brand traction.

In this short article I wish to show why, if a Facebook application or a range of applications are chosen as part of a social strategy – to be effective it should be as light, simple, quick, accessible and user-friendly to achieve its goals.

Complex and immersive brand experiences really, in the norm, do not belong on Facebook because the world’s no.1 social platform for business and personal usage – lends itself to, and has already established a user experience based on speed, lots of content to scan at once, a user’s nature of browsing over content immersion, and simple actions and user experience actions driven by speedy and simple calls to action.

Mobile First.

Of course now, mobile needs to always be part of the mix to ensure that the main points mentioned above stay true. In a recent report 600 million of Facebook’s 1 billion users are classed as mobile.

With native apps and a mobile version, Facebook as a content source and content creation mechanism for the user is working well for mobile. But within apps is where bad user experiences have the potential to be hugely exaggerated due to more obstructive and slower data capture, navigation and reading of content if designers and developers to not make their Facebook apps fit for mobile. To ignore mobile for apps is an online crime that should be avoided first and foremost.

The view that “less is more” when it comes to the Facebook app experience is supported by Paul Adams, global head of brand design at Facebook who said recently, and whose quote was inspiration for this article:

“Almost every app built for a brand on Facebook has practically no usage…heavy, ‘immersive ‘experiences are not how people engage and interact with brands. Heavyweight experiences will fail because they don’t map to real life.”

This powerful statement would be enough to make anyone thinking of investing in a Facebook app for their brand, or evaluating any current apps, take a step back and consider the user experience  combined with the brand benefit before proceeding with a plan of action for a Facebook app.

Whilst agreeing with Paul Adams and his quote, a key word here is “almost”. Not all apps built for a brand are heavy and immersive in their user experience. Many are light, simple, ‘fit for Facebook’ and add value.

The following branded facebook examples are worth checking out for this reason:

1. Cadbury’s Crème Egg: “Cling to Your Fling”.

Cadbury Creme Egg

In this Facebook app Cadbury’s use a campaign supportive app to allow users through a simple photo upload to enter a competition to win a personal mug.

The app is simple, fun, shareable and ties in perfectly with the 2013 Easter campaign for Creme eggs. Nothing more than a photo upload and a share is all that is required.

Okay, some effort is involved in taking a photo with your creme egg first, but after that it’s plain sailing and this app has great viral potential and is well linked to a supporting online and offline brand campaign.

2. American Airlines: “Spin to Connect”

This Facebook app is a great example of a simple app that takes no more than a click to play a fruit machine style game to win an in demand product to enhance the American Airlines real life experience by offering free In Flight WiFi.

Simple functionality, ease of sharing and a value add top to the user makes this app work work really well.

3.       Adidas Originals: “Create a Cover”

adidas Originals pimp your cover

This app again uses simple point -click  functionality to enable users to personalise their own Facebook timeline picture through their app.

This clever campaign is covered in 3 simple steps and its power lies in the visibility of the outcome through a range of branded timeline pictures being noticed by a fan’s friends. An experience that looks slick yet is simple and quick to engage with is what makes this app a great user experience that benefits both brand visibility and the user’s online identity.

4.       Boojum: “Free Burrito Day.”

Boojum is an Irish owned Burrito Bar with 2 main outlets across Ireland that I and Mammoth have worked with for the last 2 years and I’m showing this example to illustrate how the action of a simple like can harness so much power.

With 2 restaurants in Ireland; one in Belfast, one in Dublin, and Boojum wanted to promote and deliver a FREE BURRITO DAY to one city in the Summer of 2011 to reward fans and customers. The idea we came up with was simple. Whichever respective Facebook page delivered the greatest number of likes during the competition duration would result in a FREE BURRITO DAY for all in the city. The app was set up to record, visualise and encourage shares and likes and that’s simply all that was required. The results were great and you can View the Case Study Here. 

So these examples are a handful amongst thousands of great or good examples, where a brand is able to successfully engage and interact with their audiences in a way that gives the brand valuable data and of course more likes – but importantly the apps are quick, simple, shareable and accessible. Many brands have now woken up to the fact that users on Facebook, in the main, do not want or have time to participate heavily with your brand, but if you manage to attract the few that will take a look at what you can offer then be sure of one thing – the app needs to be clear, concise, add value and most importantly, be simple.

Content Curation: Digging out and delivering digital content that works

Content Marketing is the trending Digital Marketing topic of 2013. A strategy for the online content you are publishing, now more than ever seems essential for online engagement, search and social sharing of your brand messages or services. It’s not new of course, it’s always been there in various forms. Now though, everyone is a publisher – everyone is a mass consumer – everyone is a media outlet to spread the news – everyone is using digital as a communication tool. Now you simply cannot afford not to give your audiences the digital content they crave, how they want it and in a way to keep you competitive and engaged with your audience and customer. It’s not an easy challenge to effectively and strategically develop a content strategy that will work, especially if resources are limited.

As a blogger I know all too well that thinking, planning and actually delivering on original content to write on my blog or post on social media can be time consuming and challenging. Inspiration comes in many forms. Often the best content is not always 100% original. Often the best traction can be attained from curated content; but it has to add value. It must correlate to your brand, products, services and generate insight, interest and debate beyond the original author(s) points. Now… if you are really looking to have an impact with your audience, curation should not be the beginning and end of your content strategy. Totally original content (if there is such a thing) if you are involved in digital marketing, or mostly original, should still be a key part of your content strategy; it will build brand recognition, trust, thought leadership, differentiation and enhance your sense of meaningful content contribution to your audience. Overall though, for the majority of brands, organisations and individuals – it makes sense to centralise content curation in addition to publishing original articles and any other form of content such as news, events, products etc in their various forms.

It Takes Time…

Effective content curation happens over time. Of course it cannot exist individually, staying active across social networks, industry events and of course originating your own content play a big part of the content marketing challenge. Curation though, can play the central role in generating your brand awareness, credibility and popularity. Having something interesting to share in context to how you interpret it, the benefits to your audience, or your opinion on it’s industry validity and use can often be as effective, or if not more, effective than original content that might not meet your audiences needs.

1.Source – 2.Curate and Comment – 3.Publish

Successful curation does not happen by chance. Of course, stumbling across something worth sharing naturally occurs, but this doesn’t mean you should; you are right and also your audience might not want or care about it right now. By effectively setting up channels, approaches and time to correctly source, filter and the in a timely and effective manner, publish content, you will find results become measurable, resources can be allocated and trends can become established.

1. Source

Your sources of content to curate could be.

  • Subscribing to the most appropriate online and offline publications
  • Social Sharing sites you can or should subscribe to
  • Social media monitoring tools like Social Bro or Hootsuite
  • Aggregators such as Storify, Flipboard and Scoop.it
  • Press release distribution services
  • Google Alerts

2. Curate and Comment

Your curation content can be a selection including some of the following content types

  • Statistics, research, white-papers and reports
  • Posts from influential people important to your target audience
  • Best practice content writers on blogs, news, training, industry events sites
  • Guides and eBooks
  • Infographics are hugely popular and easy to digest information from
  • Tips and “how to” lists.
  • Videos are great for engagement so embed away…
  • Slide share presentations, which can also be embedded

3. Publish

Where might you publish curated content…

  • Company or brand blog, of course – this should probably be your hub
  • Email Newsletters
  • eBooks, guides and white-papers
  • Social networks
  • Guest author posts on industry sites

Success Factors

Strategic and timely content curation, as part of an overall content strategy can lead to many positive online factors:

  • Improve website traffic, interactivity and engagement
  • Help you or your brand / business to become a thought leader particular topic (this will take time!), naturally you’ll be more find-able online as a result
  • Generate website leads through awareness, SEO and carefully constructed calls to action.
  • Become well known by people of influence in your industry leading to networking opportunities and organic sharing potential.
  • Increased conversion on audience goals due to improved confidence in the curator and organisation

Success will be gained, as with all content marketing, when you take the time to learn and focus on what matters to your audience or community and align that with your own online value proposition. The more considered you are about any content you curate, or in-fact create, the more naturally you’ll optimise the content that your audience is craving and it will gain traction across search engines.

This video below is well worth a watch, breaking down the purpose and tactics around successful content curation and supporting some of my previous points.

My Top 5 Digital Marketing Curators

Some of the many blogs and social accounts I value highly from a curation point of view are listed below. I could list 20+ reputable sources but I guess everyone that might read this already subscribes to mashable and e-consultancy for example. For me, these curators add value as they don’t always post the same content type, don’t simply re-tweet the obvious posts from the big players, they have interesting comments and opinions based on their sourced content and keep their curation efforts varied, fresh, engaging, on brand – and importantly sprinkled with thoughtful opinion and insight. Naturally, they do not solely curate. Original and engaging content forms part of their mix and that’s one of the key reasons why their content curation is also highly valued by myself and many others. I’d recommend you visit and follow them for your own digital marketing curation efforts, or look at what they post to get some good ideas.

Simply Zesty

http://www.simplyzesty.com – @simplyzesty

Christopher Wellbelove

http://about.me/wellbelove – @wellbelove

The Drum

 http://thedrum.com – @thedrum

Silicon Republic

Siliconrepublic.com – twitter.com/siliconrepublic

Ion / Niall McKeown

http://ionology.com – @niallmckeown

Digital Human

Staying Human in a Digital World

I have recently read Nick Harkaways book “The Blind Giant” and found it a fascinating, engaging and eye-opening read. It makes you realise that we must not forget that those who follow us, will be born into a purely digital society, where eBooks and augmented reality will have gone from exotic to everyday. In The Blind Giant, Nick Harkaway, considers whether this new world of ours will be a place of purpose or hellish.

Some of Nick’s arguments about what could lie ahead seem a little extreme, a little affiliated to “Minority Report” but we cannot ignore that as more and more of how we consume and deliver content is not only digital by nature, often it’s out of necessity, not choice – and that trend is likely to continue. Ultimately, Harkaway makes the case that technology is like any other tool: neither a good or bad thing, except in how we use it.

Reading this book opened my eyes not only to the future of digital in our world but also the present. Technology, software and the devices we use have of course shaped our social and human behavior on a number of levels, from shopping, to leisure, to business. Lives are lived online, and the opportunity to have a live feed into the minds of those you care about is becoming a clearer reality. People are more willing to share and consume horizontally through their social networks, rather than vertically. The organic spread of ideas, relationships, and trade can now be observed and measured on scales of unprecedented detail.

Amongst all the positive aspects of instant global communication, accessibility of information, improved efficiency and the potential for learning, it is clear that there are negative “de-humanisning” aspects of the Digital World now and this will likely continue in the future. People see less of other people, there can be a lazy attitude inherited as a result.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I want to highlight how in the context of businesses to consumers, organisations can act, appear and deliver more human aspects of behaviour both through and alongside their digital communications to complement each other.

As more and more businesses advertise, show and deliver pre – sale and post – sale communications online, there is no doubt that they have had to adapt to a world of highly concentrated digital consumption. This though can deliver opportunities to show human connection through and alongside digital. For example an online retailer can still bring visible human aspects to their business. They can:

  • Show the people within the business on their website and LinkedIn page etc,
  • Personalise their twitter with a unique or range of staff administrators assigned to social media, giving a personal tone to the messages and responses
  • Ensure sales and support emails are from staff addresses and use appropriate signatures
  • Deliver video and audio content to connect with the audience on real terms and improve brand personality.
  • Personalise emails both through whom it is addresses but also based on preferences.

A high street retailer that also has an “inevitable” online presence can also humanise their consumer’s digital experience as well as complement the real in store experience by:

  • Promoting specific exclusive offers and promotions online but only available in store to drive footfall
  • Building knowledge of the online offering amongst staff to help deliver sales and consumer loyalty
  • Use social media to help profile the products, local team(s) and staff to consumers
  • Have staff actively engage with customers online
  • Ensure telephone numbers are clearly promoted online.

I think we all know the inevitability of an increased trend for more digital consumption and communication out of necessity due to rapidly evolving commercial, media and interpersonal landscapes. But this doesn’t mean we have to be any less human. It’s about balance. We must continue to act, sound and appear human even online and I hope that the norm isn’t that we get lazy and devalue personal contact by default over a more convenient digital equivalent or alternative.

Google Glass is an example worth noting. This technology due to launch next year has the potential, for us to act more human, from the perspective that our digital media consumption can be consumed whilst interacting visually and in body with the real world. An argument to this though is that we may as users of the product, disconnect from the real world as we focus on what the heads up display is communicating to us. The latter is a de-humanising effect, (well… based on our definition of human behaviour) but perhaps a new set of human and social behavioral attributes need to defined “the norm” in light of communication and technological advances and trends.

Related to this discussion from a social media perspective is a really good Q&A worth checking out with Nicholas Christakis from the TED series, entitled: “Our modern, connected lives.” It’s interesting as it raises many points around the our influence and behaviour driven by our modern connected online social experiences. It’s a well-balanced series of responses to topics of friendship, social influence and even online dating from a real world vs digital perspective.