The Omni – Channel Marketing and User Experience Connection

I’ve been hearing and reading quite a bit about Omni – Channel Marketing of late and it’s great that companies and brands are embracing the ethos behind the term to make their products and services more connected, open and oriented towards the individual. For this reason I feel it must then share and indeed integrate with many aspects of user experience online. This article aims to summarise my thoughts on how UX approaches and the principles of UX contribute to effective Omni – Channel Marketing.

What is Omni – Channel Marketing?

Okay, so firstly it is a bit of a new buzzword or phrase (to describe something not new in real terms) and perhaps overused, along with the related but different Multi – Channel Marketing term. Omni – Channel marketing though as a strategy marketing activity helps to define the marketing decisions that are driven by the choices that consumers have in how they engage a brand. It is in my opinion best thought of and understood, as being – how brands enable their clients and consumers to use these multiple and connected channels to engage with them. Unfortunately, when it comes to omni-channel and multi-device marketing, consumers today are way ahead of most brand marketers.

A good quote to educate brands on the motivation and main benefit of this approach to marketing can be found by Kevin P. Nichols of Sapient Nitro who says…

“An omni-channel approach empowers you to create robust, personalised experiences. This ensures your content solutions have a longer shelf life and extended reach.” Kevin P. Nichols, Global Lead, Content Strategy, Sapient Nitro

Is Omni – Channel not just Multi – Channel marketing re-badged?

No, it’s related of course but a different approach. Multi-Channel, whilst driven by consumer habits is an operational set of tactics related to how a retailer allows a user to fulfil a transaction of conversion across each unique channel it owns or resides on. Omni-channel, marketing is much more aligned to seeing, empathising and realising the experience by walking in the shoes of the customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated, and consistent. Simply put, omni-channel is multi-channel done right! And that’s where my interest in the UX relationship and synergy was inspired from.

How Does UX play a role?

We all know that User Experience is a range of carefully timed, implemented and managed strategic online usability and navigation tactics aimed at ultimately improving the online experience for unique sets of users; helping them fulfil their tasks in the context an online branded solution. As a result, in my view, UX practices of information hierarchy, user – journey mapping, persona development, persona validation, device and contextual testing and more, MUST be aligned to the Omni Channel experiences of customers, and thus the marketers aligned to this process – to truly make them worthwhile in today’s world. Here are 5 key activities, part of the UX process that can play a key role in, or provide key learnings in Omni – Channel Marketing activities and tactics

  1. Be a customer

Research, select, search, add to basket, purchase. Go through the same journeys that your customers do (analytics, or research if you have it) or may take. As with all good UX, if possible, these tests should be performed by externaland internal testers. Tests should be focussed on barrier identification and removal as well as delighting users. Importantly, this process must be and feel authentic to the user and be task focussed, not instructive at a granular level, to ensure a natural and organic journey and approach taken by the user.

2. Measure

UX practitioners cannot be deemed to be performing their role with the necessary diligence if data does not play a central role in the ongoing development of the digital platform. With Omni – Channel marketing data needs to become super granular and identify with the individual NOT the data set.

Of course there is personal and then there is invasive use of this personal data as marketing outpits and that’s the challenge of marketing, content and UX, to be more of the former and less of the latter. Julie Bernard of Macy’s summed things up well at last year’s Data Driven Marketing conference:

“We can now measure success in terms of the response of real people over time, in addition to measuring individual campaigns.  We have enough data at the customer level to see how she interacts both online and in the store, so we can tailor messaging and offers to her appropriately by channel. We strive to balance the use of customer data to inform content relevancy with the use of consumer insights to ensure that the relevancy is coupled with a sense of discovery and inspiration.”

Ux has the task here of making sense of these data sets and importantly helping to shape the right subsequent experience that gives the user what they want, expect, and adds personal value; not repetition across the multi – channel journeys.

  1. Segment Your Audiences

Understanding the customer (user) and being able to create tailored experiences, journeys and desired outputs for these groups and individuals is the fundamental foundation of and describes the persona development phase of a UX project. With regards to omni – channel marketing this information and segmentation process is central to the omni – channel experiences. By understanding, hypothesising and validating the persona’s created as part of UX, we can extend this out to creating strategies around omni – channel marketing to suit their specific wants, needs and behaviours. For example if you are a designer boutique clothing retailer females between the ages of 25 and 45, you may determine that they are more likely to buy based on the designer or brand. If you then subsequently are marketing to that audience, you might highlight the brand names heavily in your online advertising, SEO and nurturing strategy.

  1. Keep Content Focussed on User Journeys and Use Cases

Content and messaging is key. If a customer has previously engaged or purchased your product, you probably want to consider that in your marketing. If a customer has put something into a cart, but hasn’t yet purchased, use your content to reference that intent. UX brings with its activities these “user stories” and as part of an agile process mirrored against different persona’s and their unique goals it can continually help shape the content process, as well as the key calls to actions and functions they may desire.

Brands that do this well are those that understand your previous browsing and purchasing decisions and for example send personalised emails referencing previous purchases, and recommending complementary products. This type of content and messaging makes consumers feel personally spoken to, and helps drive much higher engagement, loyalty, and purchases.

5. “Listen and Respond” across user’s preferred Channels/Devices

More and more often, people will now use multiple devices during a single transactional process. Omni – Channel Marketeers need to be aware of the multi – dimensional processes of the user and make sure they able to listen and respond to these interactions. For example, an e-commerce retailer should strive to preserve items in a cart across devices – if you add an item to your mobile shopping cart, it should still be in your shopping cart when you log in on your desktop computer.

This is where the UX tactics / relationship is once again vital to the Omni channel mix for the organisation. They need to try and continually optimise these channels to aid conversion at any stage, build intelligence and flexibility into their interfaces to help continually personalise and contextualise the experience in real time.

In Conclusion

From a personal perspective, the key learning from writing this article is that for me it is another example of how marketing now needs to continually go beyond traditional awareness and product and promotion activities. The brands that win are the ones that give their audiences what they expect, when they want it, in the correct format and not only that, delivering a user experience that is intuitive, conversion oriented and strengthens the brand.

Online Brand Sentiment

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.










Is UX the New Branding?

Something I’ve been thinking about for some time is the relationship between brand and user experience. I’ve come to realise that for me, when it comes to exposure in an online world, there really is little distinction and it’s hard to determine when one process starts and the other ends – or even if there are start or end points… Working as Digital Director for a brand consultancy, more often than I and my team are tasked with making a brand “come alive” or “get their story across” online. For me these client driven terms have some weight and value, but for me the key challenge for our digital team is making their “brand values, promises and customer expectations, clearly and appropriately experienced online“.

Branding Before Jesus

To help explore this new shift in branding, it’s important to explore the origins of brand. Staring in 2,000 BC there was branding, farmers’ cattle and livestock were branded physically and since then everything has had a “mark” “watermark” or “logo”. Of course since the industrial revolution, we all now understand that branding is not just a logo or graphical representation of a product or service; branding is the communication of features, benefits, lifestyle fit and the emotional connections it sparks with its audiences.

The big shift in recent years in branding has come about because of the internet, social media and connected consumers. Branding used to dovetail nicely into advertising and the brands that advertised the most, in the biggest and best way won. No matter how much we connect and have some kind of emotional brand connection with Coca Cola today in an internet ruled world, the hard work to establish a market leading brand was done in the 50’s – 90’s through massive, one way advertising spend. But now the playing field has levelled – advertising can only attract eyeballs – true brand affinity is harder and harder to achieve. That’s where online experience is a massive differentiator. Online experience is where the brand promise can be proven.

Branding in 2014

There is a bit of confusion as to what branding ‘actually’ means in 2014. I mean, the principles and ethos are the same, but it really has had to move with the times and clients demanding branding services must start to realise that their brand is “everything” about them and in a super – connected and socially driven world, it’s also everything about their online presence, behavior and the suitability of their customer online experience. Seth Godin puts it well.

Brand is a stand – in, a eupmism, a shortcut for a whole bunch of expectations, worldview connections, experiences and promised that a product or service makes, and these allow us to work our way through a word that has thirty thousand brands that we have to make decisions about every day.

Experience is Everything

The stand out word here for me is “experience” – experience is really the key differentiator online in such a competitive, consumer driven and connected world. Having an experience that matches the brand expectations set by the positioning, promises and expectations already built up by the product, advertising, editorial piece etc, is really what matters in terms of consumers and their brand connection. If you ask many UX professionals, they’ll say that they don’t work in branding, they work in experiences and may use “brand guidelines” supplied by the client or agency in the form of colours, typefaces and style guides.

For me UX professionals and in fact anyone involved in providing customer centric digital solutions, need to be branding experts. Everyone in the ‘online experience’ team, from the client, through to the web designer, content creators and project managers need to fully understand the brand values, the customers, their expectations and provide a suitable experience to match it. It doesn’t mean that the online experience has to be beautiful, quick, responsive, ultra detailed in content or rich, it simply has to match the brand; whether you are Coca Cola, Rolex or a local coffee shop. Sometimes good UX is ultra simple – 1 page, 1 function and lack of content. Sometimes it’s Amazon and their basic design, yet beautifully tailored, efficient and intuitive web and mobile experience – every scenario is unique.

Experience is brand perception

Experience is brand perception

I feel that businesses, when considering branding, should not treat their brand and their web experience and digital footprint as separate when it comes to considering their online representation of services or customer interaction. Quite the opposite needs to happen in my view; all the dots need to be super – connected and they need to realise that the online presence is much, much more than a new logo, new font and nice new branded imagery from an expensive photo shoot.

In this example diagram, courtesy of Steven Fisher in his presentation “UX – The New Brand Order.” we can really connect the brand promise, then the experience, which then leads to the real differentiator, which is the perception and value that a brand can bring.

Branding vs UX

So when we consider branding and user experience are they really separate elements? If you’re the consumer of a brand they most definitely are not. Consumers will become aware, consume, get recommendations of and first and foremost experience the sales process of a brand through so many different independent and connected online channels, both passively and actively. Consumers will also build brand affinity and in many ways can shape your brand by their interaction and their sharing behavior – turning what you wanted your brand to be known and valued for to be something else altogether.

Listen – Act – Improve 

We all are aware that good UX is not simply applying best practice; it’s researched, considered, tested and refined elements of content, functionality, accessibility, UI design and personalisation all weaving their way together into a suitable experience. Branding, in 2014 is really no different. Whether promoted or experienced online or offline, your brand is only as good as it’s ability to match expectations set by the positioning from the environment you present to customers to, how you talk to them, to how you signpost them in the right direction in an intuitive fashion and by how you service them pre – post and during a sales process.

The evolution of branding today is something not driven by a business, but shaped by how the consumer wants or needs your product to work individually for them, is a very real thing. Ultimately it will be this customer behavior, their expectations and the feedback you receive from their experience that will determine how well a brand survives. Unless a brand takes time to listen, act and improve continuously their online user experience, their brand will surely be doomed to failure of not meeting their customers expectations.

So to conclude and to re-iterate, for me branding and UX are extremely hard to treat as distinctly independent disciplines and I truly believe that UX could easily be described in many contexts as the “NEW Branding”.








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.

back to basics

Taking Digital Projects “Back to Basics”

This one’s for digital project managers and those in digital marketing roles dealing with digital agencies…

Forgive my indulgence in talking about the day job but at Mammoth we’re big fans of our online tools for project management and web project collaboration. Basecamp and Onotate to name only 2 systems we use, are  used daily amongst various members of my team for various project progression and delivery requirements. Clients love these tools too, being able to have full visibility and collaborate online in a highly accessible manner. These tools along with Podio are transparent, user – friendly and helps improve efficiency and project process for a range of digital projects. But… (there’s always a but.)

Taking Online – Offline

I’ve noticed a lot recently with a few bigger projects, how effective good old – fashioned offline methods to collaborate and get sign off have proved. Of course, I’ll meet clients at key stages of any project for discussions and agreements, but often the trickiest part of any digital project is when scope documents turn into production of wire-frames, which turn into visuals; then once the client sees something close to the designed page templates, their minds are spurred into a flurry of activity, often not focussed on the objectives of the campaign, the agreed specification, the wire-frames or the agreed user experience features and user journeys. It can get all quite messy and frustrating. Some offline sessions that we have run at Mammoth have proved extremely worthwhile and indeed more efficient than Basecamp, Onotate, or any scope meeting could ever be in ticking off those key project milestones, deliverables and getting projects on track.

We’ve noticed a lot recently with a few of our bigger projects, how effective good old fashioned offline methods to collaborate and getting sign off have proven to be.

It Works…

The method employed in this example is a printed and stuck on the wall montage of site maps, user journey diagrams, cms functions and design templates, covered in ‘post it’ notes. To those with fresh, eyes it looks scary, random and impressive in pretty equal measures.

MammothBelfast  MammothBelfast  on TwitterThe key thing is though, that this approach can and does work with clients. It often achieves and leads to conversations, agreements, challenges and a combined level of understanding that emails, calls, Basecamp, Onotate, and even traditional face – to – face meetings over a specification document could never achieve.

Going forward, for the right jobs and the right clients, the “Digital Wall” that I and my team employ at Mammoth, will continue to play a key part in our project management process. I’d never dream of ditching our glossy project management tools and processes, especially for internal collaboration, but going back to basics works. Designers, developers, project managers and clients all armed with A3 paper designs, competitor websites, wireframes, pens and ‘post it’ notes is sometimes hard to beat!

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
  • 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 – @simplyzesty

Christopher Wellbelove – @wellbelove

The Drum – @thedrum

Silicon Republic –

Ion / Niall McKeown – @niallmckeown