February 10, 2011
YouTube Talk: It's Always About Storytelling BabyYouTube's Andrew Bangs talks about the history of YouTube, and the areas they focus on and emphasize when it comes to creating a compelling video. It all revolves around storytelling which he breaks out in categories in his talk during Social Media Week at SPUR on Mission Street this week in San Francisco.
How to Influence "Influencers" or Something Like ThatBelow is a snippet from a panel at Rocketspace in San Francisco during Social Media Week this week that discusses how to be an influencer in the growing world of social media tools, strategies and tactics and how to 'influence' influencers.
Engaging Influencers: What Does It Take?
Rocketspace hosted a panel during Social Media Week San Francisco on Engaging Influencers. The panel discussed how to successfully engage influencers through social media. The session covered what a successful program looks like, how to plan, the role of authenticity, crowd-sourcing content, and advanced techniques for increasing reach and harnessing the power of influencers. On the panel included:
Below is a sample of the panel in video (covers about a quarter of the talk):
February 07, 2011
Arianna Huffington: $300m in Cash, Hmmm, Let Me Think About That One
If you were Arianna Huffington, wouldn't you take the money, even if it meant a relocation to New York as a result? After all, with that kind of exit ($300 million of the $350 million is in cash), you can jet back and forth the 5 hour commute without that much of an inconvenience.
Besides, as part of the deal, she also gets to be in charge of Michael Arrington and his posse at TechCrunch, which should be interesting to watch from the outside -- personally and editorially.
As Kara Swisher points out in her write-up on the AOL acquisition, "the deal gives it a popular branded site that is very good at generating lots of page views and impressions very efficiently–which is the company’s whole thrust these days. That means lots more ad inventory to sell and an injection of content talent, giving AOL the scale it desperately needs."
The projections look good, so the acquisition is no surprise and frankly, many a conversation in my circles have revolved around who they'll ultimately sell out to over the past few years. They increased their ad sales from $ 31 million in 2010 to a projected $60 million this year. Sweet. I guess it was time to hand over the goods to a 'bigger power', at least on paper.
Let's face it, AOL's branding 'magic sauce' hasn't really taken a strong turn yet, so having both Huffington Post and TechCrunch under their wings, gives AOL editorial direction, identity and a sense of purpose, particularly in the eyes of readers and users who are not exactly living on the leading edge of technology.
With Arianna as Editor-in-Chief, things could get interesting....smart move on Armstrong's part. Her compelling combination of smart aggregated content with original content and celebrity names has become a winning formula others haven't been able to replicate.
As part of the deal, Tim Armstrong will take over from Huffington Post's Chief Revenue Officer Greg Coleman and the existing AOL ad sales head Jeff Levic will remain on board.
Paul Carr has an amusing and thoughtful take on the acquisition here. He talks about the potential downside of the SEO implications down the road for them (TechCrunch) and the rest of the world (readers). The other downside is that because Huffington Post doesn't remain solely independent, some things will no doubt have to give over time. Having Huffington in the editorial seat for now reduces the risk at least in the short term.
She will apparently be in charge of Engadget, Mapquest, TechCrunch and Moviefone. If its true that one reason they bought them is because their readers make up a significant number of important women with money to spend, then why not put her in charge of more brands?
Photo Credits: Planetpov.com, All Things D and Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
February 01, 2011
How Do You See New Technologies Impacting Brand Perceptions?
Advertising Week in Toronto this past month kicked things off with James Stewart, Founder, Director and Producer at Canada’s Geneva Film Co. Stewart’s company has produced 3D ads for brands like Sprint and Lexus, among others. A re-run and summary of his talk is re-printed here from TechVibes.
Stewart spoke about where advertising is headed as a result of the explosion of 3D screens in the market in the past year. Although 3D advertising is already pervasive on movie theatre screens (more so in the US than Canada), Stewart assured the audience that 3D advertising will absolutely take off on other screens in the next few years.
3D TV may seem like a slow moving market because only 6.5 Million 3D television sets were sold last year. However, Stewart said that the “adoption rate is still much faster than HD TV, which took 6 years to get to that number.” Almost every technological device now has a 3D screen coming out – from laptops to tablets and even out of home billboards.
Popular brands like Armani and Oakley are even jumping on the bandwagon and creating designer 3D glasses for consumers to carry around with them. Stewart explained that there are so many stakeholders involved in making 3D technology a success that the spend on 3D advertising will inevitably follow, despite the higher cost of production for 3D ads.
So, if 3D technology will soon be everywhere, you may be wondering how it will impact the way that brands tell stories to consumers. Stewart said that 3D is no longer a gimmick, “it’s just a more immersive storytelling tool.” In addition, Stewart said that this richer, more immersive experience of advertising shot in 3D has been proven to increase brand message retention rates. He explained that ESPN recently conducted a research study on their 3D TV audience during the World Cup. Stewart showed the results of the study which proved that the 3D viewing audience had a 15-16% lift in brand recall, purchase intent and brand likability over the 2D audience after being exposed to ads shown during the World Cup.
In the afternoon, Mitch Joel from Twist Image facilitated a panel discussion sponsored by AOL entitled "Beautifying the Internet: Original Content & Compelling Ads." The discussion was once again focused on how digital media and new technology platforms have impacted the way advertising messages are now being told to consumers.
Mitch Joel opened up the panel discussion by asking “what constitutes good advertorial content?” Matt Straz, Co-founder and CMO of Pictela, a high definition content marketing platform that was recently acquired by AOL, said that “great advertising can actually be content if it’s done well.” He went on to say that “marketers have not been given the right tools to make it work to date.”
Joel then asked the panel to describe what the ideal “content marketing play looks like.” Ceri Marsh, Co-founder of Sweet Potato Chronicles, said that with new technology platforms like the iPad, it is becoming more of a thrill to develop digital content. She said that the “magazine industry is just learning how to make magazines live in the digital world.” She suggested that perhaps once the magazine industry figures out the right digital model, they may be able to develop a better way for consumers to enjoy ads that live alongside the editorial content online.
The panel agreed that the future of content marketing would involve tailoring your brand message to match the platform on which it is being displayed. Peter Vaz, VP of Digital at M2 Universal, said that “the way you view video on a tablet is quite different than how you view it on TV.” Vaz went on to say that we can expect to see “different versions and extensions of the same message on each digital platform” in the future.
Graham Moysey, General Manager at AOL Canada, argued that one of the biggest barriers to driving better content marketing experiences online is the industry trend to drive down CPMs (cost per thousand impressions). Matt Straz from Pictela explained that the industry currently wants to buy online media at a $1 CPM, while the true value of the content that they want in exchange is closer to a $50 to $100 CPM. Perhaps the compelling 3D experience discussed earlier in the day will have an impact on budgets in the future?
The other pricing-related challenge discussed was the fact that there is a ton of niche content online. However, it is currently hard to monetize that content due to low traffic volumes. Mitch Joel asked the panel what they thought would be the best monetization model that would scale across all of these niche websites? Matt Straz suggested that perhaps once a website’s traffic gets below a certain threshold, publishers should stop selling banner ads and just sell sponsorships.
The panel discussion ended with the argument that better metrics need to be in place to measure the impact of content marketing and brand storytelling online in the future. They said that the industry is still using traditional advertising metrics because there are no great brand advertising metrics for the web in place today.
Business MUSTS: Social Relevancy, Online Reputation Management and Measurement
Look at Dell as an example. They're focusing more attention on Twitter because they realize that people only buy a PC/laptop once every year or once every two years, so they need a social 'tool' to keep their fans engaged all the time.
In doing so, it's important to not just identify but consistently use that 'organizational voice.' Zappos is a great example of a company who consistently brings that corporate culture into every aspect of their work and play. They integrate play into their work in a way that works.
Online Reputation Management: people will check out your reputation online before they will consider doing a deal with you or working with you. Here are some great examples worth reading about.
- Pepsi: bad ad goes nuts and then the negative tweets started going nuts, but they responded right away and said, yeah, you're right, this isn't appropriate, we agree and we’ll take it down right away.
- FTD.com responded badly to comments about flowers not being delivering on Mother’s Day and did so btw, through a traditional press release that didn't really address or respond to people's concerns, and in the process only made it worse. Perception is reality my friends. Know when the 'game is on.'
- Taco Bell – Taco Hell: Rodent Video Signals New Era in PR Crises. Again, they poorly responded through a traditional press release. It doesn't mean they can't respond that way, it means that it can't be the only way they respond and the only outlet. It's critical that your offenders and/or customers/fans in each case, feel understood and heard.
- Sears Killed My Dog: see story about how Sears backed up & killed a family dog and how it was 'eventually' handled.
- United Broke My Guitar: the music around this got 9+ million reviews. (Harvard case study says that it cost United $180 million lost in shareholder value)
Some social measurement tools to monitor your online reputation include:
- SocialMention.com – run social mention on you and your company
- Google Alerts
- Radian6 – paid subscription service
- SM2 – paid subscription services
- Viral Heat – paid subscription service
- Angies List
- Rate my doctor
- Rate my teacher
- Speaker Rating
If you're not running 'listening campaigns' on your name, your company name, product names and your competitor company and product names, how can you know what you don't know and respond effectively?
By listening and engaging, you can more effectively respond when you see or hear something negative on you or your competition.
Measurement is also key when you run listening and engagement campaigns. A key question is this: what is the sentiment ratio? Once you identify what it is, keep measuring it. Monitor, measure, change strategy if needed (and perhaps even messaging) and then monitor and measure again.
It's an ongoing process. If you don't have this in place, you are not in the game. Don't be driven by someone else already in the game, please lead. Don't you want to be more than just a step ahead of your competition?
Photo credit: Erasseo.
January 28, 2011
Let's Talk SEO Mistakes & Myths
I heard Stephan Spencer and Mona Elesseily speak recently on SEO mistakes shortly after hanging out with him and his ten pound book The Art of SEO, which he co-authored. He graciously gave me a copy but it’s fatter than three bibles put together – translation: full of incredibly great content yet despite my laundry list of new tips and knowledge, I likely won’t be able to execute.
Here’s my thinking on experts, books, tips and tricks: unless it’s something you really love, breathe and wanna do, get knowledgeable by reading the best books, then hire someone to execute and map out a strategy who does live and breathe it and more importantly, find someone who’s wired that way. A lot of people ‘do’ things in areas where they’re not wired.
The book will make sure you don’t hire the outdated SEO expert wanna be’s who don’t really know how to get you to “go” never mind long-term success.
Stephan and Mona divided their talk into common mistakes to avoid when implementing a SEO campaign and a hands-on workshop, where they ripped apart a few sites, and shared what worked and what didn’t on those sites and why.
The summary of the mistakes they covered in their talk are below with my insights scattered throughout:
- Jargon – get rid of it. Your customers don’t care, don’t understand and don’t think that way. It’s interesting how often this applies to just about everything we do verbally or in written form isn’t it? Clearly, it doesn’t just apply to SEO.
- Poor Keyword Brainstorming – they encouraged folks to think laterally rather than choosing words that are simply not common search terms. In other words, it’s not rocket science – Google and others have tools that can tell you what the most common search terms are so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
- Not Using Keywords Properly - broad matching is a default in Google which give you inflated data. It’s key that you get as specific as possible – the broader you go, the less successful you will be. Give Google AdWord tool a try, which is free.
- Avoid Cannibalization which stems from poor or no measurement. Here, they talked about organic tracking versus results that may come in from other sources. Organic is obviously what you want.
- Ignoring Competition. Why reinvent the wheel? In other words, look at what is 'working for your competitors.' You can see what keywords they're buying, take a look at their ad copy. You can also use known tools on the market such as Spyfu.com (learn how much companies are spending, the top ten key word terms, the top ad competitors and so on), Semrush.com, Adwords and others.
- Playing the Social Media Game Minus the SEO. Social media with poor or no SEO is a tough game to play unless your story simply becomes so viral that linking and love just takes care of itself. Bottom line: combine the power of two tools for maximum impact. Social media should be driven by SEO needs. Use "link bait" and seed it into social media tools like Digg and others. Remember that power users on Digg, Delicious, Reddit and other platforms can get you a lot more mileage out of your submissions than if a no name Digg user simply throws up a link.
- Duplicate Content. This is one I hear about frequently because there are so many blog networks and other platforms that aggregate content. Duplicate content triggers Google's duplicate content filter and it can also result in page rank dilution. Personally, while I understand Google wanting diversity in its search results, I think that smart aggregators are key to us making sense of a never-ending cluttered web-world. I think that original content combined with aggregated content is an ideal solution, particularly if it means that reader has the best experience and doesn't have to filter through tons of other sites to get what they need. They also talked about how using the same tags, meta descriptions and page copy can trigger the duplicate content filter.
- Focus on Low Value Activities. Here's one we can all learn from and it most definitely doesn't just apply to SEO. The suggestion here is to be OUTCOME focused rather than ACTIVITY focused. Identify what your outcome needs to be and create a plan that gets you there in the most effective and efficient way.
- Unintentionally Spamming Search Engines. Examples include too many keyword stuffed text links, SEO copy which isn't meant for human consumption, reordering text with CSS for SEO, inappropriate use of CSS "Image Placement," hidden text or hidden links, and targeting irrelevant keywords.
- Buying into SEO Myths. SEO 'so called experts' and other industry folks have us confused about what works and what doesn't. A few myths worth noting:
--personalization means no one is #1 anymore
--metatags will boost your rankings
--country sites are duplicated content
--Googlebot doesn't read CSS.
--Update home page will make a difference.
--Linking out helps ranking.
--SEO is a one-time activity.
--Using flash will tank your SEO.
January 22, 2011
Service on the Road: The ROI Behind Creating Stress or Creating Queens
When you're on the road and this is particularly true for frequent travelers, you pay more attention to service, because great service can really make or break your experience, particularly when you're longing for a bit of home comfort.
I have written extensively about service and the decline of it over the past decade, most evident in the United States, a country that was world renown for incredible service in the 50s and 60s.
On a recent trip I took to Las Vegas, I had a handful of what I'll call "remarkable" experiences because of people who didn't show up to do a job, but showed up to make their customers feel like queens.
I also ran into a couple of situations like we all do when we travel, where things may not go smoothly and the person you're dealing with does little to make it better and in many cases, makes it worse.
This journey included two hotels, one rental car company, one restaurant and an online retail company.
The first hotel was the Southpoint Casino and Hotel, which is on the outskirts of Vegas. I called the front desk to ask for a late checkout one morning because I had barely slept the night before because of a report I was working on and a scratchy throat was in the making.
Despite re-emphasizing the fact that I was feeling sick and reminding her that it was in the middle of the week during a non-busy time with no major conventions on, she gave me the standard late check out. I requested another hour which she not only refused but did so gleefully, in that tone that makes you feel not just bad about asking, but inferior because of the power she commanded in our exchange.
Erica's refusal to grant another hour under the circumstances, which cost the company ZERO, led to my immediate disatisfaction with the hotel (remember I was feeling ill when I called). What a price to pay given that I'm a frequent traveler who will share that experience with hundreds. What was she thinking? Isn't it common sense?
After getting nowhere despite two calls to her directly, I tried another avenue and ended with Joanne. Have a listen to this dialogue:
Me: Joanne, I'm feeling a little under the weather, have a scratchy throat and barely slept last night - what can you do about a late check out?
Joanne: I'm so sorry to hear that you're not feeling well. What time would you like the check out for? Would 3 pm work? If so, I'll call down and let them know and you'll be all set. And, let me know if there's anything we can bring up for you to make you feel better.
HUH? Is this the same hotel and casino?
My question to you is this: How many Joannes do you have working in your organization and how many Ericas do you have? If you don't know, FIND OUT and weed out the Ericas and make sure you only hire Joannes.
This isn't rocket science folks. There is CLEAR ROI in your employees creating stress for your customers and creating a negative memory or turning all your customers into queens. Joanne made me feel like a "queen" in one sentence. ONE SENTENCE is all it took.
And if you're not sure what the ROI is from an attitude that makes customers feel like queens and kings, look at the books and success of Zappos and Tasca Ford (who became the top Ford dealership in the world). Both companies built their entire vision statement around exceptional customer service.....real customer service, where each customer leaves the experience (whatever that experience may be), feeling like a king or a queen.
I repeat: how many Ericas do you have and how many Joannes do you have? And, what are you going to do to ensure you have all Joannes in your organization? (this applies to start-ups and established companies).
Speaking of Zappos, I finally went on the Zappos tour during this last trip to Vegas. They walk their talk folks......inside and outside Zappos' headquarters walls.
Tony Hsieh's book Delivering Happiness is more than inspiring. Using his model to make customer service a core priority would dramatically change our experiences with stores, restaurants, vendors, hotels and retail outlets, every single day.
The passion and energy of the employees is addictive. I shot two videos on-site last week: the folks who work inside the Zappos Blog Bus and the head of the call center group. Not surprising, they're all Joannes.
It doesn't end there. I was invited to the Zappos holiday party and while I know Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, the customer service employee who invited me did not know I had any Zappos connection.
While I was at their offices, I was running around shooting "shoes" of all things and when one of the employees saw my passion for shooting "all things shoes," he pulled out his 1920s rogues. After hearing my enthusiasm and learning that I used to spend a lot of time swing dancing, he invited me to their annual bash.
But, it doesn't end there. Two employees hand delivered the tickets to my hotel, but they didn't just drop them off at the concierge or valet. As soon as they got close, they called my cell and said, "hey, meet us downstairs at valet.....we'll be in this fun colorful truck that says Zappos along the side."
Their addictive enthusiasm and "happiness" was so intoxicating that despite the fact that I had not yet showered, I flew down to meet them. How do you think they made me feel? Like a queen.
(Photo to the right is Jeni (aka @spoiledtraveler) and I in full 1920s Gangster and flapper attire at the official Zappos holiday bash, both feeling like queens of course.
Forward wind to a fabulous sandwich shop that I walked into on my way out to Red Rock National Park, about 30 minutes outside Las Vegas. I'm not much of a sandwich person frankly so was on the look out for a sushi or salad shop. Nestled between a Chinese take-out and a Mexican taco cafe was a sign I didn't recognize called Capriottis.
Little did I know that the franchise was fairly well known in greater Las Vegas and they had won awards for their killer turkey sandwiches. When I walked in, I said, "Hey guys, I'm not sure I am in the mood for a sandwich so I'm just going to have a quick look at your menu, cool?"
"We've got chicken," he says with the same enthusiasm, so I begin to look at the menu more closely and sure enough, they have chicken, roast beef, turkey, vegetarian, tuna, prosciutini Italian, eggplant, burgers, meatballs and more.
They also have their infamous Cran-Slam Club, which includes homemade turkey with cranberry sauce, ham, mayo and lettuce.
I opted for the Cole Turkey with cranberry sauce and just to assure that I was happy with my selection, Corey cut off a sample I could eat while I was waiting. They then helped me with directions and were so enthusiastic and passionate about Capriottis, I had to ask them to pose. Shooting them and later eating my sandwich in my rental convertible heading out to Red Rock, added happiness and joy to my entire day, not just the 20 minutes I was in their shop.
What's the ROI of that experience? What's the ROI of people like Corey and Joanne and Tony, Zach, Jerry, Jamie and Randy from Zappos? The ROI is a repeat customer for life, a company evangelist for life, a testimonial for life and someone who will continuously send referrals their way, for life.
And, most of the time, the customer isn't asking for much when they're dissatisfied, but they are asking for respect and to be heard. Have you ever heard the phrase, how you show up for anything is how you show up for everything? I bet that the Joannes and Coreys of the world have many more fulfilling relationships in other areas of their lives too.
Now meet David, who is the Manager of Fox Rental Car just outside the Las Vegas airport. I was late returning the car (by two hours beyond my grace period....largely due to getting lost in the desert), and seeing that I was flustered yet thrilled to finally get the car back, he doesn't question, he doesn't dig for more details to my story, he simply listens quietly and then says, "I'll take off the additional charges so relax, don't worry, you're all set."
David runs the contract in for me to make modifications so I don't have to do a thing and helps me with my luggage, so again, I don't have to do a thing. How do you think I felt at that moment? Like a queen of course. I later learn that his wife is applying for a job at Zappos. Why am I not surprised?
Finally, meet Willy, a bell man at the Flamingo Casino and Hotel along the Las Vegas strip. When I arrived, I changed rooms twice, the first time because the room was on top of the ice machine and elevator when I specifically asked to be far away from both in my reservation request.
The second move was because they moved me to a much older room that was renovated over a decade ago, and because the floor was so soiled and dirty, that they really should either use a throw rug in that room, or replace it, because it was beyond acceptable and likely not past sanitary standards. The light switch in the bathroom looked as if it hadn't been cleaned in months.
Willy was the bell man sent to my room to deliver my luggage and he patiently waited while I was on the phone, with one big calming smile. When I finished with the front desk, he made me feel heard, understood and said he'd wait until I was sorted out, saying at this point, I should be upgraded to something at a level above my original reservation under the circumstances.
With the Flamingo for ten years, he has a history with the hotel and with both frustrated and happy customers. After getting moved to a room that was still an older refurbished room (the third try), I was too exhausted to say anything at this point.
At least the carpet was passable and there was a couch so I could work. The bottom line is this: what do I remember from that entire frustrating and uncomfortable experience where two hours of my time were lost and I was late for a meeting? Willy of course. He returns ten minutes later with my new keys and then says with a smile, let me know if you need anything else, extra blankets, or other amenities.
This memory too, will last a lifetime.
Attention Managers, Directors, CEOs, CMOs and CFOs: do you really need stories in this granular detail to learn that your companies are in severe pain if you don't have a team on board that only consists of Joannes, Willies, Coreys, Davids and Zappos' superstars?
January 12, 2011
Soundbites for Success: Boldness Has Genius, Power & Magic
In the spirit of inspiration for the new year, here are a few soundbites I found useful, from the Marketing Society Annual Conference I attended last month.
Be bold. “Boldness has genius, power and magic” – Goethe.
"Go global. UK products are good. UK prices are good (due to the weakness of the £). Go and find customers. BRIC is the big opportunity." Dennis Turner, Chief Economist, HSBC.
N.B. According to George Osborne (who looks like a boy on his gap year according to Dennis) we currently export more to the Republic of Ireland than the BRIC market combined. So the opportunity is huge.
Matthew Pinsent’s top tips for success:
Give honest feedback
No good leaving criticism until it’s too late.
"It’s not the big that eat the small it’s the fast that eat the slow." Damon Buffini, Permira.
"Do the right thing for the customer and align the business behind this." Damon Buffini, Permira.
"Stand out in a crowd." James Averdieck, Gu.
"Start with a great product." James Averdieck, Gu.
"Don’t forget to promote a positive post purchase experience. People can forget why they made the decision, particularly if they are buying the product on behalf of someone else." James Averdieck, Gu.
"Obsess about the detail and the customer experience." Mark Price, Waitrose.
“Hire someone brilliant.” Martha Lane Fox.
January 10, 2011
Advantages to Storytelling
Two nice stories - short and sweet but well worth re-telling - from the Marketing Society Annual Members Conference, 2010.
Seeing is believing!
James Averdieck, formerly of Proctor and Gamble, prevaricated for a long time before he started a company to make the sort of chocolate pudding he only ever found in Europe. Finally, spurred on by family and friends, he made the leap. He left P&G. He perfected the product and then briefed a design agency to come up with the packaging for him.
At his second meeting with the design agency they told him that they had bad news. During their research for the packaging they’d discovered a chocolate pudding, manufactured by a Swedish company called Gu. It was already on the market and selling really well. They put the packaging on the table in front of him. He nearly cried. 2 years’ work down the pan. His dream in ashes...
"Cheer up James," they said. "We’re kidding. It’s your product. It’s your brand."
Gu was born. They now are the go to brand for squishy chocolate pudding products and sell into Waitrose et al with a £20 million turnover.
It’s a lovely story of how to sell creative work.
Customer care, no matter the customer
The same James Averdieck, now Founder and Managing Director of Gu Chocolate Puddings Ltd, has a dog called Willoughby. The children love him. Even James is quite fond of him. But they were going on holiday and Willoughby had to go into kennels. The children were very upset.
James chose a kennel called Dog Holidays – because he thought it was clever that, by changing the term, they’d changed the owner experience from ‘guilt’ to ‘here’s something that makes me feel better’.
They lived up to their name. When Willoughly arrived they made sure they knew where he liked being scratched. And after they got back they emailed him a picture of Willoughby’s holiday – a shot of Willoughby and his new friend Patch going for a walk together. Their repeat purchase is assured.
Now who says clever marketing stuff doesn’t work?