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Branding Revolution: Earn Readership On Owned Media

Daniel Newman

click here representing owned mediaThere is much debate today as to whether or not the end of the corporate website is near, or perhaps has already come.

Global brand leaders like Coca Cola, IBM, American Express and so many more have turned their attention to building communities based upon providing useful information, engagement and building a sense of community for visitors that has never been felt on a traditional corporate website.

Nowadays readers have so many options and their first destination is rarely a branded site, unless of course we are talking Google or to a lesser extent Bing. According to one study more than 74% of people turn to Google to start their information gathering. By the time you add in a few lesser-used search engines it is hard to believe that 80+ percent of people don’t hit search first. Meaning that less than 1 in 5 people immediately go to a defined URL.

Ultimately where the user ends up going will be the first few search results. According to a Search Engine Watch study 84% of people will wind up clicking on the first five links meaning that you are pretty much dead in the water if your formula for site traffic depends on being in the top 5 of any competitive keyword search (or any search for that matter)

First Click on Search

Courtesy: Search Engine Watch

With web content being pumped out at an unimaginable pace, leading the glut of information to double every 9 to 24 months (depending on which study you read) it is becoming increasingly clear that there is no shortage of destinations on the internet for consumers to gather their information, begging the question:

Why on earth would anyone want to read, watch or otherwise consume your content?

As a brand, the majority of the content produced on most owned media is brand favorable if not pure advertisement. Although brands are becoming increasingly creative in their native efforts, consumers are following suit as they have become more capable than ever of spotting out an ad. This is putting immense pressure on brand marketers to create content that the reader would want to consume. I don’t envy these marketers one bit as they are competing with the traditional competitive forces but now also forces they don’t even know exist.

The extraordinary amount of content coupled with the increasingly short attention span of consumers needs to drive brands to start asking themselves an old question in a new way:

In a world where search, social and content are changing at breakneck speeds, how do we put more eyeballs on our brand content?

What smart brands are doing to earn readership

The brands that are rising above the noise in the cluttered digital universe are doing something that most brands simply haven’t figured out yet.

They are building an eco-system for their consumers that drives not just readership, but activates a sense of brand advocacy that keeps them coming back.

A great case study for doing the paid, owned, earned strategy well is American Express and their “Open Forum” project. Back when they started they identified that 60% of their target clients, (note target) which were comprised of small and midsize companies found the new world of social media challenging and therefore only 13% of their businesses were leveraging social in their strategies. Based upon these findings American Express Open Forum was created based upon the opportunity to educate their ideal clients on this topic. Later the community became far more expansive to cover many of the topics that kept small business owners up at night.

Amex Open Forum While only one example, American Express Open Forum has paved the way to a new kind of online brand community that builds loyalty and readership through delivering utility such as timely information and thought leadership to those they “Hope” to serve in the future.

From that utility an almost unbreakable bond is formed between the consumer and the brand that not only keeps them coming back for more, rather building an advocacy that will lead them to bring others with them. This is founded in a brand that truly seeks to not only win a click, but to win your heart for the long term.

In the end, the result that American Express sought for you to investigate becoming a cardholder, or expand upon an existing relationship. But they realized that the desired end result would happen more often if they could connect with their customers on a deeper level.

Companies like American Express were the early adopters, but other global leaders like Coca Cola, IBM and SAP are all doing similar things by aligning their online efforts in lockstep with the buyer’s journey so instead of the old school brand site that reads:

“Hi, buy something from us, and if you really want to you can dig deeper and learn about us too, but we would really rather just start selling you something right now”

Instead the smartest brands are saying:

“Come hang out with us and learn all about the things you most need to know about to run your business. If you don’t like what we are teaching, feel free to leave, but we think you will and we really hope to earn your support in the long run, and if we are really lucky you will tell your friends!”

Community drives social activation which brings readers to your door

Today nothing drives your content up the search rankings faster than Social and guess what the traffic it is generating to websites is growing at an astounding rate as well.

In 2013, referral traffic from Social Media to top publishers on the web grew at a rate of more than 54% and while only about 15% of the traffic referred to sites was based on social referrals, the growth is a leading indicator of what is to come.

Social Referrals On The RiseAs consumers who are highly influenced by those in our network, we tend to seek out sites to gain our information from those we know and trust. Once we find a source of information that we really believe in we tend to consume more, stay on the website longer and share the content with our friends predominantly using social media.

Whether the corporate website as we know it is dead or not is to be determined. What we do know for sure is that the way people are finding information, connecting and engaging with brands and ultimately recommending and sharing with others is shifting the way brands need to approach their owned media strategy.

It is no longer reasonable to expect consumers to find your site and be satisfied with a heavy dose of “The hard sell.”

The future is here and brands need to take note that eyeballs will be reserved for brands that deliver real value to the reader or they will merely take the ever shrinking content consumption budget someplace else.

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About Daniel Newman

Daniel Newman serves as the Co-Founder and CEO of EC3, a quickly growing hosted IT and Communication service provider. Prior to this role Daniel has held several prominent leadership roles including serving as CEO of United Visual. Parent company to United Visual Systems, United Visual Productions, and United GlobalComm; a family of companies focused on Visual Communications and Audio Visual Technologies. Daniel is also widely published and active in the Social Media Community. He is the Author of Amazon Best Selling Business Book "The Millennial CEO." Daniel also Co-Founded the Global online Community 12 Most and was recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the 100 Business and Leadership Accounts to Follow on Twitter. Newman is an Adjunct Professor of Management at North Central College. He attained his undergraduate degree in Marketing at Northern Illinois University and an Executive MBA from North Central College in Naperville, IL. Newman currently resides in Aurora, Illinois with his wife (Lisa) and his two daughters (Hailey 9, Avery 5). A Chicago native all of his life, Newman is an avid golfer, a fitness fan, and a classically trained pianist

Amazing Digital Marketing Trends And Tips To Expand Your Business In 2015

Sunny Popali

Amazing Digital Marketing Trends & Tips To Expand Your Business In 2015The fast-paced world of digital marketing is changing too quickly for most companies to adapt. But staying up to date with the latest industry trends is imperative for anyone involved with expanding a business.

Here are five trends that have shaped the industry this year and that will become more important as we move forward:

  1. Email marketing will need to become smarter

Whether you like it or not, email is the most ubiquitous tool online. Everyone has it, and utilizing it properly can push your marketing ahead of your rivals. Because business use of email is still very widespread, you need to get smarter about email marketing in order to fully realize your business’s marketing strategy. Luckily, there are a number of tools that can help you market more effectively, such as Mailchimp.

  1. Content marketing will become integrated and more valuable

Content is king, and it seems to be getting more important every day. Google and other search engines are focusing more on the content you create as the potential of the online world as marketing tool becomes apparent. Now there seems to be a push for current, relevant content that you can use for your services and promote your business.

Staying fresh with the content you provide is almost as important as ensuring high-quality content. Customers will pay more attention if your content is relevant and timely.

  1. Mobile assets and paid social media are more important than ever

It’s no secret that mobile is key to your marketing efforts. More mobile devices are sold and more people are reading content on mobile screens than ever before, so it is crucial to your overall strategy to have mobile marketing expertise on your team. London-based Abacus Marketing agrees that mobile marketing could overtake desktop website marketing in just a few years.

  1. Big Data for personalization plays a key role

Marketers are increasingly using Big Data to get their brand message out to the public in a more personalized format. One obvious example is Google Trend analysis, a highly useful tool that marketing experts use to obtain the latest on what is trending around the world. You can — and should — use it in your business marketing efforts. Big Data will also let you offer specific content to buyers who are more likely to look for certain items, for example, and offer personalized deals to specific groups of within your customer base. Other tools, which until recently were the stuff of science fiction, are also available that let you do things like use predictive analysis to score leads.

  1. Visual media matters

A picture really is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, and nobody can deny the effectiveness of a well-designed infographic. In fact, some studies suggest that Millennials are particularly attracted to content with great visuals. Animated gifs and colorful bar graphs have even found their way into heavy-duty financial reports, so why not give them a try in your business marketing efforts?

A few more tips:

  • Always keep your content relevant and current to attract the attention of your target audience.
  • Always keep all your social media and public accounts fresh. Don’t use old content or outdated pictures in any public forum.
  • Your reviews are a proxy for your online reputation, so pay careful attention to them.
  • Much online content is being consumed on mobile now, so focus specifically on the design and usability of your mobile apps.
  • Online marketing is essentially geared towards getting more traffic onto your site. The more people visit, the better your chances of increasing sales.

Want more insight on how digital marketing is evolving? See Shutterstock Report: The Face Of Marketing Is Changing — And It Doesn’t Include Vince Vaughn.

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About Sunny Popali

Sunny Popali is SEO Director at www.tempocreative.com. Tempo Creative is a Phoenix inbound marketing company that has served over 700 clients since 2001. Tempos team specializes in digital and internet marketing services including web design, SEO, social media and strategy.

Social Media Matters: 6 Content And Social Media Trend Predictions For 2016 [INFOGRAPHIC]

Julie Ellis

As 2015 winds down, it’s time to look forward to 2016 and explore the social media and content marketing trends that will impact marketing strategies over the next 15 months or so.

Some of the upcoming trends simply indicate an intensification of current trends, however others indicate that there are new things that will have a big impact in 2016.

Take a look at a few trends that should definitely factor in your planning for 2016.

1. SEO will focus more on social media platforms and less on search engines

Clearly Google is going nowhere. In fact, in 2016 Google’s word will still essentially be law when it comes to search engine optimization.

However, in 2016 there will be some changes in SEO. Many of these changes will be due to the fact that users are increasingly searching for products and services directly from websites such as Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

There are two reasons for this shift in customer habits:

  • Customers are relying more and more on customer comments, feedback, and reviews before making purchasing decisions. This means that they are most likely to search directly on platforms where they can find that information.
  • Customers who are seeking information about products and services feel that video- and image-based content is more trustworthy.

2. The need to optimize for mobile and touchscreens will intensify

Consumers are using their mobile devices and tablets for the following tasks at a sharply increasing rate:

  • Sending and receiving emails and messages
  • Making purchases
  • Researching products and services
  • Watching videos
  • Reading or writing reviews and comments
  • Obtaining driving directions and using navigation apps
  • Visiting news and entertainment websites
  • Using social media

Most marketers would be hard-pressed to look at this list and see any case for continuing to avoid mobile and touchscreen optimization. Yet, for some reason many companies still see mobile optimization as something that is nice to do, but not urgent.

This lack of a sense of urgency seemingly ignores the fact that more than 80% of the highest growing group of consumers indicate that it is highly important that retailers provide mobile apps that work well. According to the same study, nearly 90% of Millennials believe that there are a large number of websites that have not done a very good job of optimizing for mobile.

3. Content marketing will move to edgier social media platforms

Platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat weren’t considered to be valid targets for mainstream content marketing efforts until now.

This is because they were considered to be too unproven and too “on the fringe” to warrant the time and marketing budget investments, when platforms such as Facebook and YouTube were so popular and had proven track records when it came to content marketing opportunity and success.

However, now that Instagram is enjoying such tremendous growth, and is opening up advertising opportunities to businesses beyond its brand partners, it (along with other platforms) will be seen as more and more viable in 2016.

4. Facebook will remain a strong player, but the demographic of the average user will age

In 2016, Facebook will likely remain the flagship social media website when it comes to sharing and promoting content, engaging with customers, and increasing Internet recognition.

However, it will become less and less possible to ignore the fact that younger consumers are moving away from the platform as their primary source of online social interaction and content consumption. Some companies may be able to maintain status quo for 2016 without feeling any negative impacts.

However, others may need to rethink their content marketing strategies for 2016 to take these shifts into account. Depending on their branding and the products or services that they offer, some companies may be able to profit from these changes by customizing the content that they promote on Facebook for an older demographic.

5. Content production must reflect quality and variety

  • Both B2B and B2C buyers value video based content over text based content.
  • While some curated content is a good thing, consumers believe that custom content is an indication that a company wishes to create a relationship with them.
  • The great majority of these same consumers report that customized content is useful for them.
  • B2B customers prefer learning about products and services through content as opposed to paid advertising.
  • Consumers believe that videos are more trustworthy forms of content than text.

Here is a great infographic depicting the importance of video in content marketing efforts:
Small Business Video infographic

A final, very important thing to note when considering content trends for 2016 is the decreasing value of the keyword as a way of optimizing content. In fact, in an effort to crack down on keyword stuffing, Google’s optimization rules have been updated to to kick offending sites out of prime SERP positions.

6. Oculus Rift will create significant changes in customer engagement

Oculus Rift is not likely to offer much to marketers in 2016. After all, it isn’t expected to ship to consumers until the first quarter. However, what Oculus Rift will do is influence the decisions that marketers make when it comes to creating customer interaction.

For example, companies that have not yet embraced storytelling may want to make 2016 the year that they do just that, because later in 2016 Oculus Rift may be the platform that their competitors will be using to tell stories while giving consumers a 360-degree vantage point.

For a deeper dive on engaging with customers through storytelling, see Brand Storytelling: Where Humanity Takes Center Stage.

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About Julie Ellis

Julie Ellis – marketer and professional blogger, writes about social media, education, self-improvement, marketing and psychology. To contact Julie follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

How Emotionally Aware Computing Can Bring Happiness to Your Organization

Christopher Koch


Do you feel me?

Just as once-novel voice recognition technology is now a ubiquitous part of human–machine relationships, so too could mood recognition technology (aka “affective computing”) soon pervade digital interactions.

Through the application of machine learning, Big Data inputs, image recognition, sensors, and in some cases robotics, artificially intelligent systems hunt for affective clues: widened eyes, quickened speech, and crossed arms, as well as heart rate or skin changes.




Emotions are big business

The global affective computing market is estimated to grow from just over US$9.3 billion a year in 2015 to more than $42.5 billion by 2020.

Source: “Affective Computing Market 2015 – Technology, Software, Hardware, Vertical, & Regional Forecasts to 2020 for the $42 Billion Industry” (Research and Markets, 2015)

Customer experience is the sweet spot

Forrester found that emotion was the number-one factor in determining customer loyalty in 17 out of the 18 industries it surveyed – far more important than the ease or effectiveness of customers’ interactions with a company.


Source: “You Can’t Afford to Overlook Your Customers’ Emotional Experience” (Forrester, 2015)


Humana gets an emotional clue

Source: “Artificial Intelligence Helps Humana Avoid Call Center Meltdowns” (The Wall Street Journal, October 27, 2016)

Insurer Humana uses artificial intelligence software that can detect conversational cues to guide call-center workers through difficult customer calls. The system recognizes that a steady rise in the pitch of a customer’s voice or instances of agent and customer talking over one another are causes for concern.

The system has led to hard results: Humana says it has seen an 28% improvement in customer satisfaction, a 63% improvement in agent engagement, and a 6% improvement in first-contact resolution.


Spread happiness across the organization

Source: “Happiness and Productivity” (University of Warwick, February 10, 2014)

Employers could monitor employee moods to make organizational adjustments that increase productivity, effectiveness, and satisfaction. Happy employees are around 12% more productive.




Walking on emotional eggshells

Whether customers and employees will be comfortable having their emotions logged and broadcast by companies is an open question. Customers may find some uses of affective computing creepy or, worse, predatory. Be sure to get their permission.


Other limiting factors

The availability of the data required to infer a person’s emotional state is still limited. Further, it can be difficult to capture all the physical cues that may be relevant to an interaction, such as facial expression, tone of voice, or posture.



Get a head start


Discover the data

Companies should determine what inferences about mental states they want the system to make and how accurately those inferences can be made using the inputs available.


Work with IT

Involve IT and engineering groups to figure out the challenges of integrating with existing systems for collecting, assimilating, and analyzing large volumes of emotional data.


Consider the complexity

Some emotions may be more difficult to discern or respond to. Context is also key. An emotionally aware machine would need to respond differently to frustration in a user in an educational setting than to frustration in a user in a vehicle.

 


 

download arrowTo learn more about how affective computing can help your organization, read the feature story Empathy: The Killer App for Artificial Intelligence.


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About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is the Editorial Director of the SAP Center for Business Insight. He is an experienced publishing professional, researcher, editor, and writer in business, technology, and B2B marketing. Share your thoughts with Chris on Twitter @Ckochster.

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Enterprise Information Management: The Foundational Core Of Digital Transformation Success

Paul Lewis

The definition and implementation of digital transformation has become so muddled that no two organizations are focusing on the same strategies and initiatives. Many companies choose to engage in e-commerce and social media to extend their customer base with engaging, personalized, and round-the-clock shopping experiences. Some eye operational efficiencies through the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence. And a growing segment is enticed by game-changing insights from analytics and social sentiments.

No matter the digital strategy, data is the foundation of all of these efforts. The customer experience is about understanding clients and offering services that answer their needs. Decision making requires stored knowledge that can be easily shared, secured, and applied. Operational excellence runs on meaningful insight that drives performance and keeps workers safe.

In digital transformation, every change relies on converting data into actionable decisions. According to Capgemini, companies that act on an enterprise information management (EIM) strategy outperform their rivals by as much as 26%.

The EIM difference in digital transformation

A data point by itself may seem unrelated and inconsequential. But when enterprise data is united and managed as one asset, decision makers finally have trusted, complete, and relevant information they need to seize opportunities and avoid risks that were previously hidden in the background.

One of my clients, Pravine Balkaran, global head of IT at Spin Master, one of the world’s largest toy and media entertainment companies, said it best: “It’s about being able to apply standardization and automation to the entire ecosystem to bring value and move the business forward.”

EIM derives new value by incorporating the traditional functions of data, including business intelligence, data science, analytics, data storage and archiving, data stewardship, and data mobility technology. The more data added, the more valuable the ecosystem becomes – without the complexity commonly experienced when searching for potentially valuable data across a diverse set of existing applications.

By applying EIM to the core of its digital strategy, companies like Spin Master are capturing and coalescing data from a variety of sources and turning it into actionable information to drive better decision making, innovate new products, enter new markets, and encourage a more responsive customer experience.

The EIM road map towards rapid creation of new value

Now for the hard part: Putting EIM into action and at the center of your digital transformation business strategy. There are five things you should do now before moving to a more digitalized and data-driven way of doing business.

1. Inventory available information

Most companies believe that their data resides in core databases and a data model of known entities such as claims, transactions, vendors, and suppliers. Although this is a widely used approach to determining the class of your information, it is only a small part of what you actually own. Structured, unstructured, and semi-structured data; log files; conversations; customer sentiment; and real-time information from suppliers and vendors, for example, should be integrated as part of the overall EIM philosophy.

2. Classify your inventory

Data typically can be classified with one or more of these six attributes:

  • Real-time, streaming data, which potentially comes from machines
  • Static data from production databases
  • Valuable data in real time once stored
  • Realizes value over time and as it changes
  • Relevant to a particular government mandate or legislative concern
  • Objective and relative importance to divisions of the overall enterprise, including customers and the business network

With this exercise, you can begin to understand the function that each data point serves and its usefulness in the future.

3. Encourage the business culture to appreciate the value of discovery

Data-driven decision making is not based on blind faith that data always tells the right story. Rather, it is asking the right questions, and knowing how to dig deep into the data helps us make the connections we need to get an accurate picture of the current situation. Once you discover those nuggets of insight gold, data science and advanced analytics can be applied to pinpoint the appropriate solution. Later, you can leverage data visualization tools to communicate findings and proposed action in a format that is quick and easy for all levels of the enterprise to consume.

4. Shift your focus from yesterday to today and beyond

Traditionally, data analysis is an exercise of looking backward to determine the how, what, when, and why an event happened. However, the pace of change in every aspect of the business has accelerated so much, that it’s rendered this retrospective approach to analytics nearly useless. Real-time access to data allows decision makers to know what’s happening in the moment and how it will impact the future to seize opportunities and mitigate risks.

The path to digital transformation is paved with data

The volume of data generated by people across the entire business network – from employee to consumer and everyone in between – represents a veritable trove of information, insights, and inspiration for innovation. But first, companies need to know where to find this data and how to best apply it to everyday decision making. With EIM, data can be broken down and reassembled into a manageable form that is meaningful, outcome-driven, and transformational.

Learn more about how to uncover Data – The Hidden Treasure Inside Your Business.

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Paul Lewis

About Paul Lewis

Paul Lewis is the Chief Technology Officer in Hitachi for the Americas, responsible for the leading technology trend mastery and evangelism, client executive advocacy, and external delivery of the Hitachi vision and strategy especially related to digital transformation and social innovation. Additionally, Paul contributes to field enablement of data intelligence and analytics; interprets and translates complex technology trends including cloud, mobility, governance, and information management; and represents the Americas region in the Global Technology Office, the Hitachi LTD R&D division. In his role of trusted advisor to the CIO community, Paul’s explicit goal is to ensure clients’ problems are solved and opportunities realized. Paul can be found at his blog, on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.