advertising, campaigns, communication, conversations, digital, how to, measurement, social media

Marketers, Rethink What Your #SocialMedia Should Be Doing

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Sound familiar?

For the longest time, marketers have had the wrong expectations from social media.

I’ve spent years, both on the agency side and the client side, hearing about the need to “educate”, “drive engagement”, “sell”, “build awareness”, “drive traffic” and other such goals. All devised with the intention of “moving the needle”.

To be fair, I’ve been part of the problem, pitching these expectations to clients. And at this point, I’m willing to go out a limb and suggest that I’ve been mistaken.

When marketers write an integrated communications brief, we do it with an end goal in mind:

  • Increase usage by x points over the course of the year
  • Sell y units by the end of the quarter
  • Convince z people to sign up for the programme
  • And so on.

The error we make is the assumption that (organic) social media can have an outsized impact on these ROI/revenue-driven goals the way that paid media does.

Why is this assumption an error?

As of 30 June 2016, India’s Internet-going audience was estimated at about 462M users. This is roughly 37% of India’s population.

Here are the reach figures for the top 3 social networks in India.

  1. Facebook: 161M (Source: Facebook Ads Manager)
  2. LinkedIn: 35M (Source: Statista.com)
  3. Twitter: 23.2M (Source: Statista.com)
  4. Instagram: 16M (Source: Napoleoncat.com)

It’s fair to assume that everyone with a LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram profile is also on Facebook. So, the size of India’s social media population is 161M. This works out to 35% of India’s Internet population and 13% of India’s overall population.

We also know that, courtesy algorithms, current Facebook organic reach for pages with over 50,000 followers is at a mere 1%. Or even less for pages with high fan following. This article dated June 2016 pegs it at 2% and declining fast, towards zero. Facebook will also cut organic reach for posts that they deem too promotional.

So, here’s best case scenario for a brand with 18M fans on Facebook, assuming no further decline in reach:

The absolute maximum reach a single Facebook post can get is 1% of 18M = 0.18M = 0.000144% of India’s population. Assume that a brand creates 5 organic posts a day, each of which reaches a different audience (which we know is not true), you get to about 0.9M people a day. Or a mere 0.00072% of India’s population.

With figures like this, there is absolutely no way organic social media content can move the needle on ROI/revenue goals at scale for large brands.

So what should the end goal of social media be?

Let’s remind ourselves that social media is not a place people visit to shop. They’re here to kill time. To be distracted. To be entertained. To see what’s going on in the world at large. To share stuff that helps them build the image they want for themselves.

It’s true. People share things that help them appear interesting, knowledgeable, opinionated, concerned, trendy, cool, fashionable, successful, happy, and so on. Things that they subconsciously believe will raise their esteem in the eyes of their networks. Every analysis I’ve ever read points out different things that people share, and different reasons. The common thread uniting them all: the not-so-latent need for everyone to be seen in a very positive light by their peers.

This is where we marketers have a chance. Because, among all the other things people post to boost their image, are the products and services they use; the useful products and services they want to tell their networks about; and the brands they feel suit the image they want to create for themselves.

If we can create content that builds both brands – ours, and the user’s – we have found a recipe for social sharing, a recipe for starting positive conversations about our brand.

A recipe for brand love and advocacy.

Which, of course, has a knock-on effect on sales and revenue.

And that, grasshopper, is what we should orient our social media towards.

 

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digital

Digital Marketing: Educating The Evangelists

digital-education

Digital marketing has come a long way since 2009, the year I was seduced by the Digital Side of the Force.

Awareness has increased dramatically. Agencies, publishers, media houses and ad networks are all working to educate advertisers about digital marketing.

And digital marketing is the first port of call for India’s burgeoning startup industry.

But for some reason, digital spends are yet to cross 10% of India’s total ad spends.

More and more, I’m beginning to believe that we need to swim upstream (thank you, Dave Trott) to solve this problem.

And, looking upstream, I feel the problem lies with the talent pool the digital marketing industry taps into: it’s too small, and not educated enough.

Every single one of us that moved into digital marketing from mainline learnt the same way — on our own, and on the job. Devouring all the content we could find; experimenting with design, UI and UX; testing and retesting content strategies on social media; and never believing we knew enough.

Because of the rapidly changing nature of technology, what we learnt last year is obsolete this year. Even today, I find it difficult to identify courses that could broaden my understanding of our industry.

The challenge is great…and so is the opportunity. Senior industry folk suggest that digital marketing education is a multi-hundred-million-dollar industry just waiting to happen.

It’s time educational institutions retool their curricula to focus on digital marketing. Working independently, as well as with industry stakeholders. They’re also going to need to constantly refresh their curricula to keep in tune with changing trends.

I know some institutes have begun to do this. Before I moved to Gurgaon, I used to visit the Northpoint Institute of Learning regularly for sessions on digital marketing. They’ve since added a Digital Marketing specialisation to their Post-Graduate Programme, and I’m proud to say that I consulted with them on planning that.

I’m yet to see institutes like SIMC and MICA adopt such programmes. And if any of their management is reading this, you should know that the lack of well-trained graduates is hurting us.

It’s not just new graduates that need the education. There’s a huge amount of room for executives in ad agencies, media agencies and marketing teams to learn more about digital marketing.

Because until these young professionals have the education, the industry won’t have the evangelists it needs.


The good folks at Udemy, one of the world’s most popular online education platforms, have an offer for readers of What Is An Insight?

The first 50 people to sign up for their Online Marketing Crash Course and use the coupon code WHATISANINSIGHT will get the entire course free.

The course itself seems pretty robust, covering everything from the basics to engagement, social media, content strategies, blogging and analytics. I think it’s also useful for small-business owners looking to get started with digital marketing. Sign up for the course here.

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design, digital, india, industry, ux

What I’ve Learned About Digital Design In 2015

digital-design

won’t bore you with a deep introduction talking about how technology is shaping an emerging India. We’re all familiar with the startup explosion, the firestorm that is social media and the inexorable rise of digital marketing. We’ve all been part of the smartphone revolution and the emergence of the app economy. So I’m not going to bore you with details of those.

Instead, I’m going to try and articulate some key principles that could help you while designing for Indian audiences. Principles that could help shape the next website or app you design.

And, just because Star Wars — The Force Awakens is out in theatres, I’m going to do this in the key of R2.

Come back to the Light Side, father!

Functionality is a great thing. But more functionality means a heavier app. Not the greatest idea for a country where a majority of smartphones offer between 4 and 16GB of internal storage. And what’s the first casualty when users run out of space? Apps! The same holds true of heavy websites that invade and occupy users’ caches faster than Darth Vader could occupy Cloud City. So, put your code on a crash diet and build light.

Corollary: To do…or to do not? (There is no try!)

Sometimes, the best way to make sure users don’t uninstall your app when they run out of space is to…not build an app at all! Not every app can fulfill needs that are daily or monthly needs. A beautiful, feature-rich mobile website (like the one Flipkart just built with Google, #shamelessplug) will often serve you better.

Take their hyperdrive offline, Commander!

India’s mobile infrastructure is like a Stormtrooper’s aim — kinda spotty. In an environment of fluctuating mobile connectivity, it’s increasingly critical that some core aspects of your app work offline. And reconnect automatically upon detecting a connection.

Leave the feasting to the Sarlacc

You know what users hate more than smugglers who drop their shipments at the first sign of an Imperial cruiser? Apps and sites that feast on data. Just yesterday, I counted 4 rich ad units above the fold on a news site (which serves as many as 11 units on its desktop home page). Not to mention the horde of images that slow down loading time and swallow data packs whole. This in a country with some of the highest Internet costs. Enough said, I think.

Chewbacca had the right idea

Technology is changing rapidly. It’s critical you keep up. Keep tinkering. Optimise everything, from UI to page load times to CTAs. You never know when a small fix could help you win your own Battle of Endor.

Never underestimate the Ewok

Small can be beautiful. Only a fraction of your eventual users probably have the kind of screen real estate you do. And new formats — wearables, cars, to name two — are shrinking traditional screens even further. Design to deliver a beautiful experience across screen sizes.

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campaigns, digital, how to, technology, trend

Remarketing: From Stalking To Smart

If you haven’t been through the experience of searching for a product or service and then being served ads all over the web for the same product or service, then this is probably your first day online. Welcome to the Internet. There’s a lot more than porn here.

Jokes apart. The way marketers currently use cookie- or sign-in-based ad remarketing makes most users feel like they’re being shadowed. Like their every move is being tracked. Like Big Brother is watching.

For those who came in late, remarketing is the act of targeting users who have already visited your website, or clicked on an ad, or searched for a particular product or category, or interacted with you on social media, or downloaded your app.

It initially began as a really smart idea. Someone who’s interacted with you or your business’ category is more likely to be persuaded if you are able to identify them and serve them an ad based on their earlier interaction with you. It sounded like a beautiful blend of digital marketing and CRM.

And then all hell broke loose.

Here’s the greatest prank I ever heard of.

Remarketing Prank

This is exactly how remarketers work. If the user’s shown interest in spoons, let’s give him spoons. Big spoons, little spoons, silver spoons, gold spoons, plastic spoons, dessert spoons, soup spoons…

Here are some reasons why this kind of remarketing doesn’t work.

  1. It’s as close to online stalking as you can legally get.
  2. The user might have actually already bought the spoons, in which case the ad impression was wasted.
  3. The user may have had only a fleeting interest in the product or category.

So how do you make remarketing more effective?

By making it useful to your users.

Here’s one way to do that.

Suppose you let your user pick what they’re interested in. You store that information – either through a signed-in profile or a cookie or both – on that user’s browser. And then target them with ads focused on those interest categories.

At any point of time, the user can update their interest categories, making sure they’re always being served fresh, relevant ads. They can also – in the interest of privacy – choose to opt-out of this programme.

In a sense, you’re getting your users to optimise your advertising for you. And increasing your relevance to them; and, hopefully, brand equity.

Thoughts?

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digital, industry, opportunities, trend

Predicting 2014, aka What I Want To Do In 2014

The tough part about leading an agency creative team is that you have to set the direction and the vision for the work that you will do.

The great part about leading an agency creative team is that you get to set the direction and the vision for the work that you will do.

Digital marketing in India has come a long way since I defected from traditional advertising in 2009. Fewer marketers are talking about digital being the future; they’re beginning to see it as a de facto way of life. I, for one, believe we’ve entered a post-digital age, and that all marketing efforts going forward need to accept and leverage that reality.

I think we need to go beyond looking at digital as Internet and mobile. I think we have to look at digital marketing as an intersection of three worlds; and that intersection doesn’t always need to reside in the virtual world.

What Is Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is an intersection of three previously distinct worlds.

Forgive me, but I’m going to repeat three buzz-phrases you’ve been hearing for a while. They’re the absolute truth.

  • Content is the new communication. You can’t be a marketer and believe that you’ll achieve brand engagement with a 30-second TVC.
  • Data is the new oil. Because digital allows us to capture what people are actually doing, versus the focus groups that capture what people claim they’re doing.
  • Mobile is the new TV. It’s belittling to call the first screen you look at every morning, the only screen you carry wherever you go, and the last screen you look at every night a “second screen”.

The other thing we need to practice is data-driven marketing. If you’ve managed to get past information overload and get someone to actually click through to your content, you aren’t doing yourself justice if you aren’t setting up to reach that person again. Every piece of engagement that you run needs to help you understand something more about your audience.

The Marketing Circle Of Life

Marketing today isn’t scientific unless it’s driven by data.

If one understands these shifts, it’s not difficult to see where digital creativity is going in 2014. Here’s my bucket list for the year to come.

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campaigns, communication, content, creative, digital, how to

Seven Steps To Construct A Digital Campaign

Digital isn’t old enough to have theories. Or gurus.

The understanding of the medium, and how to use it to build brands, varies wildly. As a result, the planning and structure of digital campaigns is often a matter of guesswork.

The thing is, there is no single method to cracking a digital campaign. You can start with an idea, an objective, technology, data, a platform or the audience. Each method looks at the medium differently. Each method is equally correct.

Each truly great digital campaign has, however, some things in common. Let’s break those down into seven steps.

Seven steps to construct a digital campaign

The extremely complicated, ever-evolving, one-stop infographic of digital marketing.

 

Part 1: The Brief

In a medium that’s targetable, measurable and fast-evolving, writing a good brief needs to go beyond the basics.

Step 1: What do we want to say?

Nothing different from a traditional advertising brief. Have a single, clear message. If it can be differentiated from competition, excellent.

Step 2: Who is our audience and what do we know about them?

Digital allows one to segment and target by location, gender, age, browsing behaviour, interests, networks, content preferences, frequency of visits, online shopping habits, search history and much more.

Yahoo serves up over 6 billion unique versions of its home page based on this kind of segmentation and targeting.

Basically, digital allows you to put aside the bazooka and pick up a flyswatter when you have to kill a fly.

Forget the safety of numbers. Go for the effectiveness of tightly-segmented messaging.

Step 3: What do we know about their digital media habits that might help us crack this brief?

It’s time to drill down and slice-and-dice the data available to you. And it isn’t as difficult as it sounds.

Figure out where your audience is spending most of their time online. Which devices they’re using. Which browsers. What they are talking about. When. What time of day. It doesn’t sound like much, but it one well-inferred nugget can lead to a brilliant campaign.

Knowing that mums are the biggest online shoppers in India helped us plan an entire campaign for a baby brand. Knowing that most of our aspirational audience surfs the Internet on tablets helped us build a website designed for touch. Knowing the frequency of visits helped us optimise messaging on a website.

The more you know about them, the better your solutions.

Step 4: What do we want them to say, feel or do as a result of this campaign?

Traditional advertising teaches that perception influences behaviour. In digital, behaviour can influence perception.

Case in point: Many people I know perceived Twitter as a waste of time. They thought it was confusing, and wouldn’t touch it. But when pushed by friends to use it, they got hooked. They now think Twitter’s the coolest thing since sliced bread.

Behaviour influences perception.

So think smaller. Break down a large objective into more everyday tasks. For example, replace build expertise for our skincare brand with get people to visit our website every time they have a skin-related query. You’ll find a smarter, more effective solution.

Part 2: The Creative

It isn’t as simple as writing a TVC and crafting the print, poster and outdoor. Our campaigns need to be viral, and that needs a different approach.

Step 1: The Story

Digital is a multi-screen platform. Each screen is different in terms of size, content and usage. It isn’t enough anymore to adapt the same message for each screen. Instead, it helps to think of your idea as a story. And use each screen differently, to tell different chapters of it.

There are three kinds of media we can use to tell our brand’s story; unabridged, unaltered, under our control.

Owned media — the website, the mobile app, any other platforms the brand may have created.

Paid media — banner ads, search ads, emailers, SMS.

And social media — which is, in my opinion, more leased media than owned.

Take the example of a fashion brand. One can use the website to showcase products; the blog to drive imagery; the mobile app to combine a loyalty programme, a virtual dressing room and personalised, location-aware content; targeted, contextual, paid media to tell people what the brand has to offer and drive them back to the website; and social media to help begin conversations around the product range and image.

One story, different screens.

Step 2: The Virality

There’s no point in having a great story if nobody’s hearing it.

Remember: the average user visits 89 websites a month. And has Liked 80 brand Pages on Facebook. And has 229 other friends filling his or her News Feed.

The only way your story will be heard above all this clutter is if you can find enough of the right people to help you broadcast it.

Social Influence Marketing refers to leveraging people’s influence on social media to broadcast and amplify your message.

However, they’re not going to tweet out your body copy. You have to give them something malleable that they can reshape to create their own unique content, while still staying true to your story. Their mashup of your story then goes out to their own followers, which exponentially increases your reach.

Earned media, of course, generally refers to news coverage. While a smart PR agency will naturally tap news media online and offline, there is merit in seeding your story among bloggers and smaller, perhaps category-specific, online channels. It’s a quick way to ensure more and more people know about your story.

Make sure your story has something in it that’ll help you get talked about. Then find the people who’ll amplify it for you.

Step 3: The Reward

Here’s the thing.

People are overloaded with information. It’s easy to miss something. It’s even easier to close a browser tab in irritation or absent-mindedness.

So, when someone clicks through to your campaign, be grateful. Very grateful.

I always like to give my audience a reward to show how grateful I am. The obvious way is through a contest, or gifts to loyal fans. However, I believe we can do more.

People come online to socialise, search for information, find a utility or just for entertainment. Make sure your campaign ticks one or more of those boxes, and you’ll have a reward worth coming back for.

The brand must have its reward as well. It could be crowdsourced content, new fans, time spent, leads generated, shares received, hashtags trended, what have you. Identify the rewards the brand will earn. And match them up against your objectives. If they don’t match, maybe you need to rework your campaign. For example, 100,000 new fans may not be a sensible reward if your objective is to get people to spend more with you than they already do, right?

These seven steps aren’t the alpha and omega of digital marketing. But, properly executed, they could help you develop better, brighter campaigns going forward.

This post originally appeared on afaqs! Campus.

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Twitter: Where Identity Is Everything
digital, social media, technology

Twitter: Where Identity Is Everything

I don’t believe any other (non-professional) social networking platform lays as much emphasis on a user’s profile as does Twitter.

Think about it.

The average Twitter user has spent at least a few minutes deciding what to write in their bio. And the (hyper)active Twitter user changes their bio frequently to reflect a change in status, a new opinion, new news or just their latest favourite quote.

Apart from the content, of course, is the way it’s written. People go to great lengths to be witty, or to understate the coolness of who they are or what they do.

And, of course, there’s the whole Verified Account thing.

Personally, I’ve spent a decent amount of time crafting and re-crafting my bio, more times than I can count.

Typically, my bio tells followers — and prospective followers — a bunch of things:

  • It acts as a quick professional introduction. (Digital Creative Director).
  • It’ll tell people where I work (most of the time, at least).
  • It also tells people how I perceive myself. (Reader, writer, geek).
  • A shameless plug for my wife’s burgeoning small business (CXO @PoppadumArt — the longstanding joke is that the value of X varies daily based on whether she needs a packer or a social media manager).
  • Occasionally, it tells people about my latest piece of work (Creator @BioStories).
  • I specialise in puns and “Aaww Dad” kind of humour, so my bio has a hat tip to that too (Purveyor of fine PJs).
  • I might round it off with a note on something that’s on my mind right now; as it turns out, this week’s topic is Indian politics (Itinerant Twitter activist).
  • All of this, of course, is written with an undercurrent of humour that makes me (in my eyes, at least) seem more follow-worthy.
  • A dissection of a sample of Twitter bios will probably yield similar results.

Of course, the whole purpose of sweating over my bio is to attract more followers, and reduce unfollows.

Naturally, once I’ve made a statement about myself, I need to make sure my tweets live up to it. Take a look at my timeline, and you’ll realise they do.

It sounds rather simplistic, right? But what I’m getting at is this:

Your bio is the first step in building a personal brand identity on Twitter.
It’s the headline of the ad, or the baseline of the company. And everything you do on Twitter simply follows from there. Many people get on Twitter for a purpose, and the bio helps them establish that purpose.

Which is why it surprises me that Twitter pays little heed to the bio. To the extent that, unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, it doesn’t tell your followers when you’ve updated your bio.

A gaping hole in the feature set of a platform that revolves around strong personal branding.

A couple of weeks ago, the team at Hansa Cequity, the digital-driven marketing agency where I work, rolled out a tool to fix that hole. It’s called BioStories.

BioStories - Home

BioStories

 

At a basic level, BioStories sets up a user’s Twitter handle to auto-tweet every time you update your bio, thus giving the user’s new status the visibility it deserves.

The tweet carries with it a link to the user’s public BioStories page, which aggregates all the user’s bios since they signed up.

A user's public profile page on BioStories

A user’s public profile page on BioStories

 

In a very real sense, BioStories lets your followers — and prospective followers — learn more about you and your life based on your Twitter identity.

BioStories is free to use and in open beta at www.biostories.net. As you read this, we’re working on improving the app, and will soon be churning out a whole host of bug fixes and new features.

We didn’t build this with monetisation in mind. But we do hope to gather data and learn more about Twitter users in the process. Our biggest validation, of course, would be if Twitter picked it up and built the feature into its own system.

Do sign up and give it a shot. Feedback — tweet to @BioStories — would always be welcome.

 

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