Cracking the content code with Mark Schaefer

Untitled design

I’m an unabashed fan of Mark Schaefer and how he goes about his business.

If you haven’t heard of Mark, he is a globally-recognised author, speaker, educator, podcaster and business consultant who blogs at {grow} – one of the top marketing blogs in the world. He’s the author of five best-selling books, including Social Media Explained, The Tao of Twitter and Return on Influence and has been a keynote speaker at major events all over the world including SXSW, Marketing Summit Tokyo, and the Institute for International and European Affairs. His consulting clients include Dell, Adidas, and the US Air Force.

Bona fide thought leader

In a world where people are quick to label themselves experts and gurus, Mark is a bona fide thought leader, always willing to provide well-considered perspectives and lead debate on trends and issues pertaining to the digitally-fuelled social media and content marketing landscape.

But most importantly, in my eyes anyway, Mark takes a very pragmatic but passionate view of what it takes to be an effective marketer today.

Unlike a lot of marketers who see people merely as ‘numbers’ – leads to be nurtured and converted – Mark leads with his heart; he sees the business benefits of building relationships and growing a community of fans, followers and advocates, or what he calls in his new book The Content Code, the ‘Alpha Audience’ – which he describes as an actionable audience, an elite group of people who express their advocacy and influence others by sharing your content.

Of course, this is not to say Mark isn’t interested in data and analytics and measurement and customer conversion, but he does take a holistic approach to marketing and understands better than most what’s required by brands wanting to adapt to today’s ever-evolving new media landscape.

As he writes in his book Social Media Explained:

In an always-on, real-time, global world of business communications, the priority is on human interaction that leads to connections. Connections lead to awareness. Awareness leads to trust. Trust is the ultimate catalyst to business benefits, as it has always been.”

Amen to that!

Cracking The Content Code: Become a BADASS

The-Content-Code-In his new book The Content Code, Mark outlines six strategies to ignite your content (and therefore your marketing and your business).

Tapping into the memorable acronym BADASS, these are:

  • Brand development
  • Audience and influencers
  • Distribution, advertising, promotion and SEOa
  • Authority
  • Shareability embedded into each piece of content
  • Social proof and social signals

With the discipline of content marketing just starting to hit its straps, the challenge now and into the future will be standing out and resonating with our audiences.

Mark writes there are many forecasts focusing on the explosion in volume of free online content, but most centre around “…a 500 per cent estimated increase in the amount of information on the web between 2015 and 2020.”

Another sobering fact highlighted in the book is that by 2011, Americans were consuming more than eight hours of content per day, according to Nielsen and other sources; meanwhile, because of the ubiquity of connected mobile devices, today adults in the western world consume content an average of 10 hours a day!

With this impending ‘content shock’ as a backdrop, what can we do about it? This is why Mark wrote The Content Code, to address this massive challenge of information density. He told me in an interview for my podcast Reputation Revolution (embedded below): “What do you do? What is the answer? And I started collecting ideas and really became obsessed with this … how do we evolve, how do we change … ?”

It all comes down to igniting your online content.

Mark says publishing amazing content “simply earns a seat at the table today”.

The real power, he writes, only comes to those who can create content that connects, engages and moves through the network through social sharing.

He gives the statistic, sourced from research firm eMarketer, that 83 per cent of brand marketers view social sharing as the primary benefit of social media, because 70 per cent of consumers say they are more likely to make a purchase based on a friend’s social media updates.

“But as the eMarketer study shows, brand power isn’t coming through content. It’s coming from content transmitted by our trusted friends. Content marketing may start with writing, but the money is made by IGNITING,” Mark writes.

Let that thought stew inside your brain for a moment. It’s a powerful proposition!

The Content Code contains lots of ideas and stories and examples, too many to go into here. But the element of the book I resonated with the most was around building an ALPHA AUDIENCE – “an elite and engaged tribe at the top of the social sharing food chain, the bedrock of your business”. I’ve written and spoken a lot about the power of building one’s ‘Village of Support’, a similar concept, so it’s probably natural I gravitated towards this idea, but it’s a powerful one and worth getting the book just to dig into it a bit further.

Mark says that according to Google, the most loyal members of your audience are more than 250 per cent likely to transmit your content.

And I’ll leave you with this gem from the book:

“Using content as a connection point in the digital world provides an unparalleled, historic opportunity to re-connect with customers and find your Alpha Audience.”

I couldn’t agree more!

If you’re a PR or marketing professional, entrepreneur or you a run a personal brand-based business – if you’ve already started your content marketing journey or are about to embark down that path – I urge you to check out The Content Code as a matter of priority. It’s relevant, pragmatic, sensible and enlightening, and while it doesn’t sugar-coat the challenges we face as marketers and business owners, it does provide countless actionable tips and ideas that wilkl at least help us stay ahead of the game.

Want more Mark Schaefer? Check out this Reputation Revolution interview!

In this episode of the Reputation Revolution, Mark chats to me about his own personal brand journey from classically-trained B2B marketer to one of the world’s most respected voices on social media; he also discusses the importance of building ‘shareability’ into your online content, the subject of his latest book The Content Code.

CONNECT WITH MARK:

If you like what you hear on the Reputation Revolution podcast, don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes and never miss an episode. And if you want to leave a review on iTunes, that would be pretty awesome too!

Understanding the power of owned and earned media in an ‘opt-in’ world

Child superhero portrait

I don’t know about you but these days I seem to be getting ‘buffeted’ from all angles by people trying to sell me stuff. And it’s getting worse – the more communications channels that spring up, the louder the hype and the noisier everything becomes.

I see these unwanted sales pitches for what they are – intrusions into my life – and rarely, maybe ‘once in a blue moon’ if it’s relevant for me at the time do I take any notice, let alone act upon the pitch in question.

And I’m not just talking about businesses here. Nonprofits aren’t bad at ‘the pitch’ either, especially the ones that hire people to accost you on the street, or ring you randomly at 6 pm on a weeknight when you’re getting ready for dinner. And of course, we face a constant barrage of self-centred messaging from politicians at all levels as they negotiate (without success) the unrelenting 24-hour news cycle.

I know I’m not alone in my thinking here.

But here’s the thing: We now live in an ‘opt-in’ world.

That is, we – the general public – are increasingly shunning the hype and instead choosing to ‘opt in’ to those brands and individuals that are relevant to our lives in some way, that deliver value over and above their products and services, that tap into our core beliefs and interests and thus resonate more deeply on an emotional level. And if they display some semblance of personality and humanity, hallelujah!

The savvy (personal and business) brands that ‘get’ this shift in consumer behaviour – that not only understand the mood of the marketplace but can keep up with it from an executional perspective – are the ones that increasingly will win hearts and minds of the people.

Hello? Zappos anyone?

Goulet Pens? Buffer? @Problogger? Content Marketing Institute? Australian Writers’ Centre? American Express? SouthWest Air? Patagonia? King Arthur Flour? Whole Foods Market? Firebrand Talent? Red Bull? HubSpot?  Mayo ClinicSimplyBusiness.co.uk? Nextview Ventures? Lady Gaga? SoulCycle? GoPro? Envato? Visage Mobile? Percolate? charity: water? Deloitte? Convince & Convert? Gary Vaynerchuk? Influence & Co? SmartPak Equine? Sprouts Farmers’ Markets? Greenspring Wealth? Jeni’s Splendid Ice-Cream? Big Ass Fans? Dionne ‘The Social Executive’ Lew? Compete Every Day? Johnny Cupcakes?  Queensland Police Service? TopRank Online Marketing? Bellroy? TrinityP3?

But there is hope! 

Get your ‘communications house’ in order and make an effort to build a solid base for your brand using owned and earned media first, and then strategically start adding the more interruptive marketing layers such as advertising. Don’t do it the other way around – that’s yesterday’s modus operandi and out of sync with today’s more discerning connected consumer.

 

FINAL_marketingpyramidLAYER #1 – OWNED MEDIA

Become your own media channel! Own and (and add value to) your own digital real estate with multimedia content that’s useful, helpful, relevant and informative for your audience;  establish a blog (or content hub), produce YouTube videos or SoundCloud audio snippets (to embed on your website); publish whitepapers or downloadable PDF ebooks, tell your customers’ stories, take people behind the scenes of your business using Instagram and Vine.

Owned media gives you the best opportunity to grow and engage your own audience directly; while you will at times need to publish content on third-party platforms (e.g. Twitter, YouTube, Instagram etc), you still own and control the content you put out there, which is awesome as you can ensure your brand has a consistent presence, plus it gives people – your friends, allies and customers – something to share with their networks.

LAYER #2 – EARNED MEDIA

Grow your reach and influence! Traditionally earned media has been domain of PR professionals and often centred around building relationships with journalists, presenters and broadcast producers; however, today the net of influencers has widened exponentially and includes bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers etc. But let’s think about this for a moment – today with social media, everyone is a potential influencer for your brand – positively or negatively!

Earned media is all about earning the right for others to write about you, talk about you, source quotes from you, get you on as a guest for a broadcast interview … all the way down to people on social media sharing your content with, and giving you a recommendation to, their own personal and professional networks.

In my experience many brands only get excited about earned media when they’ve got something to spruik, when they’re about to embark on a campaign to launch a new product; but to be effective, you can’t wait for it to happen by chance within the confines of a ‘campaign’ – it must be earned over the long haul. You need to show up and be an integral part of the community, you need to deliver value – you need to give people a reason to talk about you!

To unlock the true value of earned media, it needs to be planned strategically and executed efficiently over a period of time; importantly today, it works in close tandem with a brand’s owned media efforts.

vw adTruth be told, earned media as a concept has been with us forever. One of the most famous campaigns in the history of advertising was Volkswagen’s Think Small, which was written and produced by the ad agency DDB back in 1959. This campaign was lauded by the industry as a massive success – and it was, by all reports – but it’s important to scratch beneath the surface a bit. As marketing authors Laura Ries and Al Ries note in their 2004 book The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR, Volkswagen arrived in the US in 1949 and over the next decade generated positive stories in the media; by 1959 Volkswagen was a success, having sold 120,000+ vehicles representing 20 per cent of the US imported car market.

So as powerful as DDB’s advertising was, notes Ries and Ries, it still needed the credibility created by the editorial exposure (earned media).

In other words, earned media – particularly when run in tandem with a significant owned media presence – can have a huge impact on a brand’s visibility, credibility and influence in the marketplace; together, more often than not, owned + earned media will ‘set the stage’ and help make the advertising work harder and more effectively.

LAYER #3 – EXPERIENTIAL MEDIA

Bring your communications to life with collaborations and partnerships with like-minded brands; get face-to-face with the people who matter most to the success of your business, cause or issue – run events, involve customers and influencers, harness the real-time power of social media, record proceedings on video and publish to your blog!

Done right, this element of the communications pyramid – or what I like to call ‘experiential media’ – allows you to humanise your brand to a greater extent than some of the other elements mentioned, get closer to and engage with your community, as well as give you additional fodder for your social channels.

LAYER #4 – RENTED AUDIENCES

Okay, so now you probably get where I’m coming from i.e. it’s better to ‘own’ your audience (acknowledging they can walk away at any time!) – get them to opt in to your brand versus merely renting someone else’s audience and then interrupting them with your sales message. THINK: Putting an advertisement in a magazine (‘renting’ someone else’s audience) versus creating your own online publication and encouraging people to subscribe to it (‘owning’ the audience).

Now, I’m not saying don’t pitch your brand or advertise products and services – that would be silly, there is still a need for that, we live in a hyper-commercial after all! But if that’s all you do – if that’s where the weight of your marketing efforts go – I am saying it’s going to become less and less a cost-effective option in the future. It’s damn hard to do well now because people are adept at turning a blind eye to sales pitches, but it’s going to get increasingly more difficult to do efficiently as we all start to drown in the world’s content tsunami.

LAYER #5 – DIRECT APPROACH

This is the toughest gig of all these days – especially if you’re approaching ‘prospective customers’ cold through phone or email, with no semblance of a relationship being cultivated in advance of the initial contact. Put too much focus on taking a direct approach – and you’d be surprised how many companies and nonprofits do! – and you’re in for a rough ride.

However, build your owned and earned media base first – create relevance, connection and resonance with your audience – and then at least there may be some openness on the part of the ‘target’ (recipient of your approach).

My advice?

Front-load your marketing communications effort with a strategic approach to owned and earned media; tackle it with enthusiasm and purpose as an ongoing long-term program of activity – not a campaign! – and then build everything else around that.

This will help your brand become more relevant and in-sync with today’s savvy ‘connected consumer'; you will be giving people the opportunity to opt in to your resources and community, rather than bash them over the head and add needlessly to the ‘wall of noise’ they confront every day.

What are your biggest PR and marketing challenges today?

Quick Survey Green Road Sign, Business Concept

If you own or run a business, or you work in a marketing or PR role as a consultant in an agency or as part of an in-house team, do you mind telling me (anonymously, of course) what you see as the biggest challenges you’re facing currently in terms of communicating and engaging with your target audience?

How’s social media working for you?

Have you got a handle on this thing we call content marketing?

What do you currently find challenging that you’d like help with?

I’m really interested. Do you mind taking a few minutes to fill out this quick survey? I’d really appreciate it :)

I’ll keep the survey open for this week and then collate the answers to see if there are any trends or surprises; if I can make an article out of it, I’ll write one and post it here on the PR Warrior blog.

Here is the link to the survey again.

Thanks again!

TY

Rethinking what we perceive to be ‘content’

Time For New Content Concept

When we think about creating content for our audience, all too often we default to blog posts, or video that we can publish to YouTube and then embed on our blog or website.

More often today – but not nearly enough, though – audio might crack a mention.

And if you’re a visually-oriented brand, photography probably takes centre stage in your thinking.

Not that there’s anything wrong with any of these mediums by the way!

Usual suspects

But by narrowing our scope as a matter of course – as I said earlier, by default – we run the risk of neglecting myriad other interesting and different ways we can deliver the content we produce.

Moving beyond the ‘usual suspects’ – i.e. blog posts, YouTube videos, Instagram images – let’s lift our heads up a bit and ‘stretch’ what we create across multiple mediums. Let’s extract the most value from the premium thoughts, opinions, ideas, advice and information we publish to the web.

So, for the record (and in no particular order), I class all of the following as ‘content’.

  • PDF ebooks, reports and whitepapers
  • digitally-delivered books (via Amazon, Kobo, iBooks etc)
  • tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates, Google+ posts etc
  • SlideShare presentations (PowerPoint)
  • infographics and charts
  • smartphone apps
  • illustrations and animation/GIFS
  • webinars (live and recorded)
  • 6-second videos published on Vine (or 15 seconds on Instagram)
  • live streaming video via Periscope/Meerkat
  • graphic recording (or scribing)
  • opinions via Meddle
  • audio snippets via SoundCloud, audioBoom, Clammr etc.
  • tutorials and how-to guides
  • Google Hangouts On Air, Spreecasts,
  • online press releases/multimedia stories via PitchEngine
  • hardcopy books and custom published magazines
  • digital magazines (e.g. for Apple’s Newsstand)
  • events (yes, events can be classed as content e.g. a simple breakfast presentation or a more formal gathering featuring a panel of experts, for instance).
  • speeches (record video and upload to YouTube, publish audio to SoundCloud, transcribe and turn into an article etc).

All of the above fall under the definition of what I would define as content.

Now, I’m not suggesting you spread yourself across every medium or channel as outlined above – that will drive you nuts (and won’t be an effective use of your time)!

But I DO recommend you keep your eye out for new opportunities to present your content to the masses; keep things fresh and interesting! Not everyone will sit down and read a blog post or watch a video – bring your ‘chunky’ content to life by repurposing it across different mediums (best-selling author Jay Baer does this well).

Of course, your strategy will help guide what content mediums you should be using, and your time constraints and budget will also be a factor. But this post is more about highlighting the importance of focusing on one’s mindset more than anything, encouraging you to ‘dig deeper’ and think more creatively about the content you produce. Your audience will thank you for it!

STAY CURIOUS!

 

‘Minnow’ named as most influential Australian brand on LinkedIn, ahead of major blue chip companies

Influence

An Adelaide-based ‘minnow’ – Australian Institute of Business – has headed off a bevy of major blue chip companies to be named 2015’s most influential Australian brand on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn today listed the top 10 most influential brands among members in Australia:

  1. Australian Institute of Business (AIB)
  2. Telstra
  3. Commonwealth Bank
  4. ANZ
  5. National Australia Bank
  6. Deloitte Australia
  7. CPA Australia
  8. Qantas
  9. Optus
  10. Westpac

The LinkedIn ranking, which is based on the platform’s Content Marketing Score is calculated by measuring a brand’s unique engagement and dividing it by a brand’s audience.

AIB blog and social media

According to AIB’s LinkedIn Company Page, the institute employs between 51-200 people and is a “global business higher education group offering business undergraduate, postgraduate and research qualifications”.

AIB updates its blog on average two to three times per day, although many of the posts are curated and link to original articles on the likes of Fast Company, Entrepreneur and Forbes.

Original content (plus a sprinkling of curated content) is distributed via the institute’s LinkedIn page, testament to the fact useful/interesting/relevant content fuels engagement on the LinkedIn platform.

AIB also has an active Facebook page boasting over 100,000 likes, while its Twitter account, with 489 followers at time of writing, is mainly a broadcast channel with little interaction. By comparison, its LinkedIn Page has a healthy 20,000+ followers.

Microsoft tops global list

Globally, the top brands on LinkedIn include Microsoft, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, IBM, Inc. Magazine, HP, Google, Salesforce, business management platform, Domo and EY, the professional services organisation (see infographic below).

The global list, you’d have to say, is a real mixed bag dominated by tech and media brands, while the Australian list – apart from AIB – is dominated by the banks and telcos, an indication they are acting more like publishers these days, using content to engage with their audiences.

Linkedin_LogoAccording to a LinkedIn press release, the company has used its data to identify the behaviours and activity that boost content engagement.

“The most effective brands use a mix of reach, frequency and engagement to boost engagement on LinkedIn. In addition, they are encouraging their employees to act like influencers and boost the reach and engagement of their content by sharing it with their contacts,” the press release reads.

  • 99% of the top global brands have employees sharing their content to their networks
  • 97% of the top global brands have employee posts contributing to their content efforts
  • 99% of top brands regularly share updates on their LinkedIn Company Page
  • 73% of top brands are utilising Sponsored Updates
  • All of these top brands post an average of 12.6 updates per week

LinkedIn also provided insight into the content topics that resonated most with audiences on the platform: 

  • Current affairs and financial news top the list, with professional development, leadership and productivity in second.
  • Company and industry trends meanwhile are placed third.
  • Analysing the industry in question and creating an engaging content calendar is key to creating material that will be effective in catching the attention of audiences.

The Top Global Brands on LinkedIn 2015[1][1]

Commenting on the top ten list, Matt Tindale, Director, Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn ANZ, said, “Today’s professionals are consuming diverse forms of content. The brands achieving cut-through are developing high-quality content that is personalised to their audience’s interest areas and are humanising it by getting their employees to amplify it through their networks. Brands that get content, context and relevance right at scale are winning.”

 

How to take charge of your ‘professional’ personal brand

Personal Branding on Red Billboard.

 

I like to say you have a personal brand whether you like it or not.

What people say about you (when you’re not in the room), THAT is your brand; how people perceive you – how they feel as a result of having come into contact with you – whether in person, on the phone, via email or on social media – THAT is your brand.

So why wouldn’t you want to influence that?

If people’s collective attitude and feelings towards you are consistent, that means your personal ‘brand’ is becoming more defined in the eyes of the public (i.e. the community or marketplace in which you operate; your network, industry, profession).

If those feelings across the board are consistently positive, fantastic!

If they’re negative, well, you might like to work on that :)

If people don’t have an opinion of you one way or the other, then your ‘professional’ personal brand is potentially too ‘vanilla’ (i.e. you don’t stand out, you’re not memorable, you’re not seen as someone who stands for anything of substance – all of which is not good from a professional perspective).

If people receive mixed messages after coming into contact with you (again, personally or via another communication medium) – i.e. you’re provocative on Twitter but meek and mild in real life – then in all probability you’re all over the shop. If this is the case, you might want to start acting in a more consistent manner. At least this way, people will get a better handle as to who you are, what you do and, importantly, what your purpose is.

Start taking charge today!

I often include the slide below in my speaking presentations and it tends to resonate with people. I feel it’s a good starting point if you’re wanting to start taking charge of your ‘professional’ personal brand.

brandYOU graphic

It works something like this – what you do matters; the actions you take, the people you help, the ideas you share – it all matters!

Broken down further, here are some examples of what underpins your professional personal brand:

THE CONTENT YOU PRODUCE

  • Do you regularly create (and publish online) original content that does the professional ‘you’ justice? Is it useful, helpful, informative, educational, interesting, provocative (versus merely chest-beating)?
  • Does it highlight in a positive way your ideas, perspectives, skills, knowledge, experience and expertise?

THE CONNECTIONS YOU MAKE

  • Do you actively seek out and connect with like-minded people within your professional network? Do you invite them to connect on LinkedIn? Do you proactively organise coffee catch-ups (or larger meet-ups) with people in your online community?
  • Do you bring people together, connecting individuals if you think there might be a social or business benefit for both parties (without the expectation of getting anything in return)?

THE CONVERSATIONS YOU DRIVE

  • Do you actively partake in conversations on social media channels e.g. Twitter hashtag chats, LinkedIn Group conversations, comments sections of your own (and other people’s) blogs?
  • Do you seek out speaking engagements so you can share ideas, concepts and perspectives that you feel are of interest and relevance to people in your industry, profession or the community in which you operate?

THE COLLABORATIONS YOU’RE INVOLVED IN

  • Do you collaborate with like-minded individuals or professional groups to expand upon ideas that will benefit your profession, industry or community?
  • Do you contribute to group projects, providing value in the form of contacts, ideas and expertise?

THE COMMUNITY YOU BUILD

Do these things consistently, passionately, on a regular basis – without the expectation of getting anything in return – and over time you’ll build and cultivate your own community, or what I like to call ‘village of support’ –  a growing vibrant group of friends, fans, followers, supporters, champions, allies, enthusiasts and advocates of ‘brand YOU’ – who you are, what you do and, critically, stand for.

A village of support is much more than an amorphous network of contacts, and goes way beyond the collection of random people you’ve come into contact with at seminars and industry events and with whom you’ve simply swapped business cards – it’s much deeper and more valuable than that.

A person’s village of support represents a groundswell of people with whom you’re not just acquainted with but who know you well (or at least feel like they do), and who like, trust, and respect you.

These are people with whom you have a deeper connection with because you’ve cultivated relationships with them; you’ve contributed value to their lives, relentlessly, over time – without the expectation of getting anything in return.

Collectively, over the long haul, your commitment to these things  – your content, connections, conversations, collaborations plus the community you build – will drive (and become representative of) your ‘professional’ personal brand. 

Tell me again: Why wouldn’t you want to influence that?

State of the (social) nation: Part 2 – How marketers from around the world are using social media to grow their business

The other day I published State of the (social) nation: Part 1 – Social media in Australia, a look at how businesses and consumers are using social technologies in Australia, based on the Sensis Social Media Report 2015.

Now I am going to bookend that post with my take on what’s happening globally, based on the Social Media Marketing Industry Report 2015 published recently by Social Media Examiner.

ms-2015-social-media-marketing-report-480
ABOUT THE SURVEY:

The Social Media Examiner report is based on a survey of 3720 participants from around the world (half of respondents were based in the US, followed by United Kingdom (9 per cent), Canada (6 per cent) and Australia (5 per cent).

The largest group that took the survey work for small businesses of 2-10 employees (37 per cent), followed by self- employed (23 per cent); 17 per cent of people taking the survey work for businesses with 100 or more employees.

More than half (61 per cent) of survey participants focus primarily on attracting consumers (B2C) the balance primarily targeting businesses (B2B).

Marketers are confused about social media, but keen to learn

Marketers globally are still trying to get their heads around social media generally, with tactics, engagement, measurement, audience and tools uppermost in their minds.

Desk with Social Media and Connection Concept

According to Social Media Examiner’s Social Media Marketing Industry Report 2015, between 87 per cent and 92 per cent of marketers surveyed felt they were struggling to answer the following questions:

  1. TACTICS: What social tactics are most effective?
  2. ENGAGEMENT: What are the best ways to engage my audience with social
  3. MEASUREMENT: How do I measure the return on my social media marketing?
  4. AUDIENCE: How do I find my target audience with social media?
  5. TOOLS: What are the best social management tools?Facebook takes pride of place in

In terms of the tools and technologies, unsurprisingly Facebook dominates the thoughts of marketers – according to the report, 93 per cent of respondents are using Facebook, 68 per cent want to learn more about the platform, while 62 per cent plan on increasing Facebook activities.

After Facebook, also figuring in marketers’ thinking are Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, with 66 per cent planning on increasing their use of these social networks.

The future is also looking bright for online video, with 57 per cent of respondents claiming they currently use video in their marketing, with 72 per cent keen to learn more about video marketing.

While podcasting is leveraged by precious few marketers (just 10 per cent), the audio content bug looks to have caught on, with 26 per cent planning to increase their podcasting activities; interestingly, 43 per cent of marketers want to learn more about podcasting, indicating we may just be at the very tip of the content iceberg for this fast-becoming-popular medium.

Marketers globally versus Aussie businesses

According to the Social Media Examiner report, an overwhelming majority (96%) of respondents said they were participating in social media marketing – compared to the paltry 33 per cent of Aussie businesses having a social media presence, as per the Sensis Social Media Report 2015 – while significantly, 92 per cent of marketers said social media was important to their business.

PLEASE NOTE: We have to be a little careful comparing these two significant social media research papers – the Sensis report is the result of a survey of random businesses across the board, while the Social Media Marketing Industry Report 2015 is based on survey results largely from Social Media Examiner’s email subscriber list. It also cast the net wider via Twitter, but we need to be cognisant participants were either very interested in social media (because they read/subscribe to Social Media Examiner), or are at least are on Twitter.

HERE ARE SOME INTERESTING STATISTICS THAT JUMPED OUT AT ME:

Of the participants in the Social Media Examiner survey, 64 per cent are using social media for six hours or more and 41% for 11 hours or more; of note, 19% of marketers spend more than 20 hours each week on social media.

time spent on social media

The report identifies a correlation between how long marketers have been using social media and their weekly time commitment – for people just beginning with social media (less than 12 months’ experience), 49 per cent spend five or fewer hours per week; this compares to those who have been doing it 2+ years – at least 68 per cent of them spend six hours or more per week on social media activities.

Benefits of social media

Brand exposure and increased web traffic are seen as the two most significant benefits of being on social media, with 90 per cent of marketers indicating their social media efforts have generated more exposure for their businesses while 77 per cent reported a lift in traffic to their website.

A solid percentage of respondents (69 per cent) said using social media helped them “develop loyal fans” while a similar number (68 per cent) felt listening to social media was useful in providing “marketplace insight”.

But if we look at the graph below, there’s no doubt that having an active social media presence can benefit businesses in a number of ways.

benefits of social media

Aah yes, but does social media improve sales?

Well … yes, and no.

More than half of marketers who have been using social media for at least two years claim it has helped them grow sales, while 73 per cent of those who spend 40+ hours per week earn new business through their efforts.

These statistics, of course, indicate you need to be persistent if you want to see sales growth from using social media –  you need to put in the time, if not over the long haul (2+ years), then at least on a day-to-day, week-by-week basis.

HOWEVER …

There’s a flipside, with 49 per cent of marketers taking this survey indicating that social media has not helped them improve sales.

Of course, there could be any number of reasons for this – the report suggests perhaps they may lack the needed tools to track sales and that’s a fair call, but I’m tipping another reason is because they’re using social platforms in ways that could be considered ‘traditional marketing’ i.e. broadcasting too many self-centred one-way messages.

If being discovered via search engines is important for your business, then the next stat will be of interest! According to the report, improved search engine rankings were most prevalent among those who have been using social media for one year or longer, with a whopping 54 per cent of respondents reporting a rise.

Most popular social platforms

Okay, this is where it gets interesting.

Facebook at the top is a given as the top platform used by business, but Twitter at number 2 (79 per cent) is a bit of a surprise when we compare to the Australian Sensis figures (where it still ranked #2 after Facebook but at a paltry 17 per cent for small business, 38 per cent medium-sized business, and 46 per cent for large businesses – an average of 33 per cent across the three sizes of business, which is half of the global figure).

Globally, LinkedIn ranks third most popular, Google+ fourth – the same rankings as in Australia – but again there is a significant disparity in terms of penetration locally versus globally:

  • LinkedIn  – global (71 per cent) vs Australia (24 per cent averaged out across small/medium/large businesses).
  • Google+ – global (56 per cent) vs Australia (11 per cent). 
Screenshot 2015-06-10 17.59.02

And the single most important social platform according to marketers is…

Social Media Examiner asked marketers to select the single most important social platform for their business. According to the report, because only one choice was allowed, the findings are revealing.

Facebook comes out on top (yawn) with 52 per cent – but not as high as you’d imagine, actually, followed by:

  • LinkedIn (21 per cent)
  • Twitter (12 per cent)
  • YouTube and Google+ (4 per cent each)
important social media

 However, when B2C is compared to B2B …

  • B2C – 65 per cent of marketers selected Facebook as their number one choice (compared to Twitter at 10 per cent and LinkedIn 9 per cent);
  • B2B – 41 per cent of marketers selected LinkedIn as their number one choice (compared to Facebook at 30 per cent and Twitter 19 per cent).

And finally, where are marketers going to increase their efforts in the “near future”?

  • A majority of marketers (66 per cent) indicated they will be increasing their activities on Twitter.
  • Ditto YouTube, also at 66 per cent.
  • Ditto again (66 per cent, how weird is that?) plan to increase their activity on LinkedIn.

Facebook comes next at 62 per cent followed by Instagram and Google+ (both 52 per cent) and Pinterest (51 per cent).

Basically, a good number of marketers are going to increase their activity pretty much across the board – does this mean they’re taking a shotgun approach to the key social media platforms?

Interesting times ahead!

DOWNLOAD THE SOCIAL MEDIA EXAMINER INDUSTRY REPORT HERE.

State of the (social) nation: Part 1 – Social media in Australia

I love social media bubble

Australian businesses are still ‘dragging the chain’ when it comes to social media.

According to the just-released Sensis Social Media Report 2015, the uptake of social media by Australian businesses is still not as pronounced as for consumers, with just 33 per cent of businesses having a social media presence compared to 68 per cent of consumers.  Interestingly, the survey indicates no growth in the proportion of businesses who use social media relative to last year.

When I say ‘interestingly’, maybe I should replace that word with ‘scarily’.

It appears the digital divide between businesses in Australia and the public is ever-widening. This, of course, spells opportunity for digitally savvy businesses, but should be ringing alarm bells for those that are falling behind in the social technology stakes.

The Sensis report, which is based on a survey of 800 Australian consumers and 1100 Australian businesses, is a worthy document that provides an annual barometer to how Australian business is adapting to the new social media landscape. 

It appears a good number of companies using social media are still coming to grips as to how best utilise the various technologies for their business, with the report highlighting these statistics:

  • 49 per cent of SMEs and 45 per cent of large businesses say they have invested money in social media but don’t know how much.
  • Just 16 per cent of SMEs and 29 per cent of large businesses measure their return on investment in social media.
  • 80 per cent of SMEs and 37 per cent of large businesses have not developed a strategic plan for their social media.

Australians and social media

Here are some key social media usage statistics from the report that jumped out for me:

  • Nearly 60 per cent of Australians aged 65+ access the internet every day (the average across all age groups is 79 per cent).
  • Half of Australian internet users (49 per cent) visit social networking sites at least once a day (and half of those more than five times a day) – this is up from 30 per cent in 2011.

social media usage in australia

  • While social media is used throughout the day, its practice is most prevalent first thing in the morning (45 per cent) followed by “last thing before going to bed” (41 per cent) and after work/in the evening (40 per cent).
  • Facebook continues to dominate the social networking landscape, with 93 per cent of social media enthusiasts maintaining a profile on the platform; LinkedIn comes in second at 28 per cent (this is massive, by the way, given the platform is skewed business and professional people); Instagram at 26 per cent is higher than what I would have thought, while Twitter at 17 per cent (the same as Pinterest) indicates it’s not as mainstream as many people think, but given the public nature of the network and the fact it’s actively used by influencers such as bloggers, celebrities, thought leaders and journalists means the platform well and truly punches above its weight, indeed, its not unusual for Twitter to set the news agenda of the day).
  • Google+ (at 23 per cent, the 4th most used social network) is a surprising statistic, and flies in the face of common thinking that the social network is a ‘ghost town’ and on the way out – I’d probably like more definition around what constitutes ‘use’ of the network (the question asked by Sensis was: “Which of these social networking sites do you use?“) – remember this is public usage of G+, not business. So it begs the question: Are we, the social media ‘industry’ (for want of a better term) under-estimating Google+?
  • Across all social networking users, the average number of friends, contacts or followers in 2015 was 297. This is lower than last year but higher than prior years.
  • The proportion of people checking on social media while ‘watching TV’ has dropped for all age groups except 40-49-year-olds; this practice, ranging from 39 to 45 per cent, is particularly prevalent with 18-49 year olds, however, the figures don’t show general internet (i.e. non-social media) usage while watching television, so you could safely boost these numbers significantly across the board – this practice, plus our habit of recording TV shows and watching them back later – skipping the ads – remains a mountainous challenge for the advertising industry.

popularity of facebook in australia

  • At 92 per cent, catching up with friends and family is the main reason people use social networking sites (Note to brands: This is your main competition for people’s attention, not just other brands); a quarter use social media to follow or find out about particular brands or businesses in general, while a fifth use social to research products and services.
  • A third of social media users aren’t looking for anything from business via social media and this proportion has increased over the past year.
  • A quarter of people who follow brands on social media want ‘information about the company’, the same as those who seek tips and advice (both of these figures are down on previous years).
  • On Twitter, there was a big jump in the number of people following brands that were ‘work or profession related’ (37 per cent in 2015 compared to 24 per cent in 2014).
  • 38 per cent of people are ‘quite happy to see ads on social networks’, although virtually the same figure (39 per cent) don’t want to see ads.
  • 55 per cent of people claim to take no notice of ads on social networks.
  • The majority of Australian internet users (55%) read online reviews or blogs – this figure, however, is significantly down on 2013’s 74 per cent – although I will say many people read online publications unaware they are in fact blogs.

MY TAKE OVERALL? Our use of social media appears to be maturing, and having experimented with various technologies, we’re now using social media in ways that suit our particular lifestyles; there doesn’t appear to be any significant breakthrough trends compared to previous years other than a continuation of the increase in frequency in accessing social networking sites, while the penetration of mobile devices continues to consolidate. 

Australian businesses and social media 

Okay, so we have a solid overview of where the Australian public sits when it comes to social media, but what about businesses? How do they fare?

The proportion of businesses that have a social media presence has dropped across the board:

  • Small business – 30 per cent (down from 37 per cent last year).
  • Medium business – 32 per cent (down from 48 per cent in 2014).
  • Large business – 56 per cent (down from 77 per cent).

So while social media usage among the public continues at significant levels, the use of social media by business drops? Okay, that’s a pretty big disconnect right there. Could it be because there are so many new businesses being established that are not on social media? It certainly sounds like the case because Sensis reports that only two per cent of small businesses and five per cent of medium businesses – and zero large businesses – claimed to have removed their social media presence.

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 6.42.54 pm

But all is not lost. The proportion of businesses that intend to get a social media presence in the next year are 13 per cent (small business), 15 per cent (medium) and two per cent (large).

Interesting is the use of social media channels by business.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook tops the charts with 90 per cent of businesses on the platform (averaged out across small/medium/large categories);  surprisingly, however, Twitter comes in second with 33 per cent on average on the platform (large businesses dominate Twitter at 46 per cent, while just 17 per cent of small businesses use the platform). Remember, Twitter is the fifth most used social media by the Australian public.

social media in australia

According to the Sensis report, social media presence amongst SMEs is above average in New South Wales (38 per cent) and about average in Queensland (32 per cent) but below average elsewhere (25 per cent on average); there is little difference between metropolitan and regional SMEs but social media presence appears to have dropped in all state locations except New South Wales.

Uses of social media

The most common use of social media for businesses is for two-way communication with the public (a majority of businesses use it for this purpose, a solid across-the-board increase from previous years).

Interestingly, however, small and medium-sized businesses are shying away from inviting online comments, ratings and reviews on their social media sites – at 43 per cent and 45 per cent respectively, these figures are the lowest since statistics were taken in 2012. Meanwhile, big business (at 68 per cent) is increasing its appetite for such engagement after a low of 53 per cent last year (see figures below).

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 12.06.58 pm

The big trend

The big trend is the solid growth of advertising on social media, especially with large businesses. As you would expect, Facebook gets the lion’s share of social media advertising dollars, followed by LinkedIn and Twitter.

Of note, 88 per cent of large businesses found Facebook effective as an advertising medium, compared to 46 and 67 per cent of medium-sized and small businesses respectively. This could come down to the larger enterprises being in a position to pay experts to experiment and test advertising executions on Facebook in order to generate results, whereas smaller businesses may well be doing a lot of the work themselves and struggling accordingly.

advertising on social media in australia

Who manages the social media function?

When it comes to managing social media for business, 89 per cent of large businesses manage the function in-house (as they should), while 11 per cent have a mix of in-house and external; meanwhile, small and medium-sized businesses are also big on retaining social media management in-house, with 91 and 85 per cent managing the function internally.

Just two per cent of small businesses engage an external firm to handle their social media, compared to three per cent (medium) and zero per cent (large) – does this spell the ‘death knell’ for external social media management services?

Budgets allocated to social media are also up right across the board, with businesses assigning an increased proportion of their marketing budgets to social media activity at record highs (see below):

social media budgets

And finally …

According to the Sensis report, nearly all SMEs (92 per cent) and large businesses (82 per cent) with a social media presence have a strategy to drive people to their sites.

Some have an advertising presence, which is more common for larger businesses, or use directories. Also, a majority of businesses have buttons on their website allowing people to share information about the business through their social media profiles which facilitates efforts to increase their brand presence.

DOWNLOAD THE 2015 SENSIS SOCIAL MEDIA REPORT

NOTE: All graphs sourced from the Sensis report

Where does your brand fit in the social media and content marketing equation?

 

Hands Holding Speech Bubbles with Social Media Words

We are living in unprecedented times.

We are in the early stages of an ever-evolving social age that favours storytelling, passionate connection with one’s community, relationship building and progressive thinking over excessive self-centred promotional messaging.

If you’re a solo professional or business owner or marketing manager, or you make your living in PR and communications, the fact we can now create and publish our own media, distribute it globally, in real time and often at zero or minimal cost (comparatively to other traditional promotional methods) represents a massive OPPORTUNITY the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

Throw into the mix we can now also use social media channels to build our networks and engage directly with interested third parties online – again, globally and in real time – and the content marketing opportunity is ratcheted up a few more notches.

Ultimately, of course, you want more traffic to your website, more leads for your business, more members of your organisation, votes for your cause, more sales of your products (it all depends on your goals, of course). I get it. We all do.

Hyper-connected marketplace

But in today’s information-overloaded, hyper-connected marketplace, simply cutting through and resonating with people is a challenge. Doing what we’ve always done and expecting it to continue to work like a charm veers dangerously towards ‘fanciful thinking’ territory.

That’s not to say all traditional marketing methods necessarily have had their day. If advertising on radio or in a niche publication or even paying exorbitant rates for a TV campaign generates results for your brand, go for it! Seriously.

But we need to be more than acutely aware of the shifting sands of the new media and marketing landscape.

We need to understand that people – your customers – are getting pretty good at blocking out the barrage of self-centred sales messages that interrupt their day, preferring to connect with only those brands that add value and relevance to their lives.

The other shift in consumer behaviour is they’re more than happy today to get their news and information from a variety of sources, not just traditional media outlets. These sources can include their online personal networks of friends and connections, DIY media makers (i.e. bloggers, podcasters etc), not to mention brands themselves (but only if they trust them as a source of information).

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

A lot needs to happen today before people will simply flock to your website (and/or buy your products in-store, or contract your services).

Wine retailing entrepreneur, New York Times bestselling author and social media powerhouse, Gary Vaynerchuk, uses the boxing metaphor: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook to describe how marketing should take place today.

In other words,  Deliver value, deliver value, deliver value … then ask for the sale.

This is diametrically opposed to the traditional way of marketing, which has always been “look at me, look at me, aren’t I great – now buy from me”.

As best-selling author David Meerman Scott has been saying for years, consumers don’t care about your products and services, they care about themselves.

If marketing has always been about us and our products and services, the big shift sparked by social media is that it has brought the focus back to our audience. To be successful as a marketer today, you increasingly need to:

  • tell stories that resonate with your customers (and the people who influence them);

  • interact with people as real human beings, not as ’the brand’;

  • build relationships with not just known influencers but ordinary folk who in turn can promote you in a positive way to their personal networks of friends and acquaintances (remember, today everyone can be an influencer in their own right).

The result you want is a growing audience for your content and stories. This audience needs to be respected and communicated with on a regular basis.

Over time, if you’ve done the right things – i.e. you’ve added value, been useful and helpful and friendly, accessible and responsive – growing numbers from this audience will become part of your tribe, or what I like to call your ‘village of support’. People who make up your village of support will hopefully speak positively about your brand every now and then and consume and share your content with their friends and colleagues.

But the work doesn’t stop there, because the deepest connection needs to be saved for that part of your ‘village’ who are what I call the ‘true believers’ – these are your hardcore fans and advocates who will willingly spread the good word about your brand and product or service offering.

You can’t build a village of support or band of advocates through advertising or sales promotions.

You need to:

  • connect with them on an emotional level;

  • contribute to their lives in ways that are respectful and meaningful;

  • single out and cultivate the relationships you have with those who are fans of your brand;

  • reach new audiences by collaborating with other like-minded brands.

This is where using online publishing platforms to tell stories and create content that informs, educates, empowers or simply entertains comes into play in a big way, as does social media, which can be used effectively to distribute your content as well as ‘humanise’ your brand and connect more deeply with customers.

To return to my opening paragraph:

We are living in unprecedented times. We are in the early stages of an ever-evolving social age, one that favours storytelling, passionate connection with one’s community, relationship building and progressive thinking.

THE QUESTION IS: Where do you see your brand fitting into this equation?

 

THUMBS UP: Bit of action on Australia’s ‘corporate’ content marketing front

uomo ok

While I might get a little antsy at the lack of progress on the content marketing front from Australia’s corporate sector – let’s face it, it’s severely lacking, and what is a fast-growing trend has been very slow to manifest itself at the big end of town for some inexplicable reason – two major corporates have just weighed in with some decent content efforts.

So, credit where credit’s due, hat-tip to some nice work revealed this week by two major brands: NAB, and Bupa.

NAB

Firstly, the day after the the Federal Budget was handed down on Tuesday, I spied the NAB in my Twitter feed with a number of promoted posts featuring content largely from internal experts talking (on video) about the budget’s ramifications for certain sectors of the market.

A few years ago, the bank would probably have defaulted to crafting a jargon-laden press release and dispatched it forthwith to finance journalists. In keeping with most corporate press releases, it probably would have said very little and may have resulted in a few lines in Budget articles published in the finance media (who knows, this might still happen?).

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 9.04.47 pm

Fast forward to today and NAB has become the media channel, producing videos with little lead time and distributing directly to the public via Twitter. Now we’re talking!

This is content-driven social communications at its best: There’s a key milestone (the Federal Budget) – people want straight talk on how it will affect their sector (or lot in life) – and the NAB is endeavouring to help give them some value in this regard, quickly. And they succeeded.

The bank’s website also features a Federal Budget Hub where the Budget commentary/content is housed. While it’s not super-comprehensive like what you’d find in the business pages of a daily newspaper, for example, at least the bank has provided a showcase for its experts to weigh in on certain niches pertaining to the Budget. The hub also published relevant content in the run-up to the Budget announcement.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 9.12.38 pm

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 9.12.28 pm

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 9.22.34 pm

(Financial software company, which publishes the popular Pulse blog, was also quick out of the gate producing several blog posts on the Budget implications for its core audience – small business – plus a whitepaper that goes into greater detail).

Bupa 

In other ‘corporate’ content marketing news, major health insurer Bupa has recently launched its new initiative The Blue Room (what is it with these major corporations and the word blue? ANZ Blue Notes anyone?).

This looks set to become a serious content marketing initiative providing ongoing contributions across three content ‘pillars':

  • FAMILIES – “Managing the changing health needs of you and your family from pregnancy to raising children”
  • HEALTHIER – “Information to start making proactive physical and mental health changes at home and at work”
  • MANAGE & RECOVER – “Practical support for managing an illness and getting back into everyday life”

Much of content on the hub was published in early April but I have only just became aware of it through social media so I don’t know if it has been in ‘soft launch’ phase or I just missed its announcement. Either way, it has a good whack of content already in place and the core audience groups – and their particular needs and issues – seem to be well catered to, so I’m tipping this effort has been pretty well planned and is now being rolled out to a schedule.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 9.15.29 pm

I also like how Bupa has humanised the content hub. Showing faces of contributors is a mandatory as far as I am concerned, so good to see they’ve placed emphasis in this regard (see below). No doubt they’ll add to the roster over time as the demand for content heats up.

The fact Bupa has co-opted blogger Debbie Elkind alongside their internal experts is also a positive sign – I expect more of this as Bupa has been building relationships with the blogging fraternity for a couple of years now e.g. the Bupa Health Influencer Blog Awards.

However, using technical experts from within the company will also pay dividends for the brand because as the Edelman Trust Barometer study tells us year after year, they are one of the most trusted sources of information for an organisation.

Screenshot 2015-05-15 19.07.37