I’m in Ann Arbor, Michigan this week working with a team of marketing academics and practitioners on a new digital marketing anthology. Each person was invited to author a chapter in an area of interest, which we had to submit in August. This week we’re meeting for the first time, peer-reviewing and editing our chapters and pulling them into one cohesive anthology that readers like you might read. The image above is the barn we holed up in yesterday to work. It’s has a beautiful view of the fall trees in the back, and it was nice to catch a walk around the neighborhood yesterday to create some mind space.
Over the summer, I decided to keep myself accountable to writing every week by starting the CMO Mondays series on my blog. And, as of last week, I decided to keep myself accountable to writing every day – even if it’s just a short thought.
I’ve always enjoyed writing and back in high school thought I might actually become a full-time writer. I wrote my first two feature film screenplays in high school, and went to undergrad at Syracuse to study screenwriting. But, when I entered “the real world”, I discovered I had a knack and interest for business. So, while I still love a good fictional story, most of my writing these days are focused on different aspects of business.
I started blogging in 2011 as a way to structure and codify my thoughts on social media and technology, as I had recently entered the space and was learning so much so quickly. But, once those thoughts were codified it was easy for me to ease up on the blogging and focus on work. The same thing happened last summer of 2015 after finishing my MBA, I had a lot of thoughts percolating that I needed to get out of my head. But, once again, I let focus on work derail my writing.
When my friend and former colleague Marcus Collins presented me with the opportunity to contribute a chapter to this new anthology, I decided that it was time to make writing a priority in my life. I’ve had some ideas for books that I want to write, but have pushed them off because I was too busy or simply didn’t want to make the time. Writing a twenty-page chapter was a nice way to dip my toes in the water to see if I have the desire to push through and write a whole book. The CMO Mondays series is a means to get the knowledge I’ve acquired over the years out of my head and into a format that (hopefully) can help other marketers. And, the decision to write daily is really about getting any other thoughts out of my head and into the world. I’m an introvert, and I have come to recognize that I sometimes let ideas sit in my head too long to formulate instead of sharing them with people that might accelerate an idea into becoming something bigger. I also recognize that I’m a better executive when I’m writing because the process of writing helps me codify thoughts, so that I can communicate them more effectively at work with colleagues.
So, going forward, expect that I’ll be publishing longer, more thoughtful content on Mondays on the topic of marketing, whereas the rest of the days might be a bit lighter, more random musings bouncing around in my head. Next year, our “Digital Marketing: Concept, Theory and Practice” anthology will be published. I’ll share when that happens, and hope you take time to read it.
A CMO recently asked me what is one of the biggest pitfalls I see brands falling into. The number one issue that I see is that marketers have become too specialized and too siloed, and therefore the full potential value of the brand is not capitalized.
Growth in complexity from technologies, channels and data.
As you can see from the slides above, marketing has experienced a proliferation of new technologies and channels, and this intimidates marketers and executives. In an effort to make marketers’ jobs easier, companies building products for marketers have actually made their jobs harder and more complex. So, now you see this trend of marketers becoming over-specialized and marketing teams more siloed. Someone might only know analytics, or only know social, or PPC and display, or brand and creative. And, they advocate for one discipline over the other because that’s what they know and are comfortable with. It’s the lens through which they view the world. But, great marketing isn’t about technology or channels. It’s about audiences. It’s always been about understanding audiences’ human behavior to create products, communications and experiences that enroll those audiences to buy into the brand. If we know our audience inside and out, then deciding which technologies and channels to apply to engage those audiences becomes much easier.
The exponential growth in data hasn’t helped in this matter. The need for data has reinforced our nature to play it safe and created some false positives. This is symptomatic across business – not just marketing. “Advertising is dead.” “Why invest in creatives when the data will just tell us what content audiences want? Then, we can use tools to automate content creation.” These philosophies are easy to spout in an era when marketers are being pressured to lean budgets. But, when everyone is swimming in the same direction, opportunity presents itself in the opposite.
Great marketers think more like anthropologists and communicate like orators.
The growing need for general marketers.
The best marketers are Renaissance people. They don’t live solely in the art bucket or science bucket, but, rather, they bridge the two. Great marketers think like anthropologists and communicate like orators – painting a view of the world and enrolling us into that view. They study human behavior from a mix of hard data (think analytics), soft data (think observations) and experience (think intuition) to arrive at universal human truths about customers and their wants and needs. From these truths, great marketers create solutions to those needs – whether they be in the form of products, services, business models, experiences or, simply, stories.
Two Thinking Systems Perhaps my favorite article on this subject is “The Second Road of Thought” by Tony Golsby-Smith. Here, Golsby-Smith discusses how “the western world bought the wrong thinking system from Aristotle.” An excerpt below:
“This ranks as one of the worst investment decisions our civilization has made, and it has led us into using the wrong toolkits for our enterprises ever since. The thinking system we invested in was Aristotle’s ‘analytics’, and we made the choice around the era of the Enlightenment which ushered in what we today call the Scientific Age. That decision has proven so sweeping that it now monopolizes what most people characterize as ‘thinking’. Thinking processes are dominated by the culture of the sciences, and you get no better evidence of this than our universities, the home of thinking, where any subject must position itself as a science to be taken seriously. Traditional approaches to strategy sit fairly and squarely at this table of logic and Science.
What few people realize is that Aristotle conceived of two thinking-systems, not one. We made the big mistake of just buying one, and allowing it to monopolize the whole territory of thought. We should have bought them both, and used them as partners. Instead we have only one thinking tool in our hands and we are using it for all the wrong purposes. Here is how it happened.
Aristotle was the first person to codify thinking into a system. He did this for a reason: he lived in perhaps the most dramatic social experiment of human history, the invention of democracy by the Greek leader Kleisthenes around 450 BC. This political system did what no other had tried to do: it delivered decision making into the hands of human beings. Prior to that, regimes were governed by the king of the gods. That meant that no matter how sophisticated they might have been in terms of Engineering or Mathematics, they were not sophisticated about human reasoning, especially where decision making was concerned. Clearly, Kleisthenes’ political reforms created a great need to codify the processes by which humans think and can arrive at ‘truths.’ If ever there was a do-it-yourself manual, this was it! Ordinary humans were playing god in Aristotle’s Greece.”
Golsby-Smith goes on to describe the two roads of thought:
THE LOGIC (or ‘analytics’) ROAD: This is ‘where things cannot be other than they are’ and is tied to the realm of natural science.
THE RHETORIC (or ‘dialectic’) ROAD: This is ‘where things can be other than they are’ and is tied to the realm of human decision making.
The Logic Road is the process by which we diagnose what already exists, whereas the Rhetoric Road is the process by which we humans design the future. I would argue that while marketing is experiencing a renaissance right now, it is headed squarely in the direction of ‘analytics’ because of the overwhelming technologies, channels and data discussed above. As business and finance has disappointingly placed statistics (which is the mathematical application of diagnosing the past to predict the future) at the center of its theory and practice, so now marketers are following this trend. But, the breakthrough brands that capture our hearts and minds (and wallets) in the future will be those that master the art of rhetoric as equally as they master the science of analytics.
The art of storytelling David Ogilvy was quoted as saying “It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night. I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea.” Never has this been more true. Audiences today experience an attention deficit from the devices, channels, messages and alerts that bombard their senses every waking moment. Content is more fleeting than ever, and audiences’ retention is shorter than ever. Yet, great storytelling increases audiences’ sense of trust and empathy and increases their retention. This enables us, as marketers, to direct human behavior. Indeed, neuroeconomist, Paul Zak, taught us that character-driven stories consistently cause the synthesis of cortisol (a hormone that focuses our attention) and oxytocin (a hormone that creates a sense of empathy and connection). In other words, the better crafted and more relevant the stories we marketers tell about the brand, the more our brand will stand out to and connect with audiences. There is, apparently, scientific benefit to the art of storytelling. See the video below for more details on Zak’s research.
So, all marketers should be trained in storytelling. The Coca-Cola Company has invested in having screenwriters train their marketers, and IBM has recently been hiring screenwriters. If you want your brand to stand out, invest in striking creative and crafting remarkable stories. Yes, by all means, leverage new sources of data to glean insights about your audiences that can inform that creative. But, people today – more than ever – need to be inspired. We need brave brands (and brave marketers behind those brands) to take chances and inspire audiences into action.
The science of analytics
Meanwhile, every marketer should be trained in basic market research and data science, so that they know how to run their own analysis, as well as review others’. Not every marketer needs to be a practicing statistician by any means. But, the important thing is to understand what questions to ask when reviewing data, so that we know how to interpret and apply its findings to actions that the brand should take. Critical is knowing what you’re looking for in the first place in order to design an analysis and measurement approach that can glean the knowledge you seek.
The tactics of channels and technologies If you have a handle on storytelling and analytics, then channels and technologies become fairly simple. From the data, we glean what story might resonate with customers, what channels they engage in, what their behaviors are in each of those channels, what content formats they engage with most, and we have a sense for what we need to measure in order to learn and improve over time. The trick is then to tell the brand’s story consistently and natively in each of those channels. And, we look for technologies that meet the specifications we need in order to tell that story effectively in each of those channels, and to capture the data we need to measure and learn from our activities.
The need for speed
Given the pace of business is only increasing, it doesn’t make sense to have large groups of hyper-specialized individuals trying to figure out how to work with each other, interpret each other and take actions away from each individual’s contributions. When one does not have context (experience) for what another person does, it’s difficult to make create action. Rather, if we want to move at the speed of business, we should have less, more well-rounded people collaborating. Thus, every marketer should gain experience in both the art and science of marketing. Read Scaling Agile @ Spotify by Henrik Kniberg & Anders Ivarsson to see how this approach has worked in agile software development at Spotify.
We’ve entered annual planning season for many companies. As with any other corporate function, marketing teams are developing their plans for the next fiscal year, including lobbying for budget. All too often, the budgets that marketers request are simply based off of the current year’s budget allocations. Occasionally, marketers are more proactive in seeking new budget to test new channels or programs. Perhaps they even piloted a program this year that had some measurable success and are lobbying for expanded investment for next year. But, most of the time, marketers are simply taking the budget that their CFO allocated to the CMO and being told to do what they can within what they’re given.
Why does this happen? Because marketing gets stuck being perceived as an operating expense instead of a capital expense.
Below is a definition of operating expenses from Investopedia:
“An operating expense is an expense a business incurs through its normal business operations. Often abbreviated as OPEX, operating expenses include rent, equipment, inventory costs, marketing, payroll, insurance and funds allocated toward research and development.”
Below is a definition of capital expenses from Investopedia:
“Capital expenditure, or CapEx, are funds used by a company to acquire or upgrade physical assets such as property, industrial buildings or equipment. It is often used to undertake new projects or investments by the firm. This type of outlay is also made by companies to maintain or increase the scope of their operations. These expenditures can include everything from repairing a roof to building, to purchasing a piece of equipment, or building a brand new factory.”
The issue with these definitions is that they fail to recognize that sound investments in marketing are investments in growth – in profitable revenues, in asset value and in scope of operations. So, should some marketing expenses be considered CAPEX?
Consider that each marketing discipline has a payback period on investment. Some are longer and some are shorter, depending on where they land in the buyer’s journey / sales funnel. For example, SEO and paid search are going to have a shorter payback period because these are primarily bottom of the funnel disciplines. Good SEO and paid search captures potential customers when they’re looking for a specific solution and have high intent and immediacy to acquire that solution. On the other hand, social media and display advertising tends to focus earlier in the buyer’s journey – driving brand/product awareness. Thus, social media and display tend to have a longer payback period. A marketing department should have a handle on three key metrics:
Customer acquisition cost (“CAC”): the cost to acquire a customer
Customer acquisition time (“CAT”): the time it takes to acquire a customer (i.e. the average duration of the buyer’s journey)
Customer lifetime value (“CLV”): the amount of revenue that each individual customer generates during the entire duration that the customer uses the company’s product
A strong marketing department will also have an understanding of how each marketing discipline / channel contributes to these metrics. This context then gives marketers a foundation to lobby for investment.
How much does your company want to grow next year?
Let’s look at a very basic example: assume we have a $50M revenue business, and we want to grow 20% year over year. That gives us target revenues of $60M for the next fiscal year, which means we need to acquire $10M in new revenues. If our product sales price is $200, then we know that we need to acquire 50,000 new customers ($10M / $200 = 50,000). And, if our CAC is $100, then we know we need to invest an additional $5M (50,000 * $100 = $5M) in order to achieve our revenue goals. (*Note for startups that are still figuring out their business models: your CAC should be less than your unit sales price in order for you to have a sustainable, profitable business.).
Running a basic calculation like this enables you to come into budget talks informed and prepared to make your case for budget based on business imperatives. Equally important is understanding how each marketing discipline – search, CRM, social, paid media, PR, etc. – contributes to your CAC and on what payback period, so that you can allocate your budget appropriately.
Think with Google is just one tool that helps us understand this. The below image shows us the general buyer’s journey to online purchase.
As you can see, each marketing discipline / channel plays its part in driving a buyer (i.e. customer) to make a purchase. Organic search, brand paid search, email and referral are at the bottom of the sales funnel (i.e. closer to the point of purchase). Thus, these channels have a shorter payback period. As these channels are directly driving revenues, they may fit well in the OPEX budget. But, how about those activities with longer payback periods?
Consider social media. This discipline / channel typically plays two key roles in the buyer’s journey / sales funnel. See the sales funnel below:
First, social media builds awareness for your brand. This is earlier in the buyer’s journey. But, social media also enables and amplifies advocacy on the tail end of the funnel / buyer’s journey. Advocacy is where customers share their enthusiasm and support for the brand/product. This advocacy helps in the consideration and preference stages of the funnel, as potential customers value the opinions of people in their social networks and other customers that have experienced a brand. Thus, when done well, social media can increase the value of your brand by lowering your CAC and increasing your CLV. Your brand is an asset to the company. So, while it may take longer to achieve the ROI on social media (i.e. there is a longer payback period), this should not preclude the business from investing in the channel. Also, since social media helps to build the value of an important business asset – the brand – over a longer period, should we consider social media a capital expenditure?
We could think of CRM in a similar fashion. A robust email list of customers and potential customers is a business asset. As you can see from the buyer’s journey image above, email sits at the bottom of the funnel – close to the purchase decision. So, how valuable is customer data that will enable the company to market more effectively and efficiently to drive revenue?
While moving organizations – and, in particular, finance teams – to think about marketing expenses as both OPEX and CAPEX (vs. just OPEX), depending on the marketing activity, may take some time, it’s a worthwhile exercise to consider. First, it will ensure that marketing teams are accountable for their primary objective – driving revenue- and that they are putting the right KPIs and analytics infrastructure in place to measure impact. Second, it safeguards the marketing organization from mid-year budget cuts all too typical in large organizations. It’s never made sense to me why companies cut marketing budgets when they don’t hit their numbers; this is when they should be investing more in marketing. See the Virgin Atlantic vs. British Airways case study that I reference in this blog post.
Regardless of what approach you take, come to your planning meetings informed with data and couching your budget requests in the context of the business impact to expect to make. Your CFO speaks numbers; be prepared to speak her language.
Facebook has announced several updates to its News Feed algorithm over the last couple of months. In this post I’ll cover some background context on what the News Feed algorithm is and what the recent updates mean for marketers.
What is the News Feed algorithm?
The News Feed algorithm’s goal is to ensure that Facebook users are seeing the highest quality, most engaging content in their News Feed. The News Feed algorithm was originally launched under the name ‘EdgeRank’. While Facebook hasn’t used the term EdgeRank in some years, you may still hear the term from some marketers. And, understanding the context behind EdgeRank is helpful in understanding the News Feed algorithm today.
In order to create a balanced equation that can surface personalized content to each user, Facebook normalizes each potential input by classifying each input as an ‘Object’. Each Status Update, Image, Video, Link, etc. is considered an Object. When an individual (or brand) first posts an Object on Facebook, an ‘Edge’ is created. Each subsequent interaction with that Object, such as a Like, Comment, Share, or Tag creates an additional Edge on that Object.
The EdgeRank algorithm (or News Feed algorithm) attempted to weigh the Edges in a matter that can surface the best content for each user. In 2010, Facebook revealed the high level formula for EdgeRank seen below:
The elements of the formula are as follows:
u = the Affinity Score. This score weighs in how frequently you interact with the individual that is posting, how many mutual friends you have, whether or not you are related, etc. The more factors you share with the individual, the higher the affinity score. The Affinity Score is also one-way in that for your feed, it only takes into account how frequently you interact with the other individual; it does not account for how frequently the other individual interacts with you. This is because the algorithm is all about ensuring personalized relevance to you, the user.
w = the Weighting. Not all Objects are created equal. Users tend to engage more with visual content such as Images than they do with, say, text only content in a Status Update. Thus, Facebook weighs these Objects based on users’ engagement behavior. Also, not all Edges are created equal. For example, a Comment represents a higher level of engagement than a Like – given the relative effort a user puts in on each action. So, Facebook weighs these actions (Edges) differently.
d = the Time Decay factor. Again, Facebook wants to ensure that users are seeing relevant, engaging content. An article from last week is likely outdated and less relevant than an article that was released today. Thus, EdgeRank factors in when the Object was originally posted.
∑ = the sum of the Affinity Score, Weighting and Time Decay to score a piece of content. The higher the score, the more likely that content will surface in your News Feed.
How the News Feed algorithm has evolved
Much like Google with its search algorithm, over the years, Facebook has continued to evolve and improve on its EdgeRank (News Feed) algorithm.
In mid-2013, Facebook tested a new algorithm with over 1,000 different factors to gauge the quality of content that a Page on Facebook posts. When this algorithm proved to increase engagement in the News Feed, Facebook, incorporated the algorithm into the core News Feed algorithm.
Later in 2013, Facebook added more weight to posts (Objects) that included links to quality news sites, as more users were tuning into Facebook to keep up with current events.
Facebook also took notice that the more text based Status Updates that a user sees from friends, the more likely the user is to post her own text based Status Update. Thus, in early 2014, Facebook added more weight to Status Updates with text.
Also in early 2014, Facebook increased the weighting of a Tag on a Facebook post – increasing the chances that the audience of the individual that was tagged would see the post.
Later in 2014, Facebook took a page out of Google’s playbook and took action to reduce clickbait – a term used to describe sensationalist headlines or eye-catching thumbnail pictures that entice audiences to click on the related link, which drives the audience to low quality content.
In fall of 2014, Facebook began considering when posts were getting engagement and incorporated Trending Topics – surfacing content that was trending in engagement amongst users.
Also in the fall of 2014, Facebook made an effort to reduce the number of promotional posts that Pages were creating, pushing people to buy product, enter a promotional code or tune into a show/event at a certain time.
Today, Facebook’s News Feed algorithm takes into account over 100,000 ‘signals’ (think Edges and other factors described above) to determine what content is most relevant and engaging to each of its users. Facebook moved away from using the term EdgeRank when it began incorporating these signals into a machine learning algorithm. Now it’s referred to simply as the News Feed algorithm.
This video of Adam Mosseri (VP of Product Management for Facebook News Feed) at the F8 Facebook Developers Conference in April is a good primer for how Facebook News Feed works today.
For people with many connections this is particularly important, as there are a lot of stories for them to see each day. So we are updating News Feed over the coming weeks so that the things posted by the friends you care about are higher up in your News Feed.
[Clickbait] are headlines that intentionally leave out crucial information, or mislead people, forcing people to click to find out the answer. For example: “When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions And Saw THIS… I Was SHOCKED!”; “He Put Garlic In His Shoes Before Going To Bed And What Happens Next Is Hard To Believe”; or “The Dog Barked At The Deliveryman And His Reaction Was Priceless.”
Facebook’s has categorized tens of thousands of headlines as clickbait by considering whether or not:
the headline withholds information required to understand what the content of the article is, and
the headline exaggerates the article to create misleading expectations for the reader.
Facebook’s algorithm then reviews the headline of a post and compares the post’s language with phrases commonly used in clickbait headlines. If the post is determined to be clickbait, then it is less likely to surface in users’ News Feeds. Furthermore, if the post comes from a Facebook Page that has been flagged as frequently posting clickbait, posts from that Page will be less likely to surface in users’ News Feeds until that Page reduces its clickbait posts.
To better understand how we can show people the most informative stories to them, we talk to people and ask them how we can improve what they see when they check Facebook. This is our Feed Quality Program, which includes global crowd-sourced surveys of tens of thousands of people per day, as well as people who answer more detailed questions about what they like seeing in their feeds. We ask people through this Feed Quality Program to rate their experience. For stories that people rate highly, we then ask them why they enjoyed seeing those particular stories. One of the most common reasons people give us is that the story made them feel informed about the world around them.
Facebook is using its Feed Quality Program to survey users, asking them how informative they rank a story on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being “really not informative” and 5 being “really informative”). Then, Facebook is combining this that story’s score (i.e. ‘signal’) with signals that determine how relevant the content would be to you personally, using signals such as the ones in the Affinity Score described above.
What do these changes this mean for marketers?
These changes are really just a continued focus on providing users with higher quality content – quality as defined by Facebook users’ common behavior and each user’s personal behavior.
Increased emphasis on stories posted by Facebook friends vs. publishers just means that publishers (and brands) need to ensure that they are posting content that Facebook users are likely to engage with via Likes, Comments, Shares and Tags. De-ranking clickbait means that stories posted to Facebook must have substance. And, improvements on qualifying informative content provides marketers and publishers direction on one characteristic of content that is highly engaging: being informative.
Indeed, Facebook has previously posted its News Feed Values, where Facebook describes the values on which it makes its algorithm improvements. The values are listed below. You can click here to read the full values statement.
Friends and family first
Your feed should inform
Your feed should entertain
A platform for all ideas
You control your experience
Over the last several years, especially since Facebook’s IPO in 2012, publishers and brands have increasingly had to pay to reach Facebook audiences – even those that have liked the brand’s Facebook Page. Indeed, I’ve seen social media practitioners’ role on Facebook evolve from primarily community managers – drafting and publishing Facebook posts, and moderating and engaging with audience’s comments – to primarily media planners and buyers – managing Facebook ad buys. This trend will continue. Successful brands will combine an emphasize on creating quality content that is highly informative and/or entertaining to their audiences with ongoing optimization of audience targeting via Facebook’s ad platform. I’ll cover this in depth in a future post.
To track future updates to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, follow their News Feed FYI blog here.
Back in 2010, I left the movie business to work in digital and social media. I was fascinated by the accelerated growth of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and how they were disrupting the content industry. In the movie business, reliable A-list talent weren’t driving people to the box office anymore. But, Charlie Bit My Finger was getting millions of views on YouTube. Seemingly overnight, what was once our audience had become the talent. They’d become the celebrities themselves. And so, as I made a career move into social media marketing, working with bloggers and vloggers and other content producers and startups like BuzzFeed – and working with brands like General Motors and Colgate Palmolive to make sense of it all – I became fascinated by human behavior online. And, I thought deeply about the core motivators that drive participation and action in social media and online.
As I thought about these core motivators, I kept thinking back to Newton’s Third Law of of Physics, reflected here with two ice skaters. So long as the force that each skater is acting upon the other is equal, they maintain a balanced relationship. But, as soon as the force of one exceeds the other, the relationship is thrown off balance. In other words, the relationship is mutually dependent, or, reciprocal. Similarly, reciprocity in social psychology refers to responding to a positive action with another positive action, or a hostile action with another hostile action.
This notion led me to a model I call The Reciprocity Theory. At its core, The Reciprocity Theory believes that social motivation is based on each person’s desire to (1) be recognized as an individual, and (2) belong to a community.
And, this is what makes social media so sticky: you get to define yourself and showcase yourself as an individual, while belonging to a bigger community. And, so long as you are contributing some definition of value to the community, you will earn an equal value in return. Like the ice skaters, the relationship is reciprocal.
Now, when I took a step back and looked at this model, a few things occurred to me. At the intersection of the individual and the community lies the individual’s purpose. It asks the question, what unique value can I, as an individual, contribute to the community – to the world?
It is also the basis for influence.
If you are truly contributing value to the community, you develop some level of influence on them. In marketing, we talk a lot about influencers. Not just how to engage them with your brand, but also how the brand itself can become one.
And, so I asked: where does a brand fit into this? How does a brand reach the individual – or the community of people?
If the brand interjects itself with traditional, antiquated advertising, then it will throw off the balance and the individual and community will retract. The individual and the community will continue their relationship, but the brand won’t be a part of it.
So, how can a brand earn a seat at the table in a new world where the individual wields more power than the brand? By becoming a valued member of the community as well. By being purpose-driven and enrolling customers into their community.
In this series on what I’m calling The Purpose Economy, we’re going to discuss why The Reciprocity Theory and being a purpose-driven brand is so essential. What are the fundamental shifts in our economy that make this community, purpose-driven approach so critical? And, how a brand can do it. How does a brand operationalize this – institutionalize this? We’ll do this in the following posts on Foundational Human Behavior, Technological Revolutions, Socio-Economic Evolutions, and Business Transformation.
Click here for the next post, where I discuss foundational human behavior.
Yesterday, I discussed content as a platform. Today, I’m going to provide tips for building your content platform.
The 90-9-1 Rule
The 90-9-1 Rule is more of a benchmark, but it states that 1% of the online population is highly participatory (producing original content), 9% participates some of the time (usually curating content – taking an action with the content from the 1% such as commenting, sharing, reposting etc.) and 90% “lurk and learn” or do not participate (they consume the content, but they don’t take an action with it).
It stands to reason then that the 1% are the most influential people on the web, followed by the 9%. But, what about those that produce original content AND curate? They reach influence at scale.
Some brand publishers are already doing this; I touched briefly on the subject in my post, “The Valuation of Content”. The Huffington Post sets the bar with a mix of original content from its editorial staff, curated content where they write two paragraphs and link to another publisher’s content and content from third party bloggers. But, this alone, isn’t enough. They have treated content as a platform, using a social layer to encourage their audience to participate.
Optimization for Participation
One quick look at The Huffington Post homepage, and you can see they’re serving up, not just the latest content, but the most popular, the most discussed, “Hot on Facebook” and “Hot on Twitter”. Dive into an article, and you’ll find it’s easy to comment on posts and share the content through social media.
What does this mean? The Huffington Post are experts at getting their audience to participate, and effectively making content go viral. Their content gets engaged with, curated and broadly syndicated by its own audience because The Huffington Post makes it easy for their audience to find great content and engage/curate/syndicate.
How Can Brands Build a Content Platform?
Ten Tips for Building a Content Platform
Don’t be a used car salesman (i.e. a good content strategy focuses on building a relationship and trust with the audience)
Identify what kind of content your target audience finds valuable
Is there a reoccurring complaint about your product/service? Offer up a piece of content that helps them troubleshoot the problem.
Are they looking for guidance regarding a topic in which you’re company has domain expertise? Offer up content that can help them (e.g. tips for managing personal finances, a guide to eco-friendly living, considerations when selecting a safe car for your teenager, etc.).
In what format do they like to consume that content (e.g. video, text, photos, slide presentations)?
Add a social layer (commenting and sharing functionality), if it doesn’t already exist. A great tool to incorporate here is Disqus, which is a comments community, serving as the comments engine for over 1MM sites and has almost 60MM users.
Produce original content that meets your audience’s needs.
Curate content that adds value to your original content and to your audience
Engage with your audience, as they comment and share on your content
Listen and improve
The image below represents the type and amount of content you should produce against the 90-9-1 rule. In the end, you want to product content that instigates your audience to take an action, including creating more content for you. As a brand, you likely won’t be able to produce enough good content yourself, in-house. And, it’s not your job to either. But, if you use content as a platform for your advocates to create more content about your brand, then you’re reaching scale both in volume of content and syndication of your content.
This is part 2 of 2 of the “Live Entrepreneurially” series. In part 1, I wrote about finding purpose. Today, I’m going to explain how preparing with purpose can harness luck. Instead of presenting the ideas here as theoretical, I’m going to use examples from my own career.
I’m not a marketer. Yet, my last two jobs have been in marketing. Why?
The last year I was in the film business I thought a lot about my intrinsic motivations and purpose, and how those manifest themselves in business and into a career. What aspects of previous jobs did I like / dislike? For example
I like high volume, high stress work environments. If a workplace is too slow, I get anxious and antsy and start working on side projects to keep myself busy. I need to feel productive
I have self-diagnosed A.D.D., so, to stay interested, I need either (1) one project that is progressing quickly and needs all of my attention, or (2) several projects that require less personal attention, but sum up to a high volume of work in aggregate. That said, I generally like having my hands in several different projects at a time
I love to mentor – maybe because I didn’t get a lot of direction when I was growing up
Also worth noting, while I like mentoring (or consulting) people (e.g. students, clients, team members, etc.), I don’t like holding people’s hands. This is because I believe time is my most valuable asset and I can’t stand when people waste my time. I expect people to be at least as passionate and resourceful as me. Otherwise, I don’t want them in the room
I like being in a position where I can influence the strategy/direction of a business
I have many more of these, but I’ll stop here. When I mapped these qualities against a growing interest in technology and social media and how they were affecting the way we communicate and consume content, I concluded that I wanted to start my own company and eventually move into venture capital to fund and mentor other entrepreneurs. That’s when I started thinking about social TV.
I started preparing – thinking about how the internet, mobile and social media were affecting content consumption and how to disrupt mainstream Hollywood. So, when opportunity presented itself and I was introduced to Avi Savar (Founder of Big Fuel) I was prepared. I connected with their Content to Commerce business model, helping brands connect with their customers through content, and the idea of helping them scale their business. And, so I was hired. And, I accepted because the job fit within the parameters of my purpose.
I got to work planning two new companies – one being a location-based network and the other a social business consultancy.
Again, opportunity came knocking, and again, I was prepared. I was introduced to WCG, which was building out its company much the way I was mapping out my social business consultancy. Had I not been working on my own company, and had developed my own point of view on the nature of the marketing and communications industry and how social media fits into it, I may not have gotten an offer.
I wasn’t looking for a job; I was ready to start my own company. But, the fact that WCG was building business very similar to what I wanted to build, and the fact that everyone I met at the company was smart and passionate, convinced me it was worth taking a shot on them. It never hurts to align yourself with good people and strong leaders, and I was impressed by Bob Pearson, Jim Weiss and the rest of the team. So, now I’m at WCG.
My last two jobs have been in marketing. Why?
Because technology, content and social media (three interests that fit within my purpose) are disrupting the marketing and communications industry. Brands and agencies need people that can help them navigate the new wild west, and I can fill that role. But, I don’t consider myself a marketer. I consider myself an entrepreneur-in-the-making.