Mark Schaefer and CONTENT SHOCK courtesy of Social@Ogilvy

Well this morning I had the pleasure of hearing Mark Schaefer talk about the future of digital and social media in his eyes.  Having dragged him away from his holiday of hot pools in Rotorua and Waiheke Island they managed to get him around the royal entourage in Wellington. Mark presented over a live feed from the capital.

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Mark’s blog businesses grow is a great source for all things social and he began the presentation with two mega trends online.

The selfie and cats. Culminating in! Wait for it. The cat selfie – Boom.

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NOT!

So after this opening gag, Mark walked us through 3 digital revolutions we have all been part of and a 4th we are approaching. The first three we know as:

Presence – which is the online brochureware we all saw at the beginning of the internet.

Search – Which was getting your content found and tricking google to be in the first SERPs.

Utility – Which is engaging fans through content on social (our current phase) and the volume of this content is overwhelming. Data will increase 600% by 2020. And it’s not all from IoT. It will also be user generated, like the #catselfie.

On average adults in the western world consume around 10 hours of content a day. Already the web is our major provider of this content. As brands we are finding it hard to cut through the competing content and I like Mark believe will hit the limit of content consumption soon.

Mark then quoted Richard Simms from Facebook ~ “Organic reach is dropping as there’s 1500 odd possible stories we can show a user each day”. Hence the need for the edge rank algorithm. But as seen here, Facebook will be charging more and more to reach your fan base, to enhance their revenues.

So how do we get around this as we move to a new era? Well here are three options.

1. Create a niche and OWN it! Be the best source of information on a specific topic so that search engines can’t ignore you. Relate to your audience so that you’re top of mind in your niche.

Mark talked of a Knoxville cosmetic surgery clinic that moved from sell, sell, sell – to educating people.

They used the doctor as a face and voice of the clinic to answer weekly questions on YouTube and Facebook then blogging for SEO.

They went a step further creating ebooks for those that didn’t want to post questions publicly. The ebooks were so successful that even competitor clinics wanted to buy them. They then wrote cookbooks for their fans. The book was so good that it was a talking point at Christmas time at Mark’s house (brand recognition and top of mind).

2. Borrow a bigger pipeline. Create sponsored content, do some brandscaping (combining with a brand in a niche you’re targeting) or get newsjacking.

One area that Mark believes will get very interesting (he’s written a book on it) is leveraging Influence marketing – through simple publishing tools and mobile technology, influence is democratised now. Think how powerful Robert Scobleizer.com is or Jamie’s World!

But to succeed in influence marketing you need to remember the content plan and the network plan. HOW WILL IT SPREAD? What’s your share of conversation in your niche?

Mark mentioned a recent conversation with Coke execs and how Coke look to create great content. Content so great, fans will wear it on their shirts, and they will have a majority share of youth culture. As we know, Redbull are of course beating them to it…

Power on the internet is who can move your content (so find a bigger pipeline for your content).

3. Think of content as currency. Is it cool enough that people will feel proud of sharing, is it relevant to their peers or will it make them look smarter.

You’ll share content if by association you look cool.

Mark asks, to really get a feel if you’re into the digital space, as a brand take a napkin and finish this sentence on your own. “Only we…” ITs surprising the insights this gives to what is your niche, what is the message you need to share and to who!

Mark also offered up a great filter for compelling content. R.I.T.E.

Relevant 

Interesting 

Timely

Entertaining (the most important)

The key to breaking through the noise is being entertaining. Mark cited Chipotle creating entertainment to sell burritos. See the case study here.

Now to the new 4th age.

Immersion

Which is all about wearables, augmented reality and filters. The future.

In filters, Mark mentioned Zite, which after two years of use is really starting to learn more about the content I like and filter my consumption back to preferred brands, or blogs in my case.

He also talked of Watson at IBM, a supercomputer that is learning and consumes content as fuel. They predict Watson may well be on your wrist in coming years.

Google may not be the source of all info in the future so do we need to optimise to invite people OUT of their filters and to come spend time with our brand.

Understanding and being first movers in content on Wearables and AR will give significant competitive advantage.

The question I’m asking myself is – when there’s a digital layer between us and everything, how do we dominate it? What will digital marketing look like when there no boundaries like cables, screens or WiFi needed?

He believes being entertained and wanting to play will be our focus. Sounds about right.

Finally Marks parting note was -

 Be more human.

A fantastic motto to live by. We buy from people we know and relate to irregardless of digital advancements. We should be switching to ongoing engagement, developing communities of interest and earning loyalty!

Well with many an idea floating around my head now I’m off to brainstorm – What do you think will be the future of digital and social media?

How can my business keep up with new social media channels?

For many the growth of new social networks, online channels and apps can be hard to keep up with. Worse still is figuring out how to make the most of them in your communications and marketing.

There is a neat clip from an obscure film The 13th Warrior that sums up the best approach to communicating in new networks.

Listen, learn how to communicate and adapt to the community.

But that’s jumping ahead into getting a flavour for community norms. A first step would be to ask is it worth it? Some top level questions I ask about new networks are:

  1. How can this network or channel reach my target audience?
  2. Is there something uniquely different about it, compared to existing networks, that I can take advantage of?
  3. How quickly is it scaling?

There are various other questions I’ll ask about: frictional costs to support a new channel; content requirements and support; and  risks. But the above can give a traffic light view on the initiative.

A channel that have been exploring recently is Snapchat. If I ask the above three questions I get:

  • A large demographic of younger users on this network.
  • Messages that only exist for 10 seconds at the most.
  • User growth that is surpassing Facebook and Twitter at a similar age both globally and here in New Zealand.

At first glance it’s a tool that doesn’t fit with my main online plans. Content marketing is about creating long tail ever green content for clients to find on search engines. Creating content that disappears in seconds sounds totally wrong.   But what it does support is hyper focused moments with your audience. A chance to excite and delight. A chance to have fun.

Snapchat takes you from the real world and into your phone where you’re focused in case you miss what’s happening. With that in mind it was a great tool to connect with students online and drive interactions in real life. At Vodafone we’ve used it so far for orientation weeks at both the Otago and Canterbury University campuses.

While I wouldn’t say it is a large step change from our existing channels, it has allowed us to gather a new targeted audience / following in the local geographic area.

We’re listening and learning for now, adapting our messages as we go.  I’d love to hear of any unique new channels you’re using or hacking of existing ones.

Does your company need a CEO?

Well by that I mean – Chief Editorial Officer!

With so many messages to convey to so many audiences and with such varied media to communicate with, does a brand or company need a senior leader to keep the overall message resonating?

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Having a big shepherd muster your content and corral it into the right areas is already a reality for most big online publishers and for many brands that are understanding the benefits of content “marketing”. This analogy doesn’t extend to profit sheering or trimming daggy content, but it could!

But back to the CEO. Whose role is that of curator and oversight of an ongoing content calendar, balancing the messaging and keeping a stock of content at the ready for consistency, news jacking or the unfortunate piece of bad press. The CEO knows not only the stakeholders and their messaging goals, but also mechanisms available.

Spots like:

  • Above the line radio spots for brand awareness.
  • Google Adwords for key recruitment needs.
  • Hyper targeted Facebook messaging for mid funnel sales.
  • Front loaded videos for YouTube pre-roll and back loaded stories for Facebook engagement.
  • Hand written letters to your biggest fans.
  • Snapchat behind the scenes glimpses for brand ambassadors.
  • Or some fun education pieces for your customers.

It’s their job together with their VPs of storytelling to get the right messages heard, seen and remembered.

Generation Y, Generation C or millennials – however you wish to call them – are looking for your Y (spelt WHY). Much more willing to give to a good cause than to give to the man, Gen Y want to hear your story and check its transparent before they fork over their cash.

And with volumes of content ever growing, all ages are looking for fresh content the can trust and admire. So here’s to the CEO and their battle. It’s a new title, but one I hope catches on quickly.

Will 2014 be the Mobile Only Year?

Well as 2014 edges it’s way closer I thought it would be interesting to throw this question out and see what everyone thinks. I believe there will be a new wave of businesses that won’t bother with a desktop focused website but start from scratch thinking mobile only.

Are we going to see a new tidal wave of touch, shake, app, responsive and HTML5 enabled online presences?

Instagram have paved the path for mobile first products, with their stellar figures and acquisition price. In part for doing one thing exceptionally well: making the most of phone cameras and SHARING instant moments.

But when I say mobile only I wonder, how many businesses can put their desktop user experience to the wayside and focus on making the most of the new mobile world. Really using the impressive data connections we are getting.

Already on my blog and other New Zealand websites (if we place tablets and the iPad in the mobile bucket) there’s over 60% accessing posts via a mobile device.
Facebook and Twitter tout similar or even more progressive numbers for users who access over a phone or tablet primarily.

Going totally mobile for me means not only having all the functionality we have come to expect on our desktops but also taking advantage of the mobile device. Not only on your website but your entire online presence.

So let’s see about the off site presence

  1. Geotargeting of advertising is the first measure. Google can now let you run campaigns down to neighbourhood level in many large cities (even in little old New Zealand). This means targeted campaigns focused on activities and people in that area. Like burger discounts to people leaving stadiums, hotels nearby or pushing people to physical stores.
  2. Making mobile friendly Facebook apps, that load ultra fast and ask little that your phone already knows
  3. Using smart urls in your advertising that serve up the right experience for device location and even operating system.

And what about your website?

Once you have made the decision to go responsive or have a mobile version of your site ensuring the basics are there like a functioning enquiry form or even better a functional shop should come next.

What I’m hoping to see are greater use of sensors and the abilities of our phones. Things like:

  • Heightened contrast in your style sheet when the device points away from the sun on sunny days
  • Shake to purchase or double your order?
  • Get your mobile “Share” buttons working, including thumbnails and short descriptions that where possible include location references
  • Guide visitors to the nearest physical store
  • Find tops or accessories that match what you’ve currently got on (using the phone)
  • Listing books you’ve brought and are happy to loan to friends
  • Prompting users to pick up milk or takeaways if your partner is running late (combining data on a family’s location)
  • Oh and my latest one from today (after sitting at the beach) – scanning your photos for potential cancer/melanoma spots

Making the most of device functionality is one part. But true winners will be looking at the data, leveraging insights to hyper customise websites based on as many useful signals as they can from devices. Then, together with the user, sharing in the creation of joint experiences, content creation, products and services. The new economic age will be the connected sharing age.

Who will really take advantage though?

There’s so much potential I can’t wait to see what we’ll get in the coming months.

Thanks followers

Happy New Year to all and I wish you and your families a fantastic, productive, challenging and rewarding 2014.



Note: Post and all content, shot, edited, written, recorded and shared from my Xperia Z1. Not as easy as my iPad, but I wanted to prove it was possible. Even the typing bit to fix the dictation errors.

The art of simplicity and great customer service – Ken’s Yakitori

Ken's Yakitoriya a great Japanese BBQ place with authentic Charcoal grill and decor

Ken’s Yakitori – Best kept dining secret in Auckland. Focused on the customer and experience.

Now I’m trying to give this a digital or social media twist, but to be honest, this post is about a great evening and meal at one of Auckland’s best hidden secrets – Ken’s Yakitori on Anzac Ave.

With my broken high school Japanese and the help of Google translate – it turns out Ken has been in business for over 15 years. I’ve been a patron for over 10 years now and the service, experience and delicious food remain one of my favourite dining experiences in Auckland.

The experience begins half a block away as you get a whiff of Yakitori and charcoal from the front of house grill. As you open the door the welcome call of irasshaimase (literally = Welcome) rings out from all staff members. From then on in, it is true to its rustic Japanese theme.

Last Saturday was no exception, even after a 5 year gap between visits. We were ushered in to the bustling bar and seated on wooden stools in a corridor with just enough room to pass. The decor masters the art of Wabi Sabi with its Shou sugi ban or burnt wood paneling echoing the theme of Yakitori. The mismatched tableware is so Wabi Sabi you feel like you’re at a summer house or camp ground.

The food was fantastic and the Yakitori packs great smokeyness into its simplicity. Each skewer, unmistakably minimalist, has at the most two ingredients. Never pulling the palette too far from its charcoal infused base notes.

We were always attended and the staff had a sixth sense for a drink that needed replacing. They also filled what might have been a slight wait between platters, with some complimentary sweet potato crisps.

But what did I learn from Ken that I can use at work?

Well to be honest Ken has perhaps let the online side of his business take a sabbatical. His website is in need of a refresh and they’re posting some beautiful pictures on Facebook (which they could do more with) KenYakitoriAnzacAve and they feature on Yelp and Foursquare.  So if you do or have checked them out, please leave some recommendations.

Although Ken (well his business) doesn’t proactively use online to its full potential his focus on his customers, good service and great food mean his patrons and word of mouth speak for him.

His business is just like a good online community/website.

Ken Preparing Yakitori

Ken doing his thing at the grill

  • The “irashai” as you enter makes you feel like one of the community immediately. Like Norm entering Cheers.
  • The menu is very visual, just like good social media, and simple to understand.
  • His staff are ready to help and responsive. Waiting for any cue that help is needed rather than hiding the contact details. And maybe the responsiveness is easier given his business size and by the fact that he can see all staff and patrons from the grill.
  • With the grill right in front of everyone you also know it’s well prepared. Open and transparent business at its best.
  • During the great power outages of 1998, Ken was one of the first to buy gas powered fridges while still in stock. You need to be open as many hours as possible to stay in business. Many restaurants went under due to the outages. Ken prospered.
  • Ken keeps his past hygiene certificates up on the wall like badges. Signals of good service for the newbies to spot easily.
  • There’s also a cute NO MSG sign behind him. Obviously everyone asks as it just tastes so good. I can imagine him pointing and giving a cheeky wink when asked what’s the secret to great Yakitori.
  • Best of all, he makes sure the food is exceptional. Good products and services sell themselves.

Ken deserves our patronage and maybe we can help him out with some good social media sharing and reviews. Cheers to a great Yakitoriya.

How brands survive in a photo rich online world

With the latest Twitter update your stream on desktop and mobile features landscape shaped thumbnail previews of photos. This coupled with Twitter cards for blog posts, videos and many more media types, means far more images in what was originally an SMS like feed.  Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and the attention Pinterest is getting all echo the fact that social media sites are getting more visual every day.  Pinterest and Tumblr are just outside the Top 20 sites in New Zealand.

Thinking through our Facebook feeds and what gets me “like”-ing I’ve come up with a starter for Five.

Five image subjects that will appeal to 90% (made up stat) of your audience. Sharing a picture that includes or combines one of these five should out-do a branded/text filled ad. I think they apply to videos too.

In no particular order, but in one that rolls off the tongue well it is:

  1. Pets
  2. People
  3. Places
  4. Faces
  5. Food

Each in moderation of course, and linked to your brand. The images should support your brand’s perception, yet be honest like the images you would see from friends in your feed. Some might have a great Canon or Nikon, but remember most friends don’t have professional lighting studios.

That said they might share pictures of a pristine Ferrari, a meal on a white background, or an airbrushed pop star from time to time.  Some of my favourite TV shows are behind the scenes, the making of and brand stories. Unpolished and engaging.

So let us see how many I can work in over the coming months.

Now I understand Google glass – #SMCAKL – Through the looking glass

Well, call me a cynic but I wasn’t convinced having tech strapped onto my glasses would be worth the ergonomic nightmare and invasion of layers interfering with my reality.

Tonight’s social media club Auckland on augmented reality featured some great insights on the possibilities of social media listening tools from Oracle (don’t mention the Americas cup).
We also saw cats, soccer and some great app based experiences and extensions of brand touch points from @imersia. They’re doing some great work with brands to create third world come augmented experiences for many brands. A great tie or invitation for multichannel brand experiences.

There’s a definite hurdle with all AR apps that having good data plans can help – as you’ve got to download the app to start the interaction – and have a WiFi or 4G connection to get the full experience (forgive the employer plug). But once downloaded there’s some amazing interactions available. I almost wonder who can (or will) seal a deal with an OS provider to pre install or at least create some API for AR interactions.

me wearing google glass :-)

Mark Billinghurst from @HITlabNZ presented an interesting history. That of social media and then the progression – from cameras strapped to foreheads – right through to the current beta Google Glass trials. A great case of who you know vs. what you know and being in the right place at the right time. All without fear of looking crazy with cyborg like appendages.

As the project has progressed, many of the worlds leading tech experts have been invited to GoogleHQ to sample the experience. We were lucky enough to have a live demo and hands on with the samples Mark brought back.

Here’s Sergey Brin giving background and his intro to glass.

The software and Google suite experience through glass was impressive, even if the current tech specs of 5MP pics and 720P video are perhaps low or an iteration off smartphone hero stats. A relatively simple voice activation or swipe to choose menu items or launch apps was easy and intuitive. Even the simplest of activities like heads up walking directions, email or meeting alerts and geofenced annotations reminding you to get milk – looked great.

Whilst many will harp on about privacy issues I can already see a security use for google glass and the police making special requests. Could you imagine, like a donor list, subscribing to have your glass switched on in emergencies to record video. Say for example you’re in line of sight and within a geolocation of a crime your glass can be switched on to anonymously record crimes. Jury time could reach an all time low. Policemen could also wear them on auto record for quality purposes.

Even better, if you could stream constantly, you use image recognition to replace the Internet of things. Google glass could see you’re out of milk and prompt you at 5pm when you pass the store heading home, and suggest an alternative route if traffics heavy. Or even suggest a walk in the sun with the kids if you had too much pizza over lunch.

Perhaps it’s Orwellian and slightly scary, but with the right explicit personal control I’m IN. Just think of the collective knowledge potential for humankind! The fastest way to tie your shoelaces is spreading so slow!