• Act-On Software
    Act-On Software on November 18, 2014

    The Rules of Engagement on Facebook

    If you want to make your content sharable and searchable on Facebook, you need to have a thorough understanding of Facebook principles and the general rules that apply to content and behavior.
  • The term "content marketing" has become so broad and all-encompassing as to render it functionally useless to marketers.
    Sipping a mug of hot coffee while gazing over a snowy landscape yesterday morning, I came across an interesting post by Matt Owen of Econsultancy summarizing the hottest topics from theFestival of Marketing recently held in London. As part of his analysis, Matt created a wordcloud that reflected the most frequently used words within the 5,000+ tweets sent during the two-day festival. As I casually gazed at the illustration, one word in particular – the biggest and therefore the most frequently used word, in fact – jumped out at me: Content.

    from tweets wordcloud blog full

    Photo Image Credit: Econsultancy

    Sure, plenty of other digital marketing buzzwords like social, mobile, and brand surround the word Content, but they are smaller, less relevant, almost seeming to orbit Content like so many planets orbiting a sun.

    At that moment a simple but profound question came to mind: WTF is Content, anyway? In a general sense, what exactly does it mean? In a marketing sense, why exactly is it the most heavily used word out there?

    It was only then that I realized I hadn’t the faintest idea.

    Content Confusion

    Recalling that clues to words often can be gleaned from their initial word origins, I opted to spend some time digging up the etymology of the word Content. The word is Middle English as it turns out, originally from Latin contentus, past participle ofcontinēre, “to contain.”

    Not very helpful.

    Perhaps the dictionary would shed further light on my Content quandary. With that in mind, I headed straight to (Google) look up the term in Merriam Webster’s.

    Plucked right from the dictionary’s website, here are the first three parts of the definition of Content when treated as a noun:

    CONTENT

    a :  something contained – usually used in plural <the jar'scontents> (heard that one before…)

    b :  the topics or matter treated in a written work <table ofcontents> (closer, but not quite there…)

    c :  the principal substance (as written matter, illustrations, or music) offered by a World Wide Web site (sounds about right…)

    Mashing up the relevant dictionary inputs with my own understanding and experience of the term, I put together this unofficial and unadorned definition of Content as it relates to marketing:

    All of the stuff contained on a webpage or any other piece of digital or non-digital marketing collateral.

    I quickly realized that, when it comes to marketing at least, Content really is the whole ball of wax...

    Content Matters

    The word Content has grown and morphed over time such that it now refers to virtually all of the physical matter comprising the marketing universe – every video, tag line, tip sheet, about us section, radio & TV spot – everything. Moreover, I would humbly submit that the use of the term Content has become so popular among marketers as to make it one of the most all-encompassing and overarching – but functionally useless – words in marketing today.

    In this way it ranks right up there with the term “Matter” in science, which variously refers to literally all of the stuff in the known universe, big and small (planets, stars, galaxies, molecules, atoms, muons, your computer, etc).

    The difference is that scientists, not surprisingly, have had the good sense to break down their overarching term with the aid of handy classification systems like the Periodic Table of Elements. A long time ago, some scientific genius must’ve quickly realized that doing so would avoid the many ambiguities that make some terms so overly generalized as to become functionally obsolete.

    A good thing, too; just imagine a group of chemists trying to operate with only the noun “Matter” in their lexical arsenal: “check out the atomic weight of this Matter, and also its coloration – much more lustrous than that Matter. The Matter over there, on the other hand, not as pigmented but really conductive.”

    Ridiculous.

    So have we marketers become in our relentless use of the term Content.

    I suppose this comes as no surprise that, given our background as creatives and communicators, we would take every opportunity to adorn our overly generalized term with all manner of colorful descriptors: phrases like “data-driven Content, informative Content, engaging Content” can be found sprinkled throughout many a business/marketing website, blog post, and book for that matter (including mine).

    In our excitement to spread the gospel about the efficacy of content marketing, however, I wonder if we haven’t collectively fallen into a rampant overuse of the term Content, and in doing so, whether we run the risk of focusing on form over substance…

    I can think of at least one aspect of marketing, web design, which is on firmer ground when using Content as a noun in such a generalized way. In a recent post, I expanded on the role of content in web design:

    In web design parlance, content refers to everything on a website: the worlds, images, and videos, etc. Just like you need matter to fill the universe and a body to fill a suit, you need content to fill a website page. Setting aside for now any debate over the merits of content marketing, in the context of web design content is a thing, not a strategy, tactic, or tool. Moreover, it’s an “are,” not an “is” – think plural rather than singular. When we refer to web-based content, then, we are referring to all the things that occupy or populate a web page in aggregate.

    Content Clarity

    Perhaps we need a Periodic Table of Content Marketing, something that provides a framework for classifying content into various sub-functions. As fate would have, Chris Lake of Econsultancy endeavored to do just that in a March 2014 post. Though a valiant effort by all accounts, unless I am mistaken his content marketing classification system has yet to enjoy widespread acceptance and/or uniform adoption.

    Perhaps we should be like the techies and create an ICANN or W3C-type governance body to develop universally accepted and open standards and definitions for Content as it relates to marketing. Or maybe we just need to be less lazy and start using more precise language when referring to particular aspects of content marketing.

    In truth, we may never find the silver bullet for achieving Content clarity. But I sincerely believe that, if we all work together, we may one day have a better understanding of WTF content marketing is after all. 

     

    Some of the world’s most-recognizable brands flourish in the nonprofit sector; Greenpeace, founded in 1971, is still young, yet it has already achieved worldwide recognition as a campaigning, environmental brand with unmistakable core values. Some of the facts behind #ClickClean, a Greenpeace campaign featured at the 2014 Sustainable Brands conference in London, raised a few eyebrows.
    Some of the world’s most-recognizable brands flourish in the nonprofit sector. Household names with rich histories include the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the American Cancer Society; by comparison, Greenpeace, founded in 1971, is a mere stripling, yet it has already achieved worldwide recognition as a campaigning, environmental brand with unmistakable core values.
     
    That a Greenpeace campaign featured at the 2014 Sustainable Brands conference in London wasn’t a surprise; the focus of the presentation from Andrew Hatton, Head of IT, was Greenpeace's increased deployment of social media as one of its day-to-day campaigning tools. Some of the facts behind #ClickClean, a campaign that targets owners of large cloud-based resources, raised a few eyebrows, mine included.
     
    If the global cloud-computing industry was a country, reported Hatton, it would rank sixth in the list of international energy consumers, behind only China, the United States, Japan, India and Russia. Cloud computing consumes nearly 700 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity every year – most of it from “dirty,” non-renewable sources.
     
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    How Clean Is Your Cloud?

    That makes Greenpeace itchy. And when the biggest offenders are some of the biggest brands, including Amazon, eBay, IBM and Microsoft, there’s a solid foundation for one of Greenpeace’s hard-hitting, in-your-face campaigns.
     
    But #ClickClean is different; fewer banners strung across office buildings and corporate headquarters – although those still feature – and more digital “outing.” In 2014, Greenpeace fights fire with fire …
     
    In partnership with VIA, an agency based in Portland, ME, Greenpeace developed a series of off-the-wall campaign videos featuring comedian Reggie Watts; the objective, says Hatton, was “to partner with a cult figure who already has a significant online following. Taking a lighthearted approach increases the chances of going viral – essential for getting our message in front of the largest possible audience.”
     
     
    With close to a quarter of a million views in the three months since they launched, the #ClickClean videos are certainly getting attention. But is the campaign a success? Have companies changed their behaviors as a result? Hatton was happy to answer these and other questions I put to him in the week following the conference.

    It’s Not All of Our Making, But…

    “Some high-profile businesses, including Google, Facebook and Apple, are already adopting renewable energy sources to power their cloud-computing facilities. While we can’t claim direct responsibility for their actions, there’s no doubt that we helped get the issue on their respective corporate agendas,” Hatton told me. “When thousands of customers tweet a company or email the CEO asking for change, it has a huge impact. Social media amplifies the voice of the ‘man-on-the-street’ massively, and the idea of using the Internet itself to campaign for a cleaner Internet is highly appropriate.”
     
    Such has been the success of #ClickClean that Greening the Internet, a 2013 Greenpeace forum on the sustainability of the IT sector, saw speakers from Box, Facebook, Google and Rackspace sharing a platform and proclaiming their shared commitment to power operations with 100 percent renewable energy.  “It’s no coincidence,” says Hatton, “that these leading Internet companies made key senior figures available for our event. Among the laggards, Amazon was conspicuous by its absence.“
     
    So is social media usurping Greenpeace’s traditional activist activities – banner-hanging, nonviolent occupation and other forms of direct intervention? “Not at all,” responds Hatton. “In 2014, Greenpeace makes no distinction between social-media campaigns and traditional activism; each is a critical part of a campaigner’s toolkit.”

    Social Media Energizes Campaigns

    “We believe it’s essential to bring ‘dry’ campaigns to life,” he continues, “and in times when a large commercial brand typically maintains a heavy online presence with a huge reach, social media is the ideal channel – particularly when it’s mixed with a healthy dose of humor. Virality is key, and it doesn’t require huge amounts of money; it’s highly cost-effective.”
     
    I suggested that an advocate network among Greenpeace’s supporter base would be an excellent means of spreading the word; an organization that relies on volunteer activists needs to mobilize every pair of hands, and that’s a task made for advocacy. Hatton agrees – in principle at least.
     
    “The Greenpeace culture is one of encouragement and of activism at local, national and international level,” he explains. "We don’t have formal communication chains, but many areas have dedicated Facebook groups or Twitter communities which serve the same purpose.”
     
    “Our new activist networking tool, Greenwire, is still in development, but I’ve seen very encouraging results. It shares a number of features with a typical advocacy platform, but it’s structured to serve Greenpeace’s specific purposes.”

    What is the Future of Digital Activism?

    What does the future hold? Have Hatton’s plans for future social-media-based campaigns changed as a result of #ClickClean’s success?
     
    “Greenpeace will continue to innovate as fast as technology allows,” he says. “We have already implemented a raft of digital campaign tools; they’re embedded throughout the organization, and every campaigner understands how to use them to best effect. “
     
    “We’re generally early adopters, and we go where the most active online communities congregate. In practice, our plans remain flexible and we intend to increase our social-media usage as new platforms develop.”
     
    Hatton is clearly a committed member of the cause; social media gives him campaigning capabilities that surpass anything available to his predecessors. But are environmental campaigners like Greenpeace becoming too dependent on the (still) largely fossil-fuel-powered Internet they want to eliminate? Or is this the only way to compete?
     
    Share your thoughts with us by commenting below – whether you’re an activist or an armchair observer, we’d love to hear from about your experience of social technology in campaigning of any type.
     
    Image Credit:
    #ClickClean Electricity Demand: Greenpeace
    If the tech sector is having a tough time finding qualified tech talents to hire, you can imagine how increasingly difficult it is for businesses to find the right tech resources when technology isn’t their primary business, yet remains an inseparable part of their business. This is where the MSP emerges as the most viable solution.

    Perhaps technology is the most indispensible aspect for today’s businesses. Right from big corporations to small businesses, everyone is turning to technology to streamline their core operations. Think about ERP, CRM, or HR administration and tell me how many businesses don’t use them. I believe you can count them on your fingers. However, factors like the increasing cost of hardware and software are making things difficult for businesses wanting to capitalize on available technology.

    But, that’s not all. Last year, Tech America Foundation released their technology employment data which highlighted an underlying concern pointed out by Matthew Kazmierczak, vice president of research and reports for the TechAmerica Foundation: “we are concerned that the rate of growth in the technology industry is lagging behind that of the overall private sector. Too often we hear from technology hiring managers and executives about the difficulty in finding qualified and eligible workers. This is particularly troubling for an industry that is at the center of the innovation economy.”

    Now, if the tech sector is having a tough time finding qualified tech talents to hire, you can imagine how increasingly difficult it is for businesses to find the right tech resources when technology isn’t their primary business, yet is an inseparable part of their business. This is where the MSP emerges as the most viable solution.

    What Are MSPs?

    MSPs or managed services providers are third-party contractors that deliver and manage the network-based services, applications, and equipment for businesses or enterprises. MSPs are outsourcing agents that take the headache out of tech maintenance. Not only this, MSPs eliminate the need for non-IT businesses to go through the ordeal of hiring and training IT staff. For businesses that don’t have technology as their primary service, this is nothing short of an ideal settlement.

    When MSPs become business partners

    Once you’ve found the MSP that has worked great for your business, you might be tempted to start thinking long-term. And, why wouldn’t you? Your tech requirements are sorted out and you can remain more focused on your key business processes. In fact, a service level agreement (SLA) with your MSP can impact your bottom line significantly and that is a kind of partnership. But before you jump into believing that it’s a match made in heaven, here are three questions that you should ask:

    Do your strategies align?

    If you are not from the tech industry, your business goals are most likely very different from those of your MSP. It’s a given. But, your MSP should understand the nature of your business and should suggest strategies not just for your technology requirements, but for the greater good of your organization. Ideally, your MSP should have in mind a greater picture as to where your organization could be headed, armed by their resources.

    Do they offer services specific to your needs?

    A vendor will want to sell their products but a true partner will respond to your specific needs. Not only this, the right MSP will offer preventive maintenance to avert problems much before they occur – just like they would do if it were their own company.

    Do they offer optimum level of support?  

    The right MSP will provide high level of tech support at all circumstances so that you are free to carry out your core business processes efficiently. Your ideal tech partner identifies the key challenging areas and works towards mitigating them effectively.

    If you get positive answers as a result of asking these questions, congratulations to you – you’ve met your MSP-turned-business partner.

    Does your MSP show the signs of becoming a business partner in future?

    This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

    computer networks / shutterstock

    This infographic will walk you through the history of hashtags. See, how a common # symbol turned into a global icon.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    This infographic, created by leapagency, will walk you through the history of hashtags. See, how a common # symbol turned into a global icon.
    Origins, methodology and filed notes to help you navigate cyberspace using one of the net's most powerful tool.
    A recent paper released by the University of Leicester explored the role social media plays in our classrooms. The headline from the report was that very few teachers were what they called ‘social media enthusiasts’.

    A recent paper released by the University of Leicester explored the role social media plays in our classrooms.  The headline from the report was that very few teachers were what they called ‘social media enthusiasts’.

    It went on to report that many teachers were found to avoid social media entirely, with around 30% making a conscious decision to stay off of Facebook, Twitter and their like.  No doubt a big reason behind their decision was to avoid compromising situations with pupils.

    The study prompted teachers and students to come together at the Social Media In Lifelong Education event to discuss the role of social media in education.

    “As well as teachers, pupils of all ages have views and experiences of social media use and yet there is often little opportunity for teachers to hear about and discuss their hopes and fears about the use of social media for educational purposes.

    “We felt that, whilst many people worry about social media, there were few spaces for these concerns to be raised and to debate the potential of these tools to enhance learning. The University of Leicester will now compile the collective views of participants to create a charter for a way forward for schools,” the organizers say.

    The perception is very much one that social media is both hugely risky, and also limited to the main social networks.  That’s something I think is a massive shame, and a massive missed opportunity.

    Even overlooking the tremendous success achieved by projects such as Khan Academy, or the numerous social attempts to bring computer coding to a younger audience, I have covered a number of fantastically collaborative projects in education.

    Projects such as the Flat Classroom Project point the way to the future.  One of the main goals of the project is to remove the walls of the classroom and use social media tools to connect classes up with one another and work on projects collaboratively.

    Quadblogging is another similar project.  It borrows from the penpal relationships of old but brings it very much into the 21st century.  The project uses blogs to team four schools together on each project.  Each school is required to become active participants in the other schools blogs, and through this gain deeper insight into their own projects.

    Collaborative teaching

    There are, of course, also a number of projects that are looking to make teaching itself a more collaborative endeavor.

    A study by UNC Charlotte highlighted the benefits when teachers collaborate with their peers.

    The paper reveals that whilst many schools have tapped into social media to help foster better links with their local communities, very few have utilized it for enabling collaboration between teachers, be it for planning lessons or discussing the needs of students.

    “A troubling finding from our study is that the majority of students are not studying in schools where teachers work together and where teachers feel that they are part of professional learning communities,” said study author Stephanie Moller, a faculty member in the Department of Sociology. “African American students are less likely than white and Hispanic students to study in these schools, despite the fact that they benefit the most from studying in such schools.”

    The study found that when teachers exist in a collaborative environment, maths scores increase, and also the range of grades between students is reduced.

    “The path toward developing these environments in our schools is not without obstacles,” Moller said. “School leaders require a supportive district that provides resources for professional development while also allowing teachers time to work collaboratively. Leadership must also work to obtain teacher buy-in, as a forced community is rarely productive.”

    A more recent paper built upon this and explored the world of open educational resources (OER), which are lesson plans and the like, that are made open and freely accessible for other teachers to use, build upon and provide feedback for.

    The paper highlighted how a single such platform had already generated over 75,000 resources, which had been viewed around 2.5 million times.

    It highlights the potential for more collaborative approaches to teaching.  With a number of studies suggesting that there is a big skills gap in collaborative ways of working when children leave education for the world of work, there is much more that needs to be done by schools to adequately prepare children for the new ways of working.

    It’s sad therefore that a study into these social ways of working appears to have limited itself to social networking, and the risks involved in using these platforms.  If the ‘experts’ in this field are so blinkered, it suggests we have quite a long way to go before children are given the appropriate instructions in the ways of collaborative working.

    Photo Credit: Classroom Social Media/shutterstock