• Duo Consulting
    Michael Silverman on October 15, 2014

    4 Reasons Drupal Is the Best Social CMS

    It turns out Drupal and Social Media are a match made in heaven. Because of Drupal’s system of modules, integration with external websites can be as easy as installing a module that fits your site’s needs. And once these modules are installed, you will have a central place to manage profile information and plug-in modules, such as follow and share buttons.
  • Most marketers have gotten so tied around the axle about wanting their content to perform from an audience perspective that they've not given much thought to how it can perform as an inquiry to improve that very relevance and engagement that they're after. The big question to answer is: What is my content designed to help me - as a marketer - learn about those who engage with it?

    In writing my new book, Digital Relevance, I spent a lot of time thinking about how a digital approach changes a lot of things, including the opportunity we have to become more relevant to our audiences.

    An obvious line of thought, given the title of the book, right?

    But here's the thing. Most marketers have gotten so tied around the axle about wanting their content to perform from an audience perspective that they've not given much thought to how it can perform as an inquiry to improve that very relevance and engagement that they're after.

    The big question to answer is: What is my content designed to help me - as a marketer - learn about those who engage with it?

    What I see mostly is the assumptive stuff based on format, such as:

    • If the audience engages with an ROI calculator or views a demo they're late stage
    • If they complete a form they may be a "lead"
    • If they attend a webinar they're in the evaluation stage

    But, how do you know? Because someone said so? Hmm.

    We need to be better than this. We need to develop a rousing curiosity about what our audiences are interested in and what engaging with a specific piece of content could mean to them.

    Based on the information in the content, not the packaging.

    Content must be designed to have mutual value. It must deliver something your audience cares about AND it must deliver an answer to a line of inquiry that can help you improve relevance in a way that leads to additional engagement.

    Part of the issue with this is that, as marketers, we're conditioned to think in a perspective based on one-to-many rather than one-to-one. I'm not saying that we yet have the tools or skills to excel at the latter, but I do think we have a huge opportunity to move in that direction. We may as well start now, because that's what's coming.

    Think about nurturing for a moment. The point of nurturing is to create continuous engagement based on enticing prospects to take steps toward purchase over the course of their buying process.

    This doesn't mean sending out an email with a link to your latest blog post every two weeks.

    It means unfolding a story that creates curiosity and anticipation for what's next in the journey to solve the problem on their plates - aligned to their perspective (persona).

    So what can you learn if you design your content both to serve prospects and as an inquiry?

    Start simply by considering how the dots can be connected to reveal insights you can act upon to find improvements.

    For exmaple, if they read A, what's the propensity for them to read B? Or do more of them skip right to F? If they do skip to F then perhaps your content is out of order for how the problem presents to them. Perhaps a change to the way you connect your storyline would improve response and next steps.

    As another example, let's get to the meat of the content. Let's say someone reads a content article about determining whether to build or buy the solution to a problem and they share the content with their colleagues. What can you learn? Obviously, if you're selling the "built" version, the slant of the content would be toward that choice.

    So could you discern that the person who forwarded the content is trying to convince others involved in the decision that buying is the better option? Or, is that too much of a leap and maybe the group is still wrestling to answer that internal question? If you have a "see also" about how to make that choice and the person also clicks to read that, you may have an answer.

    But, more importantly, what you also learn is where they are in the buying process. They're still considering whether or not to move forward with buying as a means to solve their problem. Until that question is answered, they won't move forward. They are early stage. Does that tell you how to move forward with engaging them? It should.

    However, if you're only looking at the format or the number of content assets they've engaged with, you really have no idea about what stage they're in or what they truly care about. The content of the content is what can tell you. If you design it in pursuit of inquiry. The way in which you connect the content about a topic together can also tell you which way they're leaning.

    What does your content and the way you share it help you to learn about your audience?

     

    The introduction of open source software platforms and bare-metal systems into the legacy enterprise network realm will eventually disrupt the status-quo for leading vendors that have previously benefited from the lack of unruly innovation. Meanwhile, established vendors can still take advantage of the apparent resistance to change within many traditional IT organizations that depend upon the conservative leadership of cautious CIOs.

    The introduction of open source software platforms and bare-metal systems into the legacy enterprise network realm will eventually disrupt the status-quo for leading vendors that have previously benefited from the lack of unruly innovation. Meanwhile, established vendors can still take advantage of the apparent resistance to change within many traditional IT organizations that depend upon the conservative leadership of cautious CIOs.

    Results from the latest market study by Technology Business Research (TBR) indicate growth in the enterprise networking market is accelerating, as demand for cloud, mobility and security solutions -- particularly in developed markets -- escalated and major suppliers leveraged their dominant market positions to capture customer spending.

    Total enterprise networking revenue among the benchmarked companies grew 4.3 percent year-to-year in the first half of 2014, that's more than the 0.9 percent growth in second half of 2013. Vendors capitalized on improved discretionary IT spending in developed regions like Northern and Central Europe and the U.S. market, although demand slowed in emerging markets such as Russia and China.

    Network Security’s leading growth of 13.5 percent year-to-year in the first half of 2014 underscores the importance enterprises place on maintaining a secure network amid the advent of mobile cloud computing.

    "Protecting their IT infrastructure remains a top priority for enterprises, and vendors are reaping the benefits," said Scott Dennehy, senior analyst at TBR. TBR believes that in addition to solidifying mission-critical relationships with customers, expanding in the security space generates opportunities for high-margin add-on software and services sales.

    With hardware commoditization driven by cloud and software-defined networking (SDN) threatening to upend the networking industry, leading vendors are transforming their business models to maintain relevancy and drive long-term growth. This includes realigning resources to capture growth opportunities in areas such as cloud, software and services. Many vendors will face challenges executing in these new areas, as the focus on applications and services does not play to their core strengths in hardware.

    However, vendors such as Cisco increasingly will leverage strategic partnerships -- such as Red Hat for its open source enterprise software portfolio -- and apply supplementary acquisitions to remain key players in the changing enterprise IT and networking landscape.

    The TBR "Enterprise Network Vendor Benchmark" identifies revenue and growth leaders in Network Infrastructure, Wireless Networks, Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C), Network Security and Services, and highlights vendor strategies and future moves as well as overall market trends in each segment and geography.

    enterprise network / shutterstock

    Google+ is the home to the largest engaging audience. According to a Forrester study,G+ posts generate as much engagement as Facebook and twice as much engagement than Twitter. It’s striking because the other two are much popular than G+. The equation is simple. Not everyone joins and continues with G+. And if anyone does, he does it for a purpose.
    If you are asked to share your first thought that pops in your mind when you hear “Social media”, your answer would probably be Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, but not Google Plus for sure. Then why experts keep vouching for the network? Google Authorship was one of the reasons. But since it’s dead now, what are the driving forces to motivate Google Plus marketing?
     
    First reason would be its high engaging audience. As it’s not crowded by anyone and everyone using internet, Google Plus is the home to the largest engaged audience. According to a Forrester study,G+ posts generate as much engagement as Facebook and twice as much engagement than Twitter. It’s striking because the other two are much popular than G+.
     
    The explanation is simple. Not everyone joins and continues with G+. And if anyone does, he does it for a purpose. This works for G+’s engagement quotient. 
     
    The secret also lies in these G+ stats: 
    • Google+ has 540 million monthly active users and 20 million unique mobile monthly users.
    • Engagement on a Facebook post per user is .073% while it’s .069% on a Google plus post.
    • Google+ mobile app user growth from December 13 to May 14 is 14%.
    • Percentage of G+ user interaction with positive brands is 53%, with negative brands is 18%.
    • G+'s percentage of total social logins on websites is 32.9%
    • Average duration of one G+ session is 3.46 minutes
    If you are still not enticed to explore the vast possibilities, here are 5 areas where Google Plus can overshadow Facebook.
     
    Better exposure in Google search results: It doesn’t take much to figure out that Google would give preference to Google Plus, when it comes to getting social signals. If you post regularly on the platform, chances are that the people, who follow you or have you in their circles will see your post when they search with a related keyword on Google. Here is an example:
     
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    I typed “Sunday Flowers” and got a related Google Plus post of Matt Cutts, who I follow on the platform. 
     
    Similarly, your followers too can get your G+ posts in their Google search results. The more you share on G+, the more your authority will be on Google. G+ Business page posts too appear on search results. Here is how I searched for a new Levi’s collection and got one result from the brand’s G+ page.
     
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    No other social network gets such an upper-hand on Google search results. 
     
    Double the reach with Google+ Communities: Google Communities work more like Facebook groups, but they can get you higher traffic. There are almost every kind of communities on G+. You can find them here. And if you want to create your own, you can do it too.
     
    Choose the communities that create maximum stories and conversations. Not necessarily the most populated communities would be the most engaging ones. Select wisely. Don’t join for the sake of fetching traffic to your website. You need to be active in order to get attention from the fellow members. 
     
    Comment, +1 and share others’ content. When you will leave a comment, make sure to add a little value. Avoid commenting generally like “Nice share” or “thanks for the post”. 
     
    Always post in the right category for content segregation. It also helps your content to appear on the most relevant thread. The categories can be found on the left-hand side of the community page. Let’s see when you click on a category, how it segregates related content from other posts within a community. 
     
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    You can see the results from “Nails” are different from that of “Skin”. This feature is effective because no matter how old is your post, it still stands a chance to appear on community front page, if someone searches with categories. 
     
    Moreover, you would notice a significant growth in your social shares as well as follower count if you use Google+ Communities efficiently. However, follow the respective Community rules and watch out for the time slots, when the members get active. 
     
    Google+ ads work differently: Google Plus post ads work in an entirely different way than that of Facebook. Unlike the latter, Google+ post ads don’t run on the network, but on the entire Google’s display network. This not only makes the reach of these ads higher, but also keeps the social network an ad-free zone. 
     
    You can create these ads from any public Google Plus post with your AdWords account. But you need to have at least 1000 followers on the network to be eligible to run these ads. You can have the complete guide here
     
    Here is a famous example of a G+ post ad, displayed on a third-party website.
     
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    Facebook ads are limited to the network, while G+ ads’ reach is much greater. Moreover, as supported by Google AdWords, G+ post ads have more sophisticated targeting options. Moreover, you can comment, share and +1 on these ads real-time. 
     
    Learn the best Google+ hashtags practices: Google+ hashtags too work differently than Twitter and Facebook. It’s more to explore content than to curate, like any other channel.
     
    G+ suggests hastags with every post. However, you can add your your own hashtags as well. Let me share a trick to know which hashtags are suggested by Google and which are the user-created ones. 
     
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    On the above post, you can see 2 labels of hashtags: Grey and blue. The grey labeled tags are added by the user while the blue ones are suggested by Google. 
     
    Use maximum 3 hashtags with a single post. You can add many more than that, but Google+ gives utmost importance to the first three tags. If you click on the hashtag from the list, it will flip through related posts. You can hop from one post to another by clicking on the side-arrow buttons. 
     
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    Go to https://plus.google.com/explore/ and explore suitable hashtags for your posts. Let’s search with #contentmarketing and see what results we have. 
     
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    This way you can explore related hashtags for your posts. It’s an effective way to find out popular hashtags in the niche. 
     
    On the other hand on Facebook, there is no integrated tool to find out popular hashtags, unless there are a few in the trending topics. 
     
    Use Google+ to identify power-users:  Google Plus is populated with technology early adopters and industry influencers. There are plenty of them in your niche as well. Circle Ripples and G+ Circles are two tools, which you can use to identify people, who belong to your niche and have a significant influence. 
     
    Let’s talk about Ripples, as Circles are well-known to all G+ users. Google+ Ripples is a tool that can show you who shares your post and the reach of their shared content. It’s a graphical presentation of your content reach. 
     
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    In the Ripples graph, you can see the content is originally shared by Pierre Far, which was re-shared by Matt Cutts and other 472 people. Since Ripples show data about public posts, you can track only 375 shares. 
     
    When we’re talking about power-users, the bigger the ripple, the bigger the influencer. This is quite evident from the circle that is formed around Matt Cutts. Similarly, if you zoom in to a specific ripple, it shows the re-shares from that particular person.
     
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    So, if you want to identify the most powerful people in your G+ community, track Ripples for every post.  As you find out each one of your industry influencers and power-users, note down every user and make a list. You can create alliance with them for your future content marketing efforts.  Finding the power-users for your business on Facebook is a bit tricky as well as time-consuming, unlike G+, where you can find ripples for every public post, even if they are from your competitors. 
     
    Over to you
     
    It’s your choice if you will start taking G+ marketing more seriously. However, considering the fact that G+ is packed with amazing features and some of them are more efficient than Facebook, you can ignore it at your own risk. 
    The market for smart city technology solutions is still very young and in formative stages, which means there's plenty of room for midsized companies to enter this solution space. Midsized technology vendors who fully understand the needs, desires and challenges that midsized cities have for smart city initiatives will find success in this market.

    The term "smart city" is becoming familiar around the world as urban areas realize that a great deal of benefit can come from connecting physical and digital worlds to better serve the needs of citizens and the administration of the city. A smart city doesn't just result from changes in infrastructure and technologies – it must embody new ways of thinking and planning.

    And smart cities aren't just limited to large metropolitan areas. Many midsized cities need smart city technologies to better manage growth and provide quality of life and work for their citizens. Just like large metros, many midsized cities want to ensure the sustainability of resources and services, by using technologies and digital systems to improve operations and efficiencies, and to innovate how cities and citizens interact.

    At the core of smart cities is the Internet of Things (IoT) – where many systems and networks interact with each other and often run without human intervention. The Internet of Things for the smart city can include not only municipal systems, but machine-generated data created by citizen-owned items such as home environment management devices, smart appliances and vehicle sensors.

    With midsized cities pursuing smart city strategies, opportunities are quite promising for midsized technology companies to help these cities realize their plans. Cutting edge and forward-looking initiatives – using the latest technologies – are often thought to be the domain of large vendors working with large cities. But many midsized and smaller cities need and want to take advantage of similar technologies and capabilities to operate more effectively. Often smaller technology vendors are the better choice as a strategic partner for midsized smart city projects that are frequently implemented incrementally and at lesser scale.

    The market for smart city technology solutions is still very young and in formative stages, which means there's plenty of room for midsized companies to enter this solution space. Midsized technology vendors who fully understand the needs, desires and challenges that midsized cities have for smart city initiatives will find success in this market. Part of meeting midsized needs includes in-depth understanding of what will work for the people in these cities. So the right solutions aren't just about technologies but must have a strong focus on the sociology of living in a smart city today and into the future.

    Midsized Smart Cities Need Big Data Analytics

    One important technology solution area for midsized smart cities: big data analytics for the volumes of data created every day by city systems. This data increases exponentially as more smart city technologies are implemented. Technologies for transportation, utilities, communications, and many other aspects of urban life are evolving faster than overall management strategies. All cities lag on fully gaining advantage and innovative benefit from this information.

    Big data analytics technologies are continuously evolving to better collect, integrate, process, and analyze this highly disparate information to both improve the systems of the smart city and to apply results to other needs and opportunities. Midsized technology companies have new ways to deliver cost-effective services and solutions through cloud platforms, lower priced data analytics tools, and mobile applications.

    As a solution example, midsized technology vendors could provide services for midsized cities for the continuous data analytics needed to govern and improve urban transportation:

    • Real-time operational responsiveness
    • Personalized interactions with citizens using transportation systems
    • Creating new services and changes to policy more quickly and accurately
    • Measuring the effectiveness of current decisions and actions

    Such services and solutions should be tailored for midsized cities to keep costs down and provide exactly what these cities need for faster, more effective implementations. Understanding future direction will help midsized technology vendors build in the right scalability, usability and interoperability capabilities to keep smart cities continuously smart in real time.

    Image source: archivenue.com

    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.

     

    Here are some tips and tactics that any level of digital brand marketer can implement to see a sales increase directly from social media during the holiday shopping season. This article features trend report references that will help put into perspective the ROI potential of social media during the holidays if effective campaigns are implemented.

    Social media continues to mature into an essential tool to influence customers' purchase decisions. During the holidays, brands that depend on sales to close out the year successfully turn to social media to impact e-commerce. With an estimated $650 billion coming out of consumer pockets in November and December, an 8% increase from last season, the real test is how marketers can harness the power of social media and use it as a key component of their sales strategy and customer engagement efforts.  

    In order to capitalize during this crucial time, brands should implement social media campaigns that cross channels and follow consumers through the purchase process. After surveying more than 120 digital marketers on their holiday strategy, Offerpop found that 62% of them are focusing their holiday efforts solely on increasing e-commerce. Don’t know where to start? That’s OK! Here are a few tips and concepts you can implement:

    • Think mobile: Mobile commerce grew by a whopping 80% in 2013, and continues to be a key portal for purchases. Social media efforts can support website sales, so first off, make sure your website is responsive to mobile customers. Then deliver discounts, coupons, and host sweepstakes on channels that mobile users frequently visit like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 71% of social media users access social networks on mobile devices, therefore creating seamless campaigns that deliver special offers or connect to purchase sites quickly and effortlessly is essential.

    • Focus on UGC: Pair holiday campaigns with user-generated content campaigns that allow brand ambassadors to tell your story and share your products using their own content. The content is genuine and trusted by consumers, and let’s be honest…everyone wants what their friends have or want, too. Encourage fans to create, submit, and share content pieces that will engage their networks with your brand. Use fan photos with easy-click purchase buttons to allow customers to shop based on their friends looks and recommendations.

    • Strategize to capitalize on notoriously big shopping days: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the week leading up to Christmas are huge opportunities to encourage purchases from your social fans and followers. Offer Twitter followers a free shipping discount for Cyber Monday by Re-tweeting to unlock a special code, for instance. Make sure to build tools and content you can use as teasers leading up to campaign launch.

    • Bet on Facebook: Our survey found that 92% of digital marketers plan to spend the majority of their holiday marketing budget on Facebook. The network’s active user base encompasses 72% of U.S. adults, giving digital marketers an opportunity to influence a majority of holiday shoppers on a single platform. Allotting ad dollars and encouraging product purchase through Facebook could be one of the most impactful decisions to your bottom line.

    • Email still works: Don’t discount email just because every year someone steps out and say it’s “dead.” It isn’t. Email has the power to promote social campaigns and connect new audiences with your channels, and vice versa. Email can give mobile users quick and easy options to click through and buy. Its ability to cross channels for fans and increase engagement makes it a great compliment to social campaigns and e-commerce efforts.    

    Social media’s power to increase profits during the holidays is growing as marketers and brands unlock more direct ways to influence sales through multiple networks. Effective social marketing is now a mandatory element of all successful holiday marketing plans. Retailers simply will not be as successful during this critical sales time if they do not invest in targeted and effective social media programs geared for commerce.