• Act-On Software
    Act-On Software on January 22, 2015

    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.
  • A booming market emerges: The Freelancer Economy is predicted to be 40% of the American workforce in just five years, and the startups that power them have been funded over $10B – and a whole new class of organizations have emerged to support, empower, and connect freelancers.

    A booming market emerges: The Freelancer Economy is predicted to be 40% of the American workforce in just five years, and the startups that power them have been funded over $10B – and a whole new class of organizations have emerged to support, empower, and connect freelancers.

    Over the last decade, the Social Media industry birthed many groups to serve content providers. 

    The birth of the social media industry resulted in many realizing that the audience gave way to participants. Nearly everyone is now creating, sharing, chatting, rating and ranking alongside the mainstream media. Just as we saw in the social media and blogging industry the rise of organizations to cater to these new influencers, such as BlogHer, Federated Media, Clever Girls, Glam and IZEA to offer events, gifts, sample products, services, and more, we’re beginning to see it repeat.

    The Collaborative Economy industry is birthing many groups to help service providers. 

    That same metaphor is now repeating in the Collaborative Economy. Individuals, called “micro-entrepreneurs” or “freelancers” or “Makers” or “hosts/drivers/taskrabbits” are now creating their own goods and experiences, alongside Fortune 500 companies. To help standardize the language being used in the Collaborative Economy, these folks are called Providers, who offer rides, homes, goods, and services to Partakers, learn more about the three Ps, on this definitive post.

    The following organizations and startups provide services, goods, tools, community, and even activism for these new Providers:

    • Freelancers Union: Founded over a decade ago in NY, this organization has 254,000 members. They offer wellness centers, insurance, training, and community. They have a thriving community, physical centers, and offer a variety of financial services products. We have been pleased to host Freelancers Union at Crowd Companies events and member webinars.
    • Peers.org. Originally founded as an activist group to promote sharing, backed by some of the popular startups, they’ve recently shifted to a new direction under a new leader, after criticism for astroturfing. Meet Shelby Clark. Under his direction, this organization is now an online marketplace that offers services and products, to hosts, drivers, and others, including their own insurance programs for ride sharing providers.
    • Get kungfu: This interesting startup powers the Collaborative Economy and helps Providers find the right gigs and jobs that match their lifestyle, skills, and more. I had the opportunity to learn from this growing startup on a briefing call, and was interested to hear about their early adoption numbers.
    • Groove: This newly emerged organization offers a clubhouse for ride sharing drivers, a place to take bathroom breaks, get food, and other services. I had the pleasure of meeting Manny after reading this article covering Groove from Carolyn Said, of the SF Gate. Manny shared with me his broader ambitions for the emerging ecosystem of drivers bubbling up.
    • Zampl: A new startup in SF, offers ride sharing Providers and drivers local artisan goods to sample and to share with their passengers, fostering word of mouth from trusted drivers. This player reminds me of Izea, offering sponsored conversations in the new economy.
    • Ride Share Guy, a popular blog written for ride sharing drivers (the Providers). Harry Campbell, offers nearly daily media, podcasts, and tips and tricks for this growing workforce. Harry has been open in communication with me. He reaches out to the community to source predictions from the broader industry.
    • Analytics Players: There’s a fast-rising set of new startups emerging that offer services, analytics, and more to the hosts, drivers, and freelancers in this market. They include, but are not limited to: ZettaDriverSherpaShare, and Whats The Fare for drivers. But also, RateCoaster, Smart Host, Beyond Pricing, and Everbooked for home hosts.  See this broader list of startups on the Collaborative Economy Honeycomb 2 Infographic.
    • Gas4Ads: This startup provides ads in exchange for money, a clear cut sponsorship programs for Uber and Lyft drivers. I’m expecting to see iPad versions emerge, perhaps a sleeker and less obtrusive version as the NY cabbie forced karaoke experience.
    • There are dozens, if not hundreds, of online communities for drivers and hosts, including this closed Facebook group for Uber drivers who often share their wins, challenges, and gripes with their role. It’s a closed group, so you’ll need to request access. Also, see UberPeople, a very active forum of raw discussion from and about drivers and the industry. I was introduced to this group from this cabby on twitter, @chi1cabby.

    This brief listing (I’m sure we’re leaving out many other players) indicates there’s an entire industry being birthed to serve the Providers (hosts, drivers, makers, cooks, couriers, and rabbits). This offers incredible opportunities for connecting to this ecosystem to learn from them, support them, but also to provide new resources, offerings, sponsorships, and more to enable this rising class of workers. If you’re working at a very large company, learn more about this space by joining my organization, Crowd Companies.

    (Photo by Porsche Jones, used with Creative Commons license)

    If you're up for learning about branded content and a more experimental piece of content marketing, read about The Vanishing Game with William Boyd and Land Rover. The engaging piece of content that they have created together may just ruin the rest of your work day! I won't tell your boss...

    Not every piece of content marketing that I’m going to bring to you is going to be a mega-popular viral sensation. Some are going to be the experimental ads that are pushing the limits of content marketing.

    The Land Rover and William Boyd partnership is just one such example. The iconic SUV and off-road manufacturer paired up with the famed novelist of post-Ian Fleming James Bond fame to bring you some branded content. Great storytelling is how this content succeeds, read on for a story!

    What is the Land Rover and William Boyd content marketing campaign?

    When you think "Land Rover" you probably think one of two things:

    1. Rugged, unstoppable, independence creating off-road vehicles from jolly old England

    2. Rugged, unstoppable, grocery getters for rich moms and footballers from jolly old England

    With this content marketing campaign, Land Rover are trying to get you to think more about the former, and less about the latter. Enter William Boyd, with a 17,000 word short story that features an opportunity to drive about in a rugged vehicle...that just happens to be a Land Rover.

    The trailer for the campaign sets the story up beautifully:

    You don’t get dialogue like that in a McDonald’s ad!

    If you’re looking at this and seeing that there are only 60,000-ish views and being underwhelmed, you should be. There was so much potential to take people on a trip through video here, but it was never meant to be a YouTube hit. There was another goal in mind.

    Below the video you’ll spot a link to https://thevanishinggame.com/. Head over there yourself and the story will unfold as text scrolling up the screen while the narrator from the YouTube video tells you his story.

    It also features a changing background with images of the area in England where the story is set. (For some reason my screenshots would not pick this up.)

    What I liked about the Land Rover and William Boyd campaign

    The is, perhaps, the strongest example of branded storytelling that I have come across. This isn’t a 2 minute video that you watch and walk away from. This is involved. It’s not viral, it’s personal. It’s a journey you take...with Land Rover. Their logo is always up in the corner, after all.

    the vanishing game

    As a bit of a writer myself, I see this as an excellent opportunity for writers to get paid, people to get stories for free, and ads to be made. In short, if you’re interested in doing an ad like this, my contact information is at the bottom. To get serious, the story told is absolutely engaging. Those in the ad world talk about brand storytelling all the time. It’s a concept that involves everything from your logo to your packaging. This, however, is storytelling with a brand.

    Did you look closely at the video? It was released 2 months ago. Is this your first time hearing about this? I’d wager that it is. I feel that this ad has staying power and will continue to be a story that is told for a longer lifespan than the most viral of videos. It didn’t hit the Internet hard and set it on fire. It’s a slow burn.

    To demonstrate this, you can still go on Twitter and see people talking about it.

    Can you say that about the big viral hit of November 2014 beyond analysts offering up their opinions? I really doubt that. This may be a content marketing campaign that has serious legs.

    What I didn’t like about the Land Rover and William Boyd Campaign

    The entire campaign was dead in the water when it comes to social buzz. They didn’t do much to push a hashtag to use. There’s nothing on the website about sharing. Overall, it felt too much like a book that was put online.

    It could have felt like an interactive, cross-platform, experience that you shared and enjoyed with friends right from the moment you hit the first page of The Vanishing Game. There just wasn’t a big enough push, or any direction given, to get that to happen. Here’s the last time Land Rover shared it online:

    Thirteen retweets...thirteen! They seriously need to up their social game if they want to create and effectively use content marketing in this way.

    The Vanishing Game succeeded at its title - it vanished, and nowhere near enough people saw this excellent example of content marketing. With a harder social push, a greater YouTube presence, and some more hype, this could have been a really special moment in content marketing. As it stands, it was a very interesting experiment that I hope more brands try out (preferably with me!).

    A lot has been made of Oreos' now famous 'Dunk in the Dark' tweet from the 2013 Superbowl. It's considered a shining example of real-time marketing, a stroke of genius only made possible by perfect co-ordination and timing. But was it really a runaway success?

    I was involved in a discussion about the upcoming Super Bowl and the pros and cons of newsjacking in a Twitter chat recently when another participant, Diana Wolff, tweeted this:

    And she’s right, that tweet’s been discussed and analysed and referred to ad-nauseum for the past two years. And while there’s much to appreciate about the ‘Dunk in the Dark’ tweet, the real question is ‘was it effective?’ Did more people buy Oreos as a result of that tweet? Is that even the true measure of real-time marketing success?

    Does sixteen thousand re-tweets correlate to positive social ROI?

    Did People Buy More Oreos as a Result of ‘Dunk in the Dark’?

    This is hard to say, and really, only Oreo and their parent company Mondelez International are able to judge the true return on their Super Bowl 2013 efforts. In terms of financial results, the actual financial attribution of that tweet is cloudy, as noted in by Danielle Sacks in her Fast Company piece “Oreos Tags Pop Culture”:

    Since Oreo embraced culture, the brand's annual sales growth is up from the low double digits to more than 20%. But analysts attribute that to its expansion into emerging markets in Asia. It's very hard to prove that new-media campaigns increase sales. During the Grammys this year, viewers who tweeted #SendMeOreo received a box of limited-edition cookies in new flavors that landed in stores a week later. "In terms of revenue, it was the biggest limited-edition launch that we ever had," says [Janda] Lukin, Oreo's North American chief. But no one at the company can tell me how—or if—"Daily Twist," the Super Bowl tweet, and the Twist, Lick, Dunk app affected cookie sales. Asked specifically about the Super Bowl, Lukin admits, "There isn't a great way for us to directly link it."

    Given there were so many campaigns and changes occurring around the same time, it’s difficult to directly attribute that tweet to an increase in revenue. But it definitely generated coverage, every media outlet from Forbes to CNet to The Huffington Post praised the genius of the Oreos tweet, which was universally considered to have won the Super Bowl ad blitz – some even questioned whether that one tweet did more for the Oreos brand than the multi-million dollar Oreos commercial that aired during the game.

    Definitely the cumulative presence of these campaigns has had a significant and lasting impact, and has helped keep the brand within the awareness of many consumers, so in that sense, ‘Dunk in the Dark’ was obviously a huge win. Though the correlation is not as straight forward as many might suspect.

    Did ‘Dunk in the Dark’ Improve Brand Perception?

    Of course, sales alone may not be the true measure of the success of such coverage - it’s possible that Oreos saw increased brand perception, became better placed in the market or within certain demographic brackets as a result. This, too, is very difficult to measure, and no doubt the flood of coverage Oreos has received as a result of that tweet (including the piece you’re reading right now) has increased their overall brand awareness - but how beneficial has that one tweet been for brand sentiment?

    Brand perception can be significantly influenced by a well-placed, real-time message. Arby’s, for example, would have seen a major boost amongst a younger, hip audience when they sent this tweet in response to Pharrell Williams wearing a that now infamous hat at the Grammys:

    That single tweet brought them significant recognition, and helped them reach an audience they may not have been able to otherwise – their brand perception definitely got a ‘cool’ boost in the reflection of that tweet. There're regular examples of brands utilising real-time response to benefit positive brand perception – just recently, Australian telecommunications giant Optus posted this to their Facebook account in response to a iPhone error which had caused the alarms of many of their customers phones to go off an hour earlier than set, due to a time zone glitch:


    Of course, giving people a free coffee doesn’t get them that hour of sleep back, but the extra effort to connect with their customers will have an impact on overall brand perception – it's no doubt better than just ignoring it and doing nothing at all.

    So what about ‘Dunk in the Dark’? Would that message have improved the perception of Oreos and made customers more aligned the brand? Outside of maybe making a few more people feel like eating some chocolate biscuits, there probably wasn’t a significant increase in brand sentiment as a result of that message. It’s possible, like Arby’s, that they were able to reach a specific audience, through retweets and shares, that they’d otherwise not have hit, but again, how much would that perception reflect in the bottom line?

    Cause an Effect

    The question of effectiveness comes down to the specific people reached and the actions subsequently taken as a result of that exposure. The numbers themselves - re-tweets, followers and favourites - are not, in themselves, a true measure of success. As noted recently by Gary Vaynerchuck, metrics like follower counts don’t necessarily correlate to success – reaching more people definitely increases your opportunities to convert, but getting through to just one person with the right message at the right time can be more successful than reaching 1000.

    The discussion of ‘Dunk in the Dark’ and it’s relative success, based on impressions and interactions alone, is the perfect illustration of were traditional broadcast focus collides with new-school targeting and analytics. In the past, the way to win at marketing was to hit as many people as you could, get as many eyeballs as possible looking at your stuff in order to increase the chances of reaching the right few. This is why blast radius is still seen as such a significant measure - but are impressions and reach really reflective of success? As big data becomes more embedded and we learn more about analytics, and how to link specific data points to profitable results, it’s likely that bigger won’t necessarily be seen as better when we reflect on marketing effectiveness.

    Of course, exposure is, and always will be, of significant value, and research has shown that there are links between social interactions and website visits. And far be it for me to make a call on the success of ‘Dunk in the Dark’ – the only people who can do that are Oreos themselves – although it as interesting that for such a huge, massive, win, they didn’t even try to replicate it, noting before the 2014 Super Bowl that they were ‘going dark’ this time round. No, the purpose of this post is to widen discussion of the metrics and what constitutes marketing success, particularly as brands gear up to wade into the trending currents of Super Bowl 2015.

    Effectiveness is relative, it’s up to us to correlate the data and show what it means in the wider scheme.

    In an era when everyone is competing for attention, telling stories your prospects can identify with can greatly improve your sales lead generation. Here are a few ways to gather your sales prospects around the campfire and tell your story.

    Most people have fond memories of sitting around a campfire with their friends or family, telling stories late into the night. The word “campfire” alone can bring to mind a peaceful outdoor setting, enjoying the warm glow as you relax and listen to the storyteller.

    Good stories capture our attention – they stop the world around us for a moment in time. In an era when everyone is competing for attention, telling stories your prospects can identify with can greatly improve your sales lead generation.

    The real power of storytelling is that when consumers can relate to the story, they can’t help but participate. Taking time to understand each prospect allows you to tailor your brand’s story to focus on individual problems and pain points. While B2B buyers must consider the facts when making purchasing decisions, there’s also an emotional element that can’t be ignored. In fact, a study by CEB found that 71% of buyers who see personal value in a product will make a purchase, and personal value has twice the impact of business value in purchasing decisions.

    Here are a few ways to gather your sales prospects around the campfire and tell your story.

    Know your brand

    Your brand is the setting for each story you will tell. It’s important to have thorough knowledge of your brand’s history, goals, stakeholders, and overall mission so that you can easily include the specific information each prospect cares about.

    Industry knowledge is also important. Knowing how your brand fits into the competitive landscape allows you to explain the unique advantages of working with your company, without needing to deliver a “salesy” pitch.

    Prospect motivations can vary greatly, so it’s important to understand all the things that make your company, product, or service unique, no matter how trivial it may seem. What can you offer that your competitors can’t? How can your product or service help your prospects in a unique way? Being able to effectively communicate this information will make your sales story that much more compelling.

    Strategic content planning

    Once you have the basics of your story down, next is creating opportunities to deliver your personalized story to the right people. Start by considering the order in which you should reveal information and in what format.

    One of the easiest ways to tell your story is by sharing content that matches your prospects’ pain points. When sharing content, use personalized messaging to show sales prospects that you’ve taken the time to sync your story with their specific scenario.  Contributing to discussions in LinkedIn Groups can demonstrate your ability to answer questions your prospects are asking, and sending a well-crafted InMail is a great way to lead with personalized insights your prospects can’t help but notice.

    Know your message

    Stories need direction and purpose to be effective, which is why most storytellers determine the end of their story first. While the ideal end of your story is a signed contract, it’s important to ignore personal goals and focus on creating a happy ending for your sales prospects. With the end-goal in mind, you can work backwards to identify which information your prospects need during each stage of the buying cycle. Working backwards can also prevent you from overwhelming your prospect with irrelevant information at the outset of your relationship.

    Finally, pay attention to how prospects are responding to your messaging. Great storytellers are able to change the tone or focus of their story to align with the audience, and paying attention to subtle cues can indicate the details you should highlight and those you should ignore.

    The competition for attention is high in the social selling era, and generic messaging is becoming less effective over time. So next time you feel a sales pitch coming on, think back to the campfire and transform your pitch into a story.


    Knowing that consumers like personalization is helpful, but the greater challenge is getting them to give up their information. Many consumers are extremely wary of giving their information to companies.

    In a recent article on this site, we discussed the value of personalization for marketers in website and email marketing design. The article focused on research that show how much consumers like personalization and some of the ways it could be implemented. A new study from IBM investigates this topic further. The IBM study shows the value of personalization, and more importantly, how to get consumers to give marketers the data they need to make personalization work.

    The IBM study found that nearly half of US consumers want personalization in their online experience and many want it from in-store retailers as well. The study found that 48 percent of US consumers want on-demand, personalized promotions while shopping online, while 44 percent want the same in the store. The researchers felt that retailers hadn’t fully met the challenge of creating the experience consumers want. According to IBM, though 43 percent of those surveyed said they prefer to shop online, only 29 percent reported making their most recent purchase online.

    “With consumers switching seamlessly from online to the store it might appear that retailers have finally struck the right balance, but IBM’s study identifies a significant gap between what shoppers want from retailers and what they are getting today,” said Sarah Diamond, General Manager, IBM Global Business Services in a press release. “Retailers may not be doing enough to meet consumer expectations shaped by digital experiences outside of retail — from location-based services to preference-based apps. The good news is that this gap also indicates the potential of growth for retailers who can meet those consumer expectations.”

    Knowing that consumers like personalization is helpful, but the greater challenge is getting them to give up their information. Many consumers are extremely wary of giving their information to companies. Giving your email to the wrong entity can lead to large amounts of spam messages and security risks. Even before the internet, putting one’s name and address on a list could lead to piles of unwanted mail. Marketers must be willing to overcome these consumer fears in order to make personalization work. It may take some effort, but it will lead to more loyal customers.

    The study found that one way online and in-store retailers can get customers to give out data is to offer text messages with personalized offers. IBM reported that the majority(54%) of US consumers see potential benefits in sharing their mobile information to receive texts from retailers. Not only do they see the value, many (42%) are willing to give their phone numbers to retailers to get these benefits.

    Remember, there are laws regulating how business can use text messages. The retailer must have permission amongst other things. Read this article read about the most recent changes to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

    Marketers must also keep in mind that just because technology makes something possible, doesn’t mean that consumers will like it. Mobile devices have the potential to provide marketers with a lot of useful information that can be used for personalization, but doing that makes many customers concerned. The researchers at IBM noted that though 42 percent of US consumers see the potential benefits in sharing their locations with retailers via GPS only 28 percent are willing to do so.

    Consumers may not want to share their GPS location directly with retailers, it’s still possible to use location-based marketing. Most mobile apps and ad networks offer ad targeting based on location, marketers just wouldn’t be able to use them to provide personalized specials to a particular user’s device. All the same, being shown a generic ad for a retailer near their location is good enough for most people.

    Besides the information about personalization and data, the IBM study had other findings that are useful for marketers. For example, the study noted that 60 percent of shoppers said it’s important to be able to find out if an item is in stock before going to the store.

    Marketers can read the entire study from IBM on their website. And read this article for more information on how marketers can merge their online and in-store experience.