• Russ Fradin
    Russ Fradin on July 29, 2014

    Why Employee Advocacy Matters

    Employee advocacy is an emerging new marketing strategy where companies empower their influential employees to authentically distribute brand approved content, create original content, and in turn earn recognition and rewards for their activity and participation.
  • alexmoffit
    Alex Moffit on September 4, 2014

    John Doerr on OKRs and Goal Setting at Google and Intel [VIDEO]

    “Ideas are precious, but they’re relatively easy. It’s execution that’s everything,” says John Doerr, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and the man who introduced Objective & Key Results (OKRs) to Google. Google widely credits OKRs for helping the company grow from 40 to 40,000 employees. Other businesses including LinkedIn and Twitter have also embraced OKRs. Hear Doerr explain how the OKR process gets teams pulling together by surfacing what matters most, and how a powerful goal system from BetterWorks is leading organizations to operating excellence.
  • Greg Gerik
    Greg Gerik on September 15, 2014

    Shaking Up Social: Attending the Social Shake-Up in Atlanta

    Last year, the Social Shake-Up was one of the best social conferences to attend and this year promises to be even better. Here are a few of the hottest topics and sessions at the Shake-Up this year that are sure to deliver and drive this industry forward.
  • Twitter recently announced algorithm changes that have sent the Twittersphere into a spin. Dedicated users tweeted their collective dismay at the proposed changes.

    Twitter recently announced algorithm changes that have sent the Twittersphere into a spin. Dedicated users tweeted their collective dismay at the proposed changes. According to GigaOm’s Matthew Ingram, the message is clear: A Facebook style, curated news feed is coming, and it is likely here to stay. Yet, despite a torrent of veteran users threatening to leave Twitter, the company is willing to take the risk. Twitter’s CFO, Antony Noto explained:

    “Twitter’s timeline is organized in reverse chronological order, but this isn’t the most relevant experience for a user. Putting that content in front of the person at that moment in time is a way to organize that content better.”

    In other words, if Twitter can grow the relevancy of it’s platform, it will be able to move from being a niche player that traditionally only attracts news junkies (journalists, politicians, PR/marketers, to name a few), who’s professional status is incumbent on the real-time news that the reverse chronological order that the current Twitter feed provides. For the rest of the online community, Twitter remains just another social networking platform, still shadowed in number of registered users, by Facebook.

    Forbes.com’s Jeff Belocosdi explained why Twitter is set to imitate a Facebook style curated newsfeed in this way: if the new newsfeed algorithmim proves popular with first-time and occasional users, Twitter will be able to grow its number of registered users and position itself as a mainstream source of real-time news – even if at the expense of losing some of their veteran users along the way.

    What will a newsfeed-driven Twitter feed mean for businesses?

    The problem with Twitter’s new curated news algorithm feed is that businesses now risk not having their content seen at all without spending money on Twitter ads. Companies are all competing for an increasingly crowded online space, and with Google SEO and Facebook’s algorithms rewarding articles based on engagement and ads, it is crucial for brands to create relevant and newsworthy content for their online audience.

    Indeed Facebook has already warned publishers against ‘click bait articles’, recently tweaking its algorithm to punish content deemed “click bait.” This also means blogging is more important to your brand strategy than ever before, providing you with another channel to maximise your visibility on an increasingly noisy and competitive online space.

    Finding a savvy and engaging content writer who understands the digital sphere is crucial for businesses looking to increase their online presence. With Twitter’s imminent change to an algorithm based news feed, it will be worthwhile to seek out quality content writers who understand how best to optimise content for social media, SEO – and whatever’s next.

    So you’re thinking about outsourcing your marketing department…but is your organization set up to fully reap the benefits? Answer these 6 critical questions to make sure you are truly ready for an outsourced marketing relationship.

    Running a marketing department has become a more complex endeavor over the past couple of decades. With the introduction of the Internet came dramatic changes in consumer behavior, followed by dramatic changes in the way companies market products and services, followed by dramatic changes in the structure of a marketing department and the people inside it.

    This, along with other major business shifts such as the advancement of technology and the proliferation of small businesses, drove the birth of the concept of outsourced marketing.

    For the sake of this exercise, when I say “outsourced marketing,” what I am really referring to is an “outsourced marketing department.” An outsourced marketing department is an entirely different concept than outsourcing portions of your marketing effort, possibly farming out different pieces to various contractors, freelancers, or firms; hiring an agency, contracted primarily for project or campaign work; or the outsourced CMO concept, where you’re getting fractional senior-level leadership.

    This is not the post that will dig into the myriad benefits of the outsourced marketing department, but it’s safe to assume that those benefits are similar to other outsourcing situations: cost savings, access to better talent, time efficiency, and scalability.

    If you’re considering this type of arrangement, don’t be blinded by all the glamorous benefits without understanding that there are a number of characteristics that must be in place inside your organization to make this work.

    Answer these six questions before you start to make sure you are truly ready for the outsourced marketing relationship.

    Do you have a strong, but open-minded leader to own marketing?

    To achieve success in an outsourced marketing scenario, you’re going to need a point of contact, preferably someone at the executive level, to own the function. This person does not necessarily have to be a marketing expert (after all, that is one of the reasons you are outsourcing to begin with), but he or she must start with the mindset that marketing, when done well, can be a growth driver for the business.

    Additionally, this person must have the authority to make marketing decisions. If your marketing leader has to run every piece of website copy or every landing page design up the flagpole to the CEO, and your outsourced marketing team does not have access to that CEO, the relationship will start to feel inefficient quickly.

    Does that leader have the requisite time to own marketing?

    Sure, you bring on an outsourced marketing firm to save you time and allow you to focus on the areas that represent your highest and best use. Unless you’re willing to empower your outsourced marketing firm to run with everything without your approval, you’re going to need to make some significant time for marketing. This includes time to contribute to planning, time to meet and discuss priorities, and time for things like approvals and editing.

    Is that leader willing to cede some level of control over marketing?

    So while I just finished saying that your marketing leader needs to be strong, open-minded, and must make the time to participate in marketing, at the same time he or she has to be willing to let go of control. This may take some time as the marketing leader and outsourced marketing department get to know each other, but once a comfort level is achieved, some of the control—especially over the more tactical decisions—has to be relinquished so execution can move at a reasonable pace.

    Are you willing to plan, prioritize, and stick with it?

    Small, growing companies are often shifting, pivoting, or evolving – pick your word. That’s the reality of being a part of that type of business.

    That being said, if you’re the type of company that is going to change directions every week, approve something one day and then disapprove it the next, or blow up major plans every month, that’s a recipe for disaster in working with an outsourced marketing team. Frankly, this one holds for both internal teams and outsourced teams – it’s demoralizing and confusing when your team feels like they just can’t get anything across the finish line.

    Are there only a couple of cooks in the kitchen?

    While it’s certainly reasonable to have a couple of people involved in your outsourced marketing relationship, decisions should come from one person, and that person should be responsible for getting buy-in or approval from others in the organization. Asking your outsourced marketing team to deal with three or four different people in the organization, ranging from manager level to CEO, simply won’t work.

    Specifically, it’s critical to avoid “swoop and poop” situations — a C-level leader sees something for the first time (website designs, major content pieces, etc.) after your marketing leader has already issued approvals, swoops in with negativity, and sets progress back by weeks or months. It’s the organization’s responsibility to empower your marketing leader, and his or her responsibility to know how to navigate internally – that cannot be handled by your outsourced marketing firm.

    Can you articulate what marketing success looks like?

    If you cannot explain what success will look like three months, six months or twelve months down the road, rethink your decision to go the outsourced marketing route. While all team members, internal or external, like to be aware of the vision for success, it is especially important in an outsourced marketing relationship.

    Answers like, “Just put your heads down and work, and I’ll let you know what’s working and what’s not,” or, “When you create something great, we’ll know it,” are unacceptable answers for the outsourced marketing relationship.

    Outsourcing your marketing department is a critical decision for companies in growth mode. The good news is that there are tons of outsourced marketing success stories you can learn from, and plenty of options to consider. Before you’re bowled over by a fancy portfolio or successful case study, though, make sure you look inside your own organization using the six questions above to ensure that you’re ready for an outsourced marketing structure.

    There’s a nice psychological quirk called the pygmalion effect. It was first coined by Harvard researchers Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobsen, who observed that students performed better when their teachers believed they had the potential to be great. So how can this impact upon the workplace?
    There’s a nice psychological quirk called the pygmalion effect.  It was first coined by Harvard researchers Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobsen, who observed that students performed better when their teachers believed they had the potential to be great.  Their famous experiment saw pupils selected at random and labelled as bloomers, ie children with strong potential.  Lo and behold, those students then went on to significantly out perform their classmates.  What’s interesting is that the effect continued, even after the student was no longer taught by the teacher who believed they had potential.

    So how can this impact upon the workplace?  Well, a study led by Robert Wood provides a nice illustration.  The researchers took a group of participants and divided them into teams of three.  The teams were then further divided into two groups based upon a particular mindset that they were primed to take.

    One group of teams were primed to believe that we tend to have a fixed amount of management ability, and there isn’t really much that can be done to change that.  The other group however were primed to believe that our management ability was something that could be improved with practice and hard work.

    All of the teams had a bedding in period where they grew familiar with one another, after which they were given a complex task to complete that involved managing a furniture company that had hit upon hard times.  The task involved standard management things such as motivating employees and ensuring they were productive.

    Each team had to work collaboratively to try and ensure the best outcome on the task.  As the task progressed, one group clearly began to move clear of the other in terms of performance, and this group pulled further clear the longer the task went on.

    The teams that scored best were all primed to think that they could improve their abilities with hard work and practice.  This mindset encouraged members of those teams to engage in frank and honest discussions about both the task and the executive decisions made by the team.  The key aspect was that everyone in the team was part of the same learning journey.

    It’s a nice reflection of how powerful our mindset and philosophy can be in promoting the kind of culture we all want to see in our social businesses.

    pygmalion effect / shutterstock

     

    Do you want your content to be unforgettable? Do you want parents to pass on your blog posts to their children, and your white papers to their grandchildren? Of course you do! And the solution is simple – make your content hilariously, milk-exploding-from-nostrils funny.

    Do you want your content to be unforgettable? Do you want parents to pass on your blog posts to their children, and your white papers to their grandchildren? Of course you do! And the solution is simple – make your content hilariously, milk-exploding-from-nostrils funny. All right, maybe your creations won’t earn a place in the family hope chest, but a touch of comedy will greatly improve any content piece’s shelf life. 

    News bloggers can write as many as six articles a day, and while those articles may generate tons of views, they tend to go in one ear and out the other. Most readers won’t remember that article next week, never mind who wrote it.

    The truth is, if you want to be memorable, you need to be funny. You gotta make ‘em laugh! 

    A Spoonful of Comedy Makes Dry Content Go Down

    Those in the B2B industry tend to have it harder than most. Most B2B solutions don’t exactly evoke spine-tingling sensations and tend to be as far from “sexy” as Jabba the Hutt. I mean we’re not selling iPhones here, we’re selling cloud data storage services, PPC management solutions, and lead tracking software. No one is staying up at night fantasizing about the rockin’ B2B lifestyle.

    However, with a little creative thinking, even businesses that are generally considered dry can interject humor into their content – and you can bet they’ll be better off for it. Humor can make otherwise unbearably dull content enjoyable, establish your content in a viewer’s mind, and can help develop your unique brand identity.

    There are some great examples of this today happening. The Geico gecko made insurance adorable, and Allstate’s Mayhem character put an unlikely face to everyday mishaps. 

    Probably the most impressive example of comedy in an otherwise dull business comes from Epuron, a European clean energy company.

    You wouldn’t think it possible to get emotional about wind, but this promotional film does just that. The ad even won gold at Cannes in 2007, and earned many other honors and awards.

    That’s all well and good, but how can you add humor to your own business? The best strategy is start with your customers’ pain points and work backwards from there. 

    Do your clients feel overwhelmed by vast quantities of data? Consider going with a “too much of a good thing” real world comparison – maybe one trip to Disney World is great, but if you had to go every day you’d end up punching all the mascots and gorging yourself on cotton candy.

    But is Comedy Right for My Business?

    The short answer is yes.

    Oh, you want the long answer? OK then. Well, it’s understandable for some business to be hesitant about providing comedic relief, especially for large corporations with a professional reputation to uphold. A pie in the face doesn’t exactly scream “trust me with all your money.” Historically, larger companies have worried that humor reflects a lack of professionalism and will make customers question the trust and reliability of your offerings. However, this has been less true in recent years as many businesses, startups especially, have developed a more relaxed and casual rapport with their customers. 

    Approachability and authenticity are replacing stiff tie sophistication and intimidating authority. Modern customers appreciate a business’s candor. The latest marketing best practices highlight the necessity of relationship-building, and a well-placed joke does more to further a customer’s connection to a brand than undecipherable industry jargon.

    That being said, there’s a time and a place for jokes. Not every situation necessitates a laugh. If your business is responsible for managing school trips and study abroad programs, you probably don’t want to make jokes about children getting kidnapped or encountering bodily harm. However, a joke about parents being overwhelmed by a flood of Instagram pics during a child’s trip will probably go over well. 

    Aspiring Stooges Be Warned

    I offer a word of warning to those embarking on their epic journey into the rich and fertile lands of comedy. The best jokes tend to push the line, so it’s tempting to walk close to the edge. Beware though – one wrong move and you could step on a landmine. A landmine full of ill will and hateful tweets. 

    Comedy in content meme

    There’s always a risk in comedy of offending people (e.g. South Park). A poorly timed joke could mean accidentally upsetting a lot of people. It’s almost always a bad idea to piss off your customers, so tread lightly friends. Keep the risks in mind when deciding how far you want to go for a laugh. 

    This isn’t to say you should always play nice – controversy can get you a ton of notice (and traffic), but reaping the rewards requires that you also have thick skin to withstand the virtual tomatoes and fish bones you may find being hurled your way.

    All the World’s a Stage

    How do you know you’ve made unforgettable content? Oh don’t worry, they’ll tell you. You’ll see your content being shared, commented on, and delivering mega-traffic.

    So go forth online jesters, demonstrate your superior wit and comedic excellence to the world. You and your customers will be better for it.

    If you haven't heard anything about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in the last two months, you probably also don't know that the world's going to hell in a handbasket fast. I'll leave that between you and your news habits, but I would like to discuss the Challenge a bit because I think that it's a textbook example of how to go viral the right way.

    If you haven't heard anything about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in the last two months, you probably also don't know that the world's going to hell in a handbasket fast. I'll leave that between you and your news habits, but I would like to discuss the Challenge a bit because I think that it's a textbook example of how to go viral the right way. There are some who have criticized the Challenge for a variety of reasons, ranging from religious and moral to financial. While I have my own reservations about the whole thing, that doesn't mean that from a social media marketing point of view is wasn't brilliant. Let's look at what went right.  

    Perfect Timing

    The Challenge kicked off in June and hit it's high point in August, which makes perfect sense. If you're going to ask people to dump ice water on their heads, you're much more likely to get a good response when it's really hot outside and people are wearing swimsuits all the time anyway. This is probably the simplest piece of the puzzle that fell into place, but it's importance shouldn't be understated. This wouldn't have worked in November or February. Always consider the timing of your campaigns and how they fit in with the current state of things in the world and in culture.  

     

    Simple and Socially Ubiquitous

    The rules for the Challenge were beyond simple: make an unedited video where you take the water over the head and then challenge three friends to do the same. And of course there's the donation part. Beyond that, have at it. There was no specific network it needed to be posted to, so it spread through all of them - Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Twitter, Facebook, G+, YouTube, even LinkedIn. That means there were no barriers to make people think twice about doing it. If it's too difficult to understand and accomplish, interest wanes fast. Tracking the engagement across such a wide range of platforms would be ridiculously time consuming without a high-quality social media dashboard, but it becomes a piece of cake when you have one.  

    Clearly and Strongly Actionable

    Any and every campaign should have a call to action, regardless of how bold or inferred it is. The call to action in the Challenge was very clear and was something people would be likely to do. Once they've decided to do it, they wanted their friends to do it too. Meaning that the call to action of challenging three friends was really more of a prompting than an altogether new suggestion. It was very specific, it wasn't too difficult, and it involved enjoyable social interactions. It also used the range of networks and the social aspect to go viral. Getting a fan to participate is great, but getting them to bring three friends along, who in turn bring three friends along, well that's the power of exponentiality. Viral growth only happens when it's exponential. The more limitations you set your campaign under, the harder it is to break free of them.  

    Image-based

    Images are king online. Good text is necessary, but without images we'd all go back to playing outside. Pictures and videos are the most virulent types of content, and the ALS Challenge took full advantage of that. That also gave it a wider range of platforms for sharing. If you think about it, text isn't read much on Pinterest or Instagram or YouTube unless it's accompanying an image. But there aren't any platforms I can think of that don't welcome images.  

    Cause Celebre

    Raising money for a well-known charity is like shooting fish in a barrel once you get celebrities involved, and the stars came out for this one. When you get the charity/celebrity angle involved with a campaign, more people want to be involved. Raising charitable money is always a good thing, because someone will always be helped and your name will always get a boost. Influencers of any kind that can be leveraged, should be leveraged. Try to walk a fine line between meaningful and fun in your campaign. People get involved when they feel compelled to help with something meaningful, but if it's all gloom and doom and seriousness they'll probably not stick around long. That kind of stuff wears people down. Fun picks them up. Have a meaningful and helpful basis for your campaign, but keep it as light as is appropriate.