• 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.
  • Greg Gerik
    Greg Gerik on September 16, 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.
  • Search Engine Optimization is traditionally viewed as a range of tricks or tactics to get your website to the top of Google. I’m going to show you that this is not only a poor way of approaching SEO, but in doing so you’ll actually hurt your search engine rankings!

    What is Search Engine Optimization?

    SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is simply the process of affecting the visibility of a website or web page in a search engines organic (meaning, non-paid/natural) search results.

    Simply put: it’s answering the question of “what are search engines looking for?” Or, “how do I get my website to show up higher in Google?”

    Search Engine Optimization is traditionally viewed as a range of tricks or tactics to get your website to the top of Google. I’m going to show you that this is not only a poor way of approaching SEO, but in doing so you’ll actually hurt your search engine rankings!

    The real purpose of SEO is to create a wonderful user experience by communicating to the search engines that they should recommend your website for relevant searches. It’s really that simple. However, SEO consultants and related articles have spent most of their existence trying to show users how to “cheat” or “tweak” these results in order to move your website to the highest positions in Google.

    While business owners seem to understand the importance of ranking high in Google, they often fail to grasp the purpose of Google itself, and other search engines in the first place. It’s important you understand the search engine’s business model before you understand SEO, and before you start using SEO to help assist the search engines with ranking your website.

    We are approached by clients all the time who want us to help them get to number one in Google. They may have heard that the number one ranked spot gets an average of 33% of all searched traffic, or that 92% of all searched traffic gravitates towards results on the first page of Google. They understand their business would be getting a lot of traffic and customers if they were on the first page!

    This is often where the business owner’s ideas and Google’s ideas of search engine rankings clash. Please understand, Google and other search engines also have a business to run. A business that focuses on providing the absolute best results for a given keyword or phrase. They build their ranking system around that key purpose. When someone attempts to take advantage of that system for their own personal gain, it throws off the system.

    Using an example:

    You just got a new dog, and want to learn how to train this dog. Before enrolling in classes, you want to give it a go yourself. Since it’s a cute little Yellow Lab puppy that’s currently eating your favorite pair of shoes—you decide to search for “obedience training for a yellow lab.”

    Which of the following would best suite your needs?

    1.     A website that awkwardly repeats the phrase “obedience training for a yellow lab,” and is cluttered to death with advertisements, vague pieces of content, and a ton of obscure links to overly expensive training programs.

    2.     A website that is packed full of articles on training your lab. Not only that, the entire website is broken down by section so you can easily go to where you need. They have options to sign up for a free newsletter, and even sell some lower priced products to help you along your journey. When you came to the landing page you weren’t greeted with any strange advertisements, and instead were shown a page with different faucets of training available for you.

    Number two is the obvious choice, right? This means your SEO efforts should be geared towards writing content that actually helps readers with what they’re looking for. However, most business owners seem to focus on the first method when it comes to SEO. They want to use little tricks that “game” the system into ranking their website—instead of working on creating a website that deserves a number one position.

    The last sentence is highlighted for a reason. Before you can rank number one in Google, your website needs to deserve that number one position.

    Why Won’t The Old Way of SEO Work?

    I’d like to cover how SEO has been done for the last 10ish years, and why that simply won’t work anymore. I came into the world of SEO in 1999, and have been through all the different “tricks” and trends, until early 2013 when those tricks abruptly stopped working.

    Before going through this timeline, let me remind you of the goal of search engines: a search engine uses an algorithm to take a user input (referred to as a keyword or key phrase) and produce the best results possible for that keyword. If you were looking for “free dog training advice,” a search engine would fail its purpose if they returned a bunch of books and courses for sale on dog training.

    Obviously though, technology and human intuition has been able to exploit the system. Let me take you through my own journey of exploitation:

    From 1999 until about 2005-2006, SEO was a lot easier. It was dependent on something we now refer to as “keyword stuffing,” or, stuffing your pages with as many keywords as possible.  You were able to “game” the system by repeating the amount of times a keyword showed up on your website.

    My favorite trick at this time was taking a keyword and repeating it about 1000 times in the footer of your document. I’d make a red, for example, footer at the document, and use red text repeating a phrase over and over.

    After keyword stuffing stopped working, on-site SEO became the next big craze. Search engines had a sweet spot for the amount of times a keyword could be repeated without “over use.” Further, they introduced something known as “authority,” or how many other websites were linking back to your website. A fun little SEO fact: this method of ranking was first introduced to us by Google, who realized that the best websites were websites that had a lot of other websites referencing them in their site.

    Of course the intuitive search engine optimizers understood that ranking a website just meant getting as many links as possible from other websites. In the first few years of authority (between about 2003 – 2007) all that mattered was how many websites were pointing to your website, with proper anchor text in the URL. If I wanted to rank for “dog training,” I would simply put the following hyperlinks on any website that would let me: Best Dog Training Website. The anchor text (which is the text you click on to get to the website) has my keyword in it, pointing to my website.

    Between 2007 and 2011 other search engines started to fall down and Google took the lead. In taking the lead, they started working on fixing a system where anyone could pay a SEO to rank a site to number one.  They started going after heavy anchor text, and by 2011 most heavy anchor text and bogus links were penalized. It was around 2009 I realized that “gaming” the system was going to have a short shelf life, and when I founded Jay Nine Inc., I put all of my “black hat” SEO tactics behind me.

    Google focused on slowly cleaning up these tricks and improving their algorithm to remove the “bad seeds” from their ranking systems. Most of this occurred between 2011 until about March of 2013. Between March of 2013 and November of 2013 we reached what I refer to as the ‘tipping point of SEO.’

    Google released several huge updates to their ranking systems that hurt thousands of websites almost overnight. Companies that had focused on ranking their websites using tricks instead of using content were punished immediately. Many online retailers went under, and the SEO community was a mess. This tipping point showed everyone what myself and other brand first marketing companies realized in 2007: the future of SEO was in the content, not in tricks.

    So that, my friends, is why the old ways of SEO won’t work anymore. Technology will forever progress and ensure these ranking “tricks” are snuffed out, and only the best solutions are provided for ranking in Google. Any little loopholes or tricks you find now will be short-lived at best, and at worst could result in you being banned from ranking in any search engine.

    I took you through that timeline for a very specific reason. No matter what any SEO company tries to tell you, using anything but a "brand first", content oriented strategy will give you trouble in the long run. Work on building a solid content strategy, effective distribution, and use the concepts in this article on your campaign. SEO is definitely a case of slow and steady wins the race; don’t be the rabbit.

    In today's global world, we need to ensure more than ever our creative ideas can span cultures. Here are some things to think about as we generate big thinking that goes across borders.
    After listening to The Social Shake Up presentation "From Real-Time Analysis to Storytelling: A Coca-Cola Case Study" from Doug Busk of The Coca Cola Company, it elevated the importance of global marketing in the social world. For me, having worked on advertising teams for some of the largest global packaged goods and pharmaceutical companies, I've come to value the importance of not always thinking US centric. So often when we concept big ideas and tactics we tend to initially go in with blinders on and the outputs all cater better to the US market.
     
    Unfortunately, we don't live in a world where our brands just live on this soil. Many large marketers are looking for us to be global brand ambassadors and that means we need to carry ideas and creative campaigns from Minneapolis to Melbourne to Mumbai. There is an even greater emphasis on making ideas with "globalbility"; the ability for creative ideas to be understood globally. And with platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram that span the world, it's important that we think about a few areas to ensure our ideas have "globalbility."
     

    Language Conundrums: Don't Let Creative Writing Get in the Way of Your Message 

     
    As a creative writer when we start writing for the global market it's important to throw alliteration, rhyming, double entendres, and all those fun world plays out the window. A perfectly paired punchy pile of prose will never come across the same way in Spanish, French or Mandarin. Trying to be cute with a message to boot will have no value as rhyme in Italy or Japan. Be very careful as you create big ideas that are weighted in words. They have the power to become watered down or not have meaning at all as they move country to country. 
     
    Aside from fun word plays, basic language can even get mismatched in translation. For example, let's say we're a global fitness brand in the US and we have a concept with the words stretch and the idea to open up wider, yet the Spanish version of the word, estrachar actually means the opposite, to tighten up or narrow. We would lose the message completely just because the idea doesn't translate fluidly across borders. It's important to think about what we are saying globally to make sure it has meaning and clarity wherever it may travel. 
     

    Value of Visuals: A Picture Doesn't Require an Interpreter 

     
    One way to avoid word pitfalls is to let your big idea come to life visually. A picture is worth a 1000 words or doesn't need them at all. A powerful, iconic idea may not need a line at all. Think about the Got Milk? campaign for a second. That iconic visual of a milk mustache has legs from both the US to South America. A milk mustache doesn't change from Santiago, Chili to San Diego, California. It has value all over and we can understand what it's saying now even without the infamous tag. Think about how you can make your visual your focus since it can be easily shared around the world with no translator needed. During The Social Shake Up day 2, Doug Busk, Director of Connections Innovation, The Coca Cola Company stated, "visual is international." Strong words to live by. 
     

    Content Passport: Customize Your Message for Your Global Audience 

     
    During The Social Shake Up day 1 session, "Is Advertising Over? Being There with Relevant Content and Context", panelist Chris Gomersall of Facebook stressed the value of global customization. Gomersall spoke how on Facebook you have the ability to customize your newsfeed messages for the appropriate audience. For example, earlier this year Coca Cola created the "America is Beautiful" Superbowl commercial that featured people from around the world singing "America the Beautiful". When that video is shared on Facebook, the thumbnail that is the cover of the video could be tailored to your audience. Maybe it features an Indian woman or an Asian city for certain markets and in others it's Americans or Hispanics. That thumbnail may increase engagement if it's customized to the audience who can best associate with what they see. Aside from thumbnails, even headlines or subheads on the feed can be updated in the language or words that are better relatable to your given audience. Use the power of customability in certain areas to take one idea and serve it up in unique ways. 
     

    Big Ideas Are Bigger Than the Eastern Time Zone: The Importance of Posting on a 24hr clock

     
    Once you have that big idea don't just let it be seen just in your time zone. So often we think about 9-5, wherever we are, meanwhile someone else's 9-5 is when you could be sleeping. It's really important that you share your ideas not in real time, but at the right time. When users are online and engaged in their own world you need your ideas in front of them. This means if you don't have someone who is working around the clock, you need to have timed and scheduled posts to meet the global demands. Services like Hootsuite allow you to schedule Twitter posts to post at whatever desired time you'd like. These type of services are vital to global communication and spreading of ideas. 
     
    Hootsuite continues to expand their reach into the education arena by bringing in Syracuse University professor Dr. William Ward as head of their new Higher Education program development and Hootsuite University.
    Many of us know Hootsuite as the social media management system we rely on to monitor and post to Twitter, Facebook, and a host of other social platforms. But Hootsuite is not your typical social media solutions company. In addition to services that range from free to enterprise level, Hootsuite is making a mark in the industry with its innovative Hootsuite University
     
    The Hootsuite University program is designed for professionals seeking to increase skills in Hootsuite and other social media tools and tactics and also has a Higher Education. And recently, Hootsuite brought distinguished Syracuse professor Dr. William J. Ward (@DR4WARD on Twitter) on board as their Director of Education Strategy. Dr. Ward describes himself as  “an industry and academic hybrid” in that he has been working in both spaces for most of his career. 
     
    “I was hired as the first Professor of Practice in Social Media at the S.I. Newhouse School of Social Media,” Ward said. “My job is to bridge the gap between theory and practice and prepare students for what’s next.”  
     
    Dr. Ward helped tackle the challenge of keeping up with the rapid pace of change by partnering with industry leaders on innovative programs including piloting the Hootsuite Higher Education Program and developing the Newhouse Hootsuite Advanced Social Media Strategy Certificate for the industry. Hootsuite University has been quietly establishing a strong presence in the education market, especially in the higher education classroom.
     
    “We are also charter members of the LinkedIn College Pilot Program and were pioneers in using Google Glass (wearable technology) in the classroom,” Ward said.
     
    One of the biggest challenges Ward hopes to address is the disconnect between how students view social media as a way to share with friends, yet miss its potential as a workplace tool. Today’s student population is tech savvy, but lacks the knowledge of how to use that technology outside their social circles. It is Ward’s mission to widen their gaze of how the media can be used effectively, especially as it relates to job skills that can be practically used in the marketplace.
     
    “Students need help to understand the professional and business dynamics that will allow them to harness their ideas using these tools,” Ward said.  “Understanding strategy, targeting audiences, representing the brand consistently on social channels and across teams and geographies, analyzing data, measuring Return on Investment (ROI) against objectives, etc. are all skills that students need to learn for the workplace.”
    Ward said that students already know how to use social media as a toy. The challenge is teaching them how to use it as a professional and business tool. He also believes that social media education should start in the K-12 education system to better prepare young people on the responsible use of the media by integrating it into the classroom experience.
     
    So why Hootsuite? Dr. Ward’s enthusiastic partnership with Hootsuite is based on their commitment to education.  “Over 11,000 professionals have earned their Hootsuite Certification, and Hootsuite has educated 60,000-plus professionals and business people through Hootsuite University and the Newhouse-Hootsuite Advanced Social Media Strategy Certification,” Ward said. 
     
    According to Dr. Ward, Hootsuite has also worked with over 300 global higher education institutions, empowering students with digital skills for today’s workforce. Newhouse-Hootsuite Advanced Social Media Strategy Certificate program for industry offers 15 learning modules and a certificate in advanced social media strategy. (Hootsuite University does not offer a certificate in social media strategy, but is available for higher education and provides Hootsuite certification.)
     
    Dr. William J. Ward is the Director of Education Strategy at Hootsuite. He helps organizations from a wide range of industries integrate new media and digital technologies into their communication strategies. Better known by his handle @DR4WARD, Ward is ranked by Marketing Magazine as one of the Top Marketing Professors on Twitter.
     
    Editors' correction (September 18, 2014):  Syracuse was the first to use the program but is now one of 300 schools using the Hootsuite (HSU) Higher Education Program today. Hootsuite University is not a collaboration with Syracuse University (although it was piloted at SU). The Newhouse-Hootsuite Advanced Social Media Strategy Certificate program targeted for industry is a collaboration. 
     
    While data helps evaluate ROI, it has never been good at representing subjectivity, which is what creativity is: a subjective description of an idea that aims to connect with an audience. Achieving yin-yang balance between data and creativity helps our social campaigns connect the ROI dots and our customers.

    “Tools are tools, but people run social. That’s why we call it social media, not tool media,” said Adam Naide, the social media lead for Cox Communications. Gather more than 600 social business professionals in one place (data) and tweetable sayings will inspire the crowd (creativity).

    During the Data and Creativity: Defining Your Data-Driven Social Campaign session at The Social Shake-Up 2014, on Sept. 16, Naide’s two fellow panelists shared quotable quotes and creative ways to connect with customers using their specific data, too. They include Tracy Bell, Enterprise Media Monitoring Executive, SVP at Bank of America; and David Schweidel, Associate Professor of Marketing at Goizueta Business School at Emory University. Laurent Francois, Co-Founder of RE-UP Agency and fashion blogger, moderated the session with style, of course, and his French accent to boot.

    It seems like data usually stifles creativity, and overuse of the imaginative side doesn’t get you anywhere with the C-suite. What our panelists shared, however, is that while data helps evaluate ROI, it has never been good at representing subjectivity, which is what creativity is—a subjective description of an idea that aims to connect with an audience. Achieving a yin-yang balance between data and creativity helps our social campaigns connect the ROI dots and our customers.

    “A very powerful way social data can inform the creative process is, say, through a commercial,” said Bell. “You’ll schedule posts months out to correlate with the commercial when it hits the air, but listening at the keyboard and watching the data stream the first time the commercial actually does hit the air, tells you within 10 minutes if the commercial is working or not. If not, the creative team can adjust. If the image associated with the commercial doesn’t resonate with the audience, but the commercial does, swap the image. Catch it before it starts circulating. The feedback is different when it’s live.”

    Naide countered Bell’s response with, “Don’t take social feedback too seriously.” He explained to use any feedback as an opportunity to connect but not necessarily to pull your whole social campaign. It’s definitely a balancing act, and each business is unique—from its social strategy and resources to its customers and goals.  

    Bell added to use data to compare how it changed since the last time and how it compares to competitors’ data. That is its most fundamental use, right: to help inform your social campaign? Retention is huge, too, said Naide, and social data drives products. It can be used to target customers and prospects with specific offers based on what information we have and don’t have about them. So content is not only king, but it’s bait as well. It’s a very efficient direct marketing offer.

    “Customers respond to content,” said Schweidel.  “I always get the response about marketing that it’s one part art and one part science, but I’m more creative.” He went on to say how we can use some data insight to show the creatives what’s being observed in the field, and then it’s up to the creatives to put their imagination to work, leveraging the data.

    So how do we deal with the messy video-sharing culture, Francois wanted to know. “Because images are powerful and data will capture it, you must have a very robust process,” Bell said. “But you can’t take the data and interpret it.”

    Naide shared a Cox Communications example with Insightpool, which sponsored the Opening Night Welcome Party at the W’s Whiskey Park. “Working with Insightpool, we have gathered a sack of customers who connect with us around boxing, ultimate fighting, and mixed martial arts. When there’s a new pay-per-view fight, we connect and ask for predictions from the same followers. That’s because they connected with us last time, so it doesn’t seem creepy because it’s contextual. It’s not about selling. It’s authentic. It’s people willing to talk with their cable company.”

    The real-life examples for how data and creativity can and should co-exist together in our social campaigns could have gone on, thanks to our panelists. Though we ran out of time, we left with plenty of proof for how one cannot survive without the other. 

    With the massive proliferation of sites and apps, most will suffer the ignominy of remaining incognito. For some, they may think of themselves as the world’s best kept secret. For others, I would argue, it is just as well! Why? Because so many continue to offer a very poor user experience.

     

    With the massive proliferation of sites and apps, most will suffer the ignominy of remaining incognito. For some, they may think of themselves as the world’s best kept secret. For others, I would argue, it is just as well!  Why? Because so many continue to offer a very poor user experience.

    Why is the user experience so poor?

    • Trying to please all the people all the time
    • The underlying architecture is out-dated
    • The navigation is confusing
    • The images are too heavy (the site doesn’t load quickly)
    • The website has been constructed by multiple people from multiple departments over a prolonged time
    • Allocated resources were not sufficient
    • The team is lacking the requisite skills
    • The mobile version is nonexistent

    I marvel at how some sites are structured. You can still find sites that are set up merely according to the organization’s structure, with internal department titles lining the navigation tabs. Even worse, in-house jargon appears on the customer-facing website. How is the customer supposed to find satisfaction in such an environment?

    3 keys to improve the user experience in an organization

    Getting to a superior user experience requires taking strategic (i.e. tough) choices. Here are what I believe the three keys to help refine and define those choices:

    1. Empathy definition, The Myndset Brand Strategy and Digital MarketingUnderstand better the Customer Journey. Empathy is a significantly important quality in understanding the customer journey. It is only truly possible to create a great user experience once you accept to get into the shoes of your customer. The key point is to understand fully the customer’s context at the time of contact. One of the cardinal sins of ‘traditional’ marketers is to do observation sessions of customers surfing in sterile conditions, based on a marketing script. {Tweet this!} An important part of creating a superior customer experience comes from understanding the customer’s situation at the time of interface (bandwidth, device, surroundings, time to spare, mindset…).
    2. Breaking down silos. Most companies have a legacy structure that perpetuates silo building. I have seen many cases where web marketing teams are segregated from the rest of the business. In any event, that is too often how websites or apps are created: in virtual isolation from the rest of the business. In creating a customer experience, many people in the business beyond marketing need to be included, such as IT, sales/retail and customer service. I would further counsel, at least at the beginning, having a much wider net, including the CEO, HR Director (for better appreciation of the skillset required) and even the Finance Director. The point of having all members of the team participate in observation sessions (e.g. behind a one-way mirror) is to have the internal debate focused around the customers’ experience. This way, conversations move from “I don’t have the resources” or “I can’t do that” to “how can we improve what we just witnessed?”
    3. Aesthetics count and… it needs to work. Since technologies and usages are in constant flux, what constitutes a great user experience is also in movement. In order to get the user experience right, you clearly need to have the right talent. Taste and refinement are intangible qualities, but it’s all about the right attitude: to obsess about the look, the feel, the functionality, the navigation. Importantly, the individuals need to be curious and open to continuous learning, unlearning and relearning. If aesthetics are intimately related to brand image, functionality is related to simplicity. The challenge is to marry aesthetics with practical functionality.

    To create an optimal customer journey is like engaging in a complex and long experiment. Not only are there different customer profiles to manage, there are scores of channels, platforms, devices from which to select before considering the appropriate timing and content. Digital is marvellous in that it allows for metrics that most executives would dream about. Unfortunately, few top executives have the measure of the options and data that digital affords.

    When the conversation about building and designing a website or mobile app is oriented and focused around observations of a (real) customer’s experience, the internal silos and legacy problems are viewed with a different light. {Tweet this!} Nothing evaporates overnight, but at least the debate is organized around the person who is, ultimately, paying the bills and spreading the word: i.e. the consumer.