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YouTube has been promoting a “3H” video brand strategy and revealed a content pattern that seemed to be the most successful in building an engaged audience for the long-term. Can this idea be applied to a business of ANY size? Even an individual blogger? Let’s look at the 3H content pattern and how it relates to audience-building.

Everybody wants their content to go viral.

But if you have ever been lucky enough to have something rise up the charts for a day or two, you will attest to the fact that after a short spike in traffic, viral content rarely has a long-term effect on your business.

Instead, you need something more robust, more consistent, to build a real business around your content and YouTube revealed a plan that just might be the answer.

YouTube has been promoting a “3H” video brand strategy and revealed a content pattern that seemed to be the most successful in building an engaged audience for the long-term. The more I have thought about this and studied it, the more I think it is right; I am starting to build this idea into some of my classes.

Can this idea be applied to a business of ANY size? Even an individual blogger?

Let’s look at the 3 H content pattern and how it relates to audience-building.

1. Hygiene Content

It’s kind of a weird designation, but this is the content that serves the daily health of your audience. This is content that gets people involved and helps them connect to you and your company when they need you most. This is the content that might most likely turn up in organic search results, so it is great for building awareness.

In our book Born to Blog, Stanford Smith and I call this your “bread and butter” content. For my audience, this might be how-to articles like “25 ideas for your social media network strategy.”

Here is a great example from a big brand like Home Depot.

home depot example

In this content series, the company teaches techniques that will help a customer use its products better.

Hygiene content usually serves a short-term purpose, answers an immediate problem.

2. Hub content

So Hygiene content might get somebody to your site and Hub content is meant to keep them there. This could be a series of articles about a more in-depth topic or perhaps a serialized story that makes people want to stay on your site.

In my world, this would be “evergreen” content that people seem to love and read month after month. My Hub content offers insights into how I view the world, opinions on marketing and strategy, and perhaps even something provocative that creates a discussion.

Every time I create a great piece of Hub content I see a lift in subscriptions. This is timeless content that builds interest and even loyalty. An example of this would be A Rant: In Praise of the Unremarkable, which had more than 250 comments and still receives steady page views a year after I wrote it.

In this Hub example from Adidas, young rock climber Sacha DiGiulian tells her story and sets a record for the most difficult rock climb (Grade 9A) achieved by a woman. By the end of this video she is ripping bandages off her hands to make it up the last segment and achieve her dream. It is a gripping drama that can easily lead you down the rabbit hole to spend more time with this brand and its athletes.

sasha digiulian

Hub content like this video creates connection and is the most important type of content for building subscribers … and building subscribers builds your business.

Hero Content

Hero content is something brilliant, dramatic, and bold that transcends the normal day-to-day Internet offerings. This is the content that goes viral and demands attention.

Perhaps the most famous example from 2014 is the “Winner Stays” video from Nike. The video playfully captures the schoolyard fantasy of young soccer players who morph into their favorite global stars. Launched before the World Cup, the video has received more than 95 million views:

Can a little guy like me produce Hero Content? Certainly not on the scale of Nike, but occasionally I write a post that gets more than 3,000 social shares and exceeds 10,000 page views. Perhaps that is “heroic” in our little world of digital marketing? In 2014 here are three different pieces of content that did heroically well:

Content Shock – Nearly 5,000 shares. More than 30,000 views. Over 600 blog posts have linked back to this one blog post with commentary on the ideas I presented. Despite the rampage from this post, it resulted in no distinguishable increase in blog subscriptions. In fact, it was a rather normal month. But it did establish my voice on the blogosphere.

6 Questions to Drive Your Social Media Strategy — I think this Slideshare presentation has been viewed more than any other content I have created — 73,000 views, may of them from people who had never heard of me before.

Social Media Explained – Released in March, this has already emerged as the best-selling social media book of 2014. That’s heroic, right?

But did all these views make a difference to my business? Did Nike’s video sell more athletic gear?

Nike KNEW it was creating Hero Content when it spent millions on its video. I don’t have those resources and can’t predict when something will take off, but whether you are a small company or a large one, your goals are the same — create awareness and relationships that lead to loyalty.

Content marketing is a long-term game. All of this effort adds up to a general increase in awareness, and more important, authority, over time. This is how I build my business. There is no shortcut.

So the “3 H’s” seem to make sense. Each type of content plays a role. And you need a balance. I think bloggers who fall into the trap of creating nothing but how-to hygiene content, for example, never rise above to get people coming back or creating a voice of authority.

That’s my take on it any way. What are your thoughts?

Disclosures: Adidas is a client. Book links are affiliate links.

Illustration courtesy of Flickr CC and Faisal Hamadah

Google loves change probably more than any other company in the world and that’s noticeable in their algorithms, especially Panda and more specifically, a new iteration in the form of Panda 4.1. With this new update, it has been reported by BrightEdge that brands saw an astounding 90% loss in their organic search footprint when Panda 4.1 hit the web late September.

Google loves change probably more than any other company in the world and that’s noticeable in their algorithms, especially Panda and more specifically, a new iteration in the form of Panda 4.1. With this new update, it has been reported by BrightEdge that brands saw an astounding 90% loss in their organic search footprint when Panda 4.1 hit the web late September. So, what does Panda 4.1 mean to your content marketing strategy? Keep reading.

Whats new?

It is hard to find exactly what Google’s secrets are behind their algorithms however, here are a few things you need to know about Panda 4.1.

  • Panda targets duplicated content

  • Will help small businesses do better in Google search results

  • Panda targets sites with a general lack of content

  • Panda targets machine generated content

Who has been impacted?

With the new Panda 4.1, Affiliate, Informational, Local Business Sites, Government and Educational websites have all been affected (some for the good, some for the bad).

How Panda 4.1 changes your content performance strategy

Here are a few points you need to consider with Google’s new Panda 4.1 algorithm.

  1. Quality

To be able to successfully generate high traffic to your website, you need high quality web pages and to achieve this, you need to evaluate your site against some of Panda’s expectations in Google search quality guide.

  1. User Experience

User experience is so important to Google and you need to make sure you are putting your customer first. Using Google Analytics will help you decide on your next steps to improve your website but you also need to create a strategic approach that will benefit what the user wants.

  1. Page Optimisation

Every single page on your website needs to be optimised in an extensive way which will include action points for each page ranked on importance. To do this, you will need an SEO experts help.

How do you feel about Panda 4.1?

Mobile apps for musicians provide the opportunity to sell music via iTunes, promote exclusive tracks, share videos, build a social media presence, send event notifications, start a fan loyalty program, create a mobile store, hold contests, engage with fans, and much more.

Media consumption on mobile devices is on the rise. By 2015, one-third of mobile users in America will regularly listen to music on their smart phones. Music and video already account for more than half the $30 billion mobile content market. Your fans expect the ultimate mobile experience in audio and video music, whether streamed or downloaded. Mobile consumers of music is a huge market, and mobile apps for musicians enable you to tap into various marketing opportunities, and literally be in the palm of your fans’ hands.

Mobile apps for musicians provide the opportunity to sell music via iTunes, promote exclusive tracks, share videos, build a social media presence, send event notifications, start a fan loyalty program, create a mobile store, hold contests, engage with fans, and much more.

The YouTube Creator Studio app is a one-of-a-kind app that allows musicians to manage their YouTube channels using mobile devices.  As a musician, you can interact with your fans and monitor channel performance on the go.

Broadcast your events live to your audience with LiveStream. The technology is device-agnostic and allows musicians to reach out to their fans via Android,Apple smartphones, or television. You can stream concerts or a behind-the-scenes videos, and even chat with your audience during the stream.

Bands and musicians are among the most followed and networked users on Facebook and Twitter. There are a number of mobile apps available for these sites. Tweet Lanes and Twidere are two free apps for twitter that have garnered good reviews. Use these to connect with your audience on Twitter. Tweet for a Track is a web application you can use to promote your music. Tweet the link to your song, and readers who retweet or share it on Facebook can download the song..

Facebook is easily the single largest platform for musicians.  Many bands and artists run extremely popular pages on Facebook, for example Shakira, Eminem, and Justin Beiber. BandPage is the most popular service used by musicians seeking to connect with their fans  and market their music. The BandPage app allows you to post tour dates, videos, photos, and more to your Facebook page. You can also earn royalties through BandPage for the music that is played on your Facebook page.

Bandsintown Concerts is an app that lists upcoming concerts. The app allows musicians to reach out to their audience and provide information. It also links with Facebook and Twitter. Musicians can use Bandsintown Concerts to establish and connect with a local fan base.

There are online resources you can use to create custom apps and market your music. The challenge is in getting prospective fans to download the app. You could offer incentives such as discounts on your online music, loyalty programs, giveaways, and discounts on concert tickets.

Musicians can create, promote, and sell music on their mobile devices using the right apps which can also be used to reach a wide audience through implementing an effective mobile marketing plan.

The Content Promotion Strategy Decision Tree is a flowchart designed to help you answer that question. Depending on your content marketing campaign’s timeframe, budget, and goals, you can determine whether an earned, owned, shared, paid, or converged media strategy makes the most sense for that campaign. You’ll also want to pay attention to which type of content fits into each strategy.

To build the relationships that are a necessary part of content promotion, you engage with a community of existing and potential customers through your company’s blog, resource pages, and social channels. In other words, you identify the audience and then create content for it. Determining what content to create that meets the audience’s needs, however, is just one piece of the content promotion puzzle. You must also get that content to the audience where that audience already spends time online.

You have to know the answer to, “How do I promote my content?”

The Content Promotion Strategy Decision Tree is a flowchart designed to help you answer that question. Depending on your content marketing campaign’s timeframe, budget, and goals, you can determine whether an earned, owned, shared, paid, or converged media strategy makes the most sense for that campaign. You’ll also want to pay attention to which type of content fits into each strategy.

Earned

An earned media strategy is one that involves gaining online coverage through media outreach and relationships. This content is written about, or includes a reference and a link to, the piece of content you’re promoting, ideally by others outside your company – by journalists or influencers who you’ve built relationships with over time. When a journalist or influencer writes about content you’ve created, that’s unbiased coverage seen and shared by their audience. Thought leaders and influencers inside your company could write an article about a piece of content, and then you could earn its placement on a media outlet with an audience interested in that content. In either case, the point is to share information altruistically.

Owned

An owned media strategy involves using owned media content to inform customers—both existing and potential— not only of your products and services but also of the industry itself. Owned media content is what’s housed on your website: company blogs, webinars, white papers, videos, ebooks, infographics, and case studies. (An example is NASA's News page.) This is the advanced content you’re likely to promote at some point. You have complete control over it and can use it to help consumers keep up on the latest industry advancements, navigate persistent myths, and learn about the newest trends. By providing helpful content that consumers can rely on, you build trust and lay a foundation for a longer lasting relationship.

Shared

A shared media strategy uses posts, tweets, and updates to distribute and share content. Obviously, sometimes posts and tweets are created on the fly – the immediacy of social media is what makes it so powerful (check out this list to find out which companies get it right) – but that doesn’t mean they should ever be off the cuff. Social media interactions between your brand and your customers should be natural, and when appropriate, fun. However, these interactions should always adhere to brand guidelines and be professional and helpful. When you’re promoting a piece of content through social platforms, use language appropriate to the platform – your LinkedIn updates are likely to be more formal than your tweets, for example – and write out the accompanying text for each platform ahead of time, paying attention to word count restrictions.

Paid

A paid media strategy employs online advertising via sponsored recommendations, posts, and articles. Sponsored content is generally identified as such. Paid media content should be created with the same standards as with any content you create – its purpose is still to educate and inform your customer (even if you’re paying to put it in front of that customer).

Converged

A converged media strategy is a combination of earned, owned, shared, and paid tactics to promote content on a variety of channels.

Regardless of the strategy you choose, all descriptions, articles and posts or tweets should be consistent and adhere to brand messaging guidelines. And of course, that language should resonate with the intended audience.

No matter your timeframe or budget, there’s a strategy that will fit your needs and help you meet your goals. What tactics have you employed as part of the above strategies for promoting your own content?

What is social media's ROI, and how can it be measured? It's fair to say that many of our clients come to us with unrealistic expectations about social media. There are plenty of reasons for this, but I believe the biggest is that they become disillusioned by seeing other companies' content receiving hundreds of thousands of views each, and automatically expect the same levels of success for themselves.

What Is Social Media's ROI, And How Can It Be Measured?

It's fair to say that many of our clients come to us with unrealistic expectations about social media. There are plenty of reasons for this, but I believe the biggest is that they become disillusioned by seeing other companies' content receiving hundreds of thousands of views each, and automatically expect the same levels of success for themselves. This view-chasing results in their campaign having the wrong focus from the get-go, which essentially dooms it from the start.

Social media success goes well beyond that of its final view count, but many of our clients end up thinking their venture has failed simply because they don't understand the other benefits offered by this modern form of marketing.

So What Exactly Is The ROI Of Social Media Marketing? 

This is one of our clients' most common questions. Before considering anything else, they want to know how much money they stand to make from a social media campaign, and how quickly they can make it. But all this mindset achieves is leading them to believe that their campaign has failed if their Facebook or Twitter accounts don't immediately blow up. Jumping the gun like this can cause a campaign serious harm.

Instead, our clients should consider the following: 

Why Bother With Social Media Marketing? What's The Point?

When asked this, our clients usually tell us one (or both) of these answers: 
 
1. Our competition is using it, so we need to maintain our own online presence in order to keep up.
2. Our customers expect us to be innovative, so we want to stay ahead of the curve. 
 
While the first answer is a valid reason for your business to make the switch to social media, the second response is by far the best. Simply chasing your competition makes your company sound desperate; it suggests that you're jumping into the scary world of hashtags and retweets without really understanding why - and that means your campaign will lack the focus it requires to be successful. 

The second answer is so, so, so much better because it makes you look like a trendsetter. It says that you want more than just for your customers to see you as innovators - you're also looking to engage with them at a personal level. It shows you want to help them. That you value them as more than just a sale, but also as a person.

And that sums up what makes social media marketing such a powerful tool: it's the ability to publicly interact with your clientèle in a way that was never possible before.
social media roi
Source: wired.co.uk

However, it also represents why social media marketing's ROI is so tricky to ascertain: the appreciation of a customer is a difficult thing to measure, but it's still every bit as valuable as a high view count. Now, you can show your clients that you respect them enough to engage with their queries. Because you're showing them this respect, they will offer you theirs in return.

This results in higher levels of customer loyalty, which, yes, will eventually lead to sales.

social media roi
Source: reward-guide.co.uk

Then I Should Definitely Invest in Social Media Marketing?

Let's be clear, social media marketing can be a complete waste of your company's time, effort and resources. If you plan to jump into this complicated place without a clear strategy, don't expect it to be worth your time. Think of it like this: if you don't bother to learn the successful ingredients of a social media campaign, how can you know if it's been successful?

Social media marketing may seem like common sense, but the hundreds of companies stung weekly by rookie mistakes will tell you otherwise. You have to remember that, at its core, social media marketing is just that: marketing. Without the right strategies, it won't be successful. A traditional marketing graduate can't just translate their skills to social media, just like a car mechanic isn't necessarily able to fix your PC.

So how can I Prepare my Campaign?

Remember that on social media, people are primarily there to socialise. When they address your company, they are talking directly to the people who work there - not to the company itself. The most important thing to learn is how to take advantage of this.
social media roi
Source: pancommunications.com
With guidance and consultancy from a digital marketing company, you can be taught the most efficient way to use social media. Once you know the basics, you will have formed the foundations of a solid strategy, which will eventually enable you to use social media for the incredibly powerful marketing tool it should be.

So can Social Media ROI be Measured?

In a word: yes.

But it's more complicated than that. ROI can only be measured when expectations and goals are clear and realistic. The best way to set these goals is by seeking the professional guidance of a social media consultant from the beginning. At the end of the day, it's a powerful tool - but only when you know how to use it properly.

Don't forget to check out part one here.

 

What goes into the construction of a tweet? How do you define your social voice? Tips on how to master the 140 characters, in a personal manner.

Twitter: so much to say, so little space – how can you possibly fit everything into a mere 140 characters? Ah, well that’s the challenge, and the gratification. Constructing a tweet seems simple to some, from an unfamiliar high level. However, for people who specifically choose every single character they share, and want every word to count, it’s more of a purposeful task.

With that said, there is a thought process, or at least there should be, when constructing a tweet. What point are you trying to make? Are you attempting to stir up a conversation? Supply information? Simply vent? I’ve heard from too many people that they don’t understand Twitter, saying, What’s the point? I have nothing to say. I applaud those people for not tweeting just for the sake of tweeting, telling the world they had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. Some people use Twitter just as a listening tool, a place to aggregate their news and other interests. That’s fine.

There are different types of tweets, as I noted. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that about 50% of my tweets revolve around sports, whether it’s sharing an article, talking about a game, fantasy football related, and/or interacting with others in the sports realm. Makes sense, as sports journalism is not only my background but I’m a sports fanatic by nature. Since entering Corporate America a few years ago, maybe 30% of my tweets provide information about my industry, mostly revolving around social media news, tips, quotes, etc. The remaining 20% is probably divided into equal parts tweeting at brands/companies and leaving room for some random thoughts and of course inspiring wisdom.

I have a friend in Miami who entered the Twitterverse quite early, as I did. We were both covering the Marlins as sports journalists at the time. To this day we still message each other, in awe, whenever people misuse and/or overuse hashtags. Here are some tips:

  1. If you have more than two hashtags in a tweet, it’s excessive – pending the circumstance, three tops. Also, I go back to my point of constructing a tweet, as we always made an effort to insert the desired hashtag, which is normally the topic of focus, natively into the tweet as part of the conversation.
  2. Another note that should hopefully be common knowledge for avid Twitter-users: if you begin a tweet with “@” only that person and overlapping followers will see that tweet. On the flipside, many people think that adding a “.” before the “@” is simply just lazy.
  3. When I share articles, usually the title is automatically generated via the share widget, along with the link. I like to add my commentary to the post and this always is a battle with characters. Trust me when I say that I spend the extra 30 seconds to manipulate the words in a way where I do not have to use short hand or poor grammar. I cringe when I see people use a number instead of a letter or shorten a three letter word such as “you” to “u” – yes, others actually pay attention to this; I’m certainly not the only one.

I understand that the rules are indeed bent when it comes to Twitter. They darn-near almost broke when the huge journalism and blogging rush joined the platform around 2010 as people focused on speed and breaking stories rather than facts, correct punctuation and grammar. However, I feel humankind has bounced back to figuring out what is important, and realizing there are ways to get your point across effectively yet correctly. At least, I’d like to hope so.

It’s easy for SEO specialists and internet marketers to get caught up in analytic data. After all, analytic data is the bread and butter of online marketing. But without a clear way to track conversion rates and returns, it’s all too common for internet marketing campaigns to quickly turn into Frankenstein-like creations.

It’s easy for SEO specialists and internet marketers to get caught up in analytic data. After all, analytic data is the bread and butter of online marketing. But without a clear way to track conversion rates and returns, it’s all too common for internet marketing campaigns to quickly turn into Frankenstein-like creations. It’s here where some of the most common SEO traps happen, especially during conversion rate optimization. The best strategy looks at the whole picture while also paying attention to the details. There isn’t an all-in-one guide that shows you everything about tracking conversion rates, but there are a plenty of resources out there that combine to form a good plan of attack.

Simple Mistakes and Small Errors Can Be Costly

A/B testing is simple. However, you have to remain especially cognizant of what is going on with all pages at all times. It is easy to accidentally post duplicate content when testing which content-based marketing strategy works best and get slammed as a result. Similarly, it’s just as easy to rank the wrong page. When tracking conversion rates, it is absolutely essential not to disrupt other operations. In a very common and ironic occurrence, the act of tracking and optimizing conversion rates can reduce conversion rates.

Top Mistakes Even Experts Make

It’s easy to get caught in a trap when optimizing conversion rates. Some of the top mistakes made by experts are surprising and goes to show that even the best aren’t always on their game.

·        Failure to recognize lots of duplicate content

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·        Failure to track the correct pages

·        Failure to notice accidentally removing pages

·        Failure to choose between more sales and more consistent sales

·        Failure to assess budgetary restraints and anticipated ROI

·        Failure to account for end user behavior

·        Failure to set and follow specific goals throughout the duration of the process

Take Time Now for Greater Returns Later

Instead of scrambling to track rates as quickly as possible, take extra time to ensure that nothing will be worse off during the process. Similarly, optimizing conversion rates needs to be a methodical process. In this case, slow and steady does win the race. When determining which keyword strategy works best, it is important to only deviate slightly from something that already works. Think about optimization in terms of updating the user experience, not tearing it down and rebuilding it from scratch. 

Start With a Linear Progression

Before tracking conversion rates and ROI, it is important to not interrupt what is already working. Time cannot stall for the sake of big data analysis. Streamline the process, and follow a few basic steps.

1.      Consider your overall marketing and sales strategies.

2.      Set a goal of what you want to accomplish.

3.      Identify metrics that strongly correlate with that goal.

4.      Conduct A/B testing thoughtfully.

5.      Be cognizant of duplicate content during the process.

6.      Rank the correct pages.

Key Takeaways for Conversion Rate Optimization and SEO

Conversion rate optimization doesn’t have to happen overnight. This isn’t something that occurs in a flash. Take the time required to develop a sound strategy so that way you can avoid common pitfalls. As noted, it’s important to think about how conversion rate optimization will benefit an entire marketing campaign, not just standalone conversion rates. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

·        Set goals and follow them.

·        Create a budget and follow it.

·        Develop a strategy that will not interfere with site operations.

·        Be cognizant about simple and costly errors such as omitting a page or posting duplicate content.

Remember, it’s not enough to look at the individual components but you must also consider the whole picture for an effective SEO strategy.

 

What Salesforce has done with Dreamforce is astounding. It’s currently third on my list of fascinating social experiments behind Las Vegas (its history and growth), and Burning Man. It really is in that same group of phenomenon that transcends boundaries and easy classification (and it’s the only one that doesn’t take place in the desert).

Over 150,000 registrants, 5,000,000 online streaming views, and well over 1,000,000 meals to help feed the hungry. The stage(s) featured execs from some of the most recognized organizations in the world, a former US Vice President (Al Gore) and Secretary of State (Hillary Rodham Clinton), the poster persona for Self Help (Tony Robbins), the Beach Boys, Bruno Mars, Cake, a consumer product launch from another well known pop music artist – will.i.am, and a heavy focus on philanthropy and global issues. If you haven’t been there (lately), the description might sound strange for an event that is hosted by the world’s most well known CRM technology vendor.

What Salesforce has done with Dreamforce is astounding. It’s currently third on my list of fascinating social experiments behind Las Vegas (its history and growth), and Burning Man. It really is in that same group of phenomenon that transcends boundaries and easy classification (and it’s the only one that doesn’t take place in the desert).

Sifting through the pomp and circumstance of art, charity, music, cocktail parties, and dinners, you find Salesforce, the company. It’s a publicly held company that now has in excess of a $5B a year annual run rate and a market cap in excess of $34 Billion. They’ve been named by Forbes magazine the “Most Innovative Company in the World” for 4 years running. And they make all that money by providing business applications (and increasingly platform services) through the cloud.

As the CMO of one fast growing, fairly mature startup told me “We’re just one star in this constellation that continues to grow and expand. It’s amazing.”

In addition to the art and music on display from the people we more easily recognize as artists, Salesforce does their own version of “theater” with software demos that are intended to inform and inspire. Keynotes this year included drones, augmented reality applications, and real time customer service video and remote device control interactions.

Competitors still often say that that Salesforce is an archaic cloud company (measured on the tech continuum) that sells antiquated SFA software that’s too expensive. There is still a bit of truth to that. It’s their competitor’s job to amplify that story, but reality is moving away from those claims.

If you were to zoom in and look closely beyond the name of what 15 years ago, was a pretty poor solution with a moonshot idea, Salesforce has developed a massive, vibrant, and rapidly evolving ecosystem that continues to look for ways to innovate to help their customers serve the needs of their customers.

The how is not necessarily an easy answer to articulate. A key unifying thread to their messaging and product development is that they are simultaneously modularizing and consolidating the elements of computing to meet the needs of customers. The reason – speed to market is an imperative. Salesforce recognizes this and is attempting to educate and empower their customers to respond and innovate faster than their competition.

At last year’s Dreamforce, they revealed Salesforce1, which was actually a rebranded and re-architected Chatter (their collaboration offering) that was 5 years in the making. It was to be the fabric of all applications. However, the audience and media mostly received this as a new mobile app, so Salesforce adopted their message to the market’s maturity at the time.

This year’s Dreamforce, though, revealed a progression of last year’s message. Salesforce 1 is the underlying platform for all of their clouds (at least in their messaging); Sales cloud, Service cloud, Marketing cloud, Community cloud, and Analytics cloud (also “announced” at this year’s Dreamforce). Sales cloud demos mostly highlighted mobile apps and capabilities, not the browser based app that everyone traditionally thinks of when they think Salesforce. I could almost (but not quite) hear audible sighs and groans from their competitors whose major attack on Salesforce has often been their antiquated UI, and heavy user administration burden (in addition to their now premium pricing). Those appear to be fading away as Salesforce innovates its user experience for the mobile world.

The Ecosystem

The ecosystem is ridiculously strong. Inevitably, any startup (or tech company remotely related to the front office) that thinks they can help solve customer problems frames their solution somewhere with Salesforce in the dialogue. Salesforce is a part of each conversation, either as a competitor, or as a partner. Customer focused technology startups inevitably either aim to disrupt or integrate with them, or increasingly both.

Dreamforce featured 400 partners and a sponsor pavilion that was impossible to navigate in any reasonable amount of time, many of them commenting about the high level of traffic, leads, and engagement through the booth.

The article of startup CEO Paul Teshima of Nudge gives testimony to the center of gravity and vibrancy that exists within the Salesforce ecosystem. (place link here)

The Culture

Salesforce has the swagger of a champion. They have been the undisputed leader in the broader CRM space for several years now. They are at least on the short list for nearly every CRM opportunity, large and small, that is considering a cloud computing CRM option. They have cultivated a culture of innovation, not only within their own sprawling organization, but throughout their ecosystem of customers and partners. This is represented with the energy that pulses throughout San Francisco at each Dreamforce.

They consistently elevate their customers in their messaging and marketing, and celebrate and amplify their successes. They elevate the entire conversation like no technology company that Ive ever seen with their focus on philanthropy and the creation and evangelism of the 1:1:1 program.

It’s a culture that has much to admire. But as many leaders have alluded to, it’s hard to keep something special indefinitely. Every empire crumbles and every champion falls, eventually. Salesforce doesn’t appear to have this possibility in sight, which has been the danger of many champions throughout history. Their eyes are squarely set on surpassing SAP as the most dominant enterprise application vendor on the planet.

Financials

Over the last 5 years, revenue has impressively grown in excess of 30% annually, which is a rarity for any company that does more than $5 billion annually. However, it’s important to note that they haven’t shown a profit since 2010. They’ve also taken on more debt than in the past in the past couple of years. These appear both to be indicative of the fast moving marketplace when marketshare is an imperative and platforms rule. There is compelling reason for Salesforce to continue to invest aggressively as network strength is an asset that provides amplifying returns. However, it also has raised some red flags in the financial analyst community.

Salesforce owns mindshare and is and has been able to charge premium prices for the value they are able to create and distribute, not only through their SaaS applications, but also through the entire ecosystem. This has driven their incredible run of record revenue growth. This should continue, until it doesn’t. Given their current financial position, price does not appear to be a lever they have the ability to adjust much if the headwinds begin to blow against them, so they’ll need to resort to alternative strategic levers if things should start to slow down. History informs us that they will. We just don’t quite know when.

The Technology

Salesforce pioneered the trend that has launched a steady assault over the last decade on the value of simply “making things work” from an IT perspective. Professional services continue to be cannibalized by higher and higher functioning technology. But it’s not that there is no value to IT related professional services anymore. It’s just that the scarcity and the drivers of value have shifted, and Salesforce’s innovation has driven much of this change, first at the application layer, but increasingly at the platform layer.

In the battle of the marketing clouds, they are a strong player. Still up for grabs, they are squarely in the mix with Adobe, Marketo, and Oracle as chief competitors.

With the progression of Salesforce1 as a platform, and the announcement of Salesforce Lightning, Salesforce is attempting to democratize the use of computing power to everyone, enabling innovation from business leaders without necessarily needing to lean on coders and IT. At least in theory, they’ve disseminated the functionality of the Salesforce clouds into a series of building blocks that can be reassembled to meet the rapidly evolving needs of organizations.

Salesforce is betting that their new clouds, Communities and Analytics, will be their next billion dollar businesses. The hunch appears accurate, but the ultimate success hinges on successful execution.

It will be interesting to watch evolving use cases and if and how they will continue to deconstruct and repackage the components of their currently bundled clouds to help organization innovate beyond the constraints of traditional thinking.

Challenges and Opportunities

While Salesforce is very strong in the US, competitors often comment about their strength internationally, where data, security, and privacy laws are different. Due to varying bandwidth availability, many multi-nationals require hybrid (combination of On Premise and Cloud) deployments – again an area where Salesforce doesn’t compete well.

As the product offering expands, they’ll ultimately meet the fate of competing simultaneously on multiple fronts, which introduces increasing complexity and narrows the margin of error. Conversely, diversification allows them to weather disruptions in narrower segments, which theoretically will help smooth long term sustainability.

There is also the challenge of leaving the market behind. This is a challenge not just for Salesforce, but for all technology companies. The pace of change and the increasing capability set are more than most organizations are equipped to absorb practically. Salesforce is one of best at positioning and marketing, but even after the great job they normally do, there are still tons of unanswered questions. Meanwhile, innovators and increasingly pushing for more capabilities to help innovate faster.

The alignment between investment in new innovations, and packaging them up in a profitable manner for broad scale and distribution is a game that Salesforce has played well to this point. As the speed of innovation and the breadth of the offerings expand, it will be interesting to watch how well Salesforce levels up. They are in the midst of enduring their own internal transformation to accommodate these required changes.

More

There is much more to discuss about each of the topics above. For further inquiries, please reach out to me on Twitter @BrianVellmure.

DISCLOSURE: Salesforce.com paid all travel and lodging related expenses for me to attend Dreamforce. However, these thoughts are entirely my own and are in no way a result of any commercial relationship with Salesforce.com.

IMG CREDIT: Tech Pro Essentials

For Halloween, we’ve recreated classic horror movie characters and scenes with a social media twist. This is the scariest social media should ever be!

With all the talk of trolls, hackers and impersonators, it’s no wonder social media seems scary to some. We so often hear about the negative side of social media that there’s now a culture of fear and uncertainty around social for many casual and non-users. Well, we’re here to tell you that social media doesn’t have to be scary.

In celebration of Halloween, we’ve recreated classic horror movie characters and scenes with a social media twist. This is the scariest social media should ever be! See if you can guess them all, and share your favorites using the hashtag #SocialNotScary:

birds-final

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pinhead-final
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blair-final
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shining-animation
Hootsuite user? Click the image above to Tweet it!
psycho-final
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ring-animation
Hootsuite user? Click the image above to Tweet it!

Share these images with your coworkers, family and friends using the hashtag #SocialNotScary.

 
Facebook has taken the steps to reinvent chat rooms with a new app called Rooms. Rooms caters to those who wish to have truly anonymous conversations on topics of interest in an unassuming and controlled environment. Rooms is part forum, part chat system and highly anonymous. Read on to learn about Rooms and the potential implications for brands.

Last week, under the nose of the whole social and tech communities, Facebook turned back the clock and reentered the world of anonymous chat rooms.  Without much press or fanfare, Facebook Creative Labs launched a new app called Rooms, a new twist on the popular social congregating spaces of the late 90’s and early 2000’s.  

Unlike the early chat rooms that employed a technology called IRC (Internet Relay Chat), Rooms acts more as a forum with the feel of anonymous chat. It’s an interesting concept, which topic focused socializers might flock to, ultimately bringing brand engagement and advertising opportunities.

How It Works

Users of Rooms do not need a Facebook account, or even an email address to use the platform.  Anyone can come in and create a new Room, essentially a forum on the topic of their choice.  Once inside it works very similar to a rich content forum or newsfeed, enabling additions of text, images or video onto the page.  

Rooms are based on interest topics, ranging from music to GIF’s and even places to practice Parkour.  This system allows rooms to stay focused and truly build a community around a topic of interest without the clutter of irrelevant noise and spam.

One of the interesting features, although also a bit cumbersome and confusing, is how one goes about joining a new Room.  The invitation system employs QR codes, scanable through the in-app functionality.  Room creators are able to generate the QR code and disseminate it as they please, through social channels, direct email or even paper printing.  There is a little scavenger hunt element to finding the QR codes online in order to join rooms.

Privacy

The privacy component of Rooms directly hits on the trend of hypersensitivity around giving too much personal information online.  As stated before, Rooms does not require any login information, meaning if you choose, no one can track activity back to your Facebook account.  When entering in this stealth manner, the app is not able to pull any interests and demographics about the user.  In addition, users are able to create new and anonymous screen names for each room they enter – this is true anonymous socialization.  

Potential for Brands

The simple concept behind Rooms opens the doors (no pun intended) to major opportunities for brands.  While the app is not set up in this manner yet, it is only a matter of time until they look at monetization options.  Here are 3 ways brands could theoretically utilize Rooms.

1.     General Engagement – With the way brands have moved in the past decade to humanize themselves and come out from the proverbial computer screen, it would be a no-brainer to simply jump into conversations pertaining to the overarching business.  While they would need to be highly careful not to turn the room into an advertising billboard, trying to sell services, it would be a fantastic opportunity to lend expertise, get insights into consumer minds and even pinpoint potential content creation ideas.

2.     Private Communities – With the room system being one of invitation-only, brands can create rooms around specific topics and invite their closest advocates, social influencers or just build a community around a topic aligning to the overarching business or campaign.

3.     Influencer Discovery and Engagement – Influencers come in all shapes and sizes, so what better way to discover a topic specific influencer than going into a space dedicated to that interest?  Brands can engage in Rooms looking for topic experts and social influencers who can be potentially used in other avenues, such as brand content creation and eventually building offline relationships.

Is Rooms a sure fire hit?  Who knows.  But it’s a very interesting take on an old technology, which might ultimately bring the users, the brands and the money.