Here’s the presentation I gave on the last day of the Social Media Week Beirut. Scroll down for my notes. The video will be up as soon as we have it.
Estimates say that a few years back, between 65% and 90% of customers used search engine before making a purchase, most of which were influenced by other consumers’ opinions.
Taking back a step, it makes complete sense that this explosive use of search engine lead to an excessive use of content marketing as a sales strategy. Content farms, marketing managers, and the Google algorithm made sure that huge amount of content, of increasingly low quality, took over the web. Search results degraded so much, the noise became so loud, that even Google had to change their algorithm to deal with “content spam” but what they also did was start to take into consideration social media in their search results and that (in my mind) ultimately led to Google+.
2/ The social media tree:
The way we see it, if you don’t mind the metaphor, is that the non social web, is a piece of land, which is consistently being watered, sprayed with manure, plowed and turned (I believe the figures say we upload 675 petabytes
of data on the internet daily). The quantitative web, or the web where Google is king, the pay per click web, was no longer good enough for brands to reach their audiences. That’s where the social media tree comes in.
The social media tree is the sum of the relationships between individuals on the web. It offered not only the possibility of an organic relationship between a brand, a voice, and its audience but also the possibility of talking to and interacting with the world. Increasing the pool to which a brand could relate and talk to, meant that the audience was more and more demanding and knowledgeable. (Example: street dancers upping their standards thanks to video sharing on YouTube).
So there you had a tree that is constantly filtering the nutrients, water, minerals and selecting only the best before pumping them through its capillary system.
We’ll be taking the metaphor a little bit further later by looking at the nodes of the tree and how these intersections help channel an audience, but for now lets keep it simple.
So these nutrients go through the Social Media tree and are channeled to the fruits. In this metaphor the fruits are your audience, and as they are at the receiving end of this process they keep growing until ultimately they are mature enough for you to start shaking that tree.
3/ How can I connect with my audience:
What does this all mean? It not only means that your content strategy needs to be qualitative but that it has to focus on answering the following question: How can I connect with my audience?
If we look at the way most brands communicate online today, we’re quick to notice that many brands’ strategies are product or service centric. Their online presence suffers from a purely commercial approach and lacks a real voice.What they seem to have missed is that web 2.0 s about giving their audience what they want, and when they want it. Social Media has given individuals a voice and opened a two-way dialogue both with brands and like-minded individuals.
Today’s audience has high expectations. They want a quick & efficient, intense, multiplatform experience, they want to learn, engage, be entertained, and they want to be able to share the experience with their networks and peers. They have learned to filter out ads and (excuse me for saying) bullshit. They are more knowledgeable, resourceful and critical than ever, and they expect you to be:
Being Clear means being transparent, truthful and honest. Online users can smell an imposter from miles away.
Being Sharp is about being smart, valuable, quick and straight to the point.
Being Funny means having an entertainment value, giving your audience something to talk about and enjoy.
This all makes theoretical sense, but what does all of this imply in the real world? I talked earlier about the nodes on the social media tree and how we were going to utilize them in our content strategy, so let’s get to it.
As the nutrients we talked about earlier are climbing up the tree and reaching nodes they need to be directed one way or the other. What that means is you have to know your audience, anticipate their preferences and create platforms and content that will get responses from a diversity of people.
(example taken from cmo.com)
Kodak understands that its audience is diverse and they have catered to each of these audiences:
The “A Thousand Words” blog focuses on the stories from the people of Kodak and how they love what they do.
Kodak’s Tips & Projects Exchange site is where you can learn about how to use a digital camera or how to do “new wave scrapbooking.”
Kodak’s Plugged in is the place for information on Kodak products and services. Get the latest news, tips, reviews, and more.
Kodak’s Grow your biz is the place to share their insights about products, and technologies for the Graphics Communications industry.
Kodak’s “lessons learned” social media guide (PDF) is an incredible publication the company puts out about what Kodak has learned during this entire process. Kodak shares its company social media policies and its “best practices” for how to develop your own social media strategy.
A brand that has always assumed a customer-centric roll with their decades old slogan “Have it your way.”
Today, customers can experience a website that backs up this brand message by reconstructing the Burger King website according to their particular interest. Viewers use sliders labeled “Fun,” “Food,” and “King.” The content becomes user-generated as they move the sliders left or right. If you want to know more about BK food menu’s slide the “Food” slider all the way to the right. Your content is all about cheeseburgers, value menus … and of course the Whopper. Click on a meal and you can use interactive digital calculators to discover how many calories you’re consuming when you “Have it your way.”
The Burger King example may be entertaining and fun but it also pinpoints one of the main issues that arises when brands act as publishers. Publishing is not a self-taught or a common expertise. Brands cannot improvise being a Media but there’s definitely some sort of win win business model where brands (who have money to spend on connecting with their audience) and medias, both professional and amateur (which captivate audiences) can pool their resources to create an ecosystem where both can benefit.
The brand can then be found by, connect and engage with their audience(s) and the media can find ways of funding quality content production. It’s a way to flatten the earned, owned, bought pyramid.
BMW: The hire
The BMW film series, The Hire was a series of eight short films (averaging about ten minutes each) produced for the Internet in 2001 and 2002. A form of branded content, all eight films featured popular filmmakers from across the globe, starred Clive Owen as the “Driver”, and highlighted the performance aspects of various BMW automobiles. Directors like Guy Ritchie, Wong Kar woo, people who know their shit directed each of the episodes featuring a different BMW each.
After the series began, BMW saw their 2001 sales numbers go up 12% from the previous year. The movies were viewed over 11 million times in four months. Two million people registered with the website and a large majority of users, registered to the site, sent film links to their friends and family. By June 2003 more than 45 million people had viewed the films, overshooting the original goal of reaching 2 million viewers.
And you need to remember, this all happened before Facebook. Imagine what it would be like today.
There are other examples like Net-a-porter (an online fashion retailer) developing an ipad app with exclusive video content from the runway shows, interviews, sneak peaks, where they communicate directly to their audience: fashion forward young women and where buying is an extension of the real subject matter: love for fashion.
So if you’re a brand start looking for a media, publisher, blogger, opinion leader that already communicates or appeals to your audience and partner with them. Give their content the financial back up to become more and more qualitative and reach more and more people. Make something genuine that’s valuable.
And if You’re a media, publisher, blogger, opinion leader that has good reach and if you believe in a brand give your audience that extra experience, use the brands’ means and enthusiasm to go the extra mile. I’m not suggesting you sell your soul to the devil. I’m saying find products and services that your audience can benefit from and partner with them. Build an ecosystem.
That’s what we as a company and a brand have spent the past 5 years doing, finding projects that can pool their resources and allow each to thrive individually and as we start exploring this new business model for online media we have decided there’s no better place to test our own theories than at home. We have created an online media, where all of our partners, projects, and community can share their knowledge, insights and discoveries. So we hope that you can all benefit from everything we’ll be publishing on the media and maybe even join in on the conversation.