Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest We Forget...a Time to Remember

In honour of those who lost their lives so that we could experience the freedom that we enjoy today!

Also for our American neighbours...a time to Remember

To all the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice...R.I.P...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Google Analytics Has Grown Up

I was digging around reviewing some traffic data in Google Analytics when I noticed a few new changes. The old and constrained Google Analytics that we once knew has decided to pick up its game. Traditionally GA has been a great tool for providing high level insights at a quick glance. The no cost price tag along with its ease of use make it a great low cost option for those looking to gain some insight about their site. Although, the tool has had its limitations in respect to the richness of insights that users could extrapolate from the data.

Google Analytics does offer some interesting things that you can do with it with relative ease although in comparison to fee based tools, there certainly were (and continue to be) some areas for improvement.

A couple of the key areas where Google Analytics lacked were in being able to provide a sophisticated custom reporting option as well providing the ability to drill down deeper based on various site segments. The tool now provides users with the ability to gain deeper context into the data which will provide valuable insights and ultimately more actionable results.

Custom Reporting

Advanced Segmentation

Visit Avinash Kaushik's Occam's Razor for an in-depth review of the step by step process.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama, The Social Media President

The American people have clearly made their choice and made it convincingly clear about who it is that they want to lead their country out of a difficult time. An election that saw record turnouts at the polls and the first African American president of the United States will not soon be forgotten and is now a moment in history.

It has been a long and difficult challenge for both parties and only one was left standing after all the dust had cleared. In looking back at each party's campaigns, it is evident who had a stronger online presence. By raising over $200 million solely through online donations, Barack Obama's team realized the value of what a well developed and tightly managed internet strategy is able to deliver.

There were many touch points that their strategy covered including a presidential candidate website along with active accounts with a number of leading social network sites all intended to drive traffic to the main site.

Obama's profiles have generated hundreds of thousands of followers and more importantly, listeners. Continuous dialogue has been maintained and monitored by Obama's people I'm sure while potential voters have been provided with a forum in which they are able to express their opinions and have their voices heard.

The metrics are highly convincing in terms of social media measures and with last night's result, it would be difficult to argue that the internet did not play a small role at the very least in leading American's to making an informed decision.

Through my research I came across a blog written by Alex Cleanthous who does a great job of illustrating the 6 Lessons We Can Learn From Barack Obama’s Online Marketing Strategy. He highlights effective persuasion tactics and information architecture among other things.

Now that Obama's goal has been met it will be interesting to see how the online strategy will shift as Obama gets sworn into office in 2009.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Don't Vote!

In honour of today's U.S. presidential election...

I may not be from the U.S. although the message is compelling and I'm sure that it has inspired many Americans to register using the Google Maps resource.

Granted, the use of an all-star team of A-list celebrities will get users attention every time. Albeit, the messaging still needs to be delivered with precision which I believe was achieved in this web exclusive PSA.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Global Web Currency

Product or service referrals from friends, colleagues and family members are sometimes valued and other times not so much based on whether or not you have the same taste or unfulfilled needs. Although, when comparing a referral from a trusted source to that of an unknown business entity whose primary interest is to get you to buy, more often than not you will be more interested in listening to what your reference has to say.

For the reasons mentioned above, Word of Mouth (WOM) tends to be the most highly valuable marketing resource with high profit potential if managed correctly. How does a marketer nurture this type of communication and how is a company able to provide a WOM vehicle at the point of purchase where consumers can instantly gain enough trust to commit to a sale?

A model that quickly began to change the power of the web has been the rating system similar to that used by eBay and Amazon just to name a few. People buying products are able to leave feedback about their purchase experience ranging from product condition to shipping and even the entire shopping experience. The higher the rating and the better the quality of feedback, the more likely that others will feel confident in committing their money to the same experience.

With the explosion of social media in recent years led by MySpace, Facebook and Habbo to name a few, a new form of currency is rapidly evolving called Social Capital. In essence the larger a social community is, the greater potential that it holds in spreading a message to a listening audience. Considering the network is generally comprised of individuals who know each other relatively well, members are more likely to be receptive to the messages being sent to them.

To further demonstrate the value of social communities, Google recently announced that it has a patent pending to rank influential people in these types of sites. In turn, Google could charge a premium for ads served in association with high ranking individuals.

The challenge then becomes how to tap into the Trust Economy and how is one able to translate these relationships into revenue. As was mentioned in an earlier post Red Bull Goes Social, new social network integration tools are now being offered and are providing real opportunities for converting visitors into customers.

Facebook Connect as was used on the Red Bull site allows visitors to log in to their Facebook account directly through the site. The site owner then has the ability to access user information while the user is able to publish their comments on their Facebook user's news feed. Google has also developed a common API which is defined across a number of websites capable of offering similar features.

The potential of these tools are far reaching. By combining rating systems and powerful social community integration tools, online merchants have the resources to create an environment where consumers may engage with brands on a deeper level while bridging consumer trust barriers.

It will be interesting to see how brands incorporate these tools into their online strategies. Please feel free to share examples of sites currently using these features.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ad Gallery of Horrors

In a few hours the streets will be cluttered with little ghouls and goblins tricking and treating for candies and treats. Confectionery companies begin prepping for this day months in advance in anticipation of the gold rush that October 31st brings.

Although the spirit of the event extends much further than just to children and the one night of door to door visits. In fact, many adults, including myself look forward to this day. A day where changing your identity is only limited by your own imagination and creativity is nurtured and rewarded.

Many marketers realize the effect that this yearly event has on people both young and old and try to capitalize on this time as an opportunity to have some fun and let the creative juices flow.

In the "spirit" of Halloween, here are some great ads from around the globe.

Happy Halloween everyone and make sure to look out for kids on the streets!

Catalonian National Theatre: Heart


heineken halloween

MovieStar Skeletons

Burger King

This Halloween Don't Drink and Drive

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Reverse Graffiti Project

I came across an interesting viral video which I believe was well executed. It's a three minute long video of a street artist who uses Clorox's Green Works natural cleaning product and some stencils to create "green" themed designs on the walls of San Francisco's Broadway tunnel.

The intention was to illustrate how dirty our surrounding environment truly is and how we have become immune to it to the point where it is acceptable and goes unnoticed.

Product branding is very subtle and clean in its placement in the video as well as on the Reverse Graffiti website. This documentary project / microsite is a good demonstration of how a compelling concept well executed does not necessarily have to be very flashy in order to achieve its objectives.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Cure to the Falling Sky Syndrome

In a time of a major credit crunch, financial and job uncertainty, political elections and ultimately mass hysteria about what tomorrow will bring, marketers need to explore more cost effective options to speak with consumers. A financial analyst interviewed on CBC said it best in terms of the population's current fears, "It's as if everyone is waiting around for something to happen".

Many of us are guilty of this I'm sure, including myself, although there must reach a point where leaders need to take charge and well...lead...by example and show confidence in order to turn things around. I understand that it is FAR more complicated than this and that it will take a substantial shift in societal perception of the global economy.

This does not mean that marketers should simply step back and wait for the dust to settle while simultaneously looking for ways to decrease costs and increase efficiencies. On the contrary, (you thought dear Watson didn't you?) when times get tough, it's time to get even more focused and that much more creative.

An article titled Inventing During a Recession clearly demonstrates that consumers are still willing to spend although they will now be more aware of how they are spending their money. The key is to understand how their needs may have changed and to simply communicate to those needs. Examples in the article refer to different mind states that people go through during difficult economic times such as nesting (feeling of uncertainty causes people to want to seek comfort at home), sense of competition (job market) and survivor (minimalist mentality) to name a few.

Needless to say there are a million ways to develop products or services to accommodate to consumers' rapidly changing needs or by simply listening to what consumers are looking for when crying, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling!".

Isn't this what we do as marketers anyways?

Marketers could help lead the charge in restoring consumer confidence by facing our own personal fears and by continuing in doing what we do best...innovate, create and communicate.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"If You Build It, They Might Not Come"

The term social media and Web 2.0 are constantly thrown around with just about everyone in the marketing world having heard about it at one point or another. Some claim to understand it and some claim to believe it to be the silver bullet that will rake in unheard of amounts of money with minimal to no cost. Unfortunately this is a frequent misconception.

Social media is a complex web of social networks, advertisers, blogs, micro blogs, communities, podcasts, videos, photos, news and much more. The first thing that generally comes to mind when thinking about social media is usually Facebook, MySpace or YouTube. A simple video or fan page is setup, a few e-mails are sent out and voila...the web will certainly do its magic and the modo, "if you build it, they will come" should prevail resulting in a successful campaign. For many who have taken this approach, they have learned the hard way that short sightedness rarely delivers favourable responses while well thought out strategies may be more intensive and exhausting during the planning stages, the results can be far more rewarding.

The problem is education. The internet is filled with information and new tools are being created and introduced everyday allowing people to aggregate their sources of knowledge as well as their online tools.

Keeping pace with the evolving web is critical to any successful campaign. This means becoming deeply immersed into the social media culture and embracing its many intricacies. Connecting with others who share the same passion and understand this realm is important in order to expand ones knowledge reach in order to gain a competitive advantage at a quicker pace.

Finally, taking the time to fully define who it is that you are trying to reach, what is it that you want to tell them, how do you plan to tell them and why should anyone care? It amazes me how often these questions go unanswered prior to launching a campaign!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Red Bull Goes Social

Engaging a young demographic around their brand doesn't seem to have ever been a problem for Red Bull. With exciting sporting events and a loyal following, the brand truly has done a remarkable job in withstanding competitive pressures, especially considering the limited number of products that the company has to offer. Two to be exact (Red Bull and Sugar Free Red Bull) but who really drinks sugar free anyways?

So how do you take your brand to the next level and motivate an audience to absorb more marketing communications and to increase their exposure to your brand culture? Red Bull’s answer to that question was to incorporate Facebook Connect on a Flash driven website. The Facebook platform extension provides viewers the ability to login to their Facebook account through the Red Bull environment and effectively communicate with their own friends who are part of their Facebook community.

The feature allows you to comment on the site while having your comments simultaneously appear in your Facebook profile. It provides an entire social community to become notified and active within an environment that a trusted peer finds interesting. The value of such an offering has huge potential and I will definitely be speaking about it in a later post.

Well done Red Bull!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Can I Vote? How Voting Can Make the Internet Better

Creating compelling blog posts can be a challenge. What do you write about that people actually care to read? Given all that is going on in the news nowadays with financial crisis, wars and elections it’s difficult to capture the attention of readers through all of the distractions.

I recently came across a short instructional video on how web content writers can use Google Trends to drive traffic to their websites. The concept is broken down into what is called the Trends Traffic Formula and is based on the premise that content can be created based on what people are searching for on the web. What a great concept!

So how can voting make the internet a better place, you ask? In an attempt to test the concept I used the Google Trends tool to find terms that people are currently searching for and found that "Can I Vote" ranked rather high. Considering U.S. presidential and Canadian Prime Minister candidates have been tapping into the social media world as part of their communication strategies, I figured this would be a good long tailed keyword to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach.

In essence, such an exercise allows content editors to gain a better understanding of what people are actively searching for and are interested in finding. It is a form of high level market research that is non intrusive and is providing what people want without them even knowing that they've actually asked for it.

Web users are providing valuable answers into what it is that they want and this is always what marketers are looking for. In the end, web users are finding what they're looking for and marketers are giving them what they want (hopefully).

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Stephen Harper Must Hate Facebook

The races are tightening up both in Canada and the United States with election dates nearing. Albeit, many still remain undecided on which camp they will lend their trust to for the next four years. Concerned voters are turning to the web to get information and more importantly to social media to join or even lead a political charge.

On the CBC news the other night they mentioned a Facebook vote-swapping group that has gained a lot of attention.

"The online group, titled 'Anti-Harper Vote Swap Canada,' is trying to match Canadians who are willing to swap votes to keep the Conservatives from winning a majority in the Oct. 14 federal election."(source:Election officials poke around Facebook vote-swapping group)

The group has picked up steam (well over 10,000 members as of this post) and has gained plenty of media attention in the country including from Elections Canada who have determined that online vote swapping is not breaking any Canadian laws.
The group offers the following example of how it works:

"Let’s pretend I’m an NDP supporter in the riding of Winnipeg South. Seeing as the Tories only managed to beat the Liberals by less than 150 votes in the 2006 election, the Liberals almost surely have the best chance of winning. I use the “anti-Harper Vote Swap” facebook application to indicate that I’m an NDP supporter who is willing to vote for anyone but the Conservatives. Even if you don’t know the latest polling data in your riding, we can help."

"We will then match you up with another member of the group (in this example, a Liberal in a strong NDP riding who is willing to swap). Assuming we find you a match, you’ll receive a message a few days before the election letting you know that your vote can be swapped."

Anti-Harper Vote Swap Canada consists of a website (www.voteswapcanada.ca) and a Facebook group with a corresponding Facebook widget allowing members to swap their votes with others. It's tough to say how the results will pan out although it would be interesting to see how social media including Anti-Harper swap and any other online social channels impacted the final results.

Whatever happens, let's hope it brings positive change!

**Please note that the views of the Anti-Harper swap group are not necessarily the same as my own...I still haven't decided which way to vote yet!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Are You Who You Think You Are?

In the last post I spoke about the importance of personal branding and the sociological considerations when attempting to communicate your key personal brand attributes. Once you've become active and have begun to establish yourself, how do you know that what you've been communicating is actually what people have been absorbing?

This is a fundamental question to ask when evaluating brand communications although many of us do not take the time to understand these measures and to identify where the gaps lie. I found a simple tool that helps you describe your personal brand. It's called 360 Reach and can be a pretty powerful tool if used properly.

It asks a few short questions including one that asks you to select 10 brand attributes (from an extensive list) that best describe you. The results provide a little twist that help you to immediately identify some of your own perceptual gaps with the option to send the same questionnaire to your clients and/or colleagues to better understand how your personal brand is perceived through their eyes.

The questionnaire is free with a premium pay option to send the test to others. It's a quick, cheap and effective way to identify some areas for improvement towards strengthening your brand.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Taking it Personal

The concept of personal branding has been around for quite some time now. It has traditionally been an exercise that has generally involved an extended amount of time to evolve.

Not that now is that much different. Although the communication channel and the numerous mediums in which one can deliver their own personal brand message has changed dramatically. With new social media properties "popping up" every day, new opportunities are presenting themselves at a rapid pace.

The challenge is how to digest all that is available and how to filter through the clutter in an attempt to speak to an audience that may be relevant to your needs. I found the eBook called "The Essential Guide to Social Media" by Brian Solis to be rather informative as he spoke about the connection between the Social Sciences and how they relate to Social Media.

A key takeaway from the book is that in order to be successful in the Web 2.0 world it's important to understand the difference between listening and research. To listen means to understand and to submerse yourself into the culture. When researching, us as marketers can have a tendency to push marketing messages onto people believing that it's what they want to hear and as a result they will buy our products or services. The latter is less time consuming although the former could be more rewarding in the long run.

By noting the difference it becomes easier to create a social map. Brian Solis in the mentioned book above does a great job of this as well. By visually mapping out the social landscape, it becomes easier to understand where you should be focusing your efforts and how you could potentially overlap in some areas to reinforce your messaging.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What is Strategy Social?

The challenge:

Create a compelling first post that will resonate with readers. Readers with different views, different perspectives and different levels of experience. Introduce a missing element to a vast community of intelligent professionals and provide them with a reason to come back, to connect, to participate.

How does one approach such a daunting task?

The answer is one post at a time...

I welcome you to Strategy Social and encourage you to learn, to share and to grow.