Archive for ‘Business’

March 11, 2015

Your brand content sucks. People are unfollowing. Here’s why… [Infographic]

Everybody works for a brand. It could be Big Blue or your own one-person business. Often I see articles, white papers, and case studies about how to “get” more customers. That’s the most important part, right? Maybe not. Yes, customer acquisition is essential, but what about those customers you already have – how do we know what they are feeling towards our brand? Are they loyal, or do we have a churn problem? Working at a post-secondary institution,  we talk about this all the time; the importance of keeping students in the classroom. Retention.

The same concern exists with our social media and email marketing campaigns. We have all had people unsubscribe from our mailing lists and unfollow our Twitter accounts, but we often have very little insight as to why. The good folks at Buzzsteam and Fractl recently surveyed 900 people to understand why people unfollow brands. The handy infographic below shares some of their findings. Here are three key take-aways that caught my eye:

  1. Content is still king. According to this survey, the biggest reason why people unfollow brands on social networks is due to boring or repetitive content. If your brand sells shoes, you can no longer think of yourselves as just a shoe company; you are also a media publishing conglomerate specializing in industry-specific useful content. Not just price promotions. You write, produce, and distribute articles, case studies, stories, videos, images, audio, etc. Is Red Bull an energy drink or a media house?
  2. More is not the answer. The most referenced reason why people unsubscribe to email mailing lists is the brand sends messages too frequently. This also holds true in social media as “too frequent content” was noted as the second-most popular reason for a user to unfollow on social. One email a week from a brand I follow is about all I can stomach.
  3. Engagement is the expectation. Almost 40% of the respondents indicated that they think brands are quite or very likely to engage with them after they follow the brand’s Facebook page. To me, serving content to my news feed isn’t engagement. If a brand reaches out to me personally or responds to my comments, that’s engagement. The expectation that I would be “engaged” simply by liking a Facebook page doesn’t exist in my mind.

I also find it interesting that about half of the respondents said that they would never unfollow a brand on LinkedIn. There seems to be some social network hierarchy going on here. Perhaps a LinkedIn follower would be considered more “valuable” than one from Facebook or Twitter. I’ll look for more reading on this topic.

What do you think? Do you unfollow brands because of their behaviour on social media? Are there other reasons not listed here that make you disengage? Let me know!


March 3, 2015

Does social media really influence consumer behaviour? [Infographic]

A recent survey by Eccolo Media, a San Francisco-based content marketing outfit, provides some insight into just how influential social media may be when it comes to technology purchases. Some of the results suggest that social media may not be as dominant as once thought. The handy infographic (below) shares some of their findings. A few key take-aways that caught my eye include:

  1. Social can grab your customer’s attention, convince them of a “need”, but not so great at delivering the conversion. The utility of social media is at it’s greatest during the pre-sales and initial-sales phase. The influence of social media sharply declines the closer the customer is to making the purchase.
  2. Case studies are the kings of the content world with 25% of respondents reporting that they would consult one while making a tech purchase. Check out this part of the infographic for some details about how effective the different elements of your content platform may be.
  3. Facebook and LinkedIn are in a heated battle to be seen as the go-to social channel when it comes to influencing purchases.

One variable that isn’t accounted for in this study is the amount of people who were indeed influenced by vendor posts, but either didn’t remember or didn’t even know it was a piece of vendor media. Advertising and promoted content is becoming so slick that I would bet that I saw vendor content from Samsung before I decided to buy an S5, but if you asked me if vendor media played a role in my purchase, I probably would have said no. Awareness of vendor media may be an issue here.


February 2, 2015

Does your blog have a mission statement?

After nearly 5 years, my blog finally has a mission statement. If you asked me about it six months ago, I would have had to admit that I had never really thought about it before. Since then, I’ve been reading Joe Pulizzi‘s latest book, Epic Content Marketing, and it has me itching to put some of his suggestions into action. It seems that the first step to becoming an “epic content marketer” is to take some time and write a mission statement for your blog, website, or wherever you publish your content. Joe details his idea in Chapter 13 of his book (and yes you should buy the book), so I thought I’d take it to heart and write the mission statement.

I tried to follow Joe’s model of writing a successful mission statement. He suggests that you need to communicate:

  1. Who the core audience target is
  2. What you will deliver to the audience
  3. The major audience take-away

So without boring you with all the internal struggle, numerous revisions, and trepidation about (finally) inscribing in stone what the purpose of this blog is, I’ll get right to what I came up with:


Create and curate engaging content for Digital, Marketing, and PR professionals. Posts are designed to help us (myself included) better understand how social media connects with our profession and how it can be used to take advantage of opportunities that were never before possible.

Now the challenge is to stick to my newly-articulated mission. Many of my previous posts deliver on this mission, and I will ensure that all future posts do. I have posted this mission statement as the first thing on my about page and plan on referring to it when I come up with a blog post idea that I’m not too certain fits this blog. If it’s not covered in my mission statement, I won’t publish it.

This was a fun exercise that helped me articulate exactly why I write here. If you’re a content creator, I suggest giving it a try. What’s the worst that can happen?

Joe: If you’re reading, and you’re probably not, I’d love to hear what you think. Feedback = Awesome.

UPDATE (02/02/15):

Well, it took Joe less than 12 hours to get back to me with a little feedback via Twitter:



January 15, 2015

Think twice about using the #MLKday hashtag to promote your brand – remember last year?


The day this blog post was published, January 15, 2015, would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 86th birthday. Each year, Americans observe a national holiday on the third Monday of January to recognize Dr. King and the American Civil Rights Movement.

Marketers, PR folks, and advertisers are always looking for ways to get their message in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Often, this means trying to piggyback on an existing major event, celebration, or holiday. A great example of this was Oreo’s famous “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet sent during the power outage at Super Bowl 47. It was clever, timely, and a bit funny as it made light of an awkward situation. The Super Bowl blackout had nothing to do with cookies, but after this tweet, it did.

MarCom professionals can run into challenges when they apply this strategy to events with a very serious nature: Remembrance Day (Common Wealth Nations), Veterans Day (US), Martin Luther King Jr. Day, etc. Brands run the risk of looking too opportunistic as they try to cash in on the importance and sacrifice of others.

Last January, several public figures and brands made questionable (to put it nicely) social media posts trying to cash-in on the popularity of the #MLKday hashtag used to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Reviewing a few of these missteps from last year has led me to three key thoughts on the subject.

The tone of your message should match the spirit of the observance

As a brand, you should seek to create and share content that serves to match and even enhance, the serious nature of the holiday. A few examples from last year that missed the mark:

1. Book a party bus for MLK Day?

2. The infamous “Freedom to Twerk” event that was planned for the good folks in Flint, Michigan drew attention to itself after the promoters Photoshopped Dr. King’s head onto a body of a Man wearing a gold watch, chain, and medallion while making what appears to be a “west side” hand gesture. After this poster gained notoriety, the party was eventually cancelled. Several people weighed in on the issue, including MLK’s daughter, Dr. Bernice King, who was appalled by the poster.


3. Sarah Palin’s tasteless political grandstanding starts with quoting Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, and concludes with her telling President Obama “no more playing the race card.” Yikes.

You may not be as funny as you think

Humour is tough. Attempts at humour during otherwise serious situations may be interpreted as your brand’s attempt to make fun of, or devalue the purpose of, the event.

1. This misguided tweet from Nyquil reads like a joke that didn’t quite hit the mark.

2 & 3. Two other notable attempts at humour came from the Chive, and a pornographic website. In both instances they used humour in a way that some would consider distasteful, but considering that the source of these jokes were the Chive and a pornographic website, they pretty much lived up to expectations. Instead of posting these attempts at humour on, I’ll let you google those two tweets yourself.

Don’t make a big stretch to connect your brand with the event

This is obvious self-promotion. It looks insensitive, self-interested, and opportunistic. If you are going to run an MLK Day promotion, make sure it makes sense within the context of the observance. Be aware of the nuanced difference between an event designed to celebrate as opposed to one dedicated to recognize something. What the heck do potato stamps, cereal,  apples, diapers, or a day at the salon getting pampered have to do with the civil rights movement?


This Pampers Facebook promotion is particularly cringe-worthy because (as a current diaper customer) I can tell you that 10 rewards points is what you get for buying about $5 worth of baby bum wipes. They almost couldn’t have offered less.

For any organization thinking about joining the #MLKday trending topic this weekend, I encourage you to focus on respect, not referrals; honour, not sales; legacy, not leads; person to person, not business to business; and to make sure your content reflects the nature and tone of the observance. Without question, Dr. King serves as a hero to millions of people around the globe, and is absolutely a hero of mine.

December 22, 2014

Amazon reviews are almost as trusted as peer recommendations [Infographic]

A recent survey suggests that 50% of customers are actively using their smartphones to compare prices while in store.

A recent survey says 50% of customers are using their smartphones to compare competitor prices while in-store.

CRM software providers crowdtap published an infographic (below) this month to share some emerging trends in the ability of social media to influence consumer behaviour. After surveying over 3,000 US customers in 2013, and again in 2014, they found that social media is increasing its value to businesses who want to influence buying decisions throughout the holiday season.

A few things caught my eye:

1. Amazon reviews are almost as trusted as peer recommendations. I was a little surprised to see the difference between trusting a peer and trusting an online review was only 5 percentage points. I suppose this speaks to the importance of hearing directly from an existing product owner, rather than just trusting somebody in your network who you happen to already know who may not actually own the product.

2. Facebook dominates. If your business is only going to participate in one social media activity, you better make it Facebook. The survey results suggest that people are turning to Facebook, more than any other social network, to research gifts, look for promotions, and share their purchases. The only category where Facebook finished second was “gift inspiration” – losing the top spot by only one percentage point to Pinterest. Twitter seems to be rounding out the bottom of each of these categories. Perhaps this could be due to the transient nature of the messages, and also because Twitter relationships are often centered around topics of interest rather than trusted personal connections.

3. People are shopping at your competitors, right from within your store.  The survey results suggest that 50% of the people physically walking into your store will whip out their device and check a competitor’s price to see where you compare. I do this. I do this all the time. I expect this trend to continue to grow year-over-year.

4. Social media supplants TV as the most popular source for “inspiration”. For the first time, we’re relying on social media to provide us with gifting ideas more than any other medium; overtaking traditional television’s historical dominance in this area. This could be a symptom of the declining TV viewership numbers across every age demographic – with the largest decline in television consumption belonging to the 18-24 segment.

How does social media impact your holiday shopping behaviour? Check out the following infographic, and let me know what you think.


December 17, 2014

4.5 Social Media and Tech trends to watch for in 2015


It has been a few years since I’ve done a prediction post, but there’s so much going on in the social media and tech world right now, and I couldn’t resist making a few guesses for the year ahead.

1. Wearables will not live up to expectations

Even though this recent 2,325-word news release suggests that wearable tech is primed for growth, I just don’t see it happening in 2015. Innovators and early adopters may jump on the wearables bandwagon, but I can’t imagine that this new product line will capture the early majority segment of the market.

I’m thinking that these products may fall below expectations because: first, the price point. Google Glass is selling for around $2,000 on, and smart watches range from about $100, but if you want a watch with good two-way connectivity, you’ll be putting out a couple hundred dollars for these watches. I’m not convinced that the average Jane or Joe will opt to fork out another couple hundred bucks for an accessory for their smartphone, which already set them back close to $1,000.


Wearable technology may not have the anticipated caché and growth many are predicting for next year.

Second, appearance. Admittedly, I’ve been interested in a smart watch for a little while now. How cool would it be to get alerts, take photos and videos, and even use talk-to-text features to communicate just using your wrist (cue Dick Tracy). The problem is, these watches, are definitely lacking in the style department; they look like the modern version of the calculator watch. Although that look was coveted on the playground, I’m going for a different image in the workplace.

As for Google Glass, Google is trying to give the impression that this technology is for the super fit, attractive, person on the go. I imagine people who will actually drop the 2K are the über techies or large organizations where real-time connectivity will help their employees do their jobs – jobs like police, paramedics, and other first responders, but not your everyday commuter.

2. Continued innovation in the content marketing space

Creative creators will keep on creating, and I love content marketing. My absolute favourite example of content marketing is Lowes’ Fix in Six campaign on Vine. Besides the recent Black Friday deals listed on the channel, the vast majority of the content is quick little tips for easy home improvements. This is THE example I use to demonstrate what content marketing looks like in my Social Media Management course.

American Express’s Open Forum is a good example of a more traditional approach to providing your customers value through content marketing rather than a sales pitch. The forum is packed full of ideas, tips, how-tos, white papers, trending topics, etc. designed to help business owners on the marketing and sales side of their business, which isn’t a strong suit for many small and medium-sized business owners.

Want more great examples of content marketing from 2014? Here’s 30 more from Exacttarget/Salesforce.

3. Music industry fails to embrace new distribution methods and continues to whine about profits


Talyor Swift (left) and Lars Ulrich (right) follow in the footsteps of John Philip Sousa (centre) in their opposition to new ways to record and distribute music.

Spurred by the recent comments of wealthy pop singer Taylor Swift (I’ll get to more specific details on this in a minute), it seems like the music and technology worlds are clashing once again. This battle seems to have been taking place in perpetuity for the last hundred, or so, years. In 1906, John Phillip Sousa, legendary American composer and marching band leader, published an essay entitled “The Menace of Mechanical Music.” In this essay, Sousa warns that recorded music, as opposed to live performances of music, removes the human skill, intelligence, and soul required to create “American musical art.” He continues with a colourful metaphor to describe how the recording of music will destroy American values and eventually concludes with a discussion on the latest copyright bill introduced by Congress. Within a few years of this publication, however, Sousa himself became a prolific recorder of music on his own turning the new technology into a new revenue stream – naturally you can find his works on iTunes if you are interested.

Almost 100 years later, the same battle was still raging when Metallica’s Lars Ulrich  sued a couple of young entrepreneurs to shut down their digital music sharing service, Napster, because he didn’t like that the service allowed for the trading of music among music fans. I suppose Lars forgot that Metallica built a loyal, world-wide following with the help from the (illegal) underground tape-trading network in the Metal scene of the 1980s. He was cool with music sharing when he needed the exposure to grow his band, but called in the lawyers when he thought this new business model was a threat to his royalties.

Now, 15 years after that, Taylor Swift seems to be offended by the current shift in the music distribution model, and she has Spotify squarely in her cross-hairs. Taylor’s people are saying that she’s only received a half-a-million dollars from Spotify, where as Spotify is saying that she’s on pace for a $6 million pay cheque this year. As a result, she decided to remove her entire back catalog from Spotify, forcing her fans to buy her new pop record instead of streaming it for free. This current musician vs technology debate doesn’t seem to be going away because Taylor keeps bringing it up every chance she can get… at Billboard’s Women in Music Awards,  American Music Awards, and through news releases and PR efforts.

In each of these examples, the musicians have taken a combative approach to the new technology with an interest to protect their profits veiled as an interest to protect the music from the vile people who want to share it in a way that doesn’t fit into the existing business model. My gut tells me that we haven’t heard the last from Taylor Swift on this issue, and if history serves as a guide, this won’t be the last time a hugely successful artist challenges new technology for a bigger part of the pie.

4. Increased tech invading the education space

The battle is brewing in this arena. I spent two days this month at an international conference hosted here in Ottawa called EdTech Summit 2014. This inaugural event featured keynotes and panel discussions with textbook publishers, silicon valley hardware/software giants, and students and representatives from a broad range of North American colleges and universities.

It was clear that two different views of education were in the room. One side saw education as another potential market for their product offering. For these folks, colleges and universities were the customers of their enterprise-level “solution” – be it course content, email provision, or software productivity tools. On the other side of the room, educators were looking towards technology as a way to achieve learning outcomes, improve student retention, and make use of the advantages current technology provides. It will be interesting to see whose “view of education” will dominate.

In the months and years to come I envision that we will see more collaboration between these for-profit businesses and our not-for-profit education sector. Mobile devices and eTexts will continue to proliferate in the classroom. The real story in all of this will not be the existence of new education technology – that’s a given. Instead, the success of this technology will depend on how curious professors, instructors, and teachers adapt it to serve the needs of their students. I’ll be looking to share case studies of this nature in 2015.

4.5 More social media meltdowns

MichaelJacksonThis one only gets half a point because it’s just inevitable; this prediction is as difficult as saying that there will be hockey in Canada this winter. The reason I included it is, yes they are entertaining, but even more so they are great reminders of the power of social media and the importance of managing your online reputation. Whether it’s something on the global scale of the Justine Sacco saga that caught the world’s attention at around the turn of 2014, or something as benign as a football player’s Twitter account being hacked and a few funny tweets sent out on his behalf, it will happen again in 2015. I’ll be waiting with popcorn in hand.

What do you think? Did I miss something that you see happening in 2015? Am I totally off with some of these?predictions? Let me know, sound off in the comments section below.


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