Archive for ‘Social Media’

December 17, 2014

4.5 Social Media and Tech trends to watch for in 2015

2015PredictionsBanner

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 Amazon.com, 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.

Wearablesv2

Wearable technology may not have the anticipated cachet 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

SousaSwiftUlrich

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.

October 22, 2014

Boo-hoo my content was stolen! Who cares.

ContentIsKing3Recently, I was browsing Google Images to find some multimedia that would help visualize some talking points for the Social Media Management course I teach at Algonquin College. This is a completely regular, and useful, behaviour for me. This time, I was just looking for the words “Content is King” stylized in some way to add a bit of visual interest. Pretty blazé, I must admit. After scrolling through a few pages of image search results, I came across the image to the right, and it struck me in just the right way – I loved it.

I thought “this is exactly what I need” and proceeded to save it to my lecture folder and insert it into my presentation. Something was troubling me, though. I thought the image was awfully familiar, but just couldn’t put my finger on where I had seen it before. Then it hit me, I had created this image myself about three years ago for a blog post on davidhallsocialmedia.com about creating blog content.

My immediate reaction was to do a Google search by image to see if anybody else had used “my” content. Turns out that Google returned 8 pages of use of the identical image on a variety of different pages ranging from blogs on website development, SEO, PR, and marketing. For a brief moment, I have to admit that my proprietary-self was thinking “these people are stealing my content, and didn’t even give me credit. How dare they!” After about 60 seconds of feeling this way, I quickly climbed down off my “who do they think they are” high horse and realized that I had, in fact, “stolen” virtually every single element that made up the graphic that I “created”. Let me explain…

War Is OverFirst of all, the saying itself has been bantered around for a good 20-25 years. Exact origin of the phrase is still a bit contentious, but most people will agree that Bill Gates popularized the saying in a mid-90s essay by the same name. I didn’t even put a twist on the saying, I used it verbatim, with no attribution.

Second, the little crown I used on the “G” was not designed by me. That image is a stock shape in Adobe Photoshop. I simply tilted it on an angle and shaded it in using the colour palette from my blog.

Finally, the typeface and layout I used were inspired by (or stolen) from the “War is Over” campaign by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I’m a big music fan and thought it would be cool to pay homage to their work by visually referencing their peace advocacy of the late 60s and early 70s. Using a thick, black, sans serif font, stacking one word on top of the next, and including an exclamation point, I think the reference comes through. I even remember Googling to find the exact name of the font used.

I imagine that some people would say that I stole all of these elements to make one giant copyright-infringing graphic. They would probably be right. On the other-hand, I would wager that there would be another cohort of people that would say that, although I was influenced by these existing works, I am ultimately the author of the image and should be regarded as such. They would probably be right, too.

So after “stealing” content myself, and having my own content “stolen,” I’ve come to a few personal realizations about the whole stolen vs inspired debate.

1. It happens to (almost) everyone.

Rest assured that if you publish content online, it will probably be “stolen” at some point. I am in no way special when it comes having content “stolen”. I chalk it up to the cost of publishing content on the web. In fact, the more people who steal “my” content, the more people will see it, right?

2. You probably stole the idea from somebody else in the first place.

I really don’t consider sharing other people’s content, or creating mash-ups, stealing. If you look hard enough at any of your ideas, I’m sure most could be traced back to somebody else’s idea that you just modified, or flat-out stole (knowingly or not). What I’m getting at here is that very few ideas are actually so fresh they can be considered novel, so what right do we have to claim ownership over them? Consider your take on the idea as adding a new voice to the continual conversation, not a new flag in some sort of uncharted, intellectual territory.

3. “Good artists copy, great artists steal”

This quotation has been used, and reused, for over 100 years. It has been attributed to Pablo Picasso, T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Steve Jobs, and more. At the heart if it, it speaks to the role of the creator as the steward of content rather than the owner of it. As artists and creators, it is our job to take what has come before us, modify, re-contextualize, and republish it reflecting our lived experience. Content isn’t about ownership, it’s about continuing the conversation. I had a great boss for a number of years who used to tell me, “Dave, don’t bother reinventing the wheel, just put new hubcaps on it.”…an expression that I’ve added to my vocabulary (yes, I stole this too).

4. If you want to get paid for your content, and you think your profits are being lost to thieves, you need a business manager.

I imagine that one response to this post might be “I’m trying to make a living on my content, so I have to be vigilant”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making money. If your content is good enough to generate a profit, I applaud you (mine certainly isn’t that good). The problem is that creating content and making money are two very different things. Every good content creator needs a great business manager, and very few people are adept at both. Prime example, just Google Roy O. Disney. He was the business brain, Walt was the creator. Disney wouldn’t be what it is today without Roy’s business acumen.

5. Get over yourself and consider it a compliment

If your content is worth stealing, then you are on the right track. If you make it even better, someone might want to pay you for it some day. At the very least, you can consider having your content stolen as an indicator of value; you just need to find your Roy Disney to transform that value into dollars.

What do you think about “stolen” content? Has it happened to you?

Remember, if you like this post, go ahead, steal away.

September 29, 2014

The Science of Marketing – 6 Key Takeaways [Book Review]

science-of-marketing

August is the only month on my calendar where I get a bit of time to catch up on my personal reading list. This year, I spent much of that month reading book after book about social media, marketing, communications and leadership. One book that had immediate actionable content for social media community managers, was The Science of Marketing (2013) by Dan Zarrella. Working for HubSpot since 2009, Zarrella has access to the tens of thousands of data-sets he uses to identify trends and make process and content recommendations on how to improve your organization’s social media presence. Once you get past Zarrella’s description of himself as a “Social Media Scientist”, you’ll find some rather useful information that can help you benchmark and experiment with the social media communities you manage.

This is a tactical book, not a strategy book. If you are looking for ways to tweak your Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, email marketing, blog, and lead generation efforts, this book is well worth the 200-page read. A few key takeaways:

  1. Content is still your biggest ally, and the most important piece of the social media puzzle. Zarrella’s response to the question “how much should I be blogging/posting” is “more than you are now”. He even suggests that, to increase engagement and shares, the optimal amount of blog posts is three per DAY.
  2. Blog posts published on Saturday and Sunday get more comments than posts published during the week. Zarrella considers two reasons for this. First, weekends allow users more time to actually read a blog post. Second, fewer companies publish content on the weekend, which means less competition for attention. In fact, Zarrella suggests that we should seek to publish our content when others are not. He calls this “contra-competitive timing”.
  3. Sentiment is important. Posts that are positive get the most comments, shares, and likes. The second most effective are negative posts, which leaves neutrality as the last place finisher. In other words, neutral is boring. If you are going to post something, make sure it contains your tone and think positive first.
  4. Calls to action work. The primary example used in this book is the correlation between retweets and asking for retweets. Zarrella found that simply asking people to retweet your content delivers four times more retweets than tweets that don’t make that request. I wouldn’t use this tactic for every piece of content I tweet, but it’s good information to know if you are responsible for managing an emergency/crisis situation where you need information to spread very quickly.
  5. If you want to catch your audience’s attention on Facebook, photos are by far the best option. Zarrella’s research indicates that photos are the most sharable form of content on Facebook, blowing text, video, right out of the water.
  6. He even gets down to a very granular level of detail by looking at where within a tweet is the best place to include a link in order to maximize clicks. The answer: right in the middle. He even provides lists of the most, and least, sharable/retweetable keywords.

All of these ideas, and about 100 more, are laid out in simple language and charts in this book. The author is quick to mention that his findings are in no way the set-in-stone way to do things that will guarantee success on social media. They are merely data-backed observations that can help marcom professionals tweak and tailor their social media program. In essence, what Zarrella has presented in this book is a look at trends in social media engagement. It’s now up to us as social media managers to use this information to benchmark and experiment and see what works in our communities.

You can find this title on Amazon for about $20, well worth the investment.

August 14, 2014

Your kids are sellouts, and they don’t even know it [Documentary]

Are you a sell out? How about your kid?

Frontline’s documentary “Generation Like” tells the story of how businesses use social media and big data to sell their wares to members of Generation Z (people born between 1995 and 2010).  It urges you to think about this topic from two angles. First, the teens’ perspective. Do they know they are being marketed to, and if so, do they even care? Wrapped in with this is the parental anxiety that exists for those parents who are not up-to-date with social media and digital technology. The second perspective is from the world of business marketing. The film gets into discussions about YouTube fame, collaborations, product integration, and content creation. It asks questions like: how much is a “like” worth? Or a friend? A follower? Or most importantly, the “share”.

This documentary primary focuses on the tactics businesses use to “empower” youth to spread marketing messages within their personal social media networks. One teen in this film spends her free time liking and sharing all the Hunger Games content she can possibly find to earn “sparks”. A currency only relevant to Hunger Games movies, that cannot be redeemed for prizes, but it’s used to keep score of who are the world’s biggest Hunger Games fans. Public recognition and a sense of belonging is used as the primary motivator for her behaviour.

GenerationLikeImageThe film also considers how these teens interact with traditional consumer brands, and if these youths are aware that they are being marketed to. At one point the film’s author asked members of Generation Z what it means to sell out…and none of them could give the traditional Baby Boomer or Generation X version of the term. In fact, they really had no clue what selling out was. One puzzled-looking teen thought that selling out means that there are no tickets left for a concert. Although technically correct, I can assure you that this wasn’t the context in which the term was being used.

The film definitely has some cringe-worthy moments. The most notable example I observed was a section near the end of the film when a mother discusses helping her 12 year-old daughter take and post photos to Instagram – her advice “if she (her daughter) wants to get the most likes, I know that all we have to post full body shots” (cringe).

I use this documentary as a piece of course content for the Social Media Management courses I teach in the Public Relations (PR) program at  Algonquin College. Students have written some fantastic reflection pieces on how this documentary has changed their view of how business and social media interact, and what implications it may have on their personal and professional (PR) lives.

You can watch the full doc, and access plenty of bonus content, on the Frontline website… Or use the video above to stream it directly from YouTube (there are more ads  in the YouTube version). Definitely a worth the watch.

 

 

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