Posts tagged ‘social media’

December 17, 2014

4.5 Social Media and Tech trends to watch for in 2015

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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.

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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.

September 29, 2014

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

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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.

 

 

March 5, 2014

LinkedIn announces a “virtually useless” member blocking feature

linkedinblockedFirst of all I love LinkedIn. It is THE place to host your professional image for the world to see. It is, without a doubt, the top online resume platform. I also love that their revenue stream is more than just selling a glut of ads and promoted trends.

Now with all the niceties out of the way, here’s why I think their new blocking feature is virtually useless.

1. People can still view your profile using the “Anonymous Viewing” feature. For example, if you decide to block me, I can just sign up with a different email, enable the “anonymous viewing” feature and start creeping. Granted, I won’t be able to get ALL of the information you have on your LinkedIn profile, but it would be a good start if I had nefarious intentions.

2. It won’t prevent those who you block from getting the information they are after. Let’s say you’ve blocked your old boss, for whatever reason, and she wants to find out where you now work. She can do any of these three things and find the information she is looking for in less than a minute.

  • Go to LinkedIn, without logging in, and view your profile page. Or she can use the “Anonymous Viewing” feature.
  • Ask another LinkedIn user (perhaps from the same company you used to work for) to login with their profile and do some creeping
  • Or just Google your name

3. Why would you want to block anyone from seeing your LinkedIn profile in the first place? LinkedIn is a public exhibition of who you are from a professional perspective and it is just crawling with recruiters looking for their next hire. I use social media with this rule in mind – If I don’t want people knowing something about me, I don’t publish it on the internet. There is always a chance that your information, regardless of your privacy settings or who you block, friend, or follow, can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.

Blocking users you already know may be of benefit to some, but I think more LinkedIn users would be happy if the ability to view  profiles anonymously was removed. If you are not convinced that LinkedIn blocking is virtually useless, and want to try it out for yourself, here’s a step-by-step guide to blocking and unblocking on LinkedIn…and be sure to let us know what you think of it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue in the comments below.

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