This is a Digital Media Strategy Beginners Article.
Local Search Results
One of the biggest failures of the web to date has been the generally poor results you get from a local search - particularly here in Australia where only around 30% of small businesses have a website. The poor performance is understandable when it's only logical that if your business doesn't have a website, then it's hard for Google to know you exist and for people to link to your site.
There have been many attempts over the years to address this gap, from the old, once dominant, Yellow Pages type paper advertising directories (which have finally migrated to online directories); Government and commercial initiatives like Google and MYOB (leading Australian Small Business accounting software); consumer comparison and ranking website portals; through to customer generated content - forums, bloggers; Facebook Places; Fourquare; Twitter; new Google+ and my new favourite service www.quora.com (founded last year by the ex CTO of Facebook).
From a business owners perspective it's a Catch 22 situation - if your immediate sales are not generated from the web then why as business do you need to invest the time, energy and money to develop new skills; keep information up to date; maintain the website; and also communicate through these online channels - "I sell coffee I'm not some computer nerd!" they cry.
The answer to that question is very simple - depending on what report you're reading then 50-90% of new customers will search online before purchasing - Online Retailing's SOBO "Search Online Buy Offline".
If you're not actively marketing and communicating online then there's a very high probability your competitors are or will be.
Opportunity and Competition Drives Innovation
Ten months ago, I wrote about a new coffee shop which opened in the local neighbourhood "Foodies Deli Cafe" which brought a refreshing new competitor to the local coffee drinking marketplace - back then as a test I asked how long would it be before they commented on my blog post.
Today, that moment arrived, Matt - one of the owners told me they'd launched a website a couple of months ago; that it wasn't ranking in Google and if I could take a quick look (contra coffee).
Sensing a potential mutual win relationship (and also content for my blog) once back in the office the first thing I did was a test search in Google -
As Matt said the website http://www.foodiesdelicafe.com.au/ doesn't rank at all, so we take a look at source code. If you right-click on your website from your browser there is usually a "source code" option - it's gobbly gook stuff Google sees. Without going into finer details the website is not search engine optimised (SEO) and in its current form I doubt it will never rank in the top three search results. Yes, the web developers didn't mention that!
As mentioned there are many elements which influence search engine ranking but the most important is the "Search Engine Term" your potential customers will use.
Search Engine Term and Inbound Links
The key point to note is that most people will NOT search for the name of the coffee shop, they will search for "coffee shop Dolls Point" or "coffee shop Sans Souci" or maybe "best coffee shop in St George area". The most important element to SEO is the title of any external websites inbound link to your site.
The higher the Pagerank of the external website "referring" the more influence that will have on your page ranking and your subsequent search results listing. For example, A Sydney Morning Herald food guide review will have a greater link importance than my website blog (except when it is published in my Istrategy blog post).
Example - The top three results "Best Coffee Shop Sydney City" includes one of my favourites Vivo Cafe - Vivo has a SEO website plus Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare accounts - all roads lead to a destination.
Social Media is the New Search
We are increasingly using social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Youtube etc and applications like Trip Advisor to ask friends or other web users for their feedback. On top of the social media layer, services like Google+; Linkedin Q&A (think corporate Facebook) and the previously mentioned http://www.quora.com/ are facilitating question and answer and developing expert status.
Google is already indexing this high quality content (except where it has very recently been precluded - ie Twitter real time results and public Facebook Status) and you are beginning to see this data influence rankings.
Social Media Pureplay
Another local coffee shop I must mention is social media marketing pure play Montgomery St Cafe, headed up by the highly talented Internet Chef and Electrolux brand ambassador Bridget Davis and Twitterati Iconic88. They did an exceptional job at building awareness prior to opening through Facebook status updates, #mostreet and regular Youtube videos.
Last week another new local coffee shop opened - "Kiss the Barista" at Georges River 16ft Sailing Club; and another around the corner couple of weeks.
There are now three new coffee shops that have opened within a short (less than 500m) distance within the last 10 months making a total six.
As you can see even at the local coffee shop level it's a highly competitive online marketing but you know the most important thing? The customer experience they then share.
How do you rank on Google and what are your customers saying about you on social media?
Whether your advertising, blogging, tweeting or updating your status, what's the angle? Is it interesting or just more noise? What are you trying to say and can you please get to the point quickly - we all say we're time poor (but around 24% of Internet time is addicted to Facebook) and time is money baby!
We all know that in today's customer centric, digital communications marketplace that customer advocacy is the primary marketing objective - to create tens, hundreds, millions of loving, sharing, influencing fans and customers who'll spread our content; influence others and buy our stuff.
We've been told that sport is only second to religion in terms of Facebook groups.
But the web is not just about quantity - that's the old mass media model, it's also about quality and niche digital marketing - right down to your local small business.
For example, let's take the NRL - National Rugby League (the toughest gladiator team sport in the world IMHO - that and ice hockey and UFC). Rugby League is the major sporting code in the Australian states of NSW and Queensland.
Although league doesn't have the global reach and audience of soccer, the recent NSW vs Queensland State of Origin game reached a record 4m television viewers (the combined population of these two states is only 12m) - ie 33%. Note: The games media rights are up for negotiation at the end of the year (cha ching)
Within every major social tribe are sub-tribes, for example the Dragons (50K Facebook Fans), the Sharks (25K) , The Broncos (190K) and Russell Crowes Rabbitohs (51K). Each team actively building and incorporating social media into their own marketing strategies, that is, connecting 1:1 with fans, creating compelling content that informs and shares (increasingly video); developing new digital inventory opportunities for sponsors; connecting and selling memberships, merchandise and game day experiences.
AND, like all brands in all markets, they are not only competing against each other (and other codes) but for yours and my time and attention, as fans or customers, our piece of mind-share and heart against every other marketing message out there who wants to love us.
Some do that better than others (more on that later).
So what are your fans and customers saying (are you listening and replying) and what do they love about you?
The answer is often the things you're most passionate about are the same ones that attract new customers or deepen your relationship.
Creating Compelling Content
As mentioned, as consumers we're all bombarded with thousands of messages per day trying to get our attention and influence our buying behaviour.
We all make decisions on whether we like that product, service, person or not, whether a message earns our attention, book-marking, likes, purchase, trust and advocacy.
Case in point - there's a guy down the local mall who plays bad guitar and sings out of tune (I'm not saying busking becuase that's an insult to the trade) - I'll never be a fan - no matter how many songs he performs. Many products, services, ads and sales people are like that.
If you're in tune with your customer then your messages should get cut-through and spread.
Every brand would love to have the passion people have for their sports team.
Sponsorship offers brands association with sports team (and usually good tickets at the game).
The challenge is how to incorporate new sports sponsorship opportunities within the new social media customer experience.
Digital media offers unlimited shelf space and the opportunity for sports teams to provide new highly scalable digital inventory.
Sports teams already have assets that resonate with fans - for example - players, cheerleaders, mascots, grounds and other fans.
They already have entertainment and drama (stories to tell) - competition, injuries, wins, losses.
Their website becomes their own media channel.
BUT as we know you can't hard sell within the social media sphere - you have to entertain to influence - develop relevant continuous creative compelling content for your audience is what shares, spreads, influences and advocates.
Basil began his career in Bloody Big Corporation a long time ago and has worked his way to the head of Corporate Communications - it hasn't been easy street, over the years he's had to put out his share of corporate fires, manage a revolving door of stars, executive egos and even schmooze the most obnoxious, closed minded journalist.
It hasn't all been party - those long extended lunches, gifts and overseas corporate funded conventions to exotic destinations - it's all part of a carefully constructed game that oils the wheels of message control, and Basil, is the master of wheel and spin, (I mean storytelling) - the hardened old man of media influence.
BUT, like the stiff old vinyl LP and CD "the times they are a changin"
"Today, this Facebook and Twitter thing, this social media stuff has changed the game - the ability to control the media and message is just no longer possible" says an i-phone wielding Basil (subtle product placement #1) "Nowadays I have to keep a constant live streaming Twitter search of our key stakeholders and brands - when my new i-phone (#2) rings at 3AM in the morning I quickly check Twitter to see what's trending before I answer the call, Twitter is where stories break and if you don't know what's being said about you - you can look the fool and nobody likes to be made a fool"
In my role, says Basil "It's very important to always be connected - if it wasn't for #Telstra's unequalled mobile network coverage around the country I'd be lost (a not so subtle unsolicited customer advocacy product placement)."
Yes, the role of Corporate Communications is still to manage the brand and influence discussion but today it's in real time, online and open for all to see. Yes, PR and transparency is a bit of an oxymoron agrees Basil. Today, you need to be more subtle to influence behaviour.
Ring me before your lawyer - I've got more online Klout! (Klout profiles and measures online Twitter influence)
People aren't stupid and are highly connected - you can't buy loyalty - you have to earn trust, customer attention and advocacy.
Basil states that some of the statistics can be bewildering to the Internet strategy newbie.
Netcraft reports there are 215,675,903 websites with domain names and content on them in 2009, compared to just 18,000 websites in August 1995 and that the web has been growing 10 fold each year.
Locally, the average Australian Internet user spends 17.6 hours per week online; Television 13.4 hours; with 49% watching television and use the Internet at the same time. These figures are roughly inline with US and Europe.
Online Social Networking represents 21.9% of that time - (Comscore Australians Online 2011)
Facebook has over 600m people worldwide - that makes it the 3rd biggest country in the world.
Twitter, according to calculations from leading blogger Jeff Bullas - has around 225m people and is growing at around 400,000 users per day.
The average tweets per week - 1B (over 20% being brand related - I think I heard that at the I-strategy conference). People may are already talking about you.
That there are 3 billion photos uploaded to Facebook every month.
and there are 37 hours of video uploaded to Youtube every minute - most of it crap.
But amongst all the noise and clutter, we all now have information to make better decisions - search will only get better and more relevant.
Potential customers are already asking and getting referrals from friends, blogs and through social media - AND buying online - without ever walking into your shop or contacting you directly.
This re-emphasises that the first few seconds of your website is critical to conversion (see CLIVE).
The web is now mainstream and the web user, you, I, the customer, us, are in control.
Implementing a Social Media Control Centre
When a recent security incident at Big Bloody Corp spread like wildfire on Twitter they saw their share price drop 10 points wiping out billions of dollars of shareholder value. When CEO Franklyn Un and the BBC board realised that their brand equity and price was being impacted by social media conversations they instantly moved responsibility from Cheryl in Reception, to the Ivory Castle Corporate Communications Agency - you can't have some chatty inexperienced Y-Generation talking to the public.
Within six months social media returned back in-house.
At first we outsourced to an Agency but they didn't know our business well enough, were too slow to respond to customers and we realised social media/ conversations with our customers were far too important an element to outsource. As a result we brought social media back so that the degree of separation between customer and us was minimalised.
What took us the most time to realise is that customers hated the politically correct measured corporate tone of our tweets and loved chatty, real, responsive Cheryl and her team - that people buy from people.
We now understand that our attitude to change and customer engagement is critical to our long term success.
That as an organisation we needed to decorporatise and rehumanise the corporation, that if we are going to engage in these highly influential social media channels then we must become more social - more human - tell stories and have fun. That means putting people with strong communications skills and corporate intelligence at the front line - it means peeling off the corporate layers and letting the natural person shine through - to humanise our brands. It means getting all our executives and staff digitally aware. It means making our website more customer focused, friendly and inviting.
Funny how sometimes ideas come together so quickly it's like it was just meant to happen, one element the piece that makes the puzzle come together.
We had Gerry Gannon, one of Australia's leading MC's in the studio the other day and the conversation over lunch moved to CLIVE marketing strategy - how we are going to develop demonstrations around vertical market applications and start holding events.
Event management is considered one of the strategic marketing and communication tools by companies of all sizes.
From product launches to press conferences, companies create promotional events to help them communicate with clients and potential clients
BUT getting people to know about your event and register can be hard work. Customer Attention is scarce. You need to create something that they must attend - that's in their interest. That your audience leaves with something special and then tells their friends. In a lot of ways it's no different than a band, a film or any other product.
This article(s) are my personal notes in putting together our first CLIVE ALIVE event and the process we go through.
On the 29th July our CLIVE will be one year old - that's given us time to get familiar the latest edition to the family - from a strategy point of view it's now time to go offline and get face to face.
Bring together a mix of film and video, technology, media people around our solutions and case studies - create social interaction and foundation for Australian Internet Video Production.
The idea here is that people who come to events are
Likely to talk and share their experience
Putting an event together
Any event is essentially a combination of project management and creative concepts. Elements to consider.
I already know our subject matter "Internet Video" is a hot topic. Most important, what does the audience leave with? The call to action, the message.
The first gig I'd like to get Chris in to talk from a Video Directors creative perspective and Nathan in from a client results. I'd like to add one other senior presenter to take a helicopter view and offer their perspective
We have a wide network of potential guests in the pipeline. I love to get Naomi Simson, Trevor Sykes, Holly Kramer, Len Rust, Paul Budde, Iggy Pintado and others to hear their experience of digital media convergence.
Chris to get his film mates, Martin to talk about the Red camera, Hugh, etc the list of potential speakers is endless.
One of the key pieces I'm going to use is the number "5" - "CLIVE, ALIVE, FIVE" through everything we do - 5PM, 5 minute presentations, 5th day etc. People remember patterns.
Timing - after work before dinner- 5PM (for 5.30PM) - 7PM
The Format - theatre and network layout. People are time poor, adopt the same process we're using with all our communications, short and sharp, from the broad down to specific (inverted pyramid). Tight time schedule. Intro, 5 min presentation, 5 min Q&A, next guest. 6.00/6.30 Netowrk, 7.00 End.
From a continuity point of view make it once a month, either the 5th Day or the 1st Tuesday.
Venue - the City is most important etc - I search the web, Twitter a question, Nathan suggests NSW DSRD (Event the previous night) - I've presented their before - great location and facilities. In terms of overall strategy could benefit - build government support. My good event management mate Monique suggests a new night club she's doing the marketing for - will look at that for next time - locations can change.
Marketing the event
Usual approach is to target audience by using the news media, hoping to generate media coverage which will reach thousands or millions of people. Also invite their audience to their events and reach them at the actual event.