Found out at London’s Silicon Roundabout – Not another LinkedIn Game & other cool stuff

Went to a Silicon Roundabout last evening, just on Southbank. We were warmly hosted by the Iris Nursery, who just told us they are open to ideas and love to support startups and then let us network the hell out of the rest of the evening.

I’ve been to some meetups already in London – social media, digital marketing, innovation ones – but this was the one I found most like-minded people in. Works best if you go there open-minded, looking to find out what others do, not just to promote your stuff. By the way, it’s also useful to have a 30 second description of who you are and what you do, so you don’t stumble when people come over and introduce themselves.

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Anyway, moving on to the topic in the title, by far, the most interesting thing I found at the Roundabout was the fact that you can play games with your Linkedin Account. With Beat the Buzzword (*made by these guys), you compete against your connections and try to guess as many buzzwords as you can. It’s a simple trivia game, but it’s part of the efforts to make Linkedin more social and more engaging, a thing they are trying to achieve also with the Linkedin Posts initiative. It’s not the first game attempt that you can connect with you Linkedin Account to, we’ve seen the DropIn, a crappy Tetris with your connection’s profile pictures (creepy). Try both, at least you’ll have a laugh.

Apart from this, I was also impressed to find out more about the latest and the greatest in the world of coding. It’s not just the social media experts that are feeling left out and obsolete, or the market research analysts or the web designers, it’s also the programmers. With tools like Firebase, Angular.js, Node.js or Boostrap.js, almost anyone can learn how to code really easily without writing thousands of lines for simple tasks. But looking at the tools and the level of complexity you have to go through to develop something useful, I believe coders still have a long way to go 🙂

The only thing that will kill the print media in London

EconomistNo, print media in London is far from dead. Just look at the numbers I mentioned in a previous article – 45% of them haven’t even gone mobile properly. The truth is that they don’t really care yet, they don’t need to invest in expanding their online and mobile presences because they still have access to a captive audience.

The commuter

You know what the key trait of London and UK is in terms of technology (or lack thereof)? Mobile signal strength and coverage. If you have ever commuted into central London, you have experienced one of the two situations:

  1. Bad service on the train, no real possibility to read the online news without losing your top while viewing the loading screen.
  2. No service on the tube (except the few portions where the trains run overground, but there you usually fall under rule #1)

Now think of these two situations, the fact that phone and tablet battery life is limited and precious and the fact that several morning and evening papers are available for free at almost all the tube stations. You should be able to understand now that only one thing can kill the London print media – better telecom infrastructure.

Imagine a 3G connection aboard trains and in the tube. Imagine how many people would rather read the news on their mobile devices than off that pesky, smelly, messy newspaper.

If I were a big online media company and would like to kill all London print media, I’d invest in mobile network expansion. Hell, they’d recover the investment just from selling the extra airtime, not to mention the more advertising they’d drive to their mobile media assets. #foodforthought

How to brand offerings and leverage the brand – A lesson from Apple

Apple_gray_logoIn these times of Social Media and Digital communications, when everyone seems to value speed above all else, it’s still important, from my point of view, to go back to the fundamentals of marketing & branding.

One company that stands out, from my point of view, with regards to branding, is Apple. They have created this psychological bridge in the minds of their followers (aka customers) between their offering (iPads, iPhones, Macbooks, iPods, Appstore etc.) and the need it fulfils – need to be connected and enjoy a vast selection of digital entertainment tools and, essentially, have a better life. Apple’s products deliver a consistent above the market user experience across all their devices, which consolidates the mental connection with every new product consumers buy and with every new service they use.

Apple’s genuine asset is the ecosystem that it creates with the mixture of technology and proprietary operating systems and marketplaces. They leverage this mixture to create the unique psychological image in the minds of the consumers that covers both the brand and the need. Customers now demand for an iPhone, not a smartphone, and for a Macbook, not just a laptop, even though the technology behind the two is not that different. It’s the status, the experience and distinct service offering that allows Apple to create more value through its strong branding.

Today, according to Forbes, Apple’s brand alone is valued at $98 billion and is mainly attributed to their omnichannel seamless experience delivery. Even though the methodologies to determine this number are unreliable, it serves as a benchmark against other companies with similarly strong brands. But one must remember that the brand without the subsequent innovation and strong operations is not a guarantee for success (see Polaroid or Betamax).

Apple did not create the need for a PC or a smartphone; they simply focused more attention to those needs by offering a different experience than other market players, thus branding that type of need and the offering it fulfils. One can see this in their advertising, in the way the products are designed, the way the Stores work (both on and offline) and in the way they have created a movement around themselves, a movement that constantly queues in front of their shops whenever a new product is rolled out.

Essentially, Apple can be branded as a design firm, a media platform, a publishing company, a software company, a computer manufacturer, but most importantly a cult. (an iCult, if I may). It uses its brand to effectively speed up the decision making process by connecting emotionally and supplying enough rational justification to ensure the customer is happy with her purchase.

The branding that Apple uses actively contributes to the realisation of the other, higher, tenets – the brand attracts a certain type of customer (segmentation tenet), creates a certain experience through which it fulfils an otherwise unmet need (tenet two) and is to my best of knowledge an ethical value creation business (tenet one).

Thanks to Apple’s great branding, the world is now, to a certain extent, a black and white picture – Apple and non-Apple users

Strategic business risks: The Reputation Risk – Social licence to operate for mining companie

One of my favourite examples, when it comes to business risks, is the mining industry – given my background of almost 4 years in a TSX gold mining junior company that is running a still-permitting large scale open cast project in Romania. The most important risk – given that the deposit is proven and the technical difficulties have been alleviated, at this point, for any mining company in most countries and localities is, from my point of view, the reputational risk.

sdg

The rise of internet and social media communication and especially of mobile internet usage means that people have access to a wide range of communication tools. This factor could be perceived as good for business if it contributes to the consolidation of the company’s reputation, but it can also mean that the company is exposed to internal and external attacks. Resources have always been at the centre of wars and mining is no exception – especially when the licences legislation is to a certain extent exclusive. Some companies or non-governmental organizations may want to force other companies off certain territories and seek to do so by influencing their reputation to the point where they cannot operate any longer due to strong local and national opposition – this is called the revocation of the social licence to operate and it is a strong reputational risk that a mining company faces when engaging communities to co-create value.

When a mining company no longer has the social licence to operate, its communication channels with key stakeholders become blocked and they are judged and sentenced based on their poor reputation. This leads to blockages in permitting, lack of employee engagement, low investor trust, low or no business outputs and a general difficulty in doing business.

The reputational risk can be mitigated by

–          focusing on the first tenet, ensuring that all stakeholders are aware that the focus of the company is an ethical one

–          communicating holistically and persuasively to all interested parties in regards to its key business issues

–          monitoring and successfully rebutting myths and allegations

–          partnering with the local community and national key institutions and non-governmental organizations that can provide them with endorsements and monitoring assurance

Reputational risks are strategic for mining companies because their operations now rely partly on their external and internal brand, determining whether a company can continue to co-create value or will cease to operate due to a loss of social licence to operate. The sooner they start considering this risk as a strategic one, the better they will be able to handle potential threats and mitigate the risk in a less costly way.

An incomplete view of a conversation about the future of the internet

PoorMansNFCLast evening, I attended a bit of a different meetup. It was a basement chat (yes, no signal, no wifi) about the future of the internet. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay until the end of i, but I did catch two of the presentations. Maybe some of you who have seen the entire thing can help me get a complete picture of last evening’s talk session.

Here’s what I got from the first presentation. My key takeaway from his presentation is that culture is no longer a barrier to technology integration and evolution. It’s the current technology adoption, the boxing up of our work with tech, the legacy systems and the sunk costs of software investments that are holding us back from growing faster. That and the lack of adaptation to the current capabilities of our world. I had no clue that 45% of UK print media have not adapted to mobile technology in the 7 years that have passed since the iPhone has hit the market.

Update:

Next up was Andrew Larkin, a technologist who’s keen on physics and Newton, to be more precise. I particularly enjoyed the part of his presentation where he showed the value and importance of JavaScript/MongoDB in today’s web, the power of JSON that enabled them to play with OFCOM’s datasets realtime, without any databases and the fact the he advocates the following:

Give people time, space and encourage them to play and experiment.

The best, from my point of view, was Becky Stewart from CodaSign, who took us on a trip through her work on the internet of things and bringing ordinary items to life with the help of electricity and micro-controllers. It was something in the way the objects now could become interactive that suggests the future for our houses, our clothes, accessories and workplaces. Just see some of the videos below:

Pig with Wigs – they sing if you change their wigs

Human Harp – transform any strings into harp strings

Metaprojection Jacket – project while you perform

GPS Shoes – there’s no place like home

Good Night Lamp from Good Night Lamp on Vimeo.

Hello Little Printer, available 2012 from Berg on Vimeo.

What is littleBits? from littleBits on Vimeo.

And the masterpiece micro-controller that can be used by non-technical people:

I’m telling you, this is the future!

Digital Communications & Social Media as Investor Relations tools

1280px-Social-media-for-public-relations1There’s still one place where social media and digital communications have yet to take a central spot – investor relations. A Mediapost article shows that just over 50% of institutional investors surveyed said that social media was “not yet significant but growing in importance” as a professional tool, with 37% welcoming the new media types as ways to disseminate news and information, while 33% see them as useful for fast-moving events, like takeover bids or proxy fights. Forums still rank the highest, with Linkedin trailing just behind, while Facebook is down at the bottom.

Social media’s biggest problem is reliability, only 17% trusting it as a credible information source for investment.

However, there’s room for improvement. A NIRI survey shows that almost half (49%) of respondents who do not currently use social media for IR plan to reassess the issue within the next 12 months. The recent SEC guidance on the topic is a driving factor in determining reassessment. And that, my friends, is an opportunity for digital marketers such as myself.

My approach to IR strategy via social media & digital marketing channels:

I tend to go with a 3-step approach:

  1. Listen – track the conversations about your company. Believe it or not, people are talking about your business and you should at least listen to them
  2. Analyze – use that data that you tracked in the first place and look at it in a structured way. Use tools, draw conclusions, see trends, see potential or current problems and identify reactions to previous communications
  3. Do – Start with a direction, some communication pillars, an influencer list and some key messages, maybe a Q&A for your social media responsible and a list of DOs and DONT’s

And use some industry specific tools like:

  • Compliant Content: SEC/FDA-compliant pieces that align with yhr strategic communication objectives and that target the financial community.
  • Business announcements, financial disclosures and crisis communications, ensuring you are reflected in the best light and that all key stakeholders are quickly and properly informed through relevant channels.
  • Disclosure Postings – financial and company-related business news through social channels, aligned with SEC’s ruling in April 2013.
  • Influencer Identification & Engagement – Identify influencers in the investment community and directly engage them.
But how should you do it?

This is where I disagree with PR Newswire’s IR Blog that says basically that IR should not “engage” in social media, IR should not have interaction and dialog. Instead they suggest a broadcast approach – place the news into the stream broadly and non-selectively, which is fine. But you should also participate in conversations without selective material information disclosure. Answer questions, dispel rumors and talk to your investors.

What else can you do to communicate proactively through social media?
  • Tweet your quarterly results and other important news that has been disclosed via SEC/SEDAR/other regulated market tools
  • Post industry-related news from trusted financial sources without falling into the “promotional trap”
  • Announce partnerships, acquisitions, social responsibility activities and such
  • ReTweet and chat with your peers
  • Engage with Buy Side and Sell Side companies to create or complete your profile and become even more eligible for investment

A Linkedin blog post follows Howard Lindzon (CEO of Stocktwits, a specialized social space for investors) and his point on the fact that the majority of institutional investors are forming opinions based on social media pages. He says that investor relations needs to be closely integrated with brand activity on social media platforms. He advocates dialogue and pro-activity within social media platforms, but warns to be careful and link to regulated spaces for disclosure of material information.

Examples of IR use of social media

And since we’re talking about Linkedin, Company Pages and Groups provide a natural fit for discussing corporate information with an informed, engaged and relevant audience. Statoil’s Energy Innovation Group, which is helping to set the agenda on energy futures, is a great example. Dunkin’ Brands, parent company of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, who use social media for announcements of new products or entering a new market are coordinated with investor events like roadshows, investor conferences, earnings calls, etc. Zillow, a real estate company, takes questions from Twitter and Facebook during its live earnings call. They also live tweet during the call, use infographics to help tell the story and have a corporate blog. This quarter, Zillow added live streaming video interview with its CEO immediately after the call via the Motley Fool. In addition, Zillow’s CEO is very active on social media and the company knows that many analysts and investors follow him. Jones noted that he frequently gets questions from institutional investors related to tweets from the CEO.

Other companies may choose to reach out to investors and increase the sell and buy-side coverage to attract desirable institutional holders. You can do that through social media by carefully targeting analysts and host virtual investor day meetings where you showcase your narrative, accomplishments and dispel myths.

Conclusion & Summary

Once in place, your social media program can be used to:

  • Increase company/brand awareness, loyalty and reach
  • Drive traffic to your investor relations website
  • Improve investor’s understanding of your business
  • Identify key industry influencers
  • Engage with investors
  • Generate media coverage
  • Clarify key messages
  • Minimize repetitive investor inquiries

P.S. Executive officers and other company representatives should be mindful of the issues that derive from online communications, as their private postings on public social networks might cause embarrassment to their companies and even make them liable in front of their shareholders.

Startup Sunday in Barcelona with Jeff Robinson

I met with Jeff Robinson, the organizer of Barcelona Internet Startup Meetups, C.E.O. Internet Advisory Corp. He and his Meetup.com group offered us feedback on the business model and on the segment that we would choose for an online rental business that me and my friends are working on right now.

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He has 30+ years of capital market experience – everything from desk and floor trading to investment banking and was interested in the business idea, thus validating the direction we were heading, which was great.

The key takeaways we got from the meeting were:

  • stick to a simple and transparent model
  • the rental idea was validated by the group
  • suggested to focus on a single segment
  • a business that can attract investment must have an MVP that is regularly used by 100 people or so to prove the model

I think it’s very important for a group that wants to launch a startup to network and seek feedback as much as possible. Meetup.com is just one way to tap into the investor and like-minded entrepreneurs networks which can provide invaluable ideas, perspectives and tweaks that you might not have come up with in your own brainstorming sessions. What’s more, these type of events can give you a sense of what success means to an angel investor or for an up and running startup.

Always go prepared and have a targeted problem to address. For us it worked that way, it might work for you, too.

The Reputation and Influence meetup – some conclusions and a piece of advice

Bo04cAZCQAAqGKzLast night I went for the Online Marketing London Meetup on the HMS 1918 President boat. Yes, a digital meetup on a boat. It was a 3 piece presentation about reputation and influence, but somehow it turned again into a product presentation. First up was Brandwatch – a reputation and influence measurement tool, where the presenter made some points that I’ve summarized below:

  • Do good work, don’t be a dick, repeat – reputation rules. You have to listen and not through Google Alerts, then identify probelms, fix them and be authentic. Also be where the audience is.
  • Google Alerts misses loads of results. US has loads of analysts and social media rockstars that charge / speech or mention, in comparison to the UK or Germany, which don’t have as many.

Key takeaway – not really new stuff, old ideas, common sens, but the platform has really poor design. Might need some UX consultancy.

Next up – Peerindex – whose CEO started by asking: why should you care about influence? Here’s a quick sumup of the best stuff:

  • The dictionary definition of influence is useless. The world seems to be much more complicated for marketers nowadays. The old locus of authority ment that ads worked like a sinch, but now more and more consumers refer to peers (84%) and shifted the locus.
  • Narrow down to the 5000 people that dictate what the 1 million do. Influencers drive lots of attentition, so brands need to pay atention to them and deliver content that they need and will spread.
  • And apparently clubs don’t want to attract the unwashed masses at first. They want the hippest clubbers. No, really?
  • If your business gets really good or really bad reviews, should you address the really bad ones? Look at NPS and see if it’s a perception problem, not a product problem.

Key takeaway – influence is relative (doh) and they have a Klout competitor tool that does digital measurement on the panel of influencers they have in their database. Useful for brands who want to keep up with the ever-changing influencer list.

Last presentation was a courtesy of Lincoln Coutts. This is where I gave in and left the building…er…boat. It’s funny how a person talks about influence and reputation with under 1000 followers. The first part of the presentation was filled with generic “everyone is a publisher and builds a personal brand of some sort” kind of stuff.

Key takeaway – please, when you come and present to an educated audience (digitally savvy people), do come up with new stuff. Don’t present something that anyone with above 3-4k followers and a few thousand visitors/month can jot up in 45 mins in a semi-formatted power-point. That’s if you want to keep your influence.

I was expecting more of a debate over who is influential now on topics, on how to engage an influencer in a constructive way, based on past experience, not common sense, but hey, maybe they’ll get it right next time.

Photo via: @cmooki

Why videos go viral? via @Pulsar_Social #LDNSMC

Today is the day I went to my first London Social Media meetup, just to get the feel of the industry and meet some like-minded professionals (which I did, thanks for the welcome everyone!). The topic was not too bad either, given the fact that the Pulsar people delivered an interesting presentation on viral videos. They based their conclusions on data drawn from their digital listening platform and created so interesting patterns.

The Social Media Cafe – May edition was kindly hosted by Timberyard, who serve great Cappuccinos!

Why stuff goes viral

The presentation started pretty straight-forward. They studied the evolution of Captain Hatfield, Ryan Gosling’s cereal video, Dove, Gangnam style, the Turkish Taksim protests and other viral videos that went viral and searched for patterns. Used pulsar to track the URLs.

Apparently, there are two types of viral videos. A Spiker viral video gets 80% of its shares in the first 2 days, driven by a group of KOLs. However, the Grower viral videos, like the Dove one, gets its views slower, over a longer period of time. So even if your video doesn’t spike in the first few hours or days, there’s still hope.

The most share-able video was the Turkish protest one, thanks to the fact that it had a unique news item in it. It contained a lot of emotion and the interest for the topic was shared by a lot of people from all over the world.

Questions to consider: How long does it take for a video to peak? How long is it share-able? How constant is the spread, how volatile?

The Turkish and the Hatfield video went very fast (spikers), but Dove went slower (grower), with a more consistent momentum. The key question here was why that happened to both categories of videos. They looked at the fact that audiences influence the virality and found that there was no correlation between demographics and virality. But the connections and micro-networks had a big influence. Groups of people picked up the videos and shared them according to the type of audience within the group. The Turkish and Hatfield videos got inside groups & audiences with common connections, so people jumped on the sharing wagon more easily, but Dove entered a less connected group of networks with a more diverse audience, so its momentum was shaped in a more less ample way, which leads us to the next characteristic:

Modularity – how much is the group made up of subgroups/fragmented and how much is modular(political affiliation). That also influences the virality – Turkish videos were shared by a highly modular community. The Dove one was more fragmented, having to make more jumps. Look at trends and ride one. If you don’t, you have no chance of viralizing your content.

Hatfield Groups – 30, male, into tech – shared by influencers first
Dove Groups – a mixture of teen girls, marketing professional women, and Saudi Arabia women – very diverse crowd

They concluded that a high demographic diversity leads to slower movement of the video, due to the number of jumps the content material has to make from one community to another. In the end, you need a trigger and a validator, then you need community connectors and emotion – funny, sad, astonishing. No emotion, no virality.

Validation in a community is done by the tone of voice of the biggest community KOLs that put the video out there. They are the gatekeepers that push the content in their groups and apparently one can detect them through Pulsar and engage them in a targeted way.

All in all, it was a very interesting meeting, with loads of conversations afterwards regarding the future of social media, on how kids interact with it and how education has to evolve and encapsulate it in the teaching methodology.

Photos via @JamesBougourd and @Fcancerproject

How to build a digital marketing plan / road-map / strategy

content-marketing-strategy-to-support-the-buying-cycleAny marketer should be able to answer this question any day, any time, anywhere. But it’s more than just looking at the business objectives, translating them into communication objectives, setting the KPIs, choosing the strategy and the channels, planning, (testing &) implementing, monitoring and reporting, plus the evaluation at the end of a campaign. While this straight-forward approach works for experienced marketers, I’ve found that people who have little or no practice require a bit more explaining on each point of the matter, focusing especially on strategies, tools and channels.

This is why I put together the list of tools, strategies and channel choice approaches mashed up from 4 sources that I have curated:

  1. Mashable suggests that digital teams formulate their messaging based on the brand story, the consumer sentiment and perception and trigger emotional connections with the brand. They also look at platform choice based on customer research, focusing on the places where users seek information or buy the product you are selling. Mobile and differentiation are key in this stage. Then, they focus on engagement calendars and consistency of the communication to create digital habits.
  2. Inc.com focus on testing messages, channels and strategies as you grow, on a compelling story that is share-able, on the exclusivity factor and influencer outreach.
  3. Smart Insights uses a mix of offline & online, suggesting meetups, events, a consistent content factory and participation in trade competitions (startup competitions, for example). Although these points may appear to be free or low cost, you must take into consideration the time invested in both researching and in creating quality content for each channel & relationships with the said influencers.
  4. A Forbes piece talks about naming, content and Search Engine Optimization (the PR driven one, not the “get links at all cost” one) and about integrating paid marketing in your mix.
  5. Strategy-Business.com article focuses on 4 digital marketing models, capabilities and showcases practical examples from Coca Cola, Virgin, Walmart, P&G and Henkel. From their point of view, the CMO must create the right capabilities and activate them to run successful campaigns.

An this is why I linked 3 free different templates that marketers can use to create their own digital strategy:

  1. This Smart Insights plan – more like a checklist for planning, preceded by more of the same topics I’ve covered here.
  2. The Web Strategy Planning Template – a tool which helps you translate objectives into actionable items
  3. The Digitia guide to creating your digital strategy – road-map from market to results, with examples and suggestions for each step.

If that isn’t enough, take a look at Hubspot’s 20 slide marketer mash-up for more inspiration.

Image source