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

How Snapchat snapped with its misleading claims

SnapchatLogoSnapchat, the service teens were using like crazy months ago and was almost bought by Google and Facebook, is now struggling to recover from a FTC settlement regarding its misleading communications with its users. They claimed that the pictures, videos & texts disappear immediately after the timer has expired, yet failed to provide sufficient safety mechanism to prevent print screens or screen captures by third party applications. For this reason, the FTC has imposed that they would have to run a security screening (paywall) program for the next 20 years. This is particularly funny because few analysts give Snapchat any chance of survival in the long run after this massive mess created by this FTC intervention.

Given that they already faced backlash due to a Contacts bug, exposing 4.6 million usernames & phone numbers, I don’t see them making much in the next 6 months, unless they radically change. Seems their CEO should have accepted Facebook’s 3 billion back in 2013.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Why Romania is a better base for tech and social media projects

KA-SAT_spot_beams_coverageRecently, Bloomberg did an extensive piece on how Romania is now a place where IT salaries have risen five fold since 2006. While this is good for the people working there and is in line with the fact that Romania has acceded into the EU, if the trend continues, wages will become a deterrent for new ventures, conversions or expansions of IT services.

Reporters at Bloomberg said that 12,000 Romanians work for the biggest 25 technology companies in the country and Oracle is the largest employer, according to Finance Ministry data. The number is still small, if you compare it to the UK market, where just over 1 million people work in information technology related jobs.

From my point of view, it’s not the salaries that the companies should look at when switching base from, for example, UK to Romania, but at something more key to the job itself – internet connection and infrastructure costs.

A decent broadband connection in Romania can start from just under 50 Eur, while one in the UK will start giving you headaches when the bill rolls in every month. What’s more, for every pound paid you’ll get less speed than for the euro paid in Romania and there will be times where you wish your pages would just load so you can post that reply or upload that module to the SaaS your business relies on.

Event if you might run into administrative delays or issues with the state representatives, the amount of work that an internet dependent company (shouldn’t they all be dependent now?) can do within the 8 hours/day traditional time frame is significantly higher.

It’s all a matter of infrastructure, from where I see it, because a happy web programmer and a happy social media person share the same trait – their internet is fast.

p.s. the longest wait when I wrote this was when I had to upload the Wikipedia image

Barrick and Newmont merger: What does that mean for Europe?

goldThere’s a lot of discussion in the financial world about the potential merger between the Barrick and Newmont, top two gold giants. FT said their combined output would place them in a position three times higher than AngloGold Ashanti, the third largest gold producer in the world.

It’s a stake of $0.5-1 bln synergy, a trial to reclaim shareholder value, to bounce back from the 60% drop they have seen in their stock charts. The drop is mainly due to the fact that gold prices have dropped below cash costs ever since early 2013 and have failed to rise in a consistent way even with the Ukrainian instability. But there’s something more to the merger than I’ve read in all articles.

The executives at both companies are quoted by journalists and analysts as being extremely Americas, Africa & Australasia focused. None of them have even mentioned the two companies’ investments in Europe, which is not a surprise, given the fact that they have no major direct stake in any of Europe’s largest exploration or operating vehicles. I only know of Barrick’s investment in Carpathian Gold (later acquired by Eldorado Gold) and Newmont’s in Gabriel Resources.

Other European operations are run by Agnico Eagle (Finland), Ortac Resources (Slovakia), Boliden (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Ireland), Dalradian Resources (Northern Ireland), EMED Mining (Slovakia), Orvana (Spain), Nordic Mines (Sweden), Eldorado (Turkey, Greece, Romania).

Will we see more movement in Europe after the giant merger? Or will they decide to divest and refocus on their traditional grounds?

Image source

Brands should whisper more

Last week, I stumbled upon a very interesting and rising anonymous, geo-location, text & picture based social network called Whisper. At first you might think it’s just a place for teenage rants, weirdos, shameful confessions, but it’s not.

whisper

A brand with the wit and the courage could go to Whisper and test products, test copy, get feedback, launch a new service or just brag a little. Here are strategies that could work.

Fashion brand for teens – cool and hip statements, true or not and confession games, quotes

Tech brands – post your latest gadget whispers

Industrials – whisper about the little things that make life work, like gas for your car, metals for your computer, watch, dishes, a “did you know that” campaign.

Want more? Drop me a line.