R[E]D – Research : Emotion : Design

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Major Digital Marketing Changes From The Last 12 Months, Are You Keeping Up?

Last year I wrote a Year in Review article that mainly focused on Facebook: 20 Changes Facebook Made In 2012 That Impacted Marketers. I mentioned, “Facebook was all about refinement in 2012.” If “refinement” was the word of 2012, “streamlined” was the word of 2013.

And this year I want to focus on the broader options that social marketers have at their disposable now.

An influx of new top tier social networks spread user attention thin in 2012 and required a renewed emphasis on key features and functionality.

In 2012, Facebook was on top of the mountain.

It was still the 800-pound gorilla in 2013, but a variety of other networks took their shots at prominence and deserve our attention as well.

Here are the top social media changes and trends introduced in 2013 and the last 12 months.

The Growth of Short Video

instagram-vine

Twitter started the year off with the launch of Vine, a mobile service that lets you capture and share short looping videos. Twitter noted on its blog that, “the brevity of videos on Vine (6 seconds or less) inspired creativity. Now that you can easily capture motion and sound.”

Vine saw 403% growth between the first and third quarters of 2013, making it the fastest-growing app of the year. And then Instagram launched video…

Instagram added fifteen-second video functionality on June 20. The number of Vine video links shared to Twitter dropped nearly 40 percent that day. Vine sharing on Twitter continued to drop over the following week, resulting in a roughly 70 percent drop from the nearly three million links shared on June 15. Instagram jumped on the video hype by announcing sponsored ads on October 3.

Facebook learned from the success of Instagram’s video ad integration by rolling out auto-play video ads on December 17, 2013. According to Facebook, the social network began testing auto-play video ads in September and the changes resulted in a more than 10 percent increase in video views, likes, shares and comments.

 

Twitter Jumpstarts Monetization

Twitter-IPO

In 2012, Facebook’s IPO helped fuel an increased focus on revenue generation. Following a similar course in 2013 Twitter launched their IPO and subsequently increased advertising options.

On May 22, Twitter introduced Lead Generation Cards to help B2B brands drive highly qualified leads. According to Twitter, “These cards makes it easy for users to express interest in what your brand offers. Users can easily and securely share their email address with a business without leaving Twitter or having to fill out a cumbersome form. When someone expands your Tweet, they see a description of the offer and a call to action. Their name, @username, and email address are already pre-filled within the Card. The user simply clicks a button to send this information directly (and securely) to you.”

Twitter also integrated previews of photos and Vine videos directly into users’ streams on October 29. Users see more of the photo or play the video by tapping the preview.

As a result of Twitter’s focus on advertising, the platform saw a 22 percent increase in small business usage.

Pinterest Gets “Rich”

Rich-Pins

Pinterest helped marketers answer the question, “What are people pinning from my websites?” by launching Web Analytics for verified business accounts on March 12. The free Web Analytics platform helped marketers see Pinterest metrics in categories including Site Metrics, Most Recent, Most Pinned and Most Clicked.

Pinterest introduced Rich Pins on May 20. Instead of linking back to the pin’s origin, each new Rich Pin provides users additional information about that item aimed to better put them in a position to make a purchase. There are three different types of Rich Pins, each with its own unique set of characteristics and opportunities for brands: Product, Recipes, and Movies.

For items like clothes and furniture, the new Product pins offer real time pricing, availability, and where to buy the item. Recipe pins allow brands to provide information like cook time, ingredients, and servings to help foodies and food bloggers create new creations using branded pins. Movie pins contain content ratings, cast members, and more designed to provide a new layer of information about these movies.

On September 19, Pinterest announced it would roll out Promoted Pins as its first advertising product with select partners. Promoted Pins allow businesses to insert pins into search results and category feeds similar to sponsored advertising options offered by social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Promoted Pins started to appear in users’ feeds in early October.

LinkedIn Grows as a Content Portal

linkedin-content-hub

LinkedIn expanded its business offerings through the launch of Showcase Pages on November 18. Showcase Pages are dedicated content hubs enabling businesses to extend their Company Page presence, effectively segmenting audiences and enabling businesses to deliver the best message to the right audiences. Somewhat similar to LinkedIn s existing company pages, Showcase Pages are designed to give individual brands and business units within corporations the ability to create their own segmented marketing channels on LinkedIn.

In order to amplify the reach of its marketers messaging, LinkedIn continued 2013 2s sponsored advertising trend by rolling out Sponsored Updates on July 22. Sponsored Updates appear in a native format as a natural part of a target audience s feed and can be used to promote thought leadership content, to generate leads, or even as a PR tool.

Facebook Redesigns its News Feed

new-facebook-newsfeed

On March 7, Facebook revealed a News Feed redesign that featured larger visuals, a mobile-first user interface and more opportunities to filter by specific types of content.

The changes made good photos look even better in the News Feed, but also made lousy photos look even worse — reemphasizing a need for marketers to invest in quality imagery.

Facebook Focuses On Quality Images, Not Marketing Images

Facebook’s 20% Rule required text to appear on less than 20% of Cover Photos (and Promoted Posts), another attempt by Facebook at ensuring a quality visual experience for its users.

Not all features made it to December though. Facebook quickly backed away from automatically placing image captions and descriptions on top of photo page posts, preferring to keep text and image separate in the News Feed.

Facebook Page Tweaks

Facebook continued its redesign the following month with a new layout for Pages. The new Pages layout changes included a simplified look, easier ways to connect with businesses and streamlined page management.

Facebook Loosened Contest Rules

With a greater push for mobile and more real-time content, Facebook simplified its contest promotion guidelines. Its new set of rules allowed pages to run contests in the news feed without a third party application, ask people to submit answers in exchange for chances to win a prize, and to use Likes as a method of entrance into a contest.

 

Facebook Became A Mobile Social Network

In 2012, Sheryl Sandberg predicted a future of more ads in Facebook’s mobile News feed… and she was right. Facebook’s mobile-first emphasis in 2013 resulted in more users embracing the social network on the go. 54% more users logged into Facebook on a daily basis in Q3 2013 as did in Q3 2012, an increase from 329 million to 507 million in one year.

Mobile-only users doubled during that same time span, from 126 million in 2012 to 254 million in 2013. Significantly more user activity results in significantly more mobile advertising inventory available for marketers.

 

Confidence In The Newsfeed Wained

While mobile users swarmed to Facebook in droves, not all marketers were thrilled with the social network’s changes. A set of late 2013 News Feed algorithm changes resulted in an extreme drop in organic reach for many Pages, as much as 44 percent in many cases. The algorithm changes were intended to place more relevant news stories into the News Feed, especially from sites that Facebook deemed as “high quality” sources.

Facebook did little to quell marketer concerns when it put out an announcement recommending that they could make up the difference in reach with advertising.

Facebook Ads Got Simpler (Kind Of) And Better

To further emphasize this, Facebook rolled out a series of ad changes in 2013, eliminating at least 13 ad units and increasing ad-targeting opportunities.

Marketers told Facebook that its ad products were too complicated and redundant, which led to Sponsored Stories shifting from a stand-alone product to integration into most ads, which would “automatically add social context to boost performance.”

Facebook added Partner Categories to connect together online and offline user data. Partner categories use data from select third parties, including Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon, to target ads to more categories of people.

For example, a local car dealership could show ads to people likely in the market for a new car who live near their dealership. Facebook also simplified Interest Targeting by combining Precise Interest and Broad Categories into a single step, making it easier to select the audience most relevant to what’s being advertised.

Advertisers looking to target customers who considered a purchase on their site but didn’t complete the transaction gained a new Facebook alternative to FBX in October. The new retargeting tool, “website and mobile app custom audiences,” works when marketers affix tracking software to their websites and create corresponding custom audiences based on user activity data.

Search Got Easier on Facebook

Facebook started 2013 with a bang by announcing its long-awaited advanced search product, Graph Search.

Graph Search provided users the opportunity to easily search and examine trillions of relationships that live within Facebook’s ecosystem. Facebook also added support for searchable hashtags in June, thereby acting as a new connective thread for users to share their thoughts to a larger audience on social networks.

Graph Search has a lot of potential and is just the beginning of opening up the massive amount of social connection data that Facebook controls, and charges for. We can’t wait for LinkedIn to do the same.

Author / Ryan Cohn
Source / socialfresh.com


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How MasterCard Enlists Employees in Social Media

Over the past year, MasterCard has been working hard on shifting its culture and public perception as a financial services company to that of a tech company. A big part of this process means making sure its employees are all digitally savvy.

mastercard-1

Two or three yeas ago, MasterCard didn’t really have much of a social media strategy. Today the brand has a strong following on its main Twitter account and several other accounts for different topics and services. It has a content site, a blog and a “newsroom” that sits in the center of its headquarters in Purchase, N.Y. While all of this has enabled MasterCard to attract and interact with a larger audience –18 months ago MasterCard was exposed to more than 30 million people per month globally through social media, while today it is exposed to more than 40 million people per week globally, according to MasterCard’s data – the next phase is about getting its 7,500 employees company-wide comfortable with social media and, even more than that, turning them into social media brand advocates.

“We work hard to get third parties to advocate on our behalf, but it’s important that we don’t overlook our own employees and let them know it’s OK to tweet and comment and share,” explained Marcy Cohen, vp and senior business leader for worldwide communications at MasterCard. “Not only is it OK, it’s encouraged — that’s a big focus for us in 2014.”

MasterCard is one of many companies that have discovered that one of their strongest social media assets is their vast workforce. Like many companies, however, MasterCard has evolved from looking at employees sounding off in social as a risk to a big opportunity. The trick is how to do it right.

Learning the ropes
Before anyone could start tweeting, the first step in getting MasterCard employees more comfortable with social was updating the company guidelines. As Cohen explained, earlier this year, she and the communications team had found from asking around the office that people were intimidated by the company’s social media guidelines.

“The guidelines were fairly rigid, and people were scared about doing the wrong thing, so we felt there was a big opportunity to simplify the guidelines,” said Cohen.

The old guidelines were longer and needed to be pared down and also updated to include newer social platforms, as Cohen explained.

“The guidelines focus on using common sense, understanding the public nature of social channels and being transparent about your affiliation with the brand,” said Cohen. “In addition, we developed social media playbooks on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn for our employees.”

Along with modifying the social media guidelines and providing real-world examples of employees doing a good job advocating the brand using social, Cohen and the communications team brought the company together for a meeting in the newsroom to have an open discussion about the guidelines so that people could ask questions and understand what isn’t and is allowed when it comes to social. The legal team was involved in the meeting too to help answer questions.

Once people were more aware of company policy on social and that it is encouraged at MasterCard to use social media in their personal lives, social media education became the next focus.

“A lot of agencies have turnkey solutions and these sorts of black-belt programs — and we did talk to some other companies about implementing some of these approaches — but in the end, it was just me and a couple of my colleagues raising our hands and saying, ‘We can teach this; we don’t really need to bring in somebody for the outside,’” explained Cohen.

Cohen and her team organized the first social media education session, which was held at the Purchase headquarters. It was a very basic introductory program that went over different social platforms — the usual suspects, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. As Cohen explained, a lot of people across the organization just needed help with the first steps of getting into social media, as simple as how to set up an account. The session was recorded and turned into shorter videos that focus on each platform. MasterCard also created a special section on its intranet site called MC Mashup to house the social media tutorial videos for company-wide use and as a place for people to ask questions and share information.

Cohen and her team also shared this first social media education program with the global communications staff so that they could use it as a template for holding similar sessions at their offices around the world.

“Reverse” mentoring
This first initial social media education session inspired Victor Nordensen, senior analyst at MasterCard, to spearheaded another social media education initiative called YoPros (short for young professions). The program involves younger employees at MasterCard giving reverse-mentoring sessions to older MasterCard employees who may not be as familiar with social media. These sessions are meant to be casual one-on-one meetings where people can reach out and ask about getting some help with different social platforms, even if it is not related directly to work.

“They all come in with a very different level of knowledge. For some, it’s as simple as asking what a hashtag is and setting up a Twitter account; for some, it’s learning about retweeting MasterCard posts,” said Nordensen.

The YoPros program launched just this past October and has so far conducted about 30 one-on-one tutoring sessions with older execs. The YoPros reverse mentoring is now available at six of MaterCard’s global offices, and the plan is to continue expanding it globally.

Cohen herself and others on her team also participate in giving tutorial sessions. For example, Cohen was approached by a MasterCard employee who wanted to finally learn how to really use Facebook and Twitter after many promises for lessons from her kids went unfulfilled.

“Now every time I see her, she is bubbling over with excitement about how many followers she has,” said Cohen.

Still, there is work to be done.

“Has it happened at mass scale yet? No, but I think we are well on our way,” said Cohen. “We have a lot of support from senior management and being able to rely on and empower some of the people who are already doing social media well is like having a big extended team.”

MasterCard isn’t the only brand trying to make sure its older execs are up to speed on digital and social. Campbell’s Soup created a “digital fitness accelerator kit” earlier this year that included  devices like Roku and JawBone, recommended apps and suggested reading, including online news sources and books like “Six Pixels of Separation.”

In the coming year, MasterCard plans on continuing its internal social media education with more tutorial sessions that go beyond the basics.

“If our first session was social media 101,” said Cohen, “next year we are going to be doing 201 — more classes that go deeper.”

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Knowledge Sells. Facts Don’t.

Your customer’s buying process has changed. Prospects and customers no longer depend exclusively on your sales person to educate them.

Author: Shelley F. Hall

Business prospects are acting more like “consumers.” We research before we buy. We search the web; we use social media such as Facebook, Yelp, manufacturer’s ratings and so on. We ask friends what they would buy and why. This consumer behavior is being emulated in the business world, and therefore your prospects are educated before even they see a sales person — if they ever do.

So the question becomes, what value does your company representative bring to the table?  The answer is actionable knowledge. Today’s changing sales environment demands salespeople who can take disparate pieces of information and turn them into knowledge that will help their prospects (and thus help the sales person) sell.

As CEO, you know how important it is to do your research. The best salespeople are terrific researchers who learn about a prospect’s industry, market, competition and challenges before they meet with the prospect. They can take data such as…

    • Annual revenue
    • 5 year revenue/profit statistics
    • Number of employees
    • Number of salespeople
    • Industry trends
    • Online ratings from the prospect’s customers
    • LinkedIn interviews with mutual contacts
    • Mystery shopping of the prospect

…and use that data to develop real knowledge about the prospect.  Knowledge refers to the depth of information and the understanding of how these facts all relate – what picture does it paint of the prospect’s situation?

Armed with this knowledge, the sales person’s job is to use that knowledge to:

    • Shine a light on the prospect’s challenges by developing deep discovery questions
    • Position your product or service as the solution to those challenges
    • And most importantly for the sales person, to position themselves as an invaluable resource

Conducting really meaningful research is a skill. It takes intellectual curiosity. I’d bet that intellectual curiosity is not a characteristic you even consider in your sales hiring process. It should be. Becoming skilled at taking research results and turning them into understanding takes practice and patience, but investing time into this expertise is worth it.

To build this skill, create a “treasure hunt” based on finding a deep fact about a prospect. The entire sales team must research the answer; the first one with the correct answer wins. The answer however, is not just a fact but an “understanding” or “insight” into the prospect’s situation and how the sales person would use this information effectively.

Create a contest called “Stump The Sales Person.” Have each member of your sales team give each other a prospect problem or an industry issue to research. Once again, whoever gains the insight first wins. Get your customers involved by asking them to submit their burning questions for the sales team to chase down; your sales team learns great research skills and your customers get tangible, valuable information for free.

Today’s business prospect is savvy and educated thanks to the web and social media.  Adding value to the sales process is becoming harder and harder.  To add value, your sales team must add knowledge for the prospect and use that knowledge to shine a light on their challenges.  Your salespeople must be true consultants who uncover the issues and needs the prospect didn’t know they had — and then show the prospect how your product or service will meet those challenges and/or solve their problems.

Without this real understanding of how to help, your salespeople are wasting their time and that of your prospects.