Pinterest is likely to be the hottest social media platform for business marketers—next year.
Despite the hype and the record-breaking growth rates, Pinterest is not ready for business marketers; the demographics are wrong, the categories are too consumer focused, and there are significant copyright and measurement issues to overcome.
Still, there is ample evidence as to why Pinterest could be huge for business-to-business marketers. In many ways, Pinterest’s platform has the potential to offer far more value than Facebook and Twitter because of its ability to aggregate and naturally curate content. Here are five areas to watch:
Traffic – Much has been made about Pinterest’s ability to drive referral traffic more than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn. Traffic generated from pinning and repinning is important but most likely benefits small businesses(in particular, retailers). For larger organizations, the following areas may offer greater potential.
Scannability– Business-to-business communication tends to be content heavy. There is a great deal of written content and it keeps expanding. Much like in the consumer world, business decision makers are becoming far more accustomed to searching visually. The Pinterest platform accelerates the process by aggregating and organizing images by category or theme, making it easy to search. For example, we are redesigning a corporate website for a professional services firm. Its “knowledge center” holds a deep repository of data-rich content and is now being reshaped to look like a Pinterest page to make it more inviting and searchable.
Speed – That’s why it is essential to experiment with Infographics (visit Visual.ly for a starting point). As content becomes more crowded and competitive, audiences typically move faster. The average person reads between 200 to 300 words per minute, but visually it takes only 1/20th of a second to process an image. Mashable’s eye tracking study shows that Pinterest is also changing viewing habits from left to right, to top down the center, improving users’ ability to scan information quickly. Offering a “light visual appetizer” may stop audiences long enough for them to order the full content entrée.
Natural Content Curation – This provides marketers the opportunity to capture deeper insights into audience consumption habits. For example, business marketers tend to organize content along the “buying process,” which is typically defined by steps in the sales process. Marketers may find that business audiences within Pinterest organize and consume content by categories or by a pinboard defined as “applications,” i.e., how they intend to use the product and not how they will buy it. This insight could help define the real purchase path and key influencers (pinners) along that journey.
Affinity Data – As Scott Brave, CTO of Baynote, wrote: “Individual pinning choices are interesting, but there is even greater opportunity to analyze segments of people who express an affinity for a product or category in aggregate.” If available, this information could enable marketers to create new segmentation clusters based on common interests, which could help improve messaging and targeting.
“Clustering” could identify brand advocates, key influencers and connectors, local “hot spots” and new ideas for reaching them.
I realize that there are skeptics out there. I may even end up being one, but as we’ve learned with other social media platforms, if you don’t think there is value for the business marketing, there won’t be. Pinterest holds great potential, but that “potential” will only realized by those who seek to define or dare I say, “pin it.”
Touch screens had been around for years, but Apple brought them into our daily lives, in particular with the iPhone. As a result, the way we engage and interact with devices has changed, as evidenced by the dramatic decline in sales of the BlackBerry. And now with the explosive growth of the iPad, it’s about to change again. This time, though, it will be even more dramatic.
Payne referred to the “swipe” as the game-changer, or as he called to it, “petting the cat.” This new right-to-left world has caused Gannett to rethink the traditional “top-to-bottom” experience of its websites, in particular how it organizes content. As evidence, Gannett has incorporated this new “petting the cat” thinking into its new USA Today app (it’s worth downloading).
Last week, Fast Company ran a story on a new technology MIT developed that enables users to drag files across devices with a swipe. Coincidentally, it’s called Swyp. Nathan Linder, a PhD student in the fluid interfaces group at the MIT Media Lab, said, “Our framework allows any number of touch-sensing and collocated devices to establish file-exchange and communications with no pairing other than a physical gesture.”
Apple’s impact on design has enjoyed much acclaim and is noticeable in almost any new technology designed. But what may be overlooked is the impact Apple has had on the user experience and how users interact with technologies. And that impact goes far beyond just Apple devices.
For example, one attendee mentioned that his 3-year-old went up to the television and tried to “swipe” it to change the channel. A colleague mentioned that she is constantly cleaning her computer screen because her kids try to open photos on her desktop by touching them. Apple has, and continues to have, the ability to change consumer behaviors, requiring the rest of the world to catch up.
Marketers must now realize that we are a step behind. We recognize the importance of adapting digital assets to fit the device, but we haven’t thought through the ramifications of “petting the cat” behavior. The swipe is here to stay. It’s now time to reset our navigation point from North to South to East to West.
Black Friday is like the “annual report” for mobile advertising – a yearly snapshot of how mobile ads are progressing and evolving. The big challenges are perennial – the gap between time spent on mobile and ad dollars allocated, consumer perception of mobile ads as annoying and intrusive, and low click rates. But every Black Friday, innovations and learnings from the past year move the needle on these challenges.
I asked John Shomaker, the CEO of AdJuggler, a digital ad management technology and media services company, for five trends we’re likely to see during this year’s shopping season:
1. Smart, hyper-local mobile campaigns will create a new shopping experience. Mobile advertisers are figuring out more effective hyper-local, geo-targeting campaigns that reflect the way consumers want to combine in-store shopping with product research on their smartphones. According to Shomaker: “Consumers want to find deals on their mobile devices they can use in physical stores they’re out visiting. Smart mobile advertisers are geo-targeting the perimeter of their physical store locations, and those of their competitors, with ads that offer special in-store promotions. Layer on top of that contextual relevance like keyword targeting and you can serve a product-specific creative that links to a relevant product page and promotion on the store’s mobile website or app, enhancing the in-store experience. The mobile ad and its click-through becomes an extension of the path the user is on; it’s no longer annoying and intrusive.”
2. Behavioral relevance will scale to reach holiday shoppers. “Targeting mobile users by behavioral segments, such as those from BlueKai, and executing these campaigns at scale using real-time bidding [RTB] is making us better at being relevant,” according to Shomaker. Pulling in social “likes” and shares and adding those to the audience segmentation model further improve the relevance of behavioral targeting. As mobile ads become less annoying and more relevant, clicks increase, thus creating an empirical basis for more mobile ad spend.
3. Successes are likely to occur in social, local and mobile. John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers coined “SoLoMo,” to predict huge business value as social, local and mobile converge. Doerr’s view is that on Black Friday, we’re going to see SoLoMo become reality. The Wall Street Journal reported that this past year, P.F. Chang’s “Lunar New Year” promotion saw 1 million people in one hour click, retweet or otherwise interact with a promoted tweet offering dining rewards to users, including those who searched on “Chinese New Year.” Shomaker says: “We saw that 70 percent of the audience response to this SoLoMo campaign was via a mobile device. P.F. Chang immediately shifted the entire campaign budget to mobile.”
4. Consumers will overcome the “fear factor.” IAB Rising Stars Program keeps user context and teaches audiences that it’s “awesome” to click mobile ads. Users fear the unknown, and this likely plays a role in today’s low response to mobile ads. Will clicking a mobile ad take you out of your app and lose your context? Not so, according to Shomaker. “The ads aren’t designed like that, because no one wants an ad to take them away from the place they want to be. The ‘IAB Rising Star’ ad units will allay those fears.” The Mobile Filmstrip unit, Pull unit, Adhesion Banner, Full-Page Flex unit, and the Slider unit take great care to bring brand assets into the ad rather than requiring a jump outside the app or a loss of context. It also all leverages touch, to keep mobile users engaged and in control.
5. Integration of mobile ads into multichannel campaigns will result in better lift. It’s widely believed that Black Friday will be a “multichannel holiday” because advertisers have learned to improve lift by integrating smartphone ads, tablet ads, Web, TV, even earned media/owned media/paid media campaigns to improve lift. “This last one is especially worth watching,” states Shomaker. “Display campaigns [i.e., paid media] now can feature a call to action in the social experience – for example, preference sharing or a social game. The interstitial page of the ad links to a social media marketing application, which is located at a deep link within the brand’s Facebook page [owned media]. Users ‘like’ the brand and socially share their preferences with all users in their social graph [earned media].”
This lift in social sharing, or earned-media lift, has proved important to marketers. The odds of a Facebook fan purchasing something from a brand are 5.3 times higher than for non-fans, according to Forrester Research’s report “The Facebook Factor.”
All told, mobile promises to become a much larger part of the marketing mix this Black Friday. It will also provide a window into how quickly the third screen gets adopted into commerce as a whole. Happy shopping.
Years ago, a friend of mine sold his company to national telecommunication company. With time on his hands, and being a serial entrepreneur he set out on his next project.
Watching his two children come home every night with overstuffed backpacks full of books, he decided his next venture would be to lighten their load. With a track record of technology innovations, he developed an e-reader years before the IPad and Kindle. The reader had an interactive note pad on one side and the e-reader on the other side. He provided much of the funding and line up production in South Korea and China.
Next, he would need the education system to play along. And that’s where the story ends. He preached of the value of democratizing education to school systems, locally and nationally. The opportunity to generate new revenue streams by promoting college professors, courses and information beyond the classroom to the reach of every student with internet access. But the old guard was too wedded to their legacy business models, and their traditional thinking of a “campus education” and as a result, they never got onboard.
That was until now. Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs are changing the mindset of some of the most prestigious colleges in the US. Leading universities like Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins are now putting some of their marque courses online, and many of them for free.
MOOC platform providers like Coursera, edX and Udacity believe higher education is a basic human right and, as a result, have seen a surge in interest. Coursera now has more than 1.7 million registered students. Brian Caffo, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, teaches what he calls a “math biostatistics boot camp” that usually draws a few dozen graduate students (found 15,000 students from around the world had signed up for the free online course).
Bringing higher education to the masses also comes paradigm-shifting challenges. It has the potential of redefining the value of a “campus education” and to disrupt the traditional business model. Nick Anderson of Washington Post suggest that MOOC platforms pose a key question for universities “Are they undercutting time tested financial models that relies on students willing to pay a high price for a degree from a prestigious institution…or are they accelerating the onset of a democratized, globalized version of higher education?”
Burck Smith likens it to the challenge newspapers faced when they first launched web sites. Smith, the CEO of StraightLine, which sells low cost online courses says, “Free content has never really been a successful business model.”
Perhaps Mr. Smith is wrong. With two kids not far from college, I’d like to suggest that there could be a new business model built on free content – Advertising.
In this new world, Universities become, in a sense, content houses, similar to publishers. By making the best universities, courses and professors available to the masses, the opportunity to draw huge audiences and to build brands worldwide is created.
For example, the eight courses made available by Johns Hopkins have drawn more than 170,000 students from around the world. And where there are highly engaged and defined eyeballs, there are advertisers waiting, and wanting to gain access, especially given the fact that courses are available in multiple formats and devices.
Although this “revolution” is in its early stages, it has to the potential to redefine the college experience, education and business model. And, as the story of my friend attests, the industry is slow to change, but with cost of an average public college education at $27,435, “free” sounds pretty good to me.
If you did something 400 times you would think you would be able to get it right at least once.
Not always, as we learned after being called in to help a well-known company draft their corporate value proposition…after they had already attempted 400 versions unsuccessfully. True story.
Outside of delivering consistent financial performance that meet expectations, creating an effective and impactful “Why Us” value proposition is the biggest challenge for most organizations. That 30 second blurb that explains to a prospect or customer who you are, what you do, and how you are different.
Why is it so hard? Companies are engaging with customers every day, and pitching their wares to new prospects just as often. Then why is it so hard to come up with a compelling and agreed upon “Why Us” story? Well, feel free to pick any one or more of the following reasons:
Ownership – it’s everyone’s job…and no one’s job. The organization debates who should create the story, and as a result, it doesn’t get done or…
Versioning – the good news is the company has a story. The bad news, there are many of them, none of them the same, and a new one is created for just about every new sales meeting.
“Inward-out” – the story using internal jargon, it’s too long, reflects the company’s views, and not the needs of the customer or prospect.
Non-differentiated – it focuses on the features of the product or services and not the benefits delivered to customers. As a result, it sounds just like everyone else in the market.
“Same Page Syndrome” – this is the most fascinating of all. The folks responsible for putting together the story bring their own perspective on what the story should be. Using their own experiences, their role, and their history with the company, they all bring a different view on what the company does and why it’s unique. As a result, no one can get on the same page to describe the organization and its value…resulting in 400 rounds of edits and/or multiple versions.
Given this situation, how to do you get it right?
Ownership – this is a collaborate process but marcom/corporate communication should own it. They are in the best position to understand the brand value, audience needs, and are responsible for external communications. Corporate starts the process and then cascades it down the organization to add more detail. They own the final version and the governance process to lock down “version de jour.”
Go outside – start with doing external research looking at your target audience and industry competitors. This will help you understand “tablestakes,” how to define value, and differentiate services. It should also help eliminate the “internal speak.” See below.
Evaluating the Market
Get on the same page – for many organizations, this is THE challenge. Before attempting to draft anything, get ALL key stakeholders to agree to ONE of the following. (Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema conclude in their book The Discipline of Market Leaders that exemplar companies leverage one of three value proposition types: operational excellence, product leadership, and customer intimacy.)
Operational Excellence—This value proposition type guides companies to provide products at the best price or greatest convenience. Operationally excellent companies construct a value statement that emphasizes low prices and hassle-free service.
Product Leadership —This value proposition type encapsulates companies that offer consistently innovative products that push performance boundaries. Companies defined by product leadership communicate their commitment to provide customers with the best product or service.
Customer Intimacy—This value proposition type directs companies to cultivate long-term relationships with members of their target audience. Customer-intimate companies specialize in satisfying the unique needs of individual customers and provide them with the best total solution.
Make it personal and relevant – David Akers, a marketing professor at the Haas School of Business, defines a value proposition in three parts: Functional benefits, Emotional Benefits, and Self-Expressive Benefits. The functional benefits are related to the step above. Emotional benefits are typically tied the role, and self-expressive benefits to the individual. See below.
Test, Refine and Validate– start with the sales organization, and then with a few of your customers. This process is not only about capturing the value of your organization through the ears and eyes of your customers, but it’s also a change management challenge. The process can still break down unless the organization “buys-in” to adopting the final output. Customer validation will help “lock it down.”
Lastly, be disciplined – once defined, stick to it for at least a year. Marketing’s role is to clearly communicate the value (organization, product, etc.) to targeted audiences, sales is to convert it into revenue. As a result, sales may take some liberties with the story. But keep in mind, just because someone comes up with a clever new “Why Us Today” story in the heat of a pitch, doesn’t mean you change your messaging. Stay on point, you don’t want to do this 400 times…trust me.
“Gangnam Style” by Psy, (aka Park Jae Sung) featuring his “ride the horse” dancing now holds the record for the most liked song ever on YouTube, with over 300 million views and 3 million likes. The question most us are asking, besides what the hell is “Gangnam Style”, is how did a Korean rap singer, singing in Korean make this happen?
The answer is, he didn’t. When asked why the video went viral in an interview with Time, Pys, a onetime Boston University dropout, said; “I think this is all about luck. They say some philosopher said, ‘when effort meets chance, then there is luck.”
The truth is, although we have our theories, most of us don’t really know what will engage audiences and get them to share. After writing a blog for over 6 years, and posts for Forbes for the last two years, I have no idea why certain content gets shared.
That said, I have been able to determine a few common trends for example:
Mondays – are the best days to post content, 10 a.m. being the peak time for views. Thursday is the most challenging day of the week, with exception of summer months — then it’s Friday.
Stumble Upon – is the most valuable sharing tool for driving views, followed by Linkedin, with Linkedin having the longest tail.
Twitter and Facebook – are very difficult to assess in terms of driving views. Social sharing may seem valuable with broad distribution of links, but it doesn’t guarantee views.
Researchers are now beginning to better understand our behavior, and how it drives our social habits. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlights the connection between our internal body clocks and our online behavior. For example, reading Twitter first thing in the morning (8a.m.-9 a.m.) can start your day on a cheery note because it’s when tweets are the most upbeat.
Other social networking is better done later in the day. According to Dan Zarrella, social-media scientist for HubSpot, if you want your tweets to be re-tweeted, post them between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., “when many people lack energy to share their own tweets and turn to relaying others”.
Mr. Zarrella also found that postings to Facebook at about 8 p.m. tend to get the most “likes” after people have come home from work or finished dinner. At that time of the day, they’re likely to turn to Facebook feeling much less stress.
Given the pressures of todays’ world perhaps it isn’t all that hard to understand why people share. They do it because something makes them smile, or laugh, or want to dance, and they’d like someone else to feel that way, as well.
Asked about the secret to his overnight success Psy commented; “These days people seem so stressed so I just want to make fun by my music. As an artist and an entertainer and a writer, I think that was my job. Anti-stress.”