The future is here, and it’s still social

Everything these days is fleeting – news, trends, technology – but one thing that has endured since inception, is social media. And indications are it will be around for a long time.

World Wide Worx and Ornico recently released the 2018 Social Media Landscape, reporting on the growth of social media in South Africa, and how it’s used by individuals and brands.

Notably, 87.5% of local Facebook users access the platform from mobile devices – up from 85% last year. This is in part the result of Facebook Lite, a version of the Facebook app some mobile operators provide without data charges.

Twitter may have seen a small decline in the US market, but it has increased elsewhere. Locally, it remains the social platform of choice for accessing influencers, news and thought leaders. It is also interesting that Twitter use is generally at its highest during business hours. The notion that “Twitter is dead” is clearly unfounded.

In 2016 the top 100 South African YouTubers had an average number of 37 000 subscribers. In 2017, this has increased to 250 000. Local YouTubers are getting it right, and people are flocking to the video-sharing platform to get information.

Both Instagram and LinkedIn showed steady growth, but Instagram’s was dramatically slower than in previous years.

Despite being perceived as a dull and boring professional network, LinkedIn remains one of the most important social networks in South Africa. Outside the entertainment world, active users on this platform are the most influential people in social media in the country. The numbers indicate that small business participants are using the platform as actively as big corporates.

Instagram is still seen as the most powerful social network in terms of user numbers, but it is slowing down significantly – partly because of data requirements of users. The peak time for people being active on Instagram is between 17:00 and 19:00.

Being data-intensive, the Snapchat community is mostly restricted to teenagers in affluent households, and the platform hasn’t taken off locally.

In terms of brands and marketers utilising social media to reach existing and potential customers, 97% use Facebook, 90% are active on Twitter, and LinkedIn and Instagram both stand at 72%. YouTube has shown a slight increase to 68%.

And when it comes to advertising, Facebook leads the way with 86% of brands finding value for their money, followed by Twitter (45%), Instagram (40%), and LinkedIn (35%).

It is clear that brands need to play in the social space if they intend to remain relevant to a market that has a need for instant gratification but wants to avoid information overload. Digital advertising when done strategically can be cost-effective and agile – particularly in comparison with traditional options. The internet offers a vast audience unrestricted by geography, and there are so many opportunities for brands to break through and reach their market.

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The power of content marketing

Content remains one of the most effective ways to generate organic sales. If you know how to do it right, it will have untold rewards. The key insight is to keep evolving your content with what users are engaging with.

Don’t be precious
Clients so often (understandably) sweat over each and every syllable of a piece of content. If your client is too precious, content marketing will be slow to show results. Headlines should be bold and unique to grab attention. Angles shouldn’t be overthought. Experiment, watch what works and be agile as you move forward. A client-agency relationship built on trust will ultimately be solid ground to encourage a less precious approach.

Interest first, angle second
To retrofit content marketing into specific brand messaging is not ideal. The most effective way of producing content that has legs is to first seek out what your audience is interested in. Then find ways to (appropriately) engage in the conversation. Ideate, experiment, observe and iterate.

Say something
Even in B2B marketing, no one wants to be bored. Every brand should have a personality evident in all content. Content must have a point of view – know this going in.

Use what you’ve got
If possible, internationalise and localise your content for different markets. It’s an easy way to scale, without using extensive resources. Translate (well) if you have to.

Don’t be ageist
Shift your view of content marketing from a ‘new form of marketing for people who hate ads and want to read about stuff’. This is no longer the case. Content marketing works well for all age groups and will engage with anyone who wants to learn, broaden their mind and expand their sensibility – from Millennials to Baby Boomers and everyone in between. What’s critical is to understand who the consumer is, and then use age-appropriate dissemination tools to reach the right person at the right time.

Build a team
A dynamic mix of skill sets is the most effective way to market branded content. Writers, producers and client liaison should feed off each other, and pass the baton at just the right moment. This means concept and creation handed over to channel and distribution, to testing and optimisation, then on to analysis and feedback. Everyone should know their roles and excel at them.

For both client and agency, a shrewd and enlightened approach to content marketing means you won’t just be educating the public, you’ll be gaining useful insights into your business and brands. Experiment, try new versions, let go of what you think you know and look forward to qualified leads as a result.

Take the Millennial Set to market

In a recent interview, author and motivational speak Simon Sinek warned businesses of the pressing need to bridge the gap for Millennials. Sinek believes a combination of parenting shortfalls and social media-fuelled instant gratification has created a generation of youngsters unable to put in the hard yards to achieve their dreams.

They have dreams – big ones, because they’re constantly lauded for their skills and promised the world – but don’t quite know how to make it from here to there. As marketers, how can we gain the trust of this much-misunderstood generation?

Authenticity is in
They may not trust you, but they sure trust each other. Engage with Millennials in an authentic way to build true and lasting brand advocates. Speak honestly, candidly and to their level, whatever that might be. If you do the job right, Millennial brand advocates will turn their peers into brand advocates too. That’s if your product or service delivers (don’t say one thing and deliver another).

Get personal
This generation has become familiar with hyper-personalised marketing to the point that they won’t pay attention to anything else. Millennials consult endless digital information platforms before making a decision. They’re the research generation.

Blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest – anywhere and everywhere they can get an opinion. Use this data to deliver personalised marketing that answers their questions and they’ll thank you for it. Think automated marketing and user-informed content.

Do good to be good
Millennials want to know someone is making a difference – even if it’s not them, directly. United in their belief they must right the wrongs committed by the generation before them, they’re all the more likely to buy into a product or service if it’s doing some good. Many Millennial start-ups are ‘conscious co-operatives’ – business models built around solving a real-life problem, whether it be climate change, social reform or economic equality.

Tap into this need by bringing your future-thinking business practices to the forefront. Give them more airtime than ever before. Find a digital PR partner who can build and share your story. And if your business isn’t in the business of doing good: it’s never too late to change.

Keep it casual
In the case of Millennials, commitment is not the key. Millennials don’t have to commit to anything – they can rent it instead. Don’t make their experiences feel like tiring must-dos. Put them first, approach slowly and win their favour first. Deliver content that educates, adds value and engages. Makes them look smart, not you, and if you’re lucky, you might get a commitment somewhere down the line.

All eyes on you
Make it beautiful, or don’t bother. Millennials are surrounded by a barrage of visually rich and appetising content. It’s how they’re romanced. They have an imaginary mood board for every stage and milestone of their life, a visual expectation. If your content isn’t unthinkably attractive and unique, don’t bother. If you can’t create this quality of content in-house, partner with someone who can – think moving images, videos, GIFs and podcasts.

If you’re retrofitting your same old content and marketing strategy to approach the elusive Millennial, you’ll just be another voice in the noise. Push the boundaries and make your marketing, smarter, weirder and more wonderful than you think is safe – chances are, they’ll love it.

Winning over consumer one micro-moment at a time

When was the last time you can remember making a purchase without pulling out your phone, researching the brand or reading product reviews?

Today’s consumers are hungry for advice on just about anything – from the toothbrush they buy to the type of life insurance they get. With unfettered access to information in our pockets all the time, brands across all categories have more chances to influence their decisions.

Thanks to mobile, the battle for hearts, minds and money will be won and lost on mobile search. These critical touch points within a consumer’s journey are called micro-moments. The brands of tomorrow will have a strategy that speaks to people in those micro-moments and address their needs with real-time relevance.

Get to know the new battleground
Two years ago, Google put a name to a search trend that was already widespread thanks to mobile. In 2017, its an entrenched behaviour with micro-moments only multiplying. 

Micro-moments are the want-to-know, want-to-go, want-to-do and what-to-buy moments – from purchasing, to researching, to discovery. They are intent-rich moments of decision making and added together will determine how the journey ends.

Micro-moments have accelerated the demand for “right here, right now”, where consumers expect location-specific, personalised advice. Consumers expect brands to serve this advice without searching more than one word, for example “sushi”.

And it pays to do it. Google’s data shows that smartphone users are more likely to purchase from brands whose mobile apps or sites customise information to their location and to their preference.

Speaking to the “well-advised, right-here right-now” consumer
Micro-moment marketing comes down to value adding content that can be consumed within seconds. Every opportunity to speak to a consumer must be a value-based exchange. In other words, know when to push product and when to push advise.

A non-purchasing micro-moment is an opportunity to create positive brand sentiment by helping consumers self-educate, rather than pushing consumers to an eCommerce check out page or a lead-capture form.

Micro-moment marketing also prioritises value adding content over the production quality. In a world of Kim Kardashian selfies and user generated content, everything brands serve doesn’t need to be at perfectly crafted.

It’s a simple formula: Be there, be useful and be quick. By making your brand easily discoverable and understanding of your consumers needs with real-time relevance, you will become an ally in the purchasing process.

Be the “best”
Mobile empowers consumers to be nimble with immediate information at their finger tips all the time. Google data shows that mobile searches for the “best” have grown by 80% in the past two years. It is possible to position brands as the purchasing partner, offering tailor-made advice.

No purchase is too small – mobiles searches for “best toothbrush” have grown by more than 100% over the past two years while searches for the “best umbrella” has grown by 140%. Whether it’s value, price or quality we turn to mobile for answers to just about anything.

The brands of the tomorrow will offer the right advice whenever and wherever consumers are searching for it. Your brand should anticipate the micro-moments for consumers in your industry and give them the advice relevant to their needs in the moment.

B2B marketing for really busy business owners

Chasing sales targets, managing customers and employees and planning your business’s next strategic move leave little time to devise and implement a smart digital marketing strategy. The irony? It’s the one thing that’ll assist you with all your day-to-day challenges as more leads flowing into your business result in growth, which results in budget to hire smarter people to liberate you from the trenches.

Here’s a quick and smart B2B digital marketing strategy that will make a big impact.

Objectives
Your primary marketing objective should be to increase qualified leads into your business (leads likely to convert, given the right triggers). Second to that is to build brand awareness and reputation.

Smart insight – your marketing objectives should support your business objectives and that probably means increasing market share.

Target market
It’s important to understand your target customer. What are their pain points, what solutions are they seeking and what digital channels are they frequenting? Divide your customers into segments and create personas for each segment. This will simplify everything as it informs the following:

  • Key messaging
  • Selected channels
  • Key search terms

Smart insight: don’t forget about the gate-keepers to your key decision makers. This important target market segment usually does all online research so make sure your business is on their shortlist

Website
This should be the centre of your digital strategy. It’s where you’ll convert leads from other digital channels. Don’t be limited to a traditional website – it might be a simple landing page or a social media page. Whatever form it takes, ensure it’s designed to quickly convert, capturing essential, relevant information and a simple user experience.

Smart insight – decide on one conversion and stick to it.

SEO, PPC and web PR
All the acronyms you need to know ­­–– Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, and web Public Relations (PR).

  • SEO will enhance organic rankings on Google’s search results page and work hard to drive qualified leads to your site.
  • PPC (when executed well) allows your brand to rank high in the search space and create an always-on brand awareness. This is an advantage as always-on search campaigns get more cost effective with time.
  • Public Relations (PR) feeds directly into SEO and PPC activities, as articles and news about your business featured on third party sites build awareness, reputation and even more qualified traffic to your site.

Smart insight – SEO and PPC are a killer combination. Throw in some web PR and your business can dominate the digital space.

Marketing automation
This is digital marketing and sales on rocket fuel. It’s a super-intelligent software embedded onto your website to automatically send out a series of pre-determined emails depending on your user’s behaviour on your site. It also rates leads and alerts (by email and SMS) your sales teams when a lead is hot and when to pounce.

Marketing automation converts leads into customers. A game changer.

Smart insight – marketing automation will not only enhance your website performance, but all your other digital marketing activities – as well as provide more granular reporting to optimise and refine your marketing activities.

Digital matrix
To simplify, your B2B marketing strategy should look like this.

The right partner
Don’t feel overwhelmed thinking you’ll never acquire the skills to do all this effectively. Find the right digital marketing partner who takes the time to understand you business, your objectives, your customers––and importantly­­­––what success looks like for you.

Smart insight – partners with passion never let you down.

The only constant is change – and the customer

Just when you’ve mastered the interminable functionality of your new smartphone or taught mom how to upload holiday snaps to the latest photo-sharing platform, the virtual rug is ripped out from under you and once-cool new tech is given the switcheroo for something way cooler and newer.

As digital marketers grappling to get ROI on the fleeting digital environment, my recommendation is to identify and leverage the constant at the core of our changing digital world: the customer.

The customer will never disappear. How customers get what they want, or how we show them what they want will be new and dynamic – but what they want is relatively consistent.

As much as digital feels like the removal of the human element, if anything it allows us to draw closer, understand deeper and target sharper.

These digital trends suggest that as much as we become digital and adopt increasingly automated marketing techniques, customers remain at the centre of our universe.

Programmatic buying
At its core is the customer experience. With insights into movement, behaviour, affinities and profanities, programmatic media buying gives us the ability to more accurately pin-point and target potential customers. It may be rooted in algorithms and rely on big data, but that’s purely auxiliary – there’s nothing anonymous or robotic about it: it’s deeply human.

It’s estimated that by 2018, programmatic buying will have grown from 28% to 80% of marketing spend (State of Digital, 2017). The efficiency of programmatic buying gives more bang for an ever-shrinking buck, and marketers should give it consideration to aggressively grow market share.

Rich and rewarding experiences
The explosion of digital video reflects the importance of the human experience within the digital experience. Facebook’s 360° and live videos are perfect examples of getting close the experience of another. Users love video because it’s a more human representation of reality than something static.

The rising consumption of video content reflects a move back to an immersive and human experience – either intimate storytelling or even a point-of-view understanding. Digital video consumption increased by 53% in 2016, with digital video on mobile seeing staggering growth of 145% (IAB).

Hyper-personalised social media platforms that give real-time updates of user’s experience as they happen – then self-destruct – are nothing if not a more life-like imitation of the real thing. Moments pass in real life, just like they do on SnapChat.

Service on demand
Chat-bots and always-on digital support for customers are indicative of the human need for attention. We all want to be noticed, wanted and served (whether we’ll admit or not). If you can offer value-added services and support that require minimum work for the customer and maximum reward, you’re speaking to that human need that’s endlessly self-serving.

This also means your clients are likely going to be offering enhanced services to customers who previously didn’t have access. The bottom end of the pyramid, for example, who might be given service and support via mobile access. So ensure you have the technology and marketing tools in place to support the shift.

How to remain relevant in a digital world that seeks to exclude the out-of-touch as quickly as it innovates? Remember your customer and you’ll stay abreast of the tech. For now, that means the three big movers – programmatic buying, rich and rewarding experiences and enhanced services. All of which reaffirm what you should already know: the customer is key.

#Hustle

We laughed, we cried, and we delivered smart, engaging campaigns for our valued clients. Here’s some of our breakthrough work from the past year.

Breakthrough work

Plant, seed, grow

Why YouTube is the new learning centre

Why do we love the first day of school? It’s the new and undiscovered – the beginning of a love-affair with learning. And this love has forged the growth of educational YouTube content. There are now 500 million views of learning-related content on YouTube. Every. Day.

Did you know YouTube’s four core values are freedom of expression, freedom of opportunity, freedom to belong and freedom of information? Accurate umbrellas for the vast array of content users can search for. The fourth value, freedom of information, is a particular area of passion for many YouTubers.

Malik Ducard, YouTube’s Director of Family and Learning, shared recently that brands have much they can learn from educational content on YouTube. Ducard sees YouTube’s values as the perfect mirror of a supportive classroom or learning environment that produces empowered, knowledgeable and well-adjusted students.

So how can brands tap into people’s need – and love – for educational video? Here are some guidelines.

There’s space for everyone. If you need a guide, chances are someone else has needed one too. Anything and everything from make-up tutorials to IT support and cooking tips have all found a home on YouTube – and they have loyal followers. Whatever your brand, there’s some information you can share with the right audience. And someone is looking for it as you read this.

Everyone’s unique. There are no rules for the format of educational content. It will be determined by the content itself and may take the form of piece-to-camera conversational, step-by-step guide and even lecture-style delivery.

The more niche the topic, the easier it will be to drill down to what your audience will respond to, and to create the content accordingly. The one guiding light – it needs to be engaging.

Adopt a lateral approach to how and what you’re going to create and where you can source information. Your team are the gatekeepers of information – the managers, product developers and salespeople. Tap into them to seek out the material your customers want.

Always tell the truth. Whatever you’re making, it should be real, practical and well considered which starts with extensive research and preparation. This is why it remains critical to partner with professional content creators. Creating video content may be fun, but it’s not simple. You want to satisfy your customer’s curiosity with content that does justice to your brand or service, so do it properly.

Once you’re set up with a creative agency who understands your brand, the information your audiences are looking for, and is steadily creating entertaining educational YouTube content to match – the only thing left to do is press play.

How digital killed the TV star

By Desiree Gullan, Executive Creative Director, G&G Digital

It’s official: digital advertising has overtaken TV advertising revenue (IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report, 2016). As a medium, digital advertising has grown at super-sonic speed. Here’s what the latest statistics reveal:

Meet ‘Digital Audio’. For the first time (ever), Digital Audio has its own category and includes online radio stations, music streaming services and podcasts – on desktop and mobile. The sector is expected to grow and should be given serious credence as a new advertising medium for savvy marketers looking to field new ground.

Shop, bank, drive, talk. The four industries with the biggest internet ad revenues have kept their ground. In order of spend: retail, financial services, automotive and telecommunications. In Africa particularly, these sectors are unlikely to change in the near future.

And I predict financial services and telecommunications – and offerings that incorporate both – are poised to grow.

Social is still for sale. Social media advertising revenue was around $16bn in 2016, compared with $10.9bn in 2015. However you slice it, that’s impressive growth. Like the USA, advertising on social media in South Africa isn’t going anywhere – but the platforms available to marketers are growing in number and the methods we adopt are becoming increasingly automated.

Unfortunately, with the increase in numbers of ads comes the inevitable advertising avoidance by consumers. Users’ attention is becoming prized real estate, which means content needs to be smarter, more innovative and more engaging than ever before.

Video in the palm of your hand. Digital video continues to dominate with a rise of 53% in 2016, which was largely expected. Interestingly, digital video on mobile rose by an impressive 145% from 2015.

Multimedia is on a meteoric rise in the context of digital advertising and content marketing. If you were waiting for a sign to start creating engaging video for your brand, consider this a 145% fool-proof signal from the advertising gods.

These results reflect a tipping point: if you’re not advertising digitally, you’re not advertising at all.

Getting the PR and influencer relationship right

By Kerry Simpson, PR Account Director at G&G Digital

Public Relations has undergone a massive shift in the past two years with the digital landscape opening up far more opportunities for brand exposure. Everything and everyone is online, and media (in the traditional sense) are no longer the primary conveyors of information.

Bloggers and influencers have become an important publicity channel for brands to tap into to amplify brand messages and gain credibility and authenticity from third parties. However, the key to successful influencer engagement is finding the right fit for your brand. As we enter 2016, here are a few tips for getting the relationship right with influencers:

Research, research, research
When identifying influencers do your homework. Check their social media accounts to gauge their audience, reach, number of followers, engagement and interests and see what topics they’re talking about. Have they been involved with competing brands or do they engage in any controversial topics that go against your client’s brand and values? Make sure you know the answers before taking things further.

Build relationships
Developing good influencer relationships takes time. The secret is to engage with them via their social media platforms on an on-going basis. Get involved in their conversations, show interest and enthusiasm and get to know them personally. That way, should you approach them to be part of a brand campaign in the future, you’re already half way to securing their involvement.

Have an informal agreement in place
Once you’ve got their buy-in, put everything in writing – no matter how good you think your relationship is. It’s not as formal as a contract but it’s vital to outline specific details of the campaign and establish a clear understanding of what the expectations are – for both sides.

It’s also important to state clearly upfront whether there will be any remuneration or reward for their involvement. Have clear terms in place should the influencer decide to pull out at the last minute or during the campaign (these things happen).

To pay or not to pay – that is the question?
A few years ago, bloggers and online influencers were happy to receive products and services from brands and would often reciprocate with coverage. But as they’ve gained credibility and become increasingly influential, they’ve rightfully realised their worth.

This means simply sending free product and hoping for coverage can actually do more harm than good – especially if your product has absolutely nothing to do with anything the blogger is interested in. Treat bloggers and influencers as creative partners rather than just another channel. Involve them in your thinking – let them add their insights at the conceptual stage to get optimal value from the relationship.

Find some form of reward, trade-exchange or remuneration that works for both the brand and the influencer. Obviously, it goes without saying that celebrity endorsement is a different kettle of fish and if this approach is taken, it almost always involves a monetary compensation and should be budgeted for upfront.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Respect the influencer’s opinions or decisions as you would a journalist. Remember they’re an influencer for a reason and the amplification of your brand message will only have gravitas if it aligns with the voice and personality of the influencer. For example, a sarcastic post might be their way of engaging their audience and will still extend reach – if it fits with your brand.

Don’t forget about them
Once your campaign is over don’t just forget about them, you never know when you might need them again. Relationships have become more important than ever in this digital environment where there is such a lack of personal interaction.

Nurturing your influencer network is key to building long-term partnerships – pick up the phone and chat to them once your campaign is over, ask them what they did and didn’t like, take them for a coffee and continue to chat with them on their social channels. A little bit of care can go a long way.