The challenge of being a social media start up (SMWF pt 3)

Social media startups trying to launch new platforms aren’t just based in San Francisco, they are springing up in the UK too. Four social media startups got the opportunity to introduce themselves to the Social Media hub at SMWF, explain what they were about, what they were trying to achieve and then take questions from the floor.

Planely – Founder Nick Martin positioned his new social network which works on the assumption of making travel more interesting. Planely links ‘strangers’ thrown together with similar travel itineraries to create more stimulating and rewarding trips.

Datasift – Darren Patterson, CEO of MediaSift, the company behind the near-ubiquitous Tweetmeme which makes the sharing of internet content via Twitter much easier – announced Datasift alpha which will offer real-time social media data mining.

Likeourselves – Pardeep Kullar claimed Likeourselves brings together the online community essence of Meetup with the offline world, driving worldwide meet ups amongst likeminded people with a single broadcast message.

Memolane – Founder Eric Lagier presented a platform which pulls together all social media content into one linear, chronological package, giving greater transparency to your wide digital footprint.

To me, there are opportunities and issues with them all, but I do commend each entrepreneur for having the guts to go out on a limb. There is a great risk in this space that a small player will generate an interest in something on a shoestring budget and then be overtaken by a bigger player (like a Facebook) who inevitably has more resource.

By and large, conceiving a new social media tool, is a fraught process, with no guarantee of profit. The best, it seems, entrepreneurs can hope for is investment based on a working prototype, a merger or an acquisition.

The critical point to get to is prototype. You need to get to the point that it can be tested and assessed by your target audience for validity, relevance, attractiveness and durability. And in order for it to scale, API development and linkage with the platforms already being used is key.

Much like the development of apps, AR and other trailblazing technology, it sounds great but I think I’m going to leave it to someone else!

Image: Will O’Brien

Read part 1 here and part 2 here

Share

The ASA and CAP Code implications on online marketing (SMWF pt 2)

Malcolm Phillips from the The ASA presented on how the changes in the CAP Code will affect social media marketing.

The ASA rules in disputes about whether a marketing campaign or activity is legal, decent, truthful and honest. Recently this remit extended online.

From a cynical perspective, does The ASA limit creativity in protecting consumers? Does this actually just create an open season where competing companies simply complain about each others claims to try and gain a moral advantage in the marketplace?

It seems that Facebook and Twitter are going to be prioritised simply because of their meteoric rise in a few years and due to the sheer numbers of users and increasing number of brands using them for promotional purposes.

But The ASA is clear that it is not interested in policing spontaneous customer interaction, engagement and customer service. Rather, it is in two areas: claims being made, and the use of user-generated content by marketers.

The ASA deal with many false claim cases, ranging from the unavailability of goods despite being advertised as such to specific product benefits that may be implied but can not be proven.

Brands have to be mindful of using user-generated content. Ministry of Sound fell foul of this when younger clubbers posted photos of themselves attending clubnights holding alcoholic drinks which gave the illusion of under-age drinking. Rules affect food claims, pharmaceuticals and other areas too.

Sponsorships and endorsements on social media also need to be clearly labelled, with a case involving Rolls Royce cited as a warning. Rolls Royce used a number of celebrities including the model Daisy Lowe as Twitter ambassadors for the brand.

Summary

The ASA argued it wasn’t citing creativity and reminded the audience that the advertising industry had asked for greater clarity to ensure a level playing field.

What do you think?

Read pt 1 here.

Share

Social Media Forum Europe review pt 1

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m a bit of a groupie for the tech marketing events so was eagerly looking forward to Social Media World Forum Europe which I attended yesterday.

The conference was well promoted pre-event with a well stocked website, blog, Twitter account, and event hash tag #SMWF. In lieu of this, and because it was a self funded trip, I opted for the free entry to the exhibition and Social Media Hub. This, I assumed, would ensure a day of packed presentations and takeaway tips from interesting speakers getting to the heart of social media matters.

I attended day two after falling to grasp from the website that b2b and sme featured on day one (doh!) With a paid stream (£395 for two days), it was to be expected that the calibre of the speakers and the brand case studies in the hub would not be as strong.

That said, save a few insights (more later), the sessions comprising day two of the Social Media Hub were a let down for a number of reasons. I’ll come to in a moment.

First some positives:

1. SMWF used the right digital channels to promote the show and engage the audience attending and online.

2. The conference delivered big brand, keynote speakers for the paying delegates.

3. The floor design provided lots of space and opportunity for networking – the Networking Bar and Social Hub were well designed.

4. There were some great opportunities to face to face network with a number of Twitter contacts that I’ve now met!

The negatives:

1. I missed the Social Media Hub agenda before booking my day there. It was tucked away on the main program page – which non paying members wouldn’t click to. Had I known that the Social Media Hub had been focusing on b2b and sme on day one, that’s the day I would have attended.

2. Whilst in the main attractive and informal, I think the open aspect of the Social Hub, with its ‘drop in, drop out arrangement’ meant that the engagement of the audience at any one time was fairly low. The moderator had a tough job and in the end resorted to putting a microphone in people’s faces.

3. I echoed the same criticisms about overly promotional presentations at TFM&A in early March where exhibitors talked about their own products a little too much. That’s what exhibition stands, demo’s and sales people are for. When I attend a conference, I really want actionable, usable information I can take back and try in my business.

4. I sensed an audience in the hub that was aware of social media but practically naive when it comes to planning, selection of tools and execution. This was evidenced by a small show of hands to questions like who uses facebook, linkedin, twitter, quora, youtube (less hands with every social platform named). Despite this, the same social media cliches were trotted out.

5. A potentially fantastic session titled ‘social media planning’ degenerated into an issues/concerns people have about using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. THESE ARE NOT THE ONLY SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS THAT ARE AVAILABLE TO YOU! Surprisingly, the audience voted that of the three, YouTube posed the most challenges, not Facebook which is inherently personal and barred from a good number of businesses during the working day.

Maybe, I missed the good b2b stuff on day one. If so, that’s my own fault. Or maybe its because I have a passion for supporting businesses that supply other businesses use the right tools, use them well and see some tangible results. Maybe its because I see mainstream nuts and bolts b2b (remove high tech, big brand and finance) shamefully missing from most conference programs. Or because I’ve been galvanised by recent talks that I’ve given to appreciative audiences.

Which ever way I look it, there appear to be opportunities missed at Social Media World Forum. Which makes me feel relieved I didn’t cough up the £395 that others delegates did.

Your view: Was SMWF value for money?

So, before I publish my thoughts on some of the social media hub sessions (and there were some useful insights), a Linkedin Poll question. I’m interested in value for money. If you paid to attend out of your own pocket, was it money well spent? If your company paid, ask yourself , would you have paid to attend the conference if you had to?

Social Media Europe Forum #smwf

I’m spending Wednesday at the annual Social Media World Forum at London’s Olympia. Keep an eye on my Twitter feed on the home page of the blog, on Twitter @renepower or by following the conference hash tag #smwf if you want to stay close to the action. If you’re attending, tweet me on the day, it would be great to say hi.

I don’t really know what to expect as I haven’t been before. It seemed there were some interesting exchanges on day one today, including Brian Solis giving a keynote via Skype!

Normally, when I attend conferences I report back on the sessions, but this time around, and given the cost, I elected for the free pass getting me in to the exhibition and the Social Media Hub workshops rather than the conference streams.

I’m using it to network and for some creative ideas and am particularly interested in discussions around blogging, content marketing and social media monitoring.

Doubtless there will be more over the coming days.

Share

Interactive video – trend or gimmick? (TFMA 2011)

The first session I attended at this year’s TFMA was given by Steffan Aquarone from Venio and focused on the latest developments in interactive video and how it allows content owners to make objects in their videos clickable thus enabling objects as links for viewers to ‘find out more’, ‘buy now’ or even drive the story that unfolds.

There is no hiding the significance of video in both consumer and business marketing. Video search takes up 50% of online search, YouTube is classed as a search engine and a growing proportion of video is now watched within Facebook.

Interactive video gives over control to the viewer and works best when it contains a genuine first or a gimmick in order to generate interest and drive traffic.

Getting video to go viral means interactive video can be used to meet a number of objectives.

– Increased sales conversion

– Engagement

– Improve delivery of information

– Provide entertainment

– Drive website traffic

Clickable video, like the Tippex example below are not new but are now becoming more accessible through suppliers like Buto. (Note this is NSFW, use headphones on the first bit – the second bit is inspired, I tried ‘sings’, ‘eats’ and ‘hugs’ – you’ll see what I mean!)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ba1BqJ4S2M&w=450&h=283]

Considering the objectives above, clickable video works best in the following scenarios

– Increased sales conversion (use a ‘click to buy’ device in the video)

– Engagement (like Tippex, offer multiple story flows)

– Improve delivery of information (offer a ‘find out more’ mechanic)

– Provide entertainment (utilise games and incentives)

– Drive website traffic (have a high gimmick factor which generates leads)

In summary, and in thinking about how to put interactive video to good use, think first about your target audience, then about strategy, and only then about the tools. And if you fancy doing it through YouTube it is reasonable easy using the annotation link here is a video from ChadMattRob but if you want to skip the hi-jink to 3:30 you’ll get the tutorial.

Overview of TFMA 2011

Technology for Marketing and Advertising (TFMA) is one of my favourite shows of the year. It provides lots of opportunities to catch up on the latest thinking in the digital space, to see the latest technology up close, to talk to leading suppliers and attend lots of free keynote presentations and seminars from leading brands.

Though there is an extensive exhibition, the real draw is the growing seminar programme. It was clear this year was the most popular yet, as organisers opened up a number of new sections on the exhibition floor covering email, mobile, analytics, social media, affiliate marketing and online advertising in addition to all the usual attractions.

Traditionally a free show, a Priority Pass was introduced this year, which guaranteed entry to all the keynote presentations, for £99. An interesting proposition given there were 2,000-3,000 attending, yet the keynote theatre probably only catered for 400-500. This left hundreds of visitors, myself included, unhappy at not accessing the first keynote from Facebook at the start of the day.

Less of a money spinner but more visitor friendly would have been to double the size of the keynote theatre or perhaps use unutilised space at the back of the hall to run video relay on large screens, perhaps seeking to make additional revenue by locating an additional (and over priced) coffee zone. This and the total mismanagement of queuing for all sessions need review for 2012.

That aside, most of the sessions were superb and offered lots of food for thought for the marketers and business owners attending. Though there was a natural bias on speaker’s parts to cite big brand FMCG consumer marketing case studies. I always think this is nice, but mis aligned with the b2b responsibilities of most attendees, but there was lots to learn.

Head over to The BDB Blog where you can get my take on the following sessions:

I also tweeted extensively yesterday on the Twitter hashtag #TFMA. Feel free to check back on what everyone was saying.

Marketing Metrics 6: Trade shows

Attending trade shows is one of the most expensive activities in a marketing plan. How do you ensure they provide return?

Trade show organisers have probably had to work harder than anyone else during the recession. The expenditure in this area is often the first thing scrapped in a marketing budget review as extravagant. This isn’t a surprise given most companies attending trade shows fail to manage their attendance properly from the outset. They are not ruthless about why they are attending and what they want to get out of the show. Going because you always have is a poor approach to marketing and business.

But done well, with appropriate consideration given to pre-event traffic generation, trade shows can be your most profitable marketing mix tool. Why? The lion’s share of your new business still comes through word of mouth, endorsement and personal selling, so it makes sense to be right in the heart of any gathering of your clients and customers.

I tackled this very issue in a recent post following my experience at the Total Packaging show in Birmingham.

From a metrics perspective, there is a lot that you can do to measure the effectiveness of attending an exhibition. Working through the following thought process throws up things to consider and the metrics to be employed to measure them. In these recessionary times, I’ve deliberately kept to the tangible lead generation focused activities.

1. Why, what, who? Start at the planning phase, and decide what you are exhibiting, why and to who? If you haven’t got a credible reason to exhibit and/or nothing new to promote, don’t.

2. Focus on ‘new’. Make a maximum of three key messages the core part of all pre-show and show communication. The rules of high impact PR apply throughout, so ‘new’ always works best and attracts the most interest. Demonstration and presentation are fantastic ways of getting ‘new’ across. This could be product, service, data or insight related. And ‘new’ doesn’t have to mean available – a measurable metric might be to take a set number of enquiries, even orders for a previewed/future product or service.

3. Calculate Total Project Cost. Price up space and stand costs, design & logistics costs, hospitality, literature, email/advertising costs, hotels, lost sales force productivity through being taken off the road and management time.

4. Apply a Cost Per Enquiry. Having a Total Project Cost will allow you to start to consider cost per enquiry and allows you to start to work out how many enquiries (and convertible orders) are required to cover the investment of attending.

5. Set enquiry/order targets. Plug in your rough order value and calculate how many orders will be needed to cover this cost and then ideally turn a profit.

6. Set specific enquiry targets. With all the previous steps completed, you’ll be able to allocate enquiry targets against the cost of attending, per product/service line exhibited, per sector and per sales rep. This gives you a minimum of four ways to set lead generation metrics, and informs what you should do next to promote your attendance at the show, to who, and by who.

7. Agree pre show marketing targets. Allocate enquiries to each element of pre-show marketing (personal sales call, invite, email, visit to site, online registration). Offer customers pre-registration. Stage an event or give a presentation within the trade show and use the sign up to this as a metric. Set up a daily blog/email summary/Twitter feed from the show and measure engagement. Twitter hashtagging is fantastic for events. Above all, set up a specific Internet landing page and employ Google Analytics to give you a thorough assessment of this. Any advertising and literature should cite all contact points.

8. The intangible. Some times it is important to attend a trade show to build or protect profile and reputation. In this instance, arrange meetings with trade publishers and editors in advance and set a metric on that, reviewable 3 months and 6 months after the show in terms of PR coverage.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but it will give your trade show planning greater clarity and focus.

Image Beacon Alliance

Marketing Metrics 5: Speaking up

If you have something interesting to say, or are an interesting, engaging speaker, it’s worth considering public speaking as an element of your marketing strategy.  Speaking at conferences can be a powerful way of building a profile and raising the awareness of your skill set and expertise to your target audience.

Whether you opt to start small by acting as a guest speaker at a local networking or business group, running your own industry specific seminars or headline a major industry conference with a keynote presentation or panel place, one thing is certain. Everyone remembers a great speaker and a great presentation, and often business can be won off the back of one.

Speaker opportunities have long been highly prized within the PR fraternity as a way of pushing clients up the scale of influence. How do you think those experts who always seem to be the ones talking at the major conferences and being quoted in the trade or consumer press get there? By hard work and through building strong relationships with the media who run publications and organize conferences.

As the scale of opportunities afforded by technology and the Internet broaden, it is ever more important to specialise and avoid being seen as a generalist. There is a niche in every line of business and aligning your speaking engagements to 1/ your target audience and 2/ your specialist subject areas are fast tracks to expert status.

The ability to host webinars and webcast live on the Internet using sites like Bright Talk and Event Brite, to create podcasts for uploading to sites like iTunes and create and share presentations and video using sites like You Tube, Vimeo and SlideShare have revolutionised the concept of the expert and brought it to the masses.

But how do you measure the return from time spent?

It’s surprisingly easy. In most offline and online cases, the delegate list will be captured, especially if the carrot of exclusive post event material is dangled. An opportunity to join an exclusive group or register for exclusive content is always enticing. And remember this means all these contacts are themselves opting in.

Superficial statistics like the number of delegates, requests for and downloads of information are to a degree useful, but ultimately you should be forging a measurable link between the time and cost of preparing and giving the presentation and any tangible business outcomes, like opportunities to meet, opportunities to provide a proposal or quote and the landing of business.

Using speaking opportunities at seminars, conferences and exhibitions is a long term strategy designed to build profile and elevate you as an expert in your field. It is a tool that naturally sits on the fluffier side of the return on investment equation (unless you are able to charge for attendance in which case it is a revenue spinner all on its own).

Image Offthevangirls

Making an exhibition of yourself

Trade shows are often a mystery to me. They are an expensive, time consuming and resource draining element of the annual plan but done well, can energize or re-energize a tired sales force, a disinterested distributor network, or disengaged customer base.  They offer the opportunity to demonstrate, to research and to make introductions in a safe, if artificial, environment.

I recently had occasion to attend a trade show in Birmingham, visiting a client who was exhibiting their wares and I also used it as an opportunity to research the particular sector and to talk to some of the leading players. I think more and more people are attending shows as a delegate, opting to go about their information and contract trawl in a much more clearly defined, but guerrilla, manner.

I deliberately picked the second day to maximise time with influencers and decision makers on stands (they would simply have been too busy on day one). It became quickly apparent to me that many of the exhibitors were experiencing poor levels of traffic and interest. Most were quick to bemoan the show, its organisers, their promotion methods, and the decline of UK trade shows in general. Worryingly, few accepted their role in promoting their own attendance at the show and too many stand personnel were quick to offer sweeping statements without really ascertaining who I was or what I was interested in.

Trying to spin this experience (and fourteen years of managing trade show attendance) into some positives, here is my take on getting the most from trade show attendance.

1. Establish that your target audience attends. Surprisingly obvious, but despite waning interest, how many companies (yours included) persist with certain shows in a bid to keep up appearances?

2. Agree a single and central proposition and stick to it. Lots of stands are just too cluttered. Issue based communication is the order of the day. Delegates have problems to solve so reframe your whole approach by answering ‘Who do I help and how?’

3. Agree evaluation criteria by setting benchmark objectives. Don’t be so vague as to have a simple enquiries target – cut it by product, sector, customer type, geographical market or sales rep. Be bold, you are investing big money and you need to ensure  a return.

4. Design data capture early on and ensure it can be quickly used after the event. If you can invest in barcode scanners if they are on offer. Anything else is just fiddly, time consuming and unprofessional.

5. Take space only and design a stand that reflects the importance of the market to your business. If the UK packaging sector is your number one sector, reflect it by having a corner stand open on 2-3 sides, some good height and visual branding, hospitality space and on stand promotions and Meet the Expert type events. Put it another way, why not?

6. Befriend the organisers. Like in any other walk of life, they can give you a great spot next to the seminar hall, near the entrance or near the coffee bar, advance notice and deals on showguide advertising, ad banners on the website and in promotional emails, and opportunities to join the conference program. By not creating a relationship you are reducing your ability to do this.

7. Integrate the show into your marketing and communication activities. You decided months in advance to attend the show. Tell people. Add it to your website, stationery, advertising, emails, press releases, invoices, statements etc.

8. Invite key customers & prospects and get them to network. Use your best most loyal advocates to do your selling for you. Everyone knows word of mouth and referral are the best, and easiest routes to new business. Act as the facilitator.

9. Brief your stand personnel on what to plug, how to act, and ensure they are always mindful of looking open, engaging & interested. There really is nothing worse than the two suited guys clogging the stand, talking to each other or tapping into a laptop. All those thousands of pounds flushed down the toilet as potential buyers stroll by.

10. Invite editors of the major journals to visit the stand and meet the team. Yes, it’s a tough sell, especially if PR is not one of your strong suits, but by getting editors warmed up to you as a business and what you do, it makes it easier to get releases placed in the future and can help you position yourself as an expert when they write features about the things you excel at.

Here’s to making an exhibition of yourself, in the right way.

Image Danburgmurmur Flickr stream

20 steps to a successful event

Been to some interesting events over recent months and have managed a fair share myself.

If you’re considering using seminars, conferences and networking events as a tool in your promotional mix, don’t sour your reputation by putting on a poor show.

Follow this guide to plan, promote and deliver impact events.

Pre event

1. Consider your audience, their needs and where they are.

2. Offer an interesting, relevant topic, ideally with business cases and not academic related.

3. Book an engaging, passionate speaker

4. Select an interesting venue (it’s part of the draw – but not a bar!) i.e. business schools, museums, town halls, football grounds, new business premises etc with optional tours.
5. Offer online booking

6. Offer early bird, group and recommendation discounts.

7. Provide real time attendee information – so people can see who else is attending.

8. Use Linkedin groups to promote your event to your audience.

9. Consider partnering / sponsorship opportunities to cover costs and maximize exposure.

At the event

9. Offer drinks and nibbles.

10.  Provide sufficient time for networking pre & post, especially if a presentation is involved.

11. Consider building in some structure if it is a solely networking event i.e. regular 5 minutes with whoever is stood to your left.

12. Circulate a delegate list on the day

13. Give delegates large, readable name badges with their name, company and title/interest.

14. Provide sufficient time for Q&A if a presentation is involved.

15. Remember to thank sponsors, venue, caterers.

16. Ask for feedback on the night via feedback forms.

Post event

17. Make speaker notes available to all attendees.

18. Give additional opportunity to feedback.

19. Send out a press release and post feedback on your website & social networks.

20. Start planning your next event.