The REAL meaning of ‘community’

Posted in wisdom with tags , , , , on August 10, 2011 by wisdomlondon

If the past few days have taught us anything, it’s surely about the real meaning about community.

And for a word that is so regularly and so freely used in a social media / online marketing sense, I think it’s time those of us in those industries sat up and took notice.

We’re reminded that community is not about a group of people who ‘like’ or join or subscribe to something.

It’s about deeds, not words or clicks.

What really defines community, as we’ve been reminded, is where people take action – with each other and for each other. Social media can certainly help this, as with the #riotcleanup hashtag and handle, and the efforts of people like Katie Khan, who have used their Twitter reach to galvanise people to help others. But with all of this comes action – offline, hands-dirty, taking-time-out action.

It’s nothing we don’t already know in our heart of hearts, but perhaps it’s time to redefine ‘community’ for our professional purposes and give the word the resonance and meaning it deserves. Time to stop letting ourselves or our clients believe that it’s all about the numbers.  Thousands of ‘likes’ might seem impressive yet in reality be pretty impotent, but where we have even a small core of people willing to take action (with and for each other) is where you can honestly start to talk about a community in the most genuine and meaningful sense.

These are just my idle lunchtime opinions, of course.  What do you think?  Do we define and measure community well enough? Do we even really know what it means?  Answers on a postcard… or in the comments box.

Be kind to each other, people.

Wisdom doesn’t stand still…

Posted in wisdom on July 5, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Wisdom doesn’t stand still… It evolves just like everything else in life. Sometimes it leaves a lasting legacy and sometimes it’s right just for that moment in time.

That’s also true of Wisdom London and right now, I’m not standing still.

I have been fortunate enough to be asked by a client to join their team, and return to my first love of pure communications and, well, making things happen. In this instance it’s in an international reputation management context and needless to say, I jumped at it.

So Wisdom London lives on in blog form and the occasional project, but now you’ll find me at The Leadership Agency, with an amazing team of people I admire more than I can fully articulate – and with more to learn and experience.

Wisdom London has been, and always will be, like my third child. I’ve loved it, watched it grow, worried about it and am – and forever will be – immensely proud of it.

My new adventure involves amazing clients, far-away lands and already a lot of fun. Amazingly, social media is merely a peripheral star in this new orbit, and already that distance has helped me rediscover the joy in it.

So there’ll be more wisdom from Wisdom London and takes of adventure and intrigue too. Watch this space…

QR Codes: Where can users really benefit?

Posted in Uncategorized on May 3, 2011 by wisdomlondon

QR codes might be attracting a lot of attention as the bridge between mobile and content, but so far, where it it being done well?

With a few exceptions, QR codes have yet to hit the consumer mainstream (beyond the tech-savvy) and in many cases seem a little, well, try hard. I suspect that many brands using QR codes out of “look at us” vanity rather than to make a meaningful connection with customers.

It’s a fine line between differentiation and irrelevance.

As with all emerging technologies, it’s only really useful where it genuinely adds value to the user, rather than being forced upon them as the next big thing.

So it’s time to even the balance – QR codes should benefit both sides of the marketing coin.

I’ve been considering where both the brand and the consumer can benefit the most. Here are where I see distinct possibilities for that crucial value-add:

Where data-rich context is needed NOW

Ever walked past a for sale board outside an amazing house and wondered what the asking price is, how big it is and whether the garden is bigger than a postage stamp? Enter QR code. QR stands for “Quick Response”, after all. To be able to capture that data on your phone there and then has to be better than faffing about with badly optimised sites on a mobile phone. Estate agents, take note.

Where I don’t want to take that bit of paper, thank you

Leaflets, flyers and even petitions being proffered when I’m on the move get little attention from me, even if I think they might be interesting. I just don’t want paper! But offer me a QR code so that I can access that information in my own time on my own device, and you’ll have my attention.

Where advertising can take on a whole new meaning

Mobile and contextual advertising are a fact and we’ll see more of it, but the ultimate opt-in, and therefore buy-in, is where I can see an ad and respond to it meaningfully. So a QR code that takes me where I need to go and tells me what I need to know about a product is the ultimate. A boon for advertisers – can lower costs significantly (page spend, design) and vital data about consumer reactions can be attained.  But this should be used thoughtfully, as Yush Kalia points out. QR codes are already used in advertising, as we’ve seen, but it’s where it can do something that a print ad cannot do that we will see a compulsion to engage.

Ultimately, QR codes need to be introduced and used judiciously – consumers are still sceptical about their worth, relevance and even how to use them. Yet as smartphones become the norm, here’s a chance to use them well and add value – not vanity. And they most likely will enter the mainstream in time – and we may be surprised to see how their application developed.  In Japan (where QR codes are widely used) they are even used in cemeteries to add additional information to graves and unite mourners.

We might be some way from that example, but its clear that the key to QR code effectiveness for marketers will be in providing relevance, convenience and value.

Kate Spiers is director at Wisdom London, a creative communications consultancy.

When is an audience not an audience?

Posted in social media with tags on April 13, 2011 by wisdomlondon

When we talk about marketing activity, we often talk about our audience as a means of ensuring relevance and effectiveness.  But in social media, it’s a slightly misleading term.  Here’s why….

It’s easy to assume that because a Twitter account has 5, 000 followers, there’s an audience of 5,000. Or that a group (on Facebook or LinkedIn, for example) with 400 members means an audience of 400. But that’s a hopeful, bordering on lazy, view.

Social media essentially means a tide of information and updates coming at us across devices and you only have to look at how you consume this content yourself to know that a good deal of it is ignored, deleted or muted without a second glance.

So how do you measure audience more meaningfully? I’d venture the view that engagement is a critical measurement tool – after all, it’s only when an individual engages on some level that we can truly call them an audience. It’s been said to me recently that engagement is a meaningless term used by social media people – I say it’s the true meaning of audience. Of course, we can’t measure everything, so some assumptions have to be made about the number of people who engage on the quiet – without interacting, responding or sharing. But it’s fair to say that your follower counts are not representative of your active audience.

So here are my rules of thumb:

  • Don’t get hung up on the numbers, because they are not entirely representative
  • And therefore, don’t rest on your laurels because you’ve hit the magic  1, 000, 2, 000 or 10, 000
  • Go back to analytics every time – knowing where, how and when people have taken action is what really counts
  • Think of your follower count as ‘potential audience’ and then look to how you increase the proportion of that figure to become ‘engaged audience’ – that’s where the numbers truly mean something

Now go and get yourselves a standing ovation…

Kate Spiers is a director at Wisdom London, a communications consultancy with a pragmatic approach to social media.

Platform, simplicity and involvement: Keys to developing the perfect app

Posted in creativity, marketing strategy, social media with tags , on March 8, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Image: M Bartosch

If you want to get closer to your customers, you can’t get closer than their ever-present mobile phones.

Packaging up your brand, service or product in a mobile or tablet-friendly app ensures that customers stay close, no matter where they are, and can enjoy a enhanced and personalised version of the brand experience. If you get it right. And when you do, greater loyalty and increased spend are just some of the benefits.

But developing an app which delights – and not to mention justifies the investment – is not straightforward. There is a whole host of considerations to take into account, and this will only expand as mobile technologies and operating systems continue to evolve.

I asked two experts in app development about what it takes to build a brilliant app.

Mark Rock is founder of audio-sharing platform Audioboo, where sound is social. Launched in 2009, Audioboo sees around 100 000 individual audio plays per day – and mobile has played a huge part in establishing this reach.  It’s available via iPhone, Android and now Nokia apps.  Gilbert Hill is business development director at Governor Technology, a web development agency with a specialism in app development.

iPhone, Blackberry, Android, WP7…. How do you decide where to place your bets?

For Mark Rock, it was a fairly easy choice: “iPhone has by far the most integrated development environment and because iPad and iPhone share the same OS, then your app will work on both, he explained. “In terms of market size, Android is the king but it’s harder to maintain (as a platform). Blackberry is a pain, simply because of the sheer number and different shapes handsets come in. WP7 looks good but has only a very small market share at present”. Gilbert Hill sees opportunity in WP7 for this exact reason. “We’re getting more and more enquiries about WP7 development as clients update their mobile app strategies to include more than just one platform.  There are now about 350,000 apps available in the Apple ecosystem – that is a huge pond in which to command attention.  By contrast, other platforms like WP7 are less populated which means each app has a real chance of making a splash”.

So, once you’ve figured that out, do you go for in-house development or with a dev shop?

Our experts represent either sides of the development fence, and both offer compelling arguments.  Hill argues that “compared with straight web dev, mobile development now means dealing with multiple platforms, each with own quirks and capabilities.  Add to that the fact that each handset also has its own challenges”. Not only that, he explains, but there’s a talent issue too – agency devs are up on a broad spectrum of technologies and can represent cost savings too. On the other hand, Rock explains that in-house has been perfect for Audioboo. “Our development process has been quite iterative, so it’s given us flexibility to have a developer in-house.” But sometimes a blend of the two is needed. “We build Audioboo’s iPhone app in house and then show that to our Android developer as a design to emulate”.

So far, so good. Now for the crux of it – user experience (UX). What matters most?

Both Rock and Hill agree that simplicity is the number one attribute to which to aspire. As Hill points out, “Familiarity of experience can trump novelty”. Mark Rock also cites user journey (is it intuitive? will the user get lost?) and useful error messages as critical UX considerations.

Launch time!  But how can you ensure great uptake?

Well, it seems it’s all about the app selling itself – so, getting the technology and experience right in the first place.  High profile users help, of course. Mark Rock explains: “We were lucky to have been taken up by some big media players in the first 3 months – Guardian, BBC, FT. We also engage with users on Twitter and our user forums a lot, which leads to a network effort, particularly as we allow autoposting to Facebook and Twitter – so it becomes part of that mainstream”.

For Hill, it’s about engaging users early on – in some cases before you even start development. “It always depresses me when someone proudly informs us of an App they have already commissioned based on an idea brewed up in an internal ‘team-think’ session, and the end user has been left out of the process”.  Understanding what users want first, engaging them in the development process (consultation, Beta test groups etc) and keeping close to those users is key.

And it doesn’t end there.  All apps need to be updated, to keep them fresh, fast and functionality-rich. But when?

It’s clearly a balance.  On one hand, updates prolong the shelf life of an app, but too much turns users off.  “We update maybe twice a year and only when we have significant new features to add or a major bug that many users have complained about, says Rock. “But you do see companies using updates to push their app up in the download charts. We just don’t think that’s a compelling user experience”.

As with concept and development, Hill suggests that updates can provide an opportunity for loyalty-building: “If you start the process by polling users for what they want they will love you for it, and become advocates rather than just consumers.”

Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London, a communications consultancy with a focus on new and emerging technologies and their application for outstanding communications.

Social Media Audit: Gaining Essential Clarity

Posted in marketing strategy, social media with tags on March 3, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Image credit: M Bartosch

Whether you’re just starting your social media journey, or are fully underway, such is the pace of technological and behavioural change that constant assessment and reassessment is a must.  Social media does not stand still, and neither should your thinking.

Quick and meaningful

One of the tools we use to assess in a quick yet meaningful way is the Social Media Audit.  It sounds pretty unsexy, doesn’t it? But it’s an exercise which provides a genuine insight into what is happening and not happening, what much be done, and where that sits within your industry and alongside your competitors.  We often use this as a pre-strategy phase, to allow us to present a clear view of the “as-is” situation from a very objective standpoint, and to pave the way for defining future direction, opportunity and action.

How it looks

You can pretty easily audit yourself, but even better is to have a third party do it for you, for genuine objectivity.  At a very high level it addresses:

  • Current use of platforms – where, how, who, when
  • Notable results to date
  • What’s working, what’s not, what needs to happen next
  • Internal factors, such as buy-in, engagement and knowledge levels
  • An assessment of available resource (time, people and money)
  • Benchmarking against competitors and across relevant industries

Clear vision

What you get at the end of it is a clear view of where you are in social media terms, which you can then hold up against objectives.  Is current activity working? Where is it not? Which areas need more or less focus?  In addition, it will provide you with a list of immediate remedial work to be done – whether it’s tweaking a process to allow you to respond better, updating profiles, linking platforms or dealing with unmoderated comments. Sometimes these quick fixes can make a big difference.

As with most good social media activity, it’s as much about good planning and process as it about ideas and creativity. Making an audit a regular priority, whether quarterly, six-monthly or yearly, is simply good practice. How else can you be sure that your strategy is working, can be practically managed and is succeeding in setting you apart from the crowd?

Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London, a communications consultancy with a pragmatic approach to social media. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Online Competitions: Essential Considerations for Marketers

Posted in brand, marketing strategy, social media with tags , , on February 17, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Image credit: Felixco Inc.

For many brands, online competitions are a great way of engaging existing audiences and customers, as well as building awareness further afield and driving inbound traffic.

But competitions aren’t necessarily simple. Trial and error is often the best teacher, but here are some pointers for the thought process you need to work through, when designing and running an online competition:

1. Objectives are all

Be clear about what you want to achieve, or you can’t accurately measure success. Do you want more newsletter sign-ups? To build awareness of a new service or product? Referrals? Or – equally important but trickier to quantify – to build brand loyalty and engage customers?

Once you’ve defined your overall objective, you can then agree some basic measures and design the competition accordingly.

2. The prize is right

You need a compelling reason for people to enter a competition. Let’s face it, we can get what we want pretty easily these days, so make it worthwhile.  The prize or reward should also be commensurate to the effort required of the entrant to participate – lots of effort should equal pretty damn magnificent prize.

Which leads to…

3. User experience can make it or break it

To make a competition really fly, barriers to entering need to be as low as possible.  The mechanism for winning needs to be thought out well, and should be informed by your objectives.

For example, if you’re building awareness and driving traffic, asking people simply to sign up at a dedicated space online to enter works best.  And fortunately, this is quick and easy for the user.

To engage is a little more complex. You might be asking people to generate content (post pictures of customers using the product in question, write something, share something, make something). Again, keep it simple and keep the UX at the forefront: Are instructions clear? Is the platform for sharing up to the job? Are you asking too much?

4. Work your channels

Decide wisely where the competition should live. Facebook works well for engagement style competitions, as you can drive discussion and it’s a ready-made platform for sharing – posting comments, pictures etc is intuitive.

If it’s awareness you need, a blend of online channels works well. An e-newsletter could launch the competition, driving traffic to a dedicated webpage, which has sharing and bookmarking buttons. Announce it on Facebook and Twitter too.

Working with a partner for the competition increases your audience (and might give you access to a whole new audience), and can increase your punching weight when it comes to the prize, so it’s worth considering.

5. Rules is rules…

There are rules guiding online competitions and you must be aware of them. Factors such as timezones and jurisdictions (for closing dates), the Gambling Act 2005 (which demands that competitions should not be “illegal lotteries” – so skill should be involved and no payment asked) and the CAP code need to be adhered to.

Law firm Pinsent Mason LLP has created a great guide here.

6. Data! Data! Data!

A competition is a prime opportunity to collect data – don’t miss it.  Think about which details you ask for in a sign-up style entry and consider an extra question, which might provide you with vital insight into consumer behaviour. But keep it light-touch – this should not compromise the UX.

Basic monitoring for competitions on social media platforms can provide good insights into key influencers and brand advocates.

And, of course, keep a close eye on your analytics, to observe traffic spikes, entry patterns and user behaviours – then work that knowledge when designing your next competition.

Kate Spiers is Director at Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency. Follow Kate on Twitter here and contact Wisdom London here.