A Tsunami of bullsh*t

This week I reviewed a really interesting video presentation by Professor Mark Ritson from Melbourne Uni. which was very different and very confronting, that is, if you happen to be an avid believer in digital marketing being the only way to go for putting your brand front and centre, and seriously reaching and engaging with your customers.

There were so many choice quotes coming out of the video that I don’t really know where to start. The real take outs for me were “can you feel that hand in your underpants”, “what the f*** is going on here” ,“digital video is a Tsunami of bullshit” and my favourite “Digital Marketers are part of a mad cult”. Of course I’m quoting none other than Melbourne Business School’s very own Professor Mark Ritson. (view video here)

Professor Ritson offers bucket loads of factual based data to support his argument during a 45 minute myth-busting rant on the digital landscape and how the “dreary D word” is hurting marketing.

Ritson challenges not just the success of digital marketing, and social media in particular but goes on to compare digital reach with traditional marketing channels, such as radio / TV / print and even lays in to the media companies for supporting the bullshit commentary that traditional media is dead. This is compelling viewing.

Reflecting on his own Twitter following, Ritson exclaims “I’m a private individual with more followers than K-Mart, VB , Tim Tam and the Bendigo Bank. Combined. Times two. How is that f****** possible? “. Just brilliant! My only regret watching the video was that I was at work during lunch and laughed out loud with my head phones on and looked up to see the whole office looking at me. “Doing research” was about all I could offer.

This does sort of conflict with many people’s understanding of how social media can be used by businesses. One of the biggest myths being that social media works well for building brand awareness and creating a link between a brand and the audience. As the data showed, less than two thirds of all Australians actually follow brands on Social Media. The average Australian follows just 1 brand. This actually makes perfect sense, who really wants their newsfeeds interrupted with adverts and posts from businesses trying to push their brand in your face.

Although, I would argue that whilst this holds true for most major brands, there are always exceptions to the rule and many small businesses have managed really well on Social Media with customer engemement and are more likely to be prohibited from using traditional tactics such as TV / Radio advertising due to the high cost of traditional advertising in comparison.

Look! It’s a whole arm full (represents your overall customers on Twitter) Source: M Ritson.

I decided to run some of the examples he gave on a Social Media following for a Government agency and was really quite surprised by the results. Their Twitter account  has 360,000 followers out of a potential national  audience of 15 million people (based on ABS data for the working population). This represents just 2.4% of the total audience. Active users during the last week were just 1,400 or 0.009% of the total audience. Facebook works out to be not much better. Sobering thoughts.

Thankfully, I don’t personally buy in to social media being a silver bullet for connecting to customers, especially if you are looking to raise brand awareness or to sell product. There are many ways this can be achieved more effectively by using traditional marketing tactics and I agree with Ritson that it needs to form part of a broader marketing strategy. I do think that too many people are putting way too much emphasis on digital marketing and as Ritson points out, quite rightly, that digital marketing is in fact a tactic, not a strategy and should be viewed as that. “You must know the difference between strategy and tactics; strategy first, followed by tactics”.

What I did find really interesting about Ritson’s talk was that is wasn’t actually an attack on those using digital marketing, more of a plea, a wake up call to stop the distortion of information about the topic and recognise it for what it is, a marketing tactic. It wasn’t a campaign not to use it but to use it in consideration. It may well be appropriate to set aside 80% of your budget to digital if that’s part of your considered strategy.

Reflecting on Ritson’s video one final time, it has made me realize that where I work we are starting to see a drift, a fracturing of the marketing function. “Digital” is its own department, isolated from the marketing team. We do have Social Media in our section but the website, apps / mobile website and analytical functions etc. are all controlled and managed by Digital. They have their own strategy, objectives and goals which do not necessarily align with what marketing is trying to achieve. To quote Ritson one last time, “how is that possible, what the f*** is going on?”.

I would love to know your thoughts on this. Leave me a comment below.

Mavens, craft beer and a heap of these !?!?!?!?!

This week I’m going to base my post on some interesting research by Torgeir Aleti, Paul Harrington, Marc Cheong and Will Turner that looks at how the Australian brewing industry influence consumers on Twitter.

The research is fairly comprehensive and is structured around proving, or disproving a number of hypothesis based on a series of constructs;

• Indegree influence and retweet influence
• Message formulation and language
• Native platform behaviour
• Reciprocity and;
• Persistency

One of the key points that the authors make is that organisations on Social Media should be using maven-like behaviour to influence their audiences (Feick and Price 1987). In Malcolm Gladwell’s 2000 book The Tipping Point  Gladwell defines Mavens as “Those who influence through their ability to accumulate, interpret, and share information” and I certainly agree that mavens can stimulate and encourage engagement on Twitter especially with audiences seeking (and wanting to share) information.

What I found really interesting in the approach the authors took was the acknowledgement that the traditional influencers (opinion leaders and highly-connected individuals  etc.) may not actually be as influential when it came down to how small businesses interact on social media and that ordinary users could be just as influential, if not more so. This makes it even more important to create the right information that people are seeking and would be likely to want to share.

So the key to this it would appear, as is the case for most things in Social Media, is content. And as Bill Gates rightly proclaimed in 1996 “Content is King”. I’m sure there is a quote out there somewhere that will say “all roads lead to content”, if there isn’t, I’ll claim it now because pretty much everything on Social Media in some shape or form seems to come back to that.

That’s a very good question and well worth a retweet

Without going through Aleti’s paper in its entirety, there are a couple of areas relating to Social Media content that pricked my attention. The first was the hypothesis based around the frequent use of pictures and videos in tweets and the research on the use of question marks and exclamation marks being associated with higher levels of indegree and retweet influence.

The results showed that the hypothesis which was tested around more frequent use of pictures and videos being associated with higher levels of indegree and retweet influence was only partly supported by the research.

This is supported by my own research in to the use of images and video in tweets, where tweets containing images often achieve significantly higher levels of engagement than just text based tweets. Although saying that, there are always exceptions to the rule. With weather services we often have warnings that are heavily retweeted from text only tweets, but as a broad benchmark, in terms of engagement and specifically retweets; from the top 100 tweets we send out in any given week 90% will contain an image / animation or video.

Wow!! So many exclamation marks !!!!!

And finally, the hypothesis relating to the use of question marks and exclamation marks being associated with higher levels of indegree and retweet influence was not supported by the research, which does tend to make sense. Although it was interesting that exclamation marks could be viewed as shouting and were unlikely to be retweeted at the same frequency as tweets not containing them (I think that needs more research as I suspect it could change based on certain demographics, such as age / culture). Again, there are always exceptions to the rule and like most things relating to content, it comes back to context. Here is a tweet from Louis Tomlinson from One Direction to their fans containing exclamation marks which attracted over 400,000 retweets.

And on that note, that’s a pretty big number, but what does it actually mean? Well you will just have to wait until next week’s post on “Analytics and metrics, it’s all in the interpretation” which addresses that very question.


Facebook segmentation and engagement

This week’s blog article is based upon the Hodis et al. (2015) article “Interact with me on my terms: a four segment Facebook engagement framework for marketers”.

The paper covers off some great research about why segmentation is so important for Facebook engagement and identifies four clear segments for consideration.

Facebook segmentation matrix (Hodis et al. 2015)
  • Attention seekers – users looking for admiration and appreciation (low levels of consumption and high levels of creation)
  • Entertainment chasers -people trying to escape boredom (consuming small bursts of entertaining content)
  • Devotees – addicted to Facebook users (high level of consumption and creation)
  • Connection seekers – Connecting with friends / family is their primary reason for using Facebook (High level of consumption  and low level of creation)

The essence of the article is around breaking down the audience to specific audience types, tailoring the content accordingly and then to consider using paid advertising to support your Social Media activity on Facebook. This  allows you to get much higher engagement than a fit-for-all-approach as the relevancy of the message increases and in-turn the organic reach increases (the amount of times the message is distributed).

But is this enough?

In fact, research from Sashittal et al. (2012) suggests paid targeted advertising can actually work against you to the point that really well targeted advertising on Facebook was often viewed by the audience as creepy, and the more targeted and specific the advert, the more uncomfortable the audience potentially viewed it.

Segmentation as a way to increase engagement isn’t exactly breaking news, so is there more we can add to the mix if we really want to maximise engagement?

Get your employees behind your Social Media activity

For example, empowering your business; such as your employees, volunteers and stakeholders (as well as your existing audience) to extend engagement through Social Media interaction rather than just using organic reach and Facebook paid advertising to achieve this. (If all of your staff liked and shared your posts, overall engagement would increase as a result as would the organic reach).

Here is a great article from Ryan Holmes at Fast Company on this topic which talks about the success Companies such as Starbucks, Zappos and Southwest Airlines in the US have had with their employee advocacy programs.

Either way, Social Media interaction is critical for driving engagement and maintaining an active brand presence, so getting it right and engaging with your audience becomes a high priority and by doing so, you have a real opportunity to influence your audience’s behaviour.

There are a couple of good blog articles from Deluca (2011) and Goad (2011) that note that a user’s shopping behaviour becomes increasingly influenced by their social media interactions and social media consumer to consumer communication can make a big difference in how your message is picked up by your audience.

This is supported by Li and Bernhoff in the book Groundswell, who note there has been a shift in how consumers now use technology to get from each other what they would traditionally get from corporations, and de Valck et al. (2009) extends this further noting that “word-of-mouse” is just as powerful in impacting consumer decision making as face to face influence.

Source MSL Group on Employee advocacy

So, if engagement is the key to success; empowering the people in the business to get behind your Social Media activity, encouraging them to engage with your audience and to interact with them (and each other) would certainly be a strategy worth considering.


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