Internet Marketing – Reflective Learning Paper

 

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This course has helped me overcome my fear of social marketing and blogging. I was unsure of myself at first, but when I started the project for my client rFactr, quickly I became used to using social platforms for promotions and branding.

I have learned the type of blogs and how to increase your online presence and promote your personal brand on internet. Following are my learnings from this course.

  1. The Paid, Owned and Earned media

I learnt how earned media rules the word of internet marketing. I was privileged to work for rFact project and have seen how our tweets earned 5.8k impressions over 12 day’s period. Through our hypothesis, we were able to test and learn how engagement score differs for different type of posts on different social platforms.

  1. Google AdWords and PLAs

I learnt best practices for creating keywords for google AdWord specially finding the right balance between keywords being broad enough to capture a large enough audience without being too general or irrelevant. I learnt how to reach your audience at the right time with right message though google searches and how to include “Call to Action” in your ad. Through our hypothesis in rFactr project, we could learn that 2-4 word phrases are optimum for best results.

  1. We should not try to over sell

The frequency is as important as the contents. Social media is all about community. In order to increase brand awareness, we should focus more on sharing third-party articles and contents and building relationship rather than just sharing brand’s messaging and driving traffic to our website. In my first client meeting, I was specifically told to not to share more than one post per day on LinkedIn else it may prove counter productive. We tested 1/3 rule in our hypothesis and it worked. However, in future I would like to test some more hypothesis that we had in mind but could not test due to time constraint.

  1. Never ignore customer feedback

One of the biggest mistake is to ignore customer feedback on social media. In this age where experience is everything, it is not sufficient to simply monitor social media. Businesses must begin to nurture relationships — built from both positive and negative feedback. Not responding to customer comments made via social platforms is akin to ignoring emails, but is worse, as it is amplified in a public space. Companies must put aside fear and engage with consumers openly and honestly in the public forum. “United breaks Guitar” is an impressive story of customer management disaster that I learned in class and it compelled me to read the book “How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead”.

  1. Keep track of trending topics

I learnt in this course, how keeping track of the trending topic is a part of good social marketing strategy. Especially we should keep track of the topics related to our brand, company, domain, position and surroundings. Internet marketing managers not only take advantage of any trending topic in their favour but also control the damage if some trend starts which is not favourable to their brand. I experienced this in our project for rFactr where one post “Is The Road To Revenue Through Employee Advocacy?” got maximum engagement on both Twitter as well as Facebook.

  1. Use of hashtags

I never paid attention to the hasgtags before attending this course. The use of hashtags is very important in twitter as they can greatly expand a tweet’s reach. The use of several hashtags in a message can be annoying also but 1-3 hashtags are good to use in any tweet. Now I started using hashtags in my personal twitter account.

  1. Consistency and perseverance

Consistency is very important in promoting your brand on social media or blog. Followers and readers start expecting the same tone and character in your posts. I have now made a habit of posting twice a week on my blog.

  1. Live-streaming

The preference of online media channel based on business type (B2B Vs B2C) was very interesting to learn. I felt so outdated when learned about Blab, Periscope and Meerkat. first time in the class. Since then I have participated in one online discussions on Blab. I am excited to learn more by using these platform and made an entry in my to-do list. I am most interested to explore Blab more, where I can participate in panel discussions.

  1. bit.ly

We used bit.ly to get good analytics of contents I posted on social media. Again this is the first time we used bit.ly which gives very good analytics.

10. Social Media Management Tool

I never used any social media management tool in my life. We used SocialPort, provided by our client rFactr to schedule contents on four social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and google+. I learnt how to use a tool to schedule all the posts on different social media from one centralized place. Since we used a demo version, we could not use the analytics provided by socialPort but learnt how to manage social media from such tools. I also learnt how to achieve same results by using HootSuit which many of my colleagues used in the BAMA513.

11. Client Presentation

At the end of the project, we presented our work to Julio Viskovich, VP Marketing at rFactr and got very good insights from him. While his feedback was very encouraging, he also suggested, what we could have tried to maximize our learnings.

Overall, I learned a lot in this course and think this course is a must for all managers and management student. Thanks to Julio and Sauder for having this course as part of MBA program.

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10 Social Media Marketing Trends to Watch Out

With 4 more weeks to welcome 2016, Social Media trend forecasting season is on. While internet marketing pundits are busy in providing many specific trends to watch for next year, here are some trends in this year’s radar.

It’s always good to keep these trends in mind when planning your budget for the coming year or making strategies for new projects and events. You can always play it safe and assume for the most part things will stay the same. Till the trends for 2015 are published and 2016 are forecasted, this infographic may help you in planning ahead for next year.

The infographic (click to zoom):

10 Social Media Marketing Trends to Watch Out this 2015 (Infographic) - An Infographic from CJG Digital Marketing

Embedded from CJG Digital Marketing

Infographic embedded and published originally from CJG Digital Marketing.

6 Tips of Collaborative Content Marketing

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Two complimentary brands collaborate to create contents together which may be of interest to the audience of both brands. The “collaborative content” is mutually beneficial and one of the biggest benefits of co-producing content is having access to each other’s audiences. The sharing of resources to increase leads, brand value and influence on audience became easier with the loads of content sharing options on internet.

Big brands like Playboy and Red Bull created some collaborative content recently with great success where Red Bull’s Danny MacAskill performs stunts on Playboy’s mansion’s grounds with the familiar playboy bunny’s that enforces Playboy’s brand message about luxury lifestyle. Action, adventure and deeds of daring are all part of RedBull brand message. The key here for both brands is presenting both the messages in an indirect but engaging way to not only entertain their audiences but was guaranteed to be shared by them.

After researching and following this space for quite some time, I am giving 7 tips for successful collaborative content marketing.

1. Find the right brand to collaborate with
The first step is obviously to find the right partner brand which is complementary, has some audience and the value proposition and perceived value of two brands is much higher

2. Choose the right media channels
Every channel offers its own merits. Think what media channels appeals to your audience most and where do they spend time. Do they watch you tube channels more or they read blogs. Depending on the channel you need to co-create your contents.

3. No Self Promotion of either brand
It is advisable that you stay away from self promotion of either of the brands. If the contents are interesting and non-commercial then your audience will most likely share it and make it viral.

4. Have clear association with both brands
Make sure that the contents has a very clear association with the values of both the brands and the relationship between the brands is visible.

5. Audience Targeting
There has to be a match between the contents and the audience to which the content has to be delivered. The audience of both the brands is different and the contents are addressing the common interest then Collaborative marketing may fail.

6. Brand Relevance
Even though the contents are non commercial, it still must have brand relevance. It can reinforce the emotions and associations you want people to have with your brand without being too pushy.

The Collaborative Content Marketing is a win-win situation for both the brands. If you are a startup but think that you complement a big brand then you can probably reach out to them. There are many success stories of collaboration between startups and big brand. What you need is a strong value proposition and a compelling story!

7 chanllenges in starting a services business

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Services business is easy to start mainly because it is primarily dependent on skills and a can be started by a small group of people or even by a solo entrepreneur. More over in many cases it doesn’t require huge investment in the beginning. Unlike in products business which requires several iterations of prototyping and hence resources to create a minimum viable product, creating a minimal viable service is easy and quick. However there are some challenges in starting a services business. Lets look at them.

Funding_31. Funding
Its hard to get funding for services business since it is hard to grow beyond small. The one very important criteria investors look for before funding any business is scalability.

 

 

customer-support2. Customer Support
Unlike in products business, in services business, you need customer support from the very first day. Which means, replying to customer’s e-mail promptly and answering their incoming calls immediately need resources. Thanks to lots of outsourcing options available but you as an entrepreneur need to keep it your top most priority.

e_reputation_icon3. Reputation
Services business runs on reputation, referrals and reviews. No matter what it takes, you have to keep your reputation high all the time. Businesses give their initial customers a huge discount to get the relationship going. Sometimes they even work for free to build the reputation, earn referrals and testimonials.

download4. Repeat Business
Keeping your existing clients is way cheaper and easier than finding new ones. Customers are tempted to try different service providers in the the same space. After all who eats in the same restaurant everyday? You need to find a way to engage your customers and eventually make them loyal to you. You also need to differentiate from your competitors through strong value proposition and positioning. Its always better to focus on the niche rather than offering boutique of services. For start-ups, breadth is not as important as depth.

spending-money-you-dont-have5. Overspending on marketing
Marketing is the biggest expenditure in any services business. Initially its difficult to clearly identify your target customer segment. Even carefully done market surveys and customer segmentation sometimes don’t help in identifying the right customers and businesses spent huge money on marketing to wrong customers.

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6. Overcommitting and under-delivering
In order to differentiate from competitors, many businesses end up over committing. Setting customer’s expectations is one of the biggest challenges startups face.

establishing-online-presence-7. Strong online presence
Its difficult to improve your Alexa rating and keep you SEO optimized. Once again operating in the niche is one of the best strategies to keep yourself visible in online space. If they can’t find you, they can’t buy from you.

 

If you address these challenges in your business plan and marketing strategy, you can definitely improve your chances to succeed. Please comment if I missed any point that you think is a big challenge in starting a services business.

5 important aspects of Social Media Strategy for Startups

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Social Media Strategy

With the evolution of social media marketing, it is now mandatory to have an online presence. The days of forced TV commercials are already over. People even read news online and follow their interests through RSS feed. Specially for startups, traditional promotions are too expensive to spend money on. Lets see what are the important aspects of Social Media Marketing Strategy.

1. Know your target audience
The first step of any marketing initiative is to know your target audience. The demographic information about your customer segment will help you not only choosing the right social media channel but also creating meaningful contents. For example, if you are into B2B business then the channels like LinkedIn and SlideShare are something you should focus on. But if you are in the business of women appearals, then channels like pinterest and instagram are more suitable for your campaigns.

2. Content is king
Unlike traditional media, contents on social media may go viral and it may impact your business in both positive as well as negative sense. With little research, you can know what keeps your target audience engaged. What kind of contents generate more retweets, shares and likes. See the facebook walls of your target audience, examine what they like to share and retweet and what Youtube videos have maximum no of views with positive comments. What blogs are popular in your target customer segment.

3. Manage you social media
An average american spends 40 minutes per day on facebook and 10 minutes on LinkedIn. In order to make you post visible to your target audience, you must know what time of the day, they are most active on facebook. Please do consider the differences in timezone. While a user may be active on facebook in the evening, the same use may be active on LinkedIn during office hours. For some users social media is the best time pass during commuting to work in public transport. Keeping track of all the social media may tricky and unmanageable for startups.

Average_time_spent_on_social_media

Fortunately, there are plenty of tools so you can update and monitor all of your accounts in one convenient location. Some of the greatest tools are HootSuite, rFactr, Sprout Social and Bitly. You can choose the tool that meet your needs for example rFact is better in B2B.

4. Keep an eye on Analytics
To market successfully on internet, you must define and measure your activities on social media. While most of the social media platforms provide their own analytics, social media management tools provide you consolidated view and you can instantly know the penetrations and success of your posts. You can truly measure the ROI and your ad spend on social media.
5. Keep a watch on competitive landscape and comments from users
One of the most important activity of social marketing is that you need to respond quickly to the comments and critics and take action. Startups can not afford negative publicity done by competitors or irritated consumers.
If you don’t have a social media strategy then you don’t have a detailed marketing strategy and you might be leaving money on the table. The only way to build a solid social marketing strategy is through experiments. You might have to experiment with contents, media type, posting schedule and choice of platform for initial few weeks or months before you can make a solid strategy.

 

3 Steps to find your Startup Idea

pen-idea-bulb-paperThe first step to build a successful startup is to find the idea for a product or service that you will use to build your business around. The idea generation is a strategic process and rather than just following you gut, if you follow the process, you can maximize your chances of success. It involves 5 steps; let’s take a look.

  1. Identify what you like to do and what you are great at

The first step is identify what you like to do and what you are passionate about. Everybody is good at something. Don’t say that you are passionate about making money. It can be something you like to do whenever ever you get an opportunity even for free or for fun. This requires some introspection and review of your achievements and failures. Think about the situations where you have had your highest level of energy. Pen down your thoughts, make a list, talk to your friends and family and talk to yourself.

2. Think about the market

All right, so you have prepared your list. Now go through your list items one by one. Think what problems you can solve by commercializing your idea. This is time taking and needs some research. Please do not depend on Google alone for your research however you can get loads of meaningful information from Google. Think about your target audience and reach out to people. Talk to people who represent your target customers. Interview strangers and try to empathize their pains. Remember, almost every problem can be solved locally. At this point don’t worry about the competition. Doesn’t matter how unique you think your idea is, somebody, somewhere in the world must have already thought about it. The success of business doesn’t depend on the idea but on execution. Last but not the least, do talk to experts and influencers who operated in the same or related business. Try to get an early feedback and then evolve.

3. Print the canvas

Take a print of Business Model Canvas (thanks to Alexander Osterwalder) and start filling all the sections. Paint the canvas blue and red till you are satisfied that you have completed all the sections. The B-Model canvas forces you to think about all the important element of a business such as your Customer Segments, Value Propositions, Key Business Activities, Partners, Distribution Channels, Key Resources, Cost Structure and Revenue Stream.

Business Model Canvas

Business Model Canvas

Right items that are supported by data and research in blue and items based on gut feeling in Blue. Keep on iterating and saving the versions till all red items convert into blue. Every version backed by new data and new research. Once you are reasonably satisfied with your B-Model canvas, you are ready with your big idea.

Finding your big idea is just the first step to creating a startup. Now you are ready with an idea that you can pitch to potential partners, advisors, investors and even early adopter customers. All the best for your startup.

The Victims of Disruptive Innovation

better_faster_cheaper

So far, many successful companies have been the victims of disruptive innovation. Disruptive Innovation isn’t about being wily or cunning, it is about passion and privation. Clayton Christensen of Harward Business School coined the term “Disruptive Innovation” in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma and since then it is widely used to describe an innovation challenge companies face internally and externally. A disruptive innovation is cheaper than the existing version and initially not as good but for established players, this poses a challenge, sometimes huge. A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. Let’s take a look, why do successful companies fail?

The companies who are market leaders, have a huge customer base, have great management team and spend heavily in R&D, fail to realize the power of disruptive innovation of start-ups and small companies. Acclaimed Prof. Tim Silk of Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, gives the analogy of Titanic while explaining the concept. He says that the craft which was designed to be virtually unsinkable and had one of the best talent of the industry on board failed to spot the iceberg on time, underestimated the size of the iceberg and took too much time to maneuver. Disruptive innovation is like the tip of the iceberg, established and successful companies fail to see, estimate and maneuver on time.

The two classical victims of disruptive innovation are:

The Kodak Case

For nearly a century, Kodak’s business model was based on silver halide film and paper. Sell cameras and filming equipment and keep on earning though films for the lifetime of the equipment. Professional photographers and movie makers could not imagine the work without Kodak. It accounted for 90% of film and 85% of camera sales in 1976 and employed 145,000 in 1988. Despite having invented the core technology used in current digital cameras, Kodak always thought that Film would co-exist with digital. Although Kodak developed world’s first digital camera in 1975, the product was dropped for the fear that it would threaten its highly profitable photographic film business.

Kodak-film-roll

Consumers gradually switched to digital offerings from companies like Sony and total sales of digital cameras surpassed those of analog cameras for the first time in 2002, where there were only five major players and Kodak’s market share in digital cameras was less than 25%.  Its business model was heavily dependent on films and less on the equipment. Even after sensing the digital wave, it avoided risky decisions and maintained status quo. The change came in too late in 2003 and by that time it had already lost the market leader position. For Kodak, it was hard to believe in something that was not as profitable as films. As a senior vice president and director at Kodak said,

“We’re moving into an information based company, but it’s very hard to find anything with profit margins like color photography that is legal”.

Sony was leading the market of digital cameras though it started with its first digital camera only in 1981. Digital age necessitated a revolutionary change but Kodak did it too slowly and too late. In January 2012, Kodak filed for chapter 11 and the success story of great technology company and market leader met a tragic end.

The Blockbuster Case

In 2000, Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix, proposed a partnership to John Antioco, the CEO of Blockbuster. Hastings proposed to take Blockbuster online and Blockbuster could promote Netflix in its stores. Antioco turned down a chance to purchase the still fledging Netflix for $50 million. As of October 2015, Netflix reported 69.17 million subscribers worldwide, including more than 43 million in the U.S. Netflix is now $30 billion Company.

blockbuster-closing

When Antioco turned down Hastings’ proposal, Blockbuster was ruling the video rental industry and charging late fees to customer was their profitable business model. Penalizing its loyal customer was acceptable to people because there was no competition. Since Netflix didn’t have to operate expensive retail stores at up scale locations and didn’t have to hire as many employees to front end consumers, it could afford to lower down the cost, offer a wider variety and customers could watch a video as long as they wanted or return it and get a new one.  On top of that, through streaming they could watch online without even waiting for the video to arrive in their mailbox. They were leading the innovation in video rental industry.

Although Blockbuster also started rentals-by-mail and streaming services in order to compete with Netflix, their value proposition was not strong enough and they couldn’t start the service soon enough. The disruptive innovation of Netflix killed Blockbuster and forced the later to file chapter 11 in 2010.

There are lot of victims of disruptive innovation. Please contribute to the list and share stories!

Book Review: Open Leadership – How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead

open-leadership

Title: Open Leadership – How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead
Author: Charlene Li
Publication: San Francisco, A Wiley Imprint, 2010
Edition: 1st
Number of pages: 311
Cost: $33.95 CAD

 

Introduction

The world was never connected before the way it is connected now through various social media technologies. Ideas, promotions and information flow faster and as a result consumers trust more on the feedback of other consumers than the information provided by organizations. Business leaders need to continuously revise their social media strategies where consumers broadcast their experience at run time which is shared multi fold before even leaders get the time to react.  The book “Open Leadership” is all about how to exploit social media technologies for better decision making and be open while maintaining control.

Review

I was fortunate to loan an electronic copy of “Open Leadership – How Social Technology can transform the way you lead” authored by Charlene Li from UBC Library for 14 days and just finished reading the book on my Adobe Digital Editions 4.5 App. I think this book is a must read for internet marketing enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, marketing executives and strategists. In this article, I will provide a review of the book and its main highlights.

The book beautify explains how social media is changing the consumer behaviour and what leaders need to do to address new business challenges thrown by fast adoption of social media. The evolution of social media is a paradigm shift in how consumers and prospects communicate with each other and with organisations. The book provides a wonderful framework for developing a social media strategy in this connected word. Li says:

“Problems that once were resolved through private channels like phone calls and emails are now played out in public. You never could control what people said over their backyard fences about your brand, you company, or your management style, but until recently the public impact tended to be minimal.”

Li had quoted stories from many companies across the globe and redefines the word “Openness”. The openness is not about the transparency in the organization. She defines openness as leadership strategy to giving up control while still maintaining control within boundaries. She starts the book with an example of how saving $1200 costed United Airlines over 7 million negative reviews on youTube. A musician’s guitar broke during unloading of luggage in United Airlines and when after 7 months of pursuing, Airlines refused to compensate, he composed a music video and uploaded on YouTube. To do the damage control, United Airlines had to revise their social media strategy. It’s a famous case widely discussed in top business schools. Prof. Julio Viskovich of Sauder School of Business says “Paid media is Jester, owned media is queen but earned media is the King when he quotes the example of United Airlines.

The author explains that companies need to realize that they need to give up control as with the evolution of social technologies, the power has shifted to consumers where they have ability to broadcast their views to the world because of three trends. The online presence of people is growing, all internet users use social sites and there is a rise in culture of sharing as sharing online is getting faster, cheaper and easier. She advises that the biggest indicator of success has been an open mind-set — The ability to let go control at the right time, in the right place, and in the right amount. By letting go the control, you can actually regain some semblance of control. The act of engaging with people, of accepting that they have power, can actually put you in a position to counter negative behaviour.

The book is beautifully structured into three sections. Section one talks about why giving up control is inevitable and what are ten characteristics of being open. Section two explains how to create strategies of openness, what the benefits are and how to measure the value of being open. Part three talks about the skills leaders need to develop for openness and how organizations like Dell have transformed by openness.

What I liked the most about this book is that it is packed with solid case studies from for profit and not for profit organizations. It doesn’t just provide you a plain theory about management strategy but gives you solid frameworks to build your own strategy and then check-lists and questionnaire so that you can evaluate your openness and then guides you through the action plan. The real stories presented in the book emphasize the importance of the feedback loop between entities and stakeholders in a business.

Most leaders think that social media strategy means creating a Facebook and twitter page, start promotions and flow of information. Li emphasizes that Social strategy includes internal business transformation at the functional level. Organizations need a quick access to information and response to people outside the organization at a speed which can match the speed of information flow. This is not possible without internal efficiencies and openness.

Li introduces the concept of Structuring openness with “Sandbox Covenants”. She derived the term from playground sandbox metaphor. On one hand, there are clearly defined boundaries to the sandbox and within those boundaries, it’s a safe place to play. She urges to put in place the policies, processes, and procedures that will help in managing openness so that openness doesn’t feel risky. Different teams will have bigger or smaller sandboxes depending on what they are trying to accomplish and the roles people play inside of the team. She supported her framework with the examples of sandboxes of companies like Microsoft and Zappos.

Li delineates the result of new relationships in open leadership as:

“Having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals”

Following are five rules of Open Leadership:

  1. Respect that your customers and employees have power
  2. Share constantly to build trust
  3. Nurture curiosity and humility
  4. Hold openness accountable
  5. Forgive failure

The book doesn’t only guides through step by step strategies for social media through well defined framework but also demonstrates how to calculate the ROI from social media activities and presents three popular organizational models of openness. However its difficult to summarize the review of such a thoughtful book in one page, I think this book is a must read for C-suite executives as this can definitely enable them to see if their social media strategy and internal structure is aligned with the values of their organization.

Additional Resources:

  1. Charlene Li
  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2w6j1g04XB8