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Wednesday, 02 October 2013 10:26

Schedule your digital marketing for maximum impact

Digital marketing is becoming an increasingly important part of the marketing mix. And whether you’re using email marketing, content marketing, social media (or any other form of digital marketing) it’s still relatively new and there’s a lot to absorb. So advice on how to schedule activity for maximum impact could be useful.


Best times to BlogThis infographic by highlights peak times for posting online, and I thought it might offer some useful insights. But then I started to ask a few questions: Are peak times the same in South Africa as in the USA? What are the demographics of the sample? Are my target market’s habits likely to conform?


There is no quick answer. These “best times” can’t be definitive. As Dan points out himself, they may be based on vast numbers of research results, but they are just generalisations. You need to test your audience to see what works best for them.


Take, for example, the 11 pm peak shown here. People use their mobile devices to go online at home, on the couch and in bed; that we know. We also know that many people check their email last thing at night. So I’m very happy to accept that there could be a spike at around 11pm. That’s bedtime for a lot of people.


But if your market is older, younger or in training for a big sports event, posting that late could mean you miss your mark, that they’ve been in bed for hours.


I’ve never suffered from insomnia and I’m not a student, so I can’t imagine being up and online at 2am, but that’s just me. Your target market won’t necessarily share my habits. But if they do, posting your article at 2am won’t help your visibility. On the other hand, if you’re targeting 22-year olds in the entertainment industry, this might be your prime time.


The peak of interest between 8 and 9am, on the other hand, seemed to make perfect sense.   I know the productivity experts tell you not to check your email first thing – they’ll tell you this let’s other people’s priorities drive yours. That’s all very well and good, but it’s my job to worry about your priorities - I’m in the service industry! So I usually check my emails first thing. Then I catch up on an online newspaper and social media.


You, on the other hand, may take one look at your early morning inbox and simply hit the delete button repeatedly, missing any alerts to new articles.


Two weeks ago I posted an article first thing in the morning, and the response wasn’t good at all. In fact, it was the worst response I’ve had in ages. Not a single comment. (Of course, it might just have been the article! If you missed it, please and let me know if it wasn’t up to standard. I thought it was packed full of valuable information, but maybe I got it wrong. Or maybe the timing just wasn’t right.)


The moral of the story is that you need to test what works for your specific target market. Your target isn’t an amorphous blend of statistics and you need to discover how best to reach them.


This isn’t a new insight; it’s marketing 101. So it would be naïve to expect a quick and easy answer when it comes to online marketing. There may be some general guidelines, but your target market will respond to you in way that defies broad generalisation. Make sure you know what they’re looking for, and when they might be looking for it.


Just by the way, today I found more research that cites afternoons as the best times to post. They argue that traffic starts to increase around 9 am but it’s better to wait until 11am to post. They also suggest that traffic fades from 4pm and you shouldn’t post at night between 8pm and 8am. In other words, it completely conflicts with the original research. I wonder who the sample was for this research.


This doesn’t mean that either research is flawed; it just underscores the fact that there is no definitive answer. Take an informed view of who your target market is, when they might be most likely to engage online, then test and measure your results and adjust your programme accordingly. Customise your activity for your particular market.


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Published in Online
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 10:18

Understanding Digital PR

Understanding Digital PR

Digital PR strategy has become a vital area of expertise for any leading PR firm, but for many brand and product managers the understanding of what exactly digital PR is, remains a point of confusion. More often than not, the first link people make is to social media, but social media marketing is not digital PR and understanding the difference is extremely important to ensure the successful implementation of a digital strategy.


“Simply put, digital PR is building presence on the internet and managing online reputation for brands and businesses. This can be done through various means such as social media, websites, blogging, and online media coverage ,” says Lucinda Boddy, Managing Director of Livewired PR. She explains that PR practitioners have a number of different resources at their disposal when it comes to building a brand’s online reputation, and that social media forms an important part of this mix, but does certainly not define it.   


Looking at the top digital PR tools, search engine optimisation (SEO) is one of the most effective. “The objective of SEO is to improve a brand or company’s search visibility,” explains Boddy, “this is done through the creation of compelling content in the form of press releases, blogs, audio and visual clips, and the like, in which key search words have been strategically included.” Ultimately, SEO assists brands to build their online reputation and widen their reach.


As we’ve already mentioned, social media forms an integral part of a digital PR campaign. The main objective of social media marketing is to initiate positive interactions with consumers and if possible influential online personalities. It involves the development of online content that emphasises positive news around the brand, minimising the effect of negative publicity. However, as Boddy warns, there needs to be a significant amount of brand transparency and integrity when it comes to social media, as users will quickly pick up on content that is not authentic.


“Blogging is another way to develop a greater online following,” maintains Boddy. “Companies that post their own blogs, develop a platform from which they can disseminate relevant content and in doing so, increase their search engine ranking.” 


Amongst any brand’s digital assets are video, audio and podcasts. A different format in which to produce interesting and relevant content, they too are helpful in the establishment of a greater online presence and improved search ranking. “Submitting assets such as these to socially interactive sites only increases your brand’s number of entry points on the web,” adds Boddy.


Lastly, it’s important to make use of online tools that help to monitor the brand’s online image. These come in the form of Google Alerts, Social Mention and Twitter which are designed to bring any mention of your brand or company name to your attention. “Not only are these tools effective in helping you to counteract negative publicity quickly and effectively, but also to identify potential brand ambassadors,” says Boddy.


The skills, tactics and strategy which are used in digital PR are not all that different to those used in more traditional PR, and in fact they both involve  creative, interesting content that communicates the brands key messaging to their target audience. It is important to understand which platforms are best utilised to meet your objectives and how they are most effectively implemented.


Published in PR & Communications
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 11:08

Social Media made Practical

Social Media made Practical

Social Media is the new black. Every marketing guru on the planet is now an expert on Social Media strategies, and corporate players everywhere are scrambling to get their twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook pages rocking. If Facebook was a country, by now it would be the third most populated country in the world! It’s clearly a wave not to be missed.

In the face of some organisations actually banning social networking sites from corporate networks, and using them only for client interactions, I think there may be a bit of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I’m an early adopter of things and have had great fun playing around with all the cool stuff over the past few years. But as a business leader, I’ve also had to get my head around what to use and what not to use – which tools would be worth investing time and headspace on, in order to positively impact our business results.

I hate to use new social media stuff unless I can actually find practical uses for them – I must confess, I actually resisted building a company website in the old days because I just could not see the reason for it! We were out there, building strong relationships with our clients: why on earth would we create a website?? Of course, that’s laughable now! No website today means you don’t actually exist as a company to take seriously. So believe me when I say that each of the approaches I will spell out to you now, I have engaged with very practically, and it actually works for me.


I was a really early adopter here. In fact, when we finally created our website in 2006, we set it up as a blog (before most people knew what it meant). We have had brilliant feedback on it over the years. Its ‘make as you go’ format has allowed us to have a 6-year ongoing conversation with our clients . And because any Avo can blog, it has also represented our brand very powerfully to the world. On many occasions, people have said to me that our website blog has been a perfect representation of our brand – the ‘feel ‘of the site is the same as the ‘feel’ of our company as you walk in the gate.

In the blog we have been able to be current, voice opinions, engage in online conversations and grow our thought leadership, as well as market our thinking to the world. In true social media spirit, we have also never edited conversations on the blog (other than the odd spelling error). We train people to have effective conversations, and the online conversations we have with the world are an extension of that: the ‘realness’ of the conversation is part of our value set.


Besides the odd frustration in dropped calls, Skype has revolutionised the way we engage as a team. It has freed up our consultants work virtually: on client sites, from home, overseas, enabling a much higher level of work-life balance, and employee engagement. It’s the one service available wherever we go, so long as there is internet access. And we can have group conversations.

Practically, we have a few rules to make the most of this medium: we use voice rather than the video option as South Africa’s bandwidth just struggles with multiple video inputs. We decide as a team when our meetings will be skype-based, and then EVERYONE attends via skype. It’s hard to have some people in a room, and some on skype at another venue. Invariably, people get left out of conversations or can’t hear the ‘tone’ of comments. If everyone is on skype independently, then different protocols are used in managing who speaks when, and the communication is more effective.


Part of the work we do is training in every nook and cranny of South Africa. Our trainers live in remote areas, and we very seldom get to see them in the flesh. It’s hard to maintain a sense of connection and culture when our interactions by phone and email are so very operational.

Then we realised that the vast majority of our community trainers are avid facebookers. So we built an ‘in-house’ facebook page, only to be viewed and accessed by our community, and voila! Suddenly we are all having playful and serious online interactions that are building a whole new level of connectedness. Our trainers don’t have much access to technology out there, but the facebook cellphone access is something most people have. They’re uploading photographs of training events happening in the field, posting stories of successes and failures; celebrating each other’s posts, and teasing each other, and head office staff, about stuff that happens. We’re suddenly a team, whereas before we were a Head Office vs Field trainer team. Facebook helped us find our common ground.


I don’t think we’re using this well enough yet. We’re looking at creating ‘learning groups’ that work in twitter communities as a way of energising people, connecting them to common learning experiences, and allowing them to debate issues that connect them more to the learning they’re experiencing.


For the uninitiated, Pinterest is a social networking site though pictures. Once you’re a member, you can populate your pin boards with photos of stuff you like, either uploading your own pics, or ‘repinning’ other people’s pics that you find on the site. I must confess that , at the moment, Pinterest is a ‘visual stimulation’ escape tool for me. Between emails, proposals and meetings, I love to go and browse through the general pictures to find pics I like. They soothe and calm me, and also stimulate my creative brain so I’m fresh and ready for my next task.
I see the possibility of capturing all the photos we use in a photo library that my team would be able to access easily online for when they’re making powerpoint presentations or proposals. But we’d have to figure how to protect out pics so they don’t go all over the internet.


This is a great tool for teams who need to collaborate on documents. We create an online folder, and then upload all ‘communal’ documents. These can be updated, amended and accessed 24/7, and having them on dropbox means that everyone always has access to the most recent document. It’s much more effective than emailing documents around: invariably, someone ends up with the wrong one. And dropbox folders are access controlled, so only people that have been invited can see the documents in the folder.

Every one of these social networking tools has worked to make our operation more effective, and contributed to the success and growth of our company. I strongly recommend that leaders not be too hasty to ban employees from using social networking tools at work: committed employees will find ways to use the tools to build value, rather than waste company time. I believe its worth the risk.

Published in Online
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