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Reciprocity between users is a core principle of social media, users are constantly trading social capital in the form of likes, follows, retweets etc. thereby spreading content they see as valuable to them. But for brands, capitalizing on this earned social capital and converting it to sales is a delicate process that is constantly evolving. Users are generally willing to consume branded content containing a tasteful amount of sales messaging. However overdoing it in this regard is seen as a violation of trust that can quickly result in an unfollow and swift end to the brand-user relationship. Brands essentially must fulfill their unspoken quota of supplying valuable or entertaining content (ideally both) to their audience and in exchange are granted permission to promote their agenda, which most often will be sales. This is content marketing 101. In the digital popularity contests that are most social platforms, brands are often regarded as the ugly ducklings, with users more hesitant to follow and engage with their content in comparison to other profiles. There is a constant underlying scepticism that generally permeates the brand to user social media relationship and it goes something like this “Okay (Brand X) you seem cool I guess, with your engaging value driven content and acceptable level of sales promotion, I will follow you. But I still suspect one day you will turn on me and send me spiralling down your dreaded sales funnel!”. There are obviously exceptions to this rule, many high profile brands with loyal followings will attract and retain core audiences to a point, but reaching that less invested user and cultivating a sales relationship with them from scratch can be a complicated and often tedious long term proposition. For low profile brands and start-ups especially, this is an incredibly daunting scenario. Producing high quality, remarkable digital content is frequently at the mercy of time and budget constraints. For the aforementioned small brands these challenges can be extremely difficult to overcome and result in a poor social media presence that does not add value to user timelines or the bottom line of the brand. Lack of creativity is the most common culprit here, without the resources to create compelling content, brands too often resort to a steady stream of boring sales pitches with no incentive for user engagement or discussion. For brands struggling to consistently produce high quality production heavy content, things like contests & giveaways can serve as cost effective vehicles for audience growth and provide value to followers but transparency with these is key. Winners need to be prominently showcased to ensure users know their spent social capital is not a waste. Brands most often stumble in the sales process when they fail to understand and respect the rules of promotion in the digital space. Users carry all the power in this relationship and delivering them consistent value in return for their attention is essential. Your social sales strategy must at all times respect this paradigm and repeatedly demonstrate an awareness of it. It is then and only then that users will begin trust the brand in question and consider giving consent to enter its sales funnel through email sign-up or other form. Sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it? Well sorry to say, this was the easy part. Completing the process with a sales conversion is a whole new challenge, which in almost all cases demands the delicate transition of guiding the user gently to your website or external e-commerce solution through a well designed user experience, but that is a topic for another day. Be sure to check out Ashu Avasthi of LinkedIn at this year’s Digital Media Summit as he gets in depth with how social media has fundamentally changed the selling process and gives useful tips and best practices that will help convert your social media audience into paying customers! Chris Giles is a freelance digital marketing strategist and Digital Media Coordinator at Niagara Parks. Follow him on Twitter @chrisgiles87   More
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Last Updated on Friday, 10 February 2017 04:31
How many articles have you read about understanding the millennial generation? There is no shortage of information about who we are, but there is a great deal to be said about how that affects your marketing strategy. Forget that we represent roughly 50% of all bloggers, or that we now represent the majority of the workforce. Millennials now represent $200 billion in annual buying power and that number is only increasing. You don’t need to understand us so you can give your office millennial a fist-bump in the hall way, you need to understand us because we make up more and more of your bottom line. Here are the top three things you need to remember when selling to the millennial generation: #1 Your grand-daddy’s ads don’t work on us. Only 1% of millennials said that a compelling ad would make them trust a brand more (and we know how important trust is to millennials). Part of that is volume – we’re exposed to well over 2,000 ads a day and we know now from Buzzfeed articles (and other equally credible sources we get our news from) that most of them are trying to show us an ideal state. So, we put up a wall. It comes in the form of a PVR to skip ads on television, or browser plugins to avoid ads on YouTube. We know the ways you’re used to advertising to us, and we’re taking measures to get around it. If you’re skeptical: ask a millennial how many t.v. shows they watch? Then ask them how many of those are actually on a live television set. Point being: try something new if you want to break-through. #2 We’re not slacking, but we are lagging. 61% of millennials admit they can’t afford a house. The fact is, the economy has left many of us in our parents’ homes, with debt and underemployment rampant. What does this mean? All of the major milestones that our parents achieved in their 20s such as marriage and having kids, are happening later in life to us. So when you’re putting up the ad about empowering the 25 year old whose career has taken off, know that resonates with far fewer of us than it would have with you. #3 We trust reviews, but not all of them. 33% of millennials rely on blogs before making a purchase. And you’ve probably heard this contrasted against the fewer than 3% who refer to TV news, magazines and books. But that doesn’t mean we trust all reviews because they’re online. We’re well-aware you can pay for positive reviews on your products, and many of you do. This is why we hold endorsements that come from our personal networks in high regard. That’s why Facebook pages show which friends have ‘liked’ before the overall number, and why Twitter accounts show users who you follow that also follow a third party. Prioritize testimonials and authentic reviews if you want to break through and create that 1:1 effect with millennials. Want to learn more about marketing to millennials? CEO and bestselling author, Shama Hyder will be discussing strategies and approaches you need to reach the millennial market including how we think and what we expect from companies. Register here. Read more from Adam Rodricks via his blog: More
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Last Updated on Wednesday, 4 May 2016 10:45
One question you hear a lot in digital media has to do with advice: in a world where over 100,000 Twitter accounts identify themselves as “social media gurus”, how do you know who to listen to? The answer is to stop looking to individuals who boast their expertise, and focus instead on gatherings of professionals. If you’re based in Toronto, here are the top 5 reasons to attend this year’s Digital Media Summit. Get Tips On LinkedIn from LinkedIn If there’s one keynote I’m looking forward to more than any other at this year’s Digital Media Summit, it’s Jason Miller’s ‘How to Achieve Face-Melting Content Marketing ROI’. The senior manager of content marketing and social media didn’t say he’d say “good” metrics, or “great” results, he said face-melting ROI. LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools in a social media marketer’s arsenal, and regardless of your industry, your company page and profiles are of the utmost importance to business development. Jason will share real world examples and real time results which will generate the very thing I go to conferences like this for: actionable takeaways. Get Insights Your Vendors Won’t Tell You When it comes to social media services, software and support, there is no shortage of vendors in the space. It can be hard determining which is really right for your business, and how many of those bells and whistles you’re going to take advantage of on a regular basis. Polling your colleagues is one of the best ways to learn about new technology, and how they’re getting around common pain points. We can’t blame vendors for selling us a pretty picture, but we have to be smarter with our marketing dollars to drive results. Understand Crisis Management Before You Need To One of the top searches on my website is “what to do in social media crisis”. I wonder how many of these proactive queries rather than someone under fire are in the moment. In any case, it’s a great idea to have an understanding of how to handle a social media crisis before you’re faced with one. This panel headlined by leaders at Microsoft, Royal Caribbean Cruises and MLSE will shed some much needed light on the topic, from brands that have fought the good fight from the trenches. Up Your Native Advertising IQ Having worked at Canada’s largest daily newspaper for the past year leading a division from a Digital Strategy perspective, I can tell you that “native advertising” has gone from a buzz word, to one of the most heavily debated content marketing topics today. Whether you’re for or against it and how it’s being used, there has never been more need to understand what native advertising is, and how sites like Buzzfeed are harnessing its power to super-charge their content strategies. If you work in the traditional media space, this is a must-attend. Get Connected to Each Other By far my favourite part of attending events like this is engaging with my peers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown my hands up in the air upon hearing a fellow Social Media Manager shares my pain in some way. The bottom line is: events like these open doors and start conversations that you would otherwise never have. It is information-sharing in its purest form, and I’ve taken away (and implemented) many ‘work hacks’ from chatting with my industry peers. A good amount of us even keep the conversation going long after, and look for similar events where we can once again reconnect. Social media is a tough space to work in: when these candid conversations happen organically online, there’s a good chance someone is trying to sell you something. Use gatherings of your peers to get the advice you need from those who’ve been in your shoes. The Digital Media Summit takes place on May 7th at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto and I hope to see you there! Read more from Adam Rodrick via his blog HERE. More
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Last Updated on Monday, 13 April 2015 01:36

From King Arthur, to Dorothy in her ruby slippers, to the unlikely hero of Professor Robert Langdon inThe Da Vinci Code, legions of characters have found themselves on the quest to uncover the unknown, the solution to the core question of their time. For marketers, the question had fundamentally always been how could an advertisement be crafted so to be so hyper-targeted to a consumer’s wants and needs that it would fundamentally seem as though it were speaking directly to the consumer in question.

And then January 2007 came and Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPhone – a multi-function smartphone that, through a previously unimagined user experience, enabled consumers to interact with the world around them. This was it. This was marketers’ Holy Grail. We salivated thinking of the potential that this handheld device had – one day, we dreamed that we would be able to target consumers directly outside stores with promotions on the products and services that were only footsteps away! How much more personal could we get than to actually speak to consumers based on the precise location they were in? We waited patiently. Slowly over the next years, we walked along the yellow brick road as a critical mass of consumers adopted smartphones (regardless of the platform), a number of publishers converted their desktop sites to usable mobile versions and technology advanced to allow banner ads to be delivered against an individual’s specific latitude/longitude. And then suddenly in 2012, like a perfect storm, it all started to come together as suppliers started to ping me to present how they had cracked the code and were now able to deliver hyper-local targeting.

Without hesitation, I called up a contact at an international retailer and asked whether they’d be interested in running a hyper-local test with us. Without a second thought, we found ourselves deep in the designs of a test construct whereby we were building geo-zones around 5 stores in the Greater Toronto Area. The plan was that, with the help of a market research firm, we would match consumer (demographic) interests to each of the postal codes found in the 5 geo-zones. Next, we would deliver a banner promoting savings on the correlated products outside each of the stores. For 2 weeks, we gleefully pushed millions of impressions to the webpages that smartphone users were generating in and around the retailer’s locations. The result: click-through rates that were moderately above industry benchmarks (0.57% CTR). It felt as though we had finally made it to Emerald City and ripped back the curtains to discover that The Wizard was little more than a really short AV geek.

We struggled with the results for weeks. What could have gone wrong? Did we not buy enough impressions on the mobile exchange? Was our creative not compelling enough? Was our geo-zone too small? Was our geo-zone too big?

While some truth likely lies in each of our doubts, the real problem with our initial test was that we had somehow moved away from what our original intent had been: to deliver ads that the user felt were speaking directly to him/her. The smartphone users that saw our ad already knew where the store locations were and that the products/services offered were priced at unbeatable price points. Our banners added little value to what they already knew or, frankly, against what they wanted to know at that specific time. Suddenly it all made sense. All of the hyper-local targeting suppliers who had been ringing me were going about it all wrong. By pushing brand messaging to consumers outside retail locations, they were assuming that passersby hadn’t seen the flashing branding in the storefront windows. By delivering hyper-targeted messaging within the brick-and-mortar locations, they somehow believed that the small 320×50 mobile ad would somehow deliver more punch than the flashy promotional offers that stood on the tables in front of the consumer. To truly go about mobile targeting differently and add consumer value, we needed to think differently. We needed to start targeting consumers with relevant advertising when and where they would most want and need the advertised offerings.

With this, we developed the notion of “Lifestyle Zones”: targeting audiences of consumers depending on their location but also their motivations given the time of day and their environmental surroundings.  We sent out 5 differentiated creatives that spoke to varying consumer intentions depending on weather and time. Across the board, they delivered substantially higher than the industry benchmark and our previous test. The banner that we sent to Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver’s business districts that nudged consumers to go to the retailer after work to pick up the makings for their dinner that night delivered a 1.03% CTR at 4 p.m. – the exact time and environment when/where consumers were asking themselves what they would eat that night. Likewise, our ad that encouraged consumers to purchase discounted swimwear at the retailer delivered 1.85% CTRs via our hyper-targeted delivery to a small geo-zone built around Canada’s Wonderland, on the hottest day of the year. For full results of our test and our conclusions, download our whitepaper In a Customer State of Mind.

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Last Updated on Friday, 22 March 2013 09:16

A precedent has been set. We are living in the age of participatory media. If we as content creators, producers, production companies and networks want to keep and grow our audiences, we need to stay on top of these changes and develop new ways to further turn viewers into participants.

 In a recent article for TechCrunch, VC at GRP Partners Mark Suster predicts that the future of television will be more participatory than social. Mark suggests that the shift in the industry is moving more towards participation. He uses the most recent viral YouTube meme, ‘The Harlem Shake,’ as an example of how low cost production and storage, along with increasing bandwidth, will drive people to be less passive and more involved in the creation of “television,” whether broadcast or online.

The foundation for participatory media had been established as early as 1982, when Hip-Hop ensemble Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force released a music video comprised mostly of crowdsourced footage. Producers since have integrated fan created media into their content as a way to further engage their audiences. 

In 2011, FOX’s X-Factor supplemented their live broadcast show with an online pre-show and second screen experience. As Producer and Director of the X-Factor Digital Experience, a goal we set for the show was to further build the X-Factor brand in the U.S. while engaging its audience before, during and after the live TV broadcast.

The X-Factor pre-show turned participatory, inviting its audience to Skype live with the hosts of the pre-show and judges of the TV broadcast. Live tweets from fans were read and responded to in real-time. Fans were also encouraged to vote on performance elements, such as wardrobe and song choice, further blurring the line between viewing and contributing. All of this and more was happening not on the “Main Screen,” but on secondary devices such as mobile and tablet. As a result, X-Factor Digital received the greatest social media response of any broadcast in 2011. Over 1000 hours of original content was created yielding nearly 3 billion engagements over the course of 15 weeks.

In the summer of 2011, alternative rock band Incubus took things one step further by giving fans unprecedented access, both online and on-site. IncubusHQ Live was a week long, live stream that invited fans of the band into their rehearsal space for a once in a lifetime experience. Performances, instrument clinics and Q&A’s were conducted for both fans in attendance and viewers tuning in to Various social media interfaces were introduced, including TweetBeam and Viddy, to help create a real-time, personal, global conversation between fans and the band. 

My career is full of experience turning audiences into participants using a variety of techniques and technologies. Amongst all of the participatory experiences that I’ve helped create, there is a single tie that binds: individual storytelling. No matter the means, producers must act as facilitators towards making audiences feel like they are a part of the greater context, regardless of their location or affiliation. In fact, the technology is the easy part. It’s ready and in the hands of willing audiences/creators in the form of smartphones and tablets containing the proper apps. The interest lies in how content producers use these technologies to help tell a story from an individual who contributes with a participatory point of view.

I would love to tell you more about how participatory media has played a part in my role as a storyteller. On Wednesday, March 20th at 2:40pm, I will be speaking on a panel titled Connected Content on Multi Screens and Devices at the Digital Media Summit,  moderated by Ted Cohen, Managing Partner at digital entertainment consulting firm TAG Strategic. I’ll also be presenting a case study of Incubus HQ Live on Thursday, March 21st at 11:50 AM at Canadian Music Week. This project was a real-time participatory documentary and media exhibit created in collaboration with the band. Both sessions are sure to be a lively, insightful discussion on how content creators are furthering the participatory genre. Hope to see you there!

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Last Updated on Friday, 15 March 2013 04:35

For most people, the marriage of music and social media has been a harmonious one. Since the questionably legal early days of MP3 filesharing, the social music industry has matured tremendously, with Spotify, Pandora and iTunes among the more notable success stories.

As social music has evolved, so has social marketing. Getting people to follow, like, pin and buy a brand’s products is now integrated into every smart brand’s strategy, especially brands that target young consumers. With so much content out there, brands strive to cut through the clutter and create an immersive, engaging experience beyond a traditional, one-dimensional print ad. The smartest brands are now putting music to work as part of their social marketing strategy. Here’s how it works.

Most young people like music. And they listen to it a lot. But they are not especially brand loyal, according to a recent study from WSL Retail which found that Millennials (people roughly 18 to 34 years-old) brand hop more than their parents did. They can’t always afford to be loyal: A sale price or a coupon for a competing product is more compelling than a brand name.


Facing this challenge, brands need to figure out how to connect with young consumers in a way that is authentic, powerful, and honest. From the Rolling Stones singing about Rice Krispies to superstar endorsements with Coca-Cola and Pepsi, brands have incorporated music into their traditional advertising campaigns for decades. Now, social music marketing has enabled both brands and bands to find and connect with people in new and compelling ways. It’s not always easy to be loyal to a brand of tissue paper, or to a t-shirt, but once you love a band and its music, it’s hard to undo that.

According to data from William Chipps, author of the IEG Sponsorship report, corporate sponsorship by consumer brands incorporating music into marketing programs was expected to exceed $1.17 billion last year, nearly double what it was six years earlier.

So where are brands investing? The default used to be to sign a big deal with the hottest established artists, think Beyonce and Jay-Z, leveraging their star power to attract consumers. Today, more and more brands are turning to emerging artists so they can deliver something that speaks to the individuality of their consumers. Attaching an artist to branded content is a sure way to guarantee consumers enjoy and remember their experience, and therefore, the brand.

Further, these are the very artists who have the kind of social connectedness that brands are looking for. Emerging artists — who aren’t backed by a label — are by nature entrepreneurial, motivated and skilled at building loyal fan bases through daily communications via social channels like Twitter and Facebook.

Their collective reach is incredibly appealing, according to a study from Music Metric. That's because emerging artists are reaching hundreds of millions of fans who are already engaged and connected with them, and these very fans can activate on behalf of a brand.

So how do you make social music marketing work for your brand? Here’s what has worked for company's like Maurices, Gap, and Diesel. 

  • Push Their Buttons: an “Add This” button was part of every band page for a promotion that clothing store Maurices ran that let consumers and fans vote for a band to perform at SXSW this year. The social button led to an estimated 1.9 million social impressions, in addition to the nearly 150,000 site visits Maurices racked up during the contest.
  • Combine Online and Offline: to celebrate Gap’s 40-year anniversary and “Born to Fit” campaign, nearly 800 artists were selected to play in Gap stores throughout the country – on the same day, at the same time. The campaign was supported with a dedicated micro-site where all of the bands were featured with free music downloads. The viral buzz for the program is to have accounted for nearly 800 million media impressions.
  • Be Irreverent: when the soul of the brand is anti-establishment, the Social Music Marketing program should be, too. Diesel wanted to create a closer connection between Diesel:U:Music, a 10-year-old music support program, and its wildly successful “Be Stupid” campaign. From there came the “Stupid for Music” Cup where emerging bands battled to win prizes like recording sessions and music video production, engaging their fans to go so far as creating fake tattoos to show support. The campaign generated 3,000 pieces of fan-generated content that spread virally to support Diesel’s image of rock ‘n roll irreverence and spread the word about Diesel:U:Music.

By: Panos Panay, Founder and CEO, Sonicbids

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 04:20