Book Review: Digital Branding

Monday, March 3, 2014 Posted by

Digital-BrandingDigital Branding by Daniel Rowles is exactly the digital marketing book I would write. It’s current, relevant, very practical, honest, and topical. Perhaps a little too much so. I can see some “old-timers” being intimidated by the practices Rowles demands.

The book is divided in three parts. The first is an introduction to digital branding with some great definitions. This is where the “love” count started early. Yes, most digital communications about a brand don’t directly include the brand. Yes, it needs to be measurable. And my favorite, verbatim, “brand awareness is a phrase that is often used to justify digital activity that doesn’t have clear objectives”. I’m not telling which early project I worked on where this was a common management line.

Digital Branding’s value is in the second part: The Digital Toolkit. It’s practical and realistic, suggesting free tools, and acknowledging the top end of the market, like Google Analytics Enterprise. Intermixed are case studies and advice, with gems like only doing something if you have something to say, and that social media is essentially PR.

Part three, Strategy and Measurement, is the weakest, but only in parts. The strategy chapter is less tangible fluff. This is made up in the next chapter. Analytics describes useful reports in Google Analytics. I love (yes, love count was high) the reminder that a high bounce rate isn’t bad if the customer got what they needed.

Who is Digital Branding For?

I think my annotation here was perfect: “Am I loving this because it reinforces my ideas and it’s actually too basic? Who is this for?”

It’s detailed enough for experienced digital marketers, but clear enough for marketers new to digital, or even non-marketers. Of course, the newer you are the more you’ll get from Digital Branding, but I picked up some tools from the kit and a couple of tips.

This book isn’t release until April, but I recommend it. In fact, I’m buying a copy. My ARC was produced too early for all the tables to be included.

My Content Curation Process

Saturday, March 1, 2014 Posted by

Content Curation ProcessDo you ever wonder how content curation occurs for social media? You’re not alone, I’m frequently asked what my process is and what tools I use.

To be honest, it’s a bit messy and manual, and probably not the most efficient.

I should probably describe the type of content curation I do, and for whom. Let’s start with the for whom.

Including my own, I manage three sets of accounts: Bianca/Tap Dancing Spiders, PSAMA and Chirpsy. All have fairly similar audiences, which makes things faster. One great blog post can be cross-posted across multiple accounts. I don’t do it all the time, just when it works. Oh, one caveat of cross-posting, keep audience duplication in mind. If there’s a fair amount of duplication, then you’ll just look spammy. The PSAMA audience is predominantly local to Seattle, and the other two are global. Minimal duplication.

The content curation process

My content comes from three sources. Human-crafted, pre-written Tweets from Chirpsy, manually curated content from RSS feeds in Feedly that are fed to Buffer , and original content I (and the PSAMA team) write on the fly.

This is where it gets messy and I’m still working on the right tools and process to make it work.

Each morning I jump into the Chirpsy dashboard and add three or four Tweets to the queue. It drip feeds them to @BiancaJSmith every two hours. I’ve set keywords in Chirpsy with writing guidelines, so I know the Tweets will be relevant content. I know you’re probably freaking at this level of trust. For the first month with Chirpsy I checked each link and monitored the performance. They aren’t quite the voice I use, but equally as effective. I have another feed into the @Chirpsy account, that’s linked to the facebook page, too. That one’s 100% automated, again it’s trust in the service.

Throughout the day I check on Feedly for anything coming in via RSS feed. If something looks good, I hit the Buffer button, select a few networks and it’s added to the queue. Buffer has pre-set optimal send times for each platform. With a global audience I don’t really care for time optimization, but it helps space things out. These are set to go to my personal feeds, but I pick and choose the networks. I’m definitely fussier with the content going to LinkedIn. If some of these are perfect for the PSAMA I manually share them on those feeds. I never add any to the @Chirpsy feed. That account’s to showcase the product. Messaging impact will be diminished if I supplement it. Oh, I forgot the copy. I rarely change it. The blog post authors have (or at least should have) chosen compelling titles, so I use that for the copy. I’ll sometimes add appropriate Twitter handles or hashtags, but it’s a quick and dirty process.

The final content curation process is manual. If there’s some timely news, I’ll post it to the relevant profile immediately. I also have alerts set for any mentions to action. I keep an eye on Twitter and facebook feeds to share anything there that’s relevant and join in the conversation. Sprout Social is the tool for this.

That’s the main stuff. I have left Pinterest out because I think of it as 100% personal, even though there is a strategy behind it and it’s probably the most pure content curation I do. I share communications pins and business book reviews on my Pinterest page , but I mainly post geeky stuff from Sherlock, Doctor Who and Harry Potter. It’s under my photography business name, so there’s a lot of photography too. Definitely more personality.

As I said at the start, it’s not a perfect content curation process and it’s already evolving. We’ve divided up the responsibilities on the PSAMA team, so we’re coordinating it all in HootSuite because multiple users is less expensive in HootSuite than in SproutSocial.

What’s your content curation process? Is it as haphazard as mine?

Disclaimers: I work with Chirpsy, and hold a volunteer board role with the PSAMA. Both are great organizations that I recommend you check out.

HootSuite University – Celebrating My New Certification

Sunday, February 23, 2014 Posted by

If you’re learning something and there’s a certification attached, it seems a waste not to sit the exam. This morning I passed the HootSuite University exam.

This week I switched back to HootSuite to manage my social media accounts, and it confused the bleep out of me. It just looks so cluttered and messy. But, Sprout Social is just too expensive to run teams of volunteers; I’ll live with fewer analytics.

My Saturday night was an hour of videos (yes, I’m such a party animal), and my Sunday morning an hour long exam that took 15 minutes.

Achievement Unlocked: HootSuite University
HootSuite Certified Professional

What was HootSuite University like?

I can think of better ways to spend my weekend. OK, it wasn’t that bad, but I did take a few breaks to stop the monotony. Others reviewing the course said it takes four to nine hours, so when the advanced videos (the second class) got a tad dull, I switched to the social media courseware. To be honest that was so basic (really, it defines a Tweet), so I switched to the exams and skipped a lot of videos. After completing these, I discovered they actually aren’t needed to be certified. Yes, that was wasted time. I didn’t need four hours.

There’s no FAQ or instructions on how to actually get certified. The HootSuite University website outlines the benefits and costs, but not which courses are required (they offer lots of courses), or the pass rate. This would have helped. I’m still actually not exactly sure the pass rate. It’s higher than 80%. Oh, and there are 40 questions to be answered within a hour. If you fail, you’re told which answers were incorrect and the chance to sit the exam again immediately. I was a little cheeky and copied my answers down before hitting submit. My 80% on my first attempt was easier to improve upon when I didn’t have to think about the 36 questions I got right when resitting it.

The knowledge I gained in the two classes plus exam needed for certification won’t actually help me be a better social media marketer. It only shows that I can navigate my way around HootSuite and I have the $21 per month to maintain the certification. However, the additional courses and lecture series, along with being listed as a certified social media marketer justifies the price.

Have you completed HootSuite University or another social media certification? What did you think?

Book Review: Accelerate

Sunday, February 16, 2014 Posted by

AccelerateAccelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World is the latest business book by John P Kotter. Like his previous books, it’s short (200 pages), sweet and written to change the world. Due for release in April 2014.

I never did read Kotter’s famous Our Iceberg Is Melting when it was popular. However, when I finished Accelerate I was curious and checked the GoodReads reviews to see if it’s the same style. It is, and it is a distinct style.

Accelerate describes a model of running a traditional hierarchical corporate structure along side a more nimble, network-like structure similar to start-ups. He correctly states that companies using a traditional corporate structure are too slow to respond to market influences, much to their detriment, and sometimes downfall. Kotter calls this mix a “dual operating system”. Yes, it makes me think of running Windows on a Mac, too. He explains how volunteers need to be recruited to run the additional structure, which runs concurrent with the traditional one.

The book runs through how the dual systems can work with case studies that either have so many details removed to preserve anonymity or are fictitious. OK, I don’t meant to be nasty with this. It was just a surprise. Openness and disclosure is now the norm; this approach was just very old-school and comes across as theory only. It’s not all … theory. I love the table showing the difference between managers and leaders.

Who is Accelerate for?

If you’re in a senior executive in a large, traditional company, or an MBA candidate wanting a career in an above mentioned company, then this is for you. You’ll find lots of idealistic strategies to implement or reference. All from one evening’s reading and a known author you can name drop, and spout ideas to your colleagues.

However, if you’re looking for tactics and proven models, read something else. Like Guy Kawasaki or Scott Berkun’s books. Berkun’s reasoning that you need real management experience to write on the topic came to mind often while reading this. Especially chapter eight, the Q and A. Some of the answers are borderline delusional. Instructions like that employee management programs won’t be required because employees will want to do the tasks perfectly, and that budget isn’t needed because the employees will happily work up to 150% capacity, are very naive. They’re strangely reminiscent of Australia’s Natural Law Party of the 1990s.

Therefore my word of warning is to not depend on John P Kotter’s reputation when deciding on this book, but look to see if your aims and goals are the same. If so, then I thoroughly recommend Accelerate for you.

Book Review: Pioneers of Digital

Thursday, February 13, 2014 Posted by

Pioneers-Of-DigitalWhere was this book when I was in grad school?

Pioneers of Digital (Paul Springer and Mel Carson) is a collection of 20 interviews and case studies looking at the founders of digital marketing, the ones who did it by design and those by accident.

In grad school one of my assignments required analyzing a case study from a book. Unfortunately the RMIT library’s marketing and PR section hadn’t been added to since 1990. Small exaggeration. Pioneers of Digital would have been my go-to.

Most of the interviews are essentially case studies of their careers. I loved reading what lead June Cohen to put Ted Talks online, discovering how many people started their careers in totally unrelated areas and fell into marketing and technology, and how success comes from making a difference, not by trying to make money. Two case studies told the story of hugely popular campaigns. I remember wasting a lot of time with Subservient Chicken without knowing it was a Burger King promotion. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty has continued to inspire women 10 years after its launch.

My favorites were Kyle MacDonald’s One Red Paperclip and, the surprising inclusion, Stephen Fry. Both chapters had more storytelling and feeling than the others, and that’s taking my bias aside. I’m a sucker for great marketing from outside the industry.

Pioneers of Digital closes with a statistics-filled summary of the up-and-coming digital marketing cities, and lessons from the pioneers interviewed. If the initial chapters are a bit hard to get through, the book is worth it for these two chapters.