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The Rise of the Influencers

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Just last year, Instagram hit an incredible milestone of 600 million users. Combined with the recent launch of Instagram Live and the wildly successful Promoted Posts in 2013, Instagram’s strategic focus on Influencer Marketing is making waves in the world of digital marketing.

Over the past three years, Google Trends observed a steady decline in print advertising. Within the same period, influencer marketing has steadily grown in popularity and is quickly narrowing the gap with video advertising. To date, AdWeek reports that 94% of marketers believe in the strategic effectiveness of influencer marketing, with most spending between USD25,000 and USD50,000 for an influencer campaign.

Why?

The Rise of AdBlock

In December of 2016, Apple released the iOS 9 for its chain of devices. With the new software came the added support for AdBlock – a program to block banner advertisements on websites and social media platforms alike. In the same year, Digital News reported that 47% of online consumers used ad-blocks. What was once a program solely used by experts in the field had now become mainstream, throwing marketers into a frenzy of re-evaluating their monetizing and advertising strategies.

Growing Immune to Traditional Advertisements

Traditional marketing strategies have also spiralled downward in terms of actual effectiveness. In the past, brands paid an average of USD5 million for a 30-second commercial between breaks of primetime telecasts. Today however, consumers are rarely glued to the screens of their TVs, with only 14% remembering the last ad they saw, reports Leverage Marketing.

Rethinking and Realigning Content

Navigating through these changing tides of marketing, brands recognize the need to adopt strategies that incorporate their products into popular content that is being consumed on social media. In this day and age, it’s all about “integrating a customer’s attention organically with a product or a service” and fortunately for most brands, influencer marketing offers the solution to all their problems.

Word-of-Mouth 2.0

In 2015, a study by Nielsen revealed that 84% of consumers perceived recommendations from friends and families as the most trustworthy factor in their purchasing decisions. Influencer marketing similarly uses the age-old Word-of-Mouth strategy, except that recommendations extend beyond people within our social circles to include influencers – key individuals on social media who are recognized as experts within their specific fields.

To put it simply: “People listen to the people they trust, and the people they trust are relatable people”.

Traditional celebrities are removed from their audiences. Whether on stage or on movie screens, celebrities present carefully constructed caricatures from behind glass walls. Therefore, many idolize and admire them from afar, but very rarely are celebrities relatable to the average Joe.

Comparatively, influencers appear to present themselves as they are, making them more approachable, relatable, and trustworthy. Before selling a product, brands in the modern market are selling trust.

Strategic Marketing

From garnering higher click rates to conversions, it may be tempting to jump on the bandwagon of influencer marketing. But before you do, here are some tips:

  1. Understand Your Audience
    If you are operating in a niche market, working with the most popular influencers may not be your best bet. Instead, look for experts in your field to garner a higher level of engagement as a result of hyper-targeting loyal audiences.
  2. Allow Room for Personal Creativity
    Influencers have amassed large followings because of their unique content and voice. Dictating and limiting them excessively results in just another “advertisement.” Listen to them because they know their audience better.
  3. Fostering Long-term Relationships
    From an audience’s perspective, it becomes harder to believe someone who switches teams regularly than someone who frequently posts about the same brand. When done well, audiences are less likely to see it as product placement, and more of the influencer’s personal brand.

Posted by Roselynda Afandi, CorpMedia


The Russians are Coming!

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Between fake news, fake apps, and “alternative” facts, there seems to be no let-up in the barrage of misleading and outright false messaging. Fake news is not new, but its amplification through social media gives it a new dimension, causing it to become more pervasive. Unlike the PR spin, fake news is completely and intentionally made up. And because of the false narrative, a slight blend of truth to a story can make it difficult to discern the accuracy of its claims. Not surprisingly, this has created an opportunity to influence and exploit for political or personal gains.

Social media has rapidly become an integral part of all of our lives – it is the primary source for news and updates. The epidemic of fake news and alternative facts spread quickly like wildfire on social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter – reaching tens of millions of people in milliseconds!  If you use any social media platform (duh!), you’ve probably been hit by some of these. Information doesn’t need to be true or funny to go viral – it can be a half-truth or even an outright lie.

Sometimes it may be something that fits a certain narrative that we have in our mind about a person or organization and we want so much for it to be true that we fall for it. On the other hand, a story is so outrageous that it’s easy to spot. No more was this more evident than during the 2016 US elections. Let’s see – “Hillary Clinton has brain Damage!”; “Pope Francis endorses Donald Trump!”; “Democrats to impose Sharia Law in Florida!”

Algorithms are part of what spreads fake news – because false stories which become popular can be pushed out by the software that runs social networks. But some programmers think computer code could also be part of the solution.

Google and Facebook have announced measures to combat fake viral stories online. Google has added a new feature, i.e. Fact Check (https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/07/fact-check-the-world-is-flat/) to Search and News to identify news reports as having been fact-checked by other news publishers and fact-checking organizations. Facebook is testing a new tool, located at the top of the News Feed to users in 14 countries (http://www.ubergizmo.com/2017/04/facebook-creates-new-tool-to-combat-fake-news/).  It is an educational project intended to help people spot and stop fake news from going viral.

Advertisers can help to solve this issue by paying closer attention to where their ads run and the environment in which their brand messages appear. For publications and news outlets – once the financial incentives for running click-bait, fake headlines disappear – the number of false news stories will decline.

What Can We Do?

  1. Beware the click bait: One way that fake news gets amplified or sensationalized is because busy readers may not look past the headline before they decide to share an article. Go through the whole article – you may find that it actually has nothing to do with the headline!
  2. Check out the news outlet: To trust or not to trust? Again, go beyond the pop-ups and loud ads. Google a site’s name and check out similar articles on various sites to determine if it’s trustworthy. Pay close attention to URL names of pages that look suspect to make sure that it’s not a spam site pretending to be a trusted source.
  3. Who’s the author: Looking at the writer of an article can reveal a lot of information about the news source. Searching through the author’s previous articles can show whether they are a legitimate journalist or have a history of “misleading and false” articles.
  4. Know your source: A lack of links or sources for claims in an article is an obvious red flag that the post may be false. Fake sites also provide numerous links to sites that appear to back up their claims, but are themselves spreading misinformation.
  5. Photos or photo-shopped: It’s common to take a photo from one event and say it is from another. Images can also be altered for a certain story. Reverse image searches on Google, Facebook, and TinEye can help you find where an image originated.
  6. Fact-check and verify: People are often drawn to stories that reinforce the way they see the world and how they feel about certain issues. It’s important to check that news stories are based on fact, rather than sharing them because they support one side of an argument to bolster belief or support.

Can We Ever Escape Fake News?

Unfortunately, there’s no one simple solution but we can start by not sharing stories just because they make us mad or tug at our heartstrings. News rightly gets an emotional rise out of us when a story is true, but when it’s false, that emotion can give power to baseless accusations and sow seeds of doubt. We can probably never escape it all together. But it’s up to each of us to use our intellect and common sense.

Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia


Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Managing Your Reputation

In an increasingly digital age, online conversation plays a huge role in shaping brand opinion and anybody with an Internet connection can be a potential contributor. Your online reputation is accessible with a click and you can be sure that at any time, someone, somewhere, is going to turn on a device and check into a search engine to find out all they can about you.

When prospects encounter negative content related to a brand, they are likely to switch to a competitor, resulting in lost leads and sales for your company. The correlation between a brand’s reputation and its sales is different for each industry and unique to each field, but the link is painfully obvious to those brands that have fallen into disrepute or those personal brands that have fallen out of favour with the mainstream media often caused by negative reviews.

It’s not just your customers who will search online for information about you but the media, business partners, prospective employees, and even personal contacts. If you don’t protect yourself and your business, someone can easily post a comment, create a blog post, promote your competition or worse. The results of a negative online reputation can be as subtle as a potential customer clicking on a competitor’s search result instead of yours or it can be as damaging as an industry-wide boycott of your products or services. Case in point – the recent #GrabYourWallet boycott that saw US retailers like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Sears, among others, drop the Ivanka Trump clothing line.

With increasing numbers of people turning to online resources for information, how does a business take ownership of their online reputation? Taking a proactive approach is the way to go. Managing your online reputation is not only a means of defence but it is also best practice.

Here, we share key initiatives that are integral to an effective brand reputation management strategy:

Public Relations: A strong PR program positions you as a thought leader and expert resource in your field in major newspapers, business and trade publications, and social media platforms. As a critical component to successful brand reputation management, PR can improve brand perception, manage negative sentiments, share positive customer opinion, and increase your web presence. A professional PR team can also secure high profile speaking engagements and opportunities (online or onsite) to promote your brand and gain top mind share.

Social Media: Social media is an integral part of brand reputation management. It’s a great way to make your business accessible, personable and focused on the customer. Being active on social media gives companies the opportunity to monitor their social reputation, as well as to act and react accordingly. Social media listening tools, like Hootsuite, SocialMention and Radian6 can research and collect user generated content such as blogs, comments, reviews, and alert a business of any negative conversation going on.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): SEO strategies put you at the top of search engine results, where customers are searching for resources and solutions to real-time problems. If you are not present where consumers are searching, you will be left behind to competitors who are there. Leveraging strategic keywords and useful content can help to drive more web traffic and increase sales that are essential for your company’s strong brand reputation.

Content Marketing: Raising awareness about the brand through content marketing tools like white papers, blogs, targeted article contributions, and industry research reports can help in a company’s brand reputation management. Producing lead-generating content across an array of channels raises awareness about your brand and your products. By positioning your company as an informative industry source on topics your audience is interested in, you will gain more website visitors and potential customers.

Website Development: Designing a website that’s easy to navigate, with interesting and user-friendly features will definitely help a business in its reputation management. It’s important to make sure that the website works in tandem to the needs of customers – this helps them find relevant information easily and quickly. A strong website not only enhances a company’s online image but also helps to grow brand loyalty.

In the hustle and bustle of normal business operations, it can be easy to lose sight of the importance of brand reputation management and its impact on corporate growth. But lack of brand reputation management can significantly and negatively impact an organisation’s overall success.

It takes time to tackle these crises and turn the ship around, but such issues can be fixed with an appropriate online reputation management strategy. Clear, achievable goals will help restore your company’s good name and keep your business reputation clean.

Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia


Ignorance is Not Bliss!

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Social media has become interwoven in the fabric of our lives. It’s no longer simply a way we communicate; it’s becoming the way we communicate.

In just over a decade, social media has completely and forever altered the way we communicate, acquire news and information, make purchasing decisions, and interact with the world. It has changed the way in which brands market themselves and conduct business.

In fact, social media is completely inextricable from the online landscape, and practically every single person you have ever known in your life is reachable with a single click of a button. Think about it!

  • Social media users now account for two-thirds of all global Internet users.
  • There are 2.3 billion active users on social media platforms – that’s 31% of the entire world’s population.
  • The average person has five social media accounts and spends around 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing these networks every day, accounting for 28% of the total time spent on the Internet.

Millennials use social media extensively. The Gen-Zers use it for a mind-boggling 9 hours a day! Mobile devices and the mentality of being constantly connected serve to further enhance this trend.

Despite the evolution and these staggering stats however, smaller brands and businesses still don’t see the value in investing in their social media presence or spending money on social media advertising. Social media is not a novel accessory. It must be embraced as an essential component of an integrated digital marketing strategy to succeed in today’s marketplace. For those who are still pondering over the “why” of social media, here’s a quick reminder as to what can be achieved when using social media for business.

Attach No Strings

Social media is the perfect platform to share tips, facts, resources and your own expertise in a format that will provide value to others. And the best part is you get to share this information, and build new relationships, with no strings attached. If you genuinely want to help others and enhance your credibility at the same time, offer value-added information to your readers, followers and connections that don’t include a link to a product or service.

Break through Boundaries

Many businesses rely on local traffic, or the physical presence of customers to make sales and succeed. Whether you are a brick-and-mortar business or an online entrepreneur, social media helps erase the boundaries of community and borders. If your products or services are something that can be offered or provided online, then the world becomes your potential customer base, and social media helps connect you with them.

Educate and Upgrade

Long gone are the days of enrolling in a class and losing an entire day of work in order to gain knowledge and education that will help grow your business. Today’s online world offers up a plethora of online learning, classes, courses and eBooks that allow education and growth within a few keystrokes. The Internet affords business professionals all over the world the luxury of learning at your desk. More education and skills make you a better leader and teacher for those around you. With educational programs being promoted through social media and often conducted on online platforms, it’s easier than ever to keep up-to-date with our skills and business education.

Connect with Peers

It’s easier than ever to connect with like-minded business owners thanks to social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Competition is a healthy thing, and like it or not, many of us could learn a thing or two from our business peers and direct competitors. Social media allows growing businesses to observe other businesses and learn what works for them, and what doesn’t.

Embrace the Visual

Now that you’ve found them, you need to attract them. Brand your accounts clearly – you’re fighting to get noticed among millions, so to avoid getting lost in the abyss you need to stand out. Use appealing header images and profile photos, and write an informative and engaging bio that not only explains who you are and what you do, but also gives an idea of what they can expect from your channel. Three of the “newest” social networks, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat, are based entirely on images. So why aren’t you leveraging the visual when promoting your content? Create not only a branded “featured image” to share with your post, but also create separate images for each of the main points in your content so they can be shared when you repeatedly post them to social media.

The important giveaway about social media is that there are many tools out there today – blogging, Twitter, Wikis, smart media releases, Facebook, LinkedIn, to name just a few. You don’t have to utilize them all – start small, keep going and you won’t be left behind.

Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, Corporate Media


Socially Speaking, It’s all About the Dating Game

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Successful social marketing depends on planning. Planning ahead leads to higher quality content by allowing adequate time for research and execution, and ensures that you’re engaging your audience consistently and effectively.

Using a content calendar provides numerous benefits beyond basic scheduling. A calendar can be used for all aspects of your marketing strategy, including identifying your target audience, planning and goal setting, and tracking resources. Think of it as a shareable resource that marketing teams can use to plan all the content marketing activity. The benefit of using the calendar format, rather than a long list of content to be published, is that you can visualize how your content is distributed throughout the year. This allows you to plan content around key events in your industry or important dates; identify and fill gaps in your marketing plan; and make sure you have your content ready way before it’s published.

Well, January 2017 just passed us by in a wink of an eye. But don’t despair! It’s still not too late to start planning for the rest of the year. Here are some tips to get you started.

Develop a Solid Strategy

A content marketing calendar should organize the way you curate and create content, and help develop your editorial strategy. The calendar cuts extra time out of your marketing strategy and helps you allocate your resources wisely to help ensure your brand consistently publishes high-quality, well-written, high-performing content pieces.    

Before you build a content calendar though, bear in mind that it is more than just a schedule with deadlines. As with any marketing plan, you need to identify your target audience, which can include existing and potential customers. Knowing your audience will help determine what social media channels and types of content are most appropriate for your business. You can also get a sense of your audience by evaluating which of your social profiles are receiving the most traffic.

Key question: Who do you want to sell your product or service to? Your calendar should map out content that factors in the big picture, and how your efforts can drive real results.

Build your Content Team

The success of implementing your content strategy hinges on an important, but often overlooked group of people: your content team. These people will be responsible for the successful ideation and execution of your content needs.

You should identify at least 3 key players in the group:

  • Content strategistSomeone who is able to see the big picture and develop the script, including editorial strategy tasks like writing brand stories and/or style guidelines. A good content strategist (in-house or external) will always begin with an audit of your current content marketing efforts, then compare those to what you want to achieve and create a strategy to fill in the gaps.
  • Writers Ah, the creative force behind the content team! They’re the ones you rely on to conjure up creative ideas and capture the magic of storytelling through your brand voice.
  • CoordinatorsA good coordinator can be your key to scaling content. This is the person who keeps track of all the details from vetting and managing freelancers to making sure that someone really did add the alt text to all those images!

Peaks and Troughs

When developing a content marketing calendar, be sure to consider major events that fall within the publishing cycle, and reserve slots for disseminating relevant content coinciding with these dates. For example, you may have ideas for e-blasts or blog posts that the team can publish to help create publicity for a conference that your company is organizing. Incorporating these into your schedule makes sure that you flesh out your calendar with targeted and timely content that matters to your business.

Identifying peaks and lulls, meanwhile, helps you create and distribute content appropriately. Instead of overstretching your resources or being idle during gap periods, it commits you to producing a consistent cache of content that continues to build on your brand’s expertise.

Repurpose, Redistribute, Repromote

As you source for great content, don’t forget about the materials that are readily available and yet, underutilized. For instance, presentation slides from past workshops could be refreshed and repurposed into multimedia posts, and data from company white papers could be adapted into infographics. Pumping your calendar with unexploited assets would certainly ease the strain of having to frequently brainstorm for novel ideas. You can also redistribute relevant content to new and existing audiences to help attract attention. It could be quality information that may not have broken through initially; or perhaps it needed another context.

Check out time-saving curation tools like Scoop.it and Feedly that can aggregate all the topics and publications that resonate best with your brand, and help facilitate your content discovery process.

Without question, having everyone on the same page can improve productivity and help keep track of the different timelines for various assignments. With a dedicated content calendar, marketing teams can strategically align content with business goals, and anticipate the adjustments needed to meet benchmarks.

Posted by Irene Gomez, Corporate Media


Event Success: Steering Conversations into New Spaces

conference-engagement“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” – Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit

Behind each successful event is the ultimate vision to deliver value to a target audience from start to finish. This usually begins before the marketing campaign kicks off, and continues well after the exhilaration surrounding the occasion has subsided and the dust has settled. Event marketing may make for an arduous journey, which nevertheless, can bear fruits when done right – be it in fostering brand awareness, generating leads, or establishing market positioning.

Embracing the efficacy of social media, marketers are increasingly bringing their events closer to their audience by taking the dialogue online. In centring takeaways around engagement and empowerment, they’re letting members access, as well as share content with minimal effort. Shareable assets from blog posts and clips, to media updates and infographics, enable online users to tell others about you – usually in the quickest way possible.

Make it Buzz-Worthy

Set up a website? Check. Send out the requisite promotional flyer or email? Check. Time to sit back? Not just yet. As American entrepreneur and marketer Seth Godin points out – long gone are the days when the mantra for marketers was “Build it and they will come.” Instead, sustained nurturing of community on social media is essential to create truly buzz-worthy events.

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with good old direct mail. But publicity is best done on platforms which your audience frequents and actively circulates content, especially the ones that you put out. Engaging prospective attendees with visually stimulating and interactive material is likely to keep the hype around your event lasting for much longer, seeing as how each retweet, like or download is an invitation to discover, discuss and disseminate news about your event.

Sneak peeks and teasers (articles, videos, audio, photos, etc.) posted on your social channels also build anticipation, helping to publicise event highlights, key speakers or unique offerings, while not being viewed as pesky or harassing reminders. Regularly update your promotional material and make sure your content is interesting, shareable and of value to individuals who have signed up, as well as to those who remain undecided (and might need a little convincing!).

In short, potential participants value being given a heads-up on what they can expect. Nothing beats letting them feel like they’re making an informed decision before committing themselves to the event. Add a little intrigue to the mix, and you’re on your way to building and growing a community that readily tunes in, and feels like it has a stake in your event.

“Great Execution is the Ultimate Differentiator”

Beyond drumming up hype, attention should go into providing quality experiences during the event as well. Among these, real-time social updates are important, not only in capturing the excitement of a live event, but also in sparking and keeping conversations going. By publishing thought-provoking questions online, the space for substantive exchanges is no longer limited to the event floor, program book or website – instead, your wider community of followers is now included in the discourse, bringing with them more perspectives and more of their own audiences.

Make joining the conversation easy by using hashtags that are created specifically for the event and used across all social platforms. These go a long way to help your audience search for information that you are sharing, and at the same time, allow you to monitor mentions from attendees or affiliates. Having your ear close to the ground keeps you in the loop of what’s being said, and allows you to be more responsive to the suggestions, comments or enquiries being made.

Meanwhile, featuring and tagging participants in your visual updates will boost emotional connection with those present, letting them know that you acknowledge and appreciate their attendance. A gallery of photos or a series of video clips can also serve as a recap of each day’s activities and highpoints, effectively encapsulating the core message and spirit of the event – all of which can be shared repeatedly with various groups of friends and followers online.

Harnessing Word-of-Mouth

Even as the curtain closes on your event, your work isn’t done yet! Capitalise on the high of your attendees and have them continue the dialogue by drawing them to platforms where they can further share about their experiences. A good example would be a blog post that nicely summarises the event, provides worthwhile (and downloadable) content, and encourages participants to leave their inputs or feedback.

Captured statements about particular programs, presenters or your event in general – accompanied by compelling visuals – can also be shared on your social channels. These testimonials (duly attributed, of course!) help lend credibility to your event, and provide positive word-of-mouth for your brand.

Quite simply, by empowering and giving a voice to your community at each stage of event planning and management, immense opportunities for engagement and exposure are to be had. Event success lies in your hands, as much as it does in the conversations of your followers!

Posted by Rahimah Amin, Corporate Media


Gen Z: The Voice of a New Generation

Humans have long corralled themselves into generational categories with the belief that one’s social, economic time-period and environment will effectively shape them into individuals with similar interests and behavior. Baby Boomers were conceived in the muddled post-World War II canvas and groomed into nonconforming liberals whilst Generation Xers alternated between their divorced parents’ homes apathetically. Online marketers in recent years have shortsightedly been clamouring for the attention of Millennials, aka Generation Y, who represent the highest proportion of online spending compared to any other cohort. As pioneers of the most disruptive invention of all, the Internet, they were the ones who molded it, and in return, it ultimately molded them.

With the spotlight trained on the founders, many have missed the opportunity that lies in the hands of the next generation, the same smartwatch clad hands dexterously juggling a tablet and a mobile phone while taking a selfie. When companies started recruiting 19 year olds as the foremost experts on this outspoken generation, we know that we are witnessing the dawn of a new age. Gen Y slowly incorporated the web into their lifestyles, but Generation Z (Gen Z) was born, fully submerged into the assimilation of notifications. Eighty-one percent of these aptly named “digital natives” are on social media at least three hours a day, making success more contingent on competent digital marketing than ever.

Gen Z are rapidly becoming a critical audience for marketers and brands to understand. Even if they aren’t your target group at the moment, they soon will be. In a couple of years, nearly 4 in 10 consumers will be from Gen Z, and their purchasing power will rise exponentially over the next 5 to 7 years as they grow to be the single largest group of consumers worldwide. They are forming their spending habits now which can influence their habits into adulthood. Appealing to this group can have a huge impact in a company’s long-term customer retention and brand loyalty.

So what does it take to really capture the attention of Generation Z? Let’s take a closer look.

Snap, Swipe, Share

Gen Z thrives on the edge of fast communications. Six second Vines, 140 character tweets, emojis and Snapchats – tapped once and gone into the ether. For brands, this means creating bite-sized, visual content that Gen Z can quickly digest and process. The more bite-sized pieces of information you can get to Gen Z, the further along their path to purchase you can push yourself.

The one thing Gen Z appreciates more than succinct communications is curating their own content. As a form of self-expression, these individuals enjoy taking charge and personalising their own content. Additionally, brands that utilise or acknowledge these consumer creations portray themselves as active listeners and genuinely caring about their customer’s wants.

Purchasing Power

Gen Z may not have a lot of its own money (yet), but this doesn’t necessarily mean they lack purchasing power. According to brand strategy firm, Sparks and Honey, the average upwardly mobile Gen Z receives an allowance of $16.90 per week, which collectively adds up to $44 billion a year. In addition to pocket money, they exert considerable influence on household purchases and family spending compared to previous generations.

What this means is that marketers need different approaches to gain the attention of the Gen Z. In the past, most ad dollars were spent on TV, radio stations, and newspapers. But to reach Gen Z, companies will need to spend more to create videos and other content that provides useful information, entertains, and otherwise impresses them enough that they share with families, friends, and followers.

Making CSR the Norm

An Inconvenient Truth” opened the eyes of unsuspecting Millennials but Generation Z grew up in an already unstable world of conflict. Fuelled by current events, they seek to create value and social change for the world through the products they purchase. This group places a higher priority on the quality of a product and how environmentally friendly it is rather than being blindly loyal to a brand. As most Gen Z research products and services prior to purchase, they become privy to the company’s practices, history, and reputation.

After too many lapses in safety and accounting, businesses must now prove themselves by being transparent and relatable. One way is to allow real customers themselves to create content, feedback, and reviews as a means of advertising the company authentically. Following in the footsteps of TOMS Shoes, businesses must start incorporating a social aspect to their business whether it be employee community service or through the triple bottom line approach in order to penetrate these increasingly knowledgeable and ethical customers.

Embrace Diversity

Gen Z is expected to be the most racially diverse generation. While Millennials in their own right are a pretty diverse group, Gen Z will view the increasing diversity in a more positive light. With more friends from different ethnic backgrounds than older generations, brands will have to amp up their multicultural marketing strategies to make their brands relevant to a wider range of ethnic groups.

Gen Z are growing up in a post-9/11 world and in a global economic recession, resulting in a demographic that is very socially conscious. They will expect nothing less from brands. Brands that can form a connection with this diverse group will have the most success. To do this, brands will have to incorporate various, yet consistent, messages that highlight diversity across a variety of platforms.

Point to Note: Gen Z’s everyday lives blend seamlessly with their lives on social channels, and many of their defining characteristics stem from this continuity.  Marketers will have to try harder than ever to interact authentically with this generation of consumers, but if they do, they’ll be rewarded by an audience that loves engaging with brands and championing their products.

Posted by Arwika Ussahatanon, Corporate Media


Optimizing Optimization: The Big Picture

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“The best place to hide a dead body is page 2 of Google search results”

Terms like search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are often thrown around, especially in today’s web cluttered world. Companies are constantly searching for ways to promote their online presence in order to cut through the noise of over a billion websites and reach the highest number of relevant individuals as possible. One is often aware about the need for SEO/SEM, but how it is acquired and utilized is often a grey territory.

Before one can even begin to comprehend their revitalizing functions and abilities, the terms must first be accurately understood. SEO and SEM are digital marketing buzzwords often erroneously used interchangeably. In truth, search engine marketing is the umbrella under which search engine optimization lies. Both are aimed at employing a multitude of tactics to boost the number of visitors towards a certain site by increasing its placement on the search engine results page (SERP). While the top three ranked results tend to garner 58.4% of all clicks from users, the subsequent ones will decline in popularity quickly. Businesses need to think outside the text box on search engines and get serious about SEO if they want to boost their online presence and steer ahead of the competition.

SEO specifically pertains to methods used to influence “organic search results” or those naturally called up due to the relevance of the site’s contents in relation to the user’s search terms. SEM includes the previous but also paid results. It is easy to distinguish the two categories of search returns as paid ones are often accompanied by the indicator word “ad” and only appear at the top and the bottom of an SERP. Most small to medium firms with a limited advertising budget opt only for enhancing their organic searches, as paid ads can quickly add up.

In the interest of helping businesses to refine their websites, the following are some tried and true methods of optimization webmasters have perfected over the years, with all the results and none of the costs:

  1. Quality, quality, quality!

Let the quality of the site speak for itself. The first step is to have a unified theme as search engines will penalize pages with content that is disjointed from the rest of the site. After a concrete foundation has been set, focus on subjects that are most relevant and interesting to your current user base. Paragraphs broken up into digestible chunks alongside video, infographics and images ensure maximum user comprehension and readership enjoyment. Google’s web crawlers analyze all the words on a page in relation to the content around it to determine the quality of the site, so focus on value rather than amount of content.

  1. It’s a mobile world after all

With over 50% of Google searches emerging from mobile users and the number of mobile internet consumers finally surpassing desktop users, a smartphone incompatible site will prove detrimental to a company’s ability to extend their reach. Due to Google’s recent algorithm upgrade, mobile enabled sites are ranked higher while those without, demoted when users search through a mobile device.

Be wary that possessing an ineffective mobile friendly site is equally harmful. Take into consideration the loading time of a site. Abandonment nears 50% if a page takes longer than 10 seconds to load, so checking load speeds and mobile compatibility is imperative to a webpage’s success.

For individuals who can afford the extra lift on their search results, each search engine contains their own paid advertising options and costs. These usually utilize the pay-per-click (PPC) or cost-per-click (CPC) scheme whereby advertisers pay a certain bid amount each time a searcher clicks on their ad. With expenditure saving as a priority, there are certain techniques that firms practise to get the most bang out of their buck.

  1. Ride the long-tailed dragon

In the search for keywords to bid on, one may be interested in short and simple yet oft searched terms, but with this comes the fear of bidding for the limited ad spaces alongside conglomerates with cash to splash. The alternative is to elect long-tailed or more specific keywords. CPC for longer search terms is invariably lower, backed by less competition vying for the same precise string of words. This ensures the chosen keywords bid for are focused on niche users searching with a more readily committed state of mind.

  1. Bing-o

Microsoft’s underdog search platform, Bing, attracts 20% of all desktop searches and make up 3% of all platforms’ aggregated search, but do not be fooled by the inferior numbers. Bing Ads is a diamond in the rough precisely due to the lack of competition. Advertising costs average out to be 22.5% cheaper than those on Google while, simultaneously, campaigns achieve better positions and higher visibility. In addition, Bing allows for more granular controls alongside the ability to streamline ad exposure based on target demographics, bestowing advertisers with more command over their own content and how it is shown.

The targeted nature of SEM traffic deems it invaluable to any business aspiring to appeal to a wider audience. Furthermore, as 70% of all incoming website traffic emerges from search engine results, it is no wonder search engine marketing and optimization are spotlighted when it comes to constructing the most attractive site.

Posted by Arwika Ussahatanon, Corporate Media


You Are What You Share: #GetSocial

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We look to the Twittersphere for the latest news and join the hashtag frenzy on Instagram with as much fervour as the next internet-wired, mobile-owning person. The world now is the World Wide Web, a place where information and communication converge. Trend-spotting, the exchanging of ideas and the coalescing of people into communities increasingly occur online.

Observing, listening and connecting through the web offer vast opportunities. And for businesses today, having access to significant groups of consumers and keeping abreast of industry developments is possible not so much by being social as it is about going social. What this means is establishing a presence and engaging on the right social media platforms.

Social media and its smart utilisation can help drive brand awareness and reinforce brand recall. Social behemoths like Facebook and Twitter have become go-to networks for both consumers and marketers – not only are they recognised as mobile advertising juggernauts, they also offer a large user base (1.59 billion and 320 million users, respectively) with which businesses can have direct and sustained contact.

So which sites should marketers put their efforts into? Here are a few essentials to take note of when investing in social media marketing:

Explore your options

With a multitude of social media channels available, it is important that you identify the platforms that best allow you to reach out to your intended recipients. Be where your audience is so that you can concentrate on producing content of continual interest and which inspires feedback.

As consumers look out for reliability, branding your images and creating consistent visuals are vital in creating trust and gaining followers. Explore more of visual marketing as it resonates best with consumers. Specifically, photos drive more engagement than any other kind of posts, while infographics convey complex data in a coherent and visually interesting manner, effectively increasing traffic by 12 percent, if used properly.

It is little wonder then that consumers are increasingly turning to platforms which offer interactive visual assets to suss out new brands or to keep up with old favourites. Trending social media networks to consider would include:

  • Snapchat: The 100 million users on this image-messaging service share single, customised snaps or create a story (a chronological series of media forming a longer narrative), with each snap lasting 24 hours. Snapchat posts often appear more spontaneous, giving brands on the app a more human feel. Businesses can also send followers personal snaps to say hello or a simple thank you.
  • Pinterest: Brands hoping to tap into a niche network can look to Pinterest, a visual bookmarking tool offering boards that organise collections of pictures and aesthetics. Most of its 100 million users are women, with fashion, food, fitness and beauty amongst the most popular categories. By allowing the embedding of single Pins or whole boards directly into your blog content, Pinterest makes the re-pinning of your material extremely convenient.
  • Instagram: Powering the sharing of images is Instagram, a mobile-based social network with 400 million monthly users who collectively like an average of 3.5 billion photos per day. More and more businesses are using it to boost their visual marketing strategy, and rightly so – the app’s users embrace brands, with Instagram posts commanding 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook and 120 times more than Twitter.
  • YouTube: The biggest video library has over a billion users who upload, view and comment on material ranging from TV clips to vlogs and interviews. Considering that 85 percent of online adults are regular visitors, the opportunities to catapult your brand into the visibility of a large, captivated audience through great video content are huge.
  • Vine: Ideally suited for today’s notoriously short attention spans, Vine allows its 200 million active users to share 6-second-long looping video clips on social networks or embed them on websites. The clips’ short-form nature inspires immense creativity – often showcasing brands’ quirky side – while making sure that the information being communicated remains digestible.

Studying your audience and ascertaining your niche will enable you to put together your own mix of influential visual social networks that will provide the highest return on your investments. Once you recognise the relevant social media opportunities, you can then be part of relevant conversations that will add value to your business.

Make content your priority

Content published on social media works best when it encourages participation or when it deepens consumers’ emotional connection with the brand. Focus less on hard-selling and more on engaging. Take advantage of social channels’ ability to facilitate direct interaction with customers and listen to comments which can help you shape your marketing strategies.

Learning more about consumers’ interests and the kinds of updates that motivate involvement will also help brands construct personalised messages. As consumers are more likely to seek out posts that entertain and educate, structure your content around a takeaway for the audience.  And even as you create, make efforts to curate – collate great articles, videos and images and share these generously.

Remember, content must be compelling, better still, contagious! Quality posts make it easier to amass quality followers who are likely to share it with their own audiences on other social media platforms. Going viral may not always happen, but staying hyper-relevant to customers in an overcrowded market through insights-driven content may, in fact, be just as good.

Posted by Rahimah Amin, PR Executive, Corporate Media


Game Changers and Social Staples

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The availability of multiple platforms on social media, coupled with changes in consumers’ taste and preferences, have led to a plethora of new opportunities for companies to grow their brands. In fact, digital marketing has experienced enormous changes in the last few years that brands have had little choice but to keep pace with technology. As social media platforms attempt to monetize their offerings by introducing new and improved features, it can get tricky for marketers to come up with the best strategy to stay competitive.

Real-time is the buzzword for 2016. Since the inception of social media marketing, brands and agencies have been searching for the best methods to deliver integrated campaigns that make others feel connected. In this day and age, it is also important to keep the finger-tapping younger generation of consumers interested by offering exclusive content that has an expiration date. The “one size fits all” marketing tactic no longer works. It’s all about finding the perfect platform to make consumers feel connected and unique, all at the same time in order to reap the benefits of a forward thinking campaign.

While it is impossible to predict how the social media landscape will change over the course of a year, here are three social marketing trends we feel will change the way brands reach consumers and become the social staples for 2016.

#1: Going Private

The latest trends reveal that the pleasure of privacy is seeping its way into many consumers’ lives online. The popularity of Snapchat has skyrocketed because the medium respects privacy. Users of other popular sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook are more inclined towards private messaging or the creation of private groups within their social network. While of course, publicity through advertising and other forms of explicitly overt marketing techniques would in many ways still facilitate knowledge about branding, the invaluable content is more effectively delivered to the individual or to a smaller group of people.

# Seeing is Believing

Visual marketing is expected to yield immense popularity in 2016. This medium ensures that the specific product and visual communications are intertwined – it is exactly this combination that reaches out to people, engages them and persuades them to make a particular choice. So, be generous, not only with the images but also the amount of short-form and long-form videos posted to your blogs, Facebook and Instagram!

Apps such as Twitter’s Vine, with its six-second maximum clip length, have dramatically increased the opportunity for businesses on a limited budget. But, if you’re to realise a decent return on your investment, you’ll need to bear the following in mind. With a tried and tested marketing success derived from the popularity of video uploads, the current trend indicate that the popularity of videos will continue to dominate companies’ online marketing strategies in the near future and it’s not difficult to understand why.

Jenn Herman, Forefront Blogger on Instagram Marketing TOP 10 Social Media Blog of 2014 and 2015, asserts that “The best way to reach your audience and connect with them in 2016 is through videos and/or live-streaming tactics as a way to really connect in a more face-to-face way. Facebook has been quick to jump onto the bandwagon in their video features as seen from the introduction of “live video”. This conforms to the demand by social media users and has raised expectations from brands and companies for social media to be transparent and authentic.

While 2015 started an era of live-casting with the introduction of new technology such as Periscope, Facebook Live and Blab, 2016 has changed the video playing field altogether. The introduction of live360 degree broadcasts allows people to move their mobile phones and experience the action as in real time.

#3 Publicity isn’t always free

While visual marketing is getting a lot of attention these days, many social media websites are beginning to charge for effective publicity. Many of the sites have algorithms installed such as PageRank, EdgeRank and TweetRank to prioritize the importance of posts. Very soon, tweets won’t appear in the streams of all your followers, and instead the intent to raise your visibility will come with a small price.

Facebook isn’t too far away on their open approach towards advertisements. Rather, businesses that attempts to use Facebook as a platform to advertise must be ready to pay a small amount before they can boost their audience reach. For example the boost post function that enables the increased reach of the post is pegged at 5 USD per post. Nonetheless, quite a handful who’ve tried the boost post function claims its effectiveness and affirms that the same kind of outreach on traditional media would be significantly more costly. According to Neil Patelco-founder of Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics, in 2016 more social networks will start charging for traffic. The algorithms are becoming harder to leverage via organic means, so if you want maximum traffic, you’ll have to spend money on ads.

2016 will see digital marketing become even more targeted and therefore valuable to businesses. It’s something that all businesses should be open to embracing. It’s not as simple as boosting a post and hoping for the best, there has to be a strategic element to it – which means you’re going to have to really be on top of your strategy.

Posted by Shahnaz Khan, PR Executive, Corporate Media