Posts Tagged "communication"

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Snapchat is the New Facebook.

A quick explanation of why brands should love Snaps.

Snapchat article by Eric

As our social media channels become overrun with stagnant ads, eager parents (and grandparents), over filtered photos of food, and articles that begin with “Top ten things,” the next generation of users have found a new way of sharing their lives: Snapchat. Brands are looking, too. Snapchat is a mobile only platform that allows real time sharing of someone’s life. No filters, no editing, no “10 reasons why_____.” Just you telling a story with your phone. Casey Neistat does an amazing job explaining the rise of Snapchat in his recent video with Jerome Jarre:

Yet as this new space is emerging, few brands are taking advantage of the 30 million monthly active users, mainly because no one has really figured out the best way how.

Right now there are three ways brands are using it:

Sponsored Snapchat:

These are posts that go out to every user, from Snapchat. They are usually pretty short and generally video. Recently there was a trailer for the Dumb and Dumber movie that went out.

Sponsored Snapchatters:

This is where a company approaches a popular Snapchatter and then asks them to do a story sponsored by them. For instance Casey Neistat spent a day with Karlie Kloss for fashion week, sponsoring and advertising Vogue.com.

Point all other channels to Snapchat:

This allows companies to use their existing audience on their other social channels to follow their Snapchat. This requires them to constantly produce content to keep people involved and interested, which is time consuming and expensive.

Speaking of content, this is the second problem companies are having: quickly producing cheap, quality content. No company (that I know of) is doing that right now. But individuals are, which is exciting because there is a totally new space that is untouched by brand use.

The fact is Snapchat is here to stay. It has been quickly adopted by the next generation of social users, and the current generation is adopting it, too. Snapchat is the perfect space for a new brand to be born on, and an even better space for a current brand to own. The opportunity is ripe. You just have to reach out and take it.

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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Before we knock “native advertising,” let’s talk about doing it right.

Before you knock it

 

I love John Oliver’s new show. It’s witty, funny, well-written and always on relevant topics. That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see him taking a punch at native advertising.

If you don’t have time to watch his 11-minute segment, his argument is this: native advertising is ultimately deceptive and undermines the journalistic values that are essential to a free press. Why? As Oliver cites in the video, consumers rarely recognize when content on a publication’s website is “native ad” or not.

That’s very fair. Especially if you’re familiar with the The Atlantic’s Scientology fiasco, which Oliver mentions. But before we tie the phrase “native advertising” to a stake and burn it, I implore you to take a moment (as a brand, agency, journalist or consumer) to realize that native ads don’t have to be horrible farces to the public. They can be helpful, if they’re done right.

By done right, I mean this:

1. If you publish content for a brand, create something that actually matters and is relevant to that brand.

Truth is, behind every company is a group of real, often smart, people who care deeply about their products. Even though advertisers and their agencies (I’ll raise my hand here) have a goal to sell products or services, many work to sell things that they believe in. Companies spend millions of dollars testing their products and researching their industry. If brands are going to act as publishers, they should stick to topics relating to their area of expertise. Like Dell talking about work habits or a clothing company rounding up the latest fashion trends. Even though Swiffer’s Buzzfeed list offers more laughs than value, it talks about a relevant topic: cleaning. (And fits nicely on Buzzfeed, which offers more laughs than value too.)

2. Publish first in a designated space for branded content, such as a branded blog. 

Many very successful brands are finding success publishing on their own website — often via a branded blog. Two of my favorites, West Elm’s Front + Main and Tory Burch, not only publish relevant content often, they offer sage advice from industry experts that’s actually helpful. If Tory Burch wants to share dinner party appropriate attire or West Elm offers essential tips for an attic renovation — by all means. They also do a great job of distributing that content with fans via social media and email. Do this regularly and consumers will come back to engage.

3. Give a branded representative the byline. 

If your brand is writing a piece, give that article or piece of content an actual byline. Meaning an article about “10 ways to accessorize your spring wardrobe” from a clothing company could (and really should) features a small byline, like “Written by Jane Smith, Clothing Co. Brand Manager.” This gives brands a face, which builds credibility and trust with customers. If real company employees can’t create content, at least cite their input with a byline like, “Written by Joshua Meade with contributor Jane Smith.”

Example below from New York Times: 

millennials

4. Think of native ads like food. Always, always check the label. 

If your brand chooses to publish a piece in a traditionally non-branded space (such as in a magazine or newspaper), make sure the publication clearly labels it as “sponsored content.” Label it in an extremely bold way, with a readable label and visual indicator like a color change. If that branded article is interesting and valuable enough, consumers will read it anyway. Being honest and transparent about branded content ensures credibility and trust, not just for the publication but also for the brand itself.

 

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Dear Brands, You’ll Never Be Potato Salad

advice on viral for brands

 

The Internet is a strange thing; so strange, in fact, that a man asking for $10 to help him make potato salad for the first time has resulted in over $50,000 in a Kickstarter campaign that has gone viral. And why? His appeal wasn’t one based on need (he wasn’t starving). He didn’t promise to feed the hungry. He literally just wanted to try to make potato salad. And the Internet thought he should be able to make a lot of it.

Brands spend millions of dollars every year paying agencies for content aimed at going “viral” in a similar way, and it almost never does. The ask from these brands has become so normalized that social content is often just called “viral content.” The ask sounds something like this: “We want to create a viral video.” What they mean is that they want to create a video intended specifically for the Internet, usually YouTube. But when it gets uploaded, it gets a few hundred views and the agency that made it cashes a nice check. The brand gets very little in return.

I have a word of advice for you: stop. You aren’t a potato salad Kickstarter. Your brand is not a random phenomenon; it is carefully crafted. Your brand is also not human. Consumers know both of these things and so the content you publish, the campaigns you launch, are expected to be of the highest quality. The chances that you’ll create something that is so different from what is expected that gets shared millions of times is really really small. It happens, but rarely.

Instead of spending millions of dollars constantly creating content in hopes of something resonating, create content with utility. Unless you are a brand in an entertainment category, understanding the questions consumers have and providing solutions will do much more for your business.

Lowe’s does this really well. Its Vine account is a case study in strategic early adoption of an emerging channel, and its use of YouTube is really effective.

Alternatively, if you are set on reaching a million+ people with a single piece of content, partner with an influencer who already has a large audience to create content on your behalf. Ford has done this really well on YouTube.

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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4 Reasons Brands Need Agile Agencies

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  • 07.16.14

“Don’t interrupt me when I’m interrupting you”

IQ - Facebooks "new" old model

 

This is one of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill, and what Facebook might be thinking as it tries to ram a new ad model down the throats of brands and consumers alike. Having already vented in my last post about this, I thought the greater implications of their actions on social media worthy of further comment.

A Giant Step Back

When Facebook decided to make brands pay to post content to their own fans, they took a giant step back into the old ad world.  Faced with ROI pressure brands can’t afford the luxury of content oriented posting, instead they have to turn to fast pay-off tactics like promotions, coupons etc.  This puts us back in the old world of interruptive advertising, where you’d be watching TV or reading a magazine and an ad would interrupt you. Consumers put up with this model in the pre-digital years because it seemed like a reasonable exchange; get the content in exchange for watching the ads. That was before we retrained them.

We Are Not a Captive Audience

Fast forward to today and digital consumers.  We don’t like interruptions, we don’t like delays and we don’t like ads. We have been schooled to find and use the most efficient ways to answer questions, solve problems, research solutions and evaluate options. Digital consumers are not a captive audience, so if ads interrupt our flow and slow our productivity we won’t put up with it. That’s why it’s more likely you will survive a plane crash or win the lottery than click a banner ad.

The Post-Advertising Age

Facebook just wants to make money, which is fair enough. But just because advertising is about the only business model that might work for them, doesn’t mean it will. The problem is that we live in the post-advertising age. We still need to tell brand stories; we just can’t do it effectively with conventional ads anymore; at least in digital channels. Even armed with all the creativity in the world the only way to consistently get the attention of the digitally empowered consumer is with relevance and timing.

Changing Hearts & Minds

So if marketers can’t use ads to get their message across, what’s a brand to do? The way to the digital consumer’s heart and mind is by serving up the right content at exactly the right time. The right kind of content is that which is appropriate for the context. So if someone has clicked to watch a video about planting a lawn, don’t have a pre-roll ad for Home Depot, have lawn care tips courtesy of Home Depot. The big difference is that one supports the consumer’s journey, while the other interrupts it. Seems simple enough, but the complexity comes in planning where and when to connect with each consumer segment, and developing just the right content for each situation.

The Magic Algorithm

The temptation today is to think that marketing has become a predictable machine. All you have to do is crunch some media numbers, apply an algorithm and magically consumers will come flocking to your brand. Of course this is what the purveyors of all manner of media ad wizardry would have you believe.  This ignores, however, the need to connect the dots; all the touch points that have to become one consistent story, personalized as narrowly as possible. Everything a brand does, therefore needs to be built on a foundation of consumer insights. This includes the critical exercises of mapping the Consumer Decision Journey* and developing a Content Strategy. Together they tell a brand when and where to connect with each target segment, plus what to say and how to say it at that critical moment. At the same time this work lets brands see, understand and design the cumulative effect of all the interaction points together. Inevitably this leads brands to shift their thinking from a product oriented, advertising approach to a content oriented, consumer approach.

The Training Wheels Come off

Facebook is trying lots of things (a few pretty out there), looking for ways to cash-in on their huge audience.  Some may work, but this shift to making brands pay to reach their own communities isn’t probably one of them, because consumers, let alone brands, won’t stand for having the content they came for taken away.

The good news is that social media marketing is not over; it’s actually shifting to a more mature model where brands have much more control and influence. What we are seeing with social media is the same kind of shift that we saw when users graduated from AOL’s training wheels to managing their own online experience. That’s happening now as consumers are becoming more experienced, and Facebook’s move is only going to accelerate it.

So it’s time for brands to strike out on their own and connect directly with their consumers without going through the gatekeepers anymore. That means starting with the foundational work to discover the when, where, what and how, which will drive their new social media, marketing plan.

* Mckinsey & Co

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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4 Reasons Brands Need Agile Agencies

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Tips for Writing in Agile

Tips for Writing in Agile

Agile process was made for developers. Born out of software engineering and responsive to client needs throughout a site build — it makes total sense to everyone. Except for right-brained, creative, easily distracted people like me.

At first, anyway.

I’m a copywriter. While I am all for agile process, it’s taken time, trial, more trial and error for me to understand how to work in this process. And while I’m still perfecting how I write within an agile process, I’m on the same page as this guy — the process itself really is more efficient.

And while it’s definitely a smart process for ad groups to adopt right now, I still think seeing an agency team flawlessly execute this process is about as rare as winning the lottery. It happens to some very lucky people, but you still have a greater chance of being killed by a vending machine.

Bottom line, agile process is challenging for content creators like myself. Breaking things out in small iterations might work for developers or strategists, but I breathe page chronology. People still read English from left to right.

Working in an agile project, here is the biggest challenge: You can’t write copy for different parts of a project and still convey a consistent brand voice through the entire space. Whether it’s a webpage or a print ad, voice and messaging must stay consistent from top to bottom.

But that’s what agile asks us to do — to write copy for story points instead of pages. And when you write copy in small story-point-sized chunks, you risk creating subtle breaks in readability that can distract site visitors, causing them to disengage.

And that’s been our challenge with my most recent agile projects. How can copy creation work in parallel to development, UX and design? It’s been a continual process that we’re not finished with yet, but here’s what I’ve learned:

 

1. Give content its own epic. Agile process is broken down into subtasks based on what different people want to do. Okay, okay, I mean “stories” that fit into a big-picture “epic.”  A story is like, “As a shopper, I want to be able to find specs for product X on the specific product page.” This fits into a greater overarching epic. Instead of writing small amounts of copy for a specific story, like writing a single paragraph on specs, I can write copy for an entire product page and still stay aligned with the process.

2. Write to the wireframes. There’s always the ‘chicken or the egg’ debate with which comes first, writing or design. And while the lazy part of me loves to be given a comp or ad to write for — it’s like being given a coloring book page and told to color in the lines — that’s not always the best way to create truly innovative pages that serve customer needs. So if design isn’t ready, write to wires. Work closely with your UX-er or designer to figure out field length, work with a content strategist if needed to discuss content prioritization, then take a stab at writing for the page in conjunction with the design process.

3. Collaborate closely. I love the daily stand-ups on agile projects. Even though sometimes the only thing I have to contribute to these meetings is a bad joke, it’s wonderful to be in touch with what’s going on with my teammates. This is a great chance to discover issues or sit down with team members after the stand-up to hash things out when needed. Get together, work together, get things done.

4. Keep your documents filed for each page.  For any size project, identify a shared file-space for your team. It can be in a project folder on a server, shared through a file sharing service or through a solid organization tool like Gather Content. (*I’m just starting to use Gather and am still learning, but it’s pretty spectacular.) Wherever you share your work, keep your copy decks updated and organized every day. With agile team members working simultaneously, rigid organization of content is the easiest way to make sure copy is accessible to the whole team, whenever people need it.

 

Have your own thoughts about how to work as a copywriter on an agile process project? Wonderful. Comment here or tweet at me. Always excited to learn more helpful hints.

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How to Become a Knowledge Source and Win the SEO Game

Win the SEO Game

If you can’t figure out how your competitors manage to get to the top of the Google rankings while your brand lurks on page 3, or how to attract more visitors to your blog or website, or even what content to create, don’t worry you’re not alone.

The constant tweaks by search engines in the last 3 years have left many marketers wondering if their next SEO tactic will get them traffic or a penalty from Google. The search engines have always wrestled with how to present consumers with results that actually meet their needs.

But it’s been a game of cat and mouse as marketers create cleverly optimized sales pages and users never know if they are going to land on real, valuable content or a pitch. Over time the game got very complicated and Google’s algorithm evolved to the point where it evaluated over 200 factors about each webpage in order to decide whether that page actually met a searchers’ needs.

The Turning Point

In the last three years, however, there’s been a turning point. With Google’s Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird updates there has been a new focus on the quality of content versus the quantity. Instead of relying merely on the attributes of the content on the page, or using links from webpages to judge the quality of a webpage’s content, the search engines are now finally able to incorporate social media signals.

Using social media likes and shares, Google finally developed a way for people to in essence vote on which pages had the best quality information. Today search engine rankings are essentially being heavily influenced by the actual preferences of real people.

Unfortunately this makes your job as a marketer more difficult, because these search engine changes require you to really get into the customer’s head and create content that genuinely meets their needs. This has caused some old hands to throw their hands in the air and declare SEO to be dead. But the reality is that the game is just more demanding.

High-Quality Content

It would, therefore, appear that now the only reliable way to increase search rankings is with high-quality content that people will like and share with others. Creating a continuous stream of relevant and useful content that meets customer needs is the most effective way to dramatically grow your traffic from both social sharing and from search engines.

Value First

Looking back on my experience with online content building, I’ve seen many cases where this approach to quality content has paid off dramatically. For example a financial services client focused on creating articles, blog content and videos that answered actual user questions and met customer needs for financial education. This value first approach built trust and triggered social sharing. As a result search optimization started to increase web traffic dramatically within the first three months of the content building process.

The Right Content at the Right Time

Guiding this process is our understanding of the Consumer Decision Journey, which helps brands map what content they will need at various points on the path to purchase and beyond. This approach allows brands to prepare exactly the right content for each step along the way, and is equally important in search and social visibility when the consumer is searching for answers.

For example a company in the housing vertical combined social media sharing and search optimization to promote content on their website that was useful to apartment seekers. Research revealed that the two main target segments had different needs. The Young Singles were concerned with sports and activities near their potential apartment location. The Young Family group on the other hand, was more concerned with nearby schools and the neighborhood quality for their children.

Surprisingly, further research uncovered that the Young Singles group, frequently owned pets and that they would actually change their choice of apartments if offered nearby pet parks. With these insights in hand, the content team set about building hundreds of pages of neighborhood-specific content, covering schools, sports, activities and, yes, pet parks. The payoff for meeting consumer needs was dramatic. The peak search and social traffic grew from 1.1 million visits per month to 2.1 million visits per month.

Finding Out What Content to Make

It starts with listening to target consumers. Find the forums, social media networks and blogs where your potential customers are asking questions and talking about their problems. There are lots of ways to do this, but at IQ we find the fastest way is to use a social listening platform.

For many, just making a list of customer questions about problems and challenges that customers care about can be a powerful starting point. If you can generate a list of 50 to 100 questions that consumers routinely ask, you can start to hone in on a content strategy.

When consumers begin to look for a product that meets their needs or that solves a problem they usually start with very little information. So the opportunity is to intersect that process and become a knowledge source for their journey.

How do you create this type of content?

  1. Find the relevant forums, social networks and blogs where customers complain about their problems and ask each other for advice.
  2. Catalog all the consumer questions that your brand can solve.
  3. Identify solutions to common questions that you uncovered in your list of the most common 50 to 100 questions.
  4. Create useful content that answers questions in multiple ways, such as infographics, presentation slides, articles, blog posts, videos and images.
  5. Make sure the content is useful and actionable so that it helps users to understand the most important parts of solving their problem.
  6. Distribute your content to your owned media and get it shared using social media to expand your reach.
  7. Build links from social sites and forum sites that are authoritative sources on this topic.
  8. As you answer these questions, target long-tail phrases rather than single keywords in your SEO.
  9. Structure your website content to clearly and concisely answer all the key questions that you uncovered in the earlier steps.

Search engines reward content that answers customer questions and meets customer needs with a higher search engine rank. The key is content that is relevant to the searcher at that particular moment in their journey.

If a brand maps the journey correctly, makes engaging, valuable content for every key step on the way, and makes it easy to find, it will become the trusted knowledge source for the entire journey and for consumers throughout the category.

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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Have You Been Scraped Lately?

Has Your Site Been Scraped Lately?

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, scraping has to be right up there.

Last week, we discovered a website hosted in the Bahamas called www.iqadvertisingagency.com. Some delightful individual, who was clearly not raised right, decided to scrape (or steal in the old vernacular) our website for some nefarious purpose. They changed the contact info to the address of an internet café in Toronto and replaced our telephone number with theirs. Worse, they seem to have persuaded my entire team of executives to go and work for them…traitors.

I can’t help but wonder what they think they can achieve. Opinions in the office range from they are trying to get a loan and needed a cool site to show their banker to they are trying to sell themselves as us to get business. Clearly they have never been in any competitive pitches. Most clients today not only want to meet and grill the entire team before they hire you, but many actually want the agency to do the work in advance to see how good you are.  Good luck with that.

We sent off the necessary communications to the hosting provider and requested that the site be be removed from Google which should put them in hot water, but part of me thinks that maybe we can do an outsourcing deal where IQ can handle any business they bring in.

*Note: after sending their hosting provider a formal DMCA take down request, it seems the site is now “under construction”.

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UX Design: My Favorite Features Aren’t Features

User Experience blog

“The design of your product is only as good as its smallest part.” –Dan Saffer, Microinteractions: Designing with Details

The other night I was browsing the Zappos iPhone app for a new pair of boots. I found a pair I liked and added it to my favorites…and that’s when a kitty cat surrounded by hearts flew across my screen.

Seriously.

Zappos "favorites" kitty.

Yes, that’s a kitty dropping a pair of boots into my favorites list, slowing her descent with a heart-be-speckled umbrella. (Don’t you want to download the Zappos app and try it now?)

What’s the connection between a cat and boots? Maybe Puss in Boots, maybe not.

But really, who cares? The interaction clearly told me the item had been added to my favorites, and it made me laugh. Now that’s delighting your users!

Introducing…microinteractions.

In his book Microinteractions, Saffer provides the example that if a feature is a video player, a microinteraction is the volume control. These interactions are often a single task: a setting, an on/off switch, or similar. They’re tiny and often go unnoticed…until they fail or delight.

Zappos’ cat is fairly whimsical, but consider the slightly more serious profile editor for Myspace. After you’ve set up your account the first time and you return to your profile, only the content you filled in displays. When you hover over this content, the borders of a field show up so you know you can edit it.

myspace - 1 myspace - 2

In-line editing is not that new of an idea, but Myspace takes it a step further. When you click to edit the content, the rest of the profile fields (the ones you didn’t complete last time) display so you can see the entire form. Clever!

myspace - 3

Several microinteractions work together to make up this feature (the editor). The user’s content is given highest priority, while the other potential content (i.e. the blank fields) is only provided when the user requests to change their profile content.

The design doesn’t outshine the content. It enhances the experience of filling in that content. It’s only a profile editor, and a standard form design would work just as well. But would it seem as cool or fun?

Don’t forget the details

Microinteractions are tiny, but they can create a big impact on the overall user experience. So don’t forget to spend time on them even if they aren’t the shiny feature every digital agency or UX’er wants to work on.

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  • 06.05.13

How to Make Great Brand Videos

Consistently making great content is a tall order for many brands.  Get some insight and tips from the presentation below:

How to Make Great Brand Videos from IQ Agency

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Content Overload

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Jung at Heart

Carl Jung - father of archetypes


Everyone knows that digital channels and devices have changed how consumers connect to brands. So today we are focused on enabling the consumer’s journey rather than just talking at them, as in days past. But it’s a trap to believe that people are enamored with process and mechanics. Even with the never-ending stream of technologically driven consumer empowerment, the dynamics of connecting to human beings are the same as they were a million years ago. Stories that speak to our archetypal drives are the most powerful buttons we can press. Stories that touch on family, love, loss, death and safety cut across culture and geography. They can be expressed in many ways, and offer endless opportunity for creativity and originality, but in the end the archetypal story is what resonates. Our challenge is to integrate today’s growing number of consumer touch points into, not only a connected process, but into an archetypal story. It’s easy to think in terms of content, functionality, usability etc. but the need for a resonant story is as important as ever. The difference is that the narrative now happens over many connections and many channels. So keeping the essence of an archetypal brand story at the center as we create and connect tactics is the new challenge for brand’s and their agencies.

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