‘Social Media phase of the internet’ has ended long ago | Opinion

In his closing comments of 2014, leading New York City-based venture capitalist and blogger Fred Wilson says “the social media phase of the Internet ended” in 2014.

A lot of us would dismiss this statement immediately. And why not? After all there are 1.8 billion internet users who are accessing various social networks. But despite such a mammoth ecosystem, social is losing its sheen continuously.

In his blog article, Wilson thinks messaging and mobile have moved into the enterprise in a big way in 2014. What is also interesting to note, Social is continuously losing VC’s attention in their investment radar.

According to Carmel DeAmicis, Facebook’s IPO was a bust, the market has gotten saturated, and there’s perpetual questions over mobile monetization of social platforms.

The market has gotten saturated, some people are tired of social, and there’s a cultural pushback ranging from mocking social media job titles to compiling lists of how social is ruining your life. How many networks can a person possibly join?

Here is Wilson’s complete list of what happened in 2014:

1/ the social media phase of the Internet ended. this may have happened a few years ago actually but i felt it strongly this year. entrepreneurs and developers still build social applications. we still use them. but there isn’t much innovation here anymore. the big platforms are mature. their place is secure.

2/ messaging is the new social media. this may be part of what is going on in 1/. families use whatsapp groups instead of facebook. kids use snapchat instead of instagram. facebook’s acquisition of whatsapp in february of this year was the transaction that defined this trend.

3/ the “sharing economy” was outed as the “rental economy.” nobody is sharing anything. people are making money, plain and simple. technology has made renting things (even in real time) as simple as it made buying things a decade ago. Uber and Airbnb are the big winners in this category but there are and will be others.

4/ the capital markets have moved to the internet. we call it crowdfunding but what is really going on is raising money is a great application of a global platform that connects billions of people in real time. i don’t know the total amount of capital that was raised on the internet across all sectors (equity, debt, creative projects, charity, helping a person in need, real estate, energy, etc, etc) in 2014 but i am sure it is in the tens of billions.

5/ mobile OS has become a stable duopoly around the world. but android is splintering into google android and non google android and that may lead to new large players. 2014 was a big coming out party for xiaomi. if and when they come to the US, things will get interesting. they are the new (and better) samsung.

6/ mobile and messaging has started to impact the enterprise. slack is the poster boy for this trend in 2014.

7/ youtube became a monster. it always has been. but in 2014 youtube emerged as the place for entertainment consumption for anyone under 16. and these youngsters are going to grow up quickly. watching The Interview on YouTube was a fitting end to an amazing year for the king (and queen and joker too) of Internet video.

8/ we finally got rid of files. dropbox, google drive, soundcloud, spotify, netflix, hbogo, youtube, wattpad, kindle, and a host of other cloud based services finally killed off three letter filenames like mp3, mov, doc and xls. spending a week in the caribbean with young adults and bad internet was the tell on this one for me. they don’t even have mp3s on their iphones anymore!

9/ the net neutrality debate emerged as a national political issue with Obama’s endorsement of Title II regulation of the last mile of the internet. it is unclear how this issue will resolve itself but the public has spoken loudly and clearly and politicians understand that the internet needs to remain open for innovation and we can’t let the monopoly carriers and cable companies mess that up.

10/ cyber warfare, cybercrime, cyber hacking, and cybersecurity was by far the dominant theme of 2014. if anyone had their head in the sand on this one before this year, they don’t anymore. this is our new normal. the US takedown of North Korea’s internet last week, and the state department official’s comment that “i guess accidents can happen” is a moment to remember as we head out of 2014 and into our future.

How to handle angry clients in a digital agency?

One of the key reasons why clients hate modern day digital agency is due to poor quality customer servicing.

Very seldom you would find a digital agency who has a strong account management team at their disposal. Not that they are ignorant about the importance of an account manager, but sometimes they just choose to ignore it.

In my personal experience, most of the business I’ve won or retained is due to the quality of servicing I provided to my client at each and every stage of their business.

A powerful account manager can literally become the match winner for any business. He can navigate the client’s business out of rough waters and most importantly become a powerful bridge between the agency and the client.

One thing which most of the agencies forget is that Advertising is part of service industry and your service quality is the only differentiator between you and your next door competitor who is anxiously waiting for you to fuck up. Even the best of the agencies can’t take their business for granted.

There is no doubt that to handle angry clients is an art. I myself have gone through hundreds of tough client calls & meetings where things could have gone out of control within a matter of minutes but I kept my patience and came out victorious.

Vendors (ad agencies) cannot afford to allow client servicing team sit on the back seat forever. Client servicing needs to take the driver’s seat right away without much delay. A client servicing strategy for any agency or publisher means nothing but a customer focused strategy. The time has come when each business owners must re-look at their business priorities.

It is important to first acknowledge the fact that you are not just in the technology business or agency business or content business but you are in servicing business.

After all these years, I firmly belief that not just the digital agency but any business lose their clients due to poor account management.

 

 

5 digital marketing tips for every business

As the new year approaches each year, many of us start thinking of resolutions. It can actually feel uplifting to begin a new plan such as joining a gym to get fit, writing one page a day for the next bestseller novel, or more prosaically, keeping up with your inbox.

I am sure some of you also make resolutions in your careers & business as well and hopefully by now you might have seen hundreds of these lists, most of which are little difficult to implement or follow in your daily routine.

Here are five simple digital marketing tips that you can follow, without too much added cost or inconvenience, that will nevertheless make a big, positive difference:

  1. Focus on your loyal customers in your social media campaigns. Nothing is more important than making your past & present customers feel special. They are your biggest ally in the war against your competition. So create a separate content plan around your loyal fans. Taking the time to do this will only boost your customer loyalty, though. Schedule just a few minutes each week to check comments and social media posts and to offer a quick response.
  2. Develop your mobile first strategy & marketing plan for all your campaigns. Keep a note of your major product launches and brief your mobile vendors in advance. Make sure all your landing pages are responsive and the content looks super sexy on all devices.
  3. Spend resources & energy in building your Digital Intelligence (big data) and not just analytics. If you are planning to shift more spends into digital marketing, make sure you allocate a part of that money towards capturing & monitoring your customer & audience behavioural data.
  4. Whether you are a B2B or B2C brand, create a comprehensive content calendar in advance. Build themes around major shopping seasons, events, festivals, holidays etc. if your customer is direct consumer. If you are a B2B brand, create your content calendar around your brand & product campaigns, major PR initiatives, corporate events etc.
  5. Make your social marketing plan focus more towards engaging with bloggers & communities and not just your own Twitter & Facebook pages. It is difficult to find these bloggers and communities, but that’s where you would get your loyal customers from and it is absolutely vital for the organic traffic on your website.

Increase online sales in 4 easy steps

One of the toughest tasks for any digital publishing or media company is to increase their online sales year on year. Technology has changed the way media business sells its offering to its potential clients. Gone are the days when your brand name was more than enough to achieve your online sales targets.
CMOs have become way too tech savvy now which puts the conventional, charming, cold-calling sales & BD specialist in a tight spot.
Lets face it, you cannot fool the client over few pints of beer or cups of coffee (well, not every time at least 🙂 ). The usual charm tactics of old days can take you only so far ahead.

An online sales person’s biggest battle is to find out, what does the client really wants?

Here is a simple sales checklist that would help your sales team step into the brand manager’s shoes, and eventually increase online sales:

Building Accountability

Let me re-phrase this from pre-sales standpoint, it actually means “Intent”. If your proposition offers a bland promise of delivering x no of impressions, y% click-thru & z% conversions, Reach/ SOV etc. etc., it will not get the marketing teams excited because 99.9% proposals have the same offering.

At times it is advisable to follow the rule book, just to be on the safe side. But, in order to shine in the heap, you need to build & highlight the accountability metrics in the form of showing Intent towards achieving all marketing objectives stated in the RFP brief document. Your pre-sales efforts should be to make the client believe, that all your efforts are clinically focused towards delivering a strong value to the brand.

Relevant Experience

Lets just say, nobody wishes to put their marketing dollars in the hands of a layman. It is normal human behaviour to reduce the risk by following/doing something which is tried & tested. Today, when client has so many options, they always want to opt for the safest option first that can deliver the results. No wonder brands like Google are the biggest beneficiary of that mindset. Hence, it is highly recommended to showcase your strengths in the respective category and even if you do not have any past experience in that domain, you must demonstrate it visually through some past case study as to how you delivered those metrics for some other brand.

Knowing the Customer

Get this thing in your head, every client wants you to come prepared with your research on the basic target audience of the brand. They want you to know, not just the nuances about your own product but also the basic elements of audience segmentation. In the world of media, marketeers are paying millions of dollars, just to interact with the right audience, hence it is absolutely vital for them to know if you have a clear understanding about their market. During your Pre sales research about any prospect(brand), make sure you have created a ready to use guide about the client for reference purposes. This would include the most basic level information about the brand i.e. their core target audience, list of products, info about their most recent ATL, BTL, Online, Mobile, Social Brand/ tactical campaigns along with any other company information/development. You never know when it would come to your rescue during the marathon client meetings.

Technically Yours

If you are selling a perfume, you can glorify its fragrance only if you understand the sense of smell. I guess Technology is no different, your words would mean nothing unless you demonstrate your love and passion towards technology through Technology.

Your Sales team members should not just be knowing about the product, they should believe in their product and should be perceived as ad-tech specialists by one and all. Remember, they are your true brand custodians at all times.

Digital Analytics – The Highway to Digital Intelligence

The success of any digital analytics hinges on the marketer’s understanding of his or her customers. Sounds familiar, right? But as marketers, we need to be aware of the fact that technology landscape has significantly altered in the last 5 years.

The way brands interact with their customers has changed and the ability to understand customers across digital channels requires a new approaches within digital analytics.

Digital Analytics

Traditional web tracking techniques were not designed for the breadth of channels, devices and speed that fuel today’s digital interactions.

Take Google Analytics for example, most of you would choose to believe Google Analytics is the ultimate platform for all your analytics needs, but actually that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Though it may be providing you huge amount of data related to the visitors on your website & mobile site, that’ll help you optimise your content & UI effectively, but it still offers a very limited approach if you want to scale your business operations in a growing market.

The basic DNA of the Digital medium is its state of constant change, and marketers need to look beyond the traditional analytics platforms and move towards more sophisticated Digital Intelligence systems which can provide you a much wider view including the competition, customer segments, social analytics, future trends, data across multiple devices including smartphones, tablets, wearables etc.

According to IMRI :

 Digital marketing intelligence is a process to identify prospects online, building reach and retain customers by leveraging the largest sample of online consumer behaviour with timely and actionable insights to drive ROI
The only point to which I disagree is that Digital Intelligence can’t be restricted to online data, we are living in a globalised environment where every 5th mobile purchased is a smart phone or a smart device and soon this number will outpace the growth of online. Online data sources like Comscore or Nielsen would have little impact to our marketing metrics and forecasts.
Incidentally, Compete is one of the very few companies who has already started working & providing such intelligence to brands globally. I understand that this research is not possible with pure digital analytics, which means at some point of time, we have to look out of the digital domain and merge data from offline sources as well.

Google Digital Intelligence

Larry Page, Chief Executive Officer of Google Inc, the biggest custodian of internet data on the planet, believes that the next few years would belong to Artificial Intelligence & related tech. In one of the ted talks (watch below video) he also talked about his core purpose behind acquiring Deepmind ( Founded by Demis Hassabis, Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman, deepmind was one of the AI Startups in the UK until it was acquired by Google.

Facebook Digital Intelligence

Today, almost all the Internet & technology enterprise companies have an AI research lab or have acquired some startup in the space. Facebook has a complete division called Facebook AI Research that covers the full spectrum of topics related to AI, and to deriving knowledge from data: theory, algorithms, applications, software infrastructure and hardware infrastructure.

Microsoft Digital Intelligence

Microsoft Academic Research has got an illustrious research panel on Artificial Intelligence from top global universities including Oxford, Standford & MIT.

Cisco Digital Intelligence

In 2013, Cisco took their first steps into the future security solutions by acquiring COSE (Cognitive Security) in order to offer advanced security services to their customers that can detect complex network threats in advance and take preventive action of its own.

2015 could well be the beginning of the new age of Big Data & AI  that would change our perception as marketers forever. The question is, is your brand ready for it?

How to foolproof your digital startup hiring strategy?

I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.

~ Lawrence Bossidy (Former COO of GE and author)

I wish I could’ve mailed the above quote in 70 font size, Arial Bold Face to all the Digital Marketing companies ( especially Agencies & Publishers ). Needless to say that building your startup hiring strategy is a never ending Everest climb for all organisations ( digital or non digital ).

Though bigger digital brands find it slightly easy to attract the right talent, retaining the talent becomes a bigger pain for them as well.

Ask any HR specialist or recruiter, they would say the trend is nothing different from other industries. People are looking to match the pace of their career growth with the rising costs. An average salary increase of 12% is completely disconnected with rising inflationary conditions. This will build a spiral effect, people who are not satisfied with their financial conditions will always be the first ones to look out for better jobs & opportunities.

In an interview (watch the video) given by Mark Zuckerberg, he made a profound statement, I quote:

The best people I’ve hired in my life were those who didn’t have much of engineering experience ~ Mark Zuckerberg

Startup Hiring Strategy isn’t just about hiring the best people with skills or for that matter who are stable in their careers, it is also about getting those who have a strong & relevant point of view about what you believe in, even if they do not have the experience or qualification from reputed engineering colleges.

I also believe, that in every industry, people have their own set of challenges due to which they show unstable tendency at work places. Of course, there will always be few individuals who do not fall in line despite a lot of effort by the management, but in general, people hate updating their resumes every year.

Also Read : Why Job Hopping is no longer a stigma globally?

As a business owner ( especially a start up owner ), attrition is something I should always keep at the back of my mind as one of the challenges which could hamper my growth story. Often start ups do not factor attrition while giving projections to their investors, which I believe is a massive error. The sooner they’ll accept the lack of permanence in the employee-employer relationship, the better it will be for their future enterprise. Once the degree of attrition is understood & acknowledged in any industry, you can then plan your resources a lot better.

The question is, as a business owner, how can you deal with this kind of situation?

Team Composition

First, make hiring a continuous process and not just restricted till the desired roles are filled. Managers should always be on a lookout for quality resources with value added skills for the team. For instance, do not hire resources of same nature & type, hire people with differentiated skill sets which will add value in long term. People love to be in a team where they can learn from each other. Collaborative learning is possible when you have people with different skill-sets.

Long term hiring

Second, do not hire people for solving your short term problems. For instance, if your key Account Manager decides to leave, it is bound to hit your operations & would also create uncertainty at client’s end, but your new hiring should not be to fill the immediate gap, instead it should attract people who are looking for a challenge in their careers to put their skill to test. Employees who join start ups from big companies usually carry a lot of baggage of their esteemed employer. At times it can be fatal for team dynamics.

Performance linked remuneration

Third, hiring people on performance linked remuneration, incentives & contracts could be another option. If you build your digital company’s team dynamics this way, employees would be exactly aware of what they are chasing, what team is chasing & how they can work towards it in a logical yet innovative way, Managers KRA would be to maximise potential of each individual who is working as a part of this contract.The best part, build substantial amount of incentives ( both monetary & non monetary ) which would drive morale among the senior & junior level employees.

The last point needs an Industry buy-in, but we are witnessing this trend already in few small to mid size digital-IT & digital-Infra companies where other than the sales force, revenue support functions like account management/ client servicing & customer support have been connected to measurable performance linked metrics.

The contracts are time bound but readily renewable subject to agreement by both parties (employee & employer). It offers a very flexible working relationship to individuals where everything remains constant except that employees are free to move out after the contract period is over.

One of the main challenges any digital startup company will face is poaching from upcoming start ups. Actually the poor demand-supply ratio of quality resources has made it absolutely imperative for any company  to desperately hold on to their trained resources.

Today recruiters are under severe pressures to find quality talent for their clients. No start up has any time to waste on training semi skilled employees. They have a running train of profitability & projections to catch up without which they would not get their next round of funding from the investor.

So think of it, time bound, performance linked contracts isn’t a bad option in digital business, it may also prove to be a win-win for the individual & start up clients & agencies in the long term.

How to write client proposals in a digital agency?

If you are new to digital sales, its an uphill task for you to come into the groove straight away and start getting revenue for the company from day 1.

However, you can certainly build an intent to make a difference to your pipeline by calibrating your digital agency proposals or RFPs by keeping into consideration the below points:

Product Relevance

First, and the foremost question you must try and answer for the client is why your product relevant for the brand in achieving their most critical brand marketing objectives (both strategic & tactical). So whether it is expanding the brand reach in an exclusive territory like a particular ethnic group/ community or it is driving a strong engagement amongst a niche audience across different geographies. Remember, in any case, how you will target the brand’s core audience will remains a key focus.

Innovation

Second, explain how your product/offering brings any strategic leverage for the brand. In simple terms, does it allow the brand to venture out and experiment or play with their current brand messaging in a more innovative way? If your proposal is also offering run of the mill solution to the brand, chances are that your sales person would end up standing in the long queue outside with other vendors.

Domain Experience

Third, what’s your relevant experience in the domain? Not all clients but certainly the high spenders like to work with selected vendors whom they believe have the technical prowess & proven expertise to deal with any future troubleshooting situation, especially when there is serious money at stake. If you position yourself as somebody who can just do the job well by offering competitive pricing, the person on the other side of the table ain’t gonna take you seriously. Agency planners need to see the WOW factor in your proposals every time and nothing better than offering them relevant case studies examples of their client’s competition. So next time, make sure you beef up your proposals with certain strong case study examples.

Understanding of Brand Objectives

Fourth,  have you understood the long term objectives of the brand? For instance, if the brand is launching itself in different geographies, it would expect its partners to bring key market insights on the table to allow him to take future decisions about the brand positioning vis-a-vis the competition.

Vision for Scalability

Fifth, is your approach scalable in future? Interestingly, very rarely I’ve seen this approach in vendor proposals where they talk about how they will span out a strategy which will evolve in the long run and would benefit the brand by offering scalable solution. More often than not most of the people offer a short sighted approach which may or may not give long term returns to the brand. For instance, a lead generation strategy should also come with future customer engagement plan for better customer acquisition.