The New Social Media Trends in Asia-Pacific (Friday5)

A version of this post appeared in PRWeek.

Edelman Digital APACMEA’s review of social media usage across Asia Pacific and the Middle East reveals constant shifts in the social media channels being used, the nature of usage and the users themselves. One of the most evident tendencies in this region is that when the social media party gets crowded, the cool kids move on. As social media continues to become more and more a part of the fabric of daily life, the pattern of that fabric is forever altering, as can be seen through these trends:

1. Users Are Getting Older

The average age of social media users across all six key markets in Southeast Asia now starts at 18 rather than 15 or 16 in every country except the Philippines – which has the fastest growing population (Source: comScore). The popularity of more visually oriented platforms such as Instagram – usage in the United Arab Emirates has grown from 14 to 34 percent of the population over the past two years (Source: ictQATAR) – and private networks have fragmented the markets.

2. Social Media Platforms Are at War

Of the top five platforms in China in 2014, only one remained there as of last year. And that one – RenRen – once considered the Facebook of China – was bringing up the rear at number five with less than a fifth the users of the market leader (Source: CNNIC). It’s a similar story in India, where the once mighty Orkut has gone from second-to-oblivion in the same amount of time (Source: comScore).

3. Private Is the New Black

The generation that was once seen as over-sharing has grown up to be a bit shy and now prefers to circulate their selfies among smaller, more secure networks. This can be partly explained by the growing desire for privacy among formerly socialist (the original “sharing”) societies.

4. Mobile Is the New TV

The number of people using mobile for video in China has more than doubled during the past five years, while the number of people accessing via TV has collapsed to less than a quarter, confirming that this is the dusk of the single-use device (Source: CNNIC).

5. Brand-based Engagement Is Low

Across Southeast Asia, average engagement levels for brand-based content continue to fall to low single digits, with the notable exception of Vietnam, where it is a whopping 25 percent (Source: socialbakers). Vietnamese marketers: make the most of this while you can.

Image credit: Harco Rutgers

LinkedIn is Primed to be the New Corporate Blog (Friday5)

As brands vie for a piece of the fragmented marketplace of ideas, executive blogging is fast becoming the messaging vehicle of choice for organizations across the board. This comes as corporate blogging takes hold among more executives – a trend BRANDfog ascribes to enhanced brand trust. Tangerine Bank CEO Peter Aceto points to many benefits of executive blogging, including enhanced media relations, improved recruitment efforts and greater marketplace credibility, among others.

At issue in the current landscape, particularly with the advent of LinkedIn’s* open-publishing platform, is what property to leverage in building out this executive voice, with some CEOs swearing by corporate blogs, others subscribing to a LinkedIn-only approach and still others cross-publishing across a variety of blogging platforms like Medium and Quartz. It’s in this context that LinkedIn is now the most popular social platform for executives according to the latest Fortune survey.

Here are five reasons LinkedIn is now the blogging platform of choice for executives:

1. Audience

With its 300 million-strong following, LinkedIn offers a wealth of value from a traffic perspective. The platform’s built-in following befits executives looking to grow their network. For executives, the built-in audience means content is more likely to be read, shared and engaged with on the platform.

2. Ease of Access

Equally important in choosing online platforms is accessibility. It’s rare that influencers will seek out a corporate blog in search of industry insights, according to Chris Reed of eConsultancy. Reed, in advocating for a LinkedIn strategy, notes that users, many of which access the site via mobile, are more likely to engage with CEO content they can access without leaving the site to reopen a corporate blog.

3. Thought Leadership

LinkedIn’s user base, teeming with industry influencers, is best suited to executives looking to position themselves as thought leaders in their respective industries. Cricket Media CEO Katya Andresen, for instance, leverages LinkedIn to position herself as a champion of social justice – an effort unlikely to see as pronounced results on a corporate blog.

4. Engagement

For executives with resonant content to share, LinkedIn offers the added benefit of third-party validation. Though many corporate blogs include comment features, these tools see limited engagement and lack the popularity or social proof inherent in LinkedIn’s interface. Craig Newmark, founder of San Francisco-based Craigslist, sees marked engagement on his LinkedIn posts, many garnering over 10,000 views.

5. Costs

LinkedIn’s benefits extend to the site’s design. For executives eager to get blogging, the social network is ideally-suited with a built-in interface – one requiring no UX or UI investment. Posts, filtered into follower feeds, can also be accessed via author archives.

Indeed, LinkedIn offers a wealth of benefits to CEOs on social — not the least of which are lower costs and a built-in network of influencers. It’s in this landscape that social executives have the opportunity to not only connect with key publics, but also bolster brand trust.

*Edelman client

Image credit: Nan Palmero

The Science of Content Optimization (Friday5)

When developing a strong content approach for a client community that is new to you, it can be hard to find a good place to start. Here are few ways to successfully optimize content so you can continue to evolve it to be smarter and work harder toward your goals.

1. Look at the Past

The best way to start finding your sweet spot in editorial content is to look at what has performed well before. By developing content that your audience is already prone to engage with, you are setting benchmarks you can look to for data-driven insights to inform content in the future. Be consistent in your publishing so you can develop a reliable cadence for measurement.

2. Keep Evaluating

Once you’ve got a steady flow of content planned, set up an evaluation plan in the form of a monthly or quarterly report. Set goals and select the appropriate key performance indicators. With each report you will collect more data that will continue to inform your content strategy—it should be constantly evolving, so make sure you’re shifting appropriately to make your content stronger month-over-month. Make it easier on yourself by including tags or labels in your content calendar so you can go back and see which types of content are performing well, allowing you to more easily dig into the “why.”

3. Be Intentional

When you’re ready to answer specific questions about content performance, you’ll need to set up A/B tests so that you can properly measure variables. By intentionally planning content tests, you’ll learn what resonates best with your community. This can be as simple as finding out the best time of day to publish your message, and can provide strong insights to influence your evolving strategy. Make sure to consider a relevant sample size for these posts—if you are only comparing two posts, the insight may not be reliable.

4. Give it a Fair Chance

When you test different content types, messages and more, you’re bound to run into some bumps along the way. It’s important to keep in mind that not all content is created equal. For example, if you are integrating a video strategy into your existing content lineup and not seeing the same engagement rates across the board, don’t be discouraged. Comparing photo posts and video posts is like comparing apples (engagement) and oranges (views), so make sure you are giving them a fair chance for success by measuring against similar content.

5. Fail More

Just when you think you “know” your community, they may throw you a curveball and surprise you with content that significantly over- or under-performs. These posts offer a great opportunity to look at your community from a new angle. Consider the “why” behind the performance and see how you can learn what motivates your audience to engage (or not engage) and use it to your advantage. By taking calculated risks with content, you can learn even more about your community. Maybe they are ready to be “on point,” and maybe they aren’t—you’ll never know until you test it.

Tried and true, content optimization starts and ends with evaluation. Keep in mind there is no cookie-cutter solution for content development between any two communities. Use these tips to find the right balance for your community and constantly optimize for top performance. What do you think—have you seen success using other tactics?

Image credit: Jason Rogers

5 Considerations for Working With Sponsored Content (Friday5)

In its many forms, sponsored content partnerships between brands and online publishers are customizable, scalable and effective vehicles for reaching an audience online. These activations can range from a branded listicle with a couple integration/messaging points throughout, to a co-created collection of thought leadership material, to custom recipes on highly visual culinary sites and everything in between. The eruption of online content varieties that speak to and satisfy consumer interests and needs also benefits brands–aligning consumer interests with topics your brand can add value to can effectively engage a core audience in a natural setting.

Producing and distributing content on channels besides the brand’s owned properties adds credibility and a fresh voice. Additionally, millennials have increased trust in all digital media (including but not limited to owned) according to the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, scoring even higher than the survey audience.

Here are five considerations for working with publishers to create and promote sponsored content:

1. The Right Publisher/Partner

While renowned publishers (Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, New York Times, etc.) have sponsored content offerings, niche audiences could be better reached and more engaged in born-digital publications. Take your audience’s media consumption habits into consideration – natural user experience and authentic content formats are key for engagement. For example, if your topic is best addressed through visuals and your target is the older half of Gen Y, look for a partner with a strong mobile and social presence with interactive infographics. Third-party data (comScore, MRI, eMarketer, Iconoculture, etc.) can identify potential publishers in the ideation phase, as well. Finally, think outside the site itself and survey the publisher’s overall social presence. Do they share content on Facebook? Are they active on new platforms? How much overall site traffic is driven by social sharing? With more screens and social sites than ever, and publishers striking deals with social networks, a publisher’s overall presence is critical.

2. Supporting Assets

Some partnerships include supporting media spend for branded or co-branded banner ads during a campaign. If the publisher isn’t scoped for creative development (many have in-house creative shops for content and media production), consider your existing display media from other initiatives before starting from scratch. Create tracked URLs for banners and links within the content itself to consistently measure site traffic and conversions driven by the campaign. Unbranded images, campaign videos and spokesperson contributions can also be leveraged to support the content.

3. Content Longevity

With some partnerships, content included in the contract becomes owned content for the brand. Consider how a piece can be repurposed in the future and take an evergreen approach when possible, especially with high-quality productions such as videos.

4. Distribution

Most partnerships include media spend to promote the content on the publisher’s site to reach contracted impressions, and some include social amplification on their channels. Use a native advertising platform (Outbrain, ShareThrough, etc) to surface content to more readers on other sites and use promoted social posts to ensure you’re reaching a broader portion of your audience off the publisher’s site.

5. Measurement

In most cases, impressions is the only guaranteed metric outlined in contracts for these programs, though partners can report supporting figures such as page views, social shares, banner click-through rate and time spent on the page. At the beginning of a program, confirm which metrics the partner can measure and report, establish a reporting cadence if clients expect mid-campaign updates and request available benchmarks for final reporting purposes.

Image credit: Wikimedia

5 Tips for Covering Events on Social Media (Friday5)

In a given year, there are thousands of industry-related conferences.

Whether you are attending an industry-related conference on behalf of a client or for your own personal benefit, these events are great opportunities to learn the latest trends, network and provide a nice break from the daily grind at work. As they try to seek more attendees, social media is becoming a key component to any successful conference.

Here are a few tips to bring your social media A-game to the next event or conference you attend:

1. Do Your Research

Before you go to an event or conference, be sure to do your homework. Does the conference have a hashtag? What are people saying online about it? Create a list of Twitter handles of the keynote speakers and session presenters that you can refer to throughout the conference.

2. Have the Appropriate Tools

My go-to conference social media management tool is Hootsuite. What I love about Hootsuite is that it allows me to see all of my scheduled tweets/posts at a glance and, I can set up several streams to monitor the conference hashtag, speakers, mentions and more.

3. Use Social Media to Be Social

Don’t hide behind your phone or tablet the entire time of the conference. Use social media to connect with fellow attendees, exhibitors and speakers. You never know who you might meet!

4. You’re Not In This Alone

I often attend conferences that have thousands of attendees. Although I constantly feel that I am the only attendee capable of informing the masses, I have to take a step back and appreciate the content that others are sharing. I take time to read other people’s tweets and benefit from their perspective. Sharing other people’s content can lead to great networking opportunities.

5. Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Moment

Although trying to capture every keynote and breakout session on social media can be exciting, it can also be exhausting. My advice is to find times to put your phone away, focus on what is being said and take time to smell the roses.

Image credit: Jason Howie

5 Ways to Address Social Issues on Social Media (Friday5)

This post was written by Amy Verhey, Anna Kowalcyzk, Kendra Staggs and Laura Armstrong.

As Edelman’s 2014 brandshare™ study revealed, consumers increasingly expect brands to go beyond rational and emotional needs to show their commitment to community, core purpose and mission. Often, this is activated through social marketing, a communications approach aimed at changing or maintaining people’s behavior for the benefit of individuals and society as a whole.

For the past two years, Edelman SF has been a partner of Taste of the Nation SF*, an event featuring “tastes” from the area’s top chefs to benefit Share Our Strength’s “No Kid Hungry” campaign, a national campaign to end childhood hunger. Drawing from these experiences, we’ve compiled five effective social marketing tactics corporations can use to drive social good:

1. Succinct Messaging

Narrow messaging to one key point with a strong call to action, making all content useful, interesting and shareable. Following the Nepal earthquakes, for example, Oxfam shared important statistics on rescue efforts and goals that powerfully demonstrated the need for aid and how people could help.

2. Target Your Audience

Localize your message to pack the greatest punch. For many large national organizations, this is most effectively done through localized twitter handles. The Red Cross, for example, has regional handles (i.e., @RedCrossBayArea) that localize national initiatives through community-specific statistics, stories of local volunteers, and direct CTAs. When possible, leverage paid targeting to hit community members that have proven, through social following and interests, a passion for community work.

3. Be a Community Partner

Support other socially driven organizations to help build your organization’s reputation as a strong community partner. For example, @NoKidHungrySF often shares and celebrates upcoming events and fundraisers for other local hunger organizations, such as Second Harvest and the SF-Marin Food Bank, and when Taste of the Nation kicked off event promotions, they reciprocated.

4. Influencer Engagement

Earn third-party promotion by leveraging social media influencers passionate about your cause. We asked social influencers in our community with a proven passion for charity to authentically and creatively share Taste of the Nation SF with their audiences, and through this, we were able to rally an audience much larger than our own.

5. Crowd-Source Change

Tap into larger communities to make change through partnerships. For example, Venmo + Possible helps users “Cash out for a Cause,” donating $4 to helping someone obtain lifesaving healthcare. Additionally, Thunderclap, a social crowd sourcing platform, sets a concrete goal for its audience with an individual call to action that feeds a larger movement.

*Edelman client

Image via Amy Verhey

Friday5: How to Run a Successful Lead Generation Campaign

Lead generation can play a critical role in building long-term relationships for businesses. While the goal of a lead generation campaign can vary from driving sales to driving signups for a rewards program, collecting leads generally consists of individuals expressing interest in a product or service by completing a form or submitting requested information.

The key to a successful lead generation campaign is to focus on lead quality, not simply quantity. Quality leads emerge when registrants show the demographic and behavioral attributes that correlate to a higher probability of leading to the desired outcome. Typically, the most efficient way to drive quality leads is through micro-targeted online advertising, allowing the right audience to be reached on the right platform with the right messaging.

Here are five key elements for launching and running a successful lead generation campaign.

1. Research Your Audience

Understanding your audience is especially important when driving leads because you have to focus not only on what will grab their attention, but also motivate them to take the prescribed action. Primary and secondary research should be used to gain an understanding of your audience’s demographic composition, values, beliefs, interests, and media consumption habits to inform the campaign and yield the best conversions.

2. Determine Media Mix

Identify platforms where your audience is most active and build out a plan that will reach users effectively and efficiently across a mix of platforms. This provides advertisers multiple opportunities to convert their targeted audience, even if they do not convert from the initial ad. For instance, someone may hear an ad from an online radio service and then conduct a search for the campaign, leading to a search ad. To make the campaign as efficient as possible, it is crucial to begin optimizing your targeting parameters so you are only reaching the intended audience.

3. Develop Engaging Creative and Messaging

Based on the audience profile(s) and media platform(s), the next step is to develop several creative and messaging concepts based on audience insights. Running and testing a variety of concepts will help determine which elements are successful in driving the most leads, leading to optimization against these findings. Visuals should include imagery that will capture the audience’s attention, while messaging needs to include a clear call-to-action (CTA) with an outlined benefit so people understand what we want them to do and why they should do it.

4. Review the Conversion Funnel

When asking people to do something, it’s important to ensure you’re making it as easy for them as possible. Generally, the fewer steps a person has to take, the more likely they will be to convert. By reviewing the conversion funnel up front, you can identify unnecessary steps that could prevent people from following through and streamline the process accordingly. For instance, an online form should be as short as possible, asking only for crucial information initially and subsequent fields on a second interaction, such as an email or webpage.

5. Test, Optimize, Test

Testing everything is one of the most important aspects of online lead generation. By regularly tracking all campaign components, you’ll be able to clearly see what is working and what isn’t. Using analytics, conversion pixels, attribution models, and tagged inbound URLs, you can see which platforms and creative elements are generating leads, allowing you to optimize toward the most successful audiences and/or creative elements. Running A/B and multivariate tests will also help refine and improve specific campaign elements for current or future campaigns.

Image credit: ericnvntr

Friday5: 5 Entry Points for Executives on Social

Inherent in today’s digital landscape is a new set of expectations for executives, not the least of which is building trust by engaging stakeholders online. With trust in CEOs now at a meager 43 percent according to the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, there’s never been a better time to leverage digital tools to build an authentic online presence and directly engage with key stakeholders.

For CEOs who are less comfortable communicating online, getting started comes with its own set of challenges. After all, not every executive is as savvy on social as Richard Branson. Here are five ways that executives new to social media can build a strategic online presence that elevates their personal brand and provides a reputational lift for their company:

1. Content Curation

In crafting a digital narrative, executives can share the latest thinking from across their industry. One standout example is Doug Conant, former chief executive of Campbell Soup Company, whose updates are peppered with best practices from leadership thought leaders such as Bill George. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner takes a similar approach, sharing the latest HR trends on Twitter, contextualized with a thoughtful point of view.

2. Brand Amplification

Equally important is the celebration of team wins on social media – a clear trend among active executives. Marissa Mayer, chief executive of Yahoo!, regularly showcases the standout work of her team. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is another top executive to emulate, as he mixes appearance updates with the latest corporate news from Salesforce, such as a recent app release.

3. Insider Access

In addition to amplifying corporate wins, executives are ideally suited to share the ins and outs of their organizations. One notable example is Apple’s Tim Cook, who regularly spotlights the experts behind the brand’s latest product rollouts. Marissa Mayer’s behind-the-scenes posts follow a similar theme, highlighting Yahoo employees’ participation in pop culture moments, such as last year’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

4. Personal Tone

Social media gives executives the opportunity to humanize otherwise stuffy corporate messaging. CEOs, in particular, are embracing a down-to-earth persona on social. Jeff Weiner shares a trove of resources, including online shopping tricks. Mayer takes a similarly social approach, sharing photos from various appearances, opting for unfiltered, Facebook-style images over pristine stock imagery.

5. Inspirational Musings

Perhaps most important to executives is demonstrating thought leadership and business acumen. On social, this often translates to sharing sage advice on climbing the corporate ladder, multi-tasking, work-life balance and taking the road less traveled. Tangerine Bank CEO Peter Aceto uses inspirational content in the form of standalone tweets, many garnering a handful of retweets and favorites. Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes takes this to the next level, authoring a constant stream of LinkedIn Influencer posts, each on the fundamentals of career success.

Today, executive and brand reputation are one and the same and the onus is on CEOs – new and established alike – to build a compelling digital narrative. Among the many benefits of a solid social presence include improved recruitment efforts, with 76 percent of employees reporting that they would rather work for a social CEO, according to a recent LinkedIn and Altimeter study. Invariably, it’s the executives sharing industry insights, spotlighting team wins and inspiring the wider community that are reaping these benefits and serving as role models for CEO communications on social.

Image credit: reynermedia

Friday5: Modern Brand Storytelling

This past week, Seattle hosted its annual IN-NW Conference featuring speakers and panel sessions dedicated to discussing what’s next for digital engagement and modern business. During the conference, Edelman Seattle’s Megan Tweed, Digital Senior Vice President and Deputy GCRM (Assembly, Inc.), shared five ways brands can effectively tell their story and adapt to the modern media ecosystem.

1. Meet the needs and expectations of consumers

There is a value exchange that exists between brands and consumers – a relationship that produces a quantifiable value. From Edelman’s brandshare report, 87 percent of consumers want more meaningful relationships with brands, including responsiveness, transparency and access. Brands are now more dynamic than before, accessible to everyone, and starting points for shared discussions. As new brands emerge, consumer loyalty begins to thin. To remain relevant to their audiences, brands need to say something unique, relatable and create value for the consumer – a reason to engage.

2. Data is your hidden superpower

Brands and publishers are now competing head to head, and the new battle royale is content, with data serving as the hidden superpower for achieving visibility and relevancy. With today’s advanced technology, brands now have access to data points that explains user preferences, subscription information, purchase history, and more. Leveraging this information enables them to further refine their targeting and approach, ultimately delivering the best possible user experience: personalized and catering to the audience’s interests.

IN NW post graphic 043015 v2

3. Become a publisher

There’s a fundamental shift underway where platforms are targeting publishers with an algorithm shift that brings their organic reach closer to that of brands, further emphasizing the need for brands to use paid or negotiate a publishing deal to ensure content visibility. Why pay for an audience when you can become the media property? As brands progress towards a publisher-type content model, there is a stronger need for editors versus brand managers. To effectively reach its audiences, brands should be anticipated, personal, and relevant, rather than interruptive.

4. Understand the power of tech

Brands that understand data-driven storytelling can break the silos and get their stories front and center of their target audience. By implementing a mix of old school and new era communications marketing, brands will create relevancy across touch points throughout the brand and consumer relationship – while delivering retention, usage and upselling opportunities for more efficiency in upper-funnel marketing and content creation.

5. Take a bird’s eye view approach

Evaluate the changes in social platform visibility algorithms, from all sides, and be ready to redefine your brand’s business objectives. What are you actually creating and how does that serve your customers’ best interest? Does it really matter? Real content marketing is making something worth talking about. Above all, the brand needs to show that it cares. Be fearless, but be real.

As the media landscape continues to evolve, how will you cut through the clutter to tell your brand’s story?

Image credit: justgrimes

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