Why Evolving Influence?

I recently struck out on my own and set up a marketing consultancy called Evolving Influence. This is the thinking behind the name.

Influence is an emotive word. It draws connotations to words like manipulative and scheming. People think of characters like Iago or historical figures like Machiavelli or Rasputin. It’s all very unseemly.

Influence is also a social media buzzword. It’s used too often and with too little thought. People have become slightly cynical towards it, particularly when it comes to the measurement of influence online.

Regardless of this baggage, influence is central to effective marketing. If your marketing is to have any value it must seek to influence people toward a specific outcome. An article might seek to position you as an expert. An email campaign might seek to secure meetings.

Moving above what particular tactics should aim to achieve, marketing should help businesses build relationships; it should start new relationships and make existing relationships stronger. As your business relationships grow, your influence over those with whom you have a relationship grows too. The drivers behind this influence – trust, a good reputation, worthwhile interactions – can be boosted by marketing.

Effective marketing should help companies grow their relationships, increasing their influence and helping them to become stronger businesses.

Growing relationships isn’t a process with an end, nor is it quick or linear. Like evolution, it is a continuous process which requires adaptation as circumstances change.

We help evolve your ability to influence clients, prospects and peers by building brand personalities and implement systems that foster strong relationships.

Experiences are the new social status signifiers

Prince recently took London by storm. He performed a series of short-notice, small-scale gigs. Only the lucky few could attend. Anyone who didn’t get a ticket was massively envious of those who were there. Those who were there documented every moment through social media.

Next up, Beyonce hit town and, although on a massively different scale from the Prince gigs, the city was split between those who were there and tweeted it and those who weren’t and tweeted something about their cat.

Documenting experiences is central to social media. Instagram is awash with pictures of idyllic holidays, smiley faces and dirty burgers. Facebook has become a place where all the good things in life are shared and dark times do not exist. It’s natural that we do this, we often don’t know the people we’re connected with very well, and even if we did, social media isn’t really the place for a heart to heart. A tweeted hug is no hug at all.

The flipside to all this positive lifestyle sharing is that experiences seem to be overtaking possessions as social signifiers. Your Gucci jeans say less about you than the villa you stayed in during your French holiday. Everyone knows about the villa, its pool and tennis court because of the pictures you instagrammed with the hashtag #blessed.

In an age of plenty and of mass produced luxury, it’s no surprise that experiences, which are rationed by their very nature, become much more valuable. Only a handful can be at a Wimbledon final, a concert or stay in a particular villa.

Of course, the prizing of experiences is nothing new. From colonial explorers who were the rock stars of their day, to the flying aces of the early days of aviation, adventurers have always cut a dash in society. Moreover, when it comes to one-upmanship, doing trumps owning. Indeed in Shakespeare’s Henry V, on the eve of the play’s great and final battle against the French, the eponymous King gives a rousing speech about how the those in the small English army would be able to stand tall among their countrymen due to their presence on the battlefield that day.

It seemed for a time, while package holidays, budget airlines and stadium concerts made experiences less exclusive, that possessions were the thing to set you apart, but that was a mere historical blip.

The advent of social media has meant that we’re able to document our experiences and others are easily able to view them like never before. This has created a simple and effortless way to reference and judge social ranking. As Daniel Kahneman has shown in his studies of human behaviour and decision making, the ease with which we can now discern others’ lifestyles and our natural tendency toward rules-of-thumb mean we now have a low-effort ready reckoner of the social pecking order.

So what if experiences replace objects? It is, after all, just one materialistic way of judging someone replacing another. There are, however, some ways that this shift is likely to change how we interact as a society. The world can be a lonely place and, increasingly for those who aren’t having a great time, it’s likely that the web, a long time haunt of misfits and outcasts, will become a lonely place too.

Moreover, as certain experiences become the ‘must do’ things in a life, there’s a chance that we’ll start experiencing homogenised lives in the way we purchase homogenised goods.

It used to be an article of faith among car salesman that if you wanted to know if a customer could afford a car, you only need look at their shoes or watch. Now they need only to look up their social media profile.

Twitter Ads

Why it’s worth spending a fiver on promoted tweets

Recently, Twitter opened up its ad platform to everyone, so instead of having to spend a few grand on a campaign you can spend few quid instead. I recently ran a small campaign on Twitter for myself to try out the system and I think it’s something everyone should do. Here are three reasons why:

Metrics, metrics metrics

Run a single ad for the briefest amount of time and you get access to Twitter’s analytics for your account. It shows every tweet, tracks every click, shows how many people followed you and unfollowed you on a particular day. It’s all the analytics you want, delivered from direct from Twitter without having to generate special links or bring in third-party tools.

The system highlights your best performing tweets, it highlights those with the greatest reach and so provides a simple and useful way to identify what’s really cutting through with your audience.

Who follows me?

Within the analytics there’s a useful follower breakdown. It tells you the topics that your followers are most interested in, charts follower growth and shows where your followers are in the world. It also shows that 71 percent of my followers are men and only 29 percent are women. That stat really shocked me. It’s something I hadn’t really expected and something I’m keen to address.

The follower breakdown, particularly the topics analysis, is useful in terms of working out the areas your followers are interested in. Some of these may surprise you. As a result, I’m certainly going to feed out a few tweets on topics I don’t normally cover, because I didn’t think people would be interested in them.

A good first impression

Once you’ve run a paid for campaign, you can run a free campaign forever. It’s caled pinned tweeting. It means that when someone looks at your twitter profile, either on desktop or one of Twitter’s own apps, the first tweet they see will be one you’ve chosen rather than whatever your last tweet was. So no more odd tweets that need to be read in context at the top of your profile’s timeline.

There are lots more useful tools like linking websites, building cards and tracking conversions with tags that have useful benefits, but after you’ve spent your fiver (in theory you could just spend a penny), these three benefits are available for no ongoing cost whatsoever.

Source: http://farm1.staticflickr.com/113/286709039_105881e4b9_o.jpg

The unquantified self

Beta metrics don’t hep us know ourselves, they merely provide us with known unknowns

One hundred years ago someone used a ruler and drew a line an inch long on a piece of paper. Yesterday, some found that piece of paper and, using a ruler, measured that line and found it to be an inch long. This didn’t really happen but the point stands: an inch is an inch.

Hypothetically, if a year ago, I had a Klout score of 50 and earned 2,500 Nike Fuel Points and today I have a Klout score of 55 and earn 2,000 Fuel Points, am I more influential and less active?

The correct answer is: I don’t know.

In that time both Klout and Nike have recalibrated how they calculate their metrics. Your scores from last year aren’t being measured on the same scale. A fuel point isn’t a fuel point. A Klout score isn’t a Klout score.

Now, of course, we want the most accurate metrics we can get. However, part of the appeal of metrics is that they help us understand how things have changed over time. Am I more influential? Am I more active? What is the trend? None of these questions can be answered if metrics aren’t consistent.

Wearable technology has emerged as the big trend at this year’s CES. These devices will capture a lot of data about us and a considerable portion of the captured data will be presented back encouraging us to improve ourselves but behind the hype many of these metrics will be no better than your own gut instinct.

So wear the bracelets, track your scores and enjoy the positive communities built around them, but remember that all you really know is that you don’t know. These beta metrics are Rumsfeldian ‘known unknowns’.

Vine vs. Instagram Video

Instagram launched a private messaging service today. It’s difficult to interpret the move as anything other than a response to the rise of SnapChat.

Earlier in the year, they had to make a similar move in response to Vine. The Google Trends data below show that Vine has proved more popular throughout 2013 than Instagram Video. Indeed, Instagram’s never caught up.

A note of caution: search trends obviously do not equal use so this data is only indicative. However, based on these proxy metrics, the indicators aren’t good.

made with ChartBoot

 

UPDATE

I should clarify that the search I ran on Google Trends referenced data from searches related specifically to online communities. Also, although Instagram Video is a more cumbersome term than just Instagram, a judgment call had to be made about the best way to identify data that relates to video, rather than Instagram as a whole. As such, this proxy may underestimate the popularity of Instagram Video to some degree. Alternative terms would drastically overstate it.

Analytics

Reputation vs. Brand

Much is written about the rise and rise of reputation. I took a look at Google Trends to see how popular reputation was in relation to brand. It turns out brand is much, much more searched for.

The below chart shows the findings. I set the parameters to searches in the UK focused around business and industrial issues.

This isn’t an insight or a significant finding, but it is interesting and worth being aware of.

made with ChartBoot

A huge thank you must go out to @JrAthletics for helping set up the plugin for the above chart. Please do follow @JrAthletics on Twitter and check out the website juniorathletics.co.uk.

Two Retailers

A tale of two retailers

As Christmas approaches and the nights draw in, families gather and stories are told. Well, gather round my digital kin and let me draw a scene in your minds of two iconic British brands with the help of two iconic British scribes.

Two retailers, both alike in dignity,
In wintry London, where we lay our scene,
For festive sales targets, break new advertising,

Where creative minds, leave creative egos green.

It is the best of times, if you’re John Lewis, it is the worst of times, if you’re Marks & Spencer.

These two titans of British retail are going through very different experiences. John Lewis continues to grow robustly whereas poor M&S, despite the strength of its food business, desperately needs to turnaround its declining, core clothing business.

In what has become an annual marketing tradition, both have released their Christmas adverts this week, hoping to lure shoppers into their stores.

The ads take strongly different approaches.

John Lewis features a single product in an ad full of emotion and heart-tugging narrative. Meanwhile, M&S sticks just about every last piece of clothing it stocks into a fairy tale fantasy that usefully has a supermodel in her smalls a couple of times.

The way their messages are delivered couldn’t be more starkly different but don’t for a second believe that one aims to sell and the other is brand building. Both seek to sell, sell, sell.

The difference is that John Lewis is confident in the knowledge that customers like its products. Indeed, the ad’s headline characters — a hare and a bear — are now products too; you can buy cuddly toy versions of them. So the message is, we know what Christmas is all about and we have the perfect presents for your loved ones. Buy them at John Lewis.

Marks & Spencer, or Magic & Sparkle as it brands itself in the ad, needs to change opinions about its clothing range. A clothing range that has seen sales drop for nine successive quarters. It’s not going to do that by saying it’s got the right presents for the people you care about. It’s got to demonstrate that it actually does have those products because the shoppers don’t think it does. So it spends the ad saying, ‘Look, this is nice. So is this. And this too. By the way have you seen this?”

Despite the different approaches, both ads are far, far better things that the retailers do, than their competitors have ever done.

NOTE: I apologise profusely to William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens

Every Lidl helps

The recession saw the rise of sub-lux products and the coming of age of Lidl and other budget supermarkets. As we tentatively enter a phase of economic growth, are we going to see Lidl try and edge a bit further up the value chain? Their very M&S-esque Christmas ad suggests the answer is ‘yes’.

Who wants to be acquired?

Companies are increasingly sophisticated with their direct marketing. Personalised letters and emails arrive, the contents of which are often tailored based on some sort of segmentation. Then the message is ruined as someone you’ve never heard of, with a job title like ‘Head of Acquisition Marketing’ or ‘Senior Customer Retention Manager’, signs it off.

Now, these people are senior marketers within their organisations. They’ve worked hard, they’ve helped to create an advanced direct marketing programme. Why then, do they undermine their sophisticated marketing structure by signing it off themselves? Why not the ‘Head of Customer Service’ or someone else who’s actually customer facing?

No one wants to be marketed to, still less do they wish to be acquired. So build the systems, develop the segments, come up with really creative content, but then take a step back. Stand in the background and let client facing people step to the front. You’ll acquire more customers from the shadows.

Marketing | Communications | Reputation