Twitter has a problem

I love Twitter. It has opened many doors for me and connected me with wonderful people.  

About three years ago it even connected me with great people who actually work for Twitter and, it was with a lot of excitement that I met some of their executives when they were planning the Sydney office (none of them work in the office now in case you’re wondering). 

It was a time of great hope. We met in a hotel lobby and went out for lunch. I looked at some of the pitch documents from various PR companies and dropped soup dumplings down my top. There was a big push for TV partnerships and sports and we talked about the future of media and I destroyed the PR pitch documents and handed them back. I felt super important like I was at the forefront of something massive. A lot of the talk then was getting the content organised enough to monetise and they were working with sports teams and the like to hashtag correctly, drive conversations and make the feeds marketable. 

We then started talking about ad agencies, media agencies and some of the issues they were facing. The Twitter executives were hanging on my every word when I was talking about ad buying and media commissions, the death of print, the gravy train of TV and the market for “Creative”. I remember thinking it was a little bit strange that I was explaining how ad inventory is bought and sold to them but hey, this was The Future and maybe I was stuck in old school thinking. 

In hindsight, I can see that they had no idea how brands actually buy media. Twitter has a problem. 

They still have no idea how brands actually buy media.

 If they think a client-side brand manager is going to sit at a computer with a company credit card (have you ever seen anyone in a marketing team with a company credit card, let alone using one to buy ads?) then they think wrong. The agencies are sitting in the middle between the client and the media the same way they have since the 1930s and, as much as I would like that to change sometimes too, that's the reality. 

Twitter have pushed out a whole lot of ad products in the last few weeks, none of which I could recommend on a media plan with a serious face unless, brands just want to have a bit of a play. Facebook and Google have done a far better job of working with agencies to get their self-serve models working but it has requited a lot of hand holding and Google have essentially outsourced their client service with the growth of the new industry called “an SEO agency”. 

 I still struggle to get brands to understand that they have to ‘pay to play’ on Facebook and that they should be pushing the social media companies to educate them and provide them with client service. 

I ran into the now former Twitter executive at an event recently (he now works for another large startup) and he shrugged his shoulders and said the same thing. They are pushing out a lot of stuff but they can’t agree on a business model so nothing sticks.  Building a better mousetrap won’t fix Twitter’s problem. 

Facebook has won social media and we can all go home now

It’s been a while since I’ve done some social media strategy work on a big, mainstream FMCG grocery brand. 

I had a real Big Daddy to work on last week and, as I sat down to pull together my data for the reverse brief I was hit by just how much Facebook has won. 

Facebook is the social web. 

The target demographic for the product I was working on was families, economical blue collar working types and then older, empty nesters. Mainstream, high volume value brand stuff. 

The supermarket goldmine demographics that every large supplier wants to hit because they do huge revenues. Facebook was an obvious choice because the brand page had around 35 million page likes already but I’ve got so used to doing multichannel plans my instinct was to look around for other ways to reach consumers. 

I tried to liven things up with a bit of Instagram but then I saw this stat “people between 18-34 make up 70% of total users in Australia -females are 60% of users”. This is not my blue collar, mainstream user. 

Twitter only got a brief look in as part of the PR strategy to identify possible influencers. We could have put our video content on YouTube as a secondary channel but again, it skews younger and why would we do that when we have the reach of Facebook video and the ability to target and retarget?

All roads led to Facebook for both organic and paid conversations. As I dug deeper, and thought about Facebook’s unashamed push for, and favouring of video content, I realised this was the strategy for my brand: Facebook video with around 50% organic and 50% paid conversations

Mark Zuckerberg's dog Beast

Social media strategy and platform use can get very subjective but if you stick to the user data and keep your own, and your client’s own preferences to the side, all you can do is Like the photo of Mark Zuckerberg’s dog on your Facebook feed and congratulate them on winning the social web. 

Why anti social media rants simply don't work -even for the Bieber

It seemed that everyone was having a moan at their audiences yesterday for not behaving properly. 

Justin Bieber sent out orders on Snapchat to his Beliebers that they should not harass him for a photo if he didn’t feel like it. 

"The way you ask or approach me when you want a photo with me is going determine if I take a photo or not,” he warned.

“If I’m walking somewhere or arriving somewhere and you guys are asking me to take a photo, if I don’t respond, if I continue to keep walking, the likelihood is that I probably don’t want to take a photo at that moment.

“If you start screaming louder that’s not going to make me take a photo more.” Everybody got that?

The instructions came after he was screamed at by demanding selfie-hungry fans at Melbourne airport. Surely they should all just enjoy the experience of basking in his presence and not need to get a photo for their social media?

Shortly after, a member of the Bieber entourage posted a video of fans clearly ignoring his directive and Bieber abandoning an attempt to address his fans saying "nevermind, you’re not even listening to me.” (which would make a great song title Justin you should use that -you’re welcome). 

Former Australian Premier Campbell Newman then saddled up on ABC News and complained about the 'click-baiting' of politics and how nobody wanted to take the time to let him explain anything properly. 

What both Newman and Bieber seem to have missed is that their audience, has their own audience and their own objectives. 

The Bieber fans main objective for stalking him at an airport or outside a hotel is to get a selfie for their social media accounts. 

The Twittering political classes love to chirp away at politicians as a form of entertainment. Politicians become the ‘social object’ that is bantered about and finding the funniest meme or calling out a fumble (although a bit mean) is all part of the sport. 

Message control through your own publishing channels is a good thing but don’t think this will translate into the audience changing their behaviour if you haven’t understood their objectives. The Belieber also has a Snapchat account. The voter also has a Facebook or a Twitter account to express their views on. Start with that person’s behaviour and work back from there and don’t get frustrated with the new reality. 

Enterprise cloud team management that actually works

On Wednesday I went to a Microsoft Biz Data executive breakfast where CIO Dave Rumsey and CFO John Mackenney from Tourism Australia presented on their move to Azure cloud platform for BI. 

CIO and CFO Tourism Australia -Azure
I’ve sat through a lot of these project showcase things now and most of it is utter rubbish and people stand up and take credit for a broken system they didn’t even work on and lie about how successful it all was. 

You’ll be pleased to know this was not one of those sessions. 

myTA user walk through Sharepoint-Azure

Both Dave and John had a very practical understanding of how global, centralising systems and reporting works which started with the main problem enterprises face: people love Excel. So everyone has a little Excel spreadsheet they budget and report and do their washing in and their is no centralised way of using information for decisions.

I was very impressed with how sensible the solutions were and how they kept saying ‘we are a marketing organisation’ and ‘we are a media organisation’ so the main purpose of the system is to aid with campaign management and stakeholder management. Old systems were turned off. Report formats were standardised across global teams. I think sometimes with all the smug-ness around anti-meeting and anti-project culture we can forget that people talking to each other, clarifying what the issues are, figuring out what's trying to be achieved is work  and really important work that saves everyone freestyling off on their own and losing any benefits of centralised cloud systems. 

Choirs of angels and big gold stars for Dave and John who managed to actually work together and put together a cross-functional, shared analyst team so campaign management e.g. adobe web traffic data is linked to budget management finance data for ROI. What that means is that a digital analyst sits in the same team as a finance analyst ‘because it all connects back’. Yes it does. Thank you for being clever. And before you say ‘well that’s ok for them because they are a big org and have lots of money’, Tourism Australia only has 200 employees and four analysts so that’s not huge really. 

As I mentioned to the Microsoft man next to me who kept trying to show me how great Cortana is, “it’s almost as if they like each other” and I think the main reason their system implementation worked is because Dave and John might actually like each other and enjoy working together. I could be wrong but when you get a CFO and CIO who actually talk to each other and make decisions, a nasty ERP 18 month rollout turns into a charming and insightful breakfast presentation with blueberries. Well done. 

The one thing you can do today to properly understand social media

If you want to understand how social media works, listen to the Facebook earnings calls. I tell people this.They don’t listen to me. 

That’s why I’m happy to tell you my little secret here, because you probably would rather pay two thousand dollars to go to a half day workshop and listen to people who aren’t Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg talk about social media. That’s up to you. 

Facebook has the family lunchbox users and Twitter wants them
And then Sheryl would have explained to you that social media is still a very small part of most brand’s marketing mix and that there is still a big job to do with marketers getting them to understand how to use and measure the ad products to demonstrate ROI. That would have explained to you the Twitter Australia/ Nielsen TV presentation last night and also the overly sorry apology from Twitter CEO Dick Costolo for not zapping enough trolls because they need to reposition Twitter as family friendly. The proactive communications machine roared into life well before the Twitter earnings results this morning which showed that, other than the Google deal, there wasn't much to say. 

Tony-hater of keyboard warriors, the Internet, coffee and the future of the free world
Apparently the Twitterati trolling politicians like former Prime Minister of Australia Tone Abetz for calling social media ‘electronic graffiti’ is not good content for top media buyer Woolworths selling 85 cent loaves of bread to working families so everyone needs to be a bit nicer so Twitter can attract newer, more gentle, kid’s lunchbox users and take some TV ad revenue. You would have heard Mark Zuckerberg explain very clearly to you that social media updates started as text and then went to photos- where Facebook got the big mainstream growth surge from- and that the next wave is mobile video. So if you want to make your posts to rank well on Facebook, perhaps you could post a video? Just a thought… 

If you are the one person that heeds my advice, then the Twitter earnings call this morning is a walk in the park to understand. You would have heard Sheryl talk about the growth of video on mobile and instantly understood why Twitter have incorporated video into their mobile app this week. 

You would have heard Mark talk about search and providing a search experience that ‘nobody else on the internet can provide’. By that he means Google. So then you would understand why Twitter has restarted their deal with Google to index data for search because everyone seems to go through the process of figuring out that a walled garden always seems like a good idea for ad revenue but it’s a big fail for content and discovery. 

Next gen products-mobile, visual, hyper social friend networks
You would have heard Sheryl talk about ‘next generation’ products like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp and understand why Twitter launched group direct message functionality.You would have heard the Facebook CFO chappie Dave say (at great speed) that ad prices went up 300%, mainly due to growth in mobile video ads and because they can measure stuff better now. Um what? Yes the prices are going up. 

It’s brilliant, Facebook tells you everything. You have to be a bit more Turing code-breaker to pick the winners in the Google call because it’s basically everything they aren’t talking about that’s interesting. Analysts are spooned up some token numbers about ad network rates that don’t really mean much and then there’s a dismissive hand waggle to ‘emerging non-ad business’ and Google for Work’s plans to take over the world with their operating systems and work tools …look at the self-driving magic Noddy cars everyone!

Today, Facebook is setting the pace in social, definitely in a commercial sense and arguably in an innovation sense and they are worth listening to to give you clarity about the big chunky things that matter in the industry whether you personally like Facebook as a platform or not. 

But that’s up to you. 

Australia Online Landscape Review - September 2014

Who loves a good landscape review? I certainly do and now that there is a mobile and tablet index you can impress your friends and colleagues with exciting phrases such as:

-do you know what the top three streaming brands by audience are because I do -YouTube, Facebook, and Vevo

-if you had read the top 10 mass merchandisers by audience data you would know that -Amazon, Woolworths, Coles head that list

-11.5 millions Australians 14 yrs + access the internet everyday via smartphone, up 1 million YOY - it's important to regularly review the online landscape I find. 

Be the smart annoying one in your meeting today. View the full report:

Will it bend? Rachel Allen buttermilk scones

If your previous scone efforts have been of the Nokia 5 series indestructible brick varietal then this recipe is for  you. 

I’m a big fan of Rachel Allen and her buttermilk scones recipe is pretty internet-famous so I decided to give it a go, because it said ‘difficulty=easy’ on the page and making 'hard' scones that would turn out hard all sounded a bit hard. The secret is to RTFM on this one: do exactly what the recipe says and your scones will be a winner. 

Winning scone of champions and following instructions

Tips: 

Scone science is very complicated and controversial

There is much debate on the best raising agent to use for scones and the cream of tartar/buttermilk/bicarb soda science is what makes them non-Nokia so get all the things ready before you start and get the measurements exact

The buttermilk came fresh in a carton in the chilled section of the supermarket where you get milk

I had a conversion fail at the start going from grams to cups -US standard cup and AU standard cup are not the same so remember it’s fourish cups not 2ish cups of flour 125gms =cup, cup dependent of course

I used normal, plain flour and not 00 Italian pasta flour so that gets them even lighter if you can get that

I cut the dough out with a normal water glass because I didn’t have a scone cutter and it worked ok

Rachel Allen likes crispy golden brown bottoms

Don’t panic if they take a few minutes longer in the oven to go dark golden because I just about pulled them out too soon and then I went ‘no, I must trust Rachel at this critical time’ and they look good I think. Rachel Allen goes on about the crispy outside and bottoms and the soft middle which I didn’t really get before but I do now, it’s amazing and what makes them so different from the atrocities you get at Starbucks et al.

Squishy and soft hooray :)
Jam and cream for the full Queen experience

Will they bend? Nope these ones are not doughy nor brick-like in any way and I was pretty impressed with the colour and height on them, especially for a first attempt. Rubbing the butter into the flour takes ages but if you get organised, it's fast and the recipe makes a lot and you will feel talented and successful in your renewed scone making abilities. Seriously, stick to the recipe and (I even sifted the dry ingredients which I normally could never be bothered with) and you will be tapping crispy bottoms, just like Rachel. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 500 g light Italian or plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 heaped tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 125 g chilled unsalted butter, cubed
  • 25 g caster sugar
  • egg, beaten
  • 275 ml buttermilk or milk, plus extra for the egg wash
  • 50 g caster or granulated sugar, (optional)

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/gas 7. 

2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and salt into a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and mix well. 

3. Set aside about a third of the beaten egg and combine the rest with the buttermilk, then add to the flour mixture and mix briefly to combine into a moist dough. Place on a lightly floured work surface and knead ever so slightly to bring together, then press or roll out to a thickness of 2cm. 

4. Using a 6cm round cutter, cut out approximately 12 scones and place on a floured baking tray. 

5. Add about a teaspoon or so of buttermilk to the remainder of the beaten egg to make an egg wash. Brush the scones with the egg wash (and dip the tops in sugar if you wish) and bake in the oven for 10–12 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve while hot. 

Adapted from Rachel Allen, Bake (Collins)

Structuring enterprise social content teams

Choirs of angels. Buzzfeed have come up with a simple, ‘three content bucket’ structure for differentiating between types of social content: Buzz, Buzzfeed News, and Buzzfeed Life. 

When you talk about ‘social media’ in a company remember that everyone usually defaults to thinking about apps and short snacky type content like Facebook updates and tweets.  Buzzfeed call this Buzz or BuzzTeam for ‘socially-oriented, experimental content’. The thing about this type of content is that everyone enjoys working on it and massively overestimates both how good they are at it and the value it brings to the organisation. It’s important to have it in the mix for attraction and content distribution, but is also the most difficult to measure and can result in a lot of junk that doesn’t really do a lot. 

For most organisations, the Buzzfeed News part will form the earned (media relations, PR) arm of your content strategy. Things like live event or conference coverage, industry news, business results, new appointments, store openings and product announcements. Your blog or blog network should be the home base for this type of content on a company-owned online space.

Your Buzz social team will work with the news team to make the content more digestible and interesting to audiences through engaging headlines, attractive photos and updates through various social media channels like LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Skills like writing, video production, editorial and researching skills, as well as media relations and strategy are needed in the News area. 

Buzzfeed Life is the really new area where organisations need to pay more attention and resource up for client-side, branded media production. Buzzfeed say that their Life team has mainly grown out of success with Pinterest for ‘lifestyle content like parenting tips, recipes, or how-to guide’. You can adapt this to your organisation by thinking about how to better equip and help customers with case studies, maps, how-to videos, whitepapers, playbooks, recipes, budget advice, online calculators, restaurant reviews and inspiring photos.  People developing this type of content will be working more like a traditional ad agency. Depending on the size and structure of the organisation, you might also be making paid media decisions in here about placing Google ads, buying Twitter Cards, making and placing Facebook ads and YouTube sponsored content. 

The three all work together.  So if you are doing a new store opening you might have the Buzz team giving away branded vouchers and T-shirts that the Life team produced. The News team publish blog and vlog posts about some brand ambassadors who might be at the store getting photos with customers.  Paid ads produced by the Life team run on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to promote the new store opening specials.  I know you're thinking 'that's cool for them but we are a boring government agency' but if you work backwards from how a customer or stakeholder might come across and consume your content you'll find it does make sense and the real challenge is getting teams of people who have flexible skills to work across different formats such as blogs, videos and social channels. Buzzfeed are also known for testing and measuring everything so there is also an analytics component to factor in. Most is done at an individual, content producer level and the teams are benchmarked with dashboards to deliver the most effective and shareable formats. 

Start small. Even getting teams that haven't worked together to agree on one hashtag can be a challenge at the start but take the tiny triumphs and try to keep the focus on News at the start as everyone will want to talk about and work on Buzz. Also, try and be realistic with Life content. You probably won't be able to produce a $5 million Samsung TVC in three hours on a $300 Go Pro. Learn to develop formats that you can make with your existing tools and that are sustainable. One simple how-to video per week is a lot more useful than one masterpiece that takes 12 weeks and soaks up hours and hours of time with meetings and sign-off because everyone wants to play movie director. LOL OMG CUTE.  Buzzfeed are awesome at this stuff and it works so learn from them and your content teams will probably enjoy working on projects a lot more too. 

23 reasons it's great HuffPo is coming to Australia (number 17 will surprise you)

The Huffington Post is coming to Australia and that’s great news for people like me who have sat in cubicles at traditional media companies thinking ‘this whole thing just doesn’t work anymore and I want to go home now.'

Now Australia and New Zealand media companies will have a working model of a proper new media company so that we don’t have to skip to page 110 of the Digital First Content Strategy Newsroom of The Future strategy document to try and convince editors that their fears of native content are largely imaginary and that the smiley-faced external consultancy person walking around with a spreadsheet who keeps disappearing into that meeting room that’s locked all the time is more likely to cause you pain and suffering by process of redundancy than writing a blog post for Toyota about driving a four wheel drive car up a ski field. 

HuffPo (or as the ABC charmingly calls it "the liberal American online news aggregator and blog") is brazen about native advertising, blogger friendly, and happy to talk about machines curating content through behavioural targeting.  Sponsored and branded content discussions are not imaginary but actual real-life things that happen and result in advertisers paying money to media companies so that they can pay editorial teams and journalists and everyone can pay for their groceries and maybe a new pair of shoes now and again.Great. 

The media industry gets more competition, The Guardian and Buzzfeed (oh look- they’re here already) come to Australia so talented local people like First Dog on The Moon get to develop new characters like the Westboro Baptist Hate Octopus, and we don’t all have to read about climate change being imaginary, rugby union, rugby league, Aussie rules rugby, and racehorses all the time. 

Koda Wang is the HuffPo person getting all the Australian stuff ready to go and he said the second quarter of 2014 generated about as much revenue in terms of native advertising than the whole of 2013. That's called growth and growth is good because the opposite of growth is decay which results in death and killing and book titles like this one:

Professional aggregator of liberal cat video bloggists Koda Wang said,"we keep the same bar of quality for native as we do for editorial. A lot of editors that create our native content come from our newsroom - they know how to create good content. It's also important to make sure native advertising is clearly labelled. And it's got to be authentic to the brand of your advertiser and to your own brand."

My thoughts exactly. Treat your audience like they’re adults and didn't just come out the Christmas cracker yesterday and they’ll be OK with some ad-supported content. 

But what about the ‘slippery slope argument’. The slippery slope argument comes from editors and usually goes along the lines of ‘if I drive a Toyota up a ski field and write a blog post about it then next week I will have to run streaming propaganda for the war in Gaza because that’s how North Korea works. It’s a slippery slope’. 

I know that’s a big separate discussion but at the heart of it I would say perhaps it’s time for journalists and editors to also be adults and take responsibility for their decision making.  The days of kidding yourself that “I don’t work for News Corp, I work for The Daily Telegraph” are over and trying to pretend that you aren’t part of the machine like everyone else…well come on.  The challenges of the media industry impact everyone and trying to cling to some romantic notion of eighties journalism is what’s causing all the pain in suffering in today’s traditional media companies where employee satisfaction ratings sit around 22-35%.  It’s not the war in Gaza but good grief I’d be gratefully taking the keys to that Toyota and getting my branded content on. 

The Huffington Post Australia plans to launch in the first quarter of 2015 and let’s hope it’s a shining light of new media that will inspire Australia and New Zealand media companies to face the realities that yes print is lovely but no, it doesn't make money anymore so let's go drive a Toyota around a ski field so that your colleagues will have a job that they actually like going to next year and if you don't want to write crappy '23 reasons' blog posts then don't write them. 

Australian mobile ad spend quadruples plus big moves in retail display

Mobile advertising quadrupled in 2013, increasing 305 percent year on year to reach $349.2m in the twelve months ending 31st December 2013.  In the December quarter it represented 14.3 percent of total online expenditure, up from 11 percent in the previous quarter.  Video advertising reached 15 percent of display revenues in the December quarter, a 72 percent growth on 2012.  Display advertising also experienced particularly strong growth in the December quarter, reaching 35 percent year on year growth.

Motor Vehicles, Finance, and Retail were the top three dominant General Display industry categories in the December Quarter, representing 41.3 percent of the reported General Display advertising market. This was up from 40.2 percent in the December Quarter 2012.

Retail was a big mover this quarter, increasing its category share from 8.8 percent in the December Quarter 2012 to 10.5 percent  in the December Quarter 2013. This has been the strongest quarter for retail category share since the commencement of industry category data collection in 2008. The strength of the retail industry category for General Display advertising this quarter was also reflected in the greater retail movements in the market. Shoppers spent a record $22.6 billion in December 2013, following strong sales in October and November.[1]

IAB Australia’s Online Advertising Expenditure Report February 2014