Tag Archives: marketing

The Unfortunate Necessity: Mediocre Content

In an age where content rules, we’ve reached the point of stagnation. Yes, user generated material is still the lifeblood of the internet as we know it, but no longer is content the refreshing, educational, value creator that it once was.

In a 2010 article, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt noted that “Every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.” While user generated content; tweets, pictures, blogs, etc. all add to the excess, the glut of information has continually driven down the level of quality, ultimately resulting in a flood of mediocre content.

However, this onslaught of pedestrian information isn’t simply an intangible talking point. Nearly three years ago, a McKinsey study valued the surplus at $171B, a number that has surely increased since the article’s publication.  

Initially, the excess material did very little, it remained dormant, languishing on blogs, many of which had failed to properly manipulate Google’s search algorithms, leaving them uncharted and unseen. Yet, as social media evolved, savvy internet users learned to drive site traffic and optimize content for search, opening the floodgates and drowning the internet in content.

Once the dam had broken, an oversupply of redundant information surfaced as a small group of thought leaders consistently innovated and a mass of “internet gurus” regurgitated their ideas as if they were their own, publishing them on blogs, forums, and social networks, while rarely expanding in any meaningful way.  

Today, as internet users frustratedly peruse the web searching for “new” articles, they often find that something published yesterday highlights the exact same information as a piece authored six months prior. Although, this repetition is nothing new, the frequency at which it occurs is unprecedented. Much the same as an influx in the housing market causes property values to plummet, a glut of monotonous content degrades the significance of an original thought.

Since much of this excess comes from people who are far from experts, a majority of user generated material is marginal at best. That being said, the same surplus that erodes innovative thought, is also what makes the social web great. So, as networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn foster open dialogue and act as a forum for unregulated discussion, it is important to remember that in doing so, they are spawning millions of pieces of lackluster content.

It is a viscous cycle. Mediocre content has become an unfortunate necessity. It is unfortunate that the regurgitation of a unique idea by self-proclaimed experts ultimately reduce the worth of an initial notion, but, it is a necessity, as the open, social dialogue created by subpar material, cause the exact same pieces of content to act as springboards, encouraging readers to expand upon their theories. If there is a gap within a hypothesis or an argument is flawed, the uninhibited exchange of ideas will inevitably result in a resolution.

 Three days ago, Allison Benedikt published a provocative manifesto, explaining why parents who send their kids to private institutions are “bad people.” While noting her argument wasn’t “quite as outrageous as it might seem”, John Carney, a senior editor at CNBC had an alternate view of the situation. Among several intelligent rebuttals, in his response, Carney explained that “Benedikt’s premise that creating a public school monopoly would improve education is demonstrably wrong. Monopoly education would, like every monopoly known in the history of humanity, produce a poorer quality product at greater cost. Competition improves education.”  

The example above not only highlights the open exchange of ideas spurred from content (Allison’s piece was far from mediocre), but John’s argument about monopolization can be adapted as well. To his point, competition fuels both innovation and quality. That being said, if we were to eliminate 85% all user generated content, leaving only what is (mostly) unique thought, competition would drastically decrease. As a result, quality would fall, innovation would slow, and stagnation would ensue, leaving us right back where we started, in a vicious cycle fueled by the unfortunate necessity that is mediocre content.

At the end of the day, the timeless adage still holds true. Regardless of whether the chicken came before the egg or the egg before the chicken, both mediocre content and the innovative ideas they spawn and destroy, are integral pieces of the social lifecycle.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe via email and follow me on Twitter: @BrendanBrandt

© 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

 

Additional Reading:

Every 2 Days We Create As Much Information As We Did Up To 2003

The Web’s €100 billion surplus

If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person

Sending Your Kids to Private School Doesn’t Make You a Bad Person

The Future of Facebook as a Social Content Farm

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Picture via Ogilvy.

Want to Hedge Your Bets? Invest in Social. (Pt.2)

In part one of this series we looked at social media as a means of hedging your traditional advertising “bet”, using it as a tool to protect against potential losses brought about by unprofitable, outdated, traditional advertising methods. While it can certainly be used in a microenvironment like a small business’ marketing campaign, social can also act as a traditional hedge.

Sure investing in social startups, or in this case, launching your own, is far from a traditional investment vehicle, but it could very well be the safest investment you have ever made. Everybody has some “great” idea for a new website that will change the world and allow them to retire early somewhere on the Italian coast, and while the odds of you becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg are more than his net worth to one, that doesn’t mean you can’t generate a decent return on your money.

You’re a mid-level executive, you bring home $100,000 a year, of which you place 5% in an ultraconservative 401K, save 10% for a rainy day, and invest an additional 10% in traditional vehicles, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. Using 2012 as an example, which in a reality was a phenomenal year for the market, we can assume that you made 13.4% (S&P 2012 gain) on your 10,000 investment, bringing home a pretax profit of $1,340.

While that 13% return is certainly nothing to scoff at, and most (smart) investors would take that every day of the week, there is some semblance of a risk taker in all of us, and sometimes that SPDR ETF just doesn’t cut it. Fortunately for you, you just got off the phone with your broker and Direxion just unveiled 3X leveraged ETFs! That’s the risk you were looking for, it has high earning potential and because it’s regulated by an American institution it retains some degree of safety, right?
Now, let’s pretend you invest half of your yearly $10,000 into the 3X leveraged ETF, day one rolls around and unfortunately the market opens down 1%. While normally that would not be such a big deal, that 1% is really a 3% hit for your leveraged fund. The bell rings, and at the end of the day you’re only down $150 which brings you to $4,850. No big deal, the next day comes around and the markets surges 1% on a good jobs report. But wait, a 1% gain only brings you to $4,995, you’re still down $5. Unfortunately for you, since your lost 3% on $5,000 day one, day two’s bump couldn’t get you back to par since you were working with a depleted capital supply. Although this happens daily with traditional investments, you’re not a day trader, and it takes very little time for your investment’s working capital to be exhausted.

However, this is 2013, you decide to hop on the social bandwagon and put that freshman level computer science class to the test. Instead of investing $5,000 into some volatile fund or note that is based on an index that was created by an overseas investment bank, you decide to leave $9,000 in traditional vehicles and invest the remaining $1,000 in your very own social startup. You go with something niche, in this case, Fiesta Campus (www.fiestacampus.com), a photo sharing website for college students. You register the domain for $12.99 on GoDaddy, use Wix or the like to design and host your website for and additional $9.99 a month and boom you’re up and running. Of course you have to make it legal and your business formation costs you an additional $250. From there, you begin to build a user base and generate some web traffic, and since your business model is based on advertising revenue, you can’t make money without them. You market on Twitter, Facebook, and the like but you decide to expedite the process and spend your remaining $600 on advertising space in a local college newspaper. Fortunately, their print advertising is very cheap and $600 gets you a front page ad in 10,000 papers. That being said, only 75% of those are read by college students, and of those, only 5%, a total of 375 people, go to your website and become users. A week later, the flux in web traffic causes the value of your $13 domain to skyrocket, it increases in value tenfold, and thanks to GoDaddy’s free valuation tool, you realize your domain is now worth $130.

So, 6 weeks after your website went live your domain’s value has skyrocketed, but your domain is not your most valuable asset, your 375 users are. When Facebook went public, they were given a total valuation of $101 billion and had 845 million users, giving each a value of $121. Since we cannot reasonably assume that after 6 weeks your users are as valuable as Facebook’s, we’ll say that they are worth only 10% of what theirs are, $12.10 a user. If we then multiply that out 375 times and add in the $121 domain valuation, your social startup, which only cost you a $1,000, is now worth $4,658.50, quite a hefty return for a 4 month period.

The good news for your aspiring entrepreneurs, it only gets better. As you gain more and more users, they actually increase in value, as does your domain. However, once you hit a certain threshold, gain a solid user base, and hit traffic benchmarks, advertisers will be knocking down your door to place their banner ads on the side of your website, that fortunately for your wallet, boasts a very specific group of users and allows for highly targeted advertising.

Finally, let’s look at the potential downside, remember, gone are the days where starting a business took countless hours and tens of thousands of dollars in capital. While launching a social startup is by no means easy, nor are there any dividends or guarantees, it does provide a high potential, low risk investment that cannot be mimicked by traditional vehicles. What’s the absolute worst case scenario? You lose $1,000, less the $12.99 domain which will only increase in value over the long term, as relevant domain names are become increasingly scarce as startups and speculators purchase thousands a day. So, when you’re analyzing potential investments, ask yourself, what do you have to lose? Can you afford to take a $1,000 risk and give up some free time? If so, its time you reallocate your risk into something far more profitable and launch your very own social startup.

While I was forced to make a lot of educated assumptions regarding returns, pricing, and costs, social’s potential as an alternative investment, or hedge on traditional vehicles, is undeniable.

Don’t forget to subscribe via email and follow me on Twitter: @BrendanBrandt

© 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

Additional Readings:

How Much Is Each Facebook User Worth? – http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2012/03/31/how-much-is-each-facebook-user-worth/

Stock Market Performance By The Numbers – http://www.wyattresearch.com/article/2012-stock-market-performance-by-the-numbers/29185

Top 5 Niche Social Networks – http://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/social-networking/information/5-niche-social-networks.htm#page=0

Advertising Rates – http://www.cavalierdaily.com/page/advertising-rates

S&P Charts

Why Social Thought Leaders Are the Most Important Part of Your Executive Team

Most of us spend a good chunk of our day online in some capacity. We’re constantly absorbing content from various sources, analyzing and building on pieces of information, and learning from thought leaders who consistently push out high quality material.  Genuine thought leaders tend to do the same. They take in new ideas, compile them, and push out an even greater idea, continuing growth and fostering the cycle. This progression, and the development of thought leaders as individual experts, is contingent on the cultivation of new ideas.

In recent years, with the evolution of social networking, this notion has been injected with steroids. Gone are the days when thought leaders attended conferences and chatted behind closed doors with peers, discussing their apparent stranglehold on relevant creative thought. I repeat, those days are gone, and if you’re management teams still think that way, walk in to their offices and fire every single one of them.

Now, successful thought leaders, especially business people in positions of power, have realized the importance of the social web in fostering ideas, developing talent, and ultimately growing their businesses. By utilizing social media, thought leaders can recruit potential employees who demonstrate a complex understanding of a specific piece of subject matter, increase the number of quality ideas they see each day, and bolster their company with innovate thought, keeping them at the forefront of their respective industries.

Here’s a brief personal example – I now work for a Fortune 50, one of the largest companies in the world and a leader in our industry. Prior to coming aboard, I ran my own, rather successful digital marketing firm, Brandt Social. Although my current company has a network of literally thousands of recruiters across the country, I was contacted by a gentleman who is now my boss, and an executive at our company. While at first, I had little desire and certainly did not intend to go work at some giant firm where my talents would go unnoticed, I quickly learned that the gentleman who reached out to me was in fact a thought leader, who clearly used social as tool to stand out amongst his peers, foster talent, and cultivate new ideas. This differentiation was a major draw in my decision to come aboard.

Unfortunately, if your organization is lacking a genuine thought leader, your time frame is finite. Many managers, claiming to be thought leaders, whether they be a business person, an online personality, or an author, have been doing just the opposite, seemingly afraid of both new ideas and the talent that sprouted them.  This oppression not only hinders conceptual progression, but can ultimately burn out and deter top talent from fully developing.

In a business setting, whether you attribute it to jealousy, lack of adaptability, or narrow-mindedness, it is undeniably toxic. When managers, usually, self-described as thought leaders, prevent new ideas from spreading, regardless of their source, they are in a word, crushing the future of your business. New ideas are the foundation of not only the new “startup” business model, but of capitalism as a whole. When ideas get suppressed by a higher-up within your organization they force them one direction, out. As in, out of your entire organization. When this happens repeatedly, more than just ideas run for the hills. Top talent, potential recruits, and cutting edge clients want nothing to do with your business, regardless of your previous success. Remember, ideas are temporary, if you cannot adapt to innovative concepts or develop new ones, your days are numbered.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe and follow on Twitter: @BrendanBrandt

 © 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

Additional Reading

Thought Leadership 2.0 – http://www.inc.com/marla-tabaka/how-to-become-a-thought-leader-online.html

True Professionals Don’t Fear Amateurs – http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/12/index.html

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2 Real World Resolutions and Their Social Applications

We’re officially one week into the New Year and resolutions are in full swing. From weight loss to dietary alterations, we all attempt, regardless of sincerity, to alter our lives for the better. Fortunately for us, these common resolutions are not only practical in the everyday, but digitally applicable and can change our online image, better our reputations, and bolster our brands.

1. Be Punctual

Everybody’s rushed, we all oversleep, and sometimes, possibly often, we run behind. That being said, timing is everything, especially when we’re talking social. In a digital world where a Tweet sent 30 seconds ago is obsolete, business owners and professionals alike must be acutely in tune with the timing of their posts.

So, when is the best time to publish your content? The short answer, weekdays around 4pm. The long answer, it varies greatly between networks and target market. If you’re shooting for the highest number of active users, Monday through Thursday 1pm to 4pm is your go to, but, if like many, you’re shooting to reach educated, employed, professionals or business owners, you’ll need to post with a bit more precision. Professionals utilize social media during the workweek, early (7am-8am), at lunch on their smartphones (11am – 12:30pm), and when they head home (4pm – 5pm). Of course this is by no means an exact science, but by remembering the importance of timing you can significantly increase the visibility of your content.

2. Consume Less

Regardless of the product; alcohol, tobacco, food, etc., many resolutions involve the practice of moderation. While consuming “too much” social content may not have proven adverse health effects, it can certainly be detrimental.

While many talk about a “work / life balance” few actually practice what they preach, and of all professions, social entrepreneurs are they absolute worst. Think about it, I mean actually think about it, how many hours a day are you active on social media? For most, 2, 3, 4 hours, or even more when taking into account mobile usage, is not uncommon. Not only does this leave little time for you to focus on other, probably more important areas of your life, family, friends, etc., but it actually inhibits your ability to differentiate between high quality, important information and the irrelevant opposite.

The people you follow and subscribe to generate a multitude of information, while not all of it is relevant or quality, much of it is. However, after being connected for hours, witnessing a constant stream of information, you begin to monitor for certain keywords or topics, usually extremely niche, that pertain to your immediate goal or problem rather than foster creative thought and enhance logic. Occasionally you may hit the jackpot and read that perfect article or blog that sparks a revelation, but far more often than not, by zoning in for hours on end and unintentionally filtering out content, you risk missing hundreds of pieces of slightly less relevant information that when compiled, could have solved your problem or helped you reach your goal in a fraction of the time. It certainly seems that the old adage holds true, less is more.

 

At the end of the day, any resolution, socially applicable or not, is more than likely a good one and is well worth attempting. I wish you all the best as you strive for personal improvement in 2013!

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and follow on Twitter: @BrendanBrandt

 © 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

Additional Reading:

Best Times To Post Social Networks (Infographic) – http://socialtimes.com/best-times-to-post-social-networks-infographic_b104584

Maybe Using Less Social Media Is The Path To Online Success – http://www.businessesgrow.com/2012/05/30/maybe-using-less-social-media-is-the-path-to-online-success/

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2 Easy Ways to Measure ROI on Social Campaigns

If you’re familiar with the Rodger’s adoption curve, you understand that the innovators, early adopters, and early majority have already hopped on the social media bandwagon, are marketing online, and are reaping the benefits. Unfortunately, these marketing trends have not yet taken hold with the late majority and laggards. Many of the business owners residing in the latter two groups cite various, valid, reasons for holding out, most commonly, their “inability” to track the return on their social investment.

However, by leveraging tools like SocialBro and Google Analytics, diligently monitoring, and properly tracking your campaigns, you can measure ROI with relative ease. Here are 2 things you should take a look at when considering your return.

1. Have your marketing costs decreased or sales increased?

At the end of the day it’s about dollars and cents. Social media, and digital marketing in general, is far less expensive than traditional means. A Facebook business page and user generated content is free, a month’s worth of billboard advertising is roughly $1,000, you do the math. When working with business owners this is an easy idea to pitch, option 1, we save them money by cutting back, not eliminating (I would never recommend that – a topic for a different day), on traditional advertising and in turn decrease their marketing expenditures, or, option 2 add free digital marketing to their current traditional campaign and increase revenue, either way, we put more money in their pockets.

2. Has web traffic increased?

Not only is this an easily translatable, tangible piece of data that makes sense to business owners, it is by far, the easiest metric to track in the history of metrics. It really is a no brainer, by simply tracking the number of hits month over month, you can easily determine whether your social media campaign has seen some “success” or needs a bit of tweaking.

A side note on this – while increased traffic is great, it can certainly ruffle some feathers. If traffic increases 50% and sales don’t increase at all, you might reveal some underlying issues related to conversion, management, etc. that business owners may shy away from.

One final thought – at the end of the day, it is important to remember and relay, that although it does need to be leveraged correctly, social media is FREE, and any return puts you in the black.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and follow me on Twitter: @brendanbrandt.

Additional Reading:

Calculate the ROI of Social Media – http://www.briansolis.com/2012/10/calculate-the-roi-of-social-media/

5 Simple Steps to Measure Social Media ROI – http://socialmediatoday.com/node/463590

Rodger’s Adoption Curve – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology_adoption_lifecycle

Rodger's Adoption Curve

© 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

Has social made gen. Y (including myself) lazy?

Hundreds of emails come across my desk each day. On a good day I read, I mean actually read, 5. Those 5 come from people I deem extra important or contain a subject line that extraordinarily excites me for some reason or another. What of the other 95 you ask? I skim them. I briefly read them before filing them away into some miscellaneous Outlook folder or deleting them forever. Frankly, I don’t have time to completely read and / or respond to every email that I receive each day, that being said, I don’t want to. Does that make me lazy? Because I don’t want to spend 8 hours a day sorting through pointless emails? No. Rather, myself – and i argue, gen. Y as a whole is/am efficient. Why waste our time reading countless emails that contain an unearthly amount of unnecessary information? Maybe it’s growing up with internet, smartphone, and social media at our fingertips that has conditioned us to be lazy as many gen. Xers see it (efficient in my eyes). Why would I spend 10 minutes reading an entire article in the New York Times when I could follow their columnist on Twitter and get the 3 major points in 30 seconds? If I’m interested / want to learn more, I’ll click the attached link and read the full article. Social Media has completely revolutionized the way we take in information, I no longer need to browse Fox News, CNBC, and various blogs to get my morning fix (insert CNN and MSNBC if you lean to the left). Instead, I can follow The Factor and Jim Cramer on Twitter and get the exact same information, only condensed and delivered to my smartphone with the click of a button. However, the laziness / efficiency doesn’t stop there. I’m an avid reader – not books (they take too much time) but I do frequent certain websites – Mashable, Inc., and Entrepreneur to be specific. Each day I read roughly 30 articles. That takes me 20 minutes. First of all – if the title doesn’t have some sort of number in it i.e. “5 Ways Really Smart People Better Themselves”  I don’t read it. Articles like the afore mentioned are the easiest for me to breeze through and pull the important points. I can pull up that article, read the 5 bullet points, and in 20 seconds I’ve comprehended the same amount, if not more than the reader who spent 15 minutes reading through all the nonsense just to get to those same 5 points. I’ve been asked why I do this by several people, most of them much older than I, as I assume the equate this with not “taking the time to stop and smell the roses”. I give them the same answer every time. I skim through articles, stow away various tidbits of information I find useful and then formulate my own ideas rather than those outlined specifically in the articles at a later date. Since I only spend 20 minutes a day reading and not 2 hours, I have an extra 100 minutes to stop and smell the roses.

Follow me on Twitter @brendanbrandt

P.S. I wrote this article in 15 minutes while listening to a video by McKinsey’s David Edelman.

Is Facebook Obsolete?

When sitting down to think over our business’ “social media strategy” all too quickly do we gravitate to Facebook. While Zuckerberg certainly knows how to stay on our minds, no longer is it the most advantageous business tool in the social landscape. 

Regardless of your business type, whether you are service provider or direct retailer, you’re selling a product. While Facebook doesnt hurt your pitch, it’s certainley not the most beneficial, cost effective, or efficient.

  • If you want to build you brand’s presence or establish yourself as a thought leader, sure you could use Facebook but wouldn’t a blog provide a better online forum? Couldn’t you push out content faster and to a more engaged audience if you used Twitter?
  • If you wanted to network and interact in a group setting, again, you could use Facebook, but isn’t LinkedIn a much more valuable tool, providing specialized groups, and professional feedback?
  • Lastly, if you wanted to cold prospect, making contact with 1,000 of random leads a day, could you even use Facebook? No. On Twitter and LinkedIn you certainly can.

Which leaves us here, has Facebook become obsolete? Satisfied with being thinned out and mediocre in ever category, not the best tool for any one scenario. Or has Facebook done the right thing, and established itself as a utility player of sorts? You tell me.