What is Big Data?

Big data is a collection of data so big and incredibly complex that it becomes extremely difficult for it to be processed by the available data base management software or traditional data processing tools that are available. We are talking about a lot of data, the data that is picked up by all the mobile devices and all the other gadgets that we use. Lots of data analysed properly will provide invaluable insights in marketing.Watch out for Big Data this year!The rise of BIG data is one the digital marketing trends to watch out for in 2013 as predicted by AVATAR in one of our articles. In the article “Digital marketing trends for 2013 we spoke about 5 trends to watch out for in 2013.

These trends were:

  • The Rise of Big Data
  • Content Marketing
  • Automated Marketing
  • Marketing campaigns starting with mobile.
  • Moving from Search Engine Optimisation to Targeted discovery.

How big is Big Data?
It is just too big. It can range from Gigabytes to Exabyte of data (one quintillion bytes, 10 to the power of 18 bytes.) Where you collect a lot of data you start to run into a lot of challenges. Firstly there is the actually process of capturing the Data from source. After the data is captured, there is need for the Data to be kept in a form that can later be retrieved and made sense of. It would be possible for the data to be searchable. The data will need to be shared as well and in a format that can be analysed and visualized that insights can be quickly derived from it.

Use all the Data
In the past the trend was to analyse samples but now the power of computers and software is so great that all the data can be analysed. To some extent it makes a lot sense. Why work with just a sample when you can use everything? However using all the data you have comes at a huge cost in terms of complexity.

How does the Data keep growing?
The amount of data on hand is increasing exponentially from one year to another. Data keeps growing because we sharing more Data about the things we are doing in our personal lives and in business and this is happening around the clock. There are more transactions and events and everything seems to be always on. The collecting of Data is happening around the clock whether we are aware of it or not.
Big data is now big business as seen by the considerable investment made in the field by various companies from IBM, Sap, Oracle and Google. But big data is now coming to a place near you in the world of Digital Marketing as smaller companies get access to the tools and technology needed to make the most of Big Data.

What is content?

Over the past few months we have been talking quite a bit about Content Marketing. Today we try to look at the one part of this term, content. What is Content? What makes up content? Who creates content? Answering these questions will help us to answer the question: What is content. Here are some of the articles we have shared in the past around content:

This article assumes that a brand already understands clearly who their target market is and what their business needs are.
Is content data or information or none of this? Let’s start with a simple definition. Content is information which adds value to the careers or businesses of your target market. This point is key. You might have some great information in your hands but unless it adds value, unless it is relevant, then as we see it, it’s not content. It might be content in someone else’s business. If you took product information and mailed it to your clients, would that be content? Someone could argue that it would be but does it add value? Is it relevant?

Below is the relationship between Content, Data and Information.

content-marketing

Who creates content?
While there should be someone overally responsible for content, various people in the company can help to create content. For example content in the form of opinion pieces can come from people suitably qualified in that area of work. Brands should also be open regarding external sources for content. For example customers can share their brand stories which can serve as valuable insights for existing and potential customers but also be recommendations. Coca Cola predicts that by 2020 their consumers will produce most of the content.

Does Content have to be articles?
Content comes in many types and forms. It does not have to be articles. Content can be in the form of video, podcasts, blog articles, white papers and newsletters. The brand must use a format which it finds most suitable for the target market. What format is used it is important that the content is as engaging as possible.

Why has content become so important?
Content has become very important because customers are now much more discerning about what they buy. They are more informed and empowered in terms of decision-making. Customers now have far more information before they make the final buying decision. What role can brands play in influencing this decision? Consumers now make sure they do their research before they make the decision. They seek out the experts. If a Brand has valuable and well-researched content consumers are likely to not just. Consumers now discriminate what they listen to. There so many channels that they are quite spoilt.

Do you have to produce original content?
Yes and no. You have to be original in one way or another. Perhaps we could say the end justifies the means. Consumers need to know you as a trusted source, one way or another. You could do research and share valuable insights. The traffic might not end up on your website but consumers will know you as the first port of call. If you copy content from another source Google will rightly deem you to be a copy and penalise you for this. However, there is nothing to stop you from being inspired by the article and putting your own speed.
You can do research to find out what kind of content is most topical in your industry. There are many kinds of tools that you can use for this. However, a lot of content is time sensitive so you will need to move reasonably fast.

Does your content have time bound?
Writing content that is time-bound or containing information that may expire has its pros and cons. Consumers get informed around current events. However, the relevance of the content decreases with time. Thus there should be a mix between time bound content and timeless content if you like.
In a nutshell there are quite a number of issues to look at regarding content but hopefully we have answered the simple question, what is content.

Digital marketing trends for 2013

Will it be a year of forays into new areas or very much a continuation of what we had in 2012? AVATAR CEO Zibusiso Mkhwanazi recently wrote an article on the marketing trends to look out for in 2013. In this article we look at those trends.

The rise of Big Data
Given all the gadgets that we are now using from cellphones, tablets, laptops, desktops and ultra-books, there has been an explosive increase in the amount of data being generated. In this age where we are always-on, data is being generated around the clock tied to our daily activities and events. All that generated data can be analysed in great detail and all kinds of insights can be gleaned from this analysis. The tools for this kind of work are available.
2013 is likely to be the year when Big Data moves from being something that was only focussed on by huge corporations to much smaller companies. Big Data moves from something that was the preserve of entities such as IBM, Google and other data crunching giants to something that can be applied by smaller businesses.

Content marketing no longer a buzz word
For a while now Content Marketing has been a buzzword in the marketing space. Now it has evolved to a fully-fledged discipline that is spawning a whole new area of not just marketing but business itself. It is now something that can no longer be ignored by business. Brands have to integrate content marketing into their business and make sure that the information they share with customers is not only relevant but timely and compelling as well.

Brands have been marketing content in one way or another but in 2013 content marketing comes to the fore as one of the key areas to focus on in marketing. Brands will need to devise content marketing strategies in line with the overall marketing strategy. Content schedules will need to be crafted showing when that content is generated and shared. Brands will need to decide how much they put in creating content. The performance of the content that is shared across a Brand’s platforms will need to be analysed regularly to check performance. Corrective action can then be taken.

Automated marketing on the agenda
In a highly competitive business environment, brands need to be as effective and efficient as possible in generating leads. For instance the number of people who visit a website are a source of potential leads. Automated marketing involves using tools such as welcome campaigns and mails on online platforms.
Automated marketing will help brands take advantage of the various touch points with potential customers. This information that is picked up from the web site can feed into the Brand’s Sales Funnel and actioned by the sales team. To this end Brands will need to invest in the relevant tools which have not only become cheaper but more accessible.

Marketing campaigns starting with Mobile
Even with the explosive growth in the mobile, marketing on mobile platforms has not only been top of mind. Much of the time it has been an afterthought, with most of the action happening on other platforms such as social media platforms. This year could see what was once the tail becoming the head.

It is estimated that 800 million smartphones and tablets were sold over the ca. These are not numbers to trifle with and businesses need to take full advantage of this. More and more people are accessing the internet via mobile devices presenting marketers with greater opportunities and possibilities in this space.

Moving from Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to targeted discovery
It’s a case of Goodbye quantity and welcome quality when it comes to Google’s approach towards SEO. With more updates to their search algorithms than before, Google is favouring original and relevant content over sites that focus more on back links and other processes to ensure high rankings in search. It’s becoming less about SEO Tricks and processes and more about engaging, compelling and relevant content.
The evolution of SEO is set to continue with user-intent driven targeted discovery. This means users are becoming more empowered in terms of what they actually see on the digital platforms they use.

In conclusion 2013 is set to be an exciting year with the Rise of Big Data, content marketing, automated marketing, mobile marketing campaigns and the evolution of SEO. Will Brands be innovators or followers in these areas? Only time will tell.

Content Marketing – The art of understanding your customer

Content_Marketing_pic

Content marketing is the art of understanding exactly what type of information a brand’s customer needs and for brands to provide that information in a relevant and compelling way.

Brands need to provide their followers with practical and value-adding information on a regular basis. A brand with such information helps to solve daily problems and will benefit from positive brand association and exposure. That brand will create an expectation among its customers and they will return to engage with the brand on the various channels. A builder for instance could share information on how to build a wall or use certain building applications.

The unfortunate thing of marketing today is that a large portion of advertising simply becomes noise with average banner click through rates of approximately 0.25%.

Advertising in the future will be focussed around content and how brands structure the content in order for it to satisfy the need of its customers. Brands should shift from a ‘brand first, need second’ attitude to that of a ‘need first, brand second’ approach. By actually solving the customer’s problem the brand will automatically benefit.

The actual art of content marketing has been around for years and continues to evolve. In the food industry for example, brands have been publishing recipe books for a very long time and have built a loyal following among readers, some of whom have built collections of the recipe books. The brands provided information that was of practical benefit to their readers. An expectation was created by the food brand and readers looked forward to future publications. The content provided by the brand fulfilled an existing and future need.

With the advent of digital the whole equation changes because of the data that digital platforms produce. Now brands can target content at the right people. Brands can know exactly who their customers are and profile them as individuals, thereby allowing them to push the right type of content. In other words, providing a specific customer with the information he or she needs.

The most important thing about content marketing is to always remain relevant. Once a brand has identified a community it is all about understanding who they are and what they want. It is all about the understanding of information consumption needs. That said, a large base of fans and followers on social channels is in no way a bad thing. The reality, however, is that many marketers still highly regard the number of fans on social channels as the ultimate goal and focus less on who they are. Engaging with those fans around content on those social media channels is critical.

It is better for a brand to spend its marketing budget by speaking directly to a targeted group rather than having a large base of people that ignore messaging because it is too generic,not applicable or the initial interaction with the brand was based on a short-term motivation such as the chance to win a prize . However if a channel grows because it provides relevant content in a meaningful and compelling way, engagement rates are likely to rise as well.

So many marketers remain fixated about social media, newsletters, websites, etc. All these are simply platforms for content and the fascination should be content rather than platforms. This is simply because content determines the success of platforms.

Measuring the success of a campaign should be focussed on content of which the successes are then applied to websites, newsletters and banners. Great content and engaging stories are rewarded by users because it’s worth sharing with a friend and by search engines because of the multiple backlinks created on various platforms.

In a recent post, Frank Strong (Copyblogger), makes a great case for why content marketing is the new branding. According to Strong, branding is more than a logo or a tagline. It exists in the minds of consumers as a perception and all the company assets support or extend existing notions or expectations. Great companies exceed these expectations with the experiences they deliver with their product or service.

The burning question remains what the relationship is between content marketing and traditional above-the-line messaging.

It is also content that drives the above-the-line messaging. Once a brand publishes relevant content and engaging stories it is given an opportunity to listen to how customers respond to it and give a clear indication of which messages customers are interested in hearing. From the listening process marketers can pass the most relevant content to above-the–line campaigns.

All in all, content marketing allows a brand to gain insight and pass it on before earning the benefit for the brand. It is the future of brand communication and should not be ignored.

LinkedIn Launches Video Ads for Advertisers

LinkedIn_Video_Ad

LinkedIn just gave advertisers one more reason to be excited by developments on the website. In the past few months we have seen a lot of changes on LinkedIn from website and profile redesign to the overhaul of company pages. The site is becoming more visual and intuitive and I would imagine that we are spending more time on it. Now LinkedIn has just revealed that they are introducing 300×250 video ads. When a user clicks the video ad, a 30 second video will play within the 300×250 ad unit.

The introduction of videos to LinkedIn means more options for advertisers reaching out to professionals. Advertisers can already use targeted adverts to reach their intended audience and there is one more rich way of doing that. As of September 30, 2012, LinkedIn operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 187 million members in over 200 countries. Sixty-three percent of LinkedIn members are located outside of the United States. There will be great reach for those who utilise the adverts. The site continues to grow at a steady rate of 2 members every second. With the recent changes on LinkedIn, members are spending more time on the website. Since the introduction of LinkedIn Endorsements there have been as many as 200 Million Endorsements on LinkedIn. There are more features for members on LinkedIn engage and interact.

The LinkedIn videos will have a minimum of $2.00 per click on the LinkedIn paid advertising platform, look for competition to get fierce with the edge that video has with potential consumers. The Video Ads will prove to be more affective for Advertisers to reach their target markets. Those who click or view the ads can be directed to a landing page or website of the ad. Advertisers who already have a presence on YouTube will have the ability to use their already-existing videos for their LinkedIn video ads.

LinkedIn video advertisers will determine how much they want to do using the video ad based on their budgets, price paid per click or view, and run times. This introduction of video ads to LinkedIn makes sense when one looks at the recent developments on LinkedIn. With new features likes notifications for profile views and messages on LinkedIn, users are more likely to spend more time on the website.

Thought Leadership on LinkedIn and opportunities for your Brand

Linkedin Mountain View

LinkedIn recently took Thought Leadership on the platform up a notch by introducing a blogging platform for Influencers on the website. Thought Leaders publish content on trends and topics influencing particular industry.

Already, it was possible to establish thought leadership on LinkedIn in a number of ways but LinkedIn has added a new feature that could evolve to become a very important feature on the website. In the past, the tools on LinkedIn for producing and sharing content included Status Updates in the personal profile, LinkedIn Group Updates, LinkedIn Company Updates and the LinkedIn Apps.

One can also participate in Group Discussions, Answer Questions in LinkedIn Answers. LinkedIn professionals could follow news by sources, industry, companies, and groups. The common constraint for sharing content on LinkedIn using these tools was that there was limited space for this or a good deal of content was coming from outside LinkedIn. With the blogging platform change, now it’s possible to follow professionals on LinkedIn.

Blogging is a very powerful content marketing tool already on its own and adding it to LinkedIn presents great opportunities for brands. An Influencer blogging on LinkedIn gets followers the same way as one would on Twitter. Influencers who are already blogging on LinkedIn include Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and Richard Branson to name a few, whose posts have garnered thousands of likes and comments. All the recent changes that LinkedIn has made on the site over the past few months are persuading enough for professionals to spend more time on the platform. LinkedIn is more visual and intuitive than before. The blogging feature thus seems like a logical addition.

At the time of writing, the blogging platform on LinkedIn was only open to a few selective people. But now it’s open to those who can demonstrate an ability to produce valuable content for professionals. All interested ones can apply to be the part of ‘Thought Leaders’ platform via the LinkedIn Influence Program. Please visit this link for further direction:

LinkedIn’s Influencer program enables top Thought Leaders in business, non-profit, or the public sector to gain a following among 175+ million professionals worldwide by writing and sharing great content on LinkedIn. Universally-recognized ‘Thought Leaders’ across LinkedIn and also industry-specific movers and shakers stand a good chance of becoming ‘Influencers’ on LinkedIn. To stand a good chance of being accepted into the program professionals need to demonstrate an ability to write engaging original posts and share links to relevant, thought-provoking presentations, articles, polls, SlideShare, videos, infographics, and more.

To stand a good chance of being selected to blog on LinkedIn, an individual should already have some quality content which they have written. If not, there is time to start writing quality content that can be used as part of the application process. LinkedIn has indicated that over next few months, the platform will expand the list of ‘Influencers’ which professionals can follow.

1. What can brands do to take advantage of this recent innovation by LinkedIn?
Establish which area of Thought Leadership is the business active in? Many companies have key insights to share about their industries and experiences. Companies will probably have a good deal of content internally that would be of great value to customers. With a focussed content plan and strategy, content can be repackaged regularly on the LinkedIn blog platform.

2. Is there a mover and shaker in the business?
Having a mover and shaker in the company can improve the prospects of having an Influencer blogging on LinkedIn. The movers and shakers can enhance the perception of the brand. However, they have to be willing to blog on LinkedIn in their personal capacity.

3. Apply to become an influencer on LinkedIn
It is a very simple process. LinkedIn commits to give feedback within a week, following your application.

The following information will be needed by LinkedIn:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • LinkedIn Public Profile url or link
  • Email address
  • Which industries do you think you’d be most influential in? (Select up to 4)
  • Examples of professional content you have written (2 Blog articles)
  • Sample topics you’d like to write about (750 Characters Maximum)
  • What are two great headlines / SlideShare / videos worth sharing today on LinkedIn?

4. After selection, one can start addressing a wider audience through the LinkedIn Blog. To follow an Influencer or Thought Leader on LinkedIn, you do not have to be connect to them.

5. Make sure the content you provide on LinkedIn is new creation. It should not be a re-hash of content already found elsewhere on the internet.

So, what do you think of the LinkedIn Blogging Platform?

Is Apple dropping the ball?

Apple_Maps_App

Is Apple starting to drop the ball? One thing that Apple has been known for is the incredible attention to detail and the dedication to customer experience. Apple has generally put its customers first. When an Apple product came out you could be sure that it would gave rave reviews. It is one of the reasons why customers are prepared to pay a premium for Apple products.

Apple does not have multiple product lines whether you look at the iPhone, iPad, iPod and its Macs. It has just a few product lines but enough to dominate not just the tech space but the world.

You will hear many people say that a Mac is simply better than a PC. Working in a Marketing Agency I am surrounded by Macs and the designers will not work with any other machine. All Apple product releases are eagerly awaited by new and old customers alike. There is incredible speculation in the run-up to product releases as many people try to predict the features and specs of the upcoming releases.

It does come as a great surprise that Apple has compromised as far as the MAPS App is concerned. In the latest iOS 6 update, Apple replaced the Google App with its own.

From the comments and articles I have seen so far, some users are not impressed at all especially those who use the public transit system in the US. Apple’s latest iOS system comes with over 200 features according to the website so by and large it is a very big improvement over the previous system.

It is also fair to say that I have come across excellent reviews for Apple MAPS App for those who do not use the public transit systems. It seems the Turn-by-Turn instructions are very handy. By and large however, MAPS was not like anything that we have come to expect from a company like Apple. One wonders if Apple is starting to slacken on the very things that have made it such a big success as a company and brand. Apple is now the most valuable company and its shares are at all-time high. These are good times indeed.

One must consider that Apple has been making a lot of investments in the Mapping space and they are relatively a newcomer compared to Google and even Nokia. However, it was still a big gamble on their part to drop a Google App that was superior in a number of respects in favour of a product that still seems to be in beta and will inconvenience a number of users.

Is Apple prepared to risk it all with its customers as it goes on an all-out-war with Google? Is this the Thermo-nuclear war as promised by the late Steve Jobs and clearly articulated in his biography. The war will come at any cost. We have already seen what this could meant from all the patent cases at the courts.

Apple is one of the most successful companies, not just technology companies but companies in general. It recently won a court case against Samsung regarding copyright infringement for its mobile devices. It seems things could not be better for the company.

Siri’s performance in the recent months has also come under huge criticism and hopefully Apple will have improved the tool to address those concerns. When one looks at how great companies lost their dominance, arrogance and anticompetitive practices are just some of the reasons.

When a company reaches such a standard as Apple has with its products that should become the watermark and it should never lower the benchmark for any reason but it seems Apple has done this. It remains to be seen if there will be further compromises by Apple going forward. Sometimes it does not take the big decisions to lose our way. It can start with small missteps until we have completely lost our way. I am sure the team at Cupertino will know better than to let things ever get to that level.

UPDATE

Apple has since apologised to its customers and even suggested that they try rival applications. This action by Apple, an apology and recommending rival products is unprecedented. Google is still to provide its own App. It will very interesting to see how things pan out.

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