AdFocus Medium Sized Agency for 2016

Challenger agency, AVATAR has been named the AdFocus Medium Sized Agency for 2016. The award, presented by Financial Mail, owned by Times Media, was given at a ceremony that took place in Rivonia last night.

“AVATAR was founded in 2012 as a media-agnostic agency that is inspired by technology, driven by market insights and defined by outstanding work,” said Zibusiso Mkhwanazi, the CEO of AVATAR. “In four short years we’ve grown significantly. When people ask what our secret is, I say it is no real secret, it is all about hiring the right people: tech-enthusiasts, creative thinkers, innovators and marketers who span diverse life experiences but who are bound by a common vision — that doing groundbreaking work is all that matters.”

“We are united by our common obsession of doing work that matters and putting the client first. Ultimately our growth can only ever be a consequence of our client’s business betterment,” said Mkhwanazi.

Financial Mail’s prestigious AdFocus agency awards presentation is a notable event in the annual marketing calendar.  The awards are judged on new business and growth; business retention and relationships; training and industry recognition; and empowerment/social responsibility.

“AVATAR isn’t driven by awards, but this is not just any award. The Financial Mail AdFocus award is a particular kind of recognition by an extremely influential business media that is highly respected. What sets this particular accolade apart is that AdFocus looks at relationships, business retention and those aspects of advertising that are client-centric. For this reason we’re delighted that AVATAR was honoured by AdFocus and Financial Mail,” Mkhwanazi said.

“We are truly humbled to accept this award, which underscores that our vision for this agency is true,” says  AVATAR’s Mkhwanazi. “When we first launched AVATAR we aimed to shake up the industry with a business model that’s built on meritocracy and advertising that does the hard work of helping to boost businesses’ bottom lines. In a country with an awards-obsessed culture, AVATAR has always believed in one imperative — advertising that delivers results. Being recognised for this by the esteemed Financial Mail is thrilling. Because we are a fairly young agency, winning this award means that we are on the right path to our dream of building South Africa’s largest integrated communications group,” he added.

Co-founder and Creative Officer, Veli Ngubane, said: “For us business is about doing good work. Solving problems that make businesses better while constantly checking ourselves — are we keeping our standards high? Are we delivering the best for the client, both strategically and creatively?”

Ngubane added: “In accepting this award we’d like to thank our remarkable team of AvaStars. We are truly grateful for who they are and the work they do. We would also like to acknowledge and thank  our clients for their faith and trust in AVATAR. Finally we’d like to thank Financial Mail and AdFocus. The FM is a beacon of integrity in business journalism. It has a remarkable reputation which has been earned over decades because of the impeccable reporting it does. Our gratitude to David Furlonger for his ethos and to Jeremy Maggs for the role he plays in the advertising industry. You both have our deep respect.”


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Avastars spent 67 Minutes at Ikageleng Day Care


On Monday 18 July a group of our Avatars from the agency paid a visit to the Ikageleng Day Care centre, found in the heart of Alexandra township which is also known as Alex in short, in celebration of International Nelson Mandela Day.

The township of Alex, just a stone’s throw away from the upper-class suburb of Sandton, forms part of Johannesburg and is rich in the heritage of South Africa, home to some of the country’s most famous names like Barney Mokgatle and having been home to the late Nelson Mandela himself.

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AVATAR invades Cape Town

Challenger advertising agency, AVATAR, marked the advent of 2016 by winning a much sought-after account in Cape Town. Following a three-way pitch late last year, AVATAR was awarded the Chevron South Africa account. One of SA’s top four petroleum brands, Caltex is owned and managed by global energy corporation, Chevron.

“We were invited to pitch for the Caltex digital account and went through the process late last year, alongside leading Cape Town based agencies. We were thrilled when Chevron told us early this year that we’d won the business,” says Zibusiso Mkhwanazi, CEO of AVATAR, adding that the agency will be opening an office in the Mother City.

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Meet SME Guerrilla Marketing Conference speaker: Heinrich Van den Worm

Marketing and social media pro on how SMEs can get their slice of the digital pie

With more South African going online, it’s clear that business owners looking to increase their customer base, need to follow them.

Research shows that internet users in the country are expected to increase to 27 million by 2019, from 15 million in 2014, this is according to the findings of the Cisco Visual Networking Index 2015 released earlier in the year. Internet protocol (IP) traffic has also been forecasted to grow six-fold, representing an annual growth rate of 44%.

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What is Content Marketing? Interview with Zibusiso Mkhwanazi – Part 2

What is all the fuss around Content Marketing? AVATAR CEO Zibusiso Mkhwanazi recently sat down with Media Personality Jeremy Maggs to talk Content Marketing in a very insightful interview. A week ago we shared What is Content Marketing? – Part 1. Today we bring you the second and last part of the interview.

Jeremy Maggs: I understand it (Content Marketing) but it’s also a bit like trout fishing. You have to play with the customer, that individual customer, you have to be subtle. Don’t abuse the relationship. The problem that so many marketers make is once they have that person within the loop in the community, they bombard them, they spam them to death.

Zibusiso Mkhwanazi: Yeah. And the art of it is just provide them with relevant content. It’s like going out to a woman and asking the woman out on a date; you just say all the right things and just wait for her responses and that’s it. So, once you provide the right types of content, you gain that trust relationship between the brand and individual and when they are ready, they will pick up the phone and say “I am interested.”

Jeremy Maggs: Yeah, you are talking about dating woman; I am talking about trout fishing. It illustrates the difference in our age.
So, Zibusiso, how difficult is it to set a strategy for this kind of marketing?

Zibusiso Mkhwanazi: It’s not an easy thing. It’s been around, as I have said, for a while but in the context of social media, where it becomes extra tricky is understanding, it’s identifying people and understanding who they are and their content needs on a daily basis because now the reality is that brands are becoming publishers, yes, but what’s extra tricky is what type of publishers are they becoming and who are they speaking to. So, it’s matching those two things – “So, what are we going to publish?” and “Is it relevant?” So, that entire match is a whole science by itself. It involves tons and tons of software to find relevant and engaging content, things that people have never seen before. We go through an entire research process to get to the right type of content that’s the most engaging and we use tried and tested methods over and over again. It’s something new in South Africa but we are playing around with it and what I am finding is that the market is responding pretty well to it; as soon as you mention it, you grab the attention of the room. I spoke about it at a recent social media conference and basically the consensus really was this was something new that we had never heard before. So, if you ask me, this is the next wave. It’s the growing wave.

Jeremy Maggs: I want to ask you a final question. The relationship them between copy-heavy relevant content marketing and traditional above the line messaging as we know it, there is a golden thread.

Zibusiso Mkhwanazi: Yes.

Jeremy Maggs: What is it?

Zibusiso Mkhwanazi: Now, people might hate me for saying this but I will just be honest. Content will drive above the line messages whether we like it or not because what content does is once you publish relevant content, it gives you the opportunity to listen to how people respond to it and it will indicate what messages people are interested in hearing. So, not what the brands want to say but what the people want to hear, the relevant target market wants to hear and from that listening process, we then pass that to different mediums like above the line and all sorts of other digital platforms, from banners. So, the next time someone puts a banner together, it’s not because we think this is really creative; it’s because this is what people have engaged with, it’s tried and it’s proven. So, it’s about linking the two but you need to listen to the people because the marketers of the past will tell you “It’s all about stats, market, what the market… this research from whoever” but now the research is your actual market and content marketing allows you to gain that insight and pass it on.

Jeremy Maggs: Zibusiso Mkhwanazi, I don’t think anyone’s going to hate you. I think they are going to listen to you. Thank you very much for joining us.

Zibusiso Mkhwanazi: Thank you, Jeremy.

Here is the entire video of the interview

How not to do guest blogging for SEO

After recent comments by Matt Cutts, many SEO and content marketing professionals are rethinking their strategies when it comes to guest blogging as a method of link building. I cannot stress the importance enough that guest blogging is not dead and it will never die. But, guest blogging as a link building method through spammy guest blogging sites is in serious trouble as Google is on the verge of destroying what it calls Guest Blogging Networks.

A prime example of how serious Google is about destroying guest blogging sites is the penalisation of MyGuestBlog. As someone who has followed MyGuestBlog for a while and knowing that they are one of the few reputable guest blogging sites out there, I think MyGuestBlog was used as a scapegoat by Google as a PR stunt and also to send a message that they are serious about fighting guest blogging link schemes.

Google might be in a whipping mood when it comes to guest blogging for links, but it does not mean that content marketing has to stop. There are many ways that content marketing professionals can still take their content to the masses without pissing off Google by writing for low quality guest blogging sites and networks.

Here are some of the few techniques one can utilise to do guest blogging and avoid penalties:

  • Do not write for guest blogging sites
    It is a fact that almost every Tom, Dick and Harry are claiming to be a good guest blogger. This is an opportunity to do it differently by making sure that you write only for top sites that are in your niche, not guest blogging sites. Google is targeting guest blogging sites that are selling guest blogging opportunities and it is important to stay away from those. There are many quality sites/blogs out there that allow selected and quality guest bloggers to write for them and these are the best sites to be a guest blogger on.
  • Focus on quality, not links
    Content quality is the number one rule of guesting blogging for success; that is if you still choose to guest blog even after Google’s clamp down on guest blogging. Quality content is bound to attract attention and social sharing. Google likes content that users love; write quality content that helps and engage users and you will never have to worry about being penalised by Google. It is important to make sure that you do not write for low quality guest blogging sites that sell links, because even if your content is great it won’t survive for long on a guest blogging network.
  • Write for your niche
    Writing for the relevant audience is very important because it is the determining factor of how your content is going to be received. You can write the greatest content out there but if it is going to the wrong audience then you might as well just post it on mamakitchendotblogspotdotcom and all those very low quality blogs. Write for your niche and once again, make sure that the site is credible and not a guest blogging network.

Guest blogging can still be valuable without links and it is high time that content marketers realise that. Just like any other SEO tactic that came before it, guest blogging will never die because the death of guest blogging means the death of online content as we know it and Google is aware of that. Content marketers just need to adjust the way they guest write by following the current guest blogging guidelines and tips and everyone will be happy including the elephant in the room which is Google.

5 Tips To Get Your Magnetic Content Marketing Strategy Noticed

Content marketing. Content strategy. Magnetic content. These are all buzzwords that are being thrown around. But, what impact does social media have when it comes to seeding your content and making it even more discoverable?

We all know what Facebook is, and for some it is just another “cute” business tool where you can post funny photos or your uhm… company cat? Then Twitter came along and all of a sudden we are twats?But, what about the rest? What about that ghost town called Google+? Why should I have Google+ if I have Facebook? Cannot compute!

Marketing stretches so much further than making Facebook updates and posting a couple of tweets on Twitter. Doing link-building and creating keyword rich content just to appear at the top of Google’s search results will only get you that far.Making your content POP is what marketing is all about. You want people to talk about your brand or product or even your service.

The key to making your content discoverable is how you go about when sharing your content, and obviously, whom you cater for. I tend to do the following 5 things after I publish a piece of content.

1. Share it on Facebook.

It is a given that your “friends” on Facebook will read your content. Well, it is not always a given. Obviously you have to cater for different crowds. For instance, some of my friends won’t read this article, purely because they can’t relate to this. But other friends that might work in the same industry might read it and even share and comment. Remember, know your target audience.

2. Get the tweets going.

Always tweet out your content. Try to get a relevant hashtag for your topic. If you can’t find one, don’t worry; those tech savvy guys should be able to find your work. You can always mention the people that inspire you and try to get the conversation going.

3. Promote it on the so called Ghost town, Google+.

Most people stop after number one. Some of us continue with step number two. But not everyone shares his or her content on Google+. Want to be seen? Start hitting the plusses! You might feel silly, but you will look like a champ when you outrank your competitors. Give Google a reason to rank you high. Remember, don’t write for computers, but rather write for people. Google loves connection, real content to real people and to real websites.

4. Get a conversation going on LinkedIn.

If you write an industry related article, it is always good to showcase it on LinkedIn. If you are a member of related groups/interests you can get your content seeded within their daily to weekly newsletters. That will surely get the views and comments going. Alternatively, you can always start your own discussion in a group.

5. Create a strong call to action, encouraging your readers to comment.

It is all good if you can get to the end of an article, especially if you have a firm grip on your audience. But what then? Encourage your readers to leave a comment and get the conversation flowing. Not only will you feel good when people leave a comment, but you will increase your time on site and build up new contacts.

These are my 5 ways of getting my content out there to the public, but the opportunities are endless. Make sure you interact with your readers on a regular basis. Remember, don’t neglect Google+. Make sure you have your publisher and author tag sorted out in order to build on your credibility. Now go and let your content be discovered! Please do leave a comment if you have anything else that you can think of adding.

Top 5 Business Directories in South Africa

There are several online business directories in South Africa offering listings and all types of services related to online advertising. Like international business directories, they differ in the traffic rank and page rank which determines the quality of the directory. Unfortunately South Africa is not blessed with an abundance of quality business directories, but there are some few ones that are of high quality and if utilised in a good way can bring targeted traffic and backlinks to your site. The use of directories as a link building method has been abused over the last few years by internet marketers and most of the international directories have been flagged as spammy by Google and other search engines, but there are a few ones that are still very useful especially the niche business directories.

Business Directories
Below are some of the Business Directories in South Africa that are still very useful even after Panda and Penguin 2.0 updates
Ananzi is one of the first business directories in South Africa. It has grown from strength to strength over the past 12 years to be one of the top business directories in South Africa and internationally. Listing your website in this directory is priceless.
Hotfrog is a business directory with useful features for digital marketers because it allows site owners to list products, services, news and specials in their profiles. It also offers an option to push your services to the first page in the form of premium listing. Their premium listings appear at the top of the free listings, making sure that you are in front of your competitors.
Like Hotfrog, it has several features that allow site owners to advertise their business for better visibility. It allows you to include company presentation page, news, products and videos in your profile. It also has a review section were customers can review listed companies. More positive reviews on this business directory give your business chances of outranking your competitors in Google local listings results.
It is one of the top South African business directories in good standing. Getting your site listed in this directory will go a long way in increasing traffic to your site.
SA Yellow
It is one of the top independent and oldest business directories in South Africa. It also offers advertising option for better visibility and targeted traffic.
The business directories listed above are not the only business directories in South Africa, but they are the ones specifically filtered due to their global traffic rank and the page rank. It is very important to note that this are just not link directories like those spammy directory networks with the same interface that have no valuable content, but business directories that add value to the visitors. There might be some top directories I omitted that deserve to be in the list, you can bring them to my attention in the comments below.


Link Building vs. Content Marketing

Content marketing is the new way of link building if not the new link building by itself. That’s the popular notion shared among SEOs and digital marketing experts worldwide. But how true is this and what’s Google’s take on this? Last time I checked quality content alone can’t make your blog or website pages rank, it’s the backlinks (Through the process of link building) to that particular content that enables it to rank high in search engine result pages (SERPs). Common sense dictates that for a quality content to be found and shared, it must be ranked high in search results. So how will that quality content get ranked high in search results without any link building efforts or if it does not have any quality backlinks to it? The argument here is that since the inception of the Penguin 2.0 update, site owners have been discouraged from acquiring links in an unnatural manner.
For digital marketers that do things by the book and hate the link schemes or any other form of buying links to improve PageRank, it is quite a catch 22 situation. But what is mostly disturbing and confusing is that content marketing is disguised as the new link building. There is no denying that quality content that triggers sharing can build links naturally, but in contrast quality and relevant backlinks can make that content rank high in search results, making it reach influential people in the industry that will share it and in turn build links natural. This implies that you have to rank first before that quality content can reach the target audience and to rank you need quality backlinks. So which backlinks are the most important in this case, pre-backlinks that makes the content rank initially before it can be shared or the post-backlinks that comes as a result of the content ranking high and reaching the relevant audience who will share it?

The above scenario shows two factors that are very closely related when coming to the new way of link building post Penguin 2.0 update and content marketing, the decision on which of the two is more important is still not very clear to the majority of SEO professionals. The fact of the matter is quality content is the best way to build natural links as Matt Cutts explain in this video, but for that quality content to be found it has to rank initially and reach the targeted audience. Social signals have an effect on the performance of the content in the search results, but social signals do not have the same big impact as the quality and relevant backlinks. There a lot of thin content pages in search results ranking very high due to the fact that they have quality and authority backlinks pointing to them, outranking quality content pages that do not have quality backlinks.

The only way content marketing can hold it on its own as a ranking factor is to make sure that it is independent of backlinks. At the moment it is in the mix of the rankings factors because it is believed that quality content will trigger sharing and build links naturally. So it is still under the umbrella of the backlinks factor. Quality content alone without link building is a recipe for failure if you want your content to reach the target audience. Content has to be part of any SEO strategy in this age of the Penguin, but the quality, relevance and authority backlinks will always be the number one ranking factor, at least for the foreseeable future.

You can dispute my theory in the comments below. Let’s have a conversation about this burning issue that’s making life difficult for many SEO professionals.

AVATAR Social Media Report – 13 September

“Social networks aren’t about Web sites. They’re about experiences.”
Listen to the latest Social Media Report as it was broadcasted on Kaya Fm on Friday the 13th of September. We have a look at the hottest topics on the social networks and the most trending topics.

Catch up on the latest trending conversations on the social media platforms every Friday between 3pm and 4pm on Kaya FM.

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