FIR B2B PODCAST #103: WHY MARKETERS SHOULDN’T FEAR DATA ANALYTICS

This week our guest is Adam Jones, who is the head of marketing insights at Springer Nature, a public of many well-respected periodicals that include Nature and Scientific American. Jones is probably one of the few digital marketers that doesn’t hate click-through rates and page view numbers. Rather, he things we have to reinterpret them in new contexts to better understand what readers do after they click or view a page. “We get tons of data from every click, and create stronger calls to action as a result,” he told us during our interview.

Jones talks about why marketers are scared of data and analytics, but says you have to build a solid foundation in these techniques if you are going to be successful in marketing these days. He also discusses the unique challenges Springer faces catering to a highly educated and technical audience. Loyalty and longevity of readership are two of the company’s greatest assets.

Also on the podcast, I recount my recent trip to the Bletchley Park museums where modern digital computing was born during WWII. I blogged about it here.

Listen to our podcast.

FIR B2B podcast #102: Fixing Facebook’s flaws, for real this time

This week we review what Facebook could be doing to make things better for all of us. Its problems have been well documented, from privacy violations to a massive sell-off in its stocks to untrustworthy comments from its CEO. It’s CMO position has remained open for most of the year, prompting them to list the job on LinkedIn of all places.

I posted my thoughts on some of Facebook’s issues two months ago. I talk with my podcast partner Paul Gillin about how the company can rescue its image from the recent tarnishing, such as:

You can listen to our 15 min. podcast here:

FIR B2B podcast #101: Machine learning comes to marketing

This week we talk about new ways that machine learning and artificial intelligence can benefit marketing organizations. While these three news items are all different aspects of this technology, they show collectively how these new technologies are changing the way marketing is done.

First up is a new smartphone app called Truthify that does advertising context analysis (as shown at right). The app interprets the user’s facial expressions to deliver what it thinks the user’s emotional state is, including fear, anger, or happiness, among other traits. The app comes with a web dashboard so you can analyze your campaigns and the resulting demographics. The app is now available for iOS users and soon for Android.

Second is a new influencer platform called AdHive. It is a combination of influencer marketing and AI-powered campaign management. You can sign up for the tool and influencers are paid to participate, while advertisers can choose the right kinds of people to exploit, er, we mean make use of, their tool.

Finally, Google last week announced four new products using machine learning that are aimed at helping marketers create more effective ads. These include responsive search ads, tools to optimize YouTube traction and local campaign management and smarter shopping. Google claims that advertisers who have tested these services have seen clicks increase by 15 percent.

Marketers who have been loathe to adopt new technologies do so at their own peril. These tools are good examples of what the future portends.

You can listen to our 18 min. podcast with my partner Paul Gillin here.

How to market your book in the social media age

(This article originally appeared in the newsletter of the St. Louis Publishers Assn. It is part of a speech that I gave in July 2018 about marketing books by self-publishers.)

The most important phase of writing your book has nothing to do with the actual act of writing. It is in finding the right people who will promote the book to the world and turn potential readers into your buyers.

Back in the old days, before the Internet became popular, book authors hired publicists to promote authors, get them booked on talk shows and for book tours. They still exist, but there are other paths towards promotions. And what is good is that you can largely do much of this work on your own, if you have some self-promotional skills. The biggest part of that is in understanding how social media influencers work. (Here is a link to start your research.)

These influencers are the people that have the right kinds of followers in their networks. And they can become very powerful allies in your book marketing plan, and the cost to use them is pretty much just your time, and tenacity.

So how do you find these folks? The first thing is looking at your own social media networks, and making a list of the people that would be relevant to the topic of your book. What, you don’t have many friends on your networks? Now is the time to get busy friending people, and seeking out folks that could become pathways to promotion. You don’t need thousands of names, but you do need to approach this task on a regular basis, and friend new people every day. For those of us who are introverts, this can be painful, and can run counter to our instincts to hide behind our computer screens. Try to fight this, and reach out to people across your neighbors, your work colleagues, your church or other social organizations, and so forth.

One thing you don’t want to do is to buy lists of names. While this is certainly possible, you don’t know the quality of the names you are getting, and chances are many of these names aren’t going to be helpful to your book promotion anyway. Save your money.

Next, figure out the keywords that describe your audience, topic, focus, and what they are interested in and why they would buy your book. This means using these keywords to do many Google searches. Many means hundreds. Sometimes, you want to combine two or three keywords to be more effective.

Next, pick your social media network where your audience will hang out. If your book has a visual component, then stick with Pinterest or Instagram. If you have news-related content, Twitter. If it is general interest fiction, Facebook. Business-related topics, LinkedIn. These aren’t hard and fast choices, and feel free to experiment with more than one social network if you have the time. This doesn’t mean you need to craft a separate collection of Tweets, Pinterest Pins, etc. In fact, you can share announcements across multiple social networks. A good tool to do this is Hootsuite (shown here).

While you are doing all of this, you should settle on your book title and domain name for your book’s website. Yes, you need a website. Part of that website should be an email newsletter, where you tell your potential readers what is going on with your book, so they can get involved in its writing and production. You should commit to writing one post every week in the months leading up to your book launch on your website. After all, you are a writer!

Next, start collecting email addresses from your social media connections and use them to populate an email list. There are plenty of low-cost web hosting providers out there, and plenty of choices with email server companies such as MailChimp, ConstantContact, SendGrid, and others. Many of these services have free plans if your list is small, so take advantage of them. You can send out a new email with a copy of each blog post to save time if you wish.

Finally, start thinking about collecting reviewers. There is an entire universe of Amazon influencers, but I won’t get into that here.Look at NetGalley, especially if you want to join the IBPA. This is a website that is used to promote new books to a list of active readers and reviewers. Good luck with your marketing!

FIR B2B Podcast #99: Why Was Intel’s CEO Really Fired?

The firing of Intel CEO Brian Krzanich last week over a single sexual harassment claim shocked some people because the scope of the crime seemed out of proportion to the punishment. This articleby Agility PR makes the case that one harassment claim can do more damage to your brand than a charge of financial fraud. The Register suggests that the reason for Krzanich’s dismissal goes deeper, and if that’s true, it wouldn’t reflect well on Intel. Companies need to navigate these waters with care, making sure they are prepared for a harassment charge, rather than hoping for the best.

What you ask Google influences the results you get. That’s probably not news, but it has interesting implications when you consider the trust people put in search engines to deliver the truth. Francesca Tripodi surveyed two Republican groups in Virginia — a women’s group and a college group — during their 2017 gubernatorial election. Just by varying one word in the search box, such as using  “NFL ratings up” vs. “NFL ratings down,” proved to deliver two very different result sets. We discuss what marketers can learn from the exercise and how to craft better keyword collections and hashtags for your future campaigns.

You can listen to our podcast here.

FIR B2B podcast #98: WHY DOESN’T MARKETING ATTRACT MORE RECENT GRADS?

Why isn’t marketing attracting more college grads? That’s the topic Paul Gillin and I explore this week, starting with the results of a study commissioned by Marketing Week earlier this year which  found that just 3% of undergraduates think marketing offers them the best career opportunities.

The publication held a seminar to try to explore ways to better engage Gen Z, and we have several thoughts on the matter too. Colleges need to have more focused marketing programs, and businesses need to show that a wide range of skills and talents can be put to best use with marketing programs. Certainly there are obstacles, such as CEOs who think they are good marketers when they aren’t, or conflicts between sales and marketing staffs. But with big data becoming an essential part of the marketing discipline, there’s more opportunity for marketing to impact a company’s future than we’ve seen since the dawn on TV advertising.

Listen to our 14 min. podcast here:

FIR B2B PODCAST #97: NOTABLE HITS AND MISSES IN GDPR PITCHES

In my role as a journalist, I’ve been deluged with hundreds of pitches for GDPR-related stories, which went into effect last week. It didn’t help matters that on the first day the UK commissioner’s website was down for a couple of hours, an Austrian privacy advocate hit Facebook and Google with billions of euros in lawsuits and the privacy browser plug in Ghostery sent out emails about its change in policy, but inadvertently cc’d 500 user names in each batch of email.

In this episode of FIR B2B podcast (19 min.), I discuss the impact of GDPR with my partner Paul Gillin, who has seen his fair share of pitches as well. We discuss some of the best and worst PR pitches we received in the months running up to the launch of the General Data Privacy Regulation, and why a handful stood out.

FIR B2B Podcast #96: Lessons from the demise of Klout

Klout is dead. The news wasn’t a surprise, and the announcement from its current owners at Lithium didn’t leave anyone tearing up. The idea of boiling influence down to a single number always struck us as overly simplistic. And the tools to measure influence are so much more sophisticated now than in Klout’s heyday.

But we should pause and understand why Klout fell into disuse and what marketers can learn about measuring the effectiveness of their social media campaigns. It’s also a good time to look at what other tools are available that are useful, such as LinkedIn Social Selling Index, (shown here) which gives your account various scores and then breaks them down into four components that have a little more meaning. You can see how you rank within your industry and within your LinkedIn network. There’s also Twitter Analytics, which tracks changes in your Twitter engagement through five different elements: tweets, tweet impressions, profile visits, mentions, and followers. Again, one number doesn’t really describe the range of influence that a social network provides, and you might want to focus on one or two elements as you measure your own reach.

I reviewed social media marketing tools many years ago and certainly that universe has seen some evolution, but SproutSocial, SimplyMeasured, Looker and Adobe’s Marketing Cloud are all still available and very reasonable measurement tools as you construct your campaigns. And as general purpose business intelligence tools such as Microsoft’s PowerBI and Domo become easier to use, they can be used for this purpose.

We also touch upon another looming deadline this week, with the GDPR regulations coming into full force. My podcasting partner Paul Gillin has written a piece about executives are turning more positive on its potential and also using the compliance deadline to effect some positive changes in their organizations’ privacy and data protection policies.

You can listen to our latest podcast (15 min.)here.

Corporate blogging rules of the road (and bonus podcast)

Let’s talk about what makes for a successful corporate blog and how you can assemble one of your own. Blogs are an essential element of any corporate marketing strategy, and should be the linchpin of creating an integrated digital marketing campaign that includes email newsletters, social media posts, and other kinds of content. But if you don’t have a strong blog, you will have a difficult time executing any solid marketing campaign.

I have written about corporate blogging for more than 13 years, including this story that ran in Computerworld, and contributed to dozens of different corporate blogs (in addition to running some websites that could be considered blogs if they were created in the modern era). Jeremiah Owyang once said that you shouldn’t accept blogging advice from people that are not bloggers. Given that he has blogged for as long (if not longer) than I have, he is worth paying attention to. I am writing about this again thanks to being inspired by a recent article about Autodesk and its 200-some corporate blogs.

Autodesk is the company behind AutoCAD and some 170 other products that are based on that industry segment. When you first see how many blogs they have, you think: that can’t possibly be the right strategy for them. But the more you look into what they are doing, the more you understand that this is actually brilliant. These different blogs (some of which you can see in the screen capture here) show something more than just quantity. For example, each Autodesk product and blog has its own dedicated marketing team, so it’s up to each to decide how to structure its operation and tell it’s own story. So as you are examining what Autodesk is doing, here are a few pointers.

First is understanding the key elements in assembling your team that will staff and run a blog. It is more akin to running a publication (something that I have done numerous times over my career in both print and online), but you may not have editorial and production people in-house. That is why it could make sense to outsource part of these back or front office functions of the blog to operations such as Skyword or Contently. While you pay a premium for these services, they can deliver benefits if you don’t have the time, skills or staff to handle these functions. Another part of successful blogging is creating an editorial calendar and planning what you will cover in the next quarter (or longer if you can), posting regularly and selecting the right topics. This makes it easier to assign posts and organize your campaigns.

Next, you need to understand your audience focus and define what the overall purpose of the blog or blogs will be, as well as adjusting to the appropriate level of knowledge for a particular readership. This is something that you want to do up front, before you start creating any posts.

It is also important to take the long view about your blog or blogs; on the Internet, content is eternal and many corporate marketers often make the mistake of having a blog stand up for just a particular campaign. I often get inquiries from something that I posted ten years ago. Many of the blogs and pubs that I have written for have taken down their content. Newsflash: storage and domain services are cheap these days.

Part of any successful blog is also figuring out what your metrics for success are, and that should involve more than just counting simple page views. While we all watch that particular statistic, it doesn’t tell the entire story, such as how engaged our readers are and how many of them convert to trial product versions or refer others who become customers. Figure out how you can track these things effectively.

Finally, make sure you pay your external writers quickly and without a lot of paperwork, otherwise they will migrate elsewhere. (That is where the outsourced back office providers can help.) I know this sounds somewhat self-serving, but I have seen many fine pubs lose talented writers who get frustrated when payments stretch out for months.

If you haven’t had enough suggestions, or if you want to send these suggestions to someone who is a more auditory learner, you can listen to a 20 minute podcast that Paul Gillin and I put together for our FIR B2B episode this week here.

FIR B2B #94 podcast: Panera Dread

Panera Bread’s reaction to a breach of its customer records is a classic example of what not to do on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to start. Officials lied to reporters about the nature and extent of the breach, treated the security experts that knew what actually happened with disdain, took months to recognize the existence of the breach only after others revealed it to the public, told people that the leak was fixed when it wasn’t and glossed over the real issue: a major IT flaw in its application program interface specs that caused the breach to begin with (as well as another this week at P.F. Chang’s). It didn’t help matters that the chief information security officer at Panera came there from a similar job at Equifax in 2013.

The reaction from Ragan is a good summary of what happened and how the situation was mis-handled, and if you want more specifics from the security researcher that first found out about the flaw last August, can read this post on Medium. That latter link reproduces the email messages that showed how the company ignored the researcher’s notification. Firms need to hold themselves to better accountability, have breach plans in place, and make it easier for security researchers to submit vulnerability disclosures in a non-threatening and simple way.

My 14 min. podcast with Paul Gillin can be played here.