All posts in “Personal Opinion”

Bloggers Block….How do you get your mojo back?

Wangari Kamande is a Research Analyst at Social Media Group.

It’s been a long day for me. I’ve had a number of tight deliverables and research to complete, a shocking text message from my phone company telling me that my data plan has gobbled 100% usage within a period of 2 hours even though I have hardly used it all day, I have spent over 2 hours on the phone with tech-support, in a nutshell, it’s one of those days where I felt like a hamster in a maze. So, I sit here thinking, what do I blog about? And since I can barely string my ideas together, I decided to figure out how people deal with this issue I call the bloggers block.

There are a numerous reasons why people get bloggers block, here are few that I find to be quite common from past chats with friends and peers:

  1. Procrastination – you start to research an idea and all of a sudden your fingers unknowingly set you up for failure by somehow clicking into Youtube and you spend hours of time you can’t even account for, you’re thinking…what was I doing again?
  2. Fatigue – kind of how I am feeling now, bzzzzz
  3. Eating everything in your fridge – don’t under estimate the power of eating appropriate potions of nutritious food to get the good juices flowing into your brain.
  4. Writing too much & not listening enough – it’s like being on a date with someone who appears to be on the date by themselves, he or she talks too much and hardly finds out anything about their date. While the chatter box might be interesting, they end up wearing out their date and themselves too. It’s always more fun when it’s a two-way conversation, hopefully everyone stays stimulated.

So what are the solutions to this seemingly uncontrollable sense of mental blockage?

Source: Socialmediaillumination

 

Blog-surfing

Damyanti of Amlokiblogs says that as you browse the blogosphere, you get either triggered or challenged by other bloggers and this could become your next blog post. Kind of supporting my pain point #4, you start to listen and engage with others and who knows you might make a number of blog buddies by responding or quoting other blog-mates.

Take note of ideas in your everyday life

This is really a note to myself as I am constantly researching or reading about one thing or the other. When you come across something that’s interesting or provokes some reaction from you, bookmark it or write it down, this could serve as a future blog post.

Write a tutorial

This is great. You can teach your readers something that’s new and interesting. Here is a good example from Kira of Her New Leaf How to Have a Fantastic Weekend.

Set some interesting audacious goals and share them

I have seen a couple of blogs where bloggers have set to either run marathon or live on a tight budget, get over a shopping addiction and they document their experience of the journey. This brings a human touch to your blog and if you make it engaging enough it could spark conversation and probably motivate others to join the challenge.

Change your environment

I personally enjoy people watching, I try to maximise my lunches at the park during the summer because I am generally a curious person but watching others creates some interesting dialogue in my mind and sometimes gives me a burst of energy for work in the afternoon. Finding a new place to write blog post e.g. the Library, a park, a coffee shop, a friend’s house, near the lake, being surrounded by nature is likely to get ideas flowing.

As with most things in life, we are not always in the mood for even some of the things we enjoy, finding creative ways to turn those mundane days into something beautiful can be quite stimulating.

How do you get your blogging mojo back?

 

Innovative Video Platform Qwiki Arrives on Bing


Jordan Benedet is a Manager on the Client Strategy and Innovation team at
Social Media Group.

I originally became aware of the interactive video platform Qwiki in December 2010 when researching innovative new online platforms for an internal initiative at SMG we call “Innovation Camp”. The original deck I presented to my colleagues is embedded at the end of this blog post.

Qwiki really stood out to me as a rising star because it integrated various media formats, such as images, video, and maps on specific topics into one cohesive and seamless user experience. The added content recommendation algorithm at the end of each Qwiki turns the platform into a gateway for users to visually explore related information with ease. Qwiki is just over two years old, and has raised $10.5 million in funding to date. Their platform is currently accessed by approximately 1 million people per month.

Bing was apparently on the same wave length as me; as they have been in talks with Qwiki for over a year to tightly integrate Qwiki functionality into Bing search results. Now when you search for certain topics on Bing that contain a Wikipedia entry, a Qwiki link is also visible and easily playable in line with search results. Brilliant!

Qwiki on BING

Doug Imbruce, the CEO of Qwiki, recently stated that “We’re finally completing the vision … of a 360-degree publishing platform … the embedding-side of Bing proves that we can create the kind of massive scale and distribution that can help us change, and forever improve, the way the world gets information.”

Bing has been focusing on creating a seamless user experience for their visitors, and I think they have done a great job of integrating an external platform into their search eco system. One surprising tidbit of information is that no money has been exchanged during this deal yet, as the value of integrating the platforms was high enough to make both parties extremely happy to proceed.

Whats Next For Qwiki?

This integration should really help Qwiki expand awareness, raise additional funds, and continue to grow into the ultimate interactive publishing platform.

Qwiki has been quiet over the last year as they developed the second iteration of their platform. They recently released a Qwiki Creator tool that allows users to make their own interactive qwikis by uploading specific types of content. A full developer API will also be available which will allow content creators to mass produce qwikis at scale from their own content.

Column: It's Time For Facebook to Grow Up

This post was originally published by Marketing Magazine by Patrick Gladney, Director of Research and Insights at SMG. Follow him @pgladney

Last week was kind of like Facebook’s Bar Mitzvah – a time for the social network to grow up and begin taking responsibility for its own actions. Funny that Mark Zuckerberg chose to wear his trademark “hoodie” to ring the bell on Nasdaq the day of the IPO, signaling to the market that he still plans on playing by his own rules.

Zuckerberg may still choose to dress casually, but I would hazard a guess to say that he’ll soon begin to feel the pressure of the Street. Facebook needs to share a strategy that will explain how they plan to achieve revenues that will justify their valuation, especially in light of GM’s public announcement that they will be pulling ad spends from the platform because they can’t clearly define the value of Facebook ads to their business.

With GM as the backdrop, Facebook is working hard to help its advertisers achieve measurable results. Just last week at the CMA conference, Facebook and L’Oreal took the stage and admitted they were still working together to crack the ROI challenge. While most brands by now are committed to investing in Facebook as a content channel play, brands publishing content to generate awareness won’t pay a dividend to Facebook investors, and besides, for large advertisers like GM, awareness isn’t the problem. GM needs people to buy cars.

Working in Facebook’s favour is the fact that they are already an immensely profitable company, earning $1 billion in profits on $4 billion in revenue. Also working in their favour is the fact that their entire mobile platform is yet to be monetized, which is promising knowing that the 54% of users who access Facebook through mobile are two times as active. But unfortunately, activity, including time on site, does not yet translate into sales. Sure, ads on Facebook can be accurately targeted, but accuracy doesn’t amount to anything if the ads perform no better than their display ad brethren.

Early attempts at “f-commerce,” designed to create an integrated user experience where consumers can shop and buy without leaving Facebook, have failed to generate any meaningful results or more companies would be doing it. Mind you, most trailblazing Facebook e-tailers haven’t worked to create much in the way of retail excitement to entice Facebook buyers. Brands need to do more than simply iframe in their e-commerce site and emulate companies like BMW, who last year began selling exclusive limited edition brand merchandise on Facebook. In targeting BMW owners, this initiative helped test the potential of f-commerce to drive customer retention and generate advocacy through the network effect. But once again, we are back to putting the onus on brands to develop great content and customer experiences, with a relatively small amount of measurable sales potential in return.

So is Facebook a good bet? The risk is that the tremendous potential of Facebook turns out to be just that. The long term success for Facebook depends on the ability for brands to measure sales. And now that the company is public, they will be measured against other media companies, which are valued based on revenue per user. According to a recent mathematical model published by the MIT Technology Review, Facebook will have to increase their profit per user by between 160 and 600% for their current valuation to make sense in this context.

At Social Media Group, we’re obviously bullish on the potential of social media. But now that Facebook is a publicly traded company, it’s time for the platform to mature past the stage of experimentation and help deliver solid business returns.

Pinterest – Valuation, Usage & Experience


Jordan Benedet is a Manager on the Client Strategy and Innovation team at
Social Media Group.

Everyone is in a tizzy about the Facebook IPO today, but when I noticed that Pinterest had raised $100 million in funding, which valued the company at $1.5 billion, I felt the need to write about the platform. Pinterest has been the talk of the town since their explosive growth in late 2011 (which has actually almost leveled off in March). When a platform generates as much referral traffic as Google and Twitter, it will definitely spur many people to write a lot about it, such as explaining what it is, how to use the platform, and of course some obligatory demographic data (spoiler: overall it is around 70% female).

This post focuses on some of the ways people and marketers use Pinterest, sprinkled with some miscellaneous stats, with a side of my personal experience and thoughts.

Usage

Pinterest has so many different usage applications for both consumers and marketers. Users love how they can tell their own story and express themselves through pinning their favourite images, or sharing and discussing with friends. The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” really applies here. Content on Pinterest also really gets around—80% of all pins are repins, or things that other users have already shared.

Pinterest is such a new platform, which means marketers are experimenting with ways to connect with consumers to drive brand awareness, and sales. It’s a great platform to showcase products, implement tasteful link-bait strategies, hold contests, and show off a brand’s true “style”. I personally really like General Electric’s Pinterest board; it has a great mix of product focused content, interesting content, and user-generated content in the #GEInspiredME board.

One of the biggest concerns affecting both users and marketers is the legality of Pinterest related to copyrights, which I’m sure will continue to grow as more and more people use the platform.

Personal Experience

Sure, I have a Pinterest account, but I will be honest—I don’t use the platform outside of work. Not personally using the platform does not mean I’m far from it though, and here is why—I’m getting married in July, and moving into a new place with my soon-to-be wife.

Pinterest is great resource for both wedding planning, an interior decorating. My fiancée religiously uses Pinterest to get ideas and inspiration ahead of our big day, and I totally approve because it has also made my life a little easier during this somewhat stressful planning period (although I have not really seen my iPad in quite a while…).  I definitely like Pinterest, and think it has a lot of potential, but like all up and coming platforms, they will need a great monetization strategy that balances both corporate and user interests to stick around for the long haul.

Facebook IPO: Will Zuck Need to Eat His Words?

Patrick Gladney is the Director of Research and Insights at SMG. Follow @pgladney

This week represents a coming out party of sorts for the gorilla of social networks, Facebook. Any day now, the Facebook IPO means that people will be able to own a piece of the company rather than just “Like” it. So how will Facebook fare once it is traded on the open market? Will the merciless scrutiny of Wall Street and public investors alter the trajectory of a channel with a (projected) larger market cap than Disney, News Corp or CBS? I wonder, particularly when one reads the 16 words from a letter Mark Zuckerberg wrote, included in Facebook’s IPO filing:

“Simply put: we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services.”

Perhaps Zuck is looking to mimic Google’s famous  ”informal” corporate mantra “Don’t be evil” in choosing such an altruistic social mission statement. But Facebook consistently gets in trouble with privacy watchdogs, intent on protecting consumer data. So much so, that one might easily believe that money making trumps services at Facebook. Or perhaps those services relate to the needs of advertisers, instead of ordinary members?

Regardless, I find it interesting that a business the size of Facebook downplays the significance of making money, almost as if it’s a dirty practice.  Businesses are built to make money, and I am sure that investors will see this as the priority. Investing in the business to improve the service offering makes sense in the early stages, but my guess is that Wall Street will want Facebook to grow up. As the old saying goes, “if you want to run with the big dogs…”

What do you think Facebook’s real priorities are?

Crowdfunding is on Steroids thanks to Social Media

Wangari Kamande is a Research Analyst at Social Media Group.

Have you ever had what you thought was a really awesome idea, business, hobby or otherwise that you would have loved to bring to life but the thought of raising the money to execute made you want to take a very long nap and just dream some more? Well, that does not have to be the case anymore.

Social media and the Internet have made it much easier for people to access financial resources, talent, customers and everything in between to move a great idea into reality. The backbone of this process is in Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding has been described the collective cooperation, attention and trust by people who network and pool their money and other resources together, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.

This idea is really not that new, communities have been pulling resources together for charity, to develop community projects such as schools or theatre for many years. In fact, growing up in Kenya I was raised to value the Harambee spirit which literally means “all pull together” in Swahili. This is a Kenyan tradition of community self-help events, e.g. fundraising for development activities and is also the official motto of Kenya and appears on our coat of arms. This was how the country was able to develop the community post-colonialism.

Today, there are quite a number of crowdfunding platforms in the non-profit sector there is Lendforpeace, Microplace, Kiva (my personal favourite) etc while in the for-profit sector there is Indiegogo, WeFund, Kickstarter just to name a few.

An image of the world map cross-referenced against number of crowdfunding platforms

Source: PleaseFund.Us

Here are few interesting facts on crowdfunding platforms:

  • According to Gartner research, in 2009 the estimated value of money generated from crowdfunding platforms was $1.6 billion. The forecasted value of the same is expected to be $6.2 billion in 2013.

According to an infographic commissioned by pleasefund.us:

  • The biggest crowdfunding platforms are located in the United States and the UK.
  • 49% of all sites that use crowdfunding are for creative purposes, not social or business for the most part.
  • One of the best crowdfunding success stories is the Nano Wrist Watch which received $942,578 for its Kickstarter Campaign, which is 6300% of the $15,000 they asked for.
  • 2011 has seen the highest number of crowdfunding platforms launched ever, with a whopping 67 sites compared to in 2007 when only 19 sites were launched.

In my opinion, there are three factors that have and will continue to stimulate the growth of crowdfunding platforms, this include:

1. High Speed Internet and Social Media

This has allowed for people from all over the world who have similar interests and passions to connect and build communities. In fact, while there are varying statistics on how much of funding comes through social media connections, crowdsourcing.org (the leading industry resource on crowdsourcing and crowdfunding has described social media as the cornerstone from which crowd funding is built on.

2. Online International Payments

The ability to make secure online payments with a credit card and even debit card means that money can travel across borders. People can now come together and support ideas, projects that would otherwise not be funded through traditional means e.g. bank loans or venture capital.

3. Macro- Economic Policies

In early April, the US president signed a law called the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS). In summary, this allows small companies to raise up to $1 million in equity on an annual basis through crowdfunding, without having to go through the rigorous disclosure process by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

For anyone looking to get that dream idea up the pipe, spend time building your social network and community, build trust, provide relevance and engage consistently. Your dream idea could be a tweet away…literally.

The Future of Advertising at a Glance


Jordan Benedet is a Manager on the Client Strategy and Innovation team at
Social Media Group.

No, I’m not talking about Catvertising. The online advertising landscape is changing at a staggering pace. A recent report from mobile analytics company Flurry provides a great visualization that illustrates how long consumers spend consuming TV, Print, Radio, Web, and Mobile media against how much advertisers are actually spending within each media category.

The results are clear. Print advertising is getting a substantial amount of advertising dollars, but consumers are no longer spending much time consuming that type of content.

Mobile and Web categories are where things get interesting, showing huge gaps between advertising spend and consumer time on each medium. Advertisers continue to pour money into traditional mediums, despite the fact that mobile and web platforms offer better engagement opportunities. This trend cannot sustain itself. Sooner or later, all advertisers should understand that their advertising budgets need to be adjusted to compensate for the migration to web, social media, and mobile platforms.

Media Spend vs COnsumer Time on Media

Mobile & Tablets

Mobile is a different advertising beast compared to traditional search and display ad units, and it’s projected that in 2012 mobile ad spend will reach $6.5 billion! The question is not whether your company should invest in mobile advertising, it’s how much should be invested.

Currently, the total amount of mobile ad impressions being served is somewhat limited. This is a result of mobile advertising still being in an infant stage, and also because screen real estate on smartphones and tablets is much smaller than the average computer screen, reducing the amount of total amount of ad impressions per page view. The limitation of available impressions is not necessarily a bad thing, however, since it will motivate advertisers to ensure ads and content are highly relevant to the audience being served.

Marin Software reports that ad clicks coming from smartphones cost 35% less per click, and produce 72% higher click through rates compared to desktop advertising. Unfortunately, that’s not the whole story—Marin also reports that computers and tablets produce conversion rates that are 160%, and 145% higher than smartphones, respectively.

Ad CTR CPC

Although the gaps in conversion rates are wide, it should be noted that smartphone conversion tracking can be much more difficult to achieve in comparison to standard desktop ads. Leo J. Shapiro and Associates has recently reported that 66% of smartphone owners use their devices to research products while shopping. If customers make their purchase in-store rather than online, this would result in conversions that cannot be tracked back to a mobile ad – essentially lowering mobile ad ROI.

Mobile ads are not just about search either. Neilsen recently released a study which states that Android users spend twice the amount of time in apps compared to the mobile web. This puts even more pressure on brands to ensure their mobile advertising strategy includes 3rd party mobile ad networks such as AdMob or iAd.

My point is that mobile and web advertising is where real growth is happening. It’s essential for advertisers to start exploring new ways to serve ads in mobile search, within apps, and on various social media networks to truly understand what budgets are required to achieve specific campaign goals (be that awareness or conversion). Now, if only those cool cats at the new Catvertising agency could figure out how to use a mobile phones and tablets…

Cat Tablet

 

 

Why I Love the Cloud

Jordan Benedet is a Manager on the Client Strategy and Innovation team at Social Media Group.

The “Cloud” is a word that is being frequently used by both companies and individuals. Corporate adoption is taking off, with small to medium businesses projected to spend $68 billion on cloud computing by 2014!

The Cloud is a buzz word right now, meaning people tend to use it very often, and sometimes out of context. The cloud can mean a variety of different things, such cloud computing, or cloud storage. Over the last couple of years, the cloud has continued to evolve as the use of mobile devices and tablets increased. The cloud isn’t just a backup system, but a method for syncing and sharing files, music, photos, and videos no matter where you are.

Consumer cloud storage is offered by many companies, such as, SugarSync, Dropbox, Box, and of course, Apple iCloud. They all offer similar functionality, both PC Mag and 9to5Mac have great comparisons for those who are interested. This post centres on consumer cloud storage, specifically SugarSync, and why I dig it.

Personal Use Case

Let’s go back to 2002, a time when the Euro was born, and Ja Rule was on top of the charts. I was in university and decided that I was going to buy my first digital camera, the Kodak LS420. “This thing is amazing!” I thought. Thinking back though, the camera was expensive, slow, had a terrible LCD, and an even worse white out flash – but it was mine (and it still works).

A few years passed, and thanks to my trusty Kodak, I built up quite an extensive collection of digital memories. Friends and family marvelled at how I could store so many pictures on my computer without having a scanner! Then it happened – my hard drive failed without warning. At the time I didn’t have a backup system for my precious data. I lost everything. Years of pictures, movies, and memory-sparking files were wiped out in seconds. Data recovery efforts failed, everything was gone.

It’s Just Easier with the Cloud

The problem I had would have been solved 100% by the cloud. Although I have accounts with the brands I previously mentioned, SugarSync is my primary platform. It allows me to sync important files or folders from my personal PC, work laptop, and mobile devices. Any changes made are automatically updated in the cloud. My pictures and movies would have been safely, and securely stored on remote servers, which could have been easily downloaded again once I fixed my computer.

File syncing also makes working remotely much more convenient. For example, I wake up sick and can’t make it to the office but I have a presentation that needs a few changes before it is due to a client. Solution? Download the backup from the cloud, edit, send, voila!

How many people do you know that have lost their cell phone, and along with it, all of their contacts? With the cloud, contacts can be stored and backed up wiht ease – I personally use Google Sync on my iPhone.

I’ve written about SmartTVs in a previous post called the Connect Evolution. The cloud is a new addition to SmartTV functionality with Samsung recently announcing native SugarSync support on any AllShare capable TV. Most big brands are sure to follow suit and offer their own TV cloud integration soon. Lenovo has also partnered with SugarSync, so their PCs and tablets will include cloud functionality out of the box.

iCloud has recently brought the term, and functionality to a mainstream audience. It’s only a matter of time when the cloud is no longer just a feature, but the expected norm.