Real-Time 101: Altimeter’s Report on Real-Time Marketing

At Percolate, we talk a lot about how social media has been the catalyst for change in the scale, pace, and pattern of human interaction. For brands, this catalyst has driven an obvious shift from campaign management towards real-time communications.

Altimeter’s recent report by Rebecca Lieb and team on Real-Time Marketing is a good primer on how brands can approach the new media landscape, starting with a solid working definition on what RTM exactly is:

The strategy and practice of responding with immediacy to external events and triggers. It’s arguably the most relevant form of marketing, achieved by listening to and/or anticipating consumer interests and needs.

The report itself is a helpful overview, and there are a series of takeaways that we’ll be keeping an eye on in the coming year at Percolate.

1) Real-time marketing requires proactive process, not just reactive response.

Many of the challenges associated with real-time marketing are process problems.  The Altimeter report identifies the perceived barrier of approvals as the biggest obstacle in the adoption of real-time tactics.

It’s not enough to “have a great relationship with legal” – the most successful brands have pre-defined systems to reduce the friction associated with real-time content creation. Having content assets locked and loaded helps facilitate the appearance of real time to customers. Proactive management of processes and guidelines establishes confidence for all stakeholders and allows for shorter production timelines.

2) Customer Interactions should be similar to Breaking News

One of the more helpful areas of the report is the use case classification for real-time marketing. While we could talk at length about the graph below, it’s most important to note where Customer Interactions are located:

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 7.46.41 AMPublic consumer interaction falls into the same category as breaking news – an unplanned, reactive opportunity to showcase clever or favorable interactions with your consumers. CRM doesn’t have to live exclusively in a side-channel, and real-time content doesn’t just have to be about culturally relevant moments. Brands can advertise through customer praise, complaint resolution, or just interactions with a desirable segment of their audience.

3) The brand comes first

Altimeter’s first three steps in preparing for real-time marketing are to understand the audience, define business objectives, and integrate with the brand’s broader content marketing strategy. “Develop a brand compass if you don’t already have one, and apply it to real-time marketing,” explains Sabrina Caluori, Vice President of Digital and Social Media at HBO in the report. By placing the brand’s identity and marketing goals first and foremost in a real-time marketing strategy, teams can move quickly without risking brand equity or disconnecting from larger marketing goals.

4) ‘But will it scale?’ is a very real question

Altimeter cites the current trend in real-time marketing as “considerably more human”. Many companies underscored the importance of having a “War Room” where teams can literally be present and collaborate together in real time.

Personnel remains the largest component of content marketing spending, occupying 52% of budgets. Appropriately scaling real-time content creation will  be a key focus for all brands in 2014.

5) Great tools combine Strategy and Execution

How companies prepare for real time dictates the effectiveness of RTM programs. Altimeter cites two areas of planning – Strategy and Execution:Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 8.39.29 AM

The best tools should help with both requirements. The report concludes with an imperative that “enterprises strategically adopt real-time marketing in a fashion that will both benefit the business now and scale to address future requirements.” With the right tools, brands can build systems around real-time content strategies and establish scalable process frameworks for execution.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

Get in touch and we’ll show you our system in action.


The Future of Google Lies in G+Droid

Google is an amazing company. Beyond all the obvious stuff (world’s best search engine, self-driving cars, crazy computer glasses), Android has been the thing that’s been capturing my mind the most lately. But the point of this post isn’t to talk about Android (I’ll save that for another, longer, post about the pros, cons, and comparisons to iOS), rather it’s to talk about Google+ generally, and specifically its marriage to the world’s biggest mobile platform.

As we all know, Google has very publicly announced its intention to build G+ into a massive social platform at any cost. For a while I think many simply nodded and metaphorically patted Google on the head, as if to say, “sure Google, whatever you say.” However, as Android has continued to grow, I’ve noticed something very interesting: It seems that Google’s plan to turn G+ into a platform is to hitch its wagon to Android. With over a billion users it’s hard to argue with that strategy.

Specifically, Google has put G+ all over Android: Photos automatically sync with a private G+ photo album, many apps offer to use G+ to sign in, and, in its newest phones, Hangouts take over the SMS responsibilities, creating a unified messaging app. What you get is a platform you can’t help but use. And, since it’s Google, what you start to realize is that it’s a great product.

Where things start to get interesting, though, is when you start to layer on the idea of identity. This, of course, is where Facebook shines. They have established themselves as your singular identity platform. Anywhere you can create an account these days, you’re offered to create it using your Facebook identity. It’s only a matter of time, I’d imagine, until we start signing in at the DMV and authenticating at our banks with our Facebook accounts.

Google, of course, isn’t happy about this. They’d argue, I’d imagine, that they own identity just as much as Facebook does. Their argument, of course, is that all the implicit data you load into Google by way of your searches, locations, emails, and phone calls, makes for a pretty compelling picture of who you are and what you’re interested in.

What they’re missing is the explicit stuff. That includes content you share, the friends you explicitly connect with, and generally, the identity you project publicly. That’s why Google+ is so important: The company has already proven it is better than most at using your data and turning it into something really amazing (try Google Now if you don’t believe it), but it hasn’t yet become a place you think of as representing your public identity. The more they can leverage Android to bring people into the G+ fold and show them the power of Google as an identity platform, the more they can catch up to Facebook in the fight for who represents you in the future.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

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Android and Intents

I’ve been an iPhone user since 3G (I stuck with Blackberry through the metal-backed one). Generally I’d say I’m pretty happy and impressed by both the hardware and software. However, as someone who a) is fascinated by technology and b) runs a software company, I thought it was important that I got to know Android a lot better.

So a few weeks ago I started my concerted effort for an Android education. It started with a Moto X I was given to test, which I liked a lot, but since I couldn’t switch out my sim card I couldn’t really get to know properly. I started to try and use it around the house as a tablet replacement, however, and I really liked it. Of course it wasn’t made for that, though, so I went out and bought the Nexus 7, which I thought would give me exactly what I needed to get to know the OS (at least from a tablet perspective).

Overall I’ve been very impressed, but the point of this isn’t to do a review of iOS versus Android (specifically 4.3 Jelly Bean). That seems useful to do at some point, but for now I want to talk about “intents”. This is the function that allows one application to pass you to another for a specific action. The place you see this most is in the share intent, which allows you to hit share in any application and have access to all the other apps you have installed that you might want to share that piece of content on.

This, for me, makes Android feel a lot more social than iOS, which requires each application to hard-code in their sharing functionality (except for the Facebook and Twitter integrations which happen at the app level). This is awesome both from a user experience standpoint (I don’t have to copy and paste anything) as well as a developer standpoint (if you’re building apps you don’t have to make decisions on which platforms to put in/leave out and you can easily register your app as a share service and make it available inside other apps). The Android developer blog has a bunch more advantages to this approach, including:

Forward Compatible with new services — If some swanky new service springs up out of nowhere with an Android Application, as long as that application knows how to receive the share intent, you already support it. You don’t spend time in meetings discussing whether or not to wedge support for the new service into your impending Next Release(tm), you don’t burn engineering resources on implementing support as fast as possible, you don’t even upload a new version of anything to Android Market. Above all, you don’t do any of that again next week, when another new service launches and the whole process threatens to repeat itself. You just hang back and let your users download an application that makes yours even more useful.

Anyway, my point here was really just to highlight a little bit of functionality in Android that totally changes the experience and makes it feel, at least to me, like a more social OS.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

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The Demise of the Like and Why that’s a Good Thing

It’s not like pages have carte blanche to assault people with posts. People know their own tolerance for what they consider to be spam better than any algorithm does. It is incumbent upon the brand not to abuse the relationship and cause the person to unlike us. 
-Mark Cuban

Since social’s inception there has been volumes written about how social marketing is fundamentally different. What appears to be true is that social networks as a medium for us to be entertained and engaged is entirely new and incredibly sticky. Social is also a revolution in terms of how people consume information. Flows of information are a fundamental shift from the point of view of the user, but how brands reach that consumer in flow may not have changed.

As Facebook continues to optimize EdgeRank to improve the value of the Newsfeed to its users, brands are having more trouble finding their way into the feed organically. The value of a Like has been deprecated as Likes don’t translate to placement in the newsfeed. Without placement in the newsfeed, there is no value to a Like. This then is the end of the Like as a value of social success. Good riddance.

Likes were false hope. Likes led to bad brand communication decisions. When your goal was Likes the balance of Brands defaulted to two choices:

  1. Get the Word Out – You’re a brand that everyone loves. For you this is simple, just get the word out that you are on the platform. Brands forgot what they did to build themselves up. Brands  expected connection and Likes. So they posted content that had led to them being loved previously.
  2. Buy Likes – On the other hand were brands that were not traditionally liked. These brands saw an opportunity to change that trajectory. The problem was they were not brands the people “Liked”, so they rigged the system. Creating like gated contests, like bait advertising and created content well outside the bounds of their brand in search of Likes.

In each case Like’s led to bad communication choices. So the demise of the Like is a good thing. It will bring brands back to thinking about two things: what is special about my brand or product? and how do I share that specialness in social media?

So let go of Likes and start thinking about research via customer feedback loops. Social maintains the richest customer to company feedback loop ever created. Brands need to use this feedback loop to understand how best to communicate to their audiences. That may mean dark posting to understand audience and content connections. That may mean building content calendars not around events, but around consistent mini-campaigns that build affinity with consistency and clarity. That may mean thinking even more critically about the role of your various social channels.

Social changes how consumers interact with you, but it does not change the fact that you are still selling product to your customers. Use the platforms to make your best sale-that means leveraging feedback loops and communicating at scale to pinpoint audiences. Welcome back to brand building.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

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Bring Creativity Into the Enterprise

“Mess tends to loosely weave together disparate elements, messy systems are more resilient to destruction, failure and imitation. Neat systems tend to have more sharply defined strong and weak point, and thus are often brittle, easily foiled or disrupted and easily copied.”

Abrahamson and Freedman – A Perfect Mess

While the biggest news out of Apple this week may have been a gold iPhone 5S, the most important news was revealed on Monday in an article AdAge. Apple is planning to bring Creative Directors and Heads of Innovation from the agency world into its internal ranks and build out their in house creative capabilities. The question raised by this move is – Can creativity in house increase enterprise value?

Creativity has for years been outsourced in large part because the organization didn’t know how to grow creative employees through the management ranks. That meant that if creative people were on staff they would stagnate through the organization and eventually move out of the organization. This is a bad investment. Organizations expect that certain employees will be bad investments, but they cannot hire a class of employees who they expect with certainty will fail out of the organization.  While it’s clear that creativity is valued, it’s not valued in an enterprise context, because creative types don’t have clear career paths. The larger problem is that the best conduits of your brand values are your employees and traditional organizational structures aren’t positioned to leverage employee creativity.

Translating organizational values directly outwards wasn’t a concern in the traditional media era, when access was controlled and attention was focused. In fact, exposing your employees was a liability. Attention was concentrated on crafted portrayals of the brand. Then social media came of age and authenticity, passion and connection emerged as the key drivers of communication success. The best transmitters of those values are your employees. All of a sudden creative employees matter.

This presents a fundamental question is an organization willing to deal with the volatility of creativity and make it part of how the organization operates. Nassim Taleb’s latest book Antifragile helps to illuminate the potential positive economic impact of creativity on an organization. The fundamental thought here is that in order to build value long term we must test limits and expose ourselves to small mistakes in order to grow stronger. Antifragile systems take failure as stimulus to grow and become stronger. Fragile systems limit all points of “known” failure and optimize that system to extract as much value as possible from the present. This sounds quite a bit like most modern corporations who have been built in large part on the seminal work of Frederick Taylor and his ideas of scientific management. Scientific management and Taylorism are a part of any modern organization, but perhaps we need to introduce a bit more of a creative mess.

Organizations need creativity as an antidote to the brittleness of efficiency. Apple, Nike, Purina and Campbell’s Soup are bringing through their social media practices creativity in house. Ultimately what they may find is that they are able to both create better social content and perhaps more importantly leverage creativity in the development of new management structures that make their brands more resistant to downside and exposed to upside. Ultimately, creativity becomes not a liability, but the most important asset within the organization. Strikes me that we will be seeing a lot more creativity brought in house in the years to come.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

Get in touch and we’ll show you our system in action.


Focus on the Frame

It is the framework itself that changes with new technology, and not just the picture within the frame.
- Marshall McLuhan

When we started Percolate two-and-a-half years ago it was because we saw social growing at exponential rates, while the process and cost model for creating the content to fill those channels, was growing just as fast. That initial excitement for a new model has only continued as we’ve seen these platforms continue to grow at even faster rates as people show an endless appetite to connect, create, and consume across social.

To help illustrate just how big this all is we’ve been sharing a few data points with clients lately:

  • There are over 25 social platforms with more than 50 million active users
  • The average large enterprise supports 178 social accounts
  • The most watched piece of media was the finals of the 2010 World Cup at 700 million people. By comparison, every day there are over 800 million daily active users of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Owned audiences are larger than ever before with brands like Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, American Express, McDonald’s and Intel amassing over 130M Facebook Fans. As a comparison the owned audiences for the top 15 US newspapers is slightly over 11M subscribers.

All these platforms, accounts, and people ultimately drive an insane amount of content through these channels on a daily basis. To give a sense, just four platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, account for over 700M photos shared per day. The challenge for brands remains how to create enough engaging and on-brand content to be relevant in this new social world.

With all that change, though, one thing hasn’t: The way content is produced in social is still primarily based on a people-and-time-intensive process designed to create TV commercials, print ads, and other stock content. As we see it, the typical content creation model looks something like this:

Content Creation Cycle

To that end, it’s no wonder that content remains the largest cost center and challenge for marketers: As the technology has evolved, the frame’s stayed the same. Instead of focusing on the medium and unique needs of social, we, as an industry, saw a photo on a Facebook page and assumed it was a print ad and should be produced the same way.

As we realized when we started the company, and have been building into our product since day one, this model just won’t scale as the world of social continues to grow at breakneck speeds. Marketing technology, and the thinking around marketing technology, needs to evolve to help brands create content, not just post it to their social channels. Our clients and some of the most senior analysts in the space, like Nate Elliott of Forrester, see the value:

The demands of social create a need for an entirely new framework. One that supports real-time messages instead of linear storytelling and one that is grounded in technology that can augment the workflow of creative human beings. That is our role at Percolate and we have the technology and a new content framework that supports our thinking:

Real-Time Content Marketing

As we continue to evolve and grow our thinking it’s been awesome to see how we’ve been able to help some of the best marketers in the world create even better social content in a more sustainable manner. All this is possible because they’ve moved beyond the picture with us and are focused on the frame.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

Get in touch and we’ll show you our system in action.


Why Content Volume Matters

Yesterday, Social Media Today posted a story I wrote called Volume Wins.

Here’s the intro:

When it comes to marketing on social media, relevance gets you an audience, volume keeps them. The challenge is that marketers overemphasize relevance and deemphasize volume. The consequence is that marketers are missing moments to connect, and it’s the moments that matter in social.

“Plentitude, Not Scarcity…value is carried by abundance, rather than scarcity, inverting traditional business propositions.”

-Kevin Kelly

Kevin Kelly included this idea in his seminal book “New Rules for a New Economy” as one of the core principles of the Network Economy. If these are in fact the rules of the modern economy, why do brands cap the amount of content they push out to to their audiences? They do so because they strive to achieve the highest engagement rates possible on each post. That is the working model of success from our collective TV experience. What brands need to consider is how plentitude systematically increases the probability of connecting a relevant message to their customer, thereby building total engagement.

To build this argument, let’s start by understanding the assumptions of the status quo. 

The full post is available here. If this type of thinking appeals to you, we’re hiring more brand strategists.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

Get in touch and we’ll show you our system in action.


The Real Magic Behind Newsrooms: Systems

Today, Digiday posted a story I wrote called What Brands Can Learn from Newsrooms.

Here’s the intro:

In real-time marketing, the focus has largely been on the output: the home-run tweets, photos and meme-jacks that prove that brands live in the same internet world as the rest of us.

But behind those great moments — we all know them by now: all things OreoRed Bull’s homage to Daft Punkbrands that stumped for gay marriage and so on – is the real innovation: how it all gets out the door.

Fundamentally, to scale beyond one-off executions or creative ideas, real-time marketing requires an entirely different mode of content creation so that brand messaging is at home in-feed, where brands compete with both my friends and the news cycle for attention.

The whole story is available here. Does your brand need help building systems to scale content creation? If yes, get in touch.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

Get in touch and we’ll show you our system in action.


From Community Manager to CMO

We have a saying at Percolate about our aspirations for our customers:

  1. We want to make the CM the CMO
  2. We want to make the CMO the CEO

So how do we accomplish this?

It starts by shifting the way the marketing departments think. One of the biggest challenges in modern marketing is moving beyond episodic, campaign-based storytelling and into real-time content that is always on.

Marketers are coming from a world where storytelling lasted months, not minutes. Where reach was defined by DMAs, not continents and where content was a very expensive story that ended after 30 seconds instead of a continuous, pull-to-refresh, stream of messages.

In order to properly solve this challenge, the CMO must understand the social support workflow (e.g. the operational model) is table stakes. The larger issue is what to say, day-in-and-day-out, across multiple channels. There is a need to blend art and science while staying on message, in real-time.

The answer is for marketers is to think in systems. From the CM to the CMO, day-in-and-day-out marketers must follow a process to deliver on the increasing demands of a global content strategy.

There are a lot of big questions that marketers need to ask themselves: In a social world, can all content still be created in the same linear way with things like production calendars and long approval processes?

For the most part, all content before social was designed this way. But how does that change when you need to create a message one minute about your latest product and then the next minute you need to tweet out your condolences to the folks that were just affected by a bombing at a marathon you sponsored?

At the end of the day social isn’t a line item on an Excel sheet that has to pass procurement. It isn’t how you complement your TV spot. Social is the new way of thinking about building systems inside of a marketing organization. The CMO that thinks in systems will have the ability to scale this operation as they become the major touchpoint to consumers and employees inside their organization. They can make a very good case for themselves as to why they should run the entire enterprise. The case to transition from the CMO to the CEO.

CMOs must find themselves in the social trenches with the CM, building the systems to help scale their organization and raising the status of the folks doing the work that is moving the business forward.

That is the promise of social and the opportunity for the folks from the frontline to the boardroom.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

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The Product Team: A Salesperson’s Best Friend

There are two clearly defined sides to Percolate –  business and product. The business team includes positions like Sales, Account Management and Brand Strategy. The product side of the company focuses on building the technology as Software Engineers, Designers and Project Managers. It’s imperative that the two sides don’t live in silos for many reasons.

On the business team, we’re on the front lines talking to current and prospective clients every day. To speak with confidence about both product features and updates at a granular level, we need constant information from the product team. This helps the sales teams sell Percolate effectively while managing expectations and allows the post-sales team to communicate our constant updates and ensure clients are successful.

While this is important, it’s difficult to maintain effective communication with players on both teams who have busy schedules and are constantly shipping product. In order to deal with these challenges, we’ve built internal processes to facilitate. Greg wrote a post about Barista (more here from Noah), a product built at Percolate where we can ask a question to be answered by a colleague who has more in-depth knowledge on the subject – super effective for answering ad hoc questions we get on the business team about the technology. Peter wrote about Friday Meetings where product team members wrap up the week with newly added features and a glance at what updates we’ll likely see the next week.

One of my personal favorites is an internal application named Roadmap that is updated weekly to let us know what will be completed this week, this month, the next three months and features on the horizon. Each item on Roadmap has a priority level (High, Medium, Low), which helps gauge whether or not it might be replaced by something else that is deemed more important.

Through beta testing, I also have the opportunity to work closely with the product team to gain a deeper understanding of the roadmap and how features might look once they’re live. This is an incredible experience for me and I do my best to beta test everything I can get my hands on. Beta testing allows me to give real-time feedback from a sales perspective that can help shape my pitch and think through the best ways to position products that will help solve my client’s most strategic challenges. Beta testing also gives me an intimate understanding of how the technology works, something I’m very passionate about and my hope is this passion comes through when I’m introducing a new feature or product to a client.

As a company, I’m glad we have a business and product team that are always working together. As a salesperson, I look at the product team as my best friend in helping build solutions for my clients. If as a salesperson, this sounds interesting, we’re hiring.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

Get in touch and we’ll show you our system in action.