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  • feedwordpress 19:13:39 on 2016/11/10 Permalink
    Tags: Influence,   

    Election 2016: When “Data” In Isolation Steers Us Wrong 

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    Instincts vs. Insights
    Like many of you, I was wrong about who I thought would win the US election. But it wasn’t always that way — I had changed my opinion based on the “data” I was seeing and that’s where many of us are scratching our heads. My first gut instinct was formed around the time of both party conventions. Having followed both, sensing the momentum and enthusiasm of the unconventional GOP convention, I remember thinking to myself, Trump really has a chance — he’s going to tap millions of people displaced by a global economy. He’s speaking directly to the working class disenfranchised — people holding down multiple jobs in some cases and feeling like they can never get ahead. He’s giving a voice to those who feel like they have been ignored or are underrepresented. And above it all, I was picking up something in the air that felt like a change agent was wanted, even if that agent was more rough around the edges than many would have preferred…

    I grew up in working class Long Island. I intuitively grasped how he could win and I was hesitant to rush to judgement over how or why millions of Americans were supporting him. Over the course of weeks and months, being the news addict that I am, I began to change my outlook on Trump’s chances.

    Why? Because the polling data and news media sentiment.

    The Limitations of Polling & Media Influence
    Day after day, I would pour over polls and read headlines that would point to trends making the case that while both candidates were unpopular, Hillary seemed to always come out on top. The media painted a picture of a Trump campaign in disarray and the tone of the majority of the coverage I could see from multiple media outlets was largely negative. Polls while far from perfect are data points. Media sentiment is also a set of data points. When you pour over this information, it begins to inform your opinions. And that’s what happened to me. My informed view shifted from Trump has a chance to Hillary is a definite win.

    And I think there’s an important lesson in all of this. Was the data bad? I don’t think it’s that simple. Like some analysts have stated, it’s likely that the polling data was incomplete. Which means this data cannot be fully trusted. If a significant portion of voters didn’t feel comfortable polling but instead voiced their opinions with their votes, then the data is meaningless.

    Sampling is an art that becomes harder and harder to deliver well against. All research methodologies for polling have inherent biases and it becomes clear that relying on a sample of people willing to speak to an interviewer or take a survey online is becoming more difficult to pull off accurately. Political polling is disrupted and old models don’t work. But they are still very valuable if cross analyzed through other intelligence methodologies that focus on “harder data”.

    The lesson reminds me of similar learnings I’ve seen in marketing focus groups. People aren’t always honest or clearly articulate their beliefs and/or needs.

    Reading Between The Lines
    You have to read between the lines. This is something that ethnographers often do. They immerse themselves in the lives of the people they seek to derive insights from. They go deep in place of skimming vast quantities of data points both quantitative and qualitative. They go heavy on empathy but also possess the right amount of analytical rigor to translate observations into insights.

    And what about the media sentiment? Did I misread it? No, I read it accurately but like many others, I underestimated the impact that media sentiment would have on potential Trump supporters. In retrospect the negative media sentiment for Trump likely mobilized his base and even some who were on the fence. Edelman (my employer) has been producing data for years which shows that trust in media is on the decline and urging us to pay close attention to social signals when forming opinions and strategies.

    Search & Social Signals Provide Additional Clues
    And let’s not forget about search. As far as data goes — Google may have presented a more accurate representation of how voters were inclined to act. Trump related searches showed dominance over Hillary inquiries in the final days of the election and higher volume in states such as Pennsylvania where polls projected Clinton to win. The search volume from Google presented signals that were largely missed by both pundits and the media — yet they aligned with voter behavior.
    Screen Shot 2016-11-10 at 9.38.52 AM

    Insights, Instinct AND Data — But Never In Isolation

    This political season more than ever demonstrated the shortcomings of looking at data and information sources in isolation, such as polling. A lesson that I’ll take away is to not only have more faith in my instincts but also to be a better student of the impact the media has on public sentiment and how that sentiment is reflected online in the forms of social and search data. For those of us who work in marketing and communications, we’re going to need a better appreciation for the balance between instinct and insights, gut and analysis, and how deep we need to go to accurately interpret signals and multiple data points so we can better inform our thoughts and actions.

  • feedwordpress 14:42:28 on 2016/10/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , Influence,   

    The Death of Content Marketing: Why Brands Must Become Cultural Currency 

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    Before there was social media—before there was mobile and the video revolution, there was blogging. Once heralded as a revolution in communications and to a degree, marketing—self expression and direct publishing of the written word became an influential force to be dealt with.

    Blogging, in written word form of has been a commodity for some time.

    Even as I write this on the reality is less people are taking in the written word, opting instead for “junk food” media which comes in highly shareable and snackable bits of sticky, mobile optimized content.

    Today however, it is content itself that has and will continue to become the commodity. Content in all forms—even mobile optimized and snackable content. There’s simply too much of it. Most of it is not very good and even if it is—the amount of effort it takes to make sure that content will travel far and wide makes for considerable effort. Many will do this well but more will fail.

    So what is value in today’s connected marketing and media landscape?


    The ability to create it, influence it, co-create it and integrate a brand so seamlessly in culture and relevant sub cultures. This is the next frontier of marketing and communications and while it has much to do with things like social, mobile and content—it is the cultural aspect that must lead while everything else follows. A very excellent article in Harvard Business Review reflects some of this shift, labeling it within the context of something Douglas Holt calls “Crowdculture”:

    “While companies have put their faith in branded content for the past decade, brute empirical evidence is now forcing them to reconsider. In YouTube or Instagram rankings of channels by number of subscribers, corporate brands barely appear. Only three have cracked the YouTube Top 500. Instead you’ll find entertainers you’ve never heard of, appearing as if from nowhere.
    YouTube’s greatest success by far is PewDiePie, a Swede who posts barely edited films with snarky voice-over commentary on the video games he plays. By January 2016 he had racked up nearly 11 billion views, and his YouTube channel had more than 41 million subscribers.”

    The challenge for brands is that they often times cannot create culture by themselves. Today’s culture creators often thrive in “sub cultures”—niche groups that exist under more mainstream areas whether it be food, sports, fashionlest you think this only applies to “consumer brands” it does not.Subcultures exist in business as well and continue to diversify as business itself becomes more specialized and niche.

    Brands and Organizations Must Become Collaborators and Co-Creators of Culture

    Today and tomorrow’s challenge for brands and organizations is to tweak their marketing and communications infrastructure so they can effectively collaborate with influencers of culture across the spectrum. If brands cannot create culture from scratch—they can co-create it with the right partners across the paid, owned, earned and social spectrum. But to do this at scale, they must understand the ecosystem of influence and re-structure internally to connect that ecosystem and approach peer to peer influence from all sides.

    The Influencer Ecosystem

    Brands and organizations who wish to influence culture and become co-creators of it, must begin to coordinate how they approach working with those who wield influence, coming at it from different directions. For example, TIME magazine featured a cover telling us that we should “eat butter”. While earned in nature, the story and the journalists behind it are playing a key role in the resurgence of butter and how Americans are re-thinking fat. It’s an example of media influencing culture—in this particular example, this kind of influence cannot be bought—it must be earned, however, increasingly cultural influencers such as “YouTubers” require paid means to collaborate with. The influencer ecosystem can be broken down as such:

    Cultural Influencers
    These can be celebrities but increasingly, it is the influencers of subcultures—those who are building audiences via Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube etc. that are becoming today’s trusted voices. In 2015, Variety reported on a survey which displayed a trend where digital celebrities (YouTubers etc.) began eclipsing traditional celebrities in terms of popularity:

    “Sehdev predicts that within five years, YouTube stars will consume the entire top-20 celebrity influencer list, and aging teens will grow into a sizable fanbase for online talent overall. But that will require YouTube stars to remain genuine and relatable as they gain in popularity.”

    However despite this trend, there are significant implications for brands. As stated above, the digital stars must remain genuine and relatable which makes working with them a challenge as brands must learn to collaborate vs. dictate heavy handed marketing. Also, brands must develop repeatable ways they can work with all levels of these types of influencers. As it is an emerging space often requiring complex contracts, disclaimers and transparency—it brings new operational dynamics to the table.

    Reputational Influencers
    These can range from employees to thought leaders to analysts and experts and while they often influence consumers or customers who are highly informed and connected themselves. The challenge here for brands is that much of what they do in this space is often times disconnected from what they do with cultural influencers—but should be more integrated. Not long ago, Edelman (my employer) announced a strategic partnership with a start up called Dynamic Signal. One of the key benefits of their platform Voicestream is the ability to harness the networks of either cultural or reputational influencers acting as amplifiers of content that a brand places in front of them. Integration and accountability in terms of performance is now becoming possible, but brands must first connect efforts here.

    Media Influencers 
    As the TIME example illustrates—media in all its forms led by journalists and the media companies they work with can often influence culture and sub cultures also appealing to informed audiences who often share their content. But it isn’t just the “professionals”—while blogging itself has become much of a commodity there is still a role for blogger networks with niche audiences who have built audience and work with brands (often requiring a financial transaction) to incorporate their products and services into their content. But here again whether earned or paid—integration opportunity exists as what all three groups have in common is getting through to peer networks who then influence each other.

    Content Marketing” came after social media and mobile and it enjoyed a good run. But it’s not enough to create content in a complex media ecosystem that makes it extremely difficult to break though and earn attention. Brands will have to learn how to influence culture and sub cultures by collaborating with those who create it externally while coordinating their fractured functions internally. And they’ll have to do it in ways that can be repeated and scaled.

  • feedwordpress 17:31:52 on 2014/09/26 Permalink
    Tags: Influence,   

    FOMO, WOM, WTF and ELLO 

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    Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 12.12.55 PM

    I could be wrong.

    In the early days of social media, when Facebook was still for college kids—Twitter seemed like an utterly useless fad to most people. But I was really intrigued by it and stuck with it and connected with others, ultimately building an audience and a real time stream I could dip in and out of whenever I wanted to. 

    That was 2007. Fast forward to 2014 and it's not Twitter my network is talking about—it's "Ello", a social network built on the promise that it won't touch your data nor will it ever give in to advertising. Its manifesto is posted in plain sight on the network. 

    "Your social network is owned by advertisers.

    Every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

    We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

    We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.

    You are not a product."

    Having spent a portion of my morning on the network—I am not convinced. Where Ello seems to be missing the point is that they may not have included enough value as part of their "value exchange" for participants to stay committed to it. Privacy is not enough—for a network to break through today you've got to make it cool, useful, usable and desirable (and "ello"—mobile). 

    I'm not sure Ello is delivering any at this point. It doesn't come off as particularly elegant—I found it hard to even figure out how to post and there wasn't enough value for me to overcome this. I get better content by exploring current networks vs. what I've seen so far on Ello. 

    So what does Ello have?

    It's got FOMO in spades (Fear Of Missing Out). For a short time and for reasons only they know—it's got enough of the right people talking about it and asking for invitations (like I did). 

    So what doesn't Ello have yet?

    It's got media coverage building some hype—but I've already seen negative word of mouth, (WOM) even when I asked for an invite. Perhaps you can count this post as negative word of mouth as well though I will suspend complete judgement...however, at this time—I'm not seeing the value or it just might not be for me. 

    But it did get me thinking about what causes people to take action. FOMO is powerful—I was able to secure an invite, create a profile and kick some tires. WOM is pretty powerful too—I have yet to see peers telling me they love it. Right now there's a collective "WTF?" as many try to make sense of it. 

    I also learned a lesson from my early days on Twitter—sometimes something great is not immediately recognizable in the world of social media. But sometimes you just have to go with your gut as well, and my gut says that value exchange trumps privacy and commercialism. Right now Ello is light on providing enough value to make it a serious ad free alternative to anything. 

  • feedwordpress 14:52:18 on 2014/05/09 Permalink
    Tags: Influence, , Interviews, , Sponsored Content,   

    Native Advertising Isn’t The Enemy—We Are 

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    "We have met the enemy and he is us"

    You should stop what you are doing and read this piece on Native Advertising by Andrew Sullivan, in which he asserts "journalism has surrendered" on the topic of native advertising. Specifically the form that seamlessly blends marketing with editorial in a publication. Aside from it being a wonderful and brutally honest assessment of native advertising and its influence on media, Andrew is both right and wrong in the piece when he says this:

    "At one point, the reputation of that journalism is going to tarnished by the fact that you’re not sure if it’s done out of a commercial interest. I have to say I don’t think it’s sustainable. It will collapse when the readers figure it out. It should have been front-page news that Time magazine reporters were to begin reporting to the business side."

    What Andrew gets right (maybe) is that the reputation of journalism is going to get tarnished. But we have to ask ourselves for who will it really matter? It will matter to the highly informed—the one percent of media consumers you could say. To the others, we must get a reality check and really digest what's happening in the world of media consumption for the average person. There are a few forces at play:

    Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 9.24.26 AM

    Time: There's a finite amount of time we have and it's increasingly being chipped away by technology and a surplus of media stimulus. We simply don't have enough of it. 

    Attention: Sorry, but most of us can now be clinically diagnosed with ADD. Maybe we weren't born with it—but again, technology has taken its toll. We have so much information coming at us, it's increasingly difficult to focus. Watching a two minute video on YouTube now seems like a massive commitment. 

    Relevancy: Blame social media. We are all so consumed in our own worlds that if media/news doesn't seem relevant to us—we ignore it. 

    Currency: I've said it a million times. Content is currency. Ignore this sociological reality at your own peril—people now use content as a way to build their reputations and credibility with peers. 

    Status: It's what comes after currency. Share the best content that your peers and friends value—see your social status rise.

    Mobility: If your content can't be consumed or shared via mobile—don't even bother. Our context for media consumption is now "on the go". 

    Snackability: We've been trained to "snack" on media all day long. It's becoming harder to carve out time for media meals which can't be consumed quickly. Do you have teens? Watch their media consumption behaviors. 

    In short, we are the reason native advertising exists. We're the reason cat videos on YouTube are popular. We're the reason that in depth journalism is becoming an endangered species. On that note—I'll end here before I hit 500 words. Because you won't read more. 

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