First impressions and the connected experience

My takeaways from a 3 hour class @ BC

 

I stand in front of the class, place an apple, some hand-written notes, and my Adidas shoulder pack on the table.

“Given that you are all working on your personal brands this semester, this exercise will be easy — look at me, and give me your first impressions. What’s my brand?”

This is the BC’s Carroll School of Management’s class for integrated marketing. We are Jack Morton, visiting lecturers professing brand experience.

“Casual. Athletic. Relaxed,” comes back from an evening class of twenty-five.

I laugh when one student adds, “Old-school. Handwritten notes.”

We move quickly to a conversation about brands and the importance of making a lasting first impression.

“When do you think hotels live and die, in terms of the impressions that drive loyalty? What single touch-point determines if you will return?” I ask.

“Front desk?” one student offers.

As it turns out, while working with Holiday Inn we learned that the moment-of-truth isn’t the front desk, but when you open the door to your room. The smell, the bathroom, the overall cleanliness of the room.

We spend the next two hours debating Experience Brands, the conversation covers a range of factors driving brand admiration and scorn, like why Southwest’s humanity crushes Spirit on all levels, and Uber delivers, UBEReats, while Domino’s doesn’t, quality of za. Even Nike and Apple have lost luster they argue, focusing on lifestyle over passion and craft.

We also talk about hype brands like Tesla, and utility brands like Home Depot, offering that Elon Musk could sell ice to Eskimos, but hasn’t manufactured enough to go around.

I love teaching. As an agency, we do, teach, in spirit, professing brand experience as the next era, the Connected Experience ubiquitous to GenNow.

The Connected Experience is a seamless human existence of constant but relevant distraction, just watch any college student navigate human interactions while juggling devices. Look no further than this class we’re teaching. They are here, interacting and talking, but also communicating with others, playing games, texting and otherwise keeping their lives moving forward.

Our class covers a lot of ground, including our principles of an Experience Brand — user first design that adds value, drive participation in ways that inspires sharing.

To bring these principles to life, we feature case work — Charmin’s Van-Go and Covergirl’s Rantin’ & Raven. As well as work we all admire — Fearless Girl, REI’s #OptOutside.

We finish with a short workshop, students brainstorming ways to move brands into experience.

“We loved Natty Light’s green pull tab promotion, and wish we’d come up with it.”

“I want SUBWAY as the healthy affordable choice that feeds three over what SweetGreen charges for a single salad.”

I leave them with my twenty year-old son’s suggestion.

“Domino’s should run-up and deliver while I’m walking to class.”

He just might be onto something, a partnership with UBER and the college track team, a seamless experience for the distracted lives we are all living.

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Spotify bolsters free music model as audio ad wars heat up


Spotify introduced a new mobile version of its free music service Tuesday and tweaked a major competitor along the way.

The expanded offering is being rolled out ahead of YouTube’s new subscription music product. Google-owned YouTube is aiming to persuade some of its 1.5 billion monthly users to upgrade to a paid version. Spotify already operates the largest paid music service in the world, and is expanding what it offers for free to reach a target of 1 billion users.

Users of Spotify’s free mobile app will be able to access many features of the company’s paid service, including some playlists on demand, executives said Tuesday at an event in New York. The changes may also help the company keep its lead over Apple Music, the second-largest paid subscription service.

Continue reading at AdAge.com

Crisis Communications in the Age of Everything Toxic

By: Rob Ford, Senior Vice President

The new state of our media is creating a landscape proving ever more difficult for businesses and the communications professionals that represent them. The traits stamping the media apparatus increasingly dictating the behavior of those participating in it are breakneck speed, loud volume, disappearance of long-form, social media (micro journalism), and an emphasis on being first (or not being last) instead of being right.

One need not look further than the preponderance of reporters refusing, as policy, to amend articles even when factually wrong, as evidence of this phenomenon. We’re not talking about remodeling articles in the vision of the marketer who prefers fluffier language to the direct line, we’re talking about basic factual errors as simple as a misspelled company name or location of headquarters. This extends to editorial standards applied to a piece, which even in the face of demonstrable evidence proving falsehood, are defended.

The common initial refrain is something in the vein of ‘we really don’t go back and change articles’ or ‘it would be a bad look for me with my editor’.

Think about that for a second. In their minds, the greater crime would be in admitting you need to go back and get it right, not in allowing it to be wrong.

Realistically, one has to attribute at least some of this inertia to the epoch of Fake News. Malleability of the news is a slippery slope and should be handled with care. The news media are acutely aware of this and presumably would rather err on the side of protecting what’s written than grant free license to anyone who simply disagrees with what an article says and demands a retraction or clarification.

To be sure, these hurdles do not rest solely with the media – far from. Consumers of news are increasingly more demanding, insistent almost, on immediate gratification. It is, in many cases, the readers who are less interested in something factually accurate than in getting to the finish line first. Readers mean revenue means success of news outlets means livelihoods of those in their employ.

In addition to readers’ insistence on speed and volume, is the need for a line drawn in the sand. Pick a side. For businesses and high profile individuals this has become synonymous with aligning yourself distinctly on one side or the other in highly important, but controversial debates.

Where does your business stand on Trump? Gay Marriage? Gun Control? LGBTQ rights, the list goes on.

This takes companies astray from their core mission of say, making shoes, for example. It places them squarely at the center of debates in which you cannot possibly go without alienating some group of people.

These two phenomena come together to form just a small snapshot of what communications professionals are up against in the new era of news media.

So where does this leave companies and communications teams in the event of a crisis, where timing is everything and getting it right is paramount?

Every situation is unique and requires a customized plan of approach, but there are some bedrock values that any company would do well to remember.

Relationships matter. Tapping a professional who possesses those relationships with media is critical. They’ll be given the extra five minutes on the phone to walk through exactly what has transpired and how it came to be. Keep in mind, relationships are a two-way street.

Experience is key. While the road may be changing, the pitfalls that mark the way are often the same. Working with a team that has the foresight to know what’s coming next and how to prepare for it will serve your business well.

Leading versus following. Don’t chase the news cycle, dictate it. Basic communication goes a long way. In a vacuum of information, people will create their own, or draw new, more extreme conclusions based on the same information that’s already available.

Apologize. Don’t be afraid to apologize; be less concerned with whether it’s an admission of fault and more concerned with whether someone or something has been negatively impacted and show empathy for that. We’re a forgiving public, but you have to ask for it.

Act with integrity. Consider what it is that’s actually core to your business and what the spirit of your company actually is and use that as a starting point for how you approach a problem. Don’t try to be something you’re not just because you’re in a tough position. Our appetite may be for controversy but our desire tends toward resolution.

When a crisis hits, it’s difficult to think in this way. A quote from Mike Tyson is apropos to crisis communications: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Working with a professional team who can bring objectivity and calm to a bad situation is at least half the battle.

Social media use jumps in Q1 despite privacy fears

The latest in his ongoing series of Global Digital reports for We Are Social and Hootsuite, Global Consultant Simon Kemp shows that the number of people around the world using social media grew by more than 100 million in the first three months of 2018, reaching almost 3.3 billion by the end of March.

There’s loads of new data to cover in this quarter’s analysis, and I’ve saved some of the best numbers for the end of this article too, so go grab a coffee and get comfortable before you begin.

Essential stats
There was plenty of strong growth across all things digital in the first quarter of 2018.

The number of internet users rose by 276 million between January and March, reaching a total of 4.087 billion by the end of the quarter.

More than 5 billion people around the world now use a mobile phone, with roughly 6 in 10 of those users owning a smartphone.

The numbers show that mobile users grew by roughly 2 percent in the 12 months to March, but GSMA Intelligence recalibrated its dataset in February, so the actual growth figure may be even higher.

Meanwhile, mobile continues to grow its share of social media use, with 389 million people accessing social media via mobile for the first time in Q1.

This 14 percent increase takes the number of mobile social users well past the 3 billion mark, with the total standing at 3.087 billion at the start of the second quarter.

You’ll find the full set of Q2 data in the SlideShare embed below (click here if that’s not working for you), but read on beyond that for some richer context and analysis.

No sign of antisocial behaviour
Despite mounting concerns about the amount of data collected by social media companies, the latest data show that social media growth is actually accelerating.

390 million new users signed up to a social platform in the twelve months to the end of March – that’s 8% faster than the same growth trend this time three months ago.

These trends mean that well over a million people are still signing up to social media for the first time every day – that’s about 12.4 new users every second.

What’s more, as I noted in my recent in-depth report, the Cambridge Analytica affair doesn’t seem to have affected growth trends in Facebook’s overall user numbers.

The platform has posted 3.2 percent growth in monthly active users (MAUs) since the start of 2018, with Facebook’s own advertising tool reporting a total of 2.234 billion global users at the end of March.

Specifically, that means that 67 million people have started using Facebook in the past 3 months alone.

That growth seems to be fairly consistent around the world as well – even in those countries most impacted by the Cambridge Analytica story.

10 million Americans started using Facebook between January and March, delivering an MAU increase of 4 percent in just 3 months.

The UK saw 1 million new Facebook user across the same time period, delivering quarter-on-quarter growth of 2 percent.

However, Facebook is seeing even faster growth in APAC.

India added 20 million new Facebook accounts since the start of the year (up 8 percent), while Indonesia saw an increase of 10 million users (also up 8 percent).

9 out of Facebook’s top 10 countries saw positive growth in MAU figures between January and March, with only Brazil staying steady at 130 million.

However, our latest set of numbers reveal some bad news for Zuck and team as well.

It’s official: young people really are leaving Facebook
The media have been reporting that young people are ‘deserting’ Facebook for some time, but this is the first time in the 7 years that I’ve been collecting this data that Facebook’s own numbers actually corroborate that story.

The latest data suggest that the number of 13 to 17-year-olds using Facebook dropped by 10 million since January – a fall of around 6.5 percent:

However, it’s worth noting that Facebook rounds the numbers it reports at this level to the nearest 10 million, so it’s likely that the actual drop was less than 10 million (for example, a drop from 176 to 174 million users would have resulted in the same reported figures).

More older people are joining Facebook
The good news for the Menlo Park crew is that the fall in teenage users has been more than offset by some impressive growth amongst older users.

Facebook added 17 million users aged 45 and above in the past three months, with 3 million of these aged 65 or over.

The median age of Facebook’s active users is still below 30, but this creeps up each day, especially given the changes amongst those younger users that we covered above.

What (and who) do Facebook users ‘like’?
Cristiano Ronaldo has the most ‘liked’ page on Facebook, with more than 120 million ‘fans’ (note that this figure may include users who are no longer active on the platform).

Ronaldo’s team, Real Madrid, takes second place in the Facebook page rankings, with almost 107 million page likes.

Shakira, FC Barcelona, and Vin Diesel have all surpassed 100 million Facebook likes too, while sports, music, and movies dominate the rest of the top 20.

However, despite these impressive numbers, some data in the platform’s own Insights tool shows that the typical Facebook user has only ever ‘liked’ one page.

This is a median figure (as opposed to an average), but it’s quite telling that most people don’t seem to be particularly interested in filling their Facebook feeds with updates from celebrities or sports teams, let alone with updates from brands or governments.

Interestingly, though, the same data set shows that the typical Facebook user clicks on 10 Facebook adverts every month, with women clicking on 12 paid placements in the average 30-day period.

Women are more likely to click ‘like’ on an individual post than men too. Facebook reports that the typical female user likes 13 posts a month, compared to just 9 likes for men.

Women are more likely to comment on Facebook content than men as well, with women making a median of 7 comments a month, compared to 4 for men.

Neither gender shares posts very often though; the latest data suggests that the typical user performs this action just once in any given month.

Facebook reach and engagement tumble
These insights into the activities of ‘typical’ Facebook users add some useful context to the latest data on user engagement from social media analytics firm Locowise.

The company reports that average engagement has dropped by 3 percent in the first 3 months of 2018, down from an average of 4.20 percent in 2017 to 4.08 percent across the first quarter of this year.

The firm’s data suggest that Facebook reach is falling even faster, with the average page reaching just 8.9 percent of its ‘fan base’ with each post in Q1, compared to an average of 10.7 percent across 2017 – a 17 percent relative drop.

For once, though, Facebook’s algorithm probably isn’t the primary cause of these steep drops.

Locowise’s data shows that 13 percent fewer pages invested in paid media in the first three months of 2018 compared to 2017 as a whole, possibly due to ongoing concerns about the Cambridge Analytica affair.

Organic reach saw a smaller drop of ‘just’ 10 percent in the same period – from 8.0 percent to 7.2 percent – which reinforces the hypothesis that the biggest dent in overall reach in Q1 came as a result of reduced paid media support.

WeChat passes the 1 billion user milestone
Since we published the in-depth Digital in 2018 report back in January, WeChat – or Weixin, as it’s known in mainland China – has passed the 1 billion active users milestone.

WeChat owner Tencent didn’t make a big deal of this announcement though, instead choosing to reveal the major achievement in the body text of its Q4 earnings update.

The latest numbers suggest that roughly 93% of WeChat’s users live within mainland China, which would mean that almost two-thirds of the country’s population now uses the app.

These latest numbers put WeChat in an elite club of just 5 platforms who claim a billion or more active users:

Instagram user numbers surge
Instagram looks set to be the next member of that elite ‘billion club’, although it likely won’t reach that milestone for at least another few months.

The Facebook-owned platform reached 813 million MAUs by the end of March, an increase of more than 35 percent since this time last year.

It’s worth noting that Instagram’s user base is predominantly female (albeit only just), in contrast to the male-dominated user bases of both Facebook and Twitter.

Instagram also has a younger user base than these other social platforms, with the median age of Instagram’s users somewhere between 27 and 28.

India saw the fastest growth in Instagram users over the past 3 months, with 7 million new users delivering 13 percent growth since the start of 2018.

Germany saw similarly rapid growth, but the United States still managed to add the greatest number of new users, despite already being the platform’s top country.

Selena Gomez remains Instagram’s most popular account after the platform’s own stream.

With 135 million followers, Selena’s Instagram account now has 11 percent more ‘fans’ than Facebook’s top page, Cristiano Ronaldo, suggesting that Instagram users may be more comfortable following ‘third parties’ like celebrities than Facebook users are.

It’s worth noting that two consumer brands – National Geographic and Nike – both appear in the list of 20 most-followed accounts on Instagram too.

So, what about Twitter?
I promised I’d save some of the juiciest insights for last, so here we go: our first ever in-depth breakdown of Twitter’s global users by gender, age, and country.

The first thing to note is that Twitter’s users are more likely to be male, with women representing less than 43 percent of the platform’s total active user base.

Furthermore, as I noted earlier, Twitter’s users are generally older than those on Facebook and Instagram, with more than half of all Twitter users over the age of 30.

The platform actually has 40 percent more users over the age of 35 than it has users under the age of 25.

Overall, Twitter’s user growth has flattened in recent months, but it still achieved 5 percent year-on-year growth in the 12 months to the end of March.

The United States accounts for roughly 1 in 5 of Twitter’s users, but Japan is probably the company’s standout country story.

The latest data suggest that that platform now has more than 50 million users in the Land of the Rising Sun, up from 45 million in October 2017.

This means that Twitter penetration sits at an impressive 40 percent in Japan, which puts it second only to LINE, which claims a whopping 73 million active users in the country (57 percent penetration).

Globally, it’s interesting to note that more iOS users are active on Twitter than Android users, in sharp contrast to Facebook, where 70 percent of global users access the platform via an Android device.

This skew towards Apple devices may be partly because Twitter has historically been integrated into the fabric of iOS, although it’s unclear whether this integration will continue.

StatCounter reports that iOS is the market leader in the USA, Japan, and the UK, so Twitter’s geographic footprint may also play a role in shaping iOS’s share of users.

Meanwhile, Twitter sees much higher levels of access from laptop and desktop computers compared to Facebook: 17 percent of active users on Twitter, compared to just 9 percent on Facebook.

Despite Twitter’s smaller user base, three accounts have still managed to amass more than 100 million followers on the platform: Katy Perry (109 million followers), Justin Bieber (106 million followers), and Barack Obama (102 million followers).

For context, Donald Trump has less than half as many Twitter followers as Barack Obama.

Wait… there’s more?!
There are plenty more gems tucked away in the data in this latest report, but you’ve probably got a life to live, so we’ll save those insights for other posts that I’ll share over the next few days.

In the meantime, here’s the full report again – feel free to contact Simon on LinkedIn or Twitter if you have any questions.

The post Social media use jumps in Q1 despite privacy fears appeared first on We Are Social UK.

What Generation Z Really Thinks About Social Media

On track to become the largest generation of consumers by the year 2020, and already wielding $44 billion in buying power, Generation Z is becoming a key area of focus for marketers. And naturally, they’re looking to reach them online, where these digital natives spend 74 percent of their free time. Yet while today’s teenagers are just as tech savvy as the millennial generation, they have a unique perspective on the tech platforms they’re using.

To better understand what Gen Z really thinks about social media, I went straight to the source—by talking to my own teenage daughter, Charlotte Kerpen.

They’re not on Facebook.

To get a sense for her relationship to social media, I asked Charlotte which networks she’s currently on. “As for having an account, it’s Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Music.ly,” she says. But only Instagram and Snapchat are used regularly. According to a recent Piper Jaffray survey, 47 percent of teens consider Snapchat to be their favorite platform, while Instagram is the preferred platform of 24 percent of teens. Only 9 percent of teens prefer Facebook.

Snapchat’s redesign missed the mark.

Charlotte, like most of her peers, used to be an avid Snapchat fan. She was an early adopter and became part of its core user base. But since the platform’s redesign earlier this year, she’s been spending significantly less time on it. “My first instinct when I go on my phone is to click on Snapchat,” says Charlotte. “But I rarely stay on it. I click out and go on Instagram. When Snapchat updated, it became less appealing in my opinion. I’d see all of these different things, and it was just a lot on the screen.” She’s not alone. After launching its redesign, Snapchat received a petition with more than 1.2 billion signatures, asking the company to revert back. Yet despite the intense backlash, Snapchat actually saw an increase in U.S. downloads of the app.

They want to use social media for good.

This social-savvy generation is finding its voice online. “Before social media, it was a lot easier to ignore things that younger kids were trying to do, so with social media…it makes it easier for people to speak their minds,” says Charlotte. Yet while social media has the power to drive social change, she recognizes that its effects aren’t always positive. “It’s good in that people can speak out and have their voices be heard,” Charlotte concludes. “But people are getting addicted. It can be a good thing with regulation and being able to control yourself. But if you’re on your Instagram and Snapchat all the time, it can be bad for your [mental] health.”

Underlining this paradox, a study from Hill Holliday shows that while 41 percent of Gen Z say that social media makes them feel anxious, sad, or depressed, 77 percent say that it ultimately has more benefits than drawbacks. In fact, 71 percent of participants say that social media has a positive impact on their relationships, and 61 percent say that it gives them a boost to their ego.

Some may want to quit, but it’s not so easy.

That same Hill Holliday report reveals that 34 percent of Gen Z are permanently quitting social media, while 64 percent say that they’re taking a break from these platforms. They’re feeling left out, insecure, distracted—and just plain bored.

“There are very few actually good things about social media,” Charlotte argues. “It’s mostly bragging and feeling jealous and seeing bad things happen, seeing people hanging out without you. It just causes a lot of problems that wouldn’t otherwise be there.”

So would she quit? “That’s the thing,” she says, smiling. “It’s addictive. I tried deleting Snapchat the other day, and it lasted just two days. I had to redownload it. I felt like I was left out. Even if the things I was seeing on Snapchat made me feel left out, I felt left out by not feeling left out.”

From Responsibility to Advocacy: Finding the Right CSR Balance for Your Company

In the past eighteen months we’ve seen more and more companies taking stands on social issues: be it proactively making statements on hot-button issues around gender, gun control and equality; responding to consumer pressure to take products off the shelves; or using its advertising might to advocate for social change. Companies are quickly being forced to come to terms with the fact that today’s employees and consumers are demanding that their favorite brands stand for something more than their bottom line.

But not every company is ready to take a stance. There is a spectrum of where companies operate in this increasingly complex landscape of corporate social responsibility.

We see the spectrum as follows…

Where Does Your Organization Fit On The Spectrum?

1. It is rare to find a company today that doesn’t have a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program. This is now a table stake and typically includes corporate philanthropic events and programs, commitments to sustainability in its business and employee volunteerism.

2. A purpose platform takes a CSR program to the next level, where a company aligns itself around a core set of values that sit above the products and services they provide. A successful purpose platform supports the company’s strategic business goals and helps to mitigate risks by institutionalizing a more widespread commitment to deliver on that purpose.

3. There is a new class of companies emerging that are taking purpose to the next level by actively and publicly engaging as participants in advocating for hot-button social issues. These companies are taking proactive stances on issues where they see government and public leadership falling short. This trend has become more apparent since 2016 and may well quickly become institutionalized by corporate America through the recent actions of BlackRock investment firm CEO and founder Laurence D Fink. Fink’s open letter declared that “companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose.”

This new class of companies willing to speak out on social issues is growing, but it’s not without peril to corporate and brand reputation. We’ve seen this work well for companies speaking out on issues that clearly relate to their core business but were also nationally debated issues at the time. For others, the results have been mixed or negative.

There are five critical questions a company – or one of its executives – should ask before it takes a proactive, public approach to inserting the brand into a hot-button social issue:

1. Where does the company currently sit on the spectrum of Responsibility to Advocacy? It’s hard for a company to jump from traditional CSR to social issue advocacy – you have to walk before you can run. In this case, it’s best to start where you are and take incremental steps to the next level. For example, if you have a CSR program that addresses a wide range of issues, it’s a good idea to narrow your focus and define a purpose platform before jumping into a social advocacy stance .

2. Does the program align with the brand and corporate values? Regardless of where you sit on the spectrum, programming of any nature must be authentic to who you are as a corporation/brand, or it will fall flat as greenwashing, pinkwashing, etc. Today’s consumers have set a higher bar than ever before, and will reject companies with their wallets and ambassadorship who aren’t authentic in their approach.

3. Do you understand what matters to your employees and customers? This is important because after all, a business is still a business. Making sure that the company’s activities align to its most important constituent base – its customers – is the linchpin to any CSR, Purpose or Social Advocacy programming.

4. Does your stance align with your internal commitments and policies, or will it highlight a say/do gap? It is always hardest for a brand to be inwardly honest and to recognize and address shortcomings. But a critical examination of these gaps must be done before moving ahead with any kind of social advocacy programing.

5. Does the company/brand have enough reputational equity built up to weather the storm? No program will be without its detractors, but doing an honest assessment of your reputational equity is a valuable step before proceeding with any significant initiative. Understanding the business and political landscape in advance of an announcement will allow you to prepare for negative reactions and to weather the storm – protecting long term business impact.

There is no doubt that the pressure on businesses to be more active in the social landscape will continue to grow. It is critical to take the time now to step back and find your place on the spectrum and build a meaningful short and long term plan to deliver on it.