Blog : social media marketing

Will Instagram Tags Save Social E-commerce?

Will Instagram Tags Save Social E-commerce?

You may have heard the latest buzz surrounding the new Instagram feature, currently being tested by a select number of retailers. Shoppable product tags have been introduced by the social media site, to help brands transform their feeds into a retail space.

While all brands are currently able to promote their products via ads, this will offer a more natural shopping experience for users. The aim is to provide Instagram shoppers with a direct route to buying things, rather than having to go through descriptions and bio links, thus making the buying process far more efficient.

How does it work?

The feature is simple; brands tag the products featured in the image much the same way users can tag their friends. If an image has been tagged with specific products, it will include a label that instructs you to “tap to view products.”

Once you click on the picture, tags will appear, which can include the name of the product and the price. Clicking on an individual tag will bring up further information on the good and include the option to “shop now,” which will take you to the retailer’s website, allowing you to buy then and there. The feature has been designed to make the consumer experience seamless, minimizing redirections, so users can immediately buy something they like.   

Currently, a group of 20 US retailers including JackThreads, Kate Spade, and J.Crew is still testing the feature. Eventually, the idea is to start rolling it out across more countries, with carousel posts and video posts also in the pipelines. The company is also said to be considering a “save button,” which would allow users to save products they are interested in buying in a virtual shopping cart.

The failure of social commerce

Instagram is not the first social media site to try bringing shopping into the user experience. It’s easy to see the logic behind the decision to pursue e-commerce, after all, social media sites have massive audiences.

However, turning social engagement into sales is no easy feat. It simply doesn’t align with consumer behavior and how people want to buy. Many social sites are now accessed primarily through mobile, which has a notoriously poor rate of ecommerce effectiveness, converting at one-third to one-quarter the rate of desktop.

Twitter tried using a “buy button” for over a year, before abandoning the project for having a negligible impact on its earnings. Pinterest launched a buyable pins option, yet it is still unknown just how well the tool is performing with users.

Even Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, has tried and failed with attempts at e-commerce products. Ventures include their online gift shop, Facebook Gifts, which was shut down after a couple of years back in 2014. Their attempt at a “buy button” also failed to catch on.

Learning from past experiences

So, how can Instagram learn from the past mistakes of others? So far, social commerce hasn’t managed to live up to its potential. Instagram hopes to change all that by making the process appear more natural. What sets them aside from some of the other platforms is that their users already use it as a tool to make purchasing decisions.

Instagram previously conducted a study, which found that 75% of users influenced by a post on the app take an action such as searching, visiting a site, or telling a friend. Furthermore, 60% say that they learn about products and services by using the platform. Instagram is highly visual and the ideal place for inspiration, discovery, and wasting time.

Many people use it for beauty, fashion, and food inspiration, so you can see how certain brands will be able to thrive in this environment. Many have already embraced the platform and managed to build a loyal number of followers who are primed to purchase. Removing the barrier imposed by the lack of links and “click the link in bio” solution, and introducing tags may be the best solution for this platform.

However, the platform is already facing pretty negative reactions to the news. Essentially, users are concerned that the feature will ruin the flow of the Instagram feed. Instagram is hoping that the approach is subtle enough so as not to turn users away, yet still compelling enough to drive sales. Think of it as an inspiring, scrollable version of a catalog. Only time will tell whether or not users will buy into this new feature.

NZ internet use: latest stats

NZ internet use: latest stats

Every two years, Auckland University of Technology and the World Internet Project (WIP) release their latest research on the internet behaviours of New Zealanders.

This month saw their latest update. Here is a breakdown of the key statistics:

  • 91% of New Zealanders are active internet users. 70% spend 2 hours or more per day online, with 58% spending 3 hours or more. 95% of all users browse the web and 85% visit social networks.
  • Laptops and mobile devices are the most popular devices for accessing the internet. According to the research, 75% obtained internet access using a laptop, while 74% used a mobile phone and 70% used a desktop computer.
  • Significant increases in online Government interactions demonstrate that both services and consumer behaviours are maturing. 52% of New Zealanders logged in to secure areas on Government or Council websites, and 55% paid taxes, fines or licences online in the past year.
  • Interestingly, more commercial internet activities such as online seeking of product information, buying, banking and paying bills are at similar levels to 2013. This may indicate a level of saturation, in which case organisations can begin to focus a little less on onboarding, and more on improving the experience.
  • The younger a person is, the greater their internet use. However, don’t think it’s just about the millennials – for those under 45 years of age, 90% rate the internet as an important or very important source of information.
  • Ethnically, results show Asian and New Zealand European internet users are more highly engaged in a range of activities, such as buying things online. Pasifika people, however, are more likely to look at religious sites and, along with Māori, lead the way in subscribing to online music services.
  • And our widespread use of the internet is unlikely to decrease anytime soon, according to eMarketer. New Zealand ranked fourth among all markets in the region in 2016, with more than 79% of New Zealand’s population currently online.nzinternet

What all these statistics demonstrate, is that, given the internet’s omnipresence, and our increasing level of reliance and comfort being online, having a clear digital strategy has never been more important.

You can view the full report here.

The Problem With Digital Content

The Problem With Digital Content

This article was first published on Stoppress.co.nz in April 2016.

“Content is king” has widely been proclaimed by marketing folks for decades

Today, it’s a message that continues to be embraced wholeheartedly by marketers.

Five exabytes of content were created between the birth of the world and 2003. In 2014, five exabytes of content were created each day.

Yet, despite this outpouring, content is not working.

In 2015, Moz and Buzzsumo analysed a million posts to understand the correlation between different types of content, and discovered that 85 percent of online content is redundant.

Think of the time, effort and money that went into that 85 percent. Think of what could have been, had it been invested elsewhere. Think of the 59 percent of marketers who will increase spend on redundant content in 2016.

Something is broken. There’s just too much content.

(Before we go further, let me state I’m fully aware of the hypocrisy of writing a piece about content that is, by definition, a piece of content. But digital is nothing if not meta, so it can’t be helped.)

Orwell feared the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

It looks like Huxley will be right.

The deluge of content is so great, there’s a modern condition named for it – ‘Content Shock‘.

Brands are advised to post to Twitter anywhere from 10-30 times per day. The Huffington Postpublishes 1,200 pieces of content a day. Coca-Cola spends more on content than on television advertising. 130,000 articles are published every week on LinkedIn. It’s expensive to create, it’s hard to filter, it’s impossible to consume.

To cut through the noise, a reductionist approach has been adopted. The current advice for reaching a large audience on LinkedIn is to write about one of five categories. Since when did the entire population of global professionals decide they were only interested in five things? That’s 130,000 posts a week, largely on the same five topics.

It’s Groundhog Day with hashtags, content for content’s sake.

So far, so much complaining. Am I calling for the end of content creation? No, but I am calling for a focus not on content, but on quality and purpose.

It’s not possible to create content at his volume and scale and retain a degree of quality. Mark Duffy (aka Copyranter) recently wrote on the linguistic gymnastics employed to define and justify the content assault. Xero’s CMO has described content marketing as ‘garbage’, and it aptly describes much of what has been produced in its name.

Ad blocking is an industry headache, but the real issue is quality. Use of ad blockers is simply an indicator of consumer dissatisfaction with digital content. Who can blame them, when a recent survey stated that 70 percent of brands produce poor quality content when judged against challenging criteria like, you know, being easy to read.

The decline in quality is symptomatic of a decline in purpose, of misunderstanding what content is actually for, combined with a self-imposed pressure to churn out content multiple times a day.

This has been driven, in part, by this absurd notion that every brand in digital is now a ‘storyteller’. Yet the majority of consumers, even those who liked your page or feed, have little interest in your brand story. Give them something genuinely useful, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll stick around for a moment. But your story? Who cares!

Consumers don’t have time to pay attention. They want content that addresses their intent, solves a problem or meets a need, in that moment, on that device. It all comes back to a clear strategy and the customer experience – content with purpose, acting in the context of a larger journey, moving customers from A to B.

There’s an obvious business rationale here too. Great content requires an investment, if not in its creation, then at least in its promotion. But if your content achieves no measurable result, if it’s part of the 85%, then it’s a waste of money. Is your content solving problems? Are you measuring its performance beyond tactical outputs, beyond clicks and likes and shares? Is it actually changing anything?

That’s the key. Less is more and purpose is king. Be original. Don’t write another listicle. Quality trumps quantity every time. Ignore everything you’ve ever read about how often you ‘should’ post. If you must create content, do so because, as brand or human, you have something truly, genuinely, purposeful to say.

The king is dead. Long live the king.

What Dan Bilzerian can teach your brand about social media

What Dan Bilzerian can teach your brand about social media

Guns and women. That’s the recipe for success in social media. At least in the world of Dan Bilzerian.

Dan who?

Dan Bilzerian (NSFW). The ‘King of Instagram’. 12.7 million followers. Poker player, beard exponent and all round playboy.

Bilzerian is controversial. His feed is full of conspicuous displays of consumption, bikini models, guns and a cat called Smushball.

Some love him, some hate him. And I’m not going to get into the morals of his content here. Regardless of your opinion, he’s managed to parlay his approach into a social media empire, cameos in Hollywood films and a virtual lifestyle the envy of 20-something males the world over.

So what can brands possibly learn about social content from this guy? Here’s the top 10:

  1. He understands what his audience wants and he gives it to them. He’s living the dream (well, someone’s dream) and taking his audience along for the ride.
  2. He’s prolific, posting often. Fans can expect regular updates.
  3. He plays to the strengths of the channel. Instagram has rules about nudity which he pushes to the limit, plus he uses video, slo-mo and tagging to great effect.
  4. He invests in the content, often using dedicated camera crews, drones and other means to capture moments in interesting ways.
  5. He has a distinct tone of voice. Plenty of humour and a definite attitude.
  6. It’s personal. There’s no filter here. No doubt there’s curation and some careful stage management, but no filter.
  7. The content is shareable. Again, he knows what his audience wants, and they pass it on in spades.
  8. He mixes it up. It’s not all guns and bikinis (though mostly). He posts about supporting veterans, his cat – there’s just enough humanity in there to take the edge off the debauchery. Otherwise it would get old pretty quickly.
  9. He syndicates. The people tagged in his posts begin to develop communities of their own off the back of its popularity. This begins to create an infinite loop, with him at the centre.
  10. It all works to build the brand. Everything is done to cultivate a mystique about this ridiculous lifestyle. Nothing goes up that detracts from this.

Sure, he’s an odd case study for social media, and I’m definitely not saying your brand should go out and copy his content. But it’s important to note that the approach, the principles, are universal, and fundamental to creating successful social media content, no matter what your business.

Dan Bilzerian is simply proof that putting them into practice works.

Social media strategy in six steps

Social media strategy in six steps

A common mistake made by businesses is leaping into social media without a clear plan. Creating a strategy doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s simply about asking the right questions at the right times.

Our six step process – Define, Listen, Plan, Create, Engage, Measure – breaks down those questions into specific stages. This makes planning far more manageable. It also ensures you have the necessary answers before moving on to the next stage.

When we create a social media strategy, it’s typically based on this process. However, the plan and final result is far more comprehensive. We hope it’s a useful addition to your social media resources. If you have any questions, please leave a comment!

Six steps to a social media strategy
Six steps to a social media strategy
Digital Strategy

Digital Strategy

Digital strategy.

It’s a word we hear a lot these days. But what does it actually mean? What does a digital strategy include? Is it just Facebook? Is it a website?

This page is designed to give you an overview of our approach to digital strategy, and to answer these fundamental questions. Here you’ll find plenty of useful information, tips, advice and possibly the odd contentious opinion.

Digital Strategy

A digital strategy is an holistic view of how a business uses digital to achieve its goals. This can include both external factors (i.e. social media) and internal factors (i.e. governance). It can include websites, apps, mobile, social media, CRM, email, data, analytics and more.

It’s common these days for ‘digital strategy’ to be shorthand for a digital marketing strategy.  However, a digital marketing strategy is just that – a plan for using digital channels to market products or services to an audience. It is a subset of digital strategy.

Equally, digital transformation is another subset of digital strategy, with the goal of taking an organisation from using an ‘analogue’ or traditional approach, to one where digital is at the heart of its culture, processes and ways of working.

In our view, there are two fundamental requirements for an effective digital strategy:

  1. Clear and measurable business goals that digital can help achieve
  2. An understanding of the needs and behaviours of your audience

Without clear goals, you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve or how to measure if you’ve been successful.

Without an understanding of your audience, you won’t know what kind of digital experience to create, what content to deliver or what buttons to push to generate a response.

A good digital strategy finds the ‘sweet spot’ between what the business wants to achieve and what the audience needs or expects from the business, and then creates a plan of action to deliver it.

A word on strategy and goals…

I need to make one really important point. A goal is not a strategy. Saying “we will grow by 50%” is not a strategy. “To embrace innovation” is not a strategy. A strategy tells you how you will achieve a goal. It lays out a definite plan of action, the success of which can be clearly measured.

Digital and audiences

One other really important point…whether you have a B2B or B2C focus, digital is inherently an audience-centric medium. This means  that your digital strategy, and your digital experience, must be considered from your audience’s point of view. Rather than asking, “what do I want to do?”, you need to ask, “what do they want or need that I can help with?”. It’s about using digital to add value. That’s not to say you can’t sell your products or services. It just needs to be done in such a way that’s primarily focused on meeting an audience need, as opposed to a business need.

This is often one of the most difficult changes for a business to understand. Many organisations are still trapped in a product-led sales cycle, and their digital activity consists of campaigns that shout about their products or services. Unsurprisingly, many of these businesses struggle with digital.

The companies who are leaders at digital are those who are constantly trying to meet your needs and make the experience more seamless. Think of Amazon – personalised recommendations, user reviews to help you form an opinion, 1-click checkout to make buying easy. Sure, all of these things are designed so that you buy more from them. But as a customer, what you want is to find good products quickly and to buy them easily. Amazon allows you to do those things.

This applies to internal audiences too. If you want your staff to be more productive, there are numerous digital tools available to help with this. However, it’s vital those tools are chosen or developed with the user, and their job, in mind. Too often, within companies, this approach is led by IT, who tend to be focused on cost, capability and functionality more than the user experience. This can harm productivity and morale, and actually be detrimental to the business.

If there’s one point to take away from this whole sermon, it’s this: always take an audience-first approach to digital.

Back to digital strategy…

At Element, we often begin the digital strategy process with a workshop. We do this for two reasons:

  1. using visual thinking to talk through business issues is a great way to generate ideas and insights
  2. it gets the key stakeholders around a table, resulting in decisions being made faster

Whether you’re looking to create a small, targeted content strategy or a broad digital transformation strategy, workshopping is the most effective means of unpacking all the key elements.

We’ve used this approach with a lot of fantastic companies, including these:

Blog - client list

One of the most important things to unpack are the challenges facing your business. Strategy is essentially an exercise in problem solving – therefore, being honest about the challenges you face is critical to determining which are the most important problems for a strategy to solve.

This is universal, no matter which element of digital you’re dealing with. However, when it comes time to actually creating the plan for solving those challenges, we use different frameworks for different strategies. For example, our approach to social media strategy looks a lot like this:

6 steps to social infographic

Equally, we adopt different frameworks for web strategy, service design and so on.

The other point of difference about the way we do digital strategy at Element, is that we take, where possible, an agile approach. This means defining a short-term measurable vision, and breaking up into chunks the work required to achieve it. By short-term we usually mean 12-18mths; digital changes so quickly, anything beyond that is likely to fall rapidly out of date.

This approach helps our clients be flexible in the way they allocate resources and investment. They don’t have to commit huge budgets to lengthy long-term programmes. Instead, they can iterate and refine as they go, adjusting to changing circumstances as necessary.

What do I need to create a successful digital strategy?

Before embarking on a digital strategy, there are a handful of things you should have clear:

The first is to understand that digital doesn’t work in a silo. It is not a standalone activity separate from everything else. The best digital marketing strategies are integrated with broader marketing and brand strategies; the best transformation strategies integrated with the wider business strategy etc etc. Digital should always be working to achieve a larger goal.

Secondly, you need to be clear on who you are and what you stand for. What’s your value proposition? What makes you special? You must also be prepared to honestly confront the challenges you face as a business, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.

Thirdly, be prepared to invest in both time and resource. Digital often places extensive demands on both. However, this is scalable and, when using an agile approach, iterative and very manageable.

Lastly, and most importantly, you need leadership. Poor leadership and governance is the #1 reason digital strategies fail. If there isn’t buy-in from the top, the results will not come.

In closing…

A digital strategy is a living document. It is, essentially, a hypothesis to be tested. The old military saying goes that “no strategy survives contact with the enemy”. Strategies are not immutable, they should not be set in stone. They should have the ability to change with the circumstances.

It’s not easy to create a strategy that can flex and adapt and still retain a clear focus. At Element, we’re proud to be specialists in delivering this service.

Good digital strategy identifies a clear problem to solve, a clear plan of action for solving it and a clear framework for measuring if you’ve been successful.

It’s both that simple, and that difficult.

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