Blog : social media strategy

Introducing ‘Rapid Strategy’

Introducing ‘Rapid Strategy’

Strategic planning has a problem.

Digital has changed the way we do business, and the traditional approach of lengthy deliberation and maximum information is broken. Your strategy risks being obsolete before it’s finished.

Yet, the companies who succeed in this new digital environment continue to put strategy and insight at the heart of their business.

How, in the words of Tim Leberecht, do we run fast and go deep at the same time?

Over the last 12 months, we’ve been exploring methods for ‘speeding up’ the strategic planning and delivery process for digital.

Rapid Strategy is the result.

This process takes principles from agile, design thinking and innovation methodologies, and combines them with best practice strategic planning, where hard choices are made to achieve business goals.

Our approach understands what the architects of the Agile Manifesto talked about; to quote Jim Highsmith, “we plan, but recognise the limits of planning in a turbulent environment.”

The outcome is a faster, more responsive approach to developing and implementing digital programmes, without sacrificing insight or quality.

Here’s how Rapid Strategy works:

Rapid Strategy model

Rapid Strategy is effective for three primary reasons:

1. The minimum to get you moving

Strategic planning often begins with a lengthy discovery process. Here,  key facts and information are uncovered via in-depth audits or exhaustive periods of research.

Given the rapid evolution of customer behaviours and digital technologies, the first issue we wanted to address was: how do you get the industry, business and customer information you need, without taking months to get it?

The answer is: you don’t. You don’t try to get the full picture. Instead, decide “what is the minimum you need to know to move forward?”

This gets to the heart of good strategy – the ability to make hard choices and prioritise one area of focus over another.

If your organisation is stuck in a digital rut, or suffering paralysis by analysis, then by learning to work with incomplete information, you will be compelled to get out of the blocks and begin making progress.


“An organisation’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage”

— Jack Welch


2. Useful information, quickly

Imagine you’re a commander on a battlefield. You’ve prepared a strategy, and a set of tactics, that you believe have the best chance of defeating the enemy. You have one shot to get it right – success or failure, glory or defeat.

Now, imagine if you could test multiple different strategic ideas against the enemy, before committing your troops to the battlefield. Imagine if you could mount a series of guerilla raids that glean a mountain of useful insight, without great cost or sacrifice, and without revealing your position. What advantages might that provide when the time comes to say ‘Charge!’?

With Rapid Strategy, you can.

At the heart of our approach, is the use of quick, cheap and discreet experiments to test business assumptions.

Used this way, assumptions become powerful tools for business learning. When we ask the question, ‘what is the minimum we need to know to move forward?’, an assumption is often the starting point. Using this as our minimum, we can test and challenge it, to ensure we move forward with reliable information.


“Invest in experiments to quickly, cheaply and easily gain insight into solving problems and exploiting opportunities.”

– Michael Schrage, The Innovator’s Hypothesis

From these results, serious strategic decisions, and tactical refinements, can be made more quickly, and oftentimes with greater certainty, than using traditional methods.

3. Agile execution, bespoke teams

A strategy is not a strategy without a plan of action. Execution has always been critical to success, but as the line between strategy and tactics becomes increasingly blurred, this becomes even more true.

It is always more helpful to see a strategy in action, than to see it as a theory on the page. If agile talks about ‘working software’, we talk about ‘working strategy’.

Rapid Strategy advocates for this approach; short, rapid phases of execution, building on the stages before it, and accumulating to deliver a larger piece of work.

We deliver this via a partnership model, assembling and managing bespoke teams of trusted experts around your project. This ensures the appropriate fit and capability, in turn delivering optimal value.

We strongly believe that Rapid Strategy will deliver greater digital clarity, value and performance to your business. If these sound like results you would be interested in, please do contact us.

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.

Digital Strategy Success

Digital Strategy Success

You’ll find online a lot of articles about why digital strategies fail. If there is a major criticism to be levelled at the discipline of digital strategy, it’s that it often seems not to work.

The reasons for this are many and varied. The concept of ‘digital strategy’ is a broad one, and failure rates vary across the many sectors which camp under the ‘digital’ umbrella. For example, if you believe reports, up to 70% of IT strategies fail.

So, it’s valid to ask the question, ‘Why?’. If 70% of IT strategies fail, that’s a massive business cost, as these are not strategies that are typically failing fast, or failing cheap.

But rather than examine, yet again, the causes of failure, I’d like to talk about the symptoms of success. What do you need to do to ensure your digital strategy will be one of the success stories?

Sadly, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Every good strategy should be unique to the problems, challenges and culture of the business it’s designed to help.

There are, however, key principles you can follow that will make your chances of success that much greater. In our next two posts, we will highlight a number of these, helping to ensure your next digital strategy doesn’t become another failed statistic.

1. Drive it from the top

The #1 reason most digital strategies fail is a lack of advocacy from senior leaders within a business. The cause of this failure can be anything from not understanding the value of digital, to not understanding digital full stop, to a fear of doing things differently. Digital evangelists, both internal and external, can push all they like; but if the leaders don’t lead, in all likelihood, the strategy is going nowhere. This goes back to making it part of the business strategy – if the exec team has it in their plan, it’s far more likely to be given priority.

2. Make the ‘digital strategy’ part of the business strategy

I’ve written about this previously, but your digital strategy should not only be tied to the goals of the business, it should be fundamentally integrated into the business strategy. In fact, your business strategy should be digital-first.

We live in a digital world, and if the business strategy doesn’t reflect this reality, then the impact of a standalone digital strategy will be limited at best, particularly in larger businesses. An analysis of companies with highly effective digital strategies showed that 90 percent of top performers have fully integrated digital initiatives into their strategic-planning process.

3. No more silos

The flipside of the previous point – digital doesn’t exist in a vacuum in the real world, so why would it exist in a vacuum within a business? A silo-ed approach to digital leads to multiple BUs with multiple competing digital strategies, usually not aligned with the broader organisational strategy. This plays havoc with resource, capability, efficiency, consistency and the customer experience.

How can IT invest strategically in the right capability if each BU is competing for resource with the other? How can marketing effectively measure its digital activity if it doesn’t understand how it’s affecting business goals? How can the contact centre avoid channel clash if it doesn’t talk to marketing?

Delivering good digital requires  – buzzword alert! – ‘cross-functional collaboration’. Going back to our first point (see how these are all connected?), leadership is crucial to bringing groups together and breaking down long-established walls or conventions. Establish a Digital Steering Group to provide strategic guidance or a Centre of Excellence to provide leadership and best practice governance on digital initiatives. Establish visibility on digital across the business and make the right conversations happen.

4. Know thy customer

You hear a lot of talk about customer experience and with good reason – 86% of customers will pay more for a good experience. The bad news is your customer doesn’t just compare the experience you offer with your competitors, they compare it to every other business they transact with. Performing poorly in that comparison can hurt your brand, your revenue and your customer loyalty.

‘Human-centred design’, ‘customer first’, ‘customer centric’ – however you want to call it, the customer should be the focal point of your strategy. Investing in research to understand exactly what customers need, at key points in time, is one of the best investments a business can make. It’s not about your business becoming a mind-reader – it’s about understanding ‘moments of intent’, and knowing where points along the journey you should concentrate your efforts to add real value.

We’re only scratching the surface here, but there’s more to come. Stay tuned for Pt.2 soon…

 

The Slow Death of Twitter

The Slow Death of Twitter

I’ve been a fan of Twitter for a long time. But sadly, the platform is no longer what it was. It has become a massive echo chamber of competing voices and no way to adequately sort the wheat from the chaff. Some argue that it’s getting back on track, and I hope it does, but I’m yet to be convinced. Until then, this cartoon by Brad Colbow does a beautiful job illustrating the slow death of a once great social media platform.

(credit: BradColbow.comtheguardian.com)

Death of Twitter

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:

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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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