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The problem with content these days

One of the major issues with content in India is the idea that we compare and compete with the US. Make-up, beauty, fashion, fitness etc etc. We have bloggers who aren’t able to capture a market because its all so saturated. Under the guise of “following passion”, people enter this industry and aren’t able to corner a strong demand from the public. While most people wonder – “who follows these people”, a handful of them actually make millions. There are hundreds of people who offer success steps and few that preach the right things to people. So here’s what we need –

  1. Corner a niche market; make it grow – Have you and your voice reach out to millions but start small from a hundred true fans. If a hundred people love your work then you’ve got it. You can make a lot of money if you’re the sole provider for a hundred very specific people. The whole world can accommodate a million bloggers, but they each would need to be unique and appeal to a very small and specific demographic.
  2. Don’t follow the crowd – Stop wrecking yourself by being another thing that comes n goes. There’s one Justin Beiber, but theres a million Justin Beibers for XYZ (Pop, Grunge, Hip Hop, Fashion, etc).
  3. Don’t build a brand; build a following
  4. Don’t take risks; and you will die – Taking risks is the most important thing to grow in your business and in content
  5. Talk to your audience – Follow them, talk to them and be friends with your fans because they need you to be.

 

Heaps of people want what’s best for you, just give it to them.

It takes years to build a sizeable audience, and it will happen if you keep at it.

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So Microsoft acquired LinkedIn – Now what?

S= Strenght W= Weakness

Well microsoft is in a unique position where it owns PC (S), Mobile (W), Social (S) – through linkedIn,

Google – PC(W), Mobile (S), Social (W)

Apple – PC (S), Mobile (S), Social (W)

So who comes out in the end the winner? Ding Ding Ding – its Microsoft. Why did Microsoft acquire LinkedIn? Because Investors are hungry for data and are urging the dinosaur to do something and it just did. Big Data, Enterprise, and Cloud makes Microsoft a B2B GIANT!!! Dominating everything in that space. Meanwhile Google and Apple are battling in the smaller B2C space for the title of most valuable company

As you can see from the video, Jeff just doesn’t give a fuck about LinkedIn anymore and there’s some yap about aligning and vision and shit.

Basically what Satya wants is to combine professional cloud and professional network to dominate professionalism. Reif n Jeff get stability in the market and Microsoft get a boost in their rates.

So what does Microsoft get? – A foot in the social media game, database of B2B folks, a fast returns investment, B2B consolidation, Access to more markets, & Branding and Marketing

LinkedIn – Leadership, Access to markets, Cloud services, Business integration, Stability in markets, and Access to more investors

Win-Win? Maybe more so for Microsoft

What does this have to do with Marketing Strategy?

Invest in LinkedIn much much much more! Ad rates will go up and you will find a smarter, more defined sales team and is more focused on driving value than just campaigns. The user base will go up and the acquisition will result in more data for LinkedIn to play with to refine their advertising. I.e. Microsoft knows whether you use power point for shoes advertising or sales representation training through their office cloud, and itll match your name to LinkedIn’s database. This’ll help shoe recruiters to tap into you better. Its all about DATA!

Big buys big money and lots of moolah if you invest wisely in LinkedIn marketing and advertising

Cheers and Enjoy your Tuesday!

SEO-2016-webinar

SEO in 2016 – Has anything changed strategically?

The answer is NO. The reason – There hasn’t been anything significantly different in terms of tech, acquisitions, formats, or channels to upset the current primers in SEO in 2016 – social, links, on-page + off-page. These 4 still account for 80% of all the bulk of your traffic and rankings on Google for keywords. Some people say that having ads on the search rank trick people into thinking that Google ranks 2 sites at one page in 2016 SEO, which influences people into survivor bias. But really beyond these tricks, nothing has changed. Ill skip the stats because they’re boring.

I’ll share a few tips n tricks that have worked –

  1. CTR lead magnet – If your ranking is receiving low CTRs on SERPs then consider spicing up your headline and text. Potential searchers may find it more irresistible and click through, leading google to rank you higher. A. Check out what Ads consistently appear on your desired keyword SERP. B. Copy them. C. Experiment along with them. D. Measure results. The posit is that if adwords (which is a more highly competitive space than organic) has one or two winners, then the same should apply to organic as well. E.g. Search for bad shoes NY, and it shows you Amazon’s results and a few ads by smaller players. You should copy their headlines and text, and jump base from there because these ads (for their higher quality scores) have performed better
  2. Topics not keywords – Stop focusing on one or two long-tail or short tail keywords, actually solve the user’s query with topics. Google Trend, and other paid tools (wordstream etc) will help find relevant topics to write and research about. Solve real problems.
  3. VOC – Talk to customers about new emerging pain points. Do a qualitative research and talk to people in the industry about what they feel their next set of challenges are and then solve them. Do some competitive analysis to see what your competition is crushing in.
  4. LONG FORM – Focus on 2000-3000 keywords on your page, because Google will rank you higher for multiple keywords you didn’t even know about. Plus you can keep updating that document and still get the link juice for other keywords
  5. Invest in VIDEO – INDIAN MARKETERS listen up!! Do more video and invest in YouTube SEO. I’m telling you that it performs way better than text in many cases and you gain their trust immediately
  6. On-Page UX – Get heatmaps, track lengths, eye movements, UX testing, etc etc to figure out where your visitors are going
  7. Plugins – Get them on everything you do. Plugins like Yoast are brilliant!
  8. Mobile? Social? AI? – Fuck all that. Just have a responsive site that users like, and a content that looks appealing and intelligent. AI won’t affect your efforts, neither will the wave of cheaper mobile phones
  9. Focus on business, not SEO alone – HatTip to Dana. Focus on incremental visits, walkins, customers, goal setting and inbound acquisition rather than just saying – “I will rank you at page 2 for shorts”
  10. Tactics – On page optimization (url structures, site links, anchor text, attribution leads, schema.org etc) need to be refreshed every quarter or so according to Google’s latest algo changes. This is handled by your developer. If youre into Ecomm, then you’re fucked worse. Spend a lot of money in this space
  11. Voice SEO – Amazon Echo, Siri 2.0, FB live, and other innovations have made it important to satisfy user queries through voice seo. There’s nothing drastically different. The context to each search changes, thats all. So you’ll notice fluctuations in the reports but nothing too crazy. BUT remember that when people talk into a microphone, they’re queries will be a lot more different than on text. So it’ll be longer tail and more topical.
  12. Image text – FB’s getting good, Google great at it, and the rest are catching up. If you have keyword titles inside of images on your posts, then Google will rank you for that as well. So remember to keep things very clear when you’re using these tactics
  13. Nice niche nice niche – Deeper and stronger into really niche queries and sites. So you want to be the first to create mini sites that satisfy the queries that fuel traffic back to your site. E.g. Hamilton reviews, or Chinese rappers 2016, you can make a mini site called chineserappers2016 and literally focus on all the niches under them. Itll take a few weeks but itll be worth it. Affiliate links!
  14. Visitor Personas – More nuanced, more refined, and more diverse. Language on-copy as to be on-point
  15. Trust Josh Bachynski – He’s the best. He’s got a free guide here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zq9Eq_4mnUc)
  16. Make it FASTER – Load times will (definitely) affect your rank. Make it faster. Use CDNs or invest in bigger servers and compression!
  17. Be an expert – The more your outreach and link juice, the higher you rank on guest post, and unrelated content.

Alright, thats it for now. Subscribe to the newsletter and ill keep sharing interesting links everyweek!

 

 

Extra Credit –

  1. A great tactical resource to getting 15K in 30days in the shoe business, by using social to generate topical content and garnering links ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGzjx_YE7x4)
  2. Rand says no impact of IOT on Google rankings. Rightfully so (https://moz.com/blog/10-predictions-for-2016-in-seo-web-marketing)
  3. Yoast Plugin (for WP)
  4. Dana’s talk at Moz (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWvOkIsKNZY)
  5. Old boring but basic – http://www.seonick.net/7-simple-seo-tricks-to-improve-your-2016-seo/
  6. A seriously outdated resource by Forbes “2016” (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/270067)
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Data in Marketing

The Premise

There is none. Because data can be manipulated and edited and customized into any form shape and thing. Most scientific data collection processes work with sponsors that require insights and sometimes even conclusions. They outsource core/non-core processes to consultants or worse – other agencies, and the data, once gone through myriad of varying upper management and their own respective biases, is open to interpretation. I say this not from personal experience (maybe I do), but also from research.

1. Fewer than half of 100 studies of 2008, were replicable

2. Referencing Daniel Kahnaman’s letter to scientists

3. TV Ratings by Nielsen Had Errors for Months

Keep in mind, this is only an accusation, on which I am basing my argument. I maybe 100% wrong and piranhas and puppies can be best friends.

Just the level of bullshit that goes into forming conclusions about consumer psychology, sociology and even economy fails the catch up to gossip columns and cosmopolitan surveys.

Research, in its entirety is difficult. Even Dan Ariely ( every marketer’s favorite psychologist) has some amazing miscalculations in judgement. (Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy to Death. he’s a rockstar). Especially, his argument of ripping bandages. 

Now, the question is clear, how do we want to form culture moving forward. This is important to ask, as it directly relates to marketing. Consumers feel certain emotions that are ABCD, and their desires are XYZ. If we aren’t aware of their responses to stimuli 123, then we can damn well be sure about their desires XYZ. We can test this using a cheap Neurosky headset and some EEG reports about how much of an impact certain niches have on mass culture, and vice versa. We can also test how great of an impact stimuli has on certain people, and form strategies that way. We can be and do great things with marketing and then acheive results that are based on those specific parameters. I.e. a marketing campaign or market research data collected for Levis won’t be the same as for Ralph Lauren, even though the sample size might be the same.

The Sample Size

At what level can we be happy with our results? Can we really trust self-reported data? Never & No are the right answers to those questions. Now, the problem with sample studies is that generally people are vastly different from one another. Even inside one niche, (say gaming), there are varying personas of individuals that need to be captured for profitability and for qualitative v/s quantitative data. All in all, people may have similar interests but their interests can vary with their own past experiences and biases. E.g. a hardcore GTAV gamer may hate WoW games because of a bad incident that he had while being trolled online thus making him/her get the emotion of neutrality with sadness confused. Can you trust online surveys? – Hell no!

Finland & Taiwan. Self Reported Data. Mass aggregation. 700 People. I hate this research

Link here 

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I absolutely hate this article that went viral last year. Looking at this, Nike should focus on Contempt to spike the feeling in consumers’ feet and that would get them going to buy shoes.

Conclusion

Fuck data. Data is impure, and it hurts. Its like the car salesman who refuses to sell the car, but sells the fantasy of what the car could be. There are so many assumptions, conclusions, hypotheses, that make you go – what the fuck is going on. People consider knowledge and information to be power, they won’t be letting it go to some research so easily. Its all a mirage that one day will be hyper customized into each organization’s faculty. Imagine that, one research department per organization per customer base. We’ll have positions such as – Chief Consumer Insights Officer, who’ll look at online data patterns and become aware of his own short comings 6 months later, when he realizes that he hasn’t spoken to a real life customer in 3 years. Data is data. People are data, but insights are insights – which stand the test of time, until a scientist proves them wrong in 2015 and goes wild with PR outreach.

I leave you with this last thought – what do you want your brand to be? Be that.

storytelling and ideas

The difference between advertising and storytelling

We confuse the two. Quite often. We think that an ad with a story – is suddenly storytelling. Its story-selling. Storytelling is strictly – a story about the brand. THAT IS ALL. Anything else, is simply an ad with a storyboard. Ok? Ok!

Example of Storytelling –

Apart from the examples listed here in my other article.

Lifebuoy soaps – Help a child reach 5.  This brand exists because there are people in various parts of India that don’t have access to hygiene. This kind of niche, but extremely strong message suggests to the customers that Lifebuoy has done their due-diligence and actually cares enough to talk to remote villagers about their problems. It answers the question – “Why we are here” with its brand story.

 

 Example of an Ad (that can be confused with storytelling) –

A) Nike – Jogger Ad. This is a perfect example where marketers may confuse this to be storytelling. A story of the young fat boy that wants to lose weight is introduced here, with an inspiring message at the end. Sure, this looks like storytelling and can be confused with Nike’s “Why are we here”, but it speaks NOTHING about the brand itself. Its like a product placement in a movie. It means nothing.

 

 

Comparison Note –

In the case of Lifebuoy, there was a clear message. Lifebuoy is here to clean India. In the case of Nike, there was no clear message. Does Nike want to inspire fat kids? or does it say that greatness starts with a pair of shoes? The message is there, the consumer resonance is there, but it is NOT storytelling.

Contact me at contact@fivemv.com or on twitter at @sanchitkhera7. Im also a philosopher and spiritualist so don’t be thrown off by my twitter bio. Cheers.

 

photo credit: juhansonin via photopin cc

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To close the deal with customers, share your story with them

For brands to close-in on a deal, and differentiate themselves from the competition, they need to speak their story. A story that speaks about –

A) Who they are – Name, legacy, good-guys, positioning strategy

B) Why they’re here – to change the world, to sell innovation, to cure cancer, to spread joy

C) What should we I about it? – buy my stuff, signup for my newsletter, like my FB page, or don’t buy from the competition

Example –

Ledbury Shirts for Men

On their site, they have videos that take the customer through the journey of who they are and why they’re here. See, customers have no idea who these guys are. They know Louis Phillipe and Wills are corporations that give decent quality shirts. Who is this Ledbury? Hence, a strong story line helps to create the bond with the customer. If the story resonates, people might even buy a small-ticket item just to try it out on the first-go. Reminder to all you marketers – Upload the damn video to YouTube!

 http://www.ledbury.com

ledbury marketing

 

Chipotle

They stand for anti-GM cattle and agriculture. Its message is clear. Choose us for your next fast-food purchase. Its better for everyone. That was their attempt with the scarecrow video. Theyve also got a kick-ass concept called Farmed&Dangerous where they attempt to create social change via art and comedy.

A) Who they were – A niche brand that was anti-establishment

B) Why they’re here – To ethically serve customers with anti-GM food

C) What should I do about it? – Choose us. Because, we are the good guys. Vote for us with your money.

 

 Axis Bank

These guys didn’t focus so much on the who were are, but they did a great job of explaining why they’re here. Its a pretty exciting concept that captures the essence of what a bank should be. Their competition tried something similar – IDBI (your friend in banking), ICICI (easy banking), but failed to produce a coherent story.

 

 

Starbucks

An average attempt that could have been awesome. Their whole schtick is all about meeting, interacting and having fun. But they forgot to focus on who they are. There are countless perceptions of Starbucks in the market – all the way from being snobby and pretentious to being a place of home for writers and poets. Starbucks needs to find the 1% of their fans (the core) and reach out to them. Starbucks needs to be cool again.

 

 

I’ll keep updating this list. Contact me at contact@fivemv.com or via Twitter at @sanchitkhera7.

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For brands to create change, they need to do it through art

Change is uniquely similar to creating consensus. In that, both are propagated via propaganda. In other words, there needs to be art, in order to create change in consumer preferences or even social change in general for NGOs to expand their wings. They need to artfully showcase change, and what change can do. In terms of actual marketing, we are artists that are dying as a breed. We are simply making photo-realistic copies of existing paintings instead of making new ones.

For example,

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The Apple Mothership (I think its overpriced, but if everyone around me had an Apple, i’d probably buy one too). Apple’s always pushed the envelop and people appreciate it. Now take Google. People hate Google Glass. Imagine if Apple had launched Apple Glass. It would have been a massive hit! Just like the finger-print recognition. Finger-print recognition is extremely scary, but people are cool with it. Apple has always been about “thinking different” and “innovation”, so people will keep buying whatever Apple pushes out. Consumer behavior is stunningly changed by the advent of the letter “i”. If everywhere around me is the eco-system of iWatch, iPhone, iPad, then hell yeah – I wanna buy an Apple Glass!

Now, think about how much of an impact movies have. Movies move cultures. In India, a Hindi movie called “Taare Zameen Par” about a special-needs boy sparked debates across the country and eased off the stress associated with raising kids. It works. Art changes people. French society has evolved much faster than the rest, and it shows in their art and movies. Our ancient ancestors were more open about subjects like sex and violence then we are. Art moves things. Then why can’t art move marketing?

Think about marketing for a second. Its about expression. Ads, commercials, posts – they’re all expressions of a company and what it stands for. If a company is young (vice, snapchat, bleacher report) they would talk about things relevant to young folks. Like a salesperson but without a person. The ad pitches you a product and you buy it. That’s all marketing is – expression. But you can express something in an artful way – which beats the noise. Now that’s marketing.

You wanna change the world? Do it with artful marketing. Need to redesign the way you look at your NGO? – Design a few creatives that showcase a better world and why you wanna change the current system. Do it with art, flair and style. Every company has its own style.

Example –

If Coca Cola wants to push more liquid sugar drinks and give more children diabetes, then it would have to express itself as a brand that is concerned around happiness. But happiness is all about inclusion. Therefore, crafting an ad around changing consumer desires and community-like feelings will drive the happiness bandwagon.

Now, if Samsung wants to truly express itself, it needs to think beyond “sales” and “profit”. This 10th century mentality is corrosive and you can’t sell a product to a consumer around this proposition. The phones aren’t built for style or design, and neither do they perform better than others. They’re junky phones that have other junkie brands following suite (Micromax, Xiomi, HTC, etc). Crap producing crap. Now, what Samsung really needs to do is to find a few “unique” traits of a brand that creates consumer joy. Imagine a world where Samsung actively pushes the Design bandwagon. It would beat Apple down with a stick. Competing solely on design and imagining a world where customization and personalization is the norm, and not the extreme. Apple tried this and failed. So did Nokia. Wanna know why? Because it didn’t go with their positioning. Apple’s positioning is innovation. (NOT DESIGN). Nokia’s positioning is price (NOT DESIGN). Ask a few people in the room next to you, about what they say when they hear the word Samsung.

 

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What YouTube’s marketing strategy should be

YouTube is, simply put, a giant in video sharing and search. There is no alternative for it at the moment. How does a Giant then continue to stay relevant, despite the attacks from miniature niche players like Vimeo, Wistia, Dailymotion, and a few others.

YouTube (Overview) – YouTube is nothing without its content producers. It is only a website that has a search, subscribe and a recommendation facility. It’s recently invested heavily in a content production-house where it invites YouTube superstars to use their equipment and facilities in the US. This will follow suite in other countries as well in the coming years.

YouTube (Unique Selling Proposition) – “Your own personal television”, where you decide what shows you want (from women in bikinis to music videos and movie trailers). You can pick your superstars and watch them until sun-down. You can binge on your favourite videos and even upload your own for sharing with friends and family

YouTube (Consumer Behaviour) – There are by-and-large two consumer segments that visit YouTube.

One of them has an account with a few subscriptions (or none), the other has a lot of subscriptions and has commented on videos during his visits. There is a third category of content providers – who are people that upload videos on their own channel. But these guys don’t make up the vast majority.

YouTube (Business Model) – YouTube makes money through ads. And these ads are targeted to individuals with certain interests. Now, YouTube needs you to subscribe to a few channels, or segment you in groups based on what you’ve liked or commented on, and even on what videos you watch from the same account. Without this data, YouTube is helpless against Facebook, and Google, in terms of advertising. Hence, YouTube needs You to subscribe to channels and to watch more videos on their portal. If you simply watch and go away, YouTube makes nothing from that deal.

YouTube (Targeting Strategy) – YouTube has to please both segments (content providers and consumers), and continue to grow rapidly in developing nations that have growing internet speeds. YouTube thus needs to focus first on the acquisition of viewers, and then quickly shift focus on providing the right tools to content producers to showcase their work better. From a marketing stand-point, YouTube can gain a lot by acquiring new viewers to create and account and subscribe to a few channels.

YouTube (Marketing Strategy) – Finally, now that we’ve arrived to the meat of the matter, I want to establish the consumer-base again. YouTube wants to make people sign-up to other channels, and then come back to visit again. Retention builds data, and that data allows YouTube to categorize you and then serve you ads.

Its marketing strategy should solely be about the value that YouTube channels can bring to you as an individual, and should provide you with key take-aways about what you stand to lose if you don’t sign-up and subscribe.

Their previous ad focused on more on sharing videos with one another, with the focus on the deaf girl with the implant. This strategy works well when the intent is to create virality via social connections. However, it fails when that loop is not closed-up. If you share a video with me, and I dont subscribe to that channel – or even see anything worth-while on that channel, I lose interest and move on.

Their parent Google’s approach was a little different. They wanted to focus on how Google is a great tool to make your desires come alive. The old Indian and Pakistani friends wanted to meet after decades, and Google made it happen. I much prefer the angle that IDEA used with their “NoUllu Banaoing” campaign focusing on the empowerment of the internet. Google could have gone that route.

A new ad needs to be developed around YouTube channels, and how valuable they are to the average consumers. A Malayali coconut vendor could know about the various techniques of cutting coconut faster and better. His daughter can learn mathematics by watching YouTube videos online. His son can perform better in sports by taking cricket lessons online, and his wife can make better recipes with coconut after watching her favourite Manjula “the Indian chef”‘s channel.

See now when you have people subscribing to these channels, products and service providers can directly market to them with relevant ads. A cricket bat company can directly advertise to his son about cheap bats, a masala company can showcase their range of offerings to his wife, etc. You get the picture.

Now, onto the storyboard of the ad –

The Pitch – We show families across India from all different states. A family from the north, the south, the east and west. And we focus on how YouTube is helping them build a better life via the content on the site.

The Elements – A hip young family’s child watches nursery rhymes on his fav channel. A poor family (coconut vendor) uses YouTube to empower themselves. A young student learns IIT-level mathematics while going home from tutions. A single mother, learns how to make the perfect baby cereal. A painter gets inspired by watching his favourite French films. A tech-entrepreneur learns more about how-to find investors for his next big idea.

The hook – We would showcase people clicking on the subscribe button on their favourite channels.

The closer – A young boy, recording a video on soil conservation. His dad comes in and asks him what he’s doing. His son shows him his channel on soil conservation proudly. Cue – dad’s pride and tears.

Tag-line – YouTube, a place for everyone. A place for home.

Call-to-Action – Go to YouTube.com, and find your favourite.

 

photo credit: Diana Garcia BOG via photopin cc

 

Wanna talk to me about a consulting gig? – email me at contact@fivemv.com, and you’ve got an MBA on-board. Fill out this form to make the process quicker –

[contact-form to=’contact@fivemv.com’ subject=’From fivemv form’][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Work’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

 

 

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The three keys to content – Unique, Useful & Interesting

Problem: There is a lot of content out there. Getting eye-balls on mediocre content is not ROI-friendly

Solution: Focus on the three cornerstones of content – Make it Unique, Useful, and Interesting.

 

Three Keys of Content – Unique, Useful & Interesting

All mediocre content can be put into one of these buckets, and all good content should really be about one or more of these buckets.

Here’s what comes instantly to mind – Humour

Where’s the humour ? How do you classify humour?!

Marketers around the world think that humour is their saving grace. They have a few “humourous” campaigns as their trump card.

“Let’s make it funny and it’ll go viral. People love funny.”

– Yes, but do these laughing people show any purchase intent?

” Don’t know, but our agency will definitely win an award.”

 

Marketing has forgotten its roots; the roots that started in sales. Its now all about gimmicks, tactics, and doing whatever works for the other guy.

The first guy to figure out corporate sponsorships opened a floodgate that couldn’t be stopped.

When SAP jumped on Forbes with a sponsored guest post gig, it was great! Nobody had ever thought about that from a B2B perspective.

Reference – Webview

SAP_Forbes_Sponsored-content

 

Back to humour. Humour makes content a lot more interesting. Interesting – The third corner stone.

Let me start from the beginning. The why’s of the ways of the UUI approach.

Its easy to remember. Content is all about UUI –  You, You & I. Jab Jab, Right Hook.

1. Unique – The content has got to be different from what’s out there. Nobody needs another “10 ways to improve your social media”, or “23 ways of getting backlinks” – it’s done to death, and shouldn’t be pursued by any industry. And no memes either, it’s gotta be original. Doing video content when everyone’s doing infographics is being unique. Having an authentic voice and tonality, when everyone’s speaking in buzzwords in unique. Being a market leader when everyone around you is bleeding thin in a red ocean of celebrity endorsements, and product give-aways – is UNIQUE.

2. Useful – Is this content really solving a problem in the market? I.e. does this content really make a minor/major mark in people’s lives or mindsets? Are these D.I.Y. tips, or a dummies guide to the universe? Is this an infographic that shows you how you can increase revenue by 10% by changing your CTA buttons, or is it a boring video about how your organization “leverages the cloud”. Can a consumer really benefit from your content? – is the question you should be asking. Otherwise, what’s in it for them? Nothing –

Why else would  a consumer share your content with her friends?  How else is she going to gain social currency, according to Jonah Berger?

Consumer do realize that a brand benefits from whenever they talk about them – its no secret. And so it makes sense to give em what they need, and let em share your useful content with other people. Remember to make is Useful!

3. Interesting – Here is where you add the soft touches to your content. Emotion, humour, voice, expression, graphics, intro music, UI elements, etc. etc. until the sun goes down. This is where art meets science, where you really breathe life into an otherwise boring content. People are not going to view your content if you’ve built a boring interface. Add storytelling, add theatre, add art to the production.

There’s a reason why people visit Rome. Art makes the mundane interesting, and so piles of useful data can only be appealing and shareable if it looks like the statue of David. A useful bicycle can get you from town A to town B, but a beautiful woven basket makes it worthwhile.

 

 

photo credit: bernat… via photopin cc

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Why websites need to be more like people

I actually wanted to call it *machines should be more like people, but that wouldn’t link bait as much [#shameless]

Read the damn article. Don’t just skim it.

The Insight:- We rattle our remote controls, beg our phones to not die out, apologize to our laptops when we drop em, and feel genuine disgust looking at old Web 1.0 interfaces. Why is that?

Because, as human beings we seek human interaction. Its our survival instinct. We see Jesus on toast, see faces on moon rocks, and  figures on a Rosharch ink blot. Its called Pareidolia, and it happens because its easier to interact with a human v/s an inanimate object (like a rock or a website)

We’d much rather outsource our own internal processing to a human being by simply telling our problems to him and expecting intelligent solutions in return. That’s also why we hate pressing buttons on an IVR, and we want to jump straight to talking to someone on the other line.

 So, whats the significance of all this? How does it affect websites?

Here’s the ugly truth. A website, at its very core, is simply a channel that provides all the information that a consumer needs – designed in a manner that is simple and aesthetically pleasing. Mummas and Papas feel extremely happy when their children are looking their best with a bright smile and clean shoes.

When websites are only designed for this purpose (transaction and not interaction) – there’s a sense of cognitive dissonance in the minds of the visitor. Her query can not be solved effectively and she moves on. Sure the information is all out there, but it might not be the information that she’s looking for, or  maybe there’s too much of it at one go.

“What we really need to focus on, is building sites that estimate all the queries that a user could have (while browsing through) – and portray them in an aesthetically pleasing manner.” [ Select this statement with your cursor and it’ll automatically tweet it out for you. How cool!]

Square space understands that on other sites, visitors need to enter their credit-card info (yuck), and has explicitly stated that there’s no need to.

ss

Because of this untapped service in the market, there came many-a-UX patriots that claimed many things. One of them was “user journey mapping”, and the other – “copy optimization”.

All of this was integrated quite effectively with the help of the Ol Sacred Sorting Hat or more commonly referred to as “The A/B Test” “Gryiffindor !” *cough cough.  I meant – “Treatment”

 

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photo credit: viviandnguyen_ via photopin cc + a few modifications

There’s a lot of noise out there, and it seems that everyone’s into copy and conversion optimization. What really lies underneath, is the core essence of the website. By applying the Khera Model of web communication, we have the following features-

1. The personality of the website

2. The tone of the persona

3. The type and level of interaction

4. The persona’s background and his beliefs

I just slipped you a fast one. What does all this mean?

A website is simply a salesman/lead designer/product manager/CEO/secretary represented in their virtual essence. An Odesk is more like a concierge, vs an Alibaba’s more like a middle-man bargainer. A Microsoft.com is more sales-man & customer support rep, and a Salesforce.com is the product manager that provides all the relevant information to its customers.

People coming to these sites have different objectives and different questions to ask from it – before they decide to part with their money.

1. The personality of the website

Amazon.com What kind of a personality does Amazon have?

amazon logo

1. The Logo – It starts with the cheeky smile. A cheeky smile that starts from A and ends at Z. Notice closely how the bottom of the Z curves inwards – similar to the lips that push into the cheeks while smiling. In most micro-expressions discussions, its considered to be a sign of contempt, however its usually a sign of playfulness. [Asymmetrical Smiles] #Smiling like the amazon logo.

 

cheeky amazon smile cheeky amazon smiledownload

It all starts from here. The cheeky smile puts people at ease, when they’re nervous about getting a good deal, finding a decent fathers day present, or buying appliances for a new apartment. The cheeky smile that reassures us that Amazon’s got us covered. I’m curious about the effects of mirror neurons on seeing a smile on a logo.

*Side note – Magazine Ella Bache was forced to remove a cover photo of their modes staring blankly directly at you, all the while totally nude. They were told to put a picture of the models smiling.

2. The UI – Amazon’s design has a really smart balance of information showcased in a some-what minimalist way. The left-hand navigation has a large list of item categories – but its not really all that intimidating. Sort of like a Lionel Messi. Amazon’s got the goods but won’t brag about it. Its like a work of art – It really is. Check out Khan Academy’s Ben Kamens demonstration of Amazon’s navigation.

amazon navigation menu

The navigation is actually a customized jquery that triangulates the position of the mouse and displays the drop-down accordingly. Neat stuff. [Moving on]

What else is working for them?

Amazon UI analysis of website

– The giant ass search bar – All e-commerce sites should have a giant ass search bar!

– The top right hand corner stamp of security – “100% purchase protection”

– The overwhelming amount of stuff on the homepage – Amazon knows a thing or two about user behavior.

We’re scanners. We scan stores both on-line and off-line, to find something that suites our mood.

There’s two types of users (broadly speaking) that come to Amazon

1. Visitor that knows what she wants

2. Visitor that doesn’t

By having a lot of tabs on the homepage along with prices and products, it captures the attention of both the casual browser and the specific hunter. Why? Because, a hunter will add his favourite MP3 player and add a set of headphones that she “happened” to notice on the way, and a casual browser sees a set of headphones on sale and picks em up immediately. Amazon probably spends a lotta cash on user journey mapping and behaviour analysis. $$

3. UX – I’m not about to map the journey here. I’m just gonna mention a few points here.

a. User doesn’t have to look too far to get the information that she needs. Everything is just a click, slide, mouse-over, drop-down, away. b. Recommendations. Amazon is the guide to the marketplace of the world, and below every product description they have a recommended products section.

Smashing Magazine’s got an awesome article about UX btw.You can check it out here – Smashin’ article ’bout UX

Areas of improvement

Amazon is in the top position right now, and is in no way in any danger of being dethroned. However, as the competition heats up, they’re gonna wanna invest in improving their persona a bit.

i. Changing terminology – The terms, phrases, copy, text, need to be more personalized to the category, demographic, and geographic. E.e. Having “This item successfully added” for an electronics product page, and having “Item successfully added. The kids are gonna love it.” for a teddy bear product page. Its the little things that count, and leave the user extremely happy with their experience.

ii. Cleaning up the interface – Amazon’s constant struggle to please everyone has left their pages filled with information. Filled to the brim in most cases. There’s a lot of content on each of the pages, and the experience feels clustered. Visitors may move on to specialized stores – like Zapoos for shoes, Istore for phones, Nike.com for shoes, etc. etc. A clear persona, is a clear brand, is a clear message. You know what else? Here’s Etsy’s unsubscribe page –

etsy_bye

 2. The tone of the persona

Speak the consumer’s language, or speak a language that consumers want to be a part of. Its all about being a part of a tribe, and understanding what terminology the tribe uses, and how the sentences flow.

Your consumers will be the best source of insights regarding tone. If you still want examples then you can check out Copyhackers here, although I think its incredibly dumb to pick a voice from a list. Although Joanna, breaks it down quite nicely here –

Quick Insight – Build a website for a single tone of voice, when you can’t target consumers one-to-one. If you’ve got the chops, then just like Google, you need to customize the information presented based on Geo, Demo, Phsyco, and Intent-o.

Distilled’s got an annoyingly long blog post about tone and voice here. Worth a once over.

No Examples for this one! Because, its too easy to just find one yourself or develop one for your clients. You know what though, it might difficult to convince the bosses if your own tone is a bit simplistic and non-scientific.

Don’t worry, I got you covered. Here’s a great resource that creates a communication framework from USABilla that can put any upper management exec to sleep instantly. Its gotta lotta funky words and frameworks that sound really fancy and convincing.

3. The type and level of interaction

Zappos is known worldwide for their customer interaction stories. Here’s a few more.

They’re crazy into their consumers. Its a lot more relationship oriented. Now think about the interaction at a Walmart, or a McDonalds, where the interaction is strictly transaction based. Apart from the loyalty card or two, there isn’t much of interaction between them and the customers, which makes it extremely difficult to recommend the product to their friends.

In other words, TALK TO YOUR VISITORS! Nuff Said. [Moving on]

WebEngage is an awesome freemium tool that allows you to directly connect with the customers on your site. Appsumo has some excellent free tools as well. The absolute least that you can do is this

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 4. The persona’s background and his beliefs

This one’s my favourite, because this really defines your brand, your marketing efforts, and your communications in general. The background and belief.

Bank of America

bank

Ain’t nothing more ‘Merican than Bank of ‘Merica. Their background and beliefs are pretty clear. We’re conservative but we care about our customers. We believe in technology as our tool to a safer, secure, and prosperous nation. And we hate hippies. Talk to a group of younger Americans, and they won’t forget what happened with BoA and the bailout.

There’s still some bad blood there. Add to that the fact that BoA has been voted last in terms of consumer satisfaction.  But you know me, I hate reports that claim this or that, because they can be easily fudged or even badly misinterpreted. Eitherway, its clear that a company’s background and beliefs can be appealing to some [old conservative duds] and not to others [young mixed race] folks.

Establishing the background and beliefs of a company on its website is critical to communicating your message.

Congratulations cool person! You’ve done it. Much effort. Many pains. Multiple rewards await you in your future.

Alright, in conclusion. I hope you f*ckers create a kick ass site that communicates to consumers, rather than building a one-way beep boop beep machine that dumps information into your Pre-frontal cortex.

Focus on the UI (the make-up) and make it as creative as possible. Cuz pretty faces draw attention for a slightly longer time and non-pretty ones.

 

GO TEAM!

 

photo credit: ‘PixelPlacebo’ via photopin cc