Wednesday Updates

Things we're thinking about this week.

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Creative cycles are changing and they're finally being recognised! This is HUGE, as it's really the reason FU&G was created in the first place - we recognised early on that the need to create consistently good content was only going to increase. No longer are brands looking at creating big advertising campaigns, they're looking at investing in social media - whether it's Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (yes there are many other types of social accounts as well), they need a constant stream of content just so their audience doesn't forget about them.

Gone are the days that photographers can charge per shot, and probably 10 shots at a time. Now, brands are looking for 30-45 shots on a monthly (if not more regular) basis, and they want it for cheaper! We're no longer spending time reading magazines or looking at billboards, we're an increasingly mobile society. Do you need 30 megapixels, fully photoshopped images for Instagram? Nope! We need to create mindfully, and brands are finally starting to notice.

It will still take a while for Hong Kong (and the rest of Asia) to catch up, but because we recognised the need early, we're able to establish ourselves before others. There's still a lot of work to do, but articles like this remind us that we're on the right path.

Wednesday Updates

Things we're thinking about this week.

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Social Media - what's next?

A lot of news on social lately - data leaks to the future of what it's going to look like. Is Facebook over? Can it be saved? Is somebody else going to take over? What's going to happen? What the hell is even going on?

Social Media is a very strange place (not just in Hong Kong but all around the world). It's easy to forget that it didn't really exist 10 years ago (it had really just started opening up to everyone), so it's easy to not realise that just like technology, it's a constantly evolving space. What exists now is going to look dramatically different in a few years (Hello Snapchat!).

What's interesting to look at is 1) what the technology is going to enable us to do and 2) where our attention is going to go in the future. Let's tackled these one at a time.

Tech - for the greater good

If there's one this that tech and social media are good at, it's connecting people. It's so easy to send a message/email/connect on social that we take it all for granted. Everything is instant and we are able to make connections in ways that weren't possible in the past. What tech is failing to do now though is establish deep meaningful connections - and this is what I think the next evolution of tech/social will look to accomplish.

Tech makes it easier to connect, but there's still no replacing face-to-face connections (whether for business or just friendly gatherings). Even with video chat, there's a barrier that tech hasn't been able to solve. 

When we look at communities online (Facebook/Instagram or WhatsApp groups) there's still a massive barrier to getting people to engage (this can be partially geographical/cultural - especially in Hong Kong where people don't necessarily want to publicly voice out). So certain tools still need to be developed to help facilitate the way we engage and make deep connections (like we do physically when in person - there's still no real way of replacing the value of a hug when meeting a close friend for example).

Tech and social media are great at keeping in touch, but it's important to understand that these tools are (still at this stage) here to facilitate and amplify and not designed to replace actual connections. Maybe one day, but that day hasn't come yet.

Attention - what's going to matter in a few years?

Where/how we spend time is going to dictate what tech flourishes and what dies. Everyone is spending tons of time on their phones and gadgets and that was only really made possible with the advancement of technology (everything becoming faster, smarter and smaller). But, the next phase isn't going to be determined by tech but instead by what can capture people's attention.

There is a tonne of great content out there and people are going to eventually meet a threshold where they can't possibly consumer any more than they do (there are only so many hours in the day - better tech isn't going to allow you to watch 25 hours of content each day for example). What's going to grab people is great content that people can't help but consume.

The greatest value (that hasn't been properly exploited yet) is live content. There are only so many events in the world that require you watch live (award shows or sporting events) because watching delayed is almost meaningless (spoilers). It's the one avenue that on-demand content (i.e. Netflix) can't compete with.

If people can solve LIVE and give a reason for people to tune in, they're going to win the battle for attention. What comes next though, we'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday Updates

Things we're thinking about this week.

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Marketers run everythingProbably the most annoying thing right now is all the 'broetry' on LinkedIn - it's made the site an annoying hub of terrible copywriting. The issue is that it's doing it's job and getting the engagement that people want due to the way the algorithm is working on the platform. The real problem (not just on LinkedIn) is that people just plain want to find 'hacks' and beat the system, and this leads to marketers ruining all the fun - it's why Facebook and Instagram have had to evolve and go with a non-chronological feed. I real damn shame. Marketers suck.

Employee Happiness - Think about this a lot more than anything else (why is it that when a company get's bigger, the culture usually gets worse?). Warby Parker's approach is refreshing and very simple - the idea of using balloons is an awesome way of bringing attention and starting conversations. The best ideas are often super simple.

The idea of luck - Taking a mathematical approach - I always say that you only have to be better than average to be successful. Very often it's just being in the right place at the right time, and there are many ways to 'artificially' create these situations. Just have to be cognizant and work towards it. Don't you just hate it when people say 'If you're so good, why aren't you rich?' - this is a great way of looking at it from a different perspective (luck).

4 Ways to improve your content

There’s a lot of bad advice about content out there (overly simplistic and more often than not just clickbait). I’ve broken down a few sure-fire ways to improve the content that you’re making and some areas you should definitely be looking into to help improve your work.

This is for people that are already creating (or looking to create) original content. This is not for people that take other people’s content and looking to leverage it for their own use — if this is you then there’s no point in reading further.

1. Story-telling

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Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

For some reason, this isn’t at the top of every list that you see. And it’s crazy. 
 No matter what form of content you’re creating (videos, picture, graphics or text) you NEED TO TELL A STORY. You need to be able to convey a message — otherwise, who cares? The majority of content that exists simply exist to fill space — it’s there to play nice with the algorithms. That makes zero sense.

It doesn’t matter if your content is a photo, it needs to tell a story. Yes, it’s difficult to do so when it’s a static image, but there are ways to imply story, tension or purpose within a photo by introducing different elements into a photo (maybe a sign of change over time, two objects that don’t typically go together or diverting the eyes to a particular focused element in the scene).

If you take the extra beat (or two) to focus on telling a story (no matter how simple the story may be), you instantly elevate the content to another level (or at the very least above bland content). There are dozens of great (and free!) resources online that teach you how to do this.

At the end of the day, it’s the story that you’re telling that gives people a reason to care, to pay attention maybe even engage. If there’s one thing to remember from this whole article, it’s storytelling.

2. Simplification

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Photo by Eduard Militaru on Unsplash

Can content do a lot? Sure!

Can it help with awareness, engagement and conversion? Yup!

Can it do all of it at the same time? No chance.

One of the main issues I see constantly is brands trying to do it all. And when it doesn’t work, proclaim to the world that social media doesn’t work (and then usually they say that it’s pay-to-play only but that’s a story for another time).

When it comes to content, it’s important to understand why you’re doing it. Having some sort of strategy as to what it’s supposed to achieve will help dictate what type of content to produce and what the narrative of the content is. As you can imagine, a story created to reach as many people as possible is going to look dramatically different from a story that is meant to convert.

Far too often, brands create content and then litter it with way too many call-to-actions (tag a friend, subscribe to our email list, click on the link and buy X for a limited time, etc.). I get it, you have a job to do, but by doing everything at the same time you end up achieving nothing in the process.

Figure out what you want to do, why you want to do it, whether people want what you’re offering and finally how you’re going to do it. There is no shortcut to figuring this out (you only get faster at identifying these things through practice).

Step back, make a plan, and then create.

3. Optimise

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Photo by John Baker on Unsplash

Lazy marketing doesn’t work. It’s tough enough trying to stand out in a crowded space, but auto-uploading everything? That’s the biggest waste of content sin out there.

You’ve probably seen this, but just scrolled right past it — it’s when lazy marketers upload the same piece of content across all the social media channels without thought as to how it may look to the consumer. Often you’ll see images that are cropped strangely, words that are cut of due to image sizes, videos that cut off earlier than expected or even media that didn’t upload at all. It’s a truly sad state.

It happened because it’s the easy way out — there are many tools out there that were created to save time. However, it doesn’t properly take into account that different platforms have different media limitations (a video on Facebook can be much longer than the default 15s of Instagram). It’s the easiest way to identify a poor marketing team in a company. Worst of all, it’s sloppy and a total waste of (potentially good) content.

You spend hours creating content, only to have it go to waste when it doesn’t upload properly to a social channel. Take the extra time to think about how your audience will interact with the content (depending on the channel). Something that works on Facebook, won’t necessarily work on Twitter or Instagram. However, you might be able to repurpose it all to make it work. It just takes time.

If you can’t be bothered to create content that works, why should your audience spend their time even looking at your subpar content?

4. Mining for clues

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

For this part, we’ll have to make the assumption that you have been creating original content for a while and already doing the above 3 things. You want to improve your offering (constantly improving) and find ways to better engage your audience. What you want to do is to start taking a hard look at your data.

Create content with a purpose (what is it trying to achieve) and look at the data to see if you’re able to (or not) do what you intended the content to do. More often than not, you’ll come across some ideas as to what’s working or what’s not working. But it’s very hard to do — it’s not black and white.

What’s useful is coming up with different hypothesis while you’re creating content that will help you make a decision as to whether something is working or not.

For example, if you’re creating content with the intention of converting the audience you want to set up metrics to track everything, but have an idea as to what happens when some metrics hit or miss completely. If the content is able to hit the expected views, engagement and conversion (let’s just take these three for the time being) then you’re doing something right, and you should look into improving the numbers while creating similar content. If you’re only able to hit view and engagement but far off in conversions, it may be that the content you’re creating is too generic (even if entertaining) but not clear as to why people should be clicking/buying. If on the other hand, you have low views but high conversion, you have managed to strike a chord with your audience (likely a very specific audience) and your goal for content is to make it hit a larger/boarder group.

You need to be careful when creating content and setting up measurable KPIs that can guide you in the future. Too reactive and it’s hard to really know what’s happening or how to evolve over time — you will end up creating ‘trendy’ content that might consistently get you view but not much else (you will also likely become more and more generic).

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Are you creating the right content? Does it do what you want it to do? What areas might you be struggling with?

Wednesday Updates

Some things we've been thinking about this week.

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The (rising) domination of podcasts - looking back it almost seems inevitable. What's really interesting is looking at how the medium and the approach has changed in the last couple of years. I'm looking forward to more production (again Gimlet does a really good job). Whether this will one day all be replaced by visual content is yet to be seen (driver-less cars?). Exciting times.

What do employees want? - This is an interesting way to look at the issue - I don't think it's something anyone is going to solve anytime soon (largely because it's constantly evolving). What's more interesting is how companies can embed these areas they've identified and infused it into the company culture. Easier said than done.

YouTube - not the glamorous life it appears to be - a lot of people are becoming incredibly famous by creating content (and a lot of it isn't good content) and it's easy to get sucked into the world and think that you can do the same (and better). However, it's not all that it's cracked up to be. What's missing is that need to create art - it's something that calls out to people (if you're doing it for money, turn away now as it's not as lucrative as you think). The message that you can create is more important than the riches you might one day fall into - this message gets lost far too often.

 

Working with influencers on social.

Bad news first — it might already be too late to think about working with influencers.

Here are the reasons why I think that is (bear with me as I go through a little history).

When trying to get your brand out there (mentioned), you essentially want to just get in front of as many people as possible. But when you’re starting out, the only people that know about your brand are the ones who know you personally (your family, and maybe a few customers that stumbled upon you).

So, if you want to get in front of more people you need to figure out 1) where people are and 2) how to get in front of them. This is the model that you see everywhere (and how advertising exists). TV, billboards, newspapers, even radio are all places where people gather/give away their attention. And it’s these traditional channels that brands used to get in front of a large audience (paid advertising).

However, with the rise of social media also came the rise of a very distracted audience. No longer were people watching massive amounts of TV or consuming newspapers on a daily basis (yes there are plenty of people who do that but let’s look at the trends instead). Social has become more and more important because that’s where people are spending their time.

But if we look at social, it’s important to understand what it is that people are doing there. They open the Facebook or Instagram app, but what exactly are they doing there? And what keeps them going back (unlike a newspaper for example where you read it in the morning and rarely re-visit it multiple times throughout the day)?

There are a few reasons that people go on social for (these aren’t all the reasons but the key ones). They’re 1) looking for a distraction and some form of entertainment, 2) staying up to do date on everything that is happening, 3) finding out what other people are doing (FOMO).

 

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

(The biggest channels on social can do all these — celebrities accounts are best at doing all three. Other sports or news media outlets do something similar but obviously concentrate on news.)

So why are influencers a big deal? They have large audiences that engage with them regularly. Depending on the fanbase that they have generated, they also have a lot of sway and can impact what fans do (maybe even to buy something!).

A couple of years ago, influencer marketing was relatively small — not many brands were trying it. As a result, it was easy to get in touch with influencers, and if needed, the fee to work with them was relatively low. However, as the popularity and effectiveness of influencer work increased so did the cost.

Influencers were being contacted on a regular basis because their ‘rates’ were really only determined by the demand. It wasn’t until the demand skyrocketed that the rates also increased to ridiculous amounts. On the other hand, the more popular it got, the less effective it became — people are smart enough to realise when influencers are endorsing a product and not actually a real fan.

So when the prices became unreasonable, brands starting to go for more affordable influencers (from 5 million fans to 1 million fans to 50 thousand fans) — the fewer fans they had, the cheaper they were to work with (but interestingly not necessarily easier to work with). And while the ROI was still decent, the market quickly became flooded. This led to the rise of micro-influencers (depending on how you define this, can be anyone with under 10 thousand followers to even under 5k thousand followers).

 

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Photo by Atikh Bana on Unsplash

The influencer market has become so saturated that in most cases, you’re not going to be able to get a decent enough return in your investment (time and money) to spend the time to investigate and execute (working with micro-influencers still works but it can be insanely time intensive). So is it all a lost cause? Not necessarily.

The most effective influencers are ones who are passionate about your brand — they’re the one who uses your product regularly and probably did so before you even contacted them. They’re the ones who are happy to talk about your brand before even mentioning compensations. These are the types of people you want to work with — the evangelists. The influencers that most people are talking about though are the ones with massive audiences and treat all interactions as transactions — the ones whose livelihoods are dependent on selling their influence. There’s still value here but treat with caution.

What’s key here, is finding your true evangelists and giving them reasons to talk about your brand, while somehow maximising their reach. It’s a very tricky situation, but completely doable. Just don’t waste your time (and money) working with people who won’t be able to help your brand.