It’s A Question of Digital Leadership

Digital Marketing Leaders

An interesting article was recently published on eTailToday.com.au which featured comments from Joe Dittmar, IBM Worldwide Executive for Websphere Commerce. In Dittmar’s opinion the next 2 years represents a pivotal time for eCommerce in Australia, but the market is falling short. And why? Dittmar revealed the current immaturity of the Australian online retail market was more about retailers failing to take the opportunities in front them.” And for me taking this opportunity boils down to an issue of digital leadership.

This is something I broached a few months ago in a post – detailing “Why Australian Organisations Don’t Do It”, however Dittmars recent comments has made me reflect and delve into this issue further.

Why is Australia Lacking Digital Leadership?

Digital Leadership Starts At Board Level

Senior Digital Marketing SpecialistRegardless of organisation size, digital leadership starts at the top. Whilst senior marketing professionals play a very significant role, it takes a strong personality with significant drive to change a mindset. Thus in most organisations, for digital to be truly effective, the strategy must be driven from the top and integrated with the organisations strategic direction. Unfortunately in Australia’s case, several large retailers still do not see the sizable opportunity that digital presents. Furthermore whilst others have made inroads on the digital front – their lack of intent to invest in the digital channel is a telling sign of their current success. The lack of buy-in particularly at executive level is still playing a significant role in hindering the Australian market and ultimately will see some retailers left behind.

Mid Level Digital Recruitment

Many organisations looking to invest in the digital arena for the first time, are looking to do so by hiring mid-weight or junior digital professionals. Whilst operationally these professionals will fill the immediate need, they fail to create a vision and lead an organisation into the digital future. In addition these individuals lack the breadth of digital knowledge that enables them to educate key stakeholders on the value of digital to an organisation. So whilst technical capability is paramount, individuals do not have the clout to lead organisational change, particularly early on in the digital journey.

The allure of abroad

It is a well known fact that Aussies love to travel and with many lucrative digital opportunities overseas, Australia loses its talent to overseas markets. In many markets such as the UK, talented client side digital talent is hard to come by and whilst the recession has paralysed marketing budgets, digital investment remains strong. With a lack of opportunity in the local market for senior talent to progress their career, those with solid skills do make the move – and still continue to do so despite the economy – which saps some of Australia’s best who will lead the revolution. I spoke to a prominent recruitment agency in the UK this week and one of their consultants advised me they have had more Aussies and Kiwis arrivals in July & August than they have had all year which demonstrates the drain of digital talent from Australian shores.

Will Digital Leadership Be Forced?

Digital Marketing LeadersSo the Australian market is ripe for the picking, and it is positive to see that some of the retailers are taking the big step and leading the way. Apart from the pure plays, brands such as Sportsgirl and now David Jones have really begun to embrace digital, but for others will digital leadership come to late or be forced? Internationally eyes are on Australia, brands who have succeeded in their home territory are looking to expand and Australia provides an ideal online landscape to do so – unsaturated and yet to be monetized. A lack of digital strategy could be commercial suicide – so now is the time for those at the top (both marketers and senior execs) to lead the digital charge and make the important digital decisions now not just for the short term but to secure a long and prosperous digital future.

Is your organisation suffering from digital leadership? Share your experience below.

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Life-streaming – It’s Blog Progression Not A Blog Procession?

Life Streaming Technology

There has been a lot of discussion in the past month about life-streaming – with many bidding farewell to blogging and moving into the world of life-streaming. But does life-streaming mark the death of the blog?

Fundamentally I believe life-streaming is not the death of a blog but rather the natural progression of blogging to become a more dynamic form of media evolving like many other digital channels in the world of web 2.0.

The definition of a blog is “a journal or diary that is posted on the Internet.” Whilst the definition of life-streaming is “…a time-ordered stream of documents that functions as a diary of your electronic life. These definitions demonstrate the common theme of a “diary”, so whilst life-streaming provides a more real time approach to traditional blogging, fundamentally the concept is the same.

So whilst the fundamental concept remains, blogs like other forms of media need to innovate to maintain relevance on the social web.

So how is life-streaming transforming blogging as we know it?

Facebook LiveFor 1, whilst the leading Blogger and WordPress platforms are integrating life-streaming elements into their existing platforms – it seems new platforms are increasing in popularity – one such example is http://posterous.com/. Platforms such as Posterous a simple process to upload data ( said to be as simple as sending an email) making it much easier for users to capture and upload their thoughts on the fly. This technology may lead to a change in the type of content becoming available ie more real time commentary on topics as they break and possibly shorter bursts of information rather than large content heavy posts (looks like I might be in trouble).

Secondly, life-streaming technology brings together information from a range of networks aggregating a users profile into one interface. This is one of the big draw cards of life-streaming as the technology streamlines online profiles to provide an online hub, and this is of benefit to bloggers. With your audience using an array of mediums such as Twitter, FriendFeed etc to find, comment and share thoughts , the value of their interaction with your content is not lost as this is aggregated into one lifestream. Lifestreaming also has the added benefit of pushing content out to all your various profiles online, simplifying management of the array of online properties one has.

As a result of the ease and aggregation we may see a much higher uptake of personal life-streams/blogs in Australia as users seek to simplify their social experience.

So the question should not be if bloggers should move away from blogging, but rather how they can leverage this progression in the blogging arena to build upon the success already achieved.
If you want to know more about life-streaming, I have included a number of links to posts I have found useful and provide interesting insight into this developing trend.

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2009/07/01/should-i-quit-blogging/
http://battractive.com/blog/2009/08/09/move-over-blogs-here-comes-lifestreaming/
http://www.slideshare.net/erinblaskie/lifestreaming-the-new-future-of-blogging

Are you thinking of moving onto a life-streaming platform? Do you think life-streaming will be the death of the blog? Please share your thoughts below – or on Twitter.

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14 Quick Australian Digital Trends

Online Trends

They just keep coming and coming. Although I try to compile quarterly updates on useful statistics from the Australian digital market, I have stumbled across some that are just so interesting that I had to share them. So here you go, some juicy digital trends and statistics I have found over the past 4 weeks.

Australians Digital Consumption

1. In a recent Telstra survey completed by 1200 Australians, 25 percent cited ‘surfing the internet’ for entertainment as a way of trimming their spending in these tougher economic times. – IT Wire
2. However statistics show a contradiction to the above, particularly with younger adults. According to Lifelounge’s annual Urban Market Research internet usage by those aged 18 – 30 dropped over the past 12 months, with those questioned spending an average of 8.6 hours a week on the web, down 30 minutes on last year. – Digital Media

Social Media

Social Media Strategy3. Nearly 9 million Australians visited a social networking site in June, making it one of the most popular content categories on the Web.
4. Facebook was the most visited social networking destination with more than 6 million visitors and grew by 95 percent from the previous year. MySpace Sites ranked second with 3.5 million visitors, up 5 percent.
5. Twitter witnessed the most substantial growth, surging to 800,000 visitors in June, up from just 13,000 visitors a year ago. –
6. Orkut also grew substantially: 252,000 visitors, up 607%.

Search

7. ‘Bing’ was the second most searched product or service on Google’s Australian site, falling second only to ‘Twitter’. – Searchology Event
8. According to Google Australia the top 10 retail searches this year are, Kmart catalogue, Target catalogue, IKEA Australia, Coles Online, Bunning’s, Fantastic furniture, Sportsgirl, Good Guys, Rebel Sports and Crazy Johns. – Smart House
9. The number of advertisers using Google AdWords continues to soar at rapid rates and now the number of Australian advertisers using the services equates to approximately 50,000 advertisers in Australia. – Sydney Morning Herald

Mobile

10. 215,000 smartphones were sold in the June quarter, compared to just 32,200 phones sold in the same quarter during 2008 – Smart Company
11. More than a quarter of Australian mobile users have now accessed the mobile internet, according to the Sensis eBusiness Report.
12. The Sensis eBusiness report found 25% of all respondents had purchased a ringtone, 25% had undertaken mobile banking and 12% had ordered goods and services.

Advertising

13. For the June quarter in Australia, search and directory increased 19% sequentially. General and display ads were up 10%, while classifieds decreased 5.9%. – IAB
14. Computers & communications and motor vehicle sectors dominate general display advertising, accounting for 45.5% of spending in the category. Notable up and comer was government spending on display ads, which increased 1.8% year on year to June.- IAB

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Spamitter – Will Spam Mark The End of Twitter?

Spam Tweets

Could Twitter’s Success Be Its Demise?

Twitter SpamWe are all seeing more and more of it lately – Twitter Spam. And quite rightly so, it’s putting many of us off that cute little bird. But just how big is the SPAM problem?

You only need to search #SPAM to realise that this bird has some serious problems, with many users fed up by the onslaught of SPAM on the micro-blogging site. According to Pear Analytics, only 3.75% of messages are SPAM and 6% are promotional. But it seems this analysis fails to consider follower SPAM probably the biggest issue facing the site. One Twitterer stated in a recent article that up to 38% of his new followers were SPAM. Thus with this problem spiralling out of control, Twitter could face a mass exodus of loyal users whom are fed up, as the value of Twitter is diluted by the sea of irrelevant content and followers.

Why all the SPAM?

Since its inception, the very ease of connecting with potential consumers, or other industry peers has been one of the core drivers of the sites success. Unfortunately however with no barriers to entry, and ease of SPAMMING the twitterverse, not only are dodgy starts ups spamming Twitter users, even many corporates are mass following users and feeding marketing messages through the engine with no concept how to engage with consumers.

What is Twitter Going To Do About It?

So with an increasing amount of SPAM followers and content – just how is Twitter going to rise to the challenge – or is it too late as the SPAM flood gates are open?

In 2008 Twitter introduced a new Spam control method – that limits the amount of people you can follow to 2,000, but with all buying and selling of followers that is going on – this has not had any real effect with more and more users complaining of increasing SPAM. In addition Twitter is attempting to crack down on follower sellers with one Australian company, USocial, contacted by a Twitter brand management firm expressing concern over their activities. But picking off the culprits one by one is probably not going to be a long term strategy, as for every 1 they tackle another 10 could surface.
Twitter now therefore stands at the cross-roads, as did the email marketing industry to significantly clamp down on SPAM – but just how are they going to do it?

What Twitter Needs To Do

I have every confidence that Twitter will be taking this issue very seriously considering that it could significantly devalue the organisations worth. Some of the key tactics I believe Twitter should consider are;

1. Block Porn; So much of Twitter “SPAM” accounts contain profiles and content that is pornographic. Twitter needs its system to make decisions in real time to block such profiles from the get go by adopting a plug in similar to the WordPress SPAM filter which will stop the flow of direct message and follower SPAM.

Block Spam2. Bulk User Block; The current blocking capability of Twitter, makes hard work of removing unwanted contacts. A simple bulk select and delete function should be added to enable users to block or report users to Twitter. Whilst this function maybe available in other Twitter apps, the vast majority of novice users will not be aware of how to unleash the power of the applications thus these tools need to be accessible through the twitter interface.

3. Learn from email; Twitter should provide users with the ability to mark messages as junk to enable Twitter to determine repeat offenders abusing the system.

4. Monetise Direct Messages; Whilst Twitter imposes a limit of 250 direct messages per day, one of Twitter’s SPAM issues is related to the “zero” cost involved in sending messages. By charging users to send direct messages above reasonable use, Twitter may be able to reduce the influx of direct message SPAM and also make some money out of its network. In addition to such a strategy, Twitter should provide users with an opt-in ability to determine if they want to receive such promotional messages.

5. API access; Twitter must deploy much more stringent guidelines for use of its API, and block those IPs/users who are abusing the system.

What are your thoughts – will all of this unsolicited Twitter noise make you disable your Twitter access? What do you think Twitter can do to reduce SPAM?

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Google Caffeine – Espresso or Decaf Update

Google Caffeine Update

Google Caffeine AlgorithmLaunched earlier in the week, the new Google caffeine update is causing quite a stir in the search community. And whilst it is said to be the largest update since their Big Daddy change in 2005, is the impact to search rankings a strong espresso or more like a decaf? I’d say it is probably in between.

After some initial poking around of the new index at http://www2.sandbox.google.com/, I do believe at this stage there is a notable impact to search rankings but for most it will not require a search strategy overhaul……. at this stage.
In an interview with Matt Cutts, it was revealed that the underlying purpose for the Google caffeine update is to provide Google with the ability to speed up indexing to create an even larger index of content. Is this Google’s first step towards improving real time search results? The answer in my mind is yes. With the era of content upon us, and the increasing importance of sites like Twitter to break news, Google realises that their existing index was not cutting the mustard. So whilst the purpose of the new architecture is not set to overhaul the algorithm and significantly change how the engine determines relevance, it may be the platform to do so in the future.

Like many others I have spent a few hours comparing the results and have noticed several trends;

1. Prominence of news; Whilst Google news has held prominence since universal search was introduced, it seems that other news sites are definitely favored more heavily in the recent update. This was particularly the case when I searched on the latest topical issues – with some results from the new index delivering 7 / 10 listing from major newspapers versus 5 / 10 in the old index.

2. Universal Search Results; From the searches I conducted it seems that Google images and often videos have either dropped out of the top 10 search results, or moved down in the rankings.

3. Local Search Results; There definitely seems to be some changes within local search results. I conducted several tests, all demonstrating differences in the rankings. Perhaps however the most significant change was for the test I ran for “online marketing agency melbourne” which ranked 4 new sites in the top 10 results. The below screen shots demonstrate changes to the first 6 results on the first page.

Google Sandboxing SampleSandboxing Local Search

 

4. Social Media Prominence; The other major change noticed by several other leading SEO’s is related to the improved ranking of social media pages such as branded Facebook profile pages.

Should you panic? At this stage Google caffeine is still in beta, available for developers and super users to provide feedback. Thus before you go out and change your search strategy be aware that Google may tweak it before final launch. In addition over the coming weeks expect many SEOs to throw their hat into the arena, which will shed a lot more light on the subject and will provide you with knowledge to determine how to react to the changes.

Have a look for yourself
For those wishing to check out the new engine visit, http://www2.sandbox.google.com/. I would be interested to see what others think about the potential impact.

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6 Critical Success Factors For Online Retailing

Online Retailing

It seems that digital is high on the agenda for many with a number of big retailers bolstering up their investment in the online space. This will now become a pivotal time for the industry in Australia as digital will now need to live up to its expectations.
However for organisations embarking on digital a build it and they will come mentality will probably lead to less than effective outcomes. So what is a marketer to do? Start by understanding some of the critical success factors for online retailing – that’s what. Of course whilst critical success factors will differ greatly amongst industries, this article attempts to get you thinking about some of the big issues.

Online Value Proposition

As the online space becomes more saturated, consumers will have a plethora of choice. So what is going to set your online store and experience apart? Many organisations simply decide to replicate their offsite experience without adding value to consumers. Defining an online value proposition/s enables your organisation to determine how you will differentiate your online offering to deliver something of value to your audience/s that they cannot get elsewhere. This is what is going to drive users back again and again to your site. Refer to Dave Chaffey’s article which covers 6 C’s and 7 Ps to help define your online value proposition

Tackle the barriers head on

What are the key factors that will stop consumers from purchasing from you online? That’s the question you need to be asking yourself. For traditional bricks and mortar stores in an industry like clothing or footwear, consumers have the ability to view, touch and try the potential product but online this is simply not possible. So how are you going to reassure consumers that the decision they are making is the right one? Detailed product descriptions and interactive imagery displaying the product from various angles are key as is a strong return policy or product guarantee. All of these elements will help to minimise the obstacles to purchase.

Trust

Online Store Vs Brick and MortarBuilding consumer trust online is important even if you are a large brand. How many times have you as a consumer been ready to confirm your order only to find that there are added booking fees, delivery costs or some other surcharge? Hiding details such as these are perceived as deceptive and can devalue any positive experience the consumer has had until that point thus it is better to be un-front with your customers from the outset.

If you are a new brand in the market, trust is even more important to position your organisation as a reputable online brand. Consumers are still wary of online scam sites and they want assurance that they will not be deceived, and get what they paid for. As a result your site needs to demonstrate it is the real deal – make contact numbers, address and email details prominent, clearly display your privacy policy, ensure your booking process is contained within a secure site, and highlight any accreditation or certification needed to operate in the industry – all of these help to build confidence that your site is credible.

Defining Moments

Users will come to your site for a variety of reasons but regardless of their purpose, there are some core site functions they will interact with. Search is one of those functions which I would class as a defining moment because if I can’t find what I am looking for, I am out of here, with little chance of return. Defining moments however go beyond search, thus it is important for online retailers to ask – what are our sites defining moments and then invest in them. Invest in research prior to build, test the results and test some more – user behaviour can change overtime as can expectations thus continual optimisation is key. If your site can’t perform it’s basic core functions, consumers will doubt it’s ability to live up to its promises.

Fulfilment

A great online experience can quickly be undone with poor fulfilment, much of which stems from ineffective management of consumer expectations. Amazon.com is an example of a brand who manages its consumer’s expectations, enabling them to choose their delivery timeframes and also to track deliveries. A users experience goes beyond a site and strong fulfilment is what will keep consumers coming back to your site. Therefore organisations must ensure robust processes for product or service delivery have been put in place to deliver on the expectations set within the purchase process.

Online & Offline Integration

Some brands have made the mistake of running their online and offline strategies in complete silo, making it difficult for consumers to switch between channels during the purchase process. If a consumer wishes to reserve the item online to pick it up in store, then consider how you can make this process as seamless as possible. If the consumer purchases an item online and returns it instore allow them to do so. Regardless of your online strategy consumers will see your organisation as 1 brand – not different channels thus integrating the 2 into 1 seamless experience should be the ultimate goal.

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Boosting Website Engagement

Online Content Strategy

With consumers spending an increasing amount of time online (up to 16.1 hours per week in Australia), some may naturally think this means that their site will benefit from users spending more time engaging with their site. However unfortunately this is not the case.

With browsers firmly focussed on spending their time in the social media space, Web 2.0 along with increased online competition has shifted marketers focus from eyeballs to engagement. And whilst many experts have continued to argue over what metrics should be utilised to measure site engagement – we all know it is important. So how can a brand maximise site engagement?

Back To Basics

Many websites are considering how to improve engagement with consumers through new tools and content however many sites still fail to deliver the fundamentals. Whilst improving engagement goes well beyond refining the user experience, this is a very critical place to start. In this day and age, your competitors are only a click away, and as consumers are unforgiving a poor experience can lead to deflection from the site before real engagement has begun.

What is important is for marketers to focus on refinement of the sites defining moments , the points that make or break your user experience. For instance if your site is a publishing site in industries such as automotive, real estate, jobs or news – state of the art search capability is integral. Whilst if you are in the eCommerce business such as travel or retail it is the entire booking process that can make or break you.

Give them ownership

Audience EngagementSo much site development is done by without consultation with users. And even if you are doing some basic usability testing, it is not going to set your user engagement on fire. But putting the power in your consumers’ hands could be just the ticket to improve site engagement. We can learn a lot from Starbucks and Dell who have shown the value of collaborating with the community to improve product offerings.

So rather than just benchmarking the competition to determine how you you can improve site engagement, why not apply a similar concept to that of Starbucks and Dell to your site development process. By enabling users to generate new ideas for your site, and allowing users to vote for new functionality that they will find useful, you not only get to leverage an untapped resource for innovation, but you get a far better understanding of the uptake of new site tools and functionality before you invest in it.

Learn from the experts

If there is one thing that we can learn from Microsoft’s latest attempt at ousting Google, it is that users are not just seeking information but want to make decisions. With a plethora of products and information online, sites need to consider how their site delivers on this primary need. Consider what tools are going to help your users research, plan, review, exchange ideas, structure and decide on the key decision area for your space rather than simply providing the ability to book or order.
In the web 2.0 world there are many ways to leverage and re-package content, or to fuse content together through mash-ups. By doing so, it can negate the need for consumers to seek out this content off site and provides users with a more engaging experience.

Innovate, innovate, innovate

With the web being so transparent, it is no wonder that sites in the same industry provide the same site experience. As a result, sites particularly those that are pure plays need to invest in innovation and continually push the creative boundaries in order to differentiate. Your users probably in most cases don’t need another forum or social network, so if you are considering such a strategy to improve site engagement you need to consider why users will engage in your forum over the hundreds of others out there. If you struggle for innovative ideas, start by considering how others, outside of your competitive set, or your industry have innovated and how you could potentially apply such a concept within your site to provide users with new tools or social functionality.

Online Content StrategyTake your content beyond SEO

Many organisations have sculpted site copy to become SEO friendly, or prepared content for the prime purpose of ranking in search engines. With engagement becoming pivotal marketers must make sure the user is at primary target audience for site content. The concept of content innovation is key in the process of improving site engagement.

Evolve Beyond Site Boundaries

The reality is, most of the time your consumers spend online is not on your site. And whilst as hard as we try to woo our visitors back, they are sometimes too busy to do so. So whilst this article focuses on improving site engagement, brands must also consider how to maximise brand engagement offsite. Portability here is key. Marketers must consider how site elements and content can be made accessible in a users own online environment ie Facebook etc to extend the online experience beyond site boundaries.

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What’s New in Digital – Last Month in Review

With everything moving along rapidly in the digital space, it seems every week there is something new online for marketers to sink their teeth into.

To save you time to crawl the web we have summarised some of the major changes in the past 4 weeks.

Its all about being mobile

Figures released in late December by research firm Gartner show laptops outsold desktop PCs in Australia for the first time in 2008.  In particular, there was significant demand for lightweight laptops with shorter lifespans outselling desktop PCs.

In addition to the above growth in mobile broadband has grown 40%, enabling people access the web any time any where.

This trend is making consumers even more accessible.

It is also expected that this demand for accessibility will produce an explosion in uptake of smart phones in 2009.  In 2007 smart phones equated to only 16% of all mobile phones, but in 2009 this is expected to rise to 57%.  This trend will be the most significant in the plight of mobile marketing and should be on the agenda for many of us in 2009.

Google Maps Street ViewGoogle Street View Maps

Just 3 weeks ago, Google’s street view expanded to now include many more Geelong streets, Darwin and other remote parts of Northern Territory.

On the Australian Google Blog, one of Google’s Product Managers stated that Australians are now using street view as a way of checking out destinations for their next holiday.

The question however is just how will Australian websites embrace the latest Google technology? With some of the largest benefits obvious for the tourism industry there is also possible application with the property market.  Marketers within relevant industries should thus be looking to capitalise on this new technology.  This could not only be done through integrating street view maps within their site, but by considering the use of mash-ups which integrate video’s and other imagery into maps for a more interactive web experience.

Yahoo7 Web Mail

Whilst much of the world may consider us a relatively small market, it is good to see that Yahoo7 sees us as important.  Yahoo7 has recently introduced new email services and Australia is the first market to test these outside of the US.

The new Yahoo7 Mail features include a “smarter” inbox that prioritises messages from existing contacts – making it even more important for email marketers to get recipients to add your company email address to their email contact list.

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Where is The Innovation in The Online Travel Industry?

Content Marketing

The travel industry is often said to be ahead of the digital curve, and is one of the most lucrative online categories in Australia. So it is somewhat surprising to see that the travel industry is yet to truly innovate in the consumer engagement arena – particularly when it comes to site functionality.

Consumer InteractionWhilst I have held this belief for a while, it was interesting to see this validated in a recent article on eyefortravel.com which stated that the travel industry has some way to go in order to compete with ‘best in breed’ companies in the website engagement category. Whilst this was a European study I definitely believe this rings true for the Australian market.

The top tier players WebJet and Wotif and other market leaders such as Expedia have to date partly relied on an unsaturated landscape, strong acquisition strategies and consumer appetite to purchase travel online to drive online revenues. So whilst this approach is proving very successful in the current environment, increased competition could turn the industry in Australia on its head. Thus in a sector where the customer base is particularly promiscuous – switching brands for a better deal, a lack of innovation to engage consumers could be commercial suicide.

So where is the industry lacking?

Whilst the travel industry was quick to embrace collaboration tools such as UGC, many of the large players both locally and globally have failed to push the boundaries and differentiate in its use of this content.

Further to this, most sites are not providing the content and tools to support travellers beyond the booking process. Many sites do provide a lot of solid product content, however when it comes to content that supports preliminary decision making for travel – it never goes beyond basic destination information – thus where is the differentiation?

Content MarketingWeb 2.0 has enabled key industries to innovate in very engaging ways. Mydeco.com is just one example of how one player in the home renovations / furnishings industry has bought together a large range of products and combined it with inspiring ideas, 3D design tools and a plethora of community functionality. This provides DIY lovers with complete support throughout the renovation process and several reasons to revisit the mydeco site on an ongoing basis. Whilst the fashion industry has seen the rise of many social fashion sharing sites and community based applications. One such example is Kaboodle.com which enables shoppers to share and discuss the latest fashion along with finding the best prices online.

So what has this got to do with the travel industry right? Travel has one important ingredient that both the home renovations and fashion industry has – consumer passion. Consumers are passionate about discussing their travel experiences and planning their next getaway – but to date I am yet to see leading travel retailers and aggregators in Australia really tap into this and use it to improve brand engagement.

Thus I ultimately believe the travel industry must now push beyond reviews and ratings and differentiate their site through innovative content and tools to provide a truly engaging experience and develop deeper relationships with their consumers.

Those that do could prosper the most in the Australian market in the coming years.

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Content Marketing – In Vogue

Online Content Strategy

In the past when brands were trusted it was enough for marketers to develop brand messages and channel these to market through tried and tested communication channels. Nowadays however consumer cynicism of brands and a lack of trust has meant that push marketing is becoming increasingly difficult. Thus in a world where concepts such as engagement and co-creation of brand experiences are key – content marketing is in vogue.

So what is content marketing?

Content marketing is not simply the creation of a perfectly written piece of copy about a brand or product. Rather content marketing is about providing consumers with valuable information/tools to help them solve problems and make decisions. The creation of content is obviously not a new concept however web 2.0 has created an explosion of new media channels, information, user generated content, etc. all of which are taking content marketing to another level entirely. Thus in this world the brands set to dominate will be those who become publishers and through content provide a truly compelling and engaging brand experience.

After spending the last 18 months building an effective content strategy I will cover the topic of content innovation and my 3 key guiding principles.

1. Content Source

Online content strategyTo create truly compelling and engaging content, brands must push beyond the marketing department. Remember the web is already saturated with content thus organisations need to consider how they are going to develop content that is better than what is already on offer. Content innovation is all about identifying resources available that can be leveraged or re-packaged to provide something unique to the market.

Internally organisations have a plethora of resources and tools that can be exploited to innovate these include utilising internal industry experts, analysing market and product purchase trends, reviewing consumer intelligence and identifying insight from web analytics.

Usually however internal sources are not enough. Organisations must extend content creation beyond organisational boundaries to get a more well rounded view on key content themes. External sources can come through the development of strategic partnerships in related fields, forging relationships with leading industry experts and authorative figures in the social media space, leveraging channel partners and clients or through primary and secondary research.

2. Content Presentation

The second important consideration within the content innovation process is how content will be presented. Organisations may have interesting and compelling content however if it is not presented effectively it may not prove successful. Content presentation extends across several dimensions including;

• Content style and tone – A significant relationship exists between the way content is written or delivered and engagement
• Content Distribution Platforms – Web 2.0 is providing a plethora of new opportunities to distribute content or even re-package it in new ways for consumption.
• Content media formats – As consumers learn and engage in different ways providing content in various formats ie video and text can provide greater coverage.
Thus content marketers must not only rely on content sourcing but ensure key presentation elements are considered.

3. Content proposition

Online Content StrategyIt is very easy to embark on a content strategy without defining the benefits consumers will derive from this strategy. By defining content propositions early on within the content innovation process, organisations have a set of guiding themes that will deliver value to content consumers. Why is this important? When creating content, particularly when starved for ideas, it is easy to develop content which is outside the remit of what consumers would expect from your organisation. Before developing a content proposition conduct the following research;

• Review competitor content and define gaps
• Analyse successful publishers outside of your industry to define factors for success
• Review social new sites / forums and blogs to identify popular topics/themes within your industry
• Engage with your end consumers to determine the type of content they would like to receive.

By understanding the landscape through effective research you will then be better placed to develop your propositions that will differentiate your content in the market.

Do you think there are any Australian brands that are doing content marketing particularly well? Why not share them below.

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