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  • Ecosystem Management: why marketers must learn to think like ecologists

    24th January 14

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in Brands, Social

    Author, Ben Shaw, Strategy Director/Social Strategy Lead, BBH London. Originally published in Marketing Magazine

    Marketers could learn a thing or two from ecologists on the maintenance of ecosystems. We live in a world of always on brand communications across multiple platforms and communities that require the same care and attention as the Amazon’s most delicate wildflower. Over the course of time, new parts of a brand’s ecosystem must be created, grown and nurtured, whilst being careful to think how these new presences will impact the rest of the system.

    Like any good ecologist, marketers know that overinvestment and focus on just one organism or resource can leave the rest of the ecosystem malnourished. However, when looking to develop beyond their status quo, new platforms and opportunities are often discarded as a distraction or a gamble compared to the reliability of their main channel. But it may be a bigger gamble for marketers to not care for, or develop, the rest of their ecosystem. What happens when that once fruitful resource dries up?

    Organisations are continually encouraged by Facebook to first invest to build an audience and then spend again to actually reach them (thanks to Facebook’s ‘clever’ Edgerank algorithm). They get an immediate positive return, their fan numbers shoot up and the reach of each post is in the millions. But then, as they grow, they have to spend more to reach the same audience. And then Facebook tweak the algorithm and it becomes harder to reach their original audience, so they spend a bit more. Then their original audience gets bored with all the branded content on Facebook and starts spending more time on other platforms. By this time, the brand has invested so much time and money into this one platform, it would be a waste to stop now. Wouldn’t it?

    Facebook’s Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman recently admitted that  “We did see a decrease in daily users, partly among younger teens”. Immediately after this, they had £11.2b wiped off their share price. Everyone remembers the infamous collapse of previous all-dominating social networks and although Facebook is now so big and so ingrained it is unlikely to ever end up as dried up as MySpace or FriendsReunited, marketers mustn’t take this news lightly. This should be the warning bell for brands to start tracking the changes in their consumers online behaviours and deciding how their brand ecosystems should change accordingly.

     

    Brands should be looking to diversify and experiment across new platforms as their online audiences develop. Snapchat didn’t exist 18 months ago and now more photos are shared every day than on Facebook and Instagram combined. This should be the time when brand’s ecosystems are reappraised every month, not every year. As audiences develop new behaviours – like teens are with mobile messaging apps – brands should be figuring out how they can connect with, and add value to, audiences on those platforms.

    This requires brands to build and develop their ecosystem, which takes planning and continued management, not just to ensure the brand is covered at a basic social hygiene level, but to ensure the brand is gaining value from all of their activities. This need is why social media teams have developed from a sole community manager just managing a page to a team of analysts, strategists, creatives and now editors ensuring a consistent brand presence, narrative and experience across the ecosystem.

    Ecologist Norman Christensen defined Ecosystem Management as “management driven by explicit goals, executed by policies, protocols, and practices, and made adaptable by monitoring and research based on our best understanding of the ecological interactions and processes necessary to sustain ecosystem structure and function” – which sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it?

    Things to consider to help manage your ecosystem:

    1. Track your audience – Pay close attention to where your audience is moving online and decide where to follow them

    2. Experiment before investing – the best brands act like users on social platforms, so follow their lead by cheaply creating content to see what your audience likes in different platforms

    3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – As with any B2B service, it can be dangerous to solely rely on one platform – build your ecosystem across multiple platforms

    4. Look to build retained data – ensure you’re building for the future and collating valuable consumer data to add value to future opportunities

  • Let’s Be Acquaintances

    20th July 11

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in Friendship

    someecards.com - Your reluctance to put me in a Google Plus circle makes me question our Facebook friendship

    The launch of Google+ brings once again the opportunity/chore to categorise our real world and digital relationships into some sort of meaningful schema. It’s the social media equivalent of copying out names and numbers into a new address book (remember those?) and analysing the probability of ever needing that contact again.

    Is the person I spent a night with drinking at a conference and discussing our children a friend, an acquaintance or a co-delegate? Where do colleagues fit in on my relationship map? And what about the person who I’ve never met in ‘meat-space’ but correspond with regularly in conversation on twitter/flickr/facebook? Do I need to worry about circling someone as a ‘Social Media Maven’ rather than a ‘person who does cool stuff? (Answer: Yes)

    “Create around one at least a small circle where matters are arranged as one wants them to be.” – Anna Freud

    It will always be hard to put people into broad categories because, well, we’re all special and unique flowers, man. But questioning the nature of online friendship is an exercise worth revisiting every now and again. As the lines between online and offline blur we’re going to need to find new ‘friendrank’ algorithms. So, while code can reveal to us who we communicate with most often, it can’t tell us who we care for. Right now I’m categorising ‘friends’ as people I am genuinely pleased for if something good happens to them and ‘acquaintances’ as those whose news I am merely interested in.

    This is as far as I’ve got with my Circle Schema and is subject to change – I’d love to hear your strategies in the comments below.

  • Tech & Adland, Together – A Perspective on Cannes 2011

    5th July 11

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in Cannes, technology

    An edited version of this post was originally published for Fast Company here.

    Fairy lights at Google Creative Sandbox, Cannes, June 2011

    I suspect 2011’s festival may be looked back upon as the year advertising and technology agreed to meet in Cannes and get married on the beach.  Sure, previous years have seen tech co attendance (Yahoo! are regulars to the festival) but this year the commitment to one another was unprecedented, visible and visceral.

    Unquestionably, the two industries have much still to work out about each other. Nonetheless, the re-branding of that bastion of old school ad cool, Cannes Lions, as a ‘festival of creativity’ this year signalled a broadening mindset. And Facebook’s VP of Global Marketing Solutions, Carolyn Everson, took a big step towards agencies, speaking compellingly about Facebook as a “platform for creativity” and the company’s desire to “stay small and empower agencies.”  On the very same day, Eric Schmidt was on stage declaring that “hell has frozen over..we would never have thought there was value [in a Super Bowl ad].. We strongly believe advertising has value.” Importantly, the brand also picked up a pride of Cannes Lions this year, thus proving again that the appreciation flows two ways.

    This shared acceptance spilled out beyond the seminar speeches and awards. Having done some early reconnaissance at last year’s Cannes, Google’s Tom Uglow came to the conclusion that “people want decent wifi and fairy lights”. A year later, surveying an array of geeks and ad types happily mingling on the beach at Google’s Creative Sandbox, it’s hard not to agree.  The generosity inherent in designing a space like this (masterminded with great care by Google’s Head of Events, Amy Brown) for all comers is laudable, but more than this, the approach said loud and clear that the company values its relationship with the creative community and has something to show them about giving back; about being open, versus closed.

    The ubiquitous bottles of Rose lined up on tables along the Croisette may be delightful, but finding uniquely useful, entertaining ways to enhance each other’s experience is a lot more fun and well, different. As John Hegarty’s speech on Friday spelt out, as humans we’re hard-wired to respond to difference (technical term is dishabituation, apparently): in short, “difference wakes us up”.

    At Cannes this year, advertising and technology finally woke up to one another, properly and in public. I’m looking forward to 2012.

    Google are a client of BBH.

    @tomux at Google Creative Sandbox

  • Facebook – The End Of The Beginning

    24th June 11

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in Social

    Network by Dominique K (via Flickr)

    Author: Claire Coady (@claireinclapham), Community Manager, BBH Labs

    Last week Inside Facebook confirmed what we all know: that there are some users who’re just not that into Facebook. It is tempting to read this statistic as the ‘Facebook saturation point’ or the impending demise of social networking, however Facebook losing a fraction of their users is not the real story. The real story is how the average Facebook user is expanding their social portfolio while anchoring their core communications to Facebook through both Open Graph and synchronising their communications with Facebook mobile apps. Social networking is not dying, or even napping. For Facebook, it is just the end of the beginning.

    There’s been a lot of discussion over the type of user leaving and Facebook’s geographic growth making up for it, but we believe the real story in the user statistics is in the broader and deeper engagement of the average Facebook user, both within Facebook and outside of Facebook. It is in the incredible evolution of the typical Facebook user experience, from broadcaster to central communications hub. We all know email or telephone used to be the primary means by which we information transmitted between connections, whereas now we’re increasingly using social networks and instant messaging services.

    Just as women championed personal email use ten year ago, it is women’s use of Facebook that we might look to now to indicate the long term prospects of the platform. In 2000, women were 10% more likely than men to believe that communicating with friends and family over email enhanced their lives. Today, women typically spend more time using Facebook and are more likely than men to say their relationships are better because of Facebook. If the early female championing of email is anything to go by, their devotion can only mean good things for the future of Facebook.

    Alongside the shift in typical Facebook use from broadcast channel to personal communications hub, we know there’s an ongoing explosion in the number and type of social networking platforms. Like television, which first expanded from three to five channels over a period of nearly thirty years before exploding to hundreds of channels offering every kind of content imaginable, the social networking landscape has shifted from a few competing generalist social networks to a plethora of different kinds of social networks catering to a variety of interests. And versus TV, it’s all happening at warp speed. Twenty years ago, accessible satellite television filled a need not only for specialist content we knew we wanted such as music videos, premiership football and cartoons, but also desires we probably did not know we had, such as an entire channels devoted to crime drama and the option of watching the world curling championships at 2 am. Similarly, the most interesting of the new social networks, such as Tumblr, Instagram and Foursquare, are the ones that develop user communities around specialist interests and activities, but also easily connect their users back to their core social support network, i.e. Facebook, Twitter.

    It is both the expansion of the social network landscape and the deepening user experience that best illustrate the future potential of Facebook. To get the real story in the statistics, look not at the fraction who leave, but at the behaviour of those who stay.

  • The answer to this Quora? No.

    10th January 11

    Posted by Saneel Radia

    Posted in Rants

    The question-and-answer site Quora is a big deal. It has some powerful supporters, with early content posted by a diverse group of digerati from Steve Case to Robert Scoble. It’s the talk of the media (see Google Trend of the word Quora).  There are weekly articles on how Quora will be bigger than Twitter.

    So, I guess it was inevitable that I’d hate it. To clarify, it’s not that I don’t like Quora. It’s that I hate it and want it wiped off the face of the earth. In a missionary effort to reach those few that are yet to form an opinion on this site equivalent of an Uwe Boll movie, I offer the following 3 reasons to resist boarding this bandwagon.

    It’s spam.

    This site diabolically infects those with the largest spam potential. I guess when a site is launched by the former head of Facebook Connect, it’s inevitable. By launching after Facebook established critical mass and Twitter became a big deal, Quora made a splash in the saturated question-and-answer site category. So, giving people the opportunity to be in the spotlight with their answer to an already-answered question is an ingenious way to drive audience and usage by appealing to ego. And I don’t even mind ego-stroking. I just don’t want to be repeatedly spammed across my various feeds as people whose content I otherwise love and trust fall victim to name-in-lights syndrome. Then again, if I could convince people I invented tape, it might be worth it….

    There are dozens of Quoras about what Quora is.

    OK, so maybe #Twitter was a trending topic on Twitter the first 6 months. But those conversations were focused primarily on usage and innovation with the platform. The Quora self-referential conversations are literally people scratching their heads looking for value. There’s no better sign that the emperor has no clothes people. But until we admit it, we’ll just keep tweeting how awesome he looks in that special toga (author’s note: this has nothing to do with how awesome I think the hashtag #emperorsclothes would be, promise).

    Quora is attempting to differentiate itself via answer quality.

    This is defended through its use of Facebook Connect (real people!) and an interest graph (curated topics!). Here’s the thing about quality: it’s inversely related to scale on the web. Generally, users or an algorithm are required to remove the noise. Last I looked, countless services already do this. They go by ticker symbols like GOOG, have David Fincher movies made about them, or add a new user every second (most of whom request a professional recommendation after a single meeting together).

    So, let’s sit this Quora thing out. We were able to resist Google Wave and Ping. Let’s make it three in a row that we tried and let pass quietly. This isn’t to say I don’t respect the effort or experimentation of any company trying something new (Google & Apple are incredible at innovation investment). In Quora’s case, I just think if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it via my newsfeed.

    Now world, if you’re not on board, pretty please give me a heads-up that I’m taking on a lost cause.

    Then I can start a new Quora-related Quora: “How can I get a job at Quora?”

    {Update: I’ve agreed to write a follow-up post to either eat my words or discuss what I got right after some, ahem, encouragement from readers. So keep an eye out!}

    {Update #2: We asked Leslie Barry to elaborate on his comment below and he’s posted a rebuttal, explaining the unique value of Quora I’ve neglected in the post above.}

  • Status of Africa: the Facebook app with a difference

    10th May 10

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in creativity, social media

    amref_fb

    As we’ve said many times before, we like nothing more than a great idea put to good use and we’re very happy to say BBH London have just created exactly that for AMREF (African Medical Research Foundation).

    Kim & Mareka, the creative team who dreamt up the idea, told us more about it.

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