11 simple ways for brands to build better following on social media

It's not difficult to get better following for brands on social – with good insight based strategy, quality content, and regularity.

1. Be frequent. Be there to be top of mind.

Brands often try and open up their presence on many social channels but fail to be there when it comes to regularity. Don't be absent for long periods. Share often with relevant messages.

2. Quality content matters. Provide information and education.

Today, more than ever, content that is informative and relevant is key. By providing useful content, your brand is seen as an authority, and that's what increases shares, comments, retweets.

3. Create a solid network.

Social is really about networking. Surround yourself with people who have common interests and are aligned with your purpose. When you provide value for them, you create a reliable network around your brand and become a point of influence.

4. Engage and entertain.

Be human. Be entertaining. You can use humor, you can post stuff that you like that you feel your followers may like and share that is entertaining – it doesn't have to be funny, but it should bring a smile.

5. Provide exclusivity to draw followers in and keep them.

Every one likes to feel part of a club, an inner circle. Remember to provide exclusive deals, first reveals, discounts and other forms of appreciation.

6. Go beyond every day. Inspire your audience.

Social media is often a source of a good quote, an inspiring thought, a great tip. Remember to always be a source of inspiration.

7. Respond.

Social media is a dialog. Respond quickly, courteously, relentlessly. Answer queries. You can even respond to queries someone has asked on a competitive post and gain followers by providing value.

8. Be beautiful. Be visual.

You can get a 150% increase in retweets just by including images. Make sure you have attractive, well crafted images. Social is increasingly visual, but you'll only benefit from it if you have quality.

9. Be in the here and now.

Successful social brands are always in the here and now. They are contextually relevant to what happens around them. Be aware of what's happening in the news, in your vertical, with your product category, with your competition. Ride current waves.

10. Be social at the right time

Make sure you know which time of day you get the best engagement and reach value. Post at the right time of day, and the right day of the week. Don't ignore weekends – that's when people have spare time.

11. Have a good call to action.

State your purpose. Ask and you shall receive. Ask for a retweet or a share. Encourage comments. Ask for opinions (that's insight for your brand). If you want them to go to your website, show them how.

There are so many other ways for brands to build better social following. But these are a handful of simple ones to keep doing.

Please add any points to this list in Comments. 

Why media agencies are now doing creative: Programmatic and Data Driven Creative is a powerful combination

Several media agencies that I know of, are now doing their own creative – yes, in-house. This is because, typically, it is the media agency that is sitting on a lot of useful data, and they are already using it for their programmatic approach to advertising,  and they are the first ones to have realised that 'programmatic buying' coupled with data-driven creative can deliver more effective digital advertising campaigns.

Two out of three of our own media agencies at MCN have their own creative departments. This, when we have the region's top creative or brand agencies, right here in our building. It started with close collaboration throughout the process between the media and creative agencies – and that still happens, but some media agencies have gone a step further to bring creative in-house. And, for social media, not just media agencies, but PR agencies are doing the same.

For online display creative, in particular, data drives and provides the insight that makes for effective advertising. Combine that with programmatic, and you have a powerful tool at hand.

What kind of data is driving creative?

There are multiple sources of data, but first party data seems to be in the lead. CRM data is a big source. But brands today are sniffing out more and more. Website analytics data is another strong provider of signals. As is audience data from the website and so is contextual data. Today we know from website analytics, which pages with which products do better, we know audience slices of age, gender, geography and interests, and we also have access to media type, location, device information that helps us figure out what works and what doesn't. Put those together, and you've got terrific insights towards better creative.

Old way vs new way: the collaboration model is here

The old way was the creative agency would create the ad, hand it over, and the media agency would "deliver" it. Or, the media agency would develop a strategy, a media plan, and ask the creative agency to develop "ads" to fill in those blanks. Today, hopefully, collaboration on campaigns starts from the first brief – where both agencies (or departments) are briefed together. Today, with programmatic in place, analysis, planning and creative need to work together to maximise the true potential of the approach. Insights from data driving the holistic campaign process – including media and creative – is allowing for brands to have relevant, customized, targeted campaigns, and that's a whole new way to work. Which, often, creative agencies are not familiar with. Which is why, media agencies are beginning to do their own creative.

The end goal is effective, engaging campaigns

What a brand really wants is an effective campaign – each and every time. And we know today, that there is enough data to help derive meaningful, deep insights so that both the what (the creative) and the where and when (programmatic) can work in dynamic synergy. The results are smart, effective, campaigns that are built on sniper strategies. The one shot gets it kind of work. By the way, this is hugely relevant to social media, and not just display ads. Increasingly, content for social is also being done in-house by media agencies.

Are media agencies going back to the good old days of one agency does it all?

Remember when the agency was the agency. They created the ad, bought the space in the newspaper, and bingo, you had a campaign? Today's media agencies, aren't necessarily going back to the 1970's like that. Today, with data sophistication, all they are doing is making sure that what they are planning for is effectively executed via ads that work in context, and are relevant. And they're doing it quickly, without the back and forth, without the ego hassles involved. Or, where they are not bringing the creative in, they are actually asking for their clients' brands to ensure collaboration from the beginning. That's a good sign. That is powerful.

How different is social media for B2B?

I've heard so often that B2B marketers feel they really don't need social media, or that social media for B2B is a different game from social that's built for the B2C sector. First of all, just because you are in B2B doesn't mean that a human being is not involved. Logos don't talk to logos, products don't sell themselves to products, people do. And that's where social comes in. Secondly, B2B is really more about reputation, about building relationships, trust and understanding, and that makes it a genuine case for focused social media as part of the marketing mix.

Social media strategy for a B2B brand or company isn't hugely different fro a B2C brand's. Sure, the execution layers may be different, the channels different and focused on a much tighter audience, but overall, from a base strategy perspective, it is very similar.

The channels are obviously different. LinkedIn pops up as a great starting point. YouTube with relevant business focused, solutions videos would be great too. Twitter also plays an important role, because with hashtags, content can be made easy to find and in the now. Discussion forums, groups and vertical specific blogs are key as well. And, yes, Facebook is also a player. But not in the"see what's cool at our company" sort of a way.

Regardless, one really has to focus on thought leadership, story telling (yes, story telling) and really tightly focused communications. Need to stress here that, particularly for the B2B segment, content becomes even more important than it would be for B2C marketing, and in this case the content is focused, tightly relevant, and more purpose driven. White papers, blogs created specifically addressing target audiences in the B2B segment that's relevant to your particular product or service, case studies, webinars, infographics across various media, how-to videos are all important.

Social media for B2B may work better if they are able to drive audiences to a more specific point of communication such as a website. So, driving traffic may be a key goal in that scenario.

In conclusion, some of the key benefits of social media for B2B are increased exposure to the right audiences, increased traffic to a destination website, lead generation, gathering insights, creating a tight and loyal fan base, growing and building partnerships, and improving sales. Tell me, those are hugely different from social media goals for B2C companies. Really?

3 quick ways to improve your Twitter performance

Every one seems to have something to say about twitter these days, some even predicting a downturn for the social media platform. Twitter is still alive and kicking, and there are still a good 350 million+ active users every month on Twitter. From a brand perspective, around 50% of Twitter users follow a brand or a company – compared to just around 15% of other social networks.

Twitter has been a very successful social platform for brands, for personalities and for those who want to create on-going relationship with followers. With changes happening across Twitter, successful practices have evolved as well but there are some fundamentals that still drive performance...

1. Images on twitter always help tweets do better. Multiple images often fare better.

Twitter has announced officially that tweets with images perform better on average – with around a 35% boost in retweets. A tweet with a photo always gets better attention and possible retweets – particularly if the visual used is relevant as well as interesting. And how about multiple images in a single tweet? Often this works even better than a single image tweet. Instead of several tweets, say, covering an event, how about a single arresting tweet with multiple images? Or, how about a tweet poll asking viewers to choose between two images? 

2. The Retweet works

What's the point of the retweet? One, it passes along a tweet that you think has value, and your followers appreciate that. Today, you can retweet in two ways: There's the direct retweet where you simply retweet someone's post. And, two, you can "quote retweet" where the actual tweet you are retweeting becomes embedded in your tweet – ideally with an useful comment from you.

And, of course, there's another. Its the re-retweet. It is a bit sneaky, but what you do is unretweet what you retweeted earlier in the day or week, and then retweet is again. Simple, but it gets your tweet right back on top of the followers' feeds.

3. Storming and threading.

One way to benefit from a trending topic or point of discussion is to just ride the "twitter storm".  A tweet storm is a rapid stream of tweets that are related to each other, and usually held together by a trending #hashtag. It is usually live, it is in there here and now, and usually it lasts a short timeframe, but if you have relevance to add, it does help your twitter performance.

Threading is when you "bump up" an existing tweet and reply to it. This will make that topic or your earlier tweet instantly better positioned and put it in front of the audience. The earlier tweet becomes part of a new "conversation" – thus creating a thread. 

Remember basics as well. No more than two #hashtags. Target events. Use Polls. Use arresting visuals. Brands should respond quickly and effectively to tweets and queries. Be regular and engaging. Tweeps don't like dropoffs.

Social Media: Is your editorial calendar holding you back from inspired content?

One of the most awkward moments I have experienced at some of our agencies is when I pass by a social media strategist or community manager staring disdainfully at a near blank calendar screen desperately praying that somehow, someone will inspire them to fill in those blanks. A social media editorial or content calendar is often a way to demotivate and deter from inspired content because it is a bunch of blanks on a spreadsheet or a calendar rather than a bunch of great ideas.

Yesterday, I wrote a post on 6 ways to get content marketing right. Yes, I did say you need to plan ahead, you need to have done your homework, your research, but I did not say that you really need to have cool content planned for National Dairy Farmers Day. Unless of course, you are the dairy that supplies Ben and Jerry's.

I am not saying you should dump your content calendar. It is useful as a tool to plan ahead for what you are going to publish that would meet your overall brand goals, gathering inputs from departments, project managing and having a disciplined approach. But when it boxes you in and stamps out room for inspiration, leaves little room for the here and now, being opportunistic and igniting sparks of creativity, it does more harm than good. A brand's true content goal is engagement, but if the content is derived from filling in boxes on a spreadsheet, there's little value in that. Where's the right time, right audience factor in a spreadsheet filled in months in advance?

Good content starts with good ideas and great insight. Today, insight is a must have, and we have no excuses, because there's so much data out there, that if we fail to utilize the power of information, we are not going to be able to engage consumers and deliver on what they want. A calendar delivers (usually) on what the brand manager may want, or what the marketing manager's agenda is. That? Ditch that.

Insight leads to inspiration. What does your audience really want from you? What's going to resonate with them? What's hot with them now, today? And you know that two months ahead of time? Sure, you can plan ahead for New Years and Ramadan, but how are you going to react when the new iPhone launches and no one gives a hoot? Where's the room for newsrooming then? Imagine going on a date and planning your conversation a month in advance. Sure, you need to say all the right things, but you can't get them at hello if that hello is hollow.

Compelling content adds value. It is on trend. It is contextually relevant, not just to the channel and the medium, but more importantly to what is the surrounding context at that time. And, a editorial calendar stunts that a bit. Imagine if your online newsfeed was planned way ahead by someone filling in "June" in"March" on a Google calendar. Isn't your social, in many ways like a news feed?

Let consumers, customers, the competition inspire you every day. Track what they're doing now, research live what they're talking about, and deliver content that grows and glows around that. Be in the moment, not on an Excel sheet. Don't let blank boxes kill inspiration.

6 ways to get Content Marketing done right

Content marketing is still, in some quarters of marketing, a darling of the industry. Some say it is a fading star, but there are ways still to use content to better market your products and services, to better connect to your target audiences, and engage consumers. Here are six ways to get your content marketing strategy to work harder for you.

1. Start with focus. Focus on the User.

Your clear focus should be the user. Your content should really be out there to benefit the user, and thereby endearing the user to your brand. Whether you get all other boxes ticked, and you have great content from a brand perspective, and it's created well, published in proper context, if you have lost your focus on the user, you've lost the plot from moment one. So make sure your content addresses where your target audiences are, what they are looking or searching online for, what will resolve problems or needs they have, how they behave online – and that your content is after all a rewarding experience for them.

2. How to focus on the user? Have clear content goals, research your content and plan ahead.

Content needs to be planned and not written or created on a whim. Have you done your Google keyword planner homework, or are you just hoping and praying your content will resonate? Content needs to focus on user needs, and you need to know those needs first. Does your content have a clear goal? What do you want to achieve? More sales? More awareness? Better engagement with loyal customers? All these questions have different answers, and need different pieces of content. Align internally with your departments and have a feel for what their goals are. Plan ahead and then brief your content creators properly. Properly, so that content is effective and efficient.

3. The content brief is critical. 

Coming from an advertising background, I cannot stress the importance of a good brief enough. Be clear in your brief on what you want to achieve, who the content is aimed at, where (which channel) it will appear, the tone of voice it will adopt, guidelines to follow... The brief is a reflection of what you have planned for, what research you have done, and what you know about the target audience segment you want to address. Content for Gen Z audiences cannot be the same as one that young moms will like and share.

4. Great content? Grab attention with great headlines and subject lines.

I've seen great content on YouTube that has pathetic subject lines. I have stumbled upon blog posts that are mega useful, but the headline was all over the map, and had nothing to draw the user in. Content is a first go-to for the fashion and automotive industries, but sadly these scream of poor headlines. What does "For the Love of Mike" have to do with, say, a new model car review? Or a fantastic video on how to apply mascara titled "Good morning ladies"? Your headline or subject line should be standout quality – enough to draw the user in and make sense to search engines as well.

5. Select the right content channels and be consistent across them.

It is not, repeat, not important to be across every channel, every social medium. Again, focus on where your true target audience is going to be, and as well, where, as a brand you could or should be. Do you fit in on Snapchat? Is your message suited for the here and now of twitter? Should you experiment with tumblr? Get your channels to work keeping message, audience and your brand in mind.

And then be consistent. Your message, your content should be suited to both the medium and the audience that's on it. Your story should be the same, it may vary depending on channels, it may vary from a tone of voice perspective, but your content needs to be consistent in what it's saying. And, yes, consistency needs to keep the medium in mind – you cannot use the same tone on twitter that you would on a blog post.

6. Don't sell. Create great experiences.

Consistently selling is overselling when it comes to content. You can wrap an entire 600 word post around a single goal – sell your new product – but it won't work if it's all just a disguised buy me now message. Whatever medium you've selected, you need to create a rewarding experience for your audience there. Is your YouTube content too long to sit through. Does it stick beyond the five second click out? Is your blog suffering from poor typography and sheer bad design? Is your owned content (website) totally boring while you are trying so hard to be tragically hip on Facebook?

Check and pre-flight your content. Ensure it is error free. If it's video, it doesn't have to be shot in 4K, but it needs good lighting, clear audio, and the story told quickly and effectively. If it is written content, what's the user experience? Does it deliver on promise? Does the user feel that checking out your content was well worth it?

Good content, in closing is one that resonates, that answers to what the user is looking for, that is precise, that is sharable, and one that endears the user to your brand. It does not interrupt, it allows for participation and enjoyment. Remember, content is king. But apparently, getting the context right is God.

I'm sure there are many more ways to get content right. Please feel free to add your bit in comments...

Are you still into 'digital' marketing? Isn't that so yesterday?

If you're still talking about 'digital' marketing today, may I suggest you're just slightly behind our times. I get 'social', I get 'online' or 'mobile', I get 'wearables and IOT', and I do get 'content marketing' but today, I'm a little ahead of 'digital'.

Yes, I am saying digital is so yesterday, so generic in its usage today, that it has lost its meaning, its value to set apart. Every marketer's goal today is engagement and interactivity. They're using channels that we call 'digital' but those are the channels that every one's using, so why the label? If a brand comes to an agency to develop and distribute a campaign that spends its entire dollar on digital mediums, how is that not its overall media budget, and not just a 'digital media' budget?

Today, marketing strategies are focused on increasing the reach and visibility of that brands business. These strategies are across channels that we normally umbrella shade under digital. But they're social, they're mobile, they're wearable, they're activation based – and they all use technology and connectivity. But they are beyond digital. Far beyond.

A calculator is digital. A Casio watch is digital. A display on you speedometer is digital. But your marketing? Does your website display numbers in that crazy digital font? Or is it about value-adding contextually relevant content that engages the consumer, and goes far beyond the technology it platforms on, rather than the tech itself?

One of the world's most successful, most sought after agencies (digital agencies, ahem) is R/GA. Go to their website  and see what it is. They are an agency for the connected age. They used to say ' an agency for the digital age', but that was yesterday for them. At MCN – the Middle East Communications Network – one of the largest advertising, marketing, media and PR agency groups in the Middle East and North Africa, Group CEO, Ghassan Harfouche openly admits he hates the word 'digital' to describe any of his agencies' products and solutions. "If a large majority of what we do for our clients is across channels that use technology (that we used to call digital), why do we need to say digital to describe that component?" he asks. Right Ghassan. Dropping 'digital' is a move on. It embraces holistic, and channel agnostic, and integrated thinking, it shuns bracketing and boxing it.

I believe marketing needs to come up with creative solutions, creative messages, great storytelling – all towards engaging the consumer, participating rather than shouting across digital (and assorted other traditional' media). By the way, 'traditional' mediums? Today? For me, traditional is banners in online advertising. Old tech. Old creative approaches. Sure, we still band tv, radio, newspapers and outdoor under traditional media. But I suspect that's such an agency and a tired marketer's perspective. We have moved on, haven't we? For today's consumer traditional, perhaps, is Facebook or Twitter (ten years old this week), and Snapchat is here and now.

It's important to realize that technology keeps changing, evolving, adapting to consumer needs. And agencies or brands that are reliant on so called digital aspect only of tech are really getting a bit past their sell-by date.One needs to focus on user experience – totally agnostic of when, where, and how. Its the experience that is key. The channel fascination is yesterday.

We need to be aware of the technology around us that's helping us stay connected and engaged. Connected amongst ourselves and with brands who are trying to reach out to us and do the same. So, rather than narrow down and specialize on 'digital', as a brand, as a marketer, as an agency, its better to focus on the end game – which is what and where and how one connects and engages. And a lot of that 'what' is in value, a lot of that 'where' is in context, and a lot of that 'how' is in getting point and time of engagement right.

Today is about programmatic, contextual, about behavior tracking, about data driven dynamic messaging. Today is about content. About the consumer's moments – when they want to know, want to do, want to be somewhere, want to share, and want to be part of. Thats a lot more than digital. A lot more than a calculator, which is, as we know it – is digital. And, your marketing should be a whole lot more than that.

4 ways to fight online distraction with compelling video ads and content

With so many distractions online fighting for your target audience's eyeballs, how do you create video ads and content that really cuts through the clutter? With multi-screening becoming so common these days, with people jumping from watching tv to their mobile devices during ad breaks, and with so much fighting for online eyeballs, how do you get attention?

Brands today realize the importance of solid, entertaining, meaningful video content online. Today's platforms recognize the fact that people don't watch ads, or any content for that matter, unless it draws them out with compelling, creatively superior, and value-adding content. Google knows this, which is why their 'True View' is is 'built on the promise than you’ll only pay when someone chooses to watch your video ad'. Brands on YouTube have to really creative to grab and hold attention. True, that they don't have to pay when someone skips their ad, but then what's the point?

Brands today have four ways (at least), to fight this attention deficit syndrome that consumers have.

1. Try for interaction and participation by making the viewer curious.

Many brands are experimenting with interactive ads – online ads where the viewer actually immerses himself and experiences the ad rather than just watch, or worse, skip it. One of the most shared and memorable interactive ads is of course the Hunter Shoots the Bear ad which has 17 million views on YouTube. It is interactive, funny, engaging and totally, completely share worthy. There are several other examples. The Skittles interactive ad is ridiculously interactive and funny. The Hot Wheels ad is cool and is really an interactive game in a video. The Netflix Daredevil interactive banner is also a great example.

2. Tell a story and make it an interesting one.

Whether its a story in a single video, or a series of ads that lead to the next 'episode' you can tell a really interesting story in your ads. This is a far cry from the quick "Buy Me, Buy Me" product ad. This route takes a whole new road – a road that the consumer finds that he or she wants to take – and hopefully enjoy the journey. Because there is a reward – an interest generating, absorbing tale being told.

There's a compelling, absorbing multi-part story told and it is interactive as well –  called 'Choose a Different Ending'. It is a great social campaign that draws the viewer in and it unfolds like a mini movie.

3. Personalization and micro-targeting your content

Data and creativity are now intertwining and enabling brands to produce 'customized' and 'personalized' video ads aimed at a one-to-one audience. That's a whole ballpark away from the old tv broadcast ads aimed at the one-and-all audience.

Personalized ads may be like the Coca Cola Share a Coke ad with the bottle with their name on it, or may be 'customized' to a micro-target geo location – making it totally contextual to viewers in a particular part of town, for example. Video ads in campaigns can also be created with extreme customization aimed at behavior and/or demographics.  The Southwest airline one-to-one video is a fantastic example of personalization to the extreme.

4. Content in context.

Regardless of how interesting your ads are, if they aren't being delivered in context, you won't get much mileage out of them. Often brands create just a typical ad for online which they deliver across all channels that video can be delivered in. The'll stick it on YouTube, on Facebook, put up an edit on Instagram, and of course use it for their online paid campaigns. That really doesn't work any more. People don't go on Facebook for the same reasons they check out YouTube. And the audiences are not the same on Instagram as they are on say, Google+. Respect that and build different ways to reach them.

Even within an online campaign, the target audience needs to feel interested and compelled 'at that time' of viewing the ad to click on it and engage with it. Social media and online guru Gary Vaynerchuk highlights the importance of context in his post 'Content is King but Context is God'. It's quite clear, what he says: respect the platform and the audience, don't interrupt the experience and be consistent and self aware.

Absolutely. If you are trying to engage a consumer with an ad about, say, the latest new model of your SUV, you really want to interrupt the viewer who is surfing the internet looking for tips on mascara?

The end game

The net net of what you want to achieve is to get your message through to the right audience at the right time. Getting that message through has become difficult in today's attention deficit order of things online. Time and space are fragmented, every one is multi tasking, they aren't watching tv on tv any more, so you need to find ways to really cut through all that. The four ways to cut through all that clutter and distraction online are just simple ways to create compelling content, and breakthrouh ads. Let me know if you have more. And share this please.

Instagram will change the way you see posts based on new 'interest' based algorithm

All social media platforms have evolved – and now Instagram have confirmed that it is changing the way you'll see photos and videos of your friends in the stream. Chronological sorting is going to make way in favor of a new algorithm driven stream where images will be sorted based on "the likelihood that you'll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post."

Basically, Instagram has grown so fast, and users have really long lists – resulting in folks missing out on an average of 70% of their feed! So Instagram wants to fix this, narrow it down a bit to the individual's 'tastes'. Posts will still be date stamped, but content will be streamed to you based on your preferences. Some are seeing this as a way to create perfect opportunities for targeted advertising – and there's nothing wrong with that (other than with those who have serious privacy issues).

How this will work with brands, influencer posts are yet to be seen. Obviously, brands will have a hard time figuring out how the new algorithm works, and how they are supposed to optimize their content to get on top of the stream. At the end of the day, it is a shift towards real 'discovery' and 'interest' and that actually promises a better experience. This change only causes your current followers to see less or more of your posts, depending on how often they "like" your images.

This is yet another push by a social platform towards algorithm driven content publishing. We just need to get used to that.

Here is the actual blog post from Instagram:

See the Moments You Care About First

You may be surprised to learn that people miss on average 70 percent of their feeds. As Instagram has grown, it’s become harder to keep up with all the photos and videos people share. This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most.

To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.

The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.

If your favorite musician shares a video from last night’s concert, it will be waiting for you when you wake up, no matter how many accounts you follow or what time zone you live in. And when your best friend posts a photo of her new puppy, you won’t miss it.

We’re going to take time to get this right and listen to your feedback along the way. You’ll see this new experience in the coming months.

10 ways to get your Subject Line work harder in email marketing

Well, the subject line in an email that you send out is the most important part of the communication. It's the first thing that someone sees, and often it is the last thing, unless, of course you get subject line marketing done right.

First impressions count, and you better find ways to make that impression be attractive and effective enough for your email to be actually opened, to be read, and then clicked through to the desired action you want.

1. Keep your subject line short and make it effective. Every word counts, so use them wisely, spend time on this. Rule of thumb: around 50-60 characters, tops. Minimize to maximise the chances of the mail being opened. 

2. Get to the point. Being honest, being precise is key. Remember to be clear on what the email is really about. State the offer. Define your goal for the mail out, and stick to achieving that goal. Don't create mystery unnecessarily.

3. Make the benefit absolutely clear in your subject line. How will the recipient actually benefit by opening and reading your mail? Why should they believe you? Use numbers, use value. "Increase your readership by 50% today" works better than "Better readership for blogs".

4. Use 'today'. Use 'next 24 hours only'. A sense of urgency and a fear of missing out works rather well, honestly. A call to action with a time-bound sense of urgency will keep them from filing it away.

5. Use personalization. Adding someone's name in the email subject line makes them feel special, makes them feel like you know about them, and that the email you are sending really has something in them for them – in particular. If you don't have a way of doing that, use "You" or "Yours".

6. Stop advertising. Get into 'engagement' mode. Today, it is all about dialog and engagement. Ask meaningful questions that they relate to. Make them answer those questions in their heads – and that often sparks them into opening your mail. Try "Are you missing out on these top 10 tricks..." or "Have you got these crucial UX must-haves on your website?"

7. Make them feel special (without b-s-ing). "For our Top Customers only" works well. "Free for the first of our best downloaders" works better – it has the 'f-word' in it.

8. Yes, use numbers. If listicles work on blogs, they work in email subject lines as well. So, yes, "Don't miss out on these Top 10 tricks to email marketing" does work.

9. Use the power of curiosity. You can make them curious by having an interesting subject line, without being too elusive. "7 Ways you can totally save on your utility bills" arouses interest. They'll be curious. And it's not just one way, there are seven!

10. A/B test. We test banners, we test web pages, and we should be testing subject lines. That's one sure way of getting email marketing to work for you.

11. One trend: emojis and icons in email. These are working like fireworks these days. That's a bonus. Every one likes a bonus. 

Please share this with your friends who think email is marketing is old hat. It still works. It helps round up your whole marketing strategy. So...

The sheer power influencers get to wield these days

What’s this buzz about “influencer marketing”?
While we’re still all talking about content being the hottest buzzword in marketing these days, influencer marketing is right up there, quietly, confidently, and steadily becoming a key weapon in the marketer’s arsenal.

Influencer marketing isn’t new. Testimonials have always been around. When someone well known says something about a product, it becomes celebrity marketing.
When that celebrity gets paid, it takes the form of endorsement marketing.
Influencer marketing, however, is marketing specifically to those who do the testimonials, those who have a sway on the target audience, those who have voice that’s heard and followed. It’s preaching to the preachers.
One understands how influencer marketing comes together — a powerful combination of content and social coming together in today’s world of dialogue rather than advertising, engagement rather than just the old-fashioned one way.
Certain verticals in marketing have taken to influencer marketing like ducks to water. Around 60 per cent of fashion and beauty brands have some sort of influencer strategy in place. And brands in our region — from food to fashion, from beauty to technology — are placing decent bets on influencers doing their magic for them.
Getting influencer marketing isn’t easy. If your brand is looking to influence that really tight slice of your audience — and who will then cast a magic spell on the rest of your target group — you need to have a pretty good strategy in place. Identifying the right influencers is first up the biggest challenge today. And there’s no magic list somewhere. You can’t wiki them, there’s no easy find on Google search, and while there are some tools that identify them on Twitter and Instagram, one still needs some hands-on hard work to be able to spot the right influencers.
In our region, in particular, influencers who are worth their salt (or their words) in their respective genres are increasingly becoming difficult to reach and ‘acquire’. It is becoming competitive and expensive to draw them out, reach them, and have them then act and speak and do on your behalf.
The game is a free for all in that sense, but it just isn’t free. Marketers are having to set aside budgets for their influencer marketing separately from social media and paid advertising.
And then of course, there’s always the need, the demand to prove the return on investment (ROI) on that front.
Marketers often don’t know how to measure this ROI. Content sharing by the target group, web traffic generated, PR coverage, mentions in earned media like blogs, leads, and finally revenue generated are some metrics that brands use today.
But the jury’s out, because the costs are increasing, so ROI measuring really needs to be based on some clearly predefined marketing key performance indicators (KPIs) rather than what every one says out there.
Influencers who have already got street cred in our region have over the last year understood their importance to the game, and raised their ante. They’ve become choosy on which brand or product they are willing to embrace, and even more wiser when it comes to their remuneration for their influence.
Influencers are the ones holding the aces. Brands have to really work much harder at getting those players to work for them. Brands and agencies, who work with influencers know that the first step today is beyond the financial reward.
In the competitive market, influencers need to be convinced and won over with products, ideas and strategies that are attractive to them. Influencers are brands themselves, and today, they are savvy enough to recognise what works with ‘their’ audiences, what doesn’t, what makes them look credible and interesting, rather than just coming across as a mouthpiece.
Consumers today are looking for authenticity of influencer opinion. The millennial generation in particular would believe a trusted word of mouse rather than a direct brand voice.
This changes the paradigm quite a bit — it is after all a shift, a hand over of power to the influencer. Brands need to pander to this shift, and form meaningful on-going relationships with their influencers.
The marketer needs to be aware of the influencers potential — but more so their preferences, their egos, and their reputations. And protect them.
Influencer marketing is a leverage game. For every influencer that you can reach out to and influence, their opinion, their word will influence thousands of others in your target audience in a way that the audience is willing to relate to and resonate with.
Of course, it does not work in silo, you have to get your social media and content strategies right for it to work in tandem.
Get this right, and it’s really worth every post, every unboxing video, every 140-character tweet.
The writer is Chief Innovations Officer at MCN (Middle East Communications Network).

How do you measure 'virality' of your content?

There's so much out there on how to measure virality of content, that it gets confusing. So far the best definition, or formula, I have seen comes out this year's SXSW #viralcode sessions, and it has been kind of ratified by Simply Measured as well.

The way we should measure 'virality' of content is by:
Number of Clicks/Impression
Number of Shares / Click
Number of Impressions/Share
= V
If you get a Viral coefficient above 1.0 your content is viral...
(essentially, each person spreads content to more than one other person)

So, mathematically put, it is:
# of Clicks                   # of Shares                 # of impressions
––––––––––   x    ––––––––––   x       ––––––––––––    =  V
Impression                      Click                              Share

I have also seen this:

Here are a few metrics that need to continuously trend in the upward direction:
# of new views every day (or even every hour)
# of shares or promotes
# of new comments
# of mentions/occurrences outside the original post

and it sounds good.

Compare this measure of virality from SXSW with going viral in epidemiology, where viral in disease is when one person spreads disease ot more than one person. And where contraction x transmission x exposure is the measure. Interesting.

Essentially, what is important in the viral content game is having the right shareable content and the right context. Which really is what engagement is about. Food is engaging – specially on Facebook, no wonder six out of top seven video content publishers on Facebook last month were food related. We heard at #viralcode about platforms. Be mindful of the culture of each platform you use. FB is more about happiness & sharing; Twitter is snarky and funny. Usually. One really needs to speak the native language of the platform. Because each platform has its own culture, it's own 'socialspeak'.

We also heard this: Shareable content = ideal, moral self; identity expression. Clickable = private, actual, [secret shhh] self. This was from Sean Wojcik, a psychologist and research scientist. Made sense. What we are learning is simple... What we click is private & what we share is public. Shareable content  ≠ clickable content - they have different formulas. 

And, yes, there is a science behind it. No wonder that sites like Upworthy have actual social scientists working for them to figure out how/why people share!

New jobs in advertising and media agencies. So, where's the downturn?

New job openings announced, so where's the bad news?

Most everyone in our industry is talking about a downturn for 2016. Yes, there are bland numbers coming out of agencies in advertising and media, but really, it's not that dire. There's a slowdown in growth, but I don't see a downturn – unless of course another 2009-like global economic meltdown happens. Oil seems to have hit the lowest possible, and recovery seems to be on the horizon because production may be slowing down on that front. Which means, there is hope yet. Or thereabouts.

MCN – the group that employs my services – the Middle East Communications Network, one of the largest advertising, marketing, media and PR agency groups in the Middle East region, yesterday announced a whole bunch of new job openings on their website. The jobs are across the region, the positions are in advertising, media, PR and digital spacializations, and they're a bit more than a handful. So, that is a good sign then. Here they are, as of March 2016...

Business Director - Media - Dubai
Looking for candidate with 10+ years’ experience in both offline and digital media, MBA educated, able to strategize, challenge, mentor and lead a team.

Branded Content Director – Media - Dubai
Looking for candidate with 8 + years experience in developing communication strategy on international, regional and local clients.

Regional Strategy Director – Media - Dubai
Looking for candidate with experience in managing the entire strategy process development, also responsible for fronting the strategy side of new business pitches as well as on-going clients.

Associate Media Director - Dubai
8+ years of experience in media planning and buying, preferably for a Media agency within the region, but international experience also valued. Knows how to develop objectives, strategies and plans for clients and also able to develop the skills and knowledge base of the team.

Digital Media Planner – Cairo
Bachelor degree completed ideally in marketing, business or related subject with expertise in digital and social media. 1-2 years of experience in media department or media company.

Senior Media Planner – Dubai
4 – 5 years of experience in media planning and buying. Understand marketing objectives and strategies for all the team’s clients and ensure objectives are on target.

Media Manager – Dubai & Jeddah ( 2 roles )

5-6 years of experience in media planning and buying, preferably for a Media agency within the region, but international experience also valued. Knows how to develop objectives, strategies and plans for clients and also able to develop the skills and knowledge base of the team.

Media Operations Executive – Dubai
Bachelor degree completed ideally in marketing, business or related subjects. 12-18 months in media department or Media Company.

Social Media Executive - Jeddah
1 year of experience in social media advertising including Facebook, Twitter, Quora, YouTube, etc. Prefer experience within the region.

Online Community Manager - Dubai
2+ years of experience in social media advertising including Facebook, Twitter, Quora, YouTube, etc. Prefer experience within the region. Up to date and knowledgeable on social media best practices.

PR Group Director- Dubai
7+ years of experience in corporate communication, managing people, PR agency handling FMCG clients.

Creative Operations Manager - Dubai
5+ years of experience in effective management and control of the creative output of client and internal projects from a traffic context.

English Copywriter – Dubai – Mid & Junior (2 roles)
Copywriter who is looking for their next step, wants to join a global creative agency, able to work seamlessly online and offline, lives and breathes advertising and is of course talented. Send your CV and portfolio link.  

Senior Art Director - Dubai
8+ years in being the working wheel within the Creative groups in the department with award winning experience. Is currently working as a Senior Art Director and is looking for their next step. Wants to join a global creative agency, able to work seamlessly online and offline, lives and breathes advertising and is of course talented. Send your CV and portfolio link.

Digital Designer - Dubai
3+ years of digital design experience, with a passion for excellent design skills and digital. The work demands creative flair, up-to-date knowledge of industry software and a professional approach to time, costs and deadlines.

Multimedia Designer – Dubai
Looking for a graduate or up to 2 years’ experience, design oriented bachelor’s degree, must have photography skills, typography and art illustration skills. Must be based in Dubai.

Digital Analyst – Dubai
3+ years experience in Web, Mobile, Search, Marketing, Campaign, Competitive, Social   Consumer Analytics. Also well versed with Omniture, Adobe Site Catalyst, Discover, Report Builder and Google Analytics for executing analytics projects.

Account Executive - Dubai
1-2 years experience in Advertising/Marketing. Strong facilitation and presentation skills, both in preparing materials required and in delivery. Fresh graduate with advertising degree can also apply.

Studio Operator – Dubai
Looking for someone with quite diverse skills – finished art (online and offline), re-touching, as well as some design skills.

Graphic Designer – Dubai
 2+ years’ experience working on solid graphic design projects that incorporate new technology. Have a passion for design and a good portfolio.

Creative Conceptualizer – Dubai
 3+ years of experience in developing holistic creative retail campaigns across ATL, BTL and Digital and also responsible for creating the work, presenting it to a client and producing it.

Whether you're starting a career in Media, Advertising or PR, there’s an opportunity for you at MCN. You need to be creative, articulate, comfortable in analyzing data and highly organized. In addition to this you will need to have a strong team spirit and a ‘can-do’ approach. From time to time, job opportunities open up at MCN.
There are no opportunities available at this time, however, we courage you to share your profile for our future reference.