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September 7, 2015
Comments Off on The SA Social Media Landscape in 2015

The SA Social Media Landscape in 2015

The annual Social Media Landscape Report, compiled by Fuseware and World Wide Worx, is being released in under two weeks and contains some highly impactful findings on social media usage in South Africa. This report is a must for brands, agencies and marketers across the board to fully understand what is happening in social media.

The social media landscape in SA has shifted subtly but dramatically this year, especially in light of the large Instagram growth. Visually rich imagery dominates newsfeeds, and the new streaming content players are certainly going to see increased uptake in the next 12 months. Social media is evolving towards its pinnacle – on-demand content creation, consumption and engagement in any format, at any time and any place. There has been decreased brand content engagement the board, indicating that newsfeeds have become too saturated and brands need to start paying up to get to the reach and engagement they desire.

Although business impact in terms of revenues is difficult to quantify, engagement and reach of branded content has substantially shifted in 2015. Twitter has become far too crowded to become consistently useful for brands, resulting in large drops in engagement on brand content. Facebook engagement has risen slightly, but this boost is also coupled with an increase in paid media spend on the platform. Instagram is the social network star of the year, with triple digit user growth in the last year as well as engagement on brand content that is an order of magnitude higher than that of the other networks. Social media has also become a large traffic source for publishers and consumer-centric brands alike, and social media optimization (SMO) has become as critical as search engine optimization (SEO).

The use of social media as a CRM tool for businesses has increased dramatically, especially with smaller businesses beginning to use Twitter and Linked In to communicate with their customers. Social media sentiment can be used to drive business strategy and product innovation, serving as a far more fundamental piece of the business puzzle than just a communications function. Social media analytics are also used to accurately gauge what makes consumers tick about a brand, with this data serving as an input instead of just an output to successful marketing campaigns.

Social media growth is still solid, but has slowed across the board with the exception of Instagram, with most networks having grown at a modest 15-25% over the last year. We’ve seen new entrants that focus on live streaming of video content, Periscope and Meerkat, but they have not seen significant uptake in the local market as yet. Content has become much richer across the board, with a large emphasis on videos and high resolution pictures being shared. This trend reflects even on Twitter, where a single picture can tell a story far more than 140 characters of text can, and brands are capitalizing on this by publishing a large amount of visual content on the network. Companies have also gotten serious about spending on media, with a significant increase in paid media spend on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube respectively – however Facebook still remains the network that delivers the highest ROI to companies, according to our corporate survey.

Instagram is the fastest growing social network in the country, with triple digit growth in the last 12 months. The growth is also leap-frogging the normal early adopter crowd and reaching mass market earlier than usual, with local television celebrities and presenters leading the charts in terms of followers. Photo filter usage on the network has dropped to record lows, and the most engaged with images tend to have no filter at all, indicating that people have grown tired of the special effects that sparked initial interest to use the platform.

Facebook has experienced solid consistent growth across all segments, with one very interesting difference. Feature phone usage is plummeting in the platform and is associated with an equivalent rise in smartphone usage. As predicted, the low cost of entry level smartphones are proliferating the market and have shifted device usage significantly in only 12 months. Although the Nokia Asha still leads the way as the top phone used to access Facebook, usage of this phone on Facebook has dropped by over 400,000 people in the last 12 months.

Twitter has increased in usage over the last year, but growth has significantly slowed. With the recent Periscope acquisition, there is an increased emphasis towards integrating the platform with real-time streaming video content. Twitter engagement on brand content has dropped significantly compared to last year. Brands are posting more content than ever before on the social network, but even paid-for campaigns are often not seen as relevant by Twitter users. For the first time ever, more than 50% of all surveyed brands post content once per day or more – but this is translating to a sea of noise that doesn’t necessarily result in business value.

Linked In usage has grown significantly in the last 12 months, with a large number of smaller businesses joining the platform in 2015. Entry level workers represent the largest increase in numbers in terms of seniority level, growing by 21% in the last year. Operations, healthcare and education personnel are joining the network the fastest across all industries.

MXit has experienced a further decline in users compared to the year before, but the platform is also restructuring its business model to focus on empowering Africans and accelerating economic and social growth in the region, by placing a stronger emphasis on social services and associated programmes. A fundamental shift away from just the typical instant messenger model employed by WeChat or Whatsapp, it will also allow businesses to help make a difference in education and healthcare through CSI initiatives in the platform.

In a surprise finding, corporate blogging has seen a strong resurgence as the importance and relevance of long form content surpasses 140 character updates. Corporate blogs are seen as more effective marketing channels than any social network, as surveyed by SA corporates.

The headline results will be presented and discussed by the top industry influencers at the Social Media Landscape Briefing, held in Johannesburg on 16 September 2015, and in Cape Town on the 17 September 2015. To book a ticket to these events, click on the links below:

Book for the Johannesburg event

Book for the Cape Town event

Enquire about the report

July 15, 2015
Comments Off on Solving The Hardest Problem in Marketing – Multi-Channel Attribution

Solving The Hardest Problem in Marketing – Multi-Channel Attribution

Today I’d like to discuss a problem that every marketer with significant cross-channel media spend struggles with – how does one optimally balance media spend across online and offline channels to maximize campaign goals?

We’ve become saturated in a sea of data, but many times are still so poor in actionable insights. There are numerous reasons for this, from technological and budgetary limitations to a lack of available skills, resources and understanding. Each of these pose a unique challenge to measuring and optimizing marketing efforts, but there is a silver lining here – as more of the media mix becomes digital and further investment is made into upskilling marketers, media measurement will become clearer, more transparent and standardized.

Measuring Paid vs Owned vs Earned Media

This model has been a cornerstone of media measurement for many years and is still widely prevalent in the industry. However, it has become quite outdated as digital, social and mobile channels blur the line between the three. If I watch an ad on TV, go to YouTube to watch it on the brand’s channel, then share it with my friends, that asset begins as paid (by virtue of being an ad), then becomes owned (when it’s posted on YouTube) and earned (when it shows up in my friends’ news feeds).

As a marketer, I need to understand how consumer behaviour is impacted by my marketing collateral across all these channels, whether they’re offline, online, paid, owned or earned. Despite the sea of data available to us, there are so many factors we just don’t know, including:

  • How did the TV ad drive social behaviour and sharing?
  • What was the impact of social media shares on offline sales?
  • Across how many screens did these activities take place?
  • How do we measure lifetime value of customers originated from each channel?

In this mass of questions, it is easy to get confused about what problem we’re really trying to solve. The first aspect of solving a complex problem involves clearly defining the problem statement, from which we can use systems thinking to break down the problem into simpler inter-relatable parts.

A simpler question to ask may be:
“What offline sales can be attributed to online channels?”

Another question we can ask is:
“What is the online impact of our offline campaigns?”

From here, it is easier to define strategies that can be put into place to give us the right answers with a reasonable degree of confidence.

As marketing professionals, we need to keep in mind that there are no silver bullets to multi-channel attribution. We need to clearly define our measurement goals and the problems we’re trying to solve, by first asking the simplest possible questions to get us to the right answers.

We also need to be cognisant of the fact that there are still massive gaps in our data, as the marketing eco-system is owned by many different players who keep data in walled silos. Despite what people may tell you, for example, the following problems have not been solved in any simple, standardized way:

It is almost impossible to track a single person’s behaviour across multiple devices, unless they are logged in across all devices to a portal where the data can be accessed by the analyst. Facebook, for example, allows us to log into our PCs, phones, smart TVs, but certainly doesn’t share individual usage data to marketers.
Online-only multi-channel attribution has become incredibly sophisticated, and existing analytics solutions can already track clickstream data across social, web, PPC and banners to attribute digital media spend to specific channels. However, there is no simple solution for bringing this data into the offline space, e.g. cookie data cannot easily be linked back to an offline credit card purchase.
With online remarketing it has become easy to target people across different platforms based on their past behaviour, but it is still not possible to link cookie data back to individuals on social media. If I click on a promoted tweet for an e-commerce campaign but abandon my cart, a social community manager can’t message me to start a conversation about my pending purchase. This is obviously for good reason, as the privacy implications would be disastrous.

With all this in mind, I’d like to present a few strategies that can be put in place to answer the previous questions put forth.

“What offline sales can be attributed to online channels?”

Strategy 1 – Loyalty programmes
With a well-implemented loyalty programme, it becomes easier to track an individual across different channels and link them to a loyalty account or club card. Many local retailers use this to great effect. Customers can sign up on a website to receive a loyalty number, which they then use in-store afterwards.

Strategy 2 – Customer Surveys
The tried and tested strategy of simply asking your customers about the product special or campaign works amazingly well. Plenty more data can be collected if this is linked to a reward such as a competition entry or product discount. It is vital to ask the right questions here to ensure the insights are not skewed.

Strategy 3 – Promotional codes
In-store promo codes and coupons can be used to track customers who have claimed them online. Linking the online coupon codes to the offline purchases creates a direct data link between online exposure and offline behaviour, which can result in a mass of insights. Its important to generate coupon codes that can be traced to individual online media channels, days, times and even specific ads. The coupon then becomes an aggregated hash of the consumer’s online exposure..

Strategy 4 – Unique CTAs
Unique call to actions that are not marketed offline can be used to gauge behaviour from an online campaign. An example of this is a telephonic call to action with a number that is unique to the online campaign. Another example would be directing people to an activation at a specific time or place, and tracking the correlation between this behaviour and online exposures. Although not perfect, these kinds of creative measurements can go a long way towards providing cross-channel insights.

“What is the online impact of our offline campaigns?”

Strategy 1 – Unique URLs and hashtags
Many local brands include unique URLs or hashtags in their above-the-line campaigns. A unique shortened URL can be easily shared on radio or a billboard, which can be tracked through online analytics solutions. Hashtags on billboard, print and TV ads can be used to stimulate online conversation and can be tracked using social analytics tools, but still need to be used in a creative way to maximize engagement.

Strategy 2 – Online surveys
Similar to the offline strategy, an online survey is incredibly quick and easy to put together, and can be included as part of the consumer’s purchase path as an easy way to aggregate data. For companies with a large number of respondents, this data can be segmented to assist with campaign strategy in the future.

Strategy 3 – Data correlation
Although attribution is all about finding causations between data, it is much easier to measure correlations in siloed data sets. Correlations can be misleading, simply because they can be based on data that has no connection, or misunderstood third-party factors can influence both datasets simultaneously. Just because the number of pirates in the world has decreased while global temperatures have increased, does not mean that the lack of pirates is causing global warming. In campaigns, hourly and daily media-spend can be correlated with social media shares and engagements, website traffic, and online purchases to find any potential links in the data.

There are many other strategies that can be implemented for specific campaigns, but it is important to note that there is no one-size-fits all solution to measurement. We must always tie our insights back into our business goals and problem statements so as to understand what we’re measuring, which will inform our measurement strategy going forward.

June 4, 2014

Building a New Type of Media Company

I love media. It’s a dynamic industry that always keeps you on your toes. Although I’ve only been in media for just over 4 years, through Fuseware I’ve worked with SA’s top brands and media houses to help them understand social media and broader digital trends. My knowledge of programming and technology has also helped in identifying market opportunities, and I would implore anyone in the industry to get their hands dirty with some code if they get half a chance. It really changes your perspective of the world.

With that said, I still believe South African media companies (and I am referring to media owners that are going digital now) are not doing things as optimally as they could. There is room for massive improvement which has the potentially to be tremendously lucrative if applied correctly. If I were to start my own digital media company or head one up, this is how I would do things.

A global focus with local execution

I truly believe that South Africa houses some of the best creative talent in the world. We are rockstars at content production, advertising and creative campaigns, and win awards globally because of this. Very little of our talent, however, is applied to international content production and many local media owners focus solely on the South African market. I love SA, but the market is simply too small to really capitalize on many of today’s global media trends. Luckily with the Internet, country borders are blurred and a content team can produce for an international audience. South Africans need to open up their minds and see what lies beyond our borders that can be leveraged.

Data driven publishing

We live in the digital age and can track, split test and optimize anything that can be measured. There are some extremely sophisticated methods for optimizing online advertising, yet very few of these models have been well applied to content. If we can measure every part of our reader’s journey on our site, why can’t we optimize the entire experience uniquely for them to ensure they always keep coming back? External data is also not used that often, perhaps because publishers traditionally have not been technology companies so maybe are not fully aware of what’s possible. From my trove of data, I can tell you right now the articles people are reading and sharing on any website in the world, what content specific demographic segments are consuming, and what content is hot right now across any vertical. Why don’t publishers use the vast troves of internet-based data to create better content and understand what their audiences really want, in real-time?

Diversification of revenue sources

Its 2014 and there are more ways to make money online than there are Buzzfeed clones. Yet most publishers are fixated on pay walls, or default back to Google Ads. You’re generating millions of daily impressions, yet you’re OK with a $2 RPM? There are better monetization models, or at the very least other methods worth testing, especially if you operate in a niche vertical. My goal here would be to establish direct partnerships with other publishers, brands and advertisers that operate in a synergistic way to go way beyond just ad placements. Imagine what is possible when you combine content and commerce in a value-creating way while integrating your technology with an e-commerce giant?

Creating meaningful impact

Perhaps this is more of a personal goal of mine than a must-have for the industry, but most content produced on the web is mind-numbingly hollow. The troves of fake content, nonsensical quizzes and click-bait devoid of value have overtaken social networks. This is what the masses want so many publishers are willing to give it to them, but this kind of intellectual fast food only serves to dumb-down the masses and doesn’t really progress us forward as a global community. I believe that technology can be used to empower, inspire and educate people which then elevates them to new levels of self-awareness and thinking. Content that creates a meaningful impact on a person’s life, while simultaneously drawing them in using age-old techniques, is where the sweet spot lies. This may not be the case for hard news, but for many niche publishers this is what consumers want.

Be emotive, not sensational

Today’s consumer wants to be emotionally moved through content. Clickbait-type content works because it feeds that allure of high quality emotive content, only to disappoint once the user has clicked through. Sensational headlines are known to draw traffic, and traffic means money, so it’s hard to provide a business reason to not be sensational. However, I believe that emotive content, content that truly makes a person inspired, nostalgic or excited can attain far greater reach in the digital age. A sensational headline would perhaps make me purchase a newspaper, but an emotive article will make me share the content on social media – an action that can be far more valuable. Click-baiting still works, but if used needs to be followed through with an equally rewarding experience, not an anti-climax.

True social integration

This isn’t about adding a comments section and a link to a related hashtag in an article. Social media has become the largest source of traffic for many of the world’s top publishers, yet the loop hasn’t always closed on how to integrate social media in a really meaningful way. This isn’t even a conversation about crowdsourcing content from social media. It’s about using social media audiences to fundamentally drive the content creation process. It’s also about bringing the key online influencers into meaningful conversations around content and seeding the content socially anywhere on the web. The irony is that many of the world’s top bloggers have gotten the social formula right, but traditional publishers are still clueless at times.

The digital age has changed so much how we live, work and play. It’s also changed how we discover our world. Consumers want to be consumed by amazing digital experiences through content, and today’s media owners are in the perfect position to do just that.

May 22, 2014

Peter Jones from Dragons Den: Top 10 Rules to Build a Successful Business

Peter Jones is an entrepreneur I deeply admire and respect. A self made millionaire with a superb knack for business, he has a portfolio of over a dozen companies that he’s involved with. Peter has in recent years skyrocketed his personal brand through Dragons Den. He has also started his own show in the US called American Inventor.

What I admire most about Peter, however, is his desire to assist and help other entrepreneurs on their journeys. He has his own show on BBC called “How we made our millions” where he interviews and documents the stories of successful entrepreneurs, and also runs the Peter Jones Academy which serves to educate, encourage and support entrepreneurs.

Here are Peter’s top 10 rules for building a successful business.

RULE 1: HAVE A VISION

Your vision is your destination. You’ll need a map to help you reach that destination, which will be made up of goals and results. The vision is the vital part, otherwise, you won’t know where you are heading and your goals will be irrelevant.

RULE 2: USE YOUR INFLUENCE

All businesses need business partners to grow. Tycoons know the importance of filling the gaps and weaknesses in their own skill set or business idea, by finding the parts of the jigsaw puzzle to create the best chance of success.

RULE 3: BUILD YOUR CONFIDENCE

If you don’t believe in yourself or your idea, why should anyone else? Gain confidence through gaining experience, skills and knowledge. Change your perception of failure to realise that it provides feedback. Feedback provides essential learning to help know what not to do the next time.

RULE 4: MAKE A COMMITMENT

Committing to follow through once a decision is made is an invaluable ally on your road to success. Be prepared to work hard and make sacrifices. Commit to a common goal and make it happen, but commit to yourself and your health too.

RULE 5: AIM FOR RESULTS

Tycoons make things happen. They are driven by results. Planning for your success is as important as achieving success. You need to know exactly how you got there so your success can be duplicated, scaled up and multiplied, and it is that which turns an entrepreneur into a Tycoon.

RULE 6: TAKE ACTION

Action is the bridge between your vision and results. Action involves figuring out how to get from where you are now to where you want to be. Without action there would be no results.

RULE 7: TIMING

Anticipating the changing needs of the market and partners is crucial. Timing when to enter a market or not will help optimise success, as will knowing the right time and circumstances to start your business.

RULE 8: PERSEVERANCE

Tycoons go the extra mile. Perseverance, sheer determination and tenacity are core characteristics of the mindset of a Tycoon. Successful entrepreneurs battle against all the odds to build their business and always appreciate when it is time to get out. Try to have flexibility to work outside your own comfort zones in order to bring your dreams to fruition.

RULE 9: BE CARING

Relationships with people are key. Business and personal relationships should be cherished. Treat people how you yourself would want to be treated. Always remember that people are the lifeblood and engine room of any business.

RULE 10: USE YOUR INTUITION

Listen to your instincts. They can protect you from making poor business decisions and guide you down the right path.

Would you add anything to this list? Please comment below!

Source

March 8, 2014

The Problem with Internet Advertising

The online ad industry has done the advertising world a massive disservice, and there is no easy way of fixing the problem. Before the days of the Internet, the media owner had the responsibility to create high quality content for their consumer base. They had the task of not only creating engaging and interesting editorial pieces, but of placing high quality memorable advertising in the optimum positions. Brands paid a premium for access to this audience, and had to comply by creating high quality advertising material. The concept was the same across media – be it print, TV or radio. Print, radio and TV ads are still the epitome of advertising creativity – so what went wrong when we went digital?

Along came the Internet, surging in popularity in the 90s. Promising global reach beyond traditional media, accurate tracking and measurements, personalized targeting unavailable to mass media all at a fraction of the cost. Advertisers and brands flocked to it in droves. Indeed, advertising revenue is what keeps the Internet going today – it is the lifeblood of search engines, social networks and publishers around the world.

But, there’s a problem. Advertising that looks like this in print:

Sunlight-1

Now has a tendency of looking like this online:

13537073662108475556

Not that one ad is “worse” than the other – the latter might indeed be getting superior performance in terms of overall lead generation, while the former is probably geared towards memorable brand awareness. One of the problems with internet advertising is that the landscape has become fractured and segmented. Even the most astute agencies have a tough time traversing through this mess – with data management platforms, demand and supply side platforms, ad exchanges, real time bidding platforms, and thousands of different ways of targeting audiences each with different metrics and reports, how can one not become confused? If you want to see how segmented it really is, simply have a look at the ad technology lumascape. And remember – each one of these platforms takes a cut from the overall ad pie.

Another issue with Internet advertising is that media owners have in many ways lost control of their own ad inventory. In the past, advertising had to be vetted and carefully placed among content. These days, ad networks run algorithms that target advertising to individual users. In principle this works pretty well, but if you look at South African ad inventory across the major publishers, you get low budget Forex and insurance ads with very little variation. The digital battle for the lowest CPMs, low barriers to entry for new players, proprietary algorithms controlling ad displays and lack of sufficient quality control across the exchanges has led to this. The results are a commoditization and cheapening of advertising that brings the entire industry into disrepute, and makes many brands wary of significantly investing digital.

This isn’t a complete rant. I love the fact that digital is more measurable, targetable and personalized than any other media format. I love that social media has added a two way conversational dynamic to brand communications. But we need to bring the quality back into cyberspace, and this will take a concerted effort from all parties. Media owners need to stop cheapening their digital properties with low quality inventory, ad networks need to put better quality control measures in place and advertisers need to get more creative and be willing to place larger budgets into digital.

The IAB is trying to fix it in some ways by introducing rich media formats that allow for animations, video and larger ad formats. Publishers are also trying by rendering high quality “pre-roll” ads before viewing an article. The ad networks are also getting better – you have new exchanges that are focused around quality content (like Outbrain) that have an active vetting process before each media item is loaded. We are headed in the right direction, and the digital advertising future looks very bright. As we see more consolidation and standardization in the industry, we will see progress. Lower quality inventory will eventually be phased out, especially on premium publishers. Advertisers are also investing into more than just ads – they are creating mobile and social apps and minisites that create unique and interesting experiences for their customers. For the time being though, we have to remain creative with the options available to us while understanding that digital is a crucial component of the greater marketing pie.

January 27, 2014

9 Business Books that Changed my Life

Many of those close to me will know that when I started my first company over 4 years ago, I started with very little. A tiny network, virtually no work experience and only a few month’s worth of money saved up. A potential recipe for disaster in retrospect, but what I did have was a burning desire in my heart to make a dent in the world. 4 years later, I find myself heading up SA’s foremost social media technology company, with ambitious plans to scale things up an order of magnitude in 2014.

The journey has been pretty exciting so far, and I feel it is just the beginning of something much greater. One of the values I hold dear to me and ensure my staff adopt is perpetual education – constant learning in their fields of interest and expertise. This gives my organization and my people an edge, as we sharpen our minds continually to ensure we’re on top of changes in the market and industry as they happen.  I’d like to share the 9 business books I’ve read in the last 4 years that have catapulted my businesses forward and in many ways replaced a more traditional MBA with a practical body of knowledge. Education, of course, is but one component of the business success puzzle, but it is a crucial building block upon which all others stand. If your educational foundation is flawed, you will make costly mistakes through strategic errors as you traverse the path of business.

Losing my Virginity – Richard Branson

losing my virginity
Richard is a great storyteller. He inspired me to believe in my dreams and made me realize my ambitions are actually not all that crazy. This book is an account of his life, and shows what is possible if you give your heart and soul to what you love.

The E-Myth Revisited – Michael Gerber

e mythThis book showed me some solid foundations for developing a business as an income generating asset, developing business systems that are scalable and repeatable and essentially building businesses that do not rely on you to run effectively. If you see business as an extension of your passion, then it may be acceptable to be irreplaceable and permanently vested within it. My goals incorporate developing business systems that work with or without me, leveraging and growing off of each other.

The Black Swan – Nassim Taleb

black swanThis book helped me understand how the human brain considers risk and calculates probability (hint: it’s pretty damn inaccurate at the best of times!). It provides a good framework for assessing and dealing with risk in business as well as life in general. Its a highly intellectual read so you need to stay focused when going through it, but the knowledge and critical thinking you gain is indispensable.

The Four Hour Workweek – Timothy Ferriss

4hour work weekLove this book or hate it, it’s become an international best-seller for a reason. Its filled with practical tips and advice for growing passive income streams with relatively low input cost. Although not the best book in the world if you want to build a global enterprise, it was a great start for me a few years ago to better understand the many ways the Internet can be leveraged to maximize sales.

Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill

think and grow richThe timeless classic – this business book focuses on the mental aspect of business. A strong mind makes for a strong leader, and is absolutely critical to business success. I’ve come to realize that our minds construct our entire reality, and through our thoughts we can change our minds, thus changing how reality is perceived by us. The thoughts we think play a profound part in the quality of life we live, and this book shows you how to condition your mind for success.

Good to Great – Jim Collins

good to greatAnother classic read, this book deciphers the differences between average companies, and companies that have found the “secret” to skyrocket their businesses. Focusing on the success of larger multinational corporates, Jim distils insight into what made these companies special. I learnt a lot about leadership, company culture and creating a balanced environment of fun and discipline at work.

The Lean Startup – Eric Ries

lean startupThis book really helped me understand how a cutting edge technology company like the one I am building can remain cutting edge despite fast market changes. Coming from a software background, I understand agile/lean methodologies pretty well already. However, this book applies the process of agile iterations in software development to business processes. Emphasis is placed on data-driven business decisions based on real product usage, fast prototyping, accurate measurement and tracking of business metrics and creating a culture of speed and agility. Its a must read for any entrepreneur working in a fast changing industry.

Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki

rich dad poor dadIts not like this book needs any introduction, but it is the indispensable guide to understanding the mindset of the entrepreneur. It probably took over two years to fully recondition myself from the JOB mindset (also known as “Just Over Broke”), to the entrepreneur mindset. The more work experience you have in the 9-5 game, the harder it is to change gears. This book contrasts the two mindsets through the stories of Robert’s two dads, and shows how they both thought very differently about success and growth.

The Undefeated Mind – Alex Lickerman

Undefeated mindA business is only as strong as its leader, and its leader must have a mind that is undeterred when conditions get hard. The business game is extremely difficult and never really gets easier, but you do learn to react with less emotion and become more strategically precise as the years progress. The Undefeated Mind is not a business book – it is a framework for living successfully. I’ve adapted its principles into my life and my businesses with great success, and think its a must-read for any entrepreneur wanting to find balance in their life.

October 24, 2013

The Importance of Impartial Digital Measurement in Marketing

Most agency award ceremonies reward creativity above raw performance. Its a subjective showcase of who is the most cutting edge, most creative, most immersive. It has its place and is a great way to show that South Africa is brimming with digital talent across the board. It is not, however, meant to be an objective benchmark of digital performance. Simple proof of this exists – Fuseware’s analysis of the top brands on social media and top content by digital performance have none of the Loerie social media award winners present at all. This isn’t a criticism though, but one must realize that these awards don’t reward what the end result should actually be – how much value has been created for the customer.

In light of the recent Loerie scandal where Metro Republic was stripped of their Grand Prix prize, it got me thinking (more so than usual). As the world migrates to the digital space and everything becomes measurable, surely there is a better way to measure marketing effectiveness. Scandals like these will always be present since they are a result of human error, greed or both. They shed a dark light across the entire industry. Brands lose trust in their agency partners and marketing as a whole is seen as more of a necessary evil than a meaningful way of understanding and engaging with consumers. There must be a better way.

Nobody can deny that marketing has fundamentally changed in recent years. New technologies and mediums have emerged that have empowered consumers with an influential voice and have changed the brand-consumer relationship and way of communicating. These same technologies have empowered brands to understand their communities and influencers in a manner never before possible, but they have been slow to adopt many of these analytical techniques. By and large, the marketing world in South Africa still clings on to old paradigms. Justifiably so, since they cater to where brands allocate budget – print, broadcast and online ad networks receive a large majority of marketing budgets. They capture the largest audiences, but are incredibly expensive and miss the mark with the vast majority of the audience. I believe there is a better way, and that is the way of understanding the consumer on their level. New measurement techniques are needed that focus campaigns to the exact audiences that are interested. New engagement techniques are needed that go beyond the creative ad to memorable content that truly resonates with the consumer.

The undeniable aspect of digital is that you can measure practically everything, and many companies do. The trouble is that they end up sitting on a sea of data that they have no idea what to do with. This sea of data is a goldmine of consumer insight that can position and innovate the brand on a level that was never before possible. However, to truly unlock its value it needs to be integrated across the enterprise and it needs to be connected to the hearts and minds of consumers. Social media data is the single most untapped source of consumer insights on the planet. With over 11m South Africans on Facebook and no slowdown in growth, brands need to capitalize on the opportunity afforded to them to engage on a much more meaningful level. To paraphrase the words of Vincent Magwenya, CEO of Magna Carta, social media has a major influence on traditional media as well as how media coverage gets escalated on a completely different level. The trouble is – almost every major brand is already on social media, so what gives?

As Seth Godin wrote in Purple Cow, “What could you measure? What would that cost? How fast could you get the results? If you can afford it, try it. If you measure it, it will improve”. Companies need to invest in their digital measurement strategies in order to fully understand their customers, brands, competitors and broader market. This data, when viewed from a strategic perspective and integrated holistically from an executive level downwards, empowers the organization with the kind of insight that gives real world results. Results that give customers exactly what they want, and give the business a significant boost to their bottom line. “Spending money on clicks to get traffic” should be replaced with “spending time on engagements to get advocates”. It sounds less tangible and less defined, but with the right measurement techniques can be highly effective, far less expensive with better overall returns.

The challenge I’ve found is that each company measures differently on different levels, and interprets the data in a different way. This is important as each company is fundamentally different at its core, but consistency is needed in order to properly understand and benchmark brands, industries and market segments. Organizations like the MMA and DMMA definitely go a long way to establishing these benchmarks, but I believe more dialogue should be conducted among the industry heads on how to best tackle this beast. The marketing problem has become a technology problem, and technologists need to work with marketers to create the perfect brand of the future.

October 15, 2013

Why I dropped the Linux stack in Favour of Microsoft

I’ve been a Linux enthusiast for a couple of years now and have run my business off of Linux as much as possible. I run a business specializing in digital research and analytics, which means I need to ensure that my business tech stack is always available, easy to scale, has low resource requirements, a shallow learning curve and ample local talent available. Until recently I’ve coped with Linux for my backend infrastructure and its performed fairly well, but I’ve realized that the pros with going the Microsoft route now far outweigh any cons. Microsoft no longer seems to be the monolithic corporate behemoth of years ago; they’ve adopted a much more agile approach that really benefits small businesses like mine.

I made a slight error in judgement a couple of years ago when I selected Ruby on Rails as Fuseware’s development language and framework of choice. I figured the local popularity would grow tremendously and give me access to a powerful development stack at a fraction of the normal cost. Although Ruby is without a doubt extremely powerful, it has become a burden on my business as alternative solutions have started looking much more attractive. Microsoft have really revamped the way they treat tech startups, and migrating my business to a Microsoft stack has become a must, mainly based on the following changes in the big M:

  • Microsoft sets up Bizspark to allow startup businesses such as mine free access to Office, Visual Studio, Project, Visio among others – including access to a large training and support network and even assisting with funding
  • Microsoft releases Azure and allows for streamlined integration of software on the cloud that connects with all their other products
  • Microsoft starts supporting the Open Source movement with numerous contributions to the community – including a big data framework called REEF
  • Microsoft releases Office 365, which allows small businesses to function completely on the cloud with minimal upfront costs, connected to partners and suppliers seamlessly anywhere in the world
  • Not to mention the fact that you are dealing with an extremely mature eco-system of development tools that are endorsed by the world’s biggest companies
  • The learning curve of Microsoft products have gone way down as they’ve enhanced their integration across toolchains, provide numerous online training resources and have invested in making their platforms’ user experience much simpler
  • Microsoft fully support integration with some non-MS products. I’m sticking with my NOSQL database of choice (MongoDB) for the time being, but Microsoft’s products now seamlessly integrate with it, minimizing my migration workload

From a South African perspective, there are other considerations:

  • Microsoft is aggressively investing in tech startups in South Africa, providing free access to Azure as well as access to their international partner network
  • The local development scene in Johannesburg is almost exclusively C#, Java and C++ based (excluding front-end development). Finding Ruby on Rails talent is both extremely difficult and highly expensive, creating an annoying barrier to entry for smaller businesses looking for talent
  • From a future acquisition and integration perspective, the local corporates seem to favour tech stacks that are consistent with what they already have to minimize integration costs. The Microsoft stack is almost exclusively used by SA’s largest tech companies, making it a no-brainer.
  • The local community of .NET enthusiasts far outnumbers the Ruby on Rails community, which also has developed a bit of a hacker culture.

Ruby and the related Linux stack is still fantastic for quick prototypes at minimal cost. Internationally, its being used in some of the Silicon Valley’s highest profile startups. However, in SA, it seems that the Microsoft route has become the cheapest, easiest and most productive route you can go if you’re an up-and-coming tech startup.