Social Media channels are full of opportunities to connect with people who can help you along personally and professionally. But just like in the real world, the trick to good networking online is being aware of the other person’s needs and being clear about how you can add value in return.

There is a misconception that the key to social media is having lots of connections. Time and again the most influential people online remind us that it isn’t the number of connections you have, but how engaged they are. To put it another way: it is better to be the best connected that the most connected. 

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So what can you do differently? Well, rather than putting all your effort into building new connections online (or growing your following) rather find ways to add value to your existing connections. Share articles that you think they’d find interesting, respond to their public updates on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest or whatever network best suits your goals.

If you do this, you’re much more likely to get people responding to you when you decide to put your thoughts and ideas out there. And so, as if by magic, your network starts to grow as more people see that it is worthwhile to be connected to you on social media. 

Posted
AuthorDave Duarte

What if Advertising wasn't something you saw, but something you used? 

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The first phase of digital marketing was about display advertising online. Then marketers started using search and social data to target that advertising more precisely. That’s where most advertisers currently are. What comes next is that targeting is hopping off the screen and into the lives of consumers, from smart phones to smart things. Digital marketing is getting real. 

We mostly experience the internet through our various screens - computer, mobile phone, tablet, and TV. But  besides screens there are many other input and output formats for the internet. For example, using a web connected plug you can turn home appliances on or off in response to some online event - like your first tweet of the day, for example. The “Internet of Things” is what we’re talking about here. And it’s really exciting for marketers and consumers alike. 

For example, I recently started using the FitBit Flex step counter. It’s a bracelet with a motion tracker in it that connects to the internet. I use it to track my daily activity and compete with other friends who use the device. This is pretty cool, but what is even cooler is that I also earn Vitality points with my health insurer, Discovery, based on my daily FitBit step count. Discovery also have a tracker on my car that tells them precisely how well I drive. Now, I don’t open much commercial email, but because the emails Discovery sends me contain personal data based on the way I live and act in the world, I don’t hesitate to open that mail every time. I don’t want email, I want me-mail! 

Shopperception does in-store behavioural analytics. 

So already we can see how valuable personalised consumer databases can be in marketing, and many companies are getting into social media for that very reason. But one of the most common questions anyone who works in social media gets asked is “what is the value of a Facebook Like”? Well, I suspect that retailers will soon be able to calculate that figure precisely. Facebook already uses facial recognition technology that can identify when a picture of a person is posted.  How long until retailers have cameras connected to Facebook’s facial recognition database? It is only a matter of time before we can start tracking individual shopper behaviour from social network to store. 

The reigning champions of consumer data collection, Google, are also investing in creating physical objects connected to the web - cars, glasses, and now a debit card. The Google Wallet card will be able to deliver shopper incentives at the point of purchase, as well as give consumers and marketers useful data about how they shop. They could, for example, find out if you go and make a purchase after seeing an online ad they showed you. 

Besides these rather serious data-driven examples, I love how ad agencies are using connected objects to bring advertising to life. I enjoy following the Joburg Zoo’s “Live Tweeting Badger” that uses web-connected sensors to send tweets based on what the badger is doing at that moment. I was also amazed by the British Airways billboard that connects to flight and weather data to point out where visible planes in the sky are headed to. 

This is a new form of advertising that brings together Marketing and Making. Agencies like R/GA, Inventionist and South Africa's ThingKing are leading the way. If Marketing is getting closer to IT through the web, then this new form will also bridge the gap between Marketing and the heart of the business - its products, services and operations. 

So rather than virtualising more, the big trend to look out for in 2014 will be all the cool ways that the internet is used to make real-world objects smarter. For marketers the challenge will be to use this in ways that benefit consumers and improve the way people shop rather than simply creating more clutter. And we can finally move from interrupting what people are interested in, to being what people are interested in. 

Posted
AuthorDave Duarte

Want your articles to spread like Gangnam online? You’d better master the art of capturing the micro-attention of your readers. Here are 10 guiding principles to help you on the path of writeousness (yes, that word just happened). 

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1. Craft a compelling headline.

A catchy headline can make all the difference to the success of an article. Content startup UpWorthy has gained millions of readers based on their ability to rewrite headlines about serious and important issues in a catchy, web-friendly way. If you want your content to spread online it is worthwhile to dedicate extra time to crafting an enticing headline.

2. Start with the most important content.

 Summarize the point of your article in the first paragraph. Be specific in this summary, and try to add immediate value. Even if some of your readers won't get further than this, their first impression of an article of often determines whether or not they'll share the post with their networks.  

3. A post should only be as long as necessary.

Beware the ever-shrinking attention span of your reader! Even in super-short form web-publishing formats like the Facebook status it has been proven that posts with less characters get shared more. In longer formats like articles and blog posts your article should be compelling from beginning to end. Usually the easiest way to achieve this is to simply write shorter articles. There are a few masters who can hold reader attention for long-pieces on the internet. Those writers and those pieces become the stuff of web legend.

4. Where a picture will say more than words can, use it.

 It’s worth spending the time to select the picture that will bring your writing to life.  Also, a good caption to a picture is as important as a good picture for the story. I’ve learned this from using Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook that a fairly ordinary photograph can become a conversation point by accompanying it with a caption. You could, for example use the caption to draw the viewer’s attention to a particular aspect of the picture, or to help them see the picture differently. 

5. Format for the Skim-Reader

The skim-reader is not a lesser being. The skim-reader is half your audience! Use formatting such as sub-headings, bold, italic, underlined, and bullet points to help content stand out for skim-readers and search engines.

7. Be specific.

If you are vague online, you will lose your reader. Also, using specific language is a great way to get search traffic on different search terms. For example, instead of just saying “the horse” every time you mention it in your article, you might try “the Arabian thoroughbred”. 

8. Cite your Sources.

Use hyperlinks to reference points that may require back-reading or validation. This is part of enhancing the user experience of your article. It helps build trust and interest in the issue you’re writing about. 

9. Tight prose wins.

Editing for clarity and simplicity, down to the sentence-structure level will make a difference.  On the web, full-stops tend to beat commas and semi-colons. Rather break a long, complex sentence filled with commas and semi-colons into a few shorter sentences. Also, take care to craft a few take-out sentences that social media readers can use to summarize highlights when they are sharing your article. While you’re at it, eliminate cliches. 

10. Check before you publish.

It’s very difficult, and embarrassing to try to retract misinformation or grammatical mistakes once your post is live on the web - particularly on Twitter and Facebook where your post can be quoted and shared on profiles and pages that you don't control. Even if you might lose the scoop by taking a little bit longer to confirm your facts, it is better in the long run to gain the trust of your readers. 

11. Encourage Social Commentary. 

Your work as a writer online doesn’t end when your article is published. You should share your writing on your own social channels, and also participate in the commentary around it. People are encouraged to comment when the writer responds and acknowledges their contribution.

The commenters may not be experts in the subject you’re writing about (although they could be). They may even be completely clueless about the issue. However, their opinions on a subject can be indicative of public perception about an issue, and therefore very interesting and relevant. The comments are often as interesting as the main piece.

So there you have it. I went up to Mount Table, and came back with these Commandments. Fortunately they're not written on stone tablets (so old school since the iPad, really) so we can remix them if we want. If you like, then please hit the little heart below, or leave comment below to enhance it.