Who are typical LinkedIn users?

  
Stats from Pew Research suggest that LinkedIn is one of the few social media platforms where the over 50s outnumber 18-25’s.

It’s also somewhere where degree qualified early to mid career people hang out. 

This got me wondering. It got me wondering about the topics and tone of the posts I see in my LinkedIn timeline. 

What I noticed was that they fell into two broad camps. The first were all about ‘how to do business better’; better leadership, better processes, better tools. The second were all about personal values and the meaning and purpose of life, typically in format of ‘life hacks’, spirituality and philosophy.

Given the demographic of LinkedIn users it suddenly all became clear. The dominant user groups are at particular life stages and points of transition. 

Of course many of you will be familiar with the notion of ‘mid-life’ crisis. Less people know that this idea comes from the work of Daniel Levinson who examined the stages of life we pass through and how we cope with the change. 

So the we end up with two broad themes of LinkedIn post.

  • How to have a better career
  • How to lead a better life

The former contain problem solving tips and the latter contain philosophical reflections. 

The former I would guess are avidly read by early and mid career readers and the latter the post 55 year olds reflecting on achievements and what comes next.

So what does this mean for my blog posts? Typically I don’t post things like 7 ways to improve customer retention and neither do I go the life hack route of ‘we’re all at one with the universe’.

So what sort of posts do I write? And more interestingly why would anyone bother to read them? What is the pattern that connects (cf Gregory Bateson) my posts?

I suppose I would classify them as hopefully thought provoking and also digging at the assumptions that sit behind the content. The stuff that the writers don’t actually declare but I find really interesting.

Now that’s interesting. I seem to be applying the judgemental heuristic. That rule of thumb that is used by people who think what they find interesting is interesting to other people too. 

Looks like my reader stats may never be in the millions! 

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Will Apps Really Make Buying Decisions For Us?


J.Walker Smith CEO of the The Futures Co. (Part of Kantar/WPP) posted a thought provoking article about Programmatic Consumption on the AMA blog recently.

It is claimed that digital apps will be used by customers to make buying decisions on their behalf and that a new era of so called ‘on demand’ purchasing is nigh. When has a purchase ever been ‘off demand’? ‘Oh I’ll buy this because I don’t want it’!

The era of programmatic consumption is where me and you aren’t involved in the things we purchase and we leave it up to apps to talk to other apps to decide what we want and place the order.

Forgive me if I think this is technological determinism going a little bit too far.

I get that apps can filter customer choices placed before us but actually deciding the relevance of the purchase seems utterly implausible. This denies the social context in which purchases are made and air brushes the person who has the wallet out of the picture. It shows a lack of understanding of what relevance making is and how it works.

Sure relevance is something that data miners pay attention too. See the work of Sarajevic (2007) Relevance: A Review of the Literature and a Framework for Thinking on the Notion in Information Science. Part II: Nature and Manifestations of Relevance*. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 58. Nevertheless as Saracevic agrees relevance making remains a human faculty. See Schiller 1912:

‘Relevance is the product not an attempt to include everything, but of an effort to get rid of the rubbish, to select the humanly valuable part, and to exclude, reject and ignore the rest… The ‘relevant,’ therefore, stands out of a chaotic whole as a selected extract’.

Or as sociologist Schutz says:

‘The question of why these facts and precisely these are selected by thought from the totality of lived experience and regarded as relevant’ Schutz (1967:24)

Not to mention the extensive work on relevance by Grice and Sperber and Wilson on relevance and meaning making too.

The ultimate decision on the relevance of the offer will always be made by a human being even if technology has been used to target the selection. Even when the algorithm proposes something as ‘relevant’ we still have to decide the relevance of that. To do that we test the relevance in terms of our matter at hand at that very moment (and the benefit and value). We decide the meaning.

I am always a tad sceptical of ‘brave new world’ marketing perspectives especially when a shiny new ideas like ‘programmatic consumption’ are floated. The cynic in me says that this is just an old fashioned scare tactic along the lines of “you’ve not heard of prog-consumption? Really? You need to get clued up because it’s the future, throw away the old models and explanations of consumption they won’t work any more….what you need is….’ As they say fear sells.

I wonder if an app will be created that will decide if ‘programmatic consumption’ is relevant to your business. Imagine lying on a beach with a cocktail and letting it run your life for you!

Makes you wonder why you would even publish an article about it. Just get your app to talk to my app.

Are basic marketing mistakes forgiveable?

I know we all make mistakes. It’s one of the ways we learn. Reading the recent post by Tecmark Eight expensive marketing mistakes got me wondering if some marketing management mistakes are unforgivable? I’d always assumed in business that serious entrepreneurs and professional marketers got commercially involved a market sector because they appreciated the fundamental factors for success in that sector. That through deep understanding of the sector it meant they were a credible supplier and didn’t make basic mistakes.

Tekmark’s post about mistakes got me thinking; are there really businesses involved in the creation and supply of content marketing services that have no idea about concept creation and development processes and basic market understanding? I then thought, why not test my own content generation (this post) against the mistakes.

The infamous 8 mistakes are:

Limited investment in the generation of a range of conceptual possibilities. The technical term is ‘ideation’. I find it incredible that anyone would simply start writing content without first having a conceptual frame that guides the what, how and why of the content being generated. Do content marketers just write stuff with no idea why they are doing it!?

I couldn’t have written this post without some idea of its theme and structure. I could have just passed the link on and instead I spent a few minutes thinking how I could add to the debate Neil Barraclough at Tekmark had started. I also had in my mind the TORE model of communication (cf Professor Sam Ham) which emphasises establishing a clear theme, having an organised structure, being of relevance to readers and providing an enjoyable approach.

Not setting clear goals is next. Seriously? Do content marketers write without a goal in mind?

My goals are to increase my blog readership, develop my writing style, encourage debate and dialogue about marketing management and promote interest in Sheffield Business School

Deciding the format first. Suggests the purpose of the content is not thought through before the most appropriate way of conveying information is decided. I’m minded here of Maslow’s phrase ‘if you only have a hammer then you see every problem as a nail’.

In my case I deemed writing a blog post best because it allows me to explain and discuss ideas. It’s quick and convenient and I’m too shy to do a podcast/YouTube and rubbish at graphics so an infographic is out of the question!

No promotion budget. This is interesting. Not providing adequate resource to implement and exploit an idea seems daft to me. It’s either a good idea with potential or it’s not. If you are going to invest the time and energy into ideas surely it’s an obvious aspect of the starting raison d’être and business case to consider the cost of making the idea happen too?

In my case writing this is just about time. Worth it because it makes good use of time on my commute. It costs me an hour and I can easily commit to it to make it happen.

Forgetting how users will access your content. Isn’t this a bit like designing a car and forgetting how drivers drive? Content appears in different formats and much of it is accessed on mobile devices.

In my case WordPress converts posts to the appropriate reading platform which means I don’t need to worry to much. I guess the advice would be design to the simplest format and assume people are reading content on a mobile phone.

Not understanding target audience. Let me check…you’re in marketing right? What on earth are you doing if you have no idea of your target audience! In my case I am targeting readers who are interested in marketing management and who enjoy a slightly skeptical and provocative take on conventional themes and issues.

I don’t think I appeal to readers who want particular problems solved or those who want affirmation that marketing is the solution to every problem in the world.

No sharing buttons. The clue is in the title isn’t it? Social media. Why generate digital content if it isn’t shareable? If there is one aspect of digital marketing that is different to previous ways of doing marcomms it has to be the quick and easy sharing of stuff.

In my case WordPress provide buttons to do this. Neat!

No embed codes in your infographic. Ok you got me! We’ll sort of…it just means that you embed an html link in your image so when people click on it they go to your website or a you tube or anywhere else you want. Part of the driving traffic and sharing gig.

Me? I’m not sure I’ve done that. So need to check. All in all I reckon Neil Barraclough’s post is really helpful for start ups and inexperienced in-house marketing teams more than experienced content marketing companies. The bonus is it gave me something to chat about on my commute too!

In the end all mistakes are forgiveable except I guess the one’s you keep making 😉

Social Media Meets Event Management

Had a great time working with Phil Crowther and colleagues at the Sheffield Business School Event Management Hub today. Practioners and academics with an interest in event management and social media came together to consider the role of business to business social media in the context of event management.

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The audience was a mix of communications experts very familiar with the role and tools of Social Media to less experienced, interested to find out more people.  The event was sponsored by Eventbrite and as well as me doing a short intro talk giving a 10 min view of the world of  B2B social media from my perspective there were interesting talks from Paul Webster of Learning Pool.com who you can follow @watfordgap and Sally founder of Social Bean a brilliant event based community network.

As for me I noticed in my research prep for my 10 minute stint that there was actually very little if anything published by academics on the role and effectiveness of Social Media in B2B context in terms of buyer usage and perspectives.

What I tried to convey was the significance of the growth of Mobile search and the changing character of people who were now controlling budgets. The Facebook Generation are now emerging as a powerful force in B2B management and they are changing the way solutions are sought and chosen.

I was lucky to stumble across a top line report from Base One which outlined their survey of social media and b2b buying.

I also mentioned a couple of cases where social media novices had seen an impact on their activities. The first was beekeeper Ken Ward in Shropshire who noticed a tweet from a local farm shop which meant he could approach them to supply honey. The other was his son Simon who owns an office refurbishment company.

Ten weeks ago Simon had no on-line presence. Today he has an NJRcoolspace website, Twitter account @NJRcoolspace which he uses to tweet images of jobs he is working on and sharing useful articles he finds, he has a Pinterest account, a Google+ page etc.

For Simon this activity has to be so much more than just getting the message out. It is an integral part of his sales strategy. Does it work? It certainly does already online inquiries have resulted in two projects and interestingly 40% of searches have come through mobile!

Christmas Sentiment

Christmas is a time full of signs and symbolism. The same goes for any profession and Marketing management is no exception.

Marketing buzzwords are a sign. A sign with many meanings. They can signify ‘I’m in the know’, they can signify ‘the deliberate exclusion of the unknowing’, they can signify ‘the fudging of plain English’.

I picked up this example in a business article from The Independent about Thornton’s the chocolate retailer. Referring to recent poor sales the company said one cause was “continued weakness in customer sentiment”. What on earth is the meaning of that! The sentiment refers to something so ‘that something’ must be poor not the actual sentiment.

Interestingly for me it also seems to imply that the ‘sentiment’ is something that is being done ‘to’ the business. Something outside of their control. Poor sentiment is portrayed in the same way as poor weather. Its come our way and we’ll be through it soon. This is a dangerous mind set that focuses attention on PR and wordsmithery rather than the real issues that must be facing the business.

Sentiment is marketing communications latest buzzword. It is next in line to become reified by marketing acolytes.

Sure sentiment matters and tools like Radian6 are helpful and powerful, and it also risks becoming a fudge. A gloss over what matters, an arcane marketing short hand that skates over commercial issues that need to be communicated plainly.

I can hear it now ‘we have a sentiment crisis’, ‘101 ways to make your brand sentimental’, ‘sentiment sentience – how knowing what your customers feel about your products matters.’

All of sudden marketing has a brand new issue, something marketers can get concerned with, and something that diverts thought and energy from the fundamental issues. So in the grand tradition of Semiology perhaps being clear on the distinction between the sign and what it represents is a vital marketing capability. In this way we can ensure that Marketing is not dismissed as a fudge-box.

Worried About Selling In The Value Of Social Media?

One of the key tasks of senior management is to notice and make sense of emerging events. This is a crucial aspect of dynamic capability (Teece) and something that Bob Garvey refers to as an ability to manage to ‘approaching events. The key issue of course is what happens when you delegate that job to others in the organisation. Invariably where they sit affects what they see.  So don’t be surprised what you are told about the purpose and value of Social Media and Networking if you abdicate your sense-making to geeks and technophiles.

As we know the business world is in a frenzy about social media and networking. There is fraught debate about how to prove R.O.I. however it seems the problem has been solved. Managers simply need to become skilled at Social Media buzzword utilisation. I came across this great post from the blog Passionate – Creating Passionate Users. I hope you find it as amusing as I did.  Just as a taster:

“With our shawdows aware API we can stay in perpertual alpha thanks to the user content eco-system”

You’ll also find posts with titles like:

  • You ARE the marketer. Deal with it.
  • Stop your presentation before it kills again
  • Brain death by micro management

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The Penny Drops About Social Media & Networking

Its funny how you think you understand something and then you have an experience which gives you a new and deeper grasp of what’s actually going on.

The other day I had the good fortune to spend a little time with some people who work for the Woodland Trust. These people are at the forefront of what I would call ‘Cause Related Marketing’ in the digital space. They have a really deep sense and understanding of the notion community engagement and how getting it right can transform the sense of a Brand in the mind and experience of key stakeholders.

If you glance back at previous posts on this blog you will find that a common theme is a questioning of the validity and effectiveness of the so called traditional ‘managerialist’ mindset. In particular there is an implied concern that ‘career marketeers’ remain broadly unaware of the philosophical foundations on which their ideas and actions stand.

Let me make myself clear before going on. I am all for gathering helpful evidence, I am all for metrics and trying to articulate the likely return on a resource investment and I don’t think self indulgent creativity has a place in organisations with specific goals and purposes. Crucially though the ‘metrics’ should help not hinder (Norton and Kaplan) the achievement of goals, they should leave room for entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, not strangle it to death. There has to be the will and realisation in any organisation that the future can’t be known with absolute certainty and that re-ploughing the same furrow might keep you on the safe and familiar but it results in increasingly deeper furrows that are harder to get out of.

Now I realise that ‘bottom lines’, ‘bums on seats’, ‘cash in boxes’ are unequivocal measures of immediate effectiveness. They are also very short term and very simplistic. When I worked in the gaming industry people claimed to make rational decisions on the R.O.I. of the product purchases they made on a weekly basis. Sure enough there was a correlation between value and volume. What nobody could explain was the ‘affinity’ that buyers had for certain brands that guided their purchase decisions when the ‘numbers’ weren’t so clear cut. This affinity made a monetary difference over the longer term.

Affinity is subjective. Causes are subjective. A ‘Cause’ is an emotional concept. It is an ‘attitude object’ held in the mind of the individual. Causes are inextricably tied to people’s sense of identity and purpose. These are the deepest of values. People support causes with money if and only if they ‘believe’ in them. That’s not to say there aren’t utilitarian reasons for supporting a charity such as tax benefits or educational benefits. Nonetheless people can choose where to put their charity dollar, and supporting a belief runs deeper than a mere exchange of cash.

If you aren’t measuring values, affinity and beliefs as well as financials its like just measuring someone’s height and overlooking their diet to check how healthy they are.

You only have to dip into the digital space to see that there is a continuous conversation about justifying social media and networking activities, about how to convince the unconvinced. Give the decision makers the ‘numbers’ and they will jump on board is the line of some. Many nevertheless have a strong sense that is only part of the story because the ‘social space is different’. This line invariably gets shot to pieces because traditional ‘marcomms’ see it as not very different at all, just old wine in new bottles, what we’ve always done…but with a computer or mobile phone.

This is where the penny needs to drop.

We can talk about getting customers, consumers, subscribers to engage, to take part in the conversation, to have a sense of community. We say we need to get them ‘to engage’, ‘to converse’ to join ‘the community’. Two things to ponder here. Firstly traditional marcomms minded managers might pay lip service to these notions because they are new and trendy, yet they will revert to media management type when doing the day job. Second if you talk about digital marketing in this way you are unwittingly expressing yourself in typical positivistic objective management language therebye unwittingly reinforcing the ‘status quo’.

The point is that digital marketing is done ‘with’ others not ‘to’ them. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ in the traditional seller and buyer sense of the arrangement. The people who work for a cause are not separate and different from the people who support the cause, they are one and the same. The cause is the unifying theme. This has profound implications for traditional product and service industries too. There are glimpses of this with for example Apple workers, customers and fans, and Norton motorcycle workers, customers and fans. (see Adamson, Garry; Jones, Warwick; Tapp, Alan. Journal of Database Marketing & Customer Strategy Management, Jan2006, Vol. 13 Issue 2)

It has a basis in ethical trading and a sense of providing value and service, of care and concern for others rather than seeing them as a financial resource from which to extract as much cash as quickly as possible.

What digital marketing seems to be saying is that the issue is not ‘what’ money should we make but ‘how’ we should make it. Traditional marketing may have developed relationship and service flavours in its migration from 1960s consumer marketing. Maybe ‘community marketing’ is a conceptual evolution of marketing in the making. An ethically grounded way of doing business. Conventional business might take a serious look at charities and causes as a way to enhance their brands.

The Woodland Trust are walking the talk.

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