Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals

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What Happened to Foursquare?

Whilst considering approaches for our clients Social Media strategies, I was doing the usual thing of wondering what platforms would suit their customer base and of course the objectives of their activity.  At one point last year people were heralding the dawn on a new era.  Social Media was finally finding its feet and earning its commercial water wings. Not in a traditional digital marketing sense, but in a multi-channel sense.  What was driving this, the advent of Foursquare.

Foursquare Logo

Foursquare was the new thing we all needed to get excited about.  Taking people’s passions and love for social media and melding itwith their new found love with smartphones and a pinch of real-world and the ingredients were there for a winning combo.  Or so we thought.  This view was backed up by the decision in August 2010, at Facebook to launch their Foursquare killer, Facebook Places.

Easy to say it now, but I remember sitting in the offices at Best Buy and being quite cynical about the whole thing, while others were raving.  Whilst I didn’t doubt the concept of blurring social with real world, my belief was that this would have to be simplified to the extent the user wouldn’t have to do a thing and there was a sufficent reward for them doing so.

For a while I did doubt my own wisdom.  I signed up to Foursquare, after all, if you’re in the industry thats whay you do.  I had Google Wave, Google Buzz, Bebo, MySpace etc etc log-ins but no idea what they are now.  More and more contacts started popping up.  Note I used the word contacts.  It seemed to get quite noisy and then ther integration with Twitter came about and my timeline got loaded with people checking in to shops, sports grounds and fast food outlets.  Frankly it got a little annoying.  The point of the word contact was, most of the interactions were by people I knew in digital or technology, with a few friends who were early adopters.  None of my proper friends could be bothered.

The rewards on offer at the likes of Foursquare just aren’t interesting. Pretty juvenile really becoming the mayor of HMV in Oxford Street.  Apologies to all the various Foursquare mayors I have just offended.  I read with interest the fact that Facebook was closing its Places service, whilst it isn’t completely backing out of geo services it does show that its not the Xanadu some thought it would be.

Maybe Facebook just got it wrong and Foursquare demolished Facebook places.  Ironically the biggest boost Foursquare got to its numbers was when Facebook announced its Places service.  In terms of people looking for Foursquare on Google it would appear that the search volume has already peaked.  The August 2010 Facebook announcement got it mainstream and created the big boost, the numbers levelled but still at a higher than pre-announcement.  Foursquare also had a second boost around April this year when Amazon announced its servers had taken out both Foursquare and Reddit.

Google Trends view on Foursquare search volume

Google Trends view on Foursquare search volume

The light for Foursquare is that although things haven’t really sparked for them in the UK or Europe in general, they are big on technology advanced Asia and the population of Indonesia seem to be searching in their droves.  Some would say we need to treat Google data such as this with some scepticism.  Whilst I wouldn’t pass comment on that, even if you don’t believe the core numbers, the trend is still there.  Backed further by a quick search on Alexa.com where a similar story can be found.

Alexa ranking of Foursquare

The same pattern is true in terms of reach according to Alexa.  The April spike exists in April, but after that, the traffic drops back.  For me this demonstrates a lack of engagement with Foursquare.  Not complete lack of engagement, but low engagement on a relative base to the likes of Twitter and Facebook, its not to say it can’t happen.

My view is that there could still be a place for Foursquare or an equivalent service.  However they need to offer real value to users, something that makes users want to engage or embrace mobile technology to its fullest and minimise the engagement and actions needed in the physical world.  Foursquare and other services such as Gowalla still have a long way to go.  Once somebody has cracked it, the sector could ignite and present great currency for users and no-brainer commercial options for multichannel brands.

Remember the key to all of these platforms is mobile.  With this in mind we need to keep a watching eye on Google, with the rise of G+ and obviously the Android operating system gaining momentum, they could be in a good place to crack it.  If the minds at Google can work out what “it” is.


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My Time at Best Buy

As most of you are aware my time is now officially up at Best Buy.  After over two years at the US company (I can’t believe it is that long either) it is time to move on.  A lot has been achieved over my time there, some of which I will account for below and I have met a number of very good people.  Above all I joined Best Buy for two reasons.  One reason was to launch a brand from scratch, something most marketing professionals in th UK have yet to do, and fewer digital marketers have had that responsibility.  Secondly was because of the great people-based culture Best Buy had.

The second part of that has changed during my time in lovely North Acton and I suppose it had to change to a degree as the organisation comes to terms from being a start-up to becoming a dominant player in the UK CE space, something they should be well-equipped to become.

So what was achieved?

Launch of a Brand

We had a lot to do on this. Rather than just transmitting the US brand to the UK, we had to establish what the UK consumer wanted and needed and deliver propositions against that.  In the early days I was one of the key stakeholders in the process and we had some great debates on how to shape the brand and in turn the plans accordingly.  As the Marcomms team grow and we went from launch and branding to BAU this moved to the more traditional team.  We won an award for one of the service propositions we created ‘Walk Out Working’

Social Media

I may have been lucky in joining a brand that embraces Social Media more than some, at a time when social media was going from infancy to adolescence.  But, I feel this was one of our main success stories – recognised by being voted number 5 in the UK’s Top 100 Social Brands.  We did more than just build buzz around driving Facebook page numbers or Twitter followers.  We tracked behaviour and listened to conversations and reacted accordingly.

In addition we created content calendars to drive Social Media currency and providing worthwhile content for people to visit and engage with us on our platforms.  This included attending Trade and Consumer shows in addition to covering Entertainment events.

One of my brainchilds TechXpert did very well and given the right backing by the business will help differentiate Best Buy in both Social Media and through site usability.

Watch out for others on the horizon that have already been developed including TwelpForce and IdeaX.

Affiliates

Our affiliate programme grew from absolutely nothing to a roaring success over night.  We built very strong relationships with key affiliates including Quidco, MyVoucherCodes, Nectar and CoolKitchen as well as with some of the others you may not know.  We created a programme that was far more competitive than anybody in our sector and listened to affiliates and their needs.  This was recognised at this years A4U Forum where the Best Buy programme won ‘Best Newcomer’

Mobile

Although not launched officially as yet,  the work already put in means Best Buy is well-placed in terms of apps and m-Commerce.

Site

The site in my opinion is the cleanest and most customer-centric of all core-CE competitors.  It was built using a combination of best-practice and usability studies with our customers.  We also used Exit Surveys post-launch to see where we could change further.

Social Commerce

We were the first retailer in the UK to launch a Facebook store-front, allowing users to access the entire catalogue within Facebook, share or like with friends and go off and buy.  Other work in this area has been done, but it would be unfair to reveal what that is.

Viral

We produced a great viral to link Best Buy and our people with the World Cup.  That despite no link with the World Cup and no online presence.  The video which also featured a competition element, pitted two of our brilliant blueshirts from Merry Hill setting up the ultimate mancave featuring great tech but also a kebab oven, slush puppy machine and man nappies.  The video got c. 250k views and loads of comments within just two weeks.

Overall

There was a lot covered in the two years and it was a great learning experience, not only for me but for all involved.  There is a lot more that we managed to do that is not in here, but I didn’t want to bore you all too much.  I joined Best Buy for a challenge and it certainly delivered in that respect.  It was a great time with its fair share of ups and downs but overall good.

Last word

I couldn’t write this post without acknowledging perhaps one of the best leaders I have ever worked with.  Now I don’t normally go for the cheesy American stuff or Raa Raa as most of you know.  But one of our original leaders at Best Buy was absolutely inspirational.  He believed in what we were doing and was absolutely passionate about Best Buy.  He treated every employee as a member of his family an he genuinely had the best interests of everybody at heart.  Paul Antoniadis sadly left Best Buy and in my humble opinion I still don’t think they have replaced his passion or enthusiasm.

I know Paul is off doing his own thing now and doing very well for himself (I imagine with much shorter days as well).  There were many other people within Best Buy who were good and helped make it a great place and they know who they are.

Now I move on to new things, which will be revealed very shortly.  Needless to say everything I have learned over the past two years will be utilised and built upon.  So watch my LinkedIn profile to see what’s next.


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Facebook Sponsored Stories How are they doing?

Back in the depths of winter Facebook announced that it was going to launch Facebook Sponsored Stories.  This sparked a lot of noise around intrusion of privacy, turning users/friends in to spammers and a number of other hysterical responses.  After the dust settled, the marketeers took to the web and initial views were quite positive, with many saying it was the natural evolution of Facebook Ads.  A recent review by industry mag NMA claim that Sponsored Stries are 46% more effctive than standard Facebook ads

Just in case you aren’t sure quite what Facebook Sponsored Stories are then here is my brief summary.  Sponsored stories are linked to friends timelines and they show a brand when that brand is mentioned by your friend on your news feed.  For example, if Starbucks were utilising sponsored stories and your friend mentioned Starbucks in their activity the ad (sponsored story) would appear.  The rule states that brands cannot control the story they can only associate with actions.  Here is an example unashamedly stolen from Mashable.  This news feed example is just that, advertisers can choose what actiosn they want to associate, e.g. specific actions in an app

Starbucks News Feed Story

How a story would look, followed by an example of a sponsored story

Starbucks Sponsored Story

As this demonstrates the sponsor (in this case) Starbucks doesn’t really interfere with the original message, which has meant user feedback to Facebook hasn’t been as negative as first feared.  The other positive behind Facebook Stories compared to Twitter‘s sponsored Tweets is that Stories is user-generated providing a lower feeling of intrusion, whereas Twitter’s version is Advertiser generated and in theory could and often has no relevance to the user.

The key point behind sponsored stories if you are considering them for your brand or clients is that they cannot link out of Facebook.  Consequently this isn’t a direct traffic driver to a latest offer you may have on your site.  However it can increase fans and engagement with your brand on Facebook.

The other benefit to page owners, is that not all your fans have the same privacy settings.  Just because somebody ‘Likes’ your page it doesn’t mean they will see all of your content.  Using the Starbucks example above if the user had put on their settings they didn’t want to see your photos, sponsored stories can associate those photos with that user, which means they will see them.

Perhaps the biggest issue users may have as more advertisers jump on Sponsored Stories is the fact that they can’t opt out and prevent their image being used.   The ony option is to click the X button and remvoe the story.

To clarify there are seven types of sponsored stories, we have detailed the type of Sponsored story – Story Content – Who sees the story:

1. Page Like – Somebody Likes Your Page – Friends of Your Fans

2. Page Post – Published a post from your page to your fans – Your Fans

3.  Page Post Like – One of your fans liked your post in last 7 days – Friends of the Fan who liked your post

4. App Used and Game Played – Somebody used your app or played your game twice in last month – User friends

5. App Shared – Somebody shared a story from your app in last 7 days – The sharers friends

6. Check-in – Somebody checked in and claimed a deal in last 7 days in your Facebook Places – The claimers friends

7. Domain – Somebody liked, shared or pasted a link to content on your site in past 7 days – The sharer’s friends

Based on the current reaction and the reported increase in effectiveness I would definitely consider using this as a tool.  Potentially at present to increase the Facebook following of a brand, however I’m sure as thigns evolve more options will present themselves.  This is obviously a personal view but it seems to be one that supports Facebook’s desire of not wanting to be seen purely as a DR advertising platform.  Their goal is to get their hands on some of that lucrative brand marketing cash that is still pretty much firmly locked in to established agencies and TV advertising.  Who knows this may help to break some of that stranglehold.


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Best Ads at the Moment

Its been a while since I commented on Hot Ads on TV at the moment but a handful that have caught my eye recently.  They are both completely different ads with wildly different production but both have an element of humour, which potentially explains more about me than great advertising.  If there was one common theme between the ads (which in advertising law isn’t good) you could easily miss what is being advertised especially on first view.

Doggy Dentures

This ad, if you haven’t seen it, is for Pedigree Dentastix, chew treats for dogs that apparently help them clean their teeth. This is a ridiculously simple ad but the whole view of the dogs with gleaming white dentures just works.

Volkswagen

This has polarised  opinion in a few quarters, but in my view is a classic ad.  Once again relatively simple in the sense that the boy dressed in his Darth Vadar costume tries to use the force on various objects.  The darkside Star Wars tune plays throughout and at the end the lad genuinely thinks he used the force when the lights flash on his dad’s VW. Brilliant!

Cadburys

The dancing clothes is a great ad.  Complex fance moves and oversized settings are what makes this ad great.  Technically very difficult to master and film but looks ridiculously simple on screen.  However Cadburys have come up with another tune that just works, even resulting in “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” being in the charts earlier today.

And the not so good…

Comparethemeerkat

Apologies for all you meerkat fans, but I seem to remember in the very early days when I rated the original ad so highly, that I thought the concept could annoy after a while.  Well I think Alexander hit that stage a while back and is now just plain annoying.  So much so, I think I prefer the GoCompare opera man.


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A4U Awards 2011 – Winner of Best New Entrant

The A4U Awards were on the other night, hosted by comedian Rufus Hound.  For those of you not aware of A4U Awards, the annual event attracts the good and great from affiliate marketing and acts as a kind of whose who inthe industry.  Sadly I couldn’t make this year’s event (yes I was invited) due to illness.

There were some great winners at the event including our own network partners Affiliate Window, who did really well, as they always do.  It was a special event this year as the efforts of myself, AW and my team were recognised as “Best New Entrant” this year.  This was largely down to the great numbers we achieved, the strong relationships we built with key affiliates and the huge share of our sector that we captured almost over night.

This award comes off the back of the other recongition we received recently when we were voted fifth in the Top 100 UK Social Media brands #sb100 .  This award and recognition are great honours that recognise the amazing efforts and success we have experienced as an Online Marketing team at Best Buy in the UK.

I would like to thank the team at A4U Awards and the panel for the award.  Of course big thank to AW and the internal team in makign our programme such a success. If the guys at A4U are reading this, please let me win one next year, I promise I will be there to collect it 🙂


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New Series of The Apprentice Starts Tuesday

Whilst writing about the new series of The Apprentice is hardly a normal topic for a Marketing blog, I make no apology for it.  For me The Apprentice is up there with the top programmes on TV.  Both from a creative point of view and the way they have made people understand that a career in commercial organisations need not be boring.

My main hope for this series of The Apprentice is that they have selected candidates that want to be on the show for business reasons, not to try to catapault themselves in to a mini-celebrity.  The likes of Saira Kahn, Ruth Badger and more recently Kate Walsh have been good candidates but seemingly as intent on celeb status than a job with Lord Sugar.

The challenges provide great tests of the candidates talent and commercial acumen, although they quite often focus a lot on sales.  The characters are often so far out in terms of how exagerated they become to achieve stand-out for the crowd, some end up becoming parodies of themselves.

People in my network of friends have often said I should enter The Apprentice as they believe I could do well.  Frankly I don’t think I could put up with some of the candidates and how they behave, so its probably best I stay away.

Anyway, the show starts on BBC 1, Tuesday at 9pm and the candidates have already been unveiled.  We have people from all walks of life including the usual suspects from Sales and Marketing Backgrounds. I for one will be glued to my set to see how the candidates shape up and will expect the losing project manager to go in the first episode.

One element of sadness is that Margaret left the team.  That isn’t a negative around Ms Brady (Peschosolidio), more an endorsement for Margaret.  You could tell both her and Nick had an honest working relationship with Lord Sugar and none of it was forced.  With Karen because she was added to the show it fills a little more ‘done for TV’.

That being said, I can’t wait to hear Lord Sugar say for the first time, You’re Fired!

Oh one other slight negative, I really don’t like the after show half as much now Adrian Chiles has left.


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Using Social Media in a B2B World

Without a doubt Social Media is a really important element of modern life.  Individuals use it to connect with friends, old acquaintances and even celebrities.  Organisations of all sizes are using the likes of Facebook to make contact with their customers.  This doesn’t appear to change, if anything Social Media is likely to play an increasingly prominent role, especially now that Google states it will use buzz as an influence in its ranking.

When I speak to friends who work in a B2B environment they often ask what can they use it for.  I am also asked the same question when I speak at conferences.

Despite the repeated questions on how should B2B organisations adopt Social Media a Bizreport study outlined some interesting and surprising statistics.  86% of B2B firms already have an active Social Media presence compared to only 82% of B2C companies.  However the same report suggests that those B2B firms aren’t making the most of their presence with 32% engaging with their base on a daily basis, compared to 52% of B2C companies.  This is backed up by the fact that 34% of B2B companies aren’t tracking their activity in any way either.

Gut instinct is the same as if I was in a B2C environment. Use the channels in the way they should be used and create approaches that are right and targeted to your audience. The key thing I would advise anybody to do first however is understand why your business should be in Social Media and what is your aim of being there?  Can you offer the audience something they can’t get elsewhere or provide them with a point of view they don’t easily get.

Once you have defined your sense of being (in Social Media terms) you should integrate it into both your overall business processes and your overall Marketing strategy.  The reason for doing this is to ensure it becomes a part of your everyday activity in your business, automatically enabling you to avoid the pitfall of engaging in the stats in the report.

Perhaps more importantly in B2B than in B2C you really need to define what each channel will be used for.  That being said this is still an important factor in B2C however there is also more of an overlap of channels for B2C.  Remember, just because all the buzz and scale is with the likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube you may decide that one or all of these channels are not suitable for your business.

A key part to any social media strategy is the reason for being.  Offer your customers something to engage with, provide a currency that will ensure they want to engage with your company. This will be different depending who your business is, what it does and your position in your sector and with your customers.

For example, if you are perceived as an expert in your field then your strategy will be completely different to if you are purely a distributor of kit.  We need to take one step back to the start of that sentence, the key part is how you are perceived by your customers, not how you perceive yourself.  You don’t need to undertake expensive brand studies just generally ask your customers some new questions, unless you already know the answers.

Obviously in a B2B environment customers are often as concerned by the commercial aspect so if you are in a position to offer something unique for those that engage with you via social media (voucher codes or free services) that could provide a boost to your numbers, however that alone will not necessarily help you achieve your goals unless its a continued programme of activity that provides real additional value.

The whole ethos of being an expert provides real social media gold.  What can you give to your customers that will help interaction and engagement.  A great example is to provide content they wouldn’t get elsewhere.  A builders merchant could provide HowTo guides for builders on ways to save money and time on specific projects such as building a conservatory.

A distributor of electrical components could provide a service to the end user but as an aid for their B2B customers.  The distributor could provide a mash-up of the UK map which is fully searchable and links to electricians in their area, with examples of their work and testimonials.  The distributor in theory could also create income from charging electricians to appear on their platform if scale was achieved.

IT training companies could really demonstrate their expertise by providing a community and forum on their own website where their trainers can answer delegates questions on site and in theory offer clinics at agreed dates to really give in-depth support to their delegates.  This would really add ongoing value to delegates and support them and their employers further in to the lifecycle.

These were just some basic ideas that could be adopted and across a number of sectors.  If you are in a B2B environment, feel free to make contact and I can see if I can devise something specific for you.  Also check out this B2B Social Media infographic