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Last time out I gave an overview of how we approach creating a brand at Organic. We looked briefly at the three layers of branding, building from core values out to the visual identity, and how this approach leads to a consistent brand. This time we’re going to look at the branding workshop, the tool that will yield most of what is needed to create a brand.
A branding workshop is a session, which varies in length but is almost always done within the space of one working day, where we get together with the main client stakeholders. Once we’re in a room together we go through a variety of activities that will get stakeholders talking, thinking, putting things down on paper and generally going on a journey of discovery.
At the end of the session everybody should have contributed at each stage, and there will be a mountain of raw material from which we can go away and begin the process of fashioning your brand.

What’s the point of a branding workshop?

The main reason for carrying out a branding workshop is to gather all the opinions, views and input from the client about their brand, and what they think it is or should be.
The workshop is suitable for rebrands or brand refreshes, but its contents will be adapted accordingly. They can often be more challenging in these contexts because existing thoughts, experiences and feelings of the brand colour perceptions. This means there can be a lot of work to do in getting people to change their views. It can also be the case that a rebrand or refresh means you have to work around components that cannot be changed, such as the name.
But aside from this the branding workshop also serves some important functions for the creatives carrying out the workshop and building the brand.

A platform to challenge the client

When people come into a branding workshop they often feel they know the brand inside out, or what they want it to be. Some stakeholders may even be slightly dismissive of the whole branding process.
The workshop forces the client to think about things in depth, and gives the opportunity to point out any contradictions between what the stakeholders want, what is achievable, and what their business really offers.
Sometimes clients don’t like being challenged, but because the process of the workshop is collaborative it makes pushing them feel safer for all involved. Quite often the challenges will come from within the stakeholder group, and we end up mediating the debate, which is usually fun.
At the end of every branding workshop I’ve delivered the stakeholders always think differently to when they came into it, because they come to see things from different perspectives, including that of the outsiders’ (the workshop leaders).

A watertight roadmap

When you have stakeholder thoughts and ideas on things like values, names, colours, images and so on, it yields a strong position when presenting ideas back to them.
As long as the decisions made during brand creation and design are aligned with the outputs of the branding workshop then critiquing and feedback should be predominantly subjective. This makes the process of brand refinement easier, and again provides a useful way to guide the client if their feedback begins to take the project away from the agreed direction laid out after the workshop.

How long should a branding workshop be?

This depends on the scope of the project. A smaller scale branding project, one with few stakeholders, might need a workshop that is about a half-day or potentially less. If more than four stakeholders are attending, or the scope of the project is larger and more detailed, then it may need the best part of a day.
It’s important that activity is focussed, and discussions don’t go wildly off topic (which is very easy in the heat of the moment). We always factor in breaks in the workshop, including lunch if it’s an all day session.
Structuring the workshop effectively also helps. Some activities are quick, while others take more thought, some are very creative, and others involve a more methodical and systematic way of working. A smart structure makes sure the energy and momentum is maintained, while ensuring the focus needed to do the hard graft.

Brand workshop exercises

The exercises we use on our branding workshops vary from project to project, but they all cover the same basic areas. Each stakeholder has a handbook to fill out as we go through the exercises, and these are collected in at the end to give us a concrete reference. Up on the wall throughout will be a brand map, which we fill out as a group. We usually make an audio recording of the session too, with client permission of course.
We’ll tailor the exact nature of the exercises to the client and their industry, but a workshop typically contains activities like:

  • Warm-up exercise – This is an icebreaker that gets people thinking about brands and branding, talking and comparing thoughts, and involves input from us too, so we all feel like we’re in it together.
  • Values exercises – We’ll usually do two or three values-focussed exercises, getting clients to drill down on their values, categorise them and debate amongst the group.
  • Brand statements exercises – This group of activities gets stakeholders to work alone and in groups to draft up mission, vision, and position statements. These are compared and discussed.
  • Telling the brand story – These storytelling exercises let each stakeholder convey what they think the brand story is. It sounds touchy-feely but these yield important insights for tone of voice and identity.
  • Identity exercises – These activities will look at things like names, logos, colours and imagery to get a feel from stakeholders on the things they like or don’t like, and what they feel suits their brand.
  • Persona exercises – Here we’ll look at the brand’s personality, and also touch on customer personas too.
  • Pitching exercises – To really crystallise stakeholders’ views of the brand we quite often break them into teams and get them to pitch the brand to us, but from different perspectives. Some might be pitching to an investor, others to a potential partner, or customer. This can get competitive but it forces stakeholders to focus on the essence of their brand.

This doesn’t cover everything in our branding workshop, but gives you an idea of the scope of the sessions and what needs to be covered. We may focus on specific areas in more depth if we’re doing a rebrand, again it all depends on the project scope.

What comes after the branding workshop?

Once the workshop is complete we go away and distil the findings down into a brand perception report. This document lists out each activity and the results from each. It also contains our perspective on the outputs, and we’ll highlight contradictions and disconnects between stakeholders, and offer our insights on how they can be overcome alongside our recommendations for the brand.
Once stakeholders have read through the perception report we’ll typically have a call or short meeting with them to discuss and refine to a point where everyone is happy to move forward.
Then the work of brand creation begins. Which I’ll look at next time.
If you feel your brand (whether new or existing) would benefit from a branding workshop then check out our content services and get in touch; we’d love to help.
 

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs you’ll know that I think that branding, and getting it right, is important to an organisation’s long term success. I believe that brand values are important and should act as a foundation on which you not only build the rest of your branding, but should also inform employee behaviour and mindsets. And you’ll also be aware that one of the major failings I see in most brands is not delivering on their brand promise. Building a brand has to take these two elements into consideration.
But how do you go from those two basic pillars to fashioning a complete brand?
There’s no short cut. It takes a lot of thinking, analysis, hard work and a bit of intuition. Sure you can knock up a logo and a colour palette in a few hours and slap it on your stationery, but that isn’t a brand. It’s part of it, but not the whole picture. And if you’ve done it in a couple of hours it’s probably going to be pretty generic.
In this series of articles I’m going to look at the way Organic goes about building a brand for its customers. I’m not saying this is the only way to tackle brand design, but it’s the way I do it and it makes sense. I make no claims for originality in approach either; this is very much a case of standing on the shoulders of giants.
For this instalment we’ll look at the three basic layers of brand design, and in subsequent posts we’ll delve a little deeper into each.

What does your brand value?

This is where I believe all brand design projects should start, and that goes for building from scratch or refreshing an existing brand.
Why?
Because your values drive your behaviour, and if you want customers to have an experience that is as positive as it can be then your values and behaviour must be congruent.
Deciding on your brand values sounds simple, and most people will be able to rattle off a few words that they think encapsulate their business:

  • Professional
  • Driven
  • Adventurous
  • Blah
  • Blah
  • Blah

And the list goes on. The problem arises when people get lost focussing on values that are, really, aspirational and not ones that actually reflect the state of their business and how it operates. These values are usually the big ticket ones that sound impressive, and offer the customer the moon on a stick. Which is why they can come unstuck and negatively impact your brand.
Think about it. If a brand chooses a value such as ‘innovative’ it sounds great, and who wouldn’t want to engage with an innovative brand. Problem is if you’re not actually innovative then you have a disconnect that can affect staff morale, because they quickly realise you aren’t innovative and then feel like a bunch of shills. And it also negatively impacts customer relationships, because they’re expecting innovation and what you’re serving up is more of the same.
I’ll go into different types of values, and how we help businesses work out what their values are when building a brand, in a later post. But let’s just say that this is the single most important part to get right, and it can be a difficult process deciding on them because it takes a lot of reflection and honesty to get them right.

Shaping your brand personality

Brands do have personalities, and the best have a brand personality that is consistent and identifiable. This doesn’t mean you have to be like Innocent (who definitely do have a personality that is all their own). Your brand’s personality should reflect its values, the people who work within it, the service or product you provide, and should connect with your customers.
Your brand personality is founded on your values, and comes across most clearly in your tone of voice and choice of imagery. So nailing down the persona of your brand, usually in a broad archetype at first, is an important stage in building a brand.
Once you have your brand personality defined, you can use that and other factors to build up a tone of voice. How we talk, the words we use and how we use them, play a major part in how people perceive our personality, and it’s the same for brands.
But words are just words, and the actions of your brand will also define its personality. So thinking carefully about how your personality is put into action by your people is crucial. We’ll explore brand personality more in a later post in this series.

Creating a brand identity

So we’ve built the core of our brand, layered on top a personality and tone of voice, now we get to the part of branding that most people think is a brand: the brand identity. We’re talking name, logo, strapline, colour palettes. All that glossy, sexy stuff.
Creating a brand identity takes real skill and a fair bit of time. It’s also the place where we can get really creative with little hidden messages and foreshadowing of your brand values. You can see some great examples of logos that do a little bit more than look nice in this article by AdWeek.
Brand identity is important to future success because it is one of the most recognisable aspects of your business, and if well crafted it can stick in the mind of your audience.
Like everything else your visual identity should be informed by your brand values and personality. It should also take into account your industry, and hopefully do something a little different that makes it stand out. If you’re an accountancy firm then dark blues have a strong pull, making people feel safe and secure (especially nervous stakeholders). But how will you stand out if you’re just another navy blue logo?
When building a brand identity it’s important to think about how it will work at all scales, from a business card, to your website, to the side of a truck, or a massive billboard. I’ll stress again that each element must relate back to the core of your brand. If it doesn’t then it isn’t helping you create a cohesive brand that gives customers a unified experience from initial contact through to purchase and beyond.
These are the foundational elements that need consideration when building a brand. They are, of course, equally valid for doing a brand refresh but they can take potentially more work to achieve because you have to try and change ingrained assumptions and beliefs about the brand.
But knowing the components is all well and good. How do you actually go about uncovering and creating these elements? That’s one of the creative services we offer at Organic, but over the next few articles I will give a you a glimpse of what goes into building a brand from the ground up.
 
 

Promises, promises: Why your brand promise is important for success

Can you remember the last time somebody broke their promise to you?
Maybe it was recently when a colleague promised they would get that important task done before lunch, only to swan off for their victuals leaving your inbox empty.
Or for those of us with children, perhaps you’ve experienced the earnest promise from a little ray of sunshine that they absolutely, definitely will tidy their room. But at bedtime you walk in on what can only be described as The Battle of The Somme with Lego and cuddly toys.
How did you feel when that promise was broken? Upset, disappointed, angry. Despairing (for the parents out there). That’s normal.
But is a broken brand promise really such a big deal? It can be.
 

What is your brand promise?

Your promise to customers is a core, and sometimes unspoken, part of your brand identity. It is what you tell customers, either explicitly or implicitly, they can expect from your business. It sets their expectations on the quality of your products or services, and gives them a feeling about your brand. This feeling can be very visceral, which means that when the promise is broken your brand is in for a nasty reaction.
But time and again brands fail to deliver on their promise for a variety of reasons. Or it comes to light that, behind the scenes, a brand does some things that clash with the external messaging they keep blaring out (as if we didn’t already know it deep down in our hearts, but didn’t want to acknowledge it).
And when people lash out at a brand, either as an individual disgruntled customer or as a wider movement mobilised by social media, it seems to come as a surprise to said business. Maybe that’s because, according to Gallup, only about 50 per cent of customers expect a brand to actually deliver on what it says it will. So if brands know half of us don’t trust them anyway then maybe it does come as a shock that, when they deceive us or fail to live up to expectations, we get so angry.
 

Why you should keep your brand promise

A promise isn’t a binding contract, and yet we get more hurt, in a more profound way, when a promise is broken than when somebody breaks a clause in a contract.
Why?
Because a promise, if it is really understood and accepted as one, entails a certain closeness of relationship, there’s an element of trust in it that is exactly opposite to a contract. Accepting a promise is a sign that you trust this person; their word is their bond. Whereas a contract is in effect saying “I don’t really trust you to uphold your end of the bargain so please sign this piece of paper so I can beat you with a stick if you fail to be a good egg.” For that reason a broken promise wounds us, causing an emotional reaction.
And when we have emotional reactions we often act irrationally and with great force. The broken promise can, potentially, permanently sour a relationship, be it with a friend, a colleague, or a brand.
That’s why your brand promise matters. And it’s why so many brands struggle with brand identity, customer loyalty, and wider engagement.
If you’re interested in developing your brand or want to develop a new brand then get in touch with us to see how we can help. 

What’s it worth? Why brand values matter

What drives you? What shapes the decisions that you make on a daily basis? A multitude of factors no doubt, from the immediate needs of the here and now to things that happened a long, long time ago. But there’s something that underpins it all. Your values.
Even if you can’t put your finger on what your personal values are right now they’re there, colouring how you see the world and how you behave within it.
But we’re people. It’s easy to see why values are important to us and how we operate. But for a business? Do brand values really matter?
We say yes, because your brand values are the foundation on which the rest of your brand identity sits. And therefore all your marketing and communications should also be driven by your brand’s values.
An in-depth branding study by The Partners, Lambie-Nairn, Millward Brown, and BrandZ reveals some pretty compelling evidence that branding is vital to business growth and value.
They looked at leading brands over a 10-year period and found that those that had a compelling proposition, powerful brand identity, and show-stopping advertising saw brand value grow on average by 168%. Meanwhile those perceived as lacking in those areas grew by just 21% on average.
Where it gets interesting though is here. Brands perceived as having a strong proposition and brand identity but weaker advertising grew by 76%. And brands that had flashy advertising but a weaker proposition and identity? They grew by…27%.
So if you consider that your brand values are integral to building your brand identity you can see that they matter more than you think.
 

How do values impact your brand identity?

A large part of your identity as a person comes from your internal values. How you treat people. What you do for a career. Ethical choices you make. Right down to the clothes you wear and how you style your hair. They’re all impacted to a greater and lesser extent by your values.
Is professional success an important value for you? You’re probably going to be pretty driven, focussed, direct in how you deal with people, always with your eyes on the prize. You probably sacrifice some parts of your personal life to give more to your career. Binge watching Game of Thrones isn’t high on your list of priorities.
It’s the same for brand identity: values direct a brand’s behaviour, looks and more.
If you’re starting completely from scratch then even elements like your name, strapline and visual identity (right down to colour palettes) can and should be influenced by your values.
If you’re looking at your values as part of a rebranding exercise, then you need to look long and hard at how your business operates and see how that aligns, or doesn’t, with your current brand values.
A strong brand identity requires that any inconsistencies be fixed. And that means you either change the values to reflect the brand’s actual offering and behaviour, or you change the behaviour to reflect the values you aspire to. Unfortunately you cannot be a slave to two masters, so something has to give. It’s a tough decision to make but you need to be honest, as there’s little point having internal values that don’t fit with how your business operates.
 

Does it affect your brand strategy?

All brands need a strategy if they’re to achieve their goals. Otherwise your brand runs the risk of getting blown wherever the wind takes it rather than charting its own course to success.
To be successful a brand strategy needs to drive everything forward to the company’s purpose.
It should understand your customers and their needs. It should be consistent. And it should increase loyalty from your customers.
If you don’t know your brand’s values, and how they relate to your offering and your customers,
it seems like it’s going to be a real slog to get a strategy that is customer-centric and consistent.
So if you want a strong brand strategy you probably want to take the time to work out your values.
 

Where do values sit in creating a brand?

It’s pretty simple really. Your brand values should be at the core of defining and creating your brand. Once you uncover them and have all the stakeholders aligned then everything else should build logically from there.
It’s common to see some brands with values like “professionalism”. Well, hate to say it, but don’t you expect that from any business you deal with? And if they don’t deliver on that sort of basic then you go elsewhere.
Brand consultant Paul Hitchens calls these “expected values”. His advice is that they shouldn’t be at the heart of what you do unless you can redefine what you mean by them. How are you professional in a way that your customers wouldn’t expect? Maybe you’re making efforts to raise standards in your industry by delivering seminars or creating influential whitepapers. In that case perhaps you can have professionalism as an important brand value, otherwise it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board and try a little harder.
And of course if the values you decide on after much painstaking work, and use to shape your communications, don’t align with what you deliver. Well. You’re in for problems. But that’s a whole other story.
Does your brand know and understand its values? Get in touch and see if we can help you get to the heart of what your brand means to people.

We’ve all heard the tales of woe from the film industry. Online piracy sites and torrent clients have created a ‘get it for free’ culture. The increasing quality of legitimate on-demand media sites like Netflix and Amazon Prime means that people would prefer to experience films from home. And the rocketing price of a trip to the cinema (how much for a small sweet and salty popcorn!) is putting a damper on people’s desire for a trip to the flicks.
It’s easy to put the blame on digital, and changing consumer behaviour, but once Pandora’s box is open you can’t go back, you have to adapt. And that’s what experts from the British film industry will be discussing at the Organic sponsored panel at 2016’s Chagford Film Festival.
The event is free, and will be held at the Globe Inn in Chagford on the 27th of September at 2:30pm. The panel is made up of leading experts from the British film industry, all of whom have experienced the impact of digital on their own area of specialism as well as the industry as a whole.
Discussing on the day will be:

  • David Sproxton. Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Aardman. David has grown the company from a two-man partnership to one of the leading animation studios in the world.
  • William Todd-Jones (Todd). Todd is a director and movement consultant, and you will have most definitely seen his work. He’s contributed to films such as Harry Potter, Batman, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and many more.
  • Julia Baines. An award-winning producer, Julie is a leading figure in British and multi-party productions. In 1994 she founded the independent production company Dan Films, and has produced a wide variety of films with veteran and new directors.
  • Laura Giles. Laura’s career has spanned corporate event and video production, advertising, managing, and marketing and communications for the British Film Institute. She has also produced short films and the award-winning documentary Sons of Cuba.

The panel will be exploring the dangers that the rise of personal media devices, on demand video, and the proliferation of free content presents. But more importantly they’ll also be getting to the root of how the industry can embrace the opportunities that are on offer.
With digital having such a huge impact on every sector, this kind of discussion needs to happen if individuals and businesses are to continue to grow and thrive. So come along and see what insights the film industry has to offer on digital transformation and success in the digital landscape.

On Tuesday 26 July 2016, we held an illuminating event to shine a light on emerging social media trends, looking at how, by embracing change, organisations can better equip themselves for the road ahead.
#TheSocialStandard was held at The Rooms in Browns on St Martins Lane, where one of the speakers was Marisa Thomas, Head of Social at Organic.
Here Marisa follows up her presentation, ‘Staying Relevant’, by pressing the case for putting relevancy at the heart of your social strategy.
We have more customer data at our fingertips than ever before. Yet so much of it is wasted. By understanding our data better and leveraging the resulting insights more effectively, we can deliver more relevant content, on the most relevant channel, and in the most relevant format for our users.

Defining social relevancy

In the social sphere, relevancy is a term we’re all used to using, most commonly in one of these contexts:

  • If we were talking about ads, we may look at relevancy score to help us find out how it performed.
  • If we were setting up targeting, we’d be thinking about how to make sure the people we’re reaching are relevant to our brand.
  • If we were talking about content, we’d normally look at how the content is relevant to our brand message.

The aim of my presentation was to explore the concept of relevancy more deeply. What is relevancy and how does it impact what we do? Are we using relevancy data to help us serve people better content? Or are we using it simply to help us shout louder?
Furthermore, are we thinking about what’s relevant to our customer at any time of day, or during any given day of the week? Do we consider how our content needs to be relevant to the same person at different points in their journey?

The social difference

No longer typically approaching us at Organic wondering whether to be on social, brands are now interested in how to do social better.
But, while we’re thankfully no longer in the position of often having to justify the need for a social presence, we do have to persuade brands that social will never work like a direct marketing channel.
Rather, it’s part of a wider digital picture, which cannot simply be measured in terms of:

  • Follower numbers
  • Number of likes
  • Reach

Why not? Let’s start with follower numbers. Put simply, followers do not equal customers. In an era where organic reach is declining, efforts are being wasted on growing follower numbers on channels like Facebook and Twitter. That time could often be spent getting to understand your current community and growing their engagement and advocacy.
Moving onto likes, 100 people could have liked your content but if you reached 1 million, what would that that really say?
And finally, when it comes to reach, we could reach one million people with an ad, but they could all have hated the content. This is why relevancy is crucial.

Getting the KPIs right

Brands are rightly focused on how social can impact their bottom line. I’ve been clear on what we should be against, so what should we be looking for social to do? And how can we use relevancy to reach our targets?
Let’s begin with some better KPIs.
Engagement rate is a positive way to look at how your reach and engagement indicate your relevancy performance. And it’s far more powerful than relevancy score alone. As consumers, we’re aware that we’ll see the content again, so this represents a commitment.
Action rate. This is the most powerful KPI, and really helps us start to move customers down the funnel. The user is saying, ‘I’m interested in this.’
Data capture is a tricky one, but by knowingly allowing their data to be captured, the user is opening a clear channel for further communications. Follow-up communications are key here, and social is simply the first step.
Mentions. Advocacy doesn’t come easily, and mentions indicate sentiment – both good and bad – and tell us how we can improve. At this point it’s especially important that we listen.

Choose your channels wisely

Gone are the days of ‘create once, publish everywhere’. While there’s no need to be on every channel if there’s no case for it, each social channel on which you have a presence needs its own content.
As a rule of thumb:

  • Facebook – for push and sales
  • Instagram – for brand and storytelling
  • Twitter – for customer services and events
  • Snapchat – for flash deals and 1:1 moments

None of these channels are the same, so it makes no sense to treat them as if they are.
Think about the value of your content first. The question should be, ‘What value is being added?’ rather than, ‘How many messages can we put out?’
Say, for example, you’re an anti-virus software brand. What value could you bring to your customers on Instagram? Think about which channels you let into your social suite and focus on those you can do well.
So to sum up, in our view, less is more. It’s far better to get two or three channels right than simply to collect them.
Finding the right format
Breaking the concept of relevant channels down further, we need to think about the next destination for our users. This is where format is key.
Is a landing page the most relevant for a given piece of content – would a canvas card or instant article improve the user journey and increase the likelihood that your users will act? Is a video going to say it better than a long-form post? Will a carousel showcase your breath of product better?
Thinking about format at the start of your content ideation will help you land messages better.
Summing up
So why is this all important? Why not focus on what’s only relevant to the business?
Primarily, because people have woken up and are fully aware of the ads they see. That’s not to say that they loathe branded content. It’s just that they crave something that fits into their busy lives. We can’t afford to think only about what we need to achieve. We have to think about how we can enrich our customers’ lives.
What we need to master is when it’s right to join in and when it’s right to stay quiet. And what we can achieve here is a harmony where branded content can disrupt and feel native and the same time, and this is something we’ve not been able to do before.
#TheSocialStandard is just the latest in our ongoing series illuminating of events for marketing and management professionals. Join our mailing list below so you won’t miss out on future opportunities to learn from expert speakers, share ideas with your counterparts and expand your network.


Or get in touch if you’d like to explore working with an agency that knows how to deliver results and drive performance.

On Tuesday 26 July 2016, our illuminating #TheSocialStandard event shed light on emerging social media trends, with a series of fascinating presentations followed by a panel discussion on the future of social.
Amongst the panellists at the event, held at The Rooms in Browns on St Martins Lane, was Anna Slingo, Social Media Manager at the Met Office. We caught up with Anna after the event to discuss some of her insights on the topics raised during the day.
Organic: How did you find the #TheSocialStandard?
Anna Slingo: Really interesting! I especially found it interesting when we discussed analytics and how to pull out the parts that are meaningful. It was great to share similar ideas with likeminded people.
(Measuring social success was the focus of the talk given by Andy Sitta, Social Media Consultant at Organic. You can see Andy’s presentation here or read his accompanying article on social analytics)
What was the most important outcome of the panel discussion in your opinion?
I think we all agreed that social is constantly changing. But it really depends on what area you work in. For the Met Office, Twitter is still our biggest and most engaged platform with so many future opportunities, but for advertisers this is different. Knowing what works for your brand is key.
Moving onto specifics, one of the key themes of the event was the search for future-proofed social strategies. How in your opinion can organisations ensure they’re flexible enough to cope with the ever-changing social landscape?
Stay up to date! See what others are doing and only take on board new technologies or channels if it’s right for you. At the Met Office we’re looking at Snapchat but not rushing into it. We’re seeing if it’s the right channel for our brand.
Do emerging channels and technologies necessarily mean greater investment of time and money in social? Or is it a case of targeting efforts more carefully?
Social is constantly growing and I think greater investment is needed and a better understanding of the massive opportunities available. It’s better to target your efforts carefully rather than rush into being on all channels if you can’t provide a consistent and engaging presence for all these different audiences.
How do you strike a balance between being ready for big technological changes and making sure not to over-invest in innovations that could still essentially flop?
That’s a tricky one! When do you invest in new channels and when do you wait and possibly miss the boat? It’s all about staying up to date with new developments and deciding when you can invest properly in them. No point doing it half-heartedly!
If you could advise brands to get to grips with just one of the near-future developments in social, what would it be?
Bots seem to be the future and a way of making customer service faster for both you and the customer. This is something we are looking at as a way to get the latest forecast to as many people as possible – in the way they want it.
Did any of the questions from the attendees stand out? If so, what were they?
One attendee asked about developing their customer service on social and how to start doing this. It was great to be able to provide her with a real-life example of how we did this at the Met Office.
Many thanks to Anna for sharing her thoughts with us.
Join our mailing list below so we can update you with news of our forthcoming events, where you can learn from expert speakers, share ideas and expand your network. Or get in touch if you’re interested in working with an agency that knows how to deliver results and drive performance.
 

Earlier this week we heard about the introduction of Instagram Stories, which now seems to have rolled out everywhere. The new feature lets you share all the “moments of your day”, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile forever.
As you share multiple photos and videos, they appear together in a slideshow format: your story, seems a bit like SnapChat, right? So why introduce it.
The main reason Instagram is giving is to stop people ‘over-posting’. With Instagram Stories, you can share as much as you want throughout the day safe in the knowledge that the photos and videos will disappear after 24 hours and won’t appear on your profile grid or in feed.
But is that the end? No, there’s more. Instagram is also offering a Snapchat-esque collection of text and drawing tools, to help you bring your story to life in new ways. Allowing you to be more creative and edit your photos in more ways.
Maybe the biggest change with the new technology is there’s no public interaction with the new stories feed. Followers can’t comment, like or share posts. Followers can however Direct Message the poster.
Other features for story posts allow you choose to feature a particular part of your story by posting it on your profile, great to highlight a certain area or image.

But what do our experts think?

Social_Standard_1“Since Facebook failed to acquire Snapchat it’s been desperately trying to come up with its Snapchat killer. It’s too early days to see if Stories will become the next Periscope to Meerkat, but my prediction would be this is going to be huge for brands and influencers. Instant storytelling has now been made easier, and the order of content on Stories means Instagram has found a solution to its doomed algorithm update, which stopped content from showing in chronological order. However, I can’t see Snapchat loyalists and users jumping ship anytime soon.”
– Marisa Thomas – Head of Social, Organic
darren_gallagher“For me Instagram Stories is a destroyer of dreams. If I want the truth, i.e. people waking up and without (real) filters, I’ll go to SnapChat, and I don’t often. If I want to peruse the beautiful, real or fake, I head over to Instagram. Never should the two worlds collide – it becomes too much like… life. I want my models photoshopped and my products perfectly positioned. Backstage is not the place for me. So yes, I think this will contribute in some way into killing off Snapchat or diminishing its popularity, but is it for the best? I don’t think so. Keep the two worlds apart.”
– Darren Gallagher – Marketing Manager, Organic
Social_Standard_3“Has Instagram just copied Snapchat? Absolutely! But to be fair, it’s only natural to adopt concepts that simply work. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. From a strategic point of view, it was a brilliant move. Insta/real moments are now available to everyone. This will probably stop the outflow of Millennials to Snapchat, although users will still use it for private moments (for now). It’s certainly a big news for brands as it was very difficult to build audiences on Snapchat and paid promotion proved to be very expensive – only affordable to the richest few. Now brands can build on their presence on Instagram. It is truth that at the moment, Instagram Stories can’t be shared or liked, but it will still be great for awareness campaigns and it will give brands an option to go for exclusivity (users can interact with the story by sending a direct message to the creator). Also remember, people will likely use screengrabs and share the best stories on their channels anyway – as it often happens with Snapchat. Another positive effect of this major update could be a rise in the quality of content in the feeds as the ‘unpolished’ shots can be shared through Stories now instead. At the same time, it will allow Instagram to become more ‘real’.”
– Andy Sitta – Social Consultant, Organic 
UPDATE – 10.08.2016:
Less than a week after the release of Instagram Stories, Facebook has unveiled its Live Selfie feature. This new addition to your news feed is fully integrated with MSQRD, the popular selfie lense app which was acquired by Facebook in March.
This move was expected by most observers, but it had been assumed that the MSQRD integration would happen on Instagram. By rolling out this feature onto Facebook first, the tech giant is making a serious statement about taking on Snapchat.
What does this mean for brands? Probably not much right now, as monetization of the new Facebook lense feature doesn’t seem like something that will happen this year. However, for our audiences, this could be a game changer that leads to users spending more time using the app, providing a much welcomed opportunity for engagement.

Why technical SEO is the foundation of success

Back in olden times, let’s assume some time around the Archean period, there was only technical SEO. You could bung up a website and it would be ranked simply according to how many keywords you could stuff it with – or how many you could hide as white text on a white background. Many sites didn’t even consider that keywords needed to be relevant to the site’s content, just as long as they had traffic heading their way. Therefore, highly searchable terms like ‘Britney Spears’ might put in an appearance to sites that might not immediately be associated with mid-nineties America’s favourite popstrelle. Content didn’t even need to be that good. In fact, you could pretty much lift another site’s content, or create link farms, just as long as the traffic rolled in and there was a chance one of the right people would stay. It’s fair to say that early doors there was a somewhat scattergun approach to generating web traffic. Less savvy sites (of which there were many given the web’s infancy), in the hopes of capturing a percentage of web customers, would woo people to pages simply by flinging popular keyword-jammed content up, relying on technical SEO alone for reach. With the exception of more discerning businesses and brands, actually appealing to or holding onto customers was less of a consideration then getting as many people as possible to your shop front in the first place.
To stop the web becoming a melee of links and irrelevance, a more refined approach was needed and search engines soon adjusted their ranking algorithms. Google swiftly accommodated the central search territory, thus converting the company name into a verb, and other directories and search engines fell by the wayside (bye bye HotBot UK). As the leader of the search terrain Google elected a keyhole approach to search surgery rather than permitting sites to butcher content and machete through search pathways as they had done previously.
Motivated by the opportunity to make advertising revenue, search approaches were – and continue to be – refined to support the needs of those doing the searching. Users increasingly sought and expected specifics and would abandon within seconds sites that weren’t fit for purpose. Google penalised unnatural links and the stuffing of pages with irrelevant tags by lowering those pages’ in the SERPs. Today, we’re in the luxurious position in which users can expect to be rewarded with quality content in response to their searches.
Indeed, thanks to its Knowledge Graph enhancement, Google has been able to take the next logical step and serve users with content – often in the form of answers to questions – directly in its SERPs. Since 2012, the search engine’s growing ability to resolve queries for users, without the latter having to navigate directly to the source of the information, has been controversial. But it follows Google’s broader strategy of putting the user first, serving him or her relevant, high-quality content as efficiently as possible.

Technical vs content-led SEO: battle or allegiance?

There’s been a battle raging for a number of years between proponents of technical SEO and those of content-led SEO. The reality is that the two are intertwined.
Content needs to be found, but it also needs to work hard to keep and convert customers, and to have them returning for more. Unlike in Costner’s The Field Of Dreams, it’s not the case that ‘If you build it they will come’. Users won’t come to your digital party – or ball game – unless there is a good reason to. Not all content is created equal, of course. There are some basic guidelines that can ensure users can access and engage with the content they want from your site:

Make it

Create great content that is of use to your target audience. Evergreen content can generate traffic and interactions for years. Topical content, on the other hand, creates a buzz but dies off quickly. You need both, of course. As long as the language surrounding the content is searchable, and the content itself relevant and sharable, then you have quality material that will last the course.
Content can be generated in the form of copy, video, info or social graphics, gifs, pictures, and so forth. Understand the forms of content that work best for your target audience through qualitative and quantitative research, recognising that tastes (in tandem with technology) evolve constantly. A/B testing different media containing similar content is a great way to isolate which work best for you – essentially the same content can be published as a white paper or a podcast, for example.

Spread it

Amplify your content by spreading material via your social platforms. This is the best way to target your existing followers and encourage sharing that may attract new users. On the whole, content that generates engagement with comments and shares is harder working than content that simply elicits ‘likes’.

Shout it

There are people out there who are ready to rate particular brands and products. These are desirable assets to your ambassador programme, which can involve ambassadors on different levels. If your company promotes baking goods for instance, a platinum ambassador might be Mary Berry, whose reach is stratospheric and endorsement of huge value. A gold level ambassador might be one of the contestants from The Great British Bake Off. If they can endorse one of your products then their followers will likely be positively influenced. Involving a silver ambassador might mean drawing upon a popular food blogger to access their reach, while a bronze ambassador is an individual with some degree of influence and a fairly significant following.

Use PR

Make use of public relations to further amplify your product or service. Engaging PR in online activities – particularly when something high profile or exciting is taking place – means you can expand your message to very targeted audiences and increase engagement with what you have to offer.

Make it discoverable

Place your content on sites where it can be discovered. Make use of landing and front pages to direct visitors to your desired content. In the early days of the web there used to be ‘news’ pages, but increasingly sites promote fresh activities and information on blogs and social channels, as well as on banners on pages their visitors head to first.

Flog it

Amplify the noise around your message through using media buy. Tactically displayed advertising that is tailored and relevant to users is welcomed and not intrusive. Beyond anything else, the content you create must be something that your content publisher must care about. Customers know what they want and will readily ditch irrelevant sites, so the quality and relevance of the copy must be authentic to meet customer needs and keep them coming back for more.

Stay on Google’s good side

In some cases, the most important first steps towards better optimisation involve not what you have to do, but what you must stop doing if you are to defend and improve your ranking in the long term. This applies even if your black-hat or borderline SEO efforts have been largely successful so far. As Google’s algorithms become ever more sophisticated, there is always a chance that the next update will be the one that finally penalises you for breaking or stretching its Webmaster Guidelines. To take one example, paid links in the form of ‘guest blog posts’ may have brought rewards for several years, but Google’s position on these is unambiguous.
As long as your technical and content-led SEO approaches are focused on satisfying the user above all else, your chance of suffering a penalty that could damage your brand for years is greatly diminished.
That’s not to say, however, that technical SEO doesn’t have other work to do. For example, the routine task of disavowing poor quality or ‘spammy’ backlinks in Google Webmaster Tools is not undertaken because of a direct benefit to the user. Rather, it helps to convince Google that you’re not trying to manipulate your position in SERPS by building an artificially inflated link profile.

Technical SEO still puts people at the centre

All of the above is only useful if your site is structurally sound and can be found. If your site is just a few pretty off-the-hook pages without the necessary research and insight into what your customers need, want and are looking for, then you’re already fighting a losing battle. Technical SEO actually underpins your reach, engagement, authority and depth.
At Organic we recognise that change is the only constant. The material and intangible needs of people are central to all search. So while algorithms, spiders and satisfying search engines are important, quenching your customers’ thirst for content that fulfils needs effectively and with minimal clicks, often in-platform, means that success is accessible. It’s critical that sites are fast and mobile-friendly, crisp, and easy for robots and people alike to navigate, otherwise no matter how shiny and impressive your content is it will not be discovered, let alone engaged with.