Somewhat surprising news emerged recently in the social media world. According to Global Web Index, Google+ has surpassed Twitter to become the second largest social network in the world.
Here’s how the numbers break out: Facebook still holds the top spot with 693 million active users, Google+ has 343 million actives and Twitter comes in at 288 million.
Google+ has had quite a journey over its short history. It started with a bang and millions joined in droves. Then, it went through a period of diminished use and got labeled a “ghost town.” But the site has been steadily gaining interest and traction to get to where it is today.
I’ve always liked Google+. Some have unfairly overly compared it to Facebook, and although it does have some similarities, it’s a very different site with differing strengths and appeal. G+ users aren’t subjected to advertising. It also offers a cleaner and simpler user experience, not to mention that it’s a great site to connect and engage on a deeper level with others that have similar interests.
A couple recent innovations that I think have helped G+ dramatically include the introduction of Communities and allowing brand pages to more easily connect with consumers. Both moves allow finding and connecting with others to be a much easier and enjoyable exercise.
It’s great to see where G+ has landed. Of course, with the competitiveness of social networks, things can change in a matter of months.
Converged media has been a hot topic the last two years and is picking up speed in 2013. This concept represents a blurring of the lines between the three types of media: paid, earned and owned.
I don’t think there are many who would disagree that this is happening and will continue. But another important issue is: What type of marketing professional will flourish in this environment and bring added value to his or her brand?
A word that comes to mind to describe this professional is: diverse. Fluency only in a single area, be it advertising, public relations, social media, branding or others is career and brand limiting. The value add comes from multi-disciplinary professionals who understand all of the converging types of media at the strategic and tactical levels and can fit them into a bigger, more seamless picture.
The disciplinary silos must come down. They should be replaced collaborative, cross-functional teams that can work together across the media spectrum.
All of this doesn’t mean specialization has no place. It simply means marketers must adapt and grow in their understanding of media, and work together more effectively. Converged media demands it.
The explosion of social media hasn’t been good for branding. Somewhere along the way, branding seems to have developed a bad name (although still not as bad as public relations).
I saw a comment the other day on a social media platform to the effect that the concept of branding was outdated because “we’re all connected now.” It’s not an isolated comment these days, but rather it represents what many have stated over the past few years in one form or another. The underlying belief behind this is that any attempt by a company to develop and promote its brand is inherently based on lies. That there is some type of spin being created to trick consumers and lure them into believing something false.
This type of thinking shows really a lack of understanding about what branding is all about. That’s why I like this post about the Zappos brand because it tells the story of what a brand really is: an extension of the culture (people) that work there.
Branding is about taking what is true about the company and presenting that to consumers, not making things up. Ideally the true culture and values of the company add up to a distinct value proposition in the minds of consumers.
Because consumers can talk to each other now via social media doesn’t invalidate brand development and communication efforts. Indeed, it only make these efforts more important. Companies sometimes fail, because they’re filled with people that can make mistakes. That doesn’t mean the great lie of branding has been exposed.
It’s a digital horse race and marketing execs aren’t running.
Here’s an interesting post from Mark Schaefer that would indicate that perhaps marketing execs still don’t place the same level of importance on digital marketing when compared to more traditional marketing channels.
Schaefer’s post is based on a Harvard Business Review report that stated only nine companies in the Fortune 500 would be regarded as having a “highly digital” orientation.
Couple this finding with reports that digital media spending still significantly trails traditional spending and it would cause one to wonder how much importance marketing execs place on digital. And this is given the fact that digital media channels are growing much more rapidly than traditional.
A couple factors could be hindering digital growth in the marketing world: 1.) The reluctance of some execs to change and 2.) The need for a better demonstration of ROI from digital media.
I think everyone agrees that digital will move forward. The question is how quickly will it grow in the marketing world?
Often, it’s not the lack of aspiration that leads to mediocrity, but the expectation to excel too quickly. We live in an always on, deliver today society. While it’s certainly important to set goals, patience in achieving those goals is just as important.
Most great success stories took time to blossom. These stories were marked by hard work and determination that ultimately brought a vision to life. Periods of setbacks and advancements were common, and they’re part of all journeys to success today as well.
Temptations abound to shift priorities to new shiny objects, trends or developments that promise quick success. But continually doing that assures never really achieving much of anything. Sometimes the best thing to do is stay true to your first strategy, only commit to doing it better.
Does the age of social media and connectivity spell the end of “branding?” Many people claim this is the case. In reality, it’s not true.
Social media does present some unique challenges to brands. People can complain publicly when expectations are not met. These complaints, if they persist and spread, can also damage a brand. But, brands for the most part still control their own destiny.
The best definitions and concepts related to branding often come from company CEOs. I had the chance recently to listen to some great branding wisdom from Greg Brown, CEO at Motorola Solutions, a company that’s had great success developing its brand internally and externally.
Here are some of the insights he offered:
“Brand is the image you create and the experience you deliver.”
“Implement a brand framework around a cultural identity.”
“Create a brand purpose. Is what you’re doing fitting that purpose?”
“Determine ‘how’ the brand speaks, not so much what it says. Be concise, human and imaginative.”
These aren’t comments that indicate a loss of the ability to develop a brand. Much to the contrary, developing a consistent and powerful brand is still very achievable, despite the prevalence of social media.
Bigger isn’t always better. In fact, when it comes to content, shorter, bite-sized pieces are often (but not always) better. For marketers and content publishers, competition for attention and speed of information almost necessitates shorter content in many cases.
Shorter content allows more frequent publishing, which is needed when the average life of a tweet, Facebook or Google+ post is only hours.
It can also be saved and built into lengthier content pieces. Entire books have come out of a of series of blog posts. If the content is collected it can be used for any number of long-form applications.
Bite-sized content also allows fast communication. Views can be shared more immediately while news is breaking.
Passive audiences are also more likely to consume a short piece of content than a piece they fear will steal their time.
Long content pieces will always continue to have their place and importance. But with content marking, saying it as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality are becoming as important as ever.
Here are a couple excellent (but longer) posts on content brevity:
6 Reasons to Make Your Big Idea Small
What’s So New About Content Marketing?