Why your design matters even more now that Facebook’s planning on cutting down organic reach to 0%

The news amongst marketing strategists and growth hackers started spreading like wildfire some weeks ago and if you’ve been following your Facebook stats in the last few years you might have seen it coming. Facebook started testing an additional explore feed to separate all marketing, media, and business communication from the newsfeed in some countries, and many expect for Facebook to eventually roll out the separated explore feed worldwide. It’s being assumed that companies will have to pay to be seen in the popular Facebook newsfeed in the future.

To marketeers and small business owners, this might sound like awful news. To designers and, let’s face it, consumers, this is the best thing that could have happened to us. Finally we’ll only get to see the good stuff! Facebook is about to turn down all the unnecessary, low-quality noise.

From the early days, social media was meant to connect people. The way platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram broke down social barriers is groundbreaking. Suddenly, it didn’t matter where you came from. All that mattered was how good you were.

With the social web, everyone had the necessary tools to show their work. Everyone could build a fanbase, become famous. Thanks to the social web, people could connect based on their interests and no longer just based on their location. Everyone could say and show what they loved. In the early days of blogging, no one really cared about picture rights. Talent and creativity was what mattered and what people loved to share and talk about. People were more than happy to share people’s work. The news about a person found online could have spread quickly. However, companies copied the strategy of how regular people used social apps. Many businesses started advertising themselves instead of highlighting the people around them. They started wishing us a “Happy Friday” and saying things like “It’s Hump Day, finally!” instead of engaging their community in a way people would remind us who this brand is and what it stands for. Brands started using social media like an amplifier instead of using it to connect people, building a community around them to eventually have people “do” social media for them.

What we’ve seen in the past couple of years has a lot to do with what we’ve seen before digital in the traditional media. Traditional media techniques made digital (not social). Facebook updates are just like print ads. Youtube just like TV ads. And street advertising is just what we now know as banners.

It’s become common practice to measure engagement based on how many people (and bots) liked, commented or maybe shared a piece of content a company posted. Only the most progressive brands, the most social brands, cared about how many people mentioned them and did so proactively.

To summarize the case, most businesses under-utilized what I’d consider the biggest potential of social media. The businesses that have done well, however, are the ones that have either helped people achieve their dreams and goals - maybe even helping them make money in one way or another - and businesses that have allowed people express who they are in a snap. And yes, by snap I mean a photo.

Generally speaking, there are two ways to people’s hearts and essentially to their social media feeds. High-quality product or space nicely packaged and designed, and a unique selling experience.

Let’s elaborate on what this means.

The first kind are brands that helped people get ahead in life. It’s of little surprise some of the most valuable businesses are platform businesses. Kickstarter, Etsy, Eventbrite, Creative Market, and EyeEm have been hugely popular because they help people succeed by providing them with the necessary infrastructure to do what they love. On Kickstarter, people raise funding for their projects, on Etsy they sell their homemade goods, on Eventbrite they sell tickets to events, on Creative Market digital assets, on EyeEm stock photography. Of course people spread the word about these businesses because they’re still talking about themselves and about the things they love.  

Then, businesses such as Nike, Hoxton Hotels, and Starbucks do something else right. They don’t shout out loud about their product. They communicate a certain attitude towards life. This approach has worked even for small businesses, such as Brooks Saddles, Kinfolk Magazine, Roam Ubud, Roamers Berlin, Mr Holmes Bakehouse in San Francisco, or the Joshua Tree House in the Californian national park. They’re world known to their sort of target group not because of their extensive advertising budget, but because of the way these products and spaces were designed that makes it easy for people to express who they are and what they stand for by buying those products or booking vacations at those destinations.

But why does it matter now even more than it did yesterday?

In the future, the most prosperous businesses will be the ones who got their brand positioning right. Those who invested in design to raise themselves above others. It’s those sort of businesses that care to bring people together. Today, tomorrow, and always.

 

It's a wrap! November
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Having come back to Vienna for real in May, even months later it still feels like I’m settling in. I’ve been walking around with widely open eyes trying to soak in as much information about local communities as possible. Researching startups, small businesses, agencies, and interesting people, trying to get a feel for who’s around and who I should meet for a coffee (or two). I’ve also signed up for a bunch of events and attended talks I’d usually probably skip. One of this month’s highlights for me has been the Journalistinnenkongress. I’m no journalist, yet as a concerned citizen, I have deep interest in how journalism is evolving and I was lucky to get a ticket through the Sorority network. 

When you realise only 7% of Austrians are willing to pay for their online media consumption, and you know it’s an exception rather than a commodity to be a subscriber to a newspaper these days, it quickly becomes clear that monetisation is a challenge for news companies if they want to remain independent. Something I’ve been pondering about for several weeks. 

This month, I was lucky to be invited to the university where I studied to participate in a strategic workshop and to speak in front of students about career development. As mentioned in my last month’s wrap up post, it’s always important to evolve and learn new skills, not just while you’re still a student, so I spent a lot of time (and money) on Udemy this past month learning new skills and refreshing my knowledge in areas I’m already familiar with.

I watched the Product Management Course, the Growth Hacker Course, and – what I’m most excited about – the Pre-Programming Course, which is a 101 intro to all the buzzwords developers use. I can only recommend this one to anyone who works in tech, as it will close all the gaps and answer all the questions you might have about terms you’ve picked up throughout your career but never questioned. And now that I’m recommending classes, I’d also love to recommend Tim Ferriss’ latest book, Tribe of Mentors

I’ve been working on a new Skillshare class on editing smartphone photos which I’d like to publish some time in December or early January. I have capacities for consulting work and I’m also looking for clients who need long-term help. Should you know someone who needs help with positioning and customer development, don’t hesitate and pass my information on. Thanks a million and happy last days of 2017! 

Monika KanokovaComment
It's a wrap! October
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At the beginning of the year, I said that by the end of the year I’d love to have some time to learn new skills and deepen my knowledge. I wanted to know what works on social media and what’s no longer a thing. Because, frankly, the social web is constantly evolving and it’s hard to keep up.

Often we get so overwhelmed by our daily rut that we just keep doing what we’ve been doing because we know it's worked before. But now, maybe it doesn’t anymore. 

To give you an example, when I published This Year Will Be Different and My Creative (Side) Business, many posted pictures of the books on Instagram. Now, with Work Trips and Road Trips people posted stories, so the news about the book release vanished rather quickly and the sales remained, compared to the other titles, mediocre. It’s become hard to reach people. It’s become even harder to sell on the internet. Especially if you don’t have dedicated budget to finance ads. 

This past month, I haven't done much client work besides working on a website that will hopefully launch very soon. Instead of working on client projects, I focused on reading books I’ve had on my bucket list for a while. Here are the titles: 

Perennial Seller - Will help you understand why people still buy classics instead of going for the latest releases.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing - A must-read for everyone who works in communications, marketing, or sales. 

Service Design Business - A wonderful guide to help you understand all the details you should consider when planning a customer experience, both online and offline.

Captivate - One of the most valuable books I’ve ever had in my hands recently. It’s one of those books you’ll finish and want to start re-reading immediately. Just get it now. Don’t even read what it’s about. 

Killing Marketing - Explains the principles of good content marketing and why it makes sense for brands to invest in long-term relationship building through creating valuable content.

Sprint - If you’ve worked in a startup, you’re most likely already familiar with the sprint methodology. I really enjoyed learning more about the theory behind the practice and was able to reflect on where the company I had previously worked for had gone wrong. 

UX Strategy - Talks about the process of building human-centered products. I found it to be very controversial to what Sprint preaches, yet interesting. 

Branded Interactions - Is most likely to be called the bible of UX, UI, and overall digital design. Everyone who works in digital product management or design should read it. 

I still have some capacities in November and December. Please get in touch if you need help with your online strategy. 

Would you like me to write another book for freelancers?
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(Here is the link to answer the survey.)

It’s the end of October. Which means it’s been almost three years since I found myself in a mouldy room in London. With a leaking ceiling. Without functioning heat. Wondering whether “this” was what freelancing was about: insecurity, shitty projects, lots of struggles. Just the memory of it gives me goosebumps.

Those who know me personally know how much I loved the job at Somewhere I had before. Going freelance was something that while it made sense at the time, wasn’t anything I was planning on doing. I needed to be location independent and had no other option. I had to learn to deal with the situation and do so quickly.

Over time, I have learned that sometimes, we need to fall deep to pick ourselves up in a whole new glory.

My way out of that mess and how I was feeling then was the first book. A book I conceptualized, produced, and financed within three months. I had the idea because I needed to learn how to freelance myself, and the insights of the women were so cool, I thought I should share them, so I did.

It actually still baffles me how many people wrote me after they read the book about how much it made their year different. How it encouraged them to make a leap and go freelance.

Given for the past three years around this time, I was mostly at home interviewing people, transcribing their interviews, editing, or writing, I’m now wondering if I should do it again. Or if I should do something different. I’m also thinking about ways to make it something more.

When looking at the numbers, none of the books were financially feasible. At least not directly. Each one helped me produce the next one, and with each, I still took a personal loss. It’s not even what I would have paid everyone who worked on the books what I believe they deserved for their excellent work. Most certainly, without the three Kickstarter campaigns I ran, none of the books would have been realized. To this day, the biggest benefit I got from writing these books was the feedback I received from the ones amongst you who felt encouraged to create and do so in self-initiative.

I’ve conducted a little questionnaire. It’s for me to learn about your needs and wants. Given it’s Christmas soon and you have probably already heard “Last Christmas” at least once, I’ve decided to raffle five books amongst those who fill out the questionnaire: 

Click here to view survey

Thank you for your help,
Monika

It’s a wrap! September

One thing I’ve learned over time is that when you want to end a difficult period, when you want to take your mind off something you don’t enjoy, you should create something that fills you with joy (or, of course, just take time off, then create something that fills you with joy).

This past month, I didn’t take on any client work so I could focus on repositioning my business. Funnily enough, I don’t remember when I last worked 14 to 16 hours a day and also on the weekends.

I’ve just released the “Social in Hospitality” trend report to shed some light on the social media trends in the hospitality industry. I’ve also created workshop material to help hotel and restaurant operators rethink their interior branding and overall experience.

I’ve decided to really focus on one industry in the future and create a more holistic system to what I do. I love imagining new places, pondering about possibilities, and I love making ideas a reality. I want to work with people in an industry I’m truly excited about.

With help of the incredible Max Mauracher, I just launched my agency website, MKAYstudio. The report is available in English, but also in German!

I’m currently accepting new clients, so please do me a favor and send them a link to the trend report. If you say you found “this” and thought of them, it might be a great way for you to reconnect with them and I’ll have one more person aware of my work. :) Thank you!

 

What changes once you turn 30.
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Did a friend ever ask you how it feels being over 30? (If you are, of course.) Last night, I went out with one of my oldest friends who’s turning 30 next month, and after a beer he paused, looked worriedly in my eyes, and asked what he might have been thinking about for a while. What has changed for me since turning 30?

For me personally, nothing much really. However, what came to my mind was how sometimes I notice people believe that once they’re over 30, their path is set in stone and they’re doomed to do whatever they’re being paid for right now until the very end of their life. Whether they’re enjoying it or not. They look at the younger people around them who do what they wish they’d done at that age, or would be doing now, and they feel like their ship has sailed. They can’t and won’t ever be able to do that very thing.

I often hear how something’s not possible because one hasn’t studied the right subject or doesn’t have the right references. It feels to me like we ask for permission to do something. Like we want to be asked. We might want something, but we wait until someone finally sees our brilliance; our skills we had humbly kept a secret.

We wait to be allowed to pursue whatever we’d like to do and we forget that in the age of the social web, it’s actually never been easier to give ourselves the permission we’re hoping to receive from the universe. Truth is, it might never come unless you prove you’re worth receiving it.  

Let’s take the example of publishing a book. A couple of decades ago, you needed a publishing house to approach you and ask you whether you’d be up for writing a book. Now, you self-publish or set up a blog and you share with the world whatever you can’t keep to yourself anymore. Or if you want to have your art exhibited, you no longer need to find a gallery to take a risk on you. You can simply start an Instagram or a Tumblr feed and curate your art there. The literary agent might find your blog, or an art collector might discover you on Instagram or even Pinterest.

Fact is, references can be made up.

If you want people to ask you to do something, do it for yourself first. If you want to do something professionally, start doing it and don’t forget to share the results online. You can shift industries and careers and get into whatever field you’d like to by positioning yourself within that field. You can and should give yourself the permission to have a voice.

Start talking about the things you want to talk about, start publishing white papers, keynotes, online classes, and blog posts on the very subjects that would be relevant once you’d work in that field professionally. Join the conversation and don’t wait for that magic moment. Don’t wait for someone to offer to pay you for the talent you’re keeping a secret. That someone might never come.

Now it’s time to take the Monday seriously.

It’s a wrap! August
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Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. August’s definitely been a month that pushed me out of my comfort zone multiple times. Having lived in five (you could even say six) countries, I’d say I’m highly aware of the needs and concerns of people with foreign nationalities. Thus, it’s rather surprising my latest project challenged me on multiple levels and did so due to cultural differences.

There are differences in how people from different countries communicate and how much they communicate. There are also differences in how other cultures approach work in general. The project I took on over the summer was with a team from Reykjavik. I now know what we consider the Wiener Gemütlichkeit (Viennese unhurriedness) might feel rather dramatic to Icelanders. One Icelandic sentence I learned but also heard way too often this past month was: “Þetta reddast!” It stands for, “It will work out okay.”

After working on Kickstarter’s side for two years, it was rather interesting to join a team as a direct consultant for a change. It’s not something I had intended to do after leaving Kickstarter, but the request came from within my personal network and I didn’t have anything else to do, so I thought why not.

Of course, once you’ve consulted hundreds of projects, you have a pretty good idea of what works, what doesn’t, what the common hurdles are, and why so many projects don’t meet the finish line. To spare you the details, we had all the red flags I could’ve thought of before going live, and also during the campaign. Retrospectively, it’s of little surprise I plucked several white hairs this past month.

Without going into much detail, but to give you one insight that was crucial to how this whole project felt to me, we didn’t have a working prototype until three days before the launch. A not-so small detail that I wasn’t made aware of when signing a collaboration contract.

It’s highly unlikely you can build a brand, a fan base, a loyal following, and eventually convert them into paying customers without a functioning product. To sum things up, there’s a difference between “everyone loving a concept,” an idea you share and having people hold your product, to them then immediately fetching their credit cards from their wallets because they’re actually willing to pay for it. I’d recommend everyone to check that and make sure you have chatted with enough people before trying to convince them to pay you.  

I’ve most certainly learned what sort of scenarios one should include in a contract. It’s crucial to include all potentials that could go wrong. As a freelancer, it’s much harder to put away financial and emotional hurdles. One doesn’t have anyone on the team to balance out instabilities, so one should make sure to minimize all potential risks. It’s also important to have a system in place to cheer oneself up. Luckily, I had a ticket to reasons.to, an incredible conference in Brighton, that helped me recharge my batteries and write these line with a cool head. Out of a Viennese Café feeling all the Gemütlichkeit vibes.

To end on a positive note: I’m very proud SOS Kinderdorf and I made progress with the initiatives we’re working on, and that Matt Trinetti mentioned me in his newsletter (subscribe! It’s one of my favorites).

I’m still free for projects if you need help with something.

Now, onwards and upwards!

What there is to say about becoming the person you aspire to be and other thoughts about professional dreams

You know how there are those dreams that feel too scary for us to dare going after? It’s a conversation I’ve been having repeatedly over the past couple of weeks and each time I talked about it with someone, I knew I had to write down my thoughts. Then I forgot I had that urge before the universe confronted me with that topic all over again. And so, here you go:

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How many times have you heard someone say they wanted to become a writer? But then when you talked to them a little more, they were too afraid to sit down to write and do so every day. How many times have you heard someone say they wanted to become an illustrator, only to realize they’d never show their drawings to others?

When you have a dream of who you want to become and you say to people that’s what you aspire to be, it feels like you tell them who you are. To you, it sounds like you know who you are and now people know too. Having a dream, an aspiration, helps communicate your identity and shout into the world what you as a person stand for. Additionally, without doing whatever activity needs to be done in order to become INSERT YOUR DREAM OCCUPATION HERE, you remain in the safe space of no possible failure. When you don’t do the work to become the person you want to be, you might never find out your dream isn’t as glamorous as you thought, but also you won’t have to look into the mirror and recognize you’re not as good as you’ve imagined you’d be. When you do nothing, you can’t be bad at it. It’s as simple as that.

Becoming something, becoming someone, takes a lot of practice. It takes getting up every day and trying again. One must keep practicing and not mind failing and failing over and over again. Some dreams, however, are so big they paralyze us, regardless of how brave we seem to be to the outside world. It’s often much easier to pursue things that allow excuses for failing. It’s easy for me to publish books in English because if someone pointed out they weren’t that good, I could always say I’m not a native speaker. Nevertheless, and just because I do something others might admire, it doesn’t mean I’m living to my fullest potential. It doesn’t mean I pursue the things that scare and paralyze me the most. It just means I get something done that seems to paralyze many others. Especially those who aspire to be writers.

I always felt one lives to their fullest potential if one ruthlessly pursues what’s way out of their comfort zone and is THEIR OWN big dream, not a fun project to do in their spare time.

I’ve realized it’s much harder to pursue things where failing feels scary. It’s scary to pursue an idea when you don’t have the self-confidence to say you can easily pull it off or find an easy excuse why it’s not as good as you’d imagine “your ideal you” could do if they tried. You might simply fear to be rejected on what you would articulate as your biggest dream if someone asked you.

When people ask a published writer how to become one, many respond: “Write!” I used to laugh at this, but lately, I’ve realized it’s actually all that is needed.

Practice makes perfect, and only those who go through the pains of self-realization and acceptance of their own shortcomings, yet have the determination and willingness to break through, will eventually be able to say they’re who they want to be. Or maybe they might realize they don’t actually want to be that person after all. And then, the next scary chapter in their life will start; having to find out who they want to be, which means having to push through the fear of not being worthy, not being good enough all over again. A vicious circle.

 

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