Posts in Online Marketing
Your idea is worthless and yes, you can and should talk about it with everyone

Have you ever met someone who told you they have an idea for a project or a business but couldn’t talk about it?

I always wonder why that is; could it be they’re scared I’ll hear their idea, immediately drop everything I have been working on myself, and steal it? Are they scared that if they tell someone, they’ll have to finally do something about it? Or is it because they have an idea they think is good, but don’t actually want to commit themselves just yet and think no one else will start working on it because their idea is so unique and brilliant it hasn’t crossed anyone’s mind?

In the knowledge economy, I’d say ideas are worthless.

There are millions of ideas being shared online every second. It’s unlikely I haven’t heard or come across the idea this very person doesn’t want to share with me.

It’s very unlikely I’ll drop whatever I’m passionate about to start executing on something that doesn’t feel like a calling to me already.

If you share an idea with someone who works on their own projects, why should they suddenly make time to pursue someone else’s idea? Especially when the idea is no more no less than an idea; a worthless cloud of thoughts and imaginations.

Ideas aren’t special. It’s the execution that turns decent ideas into exceptional ones. It’s the networks one builds, and groups of fans and followers who prove an idea is worth pursuing.

The team at EyeEm started working on something very similar to Instagram around the same time Instagram was launched. Now everyone knows what Instagram is, but how many know of EyeEm? And how many knew EyeEm when it was just the German alternative to Instagram and not what it is today; a community-sourced stock photo platform.

Before Spotify there was Napster, and while we all know Napster, it was the execution the team at Spotify delivered that made it a successful company worth talking about; they most likely all knew Napster after it was launched. I doubt anyone at Spotify would’ve tried building Spotify if it wasn’t for Napster; a company that was up and running, yet very differently.

How many times have we all heard, “I also had the idea for Facebook, Sims, period panties...whatever?!” Would we know any of those brilliant ideas if they hadn’t been executed with such dedication and excellence by the people who went through the pain of turning an idea into reality?

If someone shares an idea with me, my immediate reaction is I want to help them succeed at turning their ideas into reality, So the next time someone wants to know more about your idea, share it with them. They will much more likely become your fans than your competitors.  

Editing and monetizing your smartphone photos.

Do you sometimes wonder how some people manage to take stunning shots? Do you feel a little discouraged because you can’t afford all the expensive gear professional photographers and leading Instagrammers have? You shouldn’t!

In this class, I’ll guide you through photo editing and show you step by step how to create stunning images you took with your smartphone. Additionally, I’ll share how you can monetize your smartphone photos to supplement your freelance income.

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.


How to setup a website for your business.

A case study

Launching a business is a big deal; deciding on the name of your company, what logo to use, and how to communicate your services or show your products. Often, once the website is up, one hardly ever takes a look at it again. But then, just like spring cleaning should be done once in a while, so should the digital cleaning spree happen every now and then. In other words, you should know what people think of your business based on what you show to them on your website. You should regularly look through what you say your services are, your latest references, reflect, and you should regularly check whether your company’s profile mirrors what benefits you deliver to your clients.

Just like people, businesses evolve too, and thus it’s important to keep track of how people perceive your business every time they google you. Your website is your chance to make sure people find the right information about your services, know what to book you for and know how to best contact you.

A couple of months ago, I was lucky to be invited to shape taliaYstudio’s digital appearance. The studio produces amazing work, yet nevertheless, in the past, they had faced a glass wall when communicating to potential clients. While talking to the founder Talia Radford and looking over their online appearance, several things occurred to me. First, their website was a portfolio of work the studio had previously created. It was setup just like a student portfolio where one demonstrates the work without communicating the benefits the project delivered to the clients. When planning the content of your website, you should first consider who your target group is and what you want them to do after they’ve discovered your site on the internet. In the case of taliaYstudio, the aim was to clarify to potential clients what they could hire the studio for and why they’re the best choice.

We scheduled a series of meetings to work on taliaYstudio's communications strategy; first, we asked ourselves what clients the studio is interested in working with because it’s much easier to find the right clients when you know who they are and how they could benefit from your work. It’s important to know how to respond when people ask you what your services are.

During our strategy sessions, it quickly became clear to us that Talia and her team are enthusiastic about technological innovation and they like to help innovative clients communicate the benefits of their developments through design. A perfect example is the project Thermobooth, which taliaYstudio developed for OSRAM to showcase the potentials of OLEDs in the consumer sector.

Following our analysis, the next step for us was to change the way taliaYstudio’s products and services are being communicated on their website. You’ll notice it’s all about the benefits for the client, and it’s clear what you could book the studio for and if your company can find use in taliaYstudio's services.

Looking through the portfolio of taliaYstudio’s past projects also gave us the chance to look at different ways to use social media to communicate about past and future projects. For example, we identified a way to better utilise Instagram to spread the word about the studio’s Jelly Series, for which we have developed a shareable online and offline communications strategy. Generally speaking, when working on a strategy for social media, you need to think about how you could give people incentives to take a picture of, or at least talk about, your product. For physical objects, the best way to market them is by cleverly utilising the packaging. To give you a practical example, the Jelly Series necklaces now come with a photo mission and the studio regularly organises little gatherings to learn more about the people they address with their work.

The grand finale of our collaboration with taliaYstudio was the Salone di Mobile 2015 in Milano where the studio could practice their new communications strategy on potential clients. The excited call about the results that I’ve received afterwards testifies the positive results achieved by a little time we took to reflect on the business Talia wishes to run. I am glad I could facilitate the reflection process and help build a new digital strategy for the studio. If you need help with your digital appearance, please don’t hesitate and get in touch.

How do you market the invisible?

A case study

The hardest services to market are the ones consumers don't actively perceive. Sound, scents or any kind of user and customer experience that people only notice in a negative context are much harder to spread the word about compared to the obvious products and services one can touch and see. At the same time, utilising sounds, scents and well-executed user experiences in your brand’s marketing mix leave a lasting impression when done well. I believe that today, it’s much harder to stand out and make your brand be remembered because of visual incentives. You might agree with me that the market is oversaturated and customers are much more likely to remember how they felt while experiencing your product instead of seeing an ad in a magazine or on the street.

Nevertheless, the people in charge of marketing budgets often spend their marketing allocates on the obvious. It’s very likely that they’ll invest in classic visual advertising because they aren't aware of how alternative mediums can benefit their brand.

The team behind Raven and Finch, a Vienna-based sound branding agency, doesn't just know the advantages of branded sound identities, they are also familiar with the challenges that come with communicating what marketing managers could book the agency for. Let me give you an example to make the case more specific: one of the best examples of the power of sound is the use of music in James Bond movies. I guess now that I’ve mentioned the famous spy, you immediately have the famous melody in your mind. You’ve probably never realised that what has shaped the power of the Bond brand is the strategic use of melodies and sound sequences.

Strong brands have already learned their lesson and use sound to market their products. Then again, have you ever thought about how your brand sounds and what impression people have when dealing with your company? Given the statistics of SMBs paying attention to the sound of their brands, I guess not. On the other hand, looking at what companies, such as Coca Cola, have achieved through their audiophile approach, it might be about time to have a closer look at the sound experience of your brand. But let’s get back to the question of how to market the invisible; in this case, the services of Raven and Finch.

Together with Raven and Finch, we’ve discussed what benefits the agency delivers to their clients, which then enabled us to develop an umbrella communications strategy to market their services to marketing managers who are not yet aware of what one can achieve with sound. It became clear to us that the way to go was by addressing the sort of clients the sound branding agency wished to work with. Given how progressive the use of sound in the marketing mix is, the communication strategy to showcase the benefits of working with Raven and Finch had to start at an educational level. In our meeting, we conceptualised an online magazine that will showcase different user cases of successfully executed sound identities. To launch the Pursuit of Sonic Value, we chose a more traditional approach and decided to mail the first issue of POSW to existing clients, press and people Raven and Finch admire for their work in paper form. The future issues of POSW for you to learn more about the benefits of sound branding will be available online and you can receive them to your mailbox. Just signup here.

If you’re wondering about how to best market your business, just give me a heads up. Let’s start the conversation.

What really matters when you tell a story?

Have you ever thought about why some people tell much better stories than others? And why some books are better than others? 

When I decided to start writing longer pieces, I first read the book, No Plot? No Problem!. The author asked all these questions that made me actively think about what stories I enjoy. As you can imagine, pinning it down took a while, but I now know that I don’t like to read long descriptions of surroundings where the author forces me to see ‘his' world through his eyes. Instead, I want authors to focus on the plot while giving me the freedom to fantasize about the setting.

It’s utterly different when I listen to people's holiday stories; that’s when I want to hear all the subjective judgements. I’m not at all interested in where a person went or what they’ve done. I want to hear about their personal impressions of the places and what they felt in the moments. I hardly ever know what or where exactly the places are that they’re telling me about. What I want to know is why I should visit. 

You might now question the professional context here; why am I trying to make you reflect on books and then talking wildly about people’s ability to tell a good story of their last vacation trip? Bear with me, I’m getting there. 

Yesterday I downloaded the book Talk Like TED, because for me, TED speakers are the most engaging storytellers. I did so, because I’ll be speaking at the re:publicanext week and will give a talk called "Community Power: From Prototype to Market.” For the first time I’m actually nervous. It’s not that I haven’t spoken at events before, it’s just that this time it feels different. So far I've analyzed three kinds of talks: the ones that teach something new, the ones you do to represent a company to explain what the company does, and the ones that are supposed to change people's perspectives on a topic.

The TED book mentions that when preparing for a talk, you should start asking the right questions. The right questions don't include, “What do you do?" It’s not even, “What are you passionate about?” The real question to answer when speaking at events is, “What is it about the industry/this idea/this company that makes your heart sing?” or in other words, “Why does it matter?” 

I’ll now go back to reading and preparing my slides for next week. I would love to hear from you and learn what makes your heart sing these days, what you’re working on and why it excites you.

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10 time-saving tips and tricks to do social media in small businesses

It's not easy to do social media while running a small company or an indie business. Here are some tips and tricks that will help you do a great job on the web while leaving you enough time to focus on what matters to you most at work.

Questions to ask when launching an app

A case study

What does it take to launch an app? How does one create an app people love and use repeatedly?
If you ask me, I’d say the time where one could launch any old app is long gone. The app market is oversaturated, as people are no longer enthusiastic about checking out the latest thing and are in fact decreasing the amount of apps they keep on their phones.

So, the question remains, how does one successfully launch an app?

Recently I worked with a team in London on launching their new app. It was an investor backed venture, which enabled the founders to build the product with a design and development team they trusted. After finalising a working version of the app, they needed someone who would help to spread the word and I was the person they hired.

When they first contacted me, their app had not been submitted to the App Store. They were not sure if hiring a marketing person before the launch made sense but as you cannot launch an app overnight we agreed that I would come to London immediately. Our aim was to launch mid-December but for several reasons, explained below, we decided to postpone the launch to spring.

When I agreed to join their team as an online marketing consultant I assumed that the app was market-ready and that they just needed someone who would draft a communication strategy, hire the right people and train their interns to be able to work independently.
Upon arrival I learned that the testing phase had only started that day, which then changed my role from being a marketing strategy consultant to someone who does a lot of grassroots work and helping people to build the voice of the brand. As a community manager I see myself as the person who bridges the gap between user, product and the communication team. Being there during the testing phase had proven extremely beneficial.

I believe it’s getting harder and harder to get the attention of people online. Every day we are confronted with so much information that it becomes hard for upcoming startups to spark the interest of their target group. We started with no signups and had to find a way to talk to our target group directly. We needed to find people who were really into football and then had to find a way to interact with these people offline and build a community, ensuring that this wasn’t just another anonymous app. I figured the best place to start was in London’s pubs, with big screens and a good selection of draft beer.

I immediately registered the brand on Meetup and launched a group where I invited people to watch football in different pubs in London. We scheduled Meetups for all televised matches, which gave us a reason to go to pubs every single weekend. Because we had our own Meetup group, we could slowly but surely grow our online, and offline, community. If you need to find like-minded people has an amazing algorithm to help you reach your target group.

Our first step was to print stickers and cards we could give to people. Everyone loves free stuff, however small. We also had some shirts and hoodies made for our team to make it easy for people to find us.

When I was a teenager I used to do a lot of promotion work, so I know how much easier it is to approach strangers and talk to them about something when you wear a garment that gives you some sort of an identity. Additionally, because we were all wearing the same hoodies, people often approached us and asked what we did; a reaction I’d call a double jackpot.

After talking to about 80 guys in different pubs, I began to identify certain patterns; I also asked the team after every match whether they've used the app, whether they rated the players as the app "asked" them to do. After the response of “no” several times, I decided to gather everyone for a product session.

If you want to build a successful app then I don’t want to hear: “I’m not really the target group. I don’t use many apps.” Because truth is, the majority of people don’t really use apps and if you cannot build an app you’ll use yourself several times a week, you’ll not only have a hard time getting people to use your app but you will have an even harder time convincing people that using your app is worthwhile.

If you want to build a great app, then you have to consider ‘yourself’ as the target group and start asking what types of apps you use and why you use them.

Take a piece of paper and a pen and write down every app you use and also why you use them and how often. I guess the majority of apps on your phone are there because they either save you time, money, help you get organised or show you how to better connect to the people who matter to you or because your mates use the app.

Our product meeting turned out to be a ‘truth and honesty’ session. Here are some of the questions I asked:

  • What apps do you have on your phone and use?

  • Why do you use these apps? – I then asked ‘why’ for every app they named.

  • Why should people care about this app?

  • What do you offer to people that they don’t get elsewhere?

  • What would make your team use the app at least once a week?

  • What would make you use the app several times a week?

  • How do people usually solve what you’re offering when they don’t have this app? And what is their biggest problem with it.

When you have answers to these questions, you’re ready to start mapping out the improvements that are needed to build a better product. A product that has potential to get traction, what you really want is to build is an app people use over and over again, an app that creates a habit. I’d recommend reading Nir Eyals; ‘Hooked’ for further thoughts on this matter.

As soon as you spend £500 or more on trying to get people on-board who don’t return and if they don’t offer you feedback then it’s a waste of your money. £500 is already more than what’s necessary to prove if a concept works or not.

When you start testing your app with people you don’t know, look at how they use the app; listen carefully when they ask questions, watch what screens they skip and what screens confuse them. Also ask them how they currently deal with the issue you’re trying to solve and don’t forget to ask what their biggest criticism of the product is.

When you build an app, think about how you’ll re-engage users once they’ve downloaded it and also what you can do for them so they spread the word. Also, something that’s often forgotten is the way that you get people on-board. Don’t just write a bit of copy to explain how to use your app and why, figure out a way to engage them so they really understand what your app is for. Here are some good examples you can learn from.

I am a firm believer that word of mouth is the most valuable marketing strategy, much better than splashing out expensive advertising that takes a while for people to notice and has no guarantee of them actually buying the app.

Once you’ve built an attractive product that people like using, you should start looking into hooks you could implement to encourage people to spread the word amongst their friends. No-one will ‘share’ that they joined an app immediately after they’ve signed up, there is no social leverage and no one wants the potential embarrassment. Sorry to disappoint you but I think the ‘share button’ will be skipped if you don’t give the user the possibility to properly engage and find value in your product.

If sharing is an essential part of using your app that’s great; just make sure that when people see something that’s been shared using your app, add a hook that adds value to other people so they will also download your app. The biggest apps have not grown because of advertising but because people who were using the app were happy to spread the word; build a product people want to talk about!

Now you might ask what you should use your advertising budget for; I’d say that after you’ve found a way to connect with your users offline, you should do all you can to show your appreciation. Engage with your community and give your early users and testers something in return for their feedback; buy them a beer, crisps and raffle tickets to events they might enjoy. Make sure that the people who have already bought into your product find value in it and have a reason to spread the word for you.

My initial goal in this project in London was to make myself redundant. I wanted to take away insecurities, help create a voice and train interns to help them grow into their new role. Even if I’m not with the team for the launch I know they’ll be fine without me because they now know how to advertise on social media, what type of content to use and most of all, how to ask the right questions. Also, they know how to reach me if they need advice or have any questions. If you have any, here’s my email address: