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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Finding the sweet spot for content and social media driven strategy

Earlier this month, my work days were filled with the review of a relatively new page from my employer's Japanese presence. Specifically, it was to do with a significant acquisition from this past summer, and what it meant (and continues to signify) for our current and potential clients. A tremendous amount of investment used to be required, in traditional marketing models, to ensure that the public would become aware of such news. But in a social media driven world, strategy (and its optimized implementation) has become the key to successfully conveying the right message to the right subset of the populace.

Customers generally think they know what they are looking for, and perform web based searches accordingly. However, there are several types of content available from the following types of sources:

  • Traditional "broadcast" style content - that is, what businesses wish to convey to new and potential customers about their offerings.
  • Anecdotal, social media driven content - what existing customers, with their own biases and varying levels of credibility, have discussed about the business and those same offerings.
  • Third party (e.g. Forrester Research) sources also provide useful content and competitive comparisons.
Now, I invite you to examine the crudely drawn Venn diagram below (I have never claimed to have strong graphic skills, and this example amply - and literally - illustrates why):
Showing the intersections of traditional marketing, content available via social media, and the body of information customers are seeking, in Venn diagram form.

The shift to inbound marketing means the focus on marketing content generation has moved from the area shaded in yellow, to the areas shaded in blue and green. I would posit, however, that the green area is of the highest value to potential customers, as it can be substantiated by a third party. Given the overall burgeoning of all online content, honing in on the truly valuable content has increasingly become challenging.
The enablement of social media driven content to be presented in aggregators and newsfeeds on official business sites is represented here in the area shaded in orange. This body of content too, is increasing in volume and prominence for B2B.
There also exists content that customers don't realize consciously that would be beneficial to them and thus are not seeking - which may come from any of the areas in yellow, orange, or pink. Even when this is optimized for the most salient topics or keywords, the right people are not choosing to search for them, so it remains difficult to discover.
From this last point, I would hope that part of content strategy for businesses includes the effort to identify and optimize these useful pieces of their online presence. And I look forward to doing exactly this for several of my clients in 2014.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Recognizing "wild ducks" in oneself and in the workplace

Congruent, yet independent. A Mallard mother and part of her brood, Stadtpark Pond in Vienna (July 2013)
The above photo, of a duck and her ducklings, was one of my (unsuccessful) entries in an intra-organizational contest just last month. Coincidentally, the notion of "treasuring wild ducks", metaphorically speaking, had been one of the subjects covered during my employer's Centennial commemoration. There is a 14 minute video with beautiful animation and story-telling, if you happen to have the time and inclination.

As those following my +Mayo Takeuchi Plus presence may have realized some years ago, ducks are the most common type of wildfowl that I can readily record, in both still and moving images. This year in particular, the local park has seen a bumper crop of ducklings. Their precocial abilities still manage to impress me: aside from the youngest ones emitting a high pitched, urgent peeping call when they lose sight of their mother, they know how to independently seek edible matter, swim, dive, stretch their as yet flightless wings, and cluster together for safety when they sleep. Compare such competence with most mammalian young!

In the business context, "wild ducks" are the non-conformists. To a wild duck, being fed (remunerated) is not tantamount to being domesticated. Pioneering and creative, they do not have to hide amongst the masses, nor will they always flock with them. Last December, I was reminded of this when a lone Red Crested Pochard drake spent a few weeks commingling (but not socializing with) the sea of Mallard and Mallard-esque ducks, also in the Vienna Stadtpark pond. He departed, as mysteriously and as suddenly as he'd arrived, at the beginning of 2013.

However, unlike that drake, human "wild ducks" don't necessarily stand out so clearly. They may not be vocal or behave in an extroverted manner during meetings. They may not even behave in an alien or unusual way, or openly flaunt convention and due process. Rather, their inner thoughts, reasoning, ideas, and perhaps a suspension of preconceived notions of limits - all or some subset thereof may reveal their inherent wildness. Detecting wild workplace ducks may take months or years, and ideally, a combination of open-minded yet supportive management and a sense of self-confidence that has been earned and nurtured, would allow for such individuals to maximize their potential.

Does your employer nurture the wildness that might lurk within its staff? Do you perceive yourself as a wild duck? And, what benefits may there be to being tame? Could we all become a flock of wild ducks without drawbacks?

These are some of the questions I've been mulling of late.

Friday, May 10, 2013

How THINK is useful both as acronym and habit

Some months ago, I shared a meme to Facebook. It was a photo of a poster that said:

"Before you use Facebook, send a text, tweet, or blog,


T - is it true?
H - is it helpful?
I - is it inspiring?
N - is it necessary?
K - is it kind?"

"Think" also happens to be my employer's slogan since the 1920s (the Japanese translation is the imperative form rather than the infinitive, 考えよ). And as an INTJ, I both value and enjoy thinking (and perhaps over-thinking). Years ago I'd read about an abridged version of the acronym "THINK" - that is, it had omitted the "is it inspiring" criterion. Oftentimes since then, I'd found that my observations or insights meet only half to three quarters of the remainder of these criteria. As a result, perhaps I've become even more taciturn than in my youth - although even back then, I believed in the concept of "live and let live", which also meant I wouldn't try to meddle in others' affairs in a desire to be similarly treated.

What has this all to do with my professional views, one may well ask: it was this article on Ted Nguyen's site about the increase in rude behaviour via social networking services. Despite its bias towards English speaking (and in the case of the accompanying infographic, American) sources of stats, intuitively it is not a stretch to consider that a larger number of people spending more time on SNSs will mean not only an increase in interactivity via those media, but also more spontaneous behaviour. When tempers flare, the physical act of typing privately into a device and hitting send is deceptive, in that it seems to distance ourselves from accountability for our words, and also from the urgency created by looking someone in the eye when addressing them with the exact same sentiment.

Real life creates stressors and balances alike in most lives, bringing both highs and lows to everyone. Facebook, on the other hand, is a place of skewed PR - some will prefer to only share highlights and positivity, whereas yet others may lean towards perpetually complaining about circumstances or those around them. The biased newsreels we see from our contacts may exacerbate irritations we choose to feel about said individuals, more than when spending time with them in person. Since using SNS/SMS to interact with others results in losing tone of voice and other non-verbal cues, text-only communication leads to misunderstandings and other complications, which in turn can result in substantial damage, occasionally permanent in nature, to interpersonal relationships. Humourous examples of more transient instances of confusion have been documented extensively in sites like  Damn You Auto Correct!

If more of us chose to apply THINK the acronym to our SNS based interactions, surely we can curb this insurgence of rudeness. The above linked article says one should consider how one's grandmother would react to what one may be considering to share, but my personal attitude has been to only post anything that I wouldn't mind a prospective employer seeing. I'd like to think this post serves as an example itself, of embodying the THINK acronym, though perhaps it's a bit low on the inspirational scale.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What's in a Title?

Alice from Dilbertverse performs SEO and mocks her boss.

After nearly three years in this role, my title changed from "Web Effectiveness Analyst", which was deemed slightly cryptic, to "SEO Specialist", which I hope will not be associated with too many negative connotations (it doesn't, internally to my employer, at least). Those familiar with the fundamentals of SEO would know that the prominence and density of a targeted keyword matters in titles; be they in HTML files, PDFs, videos, or indeed, LinkedIn taglines.
So far this year, however, my deliverables have shifted from traditional consultancy - which implicitly involves knowledge transfer - to more of a training role, which has meant explicitly and convincingly conveying SEO best practices to clients. As early as 2011 I'd begun to co-author best practices guidebooks for an external client (primarily operating as a B2C entity), and this month I used the second of such to create a customized curriculum in the form of a presentation and series of live demonstrative investigations. This I covered over two days last week at one of my client sites.
In March I trained an internal team in similar principles, but with emphasis on B2B, and in Japanese. This necessitated acquiring a greater IT and topic related vocabulary than I'd naturally developed and maintained thanks to my association of the language with comfort and cultural ties, rather than professional goals.
Search engine optimization has been, in my view, a bit of a misnomer, unless one talks about optimizing an internal (site specific implementation) of a search engine.
In a nutshell, one could claim that implementing SEO means making web sites and its collateral conducive to being crawled and indexed by search engines, so the changes are applied to online content, not to search engines. Their algorithms have of course evolved, but more to mimic human language processing, and to address so-labeled "black hat" practices that become too pervasive or too effective to ignore: cf. the infographics of SEO Evolution, courtesy of Greenlight.
Thus, regardless of what I call my role, the language I use, my audience, or medium of communication, my message remains the same - striving to create easily find-able content online requires an understanding of one's desired audience, and the willingness to continually streamline, update, and manage one's web-based presence.

About Mayo

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Professional: As "Senior Enterprise SEO Strategist" in IBM's Digital Marketing division, I provide consulting and training services for both internal and external clients. Formerly I was involved in Natural Language Processing, software localization, quality assurance and documentation authoring.
Personal: INTJ Nikkei Nisei ex-patriated Canadian who takes photographs and enjoys Baroque through late Classical music. The G+ page shares some of the "best of" photos.