Sunday, June 15, 2014

Austin's Incredible Growth In Pictures

Austin is booming.

From 2000-2006, it was the third-fastest growing city in America. With an estimated 885,000 people, it's now the 11th-largest city in the United States and Austin has roughly doubled its population since 1985.

From 2000-2010, the population grew by 20%. From 2010-2013, it grew by another 12%.

This population explosion is fueled by an annual economic growth rate of 6% - red hot even by emerging market standards.

To give you a sense of what that looks like, I used Google Street View's time lapse feature. It helpfully goes all the way back to 2007 (all images courtesy of Google).

The Intersection of 3rd & Lavaca

3rd & Lavaca, Austin, Texas 2007

3rd & Lavaca, Austin, Texas 2014

South Congress Street - Looking North Toward the Capitol of Texas

South Congress Street, Austin, Texas 2007

South Congress Street, Austin, Texas 2014

South Lamar Boulevard - Looking North-East
S. Lamar Blvd, Austin - Looking North, 2007
S. Lamar Blvd, Austin - Looking North, 2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Impact Of Social Media Is Absolutely Measureable

The Facebook Like button.
You can measure that.  
Photo: Flickr/Sean MacEntee

Somewhere around 2009, a myth took hold that social isn't measureable.

This falsity has rooted itself so firmly in the minds of marketing leaders that almost every social leader at almost every brand deals with "the ROI question" almost every day.

It's time to set the record straight.

The impact - or ROI - of investing in social media can be measured with more precision than almost any other type of media.

The social technology landscape is amazing, and getting better every day.
All of the major social networks - Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter - have built sophisticated targeting and measurement capabilities.

As I've noted in earlier posts, you can now put the right message in front of the right person at exactly the right time. And you glean a wealth of data from those engagements.

Social response platforms (SRPs) (full disclosure: I work for Spredfast) can tell you exactly how your social content performs. These tools report back to you not only "impressions" (how many people saw your content), but also "expressions" - a critically important thing to track. Expressions can be a retweet, a comment, a share - anything that requires an effort by the consumer - and are solid markers of true engagement.

That's at least as good as other types of media, and I would argue even better than the results we get from TV, print, or even experiential.

You can track what people do when they engage on social media.
Great content always has a call to action, and great content strategies have no dead ends. Always have a "link back" to another piece of content. This is why great social strategies always include owned media platforms.

Google Analytics and SRPs can then help you trace user paths and track conversions.

Social analytics eliminate the "guess again" factor.
There's an old saying in PR: "if you want to know what people think about your company, read the paper."

The data from social media and social listening paints an accurate portrait of what your audience is interested in talking about with your brand. You just have to listen, and let go of what you want to talk about. I can tell you from my experience at Coca-Cola that this was sometimes the hardest thing for us to do.

Social data - information on high performing, highly engaging content, trends, user responses, etc. - can be fed back into the business to inform messaging frameworks and plans. It is critical that this data be used to create future content. Creative and content can also be A/Z tested on social media to determine the best performing combinations before you go to market.

This not only makes marketing and communications programs smarter, it also has cost avoidance benefits.

Focus on good digital hygiene.
Finally, never leave anything on the table.

Is your content properly tagged?

Have you included "title" and "alt" text descriptions for all photos online? Are all search description fields filled out properly? Are you using keyword research to craft headlines?

Good digital hygiene can have a major impact. For example, at Coke we saw a 100+% traffic increase to owned media from YouTube when we inserted links back to content in YouTube video descriptions.

Build the formula.
All of this data allows you to build an impact model for your business. There is no magic formula. You'll have to do the hard work to build it in partnership with your leadership.

It's critical that your formula allow you to compare the relative performance of different types of content over time.

In the coming years, social media will have a major impact on budgets and careers across the enterprise.

Data beats politics.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

What I Learned Working At Coca-Cola

TaB, my eponymous drink
My first Coke drink at Coke, December 2010
Today is the first day of my post-Coke journey. 

For nearly four years, The Coca-Cola Company gave me the opportunity to do the best work of my life. When I left, I wrote most of this post in an email to my colleagues. Rather than write the standard "good bye and good luck" note, I chose instead to list the things Coke taught me during my time in Atlanta. 

This is what I learned. 

1. Moonshots Matter
My most challenging day at Coke was the day I presented the Journey Media Platform to Coke’s senior leadership team for the last time. Because, on that day, I had to face the real possibility that it might not happen at all. From that moment on, I realized moonshot goals matter, because – as the saying goes - even if you miss you land among the stars. 

We set ourselves the moonshot goal to grow our social channels by 50% per year. We grew by 100%. Every year. For three years.

We set ourselves the moonshot goal to grow Journey's audience by 25% in year one. We grew by 30%.

I learned that when you set audacious goals, you get audacious results.

2. Be Brave And Do Things
Every year, we gave our digital business plan a theme. Our first year it was "Make the Basics Brilliant", and we focused on fixing operational weakness and delivering at 110% every time, all the time. 

Our second year – Journey's first year – we chose "Be Brave". We learned that bravery is hard but incredibly rewarding. Whether it's Twitter chats, Google hangouts, killing the press release, The Opener, making the blog platform a product, making a content pivot to video and photos, finding a digital voice for the company, completely changing Journey's editorial focus, and even the Journey Media Platform itself, our most impactful ideas were the ones that made us uncomfortable. 

We also learned that, more than anything else, we have to have a laser focus on getting stuff done. Endless planning is a tyranny, and gets in the way of doing actual work. We learned to plan the bare minimum to get something off the ground, and then just wing it, adjust on the fly, and be agile. 

Herb Kelleher, the legendary CEO of Southwest Airlines, was once asked by an analyst what the strategic plan was for his airline. His response: "We have a strategic plan. It's called doing things." 

And sometimes, you just have to run the red lights.

3. Everything Is Dying; Everything Is Being Born
The print newspaper industry is dying an inexorable death. Print advertising has fallen -66% since 2000. In the United States, the last time print ad revenue was this low was 1950 – when America's population was only 40% of today's level and the economy was only 1/7th as large. 

The collapse of the traditional news industry is a secular trend that will continue to its inevitable climax. But in its place we're seeing an incredible rejuvenation of journalism and storytelling, with citizen activismupstart blogs, incredible innovations in news, and the dominance of social media. We now live in a world where anyone with an internet connection can speak truth to power. This is exciting, and promises to breathe new relevance into our craft. But only if we seize the opportunity.

An Exciting Future
So I've moved to Austin. I'm sure I'll be a little dazed and confused for a while. But Austin is so close, yet so far out. Everyone should visit. There are lots of reasons to come: South by Southwest, Austin City Limits, Barton Springs poolthe bats.

All media technologies eventually die and are replaced by something even better. In 1997, the French navy abandoned the use of Morse Code, the transformative communications innovation of the 19th century. Their last message was:

Calling all. This is our last cry before our eternal silence.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

There's Now A Clear Way To Compare Cities

Austin, Texas: The World's Greatest City
Photo: Flickr/Charles Henry
We've all clicked on them.

Rarely a day goes by when a website doesn't list a "Top X" list comparing
cities around the world. But until today, the data and criteria used to compare cities has been entirely subjective. Now, there's an ISO standard for that.

ISO, short for the International Organization for Standardization, develops standards for everything from medical devices to electrical components. Starting today, ISO 37120 will provide city managers with 46 measurements ("standards") to assess city performance and management. This global standards book will help municipal governments focus investment and reduce waste and corruption.

By this time next year, maybe we'll see a "Top Cities" list that's actually data-driven, and not just clickbait.

Check out Citiscope for a full summary of the new standards and a list of the 46 measurements.

Read Another Post