This year’s sold-out Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) Summit in downtown Minneapolis brought together 1,400 of our state’s brightest marketers, technologists and entrepreneurs to hear about new strategies to disrupt the status quo. The event’s DISRUPTORS theme was designed to convince marketers to take notice of tactics that were new or outside of their normal course of action in business. Here’s a look inside some of the most memorable ideas that I walked away with.
1. Feed Social Media As If It’s A Living Breathing Organism
Marketers know that social media is as revolutionary to our culture as the printing press was in Gutenberg’s day, turning mobile phones and PCs into access points for endless connectivity. But how do marketers connect the dots between social media and engaged consumers by providing real value? Social media networks are living organisms defined by distinct characteristics, according to MIMA’s morning keynote speaker Oliver Luckett, founder of theAudience, a digital content publishing platform.
This concept of social media being a living organism resonated with me as I consider myself a bit of a science nerd (the New York Times science section is the homepage on my computer) and even earned a degree in life sciences communication. Many people think of science and communications as two separate fields, so I loved seeing Luckett outline such a strong association between the two.
Interesting fact: Luckett’s theory on the topic of social media networks being living organisms came to him during a “vision quest” in the desert.
“Social is here to stay and we need to figure out how we can be part of that ecosystem.” Let’s look at what Luckett means through his seven characteristic principles.
- Social media needs to be nourished by human expression. Luckett says marketers should stop focusing on outdated tactics - such as banner ads - and instead look at what attracts a non-cognitive response, such as infographics, videos or art.
- Social media feeds off of emotions. Marketers and PR pros should make sure our content induces the right emotions and resonates with our target audience. An example of someone who has successfully applied this principle of emotional connection and response is YouTube star, PewDiePie, whose video channel recently hit 10 billion views. While his video content isn’t life-altering (he plays video games), PewDiePie’s viewers are drawn to the idea that they can be part of his experience.
- Social media is influenced by the physical world, says Luckett. Marketers should use real experiences to help connect with their audience on a more personal level. Channels such as Twitter and Instagram thrive on this human connection.
- Social media protects itself from negativity and spam. Facebook is a great example of this concept: it is based on likes, share, and ultimately connecting people in a positive way. While there is currently no way to protect users from negative comments or Internet trolls, the goal of the social platform is to add as much value to those around us as possible.
- Social media flows through frictionless sharing. Social media channels need nutrients (content, influencers) to feed the information system. “If you cut off the branches and cut off the flow of information… you die,” says Luckett.
- The social organism evolves through memes and grows when you allow users to be creative with your content. We’re all drawn to imaginative thinking – use it to your advantage. For example, Southwest Airlines has generated great success with its humorous blog “Nuts about Southwest,” which includes videos of a “Live at 35(000) feet” concert and posts about songs written on cocktail napkins during a flight to Nashville. It gives travelers a taste of the airline’s brand values, while engaging with customers in a creative way.
Oliver Luckett giving his keynote presentation, “Wild Efficiency: The Science Behind Social.”
- Living things and social media become larger and more complicated as they grow. The social media organism is gaining strength and ubiquity, and it’s important to study how social media as a whole is building and reshaping itself so we can get the most out of it’s channels in the future. Twitter recently followed this principle of learning when they changed the star icon for “favorites” to a heart that represents “likes” after receiving feedback that the star was causing confusion. Twitter’s new heart symbol resonates across languages, cultures and time zones - making the platform easier and more rewarding for everyone to use.
Luckett left the MIMA audience with his view that PR professionals and marketers should “actively participate in human experience.” Do this by being authentic storytellers and finding the right consumers with whom to connect. After all, he said, social media has the power to elevate humanity - we’d better be able to provide valuable content or we will be spit out of this new and disruptive communications architecture.
2. Bring Your Content Into Real Life
Whether you work for a children’s hospital or an outdoor adventure retailer like REI, reaching the right audience at the right time is the key to your success. A common theme at this year’s MIMA summit was how to create multiple touch points with online campaigns that give you the most return on your investment.
Steven Regenold, Editor-in-Chief of GearJunkie.com, took a deep dive into this concept of using multiple touchpoints during his presentation, “Adventures in Content Creation”. Regenold has worked with brands such as REI and Coleman over 15 years on projects that span the globe. At MIMA, he shared tips on how to build content that makes a lasting impression.
“Don’t do something you don’t think will resonate with your audience,” he preached. When navigating content strategies, his most pertinent recommendation was to ensure campaigns have multiple facets (e.g. social + content marketing). He also talked about tying your campaign strategy in with what a brand is already doing, becoming known as an expert in a topic area related to your industry, balancing sponsor demands with your readers’ needs, and staying authentic. “Be nimble. Be passionate. Have fun,” he said.
An example of an effective multi-faceted campaign that GearJunkie.com worked on was for the shoe company, Keen. The Portland, Oregon-based manufacturer wanted to reach new audiences in a unique way and across a variety of channels, so Keen came up with a 10-part content series based around a pair of size 14 hiking boots. Ten participants put on the same pair of boots (gross) and hiked one million steps - all the way to the company’s headquarters, where they held a celebration that local TV stations were quick to cover. Along each journey, the hiker would blog about their experiences - from the conditions of their feet to the odor of the shoes - and would share their insights via social by live tweeting or posting to Instagram using the hashtag #FollowYourFeet. The worn boots are now displayed at Keen’s headquarters and brought to tradeshows throughout the year.
Side note: USPS delivered Keen’s boots to the wrong location the day of the final hike. Luckily, they were found at a neighbor’s house and the final hiker completed the one millionth step just in time for the cameras!
3. Create Opportunities to Connect
The connection between two individuals is a powerful tool for social disruption and change. Jessica Jackley (right), co-founder of Kiva, was particularly profound on this topic. The first peer-to-peer microlending website, Kiva lets users lend as little as $25 to low-income/underserved entrepreneurs around the world, providing affordable capital for them to start or expand microenterprises. In Jackley’s keynote, she explained that opportunity is everywhere - and oftentimes in places we don’t expect.
She provided inspiration and pulled at our heartstrings with the stories of two Kiva-financed entrepreneurs with incredible skills and product output, but with different entrepreneurial styles.
- First, there’s Patrick the brick builder. Patrick lived in Northern Uganda and in order to survive and support his family, he literally rolled up his sleeves and dug his hands into the dirt. He then made that dirt into clay. With some borrowed money, Patrick was able to buy matches and build a kiln so he could turn the clay into bricks. He turned those bricks into a business and he now has a handful of employees. Jackley says Patrick the brick builder believed in running over mountains and running through fire and that’s what made him so successful as an entrepreneur.
- Jackley also told the story of a woman in a third-world country who was an incredible basket weaver. Although she had a fairly successful business, when Jackley arrived at her home, she was shocked to find it bare and broken. Instead of investing her money and growing her business, the woman literally had it hidden in a hole in the floor. Her business never truly took off, though it could have, but she was content with what she had.
“Why do some people dig and create something out of nothing?” Jackley asked. “And why do some people bury and stop before they reach their potential?” You just need to convince yourself and believe, she said. We in public relations can learn a lot from the brick builder and the basket weaver. Every day, PR pros are faced with new opportunities, but sometimes we have to dig for them and create them out of nothing.
Jackley left us with, “Wake up each day and say, ‘Now what?’”
4. Personalize Online Marketing to Each Individual Person…really!
With so much competition out there, marketers must be more personal in their targeting. How to customize websites and content was the focus of an afternoon session in the Data Track (sponsored by Maccabee client, RBA), “Catch those Missing Conversions through Personalization” with Adobe Optimization Consultant, Kyle Johnson.
Kara Turtinen with RBA Client, Jenna Soule
Johnson began his presentation with some startling statistics:
- 83% of marketers are satisfied with their website content.
- 29% of consumers are satisfied with the website content they see.
Every visitor to your website or mobile app arrives for a reason, and as the Internet matures, services like social media and search provide individualized experiences that set the bar high for companies. Now, your visitors expect to be able to wade through any clutter and see only content they’re interested in.
His suggestion? Marketers need to analyze every person who visits their website and show them a customized page with content based on their behaviors (i.e. returning customer who bought 10 items vs. a new customer who is visiting the page for the first time). We want to target audiences in ways that we know matter to them. Luckily, processes such as A/B testing can help companies determine consumer behavior for more efficient targeting through customized content.
To wrap up the knowledge-filled day, Amy Webb, digital media futurist and founder of WebbMedia Group, highlighted a new cool (and freaky) tool that helps marketers and PR people understand their audience: Crystal.
Crystal is a website that analyzes online public information such as LinkedIn and Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, and gives you advice on how to communicate with colleagues, customers or prospects. Easily searchable, Crystal provides access to personality information on those around you. And, guess what, it’s crazy accurate.
As you can see above, according to Crystal, I am a “friendly supporter, energized by creativity, loves to teach, and prioritizes relationships over immediate personal achievement,” which I have to say is pretty spot on. Crystal also gives marketers suggestions (see below) on how to word an email (use friendly lines such as, “hope you’re doing well!”) or tips on how you can create a better working relationship with a colleague or customer (recognize my accomplishments verbally). Cool, huh?
As always, I learned a lot more at the MIMA Summit than you could possibly fit into this blog post. If you’re looking for more online marketing takeaways, check out insights from other attendees, such as:
- Minneapolis digital agency FRWD which touches on the power of collaboration between advertisers and publishers when creating engaging content (and shares an awesome opening video from MIMA), and
- Bolin Marketing which shares how important visuals are for a brand.
Kara Turtinen is an account executive at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.