24 November 2014

What Does A Digital Strategist Do?

About a year into my first job in advertising, I decided to change my job title. I updated my email signature, printed up some new business cards and suddenly people started introducing me as a Digital Strategist. It sounded about right for what I wanted to do so I ran with it, not really knowing what a Digital Strategist did at the time.

A few years later, it's still a tough one to explain to my Mum.

The simplest definition is integrated problem solving through digital efforts. 

It works on a few levels. Firstly, solving marketing problems like increasing awareness or driving leads. Secondly, solving operational problems like making your sales team more efficient or increasing the accuracy of data collection. And thirdly, solving consumer problems, where you start building utilities and products (this doesn't happen often in agencies).

It is the Digital Strategist's responsibility to develop these strategic solutions. But just as importantly, it's also their role to sell it. Not only the need for the work upfront, but the conclusions and recommendations that result as well. Hustling a project through stakeholders, aligned to resources and in cohesion with brand and campaign work is no easy task. The solutions must be integrated, working with the broader business context.

What people tend to find most interesting is that the word campaign has not yet been mentioned. A Digital Strategist does not develop concepts, even for big digital campaigns. Nor do they account manage, write comms plans or plan media.

Instead, Digital Strategists work on programs and projects. Efforts that often sit outside of campaign timelines and budgets, but help a client with their business problems.

This could look like a social program to change brand perceptions. Or a content program to retain customers. Email programs for lead management. Optimisation programs to improve conversion. Monetisation programs to generate revenue for the business.

Or it could look like a project to make a client's life easier. Or their production budget more efficient. Or in one case we even freed up 100% of an internal resource by automating a process.

The scope of these start to vary incredibly. Yet at its core, digital strategy is solving client problems with technology, done with consideration to the rest of the business. A Digital Strategist sells this and then develops recommendations for potential programs and projects (usually prioritised on a road map).

And that's sort of what I do. Admittedly it's still not Mum-friendly.

What do you think?

06 November 2014

Ideas From 2014 That Didn't Happen

One of my more engaging posts last year was list of Ideas From 2013 That Didn't Happen, so I thought I'd do it again. It feels like a healthy habit to clean out the ones collecting dust. If I haven't done anything with them during the year, it's likely I won't do anything at all.

Interestingly, an item on last year's list did get back on my radar. (The magnetic Beerend is currently in the running to win some funding and you can help by voting it as the People's Choice.)

Here are the ideas I didn't/couldn't do anything with this year.

  • An app that tracks who's borrowed your stuff. The app maintains a list of what you've lent and what you've borrowed, with friendly reminders of when they're due back.
  • A craft beer advent calendar for December counting down the days until Christmas.
  • A ten-pack of craft beer for Australia Day, with the top 10 beers from the previous Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers.
  • A case study/white paper using Facebook's hyper-targeted advertising to get a message in front of a celebrity, probably someone like Kevin Smith. (Since first writing this done, it was executed much more creatively when a guy did the same thing to prank his roommate.)
  • A movement to cleanse the internet of banner ads. The initiative would purchase advertising space and instead display pictures of cats that would click through to a site asking for more funds.
  • An online community for non-profit grassroots sports clubs to share and collaborate. The objective would be to foster knowledge sharing of best practice and process, bulk discount ordering, supplier recommendations, etc.
  • A website that connects crowd-funding projects with brands.
  • A project commissioning people from different cultures to draw a 'dick and balls', similar to this project where a woman asked people around the world to Photoshop her. (Okay, immature, but would be fun.)
  • An app that takes two selfies and merges them together to not look like a selfie.

Again I've held off on posting the full list, with hopes to progress on a few of the 'better' ones. But if you see something you like, hit me up when you're rich.

21 October 2014

Content Marketing Cheat Sheet

After my epiphany earlier in the year, I've become obsessed with content marketing. Although now I'm not sure if it will beat out "programmatic advertising" as 2014's buzz word of the year.

Having now rolled out a number of content strategies and programs, I've found the biggest challenge is getting started. Aligning your content marketing to business objectives, talking to the right audience, publishing on the right channels, with a creative concept and effective distribution it is a lot to get your head around.

Not to say you shouldn't plan all that, but sometimes you don't have the resource or the budget to get caught up on the bigger piece. Especially if a quick win on the board gets you buy-in for later.

So you if you want to jump in the deep end, here's three fairly sound places to start:
  1. Look through whatever consumer research you have and identify their single biggest barrier in purchasing your product. Create something that addresses it.
  2. Look through your social media channels and identify the most frequently asked question. Create something that addresses it.
  3. Look through your on-site search queries and identify the most popular topic people are looking for on your site. Create something that addresses it.
Whether it's a YouTube video, blog post or tweet - if you're addressing one of the above with some common sense you'll be doing more than most marketers (and more effectively too).

07 October 2014

3 Tips For Writing Better Blog Posts

I really enjoy writing. I particularly like the challenge of writing for digital, where being succinct is critical.

Having written on here for seven years along with a number of freelance articles, here are three things I do before writing a post. These aren't tips on how to create and source better content but instead how to ensure your writing is succinct as possible.
1. One single thought
Each post should focus on a single idea or thought. If you start getting into a second territory, you are rambling. If it's a good territory, keep it for a different post. Follow up the original a week later and keep the conversation flowing. It also means you'll have more to publish and share (great for SEO and social).

2. Remove all unnecessary words
Every word should bring something to the post. If a sentence reads as you intended without a word, remove it. I often run my pieces through the Hemmingway App before publishing to see what can be removed (or reworked).

3. "That" is rarely correct
Review any use of the word "that". 60% of the time it can be removed completely (see second point) and 20% of the time it would be more proper to use "which". Try it yourself on an old piece of your writing.
They're not going to change the world, but they might make make your writing a little punchier. (Short and sweet - see first point.)

01 September 2014

The Best Blog Posts I've Ever Written

At the time of writing, I've been blogging here for nearly seven years. Although the volume has slowed significantly in recent years, that's 401 posts and more than 270,000 pageviews.

The problem with blogs though, is that once a post falls off the front page it's pretty must lost forever. And among those 400-odd posts, I believe some of them are pretty good (I'm happy to admit the rest are complete nonsense).

So here are the best blog posts I've ever written on Pigs Don't Fly:


Enjoy, and thank you for reading.

14 August 2014

Why Is Facebook Lying To Page Owners?

Even I'm getting over my anti-Facebook tirade at the moment, having recently called them out on manipulating people's emotions and their great bait and switch on marketers. But they continue to grind my gears, and this time it's as a page owner.

For those of you who run small pages, you'll be familiar with these notifications that pop up regularly suggesting a post is "performing better than X% of other posts". 


These are just a few I've received through my hockey club's Facebook page recently. 

They are incredibly annoying, there's no way to turn them off and one of the above I received a notification for seven times. But what I'm most interested in, is where this data comes from. What metrics is it based off, and over what time period? Facebook doesn't provide any information that I could find, so I thought I'd see how accurate the figures were.

Without a date range or set of metrics, I have to make some assumptions. Facebook only allows me to review post data from April 2014 onwards (I'm not sure why), so that becomes my data set. And the three metrics I review are commonly reported on; unique reach, unique users engaged and engagement rate.

The first notification says that specific post performed better than 95% of other posts on the page. Of the 55 posts published at the time, that means it has to be in the top two. But upon analysis, it doesn't come close, ranking 18th instead for reach, users engaged and engagement rate.

The second post would have to rank 15th or higher out of the 62 posts published at the time. Again not close at 48th for reach, 47th for engaged users and 37th for engagement rate.

The third post is a little better, also requiring a rank of 15th or higher out of 75 posts. It achieves this for reach (11th) and engaged users (12th), but not engagement rate (20th).

Happy to be corrected, but even this simplistic analysis tells us that Facebook is lying to page owners.

I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that each notification encourages you to spend money on promoting the post.

04 August 2014

Why Jesse Eisenberg Will Make A Great Lex Luthor

Mark Zuckerberg, Jesse Eisenberg & Lex Luthor
Facebook seem to be doing a bang up job of pissing people off at the moment.

I've previously blogged about how they've burned marketers with their great bait and switch. And just this week they've upset plenty of users (myself included), announcing that messaging will be completely removed from the Facebook app.

But the biggest concern is how Facebook manipulated the News Feeds of 700,000 users to determine if negative stories would impact a user's emotional state. Not surprisingly, they do.

With all that in mind, I can't help but feel the casting of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor in the upcoming Batman v Superman film to be highly appropriate.

The evil geniuses and super villains of today wouldn't be old men looking to take over the world. Instead, they'd be young kids who made their fortunes in tech start ups. And despite pissing people off along the whole journey, they'll still hold the power to manipulate the emotional state of over one billion people.

So it does seems fitting to cast the guy who played Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. He'll just need to shave his head.

01 July 2014

The Great Facebook Bait & Switch

It's no secret that Facebook's organic reach has long been in decline. I recall sitting in a room with a client five years ago selling the channel as a cost-efficient means of talking to your consumers regularly. This was long before EdgeRank when your News Feed was sorted chronologically.

Of course, a great deal has changed since then. What was presumably once 100% organic reach of active users is now down to single digits and continues to fall. The impact of which you can see in this example highlighted by Rhys Hillman.

This is the same piece of content, posted at the same time by Snickers on two different channels.

The Facebook post, distributed to a potential 11 million fans generated only 6,000 engagements. Yet when the same content was published on Twitter to a 99.5% smaller audience, it generated 1050% more interaction.

But, to be fair, the Snickers post on Twitter is an outlier of success. In fact it performed so well, that the number of engagements was actually higher than the brand's total number of followers.

So let's take a look at this more reasonable, less 'viral' post from Bud Light.



Although not as drastic, Twitter once again hugely out performs Facebook. Anecdotally, this is consistent across a number of brands I reviewed, both big and small, as well as international and local.

As this organic reach falls to nearly 0%, we become apparent of Facebook great dirty bait and switch. Facebook have encouraged brands for years to build their community (and invest significantly in media buys for acquisition) under the pretense of being able to engage with them often and for free. But that is no longer the case. And their 'solution' is to invest even further in promoting posts.

At the end of the day, the above examples make it increasingly difficult to justify the significant resource it takes to manage a Facebook community effectively and I wouldn't be surprised if clients start shifting their budgets elsewhere.

04 June 2014

Borrowing the Audiences of Third Parties

Here's something I've been thinking about lately.

We often talk about bought, owned and earned media planning. But there is another category; borrowed.

Borrowing the audience of third parties to drive reach. More and more I'm finding myself thinking about how we can bring in more vested interests who have audiences we can speak to.

Celebrities. Venues. Other brands. Bands. Publishers. Suppliers. Manufacturers. Bloggers.

Increasingly these parties are both building their own communities, and are looking for relevant content.

If you bring them on board, it becomes win/win/win.

At least that's what I'm thinking.

21 April 2014

Networking Is Giving Away More Than Your Business Card

A few weeks ago I gave a talk to some Monash students about how to stand out from the crowd. It was my usual spiel about how I met Russel Howcroft who gave me my first job and from which I learnt the easiest way into the industry is to make something.

Afterward a number of the students asked about the best way to network. But the thing is, I'm not so good at networking in the traditional sense of the word.

As a student I attended similar events to the one I spoke at, and had no idea how to meet industry people and make an impression. The smartest thing I ever did was ask Russel for a photo to put on my blog.

But a few years later, I do have some thoughts. And the best piece of advice I have has nothing to do with 'networking events', but rather a very simple two words:

Give something.

If my advice for getting into the industry is to 'make something', then it seems only fitting my advice for networking is to 'give something'.

Here's an example of something you could give, even as a student (but you don't have to be).

I'm a craft beer fan. I had an idea for an article about Little Creatures changing the recipe of their Bright Ale, and I wanted to write about it. But I didn't have any where to publish it, figuring it probably wasn't of interest to the existing readers of this blog.

So I emailed the editor of Brews News, an Australian website about all things beer. He asked me to write it up and a few days later, he published the article.

This doesn't mean I now have a relationship I could exploit, but it's certainly a contact I've now made which I think falls neatly into the definition of "networking" (plus I have somewhere to occasionally publish my beer ramblings).

Here's another example of giving things away. I recently noticed a number of websites I read didn't have an icon for when their site was bookmarked on iOS. Instead they used the generic versions you can see on right. It's a pretty easy fix, so I sent the website owners an email with instructions on how to do it.

Thus far, the response has been extremely positive.

By giving these two things away, I've introduced myself to interesting people, given them something of value and started a conversation I'm sure I could pick back up if I ever needed to.

Much more interesting, and dare I say effective, than attending a networking event and handing out business cards.
The views expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. Also ponies are evil.
Pigs Don't Fly © Copyright Zac Martin