Tag Archives: competitive advantage

Blogging for Business

As we start to see business blogging becoming more main stream, it is time that we turn our attention to how we can best use it in business. Here are six reasons to blog for business;

  • To promote your business brand;
  • To educate your audience;
  • To increase findability;
  • To demonstrate Thought Leadership;
  • To engage with your audience; and
  • Drive website traffic.

The reason that we blog determines the way we blog, the length, style and content.

Promoting your business brand

When promoting your business brand, you need to know what your business stands for as well as the qualitative and quantitative brand attributes. Is your business funky or serious, does it stand for having fun, security or making money? These attributes will determine whether you use words like “phat” or “optimise.”

Your messages behind your blogs will also be determined by the brand attributes. What would a funky brand customer like to hear about – the latest dance party, fashion in shoes? What would a serious brand client find interesting, trends in your field, conferences you attended, interviews with speaker?

Educating your audience

Often, when you have an intangible product or service, it is difficult to get your concept over in 30 seconds or a print advert. You need to spend time contextualising your offering and explaining why it is important to your audience. Very often educational blogs follow themes that build upon each other and reinforce central concepts.

Increasing Findability

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is not the only way you can ensure that your audience is exposed to your brand. SEO might help when your audience is using search terms to research the service that you offer, but what happens when they don’t know that they need you?

Your blogs should appear in places that people who need your offerings hang out on line, for example on Industry websites. They may not be looking for you, but if the blog is located in a place where they are interested in the category, they will become aware of your offering and may read on.

Generic blogging sites or websites are best for this. For example a general marketing website could be a great place to talk about the latest trends in CRM. Of course to get onto the general sites, your blogs must be interesting and informative, rather than biased and self promoting. Unless your blog offers value to the site’s reader, the site owner won’t publish you.

Demonstrating Thought Leadership

Thought Leadership is a powerful form of competitive advantage. It sets you apart from your more prosaic competitors, and if your customers learn from you, they are more likely to engage and eventually do business with you.

Generally, thought leadership articles have an authoritative tone and tend to be longer, sometimes even representing white papers. Are you in an industry where you sell IP? The thought leadership may also be part of your employees’ personal branding as thought leaders. Organisations that trade in IP tend to be an aggregation of individuals with high levels of IP and your audience will be interested not only in the content of the blogs, but also in the combined gestalt of all the thought leadership in your organisation.

To engage with your audience

Seth Godin is the master of engaging. His blogs are pithy and provocative. Audiences are encouraged to comment and share his copious wisdom.

Blogs aimed at engaging need to stimulate conversations not only between you and your audience, but also between the audience members themselves.

Driving website traffic

Driving traffic to your website is usually only the objective if you are

  • gaining new audiences;
  • your website is dynamic and constantly changing;
  • you are soliciting new members of a network or online community; or
  • you have an eBusiness where you can transact on line.

If your website is a bog standard brochure site, think carefully about whether this business objective is likely to result in bottom line benefits to your organisation. A high hit rate with a high bounce rate may be an indicator that you need to rethink your digital strategy because your audience doesn’t find any value in your site. Blogging is time consuming and resource intensive, don’t waste it chasing the wrong objective.

Getting the most out of your blog

In order to gauge whether your blog is working for your business you need to quantify the success indicators. Do you measure your blog on:

  • Findability – Number of hits?
  • Sharing – Number of times the blog is shared, pinged, retweeted, quoted etc. If sharing is your objective, make sure that your audience is equipped to do so with “share this” buttons, “follow me”, retweet or link with me etc.
  • Conversion into sales – if you have an eBusiness, you should be able to quantify your conversion of hits into sales. Increasing conversion ratios can indicate that your blogs are working for you
  • Commenting and engaging – sometimes the number of comments and quality are an indication of the value that your audience derives from your blog. Of course different types of blogs will solicit different types of comments. Provocative blogs may stimulate a conversation while thought leadership blogs may merely solicit a terse “nice post”.

There is no one right answer to how to blog, each blog must be designed to deliver on your specific blog and brand objectives. The one rule however, is to keep adding value, keep experimenting with what drives your objectives and results in you achieving material rewards for your efforts.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Blogging, Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Financial Ratios for Social Media

Much has been written about the benefits of Digital Media to business, not the least of which is that it is highly measurable. We can see how many hits we have on a website, how many clicks through on an advertisement, how many members in a community, how many employees are blogging, but are these actually numbers which indicate Return on investment of time, resources and money? Not necessarily. They are merely potential precursors of transactions. In other words they are indicators that there may be additional transaction and revenue. So if we can see the numbers, how do we determine what value these measurement’s have and how to use them to forecast future success, or analyse past opportunities?

If we are to truly unlock the business value of the web, we need to develop a series of indicators of digital success, similar to the financial ratios developed by DuPont for investors and management accountants.

Naturally these indicators are determined by the business objectives and different ratios are more appropriate for different scenarios. It is also critically important to understand that we need to define the ratios correctly by defining a causal link between what we measure and what is actually an indicator of success. Using the wrong ratios to manage the digital side of the business could have dire unintended consequences and be incredibly detrimental.

Here are some proposed digital ratios for a social media business;

  • Social Leverage Ratios

Social leverage ratios are similar to the financial concept of beta, because they relate to the amount of commercial leverage in a social network. The “network effect”, when it come s to social media relates to the fact that a network (of people, telephones, social media sites etc.) becomes more valuable to each member, the more users that are part of the network. One Social Leverage Ratio is the Viral Coefficient.

In his book, The Viral Effect (2009), Adam Penenberg talks about the viral coefficient which needs to have a value greater than one for the network to grow in value. The viral coefficient basically means that each individual member must invite more than one person i.e. replace himself in the membership of the network and add at least one more member. If each individual only invites one person and that individual invites one person, then the growth of the network will be linear. But say for example, each individual invites two people, and each of those individual’s invite two people, then the membership and hence the value to the members grows exponentially.

This has huge implications for the design of social media businesses and marketing campaigns. Although the focus is to get people to register and start using the services, an equal effort must be expended getting them to share and invite other people to join the network. This is called viral loop marketing, and is measured by calculating and comparing the viral coefficient of each social network activity.

Facebook’s new function, which suggests friends for you based on the number of friends you have in common, is an example of a social network activity which is aimed at increasing the number of people you link to and increasing the value of your personal network, to keep you on Facebook. The more active members who are Facebooking, the more Facebook can monetise their platform through advertising, and the more value to the Facebookers the more they will encourage non-Facebookers to join.

  • Collaboration Coefficients

There are similar ratios that can be used to calibrate Intranets, such as the collaboration coefficient which explores the depth and usefulness of employees as nodes in a network. High collaboration coefficients suggest that the business is deriving value from the way that employees are working together.

  • RODSI

Web sales ratios include the conversion ratio or the RODSI which is a measure of the Return On Direct Sales Investment, and is calculated by subtracting the sales and marketing costs directly related to a campaign from the revenue that the campaign attracts, and calculating it as a percentage. Businesses can then experiment with different techniques and tools to increase their RODSI, such as Leads Management, SEO, different advertising media etc.

Each of these ratios can be used as a measure of success and the future success of digital strategies, it is incumbent on us to work out what the best measures are, and if necessary to develop ratios that are particular to the project.

These Social Media Ratios start off by being experimental, but over time they should stabilise as we ratify the causal link between what we are measuring and the business objectives which are predicated on them. Once we have validated the ratios, they can be used to benchmark and compare the success of one social media activity over another.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, HR Intranet, Interactive Intranets, Web 2.0

Buffering the Global Economic Meltdown in South Africa using Web 2.0 Applications

Even the most removed business from the global market is starting to feel the bite of the Global Economic meltdown. This year is going to be a challenging year for many South African businesses.

Most companies are looking at what they can do to make the best of the current economic situation, and battening down the hatches against the economic tsunami which looms ominously across both the Atlantic and Indian oceans.

Some business leaders are cutting back to the bare essentials, but others are investigating entirely new pursuits to survive and flourish. The decisions executives make now, will determine what will happen to their businesses in the future.

Despite the global downturn, the fact that the web has become a bilateral communication system (so-called web 2.0), provides many opportunities. Most businesses have a surprising number of options if they are willing to think creatively.

Web 2.0 brings with it new economic realities and abilities. We see the network effect at work, whereby, for every new member who joins a network, the value of the entire network goes up exponentially. Web 2.0 is about making the most of the intrinsic power of the network, the communication tools (wikis, blogs) and features (cloud computing, mashups, open API’s etc). These collectively represent better, more efficient and less expensive ways to attain competitive advantage. Think of the brave man who bought the first fax machine.

We also see the law of abundance entering the mainstream of business. With the Internet, the investment into production is up front and the marginal cost of every additional product is equal to the bandwidth for delivery. Amazon’s Kindle is reducing the price of books by 60% and still selling them profitably.

Web 2.0’s ability to facilitate a dialogue enhances our ability to collaborate and manage geographically unfettered projects more effectively. While some executives might believe that the social aspects of web 2.0 are inconsequential in their business environment, when it comes to the deeper implications of web 2.0 across the enterprise, many business functions are enhanced by the stakeholders’ ability to communicate, drive change and transform in these radically different business conditions.

What does this mean for creating value in an unpredictable time, how can this help cut costs while driving growth?

Here are six practical ways that 2.0 can help organisations grapple with today’s economic challenges.

6 Strategic uses of Web 2.0 for growth and resilience

1. Use Enterprise 2.0 to capture the employees’ collective knowledge.

Enabling open, persistent, freeform collaboration amongst employees causes vast amounts of institutional knowledge to pour out into visible places on the network where that information can be studied, reused and learned by others.

When mass layoffs take place in organisations, years of built up expertise and capability leave the company. This knowledge resides in inaccessible places such as e-mail accounts, file servers, meeting notes and in the minds of the departing employees.

An interactive Intranet with blogs, wikis and other Enterprise 2.0 tools enable organisations to be elastic in terms of headcount while mitigating the erosion of corporate culture, knowledge, historical context and critical methodologies.

Many benefits of Enterprise 2.0 have been reported by early adopters including greater efficiency, more transparency and better communication. Making your Intranet a strategic, vibrant, ever growing, knowledge worker-powered, interactive application is one of the best investments you can make.

2. Embrace new low-cost models for innovation and production such as crowdsourcing.

There are numerous competitive and economic reasons to move to crowdsourcing models for many aspects of modern business. These include using the vast audience of people on the global network as a primary source of innovation, research, and product development as well as customer support, sales and marketing. Almost anything that you can outsource you can crowdsource for less and with more robust results, although, it has to be said, with less predictability.

Crowd-sourcing is very different from traditional corporate hierarchical command-and-control, which works well in outsourcing relationships, but much less in a social computing environment. Crowdsourcing is providing increasingly impressive stories, although some organisations will still fail with it. Digitally sophisticated companies have the most success. The dramatic cost savings and leaps in innovation that can be tapped with crowd-sourcing, make it one of the most potent Web 2.0 business models.

3. Lower customer service costs by pro-active use of on-line customer communities.

Many of your customers are online, are you truly engaging them, supporting them, and creating a rich community of shared interest around what you’re doing?

Few large companies have created successful on-line communities around their products and customers have largely had to create them on their own until very recently. Many organisations have been slow to move to using on-line customer communities.

There is a skill to creating and nurturing successful on-line customer communities, but there are many companies who specialise in managing these communities for you. Digital Bridges is one of them. Now is time to provide customers an entirely new and largely superior channel for communication, collaboration and working together and amongst themselves.

Organisations that want to minimise customer disruption during staff turnover, lower customer service costs and retain the customers they have must look to robust online customer communities.

4. Manage employee relations though web 2.0 HR portals.

Knowledge workers require a different set of management skills to motivate them to bring their passion to work. Highly engaged employees are more likely to harness their abilities in favour of the organisation they work for, particularly in difficult times.

Using Enterprise 2.0, employees can be given the ability to profile themselves, their skills and experience in the organisation. Closed communities between individuals, managers and HR can be used to share performance management dashboards.

5. Deploy a content management strategy.

Content management strategies separate the content from the context and enable organisations to create content once and update it everywhere. This ensures brand consistency and reduces the communication and workflow gaps which are the inevitable consequence of employee churn.

6. Focus on eMarketing.

As so many clients are on-line, eMarketing provides the perfect opportunity to engage with potential and existing clients while they are in a receptive mindset.

This entails creating a digital presence beyond your own web domain, by advertising, or writing industry blogs, commenting in forums etc. It is well to appoint a dedicated resource to do this as this is a full time dialogue with your target audience.

There are specialist companies that you can outsource this function too, Digital Bridges is one of them.

With web 2.0, there is a major shift in control, a much higher level of transparency, and an openness that many businesses can be uncomfortable with. However, organisations that are willing to overcome these largely political, cultural and mindset challenges can realise significant opportunities, often for relatively modest investment.

Web 2.0 models offer one of the most potent ways we presently have to regroup, reorganise, and systematically improve what we’re doing. Right now is a very exciting time to be in business.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication.

Digital Bridges is technology agnostic and partners with great technology companies in order to ensure that our solutions are fit for purpose and deliver on organisational strategy.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia. Her skills include innovation and growth through marketing, communication, collaboration, knowledge management, human capital, performance management, process engineering and BI.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za.

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Filed under Macroeconomics 2.0