Posts Tagged ‘Communication’

Bitcoin, Brands and Brand Positioning

Bitcoin started out as a fringe movement among crypto-anarchists in the open-source community, but has rapidly gained acceptance as a legitimate alternative to fiat money as it pertains to digital transactions. Accordingly, the volume and value of mined Bitcoin has seen exponential growth since this crypto-currency was first launched in 2009. As per available data, nearly 13.28 million Bitcoins have been mined so far [1]. Meanwhile, the value of a single Bitcoin has increased from £4.25 in July 2012 to a high of £753 in November 2013 – an increase of roughly 17600% [2].

Bitcoin was originally developed as a fast, safe and cost-effective currency for digital transactions. Consequently, its earlier adopters were tech-forward users in the open-source community. Despite its growing clout in the mainstream, Bitcoin’s most aggressive proponents remain largely entrenched in this community.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, to learn that brand Bitcoin, as it exists today, has come to be associated with words like “underground”, “alternative”, and even “anarchic”. This lends it considerable weight as a branding tool for certain businesses. For others, the negative connotations of Bitcoin, along with its proliferation through underground marketplaces, can be largely detrimental to the business’ brand image. Adopting and accepting Bitcoin through online channels, therefore, is something a brand must consider carefully before making a decision.

Bitcoin as the “maverick”

virgin-bitcoin

There are some obvious business arguments in favour of using Bitcoin, namely, the low transaction costs associated with the currency, emphasis on privacy, storage of coins in digital wallets, and speed of transactions. This has made the currency especially useful for digital-only transactions (i.e. purchasing digital products) where user privacy is important. For example, the popular website Reddit, which emphasises anonymity, accepts Bitcoin as a transactional medium largely because of its privacy features (Reddit’s community is also tech-oriented, which helps in higher adoption). Since Bitcoin is also decentralised and unregulated, it has earned the image of being a “pro-internet freedom” currency.

Integrating Bitcoin gives a brand the added advantage of aligning itself with Bitcoin’s brand associations. As noted earlier, Bitcoin has come to be associated with the “alternative”. In some ways, this is not dissimilar to the debate between open-source and closed-source software in the 1990’s, when some brands adopted open-source solutions such as Linux to position themselves as the “mavericks” who care about “community” and “digital freedom”.

Consider the example of the popular domain registrar, Namecheap. Namecheap has consistently positioned itself as the alternative to the more mainstream registrars (chiefly, Enom.com and GoDaddy.com). To this effect, it has aligned itself with pro-internet movements such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s legal fight against the SOPA (“Stop Online Piracy Act”) in the United States in 2011 [3]. Namecheap later started accepting Bitcoin in 2013, noting in its release statement that the company considers itself the “pioneers in the space of innovation and online freedom” [4].

Bitcoin-Brands

In fact, the top websites that accept Bitcoins is almost entirely composed of brands that identify themselves as the “alternative” [5]. This includes Virgin Galaxy (space flights), OkCupid (the free alternative to Match.com), PirateBay.org (free, pirate alternative to file sharing), WordPress.com (free alternative to paid Content Management Systems), Reddit.com (alternative to Digg), Mega.com (alternative, restriction-free file sharing), and Overstock.com (online-only alternative retailer).

When a business adopts Bitcoin, it is signalling to its users that it is a “maverick” that cares about issues such as internet-freedom, user privacy and being tech-forward. Brands that self-identify with these qualities would benefit the most from adopting Bitcoin – at least in the form that it exists today.

… Bitcoin as the “criminal”

website-seized

However, the privacy and anonymity of Bitcoin has also made it the favoured transaction medium in underground marketplaces known for trading illegal drugs and contraband. The volume of this trade is immense, although given the secretive nature of these marketplaces, the exact figure is hard to ascertain. By one estimate, roughly half of all Bitcoin transactions are to buy drugs online [6].

The large volume of these transactions, coupled with the recent closure of Silk Road [7] (the largest underground marketplace) and massive security breaches at popular exchanges like Mt. Gox [8] have affected Bitcoin’s image in the mainstream. Besides “alternative”, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that some have also started associating words like “illegal”, “scam” and “unsafe” with the currency (howsoever factually untrue it may be) [9]. Naturally, this association rubs off on brands who choose to adopt the currency. For mainstream brands that don’t have tech-forward audiences that understand Bitcoin, this may even backfire.

The keyword, thus, is “alternative”.

Given the current state of Bitcoin, every brand should make careful considerations before aligning itself with the currency. While on the one hand, it can amplify the “maverick” image of a brand that identifies itself as tech-forward, pro-internet freedom and “alternative”, it can also harm the image of a brand with customers who don’t fully understand Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies.

Further Reading

[1] https://blockchain.info/charts/total-bitcoins?timespan=1year&showDataPoints=false&daysAverageString=1&show_header=true&scale=0&address=

[2] http://blogs.marketwatch.com/thetell/2013/11/29/bitcoin-hits-record-1242-as-it-nears-value-of-ounce-of-gold/

[3] http://venturebeat.com/2011/12/27/namecheap-offers-discount-for-domain-transfers/

[4] https://www.namecheap.com/support/payment/bitcoin.aspx

[5] http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonmatonis/2013/05/24/top-10-bitcoin-merchant-sites/

[6] http://lsvp.com/2013/08/15/about-half-a-percent-of-bitcoin-transactions-are-to-buy-drugs/

[7] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/silk-road-closed/

[8] http://www.wired.com/2014/03/bitcoin-exchange/

[9] http://www.debate.org/opinions/is-bitcoin-a-scam

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Social Media Management – A Task for One Person?

Social media management is a hot topic amongst marketing managers and in general organisations typically have specialised departments dealing with specific tasks and concerns.

Human Resources handle people issues, the IT department handles system concerns, and Legal handles matters of the law. Social media concerns and tools usually fall under the jurisdiction of the Marketing department because they involve promotions and press releases.

Announcements and responses that come from a single source tend to be more streamlined and consistent to the core vision of the company.  But are companies that rely on a single person or department missing out on the full potential of social media?

Having a single person or department dedicated solely to social media functions may have its advantages, but a bigger group of people can certainly produce a more impressive output. You can either have a single person or group do 100% of the social media tasks, or have the majority of your employees spend 5% of their time attending to these tasks. In theory, having dozens or even hundreds of employees representing the company in social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook will result to a wider audience reach.

Here are some of the advantages of having multiple social media outlets:

1. More people create more noise.

Having multiple employees sending out positive Tweets or writing blogs about the company says a lot about employee satisfaction and improves the branding of the company. The message also reaches a wider audience.

2. Employees will keep up with technology and will be adept on using social media tools.

It is essential to train the employees on the proper usage of social media tools for this system to work. They need to know how to properly represent the company, and how to increase the number of followers or subscribers. This training will not only be beneficial for work but is also applicable to personal endeavors.

3. Different employees have different strengths and interests.

They will produce blogs, Tweets, or Facebook updates that relate to them personally but are relevant to the nature of your business. Your company will benefit from this because of the diversity of content that will be available online. You will reach a wider and more diverse market. Interest in your products or services will also increase. Employees can also experiment with these tools and can potentially come up with an innovative approach to promotions.

4. The feedback system will also improve when you have a large number of people checking the web vigilantly.

It is possible to report important updates and news flashes that can affect operations in the soonest possible time. You can also detect customer complaints easily and address them immediately. Generally, about 60 to 80 percent of customer complaints made via social media channels are ignored because of lack of manpower.

This results to customer dissatisfaction and a missed opportunity for improvement.

5. Employees will be empowered. Social media exposure is a huge responsibility. Your employees will feel valued and trusted.

In order for a business model like this to work, it is essential to invest in social media training and corporate awareness. The employees need to be adept with how to utilise the tools to further the interest of the business.

They need to understand that social media will be an essential part of their daily tasks. They also need to realise that they will become the front liners of the business. They will be representing the company and any post that they make will be a reflection of the company’s mission and vision.

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Attraction Marketing: A Viable Alternative to Traditional Marketing Methods

Attraction marketing is a relatively new marketing concept. You can use it to draw potential customers, who also happen to be interested in what you sell, to your brand. Combined with the ever-expanding power of the Internet, attraction marketing can be a phenomenally powerful asset.

Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing strategies such as running radio and television commercials tend to become less effective over time. As customers are bombarded by these non-stop advertisements, they become less sensitive to them.

In fact, while traditional marketing ploys may increase sales over the short term, they can contribute to a phenomenon known as “brand fatigue” over the long term. Brand fatigue refers to the tendency of customers to lose interest in a given brand after being exposed to it for an extended period of time.

Traditional marketing increases brand fatigue and decreases interest by bombarding customers with impersonal, outrageous, occasionally misleading, and often flat-out annoying advertisements. These one-size-fits-all messages must be—but seldom are—exemplary to stand out from the crowd and deliver stellar results. To achieve this, there is a better alternative.

Attraction Marketing

Attraction marketing deviates from the beaten path in that its main goal is to demonstrate to potential clients a brand’s worth by providing a valuable product or service for free. In the Digital world, for instance in business to business, this can take the form of a company or individual giving away valuable insights in the form of a digital book.

To master attraction marketing, you must study your demographic. You must learn what they want, and then demonstrate that you have it. This doesn’t have to mean giving away your entire inventory. The idea is to give them something of value, while leaving something of even more value off the table.

Making this information freely available on a website, and then using sound SEO principles to rank highly in major search engines, means that you won’t have to bombard people with advertising that they likely won’t be receptive to anyway. Your customers will come to you, hungry for the information that you have to offer.

Attraction Marketing and Social Networking

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are saturated with users who share links to sites with valuable information. When you foster goodwill between your brand and your prospective customers by offering a high-value report, blog, book, or newsletter, you stand a good chance of getting a mention from these users. This highlights the importance of coupling attraction marketing with a strong, active social networking presence. By creating a profile for your company on these sites, you will give fans and satisfied customers a place to direct potential leads to. Don’t forget to leave links to your social networking profiles in your free ebook, report, or newsletter. By doing so, you can create a self-perpetuating cycle in which new customers discover your brand and old customers promote it.

Common Attraction Marketing Mistakes

New attraction marketers often make the mistake of not spending enough time actively participating in communities surrounding their niche. You can overcome this tendency by joining forums that are related in some way to the product that you are selling. The stronger the relationship, the better.

Post insightful answers to questions while letting your forum signature promote your brand. Demonstrate to members of the community that you are a leader first and a business second. A forum signature containing a link to your site accompanied by a good answer can do more for your business over time than paid advertising.

Secondly, you must take care to properly identify what your market wants. If the solution that you offer them is not a valuable proposition, it won’t matter how much of it you are offering for free. A great place to start is at the forums that you have identified. Look for threads that are posed as questions, and watch out for questions that are posed again and again. These indicate potential shortages of supply in the market, that is, information that is desired but not available.

Successful attraction marketing hinges on creating relationships, demonstrating value, and delivering on promises. While you may have to put more work into it than you would for radio ads or Internet banner ads, the potential long-term benefits of an effective attraction marketing campaign can outweigh any short-term benefits seen with these traditional marketing methods.

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Top Tips to a More Successful Blog

The success of your blog is determined by the number of visits that it receives from your target audience. Your content needs to appeal to their interests, and they should know where to find you in the first place. Without your readers, you will end up wasting the information that you are posting. Being at the top takes a lot of hard work and creativity, and you should know how to maximise the tools that are available at your disposal.

Here are some tips on how to attract more readers and increase your website traffic:

1. Know Your Audience

You must have a comprehensive understanding of your target audience. Learn about the things that they desire and the type of information that they want to know about. Using surveys is a good way of gathering information about your target market. You can create an online questionnaire and ask for feedback. You can also consolidate comments from previous customers and readers and assess the types of posts that they are more inclined to comment on. Knowing what your readers want will make it so much easier for you to decide what kind of content should be posted on your site.

2. Use Social Media Tools

You need to utilise social media tools to reach a wider audience no matter how good your content may be. Having great content does not automatically gain you a wide readership or audience. Fans need to be able to share your content with their own followers and subscribers using social media plug-ins and share buttons. Most of the major social media tools including Twitter, Facebook and Google+ provide options for sharing.  All you need to do is to make these buttons available and visible on your web page.

3. Capitalise on Hot Topics

Once you have identified the general topics that interest your readers the most, you need to create multiple content revolving around these hot topics. Find different angles or points of discussion that pertain to the same basic concept or idea. If your audience is interested in planting corn, for example, then you can write different articles on how to plant corn, the challenges faced by corn farmers, the biggest misconceptions about corn farming, suggestions on how to maximise corn harvest, and earning from corn farming. The key is writing multiple articles on the same topic without being repetitive.

4. Harness the Power of Emails

It is a known fact that most readers who visit your site will no longer come back for a second glance. There is a big possibility of them losing the original link that they clicked on or simply forgetting about the name of your website. It will be your responsibility to attract these readers to be returning customers. Having them sign up or subscribe to your page using their email address is a great way of encouraging them to come back to your site.  Once they sign up, you will be able to email them links to your latest blog posts on a regular basis.

5. Guest Blogging

Take a look at the most popular blogs in your industry and you will notice that there are multiple writers providing content. There are a lot of advantages to having guest bloggers write for your website. First, it provides variety and fresh ideas for your site. You will also have other people promoting your website as they promote the content that they provide to you. You will also forge strong alliances and friendships with other bloggers and authors in the industry. Lastly, you do not have to provide articles and content all by yourself.

Applying these tips to your blog will improve the chances of increasing and maintaining a healthy traffic of loyal readers. Building your presence online using social media tools and tactics is a great way of boosting your business and gaining more customers.

Improved Search Engine Rankings Using Social Media

One of the best ways to improve website traffic is by gaining a good search engine ranking position from search engines such as Google and Bing. Online users who type in specific search phrases or keywords are provided a long list of related sites; however the vast majority only go as far as reading the first page. Unfortunately this can be the case, no matter how excellent your content may be and it can remain in obscurity, unless the website improves its search engine ranking method, with the aim of propeling it to the first page of the search results.

The “game” of optimisation used to be simpler; today webmasters can resort to a number of unethical means (such spamming) in an effort to gain top rankings. This can result in useful content often being difficult to find, as online viewers are required to click through a long list of irrelevant websites before finding the information they need. However recent updates made by the top search engines, have focused on providing “natural search results.” Google, for instance, recently released the Penguin update which aimed to reduce low-quality back-links, over optimisation, and illicit SEO strategies.

More than ever, it has become essential for writers and bloggers to provide online content that is both compelling and informative. It is also important to focus on building a strong network of natural back-links that serve as portals to the website. The more links there are out there, the higher the chances of a stray reader stumbling upon your page.

Here are some social media techniques that you can use to drive audience to your site:

1. Social Media as a Tool for Encouraging Back-links

Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are great tools for building strong links to your webpage. Google and Bing have both made confirmations that links used on these social media sites are used in their algorithm. Fortunately, both sites have made it easy for webmasters and writers to integrate their blog links into post creation. For instance, once new entry is posted, it is possible to have Facebook and Twitter post updates and inform followers. Google+ is another great way of reaching a wide audience base, the more “+1” votes recieved on a blog post, the more visibility it gets.

Optimal times for posting upon social media platforms exist for certain demographics; however another method is to post multiple times, although not excessively. Scheduling tools are also widely available online, which enable authors to have certain links posted repeatedly over a pre-determined period of time. This way, you can reach potential readers who have varying schedules of activity or may be in different time zones. Scheduling also spares webmasters from the monotony of having to manually create updates featuring the same links.

2. Social Media as a Source of Content Ideas

The concept of search engines is that users are looking for information, based on certain keywords and phrases. If your goal is to get many readers, then you will likely attract more people by writing about content that interests them personally. The more interested people are about your article, the higher the likelihood of them sharing your link with other users. Thus, it is beneficial, to entice readers to share through social media network,s while providing them with the content they crave.

Social media sites are also excellent places for finding ideas on article topics of current interest. They have become tools that provide information based on what the majority of users are interested in, at any given time. Twitter for instance, has an easy to use search bar and “Trending Topics List” that will give you an insight into what people are currently talking about and showing interest in. Use these methods to find topics that fit your blog portfolio and provide interesting information or insight that will attract attention and let potential readers find it by making it available online.

3. Encourage Social Media Following and Re-Posting

Social media is the best tool to encourage direct access to your website via links. While being very easy to use, readily available, widely accessible and in terms of the future, being relatively safe from any algorithmic changes that search engines may make, for instance calculating page rank. In other words, it would be wise for a blogger not to simply rely on search engines for page visits, but to maximise the usage of social media to attract a strong following.

Most social media networks provide sharing buttons that can be clearly displayed on a website. These can easily be attached to your blog, using codes that are obtained by visiting the social media platform support page. Having these buttons displayed visibly on your page will encourage readers to share articles or entries that catch their interest.

As a last resort, another approach is to directly ask for help from your followers. Adding simple phrases like “please re-tweet” or “please re-post” is enough to encourage other users to share your post. This is particularly true for well-written and informative content. However it is important not to seem desperate, as this may impact upon your followers.

In summary, social media tools can be used to drive attention and traffic to your site. However, the content of your site remains the biggest factor in attracting readers. Content, after all, is king. No matter how extensive your social presence is, poor content will not get a good mileage. The best way to maximise your tools is to become an industry expert or authority figure in the topics that you are writing about. Gaining credibility in your craft will result in more social media following and repeat visitors to your site.