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Determining why and how social media matters

New studies this year are telling us what we all know like never before: the impact of social media is significant and growing in many aspects of human life, including buying and marketing of, well, just about everything, now that you ask.

 

Everybody’s doing it

 

Despite a small but significant group of conscientious objectors and an increasingly smaller segment for whom IT is still beyond reach for economic or cultural reasons, social media usage continues growing unabated. Just under half of respondents in a new study reported that they have upped their online portfolios over the last half a year. Businesses know this, and are all the reminded by the potential digitally generated windfall each time a new statistic like this comes out. Ninety percent of these firms are convinced of the significant benefits of maintaining a strong social media presence. Yet they remain unsure of what this means exactly and how best to exploit this new market.

 

Not everyone’s benefitting

 

Seven out of 10 social media marketers believe they are sharing essential information and tips on how in-house teams can develop beneficial strategies. Yet almost 5 out of 10 struggle to meaningfully contribute to the developing pans that help meet their company’s goals and key needs, including positively impacting profits. While the technology and communications norms of everyday social media usage are just beginning to seem understandable, verifying their net impact on various economic aspects of life remains difficult to track.

 

Give the buyers what they want

 

One study of similar demographics produced two years apart delivered results indicating just how challenging it is to reach out meaningfully to audiences and potential buyers. The first study indicated interest in posts making overt reference to sales and discounts, but the response for this same topic this year was much lower. That part of the PR business never changes: trends are just that, and the truly successful messages and campaigns need to highlight something timeless and beyond the interests of the day.

 

The Human & Digital Communications Agency

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Dark data keeps companies guessing

The new State of Dark Data Report reveals that, well, we don’t know very much about dark data. That’s why it’s named as such. While it is recognized that heaps of information are now being amassed by companies, the problem is that since it is collected in different ways, used for different purposes, and ends up in different places, it remains uncorrelated and unanalyzed. The survey of views from executives from the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, China, Japan, and Australia explains why, as is, dark data remains only theoretically useful.

 

The report estimates that dark data represents over 55% of the totality of all information. The figure uses various metrics to attempt to account for the array of systems, protocols, people and IT devices used to collect data. Three-quarters of the executives asked agree that the institutions that collect and make use of the greatest amount of data will have heightened advantages that cannot be compensated for by way of other advantages. Data is king.

 

We’re trying; really, we are

 

More than half of the companies claiming to be “data-driven” in one way or another admitted that this phrase is more aspirational than a statement of actuality. On a related note, even in the early stages before artificial intelligence have really been established, 4 out of 5 industry professionals have expressed confidence that humans will remain central to AI applications. However, over 90% of respondents from companies said they are willing to develop and apply a new understanding of data. Only just over half are enthusiastic about having to do so. The only country where significant enthusiasm was generated on the topic, and which was seen as most advanced in understanding dark data’s potential, was China.

 

The Human & Digital Communications Agency

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The rise of brand storytelling

Stories are more easily remembered than statistics and facts alone. Stories stimulate our neural activity. Stories also impact the brain’s sensory cortex. Such are just a few facts related to how stories do a better job than facts alone (but, of course, still very much need them). The union of facts and heart-stirring narratives is called brand storytelling, a phenomenon rapidly gaining currency among digital marketers, aka digital storytellers and content marketers.

 

The future of marketing

 

Brand storytelling capitalizes on and represents the nearly inevitable outcome of several trends, including buyers trusting information coming from fellow customers than from companies, the tendency to edit out advertisements from daily news feeds and streaming sites, the quest for authenticity in brands, decreasing brand loyalty, and the nature of the trend-setting, digital-native Gen Z.

 

Sponsoring values, not products

 

Advertisers are rebranding themselves as value-focused, which has always been be a tough sell. Creating interest in goods and services without blatantly looking like you’re selling them may not be a new challenge, but is an increasingly relevant one to meet in a world awash with information and multiple channels for exposure. Influencers are found attractive by their followers for their character and integrity, not their over loyalty to particular brands, let alone for being mouthpieces for sales and specials of the day.

 

There’s no publicity like free publicity

 

If the best stories write themselves, the most unscripted of plot twists can have the happiest of endings in terms of PR value. Which is to say, the best things in life are free. When a very obviously 21st-century coffee cup looking like it was from Starbucks worked itself into a bar scene from the premium streaming series “Game of Thrones” the gargantuan error generated for Starbucks what one industry expert valued to be no less than US$2.3 billion in free advertising. Some stories are too good to be true, and the great ones are too serendipitous to have been made up.

 

The Human & Digital Communications Agency

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And the innovators are…

Boston Consulting Group recently released its report “The Most Innovative Companies 2019: The Rise of AI, Platforms, and Ecosystems”. The companies at the top shifted slightly, and, ironically, are also those sometimes known for losing their knack for creative intentions.

 

Innovation means IT

 

The #1 position has been taken by Google, having replaced Apple at the top. The former #1 and new #3 has been in the news lately not so much for innovation and carrying on in the outside-the-box spirit of its late founder, Steve Jobs, but for a future focusing on streaming original series for fans of the brand. Apple has also been on the defensive in terms of sales of smartphones and other gadgets, with competition stiffening with the up-and-coming Huawei. The top 10 positions on the list of innovative companies were dominated by tech firms, which gives a good indication of how IT provides need to be on the ball and changing all the time, lest market shares and the advantages of leadership slip away. Just ask Nokia.

 

A Google will rise

 

Even the new #1, the world’s most famous search engine, will not impress everyone with taking over the top slot, as this can be seen as the inevitable position of a behemoth controller and provider of information that insists on getting its way. The king of SEO will be seen as innovative by size and influence alone, no matter what effects this may have on daily life, for good or otherwise. Amazon, an online good provider making bold plans for a whole new bricks-and-mortar shopping experience, placed second. Notable at #4 is bundling giant Microsoft, also no stranger of bullying competitors and customers with offers they can’t refuse.

 

Another fly higher

 

Meanwhile in other barometers of success, another firm worth mentioning is Singapore Airlines, which has long been the world’s most awarded airline. The carrier credits its successful campaigns and popularity with travelers by taking the approach that localization is hardly synonymous with translation, and that nuanced, contextual understanding of and respect for local audiences is essential in forging the right connections. The company’s latest tagline, ‘Making Every Journey Personal’ says it all about what happens when you live up to your own PR.

 

The Human & Digital Communications Agency

Our award-winning communications team blends human interactions & digital engagement seamlessly to produce results for brands.

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Waiting for information alignment

Many key trends look ready to coalesce in ways that should make data more easily accessible and better organized. Only that for every innovative step forward, more questions and disruption is caused as well. What’s new? Well, plenty, actually. Voice search, led by the rise of Alexa and Google Home, is ready for big-time liftoff and will have interesting ramifications for SEO – which remains something both unquantified and essential for businesses. The same goes for video, which is becoming more popular on websites but is just as susceptible to the unpredictable, shifting nature of SEO.

 

A world of opportunity for storytellers

 

For public relations professionals, this presents the usual challenge and opportunity: for those with the right message and networks for amplifying messages, the rewards are great. Deeper, better content that connects meaningfully with buyers, in particular niches, remains essential and is more important than ever. Beyond the reach of big data and reaching target audiences, developing a rapport still matters, and remains built on trust and experience. This takes a proven track record more than algorithms and mere potential. What matters is data maturity: it takes time and energy to isolate trends and optimize today’s great opportunities for message sharing and profit.

 

In search of truths

 

This need for authenticity and balance in a world more marked by chance is well represented in the rise of the digital platforms for many traditional media that now have more online that hard-copy subscriptions. The successful shift has solidified and raised the standing of classic institutions such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Classical influencers still have their role in times threatened by fake news, and big data, which gives even larger importance to the need for veracity.

 

The Human & Digital Communications Agency

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Content marketing that matters

For digital marketers, content is more than sum of its parts and SEO, of course. It’s also linked to integration. Ideally, good content spans departments, picking up the best contributions overall. Some marketing experts suggest interdepartmental teams meet regularly to get all the right verticals working in the best ways, cross-pollinating in ways that enhance the ability of any business or organization to share its key messages with others.

 

Content that virtually self-disseminates

 

With attractive campaigns and messaging that takes into account the main objectives of key experts and stakeholders, the content created and posted and shared companies and spread by influencers will resonate more naturally and be in a better position to achieve success.

 

Content as stories told well

 

This blurs the lines between news articles and videos and advertisements in ways that can more easily be capitalized on, when storytelling devices and keywords are synched in ways that add up to better, more memorable customer experiences. Indeed, the fullest interaction with buyers now involves feedback from and interaction with in ways richer than envisioned just a couple of years ago, now that social media application is becoming more sophisticated among digital marketers. And big data facilitates sharing of what customers want and value in terms of interest and bottom-line spending.

 

Content that keeps giving

 

A key component of content marketing today takes into account how buyers want more interesting stories, and generated from fellow end users, or through less overt advertising, and more of an entertaining but informative approach. For example, a car manufacturers will help customers stay up to date on the latest restaurants, travel hotspots and other destinations within reach by automobile. For public relations professionals, semi-promotional articles and soft sells that don’t explicitly promote products create ever-widening circles of sells friends and contacts whose products and services are more directly talked up in these articles, and who will remember you next time.

 

The Human & Digital Communications Agency

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Digital marketers, are you listening?

Podcasts have become widely popular in a short amount of time in the US. About 75% of trendsetting Generation Z – people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s – pay for a streaming or music service, compared to six out 10 among the not all that older Millennials (a third of whom say they listen to at least one podcast daily). Commuters and workers are coming more and more to value multitasking and making efficient use of time. This is indeed the Information Age, as a new study among on the popularity of podcasts in the US indicates.

 

Giving reason to radically rethink ideas related to digital distraction and shorter attention spans, Millennials are focused more than other age group on education podcasts, and along with Gen Zers are 5 percent more likely to play podcasts for motivation related to professional development than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. The two younger generations were also more likely to listen to podcasts of 26 minutes, compared to older generations. Significant majorities in all generations believed that podcasts helped them in terms of intellectual growth. Older generations still saw them more as gadgets associated with downtime rather than the platforms for learning they have also become thought of among younger Americans.

 

Spreading the word

 

Most podcast fans want to share, but desire easier technology allowing for sharing snippets of sound rather than links requiring some fine tuning to get to the best sections. Spotify, Apple Podcasts and web browsers were cited as the most popular platforms for podcasts. Nearly a full tenth of the entire adult US population listen to at least one podcast a month, a trend that has shown significant increase. Good listeners are indeed out there, for anyone sharing the right messages…

 

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Sports influencers making lots of smooth moves

After a slow start compared to other marketing fields, sports marketing has taken off, and shows no signs of slowing down. Industry experts cite a variety of factors for the trend, but particularly the relatively sudden appearance of Gen Z’s financial prowess. This digital native, most socially conscious demographic is expected by next year to be spending anywhere from US$30 billion to over US$100 billion annually. Just as e-commerce platforms and big data are coming of age, not surprisingly, so are the youngsters best positioned to take advantage of new ways of spending income, including sports-related purchases.

 

An e-marketing bonanza awaiting

 

The new earners and spenders of Generation Z are seen as being more pragmatic, supportive of social initiatives, and robustly responsive to campaigns of all kinds that directly appeal to them and appear genuine in intent. At the same time, around two-thirds of marketers of sports events, teams and equipment and see more influencer programs as being vital for their field in the mid- and long-term future. The up-and-coming generation in particular can long expect to be targeted with sports-related campaigns.

 

Great ROI for sports marketing

 

The ROI of recent sports marketing programs indicates that they are very effective in generating profits. Sports marketers in recent studies said this is facilitated by having open relationships with influencers and working collaboratively to ensure that the authentic reach of their influence was optimized in line with client companies’ needs and matching them in turn as closely as possible to the expectations of buyers.

 

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Marketing, automated

When you’re curious about what chance there is of rain, snow or something even more dramatic falling down on you, it’s good to know weather reports are reasonably reliable. While the forecasts for marketing trends may not yet be as accurate, they are getting better at indicating stormy conditions best avoided. Still in its infancy, this technology is called predictive analytics, and uses AI to help marketers forge ahead more confidently with strategy based largely on future customer behavior, in ways that would have looked risky just a few years ago.

 

PR, scientifically

 

The science takes a variety of statistics and facts about current trends to build models that are getting better at giving a good indication of how consumers will spend their money, based on analysis of past behavioral patterns. The big idea is that this will help save a ton of money on splash-out marketing campaigns and help PR agencies and their clients improve ROI numbers. Six out of 10 entrepreneurs questioned in a recent study said that think predictive analytics is an extremely significant trend, while nearly three-fourths of them said it would more definitely be so within two years.

 

Why predictions matter

 

Beyond lucrative applications for predicting the wants and needs of buyers of all kinds of products and services, the technology will be useful for prioritizing and qualifying leads, focusing publicity and campaigns on more targeted audiences, and more efficient introduction and testing of new items in the market. Predictive analytics is one more indicator of how big data is changing and enriching the information landscape in countless ways.

 

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The rise of video SEO

Image may not be everything, but videos are often more fun to take a moment to be distracted by than text. Marketing experts know that using video helps websites rank more highly in terms of SEO. The authority of the website matters as well, in addition to various factors that will increase the professionalism of your videos. High quality video videos have been easily shot on smartphones for years now, and companies are slowly getting better about capturing images in short films that help project the image they want.

 

How to optimize

 

Having a website that’s already impressive helps. So does a good choice and use of platforms your videos are seen and available on beyond your website. Social media accounts like YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook are of course useful for generating awareness. Screenshots can be extracted from footage and used to help generate interest with a choice caption. If you don’t have a transcript yet, make one – this will make it easier for those who still prefer reading or use it part of the time. And do you offer a choice of languages?

 

Thumbnails matter

 

The video will get better play when it is the focus of the page and not lingering in corners. This makes for easier navigation as well. Another tech spec to be aware of is page-loading time. Since videos aren’t digested all in one go, and don’t lend themselves as effectively to scanning and scrolling through like website and texts, having an enticing and clear thumbnail image with an appropriate title is a must. If your video is about dining in a particular restaurant, don’t use a thumbnail featuring someone driving to the restaurant or something else indirectly related. But being human matters too. One marketing site found that thumbnails with a person were clicked on 30% more. Many tend to judge a book by its cover and a video by its thumbnail, so make sure to have an irresistible one.

 

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Our award-winning communications team blends human interactions & digital engagement seamlessly to produce results for brands.

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