Category Archives: Content

Ello, Facebook, and peeing in the pool of Social Media

I lost interest in Facebook a year ago when it no longer held a compelling conversation.

If LinkedIn was a real thing, it would be akin to being at a dinner party held in the same room as a networking event, and a trade show.  I am ready to grab my coat and find a pub most of the time, if you are still following the analogy.

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I have signed up for Ello just to understand how people are using it. I am as curious as everyone else is.

I feel Ello was probably made by a bunch of people who said, “let’s throw a NEW dinner party, and NOT do that thing we did last time”. Right now it looks like Tumblr and Myspace might have bumped uglies a while back and have been hiding the kid from us.

We are going to probably keep doing that thing though. We left friendster, and myspace, and foursquare. We are leaving Facebook. We have a communications history littered with lost civilizations. Profiles left unattended for years. Passwords have been forgotten from our “something funny” number sign @ hotmail or AOL accounts.

We like to talk about our migration and it being because the various platforms were antiquated, people were frustrated, and young, seasoned developers created new things for us.

So we left, in droves, and abandoned half finished experiments along the way, in search of social media nirvana. I don’t know what people are actually wanting more; digital connection with society, or a zoo to witness and interact with on a whim.

Leaving is only part of the phenomenon though.

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It’s the garbage that we create and live with until we no longer enjoy it that I am most amazed by. In every case we have lowered the bar for quality, well before people actual started looking for something “better”. We do and allow things in our “social media” spaces that we would never do or allow in real life. We see other people doing it, and we do it some more. I found that we no longer set a bar for quality, and I didn’t matter what was being posted.

I believe in freedom of speech. I also believe in quality of speech. These are our communities and we are fine with posting crap and being subjected to it with no push back, we just bail instead.

I don’t feel bad for Facebook or miss myspace, and while I am excited for Ello, it’s a slightly morbid curiosity driving that.

Community Curation and Support

You may read this and think I am a naysayer for social media. This is simply not true. Video didn’t kill the radio star, her fans did though. In contrast, I witness people on Instagram doing something unique. People are putting up interesting content, and taking better photos, which drive others to also take better photos and share interesting content. The quality of the images that are on Instagram are pretty impressive and it’s primarily non-professionals. It could be due to the simple nature of the application. It appears to be of limited function. Take a picture or video, throw a filter on it, add a comment, a few hashtags that allow others to find your post, and you’re done!

I am not convinced we will ever use hashtags properly. I witnessed someone on LinkedIn using one in a post which was strange as that is not a feature (currently). What makes the community using Instagram special is that people are genuinely putting more effort and originality in their posts. The content is better which translates to an actual conversation, and a good one some of the time. For now, and for the most part, we are treating this space thoughtfully and making compelling content.

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I am interested to see how Ello will be treated by us.

 

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

 

Simplify Your Message, Or Else We Won’t Listen

If you have spent any time online in the last couple years, you are aware of the limited space people have for new content and communication.

As professional communicators, this ultimately leads to needing to pair down what we tell an audience.

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In the world of content creation, and specifically story telling, there is an unofficial “Rule of Three”. It applied to blind mice, bears with houses, and strategic communication. How do you get all of your first contact information across to an audience in just three pieces of information.

To note: you will have more time with them later if you are lucky and the content is interesting to your audience. But for now this is all about what you need to tell your audience now.

When we think of sending a message in a bottle on the tiny scroll of paper, you can imagine how important getting the right information across would be. The reality is we are very limited as to what we can say.


In terms of your brand or service, let’s say you are speaking to an audience that has never heard of you. They understand the product category that you are representing and have a general comprehension around how your service or product works.

Can you tell your story to them in five statements? How about three? In the PR world this three to five statement brief about a brand is called a boilerplate. In the start-up world it is often called the “elevator pitch”.

Ambitiously Verbose
I have rarely met a client that doesn’t start with too much to say.

The ultimate goal of this boilerplate or elevator pitch is to get enough information to this audience that they can make the next move.

Breaking down content into three statements from an audience’s point of view:

  • What do I really need to know about your business right now?
  • What do you make that I can buy, use, interact with, or ultimately make mine?
  • How will this thing and your business add value for me?

All of this needs to be stated using words that resonate with your audience, based on what they know, and how they prefer to be communicated with.

If you are having a challenge getting what you think is your required message down to three things, try taking a much larger list of say ten things and then logically group similar concepts together:

  • Operational statements (what we do)
  • Product or service statements (what we sell)
  • Value statements (why we are rad)

Then test, observe, adjust, and retest.

Actuality vs. Opinion

We can sometimes get caught up in drinking our own Kool-Aid. We lose the perspective of the person who has no experience with our company, brand, or approach to fulfilling a specific need.

Sadly sticking with just the actuality of a statement can sound very clinical and potentially boring.

Going heavy on sharing your opinion in your statements can sound disingenuous or “used car salesman-like”.

All of your statements need to add up to creating an opportunity for this audience to trust you.

The next post will be about the order of importance and putting your refined statements into a logical hierarchy for delivery.

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

The Cup Runneth Over And We Are Screwed

Consumer Engagement Threshold

Yes this sounds jargony, much like all of the terms we are trying to avoid through non-selfish communication. The reason why I like this term, and ultimately take the time to explain to people what this means, is that it is a relevant way of looking at our communication.

Information takes up space. “Out of Memory” is a common thing I am seeing these days on people’s smartphones as we document EVERY BLOODY THING WE DO.

As marketers we are guilty of the same thing. We all push so much content at consumers, 24 hours a day, in every channel we can find, make, or troll.

Add the social content being pushed at this audience (friends, family, coworkers, and people we don’t know well)

Then add instructions, directions, warnings, way finding systems, news, and blog posts like this one.

Now take into consideration how much this consumer understands about what you are presenting them, their interest level, and the other things that are distracting them.

Things are looking bleak now to get a word in edge wise with these people.

Let’s get back to the term Consumer Engagement Threshold and break it down into parts:

  1. Consumer – The reason why I want you to consider the people we are speaking to, as consumers, is to understand their mindset. The definition of consumers is “a person who purchases goods and services for personal use. So never lose sight that they are ultimately out to get something. Or else they are not consumers. So this need is a two way street for both you and your audience.
  2. Engagement – This is the active word in this term. We are actively engaging with this consumer, whether it is speaking to them in person, presenting information in a 30 second youtube ad spot, through social media, or on physical packaging. This is important to acknowledge because our format of engagement plays a critical role in getting our messages across. Does this communication channel allow for the consumer to absorb the information at their own pace? Will they be able to read or see it more than once? Will they be engaged at the relevant time for the intended action? I think of the surveys attempted in Union Station at 9am or 5pm. Yes these are the highest traffic times, but they are also the least likely time to find an open and engageable audience.
  3. Threshold – This is all about limits. How much we can cram into people’s heads. This is probably the most ignored part of communication today. We make assumptions about the audience we are speaking with, from comprehension to interest level, and we try to jam as much info into them as we can. Think of the legal disclaimers at the end of a 15 second beer ad, they have a motormouthed voice actor spew lines of legal disclaimers in the last 3 seconds of an ad to make it compliant. It may technically be compliant, but do the listeners actually retain any of it? Or do you want them to remember that you beer is always ice cold, or available in 3 sizes, or that it comes with a free towel while supplies last, or that this towel promotion is only available from June 1st until September 31st, and, and, and…

And now we are back to the image of the overfilling cup.

Your audience has a limit to what they can take in, from all sources of communication, even yours. So be mindful of this before starting any out reach campaign.

Check out the previous parts to this series:

We Are Selfish Communicators

Understanding What Our Audience Knows

Taking Distractions Into Account

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

Understanding What Our Audience Knows

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The old adage that gets used when someone doesn’t know something is “well you are not born knowing how to…”. We use this in defence of a lack of understanding.

This is true. We are not born knowing much other than pretty limited survival skills. This means there is a possibility that the group of people you really want to buy your product may not have any clue how and if it works, why they would need it, or what happens if they don’t get on board with what you are communicating with them.

This means that if your goal is to explain to a group of people or groups of people, the merits of your product or service, you need to understand what they know, before you can plan your communication strategy. Can you imagine the sales people for the telephone when it came out?

The challenge is how do we know what our audience knows?

One of the best ways to get to know someone is to listen to their questions. You can learn everything from comprehension to interest level in a specific area.

If you end up with a large group of people with different levels of comprehension, then your message will need to be delivered in multiple iterations so you are as inclusive as possible.

The problem is a lot of companies start with a limited understanding of their own message (which we will address in a later post), combined with a blanket message to either the lowest common denominator, or a message that only appeals to the most ideal consumer. Either way this will detract potential connection and relevancy with the original group.

This is just to acknowledge where the starting point is. If you have a large group of people that would really value from your communication, but set lacking a significant amount of base understanding, you will need to factor in the time and resources to get them up to speed first.

In the next post we discuss the other distractions that are impacting the attention span of a target audience.

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

We Are Selfish Communicators

The entire professional world is made up of people trying to validate their education, training, experience, and abilities, but trying to “over confuse” their consumers and then ask to get paid for their alchemy.

The problem is that our survival, and our prosperity in everything from our professions, to our sex lives is tied to the quality of our communications with others.

Where this has shown up prevalently in marketing is the sales presentation or creative pitch. We throw as much jargon at our clients as possible as if they will love us more when they are confused.

The reality is that this confusion gets passed down the line through internal sales presentations, to training materials, to sales material, to ultimately disconnected customers. Great customer focused brands get this because they personally understand their core competencies and consumer offering, in the same way the customer would best understand and connect with it.

So how do we make this madness stop?

We need to do two three things,

  • Understand who our audience is
  • Understand what our message truly is
  • Live by and present ourselves to our audience based on this new understanding.

Easy eh?

I will be breaking this down in a series of posts.

This series is based on a lecture given at Social Capital 2014, in Ottawa which was based on a 6 week coaching series that Momentum Visual created on behalf of a client.

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth. 

Why The Hell Are We Doing This? And Other Questions We Ask.

Our work as marketers is not very gratifying much of the time. We are not painters, or gardeners, or doctors, or any profession where there is a high daily possibility of seeing gratification at that absolute edge of our original goal, for us it’s the consumer.

Sure we have clients that are happy and pay us, and we give and get awards for being the cleverest kittens in the class, BUT not alot of our time is spent in witness of the actual end consumer, connecting with what we create.

Over a rocks glass of wine last night I replaced the battered covers of the custom designed and built menus for The Roxton, a restaurant client of Momentum’s. In looking at this pile of tattered covers, beaten up by excited patrons to the restaurant, looking to be fed. These menu covers embody the actual connection with the people we were hoping to connect with when we designed the menus.

It’s great to see, and I find that bringing pieces like that back to the team show that our work can be very gratifying and we can connect with actual people.

If you are reading this, I would love to know how you find proof of work effort. Where do you seek that moment of gratification that keeps you going?

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Chris Gostling is an award winning Creative Director & CEO of Momentum Visual Inc., a Toronto based strategic marketing firm.
Chris & Momentum Visual have driven creative marketing strategy and execution for client’s such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Aeroplan, Parmalat Canada, Hain Celestial Canada, Apotex, General Mills, Canadian Tire, and RBC. Beyond being an accredited graphic designer by trade, Chris is a public speaker on topics ranging from strategic thinking, creative presentation coaching, and how to build a successful and well-rounded design portfolio.
In 2009 Chris founded Small Change 4 Big Change. This charitable foundation facilitates dignified food experiences for Toronto’s at-risk and homeless youth.