It is a mistake to confuse design with merely good looks and decoration. Good design is borne from the core of a business, what it is and what it aspires to be. Good design is borne from the core of a business’s expression of mission and all of its various communications needs — from how it talks about its products and services, to how it interacts with its customers, to the experiences it provides when people visit its websites, conferences, stores or offices.
Unfortunately, good design is sorely lacking in most business experiences. But fortunately, and on a major plus note — this presents amazing opportunities for businesses that seek a real ROI and are willing to heed the lessons learned and demonstrated by some of our most universally respected companies. Good design, especially when incorporated into the belief systems of those at the highest levels of management, makes a difference: better products, better services, better efficiencies and better profits, not to mention a better functioning corporate culture that breeds far happier employees.
Good design is an investment in all that is good, yet too often it is considered just another expense. But when monies are layed out that return so many positive business outcomes, it should be evident that it is money well spent with endless returns.
Here are a few ways good design propels business:
1. Puts you head and shoulders above the restThe sharp dressed person will always stand out among those who aren’t as carefully put together. Same goes for the person who has their sh*t together versus those who always seem to be disorganized and scrambling in some way. The same goes for your business — take advantage of what good design has to offer.
2. Influences what others thinkIt is true that in today’s world, it is the public that defines your brand — but good design can play an important role in how people define your brand. What you do and how you say it makes a difference — good design will make sure you do it well. It can also level the playing field against the bigger boys and the larger companies that struggle with internal conflicts and disorganization that leads to a fractured, weaker brand.
3. Boils down your messaging into words that stickCommunications that aren’t read or retained, are as good as doing nothing at all; perhaps worse, if the muddled messages give a bad impression. Good design grabs the skimmers, getting your messages seen and heard.
4. Orchestrates an enjoyable customer experienceGood design respects your markets, audiences and customers — ensuring that your company’s interactions with people are enjoyable ones. Good design turns otherwise clunky experiences into user-friendly ones, taking the friction out of everything from navigating your website to deciphering your sales materials. Respect others and they will respect you.
5. Makes communications easily comprehensibleWebsites, marketing campaigns, social engagement, brochures, exhibits and any other type of communications that are nothing more than a chaotic mess of words, ideas and images only leave people dazed and confused. Too many businesses, in an effort to say it all, end up saying not much of anything. Good design will ensure what you have to say is heard loud and clear, and a proper hierarchy established for easy accessibility to everything else.
6. Establishes relevance, credibility and professionalismEverything is a reflection of you and your business. Dress your communications for success the same way you would dress yourself for success at an important business event. It makes you more valuable. You only have one chance to make a first impression, but you have every chance to make sure it’s a good one — through the virtue of good design.
7. Creates the bond of trust that every business cravesA stand for quality and thoroughness resonates with people, either consciously or subconsciously. Whether it be products that work, communications that explain things clearly, or well-designed experiences that trigger positive feelings — good design engenders the trust that builds loyal customers and passionate brand advocates.
8. Captures the imagination of your marketsOnce a track record of well conceived, successful communications, products, and experiences is established, a company’s superior offerings and processes together with an inspired design communications strategy will take its successes to places previously considered inconceivable. Few are able to achieve such lofty results, but a comprehensive plan with good design built into its DNA from the beginning is the recipe for such accomplishments.
9. Maximizes efficienciesGood design streamlines processes that creates efficiencies and adds immeasurable value that saves time and money. From communications that people understand to efficient project development and manufacturing processes, good design eliminates confusion, redundancy and waste, including the all-too-common costly redos through the virtues of good organization and solid planning.
10. Brings cohesion and clarity to business complexitiesGood design will find an elegant solution that simplifies, shapes and focuses how complex systems and offerings can be most effectively communicated. Many companies have elaborate systems and business models behind whatever it is that is they do. There are often sub-brands and incongruent business offshoots that fall under the main company umbrella. These things can often cloud the way a company is perceived by the outside world — and oftentimes, those charged with communicating these complex business offerings and branding challenges to the public are too close to these inner workings to do it well. Good design will garner the objectivity necessary for explaining things in a way that people understand.
11. Inspires your employeesEverybody likes to look and feel good. Good design facilitates that, boosting employee morale. Just as in our personal lives, nothing feels better than knowing things are neat and tidy and as they should be. Good design will energize your company from within.
12. Gives tangible form to ideasSomehow, ideas that are discussed in a meeting or written in a memo don’t get the attention they deserve until good design springs them to life so people can see, touch and feel them. Likewise, a new business concept is somehow not “real” until a logo is attached to it, giving it the tangible identity that people can relate to and rally behind, transforming wishful thinking into fruitful realities.
So you see, good design has innumerable positive benefits for business, beyond just “making something look pretty.” I hope you nodded your head as you read this list — that should be proof enough that good design makes a difference. Yet too many businesses and professionals skimp when it comes to relegating the proper resources to design. If you find yourself to be one of them, I encourage you to rethink your position — for I truly believe that untapped successes can be realized by changing your thinking from seeing design as an expense to that of a smart investment. How will you make your business sing with design?
What do you think? Did I miss anything? Please let me know in the comments below. And if you have a different position on any of this, I would like to hear that too.
Featured image courtesy of Neal licensed via Creative Commons.
The return to the visual was inevitable, really. Modern media demands it.
Communication as pictograms means we have come full circle — a return to a day when images provide the best way to satisfy the insatiable “need to know” while on the fly. We don’t catch our info while fleeing from woolly mammoths anymore. Instead, our big, hairy, audacious stressor is modern culture itself.
Words are important, but pictures say so much more when skimming the social streams and checking in with the myriad of digital devices at our fingertips. Coupled with the need to “tell a story” in order to engage and capture the imagination of our audiences, you can see why the visual has risen to such prominence in today’s business communications, digital platforms and overall marketing efforts.
“90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text.” ~ Source: 3M
More than ever, communications need to be crisp and clear — quickly and effectively repurposing themselves across an almost infinite array of media and digital devices, all with different screen sizes and technical requirements — changing on an almost daily basis. Even getting just a few words working in all these different contexts can be a challenge, but a simple visual or icon will work for them all.
Restroom symbols are what they are because "ya gotta go when ya gotta go” and nothing will get you where you gotta go quicker. Same with modern media.
Yet, with all this simplification of ideas down to visuals, are we compromising depth of understanding for practical convenience? Are we forever stuck in a type of Plato's cave where all we ever see are shadows rather than true meaning? Can we stop for just a second and contemplate this notion? Please?
Thoughts as visuals. Every social media redesign makes the pictures bigger. Every logo redesign seems to bring us closer to the purity of a basic circle, square or triangle. It is part of the natural progression from complexity to simplicity. Our modern culture demands it, our overloaded brains require it, and science proves it.
You can choose to resist this reality or accept it, but you can’t deny that our world has changed and our communications have changed with it. We interact with content differently now. Or is it really just a return to the way things used to be?
If you don’t adapt and move your communications strategy towards the visual, you run the real risk of going unnoticed and unheard. You and your business will basically be rendered invisible.
The choice is yours. Fight or flight.
Photo of cave drawing from the Lascauex Cave, France.
Businesses and solopreneurs sometimes have difficulty justifying the expense of hiring a professional branding and design pro. In other words, “What am I going to get for my money that I can’t get done on the cheap somewhere else?”
These types of questions are often asked by people either new to marketing, or those debating whether other priorities should take precedence in their spending budget. Even if they are the ones proactively seeking out these specific types of services, many still require convincing that a smart branding, design and communications program is worth the dollars they’ll be spending — and that it is an investment with countless dividends.
When prospective clients ask me what they’ll be getting for their investment in professional branding and design, I can answer in many different ways, but sometimes I think it best to tell them what they WON’T be getting:
1. A website that hurts the eyes, the brain and your business
People like to fly when they’re online — they zip from one page to the next, from news to entertainment, from Facebook to Twitter, around the world and back. When they land on your site, they will not be intrigued by a mess reminiscent of what two year olds leave on their bibs. Not only won’t they bother navigating past the home page, which is likely to be a masochistic exercise in search for something that will only leave them frustrated, but your crowded, ugly, chaotic website will convince people to make another one of those split-second clicks — to your competitor’s website.
2. A media kit that bursts at the seams with odd-sized materials that don’t match
Fitting that body into jeans three sizes too small may work in certain parts of town, but not when you are trying to convince somebody to do business with you. My son comes home from school with a book bag that looks like a sack full of dirty laundry, but he’s not going on client meetings with it. Not yet, anyway. And if he does, we’ll have to have a talk.
3. A logo that is a diagram, a mission statement, and ten years of strategy all rolled into one
A logo that tries to “say it all” and put every little thing into that one little graphic is never going to say anything. What it will say is that you have no idea what you’re doing, and no business wants to communicate that. Leave the laundry list of services and detailed illustrations to your brochure — you know, the one that doesn’t look like the one in #4.
4. A brochure that confuses, obscures and begs for the trash bin
People’s offices already have a lot of clutter. Your brochure comprised of all your best Word docs set in eight different fonts with fuzzy screen captures for graphic blandishment may get YOU excited, but everyone else will have a different reaction. Trust me on this.
5. A social media page that screams “DISENGAGE FROM ME” rather than engage with me
You see them everywhere — even from those you think should know better, which baffles me. I’m not even talking about the eggs and empty profile silhouettes — I mean the blurry little portraits, logos that look like they’ve been photocopied twenty times and bios full of hashtags and exclamations that make you cringe. That stuff just sends people for the hills. And those busy, confusing, garish visuals used for backgrounds and header images that would make Times Square laugh at you? Oh my.
6. A web banner that looks like one of those crass supermarket ads
Unfortunately, these tend to be the norm rather than the exception. Yelling “BUY ME NOW!” was supposed to have gone out a few years ago. Too bad so many businesses persist with this worn out tactic of trying to attract eyeballs and clicks. I tend to look the other way, how about you?
7. A newsletter that is tossed as soon as it is seen
This goes for about 95% of the newsletters out there: a flimsy page or two, crammed with small text, blurry photos and tired clip art. You may be enamored with your content and that you figured out how to create it “all by yourself” in Word or PowerPoint, but nobody else gives a rat’s ass what you learned on a rainy Saturday afternoon. You saved a few bucks, but your business will pay the price because the only thing you are influencing is a poor reflection on your business.
8. A business card that never leaves the dark recesses of somebody’s pocket, unless to dispose of a piece of gum
When I’m handed a business card on thin, crappy stock with an irrelevant stock image and ugly type, guess what I think of them and their business? “Oh, this is a person with weak skills, bad taste and not much respect for themselves or their business.” Be honest, you know you do it too.
9. An email campaign that doesn’t make it past my ever-increasingly quick-scrolling preview pane
Most people already sigh a giant “UGH!” at the amount of emails they receive every day. Throw in yet another overly promotional, ugly looking email with lots of big fonts and sparkly, futuristic 3-D images that look like they’re from some low-brow sci-fi movie from the ’70s and… well, good luck with that.
10. A PowerPoint that goes on, and on, and on, and on, and… *snore*
Not sure if you’ve seen many of these because you were probably fast asleep, but… you have certainly suffered through them. Repeating every word you are saying and putting up every piece of data you can for “graphic interest” kind of defeats your reason for being there in the first place, doesn’t it? Redundancy and boring your audience to tears is not an effective marketing strategy.
11. A web landing page that makes you sorry for landing there
Long, tedious forms with lots of asterisks that require you to give a lot of personal information are deal breakers. Your intention to capture prospects just turned into the opposite — they will leave and may never click on one of your links ever again.
12. An e-book that looks like that lame school paper you once whipped out the day it was due
This isn’t school anymore — this is business — and crunching to crank out something mediocre just because you can is supposed to be ancient history now. So why do so many e-books look like they were created under the same duress and lack of enthusiasm you had for that boring sociology class you once had? This is your business we’re talking about and doesn’t it deserve a little more care and professionalism? Of course it does!
Remember what your mother once told you: “You only have one chance to make a good first impression.” Usually all it takes is some clean underwear, brushing your teeth, flashing a winning smile and you’re golden. Sometimes it takes a little more.
And oh yeah, even if you have the skills to create some of these things yourself, you need to be a cut above the rest if you really want to make an impression in this hyper-competitive world. Hiring a pro is well worth the investment, and could very well be the difference between success and failure.
So… what terrible, awful, dreadful things will you not be giving your clients? And if you are the client, I hope you appreciate what you won’t be getting from re:DESIGN.
This interview first appeared on Rebel Brown’s Rebelations blog at RebelBrown.com
Integrated media is one of the hot new buzzwords in everything from marketing websites to sales presentations to customer engagement. There's no doubt that media is changing the face of communications in B2B and B2C markets alike. That's a great thing for our buyers and vendors alike. Why? Because our human brains grasp and remember visual information much better than we do textual content. How do we best take advantage of this Big Change? I chatted with Paul Biederman, design expert and social media friend about his take on visual and our content strategies.
Paul shares his expertise in his interview and in the Slideshare he prepared to add even more value to his comments.
1) Research has proven that people remember far more from images than words. How does that play into today's media-focused marketing?
If you look across the web and especially on the social platforms, you will see that people love sharing pictures and meme-style images! More and more, the platforms are catering to this and the way people like to engage. Platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram are built around visuals, but Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even LinkedIn are also becoming increasingly more visual! It would be wise for companies to pay attention to this and develop a visual content strategy that capitalizes on it.
2) If a picture tells a thousand words — how does that impact storytelling today?
Telling your brand story, whether you are a company or an independent professional, is key to capturing the hearts and minds of your market, your audience and your online communities. It is a busy, distracted world and people are spending less and less time reading lengthy explanations — they’d rather skim. So if you want to tell your story with impact, you better be using strong visuals! Videos play a part too, of course, but I still think that still visuals together with a powerful, well-designed brand work even better in this world where no one seems to have any time to spare anymore. Videos take time — pictures are a quick grab and there is endless power in a story told through a strong, consistent brand image that is pervasive through all communications and media touchpoints.
3) What is the biggest misconception about design you encounter in the business world?
I still come across people who seem to think that design is merely a decorative add-on or unnecessary fluff. Nothing could be further from the truth — in fact, I would say that design is the critical component missing from many businesses. Good design is that which serves a business purpose. It clarifies, communicates, unifies, engages and influences to name a few examples. Of course, doing these things well improves the bottom line, but good designers also save money by streamlining communications and processes, as well as preventing unnecessary waste. This is why design should also be considered at the very earliest stages of a project and by the highest levels. From a well-designed brand strategy that communicates clearly and succinctly everything that a business is about to a cohesive marketing program that powerfully accomplishes its business objectives to visual content that helps a business stand out and stimulate engagement on the social web — good design and a strong visual strategy have never been more important.
4) What are the greatest challenges companies need to overcome in order to adopt successful creative strategies that achieve their business goals?
Too many times, a potentially sound business strategy isn’t supported by an equally good creative strategy, allowing the plan to die on the vine. And if a business recognizes how critical the role of good design is to execute the strategy and enable its success, the budget dollars need to be placed there as well, not relegated to another day as something “nice to have” once other expenditures are made.
5) We all know buyers are distracted and overwhelmed with too much information and too many interruptions. How can we use visuals to rise above the noise?
Well-designed communications in this day and age need to get to the meat of the message really quickly. Messaging must be distilled down into “sound-bytes” that even skimmers will catch the meaning of. Visuals transport those messages and drive them through the noise out so they stand apart from the busy streams, enabling the messages to be seen. It amazes me how few companies seem to understand this and do it well — but that presents amazing opportunities for the smart companies that “get it.”
6) What’s the best balance between content and visuals in today's world?
Visuals are also content, but if you mean text, less is more. Just as the most nicely crafted ads have always achieved a fine balance and interplay between text and visual, the same holds true now. Since we are increasingly becoming a visually-oriented society as things constantly zip by us in today’s media from all directions, coming up with strategies that allow the visual to dominate would be prudent. Once someone is hooked, they can then be directed somewhere else where the broader story can be told — but they need to be hooked first.
7) What do you think are the perfect elements of an engaging story?
I like to keep it simple, since again, a complex story will only cause befuddlement and people will move on. At best, you want your single main message to get across. I encourage people not to rush this part of the process — it means introspection and not settling on the obvious. Everyone else is doing the obvious — you or your company needs to set itself apart. A simple example: If you’re a dry cleaner, do you only clean clothes or do you keep people looking great so they can go out into the world and be the best they can be? Or perhaps, a dry cleaner simply makes people’s lives easier, giving them more time to do the things they love. Or maybe they use safe chemicals for a better, healthier, greener environment. Those are all better stories than just cleaning clothes. Marry a simple, compelling story to a strong visual campaign and you’re golden!
Getting the most from your investment in good design requires a clear understanding of the roles of both the client and that of the designer or creative agency. Everyone has the same goal of doing what is best for the project at hand, but things can go awry when there is confusion and unclear expectations about each other’s roles.
Contrary to common belief, design is not as subjective as one may think. While everyone may have an opinion and even experts often disagree (don’t they always?), there IS such a thing as good and bad design. There are also rights and wrongs for how to best move the creative process forward.
Good design can be measured against several different benchmarks: how well it solves the marketing problem, how well it communicates the message, how well it functions, clarifies, and sells, not to mention the fundamental aesthetic value of the completed design — and how well the designer uses all the components in their creative toolbox: concept, shape, form, color, texture, scale, and typography all play a part.
Designers don't leave anything to chance. The way the right side of a paragraph looks (rag), the space between lines of text (leading), as well as the spaces between letters (kerning) is deliberated over — always looking for a pleasing look and balance between positive and negative space. Maybe you can see why I cringe when a client says I can just "dump in the text." Designers never just "dump" in anything, even something as basic as body text in a document.
Along with all the other considerations designers make during the creative process, the art of design takes time, resulting in an end result that looks and functions as well as it does. A good designer never leaves anything to chance, and will always be able to explain the rationale behind a particular design decision when necessary or if challenged — both aesthetically and businesswise.
The designer anomaly
True design pros are a mix of many different skill sets — they are smart communicators with a keen understanding of marketing strategy, psychology, client relations, technology, project management and the ability to stay focused on the overall goals without getting sidetracked by the many distractions and inevitable hiccups along the way. Successful outcomes are a testament to how well these factors are juggled — and making it all come out on time and on budget.
Designers make order out of chaos. Like chewing gum, rubbing your tummy and walking all at the same time, and still somehow making it all look beautiful, this is no easy feat.
On top of this, good design is often design that goes unnoticed — too much adornment or obtrusive design would get in the way of the communication or functionality. No wonder there is so much confusion about what design is and what designers bring to the table! But let it be known that if something looks simple, fluid and easy, you can be sure it wasn’t easy getting it that way. In the same way that a ballet dancer jumps and moves with incredible beauty and grace on stage, misleading one into thinking it is in someway “easy,” we know it only takes a few seconds of trying it yourself to know that is certainly not the case. Today’s software and endless tools may make it appear that design can be done by anybody, but the results usually speak for themselves.
Is there a design quotient?
Just as people have certain aptitudes for anything — I do think there is such a thing as a DQ, or design quotient — similar to an IQ or an EQ (emotional intelligence). Yet I don’t believe possessing a high DQ is necessary to benefit from good design or to work successfully with designers.
Good designers, through talent, training, practice, experience and instinct, know how to make things communicate better, sell better, work better, conserve better, and yes, look better too. The end result, however, is effective without anyone really needing to know why. The best designers and creative pros have dedicated their lives to mastering visual rhetoric.
While personal tastes will be taken into account when relevant, such as a personal branding project, designers do not need a lot of creative input. Clients do not need to conceive what they want — they don’t need to develop rough sketches and they certainly don’t need to supply the designer with ideas or preconceived notions. In fact, this is where the designer/client relationship can sometimes get strained, because as important as the client role is in successful outcomes, they sometimes unwittingly overstep their bounds during the creative process into areas for which they do not have an "aptitude." My younger son may like a certain meal after it is served but can't stand the sight of it being made — if he had his way and changed six of the eight ingredients, he wouldn't like the end result and neither would anyone else.
The critical role of the client
What a designer requires from the client, and indeed, what the project needs to be successful — is the client focusing on fulfilling their very important role in the client/designer relationship. These things are crucial if the project is going to meet its goals and justify the investment. The most important things a client needs to provide their creative agency in order for them to do their jobs effectively are:
1) Defining what needs to be accomplished from a strategic perspective (marketing/communications goals, audience, objectives, etc.)
2) Outlining any specific project requirements and parameters (including who will be involved, what the timeframe is, the budget, etc.)
3) Supplying timely input and feedback throughout the process in order to keep the project on track.
Please note that a client’s favorite color is not one of these top priorities. Let the designer you chose to trust with your work do their thing — they will select the colors and other things that best solve the problem at hand. Again, color choice is not purely subjective, and the color you recently used to repaint your kitchen may not necessarily be the best choice for your branding/marketing/communications project. If it is a personal branding project or the like, a client’s personal preferences should always be accounted for. But for most other projects, it is the target market that needs to be appealed to and influenced, not the client.
The client/designer partnership
The client/designer relationship is a partnership with clearly defined roles, working together throughout the development process. Both roles are necessary to arrive at a successful solution — and the better this partnership, the better the result for both parties. One without the other won’t get the job done, at least not as effectively as it could be done.
Mutual respect for each other’s roles always leads to the best collaborations. In fact, out of all the creative success I’ve had and awards I have won, I have always seen the client as an integral component of those outcomes:
A) They hired me in the first place
B) They provided me the input I needed to do my job
C) They trusted me and ultimately approved the work, letting good work flourish
I couldn’t have done any of this without a good client.
Yet the basic client responsibilities I outlined are often overlooked while other extraneous things are brought into the equation instead, which can lead to less than desirable results — or at least the project won’t be what it could have been. Everyone wants the same thing — a healthy process that achieves the desired goals, yet a lack of understanding of who is responsible for what so often derails the process, sabotaging the result that everyone is seeking.
Again, clients should not feel pressured to solve the problem for the designer — in fact, that is exactly what is NOT needed. “Make it bigger,” “make the font bolder,” and “make it red” are also examples of clients dictating the solution rather than establishing the communications problem that needs solving. In these examples, the issue is really that something needs to be highlighted in some way — let the designer use their talent, training, experience and intuition to come up with the best answer. Give the professional who was hired the space to create and do their thing. They are the experts.
Client feedback is welcomed and always taken into consideration. Likewise, good ideas can come from anywhere. But preconceived notions and demands are impositions that prevent a healthy creative process.
Designers have their fingers on the pulse and are in the best position to know what will most likely get the reaction you are looking for, and then convert it into that pesky little ROI everyone is looking to achieve. Pigeonholing your designer and dictating design won’t get you there.
It’s a trust thing
The most important thing that clients can do is hire a designer or agency they trust. Based on their previous work, recommendations and familiarity with the people being hired — designers need to be trusted with delivering the results desired. The work they do may not look like what they have done for other clients — that would be defeating the entire purpose of hiring an agency to deliver a custom solution in the first place. Remember: in today’s competitive business climate, companies need to stand out, not blend in with the rest. So it stands to reason that a successful visual presence should not look like what everybody else is doing.
For this reason, the best creative work can make clients feel uncomfortable, because it may be different from what they have seen before. But trust and good communication will create the climate in which breakout creative can flourish — and there’s a good chance it will do the same for your business.
An engaged online community or digital tribe is the path to real business success on social media. Anyone who has been on social media for any length of time recognizes that the old school way of broadcasting messages is beyond passé at this point and that engagement is the key. The way to propel this activity is by either creating or becoming part of a relevant online community that learns to trust you and that will support your activities and interests, hyper-spreading your endeavors globally.
There is strength in numbers. But there is power in numbers that actually know you!
Individuals acting independently of each other will not have nearly the same impact.
It is becoming increasingly important for brands to get on board with this concept of community in the new social order. Indeed, the potential for developing a community of brand advocates that freely shares your content and spreads the word about your company on a consistent basis, perhaps even with passion, is nothing less than the Holy Grail of social media.
Fundamentally, there is really nothing new here — we have always networked and seeked to develop trusted reputations — but we could have only dreamed to do it on the massive, global scale that today’s social networking platforms enable. Over the past few years, I have learned a thing or two about what makes a digital tribe tick. I run a couple of online communities and play a leading role in others. One of these is the re:DESIGN
community on Facebook
, for those who value all that strategic design can do for business and innovation.
I have also gleaned a lot of insight from the global writers’ community I run with Peggy Fitzpatrick
at 12 Most
. What could have easily been a disjointed effort of haphazardly posting guest posts as they come in, has instead grown into a very organized, respected community of professionals — one that produces fresh weekly content with a broad readership — all while enjoying each other’s company and supporting each other every step of the way.
We are a digital tribe that is greater than the sum of its parts, because of what we have been able to foster through social media and a deliberate, strategic effort to build something special. I am sure that our readers respond to this too, as they enjoy the content we provide and feed off the energy of our social interaction and in the comments beneath our posts as well.
Following are some of the things that are critical for building a successful online community:1. Passion with a common purpose
Having a passion for the mission and values of the tribe is vital. It is what inspires others to be passionate too and share in the journey. Defining processes and clarifying expectations facilitates a healthy, vibrant, principle-based community. It is also handy to have these and other community guidelines to point to when necessary — publicizing them demonstrates transparency and shows that these principles go for everybody. We state right upfront what we are looking for in the re:DESIGN
and 12 Most
communities — it is the only way to attract like-minded people who share similar passions.2. Leadership
Any large group that aspires to work together toward common goals requires leadership to establish a focus, keep things properly aligned and get things done. It’s the only way to harness the power of the people, efficiently and effectively. The vision and community values need to be established upfront — and then someone needs to make decisions in the end. It is the only way.3. Establish forums for people to get to know each other
A “safe” haven where people aren’t afraid to share and be themselves is vital. Good news, bad news, anything — it is where strong bonds are developed. Even if your primary presence is a public one, it is important to have a closed group forum as well. It is also where sensitive matters can be handled with discretion. At 12 Most
, we have lots of different places in which to interact, both online and offline: our blog site with blogging and comments, a Twitter account and hashtag, a Facebook public fan page and a closed group for writers, a Google+ page and circle of contributors, a LinkedIn group, emails, Skype calls, phone calls, and even several IRL meetings.4. Nurture a sense of responsibility and commitment
Cultivating a community where people feel compelled to live up to expectations, even if for fear of letting the others down, is a sign of a strong tribe. Over time, it creates the glue with the stickiness that keeps people bound together for the long haul.5. Be the example, be available and provide timely responses
Model the behavior you want to see. Acting as the model community member is a living example of what is expected of all community members. If a mistake is made, admit it and fix it. Simple as that and it establishes trust. This goes for internal interactions as well as the external interactions of your community. A lively, engaged community where the light is always on and people feel heard is where meaningful conversations and deeper engagement happens.6. Establish a strong brand identity
This is often missed, but it is as important to your community members as it is to your public awareness, for it provides something tangible for people to rally behind. We established a strong brand image for 12 Most
that people take pride in and proudly display badges on their websites. It also created a visual cohesion through all our various media touch points, so rather than several fractured, disparate entities we present a family of properties that speak with one voice — and one for which we are recognized.7. Share what others are doing and tirelessly advocate for each other
Whether it is something new you discovered, a post from someone’s blog you enjoyed or a simple retweet, it is said that “sharing is caring.” Put enough people together around a common purpose who care about one another and “viola!” — you have a community.8. Celebrate victories and draw attention to a job well done
Everyone likes a pat on the back or being recognized for an accomplishment that is publicized without provocation. When this becomes the norm rather than the exception, you know you have something special.9. Be positive and have a sense of humor
Nobody likes cranky communities. Groups that gripe a lot don’t last. The best communities I have belonged to also know how to have a good time — we certainly do at 12 Most
. And where there is wit and laughter, there will be more smart, funny people willing to join and share in the fun. Positive people create positive energy where positive things can happen for everybody. That endures. And that is fact.10. Discipline
In any large community, someone will eventually cause a stir, acting outside the bounds of the welfare of the tribe, or spreading rumors or acting trollish in some way — decisive action needs to be taken. Make your wishes clear and perhaps give another chance, but if the behavior is allowed to linger, it can quickly compromise the basic well-being of your tribe. People will exit quickly if they sense friction and drama in an online community — even worse, your community’s good reputation could be tarnished in the process.11. Consistency is key
Repeating these steps day in and day out is no easy task, particularly when people have other responsibilities and are separated by distance. But dedicating yourself consistently to these behaviors is critical for nurturing the kind of culture of which strong digital tribes are made.12. Stay nimble
Communities evolve. Things change all the time in today’s online world. If your community is thriving and growing as you build something great together, it will certainly require flexibility and making adjustments as you go. Keeping the tribe on course through these shifts can take some deft handling, but it is critical for making certain that your community prevails.
I recognize that a lot of these points are basic leadership fundamentals for managing and leading any large group or business. Online is really no different than offline, so some of these basic tenets should not be overlooked. In fact, the virtual nature of online communities in many ways requires even more attention to these things, as they establish the guideposts for what is not always felt to be as “real” as are meetings in conference rooms replete with cozy swivel chairs and bottled waters. But believe me, digital tribes and online collaborations are definitely real, and following these points can result in healthy, vibrant, and productive online communities if done right.
Bringing this all together is no easy trick — it is difficult and takes the right mix of talents and personalities for sure. Self-important, self-serving, egocentric personalities don’t work and they are found out quickly in this environment. Digital tribes are largely self-policing like that — those who don’t fit will find their way out soon enough.
It is incredibly gratifying to build something together with great people and without limitations of geography. The talent and networking pools are endless! I believe we have built something special with both re:DESIGN
and 12 Most
— and it was only possible through the awesome power of amazing online communities. We make each other better which makes our personal endeavors better — and that makes our communities better.
Are you a member of an online community or started one of your own? What’s worked and what hasn’t worked so well? Let me know in the comments — I’d be interested in seeing what you have to say.
We all know that social media is not a strategy. You do know that, right? Good. In any case, it should certainly not replace other marketing tactics but work in conjunction with them. It is not an either/or situation.
A lot of talk these days is about what social can do for traditional, but the reverse is true as well. In fact, traditional offline marketing plays very nicely with online. So why don’t we stop trying to separate them like two rivaling siblings who are constantly at each other’s throats, and let them have some fun…Here are 12 reasons why traditional goes together so well with social:1. Drives traffic to your social media presence
When people aren’t online they are offline and that is how they will find you. Be there. These days, the sale will often happen online so digital gets the credit, but it was print that brought the customer there.2. Makes your social media program relevant
Your social program should fit into your overall integrated marketing strategy. Soon, your marketing efforts will be robust, not flimsy (which is a terrible message to be sending, by the way).3. Links offline to online
QR codes create a direct link between print and your online social campaign. It brings tech to old media which in turn brings more eyeballs to online media.4. Reaches more people
Surround your market with all the tactics at your disposal. Not everyone lives in the social space — an integrated approach makes everything work together so those you miss in one place you catch in another. Don’t leave any cards on the table.5. Spreads out risk
Don’t put all your marketing eggs in one basket. Even the best laid plans are not 100% certain. In finance, this concept is called dollar cost averaging — works here too.6. Makes your social campaign more credible
Say what you want, but studies
show that people still trust print more than other types of communications. We are dubious of the ephemeral nature of online media. But… if you drive people to social through print, that will be a lot more credible.7. Informs the design and branding strategy
A well-executed, cohesive design strategy and branding program is born out of the marketing strategy which is often first established offline. It is then extended through traditional ad campaigns, direct marketing, and various other offline tactics before social is brought into the mix.8. Gives your business more substance
If you only do social, the message projected is that you are flighty — here today, gone tomorrow. People will also think you don’t understand business and that perhaps, just perhaps, you drank a little too much of that Kool-Aid from a couple of years ago.9. Helps establish a budget
Unfortunately, social media tends to get what’s left over. In the current economic climate, this is usually not too much. Throw in the popular misconception that social is low cost (or worse, free!), and not much is left for social media at the end of the day. So accept reality — overall marketing spend will be allocated to traditional marketing first, but this will still ultimately define the resources that go towards social and that’s a good thing. Nail that down and get going — like anything, it is impossible to plan unless you know what you’re dealing with.10. Covers your bases
Even the most ardent proponents of social media get tired, burned out and don’t always spend so much time online. Make sure they continue to see your brand presence.11. Gives social something to talk about
There is lots of chit chat in social (surprise, surprise). That exhibit, PR event, and/or in-store promotion gives plenty of fodder to talk about later in social.12. Provides a reason to follow up
Moving the door-opening, preliminary online relationship to offline is where real stuff gets done. After meeting a new prospective client online, you can follow up with an email, a brochure or some other offline communication. Even better, you may setup a face-to-face meeting and you can provide other materials in person, further solidifying your relationship. Do this successfully, and you will be well on your way to increased conversion rates.
So you see, marketing is really just one big, happy family. Over time, I am sure we will stop distinguishing between the two, because even though TV came along there was still a place for radio.
Use all the tactics available, be smart, put it all together and be where your customers are. There’s no need for a bitter divide between separate camps. Can’t we all just get along?
I would love to hear what you think — and why does so much of the social media conversation dismiss all that has come before?
Image courtesy of StandUPP licensed via Creative Commons.
The time has come. Little children were shot dead at their elementary school this week. This follows a litany of other horrific acts of senseless violence over the last several years. If we don’t realize now that something is seriously wrong in our society, we never will.
John Lennon, ever the peace activist, sarcastically sang Happiness is a Warm Gun. The ad below ran after he was killed at the hand of one of those warm guns over 30 years ago. I am afraid to know what that ad would look like today.
Our guns are too warm. Our tempers are too hot and the temptation to take sides rages through us like an inferno.
This needs to stop. The time has come to work together and it is up to all of us to make sure this ad looks very different in the next 30 years.
There is no black and white here. Taking sides means we’re both right and we’re both wrong. As usual, a multi-pronged approach is required when we try to solve complex problems. We need to deliver on smarter, safer gun laws AND we need to place more attention on the mentally ill. We also need to become better educated and more aware as a society of recognizing the warning signs before someone snaps.
Our media needs to take more responsibility too — we cannot deny that it feeds the frenzy by packaging events like this into a numbing cacophony of graphically-hyped violence. The result of that is only a sicker society and promises of fame to the next twisted perpetrator of the next horrific act.
It starts with us, working together to come up with a plan that puts all this together and delivers a solution. We should all demand that our leaders and Congress do the same. Let’s put our energies there.
Photo courtesy of Paul Biedermann, re:DESIGN.
Facebook has been tweaking their EdgeRank algorithm again! What does this mean? Well, in the recent past, photos were the key to getting your content noticed and seen on Facebook. It appears that Facebook has now made TEXT ONLY posts the “post du jour” and that THEY decide what your fans will see.
This was the hot topic on Mari Smith’s Facebook Fan page last night. Mari asked, “Are you noticing a change in the reach of your Facebook fan page PHOTO posts vs. just TEXT status updates? It’s almost always been that posts with an image get more EdgeRank (news feed visibility), but is something changing?! My last post (text) has DOUBLE the reach of the one before that (photo). Hm! Hugh Briss of Social Identities is seeing a difference of 3x!” Not sure what the Facebook EdgeRank is?
Here is a great post by PostRocket explaining the mystery of EdgeRank: What’s Going on With Your Facebook Page Reach?
For example, on our 12 Most
site, the traffic referred by Facebook dropped 52.19% last week compared to the previous week with the same exact number of posts per week. Not good Facebook! However, our LinkedIn referrals were up 191.67%, Pinterest referrals were up 56.52%, and Twitter was up 2.84%. Are Facebook users already finding the content they want
other places instead of what Facebook tells them they want? Maybe.
From this post called Facebook: I want my friends back! The biggest bait ’n switch in history
“…The volume was getting turned down on their Facebook reach. Each post was now being seen only by a fraction of their total “fans” who would previously have seen them.
But it wasn’t just the so-called “fan pages,” individual Facebook users were also starting to notice that they weren’t seeing much in their newsfeeds anymore from the various entities they “liked” — or even updates from their closest friends and family members. Something was amiss, but unless you had a larger “data set” to look at — or a formerly thriving online business that was now getting creamed — it probably wasn’t something that you noticed or paid that much attention to.”
I encourage you to read the whole post — it breaks down Facebook and how the promoted posts changed their strategy for using Facebook. It isn’t that Facebook shouldn’t be allowed to make money, because everything in life can’t be free, but to continue to force pages to change their sharing methods due to random, unpublished algorithm changes is entirely unfair and seemingly unethical business practices.What can be done?
What can you do to ensure that you are seeing the content you want to see? Add pages to your Interest Lists.
Or, as a Facebook page manager, you will need to try to get your fans to add you to their interest lists as well as like your page. And you thought just “getting the like”
was the challenge? Silly you! From Facebook:
“What are Interest Lists?”
Interest Lists are an optional way to organize the content you're interested in on Facebook. You can create your own Interest Lists
based on the things you care about, or subscribe to other people's lists
. For example, you could create a Top Indie Bands list that features bands’ Pages and public updates from band members.
When you create or subscribe to a list, you'll see the best posts from that list in your main news feed. Your lists will also appear in the Interests
section of your bookmarks
. Simply click the list’s name to see all the recent posts and activity from the Pages and people featured in the list, without overwhelming your main news feed.” Notice that Facebook said,
“you'll see the best posts from that list in your main news feed
” — keep in mind that they are choosing this with their top secret EdgeRank algorithm.
Where do you find this on a page? In the right corner, under the cover photo in the drop down menu under the cog:
Please add our pages to your favorites: • re:DESIGN• 12 Most• My Book Club
Another thing that you can do is “Add to My Page’s Favorites,” also found in the same drop down menu on the right corner under the cover photo. This is more time consuming and I am not sure if any individuals will go through these steps to make sure they see Facebook pages they have liked.
Here is a video that shows how to add Facebook Pages to your Page’s Facebook Favorites. (Click image to play)
Facebook page managers: check your insights to see if your text only posts have been getting more traffic this week. Honestly, we don’t usually post all-text posts since photos have been the “big thing” for awhile. Facebook may be trying to set itself apart from the other social channels that are visually-based such as Pinterest and Google+, but can they tell Facebook fans what they like? I am guessing that they can’t. These Facebook shifts and changes are what make Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ more appealing by the day.
What are your thoughts on all these changes in Facebook? Are you going to change your Facebook posts to include more with text only? Will you conform to the puppetmaster or move on?
Featured image courtesy of Louish Pixel via Creative Commons.
Twitter doesn’t want to be left in the dust with all the Facebook and Google+ updates so they have rolled out their own new fancy profile update. This new Twitter “Header” image will be made live for everyone in November but we’re sure you can’t wait so, you can activate it now.
You or your agency
will need to prepare cover art that is 1252px wide and 626px high. This new profile is optimized for iPad and mobile Twitter users as well. More customization creates better branding
and overall imaging throughout your social media platforms.Setting up the new Twitter Header
To add the new Twitter header, go to the right edit profile cog and select “Settings” in the dropdown. Then on the left, choose “Design.” Now you will see “Customize your own.” Here you can update:
The new “Header” with minimum dimensions of 1252px by 626px, maximum file 5MB2.
Background (position left, center or right)3.
Overlay in black or white (this is the transparent panel behind your tweets)6.
Save changes when finished
To view your handiwork, click the new “Me” item in the top navigation menu and this will bring you to your new profile with the fancy new Header.
Hidden in this rollout is a new drop down called “Twitter Ads.” You can find this in the edit profile drop down menu. I guess they didn’t want to update with just the ad message. Imagine that, Twitter really is following in Facebook’s footsteps.
Here’s a step-by-step video: How to Change Your Twitter Header Image
For the help of a professional, please contact us.What do you think? Do you like the new Facebook… oops, I mean Twitter Header design? Will you change now or wait until November?