How NBC Sports Next Medaled in Olympic Content for Kids
Around 2016, NBCUniversal acquired a Minnesota-based sports digital platform that connected young players with local teams.
If you’re wondering what attracted the entertainment behemoth to the scrappy startup (then called Sports Ngin), think next generation.
“If you look at the research, the more kids play and participate in sports, the more they want to watch it,” says Rob Bedeaux, director of consumer engagement and content strategy at NBC Sports Next, the division that now houses SportsEngine (as it was rebranded).
NBCUniversal saw the business as a bridge to connect with youth audiences. Rob, who moved into content from product marketing around the time of the acquisition, spun that opportunity into gold. His work on a project to interest young viewers in the Olympics earned him a spot on the list of finalists for 2022 B2C Content Marketer of the Year.
A content marketing gold mine
NBC’s purchase of SportsEngine included SportsEngine HQ, its software product, and SportsEngine.com, the world’s largest directory of youth sports programs. The sports management relationship software is an operations platform that helps amateur and youth sports organizations manage registrations, custom gear orders, and ticket sales. The app lets teams track stats and scores and lets players’ parents communicate with each other.
Partnering with sports management relationship clients through SportsEngine HQ, Rob and his content team have direct access to the players and their parents who have signed up for a sport, a league, or the app. They publish and share content around training, equipment, and how to keep kids involved in sports.
In short, SportsEngine is content marketing gold for NBC.
The more kids participate in sports, the more they want to watch it, says Rob Bedeaux, who spun this idea into #ContentMarketing gold for @NBCSports Next via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
Preparing to shine for the Olympics
But the Olympics allowed the NBC Sports Next content marketing team to shine for NBCUniversal.
During the first games after the acquisition – the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang (South Korea) – Rob and the creative team worked to figure out their place in the world of the Olympics and within NBC. They started brainstorming ways to create long-term value (NBC owns the broadcast rights through 2032.)
They had their answer by the time of the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games in 2021.
Their brainstorming included a team member’s recollection of trading cards in the 1990s featuring a Muppet on one side and an NHL player on the back with stats and other details.
That nugget prompted the team to consider creating a one-pager: The front would feature the Olympic Games, and the back would offer details about an individual Olympic sport. That idea eventually morphed into the Kids Guide to the Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games, which debuted as a 122-page guide for the Tokyo games.
Actualizing the creative concept
It took a creative village to realize Kids Guide to the Olympics. Rob worked closely with a creative director on his team to develop and refine the concept. Then, they had to get buy-in and approval.
Starting with the consumer engagement team at NBC Sports division, Rob presented the concept to the division leaders and eventually to Jenny Storms, CMO for sports and entertainment at NBCUniversal. She loved the idea and socialized it all the way up to NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell.
Why so much executive attention on an Olympics guide for children? The piece used branding marks from NBC and the International Olympics Committee, which is notoriously protective of its intellectual property.
Rob’s team got the green light in late 2018 and began creating the guide in earnest in 2019. The first completed section (about gymnastics) made the executive rounds again to make sure everyone liked how it was coming together.
“Once we got approval for it, we just buckled down,” Rob says. He did most of the writing and brought in copywriters to help finish the guide. Research analysts and editors from NBC Sports reviewed and fact-checked everything.
The front half of the guide focused on the Olympics generally – the history of the Games, its flag, the participating countries, etc. The second half broke out each sport (their original concept).
It took a creative village to realize the Kids Guide to the Olympics, says @Ann Gynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
Adding fun for all ages
The guide needed to be educational and fun. So Rob searched for interesting tidbits and creative outlets to entertain both parents and children.
For example, the swimming section included some of the sport’s basic rules so parents and children watching the sport together would know what was happening and why. But it also included games in case the kids got bored while watching.
For the skateboarding page, Rob found a maze online and got the creator’s approval to include it (he only wanted credit in the guide.)
“It really makes it that interactive family experience,” Rob says.
.@USASkateboard is new to the #TokyoOlympics 🛹
Download @sportsengine’s Kids Guide to the Olympics to find out more before the Games begin! ⬇️https://t.co/ArZJmXmhi2 pic.twitter.com/U8wV37wgjc
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) July 15, 2021
Holding (up) the course
By March 2020, the early version of the guide was ready. Then, the pandemic hit, the Olympics got put on hold, and so did the youth guide. The Summer Olympic Games’ new dates – July 2021 – were announced in November 2020, and the kids’ guide returned to production.
At this point, the content had to go through an even more rigorous review and approval process. Each sport’s governing body had to review its page this time, and the U.S. Olympic Committee had to check all the sports.
“There was a lot of back and forth externally as well as internally in the review process,” Rob says, noting how long that review took surprised him. But, now that he knows, it can be built better in the production schedule.
The Kids’ Guide to the Summer Olympics came out in June 2021.
Given the pandemic delays, the timing of Tokyo meant Rob’s team had only 4.5 months to produce the guide for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Fortunately, he says, they could repurpose the Games history and overview from the summer guide with just a few tweaks. They also created new pages for the sports, which are fewer in number than the Summer Olympics.
Repurposing #content helped the @NBCSports Next team create a Kids Guide to the Olympics for the Beijing games in less than five months, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
Promoting the guide
Of course, great content requires excellent marketing. So, Rob and his team members Kelsey Erwin and Keaton McAuliffe had to figure out how to get the word out.
They added a landing page to the SportsEngine site to collect email addresses pre-launch. They offered the guide by email to 15 million families in their youth sports network. They reached people who downloaded SportsEngine HQ via the app.
But Rob and Kelsey also looked outside their business line to use the NBC Sports and NBCUniversal assets. They placed inserts in the NBC Sports Olympics newsletter that went out three times a week leading up to the Games. The guide got mentioned in the regular emails sent by the Today Show, Universal Kids, and Peacock (NBC’s streaming service).
They also got a bump mention (a short video clip/mention before or after traditional on-air programming) on the Today Show. During Olympic Trials, a sportscaster mentioned the guide, which also showed on the lower third of the screen with a QR code that brought viewers to the landing page.
“It’s kind of fun because depending on what’s happening, [sportscasters] can make that organic in the conversation. They could do that read through and then tie it to an athlete playing by explaining how that person started in the sport,” Rob says.
Interestingly, the best converting channel wasn’t one of NBC’s mega properties. It was the message bar appearing at the top of the websites of the youth sports organizations that were clients of SportsEngine HQ.
Awaiting the scores
The best feedback Rob received came from kids who enjoyed the guides. Rob explains: “That was one of my biggest worries. It was a total passion project for me. I thought it was super interesting, but is it going to be interesting to an 8-year-old, a 12-year-old?”
His answer came in the form of social media posts with kids holding up their guides.
The closing ceremony is 𝟯 𝗱𝗮𝘆𝘀 𝗮𝘄𝗮𝘆. Don’t miss out on your chance to score a @SportsEngine Kids Guide to the Olympics! https://t.co/vnkBykkynq#TokyoOlympics #Tokyo2020 #SportsEngine #youthsports #EverydayOlympics pic.twitter.com/lDPHV0pa8p
— SportsEngine (@SportsEngine) August 5, 2021
One child who’d received a print copy at an event requested a second copy so they could write in one and save the other. The team also got direct feedback: One family shared that they sat down with the guide and picked out the athletes they wanted to watch. Once the Olympics kicked off, one of the children kept asking, “Is it time for swimming yet? Is it time for swimming yet?”
“That was very fulfilling,” Rob says.
And it’s the kind of result NBCUniversal had in mind when it first backed the team all those years ago.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski of the Content Marketing Institute
10 Ways to Use AI for Better Ads
In our recent post about OpenAI’s ChatGPT, we unpacked what the tool is and how it works, and why we don’t see its popularity as a threat to search engines like Google. In this post, we’ll be diving further into the OpenAI Playground, and how PPC marketers can use that tool along with ChatGPT to save time on research, ideation, execution, and more.
The Playground is a basic UI built on top of OpenAI’s API. OpenAI has recently added ChatGPT to their API. When accessing ChatGPT through this UI, users have the ability to customize the model being used for each query (or continuation of the “conversation”) as they progress through their work.
How to Write ChatGPT Prompts
When working with tools like ChatGPT, it’s important to be as clear as possible in what you ask, and how you ask it. As you write prompts for ChatGPT to work with in retrieving and displaying the information you need, remember that you are giving instructions in a more direct way than you might if conversing with a colleague.
While another person may have contextual insight into what you’re really looking for with your question, tools like ChatGPT take language more literally, tailoring their response to the information you explicitly provide in your request.
ChatGPT will consider every element of your ask, so don’t give generic prompts. The more information you provide the tool in your prompt, the better it will be able to generate what you’re looking for in its response.
Example: Let’s assume you’re using ChatGPT for dinner inspiration…
- Generic prompt (least likely to return what you’re looking for): Give me 10 recipe ideas for a home-cooked dinner
- Slightly better prompt: Give me 10 recipe ideas for a home-cooked dinner with squash as the primary ingredient
- Even better prompt: Give me 10 recipe ideas for a vegetarian home-cooked dinner that I can make in an air fryer in 20 minutes or less with squash as the primary ingredient
See here and the examples below for more information and inspiration on crafting strong prompts.
How to Start Using the OpenAI Playground for PPC Marketing
To get started with the OpenAI Playground, create an account using your personal email address at https://platform.openai.com/. Once you’re logged in, navigate to the Playground page to access the interface and begin making requests.
The right-hand sidebar provides some options for different modes and GPT submodels, as well as Codex models, which are primarily used for generating code. The Complete mode is selected by default, along with the text-davinci-003 model. The other models within the “Complete” mode are typically faster and cheaper but are also less advanced, so they may be viable alternatives depending on the nature of your needs. ChatGPT can be accessed via the Chat mode and is what we used for the examples below.
OpenAI Playground Tokens and Settings
The billing model for using this service is constructed around the concept of tokens. Each new user gets $18 of free credit (900K tokens) that can be used during their first 3 months from sign up; after that, it’s $0.02 for every 1,000 tokens.
There is a token counter in the footer of the Playground display which can help you keep track of how many tokens you are using. 1 token is approximately 4 characters (or 0.75 words), with token usage measured against both your prompts and the responses.
You can limit the number of tokens that can be used in a response by toggling the Maximum length slider on the right hand sidebar, which is set to a 256-token cap by default. If you make an inquiry that requires an elaborate response, you may see the response get cut off before completion; in this case, it may be helpful to increase the Maximum length.
There is a maximum of 4,000 tokens that can be used in a single “request” (single session), i.e. a series of questions within the same Playground. Once you’ve hit that limit, all you need to do is delete your earlier prompt questions and answers, or save them as a “preset” before moving on to a new prompt.
Note: The use of tokens is required in the OpenAI Playground, but not when using ChatGPT natively. As of the time of this writing, ChatGPT is still free to use. A paid version of ChatGPT with advanced features and benefits is also available—ChatGPT Plus.
OpenAI Playground and ChatGPT Temperature
The Temperature setting controls randomness; lowering the temperature results in less random completions. As the temperature approaches zero, the model will become deterministic and repetitive. For most PPC purposes, we recommend a temperature range of 0.6-0.8 as optimal.
10 Ways PPC Marketers Can Use GPT to Improve Workflow Efficiency
— Josh O’Donnell, Sr. Strategist, Paid Search at Tinuiti
A couple of important things to consider before diving into our examples below:
- ChatGPT/GPT language models training data cuts off in 2021. They do not have any knowledge of current events, and cannot accurately respond to questions about such topics. ChatGPT is not aware of things like who won the big game last night; it is not even aware of what day it is.
- ChatGPT/GPT language models do not have access to the internet or any other kind of external data retrieval; they can only answer questions based on the knowledge acquired from their training data. They cannot verify facts or provide references, only generate responses based on their own internal knowledge and logic.
1. Keyword Research
Whether you work on the Paid Search side of marketing, or the organic side, you know how important (and time-consuming) thorough keyword research can be. One of the most important rules of marketing is to know your audience—which includes knowing what they want, and how they search for it—and the OpenAI Playground can help you find those answers faster.
You’re just getting started building a new PPC campaign for a client that sells running shoes. To kick off your initial keyword research, you want to get an idea of which related keywords are being searched most often. You want a Top 20 keyword list, and GPT can generate a list for you to help you get started.
The prompt: Provide me with a list of 20 running shoe keywords for google ads, list them in descending order based on expected search volume in the United States.
Note that since OpenAI enables you to continue the “conversation” beyond your first query, we also asked it where it got the returned information from (above photo); it’s always important to consider the source when relying on AI-generated responses. This is a good example of why it’s important to take the outputs with a grain of salt, using them as inspiration to get you started, but not the finished product.
2. Competitor Research
Comprehensive competitor research and analysis is a crucial part of a marketer’s job, helping inform and guide their campaigns. However, just like keyword research, this is also an ongoing, time-consuming process.
When you work in a complex space—or your products or services are part of different spaces—it can sometimes feel overwhelming to assure you’re accounting for everything and everyone. The OpenAI Playground can help make short work of initial research in a variety of ways.
Below, we showcase the results provided by three different prompts aimed at unpacking competitor insights instantly…
Sample One: Ask for a list of top US competitors ranked largest to smallest with accompanying website URLs to get ideas for custom audiences, messaging, and product positioning.
Sample Two: Ask objective questions about your competitor and their product.
Sample Three: Ask about pain points for competitor products, and use that info to inform your own product messaging & marketing strategies.
3. Generate Ad Copy
In the below examples, we used the URL of the ad’s landing page to help inform the suggestions from ChatGPT, providing character limits in our prompt to help direct the output. If your original result doesn’t meet your expectations, continue to sculpt with additional follow-up prompts. GPT cannot access these web pages in real-time, but it can use the context from the URL structure to inform the output.
“It’s more of a utilitarian thing, where you provide the tool with the data, and ask it to manipulate that data for a better output. One example is to provide it with a web page, and ask it to generate some ad copy based on the URL text; it can provide fifteen or twenty options within seconds. I would never recommend simply taking those headlines and pasting them into an ad, but you can now start off your project with a list that you or a teammate can garner inspiration from, and strategically refine or tweak to fully optimize. This gives the practitioner more time to spend on critical thinking, with ChatGPT taking away the more mundane elements of the task.”
— Josh O’Donnell, Sr. Strategist, Paid Search at Tinuiti
The copy itself should be quality, but the important aspect of parity between what you’re saying on the ad and what’s on the page can be efficiently solved for.
4. Translations of Copy & Headlines
In the example below, we asked ChatGPT to translate the 5 English language ad copy options generated above into Spanish. Additional options currently available include French and Japanese translations.
5. Answer Questions on Demand
Similar to ChatGPT, the OpenAI Playground can also be used for Q&A purposes. Just remember that answers can only be generated based on the tool’s current knowledge.
This can be especially helpful during calls with clients when you need a fast and simple answer to keep the conversation moving forward.
6. Simplify Complex Concepts
When talking about digital marketing with other practitioners, we know our audience ‘speaks the same language’ and certain questions, concepts, or outcomes need no further explanation. However, those same complexities aren’t always as easy to communicate to newer team members or clients.
Even when our day-to-day contacts are digital savvy, they often have to convey information to those higher up the chain in their organization who might not be as familiar with the lingo, or even why certain things they’re highlighting matter.
For scenarios like these, OpenAI’s Summarize for a 2nd grader feature can prove especially helpful. Once you have the foundation laid out, you can add more color and context to paint the fuller picture without worrying the basics would be glazed over.
7. Generate Product Descriptions & Names
Working with accurate, well-optimized product names and descriptions is one of the most essential elements of effective marketing. Strong, descriptive names and product information help search engines and users alike in uncovering the items that will be most relevant to their needs.
While names and descriptions will always require a human touch for proper refinement, tools like ChatGPT and the OpenAI Playground can provide a great starting point to build from.
8. Parse Unstructured Data
The OpenAI Playground makes it easy to organize long-form text into a table format. Simply specify a desired structure, provide a few examples to work from, and enjoy the time saved.
9. Call Summaries & Follow-Ups
Call summaries are an important aspect of keeping organized and ensuring everyone working on a project is clued into plans and discussions, even if they weren’t part of the original calls. Putting together these comprehensive, valuable recaps can sometimes take as much time as the call itself, but GPT can help.
Below, we asked GPT to write a follow-up email based on a call summary.
10. Convert text from first-person to third-person
We have found this feature especially helpful for turning our own notes into actionable steps someone can follow when shared. For example, if you want to share steps for completing a process with a team member or client, you can type naturally using “I” language to convey those directions. You can then quickly convert the text to third-person, adjusting as necessary for optimal clarity.
The capabilities of advanced tools like OpenAI’s Playground and ChatGPT can make short work of mundane tasks, help quickly generate ideas and direction, and ultimately save us all time to focus on the elements of marketing and advertising where our expertise and strategic insights can truly shine. If you’re interested in more under-the-hood information about how ChatGPT works, check out Stephen Wolfram’s breakdown of ChatGPT. Also see here for additional application options, or reach out today to learn more about how our Paid Search team can bring your PPC advertising results to the next level!
The Optimizely Podcast – episode 26: digital evolution in a climate of rapid change
Hello everyone. And welcome to the Optimizely Podcast. I am Laura Dolan, your host, and today we are joined by Dom Graveson, who’s the director of strategy and experience at Netcel and Deane Barker, who is the global director of content management here at Optimizely. How’s it going, gentlemen?
Yeah, very good, thank you. How are you?
Doing well, doing well. How about you Deane? How’s it going?
Good, Laura. I’m a veteran of this podcast by now.
You are. You are, Deane. So we already know all about you. So Dom, please, let’s start off by telling us a little bit about your background and your history of Netcel.
Yeah, sure. So I’ve been with Netcel for coming up for four years. Netcel are a digital product and experience development company, so we build everything from kind of websites through to integration with CRM, marcoms, basically building digital experiences on the Optimizely platform.
We do a lot of work with kind of experience research and data, so we kind of put customers at the center of all the work we do, but also, we understand that there’s quite a profound impact on businesses. So when you are really going to deliver transformational digital experiences and really up your digital game, particularly in the current climate and the world that everything’s changed so much recently, you are going to need to change your organization and the way that you govern, the way that you manage people, so we do a lot of work with our clients, kind of helping them through that process as well, the kind of change process.
Previous to that, I was with some of the big sort of consultancies working on digital product innovation. I worked around all over the world. So yeah, I kind of bring a few years of experience and broad experience to this.
Very good. Can you speak on some of the digital experience that you’ve worked on with Optimizely?
Yeah, so we’ve built products, digital experiences for some of the major not-for-profit organizations in the U.K. So we mainly work in the U.K., U.K. Based, based just North of London. We’re working currently with a large agricultural organization that represents Britain’s farmers around building kind of digital experiences and business-to-business commerce systems with them. So, yeah, then we also work with quite a lot of well-known financial services businesses in the U.K. As well. So our kind of focus has been membership organizations, business-to-business, and financial services with bits of NFP, not-for-profit, as well.
Very cool. Thank you so much for spending a little bit of time on that. I always like to know our relationship with partners, so it’s nice to have that visibility. So today we are talking about the digital evolution in a climate of very rapid change. So what do we mean by digital evolution as opposed to the more traditional concept of digital transformation?
Well, I mean, it’s been something I think that’s been emerging for a while, but for the last kind of 15 years or so, or 20 years since digital really kind of took hold as it were and became a kind of serious channel that organizations were taken seriously, it always seemed that the focus was on getting from A to B or getting from where we are now to a level of competence and capability, which we can define at the beginning of the project.
And I think over the last few years, or over that time really, we’ve seen that become less and less of an appropriate or working approach. And what we are trying to encourage now, and what we are building within the businesses that we work with is this approach to digital, which is more of an evolution rather than the transformation. Because if you’re working across a three-year program, what you define as being the destination now, certainly in the last few years, probably isn’t going to be relevant or fit for purpose within three years of you delivering it, and a lot of IT and digital projects fail to meet their objectives because of this exact approach.
So it’s about kind of structuring your programs in a way that keeps an open mind, a beginner’s mind, and has the instruments within it, and governance within it, and structure that will enable you to discover as you go and focus on outcomes or customer outcomes, business outcomes, rather than thinking too much about kind of architecting the house before you start building, when you don’t know where you’re building it yet, if that makes sense.
Absolutely. Deane, is there anything you can contribute to this as well?
So Dom and I did an event together in London at the very top of The Gherkin and we had a long conversation up there. We had a panel discussion up there. We had a long conversation about the fact that digital transformation is maybe a term that we need to retire, replace it with digital evolution, or digital progress, or digital incrementalism. And it’s just the general idea that you make your way over time. You make little bets, and you improve your digital estate piece by piece. I think that too many people are doing too much at one time and digital projects are failing for that reason, whereas they’re not being more deliberate about their goals and they’re not giving themselves room to evolve organically, make one step and see where that leads them, and then make another step and see where that leads them. And I think the goal of instant complete transformational overhaul is maybe unrealistic for a lot of digital teams. So that was the conversation that Dom and I had, which kind of led us the idea of digital evolution. So that’s kind of the perspective we’re coming on.
Yeah. I think also what’s interesting with that is the idea that as Deane was saying that if you’re doing more than one thing at once and something works, how do you know which thing made it work, gave you the success? And one of the things that people aren’t investing in, they’re investing heavily in kind of a sense, trying to make progress, but not investing very heavily in measuring that progress or actually understanding and interpreting that data to be able to understand what was the thing that they did that delivered that benefit. And this is one of the aspects where we need to change the way that we work. It’s interesting, we’ve kind of heard of a major project just this week, big program in the U.K. That’s really struggling. I won’t mention names, but it’s really struggling because they’ve been so desperate to achieve a certain point that they’ve kind of lost their way.
They’ve hired lots of people. They’ve got lots of people leading different parts of the product and all the rest of it, but they kind of lost their way because in their quest to arrive somewhere so quickly or make progress, they’ve kind of lost track of where they were trying to get from the business objectives’ point of view. And I think that’s a common problem. I mean, I’ve been in this business 25 years, I guess, and something I see again and again, that if we can build the team to a certain size or if we can get this kind of throughput of features shipped, we will arrive somewhere.
And of course, that’s important. Progress is at the heart of all of this. But you do need to keep this mindset, as Deane mentioned, this kind of incrementalist mindset, of break things down, take it a step at a time, and structure the organization, manage upward, manage your sponsors robustly so that they understand that this is not something that you can just steamroller into existence. It’s much more of a kind of step forward across a series of fronts to make progress. And that takes kind of courage and communication with all kinds of levels of the organization.
It does. And it is a very common problem because you end up with too many cooks in the kitchen as it were, and then you also end up with a quantity over quality issue, which is such a common problem that you find within organizations. And then you also have the issue of just all the siloing that goes on and the lack of transparency between different departments, and so you have this huge team, but they’re not communicating with each other. So that’s also just a very difficult thing to work around and there has to be a better way, don’t you think?
Yeah. I mean think this is the thing, is that this is why people need to want… Where I’ve seen this successful is where it’s seen as an organizational change, as much as it’s seen as a program of delivery of product or delivery of an experience or new channels or whatever, is that the organization needs to learn and change as the program evolves. You can’t just throw tons of money at this. You need to understand how it’s going to require people to behave differently, work together differently, measure things differently, check in on one another, enable mistakes to be made in a way that people aren’t afraid of that, and that they get surfaced quickly, and that they’re maturely and honestly addressed, all that kind of stuff. And I think a lot of some kind of wasted money over the last 10, 15 years has been where that hasn’t really been seen.
The business case has been made for the program, for the objectives of the program, without really thinking about how the organization is going to change. And organizations are changing, have changed profoundly in the last few years. We’re working from home. We’ve changed the way that we interact with one another socially. We’ve got political upheaval in the U.S. We’ve got a war in Europe. We’ve got all of this stuff that’s really changed the way that we kind of feel about the world and trust is more important than ever and kind of empathy, and understanding, and individualized experiences, and all of these things are not just technical problems to solve by throwing a load of infrastructure in place.
Infrastructure is important, but it’s also about building an experimental mindset. It’s about empowering your people to take risks in a safe environment. It’s about changing the way that your organizations have run right from the top to show and demonstrate that behavior is understood from the frontline all the way to the C-suite.
Hundred percent. So when you talk about these changes that organizations need to make to dovetail into this evolution, where have you seen this approach be successful? Do you have any examples that you can describe for us?
Yeah. When I think where we’ve talked about it, and Deane feel free to jump in here, is where I’ve seen it on organizations of all kinds of sizes that have invested in their digital teams, both from the kind of point of view of giving them the freedom to be able to innovate and the freedom to be able to try new things out, try new technologies out, and build experiences, and invest in audience research, and kind of pulling together the kind of insights, departments and sources of insight within the organization, but also where they’ve had the visibility and had the visible support from the senior leadership.
I think still, you see quite a lot of digital teams being run by either technology or marketing. And I think digital is something that is actually the responsibility of the whole business now, the whole organization. I don’t know, Deane, have you got any thoughts on this? We talked about it extendedly.
You and I have talked about this, Dom, and I think I’ve talked about this in the podcast before, is that a key component of digital leadership is trust. Do you trust your people to work towards the good of the organization. Too often, we get kind of hampered by the tyranny of metrics. We need an instant uplift. We need an instant improvement, where that really discourages your team from making small changes and running experiments and trying new things that might not work. For some reason, we want everybody to guarantee that everything’s going to work right out of the box. It’s not. And I think if you trust your teams and provide them kind of the emotional and professional safety to make small changes, and see what works, and come back to you and say, “Look, we tried five things. Four of them didn’t work, but this one thing worked really, really well.”
I’m big on taking little bets, small incremental changes, and lengthening the periods required for return and results. If you demand quantitative metric results from your team in 30 days, you’re going to get some very brittle results, if anything. Someone might even be massaging some numbers or framing it in such a way to give you the numbers that you want. But if you sit your team down and say, “Look, I’d like to be in a better place this time next year.” Well then, they can come up with a long term plan, and they can try some things and see what works and see what doesn’t work, and I also think that plays very heavily into employee retention. I think that lets your employees do their best work and be satisfied with their job and satisfied with their efforts, and I think it’s a huge win for the organization, but it takes trust. As a leader, you need to believe that your people are skilled and are working towards the benefit of the organization, and some leaders are more shortsighted than others, let’s say.
It’s interesting, actually. You talk about this kind of leaders wanting results quickly because I think that’s a reality of organizations on this part is. And one of the things that I think a lot of kind of chief digital officers who we tend to work with are struggling between… I have this kind of analogy I use, which is a bit like you’re running a chip van. You’re trying to feed people, hot dogs and chips in the rain and there’s a big queue of people and everyone’s hungry, and you know that you could evolve your product and make better food, but you’re so bogged down by having to kind of feed people that you never get the chance to think about that. And I think one of the things that we talk about is building this idea of a balanced portfolio.
So digital evolution or digital transformation, but digital evolution is always going to be kind of made up of combination of small little bits of quick win work and big core transformational change, which are things like integrating your CRM, or migrating your digital experience platform, or swapping out your ERP or whatever. And you’ve always got this combination of the quick wins, the things that if you’re going to bring the business on the journey with you, you need to demonstrate some simple improvements, such as the marketing team in South America just can’t update their campaigns without calling you. And of course, you are running a chip van, so they’re going to be 15th in the queue, so they’re furious. They don’t want to hear about your big innovation program of new digital experience with the customer centricity. They just want to update their campaigns. So it’s about balancing a number of simple things that you can do for everybody, along with those longer term transformational changes.
And then a third part, which is what we call future possible, which is looking at what technology or platforms might be useful in the future for you and experimenting. So you’ve got this, do the simple stuff that just the CEO, she’s just getting hassled for every day from her colleagues. Get our stuff fixed, because that’ll make you popular and it’ll build you some support. Obviously investing in the, not being afraid to make decisions that are long term. This is not the right platform. We need to change, or we need to integrate this with this, or we need to invest in these people and up-skill them. That’s the kind of big kind of transformational stuff. And then these experiments that will help you discover what the future is. And you have to govern each of those three types of portfolios in a different way, and understand that the experiments will fail, most of them. But that’s where you will discover that the pot of gold for five years’ time, whereas the quick win or BAU, I hate that term BAU, but the quick win stuff, which is really important in building support.
So how can organizations get started on the digital evolution journey?
Well, I’ve always been a big proponent of absolutely knowing what your goals are, what your conversion points, are for your digital presence. A conversion, most people know this now, but a conversion is when somebody takes an action in your digital properties that provides value. Ecommerce, it’s somebody checks out or in other websites, if somebody requests a demo or something like that, you have to know what these things are. You have to know the moment that your visitor provides value and the moment that your digital presence has provided value to you. Without knowing that you’re just nowhere, and we see a lot of people doing an enormous amount of work without any idea kind of what the goal is.
Back when I was in services, I was working with a healthcare client, and I was talking to their director of marketing. He says, the CEO calls me all the time and says, “We need more social media updates.” And he would go back to the CEO and say, “Why?” And the CEO couldn’t even tell them why, because the CEO didn’t understand the chain from action that the digital team takes to conversion or some moment when the website provides value. So you have to know that. Once you know that, the conversion points when your website provides them value, then you just need to break things down. You need to divide your web presence up into chunks that you can improve over time. Too many people just try to tackle the entire thing at once.
Let’s take a look at your contact dose form. Maybe we need to spend some time just fixing that. And then, let’s move to your homepage and run a couple experiments there. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Optimizely sells an experimentation suite. Run a couple experiments on your homepage. What’s it going to take to drive people to that contact form? Literally, if that’s the goal that you know have to improve, you can work towards improving that goal and you can filter out people in the organization that have pet projects, or pet ideas, or they’re sure that this is going to make things better. If you can go back to them and say, “Nope, this is the goal. This is the goal we’re working towards,” you can start making incremental steps toward improving that goal. And that’s probably the most important thing that an organization can do.
Yeah. I mean think Deane hits upon two things that are really interesting there. The first one is a lot of people that we work with or often one of the struggles that heads of digital have is, I keep getting asked to do kind of crazy things like create more social media posts by senior people, which adds to that whole noise, that adds to the queue of the backlog of urgent stuff that needs doing, that means that you never get the chance to stop and actually think about things strategically.
And actually, there’s an element of a lack of understanding within very senior people because maybe they’re not so experienced at working within the kind of digital space. Although to be honest, it’s been 20 years. I have little sympathy for that now. An organization that’s probably not only just digital first, but pretty much digital all over. If you think about it now, your first interaction with an organization is going to be probably through its digital channels, and maybe even the entire service experience will be through digital channels. Leaders should get this by now, right?
But my point is that if digital teams are getting kind of requests from leadership, such as create loads of social media posts or build us an app is another one I’ve heard. “We need an app.” “Well, why do we need an app?” Is because actually there’s a responsibility on digital leaders to step up and be leaders and to be able to say, “Right. You need to tell us where this business needs to be. And we will help develop an understanding of what those key conversion points are.” You can’t expect senior, necessarily people who aren’t sort of native digital folk to understand that. But if you provide them with that information, I hope you would get less of those kinds of slightly daft requests. If you see what I mean, Deane, I think there’s a responsibility on digital professionals to educate upwards. And rather than kind of feel like if you’re in an organization that’s struggling, change that organization if you can. It’s a two-way thing.
This goes back to trust, right?
The reason why you have people in digital, not resisting calls to do things that aren’t going to provide value is because professional insecurity. They don’t believe that their leaders trust them. They think they just have to do whatever the CEO or the CMO tells them to do. They don’t feel like they can push back. I have been working in the digital space for 25 years and everything comes back to organizational and personal psychology at some level. I think you have people in digital team that they just don’t feel like they can push back and make the right suggestions. And they just have to do what someone higher at the [inaudible 00:22:13] tells them to do, and that’s just a recipe for disaster, really.
It also means you’re going to lose the other best people you have, because no one with any integrity and real talent will stick around if that’s the kind of corporate environment that they’re in. People have a lot of choice these days, particularly with increasing mobility and hybrid working, is that really the world is your talent market now and you can find the best people if you build the best cultures, and it doesn’t really matter where they live. For example, Netcel, some of us live outside of the U.K., Some of us live across the U.K., And it’s worked very well.
But I think this thing about what Deane was saying about breaking it down and we touched upon this in the answer to the last question about the balance portfolio. This is where you do need to break down those conversion points and how we improve those conversion points into a really simple set of steps, that by improving this, you can understand how you are influencing the outcome. So don’t necessarily need to rebuild the whole of your shopping funnel, for example, or your conversion funnel, but build a program and invest in this experimentation.
So, this is both in the platform, as Deane said, Optimizely has an experimentation suite built into it, but also working with the agency, the partner that you work with, to understand how experimentation works. At Netcel, we do a lot of work with pitch leaders on kind of building out both kind of capability at the kind of operational level. How do I design an experiment, but also about how you build a business case for experimentation, and kind of build a business case for broader digital evolution as a concept. We’ve actually published a report that you can download from Netcel.com/report that talks a lot about this, that’s Deane’s been involved with and some other leading digital professionals as well. So, if you wanted to read more, you can check that out. That’s been supported by Optimizely. Yeah, so there’s some good sort of starting points in that.
Yes, please go ahead and send me that link when you can, Dom, and I will definitely put it in the link to the show notes of this podcast that we will have on our website. Perfect. Thank you. Great. You guys have covered a lot and just being conscious of time, is there anything else that we didn’t cover that you’d like to speak on before we wrap up?
Both Dom and I have alluded to the concept of employee morale, psychology and retention. And I think this is one of the big crises in digital right now, is that people are searching for the organization that gets it. People are searching for the organization that they can work at, and feel good about their work, and feel like they’re making a positive impact. And so when you hamper your digital teams, when you try to overload them, when you are vague with them, and you don’t have clear goals with them, you don’t let them try new things and incrementally make improvements, you hurt your organization in two ways.
Number one, just through lack of conversion, right? Lack of digital efficiency and effectiveness, but you also hurt them from lack employee morale and retention. Losing digital employees is so painful because they’re so painful to replace these days. And so, the damage to your organization is considerable and I think it’s very shortsighted to put some 30-day quantitative metric in front of that.
Yeah. I mean, I completely agree with that, and I think one of the ways that you can tackle that is by ensuring that you’ve got… Digital isn’t something that’s just done with the digital team or just done by the digital team. We talk a lot about digital operating models with the clients that we work with, and this is where we get into the kind of, how do you govern and lead digital, not just how do you build the right products, or build the right experiences.
But if, for example, you’re a professional services company and you want to segment to different markets and build authority in different markets, say you’re a lawyer firm or another kind of professional services firm. You want to build authority in merchants and acquisitions. You want to build authority in sports licensing law. You are going to need a lot of help from the people in your organization to generate that content. That content isn’t going to be generated necessarily by the digital team. But the digital team are there as an enabler. They’re there to provide the technology and the advice and the kind of lead and give people the confidence to be able to create content themselves, to be able to create their own campaigns.
So digital is something that actually another principle and concept that Deane and I have been talking about recently is this idea of digital is like water. It’s kind of everywhere and you don’t notice it, as if you’re a fish, and we’ll put the link to that article in the podcast as well. There’s this idea that actually everyone should be responsible for doing digital to a level of excellence across your organization in the same way that everyone’s able to write emails to a level of excellence across the organization. And your digital teams are really there to set the standard, set examples, measure success, share that success, build a center of excellence, but also enable everyone else. So, you don’t need to necessarily overwork people. You can give people the tools they need to be able to run their own operations and the digital elements of their operations, but with the oversight and support from the digital team. So, this is known as a kind of hub and spoke model.
And this has been a really powerful way of scaling digital, where you don’t want to overload your digital teams. The digital leaders can stay being exactly that, leaders, innovators, consultants, working within the organization to set the agenda, to build the infrastructure that your organization needs for the future, while training up and building basic levels of high-quality digital competencies in your marketing teams, in your customer service teams, in your product development teams, in all the different parts of your organization that interface with customers. And that’s been a really successful model for many, and I think I’m one that has a kind of rosy future ahead of it.
I love that you brought up the, “What is water?” paper. I had a chance to read that and it’s a very interesting article and I know Deane, you actually sent a YouTube video that talks about the commencement speech. So, I am also going to put a link to that in the article, because it is quite fascinating and quite applicable as I said. So, thank you both for contributing both of those pieces that would supplement this subject that we talked about today. I think that’ll really drive the point home.
Dom and I have a shared love of David Foster Wallace.
Awesome. Well, thank you both so much for taking the time to come on today and thank you all so much for taking the time to listen to this episode of the Optimizely Podcast. I am Laura Dolan, and I will see you next time.
Thank you for listening to this edition of the Optimizely Podcast. If you’d like to check out more episodes or learn more about how we can take your business to the next level by using our marketing, content, or experimentation tools, please visit our website at optimizely.com, or you can contact us directly using the link at the bottom of this podcast blog to hear more about how our products will help you unlock your digital potential.
How to Leverage Social Media for Your E-commerce Business
You’re probably in a competitive market if you sell fashion accessories, premium gadgets, or consumer-packaged products.
With competitors, consumers, and cultural trends shifting quickly, it can be tough to gain a competitive advantage – and even more difficult to maintain. Fortunately, an effective technique to stake an e-commerce claim allows you to move quickly and organically engage with customers to increase sales and conversions.
Even better, it is most likely that you already have one foot in the door using this instrument, which is social commerce.
Why is Social Commerce Important for E-commerce Businesses?
Social commerce is selling products or services directly through social media platforms. It differs from traditional e-commerce because customers can discover and purchase products directly within their social media feeds. It often involves more user-generated content and personalized shopping experiences. Social commerce provides businesses with an additional avenue for reaching customers and increasing sales and engagement.
The following are the benefits of social commerce for e-commerce businesses:
- Increased visibility and brand awareness: Social media platforms give businesses a wider and more engaged audience to showcase their products, increase visibility, and build brand awareness.
- Higher conversion rates: Social commerce enables customers to browse and purchase products directly from social media platforms, streamlining the buying process and increasing business conversion rates.
- Improved customer engagement: Social media platforms allow businesses to interact directly with customers, answer questions, and respond to feedback. This interaction can help businesses build stronger relationships with their customers and improve customer satisfaction.
- Cost-effective marketing: Social media platforms offer cost-effective marketing opportunities for businesses of all sizes, allowing them to reach a large audience without breaking the bank.
- Increased sales: By leveraging social commerce, businesses can tap into the power of social media to boost their online sales and grow their customer base.
- Competitive advantage: Social commerce is still a relatively new concept, and businesses that adopt it early can gain a competitive advantage over their competitors.
How to Utilize Social Media for Your E-Commerce Business
Utilizing social media for your e-commerce business can be a highly effective way to increase brand awareness, drive traffic to your website, and boost sales. Here are some tips on how to make the most of social media for your e-commerce business:
1. Choose the right social media platform: Identify the target audience and the social media platforms they are most active on. Then, create a presence on those tailor-made platforms for the audience.
2. Create a social media strategy: Define the social media goals, target audience, content strategy, and posting frequency. Ensure that the content strategy showcases products and provides value to the audience.
3. Build a social media presence and engage with the audience: Respond promptly to comments and messages, and encourage user-generated content. This helps build a loyal customer base and increases engagement.
4. Drive traffic and sales to the e-commerce website: Create shoppable posts, use product tagging, and promote sales and discounts to drive traffic and sales to the e-commerce website.
Revolutionizing e-Commerce: Unique Features of Social Commerce Platforms that Help Businesses Grow
Social commerce platforms offer unique features that can help businesses grow and revolutionize the e-commerce industry. Here are some of the most important features that businesses can utilize:
Instagram is a popular social media platform that allows users to share photos and videos. With its shopping feature, businesses can create a shoppable feed of their products, tag products in their posts, and even set up an Instagram shop where customers can browse and purchase directly from their profile.
Facebook Shops is a feature that allows businesses to set up an online store on their Facebook page. With Facebook Shops, businesses can showcase their products, customize their storefront, and communicate with customers through Facebook Messenger.
Pinterest is a visual search engine where users can discover and save ideas for projects, products, and more. Businesses can create pins and boards showcasing their products, and users can save and share them with others. Pinterest also has a shopping feature that allows businesses to tag products in their pins and create shoppable pins.
TikTok is a popular short-form video app that has become a powerful marketing tool for businesses. With TikTok’s “Shop Now” feature, businesses can link to their online store directly from their videos, making it easy for viewers to shop for their products. You can also use TikTok analytics tools to get more insights.
Snapchat is a social media platform that allows users to share photos and videos that disappear after a short period of time. With its shoppable AR lenses, businesses can create fun, interactive experiences that allow users to try on products virtually and purchase them directly from the app.
Each social commerce platform has unique features that can help businesses grow by reaching new customers, increasing engagement, and driving sales.
Tips for Successful Social Commerce Implementation
Successful implementation of social commerce requires a well-thought-out strategy and execution plan. Here are some tips to help ensure success:
1. Best Practices for Incorporating Social Commerce into your e-Commerce Business
- Choose the right social media platforms: Research the platforms your target audience uses most frequently and focus your efforts on those channels.
- Optimize your social media profiles: Make sure your social media profiles are complete and consistent with your brand image. Use high-quality images, engaging descriptions, and links to your e-commerce site.
- Create engaging content: Utilize visually appealing images and videos to showcase your products and promote special offers and promotions. Engaging content can help capture the attention of your audience and increase engagement.
- Make it easy to purchase: Ensure that customers can easily find and purchase your products from your social media profiles. Use social commerce tools such as “Shop Now” buttons, shoppable posts, and in-app checkout features. Look for apps that help deliver an excellent customer experience.
- Provide excellent customer service: Respond promptly to customer inquiries and feedback on social media. Use social media to build relationships with customers and address any concerns.
2. How to Measure the Success of your Social Commerce Efforts
- Track social media metrics: Monitor engagement metrics such as likes, shares, comments, click-through rates, and lead conversion rates to gauge the effectiveness of your social commerce efforts.
- Measure sales: Keep track of the number of sales generated from social media channels to determine the impact of social commerce on your e-commerce business.
- Analyze customer feedback: Monitor customer feedback on social media to identify areas for improvement and gain insights into customer preferences and needs.
- Conduct surveys: Use surveys to gather feedback from customers on their social commerce experience and identify ways to improve it.
3. Common Pitfalls to Avoid when Implementing Social Commerce
- Neglecting customer service: Failing to respond to customer inquiries and feedback can damage your reputation and hinder your social commerce efforts.
- Focusing solely on sales: Avoid using social media as a sales platform. Instead, focus on building relationships with customers and creating a positive user experience.
- Ignoring data: Monitor and analyze social media metrics to identify areas for improvement and adjust your social commerce strategy accordingly.
Social media has changed the game for e-commerce businesses with the rise of social commerce. By integrating social media platforms with e-commerce, businesses can tap into the power of social media to boost sales, improve customer engagement, and gain a competitive advantage.
To succeed in social commerce, businesses should choose the right platform, create engaging content, and make it easy for customers to purchase their products.
It’s time to revolutionize your e-commerce business with the power of social commerce!
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