• Why an engaged audience beats a big following

    Why an engaged audience beats a big following

    How social media engagement can beat a big following.

    Sunday night’s Logie Awards were apparently the least watched ceremony since the current ratings system was implemented. Fitting, then, that media outlets have similarly expressed confusion that two underdog winners in particular took home gongs.

    Grant Denyer’s Gold Logie win was considered a ‘shock’, not only because his Family Feud has been cancelled but because the field of people he was up against were perceived as being more popular.

    Even more of a ‘shock’ was Most Popular New Talent winner Dilruk Jayasinha. Jayasinha, up against Bachelor alum Sam Frost and Matthew ‘Mattie J’ Johnson, was similarly considered the underdog.

    And yet he — and Denyer — won. Why?

    Engagement over numbers

    Some news outlets have been confused that someone with fewer followers could have beaten others with many more. There’s a few reasons for this. However, the main one? ENGAGEMENT.

    Dil’s fans were engaged to support him and vote in the Logies campaign. Having a smaller but committed fanbase always will win against pretty people with a million casual followers.

    News.com.au said: “This year’s new talent Logie winner was decided by a public vote, making Jayasinha’s win even more miraculous given the fanbase of other nominees.”

    But is it really?

    The Murdoch-owned website took pains to point out that Dil won DESPITE only having 7000 Instagram followers, whereas Mattie J has 224,000 and released his own slickly produced campaign video.

    But follower numbers only get you so far.

    Dil has been on TV, yes, but he’s made his name largely on the standup circuit and other, smaller outlets such as Australian comedy podcasts (especially the Little Dum Dum Club, who have a massively mobilized audience).

    The other performers in the ‘Best New Talent’ category were all primarily TV personalities. Their audiences are only as loyal as they are to the TV show they’re on.

    Dil’s audience is used to having to do a bit of work to see him: going to a live comedy show, downloading a podcast. He interacts directly with his ‘small’ fanbase. He replies to comments, thanks people for their support and shows up to support his fellow comedians and performers.

    With all due respect, Mattie J’s audience is used to just turning on the TV and seeing him. They’ve never had to work — maybe never even wanted to work — to find him. He’s just there.

    Mobilise your audience

    Your audience size only matters as much as you can motivate them to act.

    Denyer had a story: axed show, underdog, a long losing streak (22 nominations without a win).

    Dilruk also had the underdog story. He came to Australia from Sri Lanka as a teenager to become an accountant, later abandoning that for the much less-lucrative career path of comedy.

    So story definitely helps  — and coupled with a rabidly motivated audience, they both had more on their side than it might have appeared.

    Comedian Tom Gleeson had campaigned hard on behalf of Denyer, precisely because his show had been axed. As Junkee reported, “Gleeson’s campaign — #Denyer4Gold — clearly mobilised a large voting public.” But it’s more than that.

    It might have started as a joke, but Gleeson gave people a reason to vote for Denyer. He engaged fans who might otherwise not bothered.

    And Dil’s community of fans, boosted by weekly podcasts like the Little Dum Dum Club, made it a point to vote for him. The Little Dum Dum Club’s Facebook page and associated group fiercely campaigned for Dil, mobilising a group of people who wouldn’t usually bother to vote in the Logies.

    (There’s also some speculation that the Logie voting form making you vote for all categories helped boost Denyer, who has also appeared on the podcast.)

    Lesson for social media

    All this is to say that, when it comes to social media, it’s not so much about the number of fans or followers you have. Sure, it’s nice to have half a million of them. But how many could you call on to vote for you?

    Follower numbers don’t matter when you have an engaged audience. We are often reminding clients to focus on the reach and engagement levels rather than the raw numbers.

    Sure, Logie voting numbers might have been down overall this year, but in a popularity contest, you need to activate your fans. They have to be motivated to get out the vote.

    And if you can mobilise your audience to get them to vote, maybe you can even get them to click through to your online store and buy something. Now you’re using use social media to help drive sales.

    And you didn’t need half a million followers to do it.

    If you want help getting your followers engaged, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

    Pic credit: @dilrukj
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  • The bigger picture: Why one piece of content is just one piece of the puzzle

    The bigger picture: Why one piece of content is just one piece of the puzzle

    Don’t be so hard on yourself, marketers and content creators. One piece of content is just one piece of content.

    Have you ever agonised over the final edit of a short video? Or drafted and redrafted to craft the best words for the text of a post? Or pulled your hair out over which hashtags you use for your motivational image?

    If you work in marketing or content creation at all, you have. We’ve all thought we could have executed something better and we imagine that if only a few small things got tweaked, the outcome would have been greater.

    But it’s (mostly) nonsense.

    Why?

    In many ways, social media is a numbers game. No, not data, though that can be useful too. The number I’m thinking of is about posts, of individual videos, photos, website links and articles. The number of discrete pieces of content that make up your brand’s strategy.

    Think about it: There is so much content going out every day across all the platforms, filling our screens. And there will be more coming tomorrow. Getting too wound up about any one individual piece is misguided. You’re missing the bigger picture if you’re only focused on one brushstroke.

    Social media content is about getting the attention of your followers, fans and potential customers. (As Gary Vee says, attention is the asset.)

    What will hold their attention and keep them coming back for more is consistent content. Not one great video every second month — unless that’s your model (see below) — but daily pieces of content that will engage and entertain your audience.

    Remember, the algorithms these days mean that many of your followers won’t even see some of the stuff you post. Which is why it’s important to keep posting. You never know which post will hit big, after all.

    And as long as you’re not annoying them, your audience will be thankful for the diversity of content — and of the consistency of your output.

    But, but, but…

    I should add this caveat: sometimes it is the right strategy to focus on only a few high-quality pieces of content.

    Large companies used to a more traditional marketing roll-out strategy will usually cycle their social media posts around a current campaign. And that’s fine — if that’s their strategy.

    But for a smaller business that’s more agile and able to take advantage of social media, it’s less about any one piece of content and more about the overall branding impression.

    Quality control

    None of this is to say you should abandon quality. Not at all. You should strive for a high level of quality not matter what you do.

    Nor am I suggesting you don’t need to put money behind your content so it can reach more people.

    On the contrary, you should be boosting posts and creating ad campaigns both to gain followers and to sell your products and services.

    What I am suggesting is that when you try to craft one piece of content to be the solution to your marketing problem, you’re not thinking about it the right way.

    Individual pieces of social media content are like buses. There’s always another one coming down the line.

    So don’t be so hard on yourself. Be consistent, do great work — but don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

    If you want help with social media content creation, get in touch with us today.

    Photo: Pexels
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  • How do you deal with your client’s bad ideas?

    How do you deal with your client’s bad ideas?

    Dealing with the curse of client suggestion.

    Have you ever found yourself in this situation?

    A client suggests to you, their social media or marketing manager, an idea for a post or strategy that is, frankly, terrible.

    Sometimes the idea will be something that goes completely against the strategy you’ve both agreed upon.

    For example, let’s say you manage the social accounts for a brand that has a very structured social media strategy. Videos must have a high-production quality, photos professionally shot and the order in which you post content is on a specific cycle.

    But then your client asks you to quickly post something one of their customers or sales people has done on their phone. You know what comes next: a blurry photo, a vertically shot video with terrible sound, etc. Not an ideal representation of the client’s brand.

    So, what do you do?

    Use it because, after all, they’re the client — even if their brand is being damaged by such shoddy content? Do you try to have a polite conversation about how this piece of content goes against the client’s own strategy? There usually isn’t time for that. Or do you flat-out refuse, potential causing tension between you and your client?

    Navigating

    So, how do you navigate the tricky waters of bad client suggestions? A few pointers might help when this situation comes up:

    • Try to communicate why their idea is not good for their brand. A lot of the time, this will work. We’ve had clients that just want to hear an explanation and understand we have a reason for what we’re doing. Once we’ve explained it, they’ll go, ‘Cool, just wanted to understand.’ Putting it in terms of how it might affect their brand or business will help them to understand that you’re both on the same side and you want to act in your client’s best interest.
    • Advocate for your point of view. How forceful should you be when presenting your argument for why something is good or bad? Be polite but steady in your opinion, and reiterate that it’s something that has guided your strategy in the past. And if it’s something you and the client have discussed in the past, remind them of that fact. Sometimes it’s just a case of reminding them; other times they might not grasp the strategy.
    • If you get pushback, cool. It’s on them. If they don’t relent but come back to you in a few months saying such and such doesn’t work, you can point to this moment when they rejected your advice and remind them about it. From then, maybe they’ll come around and maybe they won’t. As long as you’ve done your due diligence and tried to express why you believe this or that is bad for your client, it’s up to them whether they take your advice.
    • You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Social media management is about devising a strategy with a client and executing it. At the end of the day, it’s up to the client to decide whether they want to abide by it or not. It’s their business, after all, not yours. If the client doesn’t let you execute the strategy, more fool them.
    • Be open to the idea that you might be wrong. Maybe your strategy does need some flexibility. Be open to your client’s needs for their own customers and clients. They are, after all, paying your bills. For example, we had a client that we had developed a very particular Instagram strategy with (order of posts etc). However, we realised it was better to be a little more reactive on Instagram so that we can repost fans and do live updates at events, which our previous strategy would not let us do. A more elastic approach to strategy might benefit your clients— and it might be how they prefer to work. It can be the best of both worlds: you get a strategy you can follow and plan ahead for — but also the ability to be ‘in the moment’ and responsive on a platform that suits that kind of content.
    Takeaway

    Client management might seem like a hurdle on the way to doing the job. But it actually is the job, to a large extent. Having clear and open lines of communication between you and your clients is the best way to keep them on the books. And the best way to continue to do great work that enriches both your businesses.

    If you need social media, content or communications solutions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

     

    Image by Pexels

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  • Heavy metal, Ghost and the power of branding

    Heavy metal, Ghost and the power of branding

    What can we learn from the smart branding and marketing of the band Ghost?

    You know who’s really good at branding? Metal bands.

    Maybe you didn’t see that coming. Hear me out.

    From the iconic logos of Metallica and Slayer to the corpsepaint of Norwegian black metal— not to mention Iron Maiden’s mascot Eddie — heavy heavy metal has always had identifiable branding.

    And these days, it’s the Swedish band Ghost that has taken heavy metal branding to the next level.

    So, who?

    Ghost is a band from Linköping, Sweden, formed in 2006. Ghost is also is a miracle of branding and marketing. This is not to say that the music’s not good — it is, I like it a lot and you should listen to it. (Their new album, Prequelle, comes out June 1.)

    But it’s hard to deny Ghost has built itself up on the back of very clever marketing, which they have used to generate engagement and wonder.

    First, the aesthetic. Ghost is fronted by a singer who has, album by album, been known by different monikers: Papa Emeritus, Papa Emeritus II, Papa Emeritus III and, most recently, Cardinal Copia. In the mythology of the band, each of these is actually a different person, complete with elaborate coronation ceremonies. (More on this later.)

    Each name change comes with a different costume — the Papa-era costume was essentially a papal outfit — as if the singer was the Pope of the Church of Satan. Indeed, the concept of Ghost is that the band exists in an occult horror movie.

    The backing band is made up of ‘Nameless Ghouls’, who, as the name suggests, wear matching masks to hide their faces and identities. The overall aesthetic is somewhere between 1930s horror and 1970s experimental film.

    That’s just the visuals. The lyrics of the songs mostly reference Satan as a living figure, pledging allegiance and fealty to him as a Catholic Cardinal prays to Holy Trinity.

    But here’s where it gets brilliant: although the lyrics seem straight out of a death or black metal band, the music is more in the vein of Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult or, dare I say it, Kiss. That is to say, traditional heavy metal or hard rock. And it’s VERY catchy.

    It’s a triumph of aesthetic over musical genre; that is, branding over content.

    Organic growth

    If the aesthetic is quite 1970s, the way Ghost uses branding and marketing is thoroughly 21st century.

    This combination of factors — the Satanic aesthetic, the catchy songs, the ‘transgressive’ lyrics and the sheer theatre of it all — has garnered Ghost a highly engaged, dedicated set of fans.

    People were ‘in the know’ if the a) knew who the band was and b) knew it was an act. It was like a secret club to understand this band on these different levels.

    (If there’s any question the whole thing is a loving gimmick, the band has covered an ABBA song.)

    The way that the band creates mystique and builds anticipation around the unveiling of the ‘new’ frontman is a stellar marketing move.

    The heavy metal media will cover the changing of the character — even though everyone knows that it’s the same person, Tobias Forge — as if it were a true band member being replaced.

    The fact that Ghost can pretend to get a new singer for each album — and generate social media frenzy about ‘who’ the new singer will be — builds excitement around almost nothing but a puff of smoke.

    Accompanying these unveilings are a series of videos, the most recent involving the storyline of the then-current singer Papa Emeritus III being whisked offstage and replaced by an elderly Italian man dressed again in Papal robes. We later learn this is Papa Emeritus Nil.

    After this live stunt, the official Ghost channels released a series of short films where we learn Papa Zero is too old and unwell to perform and must instead be replaced by Cardinal Copia.

    Basically, this is all content marketing for Ghost’s new album.

    Expanding the audience

    If Ghost’s aesthetic was always tongue in cheek, for this latest album cycle it’s downright campy. Yet the band have negotiated this tricky path with aplomb, managing to bring their original fans along with them.

    On a sonic level, with their latest shedding of their lead singer from the handsome Papa Emeritus III to the more Mafioso Cardinal Copia, the band is expanding its sound into even more hooky pop rock. This is placing them very well to leverage the dedicated fanbase and expand their audience.

    If this all sounds convoluted and complicated, that’s fine. Many things that engage people on an intense level — comic books, Star Wars, football — usually have some element of ‘gatekeeping’, of being difficult to get into at first, of keeping it a ‘cool club’. All you need to know if that this is how one band is engaging and growing its fanbase — and a lot of it is outside the music.

    In a genre known to place importance on branding (while of course insisting it doesn’t care about branding), Ghost have used it to great advantage to promote their music. The fact that their music is barely ‘heavy metal’ in the 21st century definition is almost beside the point. Ghost used heavy metal aesthetic, lyrics and mysticism — and the media — to organically create hype and a loyal, ‘with it’ following.

    And it doesn’t hurt that they make really good music too.

    Takeaways

    I said earlier that Ghost was a triumph of branding over content. It’s more accurate to say it’s branding BEFORE content. The content is a MUST. The branding and marketing bring that content to the audience.

    So, to reiterate:

    1. Ghost marketed itself as extreme metal band but the music is more in the vein of Kiss, Blue Oyster Cult or Black Sabbath. Scary image and lyrics only reinforced this.
    2. This built up a ‘cool’ elite group of fans. People were ‘in the know’ if they liked Ghost.
    3. This feeling was reinforced by the fans knowing the whole thing was a shtick.
    4. Each album cycle comes with a ‘new’ lead singer, builds excitement out of almost nothing
    5. Now band are expanding their sound and their audience but have held onto the diehards
    6. They have the content (great songs) but it wouldn’t have been as impressive or as successful without the branding and marketing.

    The lesson here for brands should be obvious: your main content does have to be good but it can be promoted and distributed with clever and engaging marketing.

    If you need help with your content, branding or marketing, why not get in touch with us today?

    Pic credit: Enric Martinez
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  • Why your thing has to be good first

    Why your thing has to be good first

    If you want people to pay in the future, your free thing has to be really good: LinkedIn, Spotify and the freemium model.

     You know what I find strange? That the freemium model of business — that is, you get a base level of something for free and you can pay for a better version of it — seems to be built around the idea that ads are terrible and nobody wants them.

    So, on Spotify’s free service, you’ll get barraged with ads in between songs, including in-house ads that say things like ‘Isn’t life so much better without ads?’ Yes, I agree Spotify, it is.

    But don’t the clients for these ad-supported services get annoyed that their audiences are constantly being told to upgrade so they don’t have to endure ads? You have to wonder.

    Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that, in the freemium model, the free version in general is deliberately hobbled in some way.

    After all, while ads are the way many freemium services pay for the ‘free’ part, sometimes it’s additional features are the lure.

    This is the case with LinkedIn.

    Now, I have to assume that part of LinkedIn’s strategy is to make its base model functionality really annoying so you upgrade. However, at $55 per month, I’m not yet in a financial position to find out if that’s the case, so I’m just speculating.

    (By the way, are they kidding with that price? That’s what you pay for Adobe CC.)

    Considering Facebook is free and LinkedIn isn’t, let’s do a little comparison in terms of UX.

    Free LinkedIn vs. Free Facebook

    Despite being free, there are basic things that Facebook gets right that LinkedIn doesn’t seem able to. For example:

    • Notifications opening in a new page, instead of a floating panel. This means that if you want to check your notifications, you have to leave your place in the newsfeed or open them up in a new tab.
    • Tagging. Uniformly, tagging sucks on LinkedIn. Nine times out of ten, if I type @ and then the name of the company or individual I want, it either won’t provide me a list of the correct accounts or nothing will happen at all.
    • Data on sharing. Did you know you can share posts on LinkedIn, just like on Facebook? Have you ever been notified directly of this? Probably not. It’s even worse if you have a business account.
    • The way articles display. That is, not at all. Wouldn’t it be great if all the articles (formerly ‘Pulses’) that LinkedIn’s users create existed on an easy-to-find main page, much like Medium’s home page? You’d be able to see which articles are getting people talking, what’s been recently published and it would give less-popular users a platform to generate some reach outside of our own networks. This would be one big way LinkedIn could really differentiate itself from other social networks, beyond just it being ‘the Facebook for professionals’.
    • Groups are even worse. On Facebook, posts from your groups will show up in your feed, so you can see what the conversations are. On LinkedIn, good luck even finding where your groups live. Discussions from them don’t appear in your timeline, meaning there’s little engagement with posts and you rarely get notified about them beyond a weekly email.

    So, are these just bugs or has LinkedIn made the platform worse for free users?

    Make your free thing good

    The irony is, if I was sure of a better service/UX with an upgrade, I might consider it. None of this is to denigrate LinkedIn. On the contrary, I enjoy LinkedIn for its business insights, connections and general no-nonsense communication (at least compared to Facebook, people are relatively polite). It’s just that when they can’t seem to get the basics of a social network right — or how people actually use social networks these days (i.e. mobile-first) — it doesn’t inspire confidence in me to upgrade.

    This brings me, in a roundabout way, to my actual point: if you want people to pay for something later, you have to make the free thing really good first.

    The reason, perhaps, we’ll put up with ads on free Spotify is that the base model is actually a really good and valuable service if you’re a big music fan. And if you do upgrade, you’ve likely done so because you recognise that Spotify Premium is what you already like but better.

    Similarly, whether you choose to upgrade on LinkedIn or not depends to some extent on how good the base platform is (you know I love you, LinkedIn, I’m just foolin’).

    All this applies to social media marketing too. If all you give your followers for free is sales-speak and ads, they’re not going to want to click through to your website. Or buy your product. Or sign up for your newsletter. They’re not going to want to join your premium closed group that costs $10 a month — Unless you’ve shown them value in what you’re giving away.

    This is where content creation — good content creation — beyond just advertising and marketing can really help your business. This isn’t a new idea either. It goes all the way back to pre-digital media.

    Adding value, adding customers

    My publishing hero is William M. Gaines, who published Mad Magazine without ads for 44 years. And when he finally had to succumb to market forces and put ads in the magazine in 2001, people largely accepted it because the audience knew that Mad Magazine had great content.

    So don’t think of a great thing, then deliberately make it less good just to charge money. That’s just gross — not to mention uncreative. Plus, it most likely won’t work. At least not in the long term.

    You have to demonstrate that you can deliver what you’re offering by making your free offering great. Then find a way to augment and add value to it so that your built-in audience of fans and followers will want to pay for that access, that product or that service. (Podcasts do this really well, by the way.)

    If you can show people through quality free content why your business is worth investing in, before long you’ll have some very loyal customers.

    If you want help with your social media content creation and management, get in touch today.

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  • Does your brand need social media anyway?

    Does your brand need social media anyway?

    What would your business be like if you didn’t use social media?

    Big brands such as Tesla, Playboy, Mozilla and Sonos recently left Facebook amid the Cambridge Analytica fiasco. Theoretically, these companies made a moral choice about Facebook’s misuse of data and the potential exploitation of the platform.

    But maybe they just realised they don’t actually need social media all that much.

    This is something to consider: maybe social media isn’t for you. Or your business. It’s right for a lot of businesses, but not all. Some businesses don’t require it, so be honest with yourself: What would your business be like if you didn’t use social media?

    Social media can be a great tool for small businesses and single traders who are in a position to really connect with their fans in a content-directed way. However, larger companies that have no desire or use for creative content might not need it at all.

    After all, a lot of big brands’ social media accounts only exist to have some online presence and to field a deluge of complaints every day. It must be a relief for these #deletefacebook companies to not have to deal with that anymore.

    And since Facebook decided in December 2017 that it was reverting to a more friend-focused model, maybe the Cambridge Analytica scandal could not have come at a better time for brands finding their reach and engagement levels way down.

    Harkening back

    So, some brands can get away with removing Facebook altogether — and maybe their other social accounts too. That’s still a little drastic for most companies though. But it does provide a good launching pad for thinking about other avenues that brands can be too blinded by social to consider.

    With Facebook’s recent changes to how business accounts to operate, we’re seeing a move to an older form of internet marketing, more linking back to owned assets like websites and direct marketing in the form of email newsletters, still one of the more reliable formats in terms of conversions.

    At one point, Facebook was great for levelling the playing field between the big guys and the little guys. For better or worse, it flattened everything out, gave every company a clean design. It made it hard to tell who was a big player and who was just a pretender. It gave even the smallest of businesses a modicum of professionalism.

    However, now that the only way to get much benefit out of your business page is to pay for reach, all that hard work building an organic community or people for naught, some brands are deciding that it’s time to pack up and move things back to where you own everything and have control: your website, your email newsletter, events, your other social networks. Social as publishing

    Marketing beyond social

    Back in the days before social media, brands would actually have a marketing strategy other than Facebook. They had magazine ads — to its dying day, still a better branding tool than it was given credit for. They had outdoor advertising. They had event signage and point-of-sale. They had TVCs that were actually on TV. Then came social media, which people saw as a way to save lots of money and abandon all other marketing.

    At Hook Media, we’ve always thought about social media as just one channel to spread your business message and treated the actual content as the key what defines how your brand represents and defines itself. With a background in publishing, we like to think of it as another kind of publication, albeit one with content all broken up rather than combined in one package, like a magazine.

    So if one platform isn’t working anymore, that’s not the end of the world. That’s just a new opportunity to change tactics and come at it from a different angle. It’s the brands who are still trying to play the same old numbers game that will suffer.

    The recent upheavals with Mark Zuckerberg’s platform just serve to illustrate once again that it’s still a good idea to have a media strategy aside from social.

    Social media isn’t dead — there are other options besides Facebook, after all. But you might not need to place as much importance on it. It’s just one weapon in your arsenal.

    It’s just too bad everyone already abandoned the magazines.

    If you need communications advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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  • Stick to what you do best: the business lesson of Gibson

    Stick to what you do best: the business lesson of Gibson

    Gibson has filed for bankruptcy. Is it a dark day for the music industry or the beginning of much-need course-correction?

    The iconic guitar brand Gibson, maker of the Les Paul, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Tuesday, May 1. The company had debts between $100m and $500m.

    Why has this happened? There are a few possibilities to consider.

    One is the fall in popularity of guitar-based music in the wider music industry. Younger people, who drive a lot of new business for brands like Gibson, are increasingly interested in non-guitar-based music, with EDM and rap more in vogue than rock.

    And, sure, this will have some effect on any company that sells real live musical instruments.

    It’s true that the guitar industry in particular is in trouble. Fender is also in debt. In this sense, it’s not just a Gibson issue.

    But some things are particular to Gibson.

    A major reason for Gibson’s current situation is just plain bad business decisions by Chairman and CEO Henry Juszkiewicz. This included purchasing the electronics brand Philips to make headphones and other consumer audio goods. This is the source of many of the company’s woes since the creation of the Gibson Innovations brand in 2014.

    At the time, getting into electronics might have seemed like a good idea, since so much music is now made with all the benefits of increasingly-cheaper technology including software, headphones, interfaces, synthesisers etc.

    However, there’s something to be said about doing what you do best and not letting that fall by the wayside. No matter what other bright and shiny industries you think you should diversify into.

    Because Gibson’s diversification took the focus off the core business: music and musicians.

    Isolating your core market

    Word from many musicians is that Gibson took its eye off what it was good at and didn’t listen to its fans and customers. The introduction of an electronic tuner, the G-Force, built into new guitars — which Gibson is currently being sued overenraged most everyone who played one.

    In addition, musicians have been criticising Gibson’s recent output as taking a big dip in quality.

    For example, when Gibson unveiled its 2017 Les Paul Standard (with a price tag at $4799 USD), it used a promo photo of a damaged guitar, calling into question its overall quality control.

    In 2016, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Gibson’s credit rating to a ‘negative outlook’ because of its growing debt, which might explain some of this corner-cutting.

    But moreover, it seems the corporate culture at Gibson has become toxic and that’s affected every aspect of the business.

    Bad reputation

    The support Gibson once had for brand ambassadors started to disappear. They started to get a bad reputation among musicians — not a great look for a guitar company.

    Soon enough, artists left Gibson and got contracts with other gear companies that would support them — or start their own companies.

    One high-profile Gibson ambassador was former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde, who left the company to start his own guitar line in 2015.

    In 2017, Mastodon guitarist Bill Kelliher ended his endorsement deal with Gibson in favour of ESP. (Metallica’s James Hetfield jumped from Gibson to ESP himself many years ago.)

    Kelliher’s flat assessment? “They treat their artists like shit, basically.”

    “All the guys I worked with over there – the A&R guys were getting fired left and right and the company just seemed to be falling apart to me,” Kelliher told Ultimate Guitar. “There were new guys who would come in and they didn’t know shit.”

    He cited massive dysfunction and bad communication within Gibson, including manufacturing his signature guitar line incorrectly.

    “Kids would get my guitar in the mail and ask me how to tune it because it wasn’t tuned and then I would tell them how to tune it and they would say it still doesn’t sound right and it’s because they’re not putting my gauge strings on there.”

    What’s next?

    Gibson’s declaration of bankruptcy will eliminate the Gibson Innovations electronics division and restructure around its ‘core brands’. Gibson hopes this will save the Gibson brand with a new company so that it can have a renewed focus on guitars. (Indeed, Gibson apparently has agreements with the holders of 69 per cent of its debt so that it can continue to operate.)

    In a statement, Juszkiewicz, who appears to be sticking around, said:

    “The decision to re-focus on our core business, musical instruments, combined with the significant support from our noteholders, we believe will assure the company’s long-term stability and financial health.”

    Could this be a sign of course-correction? Only time will tell. One at least hopes Gibson has learnt its lesson about trying to be a tech company.

    Diversifying is fine but losing sight of what you do best can be a business killer. Calvin Klein makes many varieties of clothing but it makes sure that its most famous, popular product — underwear — is still its cornerstone.

    Not everyone needs to be in tech. Lonely Planet still make most of their money from selling those big print travel guides. They’ve kept a toe in the digital space but they know which side their bread is buttered on.

    As Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler said: “What really pleases me is that Lonely Planet is still going very well. It hasn’t made a complete shift into the digital world, but then there’s a lot of the digital world that doesn’t make money.”

    Do what you do best and don’t lose sight of it. Otherwise you soon might not have anything to sell at all.

    If you want help communicating what your business does best, get in touch.

    Image credit: Pexels
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  • 3 (very) basic tips to make your social media videos better

    3 (very) basic tips to make your social media videos better

    Make your social media videos exponentially better with these quick fixes.

    Getting the basics of video right isn’t as complicated as it used to be, so there should be no excuse for some of the horrible video content you seen on social media.

    In your pocket right now is a device with more processing power than the old supercomputers that used to take up entire rooms. It’s so much easier than it was even a decade ago to shoot great video. Your smartphone has a camera that can, in a pinch, shoot really great high-quality video content — feature films have even been shot with this device — if you keep a few simple things in mind.

    Note: these are very basic tips but a lot of small businesses on social media get them wrong.

    1) No vertical videos

    This is probably the biggest mistake we see made on social media. Notice how your eyes sit horizontally across your face? That’s how we see things. There’s no surer sign of an amateur than vertical video. Tilt that phone and, congratulations, you’ve automatically become 50 per cent more professional than half of the small businesses on social media.

    2) Learn to edit — but don’t go overboard

    If you can get things done in one take, great (see below for our performance tips). However, there are cheap (and even free) editing programs and apps that are relatively simple to learn to give your videos punch. A word of caution though: unless you’re a designer, don’t get too fancy with graphics and transitions. Simple is better.

    (And once you reach a certain level, there are businesses — hint, hint —who can help you out with the higher-end content.)

    3) Focus on performance

    For the person in the video doing a talk-to-camera, it’s worth keeping in mind a few things:

    a) Keep your voice clear and your demeanour upbeat. There’s nothing more likely to turn someone off than a low-energy performance. You’re also probably speaking faster than you think you are. Slow it down.

    b) Scripting vs. off the cuff. If you’re good at talking off the top of your head and staying on-topic, great. If not, you might want to think about scripting something out — not the whole thing necessarily but jotting down key ideas in dot point form can keep you on track.

    c) As always, keep it short and snappy. Not only will this get your fans further into your videos, breaking your content into smaller chunks means you have more pieces of video content to work with overall. Try to limit each video to one or two key pieces of information per video.

    Takeaway message

    Sure, these are simple but you would be amazed at how many small businesses on social media get this stuff wrong.

    The good news is, if you’re getting these three things right, you’re well on your way to creating better and better video content for your business.

    If you need more help with your video content, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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  • George Orwell and the importance of clear communication

    George Orwell and the importance of clear communication

    Clear language and why it pays to say what you mean.

    “In certain kinds of writing…it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.”
    — George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

    In 1946, George Orwell wrote an essay called Politics and the English Language. In it, he argued that communication should always be clear, that clarity of expression should reflect clarity of thought.

    Being lax with how we choose to communicate obscures what we actually mean to say, whether on purpose or to cover up something we don’t want to reveal. Orwell believed that communication was headed the wrong way because, basically, it’s easier and people are lazy. People will imitate what’s common and thus spread bad, imprecise writing.

    As he says:

    “[M]odern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy.”

    Furthermore, Orwell believed that sloppy writing was not only annoying but dangerous. Imprecise or deliberately foggy words can be used to cover up all manner of disturbing things. He called this ‘defence of the indefensible’. Think of politicians dispassionately using euphemisms such as ‘collateral damage’ or ‘offshore detention’ when what those terms refer to are too monstrous to say plainly.

    It’s still everywhere

    Although this essay was written more than 70 years ago, Orwell might well have been talking about contemporary business communication.

    After all, corporate-speak (named for another Orwell idea, as it happens) is so infamously difficult to parse that it’s a cliché to say so.

    But it doesn’t have to be this way.

    How much would you love to read an internal email from a manager who said what she meant rather than obscured her meaning in jargon?

    Wouldn’t you be able to do your job better if you had accurate communication about your boss’s expectations?

    And surely a bad idea at a meeting would reveal itself more quickly if it was plainly spoken. (In Orwell’s words: “When you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself.”)

    Not to mention that your consultants would be able to more promptly deliver their work if conversations weren’t couched in buzzwords and vague phrases.

    From Hook Media’s perspective as a media business with a wide variety of clients, we have always done our best work when everything was clear and direct. That means everybody is clear about what the project is, what the expectations are, what the issues are (should they arise) and what the end product should look like.

    You can only arrive at this through clarity of thought, which you can only express through clear language.

    Rules to write by

    Orwell’s Politics and the English Language is brilliant essay and I recommend you read the whole thing it if you’re interested in communication at all.

    It contains his famous six rules for writing that are as relevant today as they were back then:

    1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
    2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
    3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
    4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
    5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
    6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

    Clarity is what gets you the best results — no matter what your business.

    And if you need help with your communications, get in touch.

    Image: George Orwell, 1943, Branch of the National Union of Journalists (BNUJ), public domain.
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  • A second set of eyes: Even the stars of business and social media need good copy

    A second set of eyes: Even the stars of business and social media need good copy

    Typos, misspellings, poor wording, badly phrased ideas: all of them are coming from the social accounts of brands, business personalities and other people who want your money.

    Have you ever noticed how much bad copy is around on the internet?

    This idea is never far from my mind but it hit me anew as I was reading the sample chapter of a book I had been anticipating. The author is a well-known commentator on innovation and technology who has a popular and engaging social media presence, so I was excited to see how he came across in long-form.

    However, as I started to read it, I got a sinking feeling. Although the interesting ideas I was expecting were there, the prose…was static. Like someone had transcribed it from a speech. As any good journalist knows, speech is a fickle thing: sometimes the transcription can make a person sound foolish when in fact he is an erudite and articulate speaker. Written communication is a different beast.

    Then I encountered a typo. Then another. A misplaced inverted comma. A double spacing.

    Small things, really, but something that can and should be easily fixed.

    (I am very aware that I’m setting myself up for ridicule should this article itself have any of the above. Such is life.)

    In fact, what the sample chapter most looked like to me was a pitch document. ‘This chapter is where I’ll do this’ and ‘from there I’ll move into that’. There was no finesse, no building of arguments.

    I then noticed that some basic, checkable facts were wrong.

    Next came a laboured, extended metaphor. Then a mixed metaphor within that first one. And it just kept going. At least put some self-effacing references to the fact that your metaphor is cumbersome! That might at least buy some time from your readers before they give up.

    I thought to myself, “Surely somebody should have picked up on this when it was being edited”.

    If I didn’t know any better I’d think this business guru had gone the self-publishing route. Maybe he dealt with a publisher who exercised no editorial oversight. What might have been a fun, insightful read became a slog because of something relatively basic: communication skills.

    Bad communication is everywhere

    But these kinds of communication errors are everywhere and often from the leaders in their respective fields.

    I remember being similarly disheartened when I followed some of the ‘sharks’ from the TV show Shark Tank and saw how poor some of their writing skills are. Sure, that’s not what they’re best at — they’re business experts after all, not copywriters — but for a crop of people constantly telling people to always be at your best and work hard, some have had trouble grasping the basics.

    In my previous role as a magazine editor, I would often encounter a similar habit in fitness professionals. These Adonises would post on social media admonishing others for not working hard enough and just ‘hardening up’, ‘put it in the work’ and getting things done. But ask them to fill out a questionnaire, tee up a phone interview or write an article and suddenly they had ‘no time’.

    So, sometimes ‘hard work’ is really just a matter of prioritising what’s important to a person.

    This is all fine! But it might be time to bring in the experts if you need some professional communication.

    Good communication skills are important

    When you’re in the business of communication, bad or incorrect copy shows up everywhere.

    I recently received an email from SBSOnDemand: ‘The Handmaiden’s are back’ (sic) said its subject line. How did this slip through?

    You begin to appreciate how special good communication skills actually are. We should all learn them from a young age but with recent news that one of the world’s leading education experts thinks the NAPLAN is teaching kids to be poor writers, it doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.

    Business gurus talk a big game. Gary Vee can say you should just get your product out there, no matter how rough around the edges it is. And maybe that’s true — as long as your business isn’t professional communication.

    ‘Just do it’ is all well and good when what you’ve just done isn’t your core business. But for us media professionals, journalists and copywriters, it’s the equivalent of Gary Vee shipping off wine in a plastic bottle.

    If your business is communication, you better make damn sure you know how to communicate.

    We can help

    One thing we offer at Hook Media is a copywriting and editing service, be it subbing your e-book, creating copy for your website or helping you create your own branded publication. With experienced journalists on our team, we’re ideally placed to help our clients make sure they are always communicating well.

    After all, first impressions matter. Your brand might only get one chance to make sure it looks professional. That could be the difference between getting a customer and not.

    And for those gurus posting all manner of bad copy on their LinkedIn accounts, if you do ever get self-conscious about it, give us a call. We just might be able to help.

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