Tag Archives: Content

27 Amazing Facts about B2B Content Marketing

20171213 bnr amazing b2b contet marketing facts 351X200 27 Amazing Facts about B2B Content Marketing

B2B Content marketing started out as a new trend, and some even wondered if it would quickly pass and burn out. But slowly, it transformed from a shiny new object to the gold standard. In fact, Seth Godin calls content marketing “the only marketing left,” because it fits so perfectly with members of the internet generation, who turn their attention online every time they want to learn more about a product or service.

Many B2B marketers are investing heavily in this type of marketing today, but still ask: What’s the best way forward and what are the essentials we need to know about content marketing? Here are 27 interesting facts to consider.

The Current Environment

  1. Business decision makers love content. Eighty percent of business decision makers prefer to receive company information in a series of articles versus in an advertisement.
  2. The buyer journey is going digital. Sixty-seven percent of the typical B2B buyer journey is now completed digitally, and nine out of 10 B2B buyers say that online content has a moderate-to-major effect on their purchasing decisions.
  3. Brands are creating large amounts of content.Sixty percent of marketers create at least one piece of content each day.
  4. The majority of marketers say they expect to produce more content next year. Seventy percent of marketers said they plan to produce more content in the following year.
  5. Most companies are more committed to content marketing than they were a year ago. Sixty-two percent report they are now very committed to content marketing.
  6. Many marketers worry that they’re not successful enough.Twenty-two percent of those surveyed reported they were “minimally successful” with their current content-marketing approach.
  7. Few marketers have a documented content-marketing strategy. Only 37 percent of marketers have a documented content-marketing strategy for their businesses.

Key takeaway: Most marketers are creating some types of content marketing, and they’re doing so at an increasing rate. However, more than one-third of these marketers don’t have a documented strategy in place. Consider creating one to align with your consistent efforts and to ensure that each dollar you spend is maximized.

Content Marketing Challenges

  1. A divide between marketing and sales still exists. According to IDC, more than 40 percent of marketing materials are not used by sales teams.
  2. Measuring content-marketing ROI is a top challenge for marketers. Fifty-two percent of B2B content marketers report that measuring ROI is among their top challenges, suggesting that more than half sometimes have difficulty proving that content marketing is successful.
  3. Marketers contend with not having enough time. Fifty-two percent of marketers say that stagnant success with content marketing is linked to “not having enough time to devote to content marketing.”
  4. Marketers are struggling to create content-marketing strategies. Nearly half of B2B marketers, 49 percent, say that stagnant success over the past year is due to lack of strategy or their trouble coming up with an adequate strategy.
  5. Some content marketers feel they aren’t making progress. Twenty-eight percent say their success is about the same as one year ago.

Key takeaway: Many marketers aren’t sure if they’re creating the right type of content or how to measure that content’s results. At the start of each new project, identify key metrics to measure success and use those metrics to guide your efforts.

Types of Content Created

  1. Most B2B marketers are creating ongoing blog content. Eighty percent use blogs in their content-marketing strategy.
  2. The majority of content marketers deploy email newsletters to connect with prospects and clients. Seventy-seven percent send email newsletters as part of their content-marketing strategy.
  3. Over half of marketers create infographics.Fifty-eight percent use infographics to connect with their audiences.
  4. Video is stealing the show. Seventy-nine percent of internet traffic will be video content by 2018.
  5. Many B2B marketers are not using video to connect with their customers yet. Only 60 percent of B2B marketers are using video to reach their customers.

Key takeaway: Data shows that prospects and customers want more video content, yet not all marketers are creating it. Test video content to determine whether it resonates with your target audience and then measure the results.

The Results of Content Marketing

  1. Content marketing is a cost-effective marketing strategy. Content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads.
  2. Higher traffic is generated from this type of marketing. Content-marketing leaders produce 7.8 times more site traffic than do non-leaders.
  3. Content marketing generates higher conversion rates. Content-marketing adopters have conversion rates that are almost six times higher than their competitors’ conversion rates.
  4. Long-form content is highly effective. Content of between 3,000 and 10,000 words receives the most social shares — even though publishers are producing 16 times more short-form content than long-form content.
  5. Higher quality and more efficient content creation are ranked as top factors for successful companies. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed said that creating high-quality content and having an efficient process for creating content increased their overall success over the past year.

Key takeaway: LinkedIn’s Senior Content Marketing Manager Jason Miller said, “Content marketing is no longer a numbers game. It’s a game of relevance.” This type of marketing can be highly effective, but it’s important to start with the customers — and an understanding of their pain points and the types of content they need most. Create the exceptional content that they crave and define key metrics for success up front.

The Future of Content Marketing

  1. Content-marketing budgets are getting bigger.Ninety-three percent of brand marketers plan to maintain or increase their budget for content marketing in the coming year.
  2. Repurposing is on the rise. Nearly 60 percent of marketers reuse content two to five times.
  3. The majority of CMOs say that content marketing is the future.Seventy-eight percent of CMOs believe that custom content is the future of marketing.
  4. The majority of marketers expect to create more original content in the next year.Seventy percent of marketers said they expected to create more original B2B content in the next 12 months.
  5. Blogs and email newsletters are said to be most critical in the following year.Fifty-two percent of B2B marketers said that blog posts could be most critical to content success in the following year, and 40 percent said that email newsletters would be essential.

Key takeaway. Ann Handley, content-marketing keynote speaker and best-selling author said, “You need to create ridiculously good content — content that is useful, enjoyable, and inspired.” The future will include an increasing amount of content, but it’s most important to create the content that your audience craves most and then deliver it through the channels where they spend the most time.

A Few Final Words

The customer is always at the center of content-marketing efforts. What are your customers’ burning pain points now, and how can you position your product or service as the solution to these problems through your content-marketing efforts? Leo Burnett famously said, “What helps people, helps business.” Content marketing is intended to help your customers, so when you stay focused on that goal, the results and revenue will follow.

What is your favorite content-marketing statistic? Please share it below!

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How CRM Can Give Your Content Marketing a Jump Start

gettyimages 470907992 How CRM Can Give Your Content Marketing a Jump Start

If you are familiar with content writing, you may occasionally experience difficulties getting your work to rank on search engines. There are even struggles with trying to find ways to gain attention from readers and subsequently generate a following. Finally, another struggle with content writing is making your subject something that is interesting and worth reading, especially if it is a topic that the general public may not be too interested in.

In today’s blog, we are going to talk about content marketing, what it is and how to make people stop and notice through the usage of CRM software.

Content Marketing. What Is It?

Before we begin discussing the ways in which customer relationship management software can assist with giving your content marketing the push it needs, let’s define the phrase and make you a bit more familiar with it.

A strategic marketing approach which focuses on creating and distributing relevant and consistent content through online platforms is content marketing. With traditional marketing tactics such as cold calls, TV and radio spots and print advertisements no longer proving to be as successful as they once were, content marketing has now become the more widely accepted and effective form of marketing. That is because it works from an often used and popular platform, which is the internet. Essentially, you are meeting your customer base exactly where they are and using the internet allows for more creative ways to market.

How Does CRM Help Content Marketing?

One of the benefits of using customer relationship management software is its overflow of data.  No matter what your goal is for using the software, having information about your customers and all interactions involving your business and its customers, can help you in more ways than one. When it comes to content marketing, you can use the information collected within the system to learn more about your customer base, their interests and how to marketing toward them. Here are three specific ways CRM can bring life to your content marketing.

  • Gain customer social media understanding: CRM allows you to gain a better understanding of your customers in order to create a more personal relationship with them. Social media usage can easily tell a business what their customers are interested in or do no care for, making marketing easier. Social CRM is a tool that can make this process easier.
  • Monitoring metrics: Utilizing CRM data is the perfect way of finding data that rests in email threads and phone conversations. You can look through metrics and data, what was successful or a failure and from there make changes with your marketing.
  • Make Businesses Better Listeners: This one is simple, but effective. Paying attention to your customer’s actions, needs and requests will make content marketing easier to perform. The needs of a customer are often documented in customer relationship management software. Knowing this information doesn’t just simplify marketing, it also shows your customer base that you care and pay attention to them.

CRM is an incredibly helpful software and can be used for more than just building a relationship with customers. It also helps with giving your content marketing the boost it needs in order to better perform on search engines.

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5 Key Questions To Help You Decide When To Gate Content

20171205 bnr gated content usher 351X200 5 Key Questions To Help You Decide When To Gate Content

As you can see, we’ve also developed a great decision-tree infographic you can use to help you understand when and when not to gate. Let’s walk through the five questions.

#1 Is this a “contact us” opportunity?

These are typically found at the bottom of the funnel and are a clear signal of serious buying intent. If it is, then you should have a contact form on the web page. If not, move on.

#2 Do we want the audience to register or sign up?

These display forms are presented alongside content and offer the viewer an opportunity to sign up or register for some future content, event, or resource. For example, this could be signing up for your newsletter, or registering for a webinar. Depending on the content, these can be top- and middle-of-funnel opportunities. If the answer is yes, then you should include the sign-up form on the page (but remember Phil’s rule to ask for only what you need at this point).

#3 Is all the content about you, your product, or service?

If your content is too self-promotional, then you shouldn’t be using a form (there are always exceptions). Your goal should be to create content that provides value to the prospective buyer.

#4 Will this teach the audience a skill or save them money?

If your content is going to provide value to the buyer, then you should use an access form. These could be white papers, eBooks, guides, and so forth. For example, I was willing to give up my name and email recently to receive a guide on how to start a B2B podcast.

#5 Is this proprietary information?

This could be a buying guide, competitive comparison datasheet and so forth. If the answer is yes, it is proprietary information, then you should use a gated access form. If it’s information anyone could find on the web, or is otherwise not proprietary, then the answer is to not use a form.

Conclusion

Hopefully, the decision tree helps you better understand when you should or should not be gating your content.

If you’re using a marketing automation platform, such as Act-On, you can also consider using progressive profile forms that allow you build up the information you know about a prospect as their engagement with you progresses. This helps mitigate the desire to ask a bunch of questions in your forms. Instead, you start with a name and an email. Your marketing automation then recognizes these prospects the next time they are on your site and want to see an on-demand webinar or download an email, asking for a title in one instance or a company name in another.

More Help

This month, Act-On will be announcing its Adaptive Forms, which will make it even easier to learn more about your customer, sooner in the sales cycle. With this information you can deliver more value and show your impact to their bottom line, as well as your own.

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Plan for the Future: How to Engineer B2B Content for Bots & AI

20171129 bnr ai human nodes 351x200 Plan for the Future: How to Engineer B2B Content for Bots & AI

AI and the SEO Connection: A Quick Primer

You can’t talk about SEO and artificial intelligence without mentioning Google RankBrain, an AI program that helps process search inquiries. This AI is trained by data, which helps it understand patterns and behavior to determine whether people like your content and whether search engines should send you more traffic. But what does this mean for marketers and SEO?

Artificial intelligence takes search much deeper, because RankBrain looks at search results differently. According to Greg Corrado, a senior research scientist at Google:

RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to embed vast amounts of written language into mathematical entities — called vectors — that the computer can understand. If RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, the machine can make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries.

Google says that RankBrain has become the third most important factor in the search engine’s overall algorithm for ranking web pages. That’s because it can analyze a search query and return relevant content — regardless of whether the keyword phrases are included in the search. So, what should you do differently to enhance SEO and engineer B2B content for bots and AI?

Here are a few tips:

  1. Create better snippets. Ensure that your page titles and meta descriptions stand out and entice the user to click for more. When possible, craft content that is perfect for being featured in the “snippet” position in search results (more on this in a minute).
  2. Rethink keywords. Yulia Khansvyarova, head of digital marketing at SEMrush, said in a recent article on Search Engine Land, “Stop creating pages or content tailored to only one keyword or keyword phrase. For maximum effect, try composing your semantic kernel of both your targeted keywords, as well as their variations and related keywords, and additional words that most commonly appear in the same context as your targeted keywords.”
  3. Relate to your customers. Surprisingly, AI means that you need to write for people, rather than for machines. Creating content that sounds human keeps readers engaged and on the page and on your website longer.
  4. Optimize with RankBrain in mind. In the past, you could follow a set of rules to optimize content, but AI is changing this. You can’t use a checklist anymore, but instead need to optimize with RankBrain in mind. Sometimes this means that you need fresh new content, or in-depth content, but, regardless, you must always think about the readers’ needs and what they’ll like best.

AI has fueled changes in how search engines operate and in SEO, but what about intelligent assistants — is there anything special you should be doing to be found more easily by them and to drive greater results? Well … absolutely. But first you must think about the new way your prospects are searching.

Artificial Assistants and Search Queries

The use of intelligent assistants is transforming the way people are using search technology, and it starts with two major categories:

Facts and information. You might ask Alexa: “How fast does XYZ’s hardware run?”, and she would read an answer pulled from search results. The words a searcher typically uses during the voice search, however, are different from those typed into Google as an inquiry. As a result, this opens up a major opportunity (more on this in a minute).

Local guides. When searching, you might ask a virtual assistant: “Who are the SaaS firms within a 50-mile radius of San Francisco?” The assistant conducts a quick inquiry and returns results that are the best fit. This, too, is a great SEO opportunity.

For both of the above situations, this technology often pulls from “featured snippets,” which appear before all other results at the top of the page. When your content secures this position, you automatically get featured during many voice command searches fueled by AI assistants. But achieving this coveted position takes deliberate strategy and effort.

Ranking for Featured Snippets

When ranking for snippets, Google detects pages that answer a user’s specific question and then displays the top result as a snippet in featured search results. For example, if I search: “What is AI in marketing?” I receive the following response:

Artificial intelligence marketing (AIM) is a form of direct marketing leveraging database marketing techniques as well as AI concept and model such as machine learning and Bayesian Network. The main difference resides in the reasoning part which suggests it is performed by computer and algorithm instead of human.

The text above is the “Google snippet” and shows in the “0” position, which displays before all other search results.

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Content Analytics' VP Kenji Gjovig: Chum in the Water

Kenji Gjovig is VP of partnerships and business development at
Content Analytics.

In this exclusive interview, Gjovig offers his insights on managing the customer experience through effective content management.

kenji gjovig Content Analytics' VP Kenji Gjovig: Chum in the Water

Content Analytics
VP
Kenji Gjovig

CRM Buyer: What is content management, and what is the key to doing it effectively?

Kenji Gjovig: Content management is all about making sure that [a product] item page has all of the information that a customer needs to buy an item or have a good experience with it afterwards.

What goes into content management varies between retailers. A content management system has the ability to set up new items, post images and video, and create a robust title and detailed item description.

Ratings and reviews are really important, and also elements like size charts and product comparison guides that will help [customers] learn how to use the item and feel good about it.

You have to have all of the information on the screen. These enhanced content elements promote the best customer experience.

CRM Buyer: What are some common mistakes you see in the way companies manage their content, and how can these mistakes be avoided?

Gjovig: The biggest mistake we see is when a brand sees content management as an exercise in just checking the box. They treat it as a spectrum of bad versus good content. There’s a huge spectrum of good and bad content, and the biggest mistake we see is when retailers don’t deliver a good customer experience.

CRM Buyer: What is the relationship between managing content effectively and delivering a good customer experience?

Gjovig: I think they’re directly tied together. If I don’t have good content in my item pages, it’s going to be a terrible customer experience. If there’s a great description but no reviews, that’s not good.

If I’m searching for further information, and there aren’t good images, I’m not likely to make a purchase. Let’s say it’s food or consumables. I see the food, but I don’t know the ingredients. There’s a high correlation between more content and good content.

CRM: What are your recommendations for creating a good customer experience?

Gjovig: Items have to have good attributes and good description, so the algorithms work well. If a customer types in “televisions” on a retailer site, the search algorithm has to be able to serve up the best item for them, so the best analytics tools identify a lot of search options.

If you think about brick-and-mortar stores, the way we might find a product is walking down the aisles. We’re physically and visually finding products. In e-commerce, it has to be all done virtually, and it has to be served up to us. If there’s not good content on the pages, the algorithm can’t serve up the right products, and that affects the customer experience.

CRM Buyer: What is “content health,” and how can it best be measured or evaluated?

Gjovig: Content health is an objective measurement of something that is fairly subjective. We have an algorithm that identifies good or bad content. We measure all of the parameters and assign scores to each of these, and we evaluate individual item pages at scale. We’re doing it across tens of millions of item pages across the Internet.

We then measure the quality of content based on objective measures. If I’m a particular brand, and I’m managing my content, I want to make sure that my brand is doing well compared to other brands on other websites. We look at things both in a vacuum and more strategically, relative to other brands and retailers.

CRM Buyer: How is the field of content management evolving and changing? What’s in the future for content management?

Gjovig: The way I would describe it is that there is chum in the water, and all of a sudden the sharks are coming. That’s what’s going on now. Every brand and every manufacturer is thinking about how they go to market in e-commerce, and retailers are thinking about e-commerce differently.

When Amazon bought Whole Foods, every grocery store in the country paid attention. E-commerce is the only growing channel, and it’s growing at double-digits. Everyone is trying to find a good content management system.

The best ones are those that give both the analytics and the ability to go fix problems. The demand for precise, real-time analytics is increasing, because e-commerce is growing. The need for data and assortment is only going to be more, which means the analytics will need to get better and better.

CRM Buyer: How is content changing and evolving?

Gjovig: The old form of user-generated content is that you submit a question, and the next day someone replies. The next generation is that you get the question answered immediately.

I would say that virtual reality is also on the horizon. You can imagine a future when everyone has a VR device, allowing you to interact with products. When I bought a playset, they had a video that had the camera going around the object 360 degrees.

With VR, you can do things at scale, so you can give the customer a more interactive experience, a virtual view, or a tour of products. We’re going to see technology that will provide more interactive experience, giving the customer a better experience in the moment of the shopping experience.
end enn Content Analytics' VP Kenji Gjovig: Chum in the Water


Vivian%20Wagner Content Analytics' VP Kenji Gjovig: Chum in the WaterVivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a variety
of outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists.
Email Vivian.

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5 Reasons to Re-share Your Content on Social Media

Every time Stone Temple tweeted about this post, they got more traffic.

We don’t have the y-axis from this graph, but if we just crudely measure the first tweet compared to the second, third, and fourth tweets, we see that Stone Temple got about 150% more traffic from those later tweets.

Would you not like 150% more traffic to your content?

If you’re managing your site correctly, that 150% more traffic should translate into more conversions, more leads, and more revenue. Maybe even 150% more revenue.

The second part of the research Mark did about this was nearly as interesting:

“I sampled the Twitter shares of 30 different people who were both regular bloggers and regular Twitter users. I took note when they shared one of their own blog posts for the first time on Twitter. Then I monitored their tweets for 30 days. I found that 80% of those people never shared their own content again after the first time.”

I believe that’s about the third stat we’ve mentioned that shows only about 20-30% of content marketers re-sharing their content. The different studies are surprisingly consistent.

2. Re-sharing your content costs next to nothing

If you’re using one of the re-sharing tools like Hiplay or MeetEdgar, it takes just 3-5 clicks to add a post to a content library that gets re-shared randomly and automatically. Many other social media management or marketing automation tools also offer re-sharing features, too.

Don’t say you can’t afford this, either. Hiplay costs $ 5 a month. Even shoestring budgets can handle that.

It’s not the only re-sharing tool around, though. Buffer (which costs $ 10 a month) lets you pick posts to re-share. Though you do have to pick what to re-share manually.

Still, it takes barely five minutes of work to review your social media feed from the last few days, pick about 10-20% of what you’ve posted, and just click a few times to re-queue those shares.

Not only is this getting more exposure for your content, but it’s also saving you time by keeping your social media feeds full.

Which brings us to #3:

3. Re-sharing your content means you have to spend less time filling up your social media queues

Let’s face it: Finding and preparing first-rate content to share with a social media audience takes time. Lots of time.

There are services like Quuu that can find and post some content for you automatically, but it’s really best to view those as a supplemental service ― not your entire social media queue.

And you can and should also re-share other people’s content. But re-sharing your own content, as mentioned above, takes away some of that work. It may end up saving you several hours a week.

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Forrester Report: Content Management Solutions Deliver 68% ROI Over 3 Years

When outspoken venture capitalist and Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2011 that software is eating the world, he was only partly correct. In fact, business services based on software platforms are what’s eating the world.

Companies like Apple, which remade the mobile phone industry by offering app developers easy access to millions of iPhone owners through its iTunes App Store platform, are changing the economy. However, these world-eating companies are not just in the tech world. They are also emerging in industries that you might not expect: retailers, finance companies, transportation firms, and others outside of Silicon Valley are all at the forefront of the platform revolution.

These outsiders are taking platforms to the next level by building them around business services and data, not just apps. Companies are making business services such as logistics, 3D printing, and even roadside assistance for drivers available through a software connection that other companies can plug in to and consume or offer to their own customers.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image2 Forrester Report: Content Management Solutions Deliver 68% ROI Over 3 YearsThere are two kinds of players in this business platform revolution: providers and participants. Providers create the platform and create incentives for developers to write apps for it. Developers, meanwhile, are participants; they can extend the reach of their apps by offering them through the platform’s virtual shelves.

Business platforms let companies outside of the technology world become powerful tech players, unleashing a torrent of innovation that they could never produce on their own. Good business platforms create millions in extra revenue for companies by enlisting external developers to innovate for them. It’s as if strangers are handing you entirely new revenue streams and business models on the street.

Powering this movement are application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs), which enable developers to easily plug their apps into a platform without having to know much about the complex software code that drives it. Developers get more time to focus on what they do best: writing great apps. Platform providers benefit because they can offer many innovative business services to end customers without having to create them themselves.

Any company can leverage APIs and SDKs to create new business models and products that might not, in fact, be its primary method of monetization. However, these platforms give companies new opportunities and let them outflank smaller, more nimble competitors.

Indeed, the platform economy can generate unbelievable revenue streams for companies. According to Platform Revolution authors Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Paul Choudary, travel site Expedia makes approximately 90% of its revenue by making business services available to other travel companies through its API.

In TechCrunch in May 2016, Matt Murphy and Steve Sloane wrote that “the number of SaaS applications has exploded and there is a rising wave of software innovation in APIs that provide critical connective tissue and increasingly important functionality.” ProgrammableWeb.com, an API resource and directory, offers searchable access to more than 15,000 different APIs.

According to Accenture Technology Vision 2016, 82% of executives believe that platforms will be the “glue that brings organizations together in the digital economy.” The top 15 platforms (which include companies built entirely on this software architecture, such as eBay and Priceline.com) have a combined market capitalization of US$ 2.6 trillion.

It’s time for all companies to join the revolution. Whether working in alliance with partners or launching entirely in-house, companies need to think about platforms now, because they will have a disruptive impact on every major industry.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image3 1024x572 Forrester Report: Content Management Solutions Deliver 68% ROI Over 3 Years

To the Barricades

Several factors converged to make monetizing a company’s business services easier. Many of the factors come from the rise of smartphones, specifically the rise of Bluetooth and 3G (and then 4G and LTE) connections. These connections turned smartphones into consumption hubs that weren’t feasible when high-speed mobile access was spottier.

One good example of this is PayPal’s rise. In the early 2000s, it functioned primarily as a standalone web site, but as mobile purchasing became more widespread, third-party merchants clamored to integrate PayPal’s payment processing service into their own sites and apps.

In Platform Revolution, Parker, Van Alstyne, and Choudary claim that “platforms are eating pipelines,” with pipelines being the old, direct-to-consumer business methods of the past. The first stage of this takeover involved much more efficient digital pipelines (think of Amazon in the retail space and Grubhub for food delivery) challenging their offline counterparts.

What Makes Great Business Platforms Run?

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image8 Forrester Report: Content Management Solutions Deliver 68% ROI Over 3 Years

The quality of the ecosystem that powers your platform is as important as the quality of experience you offer to customers. Here’s how to do it right.

Although the platform economy depends on them, application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) aren’t magic buttons. They’re tools that organizations can leverage to attract users and developers.

To succeed, organizations must ensure that APIs include extensive documentation and are easy for developers to add into their own products. Another part of platform success is building a general digital enterprise platform that includes both APIs and SDKs.

A good platform balances ease of use, developer support, security, data architecture (that is, will it play nice with a company’s existing systems?), edge processing (whether analytics are processed locally or in the cloud), and infrastructure (whether a platform provider operates its own data centers and cloud infrastructure or uses public cloud services). The exact formula for which elements to embrace, however, will vary according to the use case, the industry, the organization, and its customers.

In all cases, the platform should offer a value proposition that’s a cut above its competitors. That means a platform should offer a compelling business service that is difficult to duplicate.

By creating open standards and easy-to-work-with tools, organizations can greatly improve the platforms they offer. APIs and SDKs may sound complicated, but they’re just tools for talented people to do their jobs with. Enable these talented people, and your platform will take off.

In the second stage, platforms replace pipelines. Platform Revolution’s authors write: “The Internet no longer acts merely as a distribution channel (a pipeline). It also acts as a creation infrastructure and a coordination mechanism. Platforms are leveraging this new capability to create entirely new business models.” Good examples of second-stage companies include Airbnb, DoubleClick, Spotify, and Uber.

Allstate Takes Advantage of Its Hidden Jewels

Many companies taking advantage of platforms were around long before APIs, or even the internet, existed. Allstate, one of the largest insurers in the United States, has traditionally focused on insurance services. But recently, the company expanded into new markets—including the platform economy.

Allstate companies Allstate Roadside Services (ARS) and Arity, a technology company founded by Allstate in late 2016, have provided their parent company with new sources of revenue, thanks to new offerings. ARS launched Good Hands Rescue APIs, which allow third parties to leverage Allstate’s roadside assistance network in their own apps. Meanwhile, Arity offers a portfolio of APIs that let third parties leverage Allstate’s aggregate data on driver behavior and intellectual property related to risk prediction for uses spanning mobility, consumer, and insurance solutions.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image4 Forrester Report: Content Management Solutions Deliver 68% ROI Over 3 YearsFor example, Verizon licenses an Allstate Good Hands Rescue API for its own roadside assistance app. And automakers GM and BMW also offer roadside assistance service through Allstate.

Potential customers for Arity’s API include insurance providers, shared mobility companies, automotive parts makers, telecoms, and others.

“Arity is an acknowledgement that we have to be digital first and think about the services we provide to customers and businesses,” says Chetan Phadnis, Arity’s head of product development. “Thinking about our intellectual property system and software products is a key part of our transformation. We think it will create new ways to make money in the vertical transportation ecosystem.”

One of Allstate’s major challenges is a change in auto ownership that threatens the traditional auto insurance model. No-car and one-car households are on the rise, ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft work on very different insurance models than passenger cars or traditional taxi companies, and autonomous vehicles could disrupt the traditional auto insurance model entirely.

This means that companies like Allstate are smart to look for revenue streams beyond traditional insurance offerings. The intangible assets that Allstate has accumulated over the years—a massive aggregate collection of driver data, an extensive set of risk models and predictive algorithms, and a network of garages and mechanics to help stranded motorists—can also serve as a new revenue stream for the future.

By offering two distinct API services for the platform economy, Allstate is also able to see what customers might want in the future. While the Good Hands Rescue APIs let third-party users integrate a specific service (such as roadside assistance) into their software tools, Arity instead lets third-party developers leverage huge data sets as a piece of other, less narrowly defined projects, such as auto maintenance. As Arity gains insights into how customers use and respond to those offerings, it gets a preview into potential future directions for its own products and services.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image5 1024x572 Forrester Report: Content Management Solutions Deliver 68% ROI Over 3 Years

Farmers Harvest Cash from a Platform

Another example of innovation fueling the platform economy doesn’t come from a boldfaced tech name. Instead, it comes from a relatively small startup that has nimbly built its business model around data with an interesting twist: it turns its customers into entrepreneurs.

Farmobile is a Kansas City–based agriculture tech company whose smart device, the Passive Uplink Connection (PUC), can be plugged into tractors, combines, sprayers, and other farm equipment.

Farmobile uses the PUC to enable farmers to monetize data from their fields, which is one of the savviest routes to success with platforms—making your platform so irresistible to end consumers that they foment the revolution for you.

Once installed, says CEO Jason Tatge, the PUC streams second-by-second data to farmers’ Farmobile accounts. This gives them finely detailed reports, called Electronic Field Records (EFRs), that they can use to improve their own business, share with trusted advisors, and sell to third parties.

The PUC gives farmers detailed records for tracking analytics on their crops, farms, and equipment and creates a marketplace where farmers can sell their data to third parties. Farmers benefit because they generate extra income; Farmobile benefits because it makes a commission on each purchase and builds a giant store of aggregated farming data.

This last bit is important if Farmobile is to successfully compete with traditional agricultural equipment manufacturers, which also gather data from farmers. Farmobile’s advantage (at least for now) is that the equipment makers limit their data gathering to their existing customer bases and sell it back to them in the form of services designed to improve crop yields and optimize equipment performance.

Farmobile, meanwhile, is trying to appeal to all farmers by sharing the wealth, which could help it leapfrog the giants that already have large customer bases. “The ability to bring data together easily is good for farmers, so we built API integrations to put data in one place,” says Tatge.

Farmers can resell their data on Farmobile’s Data Store to buyers such as reinsurance firm Guy Carpenter. To encourage farmers to opt in, says Tatge, “we told farmers that if they run our device over planting and harvest season, we can guarantee them $ 2 per acre for their EFRs.”

So far, Farmobile’s customers have sent the Data Store approximately 4,200 completed EFRs for both planting and harvest, which will serve as the backbone of the company’s data monetization efforts. Eventually, Farmobile hopes to expand the offerings on the Data Store to include records from at least 10 times as many different farm fields.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image6 1024x572 Forrester Report: Content Management Solutions Deliver 68% ROI Over 3 Years

Under Armour Binges on APIs

Another model for the emerging business platform world comes from Under Armour, the sports apparel giant. Alongside its very successful clothing and shoe lines, Under Armour has put its platform at the heart of its business model.

But rather than build a platform itself, Under Armour has used its growing revenues to create an industry-leading ecosystem. Over the past decade, it has purchased companies that already offer APIs, including MapMyFitness, Endomondo, and MyFitnessPal, and then linked them all together into a massive platform that serves 30 million consumers.

This strategy has made Under Armour an indispensable part of the sprawling mobile fitness economy. According to the company’s 2016 annual results, its business platform ecosystem, known as the Connected Fitness division, generated $ 80 million in revenue that year—a 51% increase over 2015.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image7 Forrester Report: Content Management Solutions Deliver 68% ROI Over 3 YearsBy combining existing APIs from its different apps with original tools built in-house, extensive developer support, and a robust SDK, third-party developers have everything they need to build their own fitness app or web site.

Depending on their needs, third-party developers can sign up for several different payment plans with varying access to Under Armour’s APIs and SDKs. Indeed, the company’s tiered developer pricing plan for Connected Fitness, which is separated into Starter, Pro, and Premium levels, makes Under Armour seem more like a tech company than a sports apparel firm.

As a result, Under Armour’s APIs and SDKs are the underpinnings of a vast platform cooperative. Under Armour’s apps seamlessly integrate with popular services like Fitbit and Garmin (even though Under Armour has a fitness tracker of its own) and are licensed by corporations ranging from Microsoft to Coca-Cola to Purina. They’re even used by fitness app competitors like AthletePath and Lose It.

A large part of Under Armour’s success is the sheer amount of data its fitness apps collect and then make available to developers. MyFitnessPal, for instance, is an industry-leading calorie and food tracker used for weight loss, and Endomondo is an extremely popular running and biking record keeper and route-sharing platform.

One way of looking at the Connected Fitness platform is as a combination of traditional consumer purchasing data with insights gleaned from Under Armour’s suite of apps, as well as from the third-party apps that Under Armour’s products use.

Indeed, Under Armour gets a bonus from the platform economy: it helps the company understand its customers better, creating a virtuous cycle. As end users use different apps fueled by Under Armour’s services and data-sharing capabilities, Under Armour can then use that data to fuel customer engagement and attract additional third-party app developers to add new services to the ecosystem.

What Successful Platforms Have in Common

The most successful business platforms have three things in common: They’re easy to work with, they fulfill a market need, and they offer data that’s useful to customers.

For instance, Farmobile’s marketplace fulfills a valuable need in the market: it lets farmers monetize data and develop a new revenue stream that otherwise would not exist. Similarly, Allstate’s Arity experiment turns large volumes of data collected by Allstate over the years into a revenue stream that drives down costs for Arity’s clients by giving them more accurate data to integrate into their apps and software tools.

Meanwhile, Under Armour’s Connected Fitness platform and API suite encourage users to sign up for more apps in the company’s ecosystem. If you track your meals in MyFitnessPal, you’ll want to track your runs in Endomondo or MapMyRun. Similarly, if you’re an app developer in the health and fitness space, Under Armour has a readily available collection of tools that will make it easy for users to switch over to your app and cheaper for you to develop your app.

As the platform economy grows, all three of these approaches—Allstate’s leveraging of its legacy business data, Farmobile’s marketplace for users to become data entrepreneurs, and Under Armour’s one-stop fitness app ecosystem—are extremely useful examples of what happens next.

In the coming months and years, the platform economy will see other big changes. In 2016 for example, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google all released APIs for their AI-powered voice assistant platforms, the most famous of which is Apple’s Siri.

The introduction of APIs confirms that the AI technology behind these bots has matured significantly and that a new wave of AI-based platform innovation is nigh. (In fact, Digitalistpredicted last year that the emergence of an API for these AIs would open them up beyond conventional uses.) New voice-operated technologies such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa offer exciting opportunities for developers to create full-featured, immersive applications on top of existing platforms.

We will also see AI- and machine learning–based APIs emerge that will allow developers to quickly leverage unstructured data (such as social media posts or texts) for new applications and services. For instance, sentiment analysis APIs can help explore and better understand customers’ interests, emotions, and preferences in social media.

As large providers offer APIs and associated services for smaller organizations to leverage AI and machine learning, these companies can in turn create their own platforms for clients to use unstructured data—everything from insights from uploaded photographs to recognizing a user’s emotion based on facial expression or tone of voice—in their own apps and products. Meanwhile, the ever-increasing power of cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure will give these computing-intensive app platforms the juice they need to become deeper and richer.

These business services will depend on easy ways to exchange and implement data for success. The good news is that finding easy ways to share data isn’t hard and the API and SDK offerings that fuel the platform economy will become increasingly robust. Thanks to the opportunities generated by these new platforms and the new opportunities offered to end users, developers, and platform businesses themselves, everyone stands to win—if they act soon. D!


About the Authors

Bernd Leukert is a member of the Executive Board, Products and Innovation, for SAP.

Björn Goerke is Chief Technology Officer and President, SAP Cloud Platform, for SAP.

Volker Hildebrand is Global Vice President for SAP Hybris solutions.

Sethu M is President, Mobile Services, for SAP.

Neal Ungerleider is a Los Angeles-based technology journalist and consultant.


Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

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YouTube says machine learning is making progress against violent extremist content

 YouTube says machine learning is making progress against violent extremist content

Four months after launching a program to fight violent extremist content, YouTube says it has become far more efficient at identifying and removing such videos, thanks to its machine learning technology.

In June, YouTube detailed four steps it would take to fight the rising tide of such objectionable content on its platform. Its announcement came amid a general backlash against the tech industry for its role in enabling hate-fueled and terrorist-related messages.

YouTube pledged to deploy machine learning to tackle the issue. In addition, it created a program to enlist the help of third-party experts, toughen standards for controversial videos, and support voices that are “speaking out against hate and extremism.”

The company published an update on these efforts on its blog today. Most notably, it said the investment in machine learning seemed to be paying dividends.

The company wrote that it “always used a mix of human flagging and human review together with technology” to help it spot violent content. The program introduced in June added machine learning to flag violent extremist content, which would then be reviewed by humans.

YouTube said that over the last month, 83 percent of violent extremist videos it removed were spotted without a human flag, up 8 percent from August. The company said its human teams have reviewed more than a million videos since June, adding new context and information to continue improving the machine learning efforts.

It also acknowledged that “as we have increased the volume of videos for review by our teams, we have made some errors. We know we can get better and we are committed to making sure our teams are taking action on the right content.”

“Terrorist and violent extremist material should not be spread online,” the blog post reads. “We will continue to heavily invest to fight the spread of this content, provide updates to governments, and collaborate with other companies through the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism.”

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Content Marketing in the Age of Google RankBrain

blog title google rankbrain speechwave 351x200 Content Marketing in the Age of Google RankBrain

Key takeaway: Google RankBrain favors content that readers love, so topic selection is critical. Find out which topics are trending, review what content already exists, and create something your customers will enjoy.

Create specific content for a specific audience

One of the best strategies for creating a foolproof content marketing strategy for Google RankBrain is to get more specific with your content marketing. For example, several years ago you may have created content that was titled “7 Strategies to Create Amazing Marketing.” But you’ll find that with the changes to Google RankBrain, content like this is simply too general. Here are a couple tips for getting started.

When looking at the content that’s trending the highest in the past 24 hours for the keyword “content marketing,” one thing becomes clear: Content that performs best is specific. Take a look at some of the blog titles that went viral.

“5 Best Practices That Will Help You Rank on Page One of Google”

“How to Market Your Brand Using Interactive Native Content”

“How to Get Your Content to Rank for Seasonal Keywords”

Create content for a specific audience that answers problems people are struggling with, and you’ll be in better shape with RankBrain.

Key takeaway: Google RankBrain loves content that is specific rather than general because it better meets the long-tail, narrow phrases people are searching. Before moving forward with that next piece of content, ask yourself, “Is this specific and detailed enough to give my audience exactly what they need?” If the answer is maybe, or even no, then keep searching for a new topic.

Leverage the power of long-form content

You’ve heard it before: “Readers have an attention span that is shorter than that of a goldfish” or “People don’t have time to read long content online.” But the truth is not only will readers consume long content (as much as 3,000 words!), they love it. BuzzSumo’s analysis of 100 million articles revealed that in-depth articles get shared the most. In addition, Quick Sprout reports that blog posts longer than 1,500 words get 68 percent more tweets and 22 percent more likes than shorter ones do. However, the majority of blog posts published are 500 words or shorter, which provides a prime opportunity for your brand to stand out.

Plus, it’s important to know the number of long-tail searches performed increases daily. When typing in a phrase, the content the user is searching for is more specific than ever. If the readers find a match between your content and their needs, and the content is excellent, they’ll read everything that you write.

It’s also interesting to note that Steve Baldwin of Didit.com explained that RankBrain uses “co-occurrence” for delivering more relevant content to users. This means the more frequently specific terms or a related group of words appear within the material, the better they rank. Writing long-form content naturally enables relevant terms to appear more frequently and creates this co-occurrence without being redundant (note: this is not keyword stuffing!).

Key takeaway: Long-form content is good for Google RankBrain so long as the content is useful, relevant, and includes details your readers can “plug in and play” immediately.

Moving forward with greater impact

Benjamin Franklin said, “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” Marketers who remain fluid, changing with updates such as Google RankBrain, will not only achieve better search engine results, they’ll also delight customers with amazing content. But first you must change the way you think about SEO.

New strategies should move away from thinking of SEO as a game to master and instead think of it as a goal focused on “overdelivering” amazing value to the reader. Optimization is no longer a laundry list of to-do items ― it’s a new way to think about content.

Have you created successful content that does well with the RankBrain update? Is so, please share your best strategies and results.

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5 Powerful Ways to Use Social Proof in Content Marketing

blog title social proof 351x200 5 Powerful Ways to Use Social Proof in Content Marketing

4. Leverage User-Submitted Content

User-submitted content is a great resource for capturing social proof because it helps you to connect and engage with prospects. For example, Lay’s launched a “Do us a Flavor” campaign that invited customers to invent their own flavors; fans could vote on their favorites, and a large cash prize was awarded to the winning idea. The campaign received 3.8 million submissions.

This is a B2C example, but B2B marketers can use it to inspire their strategy and content marketing ideas. For example, using social media such as Twitter or LinkedIn, you could ask prospects to vote on their most pressing pain points around a topic that ties in to your product. During this process, the emails of those who voted could be collected so that final results can be shared.

The most frequently cited pain point can then be used in content marketing efforts. For example, a white paper could be developed around the number one pain point and sent to those who participated in the survey to generate leads and nurture those relationships. Survey participants could receive an email that says, “You spoke and we listened. Your number one pain point was XYZ, and we’ve created a white paper that solves that problem.”

Encourage people to comment on your blog or to contribute to your forum or on a LinkedIn group so you can listen to what they say but also use their exact words in content marketing efforts to drive engagement.

Key takeaway: User-generated content isn’t just great for leveraging social proof; it’s an engagement tool as well. Capturing and employing user-generated content helps prospects feel truly heard.

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