Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) now spend more on social marketing than on any other media category, according to a recent report from BIA/Kelsey.
The survey of 546 SMBs (defined in the report as companies with 1 to 99 employees) found businesses spent 21.4% of their total media budgets on average on social media in the past 12 months.
Three-quarters (74.5%) of SMBs reported using social media to promote their businesses in some way in the past year—again, more than any other category of media.
The report was based on data from the Local Commerce Monitor—an ongoing survey of SMBs in the United States that tracks 35 different channels used for advertising and promotion. The media/platforms examined include online, traditional, mobile, local coupons, social, video, broadcast, local directories, giveaway items, and community sponsorships.
Overall, Facebook dominates SMB social media usage, with 55.1% of businesses surveyed saying they have a Facebook page for business use, and 20% percent reporting they have run a Facebook ad or promoted post.
Other social platforms respondents reported using frequently to promote their businesses include LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.
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About the research: The reportwas based on data from Wave 18 (3Q14) of the Local Commerce Monitor—an ongoing survey of small and midsize businesses. The survey was conducted in July 2014 and had 546 respondents.
COMMENTARY: A survey of 600 small business owners across the United States indicates that 90% are actively engaged in social networking sites and 74% perceive social networking as valuable — if not more valuable — than networking in-person.
When 42% of owners say that 25% of new customers discovered them through sites such as Facebook and Foursquare, it is crucial that your business is online and social.
But the news is not all merry, as 58% of surveyed owners said they struggle with promoting their Facebook pages — if they have a page at all.
The takeaway is clear. You need to be where your customers are. Forget what your competitors are doing, as their customers are different from your customers. You also need to integrate internet communications into your normal routine of business networking.
In the first part of this article, we have seen what is venture capital funding and how it works. It is time now to take up how to get venture capital funding, or whether to go for it at all. What does it take for an entrepreneur to get funded, and what are the circumstances in which he may be better off growing his startup organically?
Here are the 10 basic questions an entrepreneur needs to ask himself before going off in a quest for venture capital funding.
1. Do you have a viable, rapid-growth, highly-scalable idea?
Every entrepreneur believes his startup is a winner, and that his business idea is brilliant. But that’s hardly enough. Other people have to see evidence of it to back the idea. Especially VCs. Your pedigree, academic credentials, and even the idea might get you a meeting with potential investors, but not further.
Sumit Jain, co-founder of CommonFloor, one of India’s leading real estate portals, learned it the hard way when he started his entrepreneurial journey. He and his co-founders were engineers from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee. He recalls.
“We thought getting venture capital funding will be easy. If we won’t find funding, who will? We pitched to so many VCs but nobody was willing to bet on us then. Finally, we decided to bootstrap and make our business work. In a year’s time, investors were coming to us.”
So, if you are comfortable running a small or niche business which you can make profitable, venture capital funding may not be your cup of tea. Bootstrapping with your own savings, or raising money from family and friends, would be a better option. On the other hand, if you have the ambition to launch a high-growth company – and deal with the stress that comes with it – then at some point you will need to go for venture capital financing. The right time for it is when your startup is poised to take off on an accelerated growth path into the big leagues.
2. Does your business suit the venture capital model?
As we have seen in Part 1 of the article, VCs need big winners. You can run a small, profitable business comfortably, but that doesn’t interest a VC. You should go to a VC only if you have ambitions to scale up your business with big infusions of capital. You should also be prepared to get onto a fast growth track, because your venture capital investors will want to sell their stake and reinvest in new startups.
3. What is the size of the market that your startup is targeting?
Some businesses are just too niche to be fundable. A US$20 million market size may be good enough to run a business, but remember that institutional investors are looking for a rapid scaling up – and for that, a market size in hundreds of millions of dollars is more like it, because if a startup manages to capture even a small share of that market, it will be large enough to give a venture capital fund the quantum of returns it needs for its investors.
4. Deep down, what is your reason for starting up?
Some people start up because they want to be their own boss. Others do it because they like the status of being an entrepreneur. A third kind of startup founder is driven by a passion to disrupt the status quo. Probably in most startup founders you will find shades of all three, but it’s the third characteristic that appeals the most to a VC. They are the ones who will not be satisfied with making a good living from their business; they want to change the world. Some introspection at the very outset can point to the road ahead that is most suitable for you.
5. Are you ready to share control of your startup?
A VC-funded startup will go through several rounds of funding, and the founders will have to part with large chunks of stock in the process. Venture capital funds invest large sums of money, and in order to generate returns on those, they need to own significant percentages of their winning startups. For a founder, this means getting used to the idea that he can’t call all the shots in the quest to make the company grow large. Of course, that doesn’t mean the founder won’t become rich – even a small stake in a high-growth startup can be worth millions.
6. Which venture capital fund is right for you?
A multitude of factors come into play here, but the most important of them relate to the value that a venture capital fund can add to your startup, beyond the capital. The guidance of an experienced venture capitalist can prevent mistakes and turn errors into valuable lessons. They are well-connected with potential customers, investors, and acquirers, which is invaluable to a fledgling startup. Ideally, they should have experience in your field, but at the same time not have another startup in their portfolio that would be your rival. And finally, it’s always best to catch a fund in its initial investment phase, so that there will be more opportunities for follow-up funding.
7. Do you have the boldness and perseverance to cross the dark valley?
“When an entrepreneur succeeds, there is so much glamor and halo attached to them. What is forgotten or undervalued is the walk through the dark valley entrepreneurs go through.” Vani Kola, managing director of Kalaari Capital, shared that with me some time ago, and those words have stayed with me because we see it in so many successful startups we profile at Tech in Asia. Having been an entrepreneur herself, it is that elusive quality of perseverance that Kola the venture capitalist looks for in startup founders. She says.
“On the days when things don’t go great, this quality will see the entrepreneur through.”
8. Do you have the team and leadership to grow your startup into a viable business?
However good your idea may be, or however strong your tech credentials are as a founder, if you don’t have a strong team or you can’t persuade a venture capital fund manager that you have the leadership traits and connections to build a great team, then he will be inclined to walk away from it. Getting from seed stage to the next levels before ultimately reaching the big exit point that investors are looking for requires organization and collaboration. That’s why a VC will try to figure out if an entrepreneur has the makings to be a good team leader.
9. How should you approach a venture capital fund?
You have identified a pain-point in the world, you have an idea to resolve that pain-point, and you have worked out a business proposition for it. You know how the business will grow, where the revenue will come from, who your customers will be. You have markets and their sizes in mind, as well as competitors and obstacles. Now, how do you take all that to a VC?
One way is to be selective, studying the past behavior of venture capital funds to see which ones may go for your startup. The problem is that the past is not always a reliable guide to how a venture capital fund will invest going forward, because it is in a constant state of flux.
The other way is to use a scatter-shot – that is, to fire off proposals to a multitude of venture capital funds in the hope that you strike upon one looking for a startup like yours.
There is a third way too, and that is to first find an incubator, accelerator, or a tech evangelist to back your idea. Screening startups and deals is a complex and time-consuming process. So it helps to have your idea vetted by somebody the VC respects. Pre-screened business opportunities save time for VCs, and have a better chance of being funded. The caveat is to look for a genuine backer with VC connections.
10. And finally, can you get a VC excited about your startup?
Venture capital investing is an inexact science – even more so than investing in stocks. Even after various checkboxes have been ticked and business models analyzed, the GP will take the final call from the gut. That is something to keep in mind.
With so many startups clamoring for venture capital funding, it’s the ones that get VCs to respond emotionally, and not just analytically, that are more likely to make the cut. It may come down to how well a GP connects with the founder or team, or whether he can relate to the problems the startup is trying to solve. Parag Dhol, managing director of Inventus (India) Advisors, is candid about it:
“One of the key reasons we choose an entrepreneur is if he has the passion. If he bores you, there is no point funding it.”
Karthik Reddy, managing partner of Blume Ventures, seconds it. “The investors who eventually end up cutting the cheque are those who become equally passionate about solving those problems. They see that spark in the entrepreneur. They see that market opportunity, just as the entrepreneur sees it. And at the seed stage, it is probably an extreme version of that shared passion and faith.”
The startup journey can be as exciting as it is fraught with risk. Paying attention to what goes on there can prevent sleepless nights and take you soaring into your dreamland.
COMMENTARY: You have probably heard plenty of times that being an entrepreneur is a risky business, and investors talk all the time about reducing the risk. Yet everyone seems to have their own view of key risk drivers for startups. Like bankers who rely on credit scores, financial ratios to assess the degree of risk associated with granting a loan, and the experence of the founders and management team, the first priority is to avoid startups without successful business models, look for an experienced management team with a proven trackrecord in the industry, solving a real need in the marketplace, a very compelling value proposition, a scalable business model, knowing and targeting the right target customers, and competing in the right market, not just a large one.
Here is a priority list of key risk drivers that both entrepreneurs and venture capitalists should evaluate and minimize in starting a business:
Team experience and depth risk. Here I’m talking about both the experience and track record of the founders in starting a business, as well as their experience and knowledge of the business domain. Like most professionals, when I get a business plan, I flip first to the founders section to see if it is a balanced team who has been there and done that.
Market and opportunity risk. There is always less risk with a well-defined problem in a large and growing market. All the people in China is a large and growing market, but all the people with cancer is much more well-defined. It’s hard to make money in a shrinking market, or with a solution that is “nice to have” versus painfully needed.
Competitive risk. Think seriously about the number and clout of your competitors. Having none is a red flag (may mean no market), but having more than a couple of large ones may mean this is a crowded space. Even in an open space, you need intellectual property, like patents, to keep potential competitors from overrunning you.
Financial risk. Very few businesses can be started without money. You as the founder will be expected to put your own “skin in the game.” The business plan should be realistic about how much cash will be required to break-even, and how big the return will be for investors in the first five-year timeframe.
Market entry strategy risk. The selection of an inappropriate pricing, marketing, or distribution strategy is a large potential risk. For example, many new social websites proclaim that they will offer a free service, and live on ad revenues (not likely in the first year without a huge marketing investment).
Political and economic risk. Sometimes founders are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Recessions are a tough time to sell luxury goods. Under-developed countries may have a strong need for your product, but are often unstable and dangerous. Four specifics include tax rates, tariffs, expropriation of assets, and repatriation of profits.
Technology risk. New technologies, especially those characterized as “paradigm shifts” or “disruptive” may have long and costly acceptance cycles, or may run into unpredictable performance or manufacturing problems. Medical technologies have costly legal testing requirements, approval processes, and insurance validation.
Businesses with high attrition rate risk. Certain business sectors have historical high failure rates and are routinely avoided by investors and many founders. These include food service, retail, consulting, work at home, and telemarketing. On the Internet, I would add new social networking sites, and new matchmaking sites.
Operational risk. Some businesses require huge support or administrative infrastructures. For example, vehicle fuel improvements require service stations and maintenance shops nationwide, before they are viable. Even small operations can have breakdowns of specialized equipment and complex support processes.
Environmental risk. A nuclear reactor built on an earthquake fault line is a huge risk. Evaluate your business and location for sensitivity to floods, hurricanes, and catastrophic pollution problems, like an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The biggest risk of all is starting a company, any company, for the wrong reasons. If your startup is clean on both of these lists, you will most likely build a successful business, get the funding you need, and have fun at the same time. What more could a budding entrepreneur want?
Half of adults age 18-24 in the United States who own smartphones have installed the Snapchat app, according to recent data from comScore.
That's a significant increase in usage compared with the same time last year, when just 30% of 18-24-year-olds were using Snapchat.
Use of the mobile messaging app has also spiked with older Millennials, age 25-34, with 20% now using it—up from around 8% last year.
Usage among non-Millennials, adults age 35+, has not increased at the same rate, remaining under 10% for the past year.
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Snapchat's combined penetration for both Millennial segments (18-24 years old and 25-34 years old) is now at 32.9%, making it one of the most used social apps with the age group, the analysis found.
Only Facebook (75.6% penetration) and Instagram (43.1%) have more Millennial smartphone users than Snapchat.
The rest of the major social apps now all have fewer Millennial users than Snapchat, including:
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COMMENTARY: Snapchat is a mobile social app designed for smartphones and tablets that allow users to chat and share short videos of moments in their everyday lives with their friends. Users control how long their friends can view their message. Users can set a timer up to ten seconds and then send their message. Their friends have that long to view a users message and then it disappears forever. Snapchat lets the recipients take a screenshot, and notifies the user if they did so. Because Snapchat is a mobile social app, users can use it to build relationships, collect points, and view their best friends. Snapchat is instantly fun and insanely addictive. Checkout these videos of Snapchat:
Courtesy of an article dated August 22, 2014 appearing in MarketingProfs
In my days as vice-president of marketing at several technology companies, I distinctly remember how difficult it was for my team of marketing professionals to command the respect of the salespeople in the company.
We were finally successful in doing so, but only by becoming the company experts on the buyers.
The salespeople didn't care about the brochures we produced or the websites we built. They rarely commented on the email newsletter or the tradeshows we spoke at. But by effectively understanding and defining our buyer personas, we shortened the sales cycle for the reps who followed our strategies. Only then did the salespeople offer respect and kudos.
But most sales teams and marketing teams continue to operate out of alignment. The marketers and salespeople question one another's skills and their commitment to the job. They fight over the quality of the leads. I remember hearing of a sales team that snidely referred to the marketing department as the "T-shirt department" because they said all the marketers had accomplished was the production of T-shirts imprinted with the company logo. Others call the marketing department the "branding police."
Marketers, in turn, complain about how the materials they produce fail to be used by the salespeople.They bitch and moan because the sales leads they generate are left untouched, claiming that sales staffers are too lazy to pick up the telephone.
Think about your own organization's latest launch event. Were the salespeople hanging on every word as the marketers described the features of the latest product, service, or product marketing plans? If you're like most people I speak with (if they are honest), the salespeople were bored, probably poking at their smartphones instead of paying attention.
How Sales and Marketing Differ
Since Web content drives both sales and marketing success, it is essential that we take just a little time to look at how the two functions differ. By making certain we understand the difference, we can close the gap between marketing and sales and grow business faster.
It is the job of marketers to understand buyer personas—essentially, groups of buyers—and communicate to these groups in a one-to-many approach. Marketers are experts at communicating to many people, and typically the potential customers they reach are not yet ready to have a sales discussion.
The marketing team captures the attention of a group of buyers and drives those people into and through the sales process. The content generated by the marketers—blogs, YouTube videos, infographics, e-books, webinars, and the like—can influence large numbers of people. Done well, with a deep understanding of buyer personas based on research, this content generates sales leads and culminates in the buying process.
The role of salespeople is completely different: They influence one buyer at a time when the buyers are much closer to making the buying decision. Whereas marketers need to be experts in persuading an audience of many, salespeople excel in persuading the individual buyers. They add context to the company's expertise, products, and services. Through them, the marketers' content fulfills its potential at the precise moment the buyer needs it.
The following infographic illustrates the differences between traditional marketing (mostly offline) and today's marketing activities which are increasingly online or digital in nature:
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Closing the Gap
Closing the gap between Marketing and Sales means the marketing staff needs to be the buyer expert, not just the product expert.They need to focus on buyer personas based on real data from interviews with buyers. It's not about posters or pretty slides. It's about having deep and factual clarity about how markets full of buyers think about doing business with the company. That's when Marketing is ready to deliver tremendous value to the sales process.
Buyer persona research yields surprising information, and when you are tuned in to a problem that people will spend money to solve and you build a product that solves it, you are on the road to success.
Buyer personas also make it much easier to market your products. Rather than Web content that is simply an egotistical reiteration of gobbledygook-laden corporate drivel, you create content that people actually want to consume and are eager to share.
This approach is utterly different from what most organizations do. Either they fail to segment the market, and instead create nonspecific marketing for everyone, or they create approaches to segments based on their own product-centric view of the world.
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Understanding the Buyer
So how, exactly, do we interview buyers to develop buyer persona profiles? These interviews are best conducted by Marketing, because they learn much by having conversations with real buyers.
Whatever you do, don't give this responsibility to the salespeople or have them listen in. You want candid feedback about what worked and what didn't when the buyers evaluated their options. Buyers won't open up when the salesperson is present.
If possible, either record the interview or have a colleague take notes. You want your undivided attention focused on the conversation, and you want to capture verbatim quotes to use in the final buyer persona document, as that's the best way to communicate exactly how buyers talk about a particular point.
If you want to interview buyers about a brand-new idea that isn't yet available, you need to get them talking about the problem you plan to solve. You might start with a very general question, such as "How's business?" Then, once they get talking, you can segue to "We're hearing that buyers are struggling to [insert problem here]. What are your thoughts?" Spend about 10 minutes or so with open-ended questions about what they tell you. After that, you can tell them about your proposed solution and ask them for feedback. But the most valuable insights come before you've biased the conversation with your own ideas.
Which brings us back to those dysfunctional discussions between Sales and Marketing, the name-calling and finger-pointing that go on in so many companies.
If you have responsibility for both Sales and Marketing, you need to make certain that Marketing is focused on buyer personas. If the marketers work in a different part of the organization, you need to be an agent of change. Figure out how to get them the opportunity and skills they need to interview buyers and become buyer experts. Talk to the head of Sales or the CEO if need be.
Marketing can deliver incredible value, but only if marketers have a full understanding of their buyers' needs and perceptions.
What the Heck is a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona is a vibrant profile of your company’s ideal customer. This should capture the type of person with an incredible need for your product and a love for your company; who will remain a loyal client for years, and tell all of their friends about how remarkable you are. More technically, in the words of Adele Revella, a leading expert on the topic, says:
“They're an example of the real person you need to influence, crafted from specialized interviews you conduct with actual buyers,”
When correctly prepared and applied, a buyer persona can help you identify the forms of messaging which will convert the right website visitors into leads, and leads into customers.
Great marketers rely on demographics and consumer insights to target their marketing. Major companies may leverage focus groups to determine consumer reactions to their marketing messages, and spend significant time and budget compiling demographic insights. A buyer persona profile is the great equalizer, because it allows companies of all sizes to improve their targeting. The following elements should make an appearance in your persona profile:
1. Demographics or Firmographics
What are the basic facts about your ideal customer, including age, gender, and geographic location? If you’re a B2B company, how big are the companies you’re trying to acquire? What industries are they in? As HubSpot’s Corey Eridon points out, demographics are the perfect starting point for profiling, because they’re relatively easy to obtain from your existing marketing database or customer relationship management software (CRM).
2. Pain Points
Why does your buyer persona need your solution in the first place? A pain point is exactly what it sounds like: a problem or need that’s so unpleasant, an individual has to begin searching for branded products or services and spend money in order to solve it. Whether customers are driven to your company by a major life event or a need to prove a point to their peers, you should know how your company is used to solve problems.
Do your customers tend to be budget shoppers, or do they worry deeply about impressing their social circle? Do you tend to sell to executive assistants with a need to please a particularly choosy boss? Ordering priorities can allow you to create marketing materials that cut to the chase: if budget isn’t an issue, you can focus on value or other things that matter most.
Are your ideal customers environmentally-conscious activists? Do they aspire to grow their company quickly? It’s critical to address values separately from priorities, because they affect how your company should define the bigger picture. Being able to clearly define how your company will help your consumers achieve their dreams, whether that’s saving money on their monthly grocery budget or performing their job more efficiently, should guide your company’s entire online presentation.
5. Research Habits
Are your customers engaged with the web every waking moment, or are they just starting to warm up to the idea of social media and search engines? The best way to determine research habits is through quantitative website metrics, specifically referral traffic sources and the keywords driving the highest volume of search to your website. Ideally, this research should be performed with the help of closed-loop analytics, which track how website visitors who become customers find you
What makes your buyer persona different from any other 27 year-old female event planner who aspires to own her own business? It’s probably difficult to tell why some customers who fit your demographics profiles purchase, and other’s don’t, but one of the best ways to determine this factor is likely through interviews with your sales team. Inquire about the factors they used to distinguish hot leads, which could include anything from the questions asked during the research stage to a company’s organizational chart.
7. Psychographic Characteristics
Would your ideal customers rather spend their weekend camping, or exploring urban coffee shops? Do they identify primarily as an early-adopter, or are they apathetic toward technology? Simply defined, psychographic characteristics are the collision of psychology and advertising, formally “attitudes, opinions, and personality traits.” They’re inherently abstract, as AdZerk points out, but that doesn’t mean they’re optional. By developing an understanding of how your product fits into the larger identity of your buyer persona, your content marketing can become significantly more vibrant.
For established companies, making the move to schedule interviews with your existing customer base should be the first step towards creating a buyer persona. Startups and companies in the earliest planning phases don’t get a free pass from interviewing, though – Ellie Mirman of HubSpot recommends using Craigslist or a similar service to find appropriate members of the public to interview.
Sources Of Information For Developing Buyer Personas (Click Image To Enlarge)
How to Create a Buyer Persona Profile
Extend the invitation to chat to both your best and worst customers, in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the factors that make your buyer persona different. Engaging with customers who’ve had a negative or mediocre experience with your product or service can salvage damaged relationships, but it can also help you gain a better understanding of how your product is perceived from the outside. Dissatisfied customers may feel that your product was harder-to-use than your content marketing let on, that you’re not using sufficiently sustainable packaging, or any other number of factors that can change your direction. Interviewing customers of all satisfaction levels will help you pinpoint your buyer persona more effectively.
Offer clear incentive for customers to participate in your research, which can range from a discount to a small, useful gift. Explain the estimated length of the session, define the fact you’re trying to gain better insight of your customers, and assure your interview participants that you won’t be releasing their personal information. Try your best to keep the session to 20 minutes or less, and choose the most relevant options from the sample questions below:
How do you research products and services? Do you trust online reviews?
Do you use social media? What is your favorite network?
How much time do you spend online? Do you use smartphones and tablets?
What is your job title and career goals?
What skills, knowledge, and tools are required to succeed at your job?
What are the biggest challenges you face in life or work?
What blogs, news sources, or media do you consume on a regular basis?
What is your educational background?
What are some of your favorite brands and products?
Do you prefer to communicate via email, phone, or in-person?
Do you like learning through videos and webinars, or eBooks better?
How do you search for information online?
What are your long-term goals?
While this list is just a sampling of the questions you could choose to ask in order to build a buyer persona, it’s critical to focus on acquiring the insights that are difficult to track through web analytics. It’s important to use your time with customers to gain a bigger picture of attitudes, values, and habits. Use these insights, in conjunction with metrics and contributions from your sales and customer service team, to develop a document which details every aspect of how your ideal customer will find and select your company.
The influencers in your niche are probably receiving hundreds of friendly requests a day. Hence, the trick behind successful outreach is to stand out among your peers and catch the intended party's attention.
The success probability may be bleak, but influencer engagement is not exactly rocket science. And it can drive significant results with the right strategy and social media practices.
Set Proper Goals And Maintain Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
An ideal outreach campaign must begin with a clear set of objectives. Without them, it is impossible to measure success and define a consistent key performance indicator (KPI).
The purpose of your influencer outreach program might be to get influencers to write for your blog, become brand advocates, or vouch for your content or brand credibility. Start by defining clear targets.
Have different KPIs for different social media channels. After all, those channels are different from each other; your approach to each will be different, as will which objective is best suited for each.
Identify Top Influencers Relevant To Your Purpose
The logical second step is identifying your niche influencers active on social media. Also, if you want to conveniently measure your outreach efforts and follow a KPI model, then it is a great idea to organize your targeted people into separate tiers, based on their social authority and influence.
There are manysocial tools to help you find brand advocates, industry experts, opinion leaders, and key decision-makers, including Followerwonk, Klout, Topsy, Commun.it, and Group High, among others.
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Get A Step Closer To Your Influencers On Social Media
Influencer outreach can begin via different means, and it is important that you choose the way that has a high success probability and decent conversion rate.
Social media is my favorite medium for getting in touch with key influencers and learning from their valuable insights and predictions. Many influencers are active on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn, which is why those social channels make ideal communication channels for outreach.
Become socially active on those channels, and you'll be a step closer to your influential audience.
The following infographic by MSL Group and Social Chorus offers this three-step guide how to activate untapped influencers:
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Abide By Good Social Ethics And Practices
Just because your influencers follow you back on Twitter that doesn't mean they are your friends now and you can get all personal with them; resist that urge. Another important thing to note: There is a difference between being polite and being obsequious; your target influencers are probably subjected to a lot of brown-nosing, so you likely won't get far with that approach.
It is, however, a good practice to acknowledge social mentions, including retweets, with a simple "Thanks"; sometimes, if you can improvise a clever way of expressing that appreciation, then it can be a decent way of gaining attention.
Don't Think You Can #HASHTAG Your Way To Success
Hashtags have become a social custom, but don't use them too much—lest you come across as reckless and inexperienced.Learn hashtags the smart way; turn to your influencers for inspiration:
Don't write a status (or a Tweet) beginning with a hashtag unless it is absolutely necessary.
Focus more on quality rather than quantity: Two or three hashtags, at most, should be enough to maintain relevancy.
Keep a close watch on trending topics within your targeted community and apply hashtags accordingly.
Don't use long versions of hashtags: e.g., #StarbucksSeattleCafeLatteRrocks, #Iknowwhatyoudidlastsummer and the like. Stick to short and simple.
Follow-Ups Are Crucial, But Don't Stalk
There is no doubt that follow-ups are important, and how you do them is even more important.Top influencers may not acknowledge your every mention or tweet, but you must respond when they do.
It's good practice to make first contact on social networks, as I noted earlier; after successively deeper levels of interaction over time, you can take the next level of conversation to email.
When making contact via email, be clear how you obtained the email address (if it's not readily available to everyone) and also remind the person of your social media relationship. If you hear back, great. If you don't hear back after a couple of attempts, absolutely do not keep sending emails. Continue your outreach via social media instead.
Explain Yourself Clearly And Directly
When reaching out, be clear about what you want and what you're offering. Explain your objective in a lucid manner, without undertones of things left unsaid; influencers will appreciate your directness and will answer "yes" or "no," or maybe connect you with someone else who can help you.
Their reaction will depend in large part on how you've conducted yourself up until that point and what sort of relationship you're looking for.
Post-Outreach, Work On Building Social Networks
Influencers can connect you to their own well-established networks and social connections, which is why after a successful influencer outreach campaign one must focus on developing longer-term relationships.
Don't stop once your outreach objectives have met with success. Follow the approach that has helped me in staying in touch with reputed bloggers and others and maintaining long-term relationships:
Ask for simple opinions. It can be about anything from a new concept shared by another influencer to a new website or product.
Share your own content and ask for feedback. Some influencers appreciate sharing their technical or business insights, especially when asked to critique a peer's work.
Talk about things other than work. Doing so makes it easier for other people to join the conversation. You might talk about the recent Grand Slam final or a humanitarian issue receiving global attention. Stay in touch—that's the point.
Share freebies like you'd share them with a friend. This approach may not always be helpful for your influencers, but people love such gestures. Make them feel special.
Locating people who can help you reach the masses isn’t easy, but social media tools can help you identify influencers suited for your purposes. Traackr helps you locate top influencers in specific niches based on their reach, resonance, and relevance to your specific topic. Once you’ve located appropriate people, the tool will help you make contact and build a working relationship.
Whether you’re using a tool or locating an influencer through your existing network of contacts, it’s important to carefully research a person before making contact. Your message should only be entrusted to a credible, respected source to help strengthen your reputation. Pay close attention not only to the number of followers the person has, but the number of responses and conversations each of his posts initiates. Those key indicators provide better insight into how many active users the influencer has.
Calculating An Influencer's Influence Score
There are tools that try to calculate a person’s influence and quantify it in a number, or score. The higher the score, the more influential you are meant to be. These systems are not perfect and should never be used in isolation, but they do have smart algorithms that analyze your activity online and give you an idea of potential influence.
Klout – Klout gives you a score out of 100 and assesses which niches you are influential in. You connect each of your social networks through the site and it analyzes all your activity. Klout notes who is sharing your content, the likes, comments, shares etc you get, and then a score is calculated. This score can go up or down over time.
Kred – Kred offers 2 scores, calculated by your Twitter activity over the last 1,000 days. If you connect your Facebook account too, this can also contribute to your score. The two scores are:
Influence – This is how much you get retweeted, replied to, mentioned or followed. If you connect your Facebook account it will measure posts, mentions, likes, shares and event notifications.
Outreach – This is how much you are engaging or sharing with other people. You could be retweeting, replying or mentioning others.
Kred provides you with details of how it is measuring your score. For example, you can view which of your tweets were shared by other people, and tweets where you were mentioned, and then view points that are awarded towards your score for those tweets (in the very right hand column).
The scoring systems do have some value and take away some of your groundwork. It’s not something to use on its own but it can be one indicator that helps you to build a broader picture.
How Much Influence Do Influencers Have In A Specific Field?
Twtrland categorizes people on Twitter into 60,000 categories. You can view somebody’s influence based on each category, so you can filter the most. Having so many categories is great, because it can really help identify the most appropriate people in your niche.
When you search based on category, you can then view people’s amplification, reach and relevance based on that topic.
Want to create more engagement with your audience? Consider using Pinterest. The online pinning board is becoming a major sales tool for marketers.
According to the following infographic by Ripen Ecommerce, "38% of users made a purchase because they saw it on Pinterest. That was 21% in 2010."
To grab Pinterest users' attention, businesses should keep in mind the traits of the most popular and repinned pins.
For example, "a call-to-action pin description leads to an 80% increase in engagement," states Ripen Ecommerce. Also, tall images are shared 67% more than short images. And lighter images are repinned 20 times more than darker images.
Moreover, marketers should include prices in their pins. Pins with a price have a 46% higher chance of being liked.
For more information about using Pinterest for e-commerce, check out the infographic:
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Courtesy of an article dated August 16, 2014 appearing in MarketingProfs
The Elio is technically a motorcycle, but is a whole lot easier and safer to drive.
Most Americans--about 93%--drive to work alone. So why use a car that’s big enough for four? A new vehicle that’s half-motorcycle and half-car is designed to replace sedans and SUVs on morning commutes and help save money and emissions in the process: The Elio costs $6,800 and gets 84 miles to the gallon. It’s possible to drive 672 miles on a single tank of gas. That's the distance from New York City to Detroit.
Paul Elio, the founder and CEO of Elio Motors and inventor of the Elio three-wheeled car. (Click Image To Enlarge)
“The premise behind the concept is that most households have at least one vehicle that’s single occupant. Even if you have kids, you probably have an SUV or minivan, and then a small sedan with dust on the backseat. We can be that car.”
The Elio actually has two seats, set front to back for ideal aerodynamics, in case the driver needs to give someone a ride. Inside, it looks and acts pretty much like a car; it’s fully enclosed and has car seats and seatbelts, air bags, and options for manual orautomatic transmission. It's more like a car than this somewhat similar vehicle from Lit Motors. But because it has three wheels, it’s classified under law as a motorcycle.
The motorcycle classification leads to some strange consequences--in a few states, under current law, you’d have to wear a helmet even though the vehicle is enclosed. But it also has benefits. Elio says.
“As a motorcycle, you can go in the HOV lane by yourself.”
It also meant the vehicle can come to market more quickly, since there’s less red tape involved in manufacturing a motorcycle.
The Elio three-wheeled car (rear view) (Click Image To Enlarge)
Even though regulations don’t require it, the company plans to comply with all standards for cars that apply. Elio says.
“We’re engineering to achieve a 5-star crash rating in all directions. We’re going way beyond the minimum.”
Still, there are a few idiosyncrasies--the headlights, for example, can’t comply with car standards because motorcycle lights are required to be brighter by law.
Because the vehicle is so lightweight--about half the weight of a typical small car--the company can save on materials costs. Elio has also tried to optimize other steps in manufacturing to keep costs down. He says.
“We get all 34 of our suppliers together once every four to six weeks and we work on the vehicle as a group. That’s never been done before. All of these things add up to a lower price.”
When the vehicle comes to market next year, the Elio plans to have innovative financing to make the vehicle even easier to buy. Elio says.
“It’s actually cheaper to drive a brand new Elio than a clunker.”
The company will offer the option to buy the car with nothing but a special credit card for gas; every time someone buys gas, they’ll pay extra to make acar payment.
“If you buy $10 of gas, it will show up as a $30 charge on your statement--that $20 extra is your vehicle payment. As long as you drove into the dealership with something that gets 27 miles per gallon or less--and we know there are 100 million of those cars out there--you’ll be paying less, and you’ll have a brand new vehicle under warranty.”
You'll also be helping reduce pollution. Elio says.
"If you drive it 20,000 miles per year, an Elio produces less emissions than one cow’s flatulence during the same time. We’re cleaner than a cow. After 10 years of sales, we expect to save 8 billion gallons of gas."
COMMENTARY: Because it has three wheels — two in front and one in the rear — the Elio is actually classified as a motorcycle by the U.S. government. But Elio Motors founder Paul Elio says the vehicle has all the safety features of a car, like anti-lock brakes, front and side air bags and a steel cage that surrounds the occupants. According to Paul Elio, the company hopes to ultimately achieve a five-star safety rating. Drivers won’t be required to wear helmets or have motorcycle licenses.
The Elio’s two seats sit front and back instead of side by side, so the driver is positioned in the center with the passenger directly behind. That arrangement, plus the low seating position — the Elio is just 54 inches tall — and the lack of power steering take a little getting used to.
But after a couple of spins around the block in this Detroit suburb, it felt like any other small car. That’s partly because its two front wheels stick out by a foot on both sides, aiding balance and preventing the vehicle from tipping. The Elio has a three-cylinder, 0.9-liter engine and a top speed of more than 100 miles per hour. It gets an estimated 84 mpg on the highway and 49 mpg in city driving.
Keeping Costs Low
Elio keeps the costs down in several ways. The car only has one door, on the left side, which shaves a few hundred dollars off the manufacturing costs. Having three wheels also makes it cheaper. It will be offered in just two configurations — with a manual or automatic transmission — and it has standard air conditioning, power windows and door locks and an AM/FM radio. More features, such as navigation or blind-spot detection, can be ordered through Elio’s long list of suppliers.
Germany’s Daimler also promised to revolutionize American commutes with the Smart car, but that hasn’t panned out, says Karl Brauer, a senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book. Smart sold just 9,264 cars in the U.S. last year.
The Smart has a starting price of $13,270 for a gas-powered car and gets 38 mpg on the highway — not enough savings or fuel economy to justify sacrificing comfort in the tiny car. But, Brauer said, the equation might work in the Elio.
“If it really gets 84 mpg and doesn’t drive terribly, it would justify the compromises you’re making in size and comfort.”
Elio will also save money by selling the cars directly through its own stores and not through franchised dealers, similar to electric car maker Tesla Motors. Elio plans stores in 60 major metropolitan areas. They’ll be serviced by car repair chain Pep Boys.
The Entrepreneur Behind The Elio
Paul Elio, a one-time stockbroker and New York City cab driver, dreamed as a kid that he would one day own a car company called Elio Motors.
Elio told The Associated Press.
“As I matured I decided that was as likely as playing in the NFL.”
But he did earn an engineering degree at General Motors Institute — now Kettering University — and started his own company engineering products like children’s car seats.
In 2008, tired of high gas prices and the country’s dependence on foreign oil, he started working on a fuel-efficient car. Equally important to him was creating U.S. manufacturing jobs and making the car inexpensive enough to appeal to buyers who might otherwise be stuck in old, unreliable clunkers.
“Whatever matters to you, this can move the needle on it.”
The recession killed his engineering company, but it also provided the opportunity to buy the Shreveport plant when GM filed for bankruptcy protection. Elio Motors plans to employ 1,500 people at the plant.
The company has also applied for a $185 million advanced vehicle development loan from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Paul Elio said so far, reservation holders are older, more affluent buyers who will use the Elio as a second or third car for commuting.
“It’s an ‘and’ purchase for a lot of folks. So keep your SUV or your minivan or your large sedan, and when you’re driving back and forth to work all by yourself, take the Elio. At this price point and this mileage, that works financially for folks.”
Eventually, though, he believes the car will appeal to high school and college students as well as used-car drivers who want something newer and more reliable. He also hopes to eventually export it to other countries.
Elio Motors Makes Progress in Helmet Exemption Legislation
Louisiana is the most recent state to declare helmet exemptionexemption for the Elio, which is federally classified as an enclosed motorcycle. House Bill 218 was unanimously approved in Louisiana, where the Elio will be manufactured, in late June. New York also has an exemption on the books, allowing the Elio to be driven around the progressive state without a helmet.
Another legislative success is quickly emerging. Michigan Senate Bill 390 was recently passed, and is expected to pass through the House unanimously, following Louisiana’s lead. This is good news for the company, which will base their corporate headquarters out of the state. Louisiana, New York, and Michigan join 42 other states which allow the Elio to be driven sans helmet.
There are only 4 or 5 states left that technically require a helmet with this vehicle, since its licensed as a motorcycle. They've managed to get exemptions in numerous states already. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Among the 5 states that technically require helmets to be worn while driving the Elio, are Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Nebraska.
Elio Motors’ Vice President of Government Affairs, Joel Sheltrown says,
“We are actively working with the five helmet states’ legislators to work through any issues they may have. Given our success in the other 45 states, we are optimistic about solving any issues we may face.”
Sheltrown adds that Missouri, a helmet-state, has already identified bill sponsors and drafted legislation to exempt the Elio from their helmet laws.
Big Plans To Expand
Phoenix-based Elio plans to start making the cars next fall at a former General Motors plant in Shreveport, Louisiana. Already, more than 27,000 people have reserved one. Elio hopes to make 250,000 cars a year by 2016. That’s close to the number Mazda sells in the U.S.
Elio Motors executives placed a temporary sign outside the former General Motors plant in Shreveport, La. (Click Image To Enlarge)
The Caddo Parrish's Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust is responsible for selling and cleaning up former General Motors properties and has agreed to sell the shuttered General Motors plant near Shreveport, La., to Elio Motors. The start-up carmaker plans to hire 1,500 new workers.
Elio Motors will rent approximately 1.5 million square feet of the 4.1 million square foot building from Industrial Realty Group, who leases the GM plant.
The deal was heralded by Louisiana politicians as an economic victory for a community devastated by GM's contraction. The state was expected to provide incentives for the project, but details were not immediately available.
I remain skeptical that Elio Motors can raise sufficient startup capital to modernize and equip their plant in Shreveport, Lousiana in time to begin production of the Elio car by fall 2015. According to Paul Elio, Elio Motors CEO, the company is trying to raise $165 million.
By comparison, Tesla Motors had to raise over $500 million, which included a $465 million direct loan from the Department of Energy, just to have sufficient capital to hire plant workers, modernize and equip their plant in Fremont, California in order to build the Roadster, their first all-electric car.
Tesla Motors required much more startup capital because the Roadster, a four-wheeled and all-electric sports car was a far more complex automobile to build, requiring parts from hundreds of vendors. The Roadster is a two-seater sportscar that weighed over 2,700 lbs, could travel about 245 miles on an electrical charge, has a top speed of 187 mph and could do 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds. The price tag: $109,000.
By comparison, the Elio is a three-wheeled car/motorcycle that uses a three-cylinder motor and weighs only 1,600 lbs, with a top speed over just over 100 mph, and a range of 672 miles (highway) on a tank of gas. The price tag: $6,800. According to Paul Elio, Elio Motors CEO, the majority of key parts and components are sourced from about 30 vendors.
If Elio Motors can raise the startup capital they need (see above), they could conceivably begin limited production in late 2015, but I doubt they can deliver 27,000 vehicles (their current pre-orders, but I wonder how many of those pre-orders are solid) in 2015. It takes time to hire plant workers, especially skilled factory workers when the U.S. auto industry doing so well, and workers will be reluctant to leave a well established, well-financed employer for a startup like Elio Motors.
Social media is (and for the foreseeable future, will be) an integral part of marketing. Common sense says it’s a no brainer—investing in expanding your business’s ecosystem through social just makes sense because your customers, your prospective customers, and your competitors are on social media.
What do marketers need to measure in order to measure the effectiveness of their social media marketing? Some say measure conversions. Others say measure net promoter score, and there are those that say followers are the main metric to optimize. Others are just on the bandwagon, investing time and money in social media because they know it’s important but can’t say how effective it is. A 2014 study by Social Media Examiner reported that 87% of marketers surveyed don’t know how to measure their return on investment from social media.
What’s clear is that there is not a silver bullet solution to calculate return on investment from social media. This can cause skepticism. In such a data-driven era of marketing, managers, and CEOs want clarity and quantitative proof of the ROI of social media in order to make decisions.
Enter Experience Optimization
Experience optimization means proactively bringing data to the core of your business to create high performing user experiences that increase conversions, engagement, and revenue. Experimentation and testing are at the core of experience optimization. The goal is to apply these practices to social media strategy to quantify the value of social media and uncover helpful answers about where you should spend more or less time and resource.
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By asking specific questions about individual channels, you can reach conclusions about larger questions like:
How much does social media impact my business?
How does social media impact consumer spending and decision making?
What are key drivers of success on social media?
How much money and time should I be investing in social media?
1. Test Location of Share Buttons
The physical location of a button is a factor in a visitor’s decision to share. Think about placement on the page as well as which pages have options to share.
These type of tests can help you determine where on the page people are most likely to click, as well as the places on your site that stir emotion—a main motivating factor in sharing. On article pages, test placing share buttons at the end of the article vs. the beginning vs. both places.
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Track which variations increase engagement on share buttons.
2. Experiment with the time you publish to different channels
Traffic generation is part of the value social media adds to your business. Test when you post to your various social channels to find peak times of the day and days of the week for click throughs.
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Measure which posts generate the most traffic.
3. Try different offers incentivizing people to share
A study found that recommendations—especially shared online—are more influential on a person’s buying decision than brand or price. Test the way you incentivize people to share or review your product or service.
When thinking of incentives, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. If you ask people to share or write a recommendation ask, “What’s in it for me?”
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Track which offers generate the most shares. You can offer different referral codes for incentives and measure which codes are used most.
4. Experiment with personalized calls to action on landing pages
Traffic coming from different channels to your website may not all be responsive to the same call to action. Test the ask you make of people based on which social channel they came from. This can help you learn about the actions that visitors from different social channels are most likely to take.
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Maybe traffic from LinkedIn is more likely to sign up for a service, traffic from Twitter might be more prone to share an article, and visitors from Facebook are inclined to like a page?
Test showing different call to actions on traffic from different referral sources.
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Track which call to action converts best for each segment of social traffic
5. Test calls to action in social updates
Language and length are two factors that go into crafting a call to action in a social post. Testing how you position an action is a way to gauge what your audience is interested in.
Direct appeals in social media updates may not lead to conversions. Your audience might engage more with informational posts.
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Run a controlled campaign for a few weeks on each of your main channels and track how usage of direct CTAs vs. absence of CTAs impacts engagement.
6. Test the design of your share buttons
Share buttons come in all shapes and sizes these days. Button designs that used to be omogenous across the web are becoming highly customized. Simply testing what your buttons look like can lead to a significant increase in shares.
Test a single share buttons versus multi-site share buttons.
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There are many questions to test on a share button:
Do you include a share counter?
Do you include who shared it?
Depending on what type of share it is, knowing who else shared it could be a very compelling reason to buy or share. For e-commerce sites, seeing who bought an item could be more compelling than a star rating.
Which button design generates the most clicks. Also keep track of which channel is most popular. If you see shares to one channel outshine the rest then you can focus more time and effort there.
7. Test one-click sign up with social media buttons
Reducing the steps and time necessary to login or signup to your service can increase engage-ment and usage. Any way to reduce friction can be positive for your company. Social login is one way do this. Try using social login on your website to see if it increases sign up rate or product usage.
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Apply insights from other tests to determine which social network your customers or users spend most time on and test offering that as a login method.
If you already have social login, test the size and position of the button relative to the form. Try assuring people that you won’t post to their feed if they sign up.
Track sign up conversions or logins with and without the social login.
8. Experiment with the types of images you share
Using images in social posts has the power to significantly increase engagement. Twitter states that they see 2x engagement on posts with images. Test whether a specific type of image create more engagement over another.
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Instead of specific images, test out the impact of different image types, like images with people versus no people. Models versus just product. Test the impact different images have on different social networks. What drives shares and likes on Facebook may not perform as well on LinkedIn.
Come up with a way to categorize the types of images you post and track how the different image categories impact your key metrics.
9. Test how you position recommended content
Giving readers recommended articles to read next is a proven way to increase pageviews on your content. The exact design and positioning of the articles is something you can test.
Test adding social share numbers next to recommended articles. If the articles with the highest number of shares are the most clicked in the recommended content module, then you have proof on the return value of social media. Upworthy tested the design of the module they use to recommend content and found a variation that increased social shares by 27%.
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Track clicks on recommended articles with social proof support.
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Peter Koechley, co-founder of Upworthy, says.
“In the earliest days of Upworthy, our goal was to find people on social media and grab their attention and then get them to share back out to social media as well. We wanted to optimize that loop.”
As Upworthy’s audience grew, the team realized that the desired loop was not so tight. Engagement was growing and people were spending more time on the site–but it was difficult to find additional content after landing on a particular video or graphic. “Our users wanted to dig deeper, but there was no obvious way to get to a second piece of content,” says Peter. Peter’s goal was to increase sitewide engagement, while maintaining the share-optimized user experience.
Peter believed that adding a recommended content module would decrease the number of social shares for each article on average. “We had already done a lot of testing and found that when we added distractions, user sharing went down,” Peter said. It’s the classic paradox of choice concept. The team decided to run a series of A/B tests to find a variation of a recommended content module that would maximize sharing and clicks on new content.
1st Round of Test Variations
The original article page had no recommended content links, so they started from scratch in terms of wireframes and design.
First, the team experimented with placement of the recommended content box on the page. Continue to the next page to see the variations they tested.
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2nd Round of Test Variations
Then they honed in on design trying a number of different aesthetics and wording for the recommended content. Was it “Watch these next”, “Some of our best”, or “Best of Upworthy” that attracted more clicks and shares?
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10. Experiment with targeting for paid social promotions
Paid updates can be a very effective way to reach new audiences, but which audiences perform best for your brand and what kind of promotion you do is something to experiment with. Test promoting updates to different audience segments.
When testing paid social placements the first step is deciding on your goal. Is your goal likes/follows on your company page or shares on a high value piece of content? Your goal will help you determine the type of advertising campaign to run. Then, it’s all about picking your audience.
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Keep track of which audience segments turn into conversions.
So Where do I Start?
Start with the 10 experiments that can help you increase value from social media as noted above.
If one of them hasn’t jumped out at you to run immediately already, then start by defining a goal you are trying to achieve with social media. How do you define goals? If nothing is jumping out at you, then ask, why do we have [Insert popular social media site]? What will happen if we stop posting there? Work backwards from there.
Do flex your creativity muscles. Continue to brainstorm brilliant, never-before-seen ways to stand out through the cacophony of an average person’s social feed. And definitely do make it a priority to measure the impact of your work on metrics that really matter for your business so you can prove the value to your boss or boss’s boss.
Ever since the original Moto RAZR V3 came out 10 years ago, the smartphone industry has had a strange obsession with skinny phones. Not because shaving a millimeter or two off a device will give it more functionality, but because it's an effective marketing tactic. In emerging markets in particular, slimmer phones at slimmer prices enjoy a distinct advantage. Gionee, a handset maker based in China, isn't very well known, but it's looking to make a name for itself with devices like the $375 Elife S5.5. At 5.55mm thick, this svelte beauty currently claims the title for the thinnest smartphone on the market. To put that in perspective, that's a full two millimeters skinnier than the iPhone 5s. I spent a few days with the device to see if thinner really is better.
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Mobile Geeks videotaped a hands-on review of the Gionee Elife S5.5:
Sporting a chamfered magnesium frame with Gorilla Glass 3 panels on both front and back, the Elife is a beautiful phone with much better build quality than I expected. It features flat sides with angular edges, which -- along with its sleek form factor -- makes for a stylish design that's fun to look at. It's comfortable, but the slim size doesn't play a role in making it any more so than fatter devices. Durability is typically a concern for extremely slim devices, but being thinner doesn't seem to make a difference here: I'm convinced this handset can hold up as well as any other smartphone comprised of similar materials. (That said, you'll still need to be careful with the glass, since it's scratch-resistant, but not shatterproof.) At 4.69 ounces (133g), the Elife also has enough heft to give it a premium feel without being too heavy or too light.
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The Elife's camera is a tad thicker than the rest of the device, but Gionee smartly designed the bump to complement the phone's minimal design rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. The 13-megapixel module and LED flash are nestled on the top-left corner of the back, with chamfered and angled edges that drop down to meet up with the glass. Of course, this makes it so the back isn't completely flat when you lay it down, but on a positive note, this prevents sound coming out of the rear speaker from getting muffled.
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Along with a thinner frame -- and a lower price point -- comes less room to go all-out on specs. It only comes with 16GB of internal storage space and no microSD slot; it features HSPA+ (either 850/1900/2100 or 900/1900/2100, depending on market), but no LTE connectivity, which likely won't be a problem in most emerging markets for now. There's also no NFC; and the non-replaceable battery is fairly small, at 2,300mAh.
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The 5-inch, 1080p Super AMOLED display comes with a pixel density of 441 ppi and features excellent viewing angles. All told, the panel is similar to what's used on the Samsung Galaxy S4, which means you're going to get saturated colors and deep blacks. It's not nearly as bright as most flagships I've played with recently, but it's easily viewable in direct sunlight (provided the brightness is above 85 percent).
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Under the hood, the Elife uses an octa-core MediaTek chipset, which, despite its eight cores, is more mid-range than high-end component. And its performance reflects this: Animations and transitions are a bit choppy; the screen sometimes has problems responding to finger input; and gaming is hit-or-miss thanks to some frame skips. Otherwise, though, the performance is smooth enough. Its biggest issue, which is amplified by the phone's slim build, is that the processor runs so hot that the glass surface is almost impossible to hold while playing games. (You'll also want to refrain from holding it up to your face for a few minutes until it cools down a bit.) The 2,300mAh battery is not very impressive, either; on most days, I struggled to make it through a full day on a single charge.
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On the software front, the Elife runs Android 4.4 KitKat with a custom user interface called Amigo OS. It's very similar to other Chinese Android options in that it doesn't have an app tray, so all of my apps were scattered on the home panels, à la iOS. You can access Google Play Services as well, ensuring that you'll be able to sync your Google accounts if you want. However, after a few days with the new OS, I was ready to switch over from Amigo to the Google Now Launcher, which is now available for most Android devices and is much closer to a pure Android experience on the front, but features Gionee customizations everywhere else (such as the lock screen and notification tray).
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The Elife is only available in a handful of countries including India and China, but the manufacturer has partnered with other brands to create carbon-copied versions of the device. You can get the Blu Vivo IV in the US, for instance, the Allview X2 Soul in Europe and the Bara 1 in Taiwan, all of which have essentially the same chassis and spec sheet. (Pricing varies, but the Vivo IV is $300.)
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Thin phones have their fair share of trade-offs. On one hand, the Elife is a sleek, elegant device. On the other, its slim design comes at the expense of battery life, heat dissipation, storage space and other specs. It's also just as comfortable and usable as most flagship smartphones that have two to three millimeters of extra padding (although it can be tougher to pick up when it's lying on a table or desk). Even so, additional thinness doesn't make a difference to the in-hand experience. And yet, there are strong indications that Gionee will soon come out with an even thinner device soon; if it does, the company will keep its claim to the thinnest phone on the market. But at what cost?
COMMENTARY: The nice folks at NDTV Gadgets were able to get their hands on a Gionee Elife S5.5 smartphone and prepared this review:
Look and Feel
The Gionee Elife S5.5 could give professional supermodels a run for their money. At 5.6mm, this phone is the slimmest one we've ever seen. On top of that, it is lightweight at 135g. Despite the anorexic physical attributes, the S5.5 is a sturdily built device and can handle a few falls thanks to the magnesium alloy material used for the construction. Exuding premium quality, this Gionee phone definitely beats the pants off much of the competition in its price range, and even looks better than a few flagships we've seen (we're looking at you, Samsung).
On the right edge of the Elife S5.5 is the micro-SIM card tray, and on the left edge are the power button and volume rocker. The slightly raised physical buttons feel soft when pressed, which is good. The bottom edge has a 3.5mm audio jack while the top edge features a Micro-USB port for charging. Right above the screen is the front camera and an invisible array of sensors. The unibody design means that the phone has a non-removable battery.
The rear of the device is almost as reflective as a mirror. Slightly raised to accommodate the optics, the rear camera and flash are devoid of any protection. As a result, they are susceptible to scratches. One more problem with the glossy exterior is that attracts smudges very easily.
Features and Specifications
The Elife S5.5 is beautiful and powerful too, at least on paper. Under the hood is a Mediatek MT6589 octa-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz, with integrated Mali 450MP4 graphics. There's 2GB of RAM supporting it. Only around 9GB of the 16GB of internal storage is available to users, which isn't much at all considering there is no support for memory cards.
There is a single slot for a micro-SIM card, which of course can connect to 3G networks. Unlike a lot of other phones with the same specifications in this price range, the Elife S5.5 has incorporated Bluetooth 4.0, which is good. The 13-megapixel rear camera can also shoot videos at a resolution of 1980x1080. Just like the HTC Desire 816 we recently reviewed, the S5.5 also has a 5-megapixel front camera.
This is probably one of the very few smartphones with a full-HD resolution screen at this price level, and we think it looks fantastic. At 5 inches with a density of 467ppi, pixellation is not a problem at all. Blacks are deep and colours pop a bit too much - fans of over-saturated images won't be disappointed at all, but regular reds looked like bright orange during our testing, which to us is a bit of overkill.
Potent hardware is of no use if the software doesn't keep up, which is why it is important that manufacturers trying to fork Android ensure that both hardware and software work together to deliver a good user experience. This is unfortunately where Gionee falters.
Gionee's custom "Color OS" UI runs on top of the now-dated Android 4.2.2 (Jellybean). We've discussed the various problems of this software at length in our review of the Elife E7. The same problems persist in this phone as well - wasted space, a single-screen view of all apps, a cluttered settings panel in the notification slider, options that can't be found without multiple taps, and much more.
Even if we can look past all the problems plaguing the software, the theme itself is a bit of an eyesore. The fact that themes can be changed is not much help either, since all the three options that are available are just as bad as each other. The quality and value of the default apps, including six games, are also debatable. Fortunately, we could delete some of them. The only saving grace in this mess was the intuitive keyboard.
We appreciate Gionee's attempt at differentiation, but Color OS needs more work for it to be user-friendly. Until then, we are heading to the Play Store to find a replacement launcher.
Since the quality of photographs captured by the Gionee Elife E7 impressed us we had high hopes for the Gionee Elife S5.5's camera as well. Our expectations might have therefore been a bit too high, and it turned out that the performance of the 13-megapixel rear camera was only slightly above average.
In our daylight testing, photos looked a bit dim. This dullness led to certain details being hidden. In HDR mode, the camera goes a bit overboard in trying to enhance the dynamic range, and ends up producing overexposed shots. Colours are also slightly off the mark in captured photos.
In low light, focusing is a major issue and we more often than not ended up with blurred images. Photos were also devoid of detail and had a yellow tinge to them. Focussing is jerky even when shooting video, but the captured 1080p video looks really good. The 5-megapixel front camera couldn't capture as much detail as the one on the HTC Desire 816, but the extremely wide-angled lens helps when we want to incorporate more people in the image. Anyone who wants to try aping Ellen DeGeneres' Oscar selfie should take note.
The camera app is minimalistic with transparent icons lined up along the edges of the screen. Oddly, the settings page opens up vertically instead of horizontally when you tap its button.
The S5.5 returned scores of 27,952 and 16,658 in AnTuTu and Quadrant respectively. While respectable, the scores are not a true reflection of the potential performance of this phone's hardware. In daily use, we found that the Elife S5.5 stutters and lags a lot in spite of its powerful specifications. We attribute this disparity in scores and real-life performance to the clunky software.
Graphics performance is not that great, either. We played Shadowgun and noticed that it lagged in sections which were filled with hordes of villains. The GFXbench test returned a score of 10.5fps which corroborates our experience with gaming.
One area where the Elife S5.5 shines throughout is video playback. Though it was no surprise that the phone managed to play all the videos we threw at it, we were glad that it did so without skipping frames. The gorgeous screen makes watching videos totally enjoyable.
On the other hand, this phone heats up quite a bit. This could be due to the way all the internal components are crammed within this slim, all-metal body. Battery life isn't great - the S5.5 lasted only six hours and 28 minutes before dying in our continuous video loop test. Call quality is decent with both the caller and the receiver hearing each other without issues.
Quite surprisingly, we managed to spot the Elife S5.5 in the wild inside a local train and noticed that the person using it was engrossed in a movie. After striking up a conversation, we discovered that he had purchased the phone because of the 1080p screen and phone's looks. Perhaps this is a sign that users can indeed warm up to the idea of a Chinese brand making premium smartphones.
Our new friend had easily identified the two major reasons your should consider the Gionee Elife S5.5 at its current price of Rs. 22,999. However, you also now know that the camera isn't all that great, and the heating issue could potentially be harmful for the phone in the long run.
If that puts you off, at least this price segment is littered with options now. Our favourites are the big-screened HTC Desire 816 with its capable camera, the Moto X (review) with its unique voice commands, and the Elife S5.5's elder sibling, the Elife E7, which is a flagship on a budget.
Below is NDTV Gadget's overall review summary of the Gionee Elife S5.5 smartphone:
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Here are the complete specifications for the Gionee Elife S5.5 smartphone:
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Courtesy of an article dated August 8, 2012 appearing in Engadget, an article dated March 30, 2014 appearing in TechieOasis, and an article dated June 2, 2014 appearing in NDTV Gadgets
NASA is a major player in space science, so when a team from the agency this week presents evidence that "impossible" microwave thrusters seem to work, something strange is definitely going on. Either the results are completely wrong, or NASA has confirmed a major breakthrough in space propulsion.
Roger Shawyer (left), receiving a DTI SMART Award for his EmDrive concept in August 2001. (Click Image To Enlarge)
British scientist Roger Shawyer has been trying to interest people in his EmDrivefor some years through his company Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd (SPR Ltd). Shawyer claims the EmDrive converts electric power into thrust, without the need for any propellant by bouncing microwaves around in a closed container. He has built a number of demonstration systems, but critics reject his relativity-based theory and insist that, according to the law of conservation of momentum, it cannot work.
The EmDrive itself is simply a microwave resonating cavity in the form of a closed, truncated cone (See below). You fire up a big electrically-powered microwave generator and start beaming microwaves inside this thing, and the microwaves bounce around all over the place, exerting radiation pressure on the inside of the cavity.
According to Shawyer, the EmDrive is able to extert a small amount of thrust that propels it towards the large side of the cone. Shawyer says this happens because inside the resonating cavity, the velocity of the microwaves changes significantly as the cavity diameter varies. The velocity changes enough, in fact, to exert a larger force on the larger end of the cavity, and a smaller force on the smaller end of the cavity, resulting in net thrust.
Prototype of the EmDrive microwave thruster engine developed by scientists at NASA. (Click Image To Enlarge)
SPR's EmDrive Demonstrator Engine (Side View)
SPR's EmDrive Demonstrator Engine (Front View) mounted on a test rig
A video clip of the initial part of an acceleration test run by SPR can be seen on YouTube:
You can also download the folowing .AVI files from the SPR website:
The field strengths within the thruster equate to a power level of 17MW. Signal leakage causes EMC effects within the fixed video camera. This leads to the apparent vertical movements.
The engine only starts to accelerate when the magnetron frequency locks to the resonant frequency of the thruster, following an initial warm up period. This test operation eliminates possible spurious forces.
The rotary air bearing supports a total load of 100kg, with a friction torque resulting in a calibrated resistance force of 8.2 gm at the engine centre of thrust.
For this test a thrust of 96 mN was recorded for an input power of 334 W.
Research to confirm the results of the EmDrive microwave thruster engine developed by Roger Shawyer came from a team of Chinese researchers headed by Yang Juan, Professor of Propulsion Theory and Engineering of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Northwestern Polytechnic University in Xi'an and the findings published in a research paper titled "Net thrust measurement of propellantless microwave thruster." The research paper was originally written on June 9, 2011 and finally published in 2012 in the academic journal Acta Physica Sinica, now translated into English.
Yang Juan, Professor of Propulsion Theory and Engineering of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Northwestern Polytechnic University in Xi'an. (Click Image To Enlarge)
The Chinese team led by Professor Yang Juan built its own EmDrive and confirmed that it produced 720 mN (about 72 grams) of thrust, enough for a practical satellite thruster. Such a thruster could be powered by solar electricity, eliminating the need for the supply of propellant that occupies up to half the launch mass of many satellites. The Chinese work attracted little attention; it seems that nobody in the West believed in it.
Chinese EmDrive Microwave Engine Thruster developed by Professor Yang Juan. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Schematic of the Chinese EmDrive Microwave Engine Thruster developed by Professor Yang Juan. (Click Image To Enlarge)
However, a US scientist, Guido Fetta, has built his own propellant-less microwave thruster, and managed to persuade NASA to test it out. The test results were presented on July 30 at the 50th Joint Propulsion Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Astonishingly enough, they are positive.
NASA tested a different version of the EmDrive called the Cannae Drive designed by Guido Fetta. (Click Image To Enlarge)
According to Guido Fetta, the "Cannae Drive," was named after the Battle of Cannae in which Hannibal decisively defeated a much stronger Roman army: you're at your best when you are in a tight corner. However, it's hard not to suspect that Star Trek's Engineer Scott -- "I cannae change the laws of physics" -- might also be an influence. (It was formerly known as the Q-Drive.)
The five NASA research team spent six days setting up test equipment followed by two days of experiments with various configurations. These tests included using a "null drive" similar to the live version but modified so it would not work, and using a device which would produce the same load on the apparatus to establish whether the effect might be produced by some effect unrelated to the actual drive. They also turned the drive around the other way to check whether that had any effect.
In January 2014, the NASA research team also tested Shawyer's EmDrive design. The test results for this were also positive, and in fact their tapered-cavity drive, derived from the Chinese drive which is in turn based on Shawyer's EmDrive, produced 91 micronewtons of thrust for 17 watts of power, compared to the 40 micronewtons of thrust from 28 watts for the Cannae drive.
In her research paper, professor Yang Juan describes China's iteration of Shawyer's EmDrive that's able to generate 72 grams of thrust with 2,500 watts of electricity. It doesn't sound like a huge amount, but if you compare it to the hands-down most efficient spacecraft engine we've got right now (where efficiency is at an absolute premium), an ion thruster, the Chinese EmDrive gets you four times as much thrust from half as much power without sucking down any fuel at all. Yeah, you need electricity, but electricity is cheap in space and cheaper on the ground. Anyway, you can read the paperhere, and if you can make conclusive heads or tails of it, please do us all a favor and explain it in the comments. Below is an infographic comparing the Chinese EmDrive with the European Space Agency's SMART-1 ion engine:
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Back in the 90s, NASA tested what was claimed to be an antigravity device based on spinning superconducting discs. That was reported to give good test results, until researchers realised that interference from the device was affecting their measuring instruments. They have probably learned a lot since then.
The torsion balance they used to test the thrust was sensitive enough to detect a thrust of less than ten micronewtons, but the drive actually produced 30 to 50 micronewtons -- less than a thousandth of the Chinese results, but emphatically a positive result, in spite of the law of conservation of momentum:
"Test results indicate that the RF resonant cavity thruster design, which is unique as an electric propulsion device, is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon and therefore is potentially demonstrating an interaction with the quantum vacuum virtual plasma."
This last line implies that the drive may work by pushing against the ghostly cloud of particles and anti-particles that are constantly popping into being and disappearing again in empty space. But the NASA team has avoided trying to explain its results in favour of simply reporting what it found:
"This paper will not address the physics of the quantum vacuum plasma thruster, but instead will describe the test integration, test operations, and the results obtained from the test campaign."
Shawyer himself, who sent test examples of the EmDrive to the US in 2009, sees the similarity between the two.
He believes the design accounts for the Cannae Drive's comparatively low thrust. He says.
"From what I understand of the NASA and Cannae work -- their RF thruster actually operates along similar lines to EmDrive, except that the asymmetric force derives from a reduced reflection coefficient at one end plate. Of course this degrades the Q and hence the specific thrust that can be obtained."
Fetta is working on a number of projects which he is not able to discuss at present, and NASA's PR team was not able to get any comments from the research team. However, it's fair to assume that the results will be picked over very closely indeed, like CERN's anomalous faster-than-light neutrinos. The neutrino issue was cleared up fairly quickly, but given that this appears to be at least the third independent propellant-less thruster to work in tests, the anomalous thrust may prove much harder to explain away.
The NASA paper projects a 'conservative' manned mission to Mars from Earth orbit, with a 90-ton spacecraft driven by the new technology. Using a 2-megawatt nuclear power source, it can develop 800 newtons (180 pounds) of thrust. The entire mission would take eight months, including a 70-day stay on Mars.
This compares with NASA's plans using conventional technology which takes six months just to get there, and requires several hundred tons to be put into Earth's orbit to start with. You also have to stay there for at least 18 months while you wait for the planets to align again for the journey back. The new drive provides enough thrust to overcome the gravitational attraction of the Sun at these distances, which makes manoeuvring much easier.
A less conservative projection has an advanced drive developing ten times as much thrust for the same power -- this cuts the transit time to Mars to 28 days, and can generally fly around the solar system at will, a true NASA dream machine.
COMMENTARY: The validation of the Roger Shawyer's electromagnetic drive or EmDrive appears to be a potential gamebreaker for the nation that can develop a fully-functional and scalable microwave-powered EmDrive that can prove its efficiency and reliability in outerspace.
A propellantless rocket thruster that will meet or exceed the requirements needed for future manned space missions to Mars or even neighboring star systems, will depend on fully exploiting this EmDrive technology to its fullest. In fact, the future of mankind could rest on just such a propellantless rocket thruster.
The World is rapidly running out of natural resources used in developing rocket propellants, and since anti-magnetic propulsion systems do not appear to be in our immediate future, ion-powered engine thrusters and EmDrive powered systems are two options that are open to exploitation.
I believe that our country to do everything possible to develop such a propellantless microwave-powered engine thruster for future space travel.