Mark Higginson

The web is a social artifact.

This short manifesto covers what I hold to be self-evident about modern marketing practices, particularly related to online activity.

This piece about how people's attention flows on the web highlights the fundamental misunderstanding that causes almost all online marketing to be ineffective.

The blog that follows consists of a series of short posts that support my arguments.


20 January 2013

According to Percolate founder Noah Brier, in the next few years brands should expect to post 40 to 60 pieces of meaningful — not just promotional — content a day.

Fast Company

Why, I wonder? To what end? Who has the time to read this stuff? Truth is almost none of these ‘meaningful’ items will ever be seen by human eyes; at least not without a massive and ongoing investment of resources with little in the way of a directly measurable return.

I take issue with the notion of brands as publishers if publishing is not the core business function. There seems to be an assumption that a high volume of publishing to a brand owned and controlled destination is desired by web users. There has been more excitability of late with SEOs piling into this area as Google has put the frighteners on other techniques for gaming the SERPs; a regular stream of items is assumed beneficial for the purposes of ‘link building’.

The theory sounds logical. People want to be informed about the things they are interested in. Search engines reward ‘fresh’ and popular pages. By creating your own pages of this type on a domain you own, based on research, a ‘brand’ can attract people with these interests.

The Content Marketing Institute says it is the:

“… technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Focus on that last point and keep it in mind as you read this. The great thing about the web is that if you have a theory about what should be done you can collect a lot of data to prove your point. What is significant is how few authors of articles that plug these services actually bother to do this and thus support their position with anything independently verifiable. For instance if you claim ‘guest blogging is an opportunity to build authority and credibility’ then you should be able to show a hundred examples of you doing this exact thing and a thousand more examples of other people doing the same, all with a measurable outcome.

Here are a number of particularly egregious examples that are typical of the ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’ format. If it works then follow-up the tips with the results!

What I want to test is whether this is actually viable at the scale being promoted in the quote that opens this post.

The assumptions I’m making are as follows:

I suggest reading Identifying Your Real Readers by Thomas Baekdal, who explains this in great detail. He is well worth subscribing to as his posts are excellent.

A reader is someone who actually reads the article, which means:

A destination wesbite is about readers not visitors or page views. It’s a really difficult challenge to develop and sustain such a space. Not even professional publishers are succeeding at making it work profitably.

In the next part of this post I will cover some specific examples to see if this can work for a ‘brand’ rather than a ‘publisher’.

Let me know what you think on Twitter


05 January 2013

What are some attributes of these networks that will help us make predictions? Is it number of followers? Is it engagement of followers? Is it what time you tweet? Is it who else is tweeting at the same time?

UA Study Examines How News Spreads on Twitter

Another look at how news spreads on Twitter. What I question about these studies that claim to help understand when to post is that nowhere does it mention the effect of the content of the post on its propensity to ‘travel’.

That is surely the ineffable question to which everything else is peripheral. But then that is not something that can be predicted by an algorithm.

Let me know what you think on Twitter


30 November 2012

How, if at all, has the rise of social media changed what you’re doing?

The Yes Men kickstart a revolt

“Not that much, really. It’s changed a few of details, but I really don’t think that it’s all that revolutionary. It’s another tool, but people have done really cool, fun projects in all kinds of ways. Before social media, there were pamphlets. In between pamphlets and social media, there were emails. (Twitter) is just short emails that reach a lot of people, instead of only the people they are addressed to. We’ve used it.”

Quoted from an interview with The Yes Men who are notably free of any hyperbole about ‘social media’.

Let me know what you think on Twitter


25 October 2012

Facebook is pretty uniquely positioned to answer the questions people have. At some point we’ll do it. We have a team working on it.

Mark Zuckerburg

Facebook’s search functionality is awful and unlikely to improve. What matters from a revenue point-of-view is which search terms are profitable and the volume at which you can generate clicks on those terms. Every other result just ensures that when people think ‘search’ and want to make one of those profitable queries they come to you.

The angle a lot of pundits are taking is that Facebook has all this ‘social data’ that will allow them to deliver relevant results based on people’s preferences. My educated guess is that the kind of stuff people share on Facebook is not going to build you a terribly great index. Also, Facebook reflects people I know socially and not what I’m interested in; that can be derived from my search history, which Google owns.

On top of that much of Facebook’s behaviour has indicated it wants to create a ‘walled garden’ within which it can keep its users clicking. What they can do differently that is suitably compelling to cause people to switch from the incumbent is hard to see. Do you ‘Bing’? I thought not.

Zuckerburg is going to need more than ‘a team’ working on search. Google are reputed to employ 7,100 people on the Google Maps project alone. Why? Because finding things in the real world is just as important as being able to find things on the web. Facebook has just over 3,000 employees in total.

Thing is, these stories are great for Google, anything to distract from the truth that it has a stranglehold on search and can therefore behave in an egregiously monopolistic way whenever it so chooses.

Let me know what you think on Twitter


28 September 2012

The decline and fall of social networks.

Interesting observation that Social networks implode quickly.

Using search volumes as a proxy for ‘level of interest’ is inaccurate, especially with the advent of app-based access to social platforms, but these kind of charts are fascinating.

Is collapse an inevitable part of how these networks function?

Let me know what you think on Twitter