The future of South Africa’s social nation

Last week saw the South African social media briefing in Jozi, a platform for WorldWideWorx and Fuseware to release their latest figures on social media adoption in South Africa and a discussion with industry leaders. What emerged was an inspiring sense of momentum and a drive to understand how things are working now and, more importantly, how things are going to work in the future.

These figures show that things are shifting. Take a moment to wrap your head around these important statistics:

The number of Facebook users has toppled previous kingpin, South African platform, MXit, which has experienced a drop from last year. However, MXit’s active users spend an average of 95minutes on this platform every day. Yes, over an hour an a half.

South African active Twitter users grew from 2.4 million in 2012 to 5.5 million in 2013. We post 54 million tweets a month – 85% of those tweets are from mobile devices.

There are double the number of South African users on Instagram as there are on Pinterest.

This infographic whipped up on the day by @SheBeeGee gives a sense of the current social landscape:

Social SA infograpgic

For a sense of the briefing, search #socialSA on Twitter and for a great breakdown of all the statistics, check out this article over at Memeburn.

Our top 5 ways to stay inspired

At Pomegranite, finding ways to stay inspired does not mean goofing off for an afternoon, a token yoga session or casual Fridays. It’s an integral part of the way we work. Here is our strategy to work with inspiration:

1. Educate yo’ self

The tools in our industry are evolving so quickly that one new free app, one breakthrough in technology or one fresh approach can throw your strategy leaps forward in its effectiveness. We translate a brand in the real world into a presence online; a significant part of that translation is the technology available to provide the platform for that presence. Use new tools to stay inspired.

HondaRoboticLegs_1

Who knows when you might need to know about the social media equivalent of bicycle legs?

2. Drool over international trendsetters and then strip them

You may not have Coca Cola’s budget or marketing team, but you do have the internet and a brain. Check out the biggest and the best, slobber at the indulgence, then figure out what they do well and how they do it. Learn what you can from their strategy and put it in your pocket for an appropriate campaign.

Emma-Watson-get-the-look-copy1

In the same way that fashion magazines help you get celebrity looks at retail shops, it’s about understanding how the elements work together.

3. Let the client be the challenge

Every job is as different as the client. We like to treat every client as a fresh challenge to translate the offline to the online more accurately. This requires some discipline; let go of all your assumptions and listen generously to what they need. Let the client and their unique needs be the source for inspiration and then draw from your knowledge base in order to understand how best to help them.

Ninja-like discipline

Ninja-like discipline

4. Be a human being

This is an age of social business. Anything digital is only as powerful as the response it generates from the user – the user who is (most often) a human being. This is a great advantage as you are a human being and you have the ability to conduct research on other human beings around you. Content is now driven by the user: it’s no longer about what the CEO wants to post, it’s about what the customer wants to engage with. Listen carefully and they will inspire you.

listening

Here’s some Clipart to give you the willies.

5. Drop drive and adopt unbridled creativity

Innovation is a tired concept. It’s been thrown around so much it’s practically threadbare. Let’s go back to a definition to remember its former glory:

in·no·vate [in-uh-veyt] verb, in·no·vat·ed, in·no·vat·ing.

Verb (used without object)

1. to introduce something new; make changes in anything established.
verb (used with object)

2. to introduce (something new) for or as if for the first time: to innovate a computer operating system.
3. Archaic. to alter. Origin: 1540- 50; Latin innovātus  past participle of innovāre  to renew, alter, equivalent to in- in-2  + novātus  (novā ( re ) to renew

To truly innovate demands an intimate knowledge of your tools and the creativity to use them in new ways, undaunted by established practices and the status quo. This approach doesn’t come naturally when you’re working to deadlines and focused on client feedback. You need to make a conscious choice to dedicate some time to allow creativity to flourish at the expense of results. Google gives their employees 20% of their week to work on their own projects – and this “time to explore” has delivered 50% of their new products. Read more about that here and we’ll give you a blog soon about how to give yourself this time in a small business.

Innovation

You guessed it. A thinking hat.

Content marketing: what is it?

Simply put, content marketing is the creation and sharing of relevant and valuable content in order to attract, acquire, and engage customers with the objective of driving profitable customer action. Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers ostensibly without selling and it’s touted as the future of online marketing.

Struggling to see it in your world? That’s because you use it without even registering it. ‘What’sfordinner?’ is perhaps one of South Africa’s strongest examples. With well over 3.5 million followers on Facebook, the page has a strong influence on many household kitchens in South Africa.

 

What's for Dinner FB page

 

And would you look at that logo? This content is created and distributed by food brand, Knorr. So by providing valuable content in the form of menu inspiration and recipes, Knorr also draws an audience to their products.

Take today’s recipe, for example: “Crispy Chicken Burgers with Cheese Sauce: a delicious family dinner made with skinless fillets in a super-crunchy crust of Knorr’s new Crispy & Tasty chicken coating. Serve with roast potato wedges and all the usual yummy burger toppings.”

 

What's for Dinner Recipe

 

What’s great about content marketing is that it’s shifting the nature of the marketing landscape. Rather than the hard sell of thrusting a brand in your face (like a billboard for example), content marketing is client-focused, prioritising the offering of information that an audience wants and needs over a sale. It’s investing in the customer rather than banking on their ignorance and it develops good relationships and loyalty as opposed to generating quick sales.

At Pomegranite, we thrive on content marketing. It’s often about being able to translate accurately sometimes complicated subjects in ways that people not familiar with technology will understand. The skill of accurate translation is something we take pride in. We love getting our teeth into the translation of a brand from an offline space to an accurate presence online through creative design, clever copy and cutting-edge technology.

What content can we offer your brand’s audience? Get in touch to find out.

Behind the scenes update: Life on crutches at Pomegranite

injuries

The nice thing about working for yourself – and being able to work from home – is that, when the doctor says: “I’m afraid the answer is surgery,” at least you don’t have to worry about bringing it up with your boss to arrange time off work. Because work can be done from bed. On painkillers. And your boss – well, she’s you.

While you aren’t thrilled at the prospect of crutches for another six weeks, you know that there will at least be morphine in your near future. And sympathy. And who doesn’t like morphine and sympathy? Exactly.

Also – you know that your business partner will be there to take the reins where necessary. You can call her from the hospital bed when clients get hold of you and pass meetings on to her. When you escape are discharged, she will spend the afternoon working next to you so that you feel like you’re contributing, while, gently high on painkillers, you gaze out the window and ask very helpful questions like: “Is today Wednesday?”

When concerned clients enquire after you, she will stoically reply: “Oh don’t worry. She’s still high in bed.”

A couple days later, when you are trying to get your head back in the work game, weaning yourself off the good drugs, she will tease you sweetly, with enquiries like: “Do you think we could apply for a disability grant on the days that you’re feeling mentally challenged?”

In much the same way that men sometimes get sympathy pains when their wives are in labour, your business partner will gallantly throw herself off a bike on the Seapoint promenade, causing an impressive roastie. Just to make you feel better about the screw artfully inserted into your ankle by the surgeon.

And I’m sure, as the weeks go by, I can expect glowing compliments on the impressive guns that I’m developing, while my calf loses all definition, shrinking elegantly to the size of my arm.

When they advise you on the kind of person you should choose to go into business with, you don’t often hear advice on what to look for in a partner should you have ankle surgery twice. But they should. Because it’s times like these – when you’re making tea in a gym water bottle just so you can carry it to your desk in your teeth – that you realise just how important it is to be able to say to that person: “Please take over.” And you know that she will. And that she won’t mind. And that she’ll do a great job. And that, in the end, the only thing that will matter is that you can blow her away with your skills on crutches.

And, let’s be honest, isn’t that a quality you look for in an online presence consultancy – crutch competency? Yip. We have it at Pomegranite. In SPADES.

Listen up: How active listening can improve your business

Today’s blog is going back to basic, crucial skills. No, not how to post an image on Facebook. Today is about the most important, fundamental skill anyone providing a service, creating a product or running a business can have: the ability to listen well.

listening

Image source

What is active, empathetic listening?

Have you ever met someone who makes you feel like you’re the only person of concern in the world and that what you are saying is truly heard? You want to share more with him or her because s/he gets you. You are on the receiving end of active, empathetic listening and it is so important for any business.

An article called “Active Empathetic Listening and Selling Success: A Conceptual Framework” breaks it down for us. It asserts that listening has three stages: sensing, processing and responding. “Sensing refers to the actual receipt of messages, processing refers to activities that take place in the mind of the listener, while responding involves acknowledging receipt of messages”.

Empathy can be defined as “the ability to discern another person’s thoughts and feelings with some degree of accuracy and involves listening on an intuitive as well as a literal level”. In the context of listening, empathy operates as the ability “to perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy, and with the emotional components and meanings…as if one were the other person, but without ever losing the ‘as if condition”.

Why is active, empathetic listening important?

Any business interaction starts as human engagement and the way you communicate lays the foundation for your professional relationship. The article argues that “[e]mpathetic listening is a critical part of the communication process and provides a supportive environment for the flow of messages between senders and receivers”.

It’s not just cold callers or people behind product counters that are salespeople. Whether you’re a freelance journalist or make craft beer in your garage, we all sell our product or service and we can all sharpen our sales skills. Active empathetic listening is a key skill in terms of your ability to sell. Here’s how empathy affects your ability to listen as a salesperson:

“When ‘sensing’, salespeople with strong empathy are more likely than those less endowed with empathy to be aware of more subtle cues from customers. When ‘processing’, salespeople with strong empathy are more likely than are less empathetic salespeople to understand the significance of messages, more likely to interpret and evaluate them correctly and, consequently, more likely to commit correct information to memory. When ‘responding’, empathetic salespeople are more likely to send back messages that assure their customers that they are on the same wave-length”.

For us at Pomegranite, translating a client’s real-world identity and resources into an online presence requires trust: we are the translators and representatives of a brand.  We need as much information as possible. Small businesses are generally small teams and often work very intuitively. This means that, often, a lot is assumed between the team rather than explicitly articulated. This type of listening allows you to tune into that relationship and bring up ideas for discussion.

How do I use it in my life?

Don’t be spooked by the big words. They were just to impress you. Active, empathetic listening is not difficult; in fact you probably do it all the time. But being aware of it will only make this sense more acute.

Let Shelley Sacks take you on this journey and try it out sometime:

[T]o really hear what another has to say we have to remove the agreement and disagreement. We have to try and stay with the person, with their pictures, with their thoughts, and see what they see and feel, without agreeing and disagreeing and letting our own thoughts run on internally. A good way to do this and focus more sharply on what someone is saying – to become a more active listener – is to consider what is being said in three ways. We can listen for the content of what is being said, we can listen to the feeling with which it is being said, and we can try and get a sense of the impulse or motivation in what is being said (from her handbook for her social sculpture Exchange Values).

When it comes down to it, the smoother and more satisfying your interactions are, the more repeat business you can ensure, the fewer dissatisfied customers you will have,  the deeper your relationships and the greater your feedback and opportunities.

It’s ALIVE!

Watching a little, baby website that you have created with your own two hands come to life and tell the story you imagined… is an amazing feeling. And when it goes LIVE! Yoh, yoh, yoh.

I know it’s early days, and the excitement is bound to wear off, but for now, it feels like a bit of a Frankenstein moment – in the best way possible, obviously.

When a website goes live

The world welcomes the #RoyalBaby – thanks to social media

Royal baby image

It amazes me that some brands/businesses are still reluctant to establish a presence on social media. In this day and age? Even the queen is doing it.

Earlier this week, the world was abuzz with the news of the impending birth of the #royalbaby – and no more so than on social networks. As Stephen Fry quipped on Twitter, “Labour has never been so popular,” adding dryly, “My guess is that it will be a baby.”

While the traditional easel was set out at Buckingham Palace announcing the birth of the newest heir to the throne (“Ta da!”), the royal family demonstrated that they are “hip with the times, yo” by posting the news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Did you even know that the British Monarchy have a Facebook page? Me neither! How thoroughly modern of them.

The image and announcement of the baby’s name, George Alexander Louis, as of 16 hours ago, has been shared 34 116 times, commented on 4366 times, and liked by 95 614 people. I know, right? And that’s just one image on the official British Monarchy page.

Twitter went into overdrive about the birth, with more than 500 000 tweets about the baby being sent before he was even born. Tweets announcing that the Duchess of Cambridge had gone into labour were viewed by 487 million Twitter users – again, before the birth.

I could go on and on with stats like these demonstrating just how great an influence social media platforms have in 2013, but you get the picture. Social media = powerful. If the British Monarchy are talking about labour on Twitter, I guess that tells you all you need to know, really.

Join the party.

Original blog: New Beginnings, 5 July 2013 (Sarah)

On 28 June, a week ago today, I turned 28 – my “crown” birthday, so I’m told, turning 28 on the 28th. Birthdays are strange days for me – days that usually cause me to look at my life and where I am, and see if it’s where I want to be.

When I was little, I thought my life would look quite different when I was 28. There would be a white picket fence, a labrador, and a successful career in the mix. Given that the fruitful career I had in mind involved being a ballerina and a part-time vet (obviously), I think we can safely say that my predictions were a bit off. What I definitely didn’t foresee (even a few months back), was that I would be leaving the safe haven of employment and entering the unchartered territory of self-employment.

The nice thing about starting from scratch is that you can decide exactly what you want to do and how you want to do it. The terrifying thing about starting from scratch… is that you are starting from scratch. It’s all up to you to make something out of nothing. And no one is there to say (in a voice I imagine to be Morgan Freeman’s, for some reason): “This is how it works, young person.”

 

roadmap

 

So, on Monday, when I joined Liz at Pomegranite, it was with a mixture of excitement and some trepidation. It’s somewhat daunting not having a guaranteed salary each month – but on the flipside, the freedom to create a role you want to fill and work you want to do, is a thrill I am still getting used to. A freedom that I wouldn’t exchange for anything, now that it’s mine.

Taking a moment to contemplate exactly what you want to do and what you want your professional life to look like is, in many ways, similar to looking at your online presence and deciding what – and how – you want to communicate about your brand to the online world. You ask yourself a lot of the same questions.

Who are you, really? (Not a ballerina and a part-time vet, perhaps). What is it that you do? What do you want to do? How does that make you different from others? How can you stand out from the crowd? What story do you want to tell the world?

Creating an online presence may seem like a daunting task – as does starting a new business – but the hard part is getting to the bottom of these questions. Once you have these answers, you have a roadmap for yourself.

The fun part is making it a reality.

Original blog: Embarrassing get-ups, 27 June 2013 (Liz)

So Pomegranite’s social media has taken a dive of late because well, I’ve been working don’t you know! Realizing how time has flown and the gnawing feeling of being left behind is a big shock, especially when I’m supposed to be good at this sort of stuff! But it has given me real insight and shown me exactly how to motivate our offering to potential clients.

Most people either don’t have the expertise or the time to run their social media properly. Like anything worthwhile in life, it takes planning and work.You can tell when something is posted on a Facebook account in a panic or when someone tweets because they feel they ought to say something.

Without focus, efforts come across hollow and unexciting and social media platforms are no place for a brand to wither and die.

Another big shock is going to your own website and realizing how far it is from reality. It’s tough because a website is generally a pretty static platform. You give it a lot of attention when you build it but, before you know it, you, your business, your brand have evolved and what’s on the website is not quite you.

Keeping a website up-to-date can be costly and time consuming but social media provides a bridge to maintain momentum between make-overs.

So neglecting online presence leads to a pretty awkward state of affairs. It’s like only having your childhood wardrobe at your disposal to go to a swanky party (that’s a genuine dream I’ve had): they don’t fit, they don’t suit you anymore and you’re acutely aware that what people see is you but also definitely not, not anymore.

blogger image  2083250407

I’m the one with open eyes

Ja, ja laugh it up. While I loved my sunflower aliceband, strutted myself in an over-sized surf t-shirt and wouldn’t be caught dead without my denim bomber jacked (sported here in a nonchalant waist-tie), I’m not that person anymore. What we wear is by no means the sum of what we are. I could still be myself in this ridiculous outfit. But I’d rather not. We take care of how the world sees us in real life. It works the same way online. So throw out your embarrassing wardrobe and get your sexy on!

Original blog: Where the magic happens, 9 May 2013 (Liz/Sarah)

Pomegranite has a new partner. You haven’t heard from her yet because, although she’s resigned, she’s still working out the notice period of her day job. Meetings have been held under streetlights in mackintosh raincoats (even on sunny days), emails have been sent in code (that neither of us understand). I can’t reveal who she is yet, but here’s a post from our mystery operative. 

Where the magic happens

There are a lot of teachers in my family – my mom, my sister, my aunt, my cousin. I even taught for a while in Korea, but that only lasted a year and a half and was more about the travel opportunities than the noble profession of imparting knowledge to small humans.
The great thing about having teachers in the family, though, is that they come home every day with stories about the hilarious/profound/ridiculous things that kids say. I keep telling my mom she should write them all down – I know there’s a book in it somewhere.

While the funny comments are my favourite, it’s a more profound one that has stuck with me. When asked what it means to be brave, one child said, after some contemplation: “It means being really, really scared – but doing it anyway.”

This is how I feel about my next big venture.

When Liz called me a couple months ago with the idea of starting a business together, I was about 98% excited and 2% scared. Ok, it was slightly more than 2%. Not having a guaranteed salary each month? Eeek! Being out there alone in the (for me) uncharted territory of finding new clients and chasing payments and signing contracts? Eish…

But the more I thought about it, the more the positives loomed big and bright, obscuring the niggles of doubt and hesitation.

Being my own boss and in charge of my own time? Yes please! Starting something new and exciting with a business partner I trust and admire? Sounds good! Being autonomous within a growing industry? What’s not to like? Drinking wine at work meetings? Jokes – that never happens…

So, while Liz has got the ball rolling, I have been waiting in the wings, finishing up at my “it-pay-the-bills” job and looking forward to the day I properly join Pomegranite with great excitement and anticipation. I have a feeling that this little business is going to do really well. And I know we’re going to have so much fun building it together.

It won’t be long before I’ve worked out my notice period and I’m ready to join the ranks of brave
entrepreneurs around the world, stepping resolutely out of my comfort zone. After all, I hear that’s where the magic happens.