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In part 2 of the series looking at engaging Generation Z, the ‘net gens’, H+K’s Hasan Badwan tackles’s the ‘#how?’ in marketing strategy.

In an earlier blog post, we discussed why brands should target Generation Z (also known as teenagers) in their communications strategies.  We identified that the fickleness and purchasing power of teenagers represent great opportunities for brands to create brand loyalty for years to come.  There are interesting challenges, however, that make it increasingly difficult for marketers to target this segment.  It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that teenagers have a (very) short attention-span.  Capturing their attention long enough to recognize your brand and buy your products is a major hurdle.  Furthermore, most marketers are at least two generations older/ more advanced/ (insert euphemism here) than their target.  How do we bridge the gap without sounding like we arrived 15 years too late for the prom?

When presented with these challenges, most communications professionals have a very predictable, almost knee-jerk answer – ‘social media’.  They then proceed to create a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, and then shout out their messaging.  Interestingly, this tends to turn off current teenagers than to grab their attention.  The major failing of these methods is that they are not personal enough, and this feature is the secret to success with teenagers.

Take, for example, a Facebook post or a Tweet that was drafted to target thousands of fans.  By addressing so many people at once, the messaging in that post will have to be diluted, thus making it impersonal.  A closer look at teenage online information consumption reveals that they overwhelmingly rely on the company’s website to gather more information.  While this might sound counter-intuitive, access to a website allows teenagers to find the information they need, when they need it. 

Another major source that teenagers turn to for brand information is blogs.  This point cannot be stressed enough.  An effective blogger outreach program will do more to build brand awareness and loyalty than a Facebook page with really cool status updates.  Bloggers are the bridge between our messages and our target audience.  They represent a more honest voice and are therefore more highly trusted by teenagers.

All of this points to the three most important letters you need to know for your brand’s online presence – SEO.  The simple truth is that no one will find you if you can’t be found.  Getting your brand mentioned on blogs as well as online news coverage will increase the chances that your positive messages are the first things teenagers see when they search for you.

We’ve now seen why we should target teenagers and how to do it.  But once you grab the attention of this demographic, what do you tell them?  You might be surprised with the differences (and similarities) in how we address Generation Z, which will be revealed in part 3 of this Generation Zeries.

Hasan Badwan, Account Executive at H+K Strategies Dubai

Close your eyes, and picture someone in their teens.  This person will, in all likelihood, possess technology it took you years (or decades!) to get your hands on.  He or she may regard the CD player as the ancient relic of a lost generation.  This person will not remember the global fears of the Y2K bug, but that’s just fine because they can read about it on their shiny new smartphone as they watch television on their laptop.  Congratulations – you’ve just met your new target audience.

In recent years, the term ‘Gen Z’ has become the industry’s new favorite catch-phrase.  While there is some debate as to who exactly falls under the category, it is largely accepted that if someone was born in the mid-nineties onwards, they belong to Generation Z.  The growing trend in the communications industry is to target this group of people, with some sports-wear brands opting to develop messaging exclusively for them.

The question at this point clearly becomes ‘why?’.  Why target a group of people who are fickle, are not independent, and do not have a regular stream of disposable income?  The answer is that brands should target Gen Z because of these traits, not in spite of them.

The indecisive and unpredictable nature of consumption among Gen Z-ers presents an opportunity for brands to reach new customers.  At such a young age, it is unlikely that teenagers have developed strong emotional ties to brands.  This means that brands have an opportunity to persuade teenagers to ditch their current preferences for new ones.

Some may argue that this generation does not have true purchasing power because they don’t have disposable income and because they must ultimately purchase through their parents.  It is crucial however to understand that possessing purchasing power does not necessarily mean one needs the money to exercise it.  By pressuring their parents, friends, and families, teenagers are able to direct money to the brands they most want to build their identities around.  Furthermore, there is a certain ‘coolness’ or nostalgia associated with the younger generation that the older counterparts crave.  By effectively selling to Gen Z, a brand can frame its communication strategies in terms that appeal to all age-groups.

We are seeing more and more brands target Generation Z in order to create a loyal customer-base for many years to come.  Of course, these arguments help us understand why brands should target Gen Z.  We will discuss how brands can carry out such a strategy with in a (near-)future post.

– Hasan Badwan, Account Executive at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

Is it just me, or is your Facebook wall jam-packed with baby photos these days as well? Single friends are threatening to abandon ship while new parents happily post pictures and videos on a daily basis. With Gen Y beginning to join the Gen X’s  in moving on from the party lifestyle to tie the knot and start a family, Facebook seems to be turning into more of a family album than the rock ‘n’ roll collection of nights out and morning-after gossip that it used to be. What started as a college network has found itself facing adulthood.

In terms of Facebook’s mission, ‘giving people the power to share’ still makes this one of the most effective social tools for keeping in touch with family and friends, especially those spread across countries far and wide. But will it appeal to the next generation – the ‘net generation’ – in the same way?

With every generational jump comes the question of whether today’s trends and tools will endure the test of time. “Change is the only constant”, after all. Facebook, whose value is based on – amongst other things – development of user numbers, is now challenged with living up to the expectation that it is going to continue its growth path to deliver advertising audiences and opportunities for engaging a captured market way into the future.

Approximately one in thirteen people on earth are on Facebook, and today’s 35+ year old demographic represents one-third of the entire user base. Whilst the fastest growing group is currently the generation of 17-24 year olds, the percentage overall that they represent still remains less than that of people around the age of their parents. Even if the younger generation are comfortable with their parents seeing what goes on in their lives, but do they really want to be on the same social network as their grandparents? Judging by the 164 ‘likes’ for the Gen Z Facebook group, we might doubt they do!

With a global presence established, Facebook needs to continue expanding, adapting and extending its offer to appeal to new markets of consumers.  Whether this means the fragmentation of the social network we know and love remains to be seen, but watch this space because it will be interesting to see how Facebook develops in a bid to maintain the value of ‘Facebook Inc’ into the future.

– Katy Branson, Head of Technology UAE at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

In the digital age, a brand can no longer rely on a well written press release to sell a destination. The consumer landscape has changed drastically in the world of travel and customers are becoming more and more travel savvy with the help of the internet.

A well-worded pitch selling in breathtaking views or an electric nightlife just isn’t going to cut the mustard.  It is now all online to experience at the press of a button, with 360 degree virtual tours of luxurious hotels where you can practically test out the king size bed via your laptop, to video blogs of crazy students bungee jumping from stomach-churning heights.

So how does the travel PR industry compete with all these new-fangled travel blogs and review websites offering first-hand insight? Quite simply, by embracing them. In order to get closer to their target audiences, brands need to engage travel and lifestyle bloggers and forums. Their opinions are valued by consumers all over the world. From mum’s sharing family travel tips via expatwoman.com to young nomads recommending quick and easy hostels on twenty-somethingtravel.com, the influence of such sites is reaching new heights.

Engaging with these bloggers is now essential for gaining consumer trust. And it makes sense: After all, who would you trust more – a multi-million dollar brand trying to sell flights and hotels or the independent traveler who has first-hand experience?

Many travel brands are also taking it head on with their own social media initiatives, where forums have the power to build a community centered on the brand. Emirates airline for example engages travelers through its Facebook page and encourages discussions on better service. The page is regularly updated with news on new routes and aircraft, but also features interesting snippets of everyday life from the SkyCargo team and YouTube clips of traditional music from around the globe.

Whether it is industry insight, developments in destination offerings, or simply a new hidden gem of a restaurant tucked away in the Nepalese jungle, if you are able to provide a regular stream of solid, insightful, and informative content, you’re already halfway there.

– Louisa Norman, Account Executive at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

Launched back in 2010, Pinterest went almost unnoticed by the tech press for almost a year, until early adopters suddenly realised that a site with millions of users had been seemingly created overnight.

Since then, Pinterest has grown out of pure devotion from a dedicated, mostly female (80% cite some stats) following, who enjoy “pinning” items onto their pin boards from around the web.

Unsurprisingly, the popularity of this social network has attracted significant brand attention, and some of the most established and emerging brands now have a presence on Pinterest (as well as Pin it buttons on their websites) by which they engage large and small audiences in different ways.

Here are three currently using Pinterest to great success:

WholeFoods

One of the first brands onto Pinterest, this organic food store has gained over 28,000 followers to date. Pinterest allows WholeFoods to curate images from across the web which help translate brand values to their audience – from community and environment to healthy eating and organic produce. It is important to note that WholeFoods are not promoting their products, rather an aspirational lifestyle.

Better homes and Gardens

Magazines perform well on Pinterest thanks to their good stock of images, editorial content and largely female following. A good illustration is Better Homes and Gardens. They also created a “Pin and Win” contest which called for contestants to create a board using images from BHG.com (via Facebook). They gained a huge amount of Facebook fans and email data as well as inbound links.

U.S. Army

Partly to level out the female sway of this platform, but mostly because it’s an excellent example of how an outwardly “non-Pinterest” brand can use the platform to its advantage, the Official U.S. Army page includes boards such as: “welcome home,” “army history,” and “humanitarian relief”.  While the audience is likely to be made up of Army wives and girlfriends, the U.S. Army is cleverly reaching out to an audience which they may not have been capturing before via other channels.

Opportunity and strategy

While the boards and messages look great, you may be wondering what other benefits exist for a brand on Pinterest. There are many – is the answer – from participation and brand evangelism to relationship building. Additionally, organic search engine visibility will be vastly improved (many brand Pinterst pages ranks above the Twitter pages in the search engine results illustrating Google’s algorithm preference for this platform). However, what brands such as Amazon are discovering is the opportunity to drive large amounts of traffic back to the pin’s original source (assuming the pinner found the image on your website) making it another channel to display your goods or services via valuable third party endorsement.

For brands, Pinterest has become very pinteresting indeed.

– Susan Clowes, Digital Consultant at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

Despite the existence of 22 Arabic speaking countries, Arab expats living around the globe, and a young internet savvy population in the MENA region, only 2% of content online is in Arabic. We live in an era where  smartphones and tablets are giving us access to online content virtually anywhere, yet no matter the geographic location, the info being consumed is predominately English content.

There are 350 million people in the Middle East region who speak Arabic, and we are seeing a push for Arabic content from Arabic speaking consumers.

And there are local government initiatives, such as that of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, whose office has announced a strategy to support the nurturing of the Arabic language. In Saudi Arabia there is a plan in place that addresses the pressing need for quality Arabic e-content.

The young and growing population of the MENA region, coupled with high internet penetration (estimated at 35-40%), and an increasing trend in mobile (87% mobile penetration) and smartphone  use has created a growing appetite for Arabic content online.  Regionally, the UAE has one of the highest instances of internet use with most people owning on average more than one smartphone.

The transition toward a unified “e-Arabic” has been developing in many forms, from international websites in the region emphasizing Arabic, to Google in Arabic, to an Arabic Twitter interface, to a grassroots initiatives campaigning for Arabic e-content.  Initiatives such as Taghreedat, supported by twofour54, are succeeding in creating Arabic e-content, working to improve Wikipedia in Arabic and create an Arabic Dictionary 2.0 of technical terms to serve the needs of the Arabic internet users who account for 3.3% of all users globally.

There is an undeniable movement toward the creation of Arabic content online, but the challenges lie in changing the user perception, getting people to think online in Arabic, and defining a unified e-Arabic platform of communication and information. In addition, this requires the development of Arabic terms not only to serve the average internet user but to create a regionally accepted e-Arabic for viable use in the developing, software, and translations sphere.

Arabic content is on the rise, but it remains to be seen is if the Arabizing of the internet will be skin deep or if it can take on a life of its own.

– Olivia Quinn, Senior Account Executive at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

While the figures vary somewhat, one thing is clear: Internet usage in the Middle East has grown at one of the fastest rates in the world. Today there are almost 80 million of us across the region – a number that continues to rise at a rapid clip.

Ok, facts and figures out of the way, let’s get down to SEO’s importance in all of this. First the basics: SEO stands for search engine optimisation, and it is the process of making the pages within your website visible in search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing.

Here’s where it gets interesting for you: A recent study found that 90% of internet users use a search engine to find information. So it goes without saying that a solid SEO strategy is needed if you want to be found online.

Let’s think about how a user might search:

  1. Experience the need for a product, service, or piece of information.
  2. Formulate that need in a string of words to create a “query.”
  3. Execute that query in a search engine.
  4. Browse through the results to find a match.
  5. Click on a result.

Now, if your SEO efforts landed you high up on the search query results, your site may well be the one the user ends up on. And going back to that initial need that triggered the whole action in the first place, if your offering indeed matches up, a sale could be the happy end result.

Being listed as close to the top of the results for a variety of search queries that are relevant to your brand, product, or service is crucial to visibility and, ultimately, your online success. This will not only provide a large amount of traffic to your website, but it will also instil trust in consumers – because it demonstrates importance, worthiness, and relevance. There is a certain unspoken respect – or for us tech geeks “awe” – for those companies that end up on the first page of a Google search result.

And it’s worth pointing out that a solid SEO strategy is not only important for e-commerce companies: A large amount of offline sales can be traced back to an initial web search.

So the real question is: Do you SEO? If you do not, then start exploring. It won’t take you long to realize that SEO, as part of your ongoing marketing strategy, will create tremendous opportunities for you to reach your audience.

– Susan Clowes, Digital Consultant at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

هل تقوم بتنظيم محرك البحث لديك؟

تتباين الأرقام وتختلف، ومع ذلك، فإنّ هناك شيئاً واضحاً وهو أنّ معدلات نمو استخدام الإنترنت في منطقة الشرق الأوسط كان من أسرع معدلات النمو عالمياً. فاليوم، هناك نحو 80 مليون مستخدم في جميع أنحاء المنطقة – والعدد يتزايد يوماً بعد يوم.

لنغض النظر عن الأرقام والحقائق، ونركز على اهمية منظم محركات البحث.

أولأ: ما يسمّى “سيرتش إنجين أوبتيمايزيشن” SEO يدلّ على عملية تنظيم محرك البحث، وهي العملية التي تتيح للموقع الإلكتروني الخاص بك الظهور على محركات البحث مثل جوجل، ياهو! وبينج.

فلننتقل إلى الجزء الأكثر متعة: لقد أكدت دراسة حديثة أن 90٪ من مستخدمي الانترنت يستعملون محركات البحث للعثور على المعلومات. لذلك من المؤكد انك بحاجة الى استراتيجية خاصة بتنظيم محرك البحث إذا اردت أن يجدك المستخدمون بسهولة على الانترنت.
دعونا نفكر في كيفية قيام المستخدم بالبحث:

الحاجة إلى البحث عن منتج، خدمة أو معلومة

صياغة هذه الحاجة على شكل مجموعة من الكلمات لإنشاء “الاستفسار”

وضع هذا الاستفسار في محرك البحث

تصفح النتائج الظاهرة للعثور على نتيجة متطابقة مع بحثنا

انقر على النتيجة

الآن، إذا كانت عمليات تنظيم محرك البحث لديك جيدة وأدت إلى ظهورك في أعلى قائمة نتائج البحث، فقد يكون موقعك هو الذي سيتصفحه المستخدم للحصول على المعلومات. ونظراً للحاجة التي دفعت المستخدم للقيام بعملية البحث، فلدى توفير موقعك لنتائج متطابقة مع موضوع البحث، سيؤدي ذلك الى رضى المستخدم واعتماده لموقعك كمصدر للمعلومات.

انّ وجودك في أعلى قائمة نتائج البحث لعدد من الاستفسارات المختلفة والمتعلقة بالعلامة التجارية الخاصة بك أو المنتج أو الخدمة، فإن ذلك أمر هام سيؤدي بالنهاية الى نجاحك عبر شبكة الانترنت. وهذا سيؤدي الى توليد حركة كبيرة على موقعك إضافة الى تعزيز ثقة المستخدمين بالموقع، وذلك لأنه يعكس الأهمية، الجدارة، وصلته بموضوع البحث. وبالنسبة لنا، كمختصّين بالتكنولوجيا، فإننا نكنّ احتراماً خاصاً للشركات التي تظهر على الصفحة الأولى من نتائج البحث على جوجل.

ومن الجدير بالذكر أن استراتيجية تنظيم محرك البحث لا تقتصر فقط على الشركات التي تتبع نظام التجارة الإلكترونية، وانما هي مهمه للعديد من الشركات التي ترغب بتسويق منتجاتها، حيث أن العديد من عمليات البيع التي تتم بالطرق التقليدية يعود أصلها الى البحث عنها عبر شبكة الانترنت.

لذلك فإن المسألة الحقيقية هي إن كنت تقوم بتنظيم محرك البحث لديك أو لا؟ فإذا لم تبدء إلى، عليك البدء في ذلك فوراً، فهذه عملية سهلة ولن تستغرق وقتا طويلاً، وسوف تدرك أنها تشكل جزءاَ هاماً من استراتيجية التسويق الخاصة بك، إضافة الى مساهمتها في تعزيز فرص تواصلك مع جمهورك.

  Translated into Arabic by Lona Ayoub, Account Executive at H+K Strategies Dubai

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