In its Interactive Marketing Forecast Report, Forrester Research portends that search, display advertising, mobile, email marketing and social media will drive a 35% increase in ad spending by 2016. That’s certainly good news worth believing in, especially coming from such a respected source. The report is full of interesting statistics and industry forecasts but one prediction is particularly eye-catching; the growth of interactive marketing will essentially sign the death warrant of the daily deal. Again, it’s tough to argue with Forrester but this may be a tad rash.
Daily deals have become an important results-driver within the affiliate marketing channel, which is conspicuously absent in the Forrester growth model. This is strange considering Forrester predicted US affiliate marketing spend would hit the $4 billion mark by 2014. Also, other performance channels like email marketing and social media have spearheaded the success of daily deals through advanced geo-targeting and effective consumer engagement. Perhaps Forrester is equating the recent trials and tribulations of Groupon with the whole of daily deals. Groupon is the big fish but it isn’t the only fish. Nowhere was that more evident than at last week’s DailyDealMedia Conference where some of the heaviest brand hitters sung the praises of the daily deal.
Daily deals detractors often point to the savvy consumer as the eventual downfall of the industry. Can a company really grow with a fly by night customer only interested in a 90% coupon? No, not if the sole ROI metric is profitability. Many companies leverage daily deals for engagement or branding similar to the non-revenue ROI goals of many social media campaigns. And yet it’s doubtful any research firm will be signaling the end of social anytime soon. Given their positive impact on the affiliate marketplace, daily deals deserve a place at the interactive marketing table. Maybe the industry needs to offer Forrester a kick arse coupon.
Even in invite-only beta mode, Google+ has made a large impression in the social sphere. And at the risk of throwing off the obvious cheesy pun, the social network certainly has its pluses and minuses. To keep from ending this blog on a sour note, let’s examine where Google+ needs to improve, at least in the eyes of many users:
- The Name Game – Many are up in arms about Google’s insistence on opening accounts with real names. While irksome to individuals, advertisers and marketers who will eventually look to Google+ as a tool for brand advocacy should support the real name policy. It could ensure accurate targeting practices in the short- and long-term.
- Too Early to Launch – On some level, Google underestimated the degree of interest in its social network. Why else would it be launched with a user quota?
- +1 – Though Google’s answer to the Facebook Like is likely (yes another pun) to become a significant engagement tool, the limitations of the network are stymieing its functionality. Also, some in Search have expressed concern that it slows load times.
That’s the not so good news for Google+. But the social network has done something unprecedented. It has gotten under the skin of Facebook prompting it to make sweeping changes to its privacy and tagging capabilities. Google+ Circles allow people to pick and choose the things they want to share and the people they want to share them with. The circles graphically provide users with comfort and security; they can keep information in their own little bubble. The same couldn’t be said of Facebook – until now.
If asked whether these changes were a direct response to Google+, Facebook would likely hedge. But the lesson to be learned from these improvements is that social competition is a good thing. It brings out the best in each network and promotes continuous improvement of functionality for users, advertisers and marketers.
Social media experts obsessed with engagement are quick to point out that tweeting links works. According to Adam Bain, Twitter President of Global Revenue, 80% of Twitter engagement is link clicking. At first glance, that is a powerful statistic, especially for companies and brands looking to drive thought leadership initiatives. Theoretically, spreading your industry knowledge to a relevant Twitter audience could generate leads and revenue. But you need to have your best practices ducks in a row in order to make this theory come to fruition.
- Thought Leaders, Know Your Followers – Articles on the importance of engaging your followers are published ad nauseam. The strength of social media is squarely in the consumer’s hands. They don’t want to be told to read your brilliance. If you’re followers are from your specific industry, chances are they are following the same publications you are. Try tweeting links directly from the publication site. It’s much less of a hard sell.
- Embrace the Retweet – Bain added that the remaining 20% of engagement stems from normal tweets and retweets. While that figure might not appear as striking as its 80% counterpart, it is actually more important. Remember that bit about the consumer being the straw that stirs the social drink? Well, if you are a budding or established thought leader, the retweet is a much favored concoction. If a reader deems your article worthy of spreading socially, the retweet is the seal of approval. And if you’re base of followers is industry savvy, they won’t regard it as just another link.
- Link Tweeting = Link Building? – Recently in Graywolf’s SEO Blog, Michael Gray asserted that the desire to acquire Facebook Likes is becoming the equivalent of black hat link building. Couldn’t the same be said of certain Twitter follower building strategies? With Twitter feeds influencing organic search rankings and with link clicking engagement at 80%, it’s plausible that tweeting links for the sake of tweeting links could eventually get Google’s attention. As more and more social networks pursue IPOs, like and tweeting practices will be heavily scrutinized. Again, this brings us back to point #1 – ensure your follower base is relevant to your industry.
Building up a strong thought leadership program requires driving awareness. Leveraging social media channels is a great way to go about it, as long as you know your audience. Tweeting a link to a piano playing cat might get you followers in the short-term but it’s doubtful many will stick around when your social conversation turns to high level topics that are of no interest to them. After all, a true leader never has to ask for followers. They just come naturally.
I did something interesting today. Well, interesting to me. I went on dictionary.com and looked up social. Twelve similar definitions came up but I was most intrigued by #4:
- living or disposed to live in companionship with others or in a community, rather than in isolation: People are social beings.
Let’s apply that definition to social media. The need for companionship across a plethora of social channels has given way to an increased competitive spirit. Companies whose social strategy is “More, More, More” are determined to build their friend count hoping this will translate into sales. And though that may sound good, even reasonable, social media marketing is much more complex. Turns out having a whole bunch of friends can be very isolating if you don’t know what to do with them.
For instance, take my local gym. It currently lists over 1,300 friends on Facebook. Perusing the friend list, I can honestly say I’ve never seen any of these people working out. That begs the title question – What Do You Do With the Friends You Have? For friends to convert into revenue, they have to be the right friends. To that end, search and email marketing would help.
Small to mid-level businesses, my gym included, should update their Facebook profiles to continuously attract higher search results and engage users. In order to improve social search positioning, your corporate profile shouldn’t resemble your personal profile. If you’re a gym, your corporate profile is not the place to praise the latest menu option at the local pizzeria. Also, include relevant brand keywords like “fitness”, “workout routines”, “cardio” and “exercise”. Search marketers can help you create a keyword portfolio designed to be both cost-efficient and results-effective.
On the email side, creating a newsletter or promotional messaging will not only benefit your Facebook friends but their interested and actionable network as well. With respect to my gym, social email marketing can take its pool of friends, wean out the ones that are less likely to join and fortify efforts to get those interested on the treadmill.
More, more, more can work if your goal is to take your friends and turn them into sales. Each business has its own unique brand identity. The mistake companies make is equating friend counts with furthering that identity. Ultimately too many friends without a sound performance-based strategy can prove very socially isolating.
Amid all the excitement over Facebook/Skype’s big announcement last Wednesday, a slight groan could be heard in digital marketing offices from New York to New Guinea. OK maybe New Guinea is a stretch but I’m sure you catch my drift. According to an email distributed by a Facebook spokesperson, marketers looking to conduct video chats through their Pages or hold group powwows with users are out of luck. In the grand scheme of engagement things, this is not exactly the dawning of the marketing apocalypse. Facebook has given digital professionals plenty of tools to work their branding mojo. Aligning with Skype could be the social network’s way of optimizing for its original audience, which has felt somewhat neglected by Facebook as it has grown into an online marketing juggernaut. Still, it will be interesting to see how long it will take savvy marketers and branding officers to get around any Facebook/Skype limitations.
Perhaps the more important development to come out of Camp Zuck is that private chats and messaging cant be used for Facebook ad targeting. Last year, Facebook couldn’t go a week without experiencing some privacy headache. In June, many users scoffed at Facebook’s Facial Recognition app, which instantly tagged photos of friends by matching faces within its exponentially large facial database. By partnering with an online video chat platform like Skype, Facebook may be strategically attempting to right the Facial Recognition fail as it simultaneously expands its offerings to its 750 million strong user base.
It will be a while before we are able to measure the success of this partnership for loyal users and yes, ultimately, marketers. Will it force digital insiders to reevaluate their overall ad targeting approach? Will it make Skype a more viable corporate go to? Maybe marketers can hold video chats on their personal Facebook pages and come to their own conclusions.
Last week, Google rolled out it’s latest attempt to socialize. With Google +1, the search giant is hoping to generate as much love as Facebook’s Like feature. So what is Google +1 and why should you care?
Google +1 is designed to drive SEO and PPC search results in much the same way as the Like. Likes are becoming an increasing important part of any search campaign. Depending on your industry and the scope of your competition, Likes can improve your SERPS results making it a desired search element. Google +1 is looking to take this a step further by extending its feature’s sphere of influence. And it begins at the click.
When a Facebook users Likes a product, service or post, it’s clout is undeniable but somewhat limited in that only a user’s friend network will see it. This is the opening that Google is hoping to take advantage of. Google +1 will come up on Google search results making the rating available to anyone accessing Google.
The potential for Google +1 to be a success is high but it has a significant hurdle to overcome – Facebook. Facebook has proved to be two steps ahead of the game in social space. Google +1 is a good first step towards leveling the playing field but does anyone doubt the social network will respond with something even more innovative and engaging?
An interesting 107 character tweet came through Twitter last week. It did what a tweet is supposed to do – it got my attention. It stated that a definitive calculation determining the value of a Facebook fan exists. So I bit and clicked on the Business Insider link. According to Hitwise and the social media company Techlightenment, 1 fan = 20 extra website visits. At first, I thought ‘That’s cool.’ Then about 10 seconds later I said to myself, ‘So what?’
Driving website traffic is an important indicator of business performance and brand awareness. For instance, it’s always nice to see Google Analytics reports showing an increase in visits to this blog. However, when it comes to this equation, the ratio is a little problematic.
Facebook is a valuable marketing tool for driving product interest and sales often by promotional means; i.e. discount offers, free trials, daily deals subscriptions. For consumers looking to get bang for their buck, becoming a fan might be a short-term means to a short-term end – the one time sale. Where is the long-term customer value to deliver repeated sales? Also, while this measurement is a step in the right direction, a more worthwhile stat would be something like this – 1 fan = 20 extra website visits = 5 extra sales.
It’s becoming an old social story. Having fans is nice. Having fans that bolster website visits is good. Having fans that boost visits to your website and drive ROI increases should be the ultimate goal.
Businesses are leveraging Twitter in increasing numbers. We are well past the point of social media managers tweeting random thoughts to attract followers. Tweeting has become a sophisticated marketing art form with offers and promotions sent in 140 character bursts in the hopes of driving conversions. But there is a risk in over-promising and under-delivering. And that can lead to the wrong kind of brand awareness.
For instance, several weeks ago a company that shall remain nameless reached out to the MediaWhiz twitter feed offering free snacks in exchange for a simple reply to their hashtag. Who doesn’t love free swag? The reply was sent and the waiting game began. We’re still waiting. Not good.
Now if you’d like to play devil’s advocate you could make the point that the entire office was not promised free iPads. Fair enough. But the end result is no less damaging to the company tweeting the promotion. Whenever I think of this brand, I am left feeling let down. The likelihood that I’ll purchase a product from this company is extremely low. And that’s all because of a tweet that literally failed to deliver the goods. That’s something all brands should keep top of mind the next time they take to Twitter.
Social media and display advertising are strengthening an already robust revenue driving relationship. Facebook’s ad network eclipsed the billion dollar mark in 2010 and according to some industry experts it is poised to generate over six billion in profits. Facebook’s profile and user-based targeting practices are primarily responsible for its high level of performance. If a user “likes” Kim Kardashian, that user is likely to have ads for her E! Televisions Shows or clothing line displayed on the Facebook page. This is one example of effective targeting. Online advertising networks adhere to similar guidelines to drive positive results for their campaigns. It seems to be a successful model, right? Senator Alan Lowenthal of the California State Senate seems to think otherwise.
Lowenthal is leading the charge for a Do Not Track bill in the state, legislation that would require CA online companies to provide an opt-out privacy option for potential customers. Haven’t we been here before? The quick answer is yes. In 2010, many politicians carried the torch for more stringent privacy regulation. Ultimately nearly every proposed bill flopped or lost steam. Why? Here are two big reasons touched on earlier – social media and massive revenues. People on social networks are all about sharing information. They “like” musicians, retail stores, moves and even commercials. They tweet about fashion, entertainment and anything they deem important. They are willingly giving up their privacy to drive the conversation. And in driving the conversation, they are supplying digital advertisers with data to use not for vague, underhanded purposes but to deliver highly relevant, cost-efficient ads to them.
And then there are the billion dollar revenues generated through display advertising and social media. These are not potential profits. These are real deal figures. California is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Wouldn’t it behoove Lowenthal to start backing the money maker and cease and desist with the politicking?
Financial professionals talk endlessly about the need to diversify your asset portfolio. Having all your eggs in one basket may fill up that basket but it will leave a lot of wicker sad and lonely. The same analogy is true in describing the state of paid search advertising.
According to an article in eMarketer, PPC search marketers are increasing their advertising presence on social media. 52% of global companies stated that social channels had either a moderate or huge impact on their search initiatives in 2010. And with more social networks tapping into paid search advertising, it makes sense that PPC campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube would be on rise. After all, clicks still matter and finding your target audience where they live – on social networks – will likely produce more clicks and conversions. But adding PPC to Social Media Optimization (SMO) shouldn’t be the only way you diversify your search portfolio. Make some room in your PPC wicker basket for SEO.
Coordinated PPC and SEO programs combine the results-driving immediacy of paid search with the long-term brand and traffic growth of organic search. For instance, PPC search experts can drive organic keywords and improve landing page conversions while simultaneously boosting paid and SEO click-throughs . And with social search gaining traction, PPC, SMO and SEO can work together to drive brand awareness and customer acquisition.
Diversification of any assets, whether financial or search-related, is a sound, strategic approach. Search marketing, in particular, is continuously changing and evolving. PPC, SEO and even SMO are not what they were even a few years ago. By leaving all of your eggs in one search basket instead of sharing them with the other two, your plans to maximize ROI growth may get scrambled.