Tagged: facebook

Will Social Media Kill the Marketing Industry? Spoiler Alert: No

ArmedTwitterI recently read an article on PolicyMic titled “Can Social Media Totally Kill the Marketing Industry?” and it got me thinking about the future of advertising. Apparently, PolicyMic is a “democratic online news platform,” which I have rather pessimistically interpreted to mean PolicyMic is a site where articles are written by people who want to share their opinions, as opposed to by people who actually have authority on the subject matter. This particular post was written by Cole Johnson, who raises an interesting question, but doesn’t really go on to answer it. He seems to imply that social media will undermine traditional marketing efforts and institutions, but never makes an argument as to why. In fact, Cole’s article actually ends up focusing more on the role technology plays in our world and how its use is influenced by age and other factors, but I’d like to discuss the question raised in the title.

Cole seems to suggest that because social media has been used by many companies – both large and small – to effectively market products and services, we’re on the road to the eradication of today’s marketing industry. And while I agree that we’ve seen a tremendous shift in the advertising industry over the last 5 years, I’m quite sure that the industry itself isn’t going anywhere. While the method of delivering advertisements and product information to consumers has changed considerably, there will always be a need for very creative and well-trained individuals who can create the images and copy to convey that information. Unfortunately, many companies have found out the hard way that putting a random employee in charge of the company Twitter account because they’re “good with computers” can be a pretty terrible idea. It’s not enough to sign up for a bunch of social accounts and start Tweeting about your products and services. There’s an art to crafting compelling messages and balancing self-promotion with providing value to your followers through the content you publish. This is the art of marketing.

In my opinion, social media has actually made the role of the marketer even more important. It’s like auto racing. The car is a piece of technology that the vast majority of Americans feel comfortable operating. Cars are part of our culture and driving one is something we often take for granted because we’ve been doing it for so long. So how come we’re not all trying our hand at the NASCAR circuit? We can all drive a car, right? If feeling comfortable with something and knowing how to operate it was the only requirement, then I should be the next Jeff Gordon. Much to my dismay, this will never be the case because a basic understanding and level of comfort with a piece of technology does not mean you are going to be good at using it. The use of social media at the highest level follows suit. Just because some employee signed up for Facebook in 2007, it doesn’t mean he or she is qualified to operate a Fortune 500 company’s Facebook Page. Just like with NASCAR, the creme of digital marketing rises to the top and they are the ones steering multi-million dollar social campaigns.

The stakes are so much higher now that social media has changed the game. If you released an offensive TV commercial in the 80s, you could pull the plug as soon as the calls started coming in and that would pretty much be the end of it. There might be some word-of-mouth damage done, but it would be relatively containable. These days, one errant Facebook post or rash Tweet in the heat of the moment can spell disaster for a brand’s reputation. Screenshots will be taken and the damage will spread like wildfire. Brands have spent months cleaning up 140 character messes made in a matter of seconds. The burden of creating a measurable ROI and not screwing things up in the process falls squarely on the shoulders of the marketing team or agency. And just because social media is at the fingertips of anyone who wants it, that doesn’t mean just anyone can use it to effectively sell goods or market a brand.

So is social media going to kill the marketing industry? In my mind, the definitive answer is “no.” If anything, social media is actually creating more opportunities for boutique firms like ours. As long as there are products and services to be sold, there will be a profession for people who excel at marketing these goods. The medium used to relate the information will definitely change over time, as we’ve seen with the introduction of social media, but the marketing industry is here to stay.

How has social media affected the way you market your business or are marketed to? Let me know in the comments!

Facebook Rule Change: Text is Coming to More Photos Near You

facebook-word-cloudFor those of you who manage a Facebook page for a business or organization, you may be interested in a recent change Facebook made to its promotional photo policy. The rule change involves the use of text in certain promoted content, including:

  • Promoted Page posts
  • Offers
  • App install ads
  • Cover photo of your page
  • Other ad or sponsored story with placement in News Feed

The change will be a welcome one for many businesses wanting to include a call to action in their cover photos or sponsored ads. The loosening of the overlaid text restriction is a step towards a freer and more creative Facebook for businesses and organizations, but before you run off and turn your cover photo into an alphabet soup of offers and marketing messages, let’s talk about a major stipulation to the new rule. While you can now include text in promoted content, the photos cannot include more than 20% text. Let me explain.

Facebook calculates its percentage-of-photo value by splitting photos – regardless of their size – into a 5×5 grid. Some quick mental math should reveal that this gives you 25 rectangles to work with. Some of you probably further calculated that the 20% text rule leaves you with no more than 5 rectangles in which you can include text. Below are two examples from Facebook’s blog post on the subject.

4percentExample

 

12percentExample

In the first example, you can plainly see that only 1 out of the 25 squares includes text. This means that 4% of that photo includes text – far under the 20% cap. Facebook suggests that the second photo includes text in only 3 out of 25 squares. The text percentage is therefore 12%. The far more interesting thing to note in this example is that they did not count the bottom-left rectangle as including text, despite the fact that this segment clearly includes text. There is no explanation as to why this section was not counted in the calculation, but one might infer it’s due to the amount of text in that box. However, this supposition could be easily challenged by citing the bottom-right segment’s inclusion of a very similar amount of text. Regardless of the reason, the fact that the bottom-left cell was not included in the calculation shows us that there is some flexibility in the new rule.

Below is an example of an unacceptable text-to-photo ratio.

32percentExample

Again, there’s some uncertainty in the guidelines based on the fact that cells B2, D2, B5, and D5 weren’t included in the text percentage calculation, but the photo fails the test either way.

There are some caveats to the new rule that Facebook outlines at the end of its blog post. The 20% text policy does not apply to portions of photos where products are depicted and happen to include text as a part of the physical product (e.g. packaging or label text). So if Coke has a giant can on its Cover Photo, any text on the physical can doesn’t count towards the 20%. This is great news for businesses that sell physical goods. However, Facebook stipulates that photoshopping text onto pictures of physical products to take advantage of the aforementioned caveat will not be allowed. They also remind businesses that this 20% limit only applies to ads and sponsored stories that appear in people’s News Feeds. Unpromoted photos you post can include any amount of text, as always.

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, many new opportunities for businesses and organizations come with this rule change. And the change itself points to Facebook’s continued mission to create value for businesses. After all, they’re the ones keeping the lights on.

Are you excited about the prospect of including text in promoted content, or do you fear a continued cluttering of your News Feed? Let me know!

Helpful Hint of the Day? Sign Up for HootSuite

hootsuite-logo-200x200Just a quick post today about a social media management tool that we’ve found to be extremely helpful for managing the myriad of social media accounts on behalf of clients. The tool is called HootSuite and as far as social media management tools go, we think it’s top dog.

If you’re a small business or even a social media maven that manages multiple personal accounts, this web tool will make your life about a million times easier. With an intuitive dashboard and features like link shortening and post scheduling, it’s the perfect blend of simplicity and power. They also have a GREAT iPhone app that makes managing your social presence on the go even easier.

After you’ve signed up, you’ll be able to link social media accounts that you manage to HootSuite. The simplistic design makes for a very seamless linking process. Just click “Add a Social Network” to get started.

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After you’ve connected a few accounts, use the navigation toolbar on the left to move from feature to feature.

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Clicking on “Streams” will bring up the page that you will see every time you launch HootSuite. This is your main dashboard and where you will manage your accounts.

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The social media accounts that you manage are represented towards the top as tabs. The vertical columns that comprise a majority of the screen are called “Streams”. Essentially, Streams are just dynamic feeds of information from the social media accounts you’re managing, like @mentions, direct messages, news feeds, and more. Selecting “Add Stream” on a particular tab will bring up a small window that lists the types of streams you can add, depending on the type of social media account contained in that tab (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.).

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Once you get a few Streams added for each account, you can begin exploring all of the features HootSuite has to offer. Compose a status update or Tweet for any of your accounts, right from the ever-present “Compose Message…” field towards the top of the dashboard.

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The icons to the right of the input field allow you to attach an image, add your location, or even schedule the message to post at a later time or date. For you Twitter users, you can shorten links from here as well. Using this feature will allow you to track the number of people who have clicked on a particular link in the analytics page of HootSuite – a very useful feature, especially if you’re using HootSuite for business.

I can’t tell you how much easier life has gotten since signing up for this service. Being able to see all of our clients’ social interactions from one dashboard has been invaluable and has cut down our management time significantly. And even though this was just a quick run-through of the basic features HootSuite has to offer, I hope it has enticed you to sign up and start exploring what this powerful tool can do. The basic version is free and will allow you to do everything I mentioned above and more. HootSuite Pro is only $9.99/month and gives you access to pretty much every feature you’d want in a social management tool.

So whether you’re a growing business that’s looking for a way to simply manage your various social media accounts, or just a social media enthusiast that’s tired of logging into 5 different accounts throughout the day to manage your social life, HootSuite’s probably the solution for you. Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments!

Is Your Website Suffering from COD?

When designing a website, striking a balance between beauty and content can be difficult. As a result, many of the world’s websites currently suffer from Content Overload Disorder. On the one hand, you have SO MUCH TO SAY, but on the other hand, you want your website to be visually pleasing. Turns out, tipping the scales in favor of the latter is most likely to please your viewers.

A new study from the University of Missouri School of Journalism claims that simplicity and photographs are what please our brains most and what, ultimately, increase user engagement. The study focused specifically on online news publications, but has direct implications for all forms of web design.

Being our firm’s copywriter, I tend to be longwinded. Well, it turns out that my loquacity has been working against us. Photos and simplistic design are more likely to hold a user’s attention and drive interaction, not beautifully crafted pros. ;) Our brains are only capable of efficiently processing so much information per second. Overloading the viewer with too much text, color, or design makes it difficult for a brain to process and categorize the information it is receiving. Some web designers realized this before the MU study was published and have been incorporating minimalist design into their portfolios for some time. However, quickly browsing the web will give you enough empirical evidence to conclude that many companies – even extremely popular Fortune 500 companies – have not grasped the concept of “less is more”. Take a look at Amazon’s website.

Amazon

Amazon’s entire sales cycle takes place online. Their web presence is literally the single most important facet of their business and, to me, it always looks like a jumbled mess when I sign on. Granted, I’m willing to put up with the busyness because the convenience of free 2-day shipping is too wonderful to pass up, but I’m always struck with how frenetic everything looks.

On the flip-side, take a look at Apple’s website.

Apple

Apple might be the best example of minimalist design and they’ve been doing it well for a while now. The above screenshot is of their current homepage and it very effectively calls attention to exactly what they want users to notice right now, the iPad mini. You may not be a big Apple fan, but you can’t really argue design with them. It helped build them into the world’s most valuable company in 2012.

Now, what you can argue is that very few companies can afford to be as simplistic in their web design as Apple. Apple has the luxury of owning a household brand name and the knowledge that very few people visiting their website are unaware of what the company does. Many of us are forced to grab someone’s attention and then keep it while explaining or product or service. This can be challenging in a world where the current attention span stands at a paltry 8 seconds. But even so, the MU study and your own experiences as a consumer should tell you that effective messaging is often elegant and simple.

Many large companies are catching on. It seems that Facebook is taking a page out the minimalist’s playbook with the launch of their redesigned Newsfeed. For those of you who haven’t seen the new look, you can take a peek here. What you notice immediately is the use of negative space and the emphasis placed on photos. Facebook realized that most interactions take place around photos and videos and are, therefore, highlighting visual content to drive more engagement. Even their logo has been replaced by the simple “f” icon that often represents them on third party websites. Everything is streamlined.

This shows that even companies with lots of information to share are realizing that less is more when it comes to web design. And if major companies with lots to lose are making the change, shouldn’t small companies with lots to gain make the switch as well?

So ask yourself, “Is my website too cluttered?” When you visit your page, are your eyes drawn to the content you want your viewers to see first? Is there a sufficient use of pictures and negative space? If the answer to these questions is “no”, then a website makeover might be in order. Can you get by with only a few lines of text on your homepage? Experiment with distilling your message down to its most essential points. This exercise may prove fruitful in other areas of your business as well. Streamlining your pitch could mean the difference between piquing someone’s interest or being tuned out.

What are your thoughts on simple web design? Inherently better or just a fad? Let me know in the comments section!

 

Download Vine and Enter the Jungle

urlYet another social media site has taken the web by storm. Vine, Twitter’s newest micro-video sharing platform, allows users to share 6 second looping videos, comprised of smaller video clips. Videos can then be shared via Twitter, Facebook, or your Vine account (where users are encouraged to follow others, much like Twitter). While there are other mini-movie platforms out there, Vine has been able to generate a lot of buzz in the two short weeks it’s been available. As of right now, Vine is only available on Apple devices, but rumors of an Android version coming to market soon are swirling.

We downloaded Vine and started exploring. To be honest, we didn’t really know how much one could do with only 6 seconds to work with. Turns out, you can do a lot.

The interface is actually quite slick. It’s easy enough to connect your Twitter account or sign up via email. As of right now, Vine doesn’t support switching between multiple Twitter accounts. This could be a bummer for users that manage a personal account and a business account.

Once your Vine account is set up, you are led through the process of creating and posting your first Vine. Creating a looping video made out of multiple smaller clips (if desired, you can just record 6 straight seconds of video without taking advantage of the ability to splice together smaller clips) and have the result look half-way decent might be difficult to get the hang of at first. It was for us. But after a little practice, we felt like a couple of Spielbergs and shared our first Vine on Twitter and Facebook.

Here’s some shots of the process involved in creating a Vine:

Photo Feb 08, 11 42 05 AM

One of the features I like most about Vine is how easy they made the process of capturing video. Rather than requiring users to press a small button to start recording (like the native iPhone camera), you can press any part of the screen between the two gray bars. This makes capturing video on the move a lot easier. The rounded rectangular bar at the top lets you know how much time you have left out of your allotted 6 seconds. You start recording by pressing and holding your finger on the screen and stop recording by lifting your finger.

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I held down my finger for a couple seconds and then lifted. The result was a short video clip of my bonsai tree…which is looking a bit sad at the moment. He’s got the winter blues. The partially filled-in bar at the top shows my progress.

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Press your finger a bit longer and it takes another clip. The clips can be as short as it takes you to press down your finger and remove it. I tried to see how many clips I could create (by pressing down and releasing as quickly as possible) and I managed to make a video comprised of 76 smaller clips. With capability like this, people could get very creative and use Vine for stop animation or to create miniature flip books. Very cool.

The green checkmark at the bottom-right signifies that you have taken enough video to allow for an upload. It seems to pop up after you have about 2 seconds-worth of footage. I like that they allow you to upload clips shorter than the full 6 seconds. The flexibility is nice.

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When you are happy with your Vine, you click the checkmark and the “Next” button pops up. At this point, the screen above the button shows the looping video you have created. This allows you to decide whether or not you are happy with your Vine. If not, you can press the “X” in the top-right corner and start over.

Photo Feb 08, 11 42 32 AM

Clicking “Next” adds the Vine to your camera roll and takes you to the page, shown above. This is where you can add your caption, which supports hashtags and @-sign mentions. There doesn’t seem to be a character limit (at least it’s not 140 characters), but keeping the description of your masterpiece short and sweet is advisable if you plan on sharing your Vine on Twitter. You can also choose to share it on Vine’s native social site or Facebook.

As bonsai trees are not particularly interesting to many people other than myself, below you can check out the first Vine SUM shared with the world.

https://twitter.com/sumseattle/status/299958426950320128

So far, we’ve had a lot of fun playing with Vine and we definitely see the opportunity for businesses. Much like the business world’s adoption of Instagram, an app like this allows companies to show a little more of their personalities. The applications of Vine are endless and users are only bound by 6 seconds and their own creativity. All of that being said, there are a few bugs and missing features that should be addressed in version 2.0. Mashable put together a great list of desirable features and we couldn’t agree more.

Because Vine is so new, it’s a bit of a jungle out there. Besides people using the site for lascivious activities, it doesn’t have a firm identity, nor is there a clear understanding of what or how you should post. But where there’s uncertainty, there’s almost always opportunity. So download the app and give it a shot. Let your creativity run wild and I bet you’ll have more fun than you think.

Facebook Graph Search – People Who Like Cantaloupe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

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Facebook has always been a controversial company. Love it or hate it, chances are you have a profile of your own. The social giant has allowed us to reconnect with old friends, communicate more freely than ever before, and even keep tabs on our exes…if you are so inclined. The point is, Facebook means many different things to many different people – which is why no matter how many times Zuckerberg dangles his toe over the privacy line, his site still manages to add users faster than Honey Boo Boo goes through butter (my apologies in advance).

Joking aside, the Facebook privacy concerns have led users to wonder if Facebook is “out to get them”. The answer is: Maybe…but there’s no consensus. And Facebook’s latest site feature, Graph Search, follows that same pattern. Some consider it to be a boon for users and companies, while others think Graph Search represents the biggest privacy breech yet. I do not have an opinion either way and I’m going to reserve my judgement until I see how it affects both my personal and professional use of the site. Until then, I thought I’d break down some of the things we do know about the new feature and lend some perspective on how I believe it will affect businesses operating on Facebook.

So what is Graph Search? Simply put, it’s a more robust way to search and use Facebook. You can type full phrases into the search bar with multiple search parameters and Facebook pulls out the relevant information and returns more accurate and salient results. This marks a significant departure from the Facebook search functionality we’re used to. Instead of segmenting searches by People, Pages, Groups, Apps, etc., Graph Search allows you to combine search criteria to very specifically target the information you’re looking for.

Below are some screenshots from the Graph Search introduction page on Facebook. They lay out a few examples of possible searches.

Say you’re into cycling and want to connect with others that share that interest…

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You can further refine your search by location…

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You can also search for more obscure things, like photos that were taken in a specific year…

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Or look for TV shows, movies, or music that your friends like…

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And you can also look for restaurants or other businesses that your friends have been to, even in a specific location…

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The demonstration is impressive. Graph Search combines the customization of Google with the personal element of Facebook. And the flexibility allowed by the search parameters is exciting. The experience reminds me of Apple’s Siri feature. You speak to Siri as you would to a personal assistant (perhaps a little less politely) and she picks out the important information and commands. It is a more human way of interfacing with technology and it somehow makes the whole experience more comfortable. If Graph Search works as well as advertised, the result could be a revolutionary way to search the web and could have Google, Yelp, and others shaking in their boots.

But what does all of this mean for businesses? My guess is, businesses are salivating at the thought of Graph Search going live. With more users turning to Facebook to meet their web-search needs, the opportunity for your business page to be seen increases significantly. While demoing Graph Search, Zuckerberg encouraged businesses to continue adding interesting and updated content to their business pages. The richer and more accurate the content, the better his new search feature will perform. And if Graph Search is successful, Facebook will be able to command a higher price for ad space and, eventually, sponsored Graph Search results – a business model very similar to Google, the largest online advertiser in the world.

So who is the winner in all of this? Well, Facebook seems to think it’s everyone. Users get a better, more personalized way to search for information, businesses will have more people driven to their fan pages (based on searches by friends of fans that “like” the business’ page), and Facebook stands to make a ton of money in ad revenue. Believe it or not, if everything goes according to plan, I can see how all parties could benefit. The trick – as it usually is with Facebook – is to make sure that Graph Search minds its manners when it comes to privacy and doesn’t do anything to land on the scrapheap, next to Beacon.

Graph Search is still in Beta, but you can join the waiting list here. What do you think about Facebook’s new search feature? Is the idea tantalizing or alarming? As always, let me know in the comments section below!

Third-party Mobile Ads – Not Exactly a Christmas Miracle

People are in the buying mood. It’s the holiday season and everyone’s looking for the perfect gifts for friends and family members. This is the time of year that advertisers relish. People are just waiting to spend their money and if your product is decent enough, making sales can be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Unfortunately for Facebook, Mashable reports that rather than cashing in on the spending spirit, the social giant announced a halt on testing for their third-party mobile ad network. The ad network focuses on advertising within third-party mobile apps and could be compared to Google’s AdSense – the hope being that Facebook could significantly increase its ad volume without overwhelming its own mobile app users with advertisements.

Facebook – still searching for a way to leverage its more than 1 BILLION users to generate significant profits – is once again experiencing frustration and mild defeat. While still the largest social network in the world, their troubles are steadily becoming just as big.

Still embroiled in yet another privacy kerfuffle, it wouldn’t surprise me if this delay was the last straw and Zuckerberg swapped out his trademark grey hoodie for something even gloomier.

As for us Facebook and mobile app users, I’m not sure if this is a win or a loss. On the one hand, I’m not thrilled about Facebook cramming even more advertisements down my digital throat. But on the other hand, I’m beginning to detest the full-page, poor quality advertisements that keep popping up while I’m trying to get over 500,000 points on Subway Surfer.

“No, I do not want to buy ‘Dessert Maker’, thank you very much.”

So if Facebook develops a better way to display advertisements on mobile and can make them more targeted, I guess I would be open to that change, seeing as mobile advertising is an inevitability.

Either way, Facebook cannot be happy about the last week or so. Plagued by privacy issues and now forced to reallocate resources from their promising new ad platform to address their current Facebook-mobile ad woes, the holiday season seems to be a bit of a let-down for poor Facebook. And seeing as this is the season of giving, I think we should all help out everyone’s favorite social giant by clicking on a Facebook Timeline ad. Perhaps we can’t do anything about their mobile ad issues, but if we can find it in our hearts to spare a click, maybe we can help Scrooge McZuck have a merry Christmas, after-all.

p.s. Happy holidays from SUM :)

LinkedIn is Playing Catch-up, But New Company Pages Might be the Answer

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LinkedIn – referred to by some (us) as the boring little brother of Facebook and Twitter – has just gotten a little more interesting. They have rolled out a new set of features for their company pages and while they seemed to be a little behind the eight ball in the past, we think this launch just helped them make up a lot of ground.

The improvements are listed in the promotional email we received as follows:

  • Large brand image
  • Streamline design
  • Greater prominence for status updates
  • Featured posts

The email also mentions that the new and improved company pages now appear on LinkeIn’s mobile and iPad apps. Definitely a plus for enterprises using the site.

It seems like just yesterday I was writing a very similar blog post about Twitter. After Facebook and Google+ launched cover photo functionality for companies, the other two social giants weren’t far behind. But LinkedIn is hoping that the extra bells and whistles will attract even more companies to the site and increase traffic, which will hopefully increase their ad revenue.

Our first impression of the new company pages is a good one. They have a sleek look and the new cover photo, which they refer to as a “large branded image”, doesn’t overpower you when you arrive on the page. And as a company page administrator, you are easily able to share articles or post updates, right when you log in. Here’s what our company page now looks like after updating our page. 

SUM Page

Interested in which companies are on top of their social media presence, we started perusing LinkedIn, looking for companies that have already updated their pages. Here’s a screen shot of Dell’s new company page.

Dell Cover

Compare Dell’s page to Sony’s, who is obviously a little slower on the uptake. 

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Most companies’ pages still look like Sony’s. Compared to the sparkly, new pages of some of the companies that have already made the switch, they look a little drab…nothing new on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn claims that their newer page design better highlights the products and careers sections of a company’s profile. The site allows you to either list out your products/services or add multiple customized product photos that can be scrolled through after clicking on the “Products” tab on a company’s page. Only a few companies received a sneak peak and were allowed to make these adjustments early. Dell was one of those companies and made use of the scrolling image option (see below).

Dell Products 1

Dell Products 2

And while Sony was not let into the club early, they haven’t even take the time to list their products under the old layout. Tisk, tisk.

Sony Products

The LinkedIn update is definitely a positive one and a step in the right direction. Companies have been using Facebook to interact with customers for a long time now, but some Business-to-Business companies are still wondering if setting up and maintaining a Facebook page is worth it. They see value in connecting with people, but the CFO’s niece isn’t going to buy a million dollar airplane part. These new LinkedIn pages offer the branding opportunity that Facebook offers, but in a much more professional setting. This could be exactly what the social network needs to take the next step towards even more daily use. Well done, LinkedIn. We approve.

To give you a head-start on your new LinkedIn company page image, the dimensions are 646 x 220 pixels. And if you have any thoughts on LinkedIn’s new strategy for business customers, let us know in the comments section!

LinkedIn Ads: Are They Worth Paying For?

SUM was recently offered a $50 advertising credit for LinkedIn and, eager to increase our presence on the most popular business networking site on the planet, we decided to give it a shot. We have managed multiple ad campaigns using both Google Adwords and Facebook, but we had yet to try LinkedIn and were very interested in how their performance would stack up. 

The Good

Seemingly, LinkedIn has a lot going for it in the way of advertising; especially if you are selling less traditional, business-to-business products or services. The advertising platform gives you complete control over which users and companies see your ads. You can show different ads to different demographics by adjusting the filters, shown below.

LinkedIn1

Each category can be broken down by multiple factors, giving you a huge number of target combinations.

LinkedIn2

Also, the pricing is customizable and fairly reasonable. LinkedIn offers both CPC (Cost Per Click) and CPM (Cost Per Impression) ads, meaning you can choose to pay for only the ads that are clicked on or pay for every ad that appears on someone’s profile, in batches of 1,000. While there is always disagreement about which model is best, we have had good experiences with CPC using Google and Facebook, so we opted for that strategy. We are currently paying $2.13/click, definitely within the industry standard.

The Bad

The results of our campaign, I’m afraid, are quite grim. When using the CPC model, the metric of success discussed most often is the CTR or “Click Through Rate.” This rate is calculated by dividing the number of clicks your ad receives by the number of impressions your ad generated. For example, if your ad was viewed 1,000 times and was clicked on 10 times out of that 1000 views, your CTR would be 10/1000, or 1%. This seems low, but for some Google campaigns where ads are viewed thousands or millions of times per day, a 1% CTR can really add up. 

There is some variation when it comes to the average CTRs of Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn, but generally Google comes in first with a CTR of around 0.4%, Facebook is second with a CTR of 0.051%, and LinkedIn is last with a CTR of 0.025%. The internet average CTR is 0.1%, so Google is really the only player performing consistently better than the average internet ad. Now, there is a lot of variation based on the type of ad, the target market, and many other factors, so these are just high-level averages. 

Here’s the bad news: Currently, our LinkedIn campaign has a CTR of 0.00%. Yep, you read that right – ZERO percent. And of course, the argument could be made that we don’t have a compelling offer or our images aren’t interesting enough, but we did A/B testing with various images and copy to counter this. We also researched LinkedIn advertising best practices before launching our campaign. As the weeks went by and the clicks remained absent, we adjusted our copy and our images in hopes of grabbing someone’s attention, but to no avail. The evolution of our ads is included below. As you can see, towards the end, desperate times called for desperate measures.

We started with simple and informative ads to establish a baseline measurement.

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After a few weeks, we didn’t have any clicks so we went to plan B. A few LinkedIn gurus suggested posing a question in the headline. So we tried that…didn’t work.

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After about a month, it got downright silly.

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So after one month, our ads had generated more than 5,600 ad impressions and not a single person had clicked on one. After letting those numbers sink in and giving it some thought, I have 3 possible conclusions:

  1. We are actually terrible at marketing.
  2. There is something wrong with the functionality of the campaign (i.e. links are broken, measurement isn’t working, etc.)
  3. LinkedIn is horribly underperforming and, fundamentally, not a good advertising platform.

For the sake of our business and our egos, I’m going to dismiss number 1 immediately. Not because we are God’s gift to marketing or anything, but because we have had very positive marketing results with both Google and Facebook ad campaigns in the past. Number 2 is definitely a possibility, but impressions seem to be reported accurately and reliably and we have checked the links again and again and they never fail to open. If it were a technical issue, it would be a bizarre fluke and I would hope their tech or advertisement departments would have caught the mistake by now. Which brings me to number 3 and my estimation of why LinkedIn is failing so miserably. 

The Diagnosis

One of the fundamentals in marketing is evaluating a target’s buying mood. If I sold health insurance policies, I wouldn’t stand outside a grocery store to promote my business. Do the people shopping need health insurance? Sure. But there’s no way that I’m going to convince someone to purchase a policy from me if they’re just dashing into the store for a gallon of milk. They are not in the right buying mood, even if they are my exact target customer.

This is what I think is happening with LinkedIn. People turn to Google for answers and information. If they are actively seeking a solution that your business provides, they type their keywords into the search box, which triggers your ad and…presto! They click on your ad and you’re in business. People are in the mood to be sold to, so they are more likely to click on ads that appear. And while Facebook cannot replicate this model, they are able to rely heavily on testimonial marketing, so their ads are relatively successful. 

Unfortunately for LinkedIn, their website does not fundamentally work with either of these marketing methodologies and I believe this is why they’re falling behind when it comes to CTR. When users are on LinkedIn, they are interested in checking up on colleagues or updating their professional information. Often times they have a purpose or directive when on the site and it rarely involves buying anything. If they are looking for solutions, chances are they’re scoping out potential people to hire, rather than paying attention to the ads that pop up on their page, even if they are relevant to their company’s needs. They are not in the right buying mood.

Prognosis

Luckily for us, we didn’t have to pay for any of this. If we had been paying, I would be getting in touch with an account manager at LinkedIn instead of blogging about it. But because we’re conducting this experiment for free, it has actually yielded a lot of value…just not the kind of value we were looking for when we set out. What this month of testing has done is help confirm our suspicions about online advertising:

  1. Online advertising is a total numbers game. In order to reach any significant number of people, you have to be making hundreds of thousands of impressions a month.
  2. If you are going to pursue an online campaign (which we are not in any way advising against), there are definitely some rules you should follow, but a lot of success involves trial and error. 
  3. The best in the game is still Google, but there’s definitely room for Facebook, depending on the product.
  4. LinkedIn is not a site that gets the buying juices flowing, so we think your time on the site will be better spent posting relevant articles and cultivating long-term relationships with colleagues and industry leaders.

So is LinkedIn worth paying for? Well, it depends. If you use the CPC method, you only pay when you actually receive clicks, so you don’t lose anything if your campaign fails, other than your time.

If you are still keen on trying LinkedIn advertising, start with a few ads and monitor how it goes. We would recommend never paying by impressions because LinkedIn just doesn’t seem to get users in the buying mood, so you’ll probably end up wasting money on impressions that don’t actually leave much of an impression at all. LinkedIn is a great tool for many things but this experience has shown us that directly advertising to customers may not be one of them.

We’ll keep trying different combinations of images and copy and if things turn around, I’ll be sure to let you know. If anyone has had more luck with LinkedIn advertising, we’d love to hear about it! Write about your story in the comments section below and let’s get the dialogue going!

 

 

 

 

 

Myspace: They’re Bringing Sexy Back (Yeah)

Myspace owners Chris and Tim Vanderhook, along with Justin Timberlake, have debuted a preview of the new and improved Myspace.com and, to be honest, I’m actually quite impressed. They’ve essentially taken components of what has made several other social media giants successful (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest), and combined them in a slick, new layout that stays true to its original purpose: uniting artists and fans around their love of music. 

Header

 

Style Revamp

The first thing that struck me is the overhaul to the basics: background, coloring, typography, etc. The new look is polished, modern, and makes great use of negative space and differences in font size. By letting users customize their original Myspace pages, the site became an amalgamation of obnoxious color combinations and graphics, and it lacked brand consistency. It seems as though they’re moving away from this overuse of customization and, instead, offering users an interface they can all be content with. My first impression left me wondering “Why didn’t they do this sooner?”.

Profile Setup2

 Profile

 

Back to Basics

Myspace has helped launch the careers of many musicians and while a lot of the original users jumped ship when Facebook became popular, the core set of diehard musicians and their fans have stuck with the original social network and are about to be rewarded handsomely with a beautiful, new website. As a nod to its heritage and loyal users, Myspace has improved many aspects of its music-centered features and, again, updated everything with their new look. The preview shows a feature called “Mixes” – much like Facebook’s “Albums” –  that allows users to share photos and event information, all centered around playlists they’ve built. On the flip side, musicians are able to track fan activity and information relevant to their music in a new overview section of their fan info page. Justin Timberlake, an investor in Myspace, is featured heavily throughout the walkthrough and appears to be the celebrity face of the new publicity push. 

Mixes

Fan Map

Screen Shot 2012-09-28 at Sep 28, 10.37.17 AM 

The Stream

If Pinterest and Facebook’s Timeline had a baby, it would look like “The Stream”. It’s a collection of posts from your friends and artists you follow, but it’s presented in a very visual way, much like Pinterest. The Stream scrolls across the page horizontally, making for a unique user experience, but one that has yet to be tested en masse.

The Stream

 

Tweet That

And as if not to leave out Twitter, Myspace has incorporated trending topics and 140-character updates into their new site. The “Trending” feature is also presented in a Pinterest-like manner and it definitely captures your attention. And following the rest of their styling changes, their 140-character updates are bold and make use of interesting typography.

Trending140 Characters 

To SUM It Up

To say Myspace got a makeover is an understatement. You can tell they’ve been spending a lot of time collecting the best looks and features from their competition and are rolling it out in a new and exciting way, but one that stays true to their musical background. Who knows if they can be a contender once again…but they’re definitely on the right track.

New Myspace

To preview the new Myspace, click here