Tagged: Social

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

 

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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!

2013…The Year of Change

Today we’re going to do something a little different. We will be covering a topic that is a slight departure from our normal content, but one that is very important to us as a company – the topic of social responsibility in business. Our own Buddy Waddington recently traveled abroad to participate in the world’s most socially-minded leadership conference and he prepared a post about his experience and how he feels this business movement will affect the marketing and startup worlds.

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Buddy&Yunus

Buddy with Nobel Laureate, Muhammad Yunus

This fall I had the great honor of being selected as a Young Challenger at this year’s Global Social Business Summit. This is the leading forum for social business, worldwide, and brings together experts from corporations, civil society, governments, and academia. The day prior to the summit, selected Young Challengers – youth under 25 from around the world – meet to discuss the concept of social business. They then attend the main summit, armed with questions and perspectives aimed at challenging the political and corporate leaders in attendance, regarding their vision for the future. This year, the event was held in Vienna, Austria. And it was amazing.

One of the reasons it was so amazing was that it made me realize that things are changing for branding, marketing, and for startups. And I have spent a lot of time in the new year pondering this global change.

Social business is a growing concept, where basic for-profit business principles are used to solve social problems. You can imagine that the businesses and individuals present were not lacking in innovation or motivation. In talking with these socially-minded individuals from all over the world, I realized that things are changing for startups and branding because all attendees – entrepreneurs, government officials, corporate executives, and more – see the value and potential of making social impact and responsibility a core principle within business. And the emphasis on social purpose wasn’t to support a CSR initiative or to “shut the hippies up”, as the villain from the first Ironman movie would say, it was to fundamentally define the value of a business.

If you took ECON 101, you may recall that business SHOULD be fundamentally responsible and sustainable and based on a principle called a comparative advantage, wherein a successful business or partnership raises the value and, therefore, standard of life for all stakeholders involved. And these stakeholders include more than just the investor and the customer – additionally, the environment, all of the employees, and every community within the supply chain. When discussing business in its purest form, one should consider all of these entities when evaluating the true sustainability and overall value of a company.

In recent months, thinking about these fundamentals of business have helped reform my opinion of what business can and should be, especially in the startup space. Due to the recent recession and the post-internet bubble in which we live, startups are required to show true, fundamental value to their stakeholders. This has evolved from showing revenue potential to showing actual revenue flow and my recent experience makes me think that this trend will continue. In order to be successful, startups will require a real sustainable strategy and one that makes considerations for every stakeholder – customers, investors, employees, and the surrounding environment.

And I’m not the only one thinking about this. Edelman recently released their “2012 goodpurpose Study”, where they shed light upon this change. For 5 years, the PR giant has researched consumer attitudes around social purpose, including commitment to specific issues as well as their expectations of brands and corporations. This massive study confirms that “brands and companies today cannot just be responsive, they must be responsible.” They propose that purpose is a new paradigm – a possible fifth “P” of marketing.

Simply put, a company that is responsible will ultimately produce the best value. And consumers, investors, and entrepreneurs, alike, are starting to understand that. “Business as usual” is changing, which means so is branding, marketing, and the startup space.

Learn more about what my experience at GSBS 2012 was all about on my guest post for the Foster School of Business Blog.

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 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.

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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!