Greg Lyon

08/31/2010

Oh, The Places You'll Search Engine Market

Greg Lyon // in Strategy

Facebook Places You'll GoSpurred by recent developments at Google, Facebook, and fellow Vodorian Chris Michael's Foursquare activity (seriously dude, being the mayor of an incorrectly spelled comedy club is not something to be proud of), it became clear to me as a search engine marketer that an increased focus on geo-aware apps and services could mean serious shifts in the way we use searchable content to reach our target audiences. Only time will tell if the recent announcement of Facebook Places unleashes industry-wide plate tectonics of Pangean proportions, but at the very least it's valuable to explore how local your online marketing efforts might become. 

Despite widespread concerns that popular check-in services like Foursquare, Gowalla, and even Yelp are nothing more than the 21st century equivalent of Big Brother, there's no doubting that they're addictive, fun, and growing in popularity.

The recent announcement of Facebook Places, the long-awaited location-based service from the social network that boasts 500 million active users, means things are getting serious. According to an article in AdAge Digital, Borell claims that location-based ad spending will hit $4 billion in 2015, up from $34 million in 2009, and Paul Feng from Google claims that 1/3 of all Google searches have local intent.

Making Cents of Check-Ins

So what, exactly, does this mean for online marketers? For one, it could mean an increased focus on mobile advertising platforms. The two biggest mobile ad players, Google and Apple, are certainly placing their bets on an explosion of mobile advertising dollars. As users spend more time on geo-aware apps and services, surprising them with locally relevant ad content may prove invaluable.

It could also mean a slew of new local optimization techniques. Companies like Twitter, Yelp, and Flickr have proved that it's now second nature for any popular Internet service to include automatic geotagging features. These features accumulate mounds of searchable, location-based information. As Google continues to test integrating local search results with a redesigned landing page, it might become important to reconsider online marketing campaign strategies for companies that regard themselves as location-agnostic. As the Yellow Pages moves to the cloud (see: Facebook Business pages, LinkedIn profiles, and Google's Places Directory) being able to rank high for locally directed search terms, even if you're an international gum manufacturer, will be increasingly significant.

But When Will Location-Based Services Actually Improve my Life?

Check-ins are fun, but other than improving your probability of randomly meeting a friend at a public place, does it really satisfy a basic human need? That's debatable, but it's not to say that check-in services aren't a platform for something bigger and better.

Companies like PlaceCast and DashMob are exploring ways of sending instantaneous, automatic coupon and sale information unique to the geofences you enter. This takes the "bother" of checking-in away; being in a certain proximity to different retailers results in automatic notifications of deals you might be interested in. Think Groupon for the few city blocks around your house. Think Foursquare's competitive game-like check-in mentality bundled with the shopping comparison power of snapping photos of bar codes in scanner apps.

Who knows, maybe this could even translate to a barrage of mobile Facebook ads in your previously uninterrupted friend-stalking adventures. And if that doesn't catch your attention, I don't know what will.

 

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The face of Vodori.

08/13/2010

UI Updates: Google Versus Facebook

Matt Strick // in Strategy

Every time Facebook makes user interface changes, people hate it. When Google makes a change, there is almost no reaction. And there's a reason for that.

Facebook is really lucky to be in a position where no matter the controversy (exposing personal data, stolen ideas, site redesigns), they keep growing. They've recently hit 500 million users. The struggling individual user's anger over relearning the site layout is overridden by his or her desire to stay connected with the community. In a lot of markets, users would just switch to another product. So I have come to expect an uproar when changes appear on such a well-used application. Not so with Google's Gmail.

The Gmail Update

Gmail gets an update, and while admittedly it would take a lot to turn away their 40+ million users, nobody seems to care. It is possible that the changes are being overshadowed by other announcements, including Google Wave and the open Internet policy. But the real reason no one has much of a problem is because the change to the site is so small. Keeping it so limited has the added bonus of highlighting the new features for the user. By keeping so much the same, the change gets magnified. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and found a shiny new box in your room, but everything else was the same. You might be skeptical, you might be angry, you might be excited, but you would still go examine it. You could figure out how to deal with that box being in your room.

Facebook Transformations

Apply the same analogy to the way Facebook makes changes. You wake up tomorrow, and not only is your room rearranged, but the door has moved and the windows that used to face west are now on the east. This might be exactly the way you would have set things up in the beginning if everything could be made to your own specifications. But it would be hard to handle because you did not get to make the decision. Somebody else came in when you were sleeping and changed a lot of the rules. And even worse, you might not even realize that now there is a new feature available, because you are too busy trying to find your pants and get out the door.

The Takeaway

Not many of us have 500 million users to appease. However, it is important to be sensitive to your target audience with each change to your site. Does it significantly disrupt their regular interaction without a noticeable improvement in functionality or performance? If so, have the patience to update gradually. Give users shiny new features, one at a time. Don't uproot them into a completely new home overnight.

 

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Rob DeMento

06/08/2010

Does Social Media Drive Purchasing?

Rob DeMento // in Strategy

Show me a tool that accurately measures the causal connection between Social Media and actual purchase behavior, and I'll show you the next internet billionaire.

Perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, but there is a thirst for this information that is going unquenched in the marketplace.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about my take on Social Media and its importance in enabling companies to listen to their customers and enhance the awareness feedback loop. At the time of that writing I had an article from AdvertisingAge in the back of my mind. That article discussed the importance of having fans on Facebook, and the title stated its conclusion fairly succinctly: "Nielsen: Facebook's Ads Work Pretty Well; When Social Ads Collide with Stated Interests, Awareness Goes Up."

While I wanted to use that article as a point of reference for my last blog post, given my pre-established view on the importance of the awareness feedback loop, my reaction to the article was what you might expect. Duh.

By way of background, Facebook and Nielsen have formed a partnership that - as the Wall Street Journal describes – is a "step to address advertisers' frustration with measuring how ads perform on the social network." According to the WSJ, under the partnership, Facebook will begin polling its users about its ads and then provide the data to Nielsen who will package it for advertisers. The AdvertisingAge article mentioned above was a report on the first public study to come out of the collaboration between the two companies.

'Our partner's ads work well'... Obvious. And biased.

Now, call me a cynic, but not only is the conclusion of the study obvious, it does seem a little self-serving and biased on the part of both Facebook and Nielsen, who have a vested interest in the study's outcome. That overarching concern aside, in reaching its conclusion the study does demonstrate more scientific numbers on "intent to purchase". If Nielsen wanted to do a study that was truly impactful and additive to the body of research on the value of Social Media, it would show a causal connection between the "intent to purchase" and actual purchasing behavior.

That said, I can't say I was shocked by the conclusion of the article, in which Jon Gibbs, VP of Media Analytics at Nielsen, said that Nielsen focused on purchase intent "because this is the first generation of this research," and that in the next generations of research actual purchase behavior and transactional data would be a part of the analysis.

But how, Jon Gibbs? How?

There are so many variables to this analysis that it seems too daunting and/or cumbersome to perform accurately. How do you measure the connection between a person's brand awareness derived from Social Media, and Amazon, for example? How do you measure the connection between a brick and mortar store purchases and Social Media awareness? Is it through good ole' fashioned surveys? Can you scientifically determine a person's actual purchase behavior and the portion attributable to Social Media channels?

How would you go about the analysis? Do you have the answer?

Are you the next internet billionaire?

 

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The face of Vodori.

04/27/2010

Harnessing Social Media

Ben Miraski // in Strategy

You built your new website; you have announced its presence, now what?

Most companies are venturing onto Facebook to stay connected with customers and give another "face" to their brands. But that comes with a cost – someone has to update that content, or monitor what is being said on the brand's wall.

So what is the payoff?

According to a recent article in Brandweek, social media company Vitrue has determined that 1,000,000 fans on Facebook can generate the traffic equivalent of $3.6 MM in ad spending over a year.

Not every brand can build a fan base that large, but even on a smaller scale, investing the time in building and connecting with the social crowd can pay off.

Facebook fans could be among the first to hear about new products, new services and other promotions companies could run. For example, Buffalo Wild Wings recently ran a Facebook fan-only coupon to drive traffic into the stores.

While the article references two touchpoints per day with the fans, smaller companies, or companies with more tailored fan bases could probably reap similar benefits from as few as two per week.

Items to consider when reaching out to your fans:

  1. Announce new content on your website on Facebook to drive traffic. If you aren't generating enough new content, you may want to think about how stale your site itself is becoming.
  2. Highlight a different product each month, perhaps bundled with a promotion.
  3. Solicit fan testimonials to encourage fan-to-fan participation.

Most importantly, keep the conversation going. Your fans and your marketing budget will thank you for it.

 

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