Friday Apr 11, 2014

Twitter Advertising: 15 New Ways to Bet on Your Content

Reality check: like Facebook, Twitter has to make money.  And in the absence of charging users a subscription fee to use it, that money has to come from Twitter advertising.


The profitless Twitter makes most of its revenue from advertising, $219.6 million in Q4, which doubles the previous year’s numbers. So it occurred to them that if they offered you marketers more advertising products and options, that number would only go higher.


Enter 15, count ‘em, 15 new ad plays that will be coming your way from Twitter over the next 6 months. And from the reports so far, if your goals are downloads, subscriptions, or purchases, these products will speak more to your needs than existing offerings.


Expect most of these products to be fueled by the Twitter Card technology, which allows functionality to be programmed into tweets. This allows for a world of one-click calls-to-action not possible in regular tweets, which, given the speed and immediacy with which people use the platform, is almost a must to capture desired engagement. Users can download an app, get someone on the phone, make a purchase, sign up for a contest, etc.


But the big question: will Twitter users think these are cool opportunities? Or will they see them as highly intrusive, annoying ads? That depends a great deal on what you do.


Twitter hasn’t really upped the ad content since their first product in 2010, and that’s because they’ve been pretty diligent about the user experience. So far their ad products have not done damage, but these new 15 do represent risk. As it is, a Deutsche Bank Securities report showed 85% of users said the ads they get aren’t relevant.


So Twitter and you marketers are about to jump into the unknown together. These ads must be targeted and relevant. They must be served up at just the right rate. And they must be of quality; meaning what it always means for content - it entertains, it informs, or it offers something of real value. Put out flops and you inflict damage to both Twitter and your brand.


In short, when it comes to Twitter advertising you’re about to pay to get your content in front of more user eyeballs, and in so doing you’re placing a bet that said content is going to be appreciated and welcomed, not a user experience downer.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Jun 28, 2013

Social Network Updates: While You Were Busy Marketing 2

biz showerSince social moves at the speed of data, it’s already time for another update, as we did back in April, on the changes the various social networks have made or gone through while you were busy marketing.

Facebook

There’s a lot of talk Facebook’s developing a mobile product to act like Flipboard and surface news, from both users and media outlets.

The biggest news was Facebook/Instagram’s introduction of 15-second videos, enhanced with with filters, to take some of Vine’s candy. You can also delete parts of videos and rerecord them, and there’s image stabilization.

Facebook’s ad revenue is coming along just fine, thank you very much. 35% quarter-to-quarter growth in Q2. And it looks like new formats like Mobile App Install Ads and Unpublished Page Posts are adding to the mix.

If you don’t already, you’ll soon see a little camera in comment boxes letting you insert photos right into the comments you make. The drive toward “more visual” continues.

The other big news is Facebook’s adoption of our Twitter friend, the hashtag. Adding # sets apart the post topic so it can be easily found or discovered. It’s also being added to Google Plus, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

Twitter

Want to send someone a promoted tweet when they’re in range of your store? That could be happening by the end of this year.

Some users have been seeing automatic in-stream previews of images on Twitter.com. Right now it’s images in your own tweets, but we can assume all tweets are next.

Get your followers organized! Twitter raised the limit on the number of lists you can create from 20 to 1,000. They also raised the number of accounts you can have in a list from 500 to 5,000.

Twitter started notifying you when someone favorites a tweet you’re mentioned in or re-tweets a tweet you re-tweeted. Anyway, it’s the first time Twitter’s notified you about indirect interactions like that.

Who’s afraid of Instagram? A study shows 6-second Vine videos are being posted to Twitter at the rate of 9/second, up from 5/second 2 months ago. Vine has over 13 million users and branded Vines are 4x more likely to be shared than video ads.

Google Plus

Now featuring a 3-column redesigned stream, and images that take up a whole column. And photo filters Auto Highlight and Auto Awesome work to turn your photos into a real show.

Google Hangouts is the workhorse for all Google messaging now, it’s not just an online chat with 9 people anymore.

Google Plus Dashboard improves the connection between your company’s Google Plus business page and your Google Plus Local. Updates go out across all Google properties and you can do your managing from the dashboard.

With Google Plus’ authorship system, you can build “Author Rank” based on what you write and put on the web. If your stuff is +1’ed and shared a lot, you’re the real deal and there are search result benefits.

LinkedIn

"Who's Viewed Your Updates" shows you what you’ve shared recently, who saw it and what they did about it in real-time.

Influencers” is, well, influential. Traffic to all LI news products has gone up 8x since it was introduced. LinkedIn is quickly figuring out how to get users to stick around awhile.

You and your brand can post images and documents in status updates now. In fact, that whole “document posting” thing is making some analysts wonder if LinkedIn will drift on over to the Dropboxes and YouSendIts of the world.

C’mon, admit it. Your favorite part of LinkedIn is being able to see who’s viewed your profile. Now you’ve got even more info and can see what/who you have in common. Premium users get even deeper insights about how people are finding them.

If you’re a big fan of security, you’ll love that LinkedIn started offering two-factor authentication (2FA). It’s optional, but step 2 is a one-time code texted to your registered mobile.

Pinterest

A study showed pins have a looong shelf life compared to other social net posts. “Clicks kept coming for 30 days and beyond.” Most pins are timeless, and the infinite scroll causes people to see older pins.

Is it a keeper? Pinterest jumped 82% to 54 million users in the past year. It’s valued at $2.5 billion and is one of the biggest sources of referral traffic there is. That said, CEO Ben Silbermann adds, "Right now, we don't make money."

A new search feature stops you from having to endlessly scroll through your own pins looking for that waterfall picture you posted. Simply select “just my pins” in the search bar.

New "Rich Pins" lets brands add info like price and availability to pins that can be updated daily via a data feed from your merchant site. Not so fast, you have to apply to Pinterest for it first.

Like other social nets, Pinterest does not allow sexual content, nudity, or even partial nudity. However…some art contains nudity, and Pinterest wants to allow art. What constitutes “art” will be judged by…what we have to assume are Pinterest employees who love their job.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng, Tim Marmon

Tuesday Apr 30, 2013

Social Network Updates: While You Were Busy Marketing

many phonesYou’re a busy, powerful social marketer, so you may not have time to track every little change the social networks make. And they make a lot of them. Since these trends can inspire and inform strategy for brands, let’s look at some recent developments with 4 of the big ones.

Facebook

Facebook’s moves continue to underscore their growing self-image as a mobile company.

  • Facebook Home, an Android overlay that lives across the operating system, piqued enough curiosity that it got well over 500,000 downloads on Google Play right out of the gate. It’s preloaded in many phones. But do users like it? The average rating has been around 2.2 stars out of 5.
  • Facebook made your brand pages look different on mobile.  Some say it’s about the “Yelpification” of Facebook. It’s easier for your customers to see your hours, get a map, check prices, check ratings, contact you and like or recommend you. It’s more visual and pinned posts are prominent, but…no tabs.
  • On the iOS app, users now see the same choices for viewing their News Feed as they have on desktop.  The dropdown lets them get Most Recent, All Friends, Following, Pages, and other sorting options. Some users have a list for the brand pages they follow. Let’s hope they check that one a lot.

Twitter

Twitter’s developments have mostly been about going beyond text-based messaging toward being a gateway for all online multimedia content.

  • Twitter Music launched, a way for music lovers to use Twitter to find and enjoy music and artists.  They’re open to more music sources, but right now streams come from iTunes, Rdio and Spotify. Basically, it uses Twitter activity to see what tunes you might like and plugs you in to music and artists your fave artists follow and tweet about.
  • There’s talk Twitter’s getting into local tweet discovery. If they execute this take on letting users see tweets from a certain radius around them, whether they follow the tweeters or not, that gets interesting for brands who want to tweet offers to nearby users.
  • Twitter made a deal with the sizable Starcom MediaVest Group that will give its clients access to special ad opportunities on and with Twitter. Those in the know look at this plus Twitter’s keyword targeting and see a commitment from the little blue bird to play ball with marketers so everybody’s nest gets feathered.

Google Plus

King of the “should we or shouldn’t we increase the amount of attention we pay to this” platforms. The value prop, G+’s integration with other Google products, continues.

  • If you open a Google Drive file, now you’ll see G+ profile shots of the others looking at it.  Mouse over the pic and you’ll get the person’s G+ card, cover image, and which circle you put them in. It’s all about making Google Plus a key integrated collaboration tool.
  • Most still use Facebook to log in to websites, but a Janrain report says Google Plus' share went from 31 to 34% quarter to quarter. Google’s also shutting down its acquired Meebo Bar in June. Google Plus tools will then serve as the user/website matchmaker.
  • But they also want Google Plus to be fun!  So now when you put a photo up on your G+ account, you see an emoticon option that (get this) analyzes the expressions on the faces in the photo and assigns each an emoticon that goes over their heads. Let me answer what may be your first question, yes you can turn it off.

LinkedIn

Linked in turns 10 in May and is enjoying nice growth; revenue and profit up 80% in 2012 and 200 million users. LinkedIn knows what it does and doesn’t want to be.

  • The new Linkedin Contacts pulls all your contacts from various sources into one place. You can make notes about each, get details of past interactions, be alerted to meetings and birthdays, and sort on the fly based on several criteria. Info automatically updates when changed on the sourced platform. Not included: Twitter & Facebook contacts. LinkedIn wants to be all business.
  • LinkedIn is also quite aware mobile is where it’s happening.  A revamped mobile app features big visual improvements and works hard to deliver users content informed by their profiles and habits.
  • Speaking of content, LinkedIn has made big moves toward being a key content provider for business.  They acquired newsreader Pulse to “be the definitive professional publishing platform.” That gets added to LinkedIn Today and the ability to subscribe to the content of Influencers.

You have now been quickly caught up on which way the social network development winds are blowing. Therefore, we expect you to be even more busy and powerful.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Mar 01, 2013

Will You Wither on the Vine?

grapesNow that Vine, the video app acquired by Twitter in October 2012, has had time to apply some updates, reach proper levels of usage and absorb feedback, where might it wind up on the “Scale of Social Importance” for brands? (There is no such scale. I totally made it up.)

Vine takes the concept of restricting content exhibited in the Twitter character limit, and applies it to video. Vine videos don’t go beyond 6 seconds. They’re looped, meaning they automatically repeat, not unlike the animated GIFs so iconic of Tumblr. And they do begin playing automatically.

But the bottom line is, you have 6 seconds to thrill, entertain, amuse, inform, and communicate your message. The adoption of Vine videos further illustrates how the public has been telling us they want to consume content. They like video…and they like it to be easy to make, easy to watch, and easy to share. Vine speaks to all these things.

Which plops the ball right back in our court as brands. We have to decide if we’re going to play by the consumer’s rules and make the kind of content they like, on the platforms they like, or not.

If production costs are why your brand hasn’t gotten deep into generating video for your social channels, Vine takes away some of that argument. The audience isn’t necessarily looking for “slick” or big budget. They don’t expect George Clooney to appear in your Vine video. You simply record by holding down a button on your device, starting and stopping if you like, until your 6 seconds is up.

The end result looks like something like these examples of Vine video.

We’re still a ways from seeing if user-generated Vine videos can be monetized with ads from us marketers. An AdAge article poses the absurdity of putting a 15-second pre-roll in front of content that’s only 6 seconds. Frankly, there are those that argue such pre-rolls in front of 1:15 videos on YouTube exceed the proper limits of exasperation. But there they are.

Aside from UGC Vine video contests, that leaves brand-created videos holding the most “marketing usage of Vine” potential. Notice how every hot trend and advancement in social points in the same direction? Content and creativity is everything.

With that truth embraced, your awesome Vine videos can be shared to fans and followers on Vine, Facebook and Twitter. They can find additional exposure on a variety of different startups that focus on Vine video discovery and search-ability. These create environments of channel surfing on steroids, short-attention-span theatre.

The differentiator between success and failure for brands is the same as for rank and file users - imagination. Many Vine videos are awful, a complete waste of the viewer’s valuable 6 seconds. Co-founder of Viddy, JJ Aguhob, points out there’s a diminishing pool of quality content for an ever-expanding audience. That’s spells opportunity for your brand to be one of the more valued Vine video content providers.

The job is really the same as it’s always been on social - keep the content relevant, cool, and worthwhile. Vine is simply another new, albeit shorter, way to do that.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Jan 18, 2013

5 Co$ts of Lousy Twitter Engagement

dead endTo be blunt (when am I not?), brands are blowing it when it comes to social engagement.  But right behind the bluntness, there’s good news. Technology tools are here to turn social engagement & monitoring into an asset instead of a liability.

An Acquity Group study reveals 45 out of 50 major retailers have active Twitter accounts. That’s good, right? Maybe not. Only 29% of them respond to customer questions and complaints. Let’s really soak that in. 71% are completely ignoring customers that liked the brand so much, they willingly clicked to connect with them. Which brings us to…

Co$t 1: Breaking your Customer’s Heart
In the hierarchy of human fears, only failure and death top the fear of rejection. Imagine expressing your affection for someone, and they ignore you. How warm and fuzzy do you think ignored followers feel toward a brand they expressed love for? In an era where customer service is the whole ball game, and with customers more empowered than ever, rejection is a very odd strategy to adopt.

Co$t 2: Helping your Competition Win
If you ignore your customers, make no mistake, a competing product will be ready to receive them with open arms. They’ll be going out of their way to prove they’re not like you, that they’ll treat the customer better. You’re giving your competition an engraved invitation to erase you.

Co$t 3: Being too Busy to Make Money
Brands not only have to sell, they have to sell again. Happy customers are the root of repeat buying. Repeat customers are very cost-efficient. All you have to do is reasonably service them. Ignoring a customer tweet is like coming right out and saying on your phone line, “Hold if you want to, your call really isn’t that important to us.” These people are trying to spend money with you, ignoring them on social costs leads and sales.

Co$t 4: Creating Anti-ambassadors
We know how powerful word of mouth marketing is. But word of mouth brand-bashing is even more powerful. Give someone a horrible experience on phone support, and that’s between the two of you (you hope). Give someone a horrible experience on social, and the world is watching how you treat customers. Social is where users go to advise each other. It’s a dangerous place to put your worst foot forward.

Co$t 5: Stopping Innovation
Your customers know your products intimately. They’re in the trenches with them every day. They know their strengths and weaknesses. They want to help you make your products, and your service, better. They want you to win. If you’re committed to not listening, or if you perceive suggestions as attacks, you’re passing on a raving fan base the likes of which you never thought possible.

None of the above costs are necessary. Social engagement & monitoring can give you listening, engagement and analysis capabilities across not just Twitter, but all social channels, so you can know what customers are saying, route issues to the right personnel, respond in real time, and not even give customers the chance to consider competitors. Armed with monitoring data, you can then measure overall sentiment, adjust strategy to changing customer conversations, and grow your brand advocacy.

The days of brands calling all the shots are over. The public has decided how they will use social where brands are concerned. If we aren’t there or don’t answer when they reach out, there is a price to be paid.

@mikestiles
Photo: istockphoto

Tuesday Dec 11, 2012

Where Twitter Stands Heading Into 2013

2013 keyAs Twitter continued throughout 2012 to be a stage on which global politics and culture played itself out, the company itself underwent some adjustments that give us a good indication of what users and brands can expect from the platform in 2013.

The power of the network did anything but fade. Celebrities continued to use it to connect one-on-one. Even the Pope signed on this year. It continued to fuel revolutions. It played an exponentially large factor in this US Presidential election. And around the world, the freedom to speak was challenged as users were fired, sued, sometimes even jailed for their tweets.

Expect more of the same in 2013, as Twitter has entrenched itself, for individuals, causes and brands, as the fastest, easiest, most efficient way to message the masses so some measure of impact can come from it. It’s changed everything, and it’s not finished.

These fun facts reveal the position of strength with which Twitter enters 2013:

  • It now generates a billion tweets every 2.5 days
  • It has 500 million+ users
  • The average Twitter user has tweeted 307 times
  • 32% of everyone using the Internet uses Twitter
  • It’s expected to bring in $540 million in ad revenue by 2014
  • 11 new accounts are created every second

High-level Executive Summary: people love it, people use it, and they’re going to keep loving and using it.

Whether or not outside developers love it is a different matter. 2012 marked a shift from welcoming the third party support that played at least some role in Twitter being so warmly embraced, to discouraging anything that replicates what Twitter can do itself…or plans to do itself. It’s not the open playground it once was. Now Twitter must spend 2013 proving it can innovate in-house and keep us just as entranced.

Likewise, Twitter is distancing itself from Facebook. Images from the #1 platform’s Instagram don’t work on Twitter anymore, and Twitter’s rolling out their own photo filter product. Where the two have lived in a “plenty of room for everybody” symbiosis up to now, 2013 could see the giants ramping up a full-on rivalry.

Twitter is exhibiting a deliberate strategy. Updates have centered on more visually appealing search results, and making finding and sharing content easier. Deals have been cut with some media entities so their content stands out. CEO Dick Costolo has said tweets aren’t the attraction, they’re what leads you to content. Twitter aims to be a key distributor of media and info. Add the addition of former News Corp. President Peter Chernin to the board, and their hashtag landing page experience for events, and their media behemoth ambitions get pretty clear.

There are challenges ahead and Costolo has also laid those out; entry into China, figuring out how to have Twitter deliver both comprehensive and relevant, targeted experiences, and the visualization of big data.

What does this mean for corporations? They can expect a more media-rich evolution and growing emphases on imagery. They can expect more opportunities to create great media content and leverage Twitter for its distribution. And they can expect new ways to surface in searches.

Are brands diving in? 56% of customer tweets to companies get completely and totally ignored. Ugh. A study Twitter recently conducted with Compete shows people who see tweets from retailers are more likely to buy a product. And, the more retailer tweets they see, the more likely they are to purchase on the retail site. As more of those tweets point to engaging media content from the brand, the results should get even better.

Twitter appears ready for 2013. Enterprise brands have some work to do.

@mikestiles
Photo Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net

Friday Sep 21, 2012

How to Hashtag (Without Being #Annoying)

chimpThe right tool in the wrong hands can be a dangerous thing. Giving a chimpanzee a chain saw would not be a pretty picture. And putting Twitter hashtags in the hands of social marketers who were never really sure how to use them can be equally unattractive.

Boiled down, hashtags are for search and organization of tweets. A notch up from that, they can also be used as part of a marketing strategy.

In terms of search, if you’re in the organic apple business, you want anyone who searches “organic” on Twitter to see your posts about your apples. It’s keyword tactics not unlike web site keyword search tactics. So get a clear idea of what keywords are relevant for your tweet.

It’s reasonable to include #organic in your tweet. Is it fatal if you don’t hashtag the word? It depends on the person searching. If they search “organic,” your tweet’s going to come up even if you didn’t put the hashtag in front of it. If the searcher enters “#organic,” your tweet needs the hashtag. Err on the side of caution and hashtag it so it comes up no matter how the searcher enters it.

You’ll also want to hashtag it for the second big reason people hashtag, organization. You can follow a hashtag. So can the rest of the Twitterverse. If you’re that into organic munchies, you can set up a stream populated only with tweets hashtagged #organic. If you’ve established a hashtag for your brand, like #nobugsprayapples, you (and everyone else) can watch what people are tweeting about your company.

So what kind of hashtags should you include? They should be directly related to the core message of your tweet. Ancillary or very loosely-related hashtags = annoying. Hashtagging your brand makes sense. Hashtagging your core area of interest makes sense. Creating a specific event or campaign hashtag you want others to include and spread makes sense (the burden is on you to promote it and get it going).

Hashtagging nearly every word in the tweet is highly annoying. Far and away, the majority of hashtagged words in such tweets have no relevance, are not terms that would be searched, and are not terms needed for categorization. It looks desperate and spammy. Two is fine. One is better. And it is possible to tweet with --gasp-- no hashtags!

applesMake your hashtags as short as you can. In fact, if your brand’s name really is #nobugsprayapples, you’re burning up valuable, limited characters and risking the inability of others to retweet with added comments. Also try to narrow your topic hashtag down. You’ll find a lot of relevant users with #organic, but a lot of totally uninterested users with #food.

Just as you can join online forums and gain credibility and a reputation by contributing regularly to that forum, you can follow hashtagged topics and gain the same kind of credibility in your area of expertise. Don’t just parachute in for the occasional marketing message. And if you’re constantly retweeting one particular person, stop it. It’s kissing up and it’s obvious.

Which brings us to the king of hashtag annoyances, “hashjacking.” This is when you see what terms are hot and include them in your marketing tweet as a hashtag, even though it’s unrelated to your content. Justify it all you want, but #justinbieber has nothing to do with your organic apples.

Equally annoying, piggybacking on a popular event’s hashtag to tweet something not connected to the event. You’re only fostering ill will and mistrust toward your account from the people you’ve tricked into seeing your tweet. Lastly, don’t @ mention people just to make sure they see your tweet. If the tweet’s not for them or about them, it’s spammy.

What I haven’t covered is use of the hashtag for comedy’s sake. You’ll see this a lot and is a matter of personal taste. No one will search these hashtagged terms or need to categorize then, they’re just there for self-expression and laughs. Twitter is, after all, supposed to be fun.  What are some of your biggest Twitter pet peeves? #blogsovernow

Tuesday Aug 21, 2012

Social Content: Creativity + Common Sense

Are you stuck trying to figure out how to generate a consistent flow of quality content?  You're not alone.  Here are some the reason why brands get stuck and a formula for getting un-stuck. 

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