Monetising Social Media

Author: Hamish Anderson

The rise and rise of social media platforms has caused much excitement amongst marketers and consumers alike. The ability to reach out and connect with like-minded individuals (as a consumer) or to better communicate and listen to your target audience has proven invaluable to a large number of people and businesses. Consumers now have the ability to share opinions and advice through micro-blogging platforms such as twitter. They can share their location with friends through apps such as Foursquare or can share pictures effortlessly through numerous portals such as Facebook, MySpace or Picasa.

Knowing this, companies have strived to engage their audience using these platforms, providing feedback, answers, conducting competitions and so forth. But where one of the bigger opportunities – in my opinion – has laid dormant is in the use of applications like Foursquare. Whilst Foursquare itself may be able to monetise it’s platform, to date, it has not been easy for companies using the platform to generate solid income from it. And therein lies the problem (for companies on Foursquare or other social platforms).  Sure, companies have used it as a tool for promotions (eg http://mumbrella.com.au/42-below-uses-shaggy-for-one-green-bean-social-media-birthday-chase-34182) or to create ‘loyalty programs’ (http://techcrunch.com/2010/02/12/foursquare-gets-lucky-magazine/), or to stay in touch and have more ‘loyalists’  but no company has been able to monetise it to the advantage of the user and the company.

Enter a relatively new player….ShopKick, which is in its beta phase in America (partnered with Best Buy, Macy’s, American Eagle, Sports Authority and major malls for now). Similar in many ways to Foursquare – in so much as it uses a check-in system – the Shopkick model seeks to:

  • Be a platform for consumers to share (check in locations)
  • Provide benefit to the customer/user through timely presentation of data
  • Give firms/marketers the opportunity to be part of the conversation with marketers.
  • Monetise social media

Shopkick’s aim

According to their own website, “shopkick is the first mobile app that gives you rewards and offers simply for walking into stores. You can collect kickbucks and bonuses at nearly all places around you”.

And looking at the demonstration http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/03/shopkick/ it really does look simple to use and pretty cool. However, unlike Foursquare, which requires you to manually check in to receive points, with Shopkick simply switching on the app and walking into a participating store is enough to start collecting points and receiving specials available in that outlet.

So, as a business you now have the opportunity to install the hardware which will allow you to stream specials to customers and reward them, even if all they do is window shop through your store. Quite cool really. Not only can businesses like Best Buys on-sell advertising space to manufacturers (giving them a revenue stream), but they can have some assurance that those who receive the specials are actively engaged with the messages.

Furthermore, by sending out timely specials, those who have the system installed in their place of work can transmit messages aimed at increasing sales conversion, which could have huge benefits for the shifting of slow moving items, or increasing transactions at slower periods of the day.

Whereto next?

I think Shopkick represents a timely and necessary movement forwards in the monetisation of social media. Whilst there are inevitably some flaws in the model – sharing your status with others – it does seem that there are some serious opportunities as well.

Where I see opportunity for Shopkick is in learning from user behaviour. Users can scan products for further information, can use codes to redeem specials, earn points just by walking into the store etc. Surely Shopkick should gather and harness this information so that into the future they can target promotions, discern penetration figures and improve the process to the point where everyone using the application is receiving information relevant to them. And past this, the ability to perhaps share points with a contact of theirs (truly capitalising on the social media principle) would reap large rewards too. Or to allow customers to provide real time feedback via social media on products so that the store/manufacturers can have the ability to answer concerns, respond or so forth. After all what is social media, if it is not a communication enabler?

At the end of the day however, it is pleasing to see that social media is progressing and that there are some smarts being applied to it. Watch this space to see how this model will progress, or leave a comment if you have some predictions. We welcome your thoughts.

Is Place Search Costing Google Revenue?

Author: Mike Hagley

Over the past week if you’ve carried out a search for a local business or service you may have noticed some changes.  It’s called Place Search, and it’s an interesting move by Google – interesting for a number of reasons.

Google Place Search Screenshot 1

Place Search example: new map preview location

The map preview uses advertising space

Previously, Google would show ‘Local business results’ (and map) within the organic search results.  Now, with Place Search, Google has moved the map preview to the right hand side of the page, chewing up a massive piece of advertising real estate.  The map even follows you as you scroll down the page, covering the ads, showing AdWords advertisers even less respect:

Google Place Search Screenshot 2

Google Place Search example: scrolling map feature

Place page results combined with organic results

As well as a new location for the map preview, Google has added a number of new formats for serving Places listings.  One particular design combines a business’ Place page result with its organic result (along with an image) almost doubling the size of a regular organic result.

Why implement Place Search if it could lead to a reduction in AdWords revenue?

Possibly the answer lies in the rise in the usage of mobile devices for both web searching and social networking applications like Gowalla, Foursquare and Facebook’s newest add-on, Places.  Earlier this year, Google reported a 500% increase in mobile search from 2008 until EOY 2009, and an alarming 50M Google Maps for Mobile users.

If we look at a mobile search result, the first two listings are advertising, followed immediately by the Place page results (image 1 below).  Notice that the Place page results are positioned above the organic results.  Conducting this same search on a PC has different results, and it seems that Google are giving a higher weighting to Place results on mobiles than on PC based queries.

Mobile Place Search Screenshot

Mobile Place Search example

OK, but how will Google make up for the lost AdWords revenue you ask?  The next innovation in Google advertising…

Boost Ads

Searchengineland explains Google Boost Ads as ‘automated AdWords for small business’.  Boost Ads are a paid search ad for your Place Page, and it’s currently being testing in a select few cities in the USA.  Businesses will be able to set a monthly budget and Google will automatically select which keywords for which your ad is shown.  Boost Ads will be shown alongside AdWords ads, and are clearly targeted to the small business that isn’t currently advertising on Google.

Boost Ad content

Example of a Boost Ad

So while Google may be losing advertising revenue with Place Search in the interim, I believe it’s a smart move to promote Google Places to small businesses, making it very easy for them to sign up for Boost Ads once available in all locations.

Online Brand Representation: More important than ever

Author: Hamish Anderson

To paraphrase a research article I recently read by Cone Inc; American consumers are now more cynical than ever, seeking to qualify reviews provided to them by trusted sources such as friends and family. With these results likely to be echoed around the world, the figures themselves are startling. Specifically, 81% of consumers will now go online to verify the recommendations above and beyond what is provided to them by their ‘trusted’ source. Furthermore, even after getting feedback on a product from family or friend:

  • 61% of consumers will research product/service information
  • 55% will go online to read other user reviews
  • 43% searching ratings websites for further information

So basically, greater than 1 in every 2 people seeks further feedback about a product or service. By inference therefore, consumers are increasingly questioning the advice and feedback of a trusted source. However, even more shocking than this were further results that showed that the value of the proposed transaction was not a factor, with results showing that more than 70% of consumers would do more research for even low cost items such as a movie or dinner.  This increased to 85% of consumers for moderate cost items and 82% for high cost items such as a car.

Technology Enables Cynicism
This inferred cynicism – or if you prefer, desire to know more prior to purchase – is being enabled more and more by technology. The speed at which people can now access information – blogs, reviews, etc – allows consumers to gather information from a wide variety of sources in moments. What once took hours, or even weeks to compile, now takes minutes. In June this year, Tech Crunch predicted that by 2012, mobiles will account for 20% of all search queries conducted online. With an increase in the number of smart phones, the phenomenon of increased research prior to purchase is only likely to escalate. I don’t believe we are far from a situation where a sales representative will be speaking to a consumer about a product, whilst the consumer actively searches for reviews and information about the product. And what may scare many sales consultants is that with information gained from online posts, consumers are often changing their mind about a purchase. 68% of respondents reported that negative information has caused them to change their mind about a purchase.

As a Marketer, what can we do?

So what does this mean for product managers, marketers and anyone else involved in the consumer purchase cycle? As much as companies have tried to always portray a positive brand image to their target market, it is unfortunately not possible to appeal to all of the people, all of the time. However, it is possible to work towards ensuring that you represent your brand in a way which enhances your profile, which mitigates negative perceptions and which aids customers in a search for information, thereby creating positive emotions towards your brand. I have listed below a few possible options which can be considered – either in isolation or combination – as part of your integrated marketing:

  • Establishing different online communities to cater to different segments of your target market.
    • For example, some segments may prefer to discuss the product features, whilst others will wish to discuss performance.
    • Some may be to discuss technical information and others to discuss features
  • Ensure that your social media persona is consistent with the brand delivery people are receiving. That is, don’t over promise and under deliver.
  • Ensure consistency of message online and offline.
  • Consider integrating your campaign media
    • Drive people to dedicated sites to further their research, monitor what they utilise on the site and work to enhance the site into the future to provide more to potential clients through this portal
  • Stay abreast of what people are saying about your brand online. Establish channels to address negative feedback. This should not only include responding to the author of the feedback and taking positive action, but also ensuring processes are in place so that the feedback is utilised to improve the product/service.
  • Look to make your Brand site as informative as possible, yet keep it consistent with your overall brand image.
    • Consider making it a rich source of factual information which people can utilise in the decision making process. This puts your brand in front of the consumer an extra time which will never hurt.
    • Consider brand demonstrations, or having live feeds from what people have said in social media on your site
    • An added bonus to this is having extra relevant content on your site will only ever be a bonus to your search engine rankings.
  • Consider having a site which is smart phone / mobile compatible if you are aware that people may wish to visit your site when out

At the end of the day, thanks to advancements in technology, the consumer is more than ever in the driving seat. As marketers, our task must evolve. Where we once tried to take the high ground, we must now immerse ourselves in what the consumer wants, and how they interact if we truly want to ensure the success of our brand. To do this we must engage them, learn from them, provide information they are searching for attempt to keep our brand promise and delivery synchronous.  Failure to do so will, could spell ruin.

Surprising Marketing Facts

Author: Hamish Anderson

In writing these blogs, I get inspiration as often as not from the articles I read every day, as I do from real life experiences in my day to day role. But no matter where I get the inspiration, I try and do some research to ensure that what I am saying is factually correct, and to provide more background on what I am writing.  In doing this, I have stumbled across a wide variety of titbits and interesting facts. So what I thought I would do in this blog, is put down in one central location, a list of those facts and predictions which have come to light in recent months, which hopefully will come in useful to you when making your next marketing related decision, or when you need to source a fact to reinforce your marketing position.

But no matter what you use the data for – be it entertainment, wow factor, as a guide on where to find other information  or support – I am sure you will find at least one piece of interesting  information below. Anyhow, without further ado, here they are:

Online Marketing

Mobile Marketing

Social Media Facts

Miscellaneous Facts

Innovative Marketing Campaigns

I realise that not everything needs to be data driven, sometimes the best information is seeing how others have implemented a campaign, or the results that new technology has generated. As such, I have also collated a series of innovative new campaigns which utilise various mediums. 

So there you have it, my list of relevant, useful, mind-boggling and inane facts regarding the online marketing space I have found recently. Whilst I don’t envisage that every fact in this compilation will hold meaning for you, I do anticipate that you will find something here which you can use – for inspiration or support –  at some point in time to help with all your marketing efforts.

Let me know if you have your own surprising marketing facts.

ROI – More Sense than Dollars

Author: Hamish Anderson 

As most marketers will know, getting approval to undertake anything marketing related – especially in a tight economy, or where the campaign represents a departure from ‘The norm’ – can be next to impossible. However, it is time that marketers were given licence to perform again, but with redefined principles of success. Furthermore, I believe that online and converged marketing represents an ideal way to allow marketers to achieve this success. I can imagine that when many of you read this you will think I am advocating that it is ok to invest money in online marketing without seeing a return. But I can assure you that is not what I am saying. In fact I am a firm believer in the premise that all online marketing should generate a return on investment. However, it is the measure of what ROI is defined as that I believe needs clarification, especially as regards online marketing.

Re-defining ROI
If you look up marketing text books or do an online search you will find the general definition of ROI expressed as “income produced by an asset divided by its investment cost, expressed as a percentage”. I believe that for the most part this is true, however, there is one word in this definition which I believe needs to be revised – “Income”. Given that today’s marketing medium’s (especially online) allow much more transparent analysis of the effect of certain campaigns, the scope of measured returns should be much broader than the current definition allows. That is right; I am asserting that ROI should not be purely measured by income produced. In defence of my position, let me put this to you: Time is a capital resource – a valuable resource –which is why companies ask employees to keep timesheets. Given it is so valuable, and given we can compute its relative value; should we not also look to measure if an investment has had a positive impact by looking at time based calculations? This is especially important given that some marketing activities have a lag period between implementation and return.

Time Calculations for ROI
Let me give you an example. Let’s assume you undertake to make social media part of your ongoing strategy. This activity takes say, 10 hours aggregate a week. In undertaking this activity, you promote key aspects of the business, and you increase your market awareness. And as a direct result of the activity you increase transactions with the business by ‘x’ amount. This may or may not be enough to alone justify investment into social media going forward. But what if you compare the time spent undertaking social marketing to achieve ‘x’ sales as compared to other traditional marketing forms which generate similar levels of business? Does the time invested by comparison represent an increase in time or a decrease? If it represents a saving, meaning the difference in time can be applied to other activities without increasing costs, effectively increasing your marketing potential, then the return on the initial time investment is indeed worthwhile.

Applying Common Sense
It seems that marketers and finance departments need to sit down and redefine some key principles which affect both internal departments. Both departments are looking to achieve the same goal – company growth and profitability – however, as is the case in too many companies, they cannot reach agreement about how to achieve it in the best way. If marketers and finance teams can sit down and redefine the principles of what constitutes success, and agree that marketing activities are now more than ever able to demonstrate their impact, from both a time and dollar perspective, then perhaps a new era in marketing growth can be achieved. All it is going to take is an understanding that is as much about common sense as it is about dollars as there should be no reason that marketing creativity and fiscal responsibility cannot go hand in hand.

Social Media – Social Tool or Sales Tool?

Author: Hamish Anderson

There can be no argument, Social Media is here to stay. Growth of medium’s such as Facebook and Twitter can only really be classified as exponential, both in terms of number of users, and more importantly in terms of user interaction and time spent utilising them. But for business, the question commonly asked is; can a social media presence or having your name mentioned in social media translate to increased dollar return, or an increase in perceived brand relevance?

Expectations of Social Media
Let’s assume that you are set up for ‘social’. Can it actually generate positive return for your investment of time and money?

In a previous blog article (Social Influence and your Customer) I asserted that not interacting with your customers via social media is the modern day equivalent of turning your back on a massive opportunity to engage your audience and create additional media/sales touch points. Thus, by inference, social media activity should be able to – assuming your campaign is run efficiently and maintains relevancy – create a positive ROI for you.

But what is ROI exactly? For each company it will be slightly different, although return could be widely classified into two categories – Time and Money.

Firstly, Time: As much as time is money, time is in many ways more valuable as it is finite, therefore, the opportunity cost of time spent should always be considered. That is, if you were not spending ‘x’ hours a week on social media, what could you spend it on in order to benefit your business? This should then be weighed up against how many positive brand impressions you created, how much conscious thought you created in your market and how many negative perceptions you addressed to help assert a positive one.

With regards creation of positive dollar returns, the equation is potentially simpler and simultaneously more complex. The simplicity of it is calculated by determining what your return is for every dollar spent on social media. However, the complexity comes down to whether or not there is a lag between positive brand association and transaction with the brand which can potentially skew your calculations. Only time will tell, but as your campaign evolves, (and if you have a good tracking system in place) you will get a pretty good idea of the purchase cycle of social media and thus be able to track return from your investment.

But does Social Media Work?
Quite simply the answer is yes it does. There are a number of examples where in recent times it has created a stream of brand activity and or increased dollar returns for the company. Here are just a few:

  • Toy Story 3 – Pixar and Disney released a series of Apps, viral video’s and a Facebook page which all generated large amounts of traffic and consumer led activity. (Source: Mashable)
  • Gap Clothing – Testament to the dollar value successful social media can generate, Gap (USA) launched a series of social channels including Foursquare and Groupon which led to traffic of over 400,000 people and generated over $11 million in sales in the first day alone. Many of these would be translated into future customers. (Source: Mashable)
  • Old Spice – Australia has not necessarily been a target market of Old Spice in the latest barrage of advertising. However, as with all social media, the reach is often beyond what was dreamed of. Australia caught the Old Spice bug, and from social media alone, sales in Australia increased in different stores between 150% and 420% (Source: Sydney Morning Herald). Think about how that translates world wide…

Sales Tool or Social Tool
At the end of the day, Social Media channels represent an opportunity to be either a sales tool or a social tool. In more general marketing terms associated with offline advertising, it can be either a tool to drive sales, or a tool to generate awareness. 

You can use it to communicate with your customers, answer and address feedback and notify them of product developments, or use it to generate a sales touch point and increase your ROI. But remember, as with all media activity, success will only be achieved if you plan for it correctly.

Website Optimisation – Why you need it and why it is so important!

Mark | Sep 16, 2010

Quite often I will hear clients say ‘once we get this website launched we can take a break from it for a while’. I don’t blame them in their logic; you can understand why. The branding is strong, the code base is clean and the content feels fresh. Who wouldn’t want to sit back and watch success roll in? Chances are however that despite recommendations, there was no or very minimal end user testing (and no client acceptance testing does not count) or there was no beta site launch and the website is having its first real sink or swim test. This is never the ideal way to launch a new website, but is often the reality.

If there is no feedback loop to gauge opinion, then post launch reporting becomes more critical. It will give you analytical evidence to understand how the site is performing and help feed your strategically grounded plan of action (or evolution). The thought of optimising is not something to fear, but something to embrace constantly. Even if you are using a self-reliant content management system, your marketing budget should (and must) have a line item for data-driven Website Optimisation.

So what is it?
Despite being inter-related, Website Optimisation is not to be mistaken with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). SEO is essentially the process of improving visibility of a web page in search engines to ensure higher rankings for relevant and targeted keywords. While SEO is a part of Website Optimisation, Website Optimisation deals with so much of a user’s decision making factors. If SEO is about getting people to your website, Website Optimisation is about getting them to convert. Website Optimisation deals with the entire user journey, from search to goal completion, covering off other important decision making influences, including:

  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Web Usability
  • Information Architecture
  • Branding & Design
  • Download Speeds

These decision making influences are posts unto themselves, but I will touch on why each one of these listed above are so important.

Web Usability
As Jakob put it, ‘Usability is the measure of the quality of a user’s experience when interacting with a product or system’. In its simplest form, without good usability, the website, application or interaction fails. I don’t need to outline the repercussions of that.

Information Architecture
Information Architecture (IA) is the art or science of organising and categorising information and logical flow for applications (including websites) to aid overall usability. Basically, you can have a very clear interface, but if the logical grouping of related content is not intuitive or relevant than a user will fail to complete their task. Minor changes in IA can go a long way in helping improve performance.

Branding & Design
Branding is important because it is your customers’ definition of you. It is the value in their experiences and dealings with you. Real success comes when your brand matches the experiences of your consumer, helping you to become top of mind. Good branding can build trust; reinforce your credibility; help define and deliver your message; connect you with your audience; motivate your audience; and cement loyalty. Good branding is more than the visuals a user sees; it is the emotion; the tone; the personality; the copy; the voice.

Good design is where you move away from the brand and into page specifics. Would a bigger button have more impact; should we change the colour of this element, etc. A/B or Multi-Variant testing are your friends here, and their importance cannot be understated.

Download Speeds
Download Speeds are important for two main reasons, (1) Google includes site speed into its algorithm for determining rankings; and importantly (2)  A quick loading website will help keep a users attention in a time-poor world (3-5 seconds) and will help empower users, improving their overall satisfaction and thus improving your chance of conversion.

What If my website is already optimised?
It isn’t. Your site will never ever be 100% optimised. It is never ending – there is always room for improvement. As I said in the beginning, the thought of optimising is not something to fear, but something to embrace constantly. Remember, good optimisation ensures you are always moving forward.

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