Thursday, June 30, 2011

Too much Google!!

The internet opens up opportunities in many areas and Google seems to stretch itself to have a presence in every space there can possibly be. A little longer than a decade ago we were all using AltaVista, Excite, Lycos and a bunch of other search engines most of them discontinued by now, Google was just one more. Those days are gone, the power of network externalities kicked in and positioned Google in exponential growth, by 2006 Merriam Webster and Oxford dictionaries included “Google” as a verb in the English language. Now every other month we hear of a new Google product “Google + whatever the latest trend is” It seems we are experiencing the googlelization of the web, Google is becoming the conglomerate of the digital world!

Today Google offers more than 40 products in 8 categories. In my attempt to become a savvy digital marketer I tried to get acquainted with most of them. I grouped the products in three categories:

1. Product Extensions: all those products that are naturally born from a search engine. That is, specialized search products that help you find what you are really looking for (e.g. images, videos, news, products, places, blogs, discussions, recipes, patents). A second level of product extension includes products that use all the data gathered by a search engine like Google trends (search trends) and iGoogle (customize your own homepage).
This is the realm of a search engine, but I guess their need for innovation led them to design products in totally new areas.

2. Products in whatever area you can think of: all those products that I have no idea why they are with Google. It reminds me of the industrial conglomerates that tried to get into every industry they thought might have some synergies with their existing business. Those are products like photo editing Picnik and Picasa (yes two), Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Translate, Knol, Google Reader, Blogger, and Google sites, among many others.
Some of these products have failed and are being discontinued like Google Buzz, Google Wave, Google health (trying to pioneer the digitalization and centralization of medical records), and Google PowerMeter (trying to ride the green wave too).
To keep up with any trend they did not start, Google designs products trying to improve on the category leaders.

3. Google “me too” products: from a user’s perspective it seems Google’s first “me too” product was Gmail, following the then leader hotmail (followed by a whole suit of functionality products like Google docs, calendar, Google talk, Google groups). Other “me too” products include Google Checkout following Paypal, Google Offers following Groupon, Google Finance following Yahoo Finance, Orkut in an attempt to get into social networks, and most recently Google+ following Facebook.

It is too soon to tell what will be the fate of Google’s newest product. So far, some bloggers like it and some say it is very similar to Facebook. The news also generated comment from the investment community. A. Hartung from Forbes thinks it is not a good idea to engage in battle with Facebook that is already too far to reach, and that it would have been a better idea to stick to Google Health and Google PowerMeter

http://blogs.forbes.com/adamhartung/2011/06/30/why-google-plus-is-a-big-minus-for-investors/

For us, the users, competition is always good news. Google just announced Google Takeout, which allows you to take all your data with you when you leave a Google product, this is definitely a plus amidst worries of privacy around Facebook.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Here comes another social network: The Google plus

Google has been working on developing great solutions to engage the masses by offering free solutions to become smarter in today's internet addicted age. While social media is in boom, Google was working since last year to consolidate all their solutions like Gmail, talk, buzz, etc. into one social network that they named it as Google+.



It has been a while Google is trying to come up with a next generation of social network tool however it has not worked for them. There is a hope that by launching this new gadget that has not only features from Facebook but also introducing many other cool features like user maps, video chat, Huddle, Sparks and Circles.


For a complete article visit Google official Blog

This article is also published on my personal blog at Digital Strategist.

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Saving Banner Ads for Later

Ever see and ad and want to save it for later? Then a new company founded by a guy from About.com called AdKeeper is just for you. It allows users to click on the icon in the ad to store it for later. The company hopes that in the future every ad will have a little Adkeeper button which you could click to save. It's free for comapnies now, but the intent is to have them eventually pay to be included. The idea is that people are annoyed by ads now, but if given the chance to view it at their own pace it will increase the response rate. It comes at an interesting time, when other tools such as AdBlock Plus exist which is designed to eliminate unwanted ads. I definitely think this unique approach has the chance to capture some of the market lost to over advertising on the internet.

Here is the full article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/28/business/media/28adco.html?_r=1&ref=technology

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Ad Miles - USA Today Article: American Express and Facebook are teaming up on a rewards program. By Karen Bleier, AFP/Getty Images

It's one thing to get free airline miles or hotel stays for credit card points, but here's an industry first: free Facebook ads.

Today, American Express and Facebook will roll out a program that allows the credit card giant's Membership Rewards customers to redeem points for ads on the social-media giant's site. The program is primarily targeted at small-business owners via American Express OPEN, but it's also open to millions of other AmEx card holders, says Ed Gilligan, vice chairman at American Express.

"When we ask small-business owners to name their biggest challenge, the answer is always finding new customers," Gilligan says.

The ads-for-points concept could rock both the credit card and social-media worlds. It's the first time a major company has linked social-media advertising with currency for customer rewards. But social-media and small-business consultants warn that it's not for everyone.

"It a boon for Facebook," says Janet Fouts, a social-media coach. "But you can't just throw your money at this and hope it works. You have to have an advertising strategy."

The move also is a win for AmEx, says small-business consultant Hamilton Wallace, because it gives folks an additional reason to use the brand. But, he says, "You have to first ask yourself: Does Facebook advertising make sense for my company?"

While Facebook ads are great for getting folks familiar with your brand, Fouts and Wallace say they're sometimes not as good at getting customers to actually buy a product.

But the power of Facebook is huge. It has more than 750 million members worldwide and is the world's largest social-media platform.

"The number of small businesses advertising on Facebook is growing exponentially every day," says David Fischer, vice president of advertising and global operations at Facebook. And Facebook ads let businesses target the right audience and leverage word-of-mouth advertising via recommendations of friends.

How to earn points — and freebie Facebook ads? Simply by buying stuff with AmEx cards. Each $6,750 spent can be redeemed for $50 worth of Facebook advertising.

"We're simply going to where the customers are," Gilligan says. "That's Facebook."



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Monday, June 27, 2011

This funny viral Facebook page was created a couple of days ago in Brazil, has over 150,000 "Likes" (157,000 by the time I finished writing this... and counting...) It has lots of targeted advertising (at least with my user) and apparently already got sponsored on the side from AB-Inbevs "Brahma" beer, very popular in Brazil. (Photo at the end)

The story is that this soon to be father wants to name his child "Jaspion" after the 2 decade old action figure. His wife, not surprisingly, was not enthused. He then suggested to ask their friends on Facebook, to which she answered : "not even if ONE MILLION PEOPLE agree". There it was, she laid her own path to misery. They made the bet, and baby Jaspion is on his way to be famous...

Should be interesting to follow how the ad space in this page gets utilized over the next few days as it seems it won't be long before they hit 1,000,000 likes.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/1-Milh%C3%A3o-CURTIR-e-minha-mulher-aceita-o-nome-do-bebe-de-JASPION/221903794498237

Ps.:The beer advertising is not user-targeted, but directly a link to the official beer website and photo.

Ps2.: It is not clear if this is a Hoax marketing campaign, but regardless of that, it has great value and marketing potential.

Cheers!

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Kiva - Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is taking on interesting new forms - last week's guest speaker talked about Kiva, a non-profit website which allows you to make a small loan of $25 to be used by entrepreneurs around the world. I found this website to be fascinating. It is truly harnessing the power of digital media to mobilize mass volumes of funds through multiple donors. Moreover, with a philanthropic appeal and a low $ hurdle, it has facilitated loans of ~$220 million in 5 years with repayment rates of 99%, higher than most micro-finance institutions.
I strongly believe this model could be replicated to raise funds for real investment projects in which several investors want to participate. The appeal would be a small enough investment that not raise eyebrows, coupled with superlative returns. But the greatest challenge would undoubtedly be execution. I am certain there will be numerous opportunities in this website format. Wait and watch, or better, participate.

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eReaders vs. tablets marketing

Some new report published today by Pew Internet & American Life Project seems to point that adoption rate for eReaders has just surpassed adoption of tablets, and is probably going to increase more and more as the price for eReaders goes down and the products start offering also basic internet service.

Some numbers? One adult out of 8.3 in the US owns an eReader (doubled compared to 6 months before), while tablets are owned by one adult out of 12.5 (only 3percentage points increase in past 6 months).
Targets are similar: adults, Hispanic adults, college graduates and householders with + $75k income, men more likely than women.

What are the implications? It will be essential for marketers to design and segment their campaigns specifically for eReaders, differentiating them from tablets' ones. eReaders are less complicated to use and internet access is cheaper; moreover, their are more focused on books and therefore offer easier targeting. Specific campaigns will therefore become a must for companies.

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Content anti-farming


"Rick Fox's mustache googled the Red Sox pornography murders while Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt fought tears and ate tattoos over aborted babies in Bar├želona with Neymar and Mickey Mantle. Meanwhile, Lady Gaga and Elvis were found with Princess Diana growing marijuana to a diet of Doritos."

This is what a post on a content farm looks like. Meaningless sentences of highly searched keywords strung together to lure searchers onto a webpage which would then try to bring in some ad revenue.

In class we learned about Search Engine Optimization and how incorporating highly searched keywords and other tweaks, we can significantly improve our Google search rankings. This of course led to a whole business of content farming on the internet. Last week, Google released Panda 2.2, the internet monitor for content farms which serves as a filter in the ranking algorithm to weed out the nonsense from the internet. Incorporation of this change though has had both good effects and bad, with rankings of many legit websites been claimed to have decreased after this update. This NYT article on Google's efforts to clean up the content farm mess provides good insight. Facebook's Ban Bot has caused some similar problems in the recent past and is now being compared to the Panda 2.2 update. More details here

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YouTube is one of the most successful brands on the Internet. But did you know it's still bleeding money?

When Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006, everyone was well-aware that the company was unprofitable. In fact, some had speculated that the reason YouTube originally sold out was because they couldn't raise the massive amounts of capital required to power the servers and pay for its bandwidth bill. But many people simply assumed, given the product's continued success and the gradual acceptance of video advertising that it would eventually become profitable.

Not so. Though more recent numbers are scarce, a few years ago Credit Suisse issued a YouTube profitability analysis that was summarized and appended by Benjamin Wayne, the CEO of Fliqz. Among the more jarring notes:

YouTube will manage to rake in about $240 million in ad revenue in 2009, against operating costs of roughly $711 million, leading to a shortfall of just over $470 million.


and

Assuming YouTube delivers the 75 billion streams that Credit Suisse projects for 2009, and assuming YouTube manages to slot an ad for every stream (which is practically speaking, impossible, given the nature of much of their content), YouTube would have to achieve a $9.48 CPM for every video impression shown. Presumably, the videos YouTube is already monetizing represent the best content available, with diminishing returns as they reach deeper and deeper into a repository rife with copyright violation, the indecent, the uninteresting, and the unwatchable. Hulu claims to be charging a $30 CPM, of which roughly 70% goes to the copyright holder. Averages for other proprietary content hover around the $10 CPM mark.


It will be interesting to watch this shake out...

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Social Media – Enhancing or Distracting in Live Performances

A new play in St. Louis, currently untitled, will be produced in December 2012 that integrates social media into the live performance on stage. The author of the play, Romeo, commented, “To me, one of the most interesting things about the rise of social media...is the way it has turned the communication of information from a one-way into a multi-way conversation. It struck me as interesting that most theater is still a one-way conversation, and I started thinking about ways to get the audience actively involved in commenting on or even shaping the direction of a piece of theater in real time, as it was going on."

I’m sure this will not be the only play or performance piece produced with this intention, especially by Dec. 2012, but it is an interesting step that the arts are taking in order to break some of the natural divide between audience and performer.

So, I initially thought this sounded great, progressive, and sort of thought – finally, the arts are trying to get up to speed with technology, but after talking this over with the 60-year-old development director at my old internship, she brought up some good points. Why does social media have to make its way into live performance? What is wrong with turning off our devices and “social media brain” and escaping into the world of theatre or dance or music? She was very adamant that ‘that is the point of many performances– to bring us into a different world, for us to find quiet space, to reflect on the scene, movement, or expression. Art takes time.’ I found her point very interesting and I started to swing the other way, getting defensive about allowing this in the theatre until I ran into the Dean of Fine Arts at Boston University. He loves bringing in his ipad to the symphony. He’s a trained musician and gets so much joy out of reading the score of music while hearing the symphony play. Now here’s a point where technology is enhancing an audience member’s experience.

Recently, Julie Taymor, original writer of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” gave the artist perspective on social media and the arts, claiming that it’s very hard to create work when you are under a microscope and “it’s very scary if people are going to move towards having audiences tell you how to make a show.”

So what do we do? Do we allow devices into the theatre and provide wi-fi to all and for those who wish not to be connected, they can still choose not to? Do we section off theatres so that the first third is for the quiet and contemplative, the second third for devices, and the last third for the people who want to duck in and out or have a drink or chat with someone instead of paying full attention? I’m really curious how all this could either bring the performing arts a new audience or how it could deter theatre lovers from attending? Also, are the arts really ahead or catching up – Dec. 2012, c’mon! Are the arts trying to make something fit into their art form that really doesn’t belong or could this just be a new art in itself?

I’d be very curious to hear anyone else’s opinion on this, especially those not from an arts background.


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Social Networks and Word of Mouth (WoM) – a perfect marriage

Some history

A network is defined as a set of nodes and links. In the late 18th century Euler invented the field of network theory. For the following century and a half it remained in the realm of the abstract in mathematics departments. In the second half of the 20th century social scientist started studying social connectivity. Milgram’s famous six-degrees-of-separation experiment revealed how highly interconnected humans are. You can reach anyone else in the world following on average six links. Nevertheless, this average hides the fact that some people are “social hubs” and can link to anyone else in as few as 3 links and others are highly disconnected and need more than 100 links to reach anyone far away from their cluster. In the 90’s scientists started looking at digital networks. First they turned into the world wide web which is a highly tractable network where websites are the nodes and their links are the network’s links (a fact that Google uses in its search algorithm). More recently scientist turned their attention to digital social networks where people are the nodes and the friend connections are the links, Facebook being the largest social network today. In parallel, scientists have also studied the evolution of epidemics and spread of contagious diseases.

The connection to WoM

All this lines of research coupled with the internet revolution give rise to the opportunity to start studying Word of Mouth marketing in social networks. Network theory plus epidemics theory applied to WoM can provide huge insights on how messages (promotions, brands, product reviews, etc) spread in a social network (in the same way a contagious disease spreads). The first thing researches need is a map of the network (Facebook has it). Second, they need a way to track messages to analyze the “contagion effect”. Finally, researchers should follow the “touched” users to understand how they act on the message (e.g. do they talk about the product?, do they visit the brand’s website?, do they buy the product?) With this information marketers could leverage WoM much more effectively. In fact, current WoM services are based on artificial buzz generation (e.g. hired agents dropping messages) and sign-in communities that participate in WoM initiatives (e.g. SheSpeaks). The problem with the former is that the buzz is artificial and does not resemble the organic spread of messages. The problem with the latter is that it more a pool of people willing to participate in marketing activities and in that sense are more like a digital focus group instead of a real incubator of worth of mouth.

The opportunity

Given that the tools exist (network theory, social interaction theory, epidemics theory, and complex systems theory) and the current services for WoM do not capitalize on the full potential, there is an opportunity to study WoM on social networks like facebook and start offering a better service. For example, if you know which users are the “social hubs” for different products/services, so companies can know where to drop the message and what message to drop where.

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Google for one?

Will there be a customized google for every person on the planet? The guest lecturer from Econsultancy posited that we were less than ten years away from a google who knows who you are, what you believe, what your friends think, what your friends would recommend to you, where you live, where you are, how you search, and what you are looking for. Could it be that google may grow to have a more robust understanding of the different elements and influences that comprise all people to the point that it may understand us better than the people who ought to know us best--more than your mom, your partner or your best friend?

Living life in a stream of data and social discovery allows for an increasingly interconnected world in one sense. It is a world where you know exactly where your friends and loved ones are and what exactly they are thinking at that very moment. The power of this information can produce compellingly accurate results in your searches from the mundane to the extraordinary.

Our ability to stay connected to our online community has increased and will continue to do so. I worry that our ability to connect in person will not keep pace.


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Impolite Ads on Big-Name Sites

I dig sports and I dig politics, so I spend a lot of time on ESPN.com and the HuffingtonPost. And, as an ex-ad sales rep, I like to think that I've got a higher tolerance for commercials than the average user. Combine those two and you'd think I'd be pretty amenable to ads on both of these sites.

But I'm not...they've done screwed up and annoyed me because of impolite ad serving. Have you ever logged on to ESPN.com, only to have an ad start blaring at full volume? Or try to read an article on budget negotiations on HuffPo, but have to wait for a full screen takeover? Yeah, it's aggravating. And, to draw on a concept we discussed in class last Monday, such placement isn't "polite." I've gotten to the point where I mute the volume and consciously block out the areas where ads typically appear on this site. I often even open up another tab and wait a minute before checking ESPN or HuffPo just to be sure that I avoid any ads.

I can't imagine I'm the only one who's been turned off to ad placement on these sites and I wonder if these and other publishers lose out on engagement and click-throughs because of such practices. These may be big name sites, but that doesn't mean
they can't use a refresher on some basics.

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Consumer Rules... not efficiency... not information...

In this digital era where with the widespread of the internet and the connectivity among databases many platforms emerge in order to provide solutions for current consumer needs... and who is better to forecast or estimate this needs that the King of the information Itself... Google... Google developed and acquired successfully many business to complement its existing business model and to provide better service/ tools for its loyal consumers... Such is the case of broad services such as G Chat, Gmail, Gnews, Gimages, Google finance among many others and the specific ones... google analytics, adplanners, search optimization tools etc... But this time the news hit around for missing the consumer need and developing a Platform that consumers don't really need it or information that consumers don't want to search. Google Health was launched 3 years ago allowing users to track their health related information, prescription, history allowing them to plan ahead saving costs and adding efficiency... Google just announced this week that they are shutting down the service by January 2013 due to consumer lack of adoption to the service... So, even the biggest owner of consumer information still missed in developing a product? Coming from a marketing background it is very important to identify that yes, consumer research and data are key to successful product development, but also its to spend a day in the life of the consumer... With all the insecurity lately around the web who wants to have a file with all your history of diseases and prescriptions? What if those get stolen and everybody can know about them? Just remember how confidential information got spread out in the web with wikileaks... imagine your personal disease/ problems been spread out in the web and anybody can just google you and know your medical history? Is there a real need for this product? Or is it maybe a security concern and maybe the web is not so secure yet? It will be interesting to see now with the big success of Clouds if people upload their medical information to an external database...
The web is till evolving and more information is becoming available for all... but been in a consumers show for a day should save us a lot of research in product development.

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Don't Call Us- We'll Tweet You

A recent blog posting on Adage.com calls out the fact that only 3 Fortune 50 companies have a phone number listed on their homepage. This despite the fact that 82% of Americans report they've stopped doing business with companies with poor customer service. Yet 44% of Fortune 50 companies have social media links on their homepage. With the constant influx of new technology and the buzz around social media, marketers tend to forget that often what customers most want to be able to do is just pick up the phone and talk to an actual person. While it's great that all of these companies are embracing social media, this should only be a complement to, and not a replacement for traditional customer service, in which you actually hear a person's voice. Thoughts? Do you think that contacts through social media will one day replace the phone?

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Save H&H Bagels

H&H Bagels, the Manhattan store made famous by the Seinfeld tv show, is closing. The bulletin board near the laundry room of my building has a flier soliciting support, and a number to call to join a petition, but no social media info or internet links for sign ups. I began to wonder if this campaign would be improved with the benefit of technology.

A quick search brings up news stories detailing the saga of the store's owner, and various reviews from the past. It turns out the owner has had some legal problems, and that the store doesn't provide much customer service, being more of a bakery than a cafe/restaurant.

Perhaps if my search had uncovered a Facebook page or Twitter feed from H&H in the first few results, there would have been a chance to put some spin on the owner's reputation, as well as created a mechanism for me to be enlisted as a supporter. Had I followed a Twitter feed or liked a Facebook fan page, they could have contacted me directly, or quoted me speaking about the bagels to my followers.

If a marketing strategy is defined by four p's, place, people, promotion and product (or something like that), H&H would still have a challenge even if its promotion were more together online.

H&H Bagels is across the street from Zabar's, who make better bagels at a lower price, as well as supplying better customer service. A large population could be reached online that doesn't know about Zabar's, however, around the country.

H&H's internet strategy should be facilitated by its physical locations, and the reverse is true too. If they had a big mail order business, it wouldn't matter what corner they were on.

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Is content really king?

Very few content websites have managed to be profitable. Even Facebook (the reigning king) does not boast big profitability. Linkedin, Youtube, Twitter and others are still in the red. Most of the web-based businesses that have managed to become real-life giants in the business world (like Amazon, eBay, google, etc) have managed to offer the consumers with a solution for something other than just content. Amazon and eBay obviously changed the way commerce is done. One might think, what about Google, google captures a massive long tail of advertizers from one end and a humungeous number of consumers on the other end because it offers the one thing everyone HAS to use when surfing the seas of the web, search. Content only websites like Digg and blogs or even twitter have yet to find a sustainable formula to generate revenue from the huge traffic they are enjoying. This does not seem to be happening soon though.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why Companies Trust TV Over Display

comScore's Natural Born Clickers surveys threw digital marketers into a tailspin a couple of years ago by indicating that monthly clicks on display ad had shrunk by 50% --from 32% to 16%. However, if we see display as a branding tool, akin to television commercials, measuring 'clicks' isn't the right metric.

In fact, the lack of confidence in display is confusing relative to the faith in traditional television. Neither allows for accurate conversion measurement, but both clearly have significant branding value. Why is it that television, the more expensive of the two options by far, seems like a better proposition to many companies?

In part it has to do with creative: it's difficult to develop a great message in the limited real estate offered by traditional display sizing, particularly if conversion is a goal. Television, in relative terms, offers a luxury of time and space. Part of the reason that display appears to be a less successful advertising channel is that messaging has often been poor -- though there is infinitely more opportunity to tweak an online ad than there is a commercial.

For some, television may also seems like a 'sure thing.' While costs are high, there's a sense that there is proven value in large, targeted reach. Comparable reach in the display space may require getting your ad onto hundreds, if not thousands of sites, each contributing a small piece of the pie. This means risk. On TV your ad is associated with a few very particular brands; online an ad may end of on a number of smaller websites that make the brand seem like small potatoes.

The final analysis? The data supports the idea that a multi-channel strategy works best. Don't give up TV, but well designed and thoughtfully placed display ads can do a world of good in boosting total reach and upping brand awareness. A good campaign won't require the marketer to make and either/or choice.

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Trusting "Customer" Reviews

I came across an article on www.paidcontent.org regarding the supposed independence of the top reviewers on Amazon.com. It is evident that reviews from other people are powerful in helping buyers shape decisions; good reviews for your product or business on Yelp or Amazon inevitably help drive more business. This is because buyers trust people like them as opposed to professional marketers. However, it seems that the top reviewers on Amazon, and probably Yelp, are not necessarily people like them. The freebies that go to top reviewers, who aren't paid, are strong encouragement for those reviewers to keep the positive reviews flowing. Anecdotally, a friend of mine told me that Yelp began punishing top-rated restaurants who chose not to pay to show up in their "Sponsored Results" section in their search. Apparently, he said that those restaurants ratings immediately began to drop or show up lower in the search results. I don't know if that's true but it does raise a larger issue for customers - can you really trust reviews? On the other hand, it raises an avenue for us as marketers - if providing free products to top reviewers results in positive reviews, it could be a good marketing investment.

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WOM

In Professor Toubia's Managing Marketing Programs class, we discussed Word of Mouth (WOM) marketing campaigns (think reviews on Yelp or Amazon). These types of campaigns can be very beneficial but the difficulty is in measuring success. Some firms pay people to post positive comments or hire consultancies (like SheSpeaks) to create communities and monitor comments. There is enough data to extract from these discussions but concretely evaluating WOM campaigns can be difficult. Another issue with this type of marketing is that the firm can lose control of the process. Angry customers can post very negative reviews which could hurt brand image more than glowing reviews could help it. On top of that, 90% of all WOM takes place offline. The key is to bridge offline and online commentary. The next evolution of WOM will be tapping into the large Facebook/MySpace communities in order to get more targeted and relevant commentary based on the situation/person. This could be a great source of revenue for Facebook and could actually be the launching pad for a WOM consultancy embedded in Facebook (Zynga but not for games).

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Shoppergirl26 - who are you really?

A recent article published by MarketingMagazine.co.uk revelead that 37% of Internet users are not willing to provide personal data online and 31% will not provide real information about themselves to brands online.
As we have discussed in class, much of online advertising today is heavily influenced by the information users share online. Thus, ads are segmented and targeted at specific users. The results of this study are sure to reshape the way advertisers build their online marketing strategieis.
For example, some studies have shown that on average there are more women online than men. Perhaps we could conclude that women are less trusting than men? If this is the case, advertisers should seek to create incentives for women and online users in general to provide their REAL personal information.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Facebook Dominates Just About Everything


Last class Professor Kagan noted how Facebook is now the top earner in the digital ad space, over even Google and Yahoo. This indicates that Facebook is the champion of the dominant strategy of CPC advertising, but what about new forms of advertising or variations on CPM?
Sponsored content and guerilla marketing is the future of advertising on the web. Facebook absolutely dominates shared traffic and they should be exploring options to monetize this stream. Facebook is already motivating purchasing decisions, using content generated from product and brand pages. If Facebook could find a way to seamlessly integrate product reviews or other advertising (that users would find valuable) into the social stream, they will have struck gold and forever changed the face of digital marketing. The next generation of digital marketing and monetization will be bringing users new content, that they would find interesting, from brands that they are not already familiar with.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Behavioral Targeting for Online Ads (SEM) and Display Ads

I would like to talk about the Behavior Targeting that Prof. Kagen At Columbia Business School covered in last session.

Google is now actively enhancing their ad word architecture by implementing behavior intelligence in users ad campaigns where as an advertiser you will be able to identify interests and segments you want to target. In 2009, Google launched its beta version and now improving it to compete with the social marketing.

Through this ad campaign system Google who already knows "who is browsing what" will be able to identify visitor's interests and show them relevant ads based on their interests. The example might be if I am looking and browsing to buy a car, I will be most likely get 7 out of 10 times the automobile ads.

At present there are 30 main categories (Interests) and with 600 sub categories to further filter ads. The interesting thing is that if you opt out to interest-based ads you will still see ads not related to your interest.(Really, why not no ads just blank space)

This phenomena is also known as Interest-based ads that is well explained by Shuman Ghosemajumder at youtube video.



The idea of " and Linkedin knows "where you work". Combining them all one can almost know half of a person's personality and interest. That means in today's world, we know much more about potential buyers, the need is to identify the best ways to convert them into costumers.

Related Links
http://searchengineland.com/google-introduces-interest-based-advertising-beta-16855
http://searchengineland.com/google-rolls-out-behavioral-targeting-to-all-adwords-advertisers-82976


This article is also posted on my blog at Digital Web Specialist.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Presidential Election Campaign - 2012 Style

Many people attributed Obama's campaign success to the clever use of online campaigning in 2008. Many political analyst or pundit asserted that the Obama camp mastered campaigning to the Facebook generation. He raised money via Facebook, spread his message all over Youtube, and appealed to the younger voters who were otherwise disinterested in "just another election". All political issues/belief aside, his campaign worked like magic.

Now with the 2012 presidential primary going in full-swing for the GOP, one can't help but notice these candidates campaigning all over the internet. In fact, can they afford to NOT campaign, promote, and raise fund through the internet? Most likely NOT.

Online streaming videos, along with news site that streams live debate videos, are wonderful. These sites enable users to check out the presidential debate at their own leisure. No more worry about missing the show. It's a beautiful thing.



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Xbox and the Ultimate Impolite Ad Campaign

Microsoft announced today that they will be creating interactive ads for their Xbox video game console. This will allow them to run interactive "in game" advertising which they hope will grab the attention of the avid gamers. Doesn't this seem a little ridiculous? If you were a consumer who had just paid $300 for a console and then $50 for a game, would you then want advertisers trying to sell you stuff while your play that game? I get it that in tv the advertisers revenue pays for the content, but here, the consumer is paying for the content, so why should they be forced to receive advertising? I can't imagine this will be well received. Here is the full article below.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/21/business/media/21xbox.html?_r=1&ref=technology

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Hulu Advertising - Breakthrough?

Due to a newfound obsession with reruns of Modern Family and Glee, I have become acquainted with the fascinating 0nline media platform that is Hulu. As a reminder to most of you, birthed in 2007 as a joint venture between News Corp and NBC, Hulu is an attempt at a competitor for Youtube. Although they experienced initial trouble raising advertising revenue in 2008 and 2009, the site has become a dominant advertising platform.

How did Hulu go from noteworthy struggles in 2008-9 (http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/mar2009/tc20090330_571175.htm) to kicking the proverbial advertising a*$ today?

What did they do?

From a quick perusing around their site for specifics on their advertising, it is clear that they decided at some point to invest a lot of effort into innovation and for adding value for them and for advertisers themselves.

Hulu created much smaller increments of videos during the shows on the site that are accompanied by Like / Dislike boxes that both attract viewer attention as well as supply a new and valuable metric for advertisers. When crossed with the sign-up information of the user, these likes/dislikes are valuable demo/behavioral info.

Hulu also created free content that can help advertisers use their services: there are case studies on the site.

The last thing that exemplifies the sleak style and technology of Hulu is their gallery and ranking system for this past year's Superbowl Commercials: http://www.hulu.com/adzone2011#50120562

Check it out

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Search Engine Advertising and the Importance of Landing Page Optimization

If your company is willing to pay a premium to vie for one of the top three ad spaces that are placed above the google search results, it would be logical to bring the searcher to the relevant page on your site and to have your site be relevant in the first place. As a digital marketing novice, I hadn’t given this concept much thought, but upon further reflection it makes intuitive sense. I set out to put this theory to the test, while also plotting a much needed summer vacation, and conducted a search on “vacations to…” various European cities.

When it came to London, this concept lined up very nicely. The top google ad was one by Icelandair who brought me directly to their optimized landing page that displayed a casual group of soccer players resting in the shade of a Chelsea side street. While it did not have Buckingham Palace on the first page or the Houses of Parliament either, the site made it obvious that you were very much in the right place. The next two ads by Virgin Atlantic airlines and vacations were equally calibrated, although far less understated, with hero shots of iconic London sites on their landing pages.

Everything seemed to go according to plan, when I decided to try “vacations to Madrid.” I immediately noticed a difference. Not only were the landing pages not optimized, but the ads themselves were not directly related to my search. The ads suggested I visit Paris and London or Cancun instead. The one ad that was relevant listed all of the different places in Spain I could visit and did not have any pictures of landmarks like the Plaza Mayor or the Palacio Real that announced that I had arrived in Madrid.

Needless to say, the user experience for my London search was significantly better. These two searches and associated search engine advertisements perfectly illustrated the value in having an optimized landing page and ads that were relevant to my search. London and Madrid were weighted equally in my mind when I began my search, but the ads that appeared in the London search were far more likely to convert me than their Madrile├▒o counterparts.


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Today's top earner: Facebook!

According to an article in Adage, Facebook has officially surpassed Google and Yahoo in digital ad revenue. FB is projected to earn $2.19 billion in ad revenue this year, relative to Google's $1.15 billion and Yahoo's 1.62 billion. Most of FB's revenue is coming from the long tail of spenders, whereas bigger companies continue to devote their budgets to traditional forms of media, like TV. As FB's user base approaches 700 million, it is easy to see that pure scale of reach may be tempting to small businesses. What I wonder though, is how companies measure the effectiveness of their ads on Facebook. FB's ads have much lower click through rates than Google's, and most seem to fail in effecting a call to action amongst consumers. Does the pure quantity of FB's user base outweigh the need for quality in targeting and messaging?

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Not all votes are considered equal?

I was directed to a very good article on Search Engine Optimization entitled “Selling SEO to CEOs”, which raised some interesting points on the value SEO brings and how best to describe its service offering to a non-technical audience. The analogy that the author uses is a comparing SEO to a candidate that is running for president and the importance of “optimizing” the stages of the campaign.

In the first part of the campaign, the candidate needs to put out their message telling the audience what they are looking to achieve; it needs to be clear, focused and unambiguous. The message needs to contain buzzwords or key topics that the public is listening out for, that relate directly to the voter’s needs. This part of the campaign is what the author refers to as onsite SEO, and translates directly to the layout and design of a website. It shows you how your website should be compiled so that it is readable to the right audience, has the right keywords and that it stands out from the crowd.

The second part of the part of the campaign is actually getting elected and that involves getting the votes from outside (offsite SEO). In order to get those votes, you need share your message with others, get it published by credible sources and have them quote and reference you which would generate a following and get you a vote. Taking this back to the web world, those votes or links into your site hold value and this is one of the ways the search engines determine the popularity of your page. However, it is not only the number of links that these search engines look at, but the quality of the link as another determinate of the rank of your page in its organic search. This shows that having better quality links can push you further up those rankings, showing the importance of being endorsed by the right people and also showing that not all votes in this game are considered equal.


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House Music + Social Media

Social networking site and social media fundamentally change the way musicians market and promote their music. In my opinion, the impact to the House music genre is the most noticeable. I digress.

House music was initially through vinyl, then CD, since most of the music are mixed and edited live at various clubs in Europe. As this music caught on fire with mainstream audience throughout the world, and as the music industry evolved to .MP3, or other popular digital format, the dance music industry exploded.

These days, music are distributed online and it can be purchased via iTunes, Amazon, beatport.com, and among many others. Further, musicians started promoting their music on social networking sites such as MySpace.com, Facebook.com, their own music sites, and of course most recently, YouTube.com. With the help of internet, a music fan from Hong Kong such as myself can purchase and listen to music produced by DJs in Sweden, Germany, France, and Brazil. It's amazing. Without these web medium, this music industry would not have exploded as quickly as it has in the last five years.



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Changing the Apple Economy

This is less about marketing, more about the strategy side. It was big news when Apple recently relaxed the rules for publishers of iPad subscription apps but, aside from friends who have the Amazon Kindle app, I haven't seen much commentary about the two companies and how their little e-reader chess game is going. So here's an interesting take from Forrester on how Amazon should continue to pursue Apple customers with its e-books even though Apple's history suggests it will do everything in its power to retain control over software developers.

http://paidcontent.org/article/419-what-amazon-should-do-with-its-kindle-ipad-app/

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Display Ad in My Gmail

Trust and the illusion of non-commerciality are the foundations of Google's non-search services. Google must perform research to make sure that users don't find the ads distracting, probing or otherwise annoying. As a longtime and frequent user of Google's Gmail service, I was surprised to see a display ad next to my list of messages that reminded me of previous, lesser services. A quick Search on Google (of course) yielded a few results from January 2011 saying that the idea was under a beta test and would be rolled out gradually.

The ad was a vivid mix of blue and green and was selling flights to Nigeria right next to my list of messages and below convenience features like isolating an email to its own page, printing and links to add events to Google Calendar. The ad probably appeared because Google found references to African music in my emails, so I would consider it relevant albeit distracting.

Having emails scanned for keywords and other data is the price we pay for Google's services, but I also feel that these ads diminish significantly from the experience. Google benefits from our frequent use of Gmail and other services through the ability to show more ads based on time spent on the site, but if the experience feels exploitative or distracting to users, it will have the opposite effect. Google must take its Beta tests very seriously, especially from a data/user-journey point of view.

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Metric standardization in digital

Thinking of digital advertizing, a common association is of a space where things are highly transparent and measurable and ROI is relatively easily determined, as compared to more traditional media. Metrics are rampant as is data, and everyone is measuring every last click. I was surprised therefore, to see that a group of advertizing trade groups are advocating measures to make digital ad metrics better and (paraphrasing) "more like TV". You can read the press release.

Basically, the release comes down to five principles that have to be implemented to make comparisons between different on- and offline media more meaningful and help ad buyers make better decisions about allocating their entire marketing budget. The principles are:

Move to a “viewable impressions” standard and count real exposures online. Like Nielsen trying to adjust its metrics to account for DVR viewers fast-forwarding through commercials, ad metrics should consider how not all ads load completely or are evn seen by viewers of sites.

Online advertising must migrate to a currency based on audience impressions, not gross ad impressions. TV metrics are highly specialized, showing not rating points, but rating points in a particular demographic. The prevailing online metrics still deal with impressions, however, which make cross-media comparisons problematic.


Because all ad units are not created equal, we must create a transparent classification system. We touched upon this in class a few times: there are standards for different display ad sizes, but how do we value each type? Again, comparability aided by standardization is key here.

Determine interactivity “metrics that matter” for brand marketers, so that marketers can better evaluate online’s contribution to brand building.While click-through rates are great for ecommerce sites, more relevant brand-building metrics are not easy to compare across sites.

Digital media measurement must become increasingly comparable and integrated with other media.

Interesting to see some of the limitations of online measurement and the steps being taken to address them...

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Brand experience advertising and the Internet

Conventional advertising wisdom goes something like this: search advertising is best for online businesses seeking conversion (i.e., making users do something, like buying a product), while banner advertising is best for brand awareness. And traditional advertisers do little of either; they have few online products to push, and they believe that banner advertising is an insufficient medium for a brand experience. Instead, brand experiences continue to be sold on television, one of the most expensive mediums for advertising.

I suspect these biases are contribute to higher advertising costs than is necessary. Take car companies as an example. They are prototypical users of television brand advertising as part of campaigns designed to raise awareness of new models and increase the appeal of models new and old. But what about new versions of longstanding models? For example, the Toyota Camry has been one of the best selling cars in the United States for decades. Perhaps some low-cost display advertisements announcing the arrival of the new model year would be more cost effective method to alert potential customers, who are likely to consider the car regardless of what the new model looks like. Similarly, Honda has an established promotional cycle every year -- why not run those advertisements online?

For those looking to get started, Wikipedia has a decent summary of the extraordinarily complicated web advertising ecosystem. Check it out.


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Social Media as a customer service tool..

Is this a bad idea?
I looked at a number of facebook pages for some prominent brands, and it looks like they are being used by customers to vent. The brands get sucked in and turn their pages into customer service outlets or help desks. Various departments within large organizations (Corporate Communications, Marketing, Customer Service, Help Desk) need to get aligned on what Social really means for the Brand. Customer service alignment with the rest of the organisation should be a part of the digital marketing strategy to avoid getting into a food fight with your consumers.
I think brands should realize that social is a less formal way of communicating and stock customer service replies simply aggravate consumers even more.

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Social Media Campaigns

I know that we haven't reached Social Media in class just yet, but I came across a list of interesting Social Media Campaigns that sparked my interest. I have a friend who worked for a company that specializes in managing a company's digital relationships. This particular company's competitive advantage is a tool that generates high quality polls and sweepstakes on Facebook. The idea is that the sweepstakes offer prizes that consumers can only be eligible for if they "like" the sponsoring company's fan page. This action then guarantees that any updates or further promotions offered by the company will appear in the users' news feeds.

The list above catalogs some more interactive methods of engaging users through social media outlets. One of the examples is the Old Spice campaign that we discussed in the core MBA class, Managing Marketing Programs. The campaign started with a popular television ad and then branched out to mini-video ads that were made in response to fans' comments and requests via Facebook. While this kind of marketing can definitely be hyper-targeted, it seems like it could potentially take up an enormous amount of time. The Old Spice people put out 180 more videos after the initial commercial!

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A new “war of domains”?

An expansion of addresses available in the Internet has been approved by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Although this has not been implemented yet the idea is to approve the use of other extensions besides the typical .com, .org or .net. This means that if I want to put .sophia or .mygrandothersnameisMary, I will be able to do so!!

This of course has brought a huge controversy.

On the one hand, it is a positive motion since nowadays it is hard to find a good domain for a new entrepreneur since most of the good names have been taken. This could also lead to innovations in online marketing, since powerful names such as whatsfor.dinner (quoted in the NY Times) can easily be remembered by Internet users.

But, on the other hand, critics say that there are already sufficient choices and that there is no need for this expansion. As well they argue this could lead to the old “war of domains” we’ve experienced in the past. This war consisted of people buying domains with trademarks and then selling them to corporate businesses. This lead to intellectual property abuses which critics don’t want to experience again. Anyway, many measures have been created to avoid these abuses. For instance, corporate businesses can claim the names of their addresses before the rollout period. As well, these addresses cost as much as $185,000 with a $25,000 annual fee.

Anyway, since this new motion would open the doors to endless addresses I believe there are many factors which we are not able to predict. For instance, big players need to stay alert since new domains will probably lead to great confusion!


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Social Media in the Arts

The Theatre Bay Area commissioned this study - The Tangled Web: Social Media in the Arts and it provides a snapshot as to how the arts and the cultural sector are using social media. Some of the highlights (summarized by Thomas Cott, of YouCottMail) of what they found were:

Arts organizations in the study utilize over 20 networking platforms.

The average arts organization is active on three social networks (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and uploads 66 new pieces of content each month.


Facebook Pages updated multiple times per day, [with] a customized URL and [featuring] a custom Welcome tab have more fans, who interact more often, than those who do not.

Organizations that tweet more than 4 times per day and do not replicate Facebook content on their Twitter feed have more followers and a higher rate of engagement than others.

Venue pages on Yelp and Foursquare that have been claimed by an organization have more user engagement than those that have not.

Arts organizations [which] use a custom URL and a custom template for their blog have more engagement than those who do not, but overall blogs offer a very low rate of engagement regardless of format, structure or frequency.

Depth verses breath is a stronger indicator of success in social media.

What I found to be most interesting about this study is its support of social media’s role as a way to engage audience members and to create dialogue and connections beyond the performance or gallery visit. In this case, for the arts, social media is not a path to selling more tickets or increasing income directly. Is this the case for all organizations, even for-profit?


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Search by image and voice search

I was recently surprised to learn that you now could search by images in Google.

Google users will be able to search by talking to a computer or dropping an image in the search box. Users can paste an image’s web address, upload a photo from their computers, drag and drop an image into the search box or use Chrome or Firefox extensions. Apparently, Google will analyzes the fundamental features of the image (lines and shapes), and match it with results in its database of images. It will only use face recognition when the picture is of a celebrity and already exists on the public Web.

I am not sure if it will be able to recognize the images of my university apartment but anyway, I think it’s pretty interesting. And it makes it even harder for competitors like Bing and Yahoo to make up any of the distant ground between them and Google.

I remember Professor Kagan saying in class something like images would not generate good traffic unless you used the proper keywords in the tags (if I recall properly). I now wonder if these new features will affect the search optimization process.

See also:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t99BfDnBZcI&sns=fb


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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Will Google AdWords take all the profit from e-commerce?

Learning how to advertise in AdWords I noticed that there are some keywords that are a lot more expensive than others. For example, to reach the top position for “auto insurance” you will have to pay around $26.24 per click. On the other hand, for “bicycles” or “LCD screens” you pay less than $5 per click. This is consistent with the competition for advertisement that you see on Google. When you search “auto insurance” you get the maximum amount of ads (3 on top, and 8 on the right side). When you search for “bicycles” you get no top ads and only 3 ads on the right side. In the extreme, if you search “nasa” you get no ads whatsoever.
This is due mainly to two things. First, the characteristics of the keyword people use to get to the product or service. For example, how broad or narrow is the keyword (e.g. a particular product reference vs. “clothes”). Keywords that unambiguously express and intent to buy (e.g. “auto insurance”) are more expensive than broader terms that might express different intents. I would expect narrow keywords to have a higher click through rate than broader terms and thus be more expensive. Second, the characteristics of the industry, in particular if consumers tend to buy the product or service on-line, drive prices of on-line advertisement. In industries like insurance where customers don’t switch as much as in other services, and where customers can get quotes on-line, there is huge competition for customer acquisition.
Google’s preeminent position as the top search engine in most of the world, coupled with its auction based pricing for advertisement, allows Google to extract almost all the profit of an additional customer acquired on-line. This is particularly true in industries where on-line purchases account for a significant part of revenues. I look forward to seeing how companies respond in the future to avoid depending significantly on their position on Google.

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Print isn't dead yet...

In meeting with our company for our class project last week, I was struck by both the power of digital marketing as well as the need to still have other marketing media at your disposal… and how marketing must always be coordinated with other divisions within a company.

Our company had launched on the internet and was basically relying on word of mouth and fairly simple SEO to generate business. While successful, it was slow, albeit in keeping with their business plan. It wasn’t until two articles in high profile traditional media were published that their business began to take off. Soon, they had met their one year sales goals in only three weeks. Digital marketing is powerful, but don’t think print media is dead yet. It was only with the boost of print that the company achieved such significant sales.

In fact, the company’s sales may have been too much! They suddenly found themselves unable to supply all the orders they had coming in. While this is a good problem for a company to have, the potential problems in reputation- especially in an online world- if the orders were delayed too long or their customer service failed could have more than offset their sales in the long term. (Only recently did the company feel they were truly getting caught up with demand—so far, their digital marketing strategy has been NOT to generate excessive growth as they simply couldn’t handle the extra orders.) The lesson is that marketing must be coordinated with other divisions within the company for a smooth operation.

Looking at their office, though, it was impressive to see what could be built by a company that essentially operates online only. Our contact noted that online business accounts for only 2% of the sales in this industry, and that with more and more people becoming comfortable buying virtually anything online, they feel they are well poised for future growth. It also made me wonder just what other opportunities for traditionally bought goods to be sold on the internet are still out there…


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The Magic of the Disappearing Ad Spend

There was a great article from the NY Times yesterday about how internet start ups are eliminating their marketing budgets from the equation when valuing their company. They call the process ACSOI which stands for Adjusted Consolidated Segmented Operating Income. Start ups from Pandora to Groupon use this to show what their company would have earned without the money they spent acquiring users. To me this seems a little crazy as your marketing spend should definitely be a part of your overall expenses as a company. If you're going to start taking large pieces out, why stop there? Here's a link to the article, so you can decide for yourself.



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Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Social Stock Market (It was only a matter of time..)

As I browse Facebook and see the hoards of friends that people accumulate - I always wondered when people would start being measured on their 'social worth' so that companies could start using the most valuable 'people stocks' as conduits to promote their brands e.g. those with 1000+ friends. Empire Avenue clearly read my mind (well partially). (http://www.empireavenue.com/)

According to Wiki 'Empire Avenue is a stock market simulation social network game that allows users to buy and sell shares of people and websites'. Web spies say its user base is growing rapidly and the game helps players monitor their social influence and possibly make business connections that boost their profits. Leading brands such as Intel, AT&T, Microsoft, Ford, Audi and Toyota are already in on the Empire Avenue trend and are quickly rising up on the leader board – a list that compares the muscle power of the account holders on social media as a whole.

So how is your 'worth' measured? Your score depends on activity, audience and interaction. Essentially, it is a function of what you do on social media, how much you do of it, who is listening and how people are engaging with you.

My thoughts on this topic: I get it for brands. And it was only a matter of time for people's social worth to be measured. But it does leave me feeling a little queasy. Now all those people who you barely say hello to will have more of an incentive to add you as a 'friend' and let you know that 'they are going to the bathroom' on twitter. I don't have 6 gazillion friends on Facebook nor do I have a twitter account which incessantly tells people what I am doing every 30 seconds. If my social stock is rubbish as a result - I am OK with that.

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Email Marketing..An undervalued digital marketing tool

         Last week I sent out a mass email to all my customers in order to promote my products for Fathers day. My cost to send out over 10,000 emails was a $75 monthly fee to the email company and the salary of my assistant for the time he spent drafting the email. The email company tracks my emails, lets me know which ones were opened and through the code used in the purchase, I am able to quantify the leads that I received through email marketing. With such an insignificant expense and a decent return, I believe that email marketing is not being given the respect that it deserves.
       Adword marketing is expensive and does not guarantee sales as I was forced to learn the hard way. SEO marketing is a slow process that takes a lot of time and effort. Email marketing on the other hand is fast and seemingly effortless. Anyone can draft an email and include promotional messages. The trouble is that today we receive many emails throughout the day. It seems easier to delete promotional emails then read them. Also, as Professor Kagan mentioned, if we catch a customer on a bad day, we face the chance that the customer might click the dreaded unsubscribe button.
        In order to prevent this from happening, I have reduced sending out emails to only four a month.However, I believe that email marketing has great potential and I look forward to hearing Professor Kagan speak on how to capitalize on this asset in digital marketing.

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Tracking

My group recently had a conference call with our client, Sailthru, which provides transactional and marketing email services. When the VP of Business Development described how the company was able to track users, I was a bit surprised. The company can see when emails are opened and email activity on the account (only for those emails sent by Sailthru's clients). It can also place a tracking cookie when a user clicks on a link embedded in the email. That way Sailthru can track what sites users are interested in, how long users are online, etc. Finally it can track location via a users IP address. This technology isn't necessarily new but it does raise concerns.

Most sites place cookies but people don't really think about cookies when they are checking email or clicking on links in an email. Another issue is how to even block these cookies. Would you have to block the linked site or another website associated with the company in order to stop the cookie? Sailthru (and other email marketing companies) use these tools to give their clients better user data in order to ensure better hit rates and email readership (among other goals) and I am sure the data is being mined in a responsible and secure manner.

The larger issue is that marketing in general (be it surveys via mail, purchase logging or newer methods) relies on a lot of user data. New technologies just change the way user data can now be collected and analyzed.

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Can you releasemyad?

Not too long ago, I found myself needing to place an advertisement for real estate in the local newspaper in India. It was a herculean task – first, I had to send a clerk to the offices of 3 newspapers to obtain their physical quotations and ad requirements. Then I had to understand their complicated rate structure – different prices for different days, pages, distribution, color etc. Eventually, once I decided my pick, I was told it was too late to publish my ad in a paper and date of my choice. As an alternative, I found a ‘broker’, negotiated a deal with him, and he finally placed my ad for me.
I recently came across www.releasemyad.com. This is a brilliant solution to the exact pain-points I experienced in India. The site allows you to create basic advertisements, and simply check off the newspapers that you want the ads to be displayed in. The website will price the ad based on various parameters, and, once you accept, you’re done! No going back and forth with the newspapers and brokers. And your ad is in the papers faster.
When we discussed Google’s adwords in class, I couldn’t help but think of this website. Although SEM is gaining traction in India, the online community itself is not quite robust yet. Print advertising is easily the medium of choice. Therefore releasemyad, as an online platform for a print solution, positions itself very well for future growth.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Building Civil Society By Making Money Online

While we know that internet advertising offers tremendous business potential, display ads and other online marketing tools are playing a critical role in building civil society and the social sector. In previous generations, small non-profits required capital to start fundraising programs and build a base of support, limiting new organizations. Today, with relatively little money, people can launch efforts to promote all kinds of change.

This blossoming of civil society has helped countless worthy causes find their base, and has brought new and diverse issues to the forefront of public consciousness. It's also made a significant impact on financing for non-profits. In the past, small donors have been expensive to maintain, coming in primarily through the mail and telemarketing. While low-level donors collectively can add up to big money, the investment -- even for organizations with large existing bases of support -- has been very high. Many non-profits have given up acquisition, effectively dooming their programs to long-run failure.

But these days, minimal investments can offer pay-off from in acquisition. Blackbaud's 2011 Donorcentrics Report indicates that gifts acquired online are, on average, larger. They tend to come from households with higher incomes, and have much larger cumulative giving.

This is an especially critical renaissance of acquisition coming at a time when the population of major donors is aging. Today's micro-philanthropists are tomorrow's major donors. Any organization that doesn't understand that today's continuum of giving starts with social media, display ads and online donations will lose money in the generational shift of wealth.

There is a flip side to the non-profit bonanza online: it is leading to a proliferation of charities doing similar work and competing for the same finite philanthropic dollars. Many of these organizations could join forces to make an even bigger impact. Nonetheless, it's a particularly exciting time to be thinking about revenue generation in the non-profit space.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Facebook Stores: Is this the future of business web sites?

It has been a while I am following social media marketing and browsing many e-Stores on Facebook, however it seems like Facebook is actively partnering with some key consumable product brands like Procter & Gamble (P&G). P&G recently announced launching 6 Facebook Stores which will bring a whole new business segment for Facebook. Well if this is a start, what to expect in near future. Amazon, JCPenney, Urban Outfitters, Old Navy and hundreds others have already opened theirs. Even the companies like Amazon, Ebay, Apple cannot live without the integration with Facebook anymore. The value proposition for companies like P&G and others is simply the voice of the customer i.e. sharing the feedback about the products with friends and family. At the same time the biggest challenge would be how the companies overcome the negative marketing that will in other words called bad reviews. Would those bad reviews will be filtered and if it does happen than it does not seems to me a transparent review system.




It is expected to be a billions of dollars business for technology innovators. These innovators developed innovative technology solutions that help companies develop their e-Stores on Facebook and them integrate with twitter and other social media sites like foursquare, livingSocial, Groupon, etc. Many of these e-store developers offer customized solutions as well as subscription based solutions starting from 9 dollars based on number of products.



Paul Marsden at socialcommercetoday.com has compiled a great list of 20 innovators ecommerce solutions developers and also a list of top 50 Facebook Stores.



The interesting trend here to see its that would the business need to manage and maintain different web sites when there core requirement of selling more is achievable through this new type of social e-commerce solutions. If you ask me I would go with one simple Facebook store web site and enhance it to optimize ROI. A domain will directly take you to the Facebook store where you will not only be able to buy products but also share experience across your network.



For more interesting posts like this, visit my blog at Web Technologist.

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Netflix 1 : Cable 0

Even since I have started Graduate school I hardly have time to watch TV let alone watch the 3 Netflix DVDs I have sitting on the shelf for the past 3-months. I know, I am not a smart customer, but between a full-time job and classes I don't even find the time to cancel my cable or reduce the number of DVDs I get from Netflix.

I am sure you will all agree with me that Netflix is a wonderful service. When I first came to the U.S. from Israel and heard about it, I thought to myself "this could never work in Israel" - people would just 'forget' to return the DVD, copy it or the mail service would lose it. I was amazed every time how perfectly the system works. Ever since I got an iPad I find myself using the Netflix app almost every time I travel, or sometimes even when I am sitting in a coffee shop.

What only occurred to my now about this service and why I like it so much is the fact that it doesn't have any of the annoying commercials that usually pop-up every time I am watching a stream online or of course on T.V.. Due to the success of Netflix I recently wondered if Netflix would become even more successful would they compromise and start allowing advertising on their site.




In an article published yesterday in NYTimes Bits Blog "Netflix Helps People Cut Cable Cord, Report Says" by Nick Bilton, turns out many people (as one would expect) have been canceling their cable service favoring watching video or streaming on their home television.

"The report found that people who use Netflix to stream Internet video to their televisions are twice as likely to cancel, or slim down, their cable television options."


With this in mind, I couldn't help but think what is happening to all this audience, especially for advertisers who mainly advertise on T.V. Will this shift in audience mean even more online advertising? Although the majority of the people surveyed reported economic reasons as their main reason for canceling cable, 34% said that the growing use of online video was their rationale with Netflix being the main content provider.

As Netflix continues to grow, offering its content on a variety of platforms like smartphones, Apple TV and Boxee it is not unlikely that eventually Netflix will open up for advertisers. I would be interested to hear if you agree with me, do you think online advertising would eventually 'hit' Netflix as well?

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Instant Pages - Google new Search Tool

There is no doubt that Google is a Search Engine leader and the reason is simple. Innovation and Wisdom of Crowd. Google introduced a new idea of instant pages that means they will start caching the web results locally instead of sending it to the final destination. The core reason to come up with this idea is to compete with other search engines by offering optimized search speed. It will save searchers 3 to 5 seconds of download time that in computer processing time matters a lot.








This new tool sounds interesting for searchers but what about the companies who own the sites. Will Google face legal issues because of this move? Possible as I remember archive.org also known as way back machine had many legal campaigns for not only copy right violations but also for keeping the records/old versions of web sites.



I have raised this question in our last class "Is this possible to develop a real time live search engine?". I think this instant page is one step ahead of same direction. Wouldn't that be great if we get what we expect live from the web sites. Well the only think that makes it hard is the processing time and a powerful multiprocessor architecture. May be by using quantum computing it will soon no longer be a myth.



This article was originally posted on Search Engine Land that was re-posted on my personal blog at Web Technologist.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Google Local Search and Mobile- The Way of the Future?

Today, Google announced plans to revamp its mobile search, combining two of the important components of the future of paid search advertising we discussed yesterday. New features include the ability to speak what you're searching for into the phone with Google Voice Search and the option to search by clicking and dragging an image into the search box. With Google Goggles, you can point your phone at words in any language to get an instant translation.

What do you folks think about the importance of mobile and local in the future of search? I rarely search for things locally because I feel the information I want is hard to find and inaccurate. Maybe big improvements in the area will help change my mind. However, I definitely agree that mobile is the way of the future. I even find myself searching the web on my iPhone when I'm at home and just too lazy to walk over to the computer. Do you have any other opinions?

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What does the AdMeld Acquisition Mean?

Quite simply it means Google is consolidating it’s overwhelming dominance of display advertising. From my initial glance at the acquisition, it appeared that Google was simply growing its already massive analytics toolbox, but I now believe that this is only a small part of their acquisition rationale. The more significant byproduct of the acquisition is the growth Google’s display ad presence.

Admeld’s technology, most notably its yield optimization service, will undoubtedly be incorporated into Google’s own DoubleClick. This does not preclude the possibility that Admeld will continue to operate its original service; the future development efforts will most likely be redirected to doubleclick. Maintaining Admeld will certainly be part of the strategy to retain Admeld’s publisher client base, which is certainly a larger part of the acquisition.

However, a much more powerful and less intuitive benefit of the acquisition is the boost Admeld will make to Google’s display ad presence by increasing their queries per second (qps) volume. Queries per second is a direct measure of the volume of display ads), and these queries are generated by Sell-Side Platforms (SSPs) like Admeld.

I anticipate that Google’s acquisition of Admeld will boost the value of the remaining Sell-Side Platforms, and we even may be seeing Microsoft looking to acquire one of the other major QPS generators.


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Monday, June 13, 2011

Facebook and Politics

Facebook is proving to be an increasingly useful tool for politicians. A campaign was conducted recently by SocialCode to measure how many times a potential presidential candidate was “liked”, where the voters were from, and what issues are important to them. Using this information, SocialCode was able to come up with a ranking by importance of issue for potential candidates. They were also able to identify the popularity of potential candidates in a given state. This will prove to be extremely useful in predicting the outcome of the elections. Candidates can use Facebook as a mechanism for measuring where they should focus their energy in the campaign. This is yet another way that social media may prove to have a real effect on world politics.

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=152236


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Groupon Vs Living Social – Their Approach to Advertising

At the end of Q1 2011 Groupon had 83 million total subscribers compared to 26 million for Living Social. At first glance it seems that Groupon and Living Social have the same business strategy but the way each company approaches its audience is vastly different. Both companies spend heavily on advertising but rely on different channels to get their message across.

“LivingSocial concentrates the vast majority (73%) of its display ads on the top five U.S. Web properties, especially Yahoo and MSN. Within those sites, the ads run chiefly in email and news sections. The rest of LivingSocial's ads are scattered around the Web. Groupon takes the opposite track, running only 31% of its ads to the top publishers' site and spreading the bulk (69%) across mid-tier and long-tail sites.”

The reason might lie behind the demographic and geographic make-up of their audience. Geographically, Groupon's user base lies towards the Midwest and Pacific regions, while LivingSocial is stronger in the East. Which makes sense as Groupon is headquartered in Chicago while LivingSocial in Washington, D.C.

Demographically, Groupon users are younger than its rival’s (25% Groupon users are in the age bracket of 18-24 compared to Living Social’s 10%). Also while Living Social users are more gender balanced, Groupon users are primarily female.

Another reason for the difference in choice of advertising channel might lie in the retail categories that the companies focus on. More than half 50% of Groupon's offers are for restaurants, while more than 40% of the LivingSocial's deals are for books and magazines.

It is worth noting that both companies heavily rely on display marketing instead of search marketing (SEM or SEO) due to the nature of their business model which relies heavily on interruption marketing.

At the same time the differing strategies of both companies raise the question as to who is smarter and why? And what is the brand impact of these strategies. Does LivingSocial benefit from being more selective about its ad placement or is it just a matter of targeting its older audience who read more books and magazines more effectively? Is Groupon chasing its younger audience when advertising in niche websites or is the game simply about achieving the lowest customer acquisition cost?

Another thought to ponder in this discussion might be whether these companies intially used these advertising channels because of their target audience or whether their choice of advertising channels has created their unique audience. I guess it is the case of the chicken or the egg…

Source: Online Media Post



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Google Correlate

Given our introduction into cool tools on the internet (i.e. Google Insights, The Wheel) in our digital marketing class – I set out about trying to see what else Google has to offer in this space. Primarily, I was curious to understand what other insights we could gain from people’s search patterns and behaviors. I will focus on one tool that particularly intrigued me – Google Correlate.

It was officially launched at the end of May on GoogleLabs and essentially flips the concept of Google Trends and Insights in that instead of entering a search term and seeing the trend, you enter a trend of a real world activity and see which search terms best match that trend.

The Google Correlate journey actually started with analyzing flu trends. Google compared time series for millions of search queries with the actual influenza data to find the queries that best correlated with flu trends...they found that certain search terms were surprisingly good indicators of actual flu activity. Google correlate allows you to use your own time series data and the output is a set of search queries that are best correlated with the your ‘real world’ time series data.

Now you are thinking ‘ well what if I don’t have time series data – just a term I’d like to check’. Of course there is a solution for this too. Lets say we type in ‘sunglasses’ the correlation data shows that the term ‘fossil sunglasses’ is most highly correlated with this term. Fossil is actually a brand of sunglasses so we might infer that they recently launched an ad campaign which influenced search behavior. See the results by clicking on this link: http://correlate.googlelabs.com/search?e=sunglasses&t=weekly

Like all other things Google – the beauty is in the simplicity of use yet the wealth of information and insights you can draw from the output. An interesting question posed by a web article on this topic was when hedge funds will start using this – any digital marketers/financiers in the class want to take a punt?

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Google AdWords: let the buyer beware

No journalist out there has done a better job of keeping a sharp eye on Google's monstrously successful AdWords product than The Register's Cade Metz. He is a must read. Here's why:

For the uninitiated, Google AdWords is the product that makes Google most of its money -- it's the monetization engine behind its search engine, which in a very real way is actually a loss leader. AdWords takes your searches, matches it with bids from advertisers, and then displays ads next to your search results. It's actually a great way for small, low-budget and relatively unsophisticated ad buyers to get access to advertising -- without having to hire a media-buying firm.

Sounds simple enough. But Google can trick you in many small ways. For example, default settings can actually be pretty dangerous for your budget, being allocated to words that sound like or are spelled like the ads you've purchased. If your ad is for "Hello Kitty", then "Hi Kitty" isn't quite the same thing.

But, of course, Google has an incentive to move inventory, and these little problems for you are profits for them. So if you're spending any money with Google AdWords, keeping abreast of Cade's latest articles about AdWords is a very good idea.

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Hulu Tries to Mitigate Declines in Summer Viewership

This summer Hulu is exploring new ways to increase viewership over the summer months. The company has experienced the same decline in viewership that networks have historically faced in the summer and is looking for innovative ways to turn that around. As part of their strategy they have acquired 3 new shows that will be available in the U.S. exclusively via Hulu. Historically, Hulu has not held exclusive rights to content and as such they have been an alternative viewing platform. This could prove to be an interesting approach for Hulu and we will see how it plays out in the U.S. market. The question is: are they actually finding a solution to increase summer viewership with this strategy? I am skeptical that these three shows will offer something unique vs. the “counter-programming strategy” that has been used by television programmers for years with little success. I find it highly unlikely given the nature of the shows acquired that they are going to make up for the historical drops in percent viewership over the summer months. Even if the content is extremely compelling and results in a slight boost in the number of viewers this will not spill over into the other content Hulu is offering. It makes sense to think of the television industry as cyclical and while it is an interesting approach on Hulu’s part exclusive rights to these shows will not be the end of their summer woes.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-ct-hulu-20110611,0,7294936.story


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