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In case you've been living under a rock, Time recently announced 26 year-old Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and co-founder of Facebook, as its 'Person of the Year'? for 2010. The special issue and accompanying articles go into great detail on the amazing success that Facebook has achieved in the seven years since it was all started in a Harvard dorm room in 2004 ' 550 million members and currently growing at a rate of 700,000 people per day. While the results and achievements by Facebook are startling and well documented (I still need to see The Social Network), it was Zuckerberg's vision for the future of the web that I found the most interesting part of the piece. This vision, labeled as the 'Facebookization of the Web'? in the article, will redefine the importance that the internet plays in helping many consumers make purchase decisions. Before buying, I always first check out the product features and consumer reviews on the web. As marketers, we are all well aware of the power of Word of Mouth and the weight that a recommendation from a friend or family member carries with it. Unfortunately, the major problem with online reviews is that they are made by complete strangers. Maybe the product is great but the reviewer just had a bad day. Or maybe they found installation/setup to be a breeze because they are an engineer for NASA.  How can I trust a recommendation or a complaint made by someone I know nothing about? Zuckerberg plans to change all of this by enabling consumers to utilize their social network as an online resource when doing things like comparing brands, researching potential vacation trips, trying to choose what movie to see, etc. Imagine being able view friends' reviews first upon visiting a site. Consumers will be able to make much more informed purchase decisions by having a social context and a relationship to the reviewer. As Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO states, 'It's a shift from the wisdom of crowds to the wisdom of friends. It doesn't matter if 100,000 people like x. If the three people closest to you like y, you want to see y." Of course, which friends or family members to trust will be completely up to you. Reference: Grossman, Lev. 'Mark Zuckerberg.'? Time December 15, 2010

Customer Service is as Important as Ever for Businesses....and Search Engine Marketing

From 1987-1997, the FOX television network aired "Married With Children," its most successful live-action sitcom to date. The show chronicled the miserable Al Bundy, a former high school football star turned women's shoe salesman. Ever since Al scored 4 touchdowns in a game for Polk High School, his life went steadily downhill. For Al, work was no relief from his miserable home life, as he would routinely make fun of his customers for his own personal enjoyment. Something tells me that if social networking and local search were around back then, there is no way Al would have been employed at the same shoe store for 11 years. Local search has proven to have a major effect on search engine marketing. For example, the other night I was looking to purchase a new pair of sneakers and I was trying to find shoe stores that I wasn't previously aware of. I did what the majority of people would do; I typed in www.google.com and searched for "boston shoe stores." Out of the 10 search results on the 1st page, 5 of them were local search websites, and the #1 ranking was held by Yelp. Now that the communication of social networking has been combined with local search, word of mouth marketing might as well be renamed "word of viral universe marketing." This should be exciting for many business owners, as they have a new source for free advertising that outreaches the scope of their previous efforts. However, notice I said this should be exciting for "many" business owners. One of the main reasons why it has been difficult to convince many businesses to embrace social media marketing is that the business loses control of its desired message. For business owners not completely comfortable with the ways of the Internet, this can be a scary thought. If a business is a respectable establishment that treats customers with respect, social media should only benefit them. However, if a business makes a habit of shady dealings and rude customer service, you better believe that they will get some horrible reviews from angry customers, which will only lead to horrible "word of viral universe" marketing. Before I started this blog entry I did some research and found that about 1900 people searched the term "boston shoe stores" last month. That means that 1900 people also saw similar results as I did on the 1st page of Google. That also means that up to 1900 people saw the 74 mostly atrocious reviews that a certain Boston shoe store received from the online social universe on Google Places alone. The reviews weren't much better on Yelp either. According to dissatisfied customers, this company's employees have done everything from not honoring returns, to belittling customers, to even flirting with a customer's girlfriend! What would be even sadder is if this company was unaware of the power of this thing called the Internet. In addition to being a respectable establishment, a certain degree of public relations needs to be present for the most effective social media marketing. Instead of trying to hide negative comments and reviews, companies should be trying to embrace them to improve their business. By conversing with customers, businesses are getting on their level and showing they care. That action alone will more than likely make up for any wrong doing the business did in the first place, and ultimately the customer will probably give the business a second chance. Luckily for Al Bundy, his company wasn't forced to embrace social media back in the 80's and 90's. If the real life version of Al Bundy is still selling shoes today, he better keep his wisecrack comments to himself.

Here Comes Twitter ' Thoughts on Promoted Tweets from the Search Desk

Recently Twitter announced their first step toward a business model via the ad unit - Promoted Tweets.  At 140 characters in length, Promoted Tweets look and act like standard (free) Tweets only they will be keyword targeted, highlighted when moused over and serve at the top of Twitter search result pages.  So, in a sense Twitter has followed in the tradition of paid search by aligning their ad placements with their core content offering both in keyword relevance and appearance. There have been plenty of articles and blog posts covering the details of this launch so I will just share a few initial thoughts and spare the world from regurgitating the little we still know. This is bigger than Twitter, is it a new search opportunity? Twitter intends to roll out Promoted Tweets in a series of phases, initially only in their search results pages. They openly suggest however that the ultimate opportunity is in rolling this out across the Twitter ecosystem, an ecosystem which also happens to include Google and Bing's organic results. This suggests a tremendous opportunity for marketers to expand reach and market share within the meat of the search engine results page (SERP). An area of the page front and center traditionally reserved for organic listings. Of course, in order for this to happen the engines will have to play ball. But it's a revenue opportunity, can they afford to resist? What's up with 'resonance'?? Ok, I get it. It's all about user experience so only serve qualified relevant ads, but Twitter you need to make sure this works in your favor. What am I talking about? Here's my take:Promoted Tweets are priced on the paid search bid/relevance structure adapted to the Twitter environment . They will apply a CPM bid/'?resonance'? (think Google Quality score but based on re-tweets, CTR and other factors) model.  The intention here is seemingly to ensure relevance among marketer's messaging in that only the most engaging ads will survive. Marketers will thus be incentivized to develop creative that adds value to their respective audiences. The theory behind this makes sense however it is the application that throws me off. One of the main reasons why paid search works (i.e. $$$) for Google and advertisers alike is that both are typically aligned. Marketers are incented to develop highly relevant and targeted ads (calculated by CTR) and are in turn rewarded by reduced CPC rates. Google is also rewarded as the higher revenue driving ads gain primary positioning and distribution. Twitter's choice of CPM model seemingly does not deliver this same alignment.  Higher 'resonance'? i.e. re-tweet or reply rates'?¦may result in greater reach for the advertiser, but what's in it for Twitter? Yes, it does ensure better ad relevance but at first glance it doesn't make Twitter more money. It is still early and very little has been disclosed so perhaps it's premature to be critical...or I'm just missing something. That being said, if this is accurate we should expect further changes to come. Indeed, there are more questions than answers at this point. The one thing we know for sure is that between Facebook's recent announcement of Open Graph and the launch of Promoted Tweets, 2010 is off to an exciting start.

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