+1 for Business: Google+ Streamlines Social Media Marketing

Posted by Mike O'Rourke on Mon, Jul 18, 2011 @ 01:13 PM

Google +1I tweeted last week that Google+ is already a “digital darling” mere days after its release into the wild, and based on the buzz coming from the press (no pun intended), I’m not the only one who thinks so.

After spending some time playing around in my own Google+ account, I’ve started to see why friends, co-workers and the media are swarming what I’ve heard some skeptics refer to as a “just another Facebook.” While at first glance, it bears more than a striking resemblance to Facebook, leading many to herald it as the ‘Facebook Killer’ or at least debate its status as such, my experiences with Google+ indicate that it’s far more than a simple Facebook competitor. In fact, as others have posited, perhaps Google+ is a bigger threat to Twitter than it is to Facebook.

Google+ adopts the same asymmetrical user relationship as Twitter (one user can follow another’s content without the other reciprocating) while granting users richer social networking features to rival Facebook. Google+ is just as useful for broadcasting content as it is for maintaining personal relationships. The parallels between traditional broadcast media and Twitter and the familiarity with how to take advantage of them are no doubt a major reason why businesses swarmed to the channel in the first place. And while Facebook has implemented similar broadcasting features with its news feed and later with dedicated Facebook Pages, Google+ allows you to broadcast to your existing social network without needing to direct friends to an entirely separate page, making it easier to leverage for marketing purposes.

While Google is hardly doing something revolutionary by combining the best features  of Facebook and Twitter, the centrality of Cirlces in Google+’s functionality provides users with a much more intuitive method of filtering their streams and publishing content for specific social subsets than either rival service does. By allowing users to segment their social network any way they wish, and using those segments as the basis for networking and publishing, Google+ elegantly navigating the privacy minefield that Facebook has seemingly hobbled through for years.

Everything Google+ brings to the table is good news for businesses. While Google is only supporting formal business accounts on an extremely limited basis at the moment, Google+’s asymmetrical relationships mean that marketers will be able to easily apply their Twitter strategy to Google+ while having their content displayed in-line with more socially oriented content to the end user. 

The mechanics of Circles allow businesses to segment their followers based on their level of engagement, tailoring content more appropriately to prospects and customers by their position in the funnel.  Additionally, independent contractors, small business owners, and other individuals wishing to leverage their personal social networks for business purposes can post promotional content to the appropriate connections without spamming social connections. 

Meanwhile, integration between Google+ and Google’s bread and butter search is inevitable, granting businesses more results page real estate as content posted through a business page appears alongside organic listings. Google needs only to integrate its suite of other business tools (AdWords + social targeting, product feeds and Checkout within business pages, etc.) with these already-apparent strengths to make Google+ an even more powerful marketing asset.

What we’re seeing with Google+ is a refinement of the social channel; taking the real-time broadcasting power of Twitter, combining it with the compelling social features of Facebook, and using them to augment Google’s already superior search capabilities. With social networking, content aggregation and sharing features making it easier for users to find the content most relevant to them, Google+ may have finally cracked the social search code, which is good news for users and businesses alike.

If you’re considering marketing your business or non-profit organization via Google+, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter or any other social channels, our consultants can help you to choose the right channel, craft a sound strategy, build your following, and monitor your progress. If you’d like professional advice on any or all of these crucial steps in social media marketing fill out the Free Consultation form to the right and we’ll contact you, free of charge, to answer all your questions and put you on the road to social marketing success!

Tags: Social Media, Facebook, Google+, Search, Advertising, Integration, Twitter

How Banks Can Beat Google & Facebook at Their Own Game

Posted by Mike O'Rourke on Mon, Jul 11, 2011 @ 01:10 PM

Banks Can Beat Google and FacebookTo most, the fast moving, pseudo-celebrity world of the tech industry may seem worlds apart from the conservative traditions of today’s struggling banking sector. Banks across the country are suffering from the one-two punch of the credit crunch and increased federal scrutiny and regulation that has dried up many of the industry’s traditional sources of revenue. The future looks gloomy to most working in financial services today, but thanks to the recent cross-over of advertising techniques rooted in the digital world, bankers may have reason for renewed hope.

It’s common knowledge today that digital powerhouses like Google and Facebook generate their sizable revenue by mining their users’ data and serving them paid advertisements based on their searches, likes and interests. The model has proven quite effective, allowing advertisers to display ads only to prospects that have shown interest via search queries or other submitted information. Google still earns over 95% of its revenue from such targeted advertisements, and growth of its AdWords and AdSense advertising platforms show no sign of slowing down.

The rosy news for financial institutions is that, thanks to outfits like Cardlytics and Billshrink, they can start earning revenue through similarly targeted advertising models that have proven even more successful at reaching motivated customers than Google’s. That’s because banks are sitting on some of the most valuable information a marketer could dream of – their customers’ spending data. 

Banks struggling to make ends meet, and afraid to alienate customers with new fees and hiked maintenance costs can now team up with an analysis company like the aforementioned to offer their customers Groupon-esque discounts from retailers like Wal-Mart, Lowes, Pottery Barn or Foot Locker, earning money each time a customer cashes in on one such coupon. According to Rod Witmond, head of product management at Cardlytics, roughly 20% of banking customers that received electronic coupons from their banks opened them,  and 30% of them cashed in on their coupon. Having worked for years on Google AdWords campaigns for clients in all sorts of industries, I'll attest that most advertisers can only dream of such conversion rates.

Thanks to statement-targeted advertisements, banks not only have a revenue source that benefits their customers in this time of increased regulation and tighter budgets.  Community banks also have a new service to offer local businesses that provides loyalty rewards and could win customers back from national chains, increasing their brand equity with their traditional most valuable customers. Participating financial institutions could package this service with other desirable business accounts and services at a discount to increase their market share among local businesses; just what the doctor ordered during such hard times for the industry.

Banks using statement-targeted advertising can rest easy knowing that while Google and Facebook are chugging along using proxy data to determine which offers are relevant to their users, their customers and partners, consumer and business alike, benefit from the most telling targeting data there is. Transaction data.

If your bank is searching for ways to boost revenues without risking customer backlash, our consultants stand ready to help you explore your options and tailor them to your bank's unique needs. Simply fill out the form to the right, and one of our digital marketing consultants will contact you to learn about your institution’s unique goals and challenges, and to work with you to develop a revenue-driven digital media strategy.

Tags: Banks, Banking, Advertising, Banking Crisis, Revenues

A (New) Media Plan for 2011

Posted by Mike O'Rourke on Thu, Dec 30, 2010 @ 03:27 PM

distractedAs the 2010 draws to a close, smart businesses are taking a moment to step back and take in the big picture of how they spent their year. For more than a few folks in marketing, this time is being used to evaluate their successes and failures mixing it up with competitors across print, broadcast media, and online communities, networks, feeds and directories.

If you’re a marketer and you’re not ADD already, you’d better start fragmenting your attention now because the people you’re trying to reach certainly are, at least with respect to the way they consume their media. According to Nielsen, 60% of television viewers are simultaneously using the internet on their computers. I count myself among that 60% often, and the odds are good that you’re right there with me (if so, mute the TV now and focus on this article!).

While it’s almost impossible to gauge exactly how people are dividing their attention between their computer, tablet or smartphone and their TV, the point is that people are dividing it. This audience behavior can be overwhelming for marketers who want to embrace new media, but aren’t sure how to target campaigns and measure ROI. As Simon Mainwaring points out in his excellent article, What happens when everything is social media?:

Each media, whether its the iPad, mobile phone, television, movie, VOD, Xbox, game console, tablet or Hulu, has its own ‘use case’ (why someone is selecting that device) that has to be cross-referenced with the others and then measured as a whole. Only then can you know if your marketing spend is having any impact on share of conversation, brand awareness or sales.

Effective brands must now define themselves in prospects’ minds as the aggregate of the content and conversations about them (controlled and earned coverage). To truly communicate the value of your brand, you can no longer dominate one medium at the expense of the others. Chances are good that your prospects are just too distracted to effectively absorb your value proposition through a single channel.

How then, should marketers deal with this fragmentation of attention in 2011? Don’t start this year’s plan by budgeting media. Start instead by defining or reexamining your brand’s core value proposition. Refine it until it’s elegant (you’d be surprised at how many brands never take the time to define their unique value proposition in the first place!). Be able to tell prospects what you can do for them simply and effectively. Once you’ve defined your brand’s message, consider how best to communicate that message, and choose your media based on the capabilities that each brings to the table.

Traditional, one-to-many channels are refined and well understood. But they’re now sharing the stage with a more engaging and less controllable channel in the internet. Online, marketing objectives are won and lost by how brands contribute to the ongoing conversation, not only about themselves, but about their areas of expertise and influence.

This year, it will be vital to approach each channel based on its ability to reach and engage prospects, and to develop a plan that takes advantage of the unique strengths of each. When most of your prospects are engaging multiple media, simultaneously, mastery of a single channel will no long be enough to succeed. Quality marketing in a magazine looks very different from quality marketing on twitter, and with each year, fewer prospects have the time or attention to give to content that doesn’t match its medium.

To your marketing success in 2011!

Tags: Digital Marketing Strategy, Social Media, Television, Strategy, Marketing Integration, Media Planning, Advertising, Integration

Banner Ads and the Personal Touch: How Wikipedia Increased Donations by Almost 1500%

Posted by Mike O'Rourke on Fri, Nov 19, 2010 @ 08:10 PM

If you surf Wikipedia as much as I do, I'm sure you're familiar with the recent addition of banner ads featuring the face of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and a simple message asking you to please read his personal appeal. I have to say, this campaign is the first that's managed to cut through the noise for me, apparently despite several previous attempts.

When I first encountered the banner, I didn't give much thought as to why this particular ad grabbed my attention. Instead, I was immediately engaged by the banner, and clicked through to read the extremely well written letter, just as Wikipedia intended. Since then, Jimmy Wales' concerned mug drew my eye every time I dropped in to read about the egregious pollution in Norilsk, Russia, personality theory, or whatever subject happened to be the fascination of the hour.

According to this awesome infographic from InformationIsBeautiful.net (via my one of my favorite tumblogs, TheDailyWhat), I wasn't the only one noticing.

wikipedia jimmy appeal

The donation numbers speak for themselves.

Of course hindsight is 20/20, but I'm not very surprised that a banner ad with a simple message accompanied by a very personal image of Riddle got people's attention better than text banners with pithy messages and guilt trips. As a marketer, you hear every day how important the personal connection with your customers is. The increasing business impact of social media has driven that point home, quite painfully for some. The Wikipedia case shows just how effective that personal connection, established by the banner ad, and intensified by the letter on the landing page can be. 

Whether you're currently engaged in banner advertising, or considering it as an option, there's a valuable lesson to be learned here. Sometimes you don't need witty ad copy, flashy animation, or high end graphic design to be successful in display advertising. Sometimes, all it takes is the same kind of personal connection that salesmen have been making with prospects since the very birth of business. If you're running out of ideas for your ad campaigns, why not try taking it back to the basics?

Tags: Social Media, SEM, Wikipedia, Fundraising, Landing Pages, Advertising, Banner Ads