Mark Zuckerberg Faces Congress: Social Media Grows Up

Mark Zuckerberg Faces Congress: Social Media Grows Up

Social media

I have heard Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional appearances this week described as the moment when social media began to grow up. And there’s no doubt that the world’s largest social network has started to sound more committed to acting more responsibly with the data of its two billion members, judging by Zuckerberg’s remarks and his prepared testimony. Assigning a $40,000 bounty for the reporting of data abuse certainly makes Facebook look determined to get more serious about addressing data indiscretions.

But despite Facebook’s stated commitment to get better at protecting its users, a simple fact remains: social media is a messy place for brands to live even as social media platforms grow up.

Amid the publication of determined testimonies and bounties, I know these things to be certain:

  • Facebook will not be immune from data abuse. Mistakes are going to happen. Determined and unethical parties are going to look for cracks in the seams. What we can expect to be different is Facebook’s reaction to problems when they happen. There remains an important distinction between a platform having airtight security and a platform that acts rapidly to address problems when they occur. Will advertisers and users appreciate the difference?
  • Facebook won’t be the only platform that experiences abuses of its terms and conditions. As I noted on our blog, YouTube has been hiring more people to train computers to police abuses on its site in order to prevent the kinds of embarrassing incidents that rocked the network in recent months, such as brand advertising appearing alongside inappropriate videos. But YouTube continues to experience lapses, such as a report about ads for adult content appearing on the site, hackers targeting popular music videos, and advocacy groups charging YouTube with illegally collecting personal information from children.
  • Facebook users will complain about data abuses and some will even #DeleteFacebook. But how many will stay off the network permanently after they realize that there’s nowhere else to go?

I’m not saying that brands should simply be patient. Brands and users should expect more vigilance out of all their social networks, including Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and all the others we call home. But we need to be realistic. These networks, especially Facebook, remain free because they accept advertising. And to play ball with advertisers, they’re going to share user data – which, when done well, brings about a better user experience. But with the sharing of data comes potential for abuse. And let’s not forget these free platforms are pretty much open to anyone who meets their soft requirements, and advertisers have to accept the consequences, both good and bad.

Advertisers, buckle in. You’re in for a bumpy – but profitable – ride. Remember, these networks offer rewards to those who understand how to use them for targeted, timely advertising. Contact us. We’ll work with you to do just that.

4 Advertising Trends from Super Bowl LII

4 Advertising Trends from Super Bowl LII

Marketing

The past 24 hours have been full of stories rating the Super Bowl ads. The fact that the ads are even rated at all is a testament to their power. We now treat them like movies, talking about them before the big reveal, watching trailers, and then experiencing the moment, after which we discuss how we feel about them (actually, the discuss occurs in real time now, followed by more detailed analysis). In addition to judging the ads, though, it’s also interesting to watch for trends in their format or differences in how they were unveiled in years past. Here are a few we noticed:

1. The Surprise Drop

Usually ads for movies promote releases that are months on the horizon. This year, Netflix dropped a surprise: a film, The Cloverfield Paradox, that premiered immediately after the Super Bowl. The surprise release followed an approach that musicians such as Beyoncé have employed with surprise album drops. In the words of reporter William Bibbian of IGN.com, “All of a sudden, a film most people hadn’t even heard of was now a very big deal.” But the buzz turned to disappointment after critics actually saw the movie and reviewed it. Perhaps that’s what Netflix had in mind all along: drop the movie during the Super Bowl Sunday and attract viewership before word-of-mouth reactions set in.

2. Fewer Stunts

In years past, brands have used the Super Bowl to unleash amusing stunts such as fake ads. This year, advertisers unleashed fewer stunts with the notable exception of Skittles. As we discussed on our blog, Skittles release an advertisement watched by just one person, employing a tongue-in-cheek tone that made us wonder if the ad and person were real. Well, they were. Skittles did what brands struggle to do amid the Super Bowl ad blizzard: capture attention and create conversation. Otherwise, brands focused on the content of the ads themselves.

3. Longer-Form Narrative

As noted in Business Insider, Super Bowl ads were lengthier, taking a storytelling approach that required viewers to follow storylines, such as Aerosmith’s Stevie Tyler reverse aging as he drove a Kia in reverse. Tide released a series of ads starring Stranger Things actor David Harbour, who appeared in ads mocking the concept of an ad. Apparently Super Bowl advertisers wanted to create more memorable moments during the game itself by telling stories, which might help explain why fewer brands released their ads before the game this year.

4. Measurable Performance

Automobile marketplace Cars.com announced that automotive ads generally drove viewers to Cars.com to check out the cars advertised during the game. According to Cars, the Kia Red Stinger ad resulted in a 4,053-percent spike in traffic to view the car on Cars.com. Cars.com research showed that Super Bowl ads (in the automotive industry, anyway) creature measurable results. Perhaps in the future, brands will dial up their ability to measure and even adjust advertising on the fly based on audience feedback in real-time. With digital, anything is possible.

Super Bowl ads, like Black Friday, adapt to changing times and endure the most withering criticism. The Super Bowl will always be an advertising bonanza. Businesses, though, will tweak their approaches year after year as they try to capture a reward so elusive in the digital age: our attention. For more insight into how to build your brand, contact KeywordFirst.

 

 

Social Media Remains a Messy Place for Brands to Live

Social Media Remains a Messy Place for Brands to Live

Social media

Let’s face it: YouTube will never be free of controversy. Neither will Facebook. Or Twitter. Or even LinkedIn. Social media is, and will always be, a messy and imperfect place for brands to live. The major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube continue to roll out more programs to police user activity on their sites in an effort to protect their integrity for advertisers. Recently we saw YouTube do just that by committing to hiring more people to teach computers to police its site, which YouTube hopes will prevent advertisers’ content from appearing next to inappropriate content.

But despite these efforts, we also continue to see signs of how ugly and messy social media can be. The latest reminder is the controversy surrounding the filming of a suicide victim by YouTube personality Logan Paul. Not only was the action itself alarming, but so were the reactions of others on social media, who created a cycle of content that extended the story and sensationalized the news. In addition, the incident drew attention to how difficult it is for YouTube to police its own content.

Of course, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter (the lightning rods for social media critics) need to do everything they can to make their platforms as respectable and safe as possible. But as my colleague Tim Colucci argued recently, YouTube’s ad problems aren’t going away, and neither are Facebook’s and Twitter’s. If you advertise on social media, understand the appeal of social media will always be its openness. On social media, anyone can have an opinion, which means that fringe content will always creep its way on to the major platforms no matter how hard Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube work to contain offensive material.

In 2018, advertisers will need to come to terms with the imperfect nature of social while capitalizing on its many advantages, of which there are many. Let’s remember:

  • Facebook continues to roll out products that make it possible for advertisers to target audiences more effectively than ever before.
  • Twitter remains a strong platform for companies to announce news and support product roll-outs.
  • YouTube continues to be the premier video platform and search tool.

The question, is, how much imperfection and messiness are advertisers willing to accept? The answer depends on how tightly you control your brand’s image. Command-and-control brands will always have a difficult time living on social media. Brands that are comfortable rolling with the punches will flourish. What’s your strategy? Contact KeywordFirst. We can help you manage your digital brand.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/film-filmstrip-you-tube-you-tube-589491/

KeywordFirst Predicts 6 Digital Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018

KeywordFirst Predicts 6 Digital Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018

Marketing

What trends will influence how businesses spend their digital marketing dollars in 2018? To find the answers, we asked our own people. The following six predictions from KeywordFirst employees cover a lot of ground befitting the sprawling nature of digital marketing. Our predictions include:

  • A big year for augmented reality – for both brands and consumers.
  • Possibly rough sailing ahead for Facebook, but exciting times for LinkedIn.
  • A more thoughtful approach to influencer marketing.
  • Growth of visual search.

Check out the following predictions, and let us know how you believe 2018 will shape up for your business. Thank you to KeywordFirst employees for sharing your thoughts! Learn more about our subject matter experts here.

Augmented Reality

In 2018 the use of Augmented Reality will become an increasingly popular tool used to engage shoppers. Online shoppers sometimes miss out on the in-store experience when searching for a product or service through the web. The use of AR will help create this virtual experience for online shoppers; in return it will increase engagement rates, brand awareness, and hopefully conversions. While the technology to effectively use AR will still be developing well into 2018, I predict that many companies will begin to incorporate these features into their brand awareness and digital marketing strategy. —Bella Schneider, digital marketing associate

Facebook

With the recent admission by former Facebook executives that the social media platform was designed to get its users addicted and that it is ripping apart the social fabric of how society works, 2018 might be the year we see a significant decline in active users. Although industry analysts have been predicting a reduction in Facebook users for the past few years, the fact that ex-Facebook executives are admitting guilt over the monster they’ve created might finally be the wakeup call that many social media users have been waiting for. If Facebook usage does suffer a significant decline, it’s fair to expect that marketers will also see diminished performance from their Facebook ads. Many advertisers use the Facebook advertising platform as a brand awareness tactic, paying advertising fees based on the number of times an ad is shown versus the number of times someone interacts with an ad. In 2018, advertisers will need to keep a watchful eye on Facebook as an advertising platform. — Beth Bauch, senior manager

Influencer Outreach

Celebrity influencer outreach took a major hit in 2017 through some dubious events such as the collapse of the Fyre Festival, which relied on influencer outreach to lure tourists to a disastrous event. But influencer outreach is alive and well. Why? Because people tend to trust other people more than they do brands. Businesses will get more micro-targeted with influencer outreach in 2018, segmenting audiences more carefully and building outreach around influencers who index high in popularity and credibility with those audiences even if those influencers lack national cache. Influencer outreach will become more targeted and scientific. — Mark Smith, co-founder

LinkedIn

LinkedIn will become a more popular platform for companies to build their brands. LinkedIn has been adding a number of features such as Matched Audiences and Website Retargeting to make it a stronger advertising platform. As my colleague Beth Bauch noted on our blog, recently LinkedIn ran a pilot program with more 370 participating advertisers and saw a 30-percent increase in click-through rates and a 14-percent drop in post-click cost-per-conversion with Website Retargeting. In early 2018, LinkedIn is going to launch for enterprises organic videos and then native sponsored videos in its feed, thus capitalizing on the more visually oriented culture we have become. Businesses should take a closer look at LinkedIn as part of their advertising and content marketing strategies. —Taylor Murphy, digital media manager

Social Media

Social media will remain a messy and imperfect place for brands to live. The major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube will roll out more programs to police user activity on their sites in an effort to protect their integrity for advertisers. Recently we saw YouTube do just that by committing to hiring more people to teach computers to police its site, which YouTube hopes will prevent advertisers’ content from appearing next to inappropriate content. But as my colleague Tim Colucci argued recently, YouTube’s ad problems aren’t going away. Social media sites have become incredibly effective destinations for advertisers and will continue to be. But part of the appeal of social media is its openness. On social media, anyone can have an opinion. In 2018, advertisers will need to come to terms with the imperfect nature of social while capitalizing on its many advantages.  — Kurt Anagnostopolous, owner/founder

 Visual Search

As voice-based search continues to gain momentum, 2018 will bring more interest onto visual search. Although they both use artificial intelligence, they have a different focus, thus their use is not the same. Voice search is best suited for providing access to information on known objects, as systems become more capable distinguishing the context of a certain request. Visual search, on the other hand, is ideal for in-the-moment discovery, as it can provide contextual information for any object we can see. Now that Google has improved its visual analysis software Google Lens, and Pinterest has adopted the trend with Pinterest Lens, we’ll most likely see more social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram exploiting visual discovery technology. In this way, they could serve ads based on what people take pictures of. They could even combine location service intelligence with visual product recognition technology to provide even more relevant ads. So if you snap a selfie at McDonalds, and you are wearing a Nike hat, you will be served ads from Burger King and Reebok on Snapchat. —Héctor Ariza, digital marketing associate

Image source: ancient-code.com

What Retail Apocalypse? Holiday Shopping Is Surging

What Retail Apocalypse? Holiday Shopping Is Surging

Marketing

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are bigger than ever. The so-called retail apocalypse might not be so apocalyptic after all – especially for retailers that have beefed up their online presence.

According to Adobe Analytics, Americans spent $19.62 billion online over the five-day period from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday — 15 percent more than they spent during the same time frame in 2016. The top two days for online shopping were Cyber Monday (more than 81 million visitors) and Black Friday (more than 66 million). What can retailers learn from this explosive growth? Plenty:

  • Black Friday is more than a day. Black Friday is no longer a day, but a multi-day phenomenon, with retailers promoting online deals the entire week of Thanksgiving. In fact, major retailers were hosting Black Friday deals online before Thanksgiving week. Retailers are making Black Friday an element of a broader shopping experience.
  • Thanksgiving is becoming a big shopping day. As Adobe reported, Thanksgiving Day saw an 18.3 percent increase in online spending to $2.87 billion. In addition, a Foursquare report suggested that brick-and-mortar stores open on Thanksgiving – and open earlier in the day – would have an advantage over stores that were closed. Stores that promoted Thanksgiving Day sales, both online and offline, were likely to benefit as consumers combine shopping with eating on Turkey Day.

We expect a robust consumer spend during the holidays. Note that with Christmas Day occurring on a Monday, shoppers will accelerate their spend to avoid the problem of having to ship last-minute purchases over the weekend. Meanwhile there is still plenty of shopping to be done. Businesses that have planned ahead will win. It’s never too early to start planning for the 2018 holiday shopping season. To optimize your online spend all-year round, contact KeywordFirst. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://stocksnap.io/photo/RZWM4T2UAD

It’s Always Black Friday

It’s Always Black Friday

Marketing

If the holiday shopping season seems to be starting earlier, you are not imagining things. When I look at our digital advertising spend for retail clients, I see an larger-than-usual uptick going back to the first full week of November – more so than we expect to see for that time period. It’s not just that we are spending more. Consumer search volume for holiday-related content is spiking by as much as 30 percent higher than normal for early November. Why?

I see two factors at play:

  • Consumers remain confident in the economy. According to Deloitte, “With disposable personal income climbing and consumer confidence staying elevated across the U.S., the holiday shopping season could bring healthier sales for retailers to cap off a tumultuous year.” Deloitte made this prediction in September. The reasoning is sound, and so far consumer behavior is bearing out the prediction.
  • Thanksgiving is happening earlier. We’ll celebrate Thanksgiving Day Thursday, November 23, the earliest since 2012, when Thanksgiving was celebrated on November 22. An earlier Thanksgiving means an earlier start to the holiday shopping season. Retailers launch their pre-Black Friday promotions earlier, putting consumers in shopping mode earlier.

As a result, we’re busier than ever as we manage holiday-related online advertising for our clients. But there’s a catch: the season is going to end sooner, too. Here’s why: Christmas lands on a Monday. Consequently, carriers will not deliver on Christmas Eve (Sunday), and they’ll charge a premium for a Saturday delivery December 23.

As a result, we’re prepared to decrease our digital advertising spend sooner than we might do so normally. Why? Because we don’t want to create a spike in demand for retailers’ products too close to Christmas Day, when a retailer is unable to fulfill the order by December 25.

If you manage digital advertising for a business that caters to holiday shoppers, make sure that you:

  • Do a gut check on search traffic now. Are you seeing a spike in demand as we did for our clients? If so, is your budget set up to handle the increase?
  • Be ready to decrease your holiday ad spend sooner than you normally would to avoid putting too much stress on your fulfillment services with Christmas deliveries being complicated by December 25 landing on a Monday as noted.
  • Monitor your Google AdWords account very closely. As my colleague Mark Smith recently wrote, Google has empowered itself to increase your AdWords budget by twice the amount you had planned. Consequently, if you experience unusual spikes in demand (as might be happening already), your monthly budget could be spent much sooner in the month than you had planned – which could jeopardize Black Friday and Cyber Monday advertising. As Mark notes in his blog post, for shorter-term campaigns, you may need to set your spend levels lower to have some level of protection, especially if you know you’re going to get high-volume traffic within that time period.

How is your holiday spend going? Are you seeing an unexpected spike, and how are you responding? If you need help managing digital advertising (during the holidays or otherwise), contact KeywordFirst. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://static.pexels.com/photos/291762/

Two Surprising Ways Google Creates Great Content

Two Surprising Ways Google Creates Great Content

Branding

One of the essential attributes of successful content marketing is usefulness. Great content marketers create a win-win for themselves and their audience by sharing branded content that educates and sometimes entertains. Recently, we blogged about how one business, the NFL, provides useful content by acting as a news service about football. Now let’s take a look at two lesser-known ways one of the world’s most valuable brands, Google, makes itself useful.

For context: as we’ve stated before, a business practices content marketing by publishing useful information that supports its own brand. The definition breaks down this way:

  • Content marketing builds the credibility of a brand (hence the “marketing” part of content marketing) . . .
  • . . . by sharing useful information (content), such as how-to tips, news, commentary, and visual stories.

Through content marketing, brands act as publishers, sharing news, editorial commentary, and other forms of insight you typically associate with a third-party information source. Content marketing is not “look at me” advertising or PR. Both those forms of marketing are valuable and have their place, but they are not content marketing.

Google has a vested interest in giving people reasons to stay on Google. More eyeballs on Google means more businesses will pay Google to help them reach those eyeballs through advertising. Google does its own share of advertising to promote its brand. But the most powerful way Google maintains an audience is by offering free tools that will compel people to keep using Google to manage their lives.

I’m not talking about well-known utilities such as Google Analytics to measure how people interact with your own digital properties such as your website or Google Docs and Google Drive to collaborate on document creation, editing, and storing. I mean some of the ways Google helps you learn about the world around you, such as:

  • Think with Google. The Think with Google site is mandatory for anyone who wants free insights into marketing, technology, and consumer behavior. Think with Google offers downloadable white papers and short-form commentary on topics such as the impact of artificial intelligence on marketing and the influence of mobile devices on the customer experience journey. Think with Google elevates Google to the role of thought leader, publishing data-rich information that pushes forward our understanding of marketing. Of course, you’ll have to look elsewhere for insights critical of Google and for non-Google perspectives. Even still, Google is such a large, influential brand that even Google-centric points of view have gravitas.
  • Google Arts & Culture is a site dedicated to enriching our understanding of art. Here is an experience devoted to pure learning and personal growth. Whereas Think with Google educates you, Google Arts & Culture engages you on topics such as a visual celebration of the Lunar New Year. The site features an ongoing set of topics on rotation. One of its current featured sections, Latino Arts & Culture, provides an immersive look at the contributions of Latino artists in the United States. A featured artist section gives you a chance to take a deep dive into the works of famous names such as Vincent van Gogh. Through Google Street View, you can explore cultural landmarks around the world such as Machu Piccu.

Google offers several other resources for learning and self-development. The above two might be lesser known to you.

Google’s motives are not entirely altruistic. The more Google influences our thinking and worldview, the more Google becomes an essential part of our lives. I get it. But what Google does it does very, very well. By providing useful content that educates and enriches our lives, Google masters the art of content marketing. Contact KeywordFirst for help with your content marketing needs.