March 25, 2013

Social Media: So much one can do.

If you hadn’t already figured it out, you’ve probably been sleeping under a rock for the past 5-10 years: the use of social media is the new norm. If you don’t have a Facebook, Twitter, and a blog, you sure as hell aren’t part of “the majority”. Social media websites have made it so easy for marketers to target their consumers/potential consumers. Us Facebooker’s think “oh, I love that flavor of vodka, I’ll like their page!”, or “gosh I love that band, I’ll like their page too!” So not only can we get tons of their personal information based off of their basic information on their profile, but this common trend of “liking” pages of brands that we like or prefer makes it that much easier for marketers to do their job.

One of the major goals of marketers: to get their advertising and point they’re trying to convey to every person possible. With social media having such high popularity across vast amounts of different target markets, launching social media campaigns is something every company should seriously consider investing in. Not only is it much cheaper than your traditional print-ad or commercial, but chances are, if you’ve got a good enough campaign and enough people to follow along, you’ll probably get better results than you would with your good-ole’ typical advertising.

Just to give you an idea of how popular social media has gotten, here are some recent statistics about social media usage (credit:State of the Media: The Social Media Report):

If you haven’t started multiple social media accounts for your company yet, you definitely should. Social media has been a rising phenomena and will continue to do so as time continues.

March 14, 2013

Earned Media - Let’s Go Viral!

Developing a strong brand presence online is the key to any successful business nowadays with the continually rising popularity of the internet and online social media. There are 3 main types of online media, but each must portray a consistent brand message, while remaining unique and “non-obviously forced” on the consumer. Paid and owned media are relatively easy to obtain and maintain, while earned media is in a whole different class of its own. Paid media (ads purchased by companies that can be in the form of banner ads, pop-ups, commercials, etc.) is one of the first outlets a company will choose to communicate their brand and brand message, along with owned media (a company’s website, their Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Earned media is on a completely different level of its own. Earned media is what every firm should strive to achieve. It can be extremely tough to obtain, but when obtained, it can make or break a firm.

Earned media is basically any type of publicity or media that a firm obtains indirectly. The firm (usually) has nothing to do with it, and it’s given because of a customer/consumer’s personal experience with the product and/or service. Examples of this include blog posts about a firm/product, word of mouth throughout the consumer world, mentioning the brand/product/firm in a Facebook post, etc. If your company is performing well enough to create a “buzz”, you’re probably doing something right. Obtaining legitimate earned media is a way of knowing that you’ve made it big. With technology these days, it’s extremely easy to “let the world know” (or at least those who access your Facebook or Twitter feed) what you’re up to, the products you’re using, new things you’ve tried, and everything of the like. When someone who is not at all associated with your company (more importantly, someone who isn’t on the payroll) writes a blog post or tweets about your brand/company, this is classified as earned media. The scary part about this is that it can be both helpful and harmful to your company. This voluntary mention of your company’s name is usually one of two extremes: either a very good/positive reaction or comment, or one of frustration and/or disappointment. It’s even more risky when someone with a lot of influence over their peers has something to say about your brand or product. And not only do you have to worry about people posting negative things, but you also have to worry about how to respond to it. Deciding how to handle this “bashing” and consumer’s “public” disappointment with your brand is crucial, and because this conveyed frustration from consumers is public, it’s even more important that you respond/handle it in a timely manner and the best way possible.

But don’t let the negativity discourage you! A good piece of earned media for a company can be extremely valuable. When influential people, such as celebrities or people who are regarded as “trend leaders”, have something good to say about your product, it can make the world of a difference.

February 22, 2013

Paid Media

Even though I consider myself an active internet user, I have to admit that I have never once clicked or payed much attention to banner ads and/or ads such as “score 5 football goals, and you’ll win a free trip to Jamaica!” (in that case, I’ll score 4 for my own personal enjoyment and move on down the page to the content I really came to the webpage for). Even if it’s completely spot on what I’m looking for, I will rarely go through that company or website to get what I’m looking for. I consider it a kind of “anti-advertising”. Meaning, it’s doing exactly the opposite of what they’re trying to do: steer customers away. I mean, at least be a little bit more stealthy about it! Sheesh! Typical display ads and the such are the epitome of paid media. Almost everyone you ask nowadays will tell you they have close to the same if not the exact same attitude about those annoying ads as me.

HOWEVER!

Over the last decade, a tasty, bite sized piece of information called a cookie (not really a cookie with flower, sugar, and chocolate chips) which is defined as “small files that websites put on your computer hard disk drive when  you first visit” (definition by Microsoft). In simpler terms, a cookie is a little piece of information stored on your computer that carries information about past internet history and activity. Cookies make marketers’ lives much easier. Cookies show the info seekers exactly what you’re looking for based on your past activity. If you’ve recently been online car shopping, you might notice a lot more BMW or Toyota banner ads than you’re normally used to. If this sounds familiar, welcome to the cookie club! Some find the cookie extremely unsettling and an invasion of their privacy while others, like me, think it’s a great idea. If I’m going to have to see those ridiculously annoying banner ads anyway, I would at least like to have them relate to me in some way. Cookies make life a little easier and less annoying (as long as you’re not taking the fact that someone is looking at your search history too seriously - do you really care who knows how many weird cat videos you watch?) They enable companies to be personal salesmen, but online.

An example of why cookies are just so awesome is Amazon.com. One of the perks of using Amazon is their awesome suggestions on “similar items” or “customers who have bought items in your recent history have also bought…”. If you ask me, these cookies make online shopping much easier. Who doesn’t like someone suggesting things you may (and probably will) like based on your own past behavior? This is personal shopping at its finest. And if you ask me, it’s much less annoying than going in a shopping mall and having someone try to sell you products in person based on how you look what they think you’ll go for.

So for those of you out there who think cookies are terrifying and out to get you: think again. Having a personal shopper at your convenience 24 hours a day and available in your own home is quite the luxury.

February 10, 2013

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing: The process of helping potential customers find your company – often before they are even looking to make a purchase – and then turning that early awareness into brand preference and, ultimately, into leads and revenue (via Amplify Your Impact: How to Multiply the Effects of Your Inbound Marketing Program).

This inbound marketing thing is kind of hilarious. To me, inbound marketing is something a company tries to be super stealthy about, but in reality ends up working really really hard to be that preferred brand/product without seeming like they’re desperate or trying too hard. Other great thing about inbound marketing: it’s free, or close to it!. But buyers beware: you can’t survive solely through inbound marketing. As fabulous as inbound marketing is, you’ve got to make sure your company is actually known and easy to access when searching for a product or the company in general. This is why SEO (search engine optimization) and inbound marketing fit so well together. In order to be a company that is effectively utilizing inbound marketing, you’ve got to have your SEO in check.

One huge (and probably the most important) component to inbound marketing is being easily accessible. Without having a somewhat high page rank when searching for a specific product or brand on Google, chances are that no one is going to know about you or utilize your services. SEO is the key to inbound marketing. Page ranking (especially when using inbound marketing) can make or break you.

As cool as SEO is, it is not the only concern for effective inbound marketing. Other outlets such as social media, blogging, viral videos, etc, can be great strategies to draw people in (when used effectively). In the article titled “The Grateful Dead: Pioneering Inbound Marketers”, there is a small list of absolute essentials when it comes to inbound marketing:

1. Create a wonderful e-book about your industry (not your product) that people will want to share with others.

2. Create a brilliant video about how your industry will evolve over the next 10 years and post it on your blog and YouTube.

3. Do an industry survey to collect information about some interesting topic and create a remarkable report on it that your industry will love.

4. Find a low-cost developer (Rentacoder.com is one) and build some sort of an application for the iPhone or the Web that will give your market great pleasure.

5. Write a fantastic blog article once a week about your industry (not your product).

These five things are fabulous ideas. Companies that use/have used some of these have seen great results. An example of this is the interactive children’s e-book put out by the Seattle Aquarium titled “Edwin the super duper otter”. The e-book turned out to be an amazing success, with thousands of downloads occurring all over the world. Although the book is free of charge and cost a bit to put together, it is still a great, effective way to draw in potential customers.

Whether it be through an e-book, or prime SEO skills, inbound marketing is an absolute essential for larger companies; especially now with this generation’s obsession with social media.

January 30, 2013

Online Retailing At Its Finest

As if the Internet wasn’t handy and fun enough already with the virtual farms, the fail videos, and the “texts from last night” blogs, it just keeps making it way too easy to stay at home and be even lazier Americans than we already are. Online retailing has grown a whopping 15% in just the past year. Companies from all different areas of the retail spectrum are making it extremely easy for you to click your way to your next purchase. You can buy clothing, groceries, and even Starbucks gift-cards (as if that’s really necessary). So much of today’s youth spends their time on social media websites and the such, so why not put the products they would normally have to drive or take the bus to get right in front of their cursor?

Not only does shopping online save loads of time and is extremely convenient, but it also enables the consumer to “shop around” much easier. Rather than driving from store to store to compare prices and get the best value, we can now “Google it” or type it into Amazon.com and instantly find the best price in every geographic area, not just the area in which you’re willing to drive to.

Thinking back a few years on the days where cell phones flipped open rather than sliding your finger across the screen, I cannot believe that we’ve gotten so smart (or so lazy, depending on who you ask) that we can now purchase things on our cell phones. I mean holy shit. If someone would have told me 8 or 9 years ago that I could buy a movie ticket on my phone by the quick touch of a button, I would have laughed in their face and suggested they take some crazy pills. Although the idea of making actual purchases for bigger material things like clothing or groceries sounds a bit ridiculous to me, it seems to be getting more and more popular. A recent survey showed that the amount of people who make purchases on their cell phones has increased over 10% from last year. It’s getting so easy to make purchases on our cell phones that sometimes it’s a bit too easy. My derriere has accidentally bought whole albums on the iTunes app and entire series’ of books from the Kindle app on my iPhone because of having it in my back pocket (whoops).

Although online retailing continues to get more and more popular, I don’t think we’ll be seeing a 100%, complete move from standard “concrete-tangible” retailers to strictly just online retail stores. Too many people need that physical touch and assurance so that they know what they’re spending their money on rather than just wingin’ it and entering your credit card info to purchase whatever is in the blurry picture that you think you’re buying. Lots of consumers still need that guarantee.that they know what exactly they’re getting (at least for the next few decades…….).

January 22, 2013

Google: Transparent Superhero or Evil Superpower?

It is absolutely astonishing how far and fast Google has grown since it’s birth in 1996. It has now turned into a kind of superpower. Can you imagine living your life sans Google? I sure as hell can’t. It’s quite scary thinking that I would have to search for things on my own (God forbid). Having never really thought about it, I guess Google had to start somewhere.

Reading one of the first ever articles published about Google in 1999 talks about Google and how “amazing” the technology is (at the time). It really makes you realize just how fast Google has grown in the past 14 years since its start. It has gone from being your basic search engine (which people were extremely ecstatic about and blown away at at the beginning), to not only a search engine (with page ranking!!), but a shopping mall, a social network, an email service (G-Mail), video hosting website (YouTube): should I keep going? Google has exploded into sectors of the tech world that no one could have predicted 14 years ago when it first started.

Google launched a project titled “Google X” in 2010, which is basically Google’s techy-nerdy playground. They’ve developed things like the self-driving car, an artificial brain, and other things myself and the general public never thought were possible in this day and age. Google continues to push the envelope with new, innovative ideas in the tech world, baffling not only everyone but also themselves. Google’s CEO and co-founder stated that “There are all these opportunities to make people’s lives better. Tech companies are attacking 1 percent of them. That leaves 99 percent virgin territory”. This statement gives a tiny little taste of how driven and determined Google is about developing the latest and greatest “techy-stuff” that us consumers cannot wait to get our hands on. I wonder what will be next…..

If this extreme technology Google has doesn’t make you realize what a huge leader they are, then think about this: Google ultimately has the power to show you what they deem fit (to your search results). Although Google doesn’t “have an opinion” on what you’re searching for or what you’re interested in (for the time being), it seems that it would be quite easy for them to subtly slip some sites into the search results page that didn’t originate on the results page “organically”. This idea is quite terrifying for me. That would make Google a kind of superpower that basically controls everything we see without us even realizing it! Because this idea freaks me out and intrigues me, I decided to Google “who should I vote for” just for kicks. Being a bit of a liberal, I was relieved to find that the majority of the resulting sites were something having to do with “voter help” and “voting smart”. Can you imagine if some under the table, top-secret deal between a political candidate and Google took place? Although lots of people don’t normally go to Google for advice on who to vote for, searching for anything political related (which is quite common during election season) could trigger certain one sided, bias pages to come up, having some type of effect on peoples opinions, which could ultimately significantly effect the results of an election. 

Don’t get me wrong, Google seems like a great, transparent company (for the time being). But when you really think about how much power Google has and how many big corporations have been persuaded into making unethical (sometimes illegal) decisions to further an increased profit, does it really sound all that far-fetched?

It will be extremely interesting to see how Google matures in the next 14 years. Who knows? Maybe iRobot will turn into a reality, and we’ll have a whole different species of enemies! (Which sounds wicked cool.) Maybe Google will actually turn out to be one of the leading superpowers of the world; who knows! With the amount of money, brains, and resources that Google has, it will definitely be interesting to see what Google is going to transform into and to see what type of role Google will play in our everyday lives in the future.

January 15, 2013

Break Free from the Product Life Cycle

Just read a fascinating article titled “Break Free from the Product Life Cycle” written by Youngme Moon. It is absolutely fascinating. It’s all about us marketers and our sneaky strategies ;)
We’ve got to continually strive to reach outside of the box and get outside of the boring product category norms and markets that we so easily fall into.
This article gently wades into three sneaky strategies brands can use to reposition their product and position it back into the early stages of the product lifecycle. It is definitely worth the read whether you’re a diehard marketer or your Average Joe.
(This attached link is a brief summary of the article. Unfortunately you must pay to read the full version, but it is totally worth it.)

January 14, 2013   2 notes

Tip of the SEO Iceberg

Disclaimer: This is my FIRST EVER blog and blog-post! So bear with me. Although I can’t guarantee complete satisfaction, I promise it won’t be absolutely horrible ;)

It’s only 1 week fresh into the new winter quarter, and I’m absolutely certain that this is going to be the quarter that reinforces my feelings and decisions to pursue the career path that I have chosen. Complete nerd status ensued today after finishing my “New Digital Marketing” class that I’m enrolled in at WWU this quarter. I knew that marketing was something of interest to me, but I didn’t know to what degree until now. Holy cow, I’m excited! 

Our main topic of class today in New Digital Marketing was SEO. Like most of the general public, I had no idea what that meant. SEO, which stands for “search engine optimization”, is basically the “science” of obtaining the best possible visibility for a search topic on a search engine. In simpler terms, SEO helps get your website more exposure by displaying it as high up as possible on a search results page. As simple as it sounds, SEO is much more complex than just paying Google for better placement. (Because Google has the bulk of the search engine business, I’ll reference them and use it for examples.)

Google is constantly developing new algorithms (averaging two per day) which determine and dictate which websites appear and in what order when someone searches a topic. As simple as this sounds, oh boy, it isn’t. These are top secret algorithms that are basically Google’s “secret sauce” with a “secret recipe”. Attempting to crack these secret codes and keeping up with constant developing of algorithms is exactly what SEO companies do.

I had no idea how complex SEO was, and how important it is for businesses. Manipulating your webpage to not only service your customers and potential customers, but to also obtain a “top spot” on Google’s search results should be a huge concentration for blossoming businesses. Ultimately, being easily searchable through an online search engine may just be the exact boost your company is looking for.

Check out SEO companies such as Ethoseo, SEOmoz, and iAcquire for more in-depth info on how they keep up with this constantly evolving business.