Archive for May, 2012

When Behavioral Tracking Gets Creepy

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Online behavioral tracking, in theory, is beneficial to both marketers and consumers. When marketers can track a web user’s behavior (anonymously) within a website or across certain ad network properties, they can serve up ads that are aligned with the user’s apparent interests.

Creepy Behavioral Tracking

Image credit 5 to 9 Branding

For example, if you search for “camping gear,’ visit a couple of websites that sell camping gear, and read a few articles about the latest new camping products, don’t be surprised if you start seeing ads for camping equipment brands and retailers on subsequent websites you visit.

Marketers want to put their ads in front of people who display an interest in what they have to sell, and consumers (presumably) prefer to see ads relevant to their interests. And as long as the tracking is done anonymously, no one’s privacy is actually violated.

There is a problem, however, when anonymity is lost and marketers are able to learn far more about you than they need, or you want them, to know.

I recently visited a marketing interaction software vendor’s website (doesn’t matter who–I’m not out to besmirch the company, but rather look at a disturbing practice that goes well beyond a single organization) and read in disconcerting detail about what’s possible when the vendor’s product is combined with analytics, post-click marketing software, online databases, marketing automation software and social media monitoring tools.

Anyone familiar with website analytics tools understands that when you visit a website, certain bits of knowledge about you are collected: your (approximate) geographic location, browser used, device used, network (corporate or ISP), and of course your behavior (pages viewed, time spent) while on the site. But it’s all collected anonymously; Google Analytics and other website tools can’t identify you specifically.

Even when this data is paired with website visitor intelligence packages, you remain individually anonymous. The site owner knows a bit more about you (e.g., the size of the company if you’re within a corporate network, your industry, your office location) but still nothing personally identifiable.

This technology crosses the line from helpful to creepy when these online behavior elements can be traced to you as an individual, and then supplemented with other online databases and information sources.

Here’s an analogy: you attend a local business networking event, and meet John Doe. He tells you that he knows a bit about you because he’s seen you mentioned on Twitter and read your blog a few times. You’re flattered—this social media stuff works! And you have a fan.

Now, slightly different scenario: again, you attend the networking event and meet John Doe. But this time, he doesn’t just know about your blog, he knows when and where you were born, where you went to high school and college, your home address, the age and approximate market value of your home, the type of car you drive (and the fact you had some major service work performed last week), how many kids you have, how old they are, that you have a dog (aging and with a bad hip), and your entire work history.

That’s not flattering, it’s creepy. You don’t have a fan, you have a stalker.

How is this possible in the behavioral tracking realm? It can happen when you lose your anonymity by providing the most rudimentary personal information on a vendor’s website, such as entering your name and email address in order to register for a webinar or download a white paper.

Visitor tracking and marketing automation systems can now use various technologies to tag you, and from that point on, everything you do on the vendor’s website is attributed to YOU, individually. Furthermore, the vendor can now tie this behavior to personal information purchased from online database owners and scraped from social media profiles and updates.

Using this information, the vendor can display different products, offers, even prices to you. Helpful? Possibly. Creepy? Most definitely.

What to do about this is a thornier question however. Industry self-regulation would be the ideal answer in theory, but it often fails or falls short in practice.It’s tempting to call for government regulation, but as we all saw with the SOPA and PIPA debacle, the heavy hand of government often hurts or threatens the innocent in its ham-handed efforts to punish the guilty. Stopping copyright and IP theft seems like an eminently laudable goal, but the government’s approach was horrendous.

The same risk certainly applies here, though it’s probably inevitable that legislation will end up being part of the public response. Along with that, individuals need to careful about what they post online, companies need to accurately disclose their information use policies, and creative developers need to continue creating tools that enhance web user privacy.

But ultimately, companies need to more respectful of their customers. Collect reasonable information, but not everything available. What counts as “reasonable?” Ask your customers and prospects. Happily, ethical companies can do the right thing today. Unhappily, unethical or overzealous marketers are likely to bring down upon the industry government regulation that, if history is any guide, do as much harm as good in the end.

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For Social Business, Remember the 90-9-1 Rule

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Back in the mid-1990s, the corporation I worked for hired one of those management-fad-of-the-month consultants to come inspire us to greater heights of success, who did his best motivational-speaker riff on the theme: “Sales is everyone’s job!” This was hogwash of course. Sales is Sales’ job. It’s also a big part of Marketing’s job, and occasionally part of the job of HR, various executives, and product technical experts.

But sales is not the job of Francis in Accounting, Pat in Engineering or Chris in Purchasing. These folks have neither the aptitude nor the desire to have “sales” or anything like it be part of their job description. In fact, each person was hired specifically for their level of knowledge and skill in a particular, non-sales function.

Not every employee wants to or can be a social media superstarThere is a risk of the same fallacy today, with the mantra updated to “social media is everyone’s job!”—if the concept of social business is misunderstood or improperly applied. In their new book Social Business By Design: Transformative Social Media Strategies for the Connected Company, authors Peter Kim and Dion Hinchcliffe examine real-world success stories of social networking use across organizations, from internal collaboration using tools like Jive or Yammer to HR recruitment to investor relations to customer-facing applications in product design, customer service, marketing, sales and PR.

Kim and Hinchcliffe provide an excellent survey of the current state of social business, and the concept of social business is spot-on. According to recent research from McKinsey, “companies that adopt social technologies can see a 50% increase in customer satisfaction, 48% increase in business leads, and 24% increase in revenue. ”

The danger is that some executives may confuse social media use across the enterprise (a good idea) with the embrace of social media by everyone within the enterprise (not so good). Just as Francis in Accounting, Pat in Engineering or Chris in Purchasing had no interest or aptitude for sales in the 1990s, they may very well have the same attitude toward social networking today.

To make social business work, corporate leaders need to understand the 90-9-1 rule in social networks: in any online social networking situation, 1% of participants will generate most of the content; 9% will actively share and occasionally add content of their own; and the remaining 90% will primarily be content consumers, only rarely contributing or commenting.

Understanding that dynamic, organizations should develop a social media policy and provide a rudimentary level of social media training to all employees (the tools available, their basic use, and essential do’s and don’ts). Offer more advanced training to the 10% who will account for the vast majority of content development and engagement activity. And identify and nurture the 1% who will really make the social business concept work, those who will work to build their own personal employee brand–and enhance your corporate brand in the process.

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Nominate Your Favorite Technology Twitterer(s) for the 2012 #Nifty50 Awards

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

A year ago, Cheryl Burgess and I published the first #Nifty 50 award winners, starting with the #Nifty50 Women of Twitter on this blog in May 2011 and followed by the #Nifty50 Men of Twitter published on Cheryl’s Blue Focus Marketing blog in June.

The posts were a huge hit on Twitter, with the #Nifty50 hashtag reaching nearly 70,000 people through more than 140,000 tweets and retweets, according to TweetReach.

Nominate Someone for the 2012 #Nifty50The goals of #Nifty50 are:

1) Acknowledge 50 men and women who share valuable content and actively engage on Twitter, and

2) Help foster connections between those who are recognized and others who would mutually benefit from being followed on Twitter.

But as the #Nifty50 moves forward, our goal—our passion—is to add a third component to the #Nifty50 brand, an objective for social good.  We are working with a potential corporate sponsor to provide Apple iPads to 50 low-income children—the #Nifty50 Kids—somewhere in the U.S.  Over time, our goal is to give technology devices (who knows what the future may hold—Google Glasses next year perhaps?) to 50 disadvantaged kids in all 50 states.  Check out Google’s Project Glass Video .

As marketing and social media professionals (which most of you reading this post likely are), we get to spend our days in interesting and intellectually challenging work, in (generally) comfortable surroundings, interacting with bright, innovative people through the latest technology platforms.

But for many kids, that world is as foreign as a faraway planet.  The #Nifty50 Kids program is a way to bring creativity-unleashing technology to these kids, who otherwise would have no way to afford it.

Want to be part of this?  Nominate your favorite technology twitterer using this form.  For 2012, the #Nifty50 will honor 50 men and women who work for technology companies (B2B or B2C) and are, of course, active and engaging on Twitter.  See the form for complete qualifications.

Nominations close on June 22, 2012 and the #Nifty50 women and men for 2012 will be announced in posts on the Webbiquity and Blue Focus Marketing blogs this summer.  So nominate yourself, a co-worker, and/or someone you admire. And feel free to share this post!

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Numbers Game: Putting Analytics into Perspective

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Guest post by Hernán Gonzalez.

Experienced marketers understand added benefits are what make a sale and features are what provide value. That meant that campaigns with lots of bells and whistles were assumed to be more productive. Each accent added to a brand’s “wow” factor and more updates meant more sales would soon follow. However, the creation of modern day analytics tools has changed the marketing environment from hopeful anticipation to anxiety. Today, added benefits can actually be measured and thus, there is no longer a good reason to pay for features that won’t deliver.

Hernan GonzalezClients are now able see how much ROI they receive real-time. While this may useful, it also means that if metrics don’t add up, businesses are more likely to return to agencies asking why a campaign is underachieving. At that point, should the agency be responsible to change the site design, content and layout until performance rates are higher? Good Question.

The answer lies in better consultation practices, workforce preparation and adaptation. Even the most seasoned agencies can have trouble achieving a balance between all three on the first attempt, hence the need to include revision fees in the initial budgeting consultation. Clients and agencies alike understand the value of these services, and after all, there wouldn’t be a point in investing in them unless a profit was guaranteed sooner or later.

Marketers should no doubt place as much value on the results as their clients, since a reputation can easily be created or ruined depending on the success of a campaign. What can be done to eliminate concerns about metrics for both parties? The responsibility falls on to the agency, yet clients can at times be too fast in making their own evaluations in regards to what the resulting numbers really mean. For example, a site may convert fewer visitors into subscribers, but the percentage of customers out of those conversions is higher. The click through rate from Facebook may be high, but few products are being bought.

Determining whether a third party or the agency itself should interpret these statistics should be an important part of negotiations. Not only will establishing the importance of metrics assist in showing the agency’s concern for a campaign’s success, but it will help clear the air regarding the extent of their role in adapting to ever-changing analytics. Clients should be educated so that they recognize the difference between attractive statistics versus those that actually matter. A few primary attributes should serve as the basis for determining what’s worth a call for agency resources, such as monitoring actual sales as opposed to casual “Likes” on a Facebook page.

Despite the need to deliver measurable results, less tangible values should not be overlooked. Although they don’t provide monetary worth in and of themselves, “Shares” and page views could translate into the establishment of a broader customer base and increased media attention. Brand exposure and visibility are difficult and complicated things to measure, it not completely impossible. The benefits of both can help lead to more endorsement, brand reach and eventually may provide the exact sort of concrete worth clients are eager to see.

As long as a solid plan is established and agreed upon by the agency and client, marketers must return to the basics through the discovery of their customers’ existing problems or areas of growth. By confirming the results businesses are after- higher click through rate or conversions – marketers can set goals that are within reach and provide improved results. The most significant area of this practice is in the avoidance of cutting costs until ROI has been confirmed. While agencies should and do continue to adapt to the changing marketing landscape, they also need funding to maintain the resources needed for updates based on metrics’ fickle nature.

Hernán Gonzalez is Creative Director at Dutch Monaco.

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Mobile Positioning: A Business Must

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Guest post by University Alliance.

Mobile access to the web has surpassed browser usage. Consumers are growing fonder of their smartphones and tablets, using them to access content and make online purchases in staggering numbers. In fact, by 2015 more U.S. Internet users will access the web through smartphones than through PCs, according to technology site Mashable.com.

Still not convinced? Consider these 2012 statistics:

  • • Twitter estimates 55% of users access the site through a mobile device.
  • • 34% of marketers have generated leads using Twitter.
  • • Click-through rates on search result ads are higher on mobile, according to a Marin Software study. In the fourth quarter 2011, smartphone click-throughs were 1.25%, tablets were 1.31%, and desktop/laptops were .95%.
  • • 57% of Facebook users “like” a business because they want to receive special offers and promotions, according to Mashable.com.
  • • Consumers are engaging with their favorite companies on Facebook, says Mashable.com. 77% said they interact by reading posts and updates, while 17% share experiences and news stories, and 13% post updates about brands they like.
  • • 56% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand to a friend after becoming a Facebook fan, according to Mashable.com.

Social Media Statistics InfographicBut what do these trends mean for today’s businesses? And what do marketers and business owners need to know—and more importantly, do—to keep ahead of consumer demands? First, they should recognize the benefits of creating a mobile strategy that their best customers will respond to.

What Can A Mobile Strategy Do For Me?

Once upon a time (like a year ago), having a mobile strategy was an option, and revamping your company website for mobile was very progressive. Now, having a mobile strategy is a must—no matter what size your business is.

Consumers use mobile devices for entertainment, with books, movies, games and videos; to interact with friends and business on social networks, like Facebook and Twitter; and increasingly, to find information and make immediate buying decisions. What does mobile mean to your company?

Mobile is a direct channel to your target audience. It can have a significant impact on your marketing efforts by increasing awareness of your brand, events and special offers. Mobile marketing can drive traffic to certain locations, and provide a mechanism for instant feedback and engagement. Plus, it can create a whole new generation of opt-in prospects, and give you the means to convert them to customers and evangelists.

Mobile can help you acquire new customers, increase your engagement with them, and drive sales; and you’ll be more successful at all three when your brand message is delivered across all mobile platforms.

Cross-Platform Is a Must

It’s important to note that all mobile platforms are worthy of attention. Focusing on just the iPhone ignores huge sections of your market. Apps, games and videos must be developed for Androids and iPads, as well. And don’t forget about the Amazon Kindle, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. Fortunately, cross-platform mobile frameworks make it easier for developers to generate new versions of an app, so it functions properly across platforms.

When done well a smart mobile marketing strategy can be hugely successful, as demonstrated by the Oklahoma Lottery.

How One Organization Successfully Embraced Mobile

The Oklahoma Lottery recognized mobile marketing’s power to reach new markets. They launched a 30-day promotion, creating an exclusive Mobile VIP club. Participants had the chance to win $100 per day by texting in to join the club. Updates and winners were posted on the company Facebook page and mobile website.

At the end of the month-long contest, the Oklahoma Lottery had over 13,000 new, highly engaged fans. The very next day, they launched an iPhone app, and invited the Mobile VIP club members to download it. The result? 667 click-throughs from the text to the app on Day 1. By targeting their audience through their mobile devices, they amassed an entire community they can tap into to promote special events, drive sales and introduce new products.

With the enormous growth of mobile devices, mobile marketing strategies are a must for every business. As the Oklahoma Lottery’s effort shows, knowing how to create and execute a mobile marketing campaign can open up tremendous opportunities for your business.

Developing a Mobile Marketing Strategy is Essential

Mobile media marketing puts your brand right into the hands of your target audience. No one knows what the next mobile craze will be, but it’s clear that mobile devices are increasingly the consumer’s choice for staying in touch, finding information and making buying decisions. Savvy marketers will continue to stay on top of mobile marketing trends and deliver informative, usable content that their customers want—no matter where they are.

This guest post was provided by University Alliance and submitted on behalf of University of San Francisco.  USF offers online marketing courses including SEO training, search engine marketing, social media training, advanced mobile marketing training and more.  To learn more about University of San Francisco’s certificate programs visit www.usanfranonline.com.

References:

Mobile stats:

http://mashable.com/2012/02/16/mobile-commerce/

Social Media Stats:

http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/social-media-statistics-stats-2012-infographic/

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