Category Archives: Marketing

Twitter advertisingGood news for those small businesses eager to try and find another way of being a part of the the social media collective. Last Friday, Twitter announced that they’re rolling out a new advertising solution that will help make it easier for businesses to set up an account on their own and amplify their messages on the social network. This is a great move that will benefit emerging and new businesses who often times get swamped out of the market by the bigger and more noticeable brands. To help promote this release, American Express was brought on board as a partner designed to give all of their Cardmembers and merchants in the United States early access to this new advertising platform. While it won’t launch until late March, the partnership with American Express is probably a good move, especially when trying to reach small businesses.

To encourage small businesses to participate, American Express is giving to the first 10,000 Cardmembers and merchants $100 worth of free advertising on Twitter and in March, the credit card giant will notify its customers how to begin. For many, it might seem like Twitter’s move to have a self-serve ad platform is something akin to Google AdSense or AdWords since the advertiser will be bidding on keywords. Right now, customers are able to place their bids on promoted tweets and promoted accounts — something meant to help cut through the noise and increase exposure for whatever the advertiser wants to tweet about. According to AdAge, Twitter had already begun rolling out the self-serve ad platform in mid-November with about 20 or less advertisers, but it has since expanded to about 100 advertisers. In addition to this expansion, advertisers will pay for the bids via electronic payment, not through invoicing by the sales team–an interesting decision that makes it akin to Googl AdWords since Google processes via electronic payment while Yahoo advertising used to do it through sales teams.

As AdAge points out:

As is the case for any of Twitter’s 3,000 advertisers, small businesses can set bids for promoted accounts on a cost-per-follower basis and for promoted tweets on a cost-per-engagement basis/ In the latter case they pay only when users actively engage with the tweet (by retweeting, for instance.) While national brands might be bidding on keywords or hashtags associated with major events like the Oscars, which makes bidding competitive and expensive, small businesses would be more likely to bid on highly specific terms and to localize their bids, according to Mr. Costolo. (Twitter currently allows for city-level targeting at its most specific.)

eMarketer: Twitter Ad Revenues to Grow 210% to $139.5 Million in 2011Could this move by Twitter be a boon not only to the small business but also to Twitter’s bottom line? We’ve all been wondering what the public monetization strategy will be for the company–sure, they have a deal with several companies to allow them access to the firehose and also has/had a deal with search engines like Google and/or Bing. Now, it just seems right to really take the advertising opportunities on the service out for a ride and see how it handles. But if recent studies are any indication, Twitter is set to make a hefty profit off of this endeavor–according to an eMarketer report, ad revenues are projected to grow 210% in 2011…and as you can see from the chart on the right, Twitter’s advertising worldwide is going to increase year after year all the way to nearly $400 million by 2013. There’s definitely a lot of demand for people to want to get their message across on the service. According to eMarketer’s principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson, “since their debut in April 2010, Twitter’s Promoted Products have proven successful in the US. Marketers have seen solid engagement rates with Twitter advertising—in some cases better than those on Facebook—despite Twitter’s relatively smaller audience.

American Express’ involvement in this promotion is definitely not a coincidence. For the past few years, if not longer, the credit card company has been a strong supporter of the small business community. They were the first ones to start the Small Business Saturday campaign during the Thanksgiving holiday and have recently launched a social media show that is designed to help small businesses “harness the power of social media”. They’ve even partnered with Foursquare by offering specials to specific check-ins–most likely small businesses. Recognized for being the credit card of choice by small businesses, it’s not a tremendous leap to believe that American Express would partner with Twitter on this initiative. Definitely a win for both parties.

It will be interesting to see how Twitter’s advertising platform will still play out. At this point, there’s not a lot of advertisers that are participating in this endeavor, but soon more advertisers will be on the service and how will that add to the noise that everyone already has? With increased growth and use, comes the question about scale. But I’m sure that there are contingency plans in place to ensure sanity for all.

Photo Credit: Moma Propaganda via Laughing Squid

Content is KingWe’ve all heard the adage that “content is king” and some of us believe that. However, in a report released today by the Altimeter Group, it seems not many companies believe this and need to rebalance their efforts so that they have the content work for them. Written by analyst Rebecca Lieb and researched by Zak Kirchner and Jaimy Szymanski, this report helps shed some new light on content marketing and how emerging digital technologies, platforms, and channels can be used effectively to help a brand function as a media company and exploit it.

For this report, Altimeter  Group interviewed over 50 individuals actively engaged in what they call “the evolution of content strategy as it relates to marketing. These businesses were both B2C and B2B, with 45% representing 19 brands, 55% agency employees, consultants, and thought leaders from 23 content service providers were also interviewed. So now that the experts have been assembled, let’s look at what they have to say about content marketing. But before we can get there, we’ll need to define “content marketing”? The report defines it as the following:

Content marketing is a term that refers to the creation and sharing of content for marketing purposes. In digital channels, it refers to content that resides on properties the brand or marketer owns (e.g., a website) or largely controls from a content perspective (social media channels, syndication). Content marketing differs from advertising in that, unlike advertising, a media buy is never part of the equation.

And this type of marketing isn’t about one-off content either nor is it limited to just the marketing department. On the contrary, the report believes that content creation and distribution will place new and continual demands on the enterprise on the whole. Frequently, content demands operating in real-time and any time.

The problem here is that marketers and businesses are not yet in the state of being a storyteller. Traditionally, the role of marketing has focused on advertising, not sharing an experience. We, as consumers, are being bombarded with advertisers in almost a Kanye West style (“Imma let you finish…“) that turns us away from even paying attention to their product. No longer is the message about “me, the company”. It’s now about about storytelling and attracting, entertaining, and informing your customers. Companies will need to do, what Altimeter Group calls, rebalancing, which is realigning your resources, budgets, staff, company culture, and agency/service providers to help make the marketing more effective and able to meet the digital challenges. In order to do this, the Altimeter Group report recommends four major and fundamental steps to grow your content marketing strategy:

Understand that content marketing is not free.

Content marketing can definitely reduce the media spend that is used for advertising, but the more mature your company gets in its effort, the greater resources you’re going to need to invest to make your content initiatives more effective.

Implement broad cultural integration around content marketing.

When rebalancing, you’re going to need deep departmental integration and cultural shifts across the entire organization–improve education, training, and new digital skill sets for staff and beyond the marketing team.

Integrate content marketing with advertising.

By throwing your support behind content marketing, you’re going to cause marketers to reevaluate their spend on advertising and focus budgets on content production and distribution. But don’t disregard one or the other–the report suggests integrating the two together for optimal success and it will help tell a better brand story.

Avoid bright, shiny objects

Pay no attention to the flavor of the week. In their research, the Altimeter Group discovered that many marketers are distracted by channels and technologies at the expense of strategy and marketing fundamentals. Don’t try and go after something unproven only because it’s the latest and greatest. Focus on the things that will truly help you get the attention of your customers.

So how does one mature their content marketing strategy? Altimeter has identified five phases that when achieved, will help marketers determine just how advanced they are.

Altimeter Group content marketing maturity model

As you can see from the above model, the elementary step of this model is “Stand”. It’s interesting that they decided to go for a “walk before you run” analogy for this as when you read through the different descriptions for each phase, it makes perfect sense–take things slow when you’re developing your strategy. Within the Stand phase, this describes companies that haven’t really adopted content marketing nor understand its value. Sure, they’ve set up some social media accounts and maybe even a blog, but they don’t really pay much attention to it nor do they understand its applicability to the company as a whole. Marketing is a “push” process–everything gets sent out without caring about feedback from the customers being pulled back in. To help with this, companies need an evangelist or catalyst to kick them in the pants and get the ball rolling. This looks like a phase that will be pretty slow at first.

In Stretch, content marketing has been hovering around the organization for a while and now people want to build a strategy and support necessary to produce the content. An evangelist has been named and helping to run the show and help team members engage with early channels, build basic content and evaluate all agency relationships. This level of maturity is one that reassess the resources available and makes calculations on what’s needed to succeed further. The next phase, Walk, a stronger, solid strategic foundation is created within the company. Content channels no longer are specific in nature–it doesn’t matter where the content is placed, only that it’s created and shared across all channels. Formal processes are established and the team begins to take shape. This effort leads your company to Jog, where companies become seriously committed to content marketing–no more dabbling or dipping your toes in the water. It’s in for a penny…you have a strategy and it’s communicated effectively within the team and organization. Now content must be produced that is more experiential and engaging rather than simple. Begin to give it a life of its own and enable it to travel. It shouldn’t be about the brand, product, or service.

This all culminates with Run which is the most aspirational phase of this maturity model. Altimeter believes only a handful of companies have really reached this phase, but here companies will be bona fide media companies who are able to monetize their content by selling and licensing them on its standalone merit. Consumer-generated content will outpace self-created content and media shared between the company and all partners will be an important asset.

Altimeter Group confidence in future of online video, social, mobile

So now you have your content marketing strategy down, the next step is to figure out what’s the channel you think you need and which is more of a priority? We’re warned, in the report, that we shouldn’t ignore that each channel brings with it new technological and budgetary requirements. So we probably don’t want to say we’ll explore the blogging & podcasting channel without understanding its true implications. The preferences of the consumer and where they are, along with emerging trends, will put considerable pressure on what channels should be explored. In the Altimeter Group report, respondents were asked what content channels are important to them and what types of content do they hope to both deploy and de-emphasize in the future–a chart of their answers is shown above.

As it turns out, visual information will continue to be the number one channel to pursue. Overwhelmingly, marketers are planning on adding more video to their content marketing initiatives and increasing investment in both technology and production resources. Mobile and location-based marketing are next in line, perhaps highlighting the fact that most people are always on the go and more and more applications are being created on mobile devices instead of websites? Sadly, with the adoption of content marketing, marketers are slowly digging the knife deeper into the backs of print and broadcast advertising, and to a point, public relations. The web has provided more opportunity and channels for businesses to get their message across than simply paying several newspapers to bring advertisements.

There’s more useful information in the latest Altimeter Group report and you can view it on SlideShare by clicking here.

The Bees Awards

Every once in a while, we see a pretty great viral video or campaign using social media. Kind of like the Old Spice YouTube campaign or the Pepsi Refresh project, we are quite enthralled by the work that goes into it. And for those campaigns that are really a hit, we just have to honor them and their creators for the ingenuity that it presents, right? That’s the purpose of The BeesAwards.

In its third year, The Bees Awards is the first international social media marketing competition celebrating the communication and marketing professionals. The goal of this competition is to help define the best practices and the best professionals. With 26 categories to be awarded, the submissions have been from a mixture of both large brands and smaller businesses — it doesn’t matter as it could be communication firms, advertising agencies, consultants, brands, etc. It’s all a matter of how good your work is. Some of the categories featured include: Best use of mobile, Best engagement with customers, Best crisis management, Best marketing within social games, Best tool or technology for social media marketing, Best student work, Best innovation, Best copywriting, Best campaign, Agency of the year, and Client of the year.

Just announced today, The Bees Awards is accepting nominations for campaigns that fit any of the 26 categories. Each of the submissions will be evaluated by the 21 judges which is composed of award winners, past nominees, international and domestic professionals. The call for entry is for both the marketing professional and students and the deadline to submit your entry is April 4, 2012. There are some standard rules for entry, which you can find here, but you are judged on a 9 point scale per entry: 3 points for strategy, creativity, and fabulous results. You can get one additional point for “royal jelly”, defined as the ability to inspire the profession and of exceptional quality. In total, the entry that gets most of the available 10 points has a good shot of taking home at least an award.

To submit your entry to The Bees Award, simply fill out this detailed form and send in your payment. Entries are allowed up until April 4, 2012 so get your submissions in! The winners will be announced on May 24, 2012.

Identity TheftAre you who you say you are when using social networks? Many of us get some of these random friend requests or follows on sites like Twitter and Facebook and to add complexity to it, how can we easily tell people apart when often the same names are being used? If you’re the slight bit famous in your circle or industry, the odds of you having impostors goes up significantly — just ask CrunchFund’s MG Seigler, Michael Arrington, TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis, and Ben Parr, for starters–all have people impersonating them online. Social networks have slowly, but surely adopted ways to help offer people peace of mind that who they’re interacting with are who they say they are.

Twitter was one of the first popular social networks to implement a verified account program and established some strict criteria in order for people to be credentialed. Google+ was the next one to offer this, but at a much faster rate than Twitter. The only major service that stalled was Facebook…until now. TechCrunch’s Josh Constine is reporting that tomorrow, Facebook will allow prominent public figures the ability to verify their account and display a preferred pseudonym instead of their birth name. As a result, by giving this information, Facebook will place these accounts in their “People To Subscribe To” feature list.

You might be wondering why is this such a big deal? Well according to Facebook’s policy, there’s specifically a section that covers registration and account security. Specifically, users are not allowed to provide any false personal information, meaning that if someone like The Rock signed up as Dwayne Johnson, but changed his username to The Rock, it would be in violation of this policy and his account, along with his millions (and millions) of Facebook friends would be disconnected. Famous author Salman Rushdie recently came under fire from Facebook for this. Turns out that Facebook deactivated (not deleted–deactivated means it’ll be temporarily offline) his account because his passport has him as Ahmed Rushdie, but everyone else recognizes him as Salman Rushdie.

Facebook verified account programThis new verified policy would be helpful for celebrities eager to want to grow their communities on Facebook, but don’t want to have people follow them using their real name–it doesn’t have true star power behind it and wouldn’t make sense from a branding/marketing standpoint, either…would you want to follow Stefani Germanotta on Facebook? Would you even recognize WHO that was? Well that’s Lady Gaga’s real name, but chances are that you wouldn’t have known that. Facebook’s verified account program will allow Lady Gaga to keep her profile registered as Stefani Germanotta, but would allow her to have her name displayed as Lady Gaga. Plus, if you happen to be one of the lucky people who sent a friend request to your celebrity and they accept or you want to subscribe to their updates, wouldn’t it be helpful to have some way to make sure that you’re talking to the right person instead of someone who could be a spammer or just on a phishing expedition?

TechCrunch is also reporting that unlike the verification badge that you get with Twitter and also with Google+, Facebook will not be displaying anything like that on your profile. In addition, there’s no way for people to volunteer to have their accounts be verified. It’s definitely not similar to the developer or email verification system either. Mr. Constine is correct in saying that by not having any sort of verification badge prominently displayed will basically offer up no added value for the celebrity to use Facebook, except that the service won’t terminate their profile. For now, I’m sure that even if you have a verified account, there will still be plenty of impostors out there on Facebook that will still survive until they get deleted–and that could be a while.

This is a decent attempt by Facebook to recognize that some prominent people who recognize the potential of the site want to use their service. However, by simply having the celebrity give more information to the service just makes it seem a waste of time. If they get their account booted, then it looks bad on Facebook. Or, the celebrity could instead set up a fan page–still business gets done on Facebook, but is it to their advantage? Wouldn’t it be better to simply get them to create a profile page instead of a fan page so that the service can get some more data/information and set up a new profile? I think that would be better than just creating a page where existing Facebook users can go to view information. Plus, with the new subscribe feature, wouldn’t that just be consolidating the fan page and profile page in one? C’mon Facebook…think better about how this verified account program could be run!

Let’s hope that this verified account program works out for the best…but I think in the short term, we’re going to see some famous people upset that their accounts just got terminated. In the meantime, here’s a screenshot that TechCrunch has about the verification process:

Facebook verification process

ChirpifyOne of the most highly asked questions of any startup is “how are you going to make money?” This is true for any new company–you can’t just give away your stuff for free. Sooner or later, you’re going to need to find a way to monetize whatever you’re using. In marketing speak, we’re asking for the Return on Investment  (ROI). So when businesses want to use social media services like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, they’re going to want to know what’s their bottom line. It’s fine to stick content on there, but how will it wind up being a good use of their money?

This is the exact issue that plagues some people when thinking about Twitter. Right now, the only means the average business has to monetize their Twitter strategy is through promoted tweets. But maybe that’s not enough…sure we know that Twitter is making money through their firehose and partnerships with other companies behind-the-scenes, but for brands eager to fully embrace the power of Twitter, they need another way to tap into their bottom line. And that’s where Chirpify comes into play…

Chirpify is a Twitter commerce platform developed out of Upstart Labs in Portland, Oregon by Chris Teso. Formerly known as Sell Simply, this new Twitter commerce engine will enable direct (person-to-person) payments, donations and retail sales transactions to occur right through the use of Twitter. I had a chance to speak with Mr. Teso for this post and as a person who worked in an interactive agency for a while, it’s interesting to hear about the philosophy behind Chirpify and his thoughts on how businesses would use this in conjunction with Twitter. But before we get into the insights and thought about Chirpify, let’s delve deeper into understanding how it works…

About ChirpifyChirpify is a monetization platform that integrates directly with PayPal in order to offer secure transactions on Twitter. In order to initiate payment or purchase, all one needs to do is to reply to a tweet using the following format: “@brandname buy product” or “@charity donate $5 to cause“. As mentioned earlier, there are three types of things that Chirpify can do for you: Twitter commerce, Twitter direct payments, and Twitter fundraising.

Twitter commerce

In this situation, this is an e-commerce type of situation where a small business might use this in lieu of, say, Square or Venmo to process payments for transactions. Right now it doesn’t seem to be an ideal payment mechanism for large, established brands, but if the Creme Brulee cart here in San Francisco or your local lunch truck was on Twitter and both parties were signed up to Chirpify and PayPal,  you could easily and simply pay for your purchase simply by tweeting them and receipts would be sent to both parties. Other uses include purchases that one might make off of Craigslist or other small one-time transactions. Whether this can scale for franchise establishments like Starbucks or at Macy’s or Best Buy remains to be seen–and might prove to be quite difficult to do, especially with the logistics.

Twitter direct payments

Perhaps more for the individual than the commerce functionality, but this basically follows along the same premise, instead of a consumer-to-business, it’s more consumer-to-consumer. You’re at a bar and your friend asks to spot you some money for some drinks. To pay you back, your friend could simply tweet you and their PayPal account would transfer that stated amount into your PayPal.

Twitter fundraising

Here is something that seems to be promising, especially in light of Square’s recent involvement in the political scene with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. For anyone who wants to set up a fundraising campaign, Chirpify offers them this added option. It doesn’t have to be political in nature. It can be healthcare focused, nature and conservation, social change, etc. and it will help easily capture more funds instead of worrying about people losing interest just because they only have a credit card on hand. If people can’t give money via Twitter, a link may also be provided to a page where they can donate. I believe that white labeling is also an option for those who don’t want to have the Chirpify branding.

What’s the purpose of setting up this platform now? Mr. Teso believes it’s because “brands, retailers, politicians, celebrities, and individuals have spent the past six years using Twitter to build communities and brand affinity, so why not allow them to sell on Twitter directly?” And it makes a lot of sense. Chirpify doesn’t believe that it will run afoul of any Twitter terms of use policy, but just to be safe, they’ve been communicating with the API and development team at Twitter to keep them abreast of any developments.

Chirpify back-end interfaceFor businesses interested in using this service, they won’t have to worry about there being yet another system that they need to adopt separately. Chirpify offers deep integration with existing e-commerce applications including Magento for back-end fulfillment, listing, and transaction management. But, if you do need an e-commerce back-end with reporting, then you can use Chirpify’s system as well–they have a dashboard that can help. To begin using it, merchants need to simply click the “list on Twitter” button that they’ll find in their dashboard when drafting an item listing for sale. Inbound sales information will appear as either an email or part of the merchant’s back-end system and as a direct message on Twitter. You can specify the quantity of the products you’re selling and set the price that you want people to buy at. And you can also charge shipping & handling as well, but for the purpose of convenience and simplicity, Chirpify will only allow you set a flat rate for shipping & handling–if you wanted to set up anything based on where the buyer actually is, it’s going to need more logistical planning (i.e., it’s not as simple as you might think). Oh, and depending on the type of program you’re running with Chirpify, they’ll take a percentage cut of the sales you make.

Chirpify tweetsSo from the buyer’s perspective, what’s going to happen is that in their stream, they’re going to see a tweet kind of like the one shown on the left here. Then, if the buyer wants to get it, all they need to is to reply back with the word “Buy” and their PayPal account will send the payment to the seller. Now, I know what you’re thinking: why would I want to have my public tweets be telling people what I’m ordering? That’s a good question and Chirpify has a system in place where you could send a direct message to Chirpify and they would play the middle man to facilitate the transaction without it ever being a public tweet. And what happens if you decide to buy something and you never get it? Is it a matter of caveat emptor or buyer beware? Nope, Chirpify says that with PayPal’s buyer protection in place, you will have a guarantee that your money is safely transacted–otherwise, you’ll get it back.

But what happens if you don’t have a Chirpify or PayPal account and someone transmits money to you or you send money to someone who isn’t set up for the transaction? Well if they are on Twitter, an tweet will be sent to them saying that you have sent them money and they need to access it through an included link.

Today, Chirpify has launched its Twitter commerce platform and is ready for people to take it for a spin. It’s received some initial seed funding from the Upstart Labs incubator, but for the most part has been bootstrapped. Currently, they have at least one major company as a merchant customer, Powerbar, and they’re looking for more. Could this become the biggest competitor to Square and all the rest in the industry? Will Chirpify decide to disrupt the way payments are done and could they be the pioneer in finally breaking through in monetizing tweets on Twitter?

There’s only one way to find out.

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