Don't forget the rest of the digital puzzle

iStock_000005066615XSmall.jpgWith all of the buzz around social media it's easy to overlook the rest of the digital marketing puzzle. Yes, it's fun to talk about Twitter and Facebook and the other new bright shiny objects, but they're just one component of a balanced online marketing strategy.

Take a look at the following chart from e-Marketer that shows how US adults prefer to have companies communicate with them. Note that email is still almost twice as requested as web sites.


That being said, social media has the opportunity to help drive business, create valuable content and serve as a landing point for various customer segments. Content is the foundation of any quality experience online, just ask anyone who's run a website.

Email - Social media (from Twitter to blogs) is centered around constant content updates. It's also a rule that very few people actually participate by commenting or adding content. Most people participate by reading and clicking (which is just as valuable in my opinion). Email is a perfect way, however, to summarize the best, most relevant conversations that are taking place.

Search - Search engines absolutely love social media content. It's categorized, updated frequently and is full of metadata. Results from blogs and other social media outlets are showing up in search result pages alongside corporate websites and official releases. The more relevant, popular, trusted sources will rise to the top...many times they'll be blogs.

Advertising - Sites like Facebook are full of user data that is being leveraged by marketers to create timely, relevant, targeted ads. Facebook made poor decisions early on with their Beacon program, but smart marketers are using the targeting to eliminate waste and only pay for the qualified clicks.

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With social media as one component of digital marketing mix, keep thinking about how it can integrate with other tactics. How can you use the content generated in emails, ads, mobile messaging, search targeting, etc.? How can you extend it offline into physical items for marketing. Look at examples like that allow you to create social artifacts that lead people back to your space online.

Social media is not an island,
it's a high-power engine on the larger marketing ship.

Social media isn't the end-all-be-all, but it offers marketers unparalleled opportunity to participate in relevant ways. It also provides a launchpad for other marketing tactics. Social media is not an island, it's a high-power engine on the larger marketing ship.

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Boomer generation exploding online. Are you ready?

boomer_couple.jpgWhen I was in my teens, 30-year-old people seemed like they were ready for retirement, 40-year-olds seemed like they should be knitting sweaters and the 50+ crowd should be getting their estates in order. Now that I am 30 I know that life is really just beginning and the wisdom that comes with age is invaluable. These misconceptions of age and computer savvy/ability run rampant in the interactive space so I want to shed a little light on things before it goes too far.

When you think of "old" what comes to mind? It's subjective isn't it? Too often, the baby boomer 50-64 (pre-retirement) crowd is tagged as offline, computer-illiterate technophobes by young marketing executives. We think to ourselves "man they're old and they don't even know how to use a mouse, I better stick to just using print and radio ads and small websites with large font sizes". That statement is outdated and needs new, integrated thinking. Instead, look at it this way, the baby boomer crowd has been using computers and the internet in the work setting since they were commercially available (10+ years now). It's true they did not grow up with computers, baby boomers are self-taught and I admire that.

So what are the stats today? According to a recent study by JWT Boom, 72% of users in the 45-65 range are on broadband connections. 82% of them use the web. 40% of the total US population is over 45 years old (108 million people) and control the majority of US spending power. They're also the fastest growing group of internet users and are expected to grow over 50% in the next 15 years (compare that with 3% growth in the 18-40 range). Another key takeaway is that the 65+ age group will grow 32% in the same timeframe.

Another item to take away from this post is that they're spending their time online differently. Boomers are not watching video, downloading music, writing blogs or playing games. They're looking for information and doing research on purchases, communicating with friends and family, shopping and reading. The report also notes the power of integrated campaigns in reaching the boomer demo. 92% visit a web site after seeing a print article, 89% after seeing a print ad and 83% after seeing a TV ad.

Until now, we've been complacent in our efforts to really reach the boomer customer online. Statements like "they're just not online" and "they don't know how to use a mouse" are blatantly false. Boomers control the majority of the spending power and are exploding online. Marketers cannot afford to misjudge this hugely powerful market as we've done in the past. It's time for new thinking, new planning and campaigns that span and re-align media formats with a focus on this powerful group of consumers.

UPDATE: Seth Godin has a great (as usual) insight on boomers and their move to becoming "seniors".

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Marketing campaign shrouded in mystery drives fans online

Who says you have to terrorize an entire city to drive buzz around a marketing campaign? Kudos to John Booth at Crains Cleveland Business for pointing out this article on Cleveland's own, and Nine Inch Nails lead singer, Trent Reznor is rumored to be behind a cryptic marketing campaign which has used USB drives left in restrooms, phone message recordings of songs and rogue web sites to stir up fans.

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Nine Inch Nails' new album 'Year Zero' is due in stores and the band is using a mysterious, grassroots campaign to drive interest. The band isn't saying much at this point, their fans are driving the conversation. The discovery marketing tactics started with a T-shirt which fans realized led to a URL. Once on the site, fans were pointed to other locations, criss-crossing the Web to uncover the next clue.

Some of the site URLs are:

Fans also found cleverly placed USB memory sticks in restrooms at European NIN concerts that contained new, unreleased tracks. The files spread like wildfire though email and peer-to-peer file sharing networks. Yet another T-shirt pointed to a Cleveland phone number that played a recording of one of the tracks.

This goes more to prove that the group understands marketing and their fans. They're trying to reach people in new ways using a mix of promotion, technology and guerilla marketing. Fans get to experience the band's personality, interact in new and more personal ways and get to connect with the band before the general public. No matter what you think of their music, they really get the marketing side and their fans benefit in the end.

UPDATE: Spike at Brains on Fire has a humorous take on the RIAA's response to this campaign. Left hand, meet right hand.

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I was bluespammed

bluespammed.jpgI was walking through the upper west side in Manhattan a couple of weeks ago when I felt my phone buzz on my hip. I had my hands full with my camera and a venti coffee from Starbucks so I let it go to voicemail. A few blocks later I finished my coffee and grabbed my phone to see who called. To my wonderment I saw a bluetooth connection request from a merchant I had walked past. I even took the picture you see in this post because it caught me so off-guard.

I've posted about bluespamming before, but this is the first time it happened to me. It is a very risky, short-term tactic for companies to engage in and could potentially cause some damage to the brand (unless you're a marketer who doesn't care about your branding). Mobile phones are still very personal for a lot of people. They don't want tele-marketers calling them, rogue text messages or unsolicited bluetooth offers.

I also just came across this post at Helen Keegan's blog which is a great read for marketers thinking about this risky and untested space. In her example, HSBC bank is trying it out in the UK to both of our amazement.

The low cost of this tactic is enticing to many companies and it's only going to get worse I fear. But, this is spam no matter how you dice it. So unless you have the license to send messages to every single phone (like you own the company and the employee phones) you are going to tick people off and damage your reputation.

If you're smart, stay away from this invasive, unrequested form of marketing. If you're innovative, consider (for example) creating an SMS campaign which you promote on a sidewalk ad in front of your store. Tell people that for an immediate X% discount, send a message to your shortcode and show the cashier the reply message. This way you're using technology, but the user is pulling you in.

UPDATE: I read this article on, via, and the tone of the article paints this as a "mobile ad push". NO! This is spamming. No ifs, ands or buts. Please people. Just say no to unsolicited messaging.

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Extend your reach beyond the browser

reach.jpgWhen your customer closes their web browser, do you still reach them? What piece of your brand do you offer them to stay near the top-of-mind? There are quite a few ways to do this effectively and add value to their experience.

  • Desktop Background: Yes this is old, but that doesn't mean it needs to be mundane. Do something cool, give more options more often and make it something people will want to talk about. Even better if you can personalize the message.
  • Icons/Avatars: People are using icons/avatars to identify themselves online and make connections. Create something interesting so fans of your brand want to show you off.
  • Screen Savers: Creating rich, immersive screen savers is a great way to keep people engaged. It's easy to dynamically pull in information like RSS feeds, schedules, press releases and news stories and product information. The more dynamic these are, the more useful they'll be to the user and the better impression they'll have of you.
  • Widgets: Widgets come in many flavors, but the overriding thread is that they allow people to take normally web-based information and use it in other places. This includes feeding in your blog posts, searching your site from their Dashboard or Vista's equivalent, displaying new photos and video you've published and the list goes on. The point it that you make your content easily portable so they can use it in their lives the way they want.
  • Instant Message: On top of using an avatar, viable, new information delivery vehicles are emerging. IM allows people to get updates from you via an existing channel. They add you as a contact, you message them with content.
  • Twitter: This micro publishing tool reaches consumers in the way they choose. This includes SMS, IM or web-based delivery. The power and potential of Twitter is largely un-tapped by marketers.
  • Content portability: By this I mean, if you have video, offer it for the iPod. If you have audio, offer a podcast and easy ways to subscribe to the feed. If you have a web site, make the content accessible on a mobile device. Allow your customers to engage with you throughout their daily routine no matter where they are or how they got there.

New technologies are popping up all the time. Think about the impact of Second Life. Although it's a risky venture right now, we may see a shift in usage demographics if the right model is put in place. What other ways have you allowed your customers to take a piece of your brand offline?

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Page views are dying, but are visits the answer?

admitone_ticket.jpgOne the the main challenges of interactive marketing is measurement. For quite some time the page view has been the gold standard of analytics. However, as technology changes the page view measurement is quickly losing credibility and content publishers are looking for a replacement.

The problem: The specific problem is that as user-centered technologies like AJAX penetrate the market, there are less pages viewed. Simple eh? Here is an example I use in presentations when explaining AJAX.

It's April 14th at 4:45pm. You just started doing your tax returns (you know who you are). You're filing online and you come to a page that needs to find you local school district.

    Old way -- you are shown a pull down menu with all of the states listed. You choose your state and the page reloads with all of the counties (that's one page view). You choose your county and the page reloads with all of the cities (that's two page views). You choose your city from the list and the page reloads with all of the applicable school districts (that's three page views). You then submit the form and get a big refund check.

    New way -- you come to the school district finder page and see a list of states. You choose your state. As you click your state the list of counties appears immediately below (still one page view since the page did not reload). You choose your county and a list of cities loads (still one page view). You select your city and the list of school districts appears (still one page view). This saved you time as a user since you didn't have to wait for the page to reload, but the site lost two page views.

The first A in AJAX is where the problems lie. It stands for Asynchronous, which is a complex way to say that the data transfer is happening in the background and doesn't require a new page load. The technology is very powerful and really adds a lot of value to the end user since the web application works just like an offline application (when done right). A good example is Google's Docs and Spreadsheets applications which work using similar technology. If you go to and create a spreadsheet. If you didn't know you were in a web browser, you would think you were using Excel.

So that's the problem. A few people have proposed a potential solution as AJAX adoption spreads quickly increasing the number of sites where the page view is irrelevant. ComScore recently put their weight behind using the unique visit as the new standard. Here is a breakdown of what they've said:

  • Unique Visits - this is the number of unique visitors who come to your site. Each user is tracked by IP address. This number will also give the best gauge of overall site performance and will also replace page views in the sales process.
  • Average visits per visitor (30 days) - this number shows engagement on the site. The more visits per visitor the more engaged the person is with the content.
  • Time on site - time on site is not a new metric, but is still very valuable to determine engagement. We will even see an 'average time per visit' using this metric and the average visits per visitor.

One of the biggest shifts that this will require is website valuation for sponsorship and advertising among SMB's. Most online ad sales people are just coming up to speed with setting real value on websites and they've been using page views. If you look purely at the numbers, 'unique visits' is going to be lower than 'page views'. How do you explain that to an advertiser? Steve Rubel does a good job outlining his concerns here. I'll dig into how this can be approached from an advertiser and site owner's viewpoint in a future post.

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It's the little things that add value

cont_logo.jpgI'm a huge proponent of giving consumers ROI when it comes to their personal information. There is nothing I hate more than going to a web site, giving that entity a bunch of personal information and then getting nothing in return. Yes, I add value to them. They can show management the number of orders, subscribers and conversion rates. But what about me?

One small example of a company using my information to add incremental value to my experience is Continental Airlines. I am flying to Los Angeles tonight for a new business pitch tomorrow. I don't know about you, but most of my business travel is crushed in between meetings, conference calls and normal work and there are a lot of things that I forget to do before traveling. One of the biggest things I forget about is to check the Weather. I always end up doing it the day I fly and by that time I can't change what I packed.

You can see in the example below Continental has used my personal information to add value to the confirmation email they send out. The top of the mail has all of the pertinent flight and time information, of course, but the tie-in with adds the most value. I knew the forecast a couple of days ago, I didn't have to remember to go look it up and I've packed appropriately.

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If you're a customer, ask yourself why you give the information you do and if the companies you support use that info. to add value to your experience. If you're an interactive marketer stop and ask yourself if the information you collect is being used to add value to the customer. If it's not, look for new ways to leverage it. The benefit to the customer is great and the effort is relatively small.

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"Stealth marketing" is NOT marketing

liar.jpgI was reading through my blog feeds this weekend and came across one post that mentioned stealth marketing as a tactic for businesses to 'carefully' engage in. I read through what the author (who shall remain nameless) was saying and it made me stop what I was doing, cringe and get fired up.

For those that don't know, stealth marketing is defined by Wikipedia as:

Undercover marketing (also known as buzz marketing, stealth marketing, or by its detractors roach baiting) is a subset of guerrilla marketing where consumers do not realize they are being marketed to.

This is not marketing, it is deceit plain and simple. It is also one of the main reasons that marketers are increasingly coming under fire. Through the use of technology, this practice is becoming easier for companies to participate in and there are companies out there who leverage the perceived anonymity of the Internet to advance their client's campaigns.

Tactics that fall into the stealth definition include: creating flogs, adjusting rankings on sites like Amazon or EBay, paying users to change information or creating manufactured content alleged to be from a consumer. Instances of companies trying to get away with this by using social marketing as the vehicle are popping up all over the place and as of right now there is no real way to protect against it. Each individual site would be charged with validating the authenticity of each user's real identity.

The United Kingdom has taken steps to make this practice of deception illegal and punishable at the individual level. (A hat tip to Ben McConnell @ Church of the Customer Blog who offers his opinion on this here.) This is the first major step by any country to help stop this.

The line between stealth marketing and real customer evangelism is pretty clear. Just look at who is originating the message. Evangelism happens when the customer is pulling the marketer in to conversations and communities, not when a company is pushing its way into the conversation. Arming those evangelists with the means to do this is acceptable (adding Digg or Bloglines links for example). Pretending to be one of those customers is unethical.

Just use the Mom test. If you wouldn't call your Mom and tell her what you did, it's probably not ethical. Can you imagine calling home to say "Yeah Mom, Hi. I took place in a deceptive marketing campaign by pretending to be someone else, made some blog posts as them and tricked hundreds of people into buying some product that I don't actually use." I sure wouldn't tell my mom that.

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Guerilla "terror" marketing out-buzzes Super Bowl

flip_off.jpgFirst let me say that I don't condone the method with which the now infamous Boston Aqua Teen Hunger Force campaign was executed. In today's world, getting permits for electronic blinking devices, magnetically affixed to bridges and overpasses is a no-brainer. Should those guys go to jail for videotaping police and not alerting authorities? Yes. Did Boston overreact a little? Probably. Do marketers need to think beyond our world and put things in the context of the global climate? Absolutely.

But...something has been driving me crazy for a couple of days ever since TNT agreed to pay the City of Boston $2 million for the blunder. $2 million. What was the cost of a Super Bowl ad spot? $2.6 million. So, let's look at a sample of the buzz generated by the Aqua Teen Hunger Force vs. Snicker's controversial Super Bowl ad and's tragedy of a campaign ($5.2 million + spent between the two).

I find it incredible that $2.6 million buys you less buzz. Would Sales Genie have created more awareness if they'd hired two lackeys to run around major cities attaching blinking genies to bridges? They probably would have received more buzz and anything would have been better than their Super Bownl ad in my opinion.

The second part of this is effectiveness. Aqua Teen probably received more cred from current fans and picked up new fans as a result of the guerilla campaign. Was it worth it to TNT and Interference (the agency behind the whole thing)? I would say it was. They got the buzz, paid the fine, are coming out clean and saved $600,000 over running a Super Bowl spot.

I think it's time for marketers to wake up on two fronts. First, look around, see that running a spot on the Super Bowl is a HUGE waste of money which could be spent better and deliver more ROI in other venues. Second, look at the world around you and make sure that your tactics are not going to bring a major city to its knees and strike fear into millions.

Oh shit, Robert Goule is messing with my stuff again. Gotta run.

Steven Colbert's always humorous take


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Mobile marketing 101: Geographic targeting, bluespamming

Monday I wrote about smart-targeting based on geography and technologies like GPS and SMS. Customers, in that case, would have signed up, confirmed their opt-in and set their preferences for receiving messages.

The other form of geographic targeting is also proximity based (where you only get messages when you're in a physical range of the transceiver), but it's not specifically targeted to your device and you probably didn't ask for it. This is happening now where stores are using Bluetooth technology to push their messages to anyone who walks past. The term is 'bluespamming' or 'bluecasting'. (See this great post by Helen Keegan of Beep Marketing for her take.)


For marketers, this is tempting because of its simplicity (set up a bluetooth server that constantly sends out your message to anyone who walks by), but it's as unethical as email spamming in the lack of user permission. The technology isn't the problem, it is the usage in this case. If marketers leveraged the smart-targeting example and asked permission this could be very successful and probably more cost effective to set up and manage.

Bluetooth has limited range, but for shops with a lot of pedestrian traffic nearby this could be a great model. This is sure to start popping up in the US now that Bluetooth is becoming standard issue on most phones, but it doesn't seem like a viable long-term solution to mobile marketing.

Past Mobile Marketing 101 posts:

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Mobile marketing 101: Geographic smart-targeting

This is the first of a two part series on mobile geo-targeting. Geography-based targeting is becoming more realistic as technology improves and consumers become more accepting of marketing messages on their phones. This post explores "smart-targeting" where the marketer knows (based on signup) who their customers are and what content they would like to receive. The marketer then uses the customer's real-time, geographic position to send them messages when they're within range.

To illustrate a smart-targeting campaign I created an example (see below) using my favorite purveyor of coffee. For a campaign like this, users would have signed up online to receive update messages and profile their interests. They also would have gone through the mobile confirmed opt-in process (read more about confirmed opt-ins).

Once activated, whenever a customer comes within a pre-defined distance from a store they would receive a message from that location based on their preferences. The power here is that the offer is relevant to their interest (coffee drinking and the brand) and it is geo-relevant as well. Each Starbucks location would have the ability to send out similar messages as a subscriber's device is detected with matching interest criteria.


(Hat tip to David Armano for the inspiration to blog with my information designs, I've got a ways to go before I reach his level.)

There are three primary types of customers who could receive these smart-targeted messages. Green consumers in the diagram are true devotees. They welcome your messages and even get excited to receive them because it makes them feel more like part of your community. Geo-targeting to these users serves as a branding reinforcement and could spark spur-of-the-moment purchases through coupons or new product information.

Consumers in orange are on the edge. They're occasional users of your product or service, but they are close to moving to the red level. Messages to this person need to be more focused on product trial. The more they try and become devoted, the better chance they have of moving back to green.

Red consumers are the most crucial to deal with. They have either a) lost their affinity for you and your products or b) forgotten they signed up in the first place. Every campaign needs to have a mechanism built in to remove these users immediately and put them on a permanent do not message list. Most of the risk (legal, time and money) of any geo-targeting campaign lies in this group.

Other, non-mobile methods of contact should be sent periodically to allow users to adjust their interests or opt-out. Other questions should aim to provide more insight into the level of the customer for campaign message adjustment.

Despite the risks, the power of mobile technology combined with the hyper-relevant message is nearly unmatched in modern marketing. No other combination of resources is as relevant and personal as geo-targeted marketing...if done right. If not conducted correctly geo-targeted campaigns become pure spam, hurt the overall brand and limit acceptance for future mobile efforts. The technology to enable this type of geo-targeting is becoming a reality more and more as new geo-ready phones are released.

Part 2 will focus on always-on, proximity targeting. This is very different from geo-targeting and has its own set of risks and rewards. Check back shortly for that post.

Past Mobile Marketing 101 posts:

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Mobile Marketing 101: Ad formats

Just a quick post to touch on ad format standardization in the WAP mobile space. The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) has published a nice, concise PDF file that outlines current formats. If you have a chance check it out.

There are a couple of extra points to consider with mobile that don't really come into play with traditional interactive campaigns. Some of these points are:

  • Device type: is there a certain device that you're targeting (sales support/prior marketing deal) or are you targeting the broad mobile web community? Blackberry's behave different than Motorola Razr's behave different than the Sidekick and those differences are important (screen size, plug-in support, etc.).
  • Carrier: Are you partnering with one carrier to run a promotion or going after everybody? If you are working with one carrier, you may be able to tap into their proprietary hardware or software solutions.
  • Call to action: The call to action on mobile devices is also different. Users can use click-to-call to dial a number instantly, click a link to send an SMS message or vote, send an email to a specified address or proximity use proximity to find local information and drive foot traffic (maps, directions, phone listings).

Measurement is as important for mobile ads as for any other campaign type. Impressions, clicks, click-throughs, CPM, Impressions and unique users can all be used to measure and sell the ad spots.

All of this being said, there is room for improvement and certainly for innovation. Mobile campaigns have a lot of potential and as devices become more connected that potential will be realized.

Past Mobile Marketing 101 posts:

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