#ChicagoSnow and Market Over-Sharing

Today there was as much social media activity about the snow in Chicago as there were snowflakes falling from the sky over The Loop. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's perfectly cool for people to take to the social networks and express themselves, because presumably by now the people who we consider our online friends have become accustomed to how we communicate and act online. We all know plenty of "over-sharers" who benignly share whatever pops inside their heads. No editing, and no holding back.

Many posts are pointless, some are entertaining and informative, a few are outright hilarious, and occasionally one or two will give you a new perspective on life. But all of them are personal. "If you don't like my posts, then de-friend me" has become a motto of online individualism.

If you are a marketer you can't dare people to stop following you. Consider the marketing value of your social media posts as if they were interruptive forms of advertising. Quality vs. quantity in the age of earned media is a delicate balance because you don't want to be noticed for being the marketer that over-shares all the time.

You need to have an online presence because that's where peoples' attentions are found, but how much content can you reasonably share online to be effective without being guilty of Market Over-Sharing? How many tweets can you post on behalf of your brand before you are tuned out? How much of a presence do you need to have in order to be noticed? And what's the point of having a huge audience of followers and fans and people who are willing to click the like button if you don't give them anything of value?

Engagement is important, but it can be more effective to engage your audience with something tangible they will respond to like a special offer or a free trial or an exclusive opportunity on an advance purchase of a hotly anticipated item. Even a game or an app that dramatizes the value proposition of your marketing message is a more effective way of engaging your audience than Market Over-Sharing to the audience you are working so hard to cultivate and keep.

For marketers, sharing is selling. Your audience is always just one click away from either going to your website, checking out your competition, or ignoring you altogether. If you over-share without offering value, your audience will drift and blow away like Chicago Snow.

Old Term: New Media

It's 2012.

Facebook and Twitter are both about six years old. LinkedIn is almost 10 years old. Digital media have been with us for almost 25 years and  a part of our daily lives for a good chunk of the last 15 years. Mobile phones have been dominated by smart phones and mobile tablet technology for the last 5 years. Even broadcast TV is now exclusively digital in almost 90% of the US.

So it seems increasingly odd to hear the term "new media" still being assigned to the above-mentioned digital, mobile and social media entities. Think about how many touch points of the internet you come into contact with on a daily basis. How many of them are truly new experiences? How many of them are daily occurrences? When is the last time you went anywhere without making sure you had your iPhone or Droid securely in hand so you could stay connected? How often do you DVR a TV show instead of making time to watch when it airs? And instead of conducting research, we've been Googling our way to information since 1999.

"New Media" is an old term in search of a new subject. It simply doesn't apply to digital, mobile or social media anymore. To continue this misnomer is to confuse things. In the early 1400's, Gutenberg's moveable type technology started a new media revolution. Marconi invented wireless technology and gave birth to a new medium called radio in the late 1800s. Telephones and TV were new media for a while too.

For the past few years it's been quite accurate to compare digital marketing to TV commercials in the early 1960s. New strategies for reaching people are being invented everyday, and five years from now many of these breakthrough techniques will likely be standard practice, or seem outdated and less effective.

So the next time you are in a meeting and someone says something like "we need a new media idea", ask them if they are referring to a medium that hasn't been invented yet, or if they really mean they need a new idea to breakthrough the clutter and effectively reach their target audience. New media become just regular ol' media in time, but a revolutionary new idea becomes timeless no matter what medium it's executed in.

Twittercasting: Why Searchers are More Valuable Than Followers

“How many Twitter followers do you have?” is one of the most over-hyped metrics in social media marketing. What good is a large audience if they don’t act? If you are trying to attract an audience ready to actually do something, then you need to treat Twitter more like a search engine and a broadcast medium simultaneously.

There are 400 million active global monthly tweeters, and they perform hundreds of millions of Twitter searches every day. Twitter has a search engine that searches live, constant, global conversations, instead of static indexed web pages.

Twitter is a multilateral communications and broadcast medium that can actually be searched. And Twitter offers marketers something that no other search engine has: the hashtag.

By prefixing a keyword in your tweet with a hash symbol (#), you get a #hashtag.

The # takes your tweet beyond your followers and enters your #keyword into Twitter's general timeline, where it can be found in a Twitter search. It can be in front of #one word, #ormanywordsstrungtogether. The more popular hash-tagged keywords get vaulted into the list of trending topics, which can be geo targeted as well. This is very much like organic SEO.

It’s great to have a large Twitter following, but it’s better to find people on Twitter who are actively searching for something that your product or service can offer. So use Twitter as a broadcast medium with a purpose—target your message to people who are actively looking for you “in the moment”. This is a pull-marketing approach to generating response in real time.

Followers are great because they might share your message with their networks and initiate a viral marketing effect, but they are a passive audience who might be looking for what you have to offer.

Searchers are actively looking for you, and they are more likely to respond if you Twittercast the right keywords with the right hashtags at the right time.

PURLs of Wisdom: Using Personalized URLs as a Data Source

At The Weinstein Organization, we’ve been integrating personalized URLs (PURLs) in our direct response campaigns for several years. PURLS are personalized web site addresses that are often integrated with direct mail or email campaigns, leading the recipient to a personalized landing page.

PURLs are an excellent way to engage your audience because of the allure of personalization. When a prospect sees their name on a web page that appears to be created just for them, it triggers a sense of belonging and delivers personalized communications that encourages them to interact more with the marketer.

But why stop there? As a data collection method, PURLs stand poised to become the next frontier in acquiring consumer information that can potentially rival any other source. PURLs can tell you things about your customers and prospects based on the behavior they exhibit deep inside the sales funnel in real time.

For example, a PURL can track response timing to the delivery of an email. A prospect who receives an email and clicks the link to their PURL is actually telling you something about the quality of your creative and offer. You can measure the amount of time from email delivery to open to response, via arrival to the personalized web page.

Once a responder goes to their PURL you can capture information regarding their communication preferences (video, mobile, social, etc.), collect feedback on the current offer and use this information to provide a subsequent offer that is targeted to an audience of one.

Response to a PURL can also help to generate verified, real-time leads to your sales team. A responder to a PURL is raising their hand and saying that your marketing efforts are making progress with them. They are showing interest even if they do not complete the exact conversion you seek.

There are an infinite number of ways you can learn about your customers and prospects by integrating PURLs with your marketing campaigns. Of course use them as the response vehicle, but they are an excellent way to engage your audience with personalization and learn more about them while they are in a responsive frame of mind.

SEO IS Marketing

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a well-known term, but it can be made to seem overly complex. Unpaid search, or more precisely “Organic SEO”, is simply your web site’s ability-by-design to break through the clutter and rise to a top position on a search engine ranking page (SERP).

According to comScore, Google clearly owns the US market share of search engine users at over 66%, while Yahoo and Bing each hover around 15%. Google flat-out dominates the global market share with over 80% of all search engine users.

With SEO, the marketer is your web site’s data, and the audience is the search engine’s algorithmic “spider” that crawls all the indexed pages on the World Wide Web. The spider is looking for relevant information that will satisfy a search query. It similar to how someone looking to buy life insurance is more likely to open up an effective direct mail piece from an insurance company, then sort through the contents looking for relevant information that satisfies their definition of a good offer.

Successful SEO is not a “one-and-done” process of optimizing your site with keywords and indexing the pages with a search engine. Just like a marketing campaign, there are several elements to an SEO campaign that work together for maximum effectiveness.

  • Keyword Management = Strategy Development: Discovering, analyzing, grouping and organizing large numbers of frequently searched keywords that are highly relevant to the content in your web site. This forms the basis of your web site copy and impacts design of the site.
  • Keyword Action = Creative Development: Authoring the website copy around your strategic keyword selection is literally crafting the message, making your web site relevant to the search query, and more attractive to the spider.
  • Keyword Indexing = Media Planning: Keyword indexing, or “page-tagging”, most closely resembles the art of making your marketing most visible to your audience in the most efficient way possible. Spiders crawl through your page tag first, and begin assigning value to the overall content based on what it is instructed to read. Indexing helps the search engine select your site by making your site’s relevant content more visible in the right place at the right time.
  • Website Aging = Campaign Evolution: Over-saturation of the same execution can lower effectiveness of any marketing no matter if it is an email, direct mail package or an online banner ad. Same thing goes for the content of your web site. Small changes to the content and re-indexing the updated pages at regular intervals keeps the spider interested because it detects something new and interesting.
  • Link-Baiting = Social Sharing: Establishing links back to your web site from other relevant web sites are the equivalent of someone “liking” your ad on Facebook or re-Tweeting your post. They are votes of confidence to a search engine spider and they raise your relevance score. A web site that sells football gear will be more popular to search engine spiders if there are links back to the site from espn.com or nfl.com, for example. Those sites are likely to have a lot of football-themed keywords and ultra-high relevancy scores for football-related searches.

Beware of unethical or “black hat” techniques offered by some SEOs, such as keyword stuffing and link-farming. Search engines will eventually bust you and dramatically lower your relevancy score, or ban your site altogether from the search index.

Organic SEO is a craft just like any other form of marketing. It requires research, development, creativity and execution. And it is most effective when the above techniques are employed together over time as a campaign.