The {Brief} Cumulation.

As the quarter comes to a close, I can honestly say that digital marketing 2.2 has been my favorite class at Western. It’s funny because to the outside world, it’s assumed that individuals of my age cohort are born knowledgable about all things digital; this class has shown it’s just not the case. I’ve learned about topics I knew very little about-from bitcoin, to growth hacking and database marketing. I’ve been able to expand my knowledge on things like mobile engagement and payment, coding and social media. It is perfect timing because my company is expanding to incorporate a hefty digital marketing campaign on multiple platforms, and the topics @digimark_WWU had us cover, tie in perfectly. (Not to toot his horn too much, but he knows his class is the best anyways)

One of my favorite topics was crowd sourcing and co-creation. It’s killer that companies are working with their customers to create market oriented products; the innovation, value and potential product success are what really intrigue me.

Another thing that I throughly enjoyed was the fusion between content marketing and SEO (and I know the term is a little outdated) but if you’re doing it right, the outcome can be  virability and WOM resulting in growth. From a prior post; Google is a “toddler” who needs information to be “spoon-fed” to them in just the right way for it to be digestible.

Basically anything Google does is also of interest to me and we spent a great deal of time on their latest and greatest, because they rule the internet after all…

I can proudly say that I’ve been certified in the HootSuite Dashboard:

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And plan on getting my Google Analytics certification this afternoon- cross your fingers!

On my blog thus far, I’ve written 10,624 words- whew, and these a few other stats;

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I plan to keep posting, so to my grand total of 14 followers, I hope to keep you informed or at the very least entertained.

digi love

Digi Love.

 

The Obsessive Focus on a Singular Goal: Growth.

Sean Ellis is the man of the hour, the one who coined the term “growth hacker” and was also responsible for Dropbox’s initial, and extreme growth. The Silicon Valley is still buzzing about the latest career hybrid. Thus, the recently sought after growth hacker is critical in the success of many startups. Understanding software, databases and coding are all important to growth hacking, making it perfect for a technical marketer with innovative ideas.

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So how do you get visitors to your site? There’s three ways:

Push- this is the aggressive approach, the more typical marketing tactic. You find where customers spend time online and place ads there.

Pull- give them a reason to come to you, draw them in.

Product- everyone that uses the product gets more people to use the product, Facebook is a great example of this.

Growth hacking leads to great, necessary and unique solutions to problems; therefore, the product should largely market itself. The internet has given us a new category of products that cannot be held- Facebook and Twitter are products in todays digital world.

A growth hackers goal is to achieve the perfect, product-market fit. That is, a product perfectly designed to fit a specific and critical need for a ultra-targeted audience. Hacking is taking advantage of under-appreciated opportunities.

The image blow highlights many aspects of great growth hacking and metaphorically conceptualizes all that isn’t visible “on the surface.”

Growth Hacking

There is very little commonality between strategies, only a common result. So what’s the mindset? “Forget press releases or advertisements. Let’s figure out something that’s never been done before and is specifically designed to leverage the strengths of our product.”

Sean Ellis reminds us we must constantly “obsess over every element of the customer experience,” because without customer involvement, growth just isn’t feasible. That’s why, understanding and retaining the current customers is key to success.

It is a continuous process that only gets more effective each time around. It’s also much cheaper than traditional marketing tactics because you aren’t trying to sell a product that people inherently don’t want. This idea brings us back to the concept of a market orientation over a product orientation.

KissMetrics gives us some growth hacking tips:

1. Site speed is important, a slow site is a deterrent to customers.

2. Your site needs tons of social proof to add a level of validity, below are some great ways to do it-

Testimonials (the most poplar method- we all know about these)

Logos (of the most notable clients or media outlets that have been talking about you, or even products/services that integrate with your product)

Customer stats (who’s joining? who’s using your product?)

Case studies (tell the story of a particular user experience)

3. On ramp programs- what is the new user experience like?

4. The kicker: A “barebones” homepage is actually what you want! It may seem counterintuitive but potential customers just want to see the essentials in their first interaction. So what businesses are taking this to heart? Check out the homepages of these major players:

Twitter_homepage

Groupon-Homepage

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5. Integration is also an option, if you have the right platform, one that makes sense. Like Facebook and Spotify for example.

6. Lastly, viral loops can be extremely profitable but it’s important to note that it’s tricky to create because of how many business models are set up.

Although I admit it’s lengthy, this article is one of the best- it is the full scope of what it takes to be a true, growth hacker expert.

 Growth Hacking Venn diagram

Do you have what it takes?!

The Facebook algorithm, a page out of Google’s book.

EdgeRank- Facebook’s algorithm for organizing the content you see on your news feed. Here are some of it’s most important factors:

Affinity- The more a user has interacted with your page in the past, has an affect of how often they see your posts.

Weight- Post type and user interactions have a higher potential to show up in a feed; for example, photos and videos will outrank word posts in a persons feed.

Time Decay- The longer your post has been up, the likelihood it will show up in someone’s feed again decreases.

Edgerank diagram

According to The BufferApp, the gist is that, “Most of what you post on Facebook will not appear in someone’s news feed – if they don’t interact with you.”

These are some common myths:

*Everyone has their own EdgeRank score*
*Using 3rd Party posting tools has a negative affect on rank order*
*Recent EdgeRank updates show less of your posts in news feeds *

MarketingLand informed us that the internal use of the word, EdgeRank, is no longer. Facebook doesn’t identify with the term because there are far more factors than the three original: Affinity, Weight, and Time Decay.

 facebook-edgerank

“Nothing is off the table when we’re looking at what we should show users,” Facebook says. “It can be clicking on ads or looking at other timelines. It doesn’t have to be just what the user interacts with in the News Feed.”

EdgeRank is a thing of the past, and it’s been replaced by a machine learning-based algorithm that, Facebook describes, “only ever gets more complicated.” The new term is simply, The news feed algorithm.

Cuban

Mark Cuban goes out on a limb in his blog about the “inefficient results” that Facebook’s algorithm is producing. He brings up a very interesting point on how their ranking system for engagement based on clicks, likes and shares just doesn’t work for a social network. “We should know better than an algorithm what those who like us actually like,” said Cuban. Now, I think where some of the disparity lies, is in purpose. Cuban wants to use the site to send out ads and spam like content that his followers may not want to see. Business requires numbers, and that’s just what EdgeRank and it’s successors provide. Many might say that Cuban is just upset because his posts can’t reach all of his target audience. Facebook is a business, not a charity, so of course they have taken a turn that has the potential to be more profitable. Most portals charge a fee to promote ads, Facebook is just a late adopter because of increasing pressure to have a better bottom line.

It is interesting that as a social media site, their goal is to connect the world- it would seem that by implementing an algorithm, they are hindering the true capacity to achieve that. With this, I do see where Cuban’s argument has some legs. Note that Twitter has taken a totally different approach to “connecting the world” than Facebook has, but they may be headed in the same direction soon!

The message is obvious and Business Week says it best, “Don’t be spammy with your posts, and lots of your users will still see them for free. And if you want to spam them anyway, you will have to pay for sponsored posts to do that.”

So although I do think Mark Cuban has some valid points, I think they’re more self-serving than anything, and thus skewed in their accuracy. If my boss asked “What should we do to improve our Facebook performance?” I’d follow Facebook’s guidelines;

**Make your posts timely and relevant**
**Build credibility and trust with the audience**
**Ask yourself, “Would people share this with their friends or recommend it to others?”**
**Think about, “Would my audience want to see this in their news feeds?”**

rip-edgerank

The Ultimate Partnership: Co-Creation & Crowd Sourcing

Co-creation. The concept is just as it would seem, a brand and its customers partner up to create something that will satisfy customers wants and needs, it’s innovative and less costly. After all, the most successful new products are those that solve a problem and fill a void in the market.  The idea is that it’s a win-win for both the company and the community who wish to purchase their products. Of course we can’t talk about co-creation without mentioning Linux. This is arguably one of the most visible and widely understood examples; it’s open source, and has been created and re-created by the contributions of individuals, as well as corporations like Red Hat and IBM.

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It would be unwise to assume that co-creation is as easy as asking for customer feedback or input on the next product release. These are a few things to take into consideration:

Privacy- It’s important to acknowledge that customers are concerned about their online privacy, they need reassurance they won’t be taken advantage of.

Legal- It’s easy for copyright and intellectual infringements to occur in the co-creation process.

Brand- Customers can just as easily destroy a brands reputation as they can boost it, managing any dissatisfaction promptly is vital.

Goal Divergence- The typical buyer/seller relationship needs to be tossed, trust and mutually agreeable goals need to be established.

Effort- This might be the biggest hurdle; the product of a co-creation requires more effort then the generic producer/customer interaction.

“Seeing customers as partners in the creation of value widens the horizons of companies entering the eEconomy.”

Timone and Pumbaa

Co-creation plays a central role in new product development and is centered around a market orientation. “The inability to adequately assess and fulfill consumer needs is often a key reason for new product failure (Ogawa and Piller 2006).”

So why would individuals be interested in the co-creation process? The primary reasons are typically financial [compensation], social [status], technical [product/service knowledge] and psychological [self expression] benefits. It’s important to remember that if a customer has a relatively low-level of involvement with an offering, the benefits may not appeal to them.

The impediments to the co-creation process are as follows: corporate transparency is necessary, so for products that require a great deal of secrecy before launch, this would present a problem. Also, the “ownership of intellectual” property is a constant struggle in the co-creation process- a possible legal issue, as discussed above. The business side often faces “information overload” because innovators, market mavens and lead users are EXCESSIVELY excited to be a part of the process, so sifting through their contributions can be daunting. Lastly, many ideas just aren’t feasible in production.

The natural transition from co-creation to crowd sourcing is clear: It is the process by which needed ideas and content are provided by the masses. This is one of the beauties of social media, it’s a perfect platform to make it all possible.

Heard of Quirky?:

It’s a business model that’s taking advantage of the community’s desire to contribute.

Here’s the gist of how they’re using crowd sourcing and co-creation to make millions (not to mention provide the public with some pretty innovative, and can I say? Life changing consumer goods.)

The public submits their ideas, Quirky choose the best, and builds prototypes. The community is simultaneously giving their feedback throughout this process- the winners go to production and are distributed. Now here’s the kicker, lifetime royalties are paid to the individual that came up with the idea. One of their jewels is the Pivot Power, a bendable power strip has sold just shy of 500,000 units to date and the community member that designed it has made half a million!.

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It’s genius because the process encourages community involvement through financial compensation and social benefits. The corporation keeps costs down because they don’t really need an R&D department- it’s crowd sourcing bliss. Here’s a little visual of that process:

 Quirky process

Consumer involvement in the product creation process is a game changer- Products have the potential to be more successful because they’re created out of the minds of the consumers who need them and corporations can save substantially, in this new business model. If co-creation and crowd sourcing are carefully executed, it’s successful, innovative and filled with value.

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Your money, in the cloud.

Mobile payment is evolving and everyone is trying to grab a piece. To name a few, there is Google Wallet, LevelUp and Square.

LevelUp, out of Boston, seems to be on the right track- there are no merchant fees for those who use it, unlike the ever-common fee charged by Visa, MasterCard and the likes. It’s also a great tool for collecting customer info, genius. Square is the apple of Jack Dorsey’s eye, if the name sounds familiar it’s because he’s one of Twitter’s founders (his handle is @Jack.. go figure). Google Wallet seems like the slacker of the three, it only operates on U.S. devices and isn’t compatible with the largest carriers- currently working with carriers like Boost, Virgin and Sprint.

Here’s the simple instructions from LevelUp:

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To play devils advocated, do we need to pay with our smartphones? Plastic works just fine. Is that idea outdated? This might be a better one: No one has made it an entirely seamless experience, and that’s what we’re all truly looking for in mobile payment. As The article from Boston.com pointed out, do we really want another way for Google, and others, to see exactly what we spend our money on?

Here’s an interesting idea for the incorporation of mobile payment into other facets of our lives, “Imagine a running app that rewards users with LevelUp credits toward their favorite healthy restaurant when they reach a certain mileage or time goal. Or a restaurant review site that verifies reviews based on whether customers actually make a purchase at a restaurant.” It’s wild to think that our mobile devices have started to play such a critical role in almost all aspects of our lives. But is it making life easier? That’s a little more tricky.  

If you think mobile payment is out-there, you must not have heard the buzz about bitcoin.

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Bitcoins may seem like nothing more than a well-executed hoax to some, but in reality it’s not all that far-fetched considering everything else is going digital. It’s similar to the mobile payments described above, but it’s entirely anonymous and applicable on a global scale. It has been described as, “a hedge against the entire global currency system.” They’re web based, so if all currency were surrendered and everyone started using bitcoins instead, global commerce would be far more fluid. Not to mention the lack of bank fees- that itself would make me want to make the switch. Although I am not discounting the logistics of such a transition, it does present some interesting appeal.

The lack of tangibility in the bitcoin concept is likely a huge deterrent for many, theres just a good feeling you get from holding cash (coins not so much, that is unless they’re gold). Also, where’s the reassurance? The primary reason we rely so heavily on our banks, stems from the assurance they provide… in case anything should happen.

So why are people using bitcoins today? Here are a few examples, “Fink, the Argentine, favors bitcoins because he believes they will insulate him from his country’s high inflation. Others — from Iranian musicians to American auto dealers — use the currency to dodge international sanctions or reach new markets.”

When talking about bitcoin use, we can’t neglect to talk about their dark side- they’ve been know to be used in online black markets for drug purchases, Silk Road being a prime example, “The Amazon of Drugs.” Probably not what bitcoins were intended for, but they have gained a reputation for being an easy way to commit cyber crime. Here’s an interesting explanation from the Winklevoss twins, who are also investors:

Of course the seedy bitcoin usage is what the media focuses on, but Atlanta-based entrepreneur Anthony Gallippi said the focus on drugs and hacking misses the “much bigger e-commerce use for them, that’s growing and that’s growing rapidly.” And don’t be fooled, bitcoin is currently being accepted by legitimate businesses too, and not just online- Tesla accepted bitcoins as payment for a model S in December of 2013.

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I’m admittedly, a skeptic when it comes to the feasibility of the current bitcoin. The misuse of the technology has really put a damper on it’s reputation and has made many weary of use. Also, the lack of reassurance and physicality of it leave something to be desired. I don’t see the public trading in their life savings for bitcoins and throwing out their credit cards for Square or LevelUp anytime soon. There are still tweaks to be made but I don’t doubt that it’s where were headed- we’re on the path to having our whole life intertwined in the digital landscape.

Why iOS & Android Really Matter.

It’s no surprise that when we are talking about mobile advertising and applications, we’re talking about iOS and Android. So when it comes to optimization, these are the two focal points.

Droid vs. iOS

MobileMarket-Share1

So why is mobile so important? This should give you a pretty good idea, “For 2014, Gartner estimates mobile ad spending will hit $18 billion, a 37% jump over the estimated $13.1 billion spent on the category in 2013.” The growth and potential are what make it so important; because mobile advertising is a relatively new concept it’s remained largely untapped in comparison to the over saturated TV and print ads. It’s important to note that mobile advertising is less expensive than other, more traditional, platforms- thus, the cost per conversion is substantially less.

An ever-common argument from those that doubt mobile is a powerful tool believe that, people just don’t fill out forms or make purchases from their mobile device, so conversion rates are lower. That argument does have some merit, but it also implies an inherently lazy and frankly, uncreative advertiser. The key to mobile success is to find ways to make it work for potential customers- not to say it’s easy, but it is important. After all, we are spending a good majority of our time with our smartphones.

There are some myths about mobile, SEER Interactive has debunked them, and I’ve condensed them into short, sweet blurbs:

*Geo-targeting on a mobile device is EXTREMELY reliable

*To account for the ever-common smartphone misspellings, make keywords shorter

*Putting a mobile budget together is easier than you think

According to Google, “67% of mobile users say that when they visit a mobile-friendly site, they’re more likely to buy a site’s product or service.” We all know the frustration when encountering a site that isn’t designed for mobile use. The constant zoom-in, zoom-out tactics just aren’t cutting it.

Zazzle Logo

I think a great example of mobile proving itself worth the investment, is in Zazzle. Now mind you, this occurred in 2012, and in the digital world that’s ancient, but it’s a very successful story all the same. Zazzle is an online retailer that lets you customize just about anything you can think of. Here are their stats upon implementation of their mobile website:

*Traffic from mobile grew by more than 100%

*Conversions rose by 35%

*Revenue from mobile ads increased by 296%

Zazzle

Are we neglecting apps? We wouldn’t dare. Apps are a great way to create a personalized experience for those who are interested in what you have to offer. It’s important to remember what people are using mobile for when investing in app development.

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Apps are killer for the service industry based off the statistics above from Performics and ROI Research. Apps can do things like build customer loyalty, engage in a seamless experience, and increase participation.

By now, we’re all starting to understand the importance of mobile ads and apps, but It’s critical to also understand how to avoid making some common mistakes. KissMetrics has a fantastic blog about five mistakes that are easy to make:

*Mobile is not a mini-desktop, so don’t treat it like one. Reduce the clutter and focus on the main aspects of the site that customers will want to access with their mobile device. Here’s an example  from domino’s pizza-

Dominoes mobile

*Don’t build an app without a plan to market it.

*App expectations are extremely high, it won’t work to build a mobile site and try to pass it off as an app.

*Apps have a huge retention problem (90% of customers are gone within six months)- continued value to the customer is IMPORTANT!

*Don’t ignore your customer base, engagement and communication are vital.

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Mobile can yield impressive return. If you understand its importance and avoid some of the “common mistakes,” you’re already on the right track. Goodluck!

Database Marketing- Boundless Possibilities.

How can Target predict you’re pregnant? What was the secret to Obama’s campaign success? Could you be paying a different price than others because of the device you use to connect to the web? It’s all in the data.

Here’s a glimpse into how corporations and political campaigns are yielding their data –

 Target

It has been discovered that life altering experiences can have a substantial effect on ones buying behavior. The birth of a child tops the list. With such great change, a person’s typical purchasing decisions are in a state of limbo and brand loyalties are up for grabs. That’s why they has developed such an algorithm, in hopes of making Target your new “one-stop-shop” for everything you need. “We knew that if we could identify [pregnant women] in their second trimester, there’s a good chance we could capture them for years,” said Pole who developed Target’s pregnancy algorithm. Target has one of the biggest databases on customer information around, including things like; where you live, what jobs you’ve held, your estimated salary and the brands you prefer. In addition, they record every interaction each individual has with the company. So what’s the purpose of the data that Target collects on us? Its meaningless without the technical marketers they’ve hire to decode it. Their job is to put it into an informative context, and that’s where targeted advertising and personalization enter the picture. It’s an understatement to say that Target is really good at this.

 Barak Obama-United States-Politics

A big part of the 2012 campaign involved the use of cookies, understanding individual preferences and how they spent time online. Along with these cookies, data played a very important role. Data had been collected on campaign supporters since Obama’s win in 2008, they “spent the past 18 months creating a new, unified database, factoring in some 80 pieces of information about each person, from age, race and sex to voting history.” This information was then used in a massive email targeting strategy based upon each persons preference combination. A great example is in the variation of emails that went out to supporters about the pricey dinner held at Sarah Jessica Parker’s home, “There were seven versions of the email solicitation for the fundraiser, some mentioning a second fundraiser that night, a concert by Mariah Carey, others that Ms. Parker is a mother, and still others that Vogue editor Anna Wintour would be at the dinner.” And the proof is in the pudding- Obama’s campaign was a great success. Target marketing campaigns using data mining we’re a major player in the presidents second win.

Orbitz

“According to Forrester, the average household income for adult owners of Mac computers is $98,560, compared with $74,452 for a PC owner.” Taking these findings into consideration, Orbitz, the online travel booking agency, has different algorithms in place for each. More often than not, the higher priced hotel rooms appear when searched through a Mac than would the same search criteria via a PC. It’s also important to note that through their own number crunching they have discovered that Mac users tend to spend about twenty to thirty dollars more per night on the same hotel room as their PC counterparts. So logically, this is a strategic and well calculated moved on Orbitz behalf. Yet another great example of how a business is using their collected customer data to better their return.

So what are the takeaways?

We can’t neglect the value that databases hold, but we do need the right people to extract it. The possibilities are seemingly endless when it comes to what a business can do with it’s collected data. The more you know about the customer, the better suited you are to target them correctly. After all, why collect data if we’re not going to take full advantage of what it has to offer? This brings us 180 degrees back to the idea of why it’s so vital to be a technical marketer- the ability to communicate with databases and complete an “end-to-end” marketing plan with that information in mind puts you leaps and bounds above the competition. Don’t underestimate the importance of SQL and customer data, because others aren’t.

Good news? I think so. Dance it out.

Dance it Out