A Closer Look At A Social Opportunity

Social Media Marketing

March has been dominated by Australian research reports suggesting that we Aussies have an obsession with social media.

Which sites are most popular?

According to Alexa, social media sites are dominating the top 100 Australian sites. In particular 20% of sites within the top 20, are of a social media kind.

Here is a summary of the results;
Facebook Position 3
YouTube Position 6
MySpace Position 11
Flickr Position 18
Bebo Position 21
Photobucket Position 32
Friendster Position 81
Twitter Position 89

A closer look

Social networking sites are definitely a winner with the Australian population. According to the Digital Life Survey one in every two Australians use social networking sites. In particular consumption is as high as 91% for those between the age of 15 – 19. In addition on average Australian’s are members of 2.7 different social networking sites which is above the world average of 2.5.

Facebook & MySpace continue to dominate the landscape with Facebook attracting 4,682,000 unique visitors in December 2008, compared with just 2,362,000 for MySpace. However investment in Australia by Friendster, shows dedication and aspirations for growth thus this is one to watch.

Twitter is also definitely a surprise – with all of the hype around the site it is surprising that it has only just snuck into the Top 100.

But I wouldn’t discount it just yet. From January to February 2009 Twitter’s Australian user base has grown by 100,000 (67%) moving it to the mainstream. Given this growth it is no doubt Twitter will have significant reach by years end.

Social Networking Sites 2009Are brands doing enough with social media?

An article recently published on the Sydney Morning Herald website stated that Corporate Australia must try harder to tap into social tools. However if you are new to social media this can be somewhat daunting.

Some words to the wise;

For those fairly new to social media, a good place to start is to listen. Traditional marketing is dominated by one way dialogue and Web 2.0 has opened the channels of communication BUT before engaging in conversation start by observing. Through observation an organisation can gauge the key theme’s emerging on both their brand and in the industry and also determine where online your brand is being discussed. From there you can map the type of content being discussed and the key sites being utilised to discuss your industry/brand. This will then allow you to create a strategy for areas which require the most attention or where you can create the biggest impact.

Not Just Another Channel

If you do wish to delve into social media marketing it is important to understand the different dynamics of this channel and not to simply use the channel to push marketing messages. The very nature of social media is the facilitation of conversations and relationships thus it is important to ensure there is mutual benefit derived for both parties.

Know what you are getting yourself into

It is important that organisations considering social media marketing, are prepared to invest time in this area. Social media marketing is not a short term strategy, it takes time to build trust and relationships with your target market and this is not usually gained overnight.

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Is Email Marketing Dying a Slow Death?

Email Marketing Death

In recent months Australians true love of social media has been revealed. In March 2009 Nielson released their latest Australian online research which demonstrated 6.5 million Australians now belong to at least 1 social network.

However perhaps the most interesting finding was that Australians usage of social networking sites has now outstripped email marketing. In particular it is the younger demographics who are shunning email for a more personalised, instantaneous and interactive communication experience.

Email Marketing – The Issues in Detail

Mismatch Between Push & Pull of Email Marketing

With the economic downturn driving down budgets, marketers are doing more with email given its low cost. This is creating a widening gap as consumers are using email less but businesses are driving more. Net result – lower response rates and increasing user disengagement.

Email marketingWhy Log In?

Traditionally email was a great way to keep in touch with our friends and family – however there is no shortage of sites providing a rich interactive experience to do this. These new channels are resulting in increased separation between personal and professional communication tools. As a result in private time users will spend more time dipping in and out of their inboxes (like a letterbox) to quickly retrieve information of importance rather than spending lengthy amounts of time staying in touch with their loved ones.

ESPs Are Evolving

Faced by decreasing relevance, ESPs such as Yahoo understand the shift in social behaviour and are re-inventing the inbox. Yahoo is doing this is by providing the new smarter inbox function enabling filtering emails into a priority inbox from regular contacts with whom the user exchanges mail with. Yahoo is also integrating updates from connections to provide a more interactive tool.

Rivals Hotmail have also created network functionality to integrate with properties across their Windows Live portfolio.

But is this change too little, too late for ESPs? Do we need another network to interact with our friends – or will the latest changes by ESPs be the demise of social networks?

Timing is KeyWhat does this mean for email marketing?

Despite the changing landscape, email still has a good shelf-life for marketers, but marketers must evolve. How?

Timing is key – As email user behaviour in and out of work hours will now differ significantly – it is now more important than ever to measure the most effective time to be sending email.

What Engagement – Organisations must extend their email program to be a more interactive as opposed to traditional one way dialogue. This could be through encouraging end users to contribute new ideas, feedback or even be involved in content generation for distribution which is more inline with the participative web. In addition and where relevant organisations should look to integrate email with social media and use new features such as video email to differentiate

Control & Preferences – Now more than ever marketers need to give people more control over when and how they consume email content, making the end user more likely to consume email communication.

Do you have any other thoughts or ideas for email marketers to evolve? If so comment below;

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Is SEO Destroying Your Brand?

SEO Fail

In recent years so much emphasis has been placed on improving a site’s search engine visibility but sometimes at the detriment of the brand.

Just why is SEO ruining brands?

Over the past few years SEO has been plunged into the driver’s seat, whilst aspects like user experience have been compromised. Website copy has been the sacrificial lamb for SEOs in their pursuit of rankings. Whilst title tags and meta descriptions have been stuffed more than a Xmas Turkey. And lets not forget the impact of a site usability as users are directed to the additional SEO page’s which has been added to the site and provide users with no real value to the users thirst for information.

Why is SEO resulting in compromising other site objectives?

1. Lack of control internally; In some organisations the job of SEO sits with the IT department. Whilst SEO is somewhat technical, it is difficult to ensure your brand’s key messages are effectively communicated when it is left to those who code rather than manage a brand.

SEO Marketing Techniques2. Lack of knowledge;
Many marketers still leave the specifics of their SEO strategy to their agency without knowledge of what they are doing. If you cannot answer the basic questions such as those below then alarm bells should be ringing;
– Which keywords are you targeting
– Where are your site links placed
– How are my title tags written

Marketers would never let their agency release an advert they hadn’t seen, or distribute a Press Release without their approval, so why do they let the SEO agency do what they want?

3. Lack of accountability; Unfortunately SEO agencies have been too focused on delivering rankings and not focussed enough on driving conversion. The SEO discipline is too far removed from the other areas of marketing and SEOs themselves are too 1 dimensional. It’s time for SEOs to understand the bigger picture and how their SEO efforts fit into the larger strategy.

So how can you ensure it’s not happening to your brand?

1. Ask for transparency; No marketer should stand for an SEO agency who will not reveal the secrets which get a site to rank. It’s your site and your brand and no external party should be entrusted with that much responsibility.
2. Be educated; Marketers must increase their knowledge of SEO, not to become experts but to have enough knowledge to ask their agency the right questions.
3. Take back the power; The IT department is there to support the organisations infrastructure not to implement SEO. It is important that the marketing department plays an active role in the creation and execution of such a strategy.

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4 Digital Weeks In Review – March

Stats, Stats & More Stats

Finally Australian statistics are becoming far easier to come by for marketers to make informed decisions. This month has been packed with stats for us to sink our teeth into.

Nielson Online conducted a survey of 2000 Australians, major findings are;
– Australians over the age of 16 spend 16.1 hours per week online, which is greater than TV, radio, newspaper & mobile phone consumption.
– Australian population has become more wired than even with ownership of desktop computers declining by 10% as consumers move towards wireless solutions such as laptops.

The Digital World, Digital Life survey conducted in 16 countries found;
In Australia one in two Australians use social networking sites
On average Australian’s are members of 2.7 different social networking sites which is above the world average of 2.5.
Awareness of web 2.0 is high, but interaction is still in its infancy compared to the rest of the world. Only 13% have contributed to blogs, 6% contributed to wiki’s and 26% viewed/contributed to virtual worlds.

Social Media AdvertisingNokia Australian “Comes With Music Announcement”

– On the 20th of March the Comes With Music Nokia 5800, is set to change the way consumers explore and enjoy music – according to Emile Baak, General Manager, Nokia Australia and New Zealand.

With internet usage growing rapidly in the mobile market, we are set for an interesting year as the big brands battle it out for market share. These trends will further accelerate the uptake of mobile internet as new features such as “direct music download services” and application centres that can be used on the go are introduced by handset manufacturers.

Google Behavioural Ad Targeting

Google has launched behavioural targeting on its YouTube and partner sites. The ads are part of what they call their “interest based advertising” enabling advertisers to target based on consumer interests. The site is currently being beta tested but advertisers are keen for this to be rolled out on a wider scale. From a consumer perspective, Google will be collating information through cookies but users do have the ability to opt out of the service.

So what does this mean for Digital Marketers; More access to low cost ad inventory reducing cost of entry for SMEs. In addition struggling platforms will be further squeezed to compete in the marketplace which is good news for client side marketers.

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5 Key Considerations When Choosing a Digital Agency

1. Who has got your back?

How many times have the “big wigs” rolled in to present you with a proposal to win your account. Only to find when it is all said and done that you’re just another unimportant client handled by one of the many account coordinators.

When selecting a digital agency – whether that be search, online advertising or mobile marketing it is important to understand who will be managing your account and in particular what their level of experience is.

You should also consider if the agency is best placed in the field to handle your account. With the online being so diverse, it is difficult for an agency to excel in every area of online – so drill down and find out what their true specialisations are.

2. Validating Their Track Record

Client logo’s and case studies are often presented during the pitch phase, but what is of key importance is to go beyond the information presented. It is important to;

1) Understand the outcomes achieved and what role the agency played within the process
2) Determine whether or not the client is still working with the agency, and if not why not
3) Not take their word for it, speak with some of their clients directly about the information presented within the case studies and the overall level of service.

3. Size Does Matter

An age old rule to choosing an agency is to match the size of your organisation/budget with an agency of a similar size/used to working with similar sized budgets. If you are a small to medium sized organisation chances are you will not be a priority to a large agency – thus will not receive the attention your account deserves.

Terms and Conditions4. Transparency

One of the key benefits of online marketing is measurability – but will your online agency be open and transparent with your account. For example on the paid search side will they provide log ins to your Google account so you can see what is going on? On the organic search side will they be honest about the techniques that they are adopting and on the email marketing do you have the ability to log in and see real live stats? Will your agency provide you with the transparency to understand what their resources are spending their time on – after all you are paying them by the hour.

5. Have you read the fine print?

If you do decide to use the agency make sure you are aware of where the intellectual property lies. For example if you want to move your paid search account, does your agency own your keywords and the bidding strategies? Does your agency have a conflict policy to ensure your digital agency does not work with competing brands?

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Online Analytics – Measure Relevancy In A Changing Marketplace

Website Visitor Analytics

Web user behaviour is changing and topics like content portability and offsite engagement are receiving more attention from marketers. But all the new opportunities that have come with the Web 2.0 phenomenon, has bought the inherent problem of measurability.

One of the key strengths to the online channel has always been its accountability – and thus this once very transparent channel is now facing a bumpy road ahead.

Exploring the complexities

So just what are some of the complexities of online measurement and what is the advice out in the market?

Engagement measurements not eyeballs are the flavour of 2009. But just how are the experts defining engagement? The first difficulty the web analytics experts must contend with is standardisation of how to effectively measure this concept. Forrester Research defines engagement as 4 I’s Interaction, Involvement, Intimacy & Influence whilst another definition has been proposed by an analytics expert which is 8 parameters and includes clicks, recency, duration, brand, feedback, interaction, loyalty and subscriptions.

Visitor EngagementBut do engagement measurements onsite and offsite differ and just how complex is it to measure engagement? I spoke to one of Australia’s leading digital agencies on the topic. “Measuring visitor engagement is complex. Measuring onsite and offsite engagement is hard particularly with the unpredictability of visitor behaviour online and offline whilst interacting with your brand. Engagement as a metric in itself does not exist in web analytics tools. Based on the measurement goal, the web analyst can manually calculate an engagement index from a combination of different metrics such as conversions, average sessions, latency or recency of the visit. However this does not provide us with a 360 degree view of onsite and offsite engagement” says Joan Tsepofat, Lead Analyst at Next Digital.

Despite a lack of clear guidelines, one thing is certain, qualitative feedback will play a much bigger role. As marketers start to grapple with new measures such as these there will be increased focus on usability, as well as focus groups and surveys to gather qualitative insight – whose role had been somewhat diminished by web analytics in years gone by.

As identified by Forrester, influence is a key measure particularly in the measurement of offline conversations and brand engagement. The old saying of “its not what you know, its who you know” is definitely important on the web. Social networking and micro-blogging conversations are virally distributing brand related conversations and measurements across the web but it is those who have the largest audience of followers that will have the greatest impact and influence. But to attempt to follow these conversations and aggregate the information in a meaningful way to measure buzz is not an easy task. One organisation who has started to respond to the need for marketers to track offsite conversations which consider influence is Hubspot – but this area is still relatively new and the next 1 – 2 years will be the defining years of the next generation web measurement.

Search Engine MarketingOn the measurement front, search is another area that is becoming increasingly complex to measure. Rankings as a measure is dead with the increasing importance of on personalised, blended and local search. So should search marketers focus on search traffic as a metric? This on its own will of course not provide the complete picture as search traffic may be growing at a lower rate than overall search volume is growing – thus competitive data sets will be of increasing importance. Joan Tsepofat highlights the need for business to invest into web analytics to help measure search traffic. Closely examining your traffic sources such as organic versus paid search traffic or other referring sources will assist you to better understand the performance of your search marketing activities. Similarly, web analytics should be the key to measuring the effectiveness of your search engine optimisation efforts” And what about brand interaction which is starts from search results and occurs offsite – how should this be measured?

Web measurement is obviously experiencing the growing pains of web 2.0. Senior executives must start to take a holistic view of engagement and begin to focus on what’s happening offsite along with onsite from an engagement perspective.

So what do we do?

1. Focus on what is important to your business. Whilst buzz and engagement is occurring – this is the same problem inherent with measuring brands in an offline world – so you need to determine how much time you can afford to invest based on the return. Don’t get too caught up in over-analysing and start by identifying some basic measures ie popularity of your site through social bookmarks or feedback about your brand and use this to demonstrate the value of your new activities.

2. Make sure when you are creating integrated online campaigns, that your agency is beginning to address some of the new challenges in measurement and not leaving this part to your organisation.

3. If you have the budget, consider increasing the number of tools you utilise to measure online performance. Web-analytics is just one piece of the puzzle and competitive data sets like Hitwise can provide competitive data to benchmark your site. Even if you don’t have the budget to invest in tools, usability sessions and online surveys can be conducted at low cost to understand how interactive and engaging your site is.

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Social Networking Sites of Tomorrow

Social Media Strategy

In the digital world what’s hot today is yesterdays news, and this is particularly true when it comes to social media. This is not to say that I believe social media is just hype – completely the opposite, this space is so hot right now that everyone wants a piece of the action.

Facebook has averaged nearly 4.7 million unique users in Australia in December and Twitter’s growth rate in Australia equates to 517% in January year on year.

With some of the web’s youngest sites, becoming the worlds leading web properties in a matter of a few years it is no wonder others are trying to muscle in to create the next big thing online.

So what is coming?

Social Networking for Mobile

Gyspii ChinaGypsii; Currently trialling in China, and also eyeing Western Europe and the US, Gypsii is all about sharing experiences. But will it take off in Australia? Given our love of travel, I think it is not a matter of if but when.

Gypsii has been created to support the relationship individuals have with technology, and to leverage from the mobile internet era.

So how do you use it? The site has 5 main functions, with some of the most exciting being the PlaceMe and SpaceMe features. PlaceMe provides users with the ability to capture the moment, by creating a place (based on their current location) and then uploading an image / video or audio via their phone. Whilst SpaceMe provides the ability for users to locate their friends on a map. Looks like no more lying to your friends about feeling sick and staying in for the evening.

The above features and others on the site do seem to provide the perfect travel journal thus I expect this is one to watch out for.

For marketers it could also provide a new opportunity for targeted marketing with the ability for users to search for location based services via keywords – thus combining the power of relevance with user profile information.

View the short 8 minute video on Gypsii and share your comments below.

Micro-Blogging For Professionals

Blellow is a micro-blogging site created for freelancers, entrepreneurs or professionals. Based on the success of professional networks LinkedIn and Xing, Blellow aims to enable professionals to talk and share information with users based on a groups/users skills, experience or interests. Blellow answers the question “what are you working on”, which is the same question a user can answer on their LinkedIn profile.

It will be interesting how this new network can monetise its offering to advertisers – specifically those offering career management services.

Seesmic Video Sharing PlatformVideo Micro-Blogging

Seesmic.com; Founded in July 2007 in the US, Seesmic is described as the video version of Twitter, allowing conversations to be captured and responded to all via video. Seesmic already powers video commentary on other blogs and the usage of both video blogging and commentary may be used more frequently in Australia in the not too distant future. The one downfall of a video micro-blogging site however is the ease of use and if it is set to become the next Twitter it will have to work hard to make it easy to comment on the move.

For marketers, video blogging provides the opportunity to run built in ads on popular video content.

For more information on Seemic visit the Seesmic Video Blogging Site

Do you think these sites will make it to the Australian shores? Are there any other sites you feel will be the next big thing in Australia? Why not comment below.

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