Mobile: the Bacon of Tech

It’s no secret, I love mobile, smart, cell technology. It’s intriguing and it’s been so for years, even though the year of mobile has never truly arrived. What does that mean, anyway? What will the year of mobile look like? Has anyone ever defined it and if they have why haven’t they shared it with the rest of us? I say the smartphone has hit the grown up mark, since (as the Boy Genius Report tells us) smartphone penetration has grown from 18% in 2009 to 44% at the end of 2011.  Now that’s a big deal. Why? Because media is powered by advertising. Media loves advertising dollars to flow through for their ability to give content to the consumer, cheaply or for free. This is what keeps the masses coming back. Given that and the fact that the power and usability of mobile technology has advanced to the point where they can handle all media consumption and technical uses, mobile has become the bacon of tech.

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Social Media is Amway

multi-level marketing social media

multi-level marketing social mediaYes, I’m convinced of it; social media (SM) is Amway. After reading a blog post by Jay Baer (@jaybaer) last week, entitled ‘Blinded by the White,’ I’ve been mentally engrossed in a thought that – not unlike other industries – social media leaders have emerged and surprise, surprise they look alike! While I slightly disagree that social media is a good ol’ boys’ club akin to the NRA in it’s pastiness, I do feel as though there is an elitism and social strata that I’ve yet to figure out.

A good friend, and social media mafia under boss of sorts, David Murray, had a different take on Jay’s post, though. He noted that there is diversity but posed the question of whether or not SM is the new country club. I tend to be more in line with this type of thinking about SM. I don’t see the industry as closed off to minorities and women so much as I see there being an elite group of practitioners receiving the bulk of the benefit of SM – trickle down social-nomics, if you will.

I’ve had this idea for a while, but Jay’s post and Dave’s comments really helped crystallize the thought for me. There are some excellent social media practitioners from every demographic in this space. However, there are only a select few that get the benefit of what I like to call the echo chamber of SM. Given that this medium is naturally set up so that anyone can inexpensively gain scale, why is it so difficult to break through? There are likely two reasons this is true.

  1. Like Amway, the first and biggest suck up all the value and leave their followers fighting over scraps. Unless those followers can create their own sphere of influence, they’ll forever be a victim of being too low in the “down line” to effectively monetize the medium.
  2. The elite have built a network to make sure their revenue streams are interconnected and thusly less susceptible to the publics’ cyclical undulations of relevance and popularity. By them promoting each other we continue to buy all of their books, go to their conferences, pay their speaking fees and read their blogs.

Don’t misunderstand my bluntness here, either. I’m not knocking the hustle, merely pointing it out as a matter of human nature and fact. No matter how great of a post I write, why would a Chris Brogan or Amber Naslund read it, promote it or even have the time to do so?! They’re busy and I don’t offer enough value for them to take that time. I make time/benefit decisions every day in my work, and am sympathetic to the plights of busy people.

The rub, however, is in the rhetoric. It is difficult for me to see posts about engagement, sharing and community, by the leaders of the movement, but little reciprocation. Instead, I feel like I’m 10 years old again, and I can hear my Dad saying, “do as I say, not as I do” while peering authoritatively over the top rim of his glasses. The elite benefit by massive followers sharing their material, therefore building up their social influence and allowing them to capitalize – handsomely – on that influence. However, there are very few times that I have seen or felt the tug up the ladder.

Hey if I was the Steve Van Andel or Doug De Vos of SM, I wouldn’t have time for you peons either. Luckily this is not a goal of mine but I would like to see growth by some of the other smart people in SM I know. So, it would make sense to put down our sycophantic ways and begin to create new networks that support quality individuals that have simply not gotten the traction from the faction.

Who’s with me!? If so, please Tweet this and tell people how awesome I am; I hear it’s great for my social street cred. Not to mention, if you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours. No, seriously, I’m not big enough to ignore you yet.

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Direct-Response Digital: Online Video

In my last post, I started on a bit of a rant, which has led me to do some research on digital direct response ad effectiveness. That research has gotten me all fired up to do the second post in the Direct-Response Digital series – online video.  In the product life cycle of technology, one could hardly say that online video is in the growth stage. With the statistics that I’ve reviewed, I would have to say that it lies somewhere in between growth and maturity. Sites like Hulu, DailyMotion, Netflix and even YouTube continue to gain users and grow, but the heaviest users are fairly mature – sort of like a 24 year old with their head on straight.

So, what does this have to do with Direct-Response Digital you may ask?  Everything. Video represents an opportune growth area for businesses attempting to go small to be big. As Comscore put it, “getting small (and relevant) is the new big.” While economies of scale and that’s a lot of zeros ad buys dominated television, online finds relevance in hypertargeting to be more beneficial for advertisers. You might be able to target 18 year and older business travelers who watch video and use multiple screens to consume media. As comScore put it, 52% of the 39 million users in this category watched online video in the last 7 days. Do you think that it would be nice to hit this nearly 21 million person population with a call to action?

Okay, you might be saying, people online don’t want to be hit with direct response messages. This is why you started this whole quest, right? My answer: no. I started this whole quest to prove the opposite, and data shows that a certain segment of the population do want to be messaged in this way. Supposedly, there are two types of online video viewers. Population A is looking for transportation and escape. Population B is looking for information and education. Population B is the sweet spot for direct response messages. Their profile states that they want to elevate, in general. More specifically they’re (amongst other things) in action mode and more likely to take action on a relevant message, immediately. This is the part where you tap your index finger against your pursed lips as if you’re about to come up with something profound.

The statistics back this up, also. When compared to other forms of direct response ads, online video performs quite well. Direct response metrics such as click-through rate (CTR) are 0.1% for online images/display ads, while online video realizes a 0.74% CTR. These metrics were taken from reelseo.com in 2007, too! I’m guessing the growth in online video is probably followed by a correlating increase in acceptance of direct response video – especially by the information and education seekers.

Plus, you have to think of all of the other benefits of online video with a direct response call to action.

  1. More local search engine content (Great for any small business)
  2. Content for your own website/blog
  3. Useful for Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  4. Brand building (even though this is the anti-brand building series, I couldn’t resist)
  5. Post to your social media pages

Finally, cost is not nearly as prohibitive as television video production. Some businesses have gotten away with professional online video cost of $300. For $300 and a local ad buy, I would be more than willing to take the risk. In fact, be on the lookout for the Hand Raiser Marketing online video call to action. What’s that? Probably not the best idea for selling professional services? Well, I guess there go my dreams of creating a jingle and imploring you to come on down to the car lot off of exit 12 just past the Sonic! Home of the guitar playing consultant!

There you have it, the nays are drowned out by the cacophony of yeah’s for direct response online video. What’s next? I haven’t decided yet. Let me enjoy this win for the next 24 hours before I get back to work. Have any case studies of online video successes? Inquiring minds want to know.

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Facebook Fans

Facebook ValueIf you regularly check the tech blogosphere, then you’ll notice that there has been an increased focus on the value of Facebook Fans to businesses. The catalyst to much of this discussion is a report from Syncapse, entitled “Value of a Facebook Fan.” I’m intrigued by the dollar value study of a tool that should be used mainly for PR purposes, so I delved into the 18 page report and scrutinized it for you.

The fundamental question is, whether any of this information can help change behavior to increase profits or brand affinity scores through Facebook efforts. Here are my thoughts:

Product Spending
Syncapse noted that, on average, Facebook Fans spend $71.84 more than Non-Fans, annually. It is also true that the value difference is highly variant – depending on the brand – from a few thousand dollars to zero. Having a knowledge of this stat for your brand can be important in understanding purchase behavior of hand raisers in general, more than Facebook Fans in particular.

Brand Loyalty
Facebook Fans average a 28% higher likelihood to continue using brands they Fan. This is not surprising, and can probably be tied more to brand/product health than the value of a Fan. While the act of Liking, Friending, and Fanning are low impact, the effect on your News Feed (Facebook’s Real-Time updates) can be great – annoying even. Therefore, people that Fan a brand must be doing so for one of two reasons. First, they want to receive discounts and specials. Second, they want to stay informed on the happenings of your brand. Neither of those delineate much about the dollar value of that fan.

Propensity to Recommend
This I believe to be the most important online statistic when discussing brand performance and Fan valuation. Syncapse found that Fans were 41% more likely to recommend brands they “Liked” to their network than non-fans. Matched with a study from Econsultancy last July, that stated “90% of people online trust recommendations from people they know; 70% trust opinions of unknown users,” indicates a higher dollar value of a Fan.

When I think of my own behavior online, I realize that whenever I’m unsure of product or brand differences, I bring it to my network and almost blindly take the most popular advice from subject matter experts. Therefore, it is obvious that it is very important to build a well informed fan base, if you’re hoping to use Facebook for market penetration.

Brand Affinity
Syncapse found that 89% of Fans felt positive feelings toward the brand, compared with 49% of non-fans. This stat may explain the higher likelihood of repeat purchases and propensity to recommend. Obviously, depending on your business, this qualitative measurement can vary quite a bit but also may only indicate a predisposition to the brand due to the fact that they’ve already stated their “Like” of your brand through the simple act of becoming a fan.

I feel as though this report served to put some substantive numbers behind assumptive estimations rather than any actionable dollar value analysis. I did learn that I have an opportunity to greatly increase my evangelists, which can lead to greater sales and increased revenue. So, the most important thing to do with a Fan Page could be to increase your Fans’ knowledge about your brand so that they can become your best salespeople. Plus, they can help you become more transparent and liked (in the general sense) which means only positive in the important world of online recommendations.

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In the Ram Zone

The following is a blog that I wrote for R. L. Polk, an automotive and trucking industry market analysis and data company, that focuses on some of the things that I’ve been talking about recently. I plan to highlight good programs that deal with social media and permission marketing along high quality marketing communication. I enjoy being able to look at people doing it right and the people at Ram Trucks are definitely doing it right. I hope you enjoy…

Usually you hear of athletes being in the zone and they say phrases like, “the goal looked like an ocean,” and “the game seemed to slow down.” Well, ever since breaking away from Dodge and becoming their own brand, Ram Trucks has been in the zone – literally and figuratively. Their aptly named blog, “The Ram Zone” represents the engagement centerpiece of the Ram Trucks Integrated Marketing Communications strategy. This along with an excellent product will surely make for brand resonance with Ram owners, and a recognized personality that is unmistakably unique to Ram Trucks alone.  They are reaching people through a variety of digital channels, experiential events, in-store promotions and partnerships.  I’m pretty impressed with what the Ram people have accomplished in a few short months. The following is what I’ve noticed.

Social Media Marketing
The main piece, as I previously mentioned, is their blog The Ram Zone. Here you can keep up with all news Ram, while registering to join the community so you can comment about the stories and connect with other Ram owners. Additionally, there is a gallery with tons of immersive  pictorial content. Most important, the blog promotes a Ram Trucks lifestyle that is decidedly tough, hard-working and showing a love for the great outdoors.

There are also easy navigation buttons to the flickr page, and Facebook Fan page where there are nearly 21,000 fans of Ram Trucks. Many of these fans have uploaded pictures and descriptions of their Ram truck, which has created a strong community. They also have a twitter feed, but there doesn’t seem to be as much engagement here. It is just a barrage of event details and tweets containing pictures of those events. They also have their own YouTube channel, with videos of Rams doing some gnarly things.

Strategic Partnerships
When developing a new brand, it is often easier to introduce your position by attaching to a more established name and/or cause to create the desired emotive affect. That is what Ram Trucks has done with Letters for Lyrics and the Zac Brown Band. They’re attempting to get to 1,000,000 letters to soldiers in war zones, while offering some great concerts and music. Dealers benefit too, because the repositories for the letters are only at Ram Trucks locations.

As the website states, the promotion works like this:

  1. Write a letter to a soldier
  2. Take it to a Ram dealer
  3. Receive the free CD

Experiential Events
Finally, Ram Trucks is taking their Motor Trend Truck of the year all over the place to compete in sled pulls, do demonstrations for on-lookers or create viral videos of Rams doing outrageous stuff. Then, to bring it all home, they post the videos and pics up on their website, flickr, YouTube, Facebook, twitter feed, write blog posts and promote lively discussion in all those places.

No matter where they have shown up, Ram Trucks have promoted their slogan…which is either “Get Some Mud on Your Tires,” or “Nothing Works Harder than a Ram.” Either one works. What do you think of the new Ram Trucks brand? Have they captured your attention with their aggressive brand messaging

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Podcasting?

Recently, I was lucky enough to be able to speak about my views on “The Value Equation” for businesses in digital marketing. I had never done a podcast before, but found that I really enjoyed being a part of it. In the podcast, on Portage Digital Media, we discussed the changes on Facebook, matching messages to an emotional connection, and the pitfalls of the “freemium” model. Central to the conversation was, “why do people pay me money for what I’m doing”?

I don’t know if this will become a regular thing, but I hope people will check it out because there is some great value interspersed with fun and jokes. David Lingholm and Jeremiah Staes of Portage are some smart guys that get it, when it comes to making money and communicating value properly.

Please check it out and tell us what you think. I truly hope you enjoy. And as always, be brilliant.

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Matching Technology to Need

How To Gain Respect with Businesses

Usually I write for businesses and since this is a small business marketing blog that would be appropriate. Today, I want to speak with some of my cohorts in marketing who focus on technology. The social media, web dev, app dev folks of the world apparently need to be reminded that they are often ahead of the rest of society in technology acceptance.

Think of technology as hip-hop and businesses as your parents in the late eighties-early nineties. Remember hearing, “this stuff isn’t music,” and the ever popular, “rap will never last”?  Well, we knew what was up, but Young MC and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s mainstream hits were needed to get the late adopters to finally resign in acceptance. [Read more...]

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Future so Bright the Midwest Needs Shades

FMW 2010This past weekend saw a conference of epic proportions. Typically I’m underwhelmed by conferences; they promise these mind-blowing, motivation inspiring experiences that rarely metastasize into realization of the guarantee. This was not to be the fate of the Future Midwest Conference (#FMW10 on Twitter), held in Royal Oak, Michigan. [Read more...]

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Do More Than ‘Net Work & Network

I love social media. I have met many wonderful people that have become colleagues, friends, associates, and partners. No matter how often we speak online through our various networks, the power of face-to-face old school networking is still very relevant.  I see some businesses trying to go the easy route by focusing too much on making the ‘net work that they forget to network.  More important, they forget (or were never taught) how to effectively network.

We hear about networking all the time. People often mistake it for something it is not, though. It is so omnipresent in the lexicon of America that the meaning has become watered down.  It is sort of like a brand name that has become a commodity. Some good examples are Kleenex, Jeep or Coke – even Sea-Doo suffers from this affliction.  Well, add networking to the pile of words/brands over-used creating meanings as eroded as the smooth water beaten pebbles on the beach. [Read more...]

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Win Friends and Influence People – Online

Influence

Regardless of the technology that people invent to improve lives, make it easier to communicate & share or simply make a buck, the old tips from Dale Carnegie still ring true. Maybe even more so, now, because we have much more contact with exponentially more people via the social web.  As a business owner and  brand ambassador, this is especially true. How often do you actively implement these strategies? More important, if they were so important to implement with a limited sphere of influence, then why not utilize them in a social media message to gain positive affect for yourself, your brand, and your business?

There were four main points to Carnegie’s book, and they can be used, today, with technology. It may be just the thing you need to encourage dialog and enhance your brand image. [Read more...]

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