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Author: Corey Padveen

Corey Padveen is Google AdWords Certified, Google Analytics Certified, a Certified Inbound Marketer and the Director of Global Social Business Strategy at t2 Marketing International. With an extensive background in econometrics and statistics, he helped pioneer the concepts of Social Equity and ResponsiveBranding. What’s more, he is the primary author of the t2 Marketing International digital business blog, a contributing author to a number of reputable marketing publications including Search Engine Journal and Social Media Today and is a keynote speaker at digital marketing conferences around the world. Corey regularly shares his wealth of knowledge in the realm of digital marketing, data analysis and social media, and their applications to business in the digital age.
Some Scary Realities Investors Face with the Snap IPO

Some Scary Realities Investors Face with the Snap IPO

Ahead of the Snap IPO, some scary realities are coming to light.

OK – let me start off by acknowledging the fact that I’ve talked about this topic ad nauseam, but as we’re only a day away from the Snap IPO, I feel it is my duty to share with you some final thoughts about the biggest tech IPO in quite some time. After all, the company is looking for a market valuation of up to $22 billion, so at the very least, it’s worth discussing.

Profitability

In 2016, Snap’s net losses were $514.6 million, and it has noted that it ‘may never achieve or maintain profitability’. That’s standard practice for any startup, and Snap’s 2016 was a big year in terms of innovation, product research and development, product launches, acquisitions, and more money-draining activities. They also saw their revenues shoot up significantly, but remember that 2016 was their first full year of sales, and there were plenty of marketers and big spenders looking to get involved with the medium in terms of advertising. Snap still hasn’t created a product or service that appeals to SMBs in terms of both pricing, returns and data. This is an area of concern that I’ve noted for a while, and if they can’t create a product that non-Fortune 500 media companies can leverage, long-term sustainability is going to be a problem – assuming they continue to focus on themselves as a media company, and not a ‘camera company’ as they’ve indicated in their IPO filing.

Mission

Snap’s core product is Snapchat, and that has driven a lot of users to engage with the brand every single day. But Snap rebranded itself in preparation for its IPO and labeled itself a camera company. The launch of Spectacles created a lot of buzz, but that buzz has turned into novelty. Are people really going to walk around all day with (ugly) glasses that record brief videos of what they’re doing? The short answer is no. And that reality has hit quickly in places like San Francisco and Los Angeles, where the streets are littered in sunglasses-clad individuals, and none of them wearing Spectacles. It also doesn’t help that they are wildly overpriced (at the moment) and offer no real value beyond the excitement of using new technology.

Snapchat Spectacles Manhattan Pop Up Shop
A long line forms outside the now-closed Spectacles pop-up shop in NYC.

It’s easy to get early adopters excited enough to fill a Manhattan pop-up shop, but a few pictures of long lines are good short-term PR, not a long-term sales strategy. Google Glass, the 3D printer market, and a whole lot of wearables also confused novelty with business value. Where are they now? That also opens the door for another major red flag with Snap.

Control

In a first-of-its-kind IPO, Snap will not be offering any voting rights to its new shareholders. Snap’s done a great job of building a product that over 150 million people like and use, and they have turned that into a media platform that big-budget advertisers are willing to pay for, but let’s be frank, they’ve made a lot of big mistakes when it comes to their business moves. They tried offering Lenses for purchase to users a month after the product was released and were lampooned by customers. They have also moved backward in terms of the user-friendliness of once-beloved products like Stories, which has made way for Instagram to catch up and, in the opinion of many, surpass Snapchat. With years – YEARS – of time to innovate and evolve, how has Snapchat allowed an incoming product that is very clearly a conceptual copy (Instagram Stories) to overtake its market share and blame that product on Snapchat’s slowed user growth (more on that below)?

It should scare investors that leadership refuses to give up any control in terms of how day-to-day operations are conducted considering the major missteps this leadership has made once competition has arrived on the scene. Yes, competition will always mean unprecedented hits to metrics such as growth rates and usage rates. That’s just a reality of doing business. You would think, however, that Snap would have planned for the arrival of a competing product considering Facebook made it very clear that they wanted a part of the pie Snapchat had to itself for so long.

Excuses

I have already mentioned the always-troubling statement that startups make regarding the possibility of never achieving profitability. That’s standard, so it can be overlooked by potential investors. What can’t be overlooked, however, are the excuses Snap is making for its slowed growth.

First of all, there is the major concern regarding innovation. Instagram has a better user interface, appeals to a global market (instead of almost exclusively an American market, as with Snapchat) and appeals to a broader range of age demographics (most of Snapchat’s active users are under 25), which is why Instagram has caught up to Snapchat in terms of innovation and usage. Competition is not an excuse for slowed growth, but it was used by Snap as the reason user growth was flat in the final quarter of 2016. When Twitter growth flattened in late 2015-early 2016, many assumed the company was dead in the water and poised for a hostile takeover or acquisition. It’s not all that reassuring that Snapchat user growth is flat pre-IPO.

It is also hugely troubling that Snap has indicated to investors that engagement and growth have slowed because teens and Millennials are not brand loyal. I just finished writing “Marketing to Millennials for Dummies” as part of Wiley’s “For Dummies” series, so I read through and conducted plenty of research into the psychographics and loyalty habits of Millennials. Put simply, Millennials are extremely loyal. The difference rests with the fact that they are not all that interested in the stature of a brand, but rather with the degree to which they can relate to a brand on a personal level. If they are fatigued by Snapchat, it is because Snap has not done enough to connect with them personally or innovate in a way that the market has indicated it wants. To blame it on Millennial and teen consumption and loyalty habits is lazy, ignorant, and from an investor standpoint, very unsettling.

Conclusion

It will be very interesting to see what happens when that opening bell rings. Does Snap have the momentum it needs to rise to the levels of Facebook, or will it crash and burn based on market response? Only time will tell.

Some Things to Watch for Post-Snapchat IPO

Some Things to Watch for Post-Snapchat IPO

The Snapchat IPO is just around the corner, and there are a few key points to pay attention to once the company goes public.

I’ve been fairly vocal about my hesitations when it comes to Snapchat’s big move to go public. The company has done an amazing job building a loyal following, and it’s poised for a monster IPO when it goes public in a few weeks. By raising $3 billion, Snapchat will be worth over $25 billion, and it beat earnings expectations last year while boasting a loyal audience of over 150 million users. So what are some of the things I’m talking about when it comes to hesitations? That has a lot to do with mainstream viability with regards to advertising.

What’s Great About Snapchat

Snapchat has taken messaging and made it something fun and exciting. No matter how many times a user has received a snap, he or she is still happy to see one come in, and the anticipation of opening a snap up to see what someone has sent is as exciting as ever. But excitement does not a $25 billion company make; there needs to be a lasting, broadly-appealing revenue model in order to justify the company’s valuation and keep it going in the long run. There is hope, however.

Currently, Snapchat advertisers are spending more and more with each passing quarter. Snapchat, now Snap, FYI, has also expanded its product offering. The powers that be have seen the opportunity in making the selfie and sharing of everyday, often mundane experiences more lively. It’s not just about adding those filters, it’s about sharing experiences with through the use of things like comments, art, overlays and, yes, filters. I’ve done a lot of research while writing my new book (Marketing to Millennials for Dummies, which is slated to be on shelves this June – #bookplug) and if there is one thing that has become obnoxiously apparent it is that Millennials seek to both have and share experiences. Snapchat offers that, and it is one of the major reasons why the app has done (and continues to do) so phenomenally well with regards to activity and engagement.

But what is missing when it comes to Snap’s potential on the open market?

What’s Missing with Snap(chat)

The big missing piece when it comes to the long-term success of Snap is in its viability as a marketing platform/media buy for SMBs. There are far more small and medium sized businesses out there, and if they don’t see value in leveraging Snap’s products, then Snap is going to have a very hard time maintaining that $25 billion price tag.

Right now, marketers can take advantage of Snapchat’s custom filters for a pretty modest fee – not unlike the very affordable advertising options that exist on social platforms like Facebook or Twitter. The different is in the return generated from the use of these filters. On other social networks, members of a target audience can take some sort of action, like providing data or clicking through to a landing page. Unless you get very creative with Snapchat, like Domino’s did in the UK, you’re going to have a hard time leveraging the network to generate some sort of calculable return. Like Instagram (which has the added benefit of integrating with Facebook) Snapchat exists in the form of mobile application. The thing about mobile applications is that users do not want to have their experiences halted by leaving the app. Add to that the fact that content disappears and insights are limited for advertisers, and Snapchat is at a pretty tricky point with marketers that do not have extensive budgets that can be put towards brand exposure. Essentially, Snapchat needs to find a way to appeal to small and medium sized businesses that can’t afford the massive price tag that comes with Discover ad placements.

So What Should We Expect

The only other tech IPO that is of any interest to the world right now is Uber. Snapchat’s filing has been highly anticipated and the market adrenaline is very high. We can expect to see a similar soar like we did with Facebook when it first went public. (Or maybe the market will be a little more careful this time…) One thing Snapchat has going for it is that it is making a lot of money and has been growing considerably. While losses have shot up year over year, that is to be expected as the company expands into new markets. But will it be able to hit its targets for 2016 and over the course of 2017? That remains to be seen.

Snap is an exciting IPO and if it can find a way to reach audiences greater than Fortune 100s, it will do amazingly well. But just as we’ve seen with television, appealing only to the top 1% as a media buy will not last forever. Snap will need to do a lot of work in order to ensure that the $25 billion valuation is not simply related to the excitement the market feels about the company.

What do you think we can expect to see from Snap after it rings the bell?

Why Targeted Social Ads Are a Good Thing (Just Hear Me Out)

Why Targeted Social Ads Are a Good Thing (Just Hear Me Out)

This week, Adblock Plus announced that it would start serving ads, which is of course, the most predictably ironic thing to happen online in some time. But my question is this: are targeted social ads really that bad?

No; they’re not.

Admittedly, in answering this question, I’m a little bias. After all, if it wasn’t for things like social ads and the industry in which they find themselves, I’d probably be out of a job. This one, anyway. But my professional reliance on advertising notwithstanding, I still think that targeted social ads are, in fact, a good thing. The problem is with the lack of knowledge marketers have about their capabilities, resulting in the removal of the word ‘targeted’ from the equation.

Sick of advertising

An Explosion in Advertising

Call it what you want – direct advertising, social media advertising, content marketing, influencer outreach – paid media is paid media in all its forms. And, considering we have seen the amount of branded content we are exposed to on a daily basis increase by tenfold in the last three decades (about 5,000 pieces of branded content per day, by the way) I can understand why consumers are so sick of it. In this generation of free, the last thing we want is to have our highly tailored experience online ruined with ad content we didn’t ask for, right? And yet, there we are, at every turn, facing a brand new ad.

Advertising is nothing new. Broadcasting messages to a wide audience dates back about 6,000 years (in the form of flash banner ads, obviously) and modern advertising (arguably) dates back to 1836, when ‘La Presse’ in France sold space in its newspaper so that it could lower its price to consumers. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing these ads, we might just have hit a tipping point in terms of how much irrelevant content we are willing to take in. And right there is why targeted social ads can be a good thing.

Getting to Know You

Social presents an incredible opportunity to advertisers that so few are properly identifying. Blanketing your ads to the general public will lead to a higher cost-per-click, a lower click-through rate and an overall underperforming campaign. That’s unfortunate when social provides the tools necessary to generate the exact opposite.

By properly identifying your audience and drilling down into the specifics that make up a persona, you can serve ads that fit right into their online experience. That means that instead of angrily resisting your content, they will be much more likely to explore it. This, of course, won’t always be the case, but by implementing these kinds of strategies, marketers can begin to join in on the experience of social as opposed to taking away from it. This leads users to seek out the ad blocking software that has grown so rapidly in the last few years.

Alas, this is largely not the case. The simplicity with which marketers can use these ad platforms and the cost effectiveness of running large-scale campaigns with generic messages has rendered the social audience exhausted. Targeted social ads can mean a greater connection to your audience, and the first steps in the development of a deeper connection, but so few brands are properly utilizing that strategy. Until they do, social ads are going to be more of an experience detractor rather than something that can benefit both sides of the transaction.

3 Things to Stop Sharing on LinkedIn

3 Things to Stop Sharing on LinkedIn

There are a few post types that users need to stop sharing on LinkedIn.

I’ve been using LinkedIn for a pretty long time, and in that time I have had quite a bit to say about it. But one thing that the network simply can’t control is what users decide to post. Sure, there are guidelines and of course there are certain inappropriate posts that the network can take down. But, in the end, there are some pieces of content that have no business whatsoever being on the network, and yet there they are. These are three of the types of content that users need to stop sharing on LinkedIn if they want to be taken seriously.

There are a few types of content to stop sharing on LinkedIn.

Political Content

This might not seem immediately obvious to some (for whatever reason) but the fact is that politics really shouldn’t have a home on a LinkedIn news feed unless, of course, you work in the field. Let me explain.

One’s political disposition is very personal, and for those that have strong political beliefs, you are more than encouraged to share those where and when it is appropriate. But in this election cycle in particular, we are seeing just how divisive politics can be (and with the speed of information, we are seeing that on an international scale). Politically-fueled content that has absolutely nothing to do with your brand, professional position, or industry shouldn’t find its way to LinkedIn. That is not what the network is for, and while it may showcase beliefs about which you feel very strongly, it doesn’t reflect all that positively on you from a professional standpoint.

Again, this is not to say that you shouldn’t feel comfortable sharing your political views wherever they are appropriate, but LinkedIn is not one of those places. Unless you work in the field of political commentary and are sharing business relevant political content, personal stances and politically-charged content that in no way connects to your professional life should be left to other networks where it is more appropriate.

Do yourself and those around you that favor.

Pleas for Investment

It might sound like a joke but, believe it or not, I see this constantly on LinkedIn. The most recent example was in the form of a personal plea for cash in order to assist with the transport of a body out of a foreign country. You read that correctly; someone turned to LinkedIn to ask for ‘investors’ (their words, not mine) to help them with the transport and arrangement of a family member that had died while on vacation. I know I probably don’t need to say it, but this is wildly inappropriate.

Now, assuming this was, in fact, true (though since they were asking for minimum ‘investments’ of $10,000, I highly doubt it) it’s an unfortunate situation. But unless you’re raising money for a new venture, a plea for cash on LinkedIn isn’t a best practice. In fact, even when you’re raising money, a LinkedIn post isn’t really the most professional way of going about it.

Again, LinkedIn is a professional network and intended to house content related to one’s professional life. So, while this situation was one of the more extreme cases I’ve seen, I have seen a few personal, direct requests for funds on LinkedIn, which is a major faux pas.

Faith-Based Material

Much like the politically-charged content, the only faith-oriented content that should appear are posts about professional inspiration (which might have religious undertones) or content related to your faith-oriented professional position. Otherwise, LinkedIn is not a place to share personal content. That’s really the more universal lesson here. When it comes to LinkedIn, the only content that should make its way into your feed is content related to your industry, role or professional skills.

As I mentioned, there are certain cases where personal stories or inspirational/motivational content has faith-oriented subtext. So long as it fits in with your professional history/path, then it is certainly an appropriate piece of content to share to your professional network. But, again, when there is no affiliation, better to keep your personal beliefs on networks where it makes more sense, like Facebook or Twitter.

BONUS: The Word ‘Guru’

I have talked about this in the past. People are tired of seeing the word, it makes absolutely no sense (never did) and anyone who refers to themselves as a ‘guru’ of any sorts probably isn’t. After all, they’re using a term like ‘guru’ to describe themselves. So, if you still tout yourself as a guru, quietly head over to LinkedIn and remove the term from your profile.

Are We Immune to the Incredible?

Are We Immune to the Incredible?

Every day, all around us, the most amazing technological advances are introduced to make the world a better, more connected place. And no one bats an eye. Are we immune to the incredible?

Last Tuesday, I was flying to Dallas. That’s a four-hour flight give or take some help/hindrance from the wind. Thanks to the rain, my trip took a little over 12 hours. Then, on Thursday, I was flying back home, which took me nearly ten hours thanks in large part to a three and a half hour delay in Chicago. There was a time when I would’ve had to call my week a wash, and let go of the fact that I had lost two days. That’s not the case anymore, and we rarely, if ever, think anything of it.

The Technological Evolution

In 1965, Intel founder Gordon Moore described the first iteration of what has since become known as Moore’s Law. At its core, Moore’s Law states (and supports) that the number of transistors that can fit onto an integrated circuit doubles every two years. Logarithmically, that looks something like this:

Moore's Law and Technological Growth

From an engineer’s perspective, this is exciting enough as it is on its own. However, how can the average consumer appreciate just what this means in terms of where we are today? Well, let’s look at the concentration of red dots (which focus on calculations per second, or, more simply, average computational power per $1,000). In the decade between 1950-60, more was done to advance computational power than in all the centuries before that decade combined. The same is true of the last decade.

We’re on the verge of opening entirely new worlds of possibility and exploration, and we genuinely don’t care.

Why Don’t We Care?

Technology has sort of become the unconscious boy who cried wolf. Of course, we do care in the sense that our lives depend on these advancements (up to a point, which I will get to in a moment) but the fact that what was once perceived as magic takes place on a piece of metal in our pockets in fractions of a second is commonplace shows that our expectations and presumptions have shifted dramatically.

Bored Mobile User

I was in the car with a friend recently and we were debating the country of origin of a particular author. Driving down the highway, I simply called out “OK, Google…” and asked a question. Then, a human (enough) voice gave us the answer we were looking for. For a brief second, I took a (virtual) step backward and vocally acknowledged my bewilderment. How amazing is it that we’re traveling at high speeds on a busy highway and have access to a virtually endless source of information, and we don’t even need our fingertips for it anymore? Not only that, but how many times a day does my life almost literally depend on this little magical rectangle in my pocket? Probably more than I would like to admit.

So to answer the question of why do we not “care” in the same way that we used to care when technologies would be unveiled at a world’s fair? I would think that it has a lot to do with Moore’s Law and Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns.

Kurzweil, Evolution and My Airport Delays

Ray Kurzweil, inventor, futurist and believer that he will live forever (in some capacity) has a theory referred to as the Law of Accelerating Returns. It is fairly simple: as evolutionary processes and progress increase exponentially over time (which holds true in the context of the history of life on Earth) so too shall the returns reaped from this evolution. In a technological context, as our intelligence and technology advance more rapidly, the power and uses of that technology shall correlatively advance.

It’s a fascinating yet simple concept when you think of it. 25 years ago, the world wide web made its debut, opening up the possibility to connect every single man, woman, child (and now so much more) on the face of the Earth. For the billions of years prior to that, there was no such thing, and now, less than three decades later, billions of years of human, intellectual and technological evolution are available in the palm of my hand.

So as I sat at the airport for a total of a full day last week, I was able to do so without skipping a beat. Four-hour delay? I’ll work on an article, a proposal and jump on that conference call I thought I’d miss. Six hours now? How about tweaking that presentation I have next week? And once I’m on the plane? Not to worry – I’m connected there too.

It’s pretty incredible when you think about it. But, alas, we rarely do.

Google Gboard: A Whole New Ad Platform

Google Gboard: A Whole New Ad Platform

Just when you thought Google had all its bases covered, a brand new advertising avenue has popped up in Google Gboard.

Back in May, Google announced its new keyboard application for iPhone, Google Gboard. In case you haven’t heard about it yet, take a look at the video below.

In Canada, I had to wait until recently to install the app (much to my dismay, as the video had me itching to download it right away) and within minutes of using it, I recognized the enormous opportunity that (I assume) Google is attempting to capitalize on here: in-message advertising.

Some Background

SMS campaigns are not at all what I have in mind here; let me start by making that clear. Mobile campaigns have existed for some time, and they will continue to exist (and, of course, expand and evolve). But one area of our mobile existence that has been closed off for quite some time are our text messages (between friends). Sure, brands can leverage messaging services like SMS, Facebook Messenger, What’sApp and other services to communicate directly with customers and prospects, but sponsored content directly within our personal communications is something that (so far) is only available in certain apps (like Snapchat) and not in some of our most commonly used messaging software.

With Gboard, an entirely new opportunity has made itself available in what I would say is a very subtle (and, at least for me, welcome) way.

The Opportunity

Within minutes of using the keyboard, I rushed to my Settings on my iPhone and updated my default keyword for Google’s. Full disclosure, I much prefer Google software to Apple’s, but whether or not you prefer one product over another, there is no denying the superiority of Google Gboard over the standard iPhone keyboard.

As you saw in the video, there are plenty of fun integrations (plus a functional swipe as opposed to the disasters I’ve used with iPhone in the past) but what really caught my eye was the Google logo in the top left of the keyboard.

Google Gboard offers new ways to advertise

A friend sends you a message (in any messaging service, by the way, where the keyboard is set to the phone’s default) asking you to the movies. You enthusiastically respond, “Sure!” Then comes the difficult part: what movie, what time and what theater? This might sound like the pinnacle of Millennial struggles, but leaving the message to begin searching through your browser is a multi-step process that just got easier. Tapping the ‘G’ and either dictating, swiping or good ol’ fashioned typing out ‘movies playing near me tonight’ yields a series of results that can easily be clicked on and shared or viewed within the message. I know what you’re thinking: this is cool, but not the biggest deal in the world.

Actually, it is.

We spend a lot of time on our phones. Research from eMarketer has found that adults spend over 23 hours per week texting. In fact, since that research was conducted, the number has probably increased. Considering our heads are buried in some form of messaging for an aggregated one day per week, that is a day per week that ads, sponsored content or branded media is not being shown to consumers. As a consumer, I’m not complaining about that. As a marketer and advertiser, I want those hours.

With the ability to access the world’s premier information aggregator from within my text messages, some of those 23+ hours can now be monetized. I’m not suggesting immersive ads within our text messages. That’s going to turn a lot of (I would go so far as to say all) people off to the product. But to offer ad space within a highly coveted, engaging medium like messaging, where advertisers can bid for some of the most intent-driven searches that consumers will conduct, is a veritable goldmine for Google. When someone asks me where I want to go for dinner after seeing Matilda, and I click on the Google logo to search for ‘best post-show dinner near the Shubert Theatre in Manhattan’ that first card (and only displayed result in these searches, as cards display one at a time) can be a sponsored one.

Of course, there are plenty of other areas within Google Gboard that offer similar opportunities. Rich media is readily integrated into Gboard in the form of GIFs, images, emojis, etc. So when I say ‘opportunity’, I’m looking at it from the perspective of a grand, hugely popular medium that has yet to be tapped (at least not to its fullest).

Conclusion

Consumers are bombarded by ads and paid media everywhere they turn. Estimates suggest that we are exposed to ten times as much advertising today as we were exposed to in the 1970s. For this to work as a value-added to brands that does not anger consumers, it will need to be done elegantly and with a great deal of tact. This is a very personal space, and aggressive techniques simply won’t work. But there is clearly a world of potential here, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we see some beta testing on these concepts in the near future.

The Big Gap with Big Data

The Big Gap with Big Data

For the record, I’m only referring to it as ‘big data’ because it makes the title of this article more catchy. We all know that I’m of the camp that marketers need to think small about data.

Anyone who has read much of what I’ve written about the concept of big data knows that I am firmly of the belief that in order to popularize the use of data, we need to think in less grandiose terms. That said, big data can be called as much because of its big applications. Among those big data applications are the creative elements spawned from analysis. And therein lies our big gap; generally speaking (in my experience anyway) creatives tend to be creative, and statistics (and the secret powers they hold) tend to fall on the shoulders of others. Considering the malleable nature and hugely valuable potential that comes with effective data analysis, that creates a pretty serious problem.

Big Data Applications

The Problem (The Big Gap)

So what exactly is this gap? As noted, historically, the creative process has not involved data at this scale. Of course, market research and historical results have always factored heavily into the creation of new creative, but what we’re talking about in this case is something far more focused that can be measured in real time.

With the advent of new media and the facility with which marketers can measure the results of a campaign (and the responses of a targeted audience) data, even superficial data, need to be a consideration of even the most creatively-driven marketers. And that highlights the problem – or our industry’s big data gap – which marketers now face. Data proficiency and insight analysis are no longer neat skills that can be highlighted on your LinkedIn profile; a successful campaign needs creative minds that can read and adapt to real-time analytics in order to ensure every ounce of potential is extracted from an audience and the subsequent creative.

Alas, there has been a divide between numbers people and creative people since the dawn of marketing. So what is needed in order to start shrinking this gap and blend these two, crucial worlds into one?

The Solution

Luckily for us, new media advertising networks (like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) have been working hard to bring these two worlds closer. Data is now a central focus in advertising dashboards, and it allows for creatives to analyze their work (from a statistical standpoint) run tests with different variables in play and come to numerically-justifiable conclusions that help improve campaigns (as well as universal branding initiatives) in the long run.

Facebook IQ, a branch of the social networking giant that conducts research, shares data and provides marketers with expert insights, recently published some findings as they related to the matter of closing this ‘creative loop’, as they called it. While the points that these marketers analyzed seem somewhat superficial, or even trivial, the process of testing the minutiae of a campaign is, for some reason, so often overlooked. There were two types of analyses reviewed in this particular publication by Facebook IQ: retrospective analysis and in-market analysis. And what exactly is the difference? Looking at subtleties in past campaigns (retrospective), and analyzing performance on a number of these elements in real time (in-market). Again, we’re talking about small adjustments (like re-wording a call-to-action, or changing the color of your creative’s background) that can lead to changes in your audience’s response in a controlled environment (keeping the targeted audience constant).

Closing the Loop and Big Data Applications for Creative

Image Credit: Facebook IQ.

The key thing to remember is that not all brands (and not all audiences) are created equal. Much like my feelings about the term ‘big data’, I have made my feelings about the field of aggregate data very clear: blindly following industry averages to craft your strategies – especially with so much of your own data available – is hugely misguided. You need to pay attention to your own creative and your own analytics in order to determine the best course of action, not simply use the call-to-action ‘Read More’ because some study found that it performed XX% better after studying 1,000 posts. Those studies were impressive at the incipience of social media marketing, now they’re dated and irrelevant.

Customizing Your Gap Closure

As noted, not all brands are created equal. There are test and research papers that you’ll read and review that might sound intriguing, but you need to remember that your test grounds might be very different. What’s more, creatives and dataheads will need to approach the bridging of this gap in a different way. First, let’s take a look at creatives.

The creative marketer will need to first become familiar with the analytics dashboards that exist. Look beyond the superficial metrics like click-through rate and start studying elements like visitor path and engagement value. Just because your content got lots of views and a high volume of ‘Likes’ it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve found the Holy Grail. Identify the metrics that matter to your brand and reverse engineer the successful trajectories. Then begin to identify correlations between your most successful pieces of creative in order to run the above-mentioned tests. The opposite is true for the data-inclined.

If your focus is largely on data, then the reverse engineered approach described above is something that is already far too familiar to you. Instead, get to know the creative. For numbers people, idiosyncrasies is the name of the game. Become more familiar with the inner workings of your creative in order to better understand what makes your target audience tick. Don’t simply look at the obvious, think about your creative on a more primal level; look at colors, placement and, one of my favorite emerging fields (from a tech standpoint, anyway) focus on where the audience’s attention and eyes are drawn.

By following these two approaches and learning to empathize with the other side of the equation, the gap can be shrunk significantly. With fewer misunderstandings between these two types of marketers, campaigns can be developed that are more targeted, more adaptive and, ultimately, more successful.

The 2 Biggest Mistakes Made when Selecting Marketing Technologies

The 2 Biggest Mistakes Made when Selecting Marketing Technologies

Marketers seem to fall into some pretty common traps when it comes to selecting marketing technologies to add to the arsenal.

I’ve written about the expansive market that exists in the world of marketing tech. There are thousands of tools out there (over 220 in the social media management space alone!) and it can often seem like an impossible task to select the right one for your objectives. That is due largely to the fact that companies do a great job of selling their snake oil (which it so often is) and we simply eat it up. After all, a good salesperson will make just about anything appealing. But when it comes to selecting marketing technologies, there are some mistakes that are much more common, and costly, than others.

Mistakes when selecting marketing technologies.jpg

Among those mistakes are the two cited here. Now, I am by no stretch saying that these are the only missteps a marketer might make, and I am not saying that by being cognizant of these mistakes you’ll be able to remedy the errors of choosing the wrong tool, but your awareness and avoidance of these two issues will certainly help make the process simpler, and can certainly lead to greater results.

Tools that Don’t Play Nice

Like I said, a good salesperson will make the product they’ve been ordered to sell look and sound like the perfect solution. While, on the surface, a tool might seem to solve an issue, one thing that marketers often forget is that for a product to really work, it’s going to need to do more than that. It needs to fit.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with products that are built to operate in a vacuum. In some cases, it can be even worse; a lot of products (particularly those that are part of a larger cloud) are designed (or, after an acquisition, redesigned) to work optimally with the cloud as a whole, and integrations with other technologies (or functionality that makes them much friendlier) are removed. Marketers need to look past the superficial capabilities and see how a product might work with other tools and processes that already exist.

Let’s think about this issue in the context of a business intelligence application.

Business intelligence dashboards can be very impressive. They become even more impressive as you are walked through a demo account and see the full range of capabilities that exist when the tool is used to its full potential. But what if you decide to invest in  said dashboard only to find that it does not integrate fully with your CRM, or that it integrates, but there are breakages in the structure that lead to difficulties when trying to analyze your data (mechanically). Then, your workload actually increases as opposed to lightening as a result of your new tool.

Take some time and make sure that whatever you plan to add to your toolbox works well with everything else that you are currently using.

Investments are Not One-Dimensional

Another major mistake that marketers make when it comes to selecting marketing technologies has to do with the wonderful world of economics.

When it comes to price, there is a broad spectrum into which these tools fall. There is everything from a set of free applications to the kind of products that only the Fortune 100s of the world can afford. But we’re not talking about a financial investment in this case – we’re talking about investments of your time. Marketers need to think about the human capital investment that needs to be made in order to capitalize on the use of a product.

Technologies, while impressive, are not foolproof or completely automated yet. There are still several hours of training and implementation that need to be considered. There are even products out there that might require a new, fully-trained staff member using it on a full-time basis in order to reap all the benefits the product offers. We tend to forget about those costs. When we dive into a piece of technology without recognizing the time it will take to learn everything there is to know and leverage its applications to the fullest, our investment into the license turns into a sunk cost. That sunk cost is then increased significantly when we consider the man-hours that went into using the tool (with no results).

You’ll want to do your due diligence (generally by referring to reviews and write-ups that are not influenced by the tech company itself) to see if you can afford to invest the time it will take to master a product. And don’t be fooled by the marketing message that every product is designed to be used to the fullest in just a few minutes; even the technologies that have built their reputation on simplicity and user-friendliness will take at least a small investment of time. We need to factor that into a buying decision as well.

Conclusion

Again, these are not the only issues that marketers face when it comes to selecting a new technology, but they are two of the more costly ones. If you can wrap your head around these two issues, then the chances of selecting the right product increases dramatically. If you want to know more about the process of selecting the right piece of marketing technology, I suggest downloading the new How 2 with t2 eBook. In it, we cover the steps marketers need to take in order to ensure that the investment is right and the benefits are reaped in their entirety.

How 2 with t2 Evaluate Marketing Technology

The Problem with Millennials (It’s Not What You Think)

The Problem with Millennials (It’s Not What You Think)

Millennials are a difficult group to pin down, but that’s largely the fault of marketers.

If you were to survey marketers around the world about what they thought the hottest demographic was at the moment (based on their experiences, work, and client/organizational discussions) I can all but guarantee that the vast majority (if not all) would say ‘millennials’.

Problem with marketing to millennials

Why do I say this? Well, to give you some perspective, I know of at least a half-dozen agencies or derivatives that have started up in the last year to focus solely on millennials, and the last three events where I spoke I was asked to cover millennials. What’s more, I don’t the last time we put together a pitch that didn’t focus heavily on the ‘millennial demographic’, and it somehow always makes its way into conversations with clients and prospects. Put simply, they’re the most coveted group of consumers across the globe, but there’s a problem with millennials, and it’s not what you think.

What makes millennials so great?

It’s facts and figures time!

What makes this group so valuable and sought after by corporations big and small? Well, let’s start with their growth. Millennials, when defined purely by their age demographics (we’ll get to that after) are now the largest demographic in the United States, edging out Boomers by about a half million. And, naturally, that’s expected to grow, as seen in the Pew graph below.

The growth of millennials and other demographics - Pew

The group is also hugely diverse (thanks in large part to waves of immigration), considered to be exceptional multi-taskers, highly engaged on social platforms (over 75% of U.S.-based millennials have a social profile), educated (over 72% have at least a high school education) and, most importantly, they are wealthy. Estimates from comScore suggest that by 2017, millennials will be spending $200 billion a year. That’s a lot of money; and therein lies the desperation on the part of brands, organizations, governments and, of course, marketers of all kinds to capture their attention and loyalty.

The Problem with Millennials

There are a lot of good guesses out there as to what the problem with millennials might be: they’re too price sensitive, they’re experience-seekers, they’re risk-averse, buying cycles are too long (or too short), they’re too smart (which can easily be a problem when it comes to your advertising and marketing) and the list goes on and on. But that’s not the problem that I believe is the biggest when it comes to marketing.

The problem is with us, as marketers: we’re thinking about millennials all wrong.

If you ask most marketers to define the term ‘millennial’, they’ll almost unanimously state that a millennial is someone born between 1980 and 2000. And that’s more or less where the definition will end. To properly market to this group we call millennials, we need to start by first defining who it is we’re marketing to. That means understanding them on a level that stretches beyond age brackets and really starts to examine tastes, preferences, and behaviors.

While it might be true that a large majority of consumers born within the year span assigned to millennials fit a certain archetype, they are by no means the same. What’s more, the criteria that define these consumers might stretch far beyond the age confines. Let’s take the Las Vegas problem. The millennial issue is one that has baffled the casino industry in Las Vegas, and it’s now looking like a growing concern. But, again, there’s simply a shift in behaviors spearheaded by this group of millennials.

As noted above, they’re risk averse and price sensitive. They’re also educated, so they can recognize that a hold advantage (house advantage) on a slot machine is anywhere from three to twenty times higher than certain table games (if you know what you’re doing). They’re also seeking experiences. While this definition of a consumer is most prevalent with those born between 1980 and 2000, there are plenty of other consumers who fall far beyond that age bracket who need to be marketed to in the same way if they are to be converted.

Ultimately, buying power might vary from one age range to the next, but behaviors transcend age. Until that becomes the dominant mindset among marketers (not just in Las Vegas, but across most, if not all industries) then the ‘millennial’ market will never be fully tapped.

Conclusion

Even with a new, broader definition and a better understanding of the market, will we have cracked the millennial paradox? Probably not. But one thing we can say for certain is that we won’t get anywhere with regards to building relationships and driving results in the millennial market until we dive further into behaviors and personalities, and stop focusing so narrowly on age.

There Are More Marketing Technologies Than Ever

There Are More Marketing Technologies Than Ever

Every year (since 2011) Scott Brinker of ChiefMarTec.com releases the marketing technology landscape supergraphic, and this year was the most impressive one yet.

In 2011, there were about 150 marketing technologies categorized by Scott Brinker’s supergraphic. A lot has changed in the last five years. Now, as you can see below, there are over 3,500. That’s almost double what we saw last year (~1,800) and a market that has grown more than twentyfold since Brinker and his team started taking stock of what’s available on the market.

Marketing technologies for each category

One of the more popular questions I am asked by clients and at conferences (and one of the questions I hear most often when sitting in on a session or webinar) has to do with these marketing technologies. More specifically, “What is the best tool for [INSERT TASK HERE]?” I always answer that question the same way: There is no one perfect tool, and anyone who tells you that they’ve found it or created it is lying. Simply put, the perfect tool for you will depend on your objectives and whole host of other variables.

With a market that has grown as significantly as the marketing technologies space, you would think that by now, one of these clouds or suites would do it all. That couldn’t be further from the truth. As more of these technologies sprouts up and claims to solve the last of your problems, the more difficult it becomes to identify the diamonds in the ever-expanding rough.

Some Positive Realities

It is encouraging to see that the largest categories in terms of available technologies (by volume) are also the ones related to the hottest topics of the day:

  1. Sales Automation, Enablement & Intelligence (220)
  2. Social Media Marketing & Monitoring (186)
  3. Display & Programmatic Advertising (180)
  4. Marketing Automation & Campaign/Lead Management (161)
  5. Content Marketing (160)

We’re seeing data make its way to the top of everyone’s must-have list, and the tech market is responding accordingly. No longer are these tools reserved for the largest of the large, and the richest of the rich. Data and business intelligence are crucial to businesses of all sizes, and the supply is starting to catch up to the demand.

Another bright spot is the fact that we are starting to see a trend of openness, as opposed to the Oracle model, which has long aimed to close off its acquired technologies to other Oracle products alone. Now, technologies are being built with the pseudo- or custom-cloud in mind, whereby marketers develop their own suite of tools as opposed to relying on the Salesforces and Microsofts of the world. So while the perfect savior tool might not yet be available, marketers can now have an easier time building a version of their perfect tool, once again rooted in their needs, capital and time.

The Future of the Industry

In a market where the number of active players has nearly doubled in a single year, watching tech stocks face valuation slashes (see my articles on LinkedIn and Snapchat) can’t be something anyone is too excited about. And while there are plenty of categories from which to choose, anyone can tell you that in the next few years (my estimates put it within 24 months) there won’t be enough room for 186 social media marketing companies, for example.

Every one of these spaces is becoming increasingly crowded. Most of them, at this point, are probably already overflowing with waste. It won’t be long before we start to see significantly more consolidation (something we have already started to see) and significantly more of these houses closing shop. The good ones (for the most part) will stick around, as they so often do, but as the market starts to balance, the best will be absorbed while the rest are extinguished.

So, while I would strongly advise testing and piloting everything that you think might be the perfect product for your needs, now is a time to be wary of any newcomer, as you’d hate to invest your resources (time and money) into a product that only has a few months or a year on the market.