Will Social Media lead to the demise of Google?


Google was caught surprised earlier this year when celebrity gossip site PerezHilton reported that the site’s #1 source of traffic was Facebook and not Google. Whoever wins in the numbers race, one thing is clear that more and more people are relying on social networks and blogs and twitterfeeds to get news updates, product reviews and than ever before.

People are increasingly relying on each other for one simple reason: they don’t trust marketing and advertising. Yankelovich reported that 76 percent of American consumers believe that companies don’t tell the truth in advertising. And this skepticism is getting worse rapidly: Yankelovich also cited that 60 percent of surveyed consumers have a much more negative opinion of marketing and advertising than a few years ago.

The good news, of course, is that consumers’ trust of each other is rising as rapidly as their trust of traditional marketing is falling. Neilsen reports that 78 percent of customers say that consumer recommendations are the most credible form of advertising, with 83 percent agreeing that online evaluations and reviews influence their purchasing decisions.

In my opinion, the search engine of the future will integrate search results (especially for very involved purchasing decisions) with my friends’ product reviews on different social networks, blogger reviews, twitter feeds and review sites. The results will further be categorized by semantic engines like Newssift and Sprout Labs to understand whether the underlying sentiment with the product/service is positive or negative. Think of it as an integration of Google with SocialMention, Newssift/Sprout Labs with the results ranked and rated and available to view on the search page.

If I am in the market for a car, why do I need to leave Google/Bing to go to Edmunds.com or JDPower or Cars.com to check product reviews and then to blogger reviews and then check with friends who have owned that car for their feedback? Won’t Google be a lot more valuable to you if it searched all the user generated content across Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Edmunds etc and presented a negative/positive sentiment on the latest model of Lexus?

And imagine the value to advertisers: you never have to leave Google so all your clicks are coming from a single site.

But I don’t think this is going to come from Google. It will be one of the innovative start-ups who will integrate social media with search.

More reading on this subject

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Email: guptanitinonline@gmail.com
Twitter: NitinGuptasays

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Socialism is the New World Order – How Will Marketers Survive?

Social Media Network

The New World Order is Socialism: I mean the digital world! Successful brands of tomorrow will be the ones that are comfortable letting go of so called “control” and work with the customers in creating the brand image.

According to Dunkin’ Donuts Brand Marketing Officer Frances Allen: “Customers will decide what our brand is about. And there is nothing we can do about it. And that is a very liberating thing. In the end, you can’t control it. And that’s the beauty of social media. And that means marketers have to let go – a little”

Listening to some of the panelists at the recently concluded OMMA Global, I realized that some of the brands get it. Companies like Ford, NY Times and Dunkin’ Donuts have leveraged the power of Social Media to build brand awareness, customer loyalty and increase sales.

Martin Nisenholtz, SVP Digital Operations at the New York Times Company says the Times loves Twitter. Twitter has become extremely important distribution feeder for the NY Times. Times has over 200 Twitter feeds and adding 15,000 followers a week. And talking about ROI, Twitter now drives 10% of NYT digital distribution, up from 0 a year ago.

From Facebook pages, to blogging and Twitter accounts, Ford has gone crazy for social networking. And there are no limits, according to Scott Monty (Twitter @ScottMonty), Global Digital & Multimedia Communications Manager at Ford Motor Company. Ford is presently in its eighth month of its Fiesta Movement social-media program to promote the eponymous car from Europe by letting 100 young social-media-savvy Americans drive the vehicles for several months. Each month, Ford has been assigning tasks to the “Agents” involving lots of driving and just as much blogging, Twittering, YouTubing and Flickring. “People are finding out about the Fiesta from people like them,” said Scott.

So what do companies and marketers do to adapt to a world where

  • there are plenty more choices available to the consumer
  • media is fragmented
  • attention span has reduced dramatically
  • audience is not listening anymore

What do they need to do different in order to survive and grow?

Marketers have to move away from the ‘broadcast” mode where they would just create information and then do a mass publish to the consumers. Marketers need to establish trust and authenticity. Marketers need to LIE in order to be successful.

L: LISTEN: Trust is built by understanding and acting upon the needs of the customer. To understand the needs, you need to listen in. Grow Bigger Ears. You need to make yourself accessible via Twitter, email, phone, whatever tool you use to answer a question, provide information. People trust people like themselves. Again, to cite @ScottMonty at Ford: “Your brand is not my friend. I don’t want a cup of coffee or car or piece of clothing to “friend” me on Facebook. I want the brand manager, designer or engineer. I want someone who can talk to me/listen to me.”

I: INFLUENCE: After Listening and Learning about the customer needs, you need to act on it in an authentic manner. Transparency and Authenticity are key in creating a degree of influence. Deborah Schultz, Partner Innovation Practice, Altimeter Group cautions: “Always be truthful on social media…Google is the long tail of lies.”

E: ENGAGE: If you constantly listen and learn from the customer AND influence her by acting in a transparent and authentic manner, you will enter the engagement phase with the customer. Engagement is where the customer becomes a brand ambassador/advocate. Customers in this phase are the most profitable. They provide you feedback and suggestions for improvement. They bring in other customers. They are willing to pay a higher price for your product compared to that being charged by the competition.

It will be interesting to see how companies adapt to the new Socialist order and how many are willing to partner with the customers to develop what the brand should stand for. What do you think will be some of the challenges?

Further Reading
For Scott Monty’s presentation at OMMA Global, click here
For excerpts of Frances Allen’s keynote, click here
Getting in Touch
Email: guptanitinonline@gmail.com
Twitter: NitinGuptasays

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3 things that made Social Media mainstream


So, Social Media has become a part of our daily lives. We discussed in a previous post how 80% of online Americans use some form of social media and how marketers increasingly plan on using it. So, what changed? What is leading to the widespread adoption of social media? I identified 3 trends:

  • iPhone: With a iPhone in every hand, it is easier than ever for people to read, create or participate in any kind of social content. You don’t have to wait to get back to your PC to let your friends know about the cool dinner place you just went to or respond to comments on your blog. iPhone and a range of Android powered phones that are coming into the market now have completely revolutionized the internet experience.
    It has given instant gratification a new meaning. The other day I was at the US Open Finals and was using to iPhone to share the experience with my friends: updating match photos, responding to people’s comments on my status on Facebook, sending out tweets.
  • Twitter: The average number of tweets sent out everyday is 1.9 million. Twitter is sometimes called the SMS of the Internet. Big companies like Dell, Starbucks, Bank of America and Comcast have been using Twitter to promote their products and answer customers’ questions. But you know when a trend has gone mainstream when small businesses and entrepreneurs are using it as part of their strategy to build customer loyalty and grow their revenues. The Wall Street Journal carried an article last week titled “Entrepreneurs Tweet Their Way Through Crises“. The NYT carried another article on increasing success with small businesses back in July.
    You know when a trend has gone mainstream when the country’s president uses it for fundraising and staying connected with the voters during the presidential campaign.
    You know when a trend has gone mainstream when people are using it for news on crises and emergencies. During the Mumbai terror attacks, tweets were being posted at the rate of 70 tweets every 5 seconds.
  • Early Adopters: As of Jan 2009, 54% of Facebook users were under 24 years old. The median age of a Twitter user is 31. Every new platform or tool requires a set of people who are willing to buy into the trend, experiment with it and provide constructive criticism. The work of William Struass and Neil Howe offers some insights: raised with laptops and cell phones, this generation is comfortable with evolving technology.
    A 2004 Pew Internet & American Life survey found 84 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds owned a computer, cell phone or Personal Digital Assistant. Cell phones help maintain an often close bond between young people and parents.
    Other findings in the Junco and Mastrodicasa survey included that 76% of students used instant messaging, 92% of those reported multitasking while IMing, and 40% of students used television to get most of their news and 34% the Internet.

iPhone made social media available on the go; tools like twitter, facebook, blogger and youtube made it easy for everyone to create and share content online and the Millennials provided the critical mass needed to take it past the tipping point.

Do you see any other trends shaping growth in social media?

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Email: guptanitinonline@gmail.com
Twitter: NitinGuptasays

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/guptanitinonline

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Adobe buying Omniture: is this the Universal Cookie?

Adobe Logo

Adobe on Tuesday announced a $1.8B dollar acquisition of Omniture. At the outset, the acquisition seems odd. I think of Adobe as a software company for creative types; and Omniture as the top dog in analytics. Both have different business models and very different customers.

But as you start peeling the onion layers, the acquisition starts making sense.

  • Advertisers and ad agencies want to understand which video content is performing the best i.e. measure the CTRs for online ads that use flash. omgraphicWith both companies under the same umbrella, Adobe hopes to sell more of Omniture’s products to its existing customer base. One analyst noted during the Q&A that “all Omniture customers are probably Adobe customers, but not the other way around,” leaving a large customer base to which Adobe can push its wares.
  • Adobe FlashBut that’s not all. Imagine if every flash player that is used for rich media apps or social media content also starts tracking and reporting usage. Will Adobe embed a tracking cookie into each flash player to create a new measurement standard? Given flash’s usage and dominance, we will have a universal cookie tracking each user’s online activity and allowing more behavioral targeting.

Well, the “privacy police” will certainly be watching.

Some other interesting reads on this

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Email: guptanitinonline@gmail.com
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LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/guptanitinonline

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OMMA Global NY: A Social Media Conference with No Social Media tools?

OMMA Global

I am planning to be at the OMMA Global Event in NY next week. The theme for this year is

The New Socialism: welcome to a world where social networks, social media applications and microblogging services become our central means of engaging online. Many industry watchers believe the answer to online advertising’s oldest problem lies inside social media’s walled gardens: that is, how to bring the estimated $500 billion spent annually on offline brand advertising to the Web.

Given that OMMA is giving so much importance to social media, I was surprised that OMMA has not used any of the social media tools on the conference website. The website’s main purpose is to give participants information on the conference agenda, program schedule and speakers bio. And that’s where it stops.

The challenge with most conferences is that you don’t know the other participants, their background, their areas of interest. Won’t networking be easier and you get more value from your investment of time and money if OMMA had done some of the following?

  • Create communities of interest: the conference has 11 different themes or track sessions including Mobile, Search, Metrics, Gaming, Video, Behavioral etc. It could have easily created participant communities based for each of these sessions to encourage interaction and networking.
  • Ability to interact with speakers: Along with the speaker bios, it would have been helpful if I also knew the link to their blog and/or twitter handle.
  • Ability to interact with the sponsors: Sponsors often complain that the breaks during sessions aren’t enough to interact with participants and share with them the value proposition of their tools/products. OMMA could have created more value for the sponsors by allowing participants to interact directly with them. That way, they could have used the breaks for follow-up sessions and shortened the sales cycle.
  • Ability to post questions ahead of time: With knowledge of some of participant questions beforehand, the speakers can not only make the session more interactive but also fine tune it to the audience needs.

I do still believe that it will be a great conference to attend given the Who’s Who of Digital Marketing speaking at the event. But I would like the next Social Media Conference to leverage some more social media tools.

Getting in Touch
Email: guptanitinonline@gmail.com
Twitter: NitinGuptasays

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Building block for behavioral advertising: address the privacy concerns!

On Off Switch

How much user tracking is okay? This is a question marketers and advertisers face everyday.

Earlier this year, FTC revised its Online Behavioral Targeting Principles. The FTC report discusses the benefits of behavioral advertising to consumers, including the free online content that advertising generally supports, personalization that many consumers value and an enhanced user experience. It also discusses the privacy concerns that the practice raises, including the invisibility of the data collection to consumers and the risk that the information collected – including sensitive information regarding health, finances, or children – could fall into the wrong hands or be used for unanticipated purposes.

In the coming year, staff also will evaluate self-regulatory programs and will conduct investigations, where appropriate, to determine whether practices in this industry violate Section 5 of the FTC Act.

With increasing pressure from the FTC and the privacy advocates, advertisers will have no choice but to make tracking and storing of information more transparent to the users. Advertisers have to make it easier for consumers to opt out and select when and where they want their browsing habits to be stored.

Google made some advances in this area when they introduced the cookie opt-out plugin that permanently opts you out of the Doubleclick cookie.

Google Cookie Opt Out Plugin

There are 2 additional things that could be done to protect the user and also make the experience more relevant and personalized. My thoughts below:

  • User profile: In the browser, create a user profile with information on age, gender, location and interest categories. The interest categories can be a list of areas like travel, automobiles, dining, sports, entertainment etc that you are interested in. All this information is stored on the browser. Based on the demographic, geographical and interest category information, the advertisers can serve targeted ads for that particular cluster. This way, individual user information is never shared with the advertiser.
  • The Opt in/Opt out switch: Instead of putting the “clear cookies and browsing history” tabs somewhere in the tools section of the browser or on the Ad Preferences page page as done by Google, put it in front of the user. The “switch” can be included in the HTTP header or as a widget on the bottom right hand corner of the browser screen.
    The switch should be color coded to show you whether your browsing information is being stores or not. Green means information is being stored and the consumer will see relevant ads & personalized experience and Amber means that information is not getting stored and the consumer will not have a personalized experience.
    The feature is similar to the “Private Browsing” tab in either Safari or Firefox if you are a Mac user. As you open a new webpage in the same browsing session or open a new tab, the default setting is GREEN. If the consumer chooses AMBER, a message is displayed that your browsing history will no longer be saved and you may not see personalized content. If the consumer revisits the page, the previously chosen setting is maintained. The widget could show Green or Amber for different tabs within the same browser session based on preferences.

For behavioral advertising to have a future, it is important that privacy concerns are addressed.

What are your thoughts? How will the opt in/opt out widget affect behavioral advertising? What will be the reaction of behavioral ad targeting systems?

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ROII: the new mantra for measuring Social Media?


We discussed some engagement metrics in my previous post: level of exuberance or bonding or conversations with the customers. While engagement metrics are very important for measuring Social Media, NO marketing campaign can be sustained or successful without getting an adequate return on the dollar. We need to look at other quantitative metrics in addition to the ones we discussed earlier to measure the Return on “Investment”. To calculate return, we need to see:

  • Increase in repeat business from existing more satisfied customers
  • Revenue generated through new customer acquisition
  • Revenue generated through customer referrals
  • Decrease in support costs as problems get identified earlier
  • Decrease in sales and marketing costs due to reduced customer turnover

But are quantitative and qualitative metrics alone sufficient to measure the success of your Social Media strategy?

I was at a social media event earlier today hosted by Acxiom and got introduced to a new definition of ROI: Return on Insight. Webster defines “insight” as the act or result of apprehending the inner nature of things or of seeing intuitively.

Metrics measure past events. We have all heard from financial advisors that past stock market behavior is no indicator for future performance. By focusing solely on metrics, you may miss out some customer conversation that will lead to the next big innovation for your company. You can gain valuable insights and feedback on product features and design (or service components) that will bring you closer to consumers and ultimately lead to a bigger market share.

So, I am proposing a new mantra for measuring Social Media: Return on Investments and Insights (ROII). And the first “I” should be Investments, to keep the focus on MONEY. But let us not lose sight of INSIGHTS.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear what monetary and non-monetary metrics you currently use…

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The Digital ATM: 2012

This morning I went to my bank to deposit a stack of checks. Not only the ATM didn’t require me to use an envelope, it took all the 6 checks in one go, recognized the check amounts and gave me a receipt at the end of the transaction with the check images. I was pretty impressed. That made me think what would the ATM in 2012 look like:

  • minority-report
  • Touch screen for easier navigation: Let’s do away with the navigation buttoms on the right hand side. The ATM of the future will have a touch screen interface that allows for easier navigation. Plus, for a consistent customer experience, the design and layout is very similar to the online banking interface.
  • Carry out all banking transactions: Rather than just being the means of dispensing cash and depositing checks, ATMs should be able to carry out all banking transactions like consolidated account view, bill payments, funds transfers etc. This will allow the bank branch associates to focus exclusively on delivering a personalized differentiated experience to the customers and discuss their needs.
  • Targeted offers: Marketing over the ATM occurs during four operational phases: the idle phase, the welcome phase, the “please wait” phase and the farewell phase. ATM users see direct response video commercials or display ads promoting the bank products. Customers are targeted with a personalized, sales-oriented advertising campaign. The target group is defined by criteria such as age, activity, interests and account balance.
    For a high income level customer (determined based on spend analysis and employer direct deposit of salary) who visits the ATM once a week to withdraw cash, offer financial planning advice or brokerage products or insurance products. For another small business customer who writes employee salary checks, show offer for the payroll service with electronic deposit of salary to employee accounts.
    The ad should end with a simple call to action: “would you like to discuss your financial planning needs with our Bank Associate? Click Yes or No”. If the customer clicks “yes”, she is directed to the branch banking associate (if customer is at branch location) or can receive call from associate (if banking outside of branch). The associate already has the customer’s financial profile available and can discuss insurance, mortgage and other financial needs with the customer.
  • Ads on receipt: Some of the offers can be printed (both sides) on the transaction receipt that is handed out to the customer. The customer can SMS the code to the bank’s calling number to receive a call from the banking associate.
  • Location based services: The customer can print offers and discount coupons for stores in the vicinity of the ATM location. Say I visit a mall and withdraw money from the ATM. The bank can provide me a list of stores in the mall that are offering discounts and then allow me to print coupons based on my selection. A lot of this can be achieved during the “please wait” and “thank you” phases of the transaction thus not significantly increasing the overall transaction time.

Do you think ATMs are poised to change? Or do you think branch banking and cash are on their way out and we will be writing an obituary of the ATMs 20 years from now?

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How can airlines make money?


I was running a little late trying to catch my Delta flight from NY to Richmond. With about 40 minutes left for my flight time, I tried the self service kiosk to check in but was unsuccessful as the cutoff time is 45 minutes prior to flight departure. Nevermind, I thought that since I have no bags to check in, the airline counter staff will be able to help me. The response I got was plain and simple, “sorry, you have missed your flight and we cannot do anything”. They didn’t even try to help me. I had to approach the customer service manager who got me a boarding pass. He was a little surprised as well that the counter staff were not able to help. 

To cut a long story short, I did make my flight but updated my Facebook page expressing my frustration with the airlines. The following comment from a friend got me thinking: 
“As customers, we have driven the industry to the lowest cost – negative profit and hence no service. Hence you get what you pay for“

While the above is true, the industry hasn’t done any innovation to generate additional revenue streams. All they have done is charge customers a range of annoying fees for checked baggage, food & beverage, making flight changes and cancellation penalties.

Here are 4 turnaround techniques that any CEO/CMO of UA/US Air/Delta should be listening to:

  • Digital tray tables: Jetblue offers free DirectTV on all its domestic and international flights. All international flights have a range of programming to choose from as well. But I see very few ads (if any) along with the programming. While that is good news for the customer, the cash strapped airlines have an available source of revenue that they can tap into. Based on the customer profile, the airlines can show advertisements for partner products or services or other brands the customer may be interested in. 
  • Car, Hotel, Golf and other partnerships: Either on the website, at the airport or in-flight, airlines can pitch an array of products and services to its customers. Allegiant has become a big promoter of Alamo rental cars and Sin City hotels, selling 395,000 rooms last year (The airline gets a percentage). On its Web site it also sells tickets to performances of Blue Man Group—whose logos adorn Allegiant cups, napkins, overhead bins, and crew uniforms—and tee times at dozens of golf courses. You can book tickets for other Las Vegas shows, helicopter tours, kayak trips, and tours of the Grand Canyon on Allegiant’s site. 
    This strategy, dubbed “unbundling” in the airline industry, has been mined most audaciously by Ryan air Holdings (RYAAY), the 23-year-old Irish airline that features fares as low as 5 euros ($7.73) and a seemingly endless array of revenue streams. Home or auto insurance? Foreign currency? Villa rentals? Credit cards? Ryanair pitches it—and has become one of the largest intra-European airlines in the process. 
    The crew members and airport staff can be trained and incentivized to sell such products. Some of the offers can be printed on the customer’s copy of the boarding pass.
  • Identify the people who love or hate your brand: It is important to identify people who have strong feelings about your brand, either positive or negative. Brand Lovers choose you more often than your competitors. For many companies, the best customers drive over 80 percent of the business’s profitability and yet, the business generally knows very little about them. Companies like Apple, Harley Davidson and Bose are firms that have taken their brand to a cult status and charge a premium for their products. Similarly, brand haters will not only not buy your product BUT will tell 10 other people about their negative experience with your brand. 
    Once you understand why your best customers enjoy doing business with you, you will be better prepared to serve them. Reward them for their patronage so they have a continued positive experience. Similarly, talk to the haters to neutralize their negative feelings. 
  • Improve customer service by listening to the customers: Airlines need to grow bigger ears. They need to listen in to customers feedback, comments and complaints to improve the customer experience. If a particular flight has been delayed, a quick email from customer service apologizing for the inconvenience caused and explaining the delay can go a long way.  
    Furthermore, the airline can offer a $10 off coupon redeemable towards future travel.

Do you think airlines can innovate to generate more revenue streams? What would you do if you were the CMO of United?

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7 things to think about before jumping in

In the last post, we discussed how social media is gaining traction and becoming a tool in every marketer’s armor. Here are a few things you should consider before jumping in


  1. NEED: Social Media must be integrated with your overall marketing strategy. Think about a) Why do you think you need to implement social media? b) How do you see social media helping you to achieve your marketing or business objectives?
  2. BUY IN: Social Media is not a campaign, it is a long term strategy. The only way to succeed is to engage in the conversation in an ongoing manner. With that, it is critical to have the buy in from the CMO and CFO to keep up with the investments in resources, time and money till you start seeing positive ROI.
  3. BANDWIDTH & RESOURCES: The strength of Social Media is in the LIE model, i.e. the ability to listen, influence and engage. Do you have the time and people to LIE?
  4. CULTURE: What is your corporate culture? Is your company bold enough to support social engagements and willing to talk transparently, authentically & honestly to people online?
  5. COST: The good news is that there are tools available for the LISTEN part of LIE. Marketers can make use of tools like TweetDeck, Radian6, Techrigy, Visible Technologies, BuzzGain, and Crimson Hexagon to name a few to listen to the conversations about their brand, employees, competition and industry. But you need to consider the ROI on the cost of these tools and your resources.
  6. TOOLS: Once you have established the above 5 factors, you need to see what Social Media tools to use to align with your goals and objectives.Align Tools with Objectives
  7. METRICS: If you cannot measure something, you cannot improve it. Given the increasing importance of Social Media, it is important that marketers agree on a set of metrics aligned with their goals and objectives. Amber Naslund of Radian6 offers some great ideas on the type of metrics we can use for Social Media:
  • Exuberance: the monthly count of positive posts, comments and testimonials
  • Bucket Volume: comparison of monthly count of complaints and referrals
  • Activation: the monthly total of new sources that have shared your positive content
  • Conversation: the total monthly share of conversations vs. competition
  • Engagement: the amount of repeat commenting and lengths of those comments
  • Repetition: average number of times a particular source/user retweeets or comments on your content
  • Bonding: the percentage of your followers who comment or retweet your content

What factors are you thinking of when implementing a social media strategy? Please chime in

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