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A Big Thing Happened in Search Today: Google Direct Connect

by on November 7, 2011

Google’s Direct Connect announcement was structured as an afterthought in the overall story of Google+ Brand Pages, but the restructuring of the + operative in the search engine may mean more than meets the eye.

It wasn’t long ago that adding the + operator to a search query (as in: +halogen) meant all search results would include that specific word (in this case all search results would include “halogen”). When the search engine retired the operator search geeks speculated it would have something to do with Google+, but it wasn’t until today that everything became clear.

In its new form, adding “+” before a brand name takes users directly to a brand’s Google+ Page. This makes + the only operator to take users away from the search engine immediately, but perhaps more importantly, the new feature gives Google’s own social platform a leg up in search results.

As a result, the new feature puts pressure on brands to create and cultivate compelling Google+ Business Pages. Facebook created a platform that absorbs most of our time online, but Google Direct Connect just made accessing brand pages easier than ever.

When Google+ Brand Pages have had some time to shake out and the operative has had time to settle on users’ fingertips, expect an update on whether or not the new + operative is changing search behavior overall.

November 7, 2011 , , , , , ,

Yahoo! and TechCrunch Teach a Lesson in Influencer Management

by on October 14, 2011

Yahoo! taught everyone a little something about influencer relationship management this week when they tried to pull off a Web 2.0 variation of a payola scheme. According to TechCrunch, a member of Yahoo!’s digital marketing team offered an SEO boost in exchange for blogging about the search engine’s news platform.

The offer of a little extra link juice shows Yahoo! was only partially listening during the conversation about creating a solid value equation. Of course TechCrunch wants an SEO boost, but what news organization would actually go for this? I guess I can think of a few, but why would the struggling search engine take such a risk?

Of course the email recipient turned around and blogged about the whole situation (you can read the whole thing, email and all here), but the mishap makes us wonder, do we need to add a new (incredibly basic) line to the influencer playbook?

Thou shalt not undermine the credibility of one’s business when working with influencers.

There, done. Back to business as usual.

October 14, 2011 , , ,

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The Golden Age of Social Advertising is Now

by on August 16, 2011

Screen shot 2011 08 16 at 7.09.24 PM The Golden Age of Social Advertising is Now

When banner ads debuted 17 years ago click-through rates hit 78 percent. Now those numbers feel unattainable, but marketers are finding new hope in social advertising.

According to a study by Pivot, 85 percent of advertisers are either involved, or plan to get involved in social advertising within the next twelve months.

This mass adoption may feel like an extension of the move to social media in general, but the equation for success in social advertising feels more clear cut than that of social engagement. While only 12 percent of brands believe they have figured out how to engage effectively via Facebook brand pages organically, 54 percent report that they are “satified or very satisfied” with their social advertising results. Still another 60 percent believe that social advertising will be “very valuable” to their brand over the course of the next two years.

Brian Solis calls this move toward social advertising a shift to the new attention dashboard. As users have learned to develop banner blindness where display ads are normally placed (e.g. the right rail), social networks like Facebook and Twitter are figuring out how to create branded placement opportunities that are more integrated into the user experience.

By mid 2011 Twitter’s promoted products are expected to become part of the stream while opportunities like sponsored stories and granular targeting allow brands to zero in on Facebook.

These new platform offerings rely not only on integrating ads into the user experience, but they also allow advertisers to target the specific consumers at a precise point of attention and intention. Facebook’s sponsored stories, for example, are two times more effective than standard ads.

Results like these coupled with the strengths of social advertising (pictured above), paint a bright picture for the future of the industry. Brands who jump on this opportunity while this form of advertising is still an effective and attractive novelty, stand to benefit significantly. Add to that the 45 percent year over year increase in Facebook CPMs and the truth is clear. The time to start social advertising is now.

August 16, 2011 , , ,

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Researchers From the World Bank Quantify the Influence of a Blog Mention

by on August 10, 2011

Freakonomics Influencer Post Researchers From the World Bank Quantify the Influence of a Blog Mention

Don’t take bloggers seriously? You might change your mind after hearing about a mathematical formula that proves social publishers fuel user behavior online.

In a recent survey of 94 papers linked to six blogs, a senior economist affiliated with the development research group of the world bank found that when a blogger mentions an academic paper, the number of abstract views and study downloads increases.

For all practical purposes, this is expected, but the lift these researchers receive is meaningful. David McKenzie and study co-author Berk Ozler found that a single blog mention can lead to between 70 and 470 extra abstract views and research downloads in one month. After that the views start to wane, but the impact is still apparent.

In one case a Freakonomics blog post produced the equivalent of 3 years worth of abstract views, but every good influencer relationship manager knows that mentions don’t always equate to high click through rates.

Research found that the most crucial determinate of click through rates (which varied between 1 to 4 percent) was the nature of blog’s readership. More specialized, research oriented readers responded with more download action while general (and in some cases more popular) blogs didn’t receive the same kind of response.

In Halogen terms, we call these publishers “the power middle.” These influencers may not have prime time numbers, but they have a prime time audience that listens and takes what they say to heart. It may have taken academic researchers to quantify the power of influencers outside our industry, but we figured this out long ago.

Economic Influencer Researchers From the World Bank Quantify the Influence of a Blog Mention

Marginal Revolution Influencer Researchers From the World Bank Quantify the Influence of a Blog Mention

August 10, 2011 , , ,

What the New York Times Twitter Experiment Means for Publisher Influence

by on July 7, 2011

At the end of May the New York Times replaced its automated Twitter cyborg with the tweets of in house social media editors. The move was a test to determine whether the paper should invest in personalized tweets over a deluge of automatic headlines, but the final decision (if we ever see one) will mark something more significant than just another hire at the paper.

The Experiment

Until a little more than a month ago the New York Times leaned on its brand image and reputation to earn influence in the social world. Journalists wrote and Twitter followers retweeted, but what happened when the New York Times put two of their social media editors to the task of Twitter engagement?

For starters, the New York Times got quite a bit of press. Writers picked out personalized tweets and added them to their blogs, people on Twitter shared their stories, and everything seemed promising for the world of social media. Then I started following the New York Time’s Klout score.

In the week that social media editors @LHeron & @LexiNYT tweeted for @NYTimes the publication’s influence score never budged. It felt like people were engaging, but the score stayed constant at 86 for the duration of their experiment. Of course when it comes to a Twitter handle with 670,759 retweets it’s going to take a lot more than a week long experiment to make a dent in their score, but I hope the paper doesn’t take the “we’re already doing well enough” stance on Twitter.

After all, when compared with the ability of individuals like Justin Bieber, or Nicki Minaj to spread information socially (with klout scores at 100 and 97 respectively), it’s hard to justify feeling satisfied with a cyborg for much longer.

The New Age of Publisher Influence

Any reaction from the New York Times on the Twitter experiment has been hushed, but the days of publications resting on their paper laurels may be over. The New York Times could slide by a little longer with a vaguely cyborg social presence, but when it comes to automation they are one of the few remaining dinosaurs.

Fact of the matter is, conversations and connections are becoming the way of the web. Today real social investment is an option but some publishers are already showing that a hand crafted social presence can help them jump ahead. More than ever consumers are looking beyond search algorithms into hand crafted curation to find what’s important. The best we can do is hope that the New York Times sees that before advertisers realize that Justin Beiber and their very own Facebook fans can drive more conversation than reputable ad supported newspapers.

July 7, 2011 , , , , , ,

Infographic: The Evolution of Likes

by on July 6, 2011

The latest infographic from GetSatisfaction pulls statistics from a handful of sources to answer the question: What makes people want to follow a brand on the Internet? Click on the image to see a larger, more legible version and take a look at the following key takeaways.

People Are Liking Brands More. When Google conducted a similar study eleven months ago, 55 percent of people didn’t like a single brand on Facebook. Now the median number of brands people like falls into the two to five brand range, suggesting people are more open to opening up their social graph to brand messaging. On the other end of the spectrum, the percentage of people who like ten or more brands has doubled since Google’s study one year ago.

Social Media Influences Purchase Decisions. 97.09 percent of respondents said that online experiences have influenced a purchase decision.

Discounts Still a Pull but Customer Status & Good Content Are Also Crucial. Although the two studies are not completely comparable due to differing methodologies (select all that apply vs. select one), it’s interesting to compare the reasons for liking brands in this study versus a preceding like acquisition study by Social Media Examiner. From a brand perspective, it looks like it’s time to figure out how to drive growth through solid and consistent content.

Research Will Move From Likes to Engagement. The infographic below reflects the power of contests as a like acquisition strategy, but the next step in this kind of research is all about determining what moves communities online. Current research is finding that it’s actually product related messages that create the most engagement amongst existing fans on brand pages but over time marketers and researchers will reveal other levers that create true engagement online.

1 infographic follow brands large Infographic: The Evolution of Likes

July 6, 2011 , , , , , ,

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The Paid, Earned & Owned Trifecta Boosts Brand Awareness 61%

by on July 5, 2011

The paid, earned, owned media model established itself as a powerful driver of marketing campaigns, but new research shows the trifecta may convince some more than others.

According to a recent survey of 1,800 consumers by WPP Group’s Kantar Video and Synaptic Digital, women are more likely to respond to the combination of paid, earned, and owned media than men. As it turns out, men want their information to come from independent third parties, while women pay attention to both paid and earned media to inform their decisions.

Given that women piece together sentiments from a variety of media formats, this natural inclination to take both paid and owned media into account is natural. Men, on the other hand, look to authentic editorial sources to guide their purchase considerations.

When gender is erased from the equation the combination of paid earned and owned lead to 61% higher brand awareness overall, but perhaps more interesting, the study also found that the optimal sequence of exposure was paid, owned, and earned. For more information on the paid, earned owned media model as a means for pulling consumers through the decision making process, take a look at our Halogen Media Group Playbook.

July 5, 2011 , , , ,