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Half of All U.S Retail Spend is About to Be Influenced by the Net. Is Your Brand Ready?

by on November 21, 2011

Online Influence eCommerce Half of All U.S Retail Spend is About to Be Influenced by the Net. Is Your Brand Ready?

In three years the Internet will influence 53 percent of all retail sales in the United States (Forrester). As a result, your online brand impact could be the single most significant differentiating factor for the future of your business.

Part of this equation is going to be about mastering the mechanics of actual transactions. As indicated in the Forrester study mentioned above, eCommerce spend will represent eight percent of all retail sales in the United States. Creating seamless buying experiences will be indispensable for some brands, but many would argue that the art and science of earning revenue online starts much earlier than the buy button.

In tomorrow’s marketplace, the process of earning revenue might start on blogs or with a search term. Brands need to know how to touch every part of the user experience, and the difference between flourishing or being left behind is about extending your digital footprint far and wide in a big picture marketplace.

Part of this equation is about earning hearts with campaigns that inspire and make people aspire to own and be a part of your brand. For this, there is no formula. Successful programming that brings people together across platforms is about brilliant minds who understand how to create emotional affinity and share brand lifestyles in a slow drip. Because of this, there will always be a place for inspired creativity in online marketing.

There’s also a place for data scientists though, and the sheer volume of streaming content reminds us every day that half of the online equation is about mastering the data to increase visibility and then take a seductive hold of consumers once they’ve been exposed to your brand. These are the people who take the shareable content of the aforementioned creative class and then put them into the hands of the consumer. They’re the masters of site conversions and the people who can play their way to the top of Google searches and Facebook news feeds like AI chess masters.

The rest of this week we will address these creative and data centric components, painting a picture of the essentials that will give brands the ultimate chance at mastering their marketplace in the next three years.

We’ll start with inspiring campaigns that motivate people to wear brands like badges of honor. Then we’ll move into the knitty gritty of algorithms, from the latest in Edgerank statistics to the importance of branded content and Google’s Query Demands freshness algorithm. Stay tuned, because all this Internet buzz is just getting started.

November 21, 2011 , , , , ,


The Lifespan of a Facebook Post: 22 Hours and 51 Minutes

by on October 26, 2011

Until someone comes up with some brilliant hack for notifying Facebook marketers when their updates have faded into oblivion on fans’ newsfeeds, page managers are stuck with paid services, labored data gathering or just plain ole’ relying on statistics.

For the latter of the three, we bring you the results from a third party analysis by PageLever. According to a survey of twenty posts from five branded Facebook pages pages with 2 million fans or more, people stopped liking and commenting on branded Facebook posts 22 hours and 51 minutes after publication.

Post impressions lasted another seven hours before completely disappearing from fans’ newsfeeds, but the answer to post schedules isn’t as simple as a daily post. There were significant deviations within the context of just twenty posts. In one case a post stopped getting impressions just 10 hours and 42 minutes after publication. Another post though, stretched out to 50 hours of commenting and 59 hours of impressions before EdgeRank knocked the update off of newsfeeds.

When compared to the 2.8 hour lifespan of a tweet, this makes posting worthwhile, but such varying results lead us to believe every page requires consistent and individualized measurement.

Do you know the lifespan of your Facebook posts? How long are they getting Likes before dropping off into the ether? If you don’t know now, it’s time to start keeping track. These kinds of findings are going to make the difference between average and highly engaged brands on the Internet.

October 26, 2011 , , , , , , ,

Facebook’s f8 Announcements Finally Move Marketers Past Likes

by on September 24, 2011

Marketers are accustomed to competing with people for a spot in the news feed, but Mark Zuckerberg’s announcements at f8 have changed the game ever so slightly. Here are a few high level findings we took away from the Facebook conference and the event’s announcements of Timeline, Open Graph, Top Stories, and Recent Stories.

The True Shift Toward Engagement

Facebook now has more than 800 million users. They’ve achieved mass adoption (as have many brands in terms of number of fans). Now it’s time to move away from acquisition toward engagement. We’ve been talking about this shift for ages, but it finally feels like marketers are starting to buy into the importance of engaging audiences.

As we shift the emphasis away from Likes in volume, marketers aspire to engage audiences with meaningful multimedia experiences. Like Michael Lazerow wrote in a recent article in Advertising Age, “Put content out there that becomes a part of users’ identity.”

This has been the case since Facebook released EdgeRank, but as new announcements create a more nuanced ecosystem, marketers should pay special attention to recent changes and new opportunities.

Recap: The Major f8 Announcements

Timeline – Facebook’s Timeline is like a digital scrapbook, a place where users can look back on the major events of their life. We won’t get into Timeline much in this post, but my favorite look at Timeline to date can be found here. (You can also sign up for access to Timeline here.)

Ticker – The Facebook ticker is a lightweight activity stream for things like, “Justine is listening to Foster the People.” In the past users needed to intentionally share these kinds of activities (or at least accept the sharing process), but now these kinds of actions are frictionless and show up automatically.

Open Graph – Facebook isn’t just about Likes anymore. It’s about actions that Mark Zuckerberg hopes will create “serendipitous experiences.” The Open Graph is what makes this possible because now people can “listen” to songs, “watch” shows, and more.

GraphRank – GraphRank is like Edgerank for determining Facebook displays how people use apps. In other words, this is the algorithm that chooses who sees (or doesn’t see) the show you just watched or the run you just recorded with Nike+.

What This Means For EdgeRank and the NewsFeed

Now that Facebook is about more than Likes, we can expect brands to start competing with both people and app developers for a spot on the news feed. Brands really want to make their way into Top Stories, but Recent Stories create another opportunity for visibility.

Some analysts suspect that this could create a payoff for brands that post more often, but this is up for debate. One column suggests recent stories have a minimum threshold, meaning updates from brands with low EdgeRank could be hidden in the newsfeed.

New Opportunities in Social Advertising

The Open Graph’s foundation on instantaneous sharing eliminates some instances of permissions, thereby creating more data, and therefore an increased number of opportunities for brands to connect campaigns to user activity through Sponsored Stories.

This, combined with open graph targeting, creates the opportunity for marketers to target people with ads based on actions they took on Facebook. For example, if someone clicks on a specific handbag with desire to purchase, marketers can then go back and target this user with a handbag ad.

Announcements at f8 may have wriggled things about a bit, but the fundamental emphasis on the importance of creating engaging content is more important than ever. The more brands focus on becoming relevant and integrating themselves into experiences, the more they’ll benefit from Facebook.

September 24, 2011 , , , , ,

Research: Posting on Facebook via APIs Kills Engagement

by on September 13, 2011

As marketers we’re constantly grappling for ways to increase engagement and conversions, but when it comes to Facebook there’s one fairly common technique that could cancel out everything you’ve ever done to make it to the top. According to new research, posting on Facebook via third party APIs is the social equivalent of shooting your brand in the foot.

According to an analysis of 1,000,000 updates across more than 50,000 Facebook pages, posting on the platform via marketing management tools like Shoutlet, Postling, Seesmic and other top ten APIs cuts engagement rates by 88 percent.

The publishers of the study believe this could be the result of a bias in Facebook’s opaque edgerank algorithm, but here at Halogen we suspect this is an issue of content and programming.

Where Facebook APIs Go Wrong

There are few things more important on Facebook than brand voice, and in general, APIs kill that voice. The automated process of posting via third party sites not only reduces the opportunity to pinpoint exactly when something is released, it also creates a Facebook post that shows clear signs of automation.

While some APIs truncate content in awkward places, others don’t create effective sharing thumbnails for post optimization. All show a small API logo that reads something like, “Posted via [name of third party app].” This Twitter feature is a dead automation giveaway, but perhaps this study is showing us something more important.

Brands on social platforms must cultivate their brand voice specifically for that medium. Expecting the ability to cross pollinate identical content across platforms is like putting a print ad on television and wondering why effectiveness decreases 88 percent.

We learned this lesson about Twitter when followers ignored automated headlines. Whether it’s a truncated story lead on Twitter or a tweet disguised as something created for Facebook, these shortcuts don’t cut it.

Here at Halogen we obsess over these kinds of issues. We study edgerank and we build influential brands. Expect more in research and numbers because this API conversation is just the beginning.

September 13, 2011 , , , , , , ,

When EdgeRank Determines the Fate of Branded Content on Facebook, Measurement is Key

by on August 2, 2011

A year ago Likes were as good as gold. They felt like the social equivalent of email opt ins, but when Facebook’s EdgeRank kicked into gear the “one-like-and-we’ve-got-’em-forever” philosophy crumbled and faded. Now brand messaging on Facebook is in the hands of an algorithm that’s only recently become less opaque.

Welcome to EdgeRank Checker, a site that stands to add some transparency to Facebook’s secret algorithm. Created by a group that specializes in EdgeRank optimization, this site marks the beginning of a much larger movement to get branded messages in front of consumers on Facebook.

As a third party company outside of the social networking site, the people at EdgeRank combined a number of statistics from Facebook Insights until they felt comfortable estimating the score that dictates the fate of branded content on Facebook.

Setting the tool into motion is as easy as logging in on Facebook, but whether or not the scores are actually accurate are as mysterious as the algorithm itself. In some cases the days for acquiring the most and least fans overlapped, which made me a bit weary in my own testing. Also, according to EdgeRank Checker any score above 14 is above average (but a total walk in the park for even the weakest pages I checked).

What this says for EdgeRank Checker’s actual ability to estimate a secret score is unknown, but perhaps that isn’t the point. As long as Facebook continues to grab the attention of consumers online, the business of getting branded content to the top of news feeds only stands to grow. We’re at the frontier and brands paying attention to EdgeRank optimization are poised to add value to business. Depending on Facebook’s importance over time, that value that could very well become as much of a staple as SEO.

August 2, 2011 , , , , , ,