Has the NFL Jumped the Shark?

jumped-the-sharkThere is always that defining moment in a TV series when fans watch an episode and have to say, “Wow…what the heck is happening here?”  Like when Pam and Jim finally got married on The Office or that episode of Happy Days when Fonzie literally jumped over a shark on a jet ski, hence starting the expression. After these “jump the shark” moments occur on our favorite shows, few ever reclaim their former glory. This got me to wonder if this can happen to a sports league, and more specifically – has the NFL jumped the shark?

Are ratings down due to over saturation?  That’s right, NFL viewership is down by over 11% from last year.  Some people would say it’s the greed of the NFL which has now expanded its primetime slate beyond Monday Night Football to include Sunday Night and Thursday Night Football. The league also now places multiple games a year in London forcing fans on the West Coast of the U.S. to wake up at 6:30 in the morning to watch a game. In Fact, LA fans have to watch their team “host” a game at 6:30 this Sunday morning. How is this not a money grab?

Could it be just a lack of embracing the future? The NFL’s recent restrictive social media policy, which prevents teams from placing footage they shot on their social media platforms, is an example of the league’s refusal to evolve with the times. With the meteoric rise of Fantasy Sports, more and more people are engaged in multiple NFL games than ever before. But reality dictates, they likely only have so much time on Sundays to watch a certain amount of games, so social media is one avenue that allows fans to stay current on everything that is happening in the NFL.

The NBA dramatically embraced social media, and it has had a major impact on the revitalization of the NBA itself. Meanwhile the NFL enforcing restrictions with potential fines of up to $100,000 on teams for social media violations leads one to believe that the NFL is being run by a group of old timers that don’t fully understand the way to build a brand today is through social media. Pulling back on the amount of content teams can share via their social platforms hurts the fan experience and is as bad as when the NFL eliminated touchdown celebrations. I personally miss the days of the Ickey Shuffle and the NFL having a personality. Not to mention penalties have sharply risen over the past several years which make game play almost unwatchable at times

Make no mistake, I am not one of those people tuning out the NFL…..but I also watched The Office until its last episode, even though the show was never as good as it once was.  Not all fans are willing to stick with a product that isn’t as good as it once was. For some great examples of jumping the shark check out Jon Hein’s JumpTheShark.com.

 

Move Over Emoji, Here Comes Giphy – from Mobile Marketing Watch

WebiMax CEO Ken Wisnefski penned this blog on the new Giphy Keys for Mobile Marketing Watch

I know new smartphone users in their 70s who not only use emojis, but talk about the meanings and nuances behind them. In 2015 Oxford Dictionary named (smiley face with tears of joy) its word of the year. I hope this helps make it obvious that technology affects the way that we communicate with each other, sometimes changing what we say, and sometimes fundamentally re-shaping our thoughts into new modes of communication altogether. Giphy’s new keyboard is a big deal and is one example of tech with the potential to re-shape our communicative capacities.

How it works:

Giphy Keys allows people to quickly and easily find an appropriate (or inappropriate) short looping video file or “gif” and share it in just about any app with a text field and a send button. Admittedly, sharing gifs is nothing new, but up until this point sharing gifs took a little bit of internet savvy and enough steps to make it prohibitive to some. Thanks to Giphy Keys it’s about to get a whole lot more common, much like the use of emoji has become.

Everyone knows the old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and in our modern world of abbreviated communication, that fact is not lost on emoji users. The use of Emoji has already proven to be a necessity to digital marketers looking to engage younger audiences, in fact, a recent study by appboy shows that emoji use in emails has increased by a staggering 7,100% and 777% in campaigns since last year.
Emoji use

 

Videos in the form of gifs however offer distinct advantages for marketers over the static emoji both in that they are potentially more evocative and more fun. Giphy’s own advertising slogan is a play on the old (picture = 1,000 word) adage with, “A Gif is worth  1,000 feels.”

Last month Giphy brought an app to Android that allowed users to search the Giphy database and copy/paste gifs into other apps, however this still required users to be in two separate apps to get the job done. About a year ago, Facebook began testing the integration of Giphy’s database into their messenger app, which worked in conjunction with smartphone keyboards with essentially the same functionality of the new Giphy Keys app; however this functionality stayed exclusively inside the Facebook Messenger App. With its new keyboard, Giphy is both streamlining and democratizing the use of Gifs. While it is true that Giphy Keys is only available on IOS, an Android version is in the pipeline according to Giphy.

Giphy proclaims “Gifs are a language…, and we all know how to speak it,” and I would tend to agree with that. The creative options are both limitless and ever-changing; and Gifs will certainly find their way into the marketer’s lexicon if not the Oxford Dictionary someday. Professional communicators, i.e., marketers, PR pros, media, and politicians will have to adapt in order to connect.

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Ken’s Article in Financial News Site The Street: The Future of Elections: Presidents Will Be Chosen Online, and Ad Budgets Will Follow

The Street 2Political ad budgets on broadcast television are on track to be six times as much as they are online this year. Yet, the interference that the Internet has introduced into this election has been palpable. Our elections are going to be decided online either in this cycle or the next — not via online ballot box, which actually could be on the horizon. A large percentage of the actual political battlefield action is originating on the internet, leaving broadcast news discussing on-screen what has transpired online.

Overall, digital ad-spending is predicted to surpass television as early as next year, and with every new forecast, that date moves up closer to now. Digital political ad-spend this year is estimated at $1 billion, up 5,000% from 2008, and is predicted to be over $3 billion by 2020. While the televised attack ad is still with us, the online attack ad is here now, too.

Here’s an example. Just last week it was reported that the domain addressTedCruzForAmerica.com actually displays Canada’s own Immigration site, a challenge to Cruz by pointing out his Canadian origins. This isn’t the first time this has happened to poor Cruz, as TedCruz.com is a website simply displaying the message “Support President Obama — Immigration Reform Now!”  JebBush.com redirects to Donald Trump’s campaign site.

 

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How 10,000 Characters Makes Twitter Relevant Again for Marketers – By Ken Wisnefski

The Street 2Wall Street has long been skeptical of Twitter (TWTRGet Report)  due to its inability to drive revenue through ads the way some other platforms have (see: Facebook).

But, there’s hope. With the return of CEO Jack Dorsey, Twitter is nowreportedly contemplating removing the 140 character limit on tweets and replacing it with a 10,000 character limit. With this change, Twitter would begin to compete with Facebook and Google for advertising dollars and take the platform from a stagnant brand and launch it into a new direction. Allow me to explain.

In the social ad sphere, Facebook dominates. But unlike Facebook, Twitter hasn’t attracted advertiser’s dollars because it’s a “quick hit” scenario without stickiness for strong ad development. The way things are on Twitter right now, everything moves so fast; factors like catching the right trends, using the right hashtag or just finding the right time to do a promotional tweet are so much more crucial. For that reason, Twitter hasn’t generated much return for advertisers (my clients).

 

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Ken Wisnefski Calls HubSpot’s Free CRM a Game Changer in Financial News Site The Street

The Street 2My firm, Internet marketing company Webimax, has helped clients use HubSpot for years. Recently, we have noticed many of our clients move to HubSpot from competitors, like Marketo, another marketing automation tool.

But many customers are still not realizing HubSpot’s full potential. The CRM add-on could change that. For one thing, the add-on is free. As part of its strategy, HubSpot is counting on companies to switch from competitors or add its product to systems focused on other areas.

Clearly, digital marketing has become increasingly important. Businesses know that the ability to collect information about consumers online behavior will give them a competitive edge and benefit their bottom line. HubSpot’s willingness to offer businesses a free product will undoubtedly attract small- and medium-sized businesses — especially those that wouldn’t be able to afford or take advantage of more powerful tools like those Salesforce offers.

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Ken Wisnefski Penned An Article for Financial News Site The Street on Google’s Rebranding to Alphabet

The Street 2

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — When your company has the kind of brand recognition that very few companies can even dream of, is changing the name a good idea?

Well, if your goals have expanded beyond just search-engine algorithms and into taking over the entire universe and your name is Google (GOOGLGet Report), then the answer is yes. While Google’s decision to create a parent company, dubbed Alphabet, defies all traditional logic, it took a lot of courage and is a brilliant move.

As a customer of Google’s for over 15 years, I have seen the company grow from an innovator focused on the search-engine business to a multi-faceted organization that invests in everything from self-driving cars to finding new ways to extend life.

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Ken Wisnefski wrote an article in TheStreet.com on how Google’s Buy Button is no threat to Amazon

 

Here’s an excerpt from Ken’s article in TheStreet.com:

What Google is doing here is nothing new for digital businesses. We’ve seen it time and again: Once an internet platform has enough users, it attempts to aggregate different functionalities and content to keep those users from spending time on other platforms for other purposes. Most recently, see Facebook (FB – Get Reportinstant articles. The challenge in aggregating is maintaining that core identity that brought them users in the first place. Google is a master at this. While continually offering more valuable services over the years (like Gmail, Gchat, Google Maps and more), Google has maintained a home screen consisting of a logo, a search bar and two buttons.

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Is Facebook a Helping Hand for News Media or has it become a Crutch? from TheStreet.com

Ken Wisnefski penned an article in Jim Cramer’s TheStreet.com on Facebook’s new Instant Articles.  Below is an excerpt:

…Social media sites are also vying to keep eyeballs on their own sites so they can serve up ads. As such, they really have no incentive to send people away to other sites like the New York Times, and also no legal obligation to explain their algorithm changes to anyone.  According to a Pew Research Center report, people visiting news sites via a link on Facebook spent an average of 1 minute and 41 seconds; it’s about the same when that site is reached via a search engine.  Facebook looks at that as 1:41 seconds that they miss out on serving ads to those folks. The solution for Facebook? – Host the content on their site and cut down on time people spend browsing around those other news sites.  It’s a total win for Facebook, even if they have to share some of the ad revenue with the news outlet.

Is it a solution for the news sites though?  While a significantly higher percentage of younger folks (under 34) came to news sites through a Facebook link than directly through a bookmark or url, they don’t stay very long nor do they return all that often.  So news sites seem to be willing to trade some site traffic for assurances that their stories are seen by a younger demographic.

  Click Here to Read the Full Article

 

Google’s Mobile Push: April 21st is coming, is your business ready?

At the end of February, Google announced that beginning April 21st, websites that were not ‘Mobile-Friendly’ would go down in Google’s page ranking system for mobile search and subsequently lose significant web traffic.  For business execs that count on their website to drive sales, this can have a very real effect on the bottom line. Some have called it the mobile SEO-pocalypse, but what does it mean?  

For the uninitiated, Google makes money from advertisers paying to have their ads appear on or near the front page of search results.  But people don’t use Google to see those ads, they use it to see the organic search results; the ads are merely ancillary.  An organic search result is one that is not sponsored.

Google uses algorithms that it has painstakingly developed over the past 20 years to find the best search results, that is, the search results that appear to directly answer a user’s search query or question, which has been the driving factor behind the popularity of content marketing.  Google’s algorithms have changed the shape of the internet and the way we find information, but they are also the reason that 44% of online shopping begins on a search engine and Google controls 65% of the search engine market.  Last year Google also commanded 40% of the global $40 billion mobile advertising market.

But lately Google has been feeling the heat from the mobile revolution, particularly from social media and specifically from Facebook.  Facebook has spent the better part of the last 5 years trying to improve the user experience of its mobile app, and it has worked.  In 2012, Facebook connected more people over its mobile app than its desktop site.  Today Facebook has over 1.4 billion users, 900 thousand of them use the social network daily, and 745 thousand of those use Facebook’s mobile app.  Facebook carried 18% of the $40 billion global mobile advertising budget last year.

From Google’s perspective, it knows it can’t compete with Facebook on social media with its Google Plus platform, so it is absolutely necessary that Google remains number one in search.   It can only do that by keeping up with both the changes in innovation and the way people access the internet itself.  Two of the most important facts here are 1. Mobile surpassed the traditional desktop computer as the way most people connect to the internet back in early 2014, and 2. The growth of mobile search has risen to 42% of all organic searches over the last 36 months.

So what is ‘Mobile Friendly’ exactly and what is Google doing?   The easiest way to describe what ‘Mobile Friendly’ is, is to first describe what it is not.   A non-mobile-friendly site was designed to be viewed on a desktop computer and presents mobile users with things like poorly formatted text and links, slow load times and horizontal scrolling.  Not only are these sites difficult to navigate on a mobile device, but they are difficult to even read leaving many users saying, “I will just wait until I get home to do this.”  Google’s solution to this problem is to, first, not show people those sites anymore if they are using a mobile device, and second, to find and show people the sites that are designed to be viewed on a mobile device and hence are easier to navigate and use on that device.   Google does this by using its algorithms to analyze each site for the proper ‘Mobile Friendly’ criteria, and if a site is found not to contain those elements, then Google will lower its page rank.  A site’s Google rank directly correlates to where that site will appear in Google’s search results.  It becomes all the more relevant for businesses when you consider the fact that 75% of people never go passed the first page of a Google search according to Net Applications.

Google seemed to be hinting at the fact that this was coming for a little while.  Last November, Google released a ‘Mobile Friendly’ tag that would simply let the user know that a site was not optimized to be viewed on their device; however this addition still left it up to the user to choose whether or not to click on a non-mobile-friendly link.

There was a more obvious indicator that Google was planning to use its ‘Mobile-Friendly’ criteria as a ranking signal to take away that choice.  The same press release that announced the ‘Mobile-Friendly’ tags also included a link to a tool that could tell web masters and site owners whether or not their site was in fact ‘Mobile Friendly’.  I suggest that any person or business possessing a web site take a close look at it.

 

So what do you do if your site is not Mobile-Friendly?  If by using the tool provided by Google you have determined that your site is not ‘Mobile-Friendly’, then unfortunately you will probably need a complete site redesign in order to stay visible on Google and for all intents and purposes, on the web.  Web developers generally have two options when redesigning sites to be mobile, and those are to use either responsive or adaptive design methods.

Responsive Web Design is driven by a set of rules based primarily upon screen size and percentages.  For example, a web-developer would program rules to stipulate that one element will take up 30% of the screen, another one will take up 20% and yet another will take up 50%.  Additional rules would say things like these things should line up from left to right, be a certain height, include certain styles and content etc… By laying a foundation based upon percentages, the website will be able to dynamically adjust to the screen size that it is being viewed on.

Adaptive Web Design is a bit more rigid in how it is presented.  The principals of conforming to the screen size are similar; however instead of a website dynamically growing or shrinking to conform to a screen’s size like in Responsive, Adaptive uses predefined trigger points to detect the size of a screen and uses that data to display whole alternate website layouts.

Right now I would recommend responsive web design, because by making everything dynamic, you are taking into account devices and screen sizes that do not even exist yet.  This becomes a significant factor in light of wearable technology innovations, e.g., Apple’s Watch, that are starting to peak consumer interest.

In summary, the popularity shift from desktop and laptop computers to mobile devices has happened extremely fast, and so not all businesses have had the opportunity to incorporate a mobile responsive design into their digital marketing plan or budget.  Many companies are so severely under-invested in mobile that the gap between them and their Mobile-Friendly competitors is becoming insurmountable. In light of this upcoming change from Google, the importance of mobile responsive web design really cannot be overstated.

Wal-Mart’s Loss is Other Retailers Gain in Google’s Local Inventory Ads

Mobile tech is here to stay – streamlining once mundane tasks with ease.  Nowhere is this movement more evident than in marketing.  Today the trend seems to be hyper-local advertising, and brick and mortar retailers seem to be the big winners here.   Where it used to be common to hear predictions of the end to brick and mortar at the hands of e-commerce, now we hear the call of hyper-local advertising promising more foot traffic to local retailers.   Innovation in this movement has made it more possible for marketers to create almost a concierge aspect to local retail.

Google’s local inventory ad product is one aspect of hyper-local advertising that gives Google users the ability to see what retailers near them have the products that they are searching for actually in-stock.   However, news broke last Wednesday that the largest retailer in the world, Wal-Mart, had pulled out of a deal to utilize Google’s local inventory ads.   The reason being, that Wal-Mart would have to disclose daily updates on inventory (duh), and pricing data that could be used to understand  how Wal-Mart does what it does to be the most successful retailer of them all.  While there is a point to be made about the sensitivity of inventory data, it is inventory transparency that will allow a consumer to know that a trip to one particular store will not be in vain and that also cues that  consumer to choose one retailer over another.

Should this cause any concern for Google, or for other retailers either utilizing or looking to utilize Local Inventory Ads?  – In my humble opinion, not at all.  People being able to see whether or not a product is available before they leave the house is such an advantage to brick and mortar retail, that Wal-Mart’s exit from the program shouldn’t be alarming, but may even bolster other retailers decision to get in.  And while the loss of big clients like Wal-Mart certainly has an effect on Google, people need to remember that, there is Wal-Mart, and then there is every other retailer.  Wal-Mart can afford (for now) to jump out of that relationship.

According to Google, their local inventory platform is quickly growing to include other big retailers like Macy’s, Recreational Equipment and Office Depot.  And if Wal-Mart’s move to pull out did in fact prove to be infectious among larger retailers, as ridiculous as it might sound, it could be smaller businesses that step in to fill that void.  Google is an aggregator among businesses, but it is also quite simply the glue that holds our mobile world together at this moment.  I would even venture to say that if current trends in location based tech in mobile advertising indicate anything, it’s that Wal-Mart may come back to the program at a later time.

Yahoo Eyes Up Cable Networks with Alibaba Cash

Yahoo owned a large stake in Alibaba, and when Alibaba had its record breaking IPO last fall, Yahoo made a lot of money.  They cashed out $9 billion worth of shares, and their remaining 401 million shares of stock climbed to a value of about $40.5 billion.  Investors have been eagerly speculating on what Yahoo planned to do with that influx of capital burning a hole in its pocket, but recent rumors have been swirling about the internet that CEO Marissa Mayer is eyeing up cable networks.  But is that a good idea?

 

It might seem that buying cable networks is a bad move in this new era of “cutting the cord”where more and more people seem to be relying solely on online sources for content.  However, cable networks at this moment are still very valuable because of their brand recognition and high quality content.

Cable networks should be thinking about pivoting their content more towards the online market if they want to maintain that value.  Yahoo, being one of the biggest online corporations of the last 20 years, is well positioned to update the content strategy for the next chapter of online video content, and utilizing already established brands is a good way for Yahoo to start.   Yahoo laid a solid groundwork for this by purchasing the online video ad platform BrightRoll late last year.

So who is Yahoo considering? Rumor has it  that they are interested in purchasing Scripps, which owns  HGTV, The Food Network, The Travel Channel, and DIY to name a few.   It actually seems pretty brilliant when you consider most of the shows on those networks sell products themselves. According  to a report in Business Insider that cited a source with firsthand knowledge of Yahoo’s interest in Scripps, Scripps’ demographics line up pretty well with Yahoo’s most in demand demographic, women who are 25 – 35 or older.

Yahoo has been receiving a lot of good news lately, for one Mozilla Firefox choosing Yahoo search for their default search engine over Google.  Search is still very relevant, but Google still dominates not only over Yahoo in search but over Mozilla Firefox with their Google Chrome browser.  It would be foolish for Yahoo to try to relive the glory days of being the number one search engine by putting too many resources into competing with Google.

All eyes are on what’s next for Yahoo, and as T.V. content migrates online, buying cable networks could be part of a winning strategy.

Ebay, Mozilla, Yahoo and Bing vs. Google – The SEO Wars

I used to get frustrated when people asked, “does SEO still matter?”  because while it was obvious to me that it mattered,  there are definitely a lot of ways to answer the question, a lot of them long and technical.  But now I just say – ask Ebay if SEO still matters.  

You see, in one sentence on a financial call with investors over this past summer, Ebay’s CFO Bob Swan pretty much summed it all up disclosing that Google penalties relating to their SEO had cost the company an estimated $200 Million in revenue.   $200 Million!!!   As a result they lowered their full year revenue guidance from $18.5 billion to $18.3 billion.

Analysts have estimated that as high as 90% of people on the internet use search.   Therefore, we should consider SEO and online presence, a.k.a visibility, intrinsically intertwined.   For the uninitiated, when Google changes how it indexes websites, it does not warn or notify the owners of the affected websites.  Basically, when a site is penalized by Google, it shows up pages and pages later in search results than it did before Google’s change.   When you factor in that 75% of people never go past the first page of search results, a Google penalty means your web-traffic will grind to a halt, your sales will drop and your bottom line will shrink.  In Ebay’s case, after an update of what’s known as the ‘Google Panda Algorithm’ Ebay’s domain went from being #6 on Moz’s  list of the top 10 domains to falling to #25 in a matter of days.

There have been unconfirmed reports however, that what happened to Ebay was even worse than that.   I’m talking about what’s known in the SEO world as a manual action, which is when a human being personally reviews a site, like Ebay, and decides that they need to be taken down a notch or two or three.  It’s important to note that Google has not admitted to taking any manual action against Ebay.

The reality is that Google controls 68% of the search market, so they’re powerful, and scores of businesses rely on their model.  But what can be done?   – Well here are some interesting things that have evolved.

Just this past November Ebay decided to stop utilizing Google sponsored text ads for mobile devices and instead started to use Microsoft’s Bing Ads.  Commenting as a spectator, I’d say it sure looks like an act of retaliation for Google’s SEO penalties, but is it realistic to think that Ebay could hurt Google the way that Google has Ebay?  Not really, but there are other forces at work in the SEO arena.

Mozilla Firefox has decided to make Yahoo, not Google their default search provider in the U.S.  Just last month in fact, Firefox initiated the change with the release of version 34 in what PC World Magazine called “the Yahoo Search era.”  Google has been Firefox’s default search since 2004.

This is a big win for Yahoo.  Many basic web users will not alter the default settings as to what search engine is being used via Mozilla related platforms, so it will certainly drive more revenue towards Yahoo.  My concern for Mozilla is that the user experience on Yahoo search isn’t of the caliber of Google’s at the moment.  However, in terms of presenting value to advertisers, Yahoo will become much more relevant with all the search traffic initiated via Mozilla’s push.  As for Mozilla, their user base is holding currently at around 16% of web browser market share, but has been on the decline since 2010 – losing out to Google’s Chrome browser.   It will be interesting to see if Yahoo’s current upwards momentum will carry Mozilla with it, but I would contend that Mozilla has made a mistake.

Google is number one for a reason.  They too have a vested and monetary interest in providing the end user with the best most relevant possible search results.  Google didn’t get to the top spot by not improving and evolving their search algorithms. People use google because they tend to find what they want on Google, and that’s why most businesses will play by the SEO rules and continue to advertise there.

The value of fake friends…

Celebrities with a large number of Instagram followers have taken a substantial hit this week devaluing their accounts as Instagram announced that they have “completed a fix to remove spammy accounts.”     Stars like Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry both saw their followers fall by over a million each.

There’s a huge advertising opportunity that lies at the intersection of celebrity and social media.  Mega stars on social media boast audiences of millions of people, with a quantifiable percentage of interaction/ engagement, and brands will cozy up to these celebs paying big bucks to get them to broadcast a message that will help to either sell a product or generate some brand recognition.

Networks and studios spend billions per year pooling together talent, developing and creating content and then marketing it all, but they still can’t garner the kind of followage of the stars they create.  For example Kim Kardashian has 26.7 Million followers as of writing this, but the network that made her a household name, E!, only has 7.07 million.  It’s a bit like a genie that grants a person’s wish to be all powerful.

But a lot of those friends/fans/followers are in fact fake profiles created to give the outward appearance of being more popular among social media users.  There’s also the issue that many stars attract fake spam accounts that are created to piggyback on their fame.  This is nothing new, and social media networks have done their best over the years to stem the tide against fake accounts, although it appears nothing as effective or sudden as the recent move by Instagram.

The fact is that a high number of followers, either fake or real, does have the effect of attracting a percentage of real followers, so buying fake followers wasn’t or still isn’t necessarily a bad investment, when you consider the amount of money stars get paid to broadcast a message from other brands.

 Twitter Experiment:

Someone who works for me told me about an experiment he did for his last job, where he paid $250 for the promise of 10,000 real targeted followers.  Over the course of a few months he saw his followers increase by about 12,000.  But were they real?  He put all his new twitter followers onto an excel spread sheet, assigned a random number next to each one.  After sorting the spread sheet numerically by that row, he took the top 100 and analyzed how often they tweeted, how many followers they had, and who else they followed to determine if they were real and targeted.  What he determined was that exactly half of his new followers were real and exactly half of those followers were targeted correctly.  Though it wasn’t exactly what he paid for, he was impressed by the breakdown.    Was it worth it?  He said in the end that it wasn’t for him.

But at the price of $250 for 10,000 (which is actually pretty expensive in the fake friend market) one million fake friends is like $25,000. Depending on their star power, celebrities can make big money over time from brands looking to broadcast on their accounts.

What do celebrities get paid to advertise for brands on social media?

According to a report from the Huffington post from 2013, Frankie Muniz got $252 per tweet at the low end with only 175,323 followers (he has 214k followers today).   And at the high end there’s Jared Leto (1M followers) and Khloe Kardashian (8M Followers) fetching $13,000 per tweet.  The more famous Kardashian apparently gets a maddening $20,000 per tweet.

Should brands stop paying so much if a celeb’s number deflates though?  Absolutely!    Celebrity in and of itself is a brand, and what stars are experiencing with this ‘culling of the herd’ by Instagram, is a lot like what brands and companies experience on a regular basis from the likes of Google, and it’s the reason SEO or Search Engine Optimization has dominated digital marketing for over a decade.   This is just the cost of doing business.

In defense of Instagram, while this purge of fake friends definitely hurts celebs, there’s a lot of stiff competition among social media networks – and their only real value is in the number of actual people using them.   These networks have to adapt to the way people use them or else some other network will surely come along and blow them away.

Celebs shouldn’t be mad, what is happening through competition and new technologies is just a process of democratization whereby networks and search engines are giving the public more of what they want – actual valuable content.   Should stars stop buying fake friends?  – Stars themselves can only wait and see how often social networks do a purge like this in order to make that call.

 

Brick and Mortar is Pushing Back against E-tailers… and intelligently using technology to do it

Brick and Mortar establishments, small ones included, are getting wise to the mobile revolution. Folks used to talk about ecommerce winning the war over brick and mortar due to its convenience, but companies are beginning to understand the dynamics between that ultra-convenience of mobile ecommerce, and the human need to get out of the house every then and again.

Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar:

You think of something to purchase, and subsequently two other things: 1. where you can get that item, and 2. if getting it fits into your schedule. You then decide to take a shopping trip and some-time later while in the store, you realize that you’re not quite sure where the item is. After having trouble getting an associate’s attention, you find where the item would be, but you realize the selection is meager compared to what you had in your head. After a little internal debate you decide to settle on a product only to then have to stand behind a line of other customers. After the cashier takes 10 minutes to resolve an issue with a customer 6 or 7 people ahead of you, it hits you: “Why am I doing this, why would anybody do this?” You take the item back to its former location (or not) and go home to get the item you really want online.

This scenario is why e-tailers have picked up so much steam over the past decade. When you think of how you can avoid all the pitfalls of on-location shopping with just a few clicks in amazon from the comfort of your home, it’s hard to imagine precisely how the online e-commerce scenario could be improved upon exactly. But it’s also hard to deny that for all its convenience, we sometimes miss going out and getting that item in person. Hence brick and mortar stores are starting to utilize mobile technology to attract new customers and come up with solutions to the problems that were previously frustrating their customers.

 

So how are they doing it?


Using ads based on Geo location is one example of how a company might use mobile to attract more foot traffic. This is when ads are pushed out within a given radius of a business. Sound complicated? Well Facebook made this exceedingly easy with an ad product dubbed, “Local Awareness Ads.” Businesses can craft their own ad and then choose a radius around their business, e.g., 1 mile – 10 miles, around their address that will reach people within that radius through their Facebook News Feed.

Imagine you were shopping online for say a ceiling fan. You’re online, so of course you go back and forth between your task and your Facebook newsfeed. When all of the sudden you see it, right there in your newsfeed – the exact fan you were looking for, and it’s on sale just a 10 minute drive from your house. You could take care of this task right now. You could even purchase the item online with a few short clicks, then go and pick it up and have it installed in-time for the company you were going to have over this weekend. Why not?

Or…

Imagine you were looking at t-shirts online. You saw one in particular you liked, but decided not to buy it. Later in the week you are walking through the mall, you sit down on a bench for a minute to look at your phone. You look at your Facebook newsfeed when you see an ad for the very same shirt you were looking at earlier, and it’s on sale at a store just 50 short feet from the bench you’re sitting on. Why not?

Target is getting in on the act as well with a couple new features that they are rolling out on their mobile app, just in time for the holiday shopping blitz. One feature is the in-store inventory option, where not only can you browse the items that Target typically has, but you can also see if the Target near you actually has that item. Target is also implementing in-store maps that will direct you to the very isle where that product is located. Gone are the days of wandering around the store looking for an associate wondering if what you are looking for is even in stock.

From the delivery side of things, brick and mortar stores have something that strictly e-tailers do not, and that is locations and inventory nearer to where people live. We’re seeing brick and mortar stores becoming more ingrained into the delivery game, and that is making for some interesting competition.

UBER seems to be throwing its hat in the ring to compete with the likes of Amazon and Google, both also have growing same day delivery services. The difference is that UBER has a fleet of cars and the infrastructure in house that could prove to be quite nimble and efficient – positioning them to forge ahead and grow into industries that they don’t currently reside in.

Another service called Deliv is making people’s lives easier in a number of ways. Using Deliv, customers can check out either on site at a physical location or online, the customer can then choose same day delivery and also a time window for which they want the packages delivered to their doorstep.

In Northern New Jersey, malls and shopping centers are offering same day delivery with Deliv free of charge through the holiday season. People can shop the mall without having to carry around heavy bags through stores and parking lots, rather they can just tell customer service what time they will be home and the merchandise will come straight to them – hands free.

While mobile technology and ecommerce has had a huge effect on the way today’s businesses operate, it doesn’t mean the end for brick and mortar, rather we are seeing a shift of brick and mortar stores using mobile technology to offer more concierge type services. There are so many angles to how mobile technology can make our lives easier that it can be difficult to predict just how businesses may innovate in the future. Industries are adapting to create new opportunities that are making our everyday experience smarter, better, more efficient and more fun.

 

TV’s future looks bleak as content moves online

To say that the way people consume media, or content is changing would have to be the understatement of the decade. While bandwidth and computing speed has continually increased since the 90’s, people have been discovering new digital avenues to interact with news, entertainment, games and even each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some food for thought:

Today, people spend almost a full hour more online than they do watching television, therefore it only make sense that popular Television Networks are beginning to leverage more online content and following models more similar to that of NetFlix.

  • Prime time ratings for the broadcast networks were down 5.1% in August, while cable ratings sank a “shocking” 9.8%.
  • Even major networks like CBS and Disney reported a major slow-down in TV ad revenue over the Summer, while at the same time acknowledging that ad-revenue is growing on new media platforms.
  • In a recent poll from Advertiser Perceptions, 34% of  over 300 advertiser’s and marketers who are planning to increase their mobile ad spending over the next year said that the money for that would come from their T.V. advertising budgets.
  • Companies already spend more on digital advertising than either print or radio.

The Past:

Television has been a dominant force in entertainment and information for the past 6 decades.  Well, Television’s reign is ending as content moves online.  Analysts say advertisers will spend more on digital advertising than on T.V. advertising by 2016.  Ironically, the seed that started it all was planted by Cable itself with On-Demand programing.

Of course some might argue it was Digital Video Recorders like Tivo or the standard one in your cable box that started the demise of the Television age, but these services are more like the little brother of the VHS.  Realistically since the 80’s, you could watch your shows whenever you wanted as long as you had the foresight to program your VHS to record it onto a tape, but even then the show had to air before you could watch it.  Also, programing a VHS was hard and most of us were too lazy to learn how, subsequently I never missed Welcome Back Kotter….I was sure to clear my schedule.  Even with the vast interface improvements of the DVR, there was still a scheduling aspect.

The real sea change was on-demand.  On-Demand gave people back control of their schedules allowing them to forget entirely what time their show came on, and instead gave them the choice to watch a program whenever they wanted, also giving people access to a show’s entire back-catalog at once.  If we’re being totally honest, the way that this service works is more like the internet, with servers in a separate location streaming data.

The next iteration of this on-demand type programming comes from internet streaming services like NetFlix Hulu and Amazon Prime.  These essentially work the same way as the on-demand through your cable company does except the hardware is your actual computing devices, which I think we all can agree are infinitely easier to navigate than the clunky interface on our cable boxes.

Once streaming services started developing their own content the future of episodic entertainment started to become more in-focus.   Some of the best “T.V.” shows coming out, are not on T.V. at all, but are streaming from the internet, shows like:  House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Transparent, Alpha House, The Wrong Mans  –  the list goes on… Net Flix even recently signed a deal to do four original movies with Adam Sandler.    HBO, which has one the most impressive lists of award winning series, will also be offering a streaming only service that is sure to give people one more reason to “cut the cord,” when it comes to cable television.

Cable companies are, at very least, clearly in a transition, and, at most, in a fight for survival.  Over time, the main focus of cable programming may be limited to “live” sporting events and news with some streaming programs mixed in for good measure.

In the next decade, there will be even more outlets like NetFlix and Amazon with their own programming, and all “T.V.s”  will likely be hooked to, or be,  a computer that is connected to the internet.  A world where people are turning primarily towards online for episodic programs is just on the horizon.  However, there is only so many programs we have the time to watch.

 

 

 

Snapchat takes no responsibility for the Snappening or you thinking your “Snaps” would actually disappear.

So “the Snappening” happened last month, and 90,000 private photos taken by Snapchat users (mostly of an explicit nature) were leaked over the internet.  But according to a new study by Sumpto, the majority of  college students still trust Snapchat and will continue to use it.  My thoughts are that Snapchat isn’t blameless, and  people should be more wary of what they use it for.

So how did it happen?

Someone hacked into a server in Denmark that stored Snapchat photos. If you’re wondering how the photos got on a server in Denmark in the first place when they were supposed to disappear, you’re not alone. In these cases where photos were leaked, the intended recipient (another Snapchat user) was also using a service called SnapSaved that had the ability to save the “snaps” for future viewing, bypassing the original Snapchat auto-destruct feature. SnapSaved wasn’t helping people to save these pictures on their phone necessarily, but rather it was saving them onto this server in Denmark where people would have continued access to those pictures, unfortunately a hacker found a way in also.
Snapchat put out a statement shortly after claiming that its servers are secure and places the blame elsewhere for the “leak.” And I suppose that’s true to a certain degree. If the server where people were storing the pictures was in Denmark, and Snapchat didn’t own it, why then should Snapchat take any responsibility for being insecure? It’s a good argument but I think it redefines terms in a way that is designed to get you to stop thinking about the fact that they cannot address the real problem.

Let me explain:

What is the point of the auto-destruct feature of Snapchat’s messaging about if it’s not a security or privacy feature? There is none. And what would you call the action of giving a third-party a security code that would allow them access to files that were supposed to self-destruct if not a hack? I think “hack” is as good a term as any. So let’s be clear – Snapchat was hacked every time someone used SnapSaved to log into Snapchat and save files, and that was the easy part.

If people were only storing these images on their phone, and people do just by taking screenshots, then victims could claim that their trust was only violated by the person that they intended to view the picture. But since the motherload of pictures were stolen all at once and shared with the entire world, we’re no longer addressing the initial violation of trust.

The problem with Snapchat’s rationale is, most people started using snap chat because of the disappearing nature of the messages. It made them feel more secure and willing to send and disclose more. It’s an interesting statement from Snapchat, where they blame any leaks on their own users, but it’s a bit of victim blaming if you ask me. While Snapchat asserts that their servers (or whatever) have always been totally secure, Snapchat’s service, what people actually care about, has never been and will probably never be. Other people were always the problem with any privacy violation – Snapchat aimed to take care of that with a disappearing message and that just didn’t work.

 

In the publicly-held tech arena, will HubSpot be a winner or a loser?

HubSpot  recently had a very successful IPO, but does it have what it takes to be successful long-term?

Recently it seems we are living in an era where some big tech company seems to launch, get bought, or has an IPO every other week.  The business models for some of them are something altogether untested and new, and their valuations can seem crazy.  The key to understanding the value of HubSpot is understanding what it provides to the consumer and in HubSpot’s case the consumer is business.

HubSpot is a company that designs and offers software as a subscription service to help businesses and marketing agencies market products online.  That means they design tools for social media marketing,  email marketing, content management, analytics, and search engine optimization (SEO)  among many others

My company has used Hubspot’s product for nearly 4 years on all of our contact forms as a lead management tool.   It is an outstanding product but my concern is that it can be difficult for an average user to effectively leverage.  It requires deeper assistance from a web developer and in many cases a marketing expert as well.  Implementing HubSpot’s tools is a major hurdle.

The notion that HubSpot  is entirely a “Software as a service” or SaaS product is also somewhat misleading. The need for manual assistance is required and in turn, makes it hard for marketers to get full value from it. With that said, Salesforce.com has some of the same problems and has become a major player and dominant in the lead management space.

HubSpot has operated at a loss over the last year, of $33 million to be exact, which may seem problematic for investors.  However, HubSpot’s revenue stream is that of a subscription based service and most all software subscription services tend to slump in the beginning.  HubSpot seems to be turning that corner now with revenues last year of $77.6 million on 50% year to year growth.   In February they were given a valuation of more than a billion dollars from The Wall Street Journal.  And that’s not to mention that HubSpot raised over a hundred and twenty million dollars in their recent IPO.

I don’t know if at this point it even needs to be said that inbound marketing and ecommerce are taking over their old counterparts, but that doesn’t mean that businesses understand it.  Digital is the focus of marketing going forward and businesses are in a mad rush to figure out how to get data on their customers and use it to increase their bottom line online, and that’s the niche that HubSpot is filling.

Like Facebook – the value is in knowing the customer, and companies are shelling out big bucks to Facebook because Facebook knows everything about their customers.  But getting someone to click on your link in Facebook really is only like getting them to walk through the door of your store.  What tools do you have to keep customers engaged with your brand and products?  What exactly should you be analyzing to get to know your customers better or at least as well as Facebook?   And how can you tell if your efforts are even working or if you need to change your approach?  These are the tools of the inbound marketer, and it’s where HubSpot excels.

Every company that wants to survive in the future will need to become experts at profiting using inbound marketing techniques.   HubSpot provides business’ marketing teams, and marketing agencies alike with tools and analytics to become online marketing powerhouses.  Hubspot’s IPO will help place more of an emphasis on the digital marketing industry and may cause other companies to follow suit.

I believe that, going public often gives companies the focus to begin to fine tune their product…Facebook is a great example of this.  In my opinion, HubSpot has the right stuff to do well in the publicly held arena and will be a winner.

Let Apple’s U2 stunt be a lesson to those that want to give away free music.

As part of the promotion for the latest iteration of the Iphone, Apple inadvertently ticked off a lot of customers -presuming that they’d like a copy of the new U2 album and thereby uploading it onto their devices. In doing so, Apple basically said, “whether you like U2 or not, you like U2.”

This deal definitely benefitted U2 over Apple. Let’s face it, U2’s best is behind them. I’m even a U2 fan, but when I go to a concert I am looking to hear their hits and if they play their new music, I am less than thrilled. Plus they got paid something like $100 million and got their music out to the masses with little to no effort.

In this day and age when marketers know more than ever about what people like, what they value and what they find offensive – it really is a wonder how one of the most successfully marketed companies in history ever came to the decision to go through with this. Some of the words used to describe the publicity stunt were very telling about the way it made people feel – words like violation, intrusion, presumptuous.

 

There was some division among music fans and critics at first. Some wondered what the fuss was all about, after all it’s free music. When the dust settled though, it was pretty clear that it was a bad move on everybody’s part. If Apple had offered the album to people for free who could then either take it or leave it, things might have been different, but no, you had no choice but to own it the way you owned every other album in your Itunes library. These Mp3 libraries are the new record or cd collections for people, and for a lot people, especially music fans, every song in there represents a very personal choice to put it there.

The way we interact with music is a very personal thing that we cultivate over years. Our music represents more to us than just preference or taste, but a deeper reflection of our personality, our experience, our friendships and our memories. For most of the past hundred years we could turn to our physical albums and mixed tapes that we’d accumulated over the years and feel that same passion and fervor for the collection itself as we do for the ephemeral music affixed to it.

But for the past decade or so we’ve seen our physical music collections begin to disappear and I think to some degree it has weakened our relationship to music. I think that upsets us all a bit whether there is something we can do about it or not. In this instance in particular, it was as if the largest corporation in the world, Apple, viewed the buying public as one monolithic consumer instead of individuals. I think it’s clear today that even vaguely eluding that everyone might enjoy the same music is nothing short of tone deaf.

The ultimate irony for me is how the single U2 released tells of the potent musical experience of hearing The Ramones for the first time as something new and different, while the release itself seems to rob people of something approaching that feeling.

Goodbye Ello Brick Road…

So you want to try Ello, the new indie ad-free social network that boasts it won’t buy or sell your information. First of all, good luck getting into the network, which is currently invitation only, and second, what about your friends and your friends’ friends? Where exactly is all the content you go to Facebook to see going to come from and why would you spend any time on a social network without it?

What makes a social media network ‘social’ is the amount of people on them sharing content pictures and stories, and everyone is on Facebook sharing great content, approximately 829 million per day according to Facebook. That is why I say, like them or hate them – Facebook isn’t going anywhere soon and has nothing to worry about from other social networks, especially Ello.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What may be even more compelling is the number of mobile daily active users on Facebook.  Ello does not currently have a mobile app.  How on earth would Ello get people to replace Facebook with their social network when most of Facebook’s users are on mobile?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the demand that Ello’s exclusivity is creating is palpable, what makes the web an interesting place is its interconnectivity. The internet takes interesting ideas and makes them visible regardless of previous constructs of popularity and exclusivity. People like it that way. Exclusivity doesn’t work in social networking, inclusivity does. Facebook has already gotten nearly a billion people to be social in the same place on the web. At some point Ello will probably be open to all, but think about what Facebook has done in the short time that it has existed.

Most people looking to share content in Ello will have to troll Facebook to find it, go back to Ello and share it. It won’t take people long to realize they could have just stayed on Facebook. The only people willing to keep up that charade are users trying to build up their social media profiles with friends and followers for no other reason than looking popular “statistically” which definitely does not represent the average social media user.

Isn’t that why Google Plus is such a boring lonely place? Tell me if this sounds familiar, you joined Google Plus and you waited for others to join you and share content, only when you looked back at Facebook – everyone was still over there sharing the stories and content you really cared about.

It reminds me of another exclusive social network “Netropolitan” that just launched offering services to rich people who can afford the service, which I think will also end up being a boring place to hang out on the web.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Brother a.k.a. Big Data has his eye on your health. The twist? …You’re Him

The internet of things is generating a ridiculous amount of data on people brave enough to use it. There is data on everything from what temperature someone likes to keep their house in the month of December to what’s in their fridge the night before the big game. Some would say all this data is a positive; it provides for a streamlined life where people can go about their day without worrying about the more mundane aspects of it. The data being generated isn’t only being used to make things easier for us of course, but also to sell things to us. One of the latest iterations of this trend seems to be health monitoring through wearable devices that analyze and upload health data to the internet.

Our health is one area that has mostly been considered sacrosanct in our society up until now. There are laws against doctors disclosing health information to anyone other than the patients. Hell, there are even laws against a doctor’s office leaving a voicemail with that information within earshot of someone other than the intended patient. But that pesky’ Internet Of Things’ is right around the corner threatening to chip away at our private sanctum of health by generating and collecting useful data that will inevitably end up leading to targeted ads for health related products.

 

Imagine this scenario:

You put a simple device on your wrist that measures your heart rate along with a pedometer which tracks how far and how fast you’ve been running every day for a year. You load that data into a program along with your weight over the same period along with a few other tid-bits of information, maybe diet or the amount of sleep you’re getting. A program analyzes that data and before you know it you are seeing advertisements about blood pressure medication, lower sodium food products, a pair of sneakers that help you run faster, or even new insoles– because the software has determined that you have flat feet based on your gate and the distance you could run before having to take a break. These tools essentially collect a lot of the same data that the Doctor might during various check-ups or stress tests.

Is using personal health data to target advertisements the 3rd rail of marketing?

There is some inherent danger for advertisers using the health data collected to market products to people, because people do very much consider their health information to be private. A few data points, i.e., blood pressure, pulse rate, diet and weight, may not seem to paint a full picture of a person’s health, but over time – this data will paint a compelling picture when weighed against a person’s activity which is also being collected. We also have to count on these tools getting more sophisticated. This information provides advertisers the ability to target very specific groups which is always of paramount interest to them. Asking them not to use it would be like asking a dog not to bark.

So what?

Well you might ask, if I hypothetically had high blood pressure, why then would a few ads suggesting a product that could help me be a bad thing? Answer: Maybe it’s not, but maybe there are some other considerations that your doctor could really understand better than some algorithm. Or maybe you start buying healthier products that end up really turning your health around which ends up saving your life.

The point is this:

However useful ‘Big Data’ is, it is also the enemy of privacy. Privacy was the idea that you could go through your life and not have to disclose any information about yourself, your habits, your location or whatever if you didn’t choose to do so. Privacy was the benefit to not having all this useful data generated about us 24/7. Privacy as it was once known is gone. People now have to constantly weigh the benefits of privacy versus the benefits of having all this useful data. Just remember, you put the device on your wrist.