The Rise of Tinder – IAC’s Investment Strategy is Sound

To some people, dare I say most, the idea of dating has always been awkward. Whether we’re asking someone whom we just met to join us for a meal or going out with a total stranger on a blind date, sitting there in constant judgment of each other can be unnerving to say the least and downright painful if we’re going to be blunt. Lucky for us, we live in the age of the internet where many seemingly difficult aspects of life are made easier, quicker and hassle free in the digital domain, including meeting people and dating.

Although, it wasn’t too long ago that people found online dating an intimidating prospect, the theory being anyone you met on the internet would undoubtedly turn out to be psychotic . That time has come and gone, and today people from every demographic have gotten comfortable with the idea of online dating. It’s almost to the point that the online dating pool at least mirrors the off-line dating pool, but it’s quite possible that the online pool dwarfs it.

Still, not everyone is dating online, so there is still a lot of market share to grab for all these competing dating services. But one online dating site, or should I say app, in particular seems to be getting a lot of attention, and that app would be Inter Active Corp’s (IAC) Tinder.  Tinder is like a game where you can interact with pictures and browse other people’s interests with the swipe of a finger, in fact according to a survey conducted by Session M, 30% of Tinder user’s like it for that reason. It works at the break-neck pace of the modern attention-span and the swiping action can be kind of addicting.

According to Tinder, 90% of their user base was between 18 and 24 in the beginning, but today that number is closer to 51%. Twenty-five to thirty-two year olds make-up 32% of users, thirty-five to forty-four year olds are about 6.5%, and interestingly albeit kind of scary, 7% of the user base is made up of thirteen to seventeen year old kids. That’s .5% more than adults over 44. While older folks are more likely today to trust online dating apps than in the past, the fact is that younger folks are more likely to trust the technology and are also the largest market.

In my opinion, Tinder is becoming the preeminent dating site recognized by the younger demographic and could end up providing an amazing value to investors. With that market in place, and their addicting swipe feature (that brings up the next possible suitor), the monetization opportunities through marketing and ads are astounding. Barclays is predicting that Tinder’s valuation could reach $1.1 billion by the end of next year.

Online dating apps provide a unique and very valuable service. These apps basically help people out of an awkward situation by creating a pre-text for people to meet that can be fun. They allow people to get to know each other before they get know each other, which is a good thing. Tinder just so happens to be the one that is the most fun, mobile and therefore valuable.

 

 

 

Atlantic City… What Happened?

In 1994, I chose to move down to South Jersey to attend college because I felt drawn to the area with its proximity to the beach and booming casino industry.  At school, I became friends with a lot of casino employees who worked second and third shifts while taking classes during the day, and I came to better understand the pulse of the region.

Atlantic City Boardwalk at night

At that time, the vibe of Atlantic City (AC) was very positive as more and more new casinos entered the fold. There were trade schools that not only taught people casino dealing, but also guaranteed job placements! The help wanted ads were filled with casinos and restaurants that were hiring. Donald Trump even became a local icon with three casinos, two of which still bear his name.

When the competition got to be too much between casinos in and around Atlantic City, the local economy started to decline as crime increased and jobs began to disappear. The Revel project certainly brought hope back to the area with a concept of creating a casino that spared no expense. But even the completion of that project drew shaky support, and I began to realize that the key to Atlantic City’s survival was not to build another casino to continue to cannibalize the industry further, but to turn Atlantic City as a whole into a true destination that could attract people that lived beyond a 120 mile radius of the city.  This would have required a different approach to marketing, which was totally neglected.

For one, the marketing efforts related to Atlantic City never evolved with the rise of the internet and changing methods people used to choose where to visit next. While Vegas became famous for “What Happens in Vegas…stays in Vegas”, Atlantic City became more viewed as a crime ridden location that wasn’t safe to venture around in.

A few months after the Revel had opened, I had clients in from Texas that were very interested in going to the Revel and having our meetings there, but they were deathly afraid of Atlantic City. They feared that they would be shot the second they set foot inside the city perimeters. Obviously that was far-fetched, but these were intelligent, savvy travelers who felt this way. Clearly the reputation that preceded Atlantic City was poor, but nothing was ever really done to change that.

Most of the casinos themselves have also made a very poor transition to the internet – and now more importantly, to the mobile expansion. Booking functions are clunky and slow and digital marketing efforts are limited.

While clearly there are a lot of areas that contributed to this recent downturn in Atlantic City, if we were to tie Atlantic City’s downfall exclusively to competition in other markets we’d be missing many aspects of what truly happened, and I strongly feel that Atlantic City’s lack of ability to adapt to the landscape of the changing times and evolve into a stronger web based presence has hurt the city immensely.

Four of Atlantic City’s twelve casinos are closing this year. I currently live in Ocean City, NJ (about 15 minutes outside of Atlantic City) and I have family members who are impacted by these closures. I worry about the impact these closings have on the real estate market in the area, the economy in the area and most of all, what happens to the displaced employees.

Some Casinos have continued to thrive, but the overall tone right now is very somber. If Atlantic City makes a come-back, I feel strongly that marketing efforts to avert the current notion that Atlantic City is a “dead zone” will play a large part of those efforts. The timing of this is critical as the situation will only get worse if some forward thinking and new insights don’t come in to play. Today, even Donald Trump is suing to get his name off of the two casinos that are “in such a state of disrepair” they’re no longer worthy of his name. That’s right, Donald Trump is suing to get his name OFF of something!

The Curious Case of Katie Couric

One of the most difficult things to do is revive a dead brand, but I have to give Yahoo credit for doing everything they can to make it happen. I recall the days that Yahoo was the champion of the search space and “the” place to go for online news. They were the success story coming in and pulling away the market share from AOL in the early days of the online revolution. Somewhere along the way, Google came in and with little advertising or fanfare blew away Yahoo into an afterthought.

Yahoo went through some very lean times and made a bold move in bringing Google royalty, Marissa Mayer, on board to turn the company around. Yahoo also added the purchase of Tumblr to stay current and find a way to stay with the pack in regards to innovation. But, have any of these changes and innovations actually helped increase market share or, more importantly, boost interest in their advertising product? Not in my eyes.

Rankings and advertising on Yahoo are seen as a secondary channel compared to Google. Google continues to be the place for people to go to find things, and I always view Google advertising as having more “proactive” consumers…people who do searches with the intent of making a purchase. Yahoo’s belief is you come in for the news with Katie Couric and you stay for ads – but will it work? Likely not, but hats off to Yahoo for trying; with big salaries like Mayer and Couric and billion dollar purchases like Tumblr, the reality is Yahoo has likely positioned itself for a horrific and epic fall.

There will be a day someone will knock Google off its perch and gain the market share in the search space but that company won’t be Yahoo.

Katie Couric Image

Will Yahoo! Adding Katie Couric revitalize their brand?
Photo Courtesy of the Washington Post

Holiday Shopping…Then and Now

Growing up in the 80’s, the holiday gift buying season seemed to start only a few weeks before Christmas and I could hardly wait for those first holiday related commercials to start airing after Thanksgiving. Nowadays, holiday commercials are starting before Halloween. With the advertising change, the gift buying process has evolved immensely. The craziness of Black Friday has been curtailed as Cyber Monday has been ushered in as one of the largest drivers of holiday sales.

Some of the biggest changes that have occurred with holiday shopping have manifested the last few years. Last year, Walmart did a tremendous job leveraging social media with their “Walmart Elves” providing real-time updates of products and monitoring the shortages and missteps of other retailers to engage and entice potential buyers. This was a huge success for Walmart. This year, it is expected that most large retailers will utilize the same sort of process to attract customers through the chaos of what Black Friday has become.

Holiday Shopping Image

The Joys of Black Friday Shopping Last Year
Photo Courtesy of Fox News

It’s not just big retailers who are taking advantage of social media and online efforts to tap into potential customers. Their continues to be a trend of smaller e-commerce only retailers doing their best to leverage different shopping channels to provide lower cost products to have customers make initial purchases on “loss leaders” with the hope that they stay to buy other products. Additionally, these purchases now become prospects that they can continue to market to over the course of the year.

When you look hard at the changes in holiday shopping over the past decade and how many consumers now do their gift buying online, it’s interesting to contemplate the changes that the next decade will bring us. Who would have imagined 10 years ago that you could do holiday shopping via your mobile phone or be able to see real-time sales via sites like Twitter and Facebook? Who would have thought you could avoid the long lines and rushing around by simply sitting back on your computer and waiting for your boxes from Amazon and other retailers to arrive at your door step?

I for one embrace the changes to our digital society, but I will admit to reminiscing a bit about the anticipation of waiting to see the old J.C. Penney catalog arrive in the mail.

Hummingbird…Friend or Foe?

The industry is abuzz once again related to an update by Google. Unlike it’s more nasty and mean spirited predecessors, the Hummingbird update is less of a concern and more of an enhancement. Driven by the evolving nature in which web users actually engage the Google search engine, the new algorithm will provide more insight in to what has long been called “Conversational Search”. Focused on the undeniable migration of search being done more and more by mobile devices, Hummingbird will provide mobile users with a more useful return of results.

So, what does this all mean for your business and your rankings? In my eyes, the update enables companies that don’t have great visibility around branded terms to actually begin to see more benefit from conversational based search queries. I feel the update begins to level the playing field and that the fight for prime natural search real estate has expanded once again.

Make no mistake, any update has winners and losers but in this scenario, the losers are those that haven’t begun to evolve with the changing of web users in general. Web users are more experienced now….more savvy. They don’t enter generic terms to the degree they once did, they want more specifics…they want more focused results. As usual, Google continues to move in the right direction and for the most part, we can all consider this Hummingbird, relatively friendly!

Will the 2012 Republican National Convention Become the Social Media Event of the Year?

On Tuesday, the 2012 Republican National Convention officially began in Tampa Bay and less than 24 hours later, terms such as “Mitt Romney”, “Paul Ryan”, “GOP 2012”, “RNC 2012” and “Chris Christie” were still amongst the most frequently searched and discussed topics on the Web.  Throughout popular social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, millions of national and even international users have voiced their opinions and thoughts on the candidates and the convention.  Despite some delays and initial concerns due to the impending presence of Hurricane Isaac, RNC attendees and online followers have been largely unhindered by inclement weather thus far.  In fact, the event is on track to become one of the most significant social trends of 2012 and is anticipated to substantially elevate Mitt Romney’s social following heading into the upcoming Presidential election.

The GOP has promoted the usage of “#GOP2012” on Twitter and their efforts have proven worthwhile, as the term has been consistently appearing on Twitter’s list of worldwide trends since the outset of the RNC.  Additionally, the official Twitter accounts of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have experienced a rapid influx of followers since Monday.  On Facebook, Romney’s following is at 5.3 million “Likes” and counting, a figure that has dramatically increased since the convention began.

According to search engine and social media analytics tool, Topsy, social mentions of the hashtagged terms “#GOP2012” and “#RNC2012” on Twitter have nearly doubled since Monday and have remained on the rise.  As the RNC continues, social engagement will increase and the Republican Party and many of its most prominent members will gain their largest social media following since the 2012 campaign began.

This year’s campaign is not the first to capitalize on the Internet as an organizational, advertorial and promotional tool.  In 2008, Obama’s efforts included an emphasis on YouTube videos that were deemed more cost effective than traditional television advertising.  Many analysts agree that the strategy was a success, as over 14.5 million hours of video content created by Obama’s campaign was viewed on the Web.  The overall visibility provided by social media is now equivalent to or even greater than many forms of traditional advertising and marketing.  Although YouTube has played a role in the campaigns of both Romney and Obama this year, Twitter and Facebook have also built momentum since the last election and have become instrumental components of the campaigns of both Presidential hopefuls.

The importance of social media in this year’s election is virtually immeasurable.  Both the Republicans and Democrats have used various online platforms to create large-scale visibility for their nominees while keeping their campaigns relatively cost effective.  As Obama’s 2008 campaign was seen as a groundbreaking one, this year’s historic campaign will be remembered for its social media impact and may also be the most significant social media trend of 2012.

Will Google+ Provide Facebook’s Toughest Competition?

For quite some time now, Facebook has been the world’s preeminent social networking site.  In fact, it’s even become a part of pop culture.  Books have been written and movies have been made about the phenomenon that is Facebook and furthermore, the company released one of the most anticipated IPOs in history earlier this year.  Despite the diminishing value of Facebook’s shares, the network still controls a majority of the social networking market.

During Facebook’s rise, many competitors have attempted to duplicate its success; though to date, none have accomplished that feat.  Many have wondered if Facebook will lose its position as the largest social network now that social media is such a major part of the Internet landscape and competition is more abundant.  For the time being, Facebook’s reign looks to be fairly secure, but there is a particular competitor that has Facebook set squarely in its sights and could eventually get to the top spot.  Enter Google+.

Google+ could, in time, become the world’s foremost social network.  It’s grown very quickly in a very short time, offers a lot of similar functionality to Facebook and most importantly, is backed by Google.  Internet marketing companies see a lot of potential in G+, too.  Social media optimization strategies that were previously geared toward Facebook have been adjusted to include Google+ as a viable alternative.  Additionally, Google continues integrating the network into its search engine and other features.  While Google+ still has a long road ahead, it also has the resources to compete with Facebook on a level that other upstarts cannot and can utilize Google’s other revenue streams beyond advertising.  In the battle for social media supremacy, Google+ and Facebook are the obvious frontrunners.  However, only time will tell if G+ has the staying power to ascend from contender to champion and become the world’s most influential social network.

How Link Profiles Have Changed the Online Marketing Landscape

Recently, SEOs may have had difficulty relying on link building strategies that previously helped create page authority within Google’s SERPs.  Google’s new link evaluation process is definitely taking a toll on low-quality links and is forcing developers to find better methods of building backlinks.  Despite Google’s apparent emphasis on link evaluation lately, backlinks are still an important factor in organic SEO success.  The question on the mind of many SEOs at the moment is: “How can I build high-quality, relevant links that Google won’t penalize as spam?”  The answer may be more obvious than some might realize.

Search engines, particularly Google, are now making a point to eliminate backlinks that may appear to be “spam” to users.  The problem this presents for SEOs is that link building strategies are a traditional staple of most search engine optimization campaigns.  The recent crackdown on low-quality backlinks has already affected the organic rankings of many pages and introduced a new challenge to optimizers.  Some link building companies have even been de-indexed by Google and were subsequently rendered obsolete.

The solution to the problem lies in social media.  The very future of link building may rely on networking sites to increase the number of high-quality and relevant backlinks to pages.  Google’s algorithm cares about social engagement and as such, social factors can help determine certain ranking factors.  Thousands of sites have been hit by algorithm changes over the past several months and many others will be affected due to ongoing Panda and Penguin update refreshes and other monthly changes.  Many industry experts believe that search is going to get more social and SEOs would be wise to follow suit.

The ongoing integration of social media marketing and traditional SEO will be on the rise in 2013.  With many business owners turning to social networks to help promote their brand and the ever-increasing authority of social media within the SERPs, the value of relevant backlinks from sources such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter will rise, as well.  Online marketers should continue enhancing their social profiles and expanding campaigns in order to achieve better rankings through social engagement factors.

How Best Buy’s New CEO Could Rebuild the Retailer

Worldwide electronics retailer Best Buy recently announced the appointment of Hubert Joly as the company’s Chief Executive Officer.  Joly, the former CEO of Carlson, replaces interim CEO G. Mike Mikan who had occupied the position since Brian Dunn resigned in April.  Following news of Joly’s hiring at Best Buy, the company’s stock prices have rapidly declined, reaching a low of $18.74 on the afternoon of Monday, August 20th.  Additionally, Best Buy founder and former chairman, Richard Schulze, has offered to purchase the company and return it to private ownership for over $8 billion.

The future of Best Buy is still somewhat uncertain, but with dwindling sales revenues due to exclusively online competitors such as Amazon, major restructuring efforts will be necessary to return the brand to its former profitability.

Best Buy’s most notable online competitor, Amazon.com, posted upwards of $48 billion in revenue in 2011.  Although Best Buy’s revenue in 2011 was $50 billion, Amazon’s lower operating costs actually made the company more profitable.  Best Buy should follow their example and place a stronger emphasis on its E-Commerce and mobile platforms, as they will continue to rise going forward.  Additionally, Best Buy should enhance its digital marketing efforts and attempt to build a much larger presence in the online marketplace rather than focusing primarily on its “brick-and-mortar” locations.

However, the most important part of Best Buy’s revitalization strategy should be an increased focus on re-designing its proprietary mobile application and utilizing it as a cornerstone of the brand’s technological advancement.  Although mobile E-Commerce is still a few years away from its zenith, it is crucial to begin developing a stronger mobile presence in order to remain competitive within the online retail market going forward.

For Best Buy, it is essential that the company’s new CEO understands the online marketplace and the value of a solid mobile and Web presence.  The months ahead will be a very critical and transitional period for Best Buy and with a new CEO and online marketing and sales strategy, the company could emerge as a viable threat to Amazon’s dominance in the E-Commerce arena.

Twitter’s Role in the Success of Social Media Marketing

The popularity of Twitter has skyrocketed over the last several years, but despite its undeniable success, many companies have still failed to capitalize on the platform.  Quite simply, some brands don’t fully understand what Twitter has to offer.  What exactly does Twitter offer that makes it unique and useful to businesses?  Instant gratification.

Twitter provides its users with the capability to update in real-time.  For almost any business, that instant feedback is a valuable asset.  Not only can the site be used to promote products and services via tweets and even assist SEO efforts through social backlinks, but users can provide their input on those tweets on virtually any device from anywhere in the world.  Furthermore, companies can utilize hashtagged terms as a form of “social keywords” in order to make that term a trending topic that will subsequently receive Twitter-wide recognition.

Recently, more companies have been including Twitter in their social media campaigns.  The platform has been proven to be viable in terms of enhancing brand awareness and visibility.  Businesses that desire frequent interaction with their consumers have the most to benefit from a Twitter account, but any company with a social media presence should strongly consider establishing their brand on Twitter.

Although microblogging doesn’t allow for an extensive breakdown of products, services or other brand offerings, it is particularly valuable to businesses looking to target mobile users and consumers.  As a majority of Twitter’s user base accesses the site via smartphones or tablet PCs, mobile retailers can potentially see significant gains by marketing their brand through the network.

To date, the site has already shown great potential to increase online visibility and with more and more people signing up, logging in and tweeting each day; Twitter is likely to play a major role in social media marketing campaigns going forward.

What to Avoid in Post-Penguin SEO Campaigns

By the end of 2012, many former trends and practices in SEO will be effectively rendered obsolete.  While certain tactics were never seen as “white hat” and were always frowned upon by Google, algorithm updates such as Panda and Penguin are intended to phase them out entirely.

From time to time, changes in search engine algorithms are necessary to help reduce webspam and deter black hat optimizers, but those changes are becoming more frequent and are now affecting more results than ever before.  The following is a list of search engine optimization and marketing techniques which will disappear by the end of 2012:

Link Schemes
Thanks to the Penguin Update, link schemes are likely to meet their demise within the next several months.  Several major paid link networks have already shut down due to changes within Google and the effects of Penguin will likely bring an end to many more.

Keyword Stuffing
For years, keyword stuffing has been used by black hat SEOs and managed to stay under Google’s radar.  Luckily, 2012 will be the last year that this practice provides results for optimizers.

Spun Articles
Low-quality “spun” articles that are rarely relevant and often unreadable by viewers are another element of black hat campaigns that Google is looking to eliminate.  Going forward, such content will be penalized by the search engine.

Internet marketing companies should revise or re-structure their existing campaigns to remove such strategies, should they currently utilize them.  Quality and relevance are the future of SEO and in the months ahead, Google plans to make webspam a thing of the past.  The changes to Google’s algorithm will eliminate many search engine optimization firms that cannot adapt and effectively create a more competitive marketplace.  Designing campaigns which emphasize quality content and links is the key to success in the SERPs on the post-Penguin Web.

How Google’s Focus on Innovation Will Benefit Digital Marketers

In the past year, the search industry is changing more rapidly than it has in quite some time.  A former leader in the field, Yahoo!, is facing deficits and has recently laid off 2,000 employees.  Google has increased their emphasis on G+ and their search functionality is now just a part of a larger business model.  There is still a place for search on the Internet, but today, user expectations have risen and sites offering little more than search have lost much of their appeal.

While Google may have made its name in Web search, it has fortified its presence online with Gmail, Google+, Google Maps and countless other endeavors.  Although Google is a company known for its innovations, some speculate that the brand created these new services and features out of necessity.  Regardless of the reasoning behind Google’s expansion and gradual move toward building the brand beyond search, there is some concern amongst Internet marketing companies about the future of search engines and Web search itself.  However, the changes in search are actually a positive sign for online marketers.

As companies like Google continue to grow, their appeal grows, as well.  In addition to computers, search engines are now accessible through mobile devices and the development of the Android OS and Chrome browser has enabled Google’s Search to reach an even broader user base.  Also, increased Google+ integration provides benefits for both search engine and social media optimizers.

At Google’s core, search is still a priority.  The Penguin and Panda algorithm updates are a testament to the brand’s emphasis on relevancy and quality within results.

Following the I/O Conference earlier this year, Google seems to have even more innovations and offerings in store in the final months of 2012.  Hopefully, it will be a year of innovation for SEOs, too.  If the Internet marketing industry can evolve as much as Web search itself has within the last year, the future of digital marketing will indeed be very bright.

Utilizing Diversity Within SEO Campaigns to Drive Results

Lately, social media has been shown to work wonders for many Internet marketing campaigns, but some SEOs still have difficulty leveraging social networks to work in their favor.  Networks such as Facebook and Twitter have been playing a larger part in optimization strategies and are often useful in driving traffic to pages.  However, even social media is not always entirely effective.  So, what exactly can marketers do when their social media campaigns fall short?

Aside from social media, PPC and organic SEO strategies also provide valuable traffic.  While PPC typically offers a fast turnaround and delivers quick results, it is a more costly option than an organic search engine optimization plan.  SEO techniques can build page authority, but also take time to reach their full potential and show results.

There are also ways to revive a seemingly “failed” social media campaign.  When Facebook, Twitter or Google+ accounts fail to gain traction and make an impact on page viewership or search rankings, developers should consider re-strategizing.  Offering incentives for users to engage in social efforts such as liking, sharing or following can assist in boosting traffic.  It is also beneficial to utilize geo-targeting and other demographic-specific techniques to improve relevance and stimulate leads, conversions and sales.

Of course, the most effective Internet marketing strategy is one that provides the most relevant traffic and subsequent revenues.  In fact, following Google’s impactful Penguin and Panda updates, relevancy is necessary in order to avoid penalization and even possible de-indexing.  All content and links must be developed with these algorithm changes in mind.  Diversity is most often the key to obtaining such success in online marketing.  A campaign that is adaptive, flexible and capitalizes on current trends on the Web is the safest bet for SEOs and will deliver the most desirable results.

Will Social Media Marketing Affect the Growth of Mobile Commerce?

Both social media marketing and mobile E-Commerce are becoming more prolific and in the years ahead, are expected by experts to generate even more revenue and visibility for businesses that utilize them.  Although major companies such as General Motors have reduced their social media advertising spending due to lackluster results, their social marketing efforts have remained intact.  Additionally, Apple and Google have seen an increase in revenue through their mobile shopping platforms on iOS and Android.  However, the growth of mobile commerce and social media marketing are likely to become more connected over the next several years.  As social network usage and usership continues to rise on mobile devices, businesses will expend more of their marketing efforts on various social platforms.

In 2011, mobile device sales and overall usage saw a dramatic increase and in the fourth quarter of 2012, new entry-level tablet PCs from Apple, Google and Microsoft with a $199 price point will hit the market and another tablet sales boom is inevitable.  As more consumers gain trust in mobile wallet technology, the social media marketing efforts will show improved results on an exponential scale.

More users are also utilizing smartphones and tablets as their primary Internet device and this trend is also expected to rise going forward.  Support for mobile E-Commerce platforms is also growing amongst online retail companies and even some “brick-and-mortar” retailers are beginning to research and develop proprietary mobile wallet support functionality.

Today, many forward-thinking business owners and online marketers are beginning to design their mobile social media marketing and E-Commerce strategies in order to capitalize on the growth that those sectors will almost certainly experience over the next five years.  The influence that social media will have on mobile sales is likely to be substantial and will impact the future of virtually every retailer in the digital marketplace.