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Technology & Social Media – Forever 21’s Thread Screen

Combining the power of technology and social media, Forever 21 has created a cool art installation that doubles as great brand exposure. Forever 21 hired Breakfast NY to create a Thread Screen that is made up of 6,400 spools of multi-colored thread. To see your photos as part of the Thread Screen, tag your Instagram photos using the hashtag #F21ThreadScreen and the device will re-create your image using the spools of thread. You can watch live footage of the machine here.

I decided to create one of my nephew and I absolutely love the results:

Just keep in mind it’s not instantaneous; it took 5 days from when I submitted the photo to create a thread screen.

*Photo credit: https://f21threadscreen.com/

 

When Social Media Hits Home

Usually, I use the space here at “The Real Deal” to offer my two cents about matters of the digital marketing strata, be they new trends, business strategies, or experiences I’ve had navigating the waters of this industry both prior to and here at Leverage marketing.

 

Right now, though, I’m going to reach out to my dear readers as Bob Kehoe, family guy and neighbor.

 

Like a lot of husbands and fathers, I got caught up in my own crap one night last week. Heck: I can’t recall exactly what I was doing at the time, but I would venture, given the time of day and day of the week, it was either checking and responding to e-mails and reading ESPN on my phone or checking and responding to e-mails and reading ESPN on my computer.

 

Either way, my wife told me not to take our dogs out but, given the attention I was paying at the time, I let both pups outside, and Norman, our Schnauzer/Labrador, made his way out the open fence and into the great suburban outdoors.

 

Pretty much any one can imagine, if not recall, the melee that followed: the yelling. The yelling at me. Me running down the street. More yelling at me. Family members scattering throughout the block while yelling at me. Me yelling at me.

 

FYI: Sarah MacLachlan’s pals at the ASPCA offer loads of pet care tips on their website and there’s even a page dedicated to dogs escaping from the yard. Yet there’s nothing there that offers a course of action to take when seeking he or she out.

 

While this, as to be expected, threw the Kehoe household into a state of chaos – and a state, given the circumstance, where time seems to crawl at a snail’s pace – Norman was slowly making his way through the subdivision.

 

Fortunately, our neighbor caught Norman in his travels and, even more fortunate for us, snapped a picture of our dog and posted it on Facebook. Our neighbor also made note of Norman’s whereabouts on her Twitter account.

 

In our scramble, my daughter had the foresight to check her social pages and, lo and behold, there was Norman. Alerted to this, we hightailed it forthwith to the neighbors and Norman was back in our care safe and sound.

 

Cue the Lilith lady’s “Angel” here.

 

The span between Norman’s dash from the yard to back home from the neighbors was an hour, albeit one of the longest hours of my life.

 

While social media plays a role in my life both professionally and personally, I am still in awe of the role it can play in our daily lives. In this case, it has proven to be a vital component. 

 

My family and I are beyond grateful to our friends down the street for posting the pics and if it wasn’t for her who knows what would’ve happened. Kudos must also go to my daughter, who continues to amaze me with her smarts for having the sense to head up what proved a successful online search.

 

This did, though, put me in the doghouse with the fam for a little bit. In the end, though, that’s an insignificant price for this husband and dad to pay.

So, how can we tie all this back into marketing? For one thing the speed at which the search commenced and our dog was returned to us sure beats the old-fashioned cat or dog posters you see stapled to posts or trees. In less than an hour, the neighborhood knew our dog was missing and helped us locate him. Secondly, people refer to their social accounts throughout the day, and they discovered our dog was missing much quicker than it would have taken for them to see a poster or get word through another form of communication. This experience has shown me firsthand that social media is the way to go when it comes to delivering a specific message to the right audience in a very short time period.

Hub and Spoke Marketing: May the Force Be with You

Death star marketingHub and spoke marketing is quite simple in theory, but not so much in practice. Many marketers think of the company website as a hub, and the spokes are the possible channels through which leads may be attracted to your website such as social media, press releases, search engines, directories and advertising. The idea is to have as many different channels as possible leading to your site. Hub and spoke is an accurate depiction of this theory, but allow us to present a better one…

Presenting the Death Star Analogy
Rather than the hub and spoke theory, I prefer to think of the company website as the Death Star and all the other online channels make up the tractor beam that pulls the ships in. Not to say that your website is deadly, but it should be an effective conversion machine with attractive landing ports (pages) and enticing content. Here we’ll show you how to start catching those ships in your tractor beam.

Building Your Tractor Beam
You want your tractor beam to be as powerful as possible to attract the right leads and search engines. In order to make sure your pull is stronger than that of any other competing death stars, strategy-based content needs to be provided on multiple fronts.

  • Verbal Social Media & Blogs

Your blog should be SEO optimized and designed to pull traffic in through informative and engaging content about your industry. Many companies utilize sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to post brief content that can draw people into the website. Posting snippets from your blog, company or industry news, and information about events can motivate people to go to your site and check it out or share your information with hundreds of others, thereby increasing the reach of your tractor beam. Keep your keywords in mind when posting on social media as well.

  • Visual Social Media

Most marketers are aware that images and photographs can significantly boost conversion rate. Unlike verbal communication, visuals attract attention quickly and can draw people into your site with a one-second glance. Pull people into your tractor beam by sharing attractive and informative images on sites like Pinterest, Flickr or YouTube. By informative I mean that a consumer should be able to see what your product or service entails in your images. When it comes to a photo of your product or service, a picture really is worth 1,000 words.

  • Press & Directories

Getting an article about your company in the press, whether it’s traditional paper press or digital media, is a great way to get more traffic coming in. Start by finding a local industry blog or small publication that provides news from your industry and provide an informational piece. Or, find an industry site where you may be able to guest blog. There are also several online directories and consumer review sites where your company can be listed to pull in more traffic. Start with Google Places, Yelp, Yahoo Local, small business directories, and industry-specific directories.

  • Advertising

Good old advertising. PPC campaigns and Google Adwords may not be free like organic search. (Well, hopefully you do pay your content writers.) But, these ads are guaranteed to get people to your website and directly to one of your landing pages. Ads should never lead to your homepage. People who click on your ads already have a product or service in mind and should be directed to an informative landing page where they may be easily converted to a customer without much fuss. Make sure your landing page headline matches your ad campaign, or you may not end up with the droids you’re looking for.

Hub and Spoke, or the new and improved Death Star Theory, is a simple concept but it does require time and strategy. If you need help building your tractor beam, or you aren’t finding the droids you’re looking for, give us a call. We’ve got tractor beam engineers at the ready.

Be more Real Time

Social Networks is part of the program at SXSW Interactive, and during one session “Marketing’s Shift from Waterfall to Agile”, leaders of Beckon, Dell, Disney, Mindjet, and PepsiCo shared some of their rationale behind the need for marketers to adopt and incorporate Agile methods and be more real time in decision making. This shift is mainly due to the need for marketers to demonstrate ROI in a shorter period of time.

The concept of Agile came from software developers in 2001 with the publishing of The Agile Manifesto. Agile methods include adaptive planning, continuous development and delivery, with time-sensitive iterations focused on rapid and flexible responses to change through collaboration of self-organizing, cross functional teams.

So as software developers have been implementing these methods for over 10 years, marketers are now seeing the need to adopt them within their organizations to demonstrate their value to the bottom line.

The panelists discussed the need to accelerate the process of taking a concept to market. Traditional processes are now being considered barriers and friction points as we now utilize technological advancements with real time data, monitoring, analysis, and marketing. The old way of doing things and “staying the course” is irrelevant in the space.

As one of the panelists stated, “We live in real time. We should be responsive in real time”.

However, the shift is easier said than done. What is required for a shift to occur within advertising and marketing departments is adopting an Adaptive Process, which allows for more flexibility to quickly respond to changes in the market. And the adoption must be adhered to and integrated among all channels including offline as well as online, which can be challenging due to internal “turf wars”.

Integrated content distribution across all channels is a must to enhance user experience and connecting with them at the right place and time. After all, during key times in peoples’ lives is when they need connections for a product or service. And if you are not clearly visible when that time comes, you are missing out on opportunities to engage your audience and earn revenues for your business. “Compelling content is going to rule the day. Our brand is being owned by our customers, and it is our job to provide them with content that is educational and entertaining with a purpose” said a panelist.

Another challenge is really getting down to the nitty-gritty of what is driving the conversion path with all the various points of connection – from TV to radio to billboards to print to display to email to paid search to organic search to mobile to social. Values for each point of engagement must be discussed and assigned to directly attribute credit where it is due when revenues are earned. Further demonstration of this challenge was apparent among the panelists when 2 of 4 stated they still do not know the value of a “fan”, “follower”, or “like” or how to attribute revenues in social media for their organizations. The other 2 said they knew, but would not share those
findings. Can you really blame them for that?

But all were in agreement that “Last Click Attribution Modeling” is not the way to go, and the need for a collaborative effort in an Agile teamed-environment is necessary to identify the right KPIs and metrics to truly demonstrate ROI across all advertising and marketing efforts.

Change is happening in real time. Making decisions need to happen in real time too.

Google+: What Does This Mean for SEO and Search Results?

Initial discoveries.

In a recent blog post, Robyn Schelenz wrote an article about “Search Plus Your World” and how search is becoming more social. Naturally, as online marketers, we’re interested to see how integrating Google+ profiles and pages will impact search results.

In the coming months, we will be testing different tactics to see how exactly our page and client pages will show up in search results and see what factors will make direct impacts. AJ Kohn from “Blind Five Year Old” does an amazing job of outlining SEO techniques for Google+ that I can’t wait to try out. I will report my findings to either arrive at the same conclusion as AJ or perhaps dispute some of them. (Look for updates in the future or add us on Facebook and Google+ to receive notifications.) In the meantime, we will discuss our initial findings on search results with Google+.

For this exercise, we searched the word “Fashion” to discover our initial findings about Google+ and SEO.

Search Results when NOT logged in
As a logged out user, obviously, no personal results will appear. However, it looks like Google will encourage users to participate in Google+. On the right side of search results, Google will show you “People and Pages on Google+” relevant to your search query.

Click to view larger.

However, the results will differ each time you search for the same search query but only by a few pages and people. I refreshed a few times and these profiles/pages were listed most often and were the ones I analyzed:

• Coco Rocha
• Burberry
• Sarah Potempa
• H & M
• Vogue

The question is then, how can your Google+ profile/page appear in search results for specific search queries? Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to conclude what influenced the results in that space, but here are three points that I’ve drawn.

• Interestingly enough, none of the actual websites were delivered on the first page of search results. Of course, this won’t always be the case for every search query.

• The more Google+ users that have your brand/company in their circles = more visibility.

It looks like all of these Google+ profiles/pages have a remarkable number of people who have added them to their circles. Each profile has at least 70,000 followers. As with any social network, it looks like if you have strong two-way interaction with your followers, you will be granted more visibility and it could influence whether your profile/page shows up in search results.

• Having the keyword throughout your profile won’t necessary result in your profile/page showing up in search results.

Every profile/page, with the exception of Burberry, had the keyword “fashion” listed either in the brief description, about page, and/or posts. However, each profile had the keyword “fashion” listed no more than 5 times. So, sorry folks, keyword stuffing won’t work.

Also, it seems like for specific search queries, these Google+ pages won’t even show up in search results. This was the case for Coco Rocha, Vogue, and Sarah Potempa.

The opportunity lies in having your Google+ page/profile appearing in search results for highly competitive, broad keywords even while your website does not. Hopefully, one day, we will figure out how to fully optimize Google+ pages/profiles to make this happen.
*P.S. Google’s video on “Learn how you could appear here too” won’t help.)

Search Results WHILE logged in (As a Google+ User):
As previously stated in Search Plus Your World, when logged in, you can now view personal results mixed in with other results, and it looks like Google will prioritize your personal results first.

Click to view larger.

Another interesting observation is that Google seems to index your information quicker for personalized results. As a test, I shared a blog with the caption “Has to be one of my favorite fashion blogs out there,” and within seconds, it already appeared in my search results.

Click to view larger.

How about someone who has me in their circles? I asked a friend to check her search results for the keyword “fashion,” and again, within minutes, my post showed up in her search results. We will try to determine exactly how many minutes it takes or if it’s instantaneous in a future post.

The take away from this tiny experiment is to write compelling content, and then, share that content. This shouldn’t come as a surprise but to write about something that other people care about takes time and effort. This is how you build an audience though. (Also, share videos and photos!)

As of right now, it looks like text match determines what shows up in personalized results. Meaning, if you are a designer and want to show up for the keyword “fashion” in your Google+ users’ personalized results, then, include the word “fashion” in your entry.

Also, Google+ is about discovering related pages and people. Again, Google will suggest Google+ pages and profiles for you.

Sure enough, the same profiles appeared:

Click to view larger.

As the Leverage SEO team dives deeper into exactly how Google+ will impact search results, one thing is for certain: Get a Google+ page or profile. Because the fact is, Google+ is one of the fastest growing social networks and has already reached 90 million users. Take this opportunity to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry and to get personal with your current and potential clients. As search becomes more social, you will want to make sure you’re part of the conversation.

Look out for future posts on Google+, and leave any questions you may have in our comments section below.

Facebook Ads: Super Social Solicitation

The most recent development in Facebook Advertising is the controversial inclusion of Ads in the news feed. Facebook has been planning this for quite some time and it is now coming to fruition. This update allows for paid communication to appear directly in users’ main source of social information. These ads will be equivocally designated by a small notice in the bottom right corner reading ‘Featured.’ The format will be equivalent to Sponsored Stories (covered below), simply repositioned to a more visible, and probably more engaging, position. It will be interesting to see how this plays out for Facebook, as there is already a surging clamor concerning the most intrusive placement by the social network as of yet coupled with invariable privacy issues that have plagued Facebook from the start.

 

Pages

 

The first step is creating a Facebook Page for your brand to interact with fans and customers. Ensure all pertinent information about your business is present and post regularly to entertain and galvanize both current and potential fans. Maintain an amiable and professional voice while monitoring your page closely, responding promptly and earnestly when users post on your Wall.

 

Page Insights

 

Evaluate the success and engagement of your page with the Insights data Facebook provides. You will be privy to user insights, including page likes, number of fans, active users, like sources, demographics, and page views, as well as interactions insights, including user feedback on activity and general daily page activity.  Monitor your daily and monthly fan volume growth, average number of likes and comments, and number of total page views. Refine your customer persona using extensive demographic data, reviewing what types of people are interacting with your brand and in what ways. Facebook recently updated data on Likes and Reach to improve the accuracy regarding audience location, which is important and useful information to marry with your location based strategies. Finally, the insights discovered will assist you in determining the efficacy of your Facebook advertising efforts, which go as follows.

 

Ads

 

Once your Page is set up and optimized, start playing around with Facebook’s simple ad creation platform. Consider your business objectives and goals for your campaign; are you primarily concerned with sending traffic to your website, amplifying volume of ‘likes’ to your Facebook page, or both? Whatever strategy you decide to pursue, design your ad to reflect it. Formulate an appealing title, useful body, and compelling image – imagery can make or break a campaign. You only have a very brief window of visibility and interest from the user, so make the most of it by being humorous, emotionally invoking, or aesthetically pleasing with your image.

 

You can then move along to targeting, which Facebook does as well as anyone given its immense trove of user demographic and interest information. Select your desired audience, exploring the vast amount of categories and classification options that Facebook allows. You can target millions or thousands of people depending on your respective awareness, sales, and fan base goals.

 

Similar to most paid search platforms, Facebook permits the setting of your own budget, so you’ll never spend more than you dictate. Of course, having a sizable budget will ensure that your ads are receiving plenty of exposure, and as your campaign progresses, you can evaluate and adjust budgets based on what is working. Valid billing information is requisite for your campaigns to begin running. Your ads manager will allow you to view comprehensive data, providing reports easily filtered by campaign, time summary, date range, and format. It will also display a host of metrics, including impressions, clicks, connections (likes), click-through rate, spend, and cost-per-connection.

 

Sponsored Stories

 

These are perhaps the most personal Ads on the internet. Sponsored Stories generates a ‘story’ about users’ activity with brand pages that surfaces on the right side of Facebook pages (and now in the news feed as well, as explained above). Eligible activity includes page likes, page comments, check-ins, event RSVPs, page question votes, app usage or game play, and website likes or shares. For example, if my Facebook friend Mark checks in at Subway, I very well may see an Ad notifying me that Mark visited Subway and that I should too (assuming Subway is running Sponsored Stories). This format is contingent on the organic activity that users have with your page, so utilize your resources deftly to encourage interesting story material.

 

Now you are infallibly equipped with incisive Facebook Advertising acumen. Never again will you have a shortage of friends.

Google Gets Personal with “Search Plus Your World”

Welcome to Google 2012!  As of this week, Google has begun rolling out their new personalized search for users logged in through Google.com.  The change to Google’s search results is called “Search Plus Your World” and it could have a great impact on your search results.  But is it as big a deal as some in the SEO space are touting?

 

Search Plus Your World presents a mixture of personalized, even private, results with the more generic results you would otherwise associate with Google.  Where you are used to seeing “about X number of results (X number of seconds)” below the search box, you will now see “X number of personal results and X number of other results (X number of seconds).”  You might also see personal information mixed in with the actual result listings.  For example, if I searched for “Fido” while logged into my Gmail account, I might see the normal list of sites along with images of not just any dog named Fido but of my dog Fido, or my friend’s dog with Fido, etc.  If you haven’t been using Google+ much, you probably won’t see a significant change—your Google Instant suggestions may be more personally oriented, but otherwise, your queries are not going to be affected.

 

For those that do have a high degree of integration with Google+ and other Google products, like the photo service Picasa, the change will be more noticeable.  You will see private pictures that you may not have shared with the world now pop up in search results.  Never fear—they weren’t suddenly shared and they’re not accessible when you’re not logged in.  If you find the personalization an unwelcome change, you can toggle between personalized and non-personalized results by using the new human / globe buttons visible in the right-hand corner of the page.

 

Twitter’s lawyer, Alex Macgillivray, is particularly irritated with this new development in Search, as Twitter results are excluded from the new personal / private results (Source: BBC). Some speculate that Google was hoping for a reaction like this and that “Search Plus Your World” is in part meant to induce Twitter and Facebook to share data with Google.  Possibly, but we are not quite there yet.

 

At the moment, this should have little effect on current SEO campaigns.  The update makes Search more social, but since it only does so through the still growing Google+, its impact is limited.  Plus, few queries are likely to have a big inbuilt social footprint.  If I am selling anything related to cats, the most popular animal on the Internet, then, perhaps I am wondering how this will affect my business.  Even in this case, the personalization thus far seems restricted to very specific keywords, like the name of a particular cat.  As another example, my own search for “Christmas” showed me a number of possible personal results below the search box that I could click on (as my social circle had been discussing Christmas), but did not appear to affect the ordering of the actual SERPs at all.

 

The moral of the story is a variation on the old cliché, “the more things change, the more things stay the same.”  This update will probably affect internet marketing more distinctly in the future but it certainly doesn’t change the importance of internet marketing.  If Google is now integrating the use of Google Plus and Picasa into its search and if Bing is currently integrating Facebook (and they are), then getting all your bases covered socially and otherwise is even more important.  It’s a direction that should reward SEO tactics and websites that look to please users and search engines—a user friendly site is more likely to be shared.  This new update ensures that SEO will be an interesting and invaluable marketing channel in the new year.

Tweets for Tat

The first thing small business owners do when they find out that I work for an online marketing agency is ask for help. Many small business owners are at a loss as to how to effectively leverage online tools in their marketing mix. The truth is there is a litany of information out there on these topics but most either don’t know where to find it or the text is very cumbersome, often for no reason. For example, I recently read an article with 15 points on effective tweets. That’s 1,000 words to describe how best to write 140 characters. Well, these tips can be surmised in 3 easy points: content, engagement, and aggregation.

In the land of tweets, blogs, and 24-hour news coverage, content is king. This means write good, thoughtful tweets that have some relevancy to those individuals following you. I have run into several small business owners who don’t understand why they cannot increase their social media presence when they are creating content everyday on their wonderful product lines.

Content leads us to the crux of the matter, which is engagement. You have to be actively engaged in what your audience is saying. Consider GM… recently the automotive conglomerate was plagued with protests from angry consumers regarding advertising dollars that were spent with a radio show that some considered to be offensive. This could have been a PR nightmare for GM—a company doing everything it can to support sustainability and American values. For every tweet GM received regarding this matter, they issued a personal apology and assured customers that the affiliate was instructed to cancel any further ad orders.

Finally, make it easy on your audience to find out more about you and your expertise. Twitter requires the creation and sharing of a great deal of content on a weekly basis. You can improve user experience and SEO value by linking appropriate tweets to articles or blogs on your site. Consider a large lumber yard that frequently tweets about DIY projects and HGTV television shows. It would be beneficial to link some of those tweets to appropriate web pages so audience members know where to get material for such projects. Writing 140 characters can seem like a daunting task. The truth is if you follow some basic guidelines and encourage your audience and customers to follow you, great success on Twitter will follow.

Google+ Growth

Recently, I have posted a few blogs regarding viral videos. Let’s face it, nowadays fads are all the rage and crazes are in vogue. There are new social media tools rolling off the brains of eager undergrads hoping to be the next Mark Z.

Coeds aren’t the only ones in this game. Very recently, Google unveiled its answer to Facebook: Google plus. In the coming weeks, a few of my colleagues will write extensively about plus and the benefits it could hold for advertisers. What we can say unequivocally today is one such benefit will be a large audience that will expound greatly across borders. Read more

Google+ for Businesses and Branding

I came across an AdAge.com article about how companies will begin using Google+ as a branding platform. “Google+ Brand Pages Coming in Two Weeks” addresses the question of when Google+ will follow in Facebook’s path and provide the opportunity for companies to promote their brands.

Currently, companies must apply to be a  part of Google’s testing phase for business pages. Similar to Facebook’s company pages, Google+ brand pages will be the primary source of advertising revenue for this new social media network. Read more

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