Get More from Search - Trends in Search & Social Media

SMBs “Like” Social Media

Posted on April 13th, 2011. About Local Search, Media, Mobile, Online Advertising, Search Industry, SMBs, Statistics.

Most local merchants are strapped for cash, time and human resources so their marketing outlets have to give immediate results and be simple and inexpensive to administer. That’s why small and local businesses are rushing toward social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and blogs to promote themselves. Facebook has gained the most popularity, with 70% using the social network (up from 50% one year ago) according to the Merchant Confidence Index survey by MerchantCircle.

Consumers are also flocking to connect with SMBs on Facebook, making the site one of the most effective marketing tools, right behind Google search. Social, search and email are rated as the three most effective outlets for small businesses, also helping their small budgets stretch further. More than 50% of local businesses spend less than $2,500 annually on marketing with few planning to allocate more funds in 2011.

Mobile marketing is yet an enigma for almost 75% of merchants and daily deals have only been adopted by 11%. While consumers seem to be trigger happy for local deals, merchants are less eager with negative or mixed results experienced by many businesses.
SMB survey
Of the $26 billion online advertising market, small businesses account for about half that revenue, with big brands matching their spend. Google’s bottom line has benefitted significantly in the last ten years from the large SMB base buying its search advertising. Facebook has similarly been boosted from this group and now Twitter is honing in on SMBs as well. Twitter’s promoted ad product is being used by about 100 small business advertisers. That’s not bad considering there are 125 big brands using the ad service, according to the Wall Street Journal. Twitter’s relatively low cost and unique targeting and placement make it a generally better ROI than Facebook or Google.

It’s important to remember that connecting with your customers is the driver for social media. There is a different decision cycle for someone “liking” your Facebook page vs. a clickthrough from organic search results for a long-tail phrase. Even though resources are minimal, small businesses should tailor their messaging, landing pages and calls-to-action based on the outlet and their customer’s behavioral trends.

Post by Jennifer Gosse.

Local Media: Build Your Future Around the Consumer Experience

Posted on February 3rd, 2011. About Local Search, Media, Online Advertising, Radio, Technology, TV.

Consumers want more: cable, internet, website and app subscriptions and mobile access. And local media companies would love to acquire more of that “more” but most are failing to do so. Why? Many companies view the internet as a means to promote their existing products, e.g. newspapers, TV and radio; they define their business model by their legacy products despite the data on those mediums being dismal.

online tv viewingThe data , two of the three largest yellow page companies are bankrupt, radio listeners are down, TV prime time viewers are down and viewers are switching to Internet viewing instead. The reality is: consumers are getting the information they need but from other sources. Local media companies aren’t selling products that get the job done for consumers. And as a result, these companies lost their majority share of all local online advertising in 2005 to pure play internet companies.

In an interview with Harvard professor and author Clay Christensen, Gordon Borrell asks “how can local media survive?” The answer is provided in his book, “The Innovators Dilemma” which proposes that the next phase of local media innovation will be by companies that “get it” and retool: they’ll need to put dollars and strategy into new people, systems and processes.

As it is now, many local media companies believe that their current staff can translate their offline experience into new media but it’s not working. The result is that they’re supplying a product with a declining audience: they integrate the wrong elements into their traditional-converged products and fail to supply what the consumer really wants. Instead, they need to develop better user experiences that will set them apart from the competition.

A good example was provided in an interview with Christensen, where he mentioned the  home furnishings brand Ikea. There is no clear competitor to Ikea’s unique customer experience. In the furniture business, companies generally focus on a specific customer segment and product segment. But with Ikea, it’s about the experience. You can furnish an entire apartment in an afternoon with one stop and get lunch while you’re at it. Customers want the experience that Ikea offers and they keep coming back.

If the “more” that consumers want is essentially more information delivered in the form that they want it, local media companies will need to scrap the old paradigms (numbers of viewers, readers, listeners) and build a new model around the consumer experience.

Learn more information about Vortaloptics’ local media focused online advertising solutions.

Post by Jennifer Gosse.

The Next Gen: I Can Haz Technology, But Life Skills, Not So Much

Posted on January 24th, 2011. About Media, Statistics, Technology, Vortaloptics.

Life will be interesting and diverse for the next generation of kids as they grow up in our connected, global society – that is, if a balance between technology agility and life skills can be achieved. After all, what will life be like for a generation where more children know how to play a computer game rather than know how to ride a bike?

A recent study uncovers some disturbing trends about increasing tech competencies compared to the simplicities and perhaps necessities, of certain life skills. For instance, the study showed that 58% of 2 – 5 year olds can play a basic computer game while 52% can ride a bike. The Digital Diaries study from AVG surveyed 2,200 online moms of kids aged two – five years in the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the EU nations of U.K., France, Italy, Germany and Spain.

toddler learning to ride bikeRiding a bike is a seriously fun life skill. My twin brothers were all of 2 1/2 when I decided it was time to get rid of their speed-inhibiting training wheels. I was so over their slowness and needed them to become real competitors in the daily race down the long driveway! So one day, my 7-year-old self gathered up the little tikes into the garage while I snagged a screwdriver from my dad’s wall-of-tools. I proceeded to unscrew those kill-joy training wheels once and for all. I helped them on their bikes and one at a time, gave them a good push from behind while they deftly exited the garage into the light of day, wobbling into the big world at first, then confidently balancing themselves down the driveway. Neither of them suffered harm during this experiment, mind you: they were biking naturals! Their toddler mindset removed any fear and gave them the I-can-be-big-too confidence they needed to master the balancing act of bikedom. I couldn’t be more proud of them in that moment. Soon after, my parents emerged from the house with collective gasps as they witnessed my toddler brothers riding on two wheels, but they quickly recovered when they saw their sons’ enthusiasm and newfound skill.

Now back to the numbers.  Only 20% of the children in the study can swim without help, 11% can tie their shoelaces unaided and 20% know how to make an emergency phone call. Yet, 63% know how to power up a computer and turn it off and 69% can use a mouse. More computer skills stats include the fact that 19% can operate a smartphone or tablet, 25% know how to operate a web browser, 16% can browse between web sites and 15% know at least one web address.

Thankfully, 37% can write their first and last names. But isn’t that a little telling? Twice as many children can operate a mouse than can write their names? What’s happening at home that brings these statistics to life? Children merely imitate the behavior they see. The connected lives of parents – namely mostly Gen X parents in this study – are having an impact on the skill sets that children will develop.

85% of a child’s core brain structure is formed by age three so what happens in the earliest years of life form a person’s belief structure, habits, relational capabilities for the rest of their life. While this is just one study and we have yet to see how quickly these children will catch up the analog skills of life, it does illuminate trends that we all should be aware of when dealing with children.

Teaching children life-hacking skills are times that can be savored for decades to come. There is plenty of time to teach tech-savviness but the skills learned in the early years about life and human relationships will become programmed into their psyches the rest of their lives.

Post by Jennifer Gosse.

Reaching Gen Y – the first technology-ubiquitous generation

Posted on December 15th, 2010. About Media, Mobile, Online Advertising, Social Media, Statistics, Technology.

I remember taking a word processing class in high school. It was nearly useless but it was a step up from the typing class that had us practicing our keystrokes on typewriters. The computer lab didn’t get much love outside of the handful of students geeky enough to take “computers.” At home though, my dad was an early adopter of the PC. That inelegant tower and clunky monitor saw lots of action, particularly by my middle school age brothers who assimilated the world of computer gaming like I took to typing onscreen. They were on the cusp of two generations: one that had to adapt to changes in technology (Gen X) and one were technology has always existed (Gen Y/Millenials).

Source: U.S. Census Population,  http://www.newgeography.com/content/00124-us-population-distribution-2010

While Baby Boomers and Gen Xer’s tend to be somewhat confined by brand loyalty, Gen Yers have grown up in a marketing-saturated, information-overloaded, technology-ubiquitous world. Since Millenials are now said to be the dominant generation, surpassing Boomers, understanding the world-as-they-know-it will help you reach them in a relevant way.

1. Mobile phones have always existed. Texting is king with teens. Thus, choosing the right phone is more about enabling a better texting experience rather than selecting one with the most bells and whistles.

2. Unified brand experiences across devices matter. Music and computers have always been portable for Millenials. Rather than the cumbersome PC towers I started out with, the first computer for teens was probably a laptop. Portable music has always been accessible through MP3 devices like the iPod. As such, teens have no reference point for why there should be different brand experiences for various devices – they want and expect seamless interaction no matter what device they’re using.

3. It’s the benefits, not the brand. Teens expect your brand to be online and to be everywhere they are. Maybe it’s novel to you that your brand has just launched a Facebook fan page but don’t tout the medium, proclaim the benefits. That’s what teens are looking for – and count the rest of us in for benefit-driven marketing too.

4. Empowered consumerism is the norm. Millenials are savvy researchers, prolific sharers and have high standards in customer service. Millenials research their tech purchases; 86% look in multiple online stores before selecting a product or service (“8095” survey, October 2010, Edelman).  But 8 in 10 will also take action on behalf of brands they trust, such as joining communities, posting reviews and sharing brand experiences with others.

5. Connecting online with social good causes is a form of self-expression. Millenials have witnessed 9/11, the Great Recession and a general decline in corporate moral standards. They want change and they want to know that the brands they patronize care about social initiatives. How you do what you do may be as important as what you produce.  To stay relevant, think about the value that your brand offers the world and express your contribution to the greater good within your online social communities.

6. Technology is ever-evolving but it still needs to serve them not their egos. While they’ll adapt to new technology faster than any other generation, they’re not as brand or feature-hungry as other age groups. They’ll upgrade if the experience is significantly improved, but won’t shell out just because everyone’s tweet-bragging about their new tech acquisition.

Post by Jennifer Gosse.

Social Media is Foundational to Digital Marketing

Love it or hate it, use it or ignore it, profit from it or have your customer service gaffes illuminated by it, social media is buzzing because it has become foundational to digital marketing. User generated content allows people around the world to share ideas with each other. Social media’s reach now outperforms traditional media outlets like TV, radio and print. And while it’s now undeniably part of our culture and marketing disciplines, the growth has really just begun.

Random Social Media Stats

  • In 2010, Gen Y outnumbered Baby Boomers and 96% of them belong to a social network.
  • 78% of people trusting peer recommendations on websites; only 14% trust ads.
  • 25% of search results for the world’s top 20 brands are linked to user-generated content.
  • 1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. in 2009 met via social media.
  • Facebook has over 500 million active users. 50% of them log in every day. Collectively, 700 billion minutes per month are spent at the site. 70% of users are outside of the U.S. Facebook has over 200 million active mobile users and are 2X as active as non-mobile users.
  • Twitter has 175 million users, generating over 65 million tweets and more than 800,000 searches per day.
  • The second largest search engine in the world is YouTube. The site has over 2 billion viewers daily.
  • 73% of Wikipedia users edit the site’s content because they want to share knowledge.
  • LinkedIn has over 60 million users with 12 million unique visitors per day.
  • People care more about how their social graph ranks products and services  than how Google ranks them.

What Do Strangers Recommend?

Word of mouth is the most popular option for deciding on your next product of service, with 78% of people trusting peer recommendations on websites. The profound influence that strangers have on our decisions is relatively new and remarkable territory. Plain old advertising only impresses 14% of people.

Brand Rankings Succumb to the User Generated Content

As mentioned above, 25% of search results for the world’s top 20 brands are linked to user-generated content. The platform provided by social media combined with sheer numbers of customer contributors outpaces the content that even the world’s largest brands can generate.

This can be a very good thing if your priorities are right. If the preponderance of your customers are saying good things, they will do the marketing for you. If not, or if your company has a bad rap for lack of engagement or courtesy, customer reviews can do more damage than any failed ad campaign. Large brands typically have it more uphill battle to humanize their messages and deal with customers at a one-to-one level. On the other hand, small companies have the most success at finding new customers through social sites.

2011 – Dubbed “The Year of Facebook” for PPC Marketers
2011 will have search marketers delving even deeper as it is anticipated to be the “year of Facebook” according to Covario, a search marketing firm to Fortune 500 companies.

72 percent of active users have two social network accounts on average, with Facebook being the platform of choice with 51 percent of users having an account – the most popular by a landslide.  Integration between search and social media is priority number one for respondents to Covario’s recent search and social media survey. The allure of user-generated inbound links to product sites is a major draw for advertisers.

Paid search advertisements on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn should also see major upticks – as much as 10% to 20% of PPC budgets – as marketers aim to engage their target audience in the middle of their networking sprees.

Make Social Media a Priority

The takeaway is that consumers now have the largest impact on a brand’s messaging and it is doubtful that we’re going to cede that voice anytime soon. Social media here to stay. So, whatever your feelings are toward connecting with consumers, engaging in social media and integrating it with your digital and offline campaigns needs to a top priority for your business in 2011 and beyond.

Post by Jennifer Gosse.

Got Internet? Then It Is Probably Your Most-Used Medium

Posted on October 11th, 2010. About Media, Mobile, Social Media, Statistics.

A new global survey from TNS called “Digital Life” reveals that the Internet is the top medium for people around the world with internet access. 61% of internet users use the internet every day, while TV is used by 54%, radio by 35% and 32% read newspapers daily.

Nearly 30% of the world’s population has access to the Internet and mobile subscribers equate into about 2/3 of the world’s inhabitants and an increasing number are mobile data subscribers. Internet penetration is rapidly increasing in the developing world and its users are actually more inclined to use the internet than nations with high internet and mobile penetration rates.

Social networks are popular worldwide and mobile promises to attract more users who will log more hours than ever before. One-third of U.S. online consumers plan to use social networking sites more this year via their mobile phones.
Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Internet, was recently quoted as saying that his hope is that everyone in the world should be a given a low-bandwidth connection “by default.” Others think that it should be a universal human right.

Time will tell but worldwide connectivity will likely be achieved by mobile. Analysts posit that new internet connections will likely be produced by the 4 billion mobile users worldwide compared to the 1 billion PC users. The Mobile web is dubbed the “next major computing cycle” with developing nations leapfrogging desktop Internet usage and heading straight for the mobile web.

Post by Jennifer Gosse.
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