You Can Change Your Mind

change your mindI tweeted this the other day, it was really a passing thought. The more I let it stew, though, the more I realized there was probably a fuller blog post in there somewhere. So here we are.

Some people are always skeptics. That must be hard, though I bet it can come in awfully handy on occasion. I’m happy to say that I’m not one of them, but I could also describe myself as situationally skeptical. I think this is probably the most normal, but I don’t have any sociological data to support that notion.

I’ve always been skeptical of the reporting that companies spit out, particularly internet companies who rely so heavily on the impression, the click, the interaction or my favorite one, the “active” user.

Some companies claim an active user is someone who has interacted with their site in the past 12 months. Some only count active users if they’ve done something on their site in the last 30 days. That’s a wide swing. Personally, I believe an active user should only be in the 1-3 day range for most sites.

The one I’ve been thinking about lately, as my tweet mentions, is the “unintentional engagement.” This doesn’t exist. But it should.

Have you ever been scrolling through your Twitter feed on your phone, using your finger to swipe down, down, down and you accidentally click instead of swipe, so a photo or video comes up? Of course you have. I think it might happen to me every day.

change your mind
If you’re looking at the bottom tweet, the auto-play video on top is counted as a view. Wrong.

Well, Twitter is counting that as engagement. It’s a click. If it’s a video and it plays for just 3 seconds, Twitter considers that a video view. Three seconds! 

If you were an advertiser paying Twitter, wouldn’t you want your reporting about video views or tweet views to be more true? Can’t they detect when you click and revert back to the main feed right away, like in 1-2 seconds? Of course they can. And they should.

Facebook, same idea. Have you ever been scrolling down your feed and a good friend of yours posts a paragraph or two of deep thoughts and you read it for a bit? Yes, you have. But just above that, a video starts playing on it’s own (that’s called “auto-play”) and it continues to play while you read something else? Facebook considers that an engagement, a video viewed! That you didn’t pay attention to it or see it matters none. They have the same 3 second rule in place, too.

YouTube is a little better. They don’t consider a video viewed for their analytics platform until :30 seconds. That seems much more reasonable to me. Unless your video is 20 minutes long, I guess.

Auto-play seems a little misleading to me, too. For example, the sound never goes on. That’s why you’re seeing a lot of recipe videos with text overlaid on them. Clever. But 3 seconds on auto-play counts as a viewed video? Facebook and Twitter say yes. I say no. There have been recent reports saying that as much as 85% of videos aren’t even heard!

So let’s get back to the main point of the tweet. I think it would be great if the social media sites actually reported “unintentional engagement.” They can absolutely do it. They can track if I click something and immediately head back. Facebook could easily not count an auto-played video as an official view for my brand if people have engaged (commented, liked, shared) with a post right below or above mine. It can be done.

But it won’t. Because they need to show HUGE numbers to advertisers as a carrot to get them to spend and keep spending.

Let me also say this, to play devil’s advocate for a moment. I’ve purchased plenty of video advertising on Facebook at my last couple of jobs. I don’t pay much attention to views or impressions, because those are bullshit measurements.

The success – depending on your goal – is usually in the engagement of it, the clicks to your website and the performance once they get there. I’ve generally been happy with the performance, particularly on Facebook.

I just think social media sites could be a lot more honest about this stuff. Or the IAB should come out with universal standards for engagement metrics. I’m not holding my breath.

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Loose Strings

A few marketing-related bullet points that have been rattling around in my brain lately…..

marketing-related bullet points

  • Snapchat. I know. It’s hot. And I swear that I’m historically an early adopter. I also know that as an almost 45 year old male, I’m not in the Snapchat demographic. But I have it and I watch it. I see what’s going on. I even like it. I like the brand stories. Geofilters are cool. But I’m feeling like it’s going to plateau before it gets to the Facebook/Twitter level of almost total adoption across all demos and ages. Why? Because most people my age don’t know how to use it, don’t want to know and like it or not, those people are a lot of headcount. Part of me feels like Snapchat will get there if they can sustain for, oh, another 20 years. Can they? Or will they be part of the upcoming valuation slashing party, which is only just beginning.Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 8.33.06 PM
  • Journalism. I’ve been listening to Kirk Minehane’s podcast lately. Minehane is a local sports radio guy here in Boston, but he’s exactly my age and is the only reason why it’s worth listening to WEEI at all in the morning. His competition at 98.5 is beating him, but he’s the best thing going in the morning. The problem is that you have to also listen to the other two guys on that show, who sound like every other sports radio dolts in the world. Anyway, Minehane keeps asking the journalists he interviews if they think that the printed Boston Globe is going to be around in five years. To a man, they all say no and it’s probably true. I’m with the trends, it seems – I subscribe to the Globe and read my news on my IPad Mini every morning except Sunday. I still need that printed paper on Sundays. But I read this New York Times article yesterday about the state of Journalism and it made me sad. You should read it. Times are changing. Mobile phones are modern day candy machines. The people who are interested in hard news, real investigative journalism and learning will always find the content they need. They drew that inspiration from somewhere, though.  How will the younger generation (really young kids, say, under 10) get inspired to seek out real news going forward? Only time will tell. Journalism as we know it is probably dead. Check out the Minehane podcast though, it’s good snacking.marketing-related bullet points

Instagram. I love it. In an increasingly visual world, this company provides everyone who uses it with access to one-touch photo filters to make their photos look professionally shot. Professional photographers groan at this sentence. They probably should. But much like music, the average naked ear can’t tell good quality sound in the same way the naked eye can’t tell good quality photos. This is a blanket generalization, but it’s true. The problem with Instagram is that Facebook owns it. That means things are changing. If brands wants to reach users, they will soon have no option other than to pay – just like Facebook. As a brand with 114,000 followers at my old job, I can tell you that I was pretty angry when I had to start paying to reach ANY of the 114,000 who I worked so hard to amass. For advertisers, the same thing is happening with Instagram now. For everyday users of Instagram, it means that youwon’t see all the photos of the people you follow, because Instagram now more or less controls your feed. It’s more complicated than that, but in essence that is what is happening. At some point people will rebel against this Facebook/Instagram approach. Not any time soon, though. For now, as always, money talks.

The key takeaway here? Easy always wins. Always. The IPhone is easy. Amazon. Spotify. Netflix. Uber. See the trend here? Easy. All of it. SO easy. Everyone else is chasing them. Quality still means something, but it means less than it used to. That’s just the cold truth. You give someone an easy path to do something, and you’ll win. Figure out the profitability thing later. I need to think of something easy!

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Social Media & Targeting

It’s probably safe to say at this point that I’m all about social media. Like any other form of media, it definitely has its drawbacks (see: political elections) and it has it plusses. What thrills me to no end about personal usage of social media over the years is my ability to keep up to date, if only at a distance, with people I knew and liked so long ago that I had lost touch with. What thrills me to no end about it professionally is the awesome ways you can perform social media targeting.

I think about a good friend whose family moved to Vermont freshman year of high school. I think about some of my youth hockey teammates from the ’80s.

I think of distant family. Of excellent old college professors and high school teachers, some of who righted my ship and changed my life.

College friends. High school friends. Music business friends. Friends from old jobs. I’d never maintain (re)connection with most of these people without social media. What a gas.

I’m almost 45, so my reasons for loving social media so much are far different than, say, millennials. I get it. I should also add that my appreciation of social does go beyond (re)connecting with old friends. There’s far more to it, of course, but I don’t need to get into it today.

My first tweet was in December 2006. It wasn’t anything ground-shaking. Obviously. It does show and prove that I’m a pretty grizzled veteran on it, though, coming up on ten years!social media targeting

My initial Facebook volley was in June of 2007, two weeks after my twins were born (and that post was very, very true, by the way). I’m at nine years on Facebook.

social media targeting

I don’t need to go on. I’m an early adopter. I turned it into a career and learned the professional side of it. I love the rush of massive shares and likes on a piece of work content. I love the rush of seeing great content from great people and friends on social media. Personal or professional, it doesn’t matter. I’ve learned. I’ve supported. I’ve been supported. I’ve been entertained. I love it. I just love it.

Which brings me to my new job. I’ve already mentioned before the transition from B2C to B2B. At this particular B2B I’m at, we’re a manufacturer selling product to a very, very finite set of distributors, with a very distinct set of non-traditional personas. These are not online mavens. Not social media maniacs like myself – and we’re not going to make them be that way. But they’re out there, milling around social.

So the goal isn’t explosive growth. And without sounding like an ass, I’m pretty good at driving growth in social. I took Pure Hockey from 2,800 Facebook followers to 114,000. More importantly, it was done with super-high engagement from our users.  I built, established relationships and cultivated Twitter growth through a dedicated set of important influencers and a steadfast obsession with answering tweets within minutes and sometimes seconds. These are the metrics that matter far more than followers.

when not to be on social media
There’s No Mystery About Who Our Customers Are

The B2B I’m at is, in some ways, a polar opposite. Without getting into too much detail, we pretty much already know who ALL the customers in the USA are, whether they buy from us or not (and a heck of a lot do)! We do not do lead gen because we don’t have to! Let that sink in for a second. That’s pretty nice in some ways. We don’t even allow search engines to crawl our website because we don’t sell to end-users, and why risk our great relationships with distributors? Can you imagine?

This makes social a very interesting endeavor! For the most part, social marketing initiatives involve paid campaigns where I’m uploading our customer list to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google AdWords, etc and targeting just those people. They’re the only ones we need to reach. Talk about targeting. Wild, right?!

Wild.

It’s a challenge. But a fun, interesting and much different one. How do you keep the same (fairly small) group of people entertained and coming back – or doing whatever it is you want them to do?

The nurturing, the education, the entertaining, the content……it’s all a work in progress and it’s hard work. It’s also teaching me even more about the power and different strategies of social media and marketing. Fun.

I will be writing more about this in future posts – a few practices, tips and tricks to effectively reaching a smaller set of distinct people.

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B2C vs. B2B

One of the differences between working B2C vs. B2B became evident quickly for me. For example, my new role in the B2B world has me challenged with the longer sales cycle. Even though we do a very B2C-flavored brand of e-commerce, we’re still B2B. Period.

I’ve realized that this is a new muscle that needs some time at the mental gym.

b2c and b2bAs a B2C guy for many years, I got very used to the almost instant gratification of sending out an email campaign to a set of customers and knowing the success or failure of it pretty much within 24 hours and sometimes even within 12 hours.

If an email went out at 7pm on a weeknight, I’d know with a pretty good degree of certainty the next morning if it had worked.

So imagine me after sending out my first B2B email campaign back in February after just a few short weeks on the job. I was like Luke Skywalker when he was first training to be a Jedi. Impatient. You see, my brain is still trained for the immediate sugar rush of the B2C campaign.

I eagerly came into the office the next morning and immediately started running numbers. How much traffic did we get? What was the conversion rate? How many of the advertised products did we sell? Any add-on sales? What % of the people were new visitors? Info info info!

A little naive, in retrospect.

I’ve quickly learned that success for a B2B campaign is much more nuanced and……slow.  I mean, obviously I know that impulse purchases are extremely rare in the B2B world. A matter of habit, I guess. You just tap the vein in B2C. Not so much now. In some cases (not all) I’ve been told that some campaigns are measured 12-18 months after the initial rollout. Months.

OK brain, let’s hit the gym!

 

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Did Facebook Land Me A Job?

In early January as I ramped up my first real job search in 15+ years, I tried to think of ways to stand out in what was a very noisy, competitive space – job seekers. I had landed my previous job a little bit unconventionally, so I tried to think unconventionally again. Back then there was no social media except for MySpace. Now we have a lot of options. Would Social Media land me a gig somewhere? Did Facebook land me a job? Read on.

Certainly this blog has taken on a slightly different tone since I’ve been in the job market. I switched the home page to be more a personal profile which linked to my portfolio and I set the actual blog posts to be a mere left side navigation choice on desktops and a menu choice in mobile. And I blogged again. It felt good, man. I will keep trying.

A lot of job seekers use their blog as their portfolio and write about their experience, though. That’s almost the norm now. So I needed to do more – and I took to Facebook.

I wondered what would happen if I created a Facebook Business page dedicated to me – my personal brand! So I did it. I put up a profile pic of me looking all business-like and posted a couple of items about some of my experience and set off on my adventure – with all links pointing to my website.

You can’t just do that, though, you also have to get traffic there. Not wanting to promote it on my personal Facebook page (I mean, that would be almost embarrassing), I decided to buy some Facebook ads and target them specifically to companies who I’d been interviewing with or companies that I thought would be cool to work for. I also set an age target at people over 30, since it seemed most HR people I talked to were over 30 years old. Geographically, I focused on Massachusetts only.

I set my targets, set my budget, generated a few images in Photoshop, wrote a few different pieces of ad copy and BAM. Turned it on.

By the way, if you’re NOT testing different ad copy or images in your Facebook ads, shame on you. Booooo.

Immediately my ads were not delivering, so clearly I wasn’t aggressive enough with budget. I bumped it up a little and started to see some action in the form of clicks. Okay, good.

Now, I bought Facebook ads six ways to Sunday for my former employee. Did a ton of them. But I’d never done one for just myself, so I didn’t really know what to consider “success” here. And I still don’t, really.

did facebook get me a job
This is the image that generated the most engagement. Ugh.

As I watched over the first few days, one image and one set of ad copy stood out over the rest. Of course, the image I liked the least was generating the most clicks. Wouldn’t you know it?

And even though the ad COPY itself was text about my overall Digital Marketing experience, it was a rip-off of an annoying and very recognizable social meme that generated the interest from the audience.

This is another sign that personal opinions mean very little when putting together ads. Testing different creative is crucial. Data rules. I felt like I had much better ads creatively that I preferred to use, but this one won out and eventually I moved it exclusively to this image.

So what happened? Did it work? Did I get hired from a Facebook ad? Well, no I didn’t. I’m slightly bummed that I don’t have an awesome story to tell about how I got my latest gig. It was slightly unconventional how it happened, but that’s a story for another time.

did facebook land me a job
21 clicks. I’m not disappointed.

I did get an unsolicited email from a large digital agency in Boston wanting me to interview with them. They were on my target list for those ads, too. I never got to ask them if they found me via the ad, because I got hired as I was trying to set this up. I may never know.

While I was pleased that I was able to generate 21 clicks to my website from companies I had actually targeted over a 3-or-so week period, I pretty much got my current gig in the way I never really thought happened anymore – I applied cold with a resume into their online employment system. The slightly unconventional part came later.

All that said, it was a very interesting experience, which in the end only cost me about $70 bucks. Not a bad experiment.

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