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Tag Archives: inboundmarketing

HTML Code & Search Engine Success Factors

HTML Code & Search Engine Success Factors

 

 

 

 

 

HTML is the underlying code used to create web pages. Search engines can pick up ranking signals from specific HTML elements. Below are some of the most important HTML elements to achieve SEO success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ht: HTML Title Tag

Imagine that you wrote 100 different books but gave them all the same exact title. How would anyone understand that they are all about different topics?

Imagine that you wrote 100 different books, and while they did have different titles, the titles weren’t very descriptive — maybe just a single word or two. Again, how would anyone know, at a glance, what the books were about?

HTML titles have always been and remain the most important HTML signal that search engines use to understand what a page is about. Bad titles on your pages are like having bad book titles in the examples above. In fact, if your HTML titles are deemed bad or not descriptive, Google changes them.

So think about what you hope each page will be found for, relying on the keyword research you’ve already performed. Then craft unique, descriptive titles for each of your pages. For more help about this, see our posts in the category below:

Hd: The Meta Description Tag

The meta description tag, one of the oldest supported HTML elements, allows you to suggest how you’d like your pages to be described in search listings. If the HTML title is equivalent to a book title, the meta description is like the blurb on the back describing the book.

SEO purists will argue that the meta description tag isn’t a “ranking factor” and that it doesn’t actually help your pages rank higher. Rather, it’s a “display factor,” something that helps how you look if you appear in the top results due to other factors.

Technically, that’s correct. And it’s one of the reasons we decided to call these “success” factors instead of ranking factors.

A meta description that contains the keywords searched for (in bold) may catch the user’s eye. A well-crafted meta description may help ‘sell’ that result to the user. Both can result in additional clicks to your site. As such, it makes sense for the meta description tag to be counted as a success factor.

Be forewarned, having a meta description tag doesn’t guarantee that your description will actually get used. Search engines may create different descriptions based on what they believe is most relevant for a particular query. But having one increases the odds that what you prefer will appear. And it’s easy to do. So do it.

Hs: Structured Data

What if you could tell search engines what your content was about in their own “language”? Behind the scenes, sites can use specific markup (code) that make it easy for search engines to understand the details of the page content and structure.

The result of structured data often translates into what is called a ‘rich snippet‘, a search listing that has extra bells and whistles that make it more attractive and useful to users. The most common rich snippet you’re likely to encounter  reviews/ratings which usually includes eye-catching stars.

While the use of structured data may not be a direct ranking factor, it is clearly a success factor. All things being equal, a listing with a rich snippet will get more clicks than one without. And search engines are eager for site owners to embrace structured data, providing new and easier ways for less tech-savvy webmasters to participate.

Structured data has been around for quite some time in various forms. But recently search engines have begun to rely on it more with the advent of Google’s Knowledge Graph and Bing’s Snapshot.

This element debuted in the previous edition of the periodic table, and in this edition, we’ve increased the weight, as we see it becoming more important in the future.

Hh: Header Tags

See the headline up at the top of this page? Behind the scenes, HTML code is used to make that a header tag. In this case, an H1 tag.

See the sub-headlines on the page? Those also use header tags. Each of them is the next “level” down, using H2 tags.

Header tags are a formal way to identify key sections of a web page. Search engines have long used them as clues to what a page is about. If the words you want to be found for are in header tags, you have a slightly increased chance of appearing in searches for those words.

Naturally, this knowledge has caused some people to go overboard. They’ll put entire paragraphs in header tags. That doesn’t help. Header tags are as much for making content easy to read for users as it is for search engines.

Header tags are useful when they reflect the logical structure (or outline) of a page. If you have a main headline, use an H1 tag. Relevant subheads should use an H2 tag. Use headers as they make sense and they may reinforce other ranking factors.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Is learning useless stuff good for you?

Is learning useless stuff good for you?

We often require all students to learn things they may never need like latin, calculus, advanced trigonometry and classical literature. The implicit assumption is that learning difficult things is intrinsically good. It trains your brain. It makes you smarter.

True? Or false?

I worked on this assumption for the longest time. As an undergraduate, I took 6 courses per term instead of the required 5. I also took an extra year to graduate, doing the equivalent two majors. I probably took more college courses than 99.9% of the college graduates.

Why did I take all these courses? Because I was convinced that learning about all sorts of things would make me smarter. Many people think it works this way. That’s why we taught people Latin for a long time. In education, that is called transfer: learning something will help you learn something else, even if it is barely related. Does it work? We have reasons to doubt it:

Transfer has been studied since the turn of the XXth century. Still, there is very little empirical evidence showing meaningful transfer to occur and much less evidence showing it under experimental control. (…) significant transfer is probably rare and accounts for very little human behavior. (Detterman)

Caplan is even more categorical:

Teachers like to think that no matter how useless their lessons appear, they are teaching their students how to think. Under the heading of Transfer of Learning, educational psychologists have spent over a century looking for evidence that this sort of learning actually occurs. The results are decidedly negative.

These authors are not saying that learning French won’t help you learn Spanish. They are not saying that learning C++ won’t help you learn Java. Transfering does work, trivially, when there are similarities. Rather, they are saying that learning projective geometry won’t make you a better Java programmer. They are saying that learning fractal theory won’t help you be a better manager.

This has troubling consequences because, for many people, whatever they learned in college or in high school, has very little to do with what they do for a living. Does a degree in journalism makes you a better program manager today? You can legitimately ask the question. Yet employers are happy to assume that a degree, any degree, will help people do a better job, irrespective of the similarities between the job and the degree. For example, Tom Chi explains how his training in astrophysics made him a better business manager. From astrophysics to management? Really?

Can we at least hope that college students improve their critical thinking with all these literature, mathematics and philosophy classes? Roksaa and Arumb looked at the score of students on critical thinking tests as they progress through their studies:

A high proportion of students are progressing through higher education today without measurable gains in critical thinking.

The students have learned skills. It is difficult to go through years of studies without learning something. But this knowledge and these skills do not necessarily transfer to something as basic as critical thinking.

My point is that students might be onto something when they refuse to learn for the sake of learning. We look down at people who refuse to learn mathematics because it appears useless to them. We think that learning some mathematics would be good for them the same way we used to think that learning latin was good for the minds of little boys. We might be wrong.

But this has also a practical consequence for all of us: don’t bother learning skills “just in case” unless you do it for fun. If you want to be a better software programmer, just practice programming. This also means that if you want to acquire practical skills, a school might not be the best place to go: a degree in English might not turn you into a better novelist.

Another consequence is that you should not assume a transfer of expertise: if someone succeeded at one thing, you should not assume they will succeed at something else. If a famous baseball player starts a software company, wait before investing.

How to learn efficiently

I am convinced that much of the gap between the best college students and the worst is explained by study habits. Frankly, most students study poorly. To make matters worse, most teachers are incapable of teaching good study habits.

Learning is proportional with effort

Sitting in a classroom listening to a professor feels like learning… Reading a book on a new topic feels like learning… but because they are overwhelming passive activities, they are inefficient. It is even worse than inefficient, it is counterproductive because it gives you the false impression that you know the material. You can sit through lecture after lecture on quantum mechanics. At some point, you will become familiar with the topics and the terminology. Alas, you are fooling yourself which is worse than not learning anything.

Instead, you should always seek to challenge yourself. If some learning activity feels easy, it means that it is too easy. You should be constantly reminded of how little you know. Great lectures make it feels like the material is easy: it probably is not. Test yourself constantly: you will find that you know less than you think.

Some students blame the instructors when they feel confused. They are insistent that a course should be structured in such a way that it is always easy so that they rarely make mistakes. The opposite is true: a good course is one where you always feel that you will barely make it. It might not be a pleasant course, but it is one where you are learning. It is by struggling that we learn.

On this note, Learning Style theory is junk: while it is true that some students have an easier time doing things a certain way, having it easier is not the goal.

There are many ways to challenge yourself and learn more efficiently:

  • Seek the most difficult problems, the most difficult questions and try to address them. It is useless to read pages after pages of textbook material, but it becomes meaningful if you are doing it to solve a hard problem. This is not news to Physics students who have always learned by solving problems. Always work on the toughest problems you can address.

  • Reflect on what you have supposedly learned. As an undergraduate student, I found that writing a summary of everything I had learned in a class was one of the best ways to study for an exam. I would just sit down with a blank piece of paper and try to summarize everything as precisely as possible. Ultimately, writing your own textbook would be a very effective way to learn the material. Teaching is a great way to learn because it challenges you.

  • Avoid learning from a single source. Studying from a single textbook is counterproductive. Instead, seek multiple sources. Yes, it is confusing to pick up a different textbook where the terminology might be different, but this confusion is good for you.

If sitting docilely in a classroom is inefficient and even counterproductive, then why is it so common a practice? Why indeed!

Interleaved study trumps mass study

When studying, many people do not want to mix topics “so as not to get confused”. So if they need to learn to apply one particular idea, they study to the exclusion of everything else. That is called mass (or block) practice.

Course material and textbooks do not help: they are often neatly organized into distinct chapters, distinct sections… each one covering one specific topic.

What researchers have found is that interleaved practice is far superior. In interleaved practice, you intentionally mix up topics. Want to become a better mathematician? Do not spend one-month studying combinatorics, one-month studying calculus and so on. Instead, work on various mathematical topics, mixing them randomly.

Interleaved practice feels much harder (e.g., “you feel confused”), and it feels discouraging because progress appears to be slow. However, this confusion you feel… that is your brain learning.

Interleaved practice is exactly what a real project forces you to do. This means that real-world experience where you get to solve hard problems is probably a much more efficient learning strategy than college. Given a choice between doing challenging real work, and taking classes, you should always take the challenging work instead.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

 

 

Markethive

Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques

Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques

Some students seem to breeze through their school years, whereas others struggle, putting them at risk for getting lost in our educational system and not reaching their full potential. Parents and teachers want to help students succeed, but there is little guidance on which learning techniques are the most effective for improving educational outcomes. This leads students to implement studying strategies that are often ineffective, resulting in minimal gains in performance.      

 

 

What then are the best strategies to help struggling students learn?

Fortunately for students, parents, and teachers, psychological scientists have developed and evaluated the effectiveness of a wide range of learning techniques meant to enhance academic performance. In this report, Dunlosky (Kent State University), Rawson (Kent State University), Marsh (Duke University), Nathan (University of Wisconsin–Madison), and Willingham (University of Virginia) review the effectiveness of 10 commonly used learning techniques.

The authors describe each learning technique in detail and discuss the conditions under which each technique is most successful. They also describe the students (age, ability level, etc.) for whom each technique is most useful, the materials needed to utilize each technique, and the specific skills each technique promotes. To allow readers to easily identify which methods are the most effective, the authors rate the techniques as having high, medium, or low utility for improving student learning.

Which learning techniques made the grade? According to the authors, some commonly used techniques, such as underlining, rereading material, and using mnemonic devices, were found to be of surprisingly low utility. These techniques were difficult to implement properly and often resulted in inconsistent gains in student performance. Other learning techniques such as taking practice tests and spreading study sessions out over time — known as distributed practice — were found to be of high utility because they benefited students of many different ages and ability levels and enhanced performance in many different areas.

The real-world guidance provided by this report is based on psychological science, making it an especially valuable tool for students, parents, and teachers who wish to promote effective learning. Although there are many reasons why students struggle in school, these learning techniques, when used properly, should help provide meaningful gains in classroom performance, achievement test scores, and many other tasks students will encounter across their lifespan.

To succeed, adopt the post-industrial view

From time to time, students ask me whether such degree or certificate in computer science will help them get a good job. There is no shortage of studies showing that degrees lead to good jobs. That might be true, but there are also many young (and not-so-young) people who are depressed by their career. This sad state of affairs comes, I believe, from an industrial viewpoint. People seek “certifications” of all sorts, just like factories seek to get “certifications” for their products.

Maybe getting a computer science degree from a leading school feels like “ambition” or “a quest for excellence”, but it is so only if you adopt an industrial viewpoint. In truth, you are more or less going through the motions.

The problem is summarized nicely by Vivek Haldar:

I’ve been a TA for a number of CS classes while in grad school, and I’ve conducted many interviews for software engineer positions. Just from my narrow anecdotal window, it is amazing how many CS students just want to figure out the bare minimum to pass the class; and how many grads do not have a decent grasp of elementary algorithms and data structures, and are not comfortable with code.

Vivek is trying to be nice: he knows that there is more than just anecdotal evidence. Too many students assume that taking a couple of programming classes is all you need to be a developer.

In an industrial universe, we seek standardization. You are either a software developer, or you are not. If some well-known school says that you are a competent software engineer, then you are. Conformism is preferred to an initiative. Going beyond the call of duty is for suckers: do what you are asked, no more. You can also expect the next 5 years to be like the previous 5 years. All you have to do is to be consistent.

In a post-industrial world, you have to adopt different strategies:

  • Instead of seeking a “certificate” that supposedly show that you know how to behave nicely and get work done… start getting actual work done and behave nicely. Then tell the world about it. The certificate or degree becomes just one element in a wide portfolio.

  • Instead of waiting to be told what to do, start figuring out by yourself what you should do. Please don’t wait for a professor to tell you how to build a software application. Go out on your own and figure it out. Better yet: figure out how to get paid for it.

  • Never assume that skills in demand today will be in demand tomorrow. Go learn a new programming language even if no professor told you to do so.

If you behave as a cog in the machine, you will be treated as such, and you are likely to learn to regret it.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

Markethive

Is Inbound Marketing a Waste Of Time and Money?

Is Inbound Marketing a Waste Of Time and Money?


Need to figure out whether inbound marketing fits in your marketing mix? 
Here’s some inbound marketing advice for small businesses.

Inbound marketing is a term coined and evangelized by the founders of HubSpot (a company that develops and markets inbound marketing software) that refers to a strategic use of content in lead generation and sales.

The concept is simple — businesses should use blogs, video, podcasts, guides, ebooks and other types of content to attract new customers. Proponents of inbound marketing claim that this is an easier, cheaper, and more effective way of getting business.

Inbound marketing is usually contrasted with outbound marketing or traditional marketing that consists of buying TV and radio advertising, direct mail campaigns, and other forms of offline marketing. Traditional marketing is seen by inbound marketers as expensive, ineffective and difficult  to measure.

Today inbound marketing has become ubiquitous and many small businesses are allocating more and more of their marketing budgets towards inbound marketing initiatives.

Are there better ways to spend your hard-earned small business marketing dollars?

Inbound Marketing Advice for Small Business

While content marketing shouldn’t be neglected it should take a backseat to a number of strategic business  and marketing strategies and methods.

Focusing on customer experience, referral marketing, increasing brand awareness would all be better choices for spending marketing dollars for most small businesses.

Why?

Because those strategies executed at the same level of competence simply produce a better return on investment in most markets.

There Is Only One Gary Vaynerchuk

Some inbound marketing aficionados will point out that doing content marketing right will propel you to stardom. Gary Vaynerchuk did it — so can you.

This is the first misconception. Practically all small businesses will miss the mark on creating remarkable content and in the process they will waste valuable time and money.

Most small businesses are simply not capable of creating content that will make anyone think twice about sharing it.

At the end of the day — how many wine bloggers do you know?

Inbound Marketing Is Not Free

Producing content, tweeting, blogging and running inbound marketing campaigns costs money or time. Let’s not forget the training costs, opportunity costs and the cost of tools.   

Inbound marketing tools are relatively expensive.

Yearly costs of using the market leading inbound marketing platform like Hubspot for a somewhat established business start at more than $12,000 per year. However, this platform is powerful and its list of features includes everything from keyword suggestions and social media monitoring to landing page creation tools and email lead nurturing.  

But it creates no content.

Great content can make a big impact on your bottom line, but this can come at a substantial cost. Creating comprehensive guides, impactful infographics, producing video and other types of remarkable content can cost thousands of dollars.

If you are like most small business owners content creation is not among your core competencies, and as a result you might find yourself in a situation where you are investing a lot of resources without acceptable returns.

Sometimes Inbound Marketing Is A Waste Of Resources

Content should always be a part of your marketing strategy. However, there are markets where serious investments in content marketing make no sense. Local niche markets like office cleaning, civil engineering or corporate catering are simply not compatible with inbound marketing.

Understanding how your market behaves online and online can save you a fortune.

Customer Experience (Not-Content) Is The One True King

Zappos didn’t become a billion dollar company because they were producing great content about shoes. They became a billion dollar company because they delivered amazing customer experience, and customers couldn’t resist telling their friends.

And what did Zappos use as the primary tool to amaze their customers? Telephone.

Instead of trying to minimize the number of calls they get (much like every other eCommerce business)  Zappos embraced every phone call as an opportunity to create a personal connection with their customers.  Zappos created an army of rabid fans, sales went through the roof, and they got acquired by Amazon for 1.2 billion dollars.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to provide a customer experience that beats expectations for your industry. Finding low-cost ways to personalize, accelerate or personalize your customer experience will go a long way towards increased loyalty and improved profits.

A simple way to improve customer experience design would be to talk to your customers regularly about their experience with your business, identify “pain points” and eliminate those systematically.

Your website can be a useful tool for improving customer experience. This is where content comes into play. You can engineer your content to enhance customer experience just by interviewing your customers. This may result in higher conversion rates and lower customer acquisition costs.    

Remember That You Customers Are Assets

Inbound marketing philosophy is centered around acquiring new customers using some content. If fully adopted as a sole marketing strategy it would limit the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

Small businesses would benefit more by adopting a broader, more strategic approach to marketing that revolves around relationship building, customer experience, and integration of offline and online channels.

Before you make a heavy investment into inbound marketing make sure that:

  • Your customer experience defies industry expectations
  • You measure all important business and marketing metrics.
  • You have a way of communicating with you customers long after they made their last purchase.
  •  Your referral strategy is effective and results are predictable.
  • Your partnerships with complementary businesses produce results.
  • You developed a customer centric culture obsessed by delivering value to customers

Should I Abandon Inbound Marketing?

No.

Inbound marketing should be aligned with your overall marketing strategy as a major part of your online marketing. Content that’s useful to your targeted market can introduce new prospects to your brand but it can also help validate your company in the selection process. Great content can also help reshapes someone’s buying criteria, and compel them to pick up the phone and call you.

But heed this inbound marketing advice for small business: most small businesses can make a greater impact on their bottom lines focusing on other aspects of their marketing strategy before making a serious commitment to inbound marketing.

Markethive

Inbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing

Turn strangers into customers, and then promoters of your business.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing works by attracting potential customers to your company website. Once they arrive, inbound tools are deployed to convert those qualified visitors into leads, and ultimately customers who will promote your brand.

Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing

Traditional outbound marketing, such as TV or radio advertising, can be an annoyance to potential customers. It's also famously inefficient. Inbound is the antidote, because with inbound your ideal customers come to you, on their own time and by their own will. That makes for happy customers.

Step-by-step Guide to Inbound

Attract-Phase-Inbound-StrategyAttract

You don't just want any old traffic to your website, you want the right traffic. You want potential customers who have a passion for the area you operate in. To identify these people we create buyer personas, being holistic, semi-fictional representation of your ideal customers. Your buyer personas are the identities around whom your entire business is built. Here's how we use inbound marketing to attract them.

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  • Blog posts tailored to answer the questions are buyer personas are asking online.

  • Website pages optimized to attract buyer personas and convert them into leads.

  • Social media posts designed to develop your brand voice and drive traffic to your best content.

Convert

It's not enough to just draw a new visitor to your site. The important part is to convert that visitor into a sales lead, by collecting their details through a form. To make that happen, you'll need an enticing offer in the form of value-added content, which appeals directly to your buyer persona. Here's how the conversion stage plays out.

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  • A new visitor lands on your website, where they are greeted by a Call-to-Action button (see foot of the page) that promotes a value-added content offer. This might be in the form of an ebook, or whitepaper, or perhaps a live webinar.

  • Upon clicking the Call-to-Action, the visitor is directed to a landing page. It's there you place a form to capture their details, which must be filled out in order to collect the offer. The moment the form is filled your visitor becomes a lead and enters the sales funnel.

  • The final step sees the lead directed to a Thank You page, where they will be given the offer promised.

Close

So you've attracted your ideal customers and converted them into leads.  Now you need to transform those leads into paying customers. These are the tools we use to close a deal and refine our methods at every stage.

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  • Segmented, personalized email campaigns that nurture customers through their buyer's journey.

  • Marketing Automation tailored to the lifecycle stage of each lead.

  • Analytics to provide closed-loop marketing ROI, generating weekly reports that speak to our successes and where to focus in the future.

 

Delight

The buyer's journey continues after a deal is done. Inbound marketers should set out to delight their closed customers to the point where they want to promote your brand, and potentially serve as evangelists, afterward. Return business is never bad either, along with the opportunity to upsell to an existing customer or client. Here are a few methods we use to delight our customers at Hüify.

  • A Calls-to-Action Strategy that changes based on the lifecycle stage of a customer and their specific buyer persona. We create a customized experience for every visitor to your website.

  • Social Media deployed to provide customers with real-time customer service.

  • Email and Marketing Automation provides existing customers with outstanding content when they need it, as well as introducing new products and features that will benefit them. And it's far less intrusive than a sales call.

 

Major Themes In Inbound Marketing

Content Creation
Targeted content that answers your customer’s basic questions and needs.

Lifecycle Marketing 
Each customer stage requires tailored marketing actions from company.
 
Personalization
As you learn more about your leads, you can personalize your messaging to their needs.
 
Multi-channel
Inbound marketing is multi-channel by nature because it approaches people where we find them.
 
Integration
Publishing and analytics tools work in harmony, allowing you to focus on remarkable content.
 

We don’t just want to get your company amazing results. We want you to understand why our methods work and help you learn to love them as much as we do. Start now and request a consultation to get a free inbound marketing plan for your business. 

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

 

Markethive

Advertising

Advertising

With consumers seeing millions of messages throughout each day, advertisers must use creativity, skill, and strategy to make an impact on their audiences. You must search for unique solutions in advertising, preparing them for work in advertising agencies, media firms, corporate marketing departments, design studios and more.

Major in Advertising

The B.A. in Advertising allows students to major in advertising and specialize their knowledge in one of three areas: creative, digital media strategy, or strategic brand management.

The B.A. in Advertising (all specializations) can be completed in a minimum of five semesters (one for prerequisites, plus four for major courses). Each of the three specializations is a two-year (four semester; fall and spring terms) sequence of classes that are referred to as the Foundation, the Practice, the Application, and Capstone. Students admitted to the B.A. in Advertising (any specialization) must take these courses in sequence to be able to complete the major in two years.

B.A. in Advertising
Creative Specialization

This program prepares students for careers in art direction or copywriting. Admission to the program is selective and based upon a faculty panel’s evaluation of an application used to assess a student’s creative ability and potential. This screening process improves the quality of the experience each student receives in creative courses and helps ensure that the quality of work produced by students is of the highest caliber and competitive by industry standards.

B.A. in Advertising
Digital Media Strategy Specialization

This program in Digital Media Strategy will prepare students to enter the world of advertising and marketing as digital producers, digital strategists, content managers, and media specialists. Marketing in the digital age means understanding when and where to communicate to consumers when they are going to be most receptive to your message and encourage them to share the messages. Students admitted to the specialization will learn to maximize consumers’ engagement with marketing messages using paid, owned and earned media to achieve this goal.

B.A. in Advertising
Strategic Brand Management Specialization

This program in Strategic Brand Management prepares students to enter the world of advertising and marketing as account or brand managers, project managers, planners/strategists, consumer insight experts, event and promotion specialists, as well as in new business development. The specialization covers approaches to management in advertising agencies and on the client-side. Topics include strategies for the identification of marketing-related problems and the processes needed to find solutions through messaging, promotions and other forms of consumer engagement to build brand equity and market share.

Minor in Advertising

The minor in advertising offers the student a cogent overview of the social, economic, legal and marketing environments in which advertising functions. Courses offered in the minor are designed to satisfy the needs of the consumer of advertising messages, as well as those of a person who might choose advertising as a valuable adjunct to another career choice.

Minor in Graphic Design

The graphic design minor provides a basic understanding and development of skills necessary for message design across various media. Topics and skill sets include identity (logos, branding collateral material, packaging), digital (social, mobile, online media), publication (magazines, newspapers, books), and other areas of design. The minor is designed for students who wish to incorporate an interest in graphic design into their major coursework or to pursue further study in a variety of design disciplines.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Does Internet Advertising Work at All?

A Dangerous Question:

Does Internet Advertising Work at All?

The Internet was supposed to tell us which ads work and which ads don't. But instead, it's flooded consumers' brains with reviews, comments, and other digital data that has diluted the power of advertising altogether.

 

Nineteenth-century retailer John Wanamaker is responsible for perhaps the most repeated line in marketing: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, the trouble is I don't know which half."

Today, marketers are grappling with the Wanamaker Paradox: The more we learn which half of advertising is working, the more we realize we're wasting way more than half.

Perhaps you're nodding your head about now. Most people you know don't click online ads. At least, not on purpose. But now research is getting closer to quantifying exactly how few people click on Internet ads and exactly how ineffective they are. It's not a pretty picture. 

The Problem With Search

Take search ads, which have helped Google become the richest advertising company in the history of the world. Search ads are magic, in a way. Throughout history, most ads have been imprecise branding. You're watching TV or reading the newspaper, and you're interrupted by marketing—Samsung's new thing is shiny; Ford F-something-something can drive through dirt; Blah blah blah GEICO—that has the staying power of a snowflake in an oven. But search catches consumers at the moment they're actually looking for something. It shrinks the famous "purchase funnel" to its final stage and gives us tailored answers when we're asking a specific question.

That's the theory, at least. But a new controlled study on search ads from eBay research labs suggests that companies like Google vastly exaggerate the effectiveness of a search.

For example, consider what happens when I look up a brand, like Nike. An ad for Nike appears just above an organic link to Campaigns like this have "no measurable short-term benefits," the researchers concluded. They merely give consumers a perfect substitute for the link they would have clicked anyway. (The only way it would add value is if Nike is paying to keep a rival like Adidas out of the top slot … assuming Google would sell Adidas the top sponsored link on searches for "Nike").

But what about more common searches for things like "buy camera" or "best cell phone," where many different companies are bidding to answer our queries? A well-placed search ad ought to grab curious consumers at the peak of their interest.

But in a study of search ads bought by eBay, the most frequent Internet users—who see the vast majority of ads; and spend the most money online—weren't any more likely to buy stuff from eBay after seeing search ads. The study concluded that paid-search spending was ironically concentrated on the very people who were going to buy stuff on eBay, anyway. "More frequent users whose purchasing behavior is not influenced by ads account for most of the advertising expenses, resulting in average returns that are negative," the researchers concluded.

'I Was Gonna Buy It, Anyway'

I'm not fully convinced that search ads are as ineffective as this paper suggested. To their credit, the authors admit that other studies about Google have found search to have higher ROI.

But the big idea behind their research is powerful. Academics call it endogeneity. We can call it the I-was-gonna-buy-it-anyway problem. Some ads persuade us to buy. Some ads tell us to buy something we were already going to buy, anyway. It's awfully hard to figure out which is which.

Enter Facebook, the second-biggest digital ad company in the U.S. Just as Google is synonymous with search, Facebook is ubiquitous with social. The News Feed is the most sophisticated content algorithm ever. The company represents the spine of so many apps and sites that it can marshal an astonishing (and growing) amount of data about us.

While Google can convert consumers at the bottom of the purchase funnel, Facebook is more like TV, a diffuse broadcast of stories where some companies hope to interrupt our lazy attention with branding messages. In 2012, Facebook partnered with Datalogix, a firm that measures the shopping habits of 100 million U.S. families, to see if people who went on Facebook and saw ads for, say, Hot Pockets, were more likely to go out and buy Hot Pockets. According to Facebook's internal studies, the ads weren't getting many clicks, but they were working brilliantly. “Of the first 60 campaigns we looked at, 70 percent had a 3X or better return-on-investment—that means that 70 percent of advertisers got back three times as many dollars in purchases as they spent on ads,” Sean Bruich, Facebook’s head of measurement platforms and standards, told Farhad Manjoo.

There are a few reasons to be skeptical when Facebook concludes that its ads are working spectacularly. First is the basic B.S.-detector blaring inside your soul saying you shouldn't automatically believe companies who say "our research has apparently concluded unambiguously that we are awesome." Facebook, ad agencies, and ad consultants all benefit from more ad spending. These are not objective parties.

Second, there's that pesky I-was-gonna-buy-it-anyway bias. Let's say I want to buy a pair of glasses. I live in New York, where people like Warby Parker. I've shopped for glasses at Warby Parker's website. Facebook knows both of these things. So no surprise that today I saw a Warby Parker sponsored post on my News Feed.

Now, let's say I buy glasses from Warby Parker tomorrow. What can we logically conclude? That Facebook successfully converted a sale? Or that the many factors Facebook considered before showing me that ad—e.g.: what my friends like and my past shopping behavior—are the same factors that might persuade anybody to buy a pair of glasses long before they signed into Facebook?

Maybe Facebook has mastered the art of using advertising to convert sales. Or maybe it's mastered the art of finding people who were going to buy certain items anyway and showing them ads after they already made their decision. My bet is that the answer is (a) somewhere in the middle and (b) devilishly hard to accurately measure.

Too Much Information

The eBay study suggested that people who click most ads aren't being influenced.

The Facebook study suggested that people who are being influenced aren't actually clicking ads.

It makes you wonder whether clicks matter, at all.

In fact, there's reason to wonder whether all advertising—online and off—is losing its persuasive punch. Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen, the authors of the new book Absolute Value, have an elegant theory about the weakened state of brands in the information age. Corporations used to have much more control over what kind of information consumers could find about their company. The signal of advertising was stronger when it wasn’t diluted by the sound pollution of the Internet and social media.

Think about how much you can learn about products today before seeing an ad. Comments, user reviews, friends' opinions, price-comparison tools: These things aren’t advertising (although they're just as ubiquitous). In fact, they’re much more powerful than advertising because we consider them information rather than marketing. The difference is enormous: We seek information, so we're more likely to trust it; marketing seeks us, so we're more likely to distrust it.

Simonson and Rosen share an anecdote from 2007: Ten thousand people around the globe were asked if they'd want a portable digital device like the iPhone. A Market research concluded that there wasn't sufficient demand in the U.S., Europe, or Japan for such a device because people liked their cameras, phones, and MP3 players too much to want them mushed into one device. Today the iPhone is the most famous phone in the world, not just because its ad campaign was so great, but because the user reviews of the phone were overwhelmingly positive and so widely disseminated.

Measuring and predicting individual purchases has never been easy. But measuring and predicting how everybody's purchase is affecting everybody else's shopping behavior in the Panopticon of the Internet is practically impossible.

The Internet was supposed to tell us which ads work and which ads don't. Instead, it's flooded consumers' brains with reviews, comments, and other information that has diluted the power of advertising. The more we learn about how consumers make decisions, the more we learn we don't know.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

 

Markethive

Some Of The Top Social Networking Sites People Are Using

Some  Of The Top  Social Networking Sites People Are Using

The world's most popular social networking sites certainly have changed over the years, and they'll undoubtedly continue to change as time moves forward. Old social networks will die, popular ones will stick around as they're forced to evolve, and brand new ones will appear.

We've moved on from the days of MySpace to a social media era now dominated by Facebook and all sorts of other social mobile apps. A lot of kids even admit to using Snapchat the most, suggesting that it could be the future of where social networking is headed. So, what's everyone using right now? Have a look through the updated roundup of social networks below to see which ones are currently the trendiest.

Facebook

Most of us already know that Facebook is the top social network on the web. It's a thriving beast of a social networking site on the web with over 1.59 billion monthly active users as of December 2015 and over one billion that log on daily (according to Facebook itself). Statista shows that Facebook Messenger is also the second most popular messaging app behind WhatsApp. After failing to acquire Snapchat in 2013, Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 so that it could be the one that was one top of instant messaging

Twitter

Twitter is known as the real-time, public microblogging network where news breaks first. Most users loved it for its iconic 140-character limit and unfiltered feed that showed them absolutely everything. Twitter has changed dramatically over the years, and today it's criticized a lot for going the way of looking and functioning almost exactly like Facebook. Besides Twitter Card integration, which now makes it easy to share all sorts of multimedia content in tweets, you can expect to see algorithmic timelines coming to Twitter soon as well.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social network for professionals. Anyone who needs to make connections to advance their careers should be on LinkedIn. Profiles are designed to look sort of like extremely detailed resumes, with sections for work experience, education, volunteer work, certifications, awards and all sorts of other relevant work-related information. Users can promote themselves and their businesses by making connections with other professionals, interacting in group discussions, posting job ads, applying to jobs, publishing articles to LinkedIn pulse and so much more.

Google+

Making its debut in the early summer of 2011, Google+ became the fastest growing social network the web has ever seen. After failing a couple times already with Google Buzz and Google Wave, the search giant finally succeeded at creating something that stuck… kind of. Nobody really needed another Facebook clone, so Google+ had always been widely criticized for being a social network that nobody really used. In late 2015, a brand new Google+ was rolled out to put more emphasis on its Communities and Collections features to help differentiate the platform a bit more and give existing users more of what they wanted.

YouTube

Where does everyone go to watch or share video content online? It's obviously YouTube. After Google, YouTube is the second largest search engine. Despite being owned by Google, YouTube can still be recognized as a separate social network all on its own as the premier place online to go to watch videos on every topic under the sun and upload your own as well. From music videos and movies to personal blogs and independent films, YouTube has it all. YouTube recently launched a premium subscription option, called YouTube Red, which removes all advertisements from videos.

Instagram

Instagram has grown to be one of the most popular social networks for photo sharing that the mobile web has ever seen. It's the ultimate social network for sharing real-time photos and short videos while on the go. Now it's even a leading advertising platform for brands too. The app had initially just been available for the iOS platform for quite some time as it grew in popularity but has since expanded to Android and, Windows Phone also the web. Instagram was bought for a hefty $1 billion by Facebook in 2012.

Pinterest

Pinterest has become a major player both in social networking and in the search world, proving just how important visual content has become on the web. As the fastest standalone site ever to reach 10 million monthly unique visits, Pinterest's beautiful and intuitive pinboard-style platform is one of the most enticing and useful resources for collecting the best images that can be categorized into separate boards. Pinterest is also growing to become a huge influence in social shopping, now featuring "Buy" buttons right on pins of products sold by some retailers.

Tumblr

Tumblr is an extremely popular social blogging platform that's heavily used by teens and young adults. Like Pinterest, it's best known for sharing Reblogging and liking posts is a popular way to interact. If you post great content, you could end up with thousands of reblogs and likes depending on how far it gets pushed out into the Tumblr community.

Snapchat

Snapchat is a social networking app that thrives on instant messaging and is totally mobile-based. It's one of the fastest growing apps out there, building its popularity on the idea of self-destructing "snaps." You can send a photo or short video as a message (a snap) to a friend, which automatically disappears a few seconds after they've viewed it. Kids love this app because it takes the pressure off of having to share something with everyone like they would on traditional social networks. If you're unfamiliar, check out this step-by-step tutorial on how to use Snapchat. Snapchat also has a unique feature called Stories, which allows users to share snaps publicly when they want.

Reddit

Reddit has never really had the nicest design, but don't let that fool you–it's a happening place on the web. It has a very strong and smart community of people who come together to talk about the topics they love while sharing links, photos, and videos relevant to the subreddit topic thread where they're participating. Reddit AMAs are another cool feature, which allow users to ask questions to celebs and other public figures who agree to host one. Reddit works by displaying submitted links that get voted up or down by users. The ones that receive the most upvotes will get pushed to the first page of their subreddits.

Flickr

Flickr is Yahoo's popular photo-sharing network, which existed long before other popular competing networks like Pinterest and Instagram entered the social photo sharing game. It's still one of the best places to upload photos, create albums and show off your photography skills to your friends. Yahoo has also worked hard at regularly updating its mobile apps with lots of great features and functions so that it's easy and enjoyable to use from a mobile device. Users can upload 1,000 GB worth of photos for free to Flickr and use the powerful app to organize and edit them however they like.

Swarm by Foursquare

Foursquare has broken up its location-based app into two parts. While its main Foursquare app is now meant to be used as a location discovery tool, its Swarm app is all about being social. You can use it to see where your friends are, let them know where you are by checking in, and chat or plan to meet up at a specific location some time later. Since launching Swarm, Foursquare has introduced some new features that turn interaction into games so that users have the opportunity to earn prizes.  

Kik

Kik is a free instant messaging app that's very popular with teens and young adults. Users can chat with each other one-on-one or in groups by using Kik usernames (instead of phone numbers). In addition to text-based messages, users can also send photos, animated GIFs, and videos to their friends. Although it's most useful for chatting with people you already know, Kik also gives users the opportunity to meet and chat with new people based on similar interests. And similar to Snapchat snapcosnap co snapusers can easily scan other users' Kik codes to add them easily.

Yik Yak

Yik Yak is another social network that's big with the younger crowd. It's a location-based anonymous social sharing app that allows users to read short updates posted from people around their area. As you might imagine, it's very popular around high schools and on school campuses–so much so that it's gotten some kids into serious trouble in some cases. Because it's all anonymous, there's no friend adding with Yik Yak. All users make anonymous posts and then other users can upvote or downvote your post and reply anonymously.

Shots

Shots is another photo and video sharing social network that young kids love to use. The social network is largely centered around taking selfies, but users can also take VHS-style videos and one-on-one chatting. Many users have praised the app for being one of the only apps that doesn't include likes and comments on posts, which helps take the pressure off of users who get anxious about how their posts are received by friends and followers. It's sort of like a simplified version of Instagram.

Medium

Medium is perhaps the best social network for readers and writers. It's sort of like a blogging platform similar to Tumblr, but features a very minimal look to keep the emphasis on content that's shared there. Users can publish their own stories and format them just the way they want with photos, videos and GIFs to support their storytelling. All content is driven by the community of users who recommend stories they like, which show up in the feeds of users who follow them. Users can also follow individual tags as a way to subscribe to content focused on topics of interest. 

Tinder

Tinder is a popular location-based dating app that matches you up with people in your area. Users can set up a brief profile that mainly highlights their photo, and then anyone who's matched up to them can anonymously swipe right to like their profile or left to pass on it as a match. If some who liked a profile likes theirs back, then it's a match, and the two users can start chatting privately with each other through the app. Tinder is completely free, but there are premium features that allow users to connect with people in other locations, undo certain swipes and get more "Super Likes" to let another user know they're extra special. 

Periscope

Periscope is all about live web video broadcasting from your mobile device. It's a Twitter-owned app that's had its fair share of rivalry against another competing broadcasting app called Meerkat. Anyone who starts a new broadcast can send instant notifications to people so they can tune in to start interacting by leaving comments and hearts. Broadcasters have the option to allow replays for users who missed out, and they can also host private broadcasts for specific users. Anyone who just wants to watch something can open up the app and browse through all sorts of broadcasts that are currently being hosted live

WhatsApp

Currently the most popular instant messaging provider worldwide, WhatsApp is a cross-platform app that uses your internet connection or data plan to send and receive messages. Users can send messages to individuals or groups using text, photos, videos and even voice messages. Unlike Kik and other popular messaging apps, WhatsApp uses your phone number rather than usernames or pins (despite being an alternative to SMS). Users can allow WhatsApp to connect to their phone's address book so that their contacts can be seamlessly transferred to the app. The app also offers a few customizable features like profiles, wallpapers and notification sounds.

Slack

Slack is a popular communication platform for teams that need to collaborate closely with one another. It's basically a social network for the workplace. Team members can take advantage of real-time messaging, integration with other popular services like Dropbox and Trello, deep search for files and other information, configurable notifications and so much more. It's meant to keep everyone in the loop about what's going on at work or with a particular collaborative project and is super helpful for teams that include members working from different locations.

Musical.ly

Musical.ly is a social networking app for sharing short music videos. The app shares a lot of similarities with Instagram and Vine, allowing users to record short videos, edit them, post them to their profiles, follow other users and see what's trending. The idea is to select a music track either from the built-in music tab or from your own iTunes library to record yourself dancing and lip syncing to it. The more creative you can get with your own personal lip syncing stile and editing skills, the more likely you'll see it trend on the platform. There's also a duet feature that allows two users to both of their own videos that used the same music track into one video.

Peach

Peach only debuted in early 2016, so it's unclear whether this app is really going to catch on or not. It certainly made a ripple in the news when it launched, but with so many other social networks out there already, it wouldn't be surprising to see this one struggle to make its mark. Peach gives users a very simple way to share posts with friends using photos, looping videos, text-based messages, links, GIFs, the weather, your location and more. There are also other little fun features for users to enjoy, like playing a game of "Peachball" or drawing doodles. Time will only tell whether this will be one to gain any traction among the bigger social networks.

Blab

Similar to Periscope, Blab is another live streaming social network where users can enjoy watching interviews, talk shows, debates, workshops and more. The platform is currently in beta, but it's already growing to become a major player in the world of web broadcasting and streaming. One interesting feature Blab has that Periscope doesn't is the ability to launch a live broadcast with up to four people talking all at once in a split screen. Viewers can also interact by leaving comments or stream something to watch later by tuning in to the replay.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

The history of social networking

The history of social networking

Long before it became the commercialized mass information and entertainment juggernaut it is today, long before it was accessible to the general public, and certainly many years before Al Gore claimed he “took the initiative in creating” it, the Internet – and its predecessors – were a focal point for social interactivity. Granted, computer networking was initially envisioned in the heyday of The Beatles as a military-centric command and control scheme. But as it expanded beyond just a privileged few hubs and nodes, so too did the idea that connected computers might also make a great forum for discussing mutual topics of interest, and perhaps even meeting or renewing acquaintances with other humans. In the 1970s, that process began in earnest.

BBS, AOL and CompuServe: The Infant Years

Put all this together and you have a medium where only the most ardent enthusiasts and techno-babbling hobbyists dared tread.”

It started with the BBS. Short for Bulletin Board System, these online meeting places were effectively independently-produced hunks of code that allowed users to communicate with a central system where they could download files or games (many times including pirated software) and post messages to other users. Accessed over telephone lines via a modem, BBSes were often run by hobbyists who carefully nurtured the social aspects and interest-specific nature of their projects – which, more often than not in those early days of computers, was technology-related. Moreover, long distance calling rates usually applied for out-of-towners, so many Bulletin Boards were locals-only affairs that in turn spurred local in-person gatherings. And voila, just like that, suddenly the antisocial had become social.

The BBS was no joke. Though the technology of the time restricted the flexibility of these systems, and the end-user’s experience, to text-only exchanges of data that crawled along at glacial speed, BBSes continued to gain popularity throughout the ‘80s and well into the ‘90s, when the Internet truly kicked into gear. Indeed, some services.

But there were also other avenues for social interaction long before the Internet exploded onto the mainstream consciousness. One such option was CompuServe, a service that began life in the 1970s as a business-oriented mainframe computer communication solution, but expanded into the public domain in the late 1980s.

But if there is a true precursor to today’s social networking sites, it was likely spawned under the AOL (America Online) umbrella. In many ways, and for many people, AOL was the Internet before the Internet, and its member-created communities (complete with searchable “Member Profiles,” in which users would list pertinent details about themselves), were arguably the service’s most fascinating, forward-thinking feature.

Yet there was no stopping the real Internet, and by the mid-1990s it was moving full bore. Yahoo had just set up shop, Amazon had just begun selling books, and the race to get a PC in every household was on. And, by 1995, the site that may have been the first to fulfill the modern definition of social networking was born.

The Internet Boom: Social Networking’s Adolescence

Though differing from many current social networking sites in that it asks not “Who can I connect with?” but rather, “Who can I connect with that was once a schoolmate of mine?” Classmates.com proved almost immediately that the idea of a virtual reunion was a good one. Early users could not create profiles, but they could locate long-lost grade school chums, menacing school bullies and maybe even that prom date they just couldn’t forget. It was a hit almost immediately, and even today the service boasts some 57 million registered accounts.

That same level of success can’t be said for SixDegrees.com. Sporting a name based on the theory somehow associated with actor Kevin Bacon that no person is separated by more than six degrees from another, the site sprung up in 1997 and was one of the very first to allow its users to create profiles, invite friends, organize groups, and surf other user profiles. Its founders worked the six degrees angle hard by encouraging members to bring more people into the fold. Unfortunately, this “encouragement” ultimately became a bit too pushy for many, and the site slowly devolved into a loose association of computer users and numerous complaints of spam-filled membership drives. SixDegrees.com folded completely just after the turn of the millennium.

Other sites of the era opted solely for niche, demographic-driven markets. One was AsianAvenue.com, founded in 1997. A product of Community Connect Inc., which itself was founded just one year prior in the New York apartment of former investment banker and the future Community Connect CEO, AsianAvenue.com was followed by BlackPlanet.com in 1999 and by the Hispanic-oriented MiGente.com in 2000. All three still exist today, with BlackPlanet.com in particular still enjoying tremendous success with more than eight million visitors per month.

Friendster, LinkedIn, MySpace and Facebook: The Biz Grows Up

In 2002, social networking hit really its stride with the launch of Friendster. Friendster used a degree of separation concept similar to that of the now-defunct SixDegrees.com, refined it into a routine dubbed the “Circle of Friends,” and promoted the idea that a rich online community can exist only between people who truly have common bonds. And it ensured there were plenty of ways to discover those bonds.

An interface that shared many of the same traits one would find at an online dating site certainly didn’t seem to hurt. Friendster CEO Jonathan Abrams even once referred to his creation as a dating site that isn’t about dating. Within a year after its launch, Friendster boasted more than three million registered users and a ton of investment interest. Unfortunately, the service has since seen more than its fair share of technical difficulties, questionable management decisions, and a resulting drop in its North American fortunes. Although briefly enjoying success in Indonesia and in the Philippines, Friendster has since abandoned social networking and now exists solely as an online gaming site.

Introduced just a year later in 2003, LinkedIn took a decidedly more serious, sober approach to the social networking phenomenon. Rather than being a mere playground for former classmates, teenagers, and cyberspace Don Juans, LinkedIn was, and still is, a networking resource for business people who want to connect with other professionals. In fact, LinkedIn contacts are referred to as “connections.” Today, LinkedIn boasts more than 297 million members.

MySpace also launched in 2003. Though it no longer resides upon the social networking throne in many English-speaking countries – that honor now belongs to Facebook just about everywhere – MySpace was once the perennial favorite. It did so by tempting the key young adult demographic with music, music videos, and a funky, feature-filled environment. It looked and felt hipper than major competitor Friendster right from the start, and it conducted a campaign of sorts in the early days to show alienated Friendster users just what they were missing. Over the years however, the number of casual Myspace users declined, and today the site exists now as a social networking site targeted to bands and musicians.

As expected, the ubiquitous Facebook now leads the global social networking pack. Founded, like many social networking sites, by university students who initially peddled their product to other university students, Facebook launched in 2004 as a Harvard-only exercise and remained a campus-oriented site for two full years before finally opening to the general public in 2006. Yet, even by that time, Facebook was considered big business. So much so that, by 2009, Silicon Valley bigwigs such as Paypal co-founder and billionaire Peter Thiel invested tens of millions of dollars just to see it flourish.

The secret of Facebook’s success — the site currently boasts more than 1.3 billion active users — is a subject of much debate. Some point to its ease of use, others to its multitude of easily-accessed features, and still others, to its memorable name. A highly targeted advertising model certainly doesn’t hurt, either, nor did financial injections such as the $60 million from noted Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing in 2007. Regardless, there’s universal agreement on one thing: Facebook promotes both honesty and openness. It seems people really enjoy being themselves, and throwing that openness out there for all to see.

Pulling Ahead: How Facebook and Twitter won the Web

Facebook is king for a reason. It wasn’t just through luck that founder Mark Zuckerberg’s darling came to reign supreme over the social media kingdom. It was, in fact, a series of smart moves and innovative features that set the platform apart from the rest of the social media pack. First and foremost, the 2007 launch of the Facebook Platform was key to site’s success. The open API made it possible for third-party developers to create applications that work within Facebook itself. Almost immediately after being released, the platform gained a massive amount of attention. At one point in time, Facebook had hundreds of thousands of apps built on the platform, so many that Facebook launched the Facebook App Store to organize and display them all. Twitter, meanwhile, created its own API and enjoyed similar success as a result.

DT’s early hands-on with Google+.

The other key to success was Facebook’s ubiquitous ‘Like’ button, which broke free from the bounds of the site and began appearing all over the Internet. Now you can ‘like’ or “tweet’ just about everything even when you’re not on Facebook or Twitter. Realizing the power of social networking, Google decided to launch their own social network (Google+) in 2007. It differed from Facebook and Twitter in that it wasn’t necessarily a full-featured networking site, but rather a social “layer” of the overall Google experience. Initially, Google generated a lot of buzz with the service’s Hangouts feature, which allowed users to enter live video chats with other online friends. At the time of launch, Facebook was scrambling to keep up by integrating a video chat feature of their own.

Within just four weeks, Google+ had garnered 25 million unique visitors, with as much as 540 million active monthly users as of June 2014. Regardless, the service definitely didn’t dethrone Zuckerberg’s behemoth, especially considering more than half of Google+ users have never even visited the service’s official site. It still arguably showed the world that there was still room for innovation and competition in the realm of social networking, though.

The Multi-platformed Self: The Rise of Mobile

Over the course of the past two years, “Fourth screen” technology — smartphones, tablets, etc. — has changed social networking and the way we communicate with one another entirely. What used to sit on our desks now conveniently fits in the palm of our hands, allowing us to effortlessly utilize functionality once reserved for multiple devices wherever we go.

Given the abrupt rise in mobile computing, it’s not surprising the most popular social media platforms of the past several years hinge on the capabilities of smartphones. Photo and video-sharing applications such as Snapchat and Instagram, the latter of which has now garnered a staggering 20 billion images since the app’s initial inception in October 2010, exist almost entirely on mobile. The same goes with platforms such as Foursquare, an application in which users use their smartphones to check in to various locations around the globe, and various matchmaking services. Tinder, for instance, currently boasts more than 10 million daily users, each of which swipes for potential partners based on their approximately in relation to their smartphone.

Mobile-based platforms also approach social networking in an entirely different fashion than their Web-based counterparts. Rather than offering a comprehensive social networking experience like the now-defunct Myspace and the struggling Google+, they instead specialize in a specific kind of interaction service  that involves the sharing of public images (Instagram), the private sharing of images sharing (Snapchat), augmented reality (Foursquare), and location-based matchmaking (Tinder). People essentially use the various services in conjunction with other platforms to build a comprehensive, digital identity.

“People now exist on multiple platforms, and instead of fighting against this trend, larger companies are tapping into this new environment.”

Indeed social media companies no longer see the market as strictly zero-sum, or at least that’s what Zuckerberg continues to say in public. The registration process for hundreds of applications such Snapchat, Instagram, Foursquare, and Tinder can be completed using already-existing Facebook, Gmail, or Twitter accounts. Furthermore, a number of platforms allow users to simultaneously post content using several platforms at once. Again, people now exist on multiple platforms, and instead of fighting against this trend, larger companies are tapping into this new environment.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: The Future of Social Networking

In March 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus VR, a company on the cusp of mass producing virtual-reality headsets. Upon sealing the deal, Zuckerberg commented regarding the communication potential for the platform, highlighting the slew of potential uses for the virtual technology when it comes to academics, viewing live events, and consulting with doctors face-to-face. However, Facebook has taken a hands-off approach in its management of Oculus VR, allowing the company to continue focusing predominately on gaming applications while other parties — i.e. the Pentagon — quietly look into using virtual reality headsets for military purposes. A number of medical experts have even begun using virtual reality to treat anxiety, combat-induced P.T.S.D., and other pronounced mental illnesses. Adult entertainment, meanwhile, has invested in virtual reality for years.

Oculus Rift

To simplify my point, it appears a good deal of people have high hopes that virtual reality will become the next blockbuster computing platform. The technology already exists, and with the consumer version of the Oculus Rift VR headset slated to go on sale in late 2014 for under $300, the potential for widespread adoption of virtual reality has never been greater. At the very least, the Rift’s success or failure in the market will shape Facebook’s approach toward incorporating virtual reality. Note that augmented reality differs from virtual reality in that it applies digital interaction to the real world instead of creating an audio-visual experience from scratch. In terms of social networking, augmented reality offers a number of possibilities. For instance, people could share their name, interests, relationship status, and mutual friends all within a digital sphere.

Google Glass

Believe it or not, augmented reality already exists in apps like Yelp and Google Ingress. Smartphones are more than capable of delivering augmented reality, and as one might expect, the technology is the entire concept driving Google Glass’ digital integration with the real world. Google’s deliberate decision to sell Glass at an inflated price of $1,500, however,  is likely meant to exclude the general public while the tech giant and a selective group of consumers — aka “explorers” work to hammer out the device’s flaws. The day Google lowers the price of Glass to its estimated production cost of $150 marks the day when widespread adoption of augmented reality, including augmented reality in social networking, becomes a greater possibility. Until then, there’s always Snapchat and the overuse of hashtags in just about everything we do.

The bid for originality: Facebook and Twitter bet big on video and livestreaming

Fueled by the rise of third-party apps, social media giants were forced to take note of the video format by 2012. But not before that same format, in a different guise, had laid waste to any form of originality on their respective services.

A spending spree followed. Within the span of just a couple of years, several major buyouts —and failed acquisition attempts — took place within the sector. In 2012, Twitter purchased video-looping platform, Vine. Later that same year, Facebook bought Instagram, which would eventually introduce video-sharing into its own app app to great success. Then in 2013, Facebook made its infamous bid for Snapchat, which was turned down by the makers of the ephemeral messaging app.

Vine

Meanwhile, the video-shaped void on Facebook and Twitter had been filled by new media companies that were experts in the art of viral content (i.e. BuzzFeed, 9GAG, Mashable). An earlier source had been YouTube, which had heralded the dawn of the internet celebrity with its homegrown roster of creators. Despite their popularity, however, viral videos posed more complications for social media giants than they did opportunities.

Left to operate independently, both Instagram and Vine proved to be solid investments. Their respective owners, however, were still facing the same issue. By 2015, Twitter was being labelled as “inaccessible” due to its flat growth in user numbers. Facebook, on the other hand, saw its users sharing less personal information. Instead of original posts, Facebook news feeds and Twitter timelines became bloated with viral videos, memes, GIFs, and clickbait articles — making them harder to navigate in the process. As in the past, the perceived solution came from an existing product, which ended up paying the ultimate price for its abrupt rise.

Having dominated the conversation at the 2015 SXSW Interactive festival, livestreaming app Meerkat caught the attention of Twitter. Capitalizing on what it viewed as an emerging trend, Twitter bought rival livestreaming app Periscope just a few months later. It has since integrated Periscope streams into its main platform, in an attempt to further popularize the app. Fast forward a few months to the end of 2015, and Facebook inevitably followed suit with the launch of Live Video. Overshadowed by its rivals, Meerkat quickly quickly abandoned livestreaming altogether.

Periscope

It is easy to see the attraction live broadcasts hold for social networks. Like viral videos, livestreams have the unique benefit of making viewers feel like they are ‘in the moment.’ A popular livestream has a snowball effect and, in turn, can quickly become a trending topic. Like the immediacy offered by Snapchat, the format can transform the mundane into the unmissable. Best of all, it allows social networks to lay claim to something original, which now autoplays on its flagship platform.

The integration of the livestream on Twitter and Facebook has also made the two companies more open to striking broadcast deals with third-parties. In turn, having seen the success that BuzzFeed and its counterparts have had with video, both traditional and new media companies have been quick to embrace Periscope and Facebook Live.

Nowhere is this theory better evidenced than Twitter’s recent deal to livestream NFL games. This compromise on the part of the social media giants comes in the wake of the realization that they can no longer be relegated to the second, third, or fourth screen. They have to be the main attraction by showcasing viral, trending, or popular visual media — whether original or not — in real-time, fueling interaction and reaction in the process.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Understanding the Marketing Mix Concept – 4Ps

Understanding the Marketing Mix Concept – 4Ps

Marketing is simplistically defined as ‘putting the right product in the right place, at the right price, at the right time.’ Though this sounds like an easy enough proposition, a lot of hard work and research needs to go into setting this simple definition up. And if even one element is off the mark, a promising product or service can fail completely and end up costing the company substantially.

The use of a marketing mix is an excellent way to help ensure that ‘putting the right product in the right place,…’ will happen. The marketing mix is a crucial tool to help understand what the product or service can offer and how to plan for a successful product offering. The marketing mix is most commonly executed through the 4 P’s of marketing: Price, Product, Promotion, and Place.

These have been extensively added to and expanded through additional P’s and even a 4C concept. But the 4Ps serve as a great place to start planning for the product or even to evaluate an existing product offering.

4Ps marketing mix

 

 

 

 

In this article, we will look at

1) the four P’s,
2) history of the marketing mix concept and terminology,
3) purpose of the marketing mix,
4) key features of the marketing mix,
5) developing a marketing mix,
6) key challenges, and
7) marketing mix example.

 

 

 

THE FOUR P’S

Product

The product is either a tangible good or an intangible service that is seemed to meet a specific customer need or demand. All products follow a logical product life cycle and it is vital for marketers to understand and plan for the various stages and their unique challenges. It is key to understand those problems that the product is attempting to solve. The benefits offered by the product and all its features need to be understood and the unique selling proposition of the product need to be studied. In addition, the potential buyers of the product need to be identified and understood.

Price

Price covers the actual amount the end user is expected to pay for a product. How a product is priced will directly affect how it sells. This is linked to what the perceived value of the product is to the customer rather than an objective costing of the product on offer. If a product is priced higher or lower than its perceived value, then it will not sell. This is why it is imperative to understand how a customer sees what you are selling. If there is a positive customer value, then a product may be successfully priced higher than its objective monetary value. Conversely, if a product has little value in the eyes of the consumer, then it may need to be underpriced to sell. Price may also be affected by distribution plans, value chain costs and markups and how competitors price a rival product.

Promotion

The marketing communication strategies and techniques all fall under the promotion heading. These may include advertising, sales promotions, special offers and public relations. Whatever the channel used, it is necessary for it to be suitable for the product, the price and the end user it is being marketed to. It is important to differentiate between marketing and promotion. Promotion is just the communication aspect of the entire marketing function.

Place

Place or placement has to do with how the product will be provided to the customer. Distribution is a key element of placement. The placement strategy will help assess what channel is the most suited to a product. How a product is accessed by the end user also needs to compliment the rest of the product strategy.

HISTORY OF MARKETING MIX CONCEPT AND TERMINOLOGY

The marketing mix concept gained popularity following an article titled “The Concept of the Marketing Mix” by Neil Borden published in 1964. Borden explained how he started using the term inspired by James Culliton who in the 1940s described the marketing manager as a ‘mixer of ingredients.’ Borden’s article detailed these ingredients as product, planning, price, branding, distribution, display, packaging, advertising, promotions, personal selling among many others. Eventually, E. Jerome McCarthy clustered these multiple items into four high-level categories that we now know as the 4 Ps of marketing. “Its elements are the basic, tactical components of a marketing plan”. Together, elements in these four categories help develop marketing strategies and tactics.

 

 

PURPOSE OF MARKETING MIX

The 4P’s were formalized and developed over the years by experts to ensure the creation and execution of a successful marketing strategy. Through the use of this tool, the attempt is to satisfy both the customer and the seller. When properly understood and utilized, this mix has proven to a key factor in a product’s success.

KEY FEATURES OF MARKETING MIX

Interdependent variables

The marketing mix is made up of four unique variables. These four variables are interdependent and need to be planned in conjunction with one another to ensure that the action plans within all four are complementary and aligned.

Help Achieve Marketing Targets

Through the use of this set of variables, the company can achieve its marketing targets such as sales, profits, and customer retention and satisfaction.

Flexible Concept

The marketing mix is a fluid and flexible concept and the focus on any one variable may be increased or decreased given unique marketing conditions and customer requirements.

Constant Monitoring

It is vital to keep an eye on changing trends and requirements, within the company as well as in the market to ensure that the elements in marketing mix stays relevant and updated.

Role of Marketing Manager

A mature, intelligent and innovative marketing manager needs to be at the helm of the marketing mix. This pivotal role means that this manager is responsible for achieving desired results through the skill manipulation of these variables.

Customer as a focal point

A vital feature of the marketing mix is that the customer is the focal point of the activity. The value of the product is determined by customer perceptions and the goal is to achieve a satisfied and loyal customer.

This video shows how you can create value by using the marketing mix.

 

DEVELOPING A MARKETING MIX

 

Intuition and creative thinking are essential job requirements for a marketing manager. But relying on just these can lead to inaccurate assumptions that may not end up delivering results. To ensure a marketing mix that is based in research and combines facts with innovation, a manager should go through the following systematic process:

 

 

 

Step 1: Defining Unique Selling Proposition

The first item on the marketing manager’s agenda should be to define what the product has to offer or its unique selling proposition (USP). Through customer surveys or focus groups, there needs to be an identification of how important this USP is to the consumer and whether they are intrigued by the offering. It needs to be clearly understood what the key features and benefits of the product are and whether they will help ensure sales.

Step 2: Understanding the Consumer

The second step is to understand the consumer. The product can be focused by identifying who will purchase it. All other elements of the marketing mix follow from this understanding. Who is the customer? What do they need? What is the value of the product to them? This understanding will ensure that the product offering is relevant and targeted.

Step 3: Understanding the Competition

The next step is to understand the competition. The prices and related benefits such as discounts, warranties, and special offers need to be assessed. An understanding of the subjective value of the product and a comparison with its actual manufacturing distribution cost will help set a realistic price point.

Step 4: Evaluating Placement Options

At this point, the marketing manager needs to evaluate placement options to understand where the customer is most likely to make a purchase and what are the costs associated with using this channel. Multiple channels may help target a wider customer base and ensure east of access. On the other hand, if the product serves a niche market then it may make good business sense to concentrate distribution to a specific area or channel. The perceived value of the product is closely tied in with how it is made available.

Step 5: Developing Communication / Promotion strategy

Based on the audience identified and the price points established, the marketing communication strategy can now be developed. Whatever promotional methods are finalized need to appeal to the intended customers and ensure that the key features and benefits of the product are clearly understood and highlighted.

Step 6: Cross-check of the Marketing Mix

A step back needs to be taken at this point to see how all the elements identified and planned for relate to each other. All marketing mix variables are interdependent and rely on each other for a strong strategy. Do the proposed selling channels reinforce the perceived value of the product? Is the promotional material in keeping with the distribution channels proposed? The marketing plan can be finalized once it is ensured that all four elements are in harmony and there are no conflicting messages, either implicit or explicit.

KEY CHALLENGES

Over the years, marketing managers have felt that the traditional marketing mix has its limitations in how it is structured. Several important elements have been grouped with four larger categories thereby belittling their true importance amid several factors. Two main criticisms and their solutions:

Lack of Focus on Services

The conventional marketing mix tends to be applicable to tangible goods i.e. the traditional definition of products. Services or intangible goods are also a vital customer offering and can be planned for in much the same way as physical products. To cater to the unique challenges of services, the 4P model has been supplemented with 3 additional categories which are:

  • Physical Evidence is proof and a reassurance that a service was performed
  • People are the employees who deliver the service
  • Processes are the methods through which a service is executed and delivered to the customer

Lack of True Customer Focus

Though a total focus on the customer and what they desire is a vital element of the 4P model, this truth is often in danger of being overlooked by enthusiastic marketing teams. To counter this, Robert F. Lauterborn put forward his customer centric four Cs classification in 1990. This model converts the four P’s into more customer oriented four C’s:

  • Product to Customer Solution
  • Price to Customer Cost
  • Promotion to Customer Communication
  • Place to Customer Convenience

MARKETING MIX EXAMPLE

Marketing Mix for new product line

Market research revealed an opportunity in the market for a younger customer base. This led to the launch of Nivea Visage Young in 2005. This product was developed for girls in the 13 to 19 year age range.

For the eventual launch of the product, the company needed to develop a balanced and relevant marketing mix to appeal to its young audience. Through its initial launch in 2005 to a subsequent relaunch in 2007, the company focused closely on the marketing mix balance to help ensure that all elements of the product appeal to the target audience to achieve success.

Product

The company put significant importance in ongoing research to understand the constantly evolving market and consumer dynamics. This knowledge has helped the company develop more innovative new products that fulfill consumer needs. Through this research, it became clear that younger consumers wished for a more specific product that addressed the skin needs of their age category. The need was for a product that offered a beautifying regime for daily use rather than a medicated product that targeted specific skin problems. The latter are abundantly being offered by the competition. The product was subsequently redesigned to meet these specialized requirements.

From the company’s perspective, some of the changes helped meet its commitment to the environment which included more efficient packaging to reduce waste, the use of more natural products and the use of recyclable plastic.

Price

An effective pricing strategy takes into account the product’s perceived and actual values. The final price should be based on both these in order to make the product attractive to both buyer and seller. After its relaunch, Nivea Visage Young was priced a little higher than before to account for the new formula, better packaging and extended range of products. Since the product as being bought by mothers for their daughters, it remained low enough to remain good value for money. Effective pricing means that sales from this product account for nearly 7 percent of all Nivea Visage sales.

Place

As mentioned, Nivea aims to have a wide reach for its products to ensure that it is easily available wherever needed by the extensive target market. The primary channels used are retail stores. High Street stores such as Boots and Superdrug account for nearly 65 percent of all sales. Another portion comes from grocery chain stores such as ASDA or Tesco. This covers young people making their own purchases (mostly high street), as well as their mothers buying for them (mostly grocery stores). These stores ensure a cost effective distribution channel that has a wide reach. The company manages its own cost by selling to wholesalers rather than directly to smaller stores. It also does not sell online directly, but the product is sold through stockists.

Promotion

Nivea’s has always tried to base its promotions on the actual lifestyle of its target market. The company does not find the line promotions to be very effective as these are one-way communications through TV for example. Instead, the promotion is more consumer-led through different below the line solutions. Sample sales are a key activity that allows consumers to try out the actual product. There is also an interactive online magazine FYI (fun, young, independent) to increase product visibility and association. The company has also maintained a strong social media presence on popular social media networks. This used of new media has ensured a better brand awareness and association among target audience.

Conclusion

Through its successful use of a balanced marketing mix, Nivea Visage Young has managed to create a clear position in the market. It addresses a need felt by a specific niche segment. Traditional distribution methods are balanced by a unique product and updated promotional strategies. This ensures that the brand message reaches the right people at the right time in the right way.

As we see from the Nivea example, it is vital for any company to focus equally on all elements of the marketing mix while planning for a product. Eventually, there may be a need to divert more resources towards one variable such as strong distribution channels over promotional activities. But this needs to come after a clear plan and strategy have been decided upon. An effective marketing mix can mean the difference between a flash in the pan product or one that is bound to become a well-loved classic.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Ecosystem for all Entrepreneurs