• BeverlyMay
    Beverly May on August 13, 2014

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  • The BTS shopping ritual itself has been transformed by digital and shifting trends in consumer shopping behavior. Based on data from the National Retail Federation, 25% of back to school shoppers are expected to hold off until 1-2 weeks before school starts. Budget-conscious family shopping behavior is also reflected in the NRF’s data, which shows a 20% increase in delayed shopping over last year.

    Let the competition begin.  After a hot summer contest of superheroes at the box office, yet another fierce brand competition is now underway—the big box back-to- school race. The BTS shopping ritual itself has been transformed by digital and shifting trends in consumer shopping behavior. Based on data from the National Retail Federation, 25% of back to school shoppers are expected to hold off until 1-2 weeks before school starts. Budget-conscious family shopping behavior is also reflected in the NRF’s data, which shows a 20% increase in delayed shopping over last year.   

    While the sprint is officially underway, the stakes are higher than ever this year, with tight family budgets predicted to keep one in three shoppers from engaging in the annual BTS ritual. A downward trend was already evident last year, with a 3.5% dip, according to The Integer Group, who foresees a higher 5% decline in back-to-school shopping this year. Among Hispanics, who generally show a higher propensity for BTS shopping, Integer Group forecasts only 17% will not be shopping, compared to 43% of Caucasians. Integer’s also data indicates that half of all millennial shoppers are using the Internet to complete their purchases.

    Other research corroborates the shift in back-to-school consumer behavior. According to a new study from Crowdtap, a leading social influence marketing firm, the majority of shoppers will leverage social for product discovery.  

    Following are some highlights from the study:

    •   64% of shoppers reported that social media will play a role in their back to school shopping this year.

    •   Social media dominated discovery of new products, deals and ideas for back to school shoppers.

    •   61% of respondents will use social media sites like Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.

    •   63.5% of shoppers have purchased a back to school item that they found on social media – showing that social discovery leads to purchase. 

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    Through the lens of a social media analytics platform like NetBase many of the usual suspects rise to the surface.  Increasingly, however, the data reveals a growing trend in the digital transformation of brands.  The resulting new “brand personae” created have been designed to appeal to digital natives and their parents, and they reside and interact where their audience lives.  Another trend among brand content marketers involves adopting native ad campaigns and promoted social contests like JC Penny, with their "Express Yourselfie” campaign.  

    Predictably, brand transformation has also evolved the buying experience. On the one hand, creating an ecosystem in which social media brand peer influencers trump advertising. And, on the other, contrary to early ecommerce expectations that digital would lead to the demise of brick and mortar stores, brands with omnichannel strategies have increased overall brand traction and conversions. 

    According to a McKinsey report by Devin Wenig, president of eBay Marketplaces, “technology has deconstructed the retail industry” in the last two years.  Wenig stresses that survival will be contingent on a brand’s ability to adopt an omnichannel strategy.

    As the NetBase chart below shows, over the past month social engagement in the #BTS shopping arena has been charged. Brands segmented over the past month in social media are largely identified by their brand Twitter handles and digital campaign identifiers. The proliferation of #BTS-related brand marketing suggests morphing brand personae in an era of digital brand transformation, where brand personality is increasingly infused and shaped by Millennials.

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    NetBase Back-to-School Brand Cloud

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    Our NetBase analysis also reveals parental stress under the din of the seasonal BTS brand cacophony, with scant relief heard on the brand side.  On the flip side, some Millennials have embraced the #BTS sprint to create their own takes on YouTube, sharing with friends their BTS school bag “haul,” and shopping tips, fashion and makeup faves, style ideas, and the like.

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    NetBase Application - Back-to-School YouTube Mentions

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    Significantly, too, many of the YouTube videos also share deals discovered by Millennials during their shopping excursions.   Whether they’re engaged on Instagram or YouTube, Millennial #BTS engagement is a de facto expression of brand personality.  For brands and marketers, these channels provide a rich source of attitude, emotion and sentiment research into predictive behavior. 

    With Instagram being such a real-time, young and playful, yet highly valued branding platform, it takes a special kind of flavor for advertisers to be accepted on it. IG demonstrates a vulnerability for fast-food type establishments with a cause of backlash. With hand-picked stream of preferences, users aren’t used to seeing uninvited images of quick-fix foods to purchase as they scroll for picturesque sexy shots of friends, fashion and inspirational quotes.

    As 2014 pans out to be the year that Instagram gears up to transition from a strictly consumer focused platform to a more serious revenue generating tool, one of top five U.S. mega fast-food brands in the U.S. had a chance to get a taste of what other junk foods might be facing as they begin to advertise on this youth-heavy channel.

    With Instagram being such a real-time, young and playful, yet highly valued branding platform, it takes a special kind of flavor for advertisers to be accepted on it. IG demonstrates a vulnerability for fast-food type establishments with a cause of backlash. With hand-picked stream of preferences, users aren’t used to seeing uninvited images of quick-fix foods to purchase as they scroll for picturesque sexy shots of friends, fashion and inspirational quotes. 

    However, this hasn’t been the case for all foods being advertising on IG. Many indie and wellness brands have done tremendously well on this mainstream channel, as well as some bigger players. Ben & Jerry’s the epitomic brand of fun, quality and values has had huge success on this social channel and has received a different type of feedback from Instagram users when they ran their first campaign: the brand reached 9.8 million people and 33 percent of those who saw more than one ad remembered seeing a Ben & Jerry’s ad and were able to identify the advertised flavor. (Source: Sprout Social.)

    The McDs sponsored post had 45,347 likes and 1,941 comments, most of which were negative from users who were ticked off by seeing a McDonald’s ad in their newsfeeds. (Source: AdWeek.) 

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    Coincidentally, Ben & Jerry’s alto proudly touts B Corporation and is recognized as the highest standard for social corporate responsibility. Incidentally it is also owned by a national global brand Unilever, which is quite rare for this scale of a product. Ben & Jerry’s brand evokes feelings of happiness from the way the flavors of their ice cream make you feel and also for what they represent. Being likeable with their audiences is a natural bi-product of the company, because they are selling more than goods they are selling values.Potentially just a few consumers speak out yet they are representative of an audience that says ‘something is not working’. Prior to showing a logo in the stream of unsuspecting users on Instagram this use case gives an opportunity for companies reevaluate where they stand for, what they represent, and if they really define the kind of direct and democratized environment that social media has facilitated for the consumer.

    There’s tremendous opportunity for companies of that size to not only innovate, but to keep their place and stay relevant by keeping the doors open be reevaluating what it is they are really bringing to the table. Having a network of industry peers guided by experts may offer one way to stay resilient for brands in this time of great change, learning from more nimble community-oriented models becomes the solution du jour. ‘The churn of businesses in and out of the Fortune 1000 list is increasing as businesses fail to listen to and engage with their customers in the ways their customers expect ‘ as Brian Solis points out.

    As more disruptive modern, well-adjusted companies move in, the old approach of strictly maximizing profit and passive customers is making way for companies who are are ready to embrace change that the use of new technologies permit, to dig deeper and to breakdown the ingredients of which they are made. For companies formed in the middle of last century that haven’t fully adjusted to the sustainably-motivated reality that we live in today can take a seat at a roundtable discussion with more conscious organizations and pave the way to approach their advertising from a totally different perspective in order to stay relevant.  

    ‘People are empowered by social networks, mobile devices, online marketplaces, and other new technologies. We believe this movement will have significant impacts to current business. We believe that brands can still have a place in this new ecosystem, which we call the Collaborative Economy’, Jeremiah Owyang Founder of Crowd Companies.

    Traditional models of excluding the actual customers from decision-making process of output are becoming the way for a new way of doing business, not as usual, but on demand, customized to end-users needs, preferences and long-term effects. As we move in this rapidly changing economy and as trendy new social networks become available, to avoid having marketing efforts fall flat and receive a swarm of backlash, the opportunity presents for companies to approach business from a totally different perspective to bring a revived holistic brand experience to their patrons.

    Main image credit: Rhino Foods Inc.

    Let me know what you think in the comments below, connect with me on Linkedin or on Twitter @vkholostenko

    Many businesses are daunted by the prospect of using YouTube because of the perceived complexity. Getting started with filming and production can be perceived as intimidating, and brands often pass on the opportunity because it seems like it’s too much to deal with. Before jumping to conclusions, check out this infographic from QuickSprout. It some offers some key statistics and these best practices that help increase YouTube engagement.

    Is YouTube marketing worth it?

    More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month. It is the second most popular search engine and the third most popular site in the world. Nielsen says that it reaches more U.S. adults ages 18-34 than any cable network, a sweet spot for advertisers. Mastering the art of YouTube marketing will help your target audience discover you in an entirely new way.

    Many businesses are daunted by the prospect of using the platform because of the perceived complexity. Getting started with filming and production can be perceived as intimidating, and brands often pass on the opportunity because it seems like it’s too much to deal with.

    Before jumping to conclusions, check out this infographic from QuickSprout. It some offers some key statistics and these best practices that help increase YouTube engagement:

    Fill in the meta data

    Meta data is essential to enabling your video to be found in search engines. Make sure to include a detailed description of your video, a good headline, and tags that will draw readers to your content.

    Select attractive thumbnails

    It has been shown that thumbnails increase YouTube engagement more than 150%. Choose a thumbnail that with grab viewers’ attention, whether it’s simple and beautiful or shocking and intriguing.

    Add annotations

    “Click here” messages on videos actually work, so it’s important to design calls to action that entice people to visit your website, subscribe to your YouTube channel, and otherwise build a relationship with you.

    Be consistent

    Post videos at regular intervals and maintain consistent video lengths, production values, and titles. Establishing a pattern and sticking to it will correctly set your audience’s expectations.

    Strategically time your posts

    It’s important to catch viewers when a particular topic is top of mind, so try to synchronize your video posts with news and events. Examples include rolling out a turkey recipe close to Thanksgiving and offering gift-wrapping tips close to Christmas.

    Make your videos the best length for your topic

    Shorter YouTube videos are generally better for engagement but some formats, such as instructional and educational videos, require 4 to 5 minutes in order to fully inform viewers about a particular topic.

    How to increase YouTube engagement

    Using content marketing to build exposure and credibility for your growing company? Don’t go Rambo. Here are 3 compelling reasons to cite relevant outside parties in your company blog and similar content.

    For content marketers, citing to external sources in your company blog may initially seem like an act of self-sabotage. The company has designated you, after all, to act as its voice and showcase its value. Why reference an outsider, shine the spotlight on someone else, and potentially redirect traffic away from your site?

    A number of reasons! The counter-intuitive reality is that going Rambo with your content marketing is a misguided strategic maneuver and surefire way to handicap your blog’s growth and effectiveness. Here are three compelling reasons to cite smartly and frequently in your company blog, and how you can these citations to amplify and empower your content.

    1.  Establish Credibility

    For starters, the underlying purpose of the blog is to add value to your readers and thus show that your company can add value to its customers. When you cite to a highly credible source (a Business Review, Academic Journal, study by a major research group, etc.) you’re actually establishing your own credibility as well.

    Content marketing is a long-term game that requires time and consistency. For startups, time is a luxury you may be struggling to afford, so you need to streamline this process as much as you possibly can -- citing to third-parties is your ideal solution. It’s swift, it’s effective, and it doesn’t cost a dime.

    While your content generator’s path to credibility may be at the mercy of Father Time, citing to reputable sources is a great way to expedite the process and give credibility where it truly matters anyways, your company. For example, you sell enterprise software that measures how well a company optimizes a given process. Citing to quality sources like this and this in posts relating to each topic will not only help further your credibility, performing the research itself will lead to better ideas, a more refined understanding of consumer interests, and in turn, more effective blog posts.

    2. Compound Exposure

    Second, and probably most important, is the ability to use citations as a tool for cross-promotion. One of the most challenging aspects of maintaining a blog is figuring out how to optimize the distribution of your content across the various social media channels.

    Last week, I wrote a blog post on how Millenials and Technology are impacting the American workplace. I cited heavily to a major industry study by the MIT Sloan Management Review.

    Over the weekend, I tweeted out a link to the post from our company twitter account, and within hours, MIT Sloan had retweeted it. Our company has 375 twitter followers. MIT Sloan has 46,0000. Now, I’m no data scientist, but I’m pretty sure that this single retweet just created an exponential increase in exposure for our post.

    3. Find New Allies

    The business world is a competitive jungle your company traverses daily. References to articles, other company blogs, and business and industry leaders vastly expands your ecosystem, offering opportunities to acquire critical new allies that can jumpstart your oganization.

    Put simply, citations open up your content to a much larger world than that of your customers.  Citing to journalists, professional organizations, businesses and other blogs gives you an “in” to begin building a relationship with not only the entities themselves, but their readership and customer bases.  

    The ways that these citations can manifest powerful new distribution channels and means of exposure are as varied as they are numerous.

    • Cite to a major Forbes, Wall Street Journal, or Business Insider article and establish a point of contact with that journalist.

    • Cite to an expert blogger in your industry and increase the potential that he or she promotes, references, or profiles your post and your company.

    • Cite to a major organization within your industry and publish the post in the organization’s LinkedIn group. (Ambition’s favorite: American Assoc. of Inside Sales Professionals)

    The list goes on. The bottom line is: Your chances of survival in the jungle will improve dramatically if you use citations to build powerful new allies in your industry.

    Cite Early. Cite Often.

    How frequently should a company use citations in its posts? I would advise content marketers to incorporate at least one or two citations in every post that discusses an industry topic. It’s also important not to overdo third-party citations, for two reasons.

    • Your content should primarily consist of your original thoughts; citations merely act as supplements to these thoughts.

    • Incorporate too many external links in your post, and you run the risk of appearing to direct the reader to leave the site.

    In my experience, finding the right balance here is pretty intuitive. Focus on the quality, not quantity, of the citations you are integrating into your content.

    Ultimately, content marketers who start incorporating citations will come to find that citing in your content will not only provide these aforementioned benefits, it will increase the efficiency of the writing process itself. That alone makes adding citations to your content a worthwhile exercise.

    It’s time to change the way you think about digital marketing. A lot of what we once “knew” about marketing no longer applies, especially when it comes to using social media as a marketing tool. It’s time for an update, for new stats about digital marketing and how you can use them to your advantage.
    It’s time to change the way you think about digital marketing. A lot of what we once “knew” about marketing no longer applies, especially when it comes to using social media as a marketing tool. It’s time for an update, for new stats about digital marketing and how you can use them to your advantage.
     
    Tip #1
     
    Women use Pinterest four times more often than men do. As you are crafting a marketing message for Pinterest, keep in mind that your audience is going to be about 75% women and 25% men.
     
    Tip #2
     
    Instagram can now boast more than 55 million photos being posted daily. That means millions of active users, engaging in the platform.
     
    Tip #3
     
    Instagram is also leaking into Twitter, with about half of what’s being shared, being shared on both platforms.
     
    Tip #4
     
    Pinterest bests Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn in the amount of time spent on the website and the amount of referral traffic to a webpage. That means, if you aren’t taking advantage of this platform, you are missing out on millions of site visitors.  Of course, it has to be relevant to your practice and your patients!
     
    Tip #5
     
    Instagram isn’t just for selfies or pictures of dogs. National Geographic is one of the most followed accounts, and their pictures are informative and valuable. Even if your products or services are not fashionable or particularly visual, you can find a way to make use of this platform, even if it is just through visual text posts.
     
    Tip #6
     
    Of the nearly 700 million Twitter users, about 3% of those accounts are fake. Don’t waste your time trying to buy bot traffic on Twitter—it doesn’t work and it may even get your account shut down.
     
    Tip #7
     
    About 30% of people say they use Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest to discover new things that they want to buy. If you are not on social media, this means you are only getting a fraction of the traffic and sales you could be making.
     
    Tip #8
     
    Hashtags improve engagement with a Tweet by more than 20%--especially if you have two hashtags, but no more than three. Two or three hashtags is the sweet spot.
     
    Tip #9
     
    If you have a video on your landing page, you are more than 85% more likely to turn a conversion than if you did not have a video.
     
    Tip #10
     
    Only 7% of Americans have no idea what Facebook is or how to use it. Are those 7% even in your key demographic? This means that 93% of Americans either know about, are familiar with, or use Facebook on a daily basis—those are people you want to reach, aren’t they?
     
    Tip #11
     
    Mobile banner ads are notoriously terrible. Consumers hate them and about 50% of the traffic they generate is accidental and amounts to nothing. That means only half of the traffic they draw actually wants to see your page—now, narrow that number down by the percentage of people that actually make a purchase. Are mobile banners worth your time?
     
    Tip #12
     
    The shorter your Facebook post is, the more likely it is to draw engaged readers. Less than 250 characters (that shouldn’t be too hard, that’s 110 more than Twitter gives you), is the sweet spot.
     
    Tip #13
     
    Social media takes serious time. The people who saw the most engagement spent more than six hours a week working on their social media pages. Think of what you could do if you used six hours a day to promote yourself on social media?
     
    Tip #14
     
    Almost 50% of women say that the blogs that they read regularly have an effect on their buying decisions. Is your blog one of them?
     
    Tip #15
     
    Almost 50% of Pinterest’s traffic comes from mobile devices like tablets. Is your website mobile friendly enough to handle this traffic when someone clicks through a pin to your website?
     
    Tip #16
     
    Even business to business marketing can benefit from social media—60% of traffic for these kinds of businesses and their B2B marketing comes from social media, especially LinkedIn.
     
    Tip #17
     
    Social media is the new word-of-mouth, with plenty of small businesses using their social media to engage with their customers and encourage those customers to share their business with their friends.
     
    Tip #18
     
    Think a traditional commercial will bring you new customers? Think again. YouTube views top every single network, especially in demographics like 18-24 year olds. If you want to get hip with the kids, it’s time to stop focusing on TV and start focusing on media like YouTube instead.
     
    Tip #19
     
    Does your favorite restaurant have a Facebook page? Nearly half of people use Facebook when looking for somewhere in their area to eat. If they do have a page, they should make sure it has their location and hours of business clearly posted.  Do the same with your dental practice!
     
    Tip #20
     
    While Pinterest is great, bloggers are more likely to draw traffic when women are looking for new food or decorating ideas. A blog with posts that can be easily shared to social media is your best chance for drawing traffic.
     
    Tip #21
     
    Want to leverage your Pinterest posts to get even more clicks? Make them DIYs, recipes, or tutorials. These pins see 42% more clicks than various other pins.
     
    Tip #22
     
    If you sell electronics, don’t neglect Twitter, as studies show that people take to Twitter to find out about electronics and what to purchase—far more than any other social media or marketing venue.
     
    Tip #23
     
    A third of people who use Google to search for something click on the very first result. How does your search engine optimization stack up?
     
    Tip #24
     
    Almost 60% of bloggers say that they have drawn customers through their blog. That’s a surprisingly high rate.