• Russ Fradin
    Russ Fradin on July 29, 2014

    Why Employee Advocacy Matters

    Employee advocacy is an emerging new marketing strategy where companies empower their influential employees to authentically distribute brand approved content, create original content, and in turn earn recognition and rewards for their activity and participation.
  • alexmoffit
    Alex Moffit on September 4, 2014

    John Doerr on OKRs and Goal Setting at Google and Intel [VIDEO]

    “Ideas are precious, but they’re relatively easy. It’s execution that’s everything,” says John Doerr, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and the man who introduced Objective & Key Results (OKRs) to Google. Google widely credits OKRs for helping the company grow from 40 to 40,000 employees. Other businesses including LinkedIn and Twitter have also embraced OKRs.
  • Greg Gerik
    Greg Gerik on September 16, 2014

    Shaking Up Social: Attending the Social Shake-Up in Atlanta

    Last year, the Social Shake-Up was one of the best social conferences to attend and this year promises to be even better. Here are a few of the hottest topics and sessions at the Shake-Up this year that are sure to deliver and drive this industry forward.
  • ddarnbrough
    Drew Darnbrough on September 19, 2014

    The Power of Hindsight: Using Historical Twitter Data to Make Better Decisions

    WEBINAR: Tuesday, September 23rd, 11:30am EDT How many times have you looked back and thought, “If only I’d known x”? We’ve all experienced the power of hindsight, and luckily now businesses can harness that power by analyzing historical social data.
  • The average American receives over 400 commercial emails a month. As marketers, we spend a lot of time crafting email content, packing it with value, and tailoring it to the recipient. How do we make sure our email is the one that gets opened, instead of the one that gets the instant delete?
    The average American receives over 400 commercial emails a month, and most of those on weekdays. I must be on the high side of that average, because I could swear I get 400 a day. It’s probably surprising to absolutely no one that most of those emails are never opened.
     
    That’s a bummer. As marketers, we spend a lot of time crafting email content, packing it with real value, and tailoring it to the recipient. If only our recipients had opened it and taken a peek! That’s where the redheaded step-third-cousin of marketing executions, the subject line, steps in. It’s the last thing we think about when crafting emails, but it’s arguably the most important. And it doesn’t follow the rules of ad copy.
     
    We’re never going to get a 100% open rate on our emails, even if we put a $100 Amazon gift card in them. But we can change the way we think about subject lines to increase our open rates significantly:
     
    1. Don’t write a headline
      In our marketing world, clever wordplay and dramatic offers are the norm. Many marketers’ tendency is to apply the same criteria to a subject line. But if we’re applying best practices, a subject line should seem “boring” compared to other lines.That’s OK. Our subject line’s goal isn’t to make readers laugh, cry, or scratch their heads. It’s to get them to open the email.Keep your subject line short and descriptive of what’s inside. Focus on the benefit to the recipient. Avoid splashy, cheesy phrases or “ad speak”—these are all proven ways to reduce your open rates. Of course, we have to do this in an honest way. If we did say “Here’s your $100 Amazon gift card,” we’d get great open rates. If there were no card inside, we’d get huge unsubscribe rates. The best subject lines simply tell what’s inside. The worst try to sell what’s inside.

      Nope: Don’t Turnip Your Nose at this Root Awakening!
      Yep: Reggie’s Veggies Brings Heirloom Turnips to Boston
       
    2. Identify the sender (that’s you!)
      Subject lines that identify the sender get higher open rates. You might be thinking, “Don’t they see our company’s name right beside the subject line?” You’re right, it’s there. But the numbers don’t lie. Think of it this way. As your recipients are scanning their virtual pile of unread emails, they’re making a split-second decision: To open or to delete? Let’s make it easy, and stick our name right there in the subject line. When they see that trusted source (you) right in the subject, they’re more likely to open.

      Nope: Turkey Flambé Recipe
      Yep: Turkeyco’s Award-Winning Turkey Flambé Recipe
       
    3. De-spam-ify
      The first spam email went out on May 3, 1978. It was sent to 400 ARPAnet users, and of course it was trying to sell something (computers). Since then, we’ve learned to hate hate HATE spam email. We have spam filters, spam blockers, and we delete anything that resembles spam. So we need to be perfectly clear in our subject line that our emails are not spam. We start by identifying ourselves (see number 2 above). And we finish by avoiding spam words and tactics. You know the words: free, guaranteed, approved, affordable, winner, and many more. We should also avoid ALL CAPS, dollar $ign$, numerals, and exclamation points. Keep them out of your subject lines—even if you think they’re justified.

      Nope: GUARANTEED BIRTHDAY SAVINGS UP TO 100% OFF!!!
      Yep: Your Birthday Coupon from CakeCo
       
    4. Keep it fresh
      Does your email program have a name? Do you use it in the subject line over and over? It should come as no surprise that your open rates will go down each subsequent mailing. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use a program name, it just means you don’t need it in the subject line. Subject lines that suggest your email contains repeated information also have lower open rates. So avoid phrases like reminder, don’t forget, and last chance. Bonus: adding seasonality can help a subject line sound fresh too. Consider mentioning the month, the season, or an upcoming holiday.

      Nope: The Fluffingtown Post Issue 37: Sale Reminder
      Yep: Pete’s Pets Winter Clearance Countdown
       
    5. Get local
      If you can, localize your subject line. Mentioning the state is good. City is better. Neighborhood is great. Localizing a subject line is a proven way to get a nice uptick in open rates. Data suggest it’s an even better tactic than including the recipient’s name, believe it or not. Actually, I’m not that surprised. I find it a little creepy when companies put my name in the subject line.

      Nope: Hi Travis, do you like hot sauce?
      Yep: Pepperassco Hot Sauce Turns Atlanta into Hotlanta
    Understandably, my clients sometimes hesitate at these “boring” subject lines. But to paraphrase the 14th century proverb, the proof of the pudding is in how many people open the pudding cup. Open rates are easy to test, so if you’re still unsure, apply these techniques and test your results.
     
    Generation Z, those born between 1995 and 2010, are a shiny new target for marketers. These teens and tweens have grown up in a digital world, connected 24/7 to those around them. This hyper-connectivity provides a seemingly endless supply of avenues to reach Gen Z, but not all of them are effective.

    “Ugh, Mom! You are SO uncool.” For parents of a tween or teen, these words may seem as common as “Whatever” and “When will dinner be ready?” But substitute “Mom” for a brand’s name… well now you are in BIG trouble.  How can brands hope to stay ‘cool’ in the eyes of the world’s most misunderstood creatures: tweens and teenagers?

    As if trying to reach youths wasn’t hard enough, brands are now  faced with a new breed, a “me” generation born and raised in the digital age.  Generation Z’s are true digital natives, growing up with the world at the tip of their fingers -- or on their laptops and smart phones.  Social media and the internet are one in the same, and being connected is a right, not a privilege.  

    So why do brands even bother?  The nearly 21-million-strong group of U.S. 9-13 year olds wields $43 billion in annual spending power.  Even more impressive? Their “nag effect” or ability to influence the shopping habits of their parents to the tune of $150 billion dollars each year.  The combination of their buying power and influence makes them a force to be reckoned with, and a group that shopper brands should never overlook.

    We have broken down the 6 steps every brand should consider when talking to Generation Z:

    1. Be authentic -- tweens want a friend not a brand

    Generation Z is unfortunately very brand agnostic; they view their brand choices as an extension of themselves or a form of self expression.  They want products that express their personalities and seek ‘real’ human connections with a brand.  

    2. Find the right channels -- and be on all of them

    Younger generations are constantly  seeking an instant connection, and older forms of communication like email are considered a thing of the past.  Gen Z’s flock towards video- and photography-based platforms that encourage self expression and satisfy their need for peer validation.   YouTube, Instagram, SnapChat, and Vine have emerged as Gen Z favorites.  Remember, to Gen Z, social media IS the internet.  They fully expect your brand to available at every touchpoint of their “internet” experience.

    3. Make them the star

    Gen Z not only craves, but expects, their 15 minutes of fame. Luckily for brands, that fame doesn’t have to mean the cover of People Magazine --  social media fame will satisfy their hunger.  Share their pictures with your fans, and like and comment on their photos; the opportunities to engage with user-generated content are endless.  Some brands have even featured a few lucky fans in marketing campaigns, the ultimate Gen Z prize package.  You have the ability to make them a star... now you’ve got their attention.

    4. Play up their creativity -- offer DIY and customized experiences

    Gen Zers tend to create their own trends, rather than to follow the ones set by others.  We know that they are highly motivated by self expression and peer validation, which presents a huge opportunity for brands. Create an experience that gives them the opportunity to participate, customize, and make it their own.  By revolving the brand experience around them, you give them motivation to share their creativity (and your experience) with their friends, and ultimately become true brand ambassadors.

    5. Find the right ambassador

    The definition of celebrity has been shaken up by Gen Z.  No longer are celebs confined within the big screen. Celebrities or influencers can get their start from anywhere, even on social media - just ask Justin Bieber and Lana Del Ray.  We aren’t recommending you hire “The Biebs” as your next spokesman, but simply consider the vast array of social media stars that exist.  Paid influencers are a highly targeted and effective media strategy for brands, their recommendations have a huge influence on shopping decisions and also allow your product to be pushed in a native environment.

    6. Offer an experience instead of a prize

    Gen Z has grown up through a recession, climate change debates, and the threat of terrorism.  As a result they are incredibly socially responsible, lack the assumed childlike naïveté, and are cautious with their money. While promotions are great ways to foster brand engagement, be selective when choosing the grand prize.  They will be much more motivated by an unique life experience than a cash prize.  

    Gen Z is not the exception; they are the rule.  Authenticity and adaptability aren’t two words you typically associate with large brands, but will be the key in any brand/consumer relationship of the future.  Consumers of all ages have come to expect more from their brands -- more value, more personalization, and more transparency.  To stay ‘cool’ in the eyes of all consumers, not just Gen Z, brands need to adopt a more flexible marketing strategy.  Because, like we say at redpepper, “If we aren’t changing, we’re dying.”

    Currently, advertisers have the option to include or exclude close variant matching to exact and phrase match keywords in Google AdWords, but starting in late September, that’s going to change.

    Currently, advertisers have the option to include or exclude close variant matching to exact and phrase match keywords in Google AdWords, but starting in late September, that’s going to change. On August 14th, Google announced that they will be applying close variant matching to all exact and phrase match keywords, removing the option to opt-out.

    Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 12.33.21 PM

    So what does this mean? It means your ads may show up for any variation of a user’s search query including misspellings, singular/plural forms, acronyms, stemmings, abbreviations and accents. For example, when close variant matching is on, your ads may show up for the following search queries around “cleaning equipment”.

    • Clening equpment
    • Cleaning equipments
    • Cleaning equip
    • Clean equipment

    If you currently have this option turned off, your ads only appear when a user searches exactly for “cleaning equipment.”

    While I agree this change will help eliminate the efforts of building extensive keyword lists, I don’t think taking this away from advertisers is completely necessary. The time they are saving by not adding dozens of keywords, is now time they need to spend building negative keyword lists. Since this feature is on by default in AdWords, most accounts won’t be affected by this change. But for those advertisers who have close variant matching turned off, starting in September, they’ll need to adjust their accounts accordingly by adding those specific close variant terms as negatives to each ad group or campaign.

    According to Google, at least 7% of search queries have misspellings and by making this option universal, advertisers won’t be missing out on those valuable opportunities.

    SURGE is back after a decade long hiatus, but Coca-Cola is choosing to market and distribute the famous soda entirely online, and there are good reasons for that. Strip back the elements of the campaign, and businesses can learn a lesson or two from how Coke approached the social media based re-launch.

    On Monday, Coca-Cola announced that it would resume manufacturing and selling SURGE, and it immediately became one of social media’s top trending topics. In case you’ve forgotten the late-nineties, SURGE was Coca-Cola’s answer to Pepsi’s Mountain Dew. Unfortunately, long-term sales weren’t quite what Coke expected, and after five short years they stopped making the soda. A year later, savesurge.org went online, thus beginning the decade long campaign to bring back the soda. Social media proved an integral part of that mission and, after Coke’s announcement, everyone who was involved in the fight was quick to pat themselves on the back. But Coca-Cola is acting very deliberately within the fanfare and congratulations, and businesses can learn a lesson or two from how Coke approached the social media based re-launch.

    The Platforms

    The biggest parts of this announcement are the platforms that Coke decided to promote and sell SURGE through. Inbound marketing is a major part of this campaign because everything is online, including distribution. They are actively marketing on Twitter, and using the built-in audience in the pre-existing Facebook page ‘Surge Movement.’ The only place to buy the soda is Amazon. And you can see the impact that this change in marketing has had on the product. The logo is close to the same one SURGE used in the nineties, and frankly it looks dated. But that doesn’t matter because this soda doesn’t have to stand out on the shelf and appeal to our modern sense of branding; in fact, they are banking on the nostalgia factor. eCommerce is chipping away at traditionally held notions of trade dress. The product or service, rather than the packaging, is put front and center. If you want people to search out your company, you need to build a lot of interest and trust in what you sell and, obviously, social media is a major part of that.

    The Product

    Coke revived an old product and aligned it with current market conditions. SURGE is being pushed as a cross between an energy drink and soda, and is being sold in 16 oz cans, much like other energy drinks. It also probably isn’t a coincidence that Coke recently bought a stake in Monster Energy. Coke has survived so long because it embraces diversification, but when you don’t have millions to sink in a crummy product launch, you can’t just pursue every, single idea. Running a business is all about risk. And if you know how to leverage social media and online marketing, you can mitigate that risk. Whenever you start experimenting with new ideas, talk with your customers online and see what kind of a response you get. The internet has helped lower the overhead for these sorts of campaigns. If everybody told Coke that this was a stupid idea, it wouldn’t take as much to pull the product from Amazon and cut the social accounts as it would’ve if they had a multi-million dollar national campaign and rollout.

    The Petitioners Das youtube vs PR

    Take a look at the Surge Movement’s Facebook page – there are only around 143,000 fans. In the grand scheme of things, there weren’t very many active supporters. But they do largely represent the millennial market; a group of consumers with both an impressive amount of buying power and a general disinterest in soda. Coke saw an opportunity to cheaply and effectively break into a market they’ve had trouble with. And they directly involved that market in the product’s re-launch. While they had a traditional press release, they also used the admins of Surge Movement to announce the soda’s return. It’s well known that social media bridges the gap between customer and company. However, if you don’t show how your customers are impacting your business, they’ll stop interacting with you. Coke used the heads of this movement for the announcement, and really pushed how important their fans are to the business.

    The Coca-Cola Company is a billion dollar corporation, and it never acts without tons of forethought. They’ve likely been planning this re-launch for a long time. But their campaign reveals a lot about how businesses should use online marketing. Don’t just slap people over the head with your logo – involve them in your business, and give your customers a voice. Inbound marketing, eCommerce, and social media allow businesses to experiment and try out new ideas. Take a cue from a major company, and seize that new advantage. 

    Google announced back in August 2014 that it would start making the transition from HTTP to HTTPS, claiming the move was related to increased user security and safety. Google even called on others to do the same. However, not only is this not an easy transition for webmasters to make.

    On August 6th, 2014, Google made the announcement that they would be switching from HTTP to HTTPS. But what’s the difference in the two, and now, over a month later, where has all the HTTPS gone? 

    Whereas HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, HTTPS stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure. That extra letter in the acronym means that a website uses an SSL certificate, or secure sockets layer, to establish a secure connection with the server, encrypting data from visitors to the site. HTTP sites lack this extra security step, so unencrypted data can be read by the server, which can then be used to collect various data. When Google first announced this move, the web giant announced it as a means for a new ranking signal, though it is not part of an algorithm update but rather a separate signal altogether.

    At the announcement, Google didn’t just stop at promoting their own personal reasons for pursuing the migration; as part of their “strategy to promote security and user safety across the internet in general,” they are also calling for HTTPS to be everywhere, urging webmasters to make the switch to adding SSL certificates to their websites. But, why? Some are calling this a move that was more directed toward improving PR than actual safety and security for its internet users. The problem is, “HTTPS only protect against a very limited number of site vulnerabilities,” but it does not protect against hacking or various attacks that involve database or server exploitation. HTTPS is useless when it comes to websites that do not require a user log in, so many see it pointless for sites that do not store or transfer personal data to transition to HTTPS. For these reasons, it seems odd that Google would taut this as a move to improve ranking signals and security for users because the majority of the sites wouldn’t use HTTPS in the first place, and if used, it would be a lightweight signal that would act only as a differentiator between pages identically ranked. Basically, it doesn’t mean too much when it comes to search rankings.  

    HTTPS has its place, and it’s ideal for sites that collect personal data and need to keep this data secure and protected, such as banking sites, ecommerce sites like PayPal, and social media sites, but beyond that does it really impact rankings as promised by Google?   Forbes reports that right now, not really, but since Google owns 68% of the search engine market share, it is foreseen that HTTPS will “eventually play a bigger role in search ranking algorithm.” And as far as SEO goes, there seems to be no need to switch right now with lacking data so far showing any improvements in SEO rankings, but stay tuned.