• Act-On Software
    Act-On Software on November 17, 2014

    The Rules of Engagement on Facebook

    If you want to make your content sharable and searchable on Facebook, you need to have a thorough understanding of Facebook principles and the general rules that apply to content and behavior.
  • Netflix has global mind-share, even though it's officially available in only a handful of countries. The consumer awareness of the subscriber benefits are a testament to the apparent pent-up demand for affordable over-the-top (OTT) streaming video entertainment services.

    Netflix has global mind-share, even though it's officially available in only a handful of countries. The consumer awareness of the subscriber benefits are a testament to the apparent pent-up demand for affordable over-the-top (OTT) streaming video entertainment services.

    Growing interest in the Netflix video entertainment offering also demonstrates how the legacy pay-TV business model is equally vulnerable to disruption in other nations -- as it has already proven to be in the U.S. market.

    Netflix is expected to achieve 17 million paying subscribers to its international operations by the end of 2014, following its official announcement of 14.4 million international subscribers in September.

    Launches in six European countries during September will help to boost the total, according to the findings from the latest worldwide market study by Digital TV Research.

    "We have made several adjustments to our previous estimates, based on the June results -- subscriber numbers are now a lot higher in Latin America and a little higher in Canada. Subscriber numbers are now a lot lower in the UK and a little lower in the Nordic countries," said Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research

    Moreover, Murray believes that they underestimated Latin America last time -- due to the historic payment problems that Netflix encountered (low credit card ownership; little electronic banking; low broadband penetration, etc).

    Netflix has introduced simpler payment methods -- such as prepaid cards -- which has boosted new subscriptions. However, economic slowdown is expected in the region, especially in Argentina and Venezuela, which could affect Netflix adoption.

    These international figures do not include subscribers to the U.S. service who are based abroad (these homes are included in the U.S. subscriber count).

    Using the American version of the Netflix service from another country has been achieved by some technically savvy consumers. Apparently, it is relatively easy to do this by using un-blocker software, VPNs and DNS proxies.

    This practice is more common in Latin America and Canada than in Europe. Why is this attractive to new customers? The U.S. service provides more video content titles and more recent titles.

    Netflix has announced plans to launch in Australia and New Zealand next March. However, it's believed that more than 200,000 Australian homes already subscribe to the U.S. service.

    The following chart lists the subscribers in each of the international markets.
     

    Throughout 2014, we have seen a growing social presence of various sectors of business, especially healthcare. If your business has customers that are on social media, then you need to be there as well. Each platform provides a different audience and requires different content, so figure out where your customers are and get to work!

    2014 was yet another year of growth and innovation in social media. These 5 major trends are predicted to stick around in 2015.

    1. Businesses going social.
    Social media is becoming increasingly important for businesses, so don’t expect it to go away anytime soon. Throughout 2014, we have seen a growing social presence of various sectors of business, especially healthcare. If your business has customers that are on social media, then you need to be there as well. Each platform provides a different audience and requires different content, so figure out where your customers are and get to work!

    2. Paid social advertising.
    In 2014, we saw a tremendous growth in organizations paying to advertise on social media. On Facebook, more businesses began utilizing the “boost this post” feature. This is a great method of expanding the reach of individual posts to people who “like” your page. Facebook also offers “Facebook Ads”, where you can quickly create an advertisement on Facebook, decide how much you want to pay, and target your audience. On Twitter, users can choose to “promote” specific tweets, “promote account” to gain followers who might be interested in your business, and “promote trends” if you are looking to kick off a major campaign or conversation to trend on Twitter. Lastly, Instagram is slowly allowing advertisements to appear in user’s feeds, but it is not yet open to everyone for advertisements.

    3. The move from ‘pushing’ out content to ‘pulling’ in conversations.
    Finally, organizations are beginning to understand the nature of social media. The idea of pushing out content to followers like you would on a website is ineffective. Social media requires brands to pull users in by not only providing compelling content, but by starting conversations. Starting conversations with your followers and responding to their comments will increase their connectedness to your brand.

    4. Brand integration of videos specialized for social media.
    The use of videos on social media isn’t anything new, but now businesses have begun using social media to share short videos to promote their brand. The importance here is that the videos are short and fun, perhaps showing a ‘behind the scenes’ or a montage of crowd-sourced fan content. Videos are a great opportunity to show off your creativity and start a conversation. Youtube, Instagram, and Vine are the most popular social media sharing sites at the moment, and short videos are expected to continue growing in popularity.

    5. Sending money via social media.
    The latest trend as 2014 is wrapping up is the ability for social media users to send money via their social media account. Snapchat recently teamed up with Square, so that with the click of a button users can transfer money to one another’s bank accounts. Facebook is now rumored to unveil a similar feature on the messenger app to allow friends to easily message each other money. It can be assumed that Twitter will be following this trend as well. This may become an outlet for companies to do business directly via social media in the coming years.

    According to Jonah Lipton with the London School of Economics and Political Science, the people of Freetown, Sierra Leone (where Lipton is living while doing his fieldwork), are very much confused about the Ebola outbreak in the region. Lipton wrote in August how social media, and WhatsApp in particular, has greatly contributed to this confusion.

    According to Jonah Lipton with the London School of Economics and Political Science, the people of Freetown, Sierra Leone (where Lipton is living while doing his fieldwork), are very much confused about the Ebola outbreak in the region. Lipton wrote in August how social media, and WhatsApp in particular, has greatly contributed to this confusion. Some residents believed the entire thing was a hoax, while others posited that doctors were infecting people for the varied purposes of garnering international aid money, controlling the population through scare tactics, and even as part of a terrorist plot. What does this have to do with your business using social media marketing, you ask? From one aspect, absolutely nothing. From another, everything.  

    Wake Up, it's 2014

    Social media has morphed rather quickly, from a historical perspective, from an isolated group of tech-savvy college kids trying to get dates into the most ubiquitous form of communication and information delivery in the history of man. The percentage of populations worldwide who aren't involved on social media to some degree is dwindling daily, and the platform has become an integral part of daily life in civilized society. In simple terms, social media has replaced, to some degree: news broadcasts, newspaper and magazine stories, long distance communications via letters (and even email to a great extent), traditional business advertising, and even entertainment outlets. People get their information from social media, and they communicate with their friends and family through it. It's pervasive, and it's not going anywhere anytime soon.  

    Consistency in your Message is Key

    Getting back to your business, there are two big-picture takeaways from this truth that you need to understand at a very core level, if you haven't already. One, not being actively involved on social media today is akin to refusing to use modern transportation in favor of the old horse-and-buggy mode. You can still get around, but as time passes and new roads are built which restrict your movement in favor of modernity, you will eventually become the strange old man down the road that no one talks to anymore. That's not good if you're trying to sell your wares to the folks speeding past in cars. This is obvious, and you've been beat over the head quite enough at this point by plenty of evangelists, including me. Second, because (virtually) everyone has access to and contributes to the social story, there isn't any room for mixed messages if you are promoting a brand or product. This means that you need to get a grip on what your message is, and make sure that you are exerting as much control over it as possible, taking proactive steps to ensure that no matter where you are engaging with the public, the same message is being presented every time and to everyone.  

    Kill the Gap

    The first step to truly integrating and consolidating your brand's message is to realize that marketing is marketing, customer service is customer service, and sales is sales. Social media marketing has for too long been considered a separate campaign that is devised and carried out from a different angle and by different people than other marketing campaigns. The same goes for other aspects of business such as customer service and sales. They are all one. You never used to hire different marketing agencies for your print, television, and radio advertising, and social media is not some alien organism that requires something completely different. Different strategies, sure. Different implementation, somewhat. But it's still marketing, and you have to understand that online and offline must become one entity. You must kill the gap between them. I offer you two strategies to begin crushing this gap:

    1. Integrate your customer service - You should have a dedicated Twitter account for customer service. If you're doing business online, people now expect this. However, there can't be a disconnect between your online customer service and your real-world customer service channels. For instance, if you normally have a 3-4 day turnaround time on customer issues in-store or over the phone, you can let customers who contact you via Twitter know that they can expect a resolution in that same time frame. Setting proper expectations is vital. However, you can respond to them within a few hours to let them know this. Work towards improving your customer service times by using your Twitter account to speed up communications.

    2. Cross-promote everywhere - This will help you to stop thinking of your various channels as separate animals and see them as a single entity. Instead of a zoo, think of it as an octopus. The various arms are all connected at and controlled by the central point. Use hashtags as a connecting fiber. They can be used effectively on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, and others. Every print ad or television spot should include these hashtags as well. Print ads should tell them to like you on Facebook and follow you on Twitter. Pinterest should connect them to your website. Each arm should lead them to the central body, and all should reference at least one other arm. Time and experimentation will let you know which arms are the most effective.  

    Take the Wheel

    To effectively manage what is likely a fairly unwieldy beast at the moment, you need the right tools. The best thing you can do for your business, unless you are outsourcing everything, is to invest in quality social media management software. This will save you time and frustration in a number of ways. First, it makes posting to a variety of platforms extremely easy and saves a huge amount of time. It will also let you respond to each comment or enquiry from a single place, which again saves time and effort. Beyond that, it will allow you to monitor the web for mentions of your brand. This has more than a few positive effects. It allows you to reach out to potential customers that you may not have been aware of before. You will also be aware of any reviews that are posted about your brand, so that you can either thank the reviewer or respond quickly to negative comments in order to mitigate possible damage to your reputation. Reputation management is essential in a world where a single customer can reach millions about their bad experience in a matter of moments. Running a piecemeal branding strategy will result in crumbs for results. But with the right change in perspective and mindset, along with the tools needed for the job, you can effectively combine those pieces into a comprehensive and powerful business force for marketing, service, sales, and more. If you keep thinking of each arm as a separate entity, you'll soon find that you're creating more frustration for your business than is necessary. And that your customers don't know what to think of you.

     

    Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Pinterest. LinkedIn. They may be the most well known social media platforms, but right behind them is an entire cadre of social media platforms. While you may not be familiar with some of the newest social media channels, they offer tremendous potential.

    Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Pinterest. LinkedIn. They may be the most well known social media platforms, but right behind them is an entire cadre of social media platforms. While you may not be familiar with some of the newest social media channels, they offer tremendous potential.

    Ello

    Ello is one of the newest kids on the block, released earlier this year. As one of the newest social media platforms, Ello is the exact opposite of Facebook. While Facebook has slowly been taken over by a plethora of ads, Ello has stressed a commitment to ensuring that users are not bombarded with marketing materials. Where does that leave you as a marketer? Despite Ello's rather unconventional approach, this social media platform can still provide marketers with benefits. Where Ello truly stands out from other sites is the ability to build relationships and engage audiences.

    WhatsApp

    WhatsApp is similar to a hybrid of a mobile app and a social media platform. Earlier this year, Facebook acquired WhatsApp. Since then it has increasingly risen in popularity. Unlike Facebook, advertising is not supported by WhatsApp. Even so, marketers can still take advantage of this network for sharing information and images.

    Cucumber Town

    While it might have a rather unusual name, Cucumber Town has its own distinct following. Focused specifically on food, Cucumber Town is highly visual, not unlike Instagram or Pinterest. Marketers involved in any culinary area will find that Cucumber Town makes it much easier to connect with prospective customers.

    Pheed

    Visual-based content has grown increasingly popular, with platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram lending credence to that trend. Pheed has capitalized on this by providing users with the ability to share photos, videos, and live broadcasts along with text-based content. One element that sets Pheed apart from most social media channels is that it is fee-based, with subscription options beginning at $1.99 per month. Pheed also offers a pay-per-view option that businesses can use for marketing video recordings. Such options can be used for selling tutorials, seminars, and more.

    Bubblews

    This up and coming platform is making a concerted effort to take on Facebook through an innovative approach. Recognizing that users spend massive amounts of time each week contributing data to social media platforms; Bubblews hopes to share ad revenue with the consumers who post content on this platform.

    Tsu

    For users who have ever wondered how much the CEOs behind social media platforms are pocketing for their content, Tsu is the answer. With Tsu, users are able to maintain ownership over their content. This means that any funds generated from views of their content actually goes to users. Since Tsu is still in its infancy, most early adopters are still making pocket change, but the potential is certainly there for greater earnings. This alone could be enough to draw more users to the platform. Tsu keeps only 10 percent of revenue generated on its platform, and returns 90 percent of revenue generated to users. Revenue streams originate from content that users post, as well as content posted by individuals users refer to the platform, similar to a “downline”.

    Lesser known social media channels can often prove to be particularly advantageous for helping small businesses reach new customers. Due to the fact that fewer companies are fighting to leverage these platforms, there is less competition to attract user attention, an issue that has become increasingly problematic with the larger platforms. Additionally, brands can often take advantage of this opportunity to cater to specific niches on smaller channels.

    With so many new social media platforms popping up almost seemingly overnight, what can your brand do to tap into the power of these platforms? First, keep in mind the best time to get involved with a new social media platform is when it is first launched. Don't wait to see whether it will become the next Facebook before you join the bandwagon, or you will find yourself fighting the crowd for attention. When a new social media platform is first launched, it typically attracts a small, but loyal group of followers. This is also the best opportunity for engaging users who may not be familiar with your brand.

    One of the biggest mistakes that many brands make when developing a marketing campaign for social media sites is using the blast method. It should always be kept in mind that social media works best when it is not treated as a mass marketing tool.  Anytime you post something, you are interrupting a user's feed. Among the best benefits of social media is the massive amount of data it can provide. Take advantage of it to learn as much as you can about your followers' preferences so that your marketing campaigns are more highly targeted and customized.

    While it is often relatively easy to get started on a new social media platform, it can be a challenge to effectively develop an active presence. Doing so may require more effort and time, but the investment can be well worth it when that fledgling social media platform becomes the next Facebook or Twitter.

    Along with deciding when and how to participate in a new social media platform, you should also be prepared to make informed decisions regarding the best time to leave a platform. It is imperative that you actively measure analytics to decide when to stay and when to go. If the time does arrive when you decide that it is in the best interest of your brand to move on to greener pastures, make a concerted effort to provide your fans with easy options for following you on the new platforms. You might be surprised at how many fans make the decision to join you.

    Marketing on new social media platforms always involves some level of risk. As the old adage goes, "Nothing risked, nothing gained."

    Showrooming continues to increase in importance for the retail industry, but not in the way many businesses initially feared. Although 46% of shoppers admit to visiting stores before buying products online, 69% of shoppers first research goods online before visiting a bricks-and-mortar store to make a purchase, a practice now called “reverse showrooming” or “webrooming."

    2014 is all but over, so marketers are now turning their attentions to 2015. What challenges does the New Year hold and how will your business face them? Here we look at four trends that we think will continue to be big news in the coming year.

    Showrooming

    Showrooming continues to increase in importance for the retail industry, but not in the way many businesses initially feared. Although 46% of shoppers admit to visiting stores before buying products online, 69% of shoppers first research goods online before visiting a bricks-and-mortar store to make a purchase, a practice now called “reverse showrooming” or “webrooming.”

    The customer’s purchasing journey is much longer and contains more decision stages than many retailers originally thought. The journey continues to change subtly as new technologies become available. The one constant is that customers demand a transparent service across all channels.

    High street retailers need to integrate web technologies into their stores to accelerate and ease the reverse showrooming trend. Gucci, the luxury fashion retailer, is currently retrofitting stores to make use of digital technologies to provide a better experience for their high street customers. 2015 will see more bricks-and-mortar stores adopting similar tactics in a bid to capture the attention of shoppers.

    Mobile

    Mobile devices continue to grow in importance for retailers and shoppers, but not as a price comparison device. 2015 is expected to be the year in which mobile payments finally take off. Portio Research suggests that mobile payments will surpass $1 trillion by the end of the year.

    Although Apple Pay is gaining a lot of attention, for many businesses mobile payment implementation could be quicker and easier using existing payment gateways. High street restaurants like Prezzo and Pizza Express have recently updated their smartphone apps to allow diners to pay their bills using PayPal for instance.

    Mobile payments make the customer experience more streamlined and enjoyable, also freeing your employees to focus on delivering the other factors essential to an outstanding customer experience.

    Customer Experience

    PWC research suggests that customers “no longer want (or need) a better product – they want a better shopping or product experience”.

    Instead retailers need to focus on creating an exceptional experience at every stage of the customer’s journey:

    • Pre-shop — how effectively the customer is engaged.
    • Shop — ease, enjoyment and relevancy of the retail offer and environment.
    • Purchase — ease of transaction.
    • Post-purchase — ease and enjoyment of use, satisfaction of expectations.

    Even in the digital age, word of mouth remains one of the most powerful tools for driving new business. The best way to increase word of mouth referrals is through the delivery of a customer experience that beats expectations. Traditional advertising is rapidly losing its power to convince as referrals and testimonials gain in importance. 2015 will almost certainly be the year in which the tipping point is finally reached, with more of the marketing budget channelled towards customer service –  away from broadcast-style advertising.

    Social Media

    Now that social media has gained significant traction with customers, retailers are also looking at ways to use those channels more effectively themselves. Social media posts by satisfied customers provide the social proof retailers need to encourage customer purchases – particularly as 74% of social media users rely on networks for pre-purchase research. This further underlines the importance of providing mechanisms by which to collect social feedback from your customers.

    Target has begun collecting Pinterest data for instance, ordering products on their website based on pin popularity. Customers can see at a glance which products are most popular in the store. Nordstrom have taken similar information a step further, tagging physical items in the bricks-and-mortar stores to show popularity with their 4.5 million social media-using customers.

    iBeacon, NFC and low energy Bluetooth technology are also set to improve in-store experiences, allowing retailers to send targeted offers and deals directly to customers’ smartphone handsets as they pass by. Pilot projects during 2014 have been relatively successful, such as the use of Bluetooth beacons to deliver value-added multimedia content and food discount offers by the Major League Baseball in the US. Alternative implementations could allow retailers to send discounts automatically to customers who spend significant time browsing products in-store.

    Bluetooth technology continues to fall in price – 2015 will be the year that the correct balance of technical maturity and costs is achieved.

    So as much as things change, they also stay the same. 2015’s trends are built on what we have already seen working effectively this year.

    • Businesses will need to embrace showrooming, and convert their customers to webrooming.
    • More customers will demand the ease and efficiency of mobile payments.
    • Customer experience will trump product features and prices every time – retailers will need to shift their focus accordingly.
    • Social media and Bluetooth will combine to provide new ways to improve the customer’s in-store experience.

    Did you read Trends of 2014? If not, check it out now!